Tags: How | the | Press | Distorts | 'Privacy'

How the Press Distorts 'Privacy'

Thursday, 10 May 2001 12:00 AM

NewsMax.com stands virtually alone among sources of news and commentary to have exposed the new reg as a colossal hoax, devised during the Clinton administration at the last moment and adopted word-for-word April 14, on direct order from President Bush.

Buried down within the fine print of the hundreds of pages of the Department of Health and Human Services rule – which will have the effect of law – is a nest of hedges, obfuscations and assorted bureaucratic weasel words that convert the reg into anything but a strong protection of medical-records privacy.

Almost without exception, the establishment news media, which have a pronounced tilt to the political left, are failing to report that.

This raises a question of whether such distortion stems from political bias or from just plain laziness when confronted with having to read 1,500 pages of government gobbledygook.

Either – or both – would be a blatant violation of basic professional journalistic principles.

Whatever their motivation, establishment reporters are dropping any pretense at being chroniclers of fact and are turning into pompom waivers for the new rule.

A typical illustration is to be found in the April 23 issue of the Los Angeles Times.

The Times couldn't wait to get into its story to distort the news. It began with an editorializing headline:

"Patients Can Rest Easier When It Comes to Medical Privacy Issues."

Then its writer gushed to "report" that "consumer advocates practically swooned at the Bush administration's recent decision to implement sweeping new rules to protect the privacy of medical records."

There was no mention of a large body of consumer advocates who reacted just the opposite, nearly passing out in disbelief that Bush would sign on to such a Clinton policy.

The story then went on to take at face value the regulation's lofty language that leads superficial readers to conclude – erroneously, it turns out on close reading of the entire reg – that privacy is being enhanced.

Not once does the Los Angeles Times story follow the circuitous threads that lead back to interlocking exceptions gutting the rule of its touted "protections."

(For an in-depth look at just how that works, see a series of investigative NewsMax.com articles that get to the truth of what this "privacy" rule really is, in

Nor was there even one word in the Los Angeles Times story indicating that there are, indeed, numerous privacy advocates up in arms against the new rule. Or that the secretary of HHS and members of Congress have been deluged with tens of thousands of outraged protests.

The only sources quoted by the Los Angeles Times were members, like most of the establishment news media, of the cheerleading squad.

There was not a mention of the concerns also to be found among the medical profession, such as in the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. An early and consistent opponent of the regulation, the AAPS has called it "an unconstitutional provision that is obnoxious to most Americans."

In a statement sent to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, the AAPS said:

"This administration should not be a party to the covert implementation of an essential piece of the Clinton Health Security Act that was rejected once Americans learned of its implications."

Kathryn Serkes, the AAPS public-affairs counsel, told NewsMax.com:

"This 1,500-page document is a direct result of the Clinton view that the government should control every aspect of our medical care. It is a desperate last-ditch effort to set the stage for Hillary’s vision of socialized medicine and eliminate your privacy."

Not a hint of any of that in the Los Angeles Times article.

However, one paragraph in its story did note:

"The Bush administration has said that the new privacy rules are not etched in stone, that they could be amended or clarified at a later date to accommodate the concerns of hospitals, insurers and providers."

"Accommodate the concerns of hospitals, insurers and providers"? What about the concerns of patients?

Not a mention of those in the Los Angeles Times account.

The influence of a story like that – similar examples are to be found in the major news media – goes far beyond the immediate circulation of the Los Angeles Times, the largest daily in California.

This story was picked up and recycled by the Los Angeles Times News Service, subscribed to by numerous lesser newspapers all over the country.

The reporter, Benedict Carey, the Times' health writer, was not available to return calls for comment.

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NewsMax.com stands virtually alone among sources of news and commentary to have exposed the new reg as a colossal hoax, devised during the Clinton administration at the last moment and adopted word-for-word April 14, on direct order from President Bush. Buried down within...
How,the,Press,Distorts,'Privacy'
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2001-00-10
Thursday, 10 May 2001 12:00 AM
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