• Rob Spectre
  • 12
  • Aug
  • 09

A four foot wide swastika spray-painted on a Congressman’s office.  A fax featuring the president’s picture with a slogan saying “Death to All Marxists.”  A man protesting at Obama’s town hall arriving armed with a gun on his leg.    Another woman making headlines with a sign equating Obama to the unelected president of Iran.  Every scuffle ends up on YouTube.  Every protester holds a reference sheet of talking points.  Every new lie gets repeated until its gospel.

The disruptions at the town halls held during the Congressional recess to get feedbacks have become chaotic spectacles, flooded with ill-informed but amply loud right-wing activists claiming the new healthcare initiative is going do everything from turning the country red and unplugging grandma’s ventilator.  On the surface, the rage seems real and gives the impression of a swell of dissent for the healthcare proposals currently coming out of Congress.

The only problem is the whole thing appears a little too telegenic.

The graffiti, the signs, the slogans, the “death panels” – all of it pains a story that sells itself.  Swastikas and conspicuous are the kind of front-page, half-hour lead sexy that would make any editor wet. They’re all cable-ready, straight-to-market type stories that have legs for weeks – even if they are predicated on misinformation.

Informed opponents of the healthcare initiative are as confused as the Congresspeople getting berated in these town halls.  Death panels? Fascism?  Eugenics?  These myths are pervasive among right-leaning Americans, but they are not coming from Republicans.  The GOP leadership, if anything, has tried to combat the rowdy trend at the town halls, even with some going so far as to endure the booing of their own supporters to correct popular untruths.

They do so out of self-interest; they know that these town hall riots are good for short-term sensations but bad for the endgame.  This brandof rage is unsustainable for any real length and, given the recent events in the abortion debate, can lead to dangerous consequences damaging to the cause.  No, the Republican caucus is not fueling the town hall circus.

This is not a grassroots movement; this is a viral newscycle.  The ready-to-link rumors, the “push” news reports, the abundance of citizens ready with a two-second soundbite – real revolutions just aren’t this carefully coordinated.

And when one examines the constituent components of where all the fuel for this fire originated – the death panel rumor, the allusions of socialism, the fascist photos – they all began in one place.

The power for this manufactured movement is provided by the only interest it benefits: Fox News.

Before it manifests itself in the crowds, it always begins on the right-wing network.  No one was calling Obama a fascist before Glenn Beck.  No one was talking about a government official coming to kill grandma until Bill O’Reilly.  And certainly no one was showing up at town halls until Oliver North started telling them to.

Fox News is inciting these riots for ratings, a ploy despicable not in that it furthers a particular political end, but that it furthers a particular profit.  These disruptions in town halls will have little effect on the policy that ultimately gets shaped, as the poll numbers indicate they’ve been having little real effect on the public opinion of the policy.

There’s only one winner through the continued frenzy, but we all stand to lose.  Chuck Todd said it best in today’s First Read when he tried to find who was benefitting from the spectacle that has become our healthcare debate:

Ah, the classic political story … nobody wins, we’re all losers in these eyes of the true silent majority: the radical middle.

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  • PS great Jon Stewart link. Watching him rip apart the mainstream Right with intelligence and wit is always a pleasure. I just wish he was a little more consistent with his criticism as well.
    One of my favorite bloggers, Gleen Greenwald, was one of the fieriest critics of Bush. To my pleasant surprise, he is pulling absolutely no punches at this current Commander-in-Thief.

  • You're right, the nazi references and death threats are worse than what the Left did to George Bush, but the hatred of that man when he was in office was some of the most irrational dissent I have ever seen. I went to only one anti-war rally, and was just disgusted and disappointed at what I saw; I even saw one of those "out of iraq, into darfur" signs. The Left was silent when Clinton pummeled Iraq and starved them with sanctions, and is silent about Obama's continued ethnic cleansing of Central Asia.
    The problem I have with the anti-war Left is that it seems to oppose wars when they are politically convenient, and ignore the fact that at the heart of war lies the State. Any legitimate pro-peace movement, in my opinion, has to be against the growth of the State, since government is legalized force and coercion, a large gang of thieves, looters, and parasites. The State is the physical embodiment of "might makes right,"* and unless we begin to live in a society that refuses to use coercion to solve its problems, the State will continue to grow, and with that growth comes war.
    Also, if you look at the history of the anti-war movement, it has been dominated by old righties and libertarians who saw war as the germ that bred all other evils that the growth of government sanctions. The old "progressives" cheered on Wilson's and FDR's unnecessary and bloody foreign wars since these wars also led to a command-and-control economy.
    That being said, though I have incredible disagreements with the Left, at least a majority of them oppose war and support civil liberties, though for the wrong reasons. Today's Right is filled with cop-loving, military-loving, and state-corporation loving chickenhawks, and they turn me off with every utterance.

    *"Morality ends at the tip of a gun" Ayn Rand

  • You don't think the anti-war movement was about curbing the expansion of an Imperialist state? The premise of the entire thing was that it was illegal - that the Executive branch did not have the authority it said it did to go to war.

    Seemed pretty anti-growth of the State to me.

  • Yes, the growth of a certain aspect of the State. What about the State running healthcare? Social Security? Income tax? drug, prostitution, gambling, and gun control laws? licensing?
    If the war was somehow "legal," would it have been justified?

  • I guess I'm just having difficulty grokking the correlation you saw between protesting the war and promoting socialized medicine? How is the former implicit with the latter?

  • My initial point was that to oppose war, you must oppose the State, because they go hand in hand. The State is legalized violence and coercion, and a country that sanctions violence (taxations, regulations, licnsing) on its own citizens is much more likely to sanction violence on its neighbors (war).

  • TDub

    Oppose the entire government, or just specific aspects of it?

    I oppose the war quite a bit.

    The State has also had my family's back for over a year now, what with my wife and I both being unemployed (me since July '08, my wife since February). The State has provided us with some manner of income which has allowed us to continue to feed and shelter our three children. The State is helping to provide medical insurance for our three children.

    I should bite the hand that's quite literally feeding me, and so many others, because I also oppose the war? The hand that also wants to find a way to offer people like my wife and I who are uninsured, some manner of health care?

    Maybe it's just a matter of perspective, I dunno. I think the war, any war, is a terrible thing. I think many of the decisions made by the federal government are well deserving of harsh criticism, and demands for accountability and positive and productive change. But I also know the government is quite capable of, and accomplishes, a great deal of success and 'good'. To throw all of that under the bus along with 'the bad' does not lend itself well to a fair and balanced approach.

    Not the least of which - I'm constantly amazed that media outlets and pundits don't dig into what's working, only what's not working. I keep thinking to myself that investigating and exploring the successes as a means of learning what to do more of, as opposed to focusing on what to do less of or not at all, might be a productive change of pace.

  • These rioters are definitely ill-informed as you mention, who tend to hate Obama because he has a (D) next to his name. These same right-wingers oppose healthcare socialism, but support farm socialism, Pentagon socialism, school socialism, road socialism, fire department socialism, etc. Their continued dissent does no good for the legitimate opposition.
    What is also troubling is those on the media Left who are foaming at the mouth at these protesters but passionately defended their rebellion against Bush (Olbermann, Matthews, etc.). They were right to oppose Bush's foreign wars and civil liberties violations, but their statist is in power now, so all dissent must be criticized.

    p.s. that guy who was armed in New Hampshire just might be my new hero.

  • Maybe my memory is still a little hazy from those days, but I don't remember any swastikas getting spray painted on any Republican congressional offices when Bush took us to war under false pretenses. I don't recall any signs ended up on the front page of the New York Times featured Dubya with a Hitler moustache. And I sure as shit don't remember Matthews or Olbermann joke about poisoning the Speaker of the House.

    Now, you're right in your observation that many on the right are claiming that the left is being hypocritical, that such disruption was a hallmark of anti-war demonstrations (including Sheehan parking out in front of the president's house). They say we want it both ways.

    But I submit that this is fundamentally different in two ways - 1) no commericial enterprise stood to benefit from the anti-war movement and 2) fear was not the primary driver for resistance.

    Health insurers, drugmakers, and Fox News have their fingerprints all over this so-called "revolt" as it is over an issue that the three can make hay over. These protesters are repeating lines they've heard or been handed from them. Same cannot be said for protesting US involvement in Iraq (in fact, staying on message was entirely the problem).

    But more important than that, fear was not the driver for action. The people screaming at these things are shouting that they are scared of healthcare reform, scared of change, and scared of the President. The reason why these people are so unruly is because they have been whipped into fear by a machine. We didn't protest the war in Iraq because we were afraid. In fact, for some of us at the very beginning, it could be fairly said that we protested because we were brave.

    Further, even if the left were guilty of hypocrisy - which I contend they are not - it is dwarfed in scale by the *blatant* sort wrought by the right.

    Exhibit A:

    Queue to 4:15.


    p.s. that's a little crazy.

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