To the Astroturfers: Sit Down and Shut Up

A dog isn’t considered to be right because it barks loudly, and neither should those anti-democracy zealots who are shouting down discussion about healthcare reform, be.

I have this nearly pathological dislike for such public displays, no matter what the cause, especially when their noise replaces reasoned, intelligent dialog. Whenever emotionalism, real or faux, replaces logic and a civil exchange of ideas, nothing of any importance is achieved.

It is evident that this ugly campaign is underway, not only to misrepresent any pending or potential health insurance reform legislation, but also to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue. These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid of the facts themselves, not just of the differing views in the marketplace of ideas.

Especially abhorrent is the fact that some of the mob behavior appears to be the work of corporate lobbying groups who are spending an estimated $1.4 million a day to block health care reform.

One such group, FreedomWorks, is chaired by former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey. They also have a corporate board that includes billionaire Steve Forbes, former GOP candidate for President, as well as several other former Republican congressmen and business titans. Dick Armey also works for DLA Piper, a Washington lobbying firm which represents Bristol Myers Squibb and other healthcare related businesses, in addition to financial corporations, manufacturers, and others .
FreedomWorks is one of the companies most involved with the so-called “astroturfing” that’s going on in relation to the healthcare dialog. They try to keep it looking like a grassroots effort, but its artificiality has coined the astroturf label. FreedomWorks recently sent out a memo to people on their contact lists detailing the best ways to disrupt health care town hall meetings.
“Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half,” the memo reads. Other pointers include: “Be Disruptive Early And Often.” “Try To Rattle Him, Not Have An Intelligent Debate . . . stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”

So, FreedomWorks and other like them are launching their minions with detailed instructions on how to disrupt any meaningful conversation. They take money to lobby on behalf of companies who might lose out if healthcare reform becomes a reality. And the rest of us are trying to have a conversation about affordability of our healthcare and our family’s healthcare. We’re trying to stop 18,000 Americans from losing their health insurance every single day that nothing is done. We’re trying to talk about coverage for pre-existing conditions, insurance portability if we lose or change jobs, and a whole litany of other serious, life altering issues. All while the shills for the healthcare industry and their paid lobbyists try to shout us down and keep these issues off the front page and the nightly news.

That’s Americanism alright. It’s the crass, commercialized, greedy side of capitalistic corporate America. It’s not Main Street America where families have to hold bake sales to pay for their child’s cancer treatments. It’s not the America of democracy, fairness, compassion, and concern. It’s not the America I choose to believe is in the hearts and minds of the vast majority of us.

The shouters, all of whom seem to be angry, in their body language, and their vocality, and their contorted faces, throw out buzzwords like “death squads”, “socialism”, “my America”, and others. I’m not sure what virtue there is in their America, and I doubt most of them understand socialism, even while many of the them are using Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, SSI, subsidized school lunches, and all of the other services we have in this country which have been socialized for all or most of their lifetimes.

But I do know about the death squads. Oh, it’s not those that they imagine to lurk in the fine print of health reform legislation. It’s the death squads that already exist, and whose work these people parenthetically support.

When insurance companies deny coverage to critically ill patients because of “pre-existing conditions,” they become a death squad, sentencing those people to suffer, and ultimately to die. When acutely and chronically ill people are unable to purchase medicine because of exorbitant prices, pharmaceutical death squads have spoken.

When an infant is stillborn because of inadequate prenatal care, don’t tell me that our current system of health care isn’t performing the work of a death squad. When a cancer patient is denied treatment because of costs, or a family is forced to decide whose medical needs will be met and whose must be postponed, you can’t convince me that somewhere there isn’t a death squad doing its dirty work.

So, instead of listening to those raucous voices telling us what could be, let’s talk about what is. Instead of unsupportable fiction, let’s discuss reality. And instead of President Obama responding to wild attacks from fabricators as if they deserve reasoned responses, let’s hear him describe the death panels we have now and how much worse it is going to get if only the lucky and the wealthy have health care.