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My Plan to Deal with those Disrupting Town Hall Meetings

For reasons I have written about here, I have decided to intellectually retract this article. I leave it up to highlight my own growth on the issue and to model honesty in blogging… but what I wrote here as somewhat tongue-in-cheek I now realize has ramifications I did not intend. I encourage you to not only read this, but to read the article that the responses to it inspired in me. I thank everyone who responded both publically and privately.

Recently, you may have seen or read news stories that individuals have been disrupting town hall meetings on health care reform held by Democratic Senators and Representatives. It is fairly conclusive that these disruptions are part of an organized campaign, coordinated by right-wing activist groups and lobbyists funded by health care corporations. Many of these individuals appear to be from areas other than the local congressional districts.

These anti-health care activists have made a practice of shouting down everyone else at the town hall meeting, shouting at the politician, and chanting “Just Say No!” so loud the meeting cannot continue. In some cases they have been so threatening that the politician felt the need for security. They have organized enough to travel from state to state, and have a developed set of tactics to prevent anyone at the meeting from actually discussing health care reform. They have even been going to meetings of the Democratic politicians that were not about health care reform to disrupt those meetings as well.

Democratic pundits and politicians have seemed at a loss as to how to counter this set of tactics.

I would like to propose a plan.

Simply put, we should sick Code Pink on them.

The Right is pretty new to this kind of activism, to using disruption tactics… which explains why they are so crude at it. The right is taking over the whole meeting, doing nothing but shouting down politicians. In doing so, they are unable to maintain a coherent message. They are unable to craft their message in a way that the media can easily forward in a sound bite and visual culture. They are unable to control the messages brought out by the “hangers on” to the activists… which is why you see people at their disruptions holding up everything from fake birth certificates to bibles to pictures of abortions to Nazi memorabilia.

They are at the level of disruption activism that the left was at in the late 60’s, but due to the demographics of their “hangers on” they might be on pace for a slower learning curve. They do, however, have the example of the development of activism on the left, so I would not count on having the same amount of time.

The advantage that the left has right now is that our activists have had decades of experience at disruption tactics, and an organization and sophistication that the right could only dream of. Though most of the left-leaning activist organizations are focused on specific issues (war, environment, civil-rights) they could be convinced to co-operate with each other in opposing these crude disruption tactics.

Imagine if, at a town hall meeting, the right-wing activists who have been bused in have to walk a gauntlet of gay-rights activists, standing silently staring at them. They then find a civil rights activist (perhaps someone who identifies as a minority) intentionally goes and sits next to them, and moves wherever they do. Around the walls are a group of activists from Code Pink, holding up a sign that says “You are a Corporate Tool” each time one of them begins to shout. Imagine the chant “Just Say No” is drowned out by a chant of “Party of No”.

I have been to many protests with members of Code Pink… and even though I was on their side they still intimidate the willies out of me. Imagine what they do to such right-wing activists… to say nothing of having to sit next to a person of color and walk a gauntlet of GLBT people staring at them.

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And imagine what the message would be on the news that night.

Yours in Faith,


12 Thoughts on “My Plan to Deal with those Disrupting Town Hall Meetings

  1. Great idea! Where can I enlist?

  2. Why not report the anti-social elements, Kulaks, Cosmpolitians, etc. to the White House Fishy speech cops?

    Get real guys… Americans aren’t going to stand of Socialized Med Wait Times. Check the Canadian site http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-575-x/2003001/4064420-eng.htm

    It’s BAAR with two A’s when you report me to flag@whitehouse.gov

  3. Bill,

    That is why I like this current draft of the bill. If you dont want to deal with the waits (unlike the huge waits I have to go through now on a managed plan) then you can pay the extra money for a private health care plan.

    The plan I have now is supposedly better than average, and there are huge waits for appointments now.

    Comparing what is proposed in this bill with the Canadian health care “single payer” system is comparing apples and oranges. If you dont like the wait on the government program, then go get private insurance. This bill just gives you the choice.

    Yours in Faith,


  4. Bill–

    Let me get this strait. If supporters of health care reform take any steps to insure that an open discussion can go on in a public forum without being disrupted by a posse of quasi rioters bought and paid for by the companies that stand to lose big time if I am able to afford health coverage, then they are suppressing your free speech rights? And we will report you to some non-existent thought police who undoubtedly will swoop down in black helicopters and lock you up in a FEMA concentration camp?

    We’ve know each other a long time. I knew that you went off the deep end a while ago. I did not realize you had you had joined the thugs.

  5. David,

    At it’s best, the bill with a Gov Option creates a two tired system as you’ve well stated. One with waits and delays, and another with timely care for those willing to pay. A health care ghetto for some, and a decent system for others.

    This is as far from Liberal as one can get.

    At it’s worst, the Gov Option succeeds in giving us single payor, and I think that means UK style NHS. I’ve worked with NHS’s Modernization project office on Waits and Delays. They have a wildly inefficiant system and the root cause is the way Government funds the different ministries. Care the would be cooridinated for the patients is fractured because it’s coordinated by ministried budgets instead e.g. underfunded long term care vs over funded acute care means less than sick patients stuck in acute beds for lack of nursing homes while the elderly rationed out of entry. It’s a mess. Ernie Bevan ashamed in his grave.

    A friend of mine on his way back home to Scotland to see his elderly relatives. His aunt just past away from terminal cancer. A disease he believed would have been aggressively treated here in the States. His brother received a Kidney transplant here in Wisconsin and his family said it would have been unthinkable for a guy in his 50s over there. My niece was on a waiting list in London for an appendectmy. A two weeks wait for surgery that would have been done next day in Chicago (on Medicaid or for free at Cook County Hospital too.)

    To dismiss peoples fears of this mess getting billed as reform, and suggest those of us opposed as right wing loons is pretty low. We’ve got problems but there is every indication this system is just going to create more. Ask yourself how Medical Education gets funded in this plan? What happens to VA health care? What happens to Medicare?

    I implemented a Provider Profiling System once and a Doc told me if I build two hospitals and one run by accountants, and the other by physiciains, which hospital is going to have a fuller parking lot? A good question.

    People have a lot of concerns. No way something this dramatic should be rammed through without reading the bill.

    Fishy thoughts to mail Chicago Ward Healers. That this passes as Liberalism todayd is a real disgrace.

  6. Bill,

    We have a multi-tiered system of rationing right now… try stopping by an Emergency Room sometime. The current system leaves millions with no health care at all.

    I can think of an issue no more in tune with the core principles of liberalism.

    The accontants are in charge of the entire health system now… unless you are in one of the upper tiers. I have health care… and I know that the decisions in my managed care program are almost always about money.

    I have not suggested that all people opposed to this bill are right-wing loons. I am stating publically that those who stand at town hall meetings shouting so that no discussion of health care can occur are right-wing loons, and I stand by that statement.

    If you are seeking to enter into positive, productive conversation on this, then you are not a right-wing loon. If you are screaming and yelling and threatening politicians on this issue, then you are a tool of corporate insurance America.

    Are you yelling at people at town halls Bill? If not, then the question is why did you personalize what I said? I have always known you to at least seek to be rational and reasoned… though I disagree with you and your characterization of this issue.

    Yours in faith,


  7. I haven’t had a chance to yell, or ask a question. Bill Foster won’t appear at any of his town halls. I write him though.

    Every thing is rationed. They’re constraints on us all. This is a question of who holds the power. A single Government agency, or a more diffused system.

    If the debate was more open, bills like Healthy Americans Act would be openly debated in Congress http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106979677

    Stuff that works, makes sense, covers all, is affordable to the country, and leaves power in the hands of patients.

    Instead we get hokum about sending fish reports to the white house.

    Obama’s friend Dr. Quintinn Young and Illinois leading single payor advocate closed his practice to Medicaid patients in the 90s because he said he’d go broke treating the poor. That’s the kind of catastrophe Quinns leading us to as a country and it need not be… there are sensible plans like HAA that keep the best of the world best Medical care (how many Docs in the world don’t speak English? No Doc can stay on top of booming health care knowledge if they don’t read US Med Journals)…

    I’ll be holding a sign if Foster comes out of his hole telling him to head to NPR and read about HAA.

  8. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/06/unions-to-take-on-conserv_n_252720.html

    Hah! Unions are going to go to the Town Hall meeitngs and “engage” those seeking to disrupt them…

    That’ll work.

    I still would love to see Code Pink do it though… 😉

    Yours in Faith


  9. You’re in Chicago David, yes? You think SEIU doesn’t know how to play hardball?

  10. Chicago News Bench on Bob Craemer (Rep Schakowsky’s husband and excon) http://rogersparkbench.blogspot.com/2009/08/convicted-felon-attacks-opponents-of.html

    He wrote the book on interventions.

  11. As I have said at the beginning of the article, though I leave it up I am retracting its intent. It was intended to be “tongue-in-cheek”, but I had not thought fully through its implications when I posted it.

    Please read this article on the reason for the retraction:


    Here is a paragraph from my retraction:

    What anger needs right now to begin making the transition into hate is a target that gives an excuse. Many have found enough of an excuse to begin hating President Obama, and that anger has transformed into that hatred. The more I thought about it, confrontations between activists at town hall meetings might be just the next spark to turn that anger into hatred… and so I want to retract my facetious, tongue-in-cheek article. I won’t take it down, because I believe in highlighting my own growth and modeling intellectual honesty… but what I said in smart-alec humor could have dire consequences I had not forseen.

    Yours in Faith,


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