By Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

Right-wing organizations orchestrating protests at health care reform town halls not only impede progress, but could lead to violence

Anyone who has watched the news lately has seen the rowdy town hall meetings happening around the country over the health care reform efforts.

If you didn’t have the background on these meetings, you would think that the whole country is angry about Congress trying to reform the nation’s health care system. In reality the media and the viewer are being treated to a very well orchestrated bit of "guerilla theater."

Memos from various Republican and right-wing organizations, like FreedomWorks, have been sent out with instructions on how to disrupt and overwhelm the meetings. They offer specific guidelines on how to disperse through the crowd and make it look as though everyone is angry.

Specific topics and sound bites are scripted in these notes to let the protesters gain maximum media exposure and have the effect of shutting down real debate and making any rational answer seem lame.

It’s the old "When did you stop beating your wife?" trick, and it is working.
The media is blindly accepting this theater as reality, and even though the memos have made the rounds in the press, the press is still afraid to expose the staged events as what they are — fake!

But now the problem is bigger than a few loud "plants" at these events. Now the Republican base is buying the lies spread through these events hook, line and sinker.

The Republican National Committee sent out one document to its members with this headline: "Government-Run Health Care Bill Would Dictate Terms Of End-Of-Life Care For Seniors."

In reality, the bill would require that Medicare fund such care and counseling if it was sought. Instead this lie has blown up into the Sarah Palin whopper of "Obama’s death panel."

Those kinds of lies get people angry and afraid.

Fear and anger are a deadly combination, and already this tactic has led to violence and the potential for a really disastrous event.

At one event in Arizona held by Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a visitor dropped a gun. Organizers and police were not amused — and neither am I.

Fear, anger and guns are a deadly trifecta, and when combined they can be a volatile mix that even the Republicans understand is uncontrollable.

Lately some GOP lawmakers are calling for a toning down of the rhetoric, but it may be too late. Already, posters comparing the Democratic Party to the Nazi Party are surfacing at these events, and Georgia Democratic Rep. David Scott’s office was vandalized with swastikas.

Even ultra conservative talker Glenn Beck has said, "If anyone thinks that it would be a good idea to turn violent, think again. It would destroy the Republic. … Just one lunatic like Timothy McVeigh could ruin everything that everyone has worked so hard for."

Yet, he continues to make outrageous claims about the health care bills and pushes his followers to act out.

The situation is very similar to the kind of frenzy Sarah Palin whipped up during the campaign.

Do not mistake it for genuine public discourse or even a legitimate protest movement. It is the kind of mob mentality that is hardly the stuff of the First Amendment.

It can be very hard to stop once it gets going, especially when it is mixed with the kind of incendiary claims coming from the right.

It would be easy to dismiss these events as just another political trick, but they are more than that.

They are having the effect of killing real debate on health care in favor of screaming rumors and outright lies.

It reminds me of a dysfunctional American family at Thanksgiving:
All the members are gathered for a meal even though many of the members have been alienated for one reason or another and rarely speak to each other. Conversation around the table becomes louder and louder, each member vying for attention with no thought to the content of their remarks.

Eventually everyone is shouting to be heard and someone decides that volume isn’t enough, so they toss out a verbal firebomb and offend everyone.

Well, we have been brought together at the common American table to discuss a real problem. As the volume of the shouting gets progressively louder and louder, it is only a matter of time until someone decides volume isn’t enough.

My fear is that this time the firebomb will not be verbal.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.
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