I think UJ’s post below raises a fair question: how do we know whether anything we see on TV, or on Youtube, is real, as opposed to staged? My belief is that everyone should approach these kinds of things with a skeptical attitude, a willingness to listen to both sides, and the confidence to reach their own decision.
When I apply this kind of analysis to the Keith Olbermann broadcast posted by UJ, the piece seems like pretty thin gruel to me. The underlying theory of the piece is that all of the people who have shown up at the town halls that are depicted on various Youtube videos have been put up to it by some vast right-wing conspiracy devised by an organization headed by Dick Armey, and therefore those videos should be discounted. What’s the evidence for this broad assertion? A memo that is shown but not quoted, speculation that some of the attendees were bused to the meetings, a statement that Congressman Doggett’s District is one of the most liberal in the country and therefore would not be expected to include people who would oppose health care reform, slo-mo of a video showing that one of the people who attended a Pennsylvania meeting carried a Bible and said it had the answers, an effort to equate the health care town hall meetings with the “tea party” protests during the spring, and the comments of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. I just don’t find this “evidence” very credible or persuasive. If people were bused in from other areas by outside organizations, why didn’t any of Congressman Doggett’s staff — who undoubtedly were there — see the buses or other methods of transportation and speak up about it? Are we honestly to believe that the young woman with the stroller and the older people who were there were mercenaries dragooned into attendance by some conservative conspiracy? Does the fact that a district is liberal mean that some people in the District — even if a minority — cannot conceivably be concerned about what is happening with health care reform efforts? I don’t think I’d bring a Bible to a political meeting, but does the fact that one person did mean that all of the other people in attendance were not legitimate citizens who cared about what was to be discussed? And how does Senator Sanders have any relevant first-hand information about any of this?
Isn’t it much more plausible to believe that the people who are shown on these videos are, for the most part at least, local voters who simply want to be heard on an issue of importance to them? After all, whether a particular person has choice and control over their health care, and the health care their family receives, can be literally a life and death matter. Other people may well be legitimately concerned about whether any plan passed by Congress will raise their taxes, or increase the budget deficit, or cause them to lose existing insurance arrangements which they find satisfactory. The interpretation that many of the people attending the meetings are authentic constituents is supported by the public opinion polls, which show that a large number of Americans have significant concerns about the speed at which Congress is considering restructuring the health care system and the cost, and ultimate impact, of the approaches Congress is considering.
It’s hard to find balance these days, where the “news” consists largely of point-of-view “reporting” and talking heads spewing talking points prepared by one faction or another. I think this National Journal article does a pretty good job of presenting the political issues in a balanced fashion and reiterates what I have been saying — August will be a very interesting month, as Members of Congress try to figure out what their constituents and likely voters, as opposed to media talking heads, party operatives, or advocacy groups, really think about health care reform.