The pundits are condescending and indulgent about the town hall meetings being conducted around the country to discuss health care reform. The TV anchors describe the meetings as rowdy arguments by angry people; the members of the chattering class elbow each other and snicker about the amusing excesses of the stupid class.
The thugs who are engineering the disruption of these meetings are stupid like foxes and about as amusing as a heart attack. I know this because of a study I did years ago of a small town in Germany. But I’ll get back to that.
We need to distinguish between the simpletons we see brandishing signs and screaming their fears — about death squads being sent to euthanize Grandma, and government taking over Medicare, and socialized medicine and the like. Most of them are harmless in their natural state, fulminating about government conspiracies to suppress UFO sightings and confiscate guns. But they have been whipped into a rabid frenzy by well-paid experts in using ignorance, fear, hatred and racism to win arguments in which they otherwise would not have a chance.
They win the day not by discussing but by screaming so loudly and so long that their opponents do not get a chance to respond. They hint strongly at physical violence, so that decent people shy away from further contact with them — it makes the next meeting even easier to shut down.
And what is it that they are screaming? It doesn’t matter. They have learned that if you say anything often enough, angrily enough, you can get up a mob. Accuse a decorated, wounded war hero of cowardice. Proclaim it to be un-American to count all the votes. Equate discussion of end-of-life medical care with euthanasia. Why not? It works.
We know it works because this drive-by shooting of our democracy has resulted in headlines indicating that Obama’s popularity is declining, that the adminsitration has “lost momentum” in the so-called “debate” over health care, that “people” are afraid and upset about reform. This in a country where all objective measures show clearly that people are deeply upset about the present state of health care and health-care insurance (two different things, by the way: how come nobody makes the distinction in this “debate”?) and want, by a large majority, a single-payer system to replace it.
We also know these tactics of intimidation work because of that small town in Germany I mentioned. When the least capable, most resentful and intellectually challenged of its citizens were shown by political operatives how to dominate town meetings and local political events by shouting down and threatening decent people, they succeeded in delivering their town — which disagreed with them by a large majority — to their party. The National Socialists of Adolf Hitler.