Friday, August 7, 2009

Blending with Boehner's Visual Rhetoric

Perhaps you've seen this bit of visual rhetoric courtesy of Rep. John Boehner. It's his attempt to portray a government option in healthcare as some sort of Rube Goldberg-ian nightmare.

The point is obvious enough: by manufacturing a visual image that looks like the wiring schematic for a Boeing 777, Boehner hopes to scare people into opposing healthcare reform. The dread spectre of "BUREAUCRACY" is supposed to frighten the bejesus out of Americans. (Of course, Americans won't have to choose the government plan, but I digress.)

One way of countering this might be to criticize the visual image as inaccurate by pointing out its exaggerations. Another might be to create a similar diagram that would visualize the corporate bureaucracy involved in for-profit healthcare (which would likely be no less complicated and would include a bright green rectangle labeled "People Who Decide if You Are Worth More Dead than Alive").

Both approaches are a tad pugnacious. Not that there's anything necessarily wrong with that, but what if we tried to come up with a way of countering this bit of visual rhetoric in a way that redirects the attack rather than directly opposing it?

I suggest one way of doing this is might be to offer the following visual:

It's simply a blank white space. What is it?
It's the healthcare plan that 47 million Americans currently have.
It's the healthcare plan millions more Americans would have if they left their current job in order to go back to school, start their own business, or care for an ill family member.
It's the healthcare plan many Americans with preexisting conditions would be invited to choose if they applied for coverage with one of the profit-driven corporations.
It's the healthcare plan many are left with once the company that had insured them decides they are no longer worth the cost of keeping alive.
By comparison, even Boehner's comical Rube Goldberg exaggeration looks pretty good, doesn't it?

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