Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Bad Example For Democracy

I am watching on C-SPAN a town hall meeting held by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), with Howard Dean as a special guest, and it is obvious that the "angry mob" continues in its mission to disrupt debates on health care reform.

It's a disconcerting sight, in which camera shots alternate between distinguished individuals, regular folk, and inbred-looking men and women frothing at the mouth and shaking their fists in the air at things they clearly are too slow to comprehend. It's really a pitiful display of America's democracy when people choose to shout over each other to keep spreading lies and misinformation.

But the truly sad lesson is that the media continues to cover these protests much differently than it did the liberal protests against the Bush administration. Eric Boehlert of Media Matters has an interesting examination of this very real bias in Angry right-wingers are important; angry libs are annoying.

One problem with the coverage bias that Boehlert highlights is that it sets a horrible example for those to follow, who can feel encouraged to be as disruptive as they are allowed to be, certain in the knowledge that their protest will be highlighted and magnified beyond its actual significance by a media titillated by the kind of debate that resembles a bar brawl rather than by civilized discussions or the restrained marches of tens of thousands war opponents.

The worst problem is that such coverage bias rewards a type of protest which is meant to stifle debate, instead of promoting it. These right-wing, corporate-funded and -managed protests bear a close resemblance to the type of thuggish activities typical of fascist environment, enhanced by people showing up bearing arms under the pretense of defending liberty.

The media have variously referred to these protesters as "angry mobs", "astroturf protesters", "angry citizens", depending on their political bias. I have also used some of these terms on this blog, and I have erred. I should have called them uncivilized, protofascist bullies, because that's what a great number of them are and that's how they behave.

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