Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Political thuggery

As you may have heard, Republicans are being encouraged to show up at town hall meetings, especially those hosted by Democrats, and shout them down about public health care. If you haven't heard it, get informed with this recent commentary and then come back.

There's a memo that's gone around that incited this stuff. In it, participants are urged to bring in questions that have been written for them, yell at the speaker, and disrupt any effort to answer the questions.

I'm actually quite in favor of political activism, but this isn't conversation -- it's intimidation.

I don't have a lot to add to the story, but I'd like to point out the stark contrast between this and another recent story about a "protest."

PZ Myers plans a trip to the creationism museum with around 200 fans. The museum fears a disruption, and PZ responds to their concerns by writing a very stern message to all participants:

You will not be disruptive. This is an information gathering mission that will make you a better informed individual to criticize bad ideas. Do not interfere with other visitors' ability to examine the place. Ask questions only where appropriate. Collect questions that you can ask of any of the real scientists who will be in our group. Do not get into loud arguments. If a discussion starts getting angry on either side I want you to be the ones to back off.

Remember, if you are calm, civil, and well-behaved, and you tour the "museum", we win. If you are calm, civil, and well-behaved, and the security guards throw you out because they don't like the fact that you're an atheist, we win. If you are angry, rude, and cause trouble that gives them a reasonable excuse to throw you out, we lose, and I will be very pissed off at you.

I think the difference speaks for itself.


  1. If you haven't already, you should really take a look at The Authoritarians, by Dr Robert Altemeyer.

    It gets to the psychology the underlies behaviour like this. It's all there, the hostility, the total submission to authority, conformity, and compartmentalised thinking.

    I got the audio book a couple of days ago, and found the experience similar to seeing an optical illusion "pop" when someone points out the nature of the illusion.

  2. To be truly successful takes a large amount of BAWLS. Yes, yes, we have TWO between our legs, but, yet, it really amounts to thy cranium. How so? I'll start with a quote: Why can’t we all just get along? -Rod King I’ll tell youse why (sorry, New Joisey accent). From the beginning of time, those with power and wealth, the greedy 2%ers, are doing everything they can to pit U.S. - the world, too - against each other. And, apparently, it works. YOU can most certainly follow them and perish withat on thy soul (not a wise choice), but you don’t have to!! Break-free! wiseabove!! Look forward to the Heaven Above prepared outta infinite love God has bestowed upon those that do His will!! God bless you, my friend; hang-in-there. I love you, dude. I wanna see YOU make the Great Beyond. Don’t give up. Trust Jesus.

  3. I once got into a heated discussion about this on an freethinker board. An atheist had received one of those friend-of-a-friend chain e-mails that was written by a Christian and boiled down to "God loves you and you should love each other, too."

    The atheist responded back with a profanity-laced screed full of hatred and anger with the hope of getting removed from the e-mail list. He then duplicated his exchange on the board so that the rest of us could chortle and pump our fists and heap accolades on him, and the other members didn't disappoint.

    I was the lone ghoul at the party, saying that I thought he did a disservice for us freethinkers by reacting in such a childish and angry manner, and boy did they pounce on me:

    "Why should we be concerned about their feelings? They think we're GOING TO HELL!"

    "Sometimes they push you so far and you have to push back!"

    "Maybe now the fundies will think twice before e-mailing their screeds!"

    My response remained on message: We are supposed to be the adults, the clear-thinking rational ones who are not ruled by emotions and not prone to superstitious pablum. By lashing out like a spoiled teenager, you do the rest of non-believers a disservice, and you only fuel the stereotype of the "Angry Atheist."

    After much back-and-forth, the original poster reluctantly admitted that A) he was drunk when he wrote his missive and B) he works with the person who sent him the e-mail so he might have made his work environment a bit awkward by cussing her out. Nevertheless, he still had many defenders from others who thought he did the right thing.

    I don't post at that message board anymore.

  4. *wrangles the comments back on topic*

    This is indeed completely thuggish. It's one thing to let people know about a town hall meeting and let them know that they should go and ask questions/be heard. It's quite another to send out a memo like this one, which is essentially a "how to disrupt a town hall meeting" handbook. It's ridiculously childish and I encourage anyone reading this comment to go read the memo Kazim links to.

    Here are a few gems:

    If the Rep tries a particularly odious diversion, someone from
    group should yell out to answer the question. These tactics will Clearly rattle the
    Rep and illustrate some degree of his ineptness to the balance of the audience.

    You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep's presentation, Watch for an
    opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep's statements early.

    There are some questions
    attached here which apply to most any Democrat that is supporting the Socialist

    Oh noes! Teh socialists!

  5. I love the geek post, but you should really try the best MMORPG ever. EVE online It will honestly teach your kid a lot about a lot of real life things like supply/demand and how to make loyal friends.