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.
And imagine what the message would be on the news that night.
Yours in Faith,