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"ObamaCare": Google Ads on the World As It Is

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, December 16 2010

A Google search ad for HealthCare.gov keyed to the search term "ObamaCare"

Over on his personal blog, George Scoville picks up on the fact that the Obama administration seems to be running Google keyword ads against the phrase "ObamaCare," a phrase that's generally used by people who are critical of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Scoville among them, but not so much by fans of the bill. "If the Obama administration is co-signing the use of the term 'ObamaCare' by spending money on a Google Ad Words campaign," writes Scoville, "can we please get past the petty semantic games, and start talking about what’s so bad about this law and how to fix it?"

(For the record, at least one fan of the health care reform package has adopted "ObamaCare" as something of a badge of honor: Roger Ebert. Citing opponents of the bill, the film critic writes, "Those radical voices coined the term 'Obamacare.' So it will long be known.")

Scoville's post raises a slightly interesting question: is there something, well, unseemly, or even hypocritical about running Google ads against a political term that you might object to if it were used in any other context? Josh Koster, an online ad specialist who works on progressive side of things, doesn't think much of the implication that there might be. And for what it's worth, "ObamaCare" is certainly the way that they health care bill has lodged in the brains of at least some number of Americans. Search Google for that phrase, and you get at least three million results. Now try the full name of the bill: just a third of the haul. Forget "PPACA," the health care package's unwieldy shorthand. You get a measly 137,000 hits on that one.

"Buying ads based on what we want people to search for," said Koster in an email, "is like buying billboards on unused highways hoping it will increase the amount of cars on the road." In a way, it proves Scoville's main point: there's no good shorthand way to refer to the bill, especially for critics who might not relish having to repeat the word "reform" again and again and again. (Where's Congress' bill-acronymizing office when you need it?) Of course, another angle on all this is that the people who might be searching the Internet for more information on "ObamaCare" are exactly the sort of people whom the Obama administration might want to see funneled towards the administration's official take on the bill.

Whatever you want to call it.

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