Saturday, August 15, 2009

Town hall meetings

The health care reform town hall meetings have become shouting matches, which is disappointing.

Reform opponents are exciting fear in Americans and turning them out to scream at elected officials, spreading outlandish and false charges about what's proposed in various House and Senate reform bills.

The media seize on the sight of the hapless representative or senator--Senator Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania the other day comes to mind--as he or she stands mute at the town hall meeting, listening to the invective.

The minute the lies are uttered, they become material for the next cable news broadcast or radio talk-show harangue. Orwell, in 1984, showed that if you tell a lie enough, people begin to believe it's the truth.

With the current town hall meetings, I see politics at its worst. I see dirty tricks at work. These meetings are about political theatre, not about rational discussion, even debate, of a significant issue.

The meetings are spreading misinformation, including outright lies--Sarah Palin herself, in commenting on her use of the phrase "death panels," admitted that she "made things up"--as part of the effort to sabotage reform. I'm puzzled by Ms. Palin's admission, because she's made such a major issue of her Christianity. And I thought lying was a sin, the breaking of the ninth commandment.

As long as people lie and the media knowingly disseminate their lies, there will be no useful public discourse on health care reform or anything else, and this country will be no closer to solving our major problems, which threaten us.

Town hall meetings that are no more than stages for spreading falsehoods do nothing to advance the discussion and move us toward solutions, but do a lot to injure democracy.

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