And the AP article I linked to is still a bit frustrating, as it won't outright blow the idea out of the water. Sure, they mention that Democrats have "dismissed" the idea, and how FactCheck.org "claim" it isn't true, and even make a feeble attempt at setting the record straight by saying the "allegation" is based on the voluntary end-of-care services Medicare will pay for. But they still leave open the possibility that it might have some basis in truth.
And that's simply not good enough. Because there isn't even a loose connection between end-of-care services and Palin's so-called "death panels." And while the end-of-care thing might have been the original basis for the claims which eventually morphed into Palin's "death panels," this is so far from the truth that it's safe to call Palin's claim entirely fictitious. And that's what the AP should have said. It's not enough to have people "claim" that this "allegation" is untrue. They needed to outright state that there are no such "death panels" in any healthcare bill. That's an objective fact and that's what they should have reported.
Playing Telephone with Truth
And the problem here is that conservatives are authoritarians who have no choice other than to accept whatever "facts" they're given from above. But rather than just convey the "fact" as given, they each try to embellish it just a bit, giving it a little tweak with their own analysis, in order to make the "fact" juicer. And they don't realize that the "fact" they were given was already juiced up by every other conservative that handled it.
And so they just keep embellishing and embellishing and embellishing. It's like a never-ending game of telephone: It just keeps going round and round, getting more and more distorted until the original "fact" is completely unrecognizable. And a wingnut who had already embellished the "fact" now imagines they're seeing a new fact which only adds to the "facts" they had seen before, and confirms their worst suspicion.
So what started as them noticing that Medicare would pay for voluntary end-of-life counseling turns into a mandatory bureaucrat forcing you to consider euthanasia, and soon enough, it's a "death panel" that determines the fate of everyone's life. Yet no one person is responsible for these lies, as they just kept tweaking it every time they saw it. And they all imagine they've read the actual legislation this is supposedly based on, because their source of the "fact" claimed to have read it. But of course, that source is also lying and are basing this claim on their belief that their source had read the legislation.
And that's the weird thing about conservatives: At some level, they're all hucksters and believers in their own material. Because they delight in making these "analysis" decisions to tweak a fact to make it a little scarier. Yet when it comes back to them, they really do believe that it's true, and then tweak it a little to make it scarier. They're getting high on their own supply and don't even realize it.
Sarah Palin: Shark Jumping Champion
And in this case, Palin screwed up. She's the queen of jumping the shark as she's simply too dumb to have the requisite subtlety to make this sort of attack work. Were she some small time blogger or even a mayor of a small town, this sort of thing would be fine, as no one would pay much attention to her. But as a publicity hog who the media enjoys covering, her scare mongering went waaaaaaay the hell too far. Even conservatives are going to be unlikely to jump onto this one.
An unscientific search on Palin "death panels" shows a whole slew of liberal blogs mocking her, yet no conservatives repeating the claim. And while I can easily see conservatives eventually rising up to defend her if the mockery lasts too long, I doubt even they will adopt her claim. If anything, they'll insist that her statement was taken out of context and that she doesn't deserve the ridicule being heaped upon her. And to help make that claim, they'll simply have to rewrite history to pretend as if her statement wasn't as crazy as it was...just like they always do.
And that's the weird thing about those who imagine she's the future of the Republican Party. Because yes, she's popular with the wingnuts. But only because she's crazy and dumb enough to sound like a wingnut. But there's a reason why no other wingnuts have made it on the national scene: They're crazy and dumb. And as such, she continually blurs the line between stupid and clever; preferring outright smears when only subtle jabs could work.
And so she keeps getting caught in a huge backlash which she can only survive because her supporters refuse to believe that she could possibly be as dumb as she sounds. And now "death panels" have been added to her long resume of insanity, which her supporters refuse to acknowledge. And for the rest of America, she put a very crazy face on Obama's opposition and just made Obama's job a whole lot easier.
Here's a follow-up post to this: Crazy versus Palin Crazy