Tuesday, August 04, 2009

On The Disruption Of Health Care Townhall Meetings

Much has been said about the fact that angry Republicans are showing up at town hall meetings on health care all over the country to voice their anger in opposition of health care reform. Rachel Maddow has done a great job reporting on this, as has Keith Olbermann.

As I see it, the problem is not that these people may be part of, or supported by, organizations that oppose health care, rather than a crowd of individuals each showing up of their own independent volition. Nor is it a problem that they are voicing their opposition. The problem is their incivility. The problem is that the organizations behind these mobs are actually inciting them to be disruptive. Think Progress reports of a memo aimed at participants at these events that lists a series of "best practices", which include--shamefully--the following advice: "Be Disruptive Early And Often," and "Try To 'Rattle Him,' [the representative] Not Have An Intelligent Debate."

And in fact, Lloyd Doggett--one of the politicians targeted at these events, like Sen. Specter and HHS Secretary Sebelius--has released a statement in which he says:
This mob, sent by the local Republican and Libertarian parties, did not come just to be heard, but to deny others the right to be heard. And this appears to be part of a coordinated, nationwide effort. What could be more appropriate for the “party of no” than having its stalwarts drowning out the voices of their neighbors by screaming “just say no!” Their fanatical insistence on repealing Social Security and Medicare is not just about halting health care reform but rolling back 75 years of progress. I am more committed than ever to win approval of legislation to offer more individual choice to access affordable health care. An effective public plan is essential to achieve that goal.


There is a a place for protest rallies, and that is on the streets, not in town halls. People, including these people, have every right to voice their opposition, whether it represents their deeply held convictions or the views of others that they have chosen to shill for. What they have no right to do is to disrupt opportunities for debate, exchanges of ideas, or even lectures, for that matter. That they do anyway proves that what they are looking for is not a debate but a brawl, not a civil discussion in search of an acceptable solution but the protection of special interests, and that they will use violence (yes, verbal violence can be as detestable as physical violence) to thwart the right of others to hear and to be heard.

The fact that so many Republican party leaders will choose to endorse or encourage such activities, as House Minority Leader John Boehner has already done, says quite a lot about the state of the Republican party, where the endorsement and encouragement for fascist tactics is no longer a fringe phenomenon, but a mainstream choice.

1 comment:

jfly61 said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comment. What is lacking here is civility and mutual respect. Since when did "We can agree to disagree.." turn in to, "I am mad as hell and screw all of you that don't agree with me." I am not sure that this kind of thinking can be reasoned with or is there is any chance for an open honest debate in the public space.

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