Thursday, April 28, 2011

Civility or Censorship?

Long, long ago, back in the dim past of the year 2009, a faux-grassroots group calling themselves Tea Partiers began their mission of disrupting town hall meetings held by Congresscritters around the country. Some of you may remember this. The Tea Partiers don’t seem to, any more than they are willing to remember that they originally called themselves Tea Baggers. They’re full of pouty indignation these days about being referred to thusly, even though it is a problem of their own making.

The Teanuts howl that they are a grassroots movement, but that just isn’t so. They were very specifically created for the purpose of destroying any reforms to our miserable health care system. Right wing think tanks Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks provided education, materials, and tactics. The Koch brothers fund Americans for Prosperity. The Koch brothers are located out on the far right fringes of the far right fringe, with zillions of dollars at their disposal. In November, Koch Industries sent out a letter to their 50,000 some odd employees telling them who to vote for, with warnings of what might occur to their jobs and their country if they voted incorrectly. These are the guys who invented this allegedly grassroots movement.

The Teanuts went to the town hall meetings in their districts, with the purpose of disruption. They shouted down speakers. They howled and heckled. It was an organized effort. Memos outlining the strategy on how to organize and disrupt were created by FreedomWorks and distributed to the “grassroots.” People were told to “stand up and shout.” They did. Often there was just incomprehensible yelling that ensured that the member of Congress was unable to answer questions at all.

These same folks got in front of microphones at every opportunity to bellow about their rights being infringed upon. They gave no thought at all to the rights of those who showed up wanting to listen to their congressperson. Those disruptions had two goals. One was to create as much media as possible, with all kinds of coverage of angry, dissatisfied voters. The other, far more nefarious goal was censorship. The puppet masters behind the grassroots wanted to make sure that those members of congress had no chance to explain their positions – because that might lead to understanding and agreement, and that would be bad for the right. There was an open attempt at censoring Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in 2009. Epping Selectman Rene Archambault disagreed with a position taken the Congresswoman. Archambault didn’t write to her or call her to ask about it, he just tried to have the town prohibit her from speaking there.

The Teanuts who were elected have gone on to govern with a similar style. I’ve written extensively about what’s been said and done in the NH House during this legislative session. Regular readers of the Sun are aware that somehow, Rep. Frank McCarthy seems to have enough time on his hands during a hectic legislative session to pen weekly epistles for the paper. I feel kind of sorry for Rep. McCarthy. He ran for office at least 4 times, and couldn’t get elected, even when we had a one party system in the state. He finally was swept in during a red tide so noxious that anyone (can you say Martin Harty?) with an R next to his or her name was elected. It must be vexing to be voted in solely on the basis of party affiliation, especially having been rejected so many times before.

In February, at a hearing on repealing marriage equality I chatted with Rep. McCarthy, who told me he thought this was a hearing for a constitutional amendment. A month later, in February, at a county delegation meeting, Rep. McCarthy announced he’d voted the wrong way on an issue because he was confused. Luckily he belongs to a party that tells him very clearly how to vote on every issue, and provides him with the talking points he manages to churn out every week. This week he accused me of “ an unending barrage of demagoguery, misleading information, and outright lies.” Big words! Big accusation! Still, Rep. McCarthy failed to even list one lie told by the evil demagogue, never mind debunk it.

McCarthy has always written crabby letters to the paper. It’s disheartening to learn that he writes crabby emails to NH voters. A woman from another district sent out an email to all 400 state reps, outlining her fears about the budget. Frank’s response:

“I'm sorry but I've made it a point not to engage with individuals unless they were adults...biologically and mentally.”

To another NH voter:

“If it finally works out that you are wrong and property taxes do not go up as a result of the budget, will you admit that you and your liberal friends were wrong and vote straight republican in 2012? Where do you get your information anyway, the New York Times? We finally have a balanced budget (not seen here for years) No new taxes... whereas the dems increased taxes and fees more than 100 times during their four year tenure, No downshifting to cities and towns...dems downshifted close to 200 million dollars last year education donor borrowing, no bonds...What the heck more do you want? “

Speaking of outright lies, there’s one right there. The NH budget is balanced every year, as required by law.

It’s no surprise that the belligerent Teanuts are treating NH voters the same way they treated elected officials. What is amusing is to see one of the biggest offenders, romance novelist/local GOP boss Maynard Thomson penning a plea for civil discourse. Those of us who don’t have Teanut Magic Slate memories recall the many insulting letters to the editor, and the dishonest ads of the 2010 election cycle written by Thomson. That level of duplicity is breathtaking. Only a similar plea coming from the ever-truculent Ray Shakir could be more hypocritical.

Obviously, the Teabaglicans can’t shout down all the voters. They are increasingly desperate to keep anyone from telling the truth about what they’re doing in Concord and in Washington. They’re afraid that the same tactics they used to get where they are will be used against them in 2012. From this crowd, a plea for civility is really a plea for censorship.

“Res ipsa loquitur“ - Cicero

Published as an op-ed in the April 29, 2011 edition of the Conway Daily Sun

© sbruce 2011

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