Patricia Nell Warren

The Town Hall Debacle: Whatever Happened to Robert's Rules of Order?

Filed By Patricia Nell Warren | August 09, 2009 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Living, Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: parliamentary procedure, respect for others, right to disagree, Robert's Rules of Order

I'm baffled by the "successes" of Republican disrupters as they shout down efforts to discuss healthcare reform at town halls across the country. It's time for somebody to ask the obvious question. Why is parliamentary procedure not being enforced at these town meetings? We now know that these "protesters" are mostly lobbyists and political pros sent by right-wing organizations like Americans for Prosperity. When these disrupters get out of order, why aren't they being escorted out of the meeting by security? That's what should happen! So...why is local government acting so strangely and eerily weak and submissive to this thuggery?

More to the point -- why are these shocking incidents being allowed to happen? In just a few days, their impact has sunk deep into the psyche of our so-called democracy, and sent us reeling towards a new Dark Ages. If this awful trend isn't nipped in the bud, we will shortly see similar disruptions at Congress, in state legislatures and political conventions.

The trend is nothing new. We first saw its ugly face in Miami, right after the November 2000 Presidential election, when the so-called "Brooks Brothers Riot" actually succeeded in halting the vote re-count and ensuring that George W. Bush got the White House.

The fact is, those 2000 "rioters" were not voters who were spontaneously acting out of personal passion. As reported by MSNBC the other day, they were actually Bush campaign personnel who organized the "riot" -- who were associated with Americans for Prosperity, the same right-wing lobbyist organization that is organizing the town-hall disruptions today. The fact that these political saboteurs were never exposed for who they really are, or prosecuted for their obstruction of a legitimate electoral process, has already contributed dreadfully to the breakdown of due process in the U.S.

I just got a desperate email from the Service Employees International Union, which supports healthcare reform. The SEIU was complaining about the town-hall disruptions. They said: "Last night in St. Louis, Missouri, a reverend and staff member of SEIU was assaulted at a town hall. The incident, along with a town hall in Tampa, Florida, has been all over the radio and cable news shows. Watch the video with footage from these events.....Cable news channels are broadcasting images of neighbors turning against one another in chaotic, sometimes frightening town hall meetings."

The SEIU concluded their message: "Enough is enough. Click here to sign a pledge for civil, honest debates about health care reform:"

So sorry, but signing pledges won't solve the problem. These town halls already have a power that exists to solve problems like this. But they're not using that power for some strange reason. It's called parliamentary procedure. Use it, and the disruptions of healthcare forums will stop. Don't use it, and you lose it...and our country will veer into deeper chaos.

Historic Need for Order at Meetings

One of the first things that human civilization ever learned was this: you can't have a civilized public discourse for "the people" without rules of order.

In an empire, of course, there is no debating issues -- the emperor rules by decree, and anybody who disagrees is put in prison or killed. But the minute a government moves towards "the people" -- democracy or republic -- everybody should have the right to make their opinion heard in government without threat or disruption. This is why certain protocols of parliamentary procedure have come into use around the world -- whether at the United Nations or a city council meeting in the smallest American town. In their modern form, the protocols are called Robert's Rules of Order.

Some Americans like to think that this idea of "order" at a public meeting was the brilliant invention of white Europeans -- the Greeks in their city states, the Romans in their forum, the English in their parliament. This is simply not true.

All over the world, enlightened peoples have figured out that they have to keep order at meetings if their society is to stay on an even keel. In pre-contact North America, for example, the Haudenosaunee of the Six Nations was the world's oldest standing democratic government, and ran its council meetings according to the "Great Law of Peace," where disruptions were not allowed. Ditto the Cheyennes, whose different bands met at a great central council every four years to renew their laws. And their Dog Soldiers escorted you out of the meeting if you got out of order. Indeed, many First Nation peoples still use the device of the "talking stick" -- you have the right to speak freely as long as you are holding it, and the stick gets passed around to everybody.

Robert's Rules of Order were first published in 1915, and represented many centuries of parliamentary thought and evolution in the West. The Rules are now in almost universal use around the U.S. -- or at least they were until this gory healthcare debate came along. Under parliamentary rules, everybody who attends has the right to speak and voice their opinion. But they have to do so within certain limits. To prevent windy speakers from monopolizing the microphone, there are some meetings, like city councils and boards of education, where a time limit is imposed. You can speak for two or three minutes, and then you have to step aside for the next person.

My Experience as a Parliamentarian

In the late 1990s, when I was serving in Los Angeles Unified School District as a commissioner of education, a new Human Relations Education Commission was created by the board. The school district, second largest in the U.S., was torn by a lot of hot issues. Ethnic issues, especially, are dangerous in this city that has made itself world-famous as a ticking time-bomb for wide-scale breakdowns of law and order (notably the L.A. Riots of 1992 and the Watts riots of 1965). So the new Commission's organizers were being extra-careful to make sure every ethnic group could be heard. I was one of those appointed to the HREC, and was also chosen to be on the committee that drafted the HREC's constitution and by-laws. Later I served as one of the HREC's parliamentarians.

In Part II, under "Legal Rights of Assemblies," Robert's Rules says:

"Every deliberative assembly has the right to decide who may be present during its session; and when the assembly, either by a rule or by a vote, decides that a certain person shall not remain in the room, it is the duty of the chairman to enforce the rule of order, using whatever force is necessary to eject the party.

"The chairman can detail members to remove the person, without calling upon the police. If, however, in enforcing the order, any one uses harsher measures than is necessary to remove the person, the courts have held that he, and he alone, is liable for damages, just the same as a policeman would be under similar circumstances. However badly the man may be abused while being removed from the room, neither the chairman nor the society is liable for damages, as, in ordering his removal, they did not exceed their legal rights."

Most government bodies (including our U.S. Senate and House of Representatives) and civil organizations have an officer called the "sergeant at arms." This person has the power to walk you out of the meeting, if the chairperson has found it necessary to declare you out of order and eject you. In more volatile situations, ejections have to be done by security or, in extreme cases, by the police. Due care has to be exercised, so the person being ejected isn't injured.

The point is this: Disruptions of the meeting, or efforts to prevent anyone from speaking, should never be allowed. This is why ejection is not censorship, or a violation of anyone's free speech. At a public meeting run by parliamentary rules, everyone is allowed to speak, but they have to do it within the framework of the rules, and in a spirit of respecting others' right to disagree.

What Would I Do?

So -- if I was one of those Congresspeople who had gone home to talk to my constituents about the President's healthcare reform, I would suggest kicking the ass of anybody who tried to disrupt my town hall. Right at the start of the meeting, I or my chairperson would remind attendees that the meeting would operate on parliamentary procedure. All questions would be taken and answered, and all who wished to speak their minds could do so. But at the first disruption, I would have the disrupters ejected immediately. And I would continue to eject disrupters till all of them were outside the hall.

If I had to have my town hire extra security or police to get the job done, I would do it. Under no circumstances should a town hall ever be stopped in mid-meeting, or taken over by mob rule, through disruptions like the ones that are raging around healthcare debate.

Whether it's healthcare or same-sex marriage, Republican right-wingers operate off the twisted logic that they are justified in shouting others down because they're "right," while the people they're disrupting are "wrong." Today, for example, Sarah Palin has done her bit to encourage mob rule in our country by saying that the President's healthcare plan is "evil."

Unfortunately the "I'm right and you're wrong" attitude is precisely why disruptions of meetings are so dangerous to the public good. Any human community is made up of a range of opinions and viewpoints. The moment that one side's point of view can't be peaceably heard in public debate at a meeting, or in council, is the moment when a country and a people begins to slide towards anarchy.

And the United States is sliding down that slippery slope of anarchy right now.

How to Run a Town Hall Meeting

Robert's Rules of Order

Great Law of Peace

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A. J. Lopp | August 9, 2009 5:57 PM

Patricia, I totally agree. Moreover, isn't it ironic that the disruptors are from the same political spectrum that preaches "law and order" --- even though both Dem's and GOP support, in principle, law and order within the justice system.

Apparently, they want law and order. But not if a doctor is making abortions available. Or if their candidate isn't likely to win on his own. Or when it empowers others to fully access the political debate process and openly disagree with them.

Late-breaking announcement this afternoon:

Tomorrow President Obama will be leading his own town hall. I'll betcha he won't put up with any tea-baggers in the room being seriously "out of order."

The danger to responding to these disruptions aggressively, of course, is that the violence will escalate.

The coverage in progressive blogs and MSNBC--and I'm sure other places I haven't seen--demonstrates there are manuals, a playbook for these grassroot, more accurately astroturf demonstrators.

More than this, the image--and that is all that counts in the United States these days--is that the people oppose health care reform.

No matter the outright, absurd lies, including death panels, as Sarah Palin describes them, or that Medicare is, somehow, not run by the Government. Which does a damn fine job. Such as good job, the demonstrators are demanding no one touch my Medicare.

Sadly, there were no rules of order to address the WMD's in Iraq lie, or the Saddam Hussein was working with Al Quaeda lie or the 9/11 terrorists came through Canada lie.

Many, including Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security, still believe these lies; she stated the terrorists came through Canada--this is, of course, the reason why Canadians must be treated the same as Mexicans.

All these health care lies are simply in a long line brainwashing, perception management by corporate interests, interested only in being wealthy, regardless of how many must die, are dying now, so they can be wealthy.

And all this is aided and abetted by right wing media--including Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, especially Glen Beck. And sanctioned on the floor of the US Congress.

And mainstream media, so concerned not to seem taking sides, will not call these lies, lies or to point to the enablers.

Just ask Dan Froomkin who was fired from the Washington Post for doing just these things.

Sadly, Obama, has done little even to stall this.

This is the fight for America's soul.

If Obama doesn't do what so many are looking to him to do. . . . .

But, given his capitulation on the FISA Amendment Act, his appointment of the very people who caused the financial meltdown to be his economic team--not to mention the billions for their bailout, but nothing for those loosing their homes--and his reaching out to Republicans during the stimulus debate, when they want only his failure. As they declared.

It is improbable to expect anything but more of the same from him.

There is an argument now beginning to gain traction as we watch these riots, and that will probably get worse, especially as Democrats respond, that the United States is firmly on the road to homegrown Fascism.

Fascists are very good with order.

Parliamentary rules of order were invented centuries ago precisely to prevent violence in the chambers of government. NOT enforcing the rules sends the very message of appeasement and capitulation that you're talking about, Jessica. For me, personally, sending that message to the opposition is unacceptable.

And since you mention fascism, look what happened to England when she responded to Hitler's aggressive moves with attempts at appeasement.

Right now these battles are being fought not by Obama personally but by members of his Congress, right on their own home turf. Sooner or later, if effective strategies aren't found, we will see the battles come to Washington D.C., with "teabaggers" shouting down their opposition right in Congress.

Of course, maintaining parliamentary order is not enough of a strategy in itself -- we WILL have to deal with the opposition's lies, and we WILL have to hope that enough Americans see through them -- but order IS an important symbol, and no country can survive without it. And let's hope that the "baggers" will get so carried away that they make a major misstep, puffed up as they are by the colossal hubris that God is telling them what to do.

I fervently how you are right, Patricia.

As an observer, yet close enough to feel the tremors--I live in Ottawa, Canada--I have watched far too much I thought could never happen in my life happen.

And continue to happen.

It can't happen here I no longer believe holds.

"Tea Baggers" are part of the argument Sarah Robinson makes here:
Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 10, 2009 12:47 AM

Sarah Robinson’s passing knowledge of how to spot a fascist movement doesn’t extend to understanding it’s origins as in deep seated class polarization and conflict. The most important thing about fascism is that it’s a drastic adaptation of right centrism that appears when the political norms and economic basis of stage degenerating capitalist societies unravel.

Robinson is dead wrong when she implies that the Republicans are even close to being fascist. That’s the same lame BS used during the campaign to get people to forget their interests and vote for homohating bigots like Obama and Biden. Now it’s being used to stampede people into supporting Obama’s pro-business ‘health care’ sellout.

The US isn’t even close to having anything resembling a mass fascist party. The Republicans aren’t a fascist party any more than the Democrats are; they're competing gangs of right centrist vote hustlers that agree on the main questions. Their agreement is total when it comes to bipartisan attacks on civil rights (same sex marriage) and civil liberties (FISA, the Paytriot Act and the Bush-Obama policy of operating concentration camps and kidnapping, torturing and murdering political and military opponents).

It's important to note that the European fascist movements had a strong foundation on brands of ultraconservative nationalistic and ethnic-flavored Christianity. So they have that core characteristic in common with what may be an emerging American variety of fascism in the U.S.

I've explored this subject in a Huffington Post piece last year -- you can find it at

Most Americans have been conditioned to believe that the German Nazis were "pagan"...but in fact there was nothing "pagan" about them. I realized this when I finally read Hitler's book "Mein Kampf." And there was certainly nothing "pagan" about General Franco, who couldn't have stayed in control of Spain for nearly 40 years without the complicity of the Catholic Church.

Ultraconservative churchy Americans don't like to hear the Christian coloring of European fascism talked about -- not one bit. Because they don't want anybody drawing parallels between their ideology and the ideologies that left Europe in smoking ruins by 1945.

I've been reading the book that Rachel Maddow has been touting on her show -- "The Family" by Jeff Sharlet. It focuses on the movement that maintains the "C Street houses" in Washington D.C., and should be required reading for every American who wants to know what's really going on inside the ultraconservative Christian political movement.

Sharlet takes some backgrounder time to examine somr of the right-wing American Christian figures of the World War II era, and shows how their hatred of "godless" communists was balanced by their sub-rosa admiration for Naziism. The book should make uncomfortable reading for Republicans who are naive and uninformed about the history of all this ultra-rightist venom that is being spewed at the town halls.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 10, 2009 6:44 AM

There are plenty of figures in US history who flirted with fascism, Democrats and Republicans alike. They included Union buster Henry Ford, a rabid anti-Semite who received the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, Verdienstorden vom Deutschen Adler, the highest honor that Hitler could bestow. By 1938 Ford Werke A.G., produced most of the trucks used by the Nazi military and made enormous profits doing it. After the war began, under German management, FW A.G. used slave labor extensively.

Others who supported the NAZI’s to one extent or another included William Randolph Hearst, an earlier version of Rupert Murdoch, the man who put the neo in neo-Nazi and Charles Lindbergh, darling of Luftwaffe Generalfeldmarschall Hermann Goring. Noted business leaders who flirted with fascism included John Rockefeller, Secretary of Treasury Andrew Mellon, owner of Alcoa and banking firms, the DuPont’s, and business leaders of General Motors, Standard Oil, now morphed in Exxon, ITT, Allen Dulles, later Secretary of State, Prescott Bush, who sired the Bush clan, National City Bank, and General Electric. Joseph Kennedy, who sired the Kennedy clan, was rich from business investments and rum running and also part of the mutual admiration society of businessmen and Nazis.

Modern American fascism will, as you say, probably have a major christer cult element as well as a heavy militaristic bent. The US has been intent on global hegemony since the end of World War Two and now has 767 bases in 150 countries. It looks like American fascism will feature islamophobia, immigrant bashing and homohating and well as the more familiar themes of racism and union busting. All the elements that will at some point produce a mass fascist movement are in place but not yet a major threat.

The difference between a ineffective fascist movement and mass fascist movement is the difference between the 1923 beer hall putsch, when the Nazis had 3,000 storm troopers on hand and 1933 when they had millions of armed members and 288 deputies in the Reichstag (the left had 201 and the right 456 out of 650 plus total deputies).

Society is beginning to feel some pre-shocks associated with economic failure but the big social quakes are yet to come. They’re sure to come if the current deep global recession becomes a depression. They’ll be unmistakable as they shatter the social consensus and unleash volatile energies on the far right and the hard left. The center will disappear.

If fascism becomes a mass movement and if our movement is still the unwanted, abused foster child of the Democrats we’ll be on very dangerous ground indeed. We need to be independent of the Democrats to survive.

Bill, I agree with you that the worst economic shocks are yet to come, and they will rattle country politically to its very foundations, I fear. I'll be doing a post about that subject shortly.

I have read your Huffington article with great interest, Patricia.

However, I must take issue with two of what I believe are your main points:

1) That Hitler's declarations of fealty to Christianity were anything more than convenience, and, related,

2) That what any person, or group of persons have written as goals of fascism have any necessary connection to the way any national species of fascism presents itself.

Your discussion of Hitler's use of Ernest Rohm is precisely on point: it was a matter of convenience for Hitler to use Rohm's Brownshirts to bring him to power.

And then discard him and them.

This is what we could call extra-parliamentary muscle, composed of disaffected young men, in particular, from rural areas--the very areas that were the strongest in voting support for the Nazi Party in the 1932 elections.

And pure of the corruption of the cities.

The deep seated class polarization and conflict that Bill argues Sarah Robinson, and by implication, Robert Paxton, miss, is precisely the ground from which a clearly disaffected mob is rising in the United States at this very moment in history.

Could this not be seen as a continuation of the Culture Wars by other means?

The irony is not that Gingrich has claimed there is a a gay and secular fascism in the United States, but that Rush Limbaugh has called Obama Hitler, and Nancy Peolsi, also.

And the uproar that greeted an anonymous person's comparison of Bush to Hitler in a contribution to in 2004 seems not to be responding today.

See Glen Greenwald here:

and here:

Paxton argues that Fascism is not to be recognized in its intellectual statements, much less its promises but in its actions.

Indeed, it is action above all else that is so attractive to those disaffected by the impasse in democratic politics. When the Social Democrats, clearly the majority party in the Reichstag in the Weimar Republic refused to take power, leading to stalemate after stalemate, Hitler's image as a man of action was so attractive.

But that was merely one of many streams that went into his rise to power. Perception management in an earlier historical moment.

It is the role of Dick Armey and FreedomWorks, bringing together corporate elites with the disaffected, as we see in the article by Adele M. Stan that is so disturbing.

And the final foundation for fascism.

That article can be found here:

This is the month that will make or break it.

What will be the effect of the disappointments of Obama?

1) his support of the FISA Amendments Act;

2) his call for bipartisanship in the face of an opposition that will not have anything to do with him--have called for his failure--and the attendant watering down of his policies in reaching for this will o' the wisp;

3) the recent backroom deal with Big Pharma on letting it not be subject to government bargaining for the lowest possible drug prices--the very sort of backroom deal he so eloquently opposed as a candidate.

These among other disappointments.

Maybe this self-imposed helplessness will be seen as the Social Democrat Party in today's Weimar Republic?

Hitler's policy on Christianity was not mere convenience, or a mere exercise in "writing." It went to the very bottom of what he was about to unleash in Europe, and what he needed from his citizens -- which was the passionate popular support of millions of people.

Hitler had to ensure that all of Germany would unite behind his aims, especially since those aims involved a major upcoming war and he had to make sure that Germans would die, or see their children die, to help establish the "Third Reich." Germany had been deeply and bitterly divided as to religion, with the north being historically Lutheran and the south being Catholic. So the Nazi party created an official religion that was tailor-made to be enthusiastically supported by both Protestants and Catholics.

The same for Franco and Mussolini, except that neither of them had to deal with a Protestant demographic among their citizens. So each of them crafted a national policy that had the support of conservative Roman Catholicism. This way, they ensured that they'd get widespread popular support. Again -- war was going to be involved, so these two leaders had to make sure their citizens were willing to have arms and legs blown off, or see their children blown to bits, for the sake of the cause. Especially in the case of Spain, which subsequently went through one of the worst civil wars (1936-39) in European history.

I do agree with you that the corporate elite played their part in the policies of all three fascist leaders. But the aircraft and cannons and ships coming out of all those factories would be useless without millions of obedient men in uniform to aim them. Remember -- World War II took place in a time when vast armies were still the key to power. It wasn't like today, when we fight with electronics and drones and handfuls of soldiers.

All three leaders had taken their look at European history, and saw that many Europeans would fight most fiercely when their religious fires were stoked to the max. In this case, Hitler and Franco and Mussolini all needed the fires of conservative Christianity to be ignited against "godless" liberalism and Bolshevism. In all three countries, an era of republic with a highly liberal/secular atmosphere had preceded the fascist take-overs. All three leaders would see to it that any lingering vestige of "liberal republic" would be stamped out within their borders.

Here in the U.S., it is very spooky to see the same kind of alliance shaping up between many big corporations and the ultraconservative Christian movement. It's very spooky to hear all the churchy rants against "secular culture and government."

And I do agree with you 100 percent about one thing. By the time many Americans finally notice what is really happening, it will be too late.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 10, 2009 7:36 PM

I agree Patricia.

The connections between the christer cults, particularly the roman cult and German Nazis, Italian Fascisti and Spanish Falange were binding and lasting.

Pacelli (Pius12) approved wholeheartedly of Hitler’s invasion of the USSR and of the ensuing mass murder of roughly 3 million Red Army POWs and a further 19 million or so Soviet civilians. In return Pacelli and the cult as a whole kept their mouths shut about the Holocaust. In Germany it was because both the roman and Lutheran cults had been center of rabid anti-Semitism for centuries. An excellent book on the subject is Hitler's Pope by John Cornwell. The Spanish catholic order Opus Dei is the voice of fascism in that cult.

Those connections continued after the war when the Papacy and Peron, for a fee, cooperated with O.D.E.S.S.A. (Organisation der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen or Organization of Former SS Members) and the Gehlen Org to smuggle Nazi leaders like Eichmann and Mengele to South American for about a decade.

Click here and here to see the relationship between the roman cult and the Nazis.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 10, 2009 6:46 AM

oops "end stage degenerating capitalist societies"

In your dismissal of

Sarah Robinson’s passing knowledge of how to spot a fascist movement doesn’t extend to understanding it’s origins as in deep seated class polarization and conflict.

You apparently neglected to read the article she cited by Robert O. Paxton, a recognized authority on fascism, whose piece is encyclopedic in its referencing to the state of knowledge on this matter, as well as understanding it’s origins as in deep seated class polarization and conflict. It can be accessed here:

Maybe you will claim it is out of date?

The only thing this out of date, as a security blanket, is the claim it can't happen here.

I suspect that may well be what people say after they can no longer whistle past deep seated class polarization and conflict that has long been apparent in the United States--at least to those of us not blinded by the well honed perception management long practised by corporate elites.

I don't believe Robinson, let alone Paxton in his prescience, are suggesting the Republican Party is the next Nazi party--nor am I.

What they are suggesting is a movement, whose elements include media figures as well as whole media institutions, political leaders (including card-carrying Republican elected officials)--and lead by corporate elites, against the interests of those whom they manipulate.

This is the lesson of the counter-intuitive attacks on government health care while defending Medicare--and also VA health care.

Fascism, as we have seen--those of use who still read and study history--was not a single party or actor in either Germany or Italy, but a confluence of trends, movements, actors and action.

Fascism, when it can be identified in any sort of academic way, will be too late to oppose.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 10, 2009 6:19 PM

Jessica, as far as I can tell our only big disagreements on this question are on Robinson, who is, IMO, definitely panic-mongering in the service of the Democrats. The net effect of her comments and those of other Democrats are meant to defend Obama's fake health care plan with its immense giveaways to HMOs, insurance companies and Big Pharma. There is nothing in Obama’s plan worth defending. Any thing short of socialized medicine/single payer will never get widespread support.

I don’t think that anything approaching a mass fascist movement exists or that it’s likely that such a movement will be led by Republicans. Both they and the Democrats are doomed if the situation worsens and the radicalization grows. The center will wither.

The social origins of a modern American fascist movement will undoubtedly come primarily from big business, christer cultists and the military right. All three are doing well under both Democrat and Republican centrists. The are getting grossly richer, and reveling in it. The cultists are pandered to by both parties. And the military right has experienced a new spurt of growth and determination as a result of the oil wars of Clinton, Bush and Obama. The military tail is wagging the dog.
When those social groupings converge and organize will signal the beginning of a dangerous period. Fascism won’t sneak up on is, it’ll be built as a mass movement. But for now the greatest dangers to civil liberties are bipartisan attacks on the Constitution.

I not only think that it can happen here but that it surely will as conditions worsen (assuming they will).

Our other disagreement, or at least my disagreement with Paxton and Robinson is that they fail to recognize the preeminent role of class conflict between workers and managers-owners as the sole reason d’être for fascism. Robinson did some important updating of the characteristics of fascism after 1945, but much of his analysis is about fascism in a semi-colonial context and doesn’t apply to central economic powers like the EU, the US, Japan and the Russian Federation.

When the danger begins to grow we will have to build a united left/trade unionist self-defense response. That never happened in Germany, Italy, Spain, Chile or Argentina. .

Saddly last night I heard my step-mother proudly proclaim “I’m a teabagger” and I found out she and her daughter both attended a townhall meeting and are on Youtube talking about it.

The fact that my step-mother is on medicare and my step sister has 2 children who are disabled and also on medicade/medicare and social security…

*sigh* it’s a farce. The whole thing…

I’m starting to hope that when congress reconvnes it puts forth the ‘peoples mandate’ and has a serious discussion about deconstructing Medicare and Medicade since ‘the people’ do not want it. Let the health insurance industry deside who gets insurance and who doesn’t. who gets medications and treatment and who doesn’t. Give them what they want and let them suffer for it.

Very good question, Patricia, and one my husband asked just yesterday when reading about these disruptions. Something odd afoot here. Have people somehow gotten to the point of assuming that any demonstration has the right to disrupt any meeting, or is there some back story and back agenda to these demonstrations?

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 10, 2009 12:12 AM

While orchestrated squads of righter wingers are allowed free rein to disrupt meetings on Obama’s DOA health care plan something very different is happening to unionists, seniors and the victims of the insurance companies, HMO’s and pharmaceutical giants that support Obama’s sellout plan.

Donna Smith of the California Nurses Association, National Nurses Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO describes it in an article entitled Health Insurance Giants Arrest Children While Senators Arrest Seniors, Nurses, Doctors in the Webzine Common Dreams.

“If you doubt for one moment the power of money and its control over whether or not our nation will grant the human right of healthcare to all, just look at who has been arrested speaking up for publicly funded, privately delivered healthcare in the past 90 days.

Frankie, 11, and eight others were arrested in July in Des Moines, IA, as Blue Cross felt a little too much pressure to answer questions about their denials of care and their profits.

In the offices of Senator Diane Feinstein, D-CA, eight senior citizens were arrested in July because they wanted just a few minutes of the Senator's time -- by telephone, not even in person -- to make the case for some sanity in healthcare reform.

Are we holding this government, under Barack Obama and his allies in Congress, accountable for arresting 11-year-olds and seniors and nurses and doctors simply because they speak out and ask for their own human rights accountability?....Come on, Mr. President, Mrs. Pelosi, Mr. Hoyer, and Senators Reid, Baucus and Kennedy. You cannot possibly believe that is the right way for this nation to go to protect the healthcare industry even if they did buy your loyalty with $18.5 million in campaign donations to Mr. Obama alone and millions more to the rest of you... Iowa? For shame."


As for these Republican disruption squads, they’re nothing new in American history. The Republicans are still just a right centrist party - just ‘good ‘ol boy’, regular American political thugs. They're not quite Nazis - yet.

And they're just as likely to recover from the Bush debacle as they did from Nixon and Reagan. That's because their only opponents are another bunch of right centrist crooks called Democrats. A big test of how soon they’ll recover will be the upcoming New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial elections.

This is not a democratic country; it’s a dual party state with closed, non competitive elections. Americans have no choice so every few years from 40% to 60% of eligible voters trudge on down to vote, holding their noses and some surely just close their eyes and try to get lucky by stabbing blindly at the list of candidates.

As we've seen, all that is changing. The two parties have all the wrong answers and they’ll try to impose them on us come what may. War, private medical care, handouts for the rich, homohating, etc, etc, etc. The difference is that working people are waking up (the loss of ten million jobs in a year is a pretty effective wake up call) and asking the right questions for once.

Great article Patricia. Well said and articulated one would think or hope that someone in Congress or The White House is listening...or should be listening.

The 'kooks' or rethugs or lets take it right to the heart of truth...the fascists don't want big government in their lives but they want to tell others how to live theirs. What hypocrites they are.

I can only hope that they do misstep. All I keep coming back to is the right wing nuts are fascists...plain and simple.

Another great article Patricia.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 10, 2009 4:14 AM

Patricia, I agree with you about the value of "Robert's Rules" but more to the point for me is that these are "town meetings" not media events as such for protesters or national media. They are information for residents of a congressional district. Their attendance should be strictly limited to residents of the congress person's district and local media. Otherwise you are in the danger zone of allowing narrow agenda based disruptions by whomever has the largest church bus.

The Republican party is all about audience control, and scripted staging in their own events. Now they wish to apply it to ours and any opposition party. Those who disrupt should be treated as well as our side is should they attempt to disrupt a Republican National Convention. You may recall my posting entitled: "Why Didn't CNN Comment on the Obvious?" of September 6th last year.

Sadly, this can also be used as a scapegoat for violence against some protesters. We cannot support rights just for the folks we like. I am sure you remember George Wallace in the 1960's blaming all dissent of the remnants of Jim Crow on "outside agitators."

Robert, you have a point about limiting attendance to residents of a district. Beyond that -- I am not advocating favoritism for any particular point of view. At a well-run and orderly town hall, every point of view should be heard.

In Tampa, Rep. Kathy Cantor (D) attempted to hold
a townhall meeting to educate individuals and
answer questions regarding the proposed health
care bill. According to the television coverage,
everytime Rep. Cantor began talking, loud nasty shouts were directed toward her. Rep. Cantor was not
able to hold a proper meeting due to very extreme
rude and disruptive behavior by so called "plants".
These individuals shouted untrue statements as to
things which would occur if this proposed bill was passed. This is all part of a very well organized
effort to cause this proposed bill to fail.

Both my Partner and I have good health insurance and would not be affected by this bill. That being said, we appreciate the fact that so many
Americans are without health care. We welcome any
efforts to obtain health care for these individuals.

Rick, thanks for sharing this story. I deplore the destruction of Rep. Cantor's town hall in Tampa, and wish that she had been smart enough to ensure order at her meeting and keep herself from being bulldozed. If she had been speaking on the floor of Congress, the "out of order" interruptions wouldn't have been tolerated by the Speaker. Why should such disruptions be tolerated at the town level?

Ironically, as Bill Perdue points out, while our country appears to be sliding into this kind of disruptive behaviour in public discourse, we so often have senseless arrests of "protesters" like the ones he mentioned in his second comment. Law enforcement needs to be gotten on the right track so that public speech is both orderly and available to all.

Greetings brilliant teacher Patricia,
I am in awe of all the comments above. All of this knowledge is needed. Everything offered feels correct and right. Unfortunately to be right may not move or educate the kind of people involved. It is such a gift to have life afford intellectualism. Intellectualism affords and supports freedom. This freedom leaks in a victim.

As an activist and international mediator of 40 years, I suspect the average person joining these meetings is a victim from early childhood. This victim has very few experiences of being important, or very few experiences of being listened to. Somewhere in their adult life they found issues through television and role models that has given them importance and cloning. Do they have any clue what this 'importance' is or the consequences? Rarely.

These are the same advantages used by terrorists or evangelists in training their followers.

So far in history the turning point for the mass of these people is meeting a leader who inspires them to leave what they are dedicated to. Our current education system is doing small bits to help young people understand the 'victim' dangers.

Meetings of the intensity we are talking about also depends on Timing and Location as well as Rules of Order. Timing and Location of the 'victims' to be spoken with together with humility-speaking together as the known fragmented humans we all are. A known facilitator to the victims is an advantage.


Angela Brightfeather | August 10, 2009 12:15 PM


This is a word that needs to be applied to the instigators of these "disruptors" at the meetings:


As far as I know and recollect, sedition against the US Government is a crime that is punishable by at least imprisonment. Why aren't these people who are organizing these protesters, being charged with sedition and attempting to undermine the leadership of our government and limiting the free speech rights of people?

Never mind all these other words to apply to these people. If you cut the snake's head of, eventually the body will stop wiggling. An old Italian saying, "the dead fish will stink at the head first."

What we should be doing is telling our congress people to get the Justice Dept. to issue arrest warrants for the leaders and sponsors of this atocity of our rights. If they don't know who they are, just go ask Rachael Maddow, she has been talking about them for a week and has all the background info done.

Charge these people with sedition and you won't believe how fast those no-brainers at these meetings will just dissapear, or at least be brought into line so others can have a debate that will allow Robert's Rules of Order to work in the first place.

Lets get serious here. People's lives are depending on this process to work. Anyone who is planning to stop that process or hinder it, needs to be taught a lesson.

correction: U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor

Thanks for the correction. Sorry I didn't catch the typo in her name.

People wonder who is behind the town hall riots when anyone discusses health care reform, or Obamacare – the answer is Conservatives for Patients' Rights. Conservatives for Patients Rights, or the CPR, is headed by one Rick Scott – who isn't a doctor – but used to be the CEO of a hospital, and under his watch, his medical administration defrauded Medicare of $1.7 billion through a practice called upcoding, wherein a Medicare patient gets treated, but Medicare is billed for additional tests that never took place. (That's fraud.) Realistically, Conservatives for Patients Rights and Mr. Scott will never need short term loans, and the only reason why they oppose the bill is that they want the money from the program for themselves.

Following and enforcing Robert's Rules is essential. So is setting the agenda so all points of view can be heard. For example, Sen. Arlen Specter's town hall allocated all the speaking slots to whoever signed up first. Surprise, the right-wing faction set their alarm clocks early and beat out the union people. A fairer way would have asked the speakers to assign themselves to "pro," "anti" and "other" lists, and then rotate in order through the three lists. That would have allowed some diversity of opinion to bubble up for the cameras.
We should keep in mind that disruption is not just a right-wing tactic. Anti-war protestors, ACT UP, strikers and other lefties have done their share of disruption. The difference seems to be that the meeting moderators are quick to let cops drag away and often beat up the leftists, while rightist screamers are given more leeway to perform.