Poisoning the Health Care Debate

August 9, 2009

Hatred on the airwaves dripping like poison from the voices of Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, and others is getting old fast. Granted it is free speech and one can simply turn off the radio or television, but they recently ratcheted up their hatred to a new and dangerous level. Their daily programs of toxic rhetoric is merely a source of amusement or annoyance for many, but for others these guys are considered revered spokespersons of the conservative movement in the U.S. Lately, some of the hate radio's most followed ranters have crossed the line. Their remarks have been accused of inciting hatred and stirring up followers to engage in disorderly conduct at town hall meetings.

What are they saying? Rush Limbaugh compared Obama to Hitler:
Obama's got a healthcare logo that's right out of Adolf Hitler's playbook. Now, what are the similarities between the Democrat Party of today and the Nazi Party in Germany? Well, the Nazis were against big business -- they hated big business. And of course we all know that they were opposed to Jewish capitalism. They were insanely, irrationally against pollution. They were for two years mandatory voluntary service to Germany. They had a whole bunch of make-work projects to keep people working, one of which was the Autobahn. They were against cruelty and vivisection of animals, but in the radical sense of devaluing human life, they banned smoking. They were totally against that. They were for abortion and euthanasia of the undesirables, as we all know, and they were for cradle-to-grave nationalized healthcare.

This is why I have always bristled when I hear people claim conservativism gets close to Nazism. It is liberalism that's the closest you can get to Nazism and socialism. It's all bundled up under the socialist banner. There are far more similarities between Nancy Pelosi and Adolf Hitler than between these people showing up at town halls to protest a Hitler-like policy that's being heralded like a Hitler-like logo.

Oh, another similarity. Obama is asking citizens to rat each other out like Hitler did. Obama's the one that's got the snitch website right out of the White House, flag@whitehouse.com, asking citizens to report people who are saying weird, odd things. You know the White House responded, "No, no, no, we're not taking names here. We're not taking names. We're just taking people who are putting up faulty arguments and refuting them." Well, that's not the intention. Ted Kennedy's dad, by the way, Joe Kennedy, sympathetic to Hitler, sympathetic to the Nazis....[Obama] is sending out his brownshirts to head up opposition to genuine American citizens who want no part of what Barack Obama stands for and is trying to stuff down our throats....

Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate. His Cabinet only met once. One day. That was it. Hitler said he didn't need to meet with his Cabinet; he represented the will of the people. He was called the messiah. He said the people spoke through him.

Does this guy really believe this venomous spew?

There is also extreme outrage concerning comments that conservative radio and television commentator Glenn Beck made about President Obama on Tuesday during an appearance on Fox, the "fair and balanced" news channel. From the Atlanta Examiner:
Recently Beck said on the “Fox and Friends” morning show that he believed President Obama is a racist and that Obama has “a deep-seated hatred for white people or white culture.” Later, when Beck was confronted on-air by Fox host Brian Kilmeade, Beck said that “I'm not saying he doesn't like white people. He has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist.”
As if the fallout from advertisers dropping the show wasn't enough, Beck decided to suggest House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should be poisoned. Media Matters is calling for Fox to fire him. Others are calling for the F.B.I. to investigate him. From Media Matters:
"Glenn Beck talking about poisoning the speaker of the House is just the latest in a series of actions, statements, and stunts that have no place on a credible news network," said Eric Burns, president of Media Matters. "Beck himself said that it is our 'patriotic duty' to stop someone who talks about turning violent. Doesn't he deserve to be held to this same standard?"

Burns further stated: "Fox News cannot have it both ways, dialing up the hate and then pretending it's all a joke," adding, "Like all networks, Fox must be held responsible for what is said on air. And they've ducked accountability for Glenn Beck's violent rhetoric and incessant fearmongering for far too long."
Sean Hannity's web-site offers ideas for "fighting Obama's Healthcare Plan" and proclaims, "Become a part of the mob! Attend an Obama Care Townhall near you!"

The hatred from the airwaves has spilled over into numerous town hall meetings across America. During the August recess Democrats have been holding town halls meetings to discuss health care reform and other initiatives. I should say have been trying to hold the meetings. Many of the meetings are being halted by hundreds of angry Republicans and conservatives who have been fed misinformation by hate radio and television commentators and organizations that are fronts for the insurance companies. They appear to be eating it up. Hundreds of these people have organized to attend the meeting for the sole purpose of screaming and disruption.

In my home state of Flori-duh a Tampa-based forum featuring Democrat Rep. Kathy Castor turned violent. From the St. Petersburg Times:
"Tyranny! Tyranny! Tyranny!" dozens of people shouted as U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, struggled to talk about health insurance reforms under consideration in Washington, D.C.

"There is more consensus than there is disagreement when you get right down to it,'' Castor offered, immediately drowned out by groans and boos.

She pressed on, mostly unheard among screams from the audience estimated by Tampa police to be about 1,500.

"Tell the truth! Tell the truth!" "Read the bill!" "Forty-million illegals! Forty million illegals!"

The spectacle at the Children's Board in Ybor City sounded more like a wrestling cage match than a panel discussion on national policy, and it was just the latest example of a health care meeting disrupted by livid protesters. Similar scenes are likely to be repeated across the country as lawmakers head to their home districts for the summer recess.

Thursday's forum/near riot was sponsored by state Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, and the Service Employees International Union, who apparently had hoped to hold something of a pep rally for President Barack Obama's health care reform proposal.

Instead, hundreds of vocal critics turned out, many of them saying they had been spurred on through the Tampa 912 activist group promoted by conservative radio and television personality Glenn Beck. Others had received e-mails from the Hillsborough Republican Party that urged people to speak out against the plan and offered talking points.
Opposing viewpoints should be welcomed. Unfortunately, viewpoints cannot even be expressed because unruly attendees have no manners and are present not to discuss or hear about the plan, but only to stop the dialogue.

Organized rioters should be arrested. How can anyone possibly hold an intelligent discussion with out-of-control people shouting and not allowing an organized discussion? The Tampa meeting was not an isolated incident. Republican leaders, conservative groups and talk show hosts encouraged their followers to disrupt meetings across the nation.

There are Youtube videos, such as the one below that shows the organized disruptive attendees destroying the dialogue in the meeting:

Right-wing groups backed by health insurance companies, lobbyists and conservative politicians are said to be the instigators.

Sarah Palin made this out-of-touch-with-reality statement on her Facebook page:
The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
It would be evil if such a system was proposed or even thought of. Fortunately for us, there is no such system in the wings. Just another lie from Palin to poison healthcare reform as she once again stands with the radical right to embrace an agenda based on lies and propaganda.

Radical groups have also organized their followers to disrupt. Talking Points Memo reported that Robert MacGuffie, author of the website rightprinciples.com and a volunteer for Astroturf organization, Freedom Works appealed to tea partiers through a political action memo, Rocking the Town Halls. The memo is a game plan encouraging conservatives to attend town hall meetings to disrupt and block the message rather than to participate in meaningful dialogue. Some highlights:
  • Pack the hall
  • Spread out and try to be in the front half. The Rep. should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of the audience opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.
  • 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.... The purpose is to make him uneasy early on and set the tone for the hall as clearly informal and freewheeling. The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda...stand up and shout and sit right back down.
In a New York Times opinion, Paul Krugman stated:
Some commentators have tried to play down the mob aspect of these scenes, likening the campaign against health reform to the campaign against Social Security privatization back in 2005. But there’s no comparison. I’ve gone through many news reports from 2005, and while anti-privatization activists were sometimes raucous and rude, I can’t find any examples of congressmen shouted down, congressmen hanged in effigy, congressmen surrounded and followed by taunting crowds.

And I can’t find any counterpart to the death threats at least one congressman has received.

So this is something new and ugly. What’s behind it?

Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, has compared the scenes at health care town halls to the “Brooks Brothers riot” in 2000 — the demonstration that disrupted the vote count in Miami and arguably helped send George W. Bush to the White House. Portrayed at the time as local protesters, many of the rioters were actually G.O.P. staffers flown in from Washington.

But Mr. Gibbs is probably only half right. Yes, well-heeled interest groups are helping to organize the town hall mobs. Key organizers include two Astroturf (fake grass-roots) organizations: FreedomWorks, run by the former House majority leader Dick Armey, and a new organization called Conservatives for Patients’ Rights.

The latter group, by the way, is run by Rick Scott, the former head of Columbia/HCA, a for-profit hospital chain. Mr. Scott was forced out of that job amid a fraud investigation; the company eventually pleaded guilty to charges of overbilling state and federal health plans, paying $1.7 billion — yes, that’s “billion” — in fines. You can’t make this stuff up.
Another perspective comes from a column in the Washington Post by Steve Pearlman:
The recent attacks by Republican leaders and their ideological fellow-travelers on the effort to reform the health-care system have been so misleading, so disingenuous, that they could only spring from a cynical effort to gain partisan political advantage. By poisoning the political well, they've given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They've become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.

There are lots of valid criticisms that can be made against the health reform plans moving through Congress -- I've made a few myself. But there is no credible way to look at what has been proposed by the president or any congressional committee and conclude that these will result in a government takeover of the health-care system. That is a flat-out lie whose only purpose is to scare the public and stop political conversation.

Under any plan likely to emerge from Congress, the vast majority of Americans who are not old or poor will continue to buy health insurance from private companies, continue to get their health care from doctors in private practice and continue to be treated at privately owned hospital.
He continues the column by exposing some of the most blatant lies that the political right is pumping out in an effort to defeat health care reform.

The New York Times reports:
The bitter divisions over an overhaul of the health care system have exploded at town-hall-style meetings over the last few days as members of Congress have been shouted down, hanged in effigy and taunted by crowds. In several cities, noisy demonstrations have led to fistfights, arrests and hospitalizations.
A volatile mix has resulted. In Mehlville, Mo., St. Louis County police officers arrested six people on Thursday evening, some on assault charges, outside a health care and aging forum organized by Representative Russ Carnahan, a Democrat. Opponents of the proposed changes, organized by the St. Louis Tea Party, apparently clashed with supporters organized by the Service Employees International Union outside a school gym.

That same day in Romulus, Mich., Representative John D. Dingell, a long-serving Democrat, was shouted down at a health care meeting by a rowdy crowd of foes of health care overhaul, many crying, “Shame on you!” A similar scene unfolded in Denver on Thursday when Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California visited a clinic for the homeless there.

In a statement Friday, Mr. Dingell, 83, deplored those trying to “demagogue the discussion,” but said he would not be deterred. “As long as I have a vote, I will not let shouting, intimidation or misinformation deter me from fighting for this cause,” he said.

The tenor of some of the debates has become extreme. Ms. Pelosi has accused people at recent protests of carrying signs associating the Democratic plan with Nazi swastikas and SS symbols, and some photographs showing such signs have been posted on the Web.

...Elsewhere, there was similar discontent. On Sunday in Morrisville, Pa., Representative Patrick J. Murphy, a Democrat, was forced to scrap plans for a one-on-one, meet-the-congressman session when people in the crowd started shouting, so he agreed to discuss the issue with the entire audience.

At an appearance at a grocery store in Austin, Tex., on Aug. 1, Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat, was drowned out as he tried to speak on health care change. One opponent had a mock tombstone with Mr. Doggett’s name on it.

Last week, a protester hanged an effigy of Representative Frank Kratovil Jr., Democrat of Maryland, at a rally opposing health care change. This week, Representative Brad Miller, Democrat of North Carolina, said he had received a death threat about his support.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said of the protests:
"These are nothing more than destructive efforts to interrupt a debate that we should have, and are having," Reid said. "They are doing this because they don't have any better ideas. They have no interest in letting the negotiators, even though few in number, negotiate. It's really simple: they're taking their cues from talk show hosts, Internet rumor-mongerers ... and insurance rackets."
SEIU, Service Employees International Union had this to say:
Now that we're closer than ever before to reforming our health care system, the opposition is ratcheting up the fear-mongering and deception. They'll say anything to dominate the public conversation and disrupt productive dialogue, and do anything to block reform--including harassment, intimidation, and physical violence.

For several days now, radical-fringe right-wing opponents bent on blocking any reform legislation have disrupted town hall meetings conducted by members of Congress. At the same time they're engaging in Astroturf [read: fake grassroots] activism, these radical-fringe groups are disseminating discredited myths about health care reform bills that were adopted by four Congressional committees. Astroturfing by conservative opponents of reform is particularly dishonest because it masks the true motivations of the powerful interests--like the desire of industries to maintain the status quo.

These conservative lobbyist-run groups are leading the way orchestrating town hall mobs.
Some of the Astroturf Groups identified by SEIU are:

This group is led by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, (as in "I visited the CNMI on a junket and was an Abramoff backer", Dick Armey). SIEU reported that he emailed 380,000 supporters an "August Recess Action Kit" link this week. What's in Dick's action kit? A letter signed by Dick Armey, talking points that look like they were created by health insurance companies, and some sample invitations to invite others to the town hall meetings.

Run by Grover Norquist, this is one of the tax-exempt organizations that Abramoff used to channel money. Crooks and Liars outlines Norquist untruths on proposed healthcare reform and also has a video.

Run by Rick Scott former hospital executive as a movement to kill healthcare reform. The group posted a list of Town Halls. The Washington Post call Scott a leader in the opposition to healthcare reform:
Conservatives for Patients' Rights spent about $600,000 a month on ads in March and April but is ratcheting up its buy for May to more than $1 million, CRC representatives said. Scott has also spent recent weeks meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill and addressing conservative groups in Washington, including the influential weekly breakfast organized by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.
...Democrats especially bristle at the central allegation in Scott's advertisements: that they hope to create a fully government-run, or "single-payer," health system of the kind seen in Canada and Britain. In fact, Obama and Democratic leaders have effectively ruled out that option in discussions so far, leading angry left-wing activists to disrupt a Senate hearing on the issue last week.

"We are not Europe. We are not Canada," Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who is leading the debate over a health-care plan as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a recent speech. "We need a uniquely American solution. It has to be a partnership of public and private players."
Run by oil magnate David Koch. From SEIU:
Americans for Prosperity's various fronts and disclosures that point to ever-increasing oil and corporate donations to the group are guided by AFP President Tim Phillips--who, as The Wonk Room notes, "has built a long career of inventing fake grassroots causes." Phillips' resume includes founding an Atlanta-based firm with Abramoff-connected Ralph Reed. The firm, Century Strategies, has a history of mounting "grassroots lobbying drives," and Reed in the past has said (when attempting to help Enron deregulate the electricity industry), "it matters less who has the best arguments and more who gets heard -- and by whom."
From Talking Point Memo is an article, Tea Baggers Team With Freedom Works To Target Blue Dogs in Anti-Health Care Push:
This week's town hall disruptions aren't simply tantalizing (and at time disturbing) episodes of anti-government activism. They're also object lessons in how political interests enlist human and technological resources to build political pressure while those responsible remain safely behind the curtain.

Take, for instance, the blow email, obtained by TPMDC.

Last month, Tom Gaitens, a FreedomWorks field manager posted a spreadsheet containing contact information for Blue Dogs and their chiefs of staff, to a tea party organizers list serv that he manages.

"I've been calling the Blue Dogs," wrote one activist in response. "I'm going to start emailing because it can be done after government business hours and over the weekend."

I'm going to use the list you sent out in an Excel file. It not only has the COS [Chief of Staff] list but it has all of the Blue Dogs, not just those on Energy and Commerce.
I think it would be best to send each cos a separate email rather than sending a single letter to multiple addresses. I think the latter would not appear to be grassroots and would have far less effect.

This was sent Friday, July 24, just as Blue Dogs on the House Energy and Commerce Committee--no doubt inundated with calls from both within and outside their districts--were stalling, and seeking to weaken, Democratic health care legislation.
One of the organizers of the disruption at the Tampa town hall called on support from members of Glen Beck-supported 9-12-Project, a group that promotes division. One of the sick items they sell on their site, an Obama flag, depicts the stars replaced by the communist symbol of the star, hammer and sickle. (Seen here.)

The 9-12 site also promotes protests like one held yesterday in St. Louis to protest the SEIU, tea parties and events where followers can attend to protest or disrupt.

The 9-12 Project site must have been flooded with opposing viewpoints because they have closed down comments on the site saying:
From your 912 Editor – All commenting software on the site has been disabled for the time being. Please do not read into this any bizarre conspiracy theories. Nothing could be further from the truth. People CAN still communicate with us and other 912-ers, just in a different manner. And in the end, the result will be more efficient communication in a troll-free environment, without some of the pointless rantings to wade through.
Blocking comments isn't surprising. Hate radio commentators and sites often block views that differ from theirs. They routinely hang up on "liberals" and anyone else who tries to share an alternative point of view or offer a conflicting opinion.

Another far-right website is The Conservative Underground. Here is a photo from their site:

Some of the "gear" that they are selling includes the "Angry mob" t-shirts.

Who are the losers in this ugly campaign? All of us, myself included, who have horrible or overly expensive healthcare plans. All of the Americans who have no healthcare insurance. All of the sincere participants of meetings who attended and remained dignified and respectful hoping to have questions answered or to voice an opinion. All of the people who would like to see beneficial healthcare legislation pass this year.

Grow up all you tea baggers, radical disrupters, immature whiners, and screaming lunatics. Get some manners, get educated on the truth about the proposed plan and learn how to make constructive criticism instead of acting like spoiled playground brats.



Anonymous said...

Since when is bad behavior a family value?

Anonymous said...

Look at who leads these people and then you will have your answer for how they behave. Sarah Palin, Newt, Rush, Sean, Glenn, Ann Coulter...

Anonymous said...

Boycott Glenn Beck's Advertisers.

Anonymous said...

Think Progress reports three advertisers have already dropped Beck.

Lisa said...

I agree with Speaker Pelosi. These disruptions are un-American. The Baltimore Sun quotes Pelosi:

"However, it is now evident that an ugly campaign is underway not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue,'' the two leaders write…. "These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views -- but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American.''

Anonymous said...

Protesters are staging another protest tomorrow in New Hampshire. The speaker is President Obama. The subject is health care reform and the economy.
Here's what the NH Republican Volunteer Coalition just released:

"NHRVC members and others,

Barack Hussein Obama will be arriving in Portsmouth on Tuesday to hold a STAGED "Town Hall Meeting", where he will essentially hand pick who the guests will be and what types of questions will be asked of him.

A MASSIVE protest rally is being organized just outside of the facility where Obama will be holding his "Town Hall Meeting" to promote his plan for a government takeover of your healthcare decisions.

There will be news media from all over the world at this event and it will be the ideal opportunity for us to tell the rest of the country exactly how NH voters feel about Obamacare (taxed/rationed healthcare). It will be the most important pro-liberty event of the year in NH and it is critically important that every one of us attend.

If you can, bring a sign that says something like, "OBAMACARE=TAXED/RATIONED HEALTHCARE", etc.

Come anytime between 8am-4pm (peak time will be 11am-4pm)"

Anonymous said...

Democrats and those of us who believe in the democratic process and civility should also show up at town halls and respectfully picket. We can also show support for the health care plan by attending and showing the hooligans how to act.

Anonymous said...

Also a call to boycott Fox News:


Hypocrites said...

Imagine if children see their mom or dad on TV screaming, not taking turns, interrupting, shoving, and acting like they need a time out. Explain that away to the little ones. These are not family values or American values.

Anonymous said...

Geico and AARP pulled out of the Glenn Beck FOx show.