What is it about chain e-mails that makes potentially reasonable people who might even be wary of believing everything they read — at least when it comes to stories generated by media outlets — so gullible and so willing to latch on to hyperbolic distortions and ideologically driven misinformation campaigns?

This echo-chamber effect is magnified by talk radio and television news demagogues, not to mention elected officials, and it’s what appears to be happening with the contentious national debate over health care reform. Witness, for example, the “death panel” notion advanced last week (via Facebook, no less) by Sarah Palin, who seems to be taking a page from Phyllis Schlafly’s rhetorical playbook. If Americans really believe that President Obama (the Magic Nero?) is going to have the power to give the thumbs-down ruling on their loved ones’ lives, having bestowed himself with some sinister form of euthanasia-oriented veto power, what else might they be willing to swallow? USA Today’s editorial staff pulled together some answers to that question.

USA Today:

— Socialism. It’s hard not to smile when critics warn darkly that health care reform means “socialism” or a “government takeover” of health care, since these same critics are usually staunch supporters of government-run Medicare, one of the closest things to socialism in the USA. Despite charges that President Obama and the Democrats really want the sort of single-payer, government-run systems in Canada or Britain, nothing in the legislation even comes close.

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