As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Thug Life

For all the conservatives trying to make some equivalence between Code Pink ralliers and lobbyist-supported teabagger groups on their side, please let me know the instances of left-wing protesters physically assaulting politicians:

As lobbyist-run groups encourage conservative activists to “rattle” members of Congress at local town hall events, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), the president of the freshman Democratic class has revealed that “at least one freshman Democrat” has already been “physically assaulted at a local event” by right-wing activists. Connolly warned that conservative groups had taken things to a “dangerous level“:

“When you look at the fervor of some of these people who are all being whipped up by the right-wing talking heads on Fox, to me, you’re crossing a line,’ Connolly said. ‘They’re inciting people to riot with just total distortions of facts. They think we’re going to euthanize Grandma and the government is going to take over.”

I think Harold Meyerson has this right. We've become a Filibuster Nation, with the minority reduced to shouting down the majority, using procedural tricks and rage and in some cases violence to veto the popular will.

Health Care for America Now has a memo on how to counteract the right at these rallies. There are probably a range of options. Invoking the Larouchies would be a start. Just getting the teabaggers on camera spouting their inanities is probably enough for them to embarrass themselves. But shutting up a mob that has shown a propensity for physical assault is probably not going to be handled with reasonable techniques. I'm thinking back to my days as a comic, when I was heckled. I actually enjoyed hecklers, it meant people were paying attention, for one thing. And I found two techniques to be successful:

1) Go meta - you cannot just plow ahead with your presentation. You have to comment on what's happening in the room. And making clear what's happening, essentially speaking for those in the room who aren't shouting, gets that segment of the room on your side. Saying things like "this is a coordinated effort by people funded and directed by Washington lobbyists to deny 47 million people health care" is a start. "Where are you from?" is another.

2) You have a microphone and they don't: use it - people on the fence generally go with the side that they feel has the upper hand. A microphone can be a powerful tool to talk over, above, and through a heckler. It can also be wielded for shaming them, although a politician probably has to do this tactfully.

There probably aren't a lot of former comics among the Congress outside of Al Franken, but they should maybe take some advice from him. I mean, these people at the town halls aren't even belligerent drunks! They will, however, try to beat you up after the show, just like regular hecklers.

...TPM has a live news wire of events happening on the ground, which may be useful.

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