As you may have heard, some of the town hall meetings held by public officials for debate on Obama’s health care plans have become brawls. In St. Petersburg, protesters bellowed until Representative Kathy Castor left the meeting; in St. Louis, a health care reform proponent, Brian Matthews, said he was rushed by police and arrested (he was one of six); a health care reform opponent, Kenneth Gladney, said he was beaten by health care reform proponents. (Gladney is black, of which much has been made by rightbloggers: Lloyd Marcus asks, “As a Black Conservative, Should I Be Afraid?”)
The accusation from the left is that talk-show hosts, tea party organizers and other rightwing types have “astroturfed” to get people to destroy the meetings; defenders from the right say that the protesters are not organized operatives but self-motivated citizens angry at Obamacare and besides, the Democrats do it too, enabled by George Soros, unions, and illegal aliens.
Thus the flareups at town halls have become an inkblot in which anyone can see his opponents acting as mobsters intent on stifling free speech and the true will (always consonant with one’s own) of the people. Some liberals have raised the specter of fascism, but as we have seen, conservatives have been crying fascist for months, and are very accustomed to its use. We must say, though, that for devoted anti-fascists the rightbloggers seem oddly pleased that these public meetings are devolving into shouting matches and fistfights.
Rightbloggers have not been shy about promoting a confrontational approach to town halls. “I have a tradition of making Catholic Congressman [Tim] Bishop uncomfortable in Town Meetings when it comes to life issues,” proudly declared Causa Nostrae Laetitiae. “…He doesn’t deserve a ‘happy’ [Long Island Town Hall] meeting till he stops killing babies, either though abortion or denial of health care.” (Bishop stopped holding these meetings after one featured “participants screaming questions at Mr. Bishop, then repeatedly shouting him down when he tried to respond,” per the Wall Street Journal.)
The protesters “are forcefully and sometimes boisterously making it clear that the sheeple will be silent no more,” said Political Christian. “… many men and women who hold these positions have brought dishonor to the position and themselves by acting to advance a destructive ideology… In these cases, it is perfectly appropriate for the citizens to display their righteous anger at those who have abused the public trust and treasury.”
The West Virginia Rebel’s Blog approved a report that “Angry protesters shouted down Democrats at public events from Texas to Pennsylvania” and declared, “For the Democrats, this is becoming a wake-up call as more people start voicing their skepticism over Obamacare.”
Politicians who tried to lower the temperature were treated with contempt. “So a cowardly Arkansas Democrat thinks he can silence angry Tea Partiers by holding a townhall meeting inside a Children’s Hospital, huh?” rhetorically asked The Rhetorican. “He must think he’s so clever.” The Rhetorican suggested his colleagues use silent protest, then get Representative Vic Snyder later: “And when that townhall is over, just move on to your representative’s local office and stage another protest on the street; and this time really let your voices show them how angry you are.” (He needn’t have bothered: protesters heckled at the hospital anyway.)
When Representative Brad Miller eschewed town halls because, he claimed, he’d received a death threat, rightbloggers made fun of him. “I’m calling Bull sh__ on this claim by a Democrat from North Carolina,” said Blue Crab Boulevard; Miller had no town halls scheduled, so “what, exactly, is he canceling?” “This is a good way to blame
Conservatives Republicans American citizens for not wanting to see the health system destroyed,” said Pirate’s Cove. “Brad will presumably spend August quaking in his loafers behind locked doors, counting down the days until he can flee back to D.C., away from his angry constituents,” said Confederate Yankee. Undeterred, protesters picketed Miller’s office instead; Capitol Police are investigating the death threat.
“So how are citizens to react to this revolutionary power grab? Politely?” asked View from the Right. “Like the subdued, tranquilized, Canadianized guests on the News Hour? No. Like Americans. What’s happening is great.”
When he heard that “the debate between supporters and opponents of the legislation became so heated that Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies and Memphis police officers called for reinforcements,” RedState’s Robert A. Hahn was elated: “Another Democratic Congressman finds out that the natives are restless.”
Looks like Norman Rockwell’s image of Freedom of Speech at a town hall has gotten an aggro makeover.
It must be said that a few rightbloggers have suggested at least tactical civility at the town halls (“When we protest, we must make our concerns known, but not drown out elected officials [and their representatives] when they are trying to speak”). This usually gets an uncivil response from their commenters (“Yeah, because being unilaterally civil has worked so well in the past. Given a choice between being the France of this war, or the America, I’ll take America,” “I know you liberals can’t believe it, but people are sick and tired of your bullshit and they’re not gonna bend over and bite on a pillow anymore,” etc).
As the town brawls became news and Democrats complained, rightbloggers shifted attention to the real enemies of free speech, namely the Democrats. When the White House asked supporters to notify them of anti-reform memes (“If you get an e-mail or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org”) — presumably for an outreach like Obama’s earlier FightTheSmears.com, to answer stories that government health care will kill babies and senior citizens and such like — Michelle Malkin called it the Internet Snitch Brigade, and suggested it would be used to track down the President’s enemies. “Conformity is now the new dissent,” cried The Two Malcontents. “Obama Unleashes his Goon Squads,” said White Civil Rights. “Obama Tells US Citizen Opposition To Shut Up—Or Else,” said Salisbury News. “This is Hitlerian, folks, and the same things that were affected by Hitler’s brownshirts in 1940s Nazi Germany!”
Inevitably, we’re back to Hitler. “The One Word to Describe Obamacare,” said Dr. David Janda, “is FASCIST.” The Democrats, said directed-by, are “lining up labor union goon squads to show up at town hall meetings to disrupt the attendees. That will inevitably lead to violence, which the Dems will then hang on the unruly Nazi mobs (sic).” (The “sic” was presumably added to avoid confusion as to who the real Nazis are, or will be.) When liberals pulled the same stunt against conservatives, American Thinker declared it “the Town Hall Libel” (comparison assumed intentional — there’s even a quote from Leo Rosten!), and suggested Democrats are the real Nazis, etc.
In this environment, it is understandable that some people have shown up to a town hall with guns. “After seeing many of the videos of union thugs actually assaulting people,” explained Blue Collar Republican, “one would have to be a complete idiot to even ask why so many people brought their guns to a town hall meeting in one of the most dangerous cities in the country.”
Reliapundit also caught gun fever, but amplified and extended his remarks into the future, for the most entertaining rightblogger remark of the week:
“IF THE DEMOCRATS PASS THIS BILL, THEN THEY WILL LOSE BOTH THE HOUSE AND THE SENATE IN 2010 – UNLESS OBAMA AND HIS ACORN AND HIS ACORN THUGS STEAL THE ELECTION. AND IF THE OBAMANISTAS STEAL THE ELECTION – (AS OBAMA PALS AHMADINEJAD DID, AND AS CHAVEZ DID, AND AS ZELAYA WAS TRYING TO DO), THEN YOU WILL SEE IRANIAN-STYLE PROTESTS IN THE STREETS ALL OVER THE USA… REMEMBER: NOT TOO MANY LIBERALS OWN FIREARMS. AND THE US MILITARY WILL NOT FIRE ON AMERICANS… VOTE GOP. BUY AMMO.”
Vox populi, folks! In this rightblogger reading, the only way they can be sure the will of the people is being observed is if they win, by any means necessary.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 10, 2009