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Inside Story on Town Hall Riots: Right-Wing Shock Troops Do Corporate America’s Dirty Work
Posted on Aug 10, 2009
By Adele M. Stan, AlterNet
This article was published previously on AlterNet.org.
The recent spate of town hall dustups may look like an overnight sensation, but they’ve been years, even decades, in the making.
Since the days in the late 1970s, when the New Right began its takeover of the Republican Party, it has cultivated a militia of white people armed with a grudge against those who brought forth the social changes of the ’60s.
These malcontents have been promised their day of retribution, a day for which they are more than ready. Few seem to understand that they are merely dupes for a corporate agenda that will only worsen the conditions in which they live.
Why, you may ask, would men of power and fame shake the rough, unmanicured hands of gun enthusiasts, conspiracy theorists, gay-haters, misogynists and racists?
Square, Site wide
Because somebody’s got to do the dirty work. Magnates don’t like to soil their French cuffs, and it’s hard for a bunch of rich guys to garner sympathy for threats to their bottom lines. It’s the classic inside-outside game that the right wing of the GOP has played for the last two decades.
The Health-Care Industry Executive
Imagine you’re an executive at a pharmaceutical company. Your U.S. operations are your cash cow; they earn you wild net profits because, unlike in other industrialized nations, you do not experience the price controls of a government-administered program in which the government negotiates for the best price on prescription drugs and devices.
Along comes a government plan for health-insurance reform that includes a public, government-financed plan. The public option, they call it. As part of the plan, you will be required to negotiate with the government for the price of medications and devices to be distributed within the plan.
Now that could really screw up your massive profit margins. Private plans might then insist on prices more like those the government is getting.
Instead of increasing your profit by double digits in the worst year the economy has seen since the Great Depression, as did an outfit called The Medicines Co., your shareholders may have to settle for profits more in line with the overall growth of the economy. And wouldn’t that just stink?
Meanwhile, polls show a clear majority of Americans—you know, regular Americans, the kind who don’t want to own an AK-47, or who do accept the president’s citizenship status—favor the public option. In fact, in June, CBS News found that majority to be 72 percent.
So, whaddaya do? Well, if your lobbying firm counts former Rep. Dick Armey, R-Texas, as its senior policy adviser, you don’t have do much. Dick will take care of the rest through FreedomWorks, the ostensibly grassroots, nonprofit organization of anti-taxers, cold warriors and affirmative-action opponents, which he chairs.
Need to make it look like regular Americans oppose the health-insurance reform bills now being considered by Congress? Make sure a handful of those angry white people turn up at the town hall meetings now being conducted by members of Congress throughout the country. Make sure they disrupt the meeting and rattle the congressperson.
Capture it all on amateur video and put it up on a faux, amateur-looking Web site, and try to kid the media into thinking there’s a widespread rebellion happening. After all, the media are gonna want that dramatic footage.
The Republican Member of Congress
Now, suppose you’re a Republican member of Congress. Your party got totally throttled in the 2008 election, and if you don’t derail this health care thing, it’s going to be a big win for your Democratic opponents, as millions of underinsured and uninsured Americans finally have some health care coverage—one bright spot in a largely dismal economy.
Meanwhile, you get a lot of your campaign cash from health-care-related industries and from the Wall Street bankers and brokers who want to keep those profits soaring.
A public option is going to stink for you, too. So, while Armey’s army of taxphobes is useful to you, it would be great to get some really hard-core types to further stoke the fires—especially if marshaled by guys who know how to really tar Democrats with racist imagery and slurs of unpatriotic behavior.
That’s where Grassfire.org and its brother networking site, ResistNet, come in. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who promised to make health-care reform President Obama’s "Waterloo," is a big fan. Says so right there on the Grassfire Web site. ResistNet is yet another right-wing hub for organizing the disruption of health-care town hall meetings.
The Media Mogul
Okay, now put on the hat of a media mogul, one who rails against the minimal restrictions the U.S. has on multi-outlet ownership, and one for whom the bottom line is everything. In fact, you actually own the Wall Street Journal.
If you can nip this health care thing in the bud, you could stand in the way of a president who wants to rein in Wall Street’s worse excesses and who may depress the profit margins of health-care companies in which your readers invest with his dastardly public option. What’s a mogul to do?
Why not hire a guy known for riling the discontented to host a show on your cable news channel, and empower him as an organizer? Let him create a little project pegged to fear and nationalism—something, say, like 9/11—through which he mobilizes bands of those aggrieved by the fact of a black president to disrupt town hall meetings.
That’s exactly what Rupert Murdoch did when he hired Glenn Beck to host a Fox News Channel show and to put together a little organizing site called The 9-12 Project.
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