by Mike Hall - AFL-CIO Staff
The orchestrated, handbook-guided extremist disruptions of town hall meetings on health care reform being held by members of Congress are turning into “a series of shout-downs and freak-outs,” says Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo.
“…something resembling right-wing performance art. [It's] a well-orchestrated national effort to mobilize teabaggers to go and shut down these town hall events with raucous demonstrations and generally making it impossible for the members of Congress to talk.”
“Teabaggers” refers to the fact that many of the groups behind the manipulated chaos are the same outfits that staged the phony grassroots “Tea Party” tax protests earlier this year. Then, as now, Fox News and other right-wing media outfits are trying to portray the actions as genuine revolts. Many of staged tax “protest” events drew just a handful of people, but closeup camera angles and breathless, fawning coverage seriously exaggerated the scope of the protests.
But now, they are armed with a battle guide from the anti-government group Right Principles that tells them to disrupt meetings “early and often….Watch for opportunities to stand up and shout…rock the boat…stand up and shout.” They are being encouraged by a growing number of health care reform opponents, including Republican leaders trying to kill President Obama’s reform initiatives.
The main goal of these disrupters is to kill health care reform, not debate it, not refine it, not find a middle ground, just kill it. (For a more detailed look, check “Swiftboating Town Halls” at The Progress Report.)
In a conference call with state and local AFL-CIO leaders today, Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, talked about her weekend experience in Philadelphia where a loud and vocal minority tried to shout down her and Sen. Arlen Specter during a town hall on health care.
She said about two-thirds of the audience was there to listen and ask questions, while the others simply wanted to yell.
Their intent is not to have a conversation. Their intent is to stop the conversation.
Sebelius said the nation is closer than ever to achieving real health care reform to provide quality, affordable care for all Americans. She pointed out that as health care activists get closer and closer to victory, the screaming protesters are becoming “more frantic” in their actions, as we have seen in the town hall meetings.
In Green Bay, Wis., on Monday night, Democratic Rep. Steve Kagen held a town hall meeting where, according to the Green Bay Gazette, protesters
repeatedly disrupted the event by shouting….Most of the crowd’s screams for three-quarters of the evening were incomprehensible.
In Houston, (see video), an Internet campaign by far-right activists urged people to attend and heckle Rep. Gene Green, reported Fox (sometimes, they get it right) Channel 26. Reporter Duarte Geraldino talked to the participants and found that “some attendees admit they don’t live in the district.”
TPM’s Marshall points out one of the more obnoxious stunts pulled at the recent meetings.
Then there was the case yesterday where a few folks at a teabag protest outside a town hall meeting in Hartford called on Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) to commit suicide as a way to cure his recently diagnosed prostate cancer.
That’s the kind of high-level discussion these folks specialize in. You can help counter the shrill shrieks. Visit our health care ally, Health Care for America Now (HCAN), and find a town hall meeting in your area where you can join union members in civilized health care reform activities.
Click here to send a message to your lawmakers to support comprehensive health care reform.