Thursday, August 06, 2009

No more mob rule

This ad from the Democratic National Committee takes about a minute to show the gist of the current phoney campaign against healthcare reform in America. It’s been well-documented that the Republican Party has been deeply involved in a corporate marketing campaign designed to try and fool people into believing that protests against healthcare reform are real. The truth is, it’s a fake PR campaign paid for by healthcare and insurance industry lobbying companies with deep ties to the Republican Party (and at least one has a very unsavoury history).

The last time the Republicans tried this was the “tea bagging” phoney PR stunt a few months ago. They first tried it during the 2000 vote recount in Florida, though that time they used a lot of aides to Republican Members of Congress pretending to be real people.

The practice of trying to fake a grassroots campaign is called “astroturfing” (because fake grass has fake grass roots). The right in general, and the Republican Party in particular, has made astroturfing into a high art form and have succeeded in grabbing attention for themselves and fooling people who don’t know that business elites are behind it all.

The whole point of the rightwing marketing campaign is to shut down debate, to prevent real citizens from having a discussion on issues like healthcare and to try and make it appear that ordinary voters oppose reforms. It is completely anti-democratic to its core precisely because the mobs attempt to bully their opponents into silence. We’ve seen this sort of attempt at mob rule throughout modern history, but America deserves better.

Perhaps one way to shut down astroturfing would be for normal people at these events to demand to see the voter registration cards of the bussed-in “protestors”—make them prove they really live in the Congressional District whose “town hall meeting” they’re trying to disrupt and shut down. The people who DO live there would no doubt like to have their meeting and wouldn’t mind establishing their “bonafides”, especially if it made the mobs behave themselves. To be honest, I don’t think anything can make the people in these mobs act like real humans, let alone behave like real citizens.

These corporate-sponsored mobs aren’t going away any time soon. But anyone who has a commitment to democracy has a duty to call them out for being the anti-democratic goons they are.

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