In the mid 19th -century, the leader and founder of the Mormon faith, Joseph Smith, decried the mob rule that continually threatened his followers and fledgling religion. Angry mobs hounded the early Mormons from one settlement to another until ultimately they shot and killed Joseph Smith at Carthage Jail in 1844.  A subsequent leader of the Mormon faith, Joseph F. Smith, wrote, “We do not tolerate [mob rule]. Latter-day Saints cannot tolerate such a spirit as this. It is anarchy. It means destruction. It is the spirit of mobocracy, and the Lord knows we have suffered enough from mobocracy, and we do not want any more of it.”

The present-day conservative movement appears to be inheriting that dubious mantle from the religious bigots of the eighteen hundreds with their planned and systematic disruption of town hall meetings across the nation.  I have, from time to time, complained on this bog about the vitriol and hate coming from right-wing “entertainers” such as Beck and Limbaugh. But the “shout down your congressman” and “intimidate other participants” methods being employed by conservatives at what should be one of the purest forms of our democracy, makes even Beck’s asinine conspiracy theories seem innocent, by comparison.

Now don’t get me wrong. Protest is an important and respectable part of our democracy, and I respect the fact that a minority of people want to maintain the unsustainable health care system (about 70% want health care reform). However, that minority has no right to shout down those who are in favor of reform. If they want to be part of the conversation, then join the conversation, don’t shut people up for having the temerity to disagree with you. There are any number of opportunities for the health care lobby to bus in protesters for staged events without depriving regular citizens of the right to discuss these monumental decisions with their elected representatives.

Perhaps the most ironic part of these staged disruptions is that they actually impede the ability of conservative citizens to 1) get accurate information about the nature of the proposed health care reforms and 2) to affect the way their representative will vote. There are sure to be some conservative citizens at these town hall meetings that aren’t planted there by the lobbyists, but what hope do they have of asking questions and offering feedback to their representative when Bubba runs the congress person out of the room in fifteen minutes?

No, the Republican party and their corporate sponsors have gone too far this time. Pepper your infomercials on right-wing talk radio with half truths and scare tactics if you must, but if you want to be a part of civil society, then you must be, well, civil. Otherwise you shame all of us and likely hurt your own cause, all for a glimpse of mob rule that you can post on YouTube and pretend is a spontaneous grassroots movement. Yes, Governor Boggs would be proud of you, but in this case I think you’ll find that, perhaps ironically, Americans will stand with those 19th-century Mormon leaders and not “tolerate such a spirit as this.”

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3 thoughts on “Mobocracy

  1. I appreciated your statements and i’m tempted to send this on to my parents but I’m pretty sure they dislike us enough as it is.

  2. The protestors at townhall meetings are like the Missouri mobs who murdered Mormons? Why not just go for broke and compare them with those who perpetrated the Jewish holocaust?

    My, what a difference eight months makes. Back in November Keith Olberman et al celebrated the election of Obama as proof that Rush, Hannity, Glen Beck, and other fearmonger/baby devourers had been completely discredited and lost any influence they once had over the American people.

    Suddenly, the Right-wing hate machine is once again all powerful, able to organize cells of hardcore ultra-conservative stormtroopers that disrupt townhall meetings and prevent people from getting the truth about Obamacare.

    It is fascinating to see what qualifies as “the will of the American people.” As Byron York pointed out, when thousands of people gather in adoration of The One – that is an authentic display of American political opinion. When one woman puts on a made-for-tv roadside variety show outside of Crawford, Texas…THAT definitely represents the will of the entire nation.

    But when people gather in town hall meetings all over the country to voice their disagreement with efforts to reform health care, well…that is certainly not an authentic manifestation of politicala involvement. That is a mob.

    Your points about tactics is well taken. The strategy always be about adding to the conversation, rather than preventing a conversation from taking place. I would argue that this is what is happening in most of the townhall meetings that have taken place, with a few noteworthy exceptions that have been given the lion’s share of media attention.

    Besides which, it always amuses me when lefties accuse the right of trying to end the conversation. I remember when Jonah Goldberg came to speak in Madison, and dozens of students tried to prevent his speech by shouting him down. The shoutdown is standard treatment for Karl Rove wherever he goes.

    All this attention on mobocracy is just a sideshow. The real issue is that despite Obama’s massive personal popularity, despite a large majority in the House and super-majority in the Senate, he’s having a difficult time selling this package to the public. He should spend less time complaining about the vast right-wing conspiracy aligned against him, and more time touting the merits of his plan.

  3. Why not just go for broke and compare them with those who perpetrated the Jewish holocaust?

    No, I’ll leave comparing one’s political opponents to Nazi war criminals to your side of the political aisle. I won’t link them here, but google “Obama” and “Hitler” and you’ll see images at these Republican rallies (I won’t call them mobs if it makes you feel better) that I hope reasonable people from all political perspectives (even those from Canada) will call reprehensible.

    But, I think you need to watch a few more of these town hall meetings, Shane. There is NO dialogue going on, either between the shouters or the regular Joes who are there to talk. And that’s my concern and why I think the term “mobocracy” is apropos. Though I think they’re deluded and acting against their own best interests, I applaud those on the right who participate in civil society by their protests. But to go to a town hall meeting with the intent to shout so loudly that you shut up your fellow citizen, that is unconscionable. And when you add the mountains of evidence demonstrating that those employing the above tactics are being coached and bussed in by organized conservative groups beholden to the health insurance lobby, the disingenuous nature of these staged disruption becomes even more evident.

    I find it amusing that you equate protesters outside a Karl Rove speaking engagement to a town hall meeting with one’s own representative. One is protest (which I’ve already defended for all political parties) and the other ought to be civil dialogue. You should know better than to conflate them.

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