Libel and slander laws are wonderful things. If someone says something bad about you that isn’t true, you can nail their ass to the wall with a lawsuit. This though has the added benefit of not just protecting individuals from being smeared, but it also protects you from misinformation. Pundits often make claims they know people won’t check up on or can’t disprove. For instance fox news, rush limbaugh, sarah palin etc are suggesting over and over again that the new healthcare legislation being proposed would mandate forced euthanasia of the elderly or disabled, forced sterilization and various other atrocities. But how specific are they about it?
If you were a pundit or news reporter or anyone with a megaphone, and you knew someone in congress had proposed such a thing, wouldn’t you give their name? Wouldn’t you quote specifically what part of the legislation says these things? Wouldn’t you give actual facts and figures?
But they can’t, because of those wonderful slander and libel laws. If they said congressman so n’ so proposed forced euthanasia of your grandma, they’d get hit with a lawsuit so hard they would wake up next Tuesday. So they don’t, they keep it nice and vague.
In news and punditry specificity translates into credibility. Specific facts can be checked for accuracy where vague insinuations about 1000+ page legislation cannot. And if any politician or pundit or would-be news anchor makes suggestions so vague they cannot be verified and carry no consequences if untrue, whatever their political leaning or party affiliation, do everyone a favor and change the channel.