Back in the summer of 2009, as the healthcare debate was heating up, the right-wing of our political sphere decided to take a stand: Using a centralized, top-down set of tactics, protestors were organized to turn up at the "town hall" meetings Representatives were holding to discuss healthcare with their constituents. The Right were not prepared to handle an open discussion, so instead, they chose to essentially "live-troll" the town hall meetings, inserting agent provocateurs whose entire purpose was to push the discussion off-track and make real debate of the issues impossible. They were organized around a particularly scrummy set of tactics:
– Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: "Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington."
– Be Disruptive Early And Often: "You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep's presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep's statements early."
– Try To "Rattle Him," Not Have An Intelligent Debate: "The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.
These are not pointers to winning a discussion, they are beerhall putsch tactics.
The results were predictable:
This weekend, a group of teabaggers showed up at a town hall in Philadelphia with Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. They shouted and booed to drown out remarks from both officials and questions from the audience
And of course:
Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) has suspended town hall meetings after screaming protesters disrupted a June 22 forum in Long Island to the point where residents called the police to escort Bishop to his car
In fact, a simple google search reveals that for much of 2009, these disruptive, childish shit-fits were the only political conversation Americans were having.
But just a few days ago, Glenn Beck unleashed a torrent of vile death threats and hateful comments on essayist Frances Piven for wondering why the unemployed, unrepresented, forgotten working-class of America weren't engaging in a little REAL unrest, rather than the fake, manufactured unrest conservatives tried to use to derail healthcare reform.
Isn't it interesting, when civil disobedience is OK, and when it is not?