E.J. Dionne: Shame on Me the Media for Over-hyping Right Wing Town Hall Screamers!


The Washington Post columnist, on Sept. 3:

Health-care reform is said to be in trouble partly because of those raucous August town-hall meetings in which Democratic members of Congress were besieged by shouters opposed to change.

But what if our media-created impression of the meetings is wrong? What if the highly publicized screamers represented only a fraction of public opinion? What if most of the town halls were populated by citizens who respectfully but firmly expressed a mixture of support, concern and doubt? […]

But the only citizens who commanded widespread media coverage last month were the right-wingers. And I bet you thought the media were "liberal."

Dionne, Aug. 20:

This is not about the politics of populism. It's about the politics of the jackboot. It's not about an opposition that has every right to free expression. It's about an angry minority engaging in intimidation backed by the threat of violence. […]

All this is taking place as the country debates the president's health-care proposal. There is much that is disturbing in that discussion. Shouting down speakers is never a good thing, and many lies are being told about the contents of the health-care bills. The lies should be confronted, but freedom involves a lot of commotion and an open contest of ideas, even when some of the parties say things that aren't true and act in less than civil ways.

Yet if we can't draw the line at the threat of violence, democracy begins to disintegrate. Power, not reason, becomes the stuff of political life.