I remember learning as a late teenager of then-President Ronald Reagan’s plan to destroy Nicaragua by funding a group of mercenaries known as the “Contras.” With CIA money, they killed, rampaged, and blew things up. I remember noticing how easy it was, how little effort it took to destroy something, how undermining a small nation was like child’s play, when your only goal is to create havoc.
It’s very easy to tear things down, to kill an opportunity for honest change, to destroy a fragile alliance, to shut out the truth by telling dramatic lies for the cameras, and repeating them day in, day out. Even if people don’t believe your lies, they’ll be confused enough to not act on the truth you are trying to defeat. It’s very easy to blast your way into the headlines and become the de facto winner of any argument, just by sheer firepower. The man who killed a handful of women at the gym the other day discovered this. His sick rant is now publicized all over the nation, thanks to his murderous rampage. Had he merely tried to argue his points, standing up in a discussion reasonably and making his case, he’d be a nothing. Now that he claimed the lives of other human beings in a fit of violence, he’s a national figure.
The tea-party town hall protesters have learned this lesson well. They’ve discovered that there is no need to put forth good arguments for their points, or to meaningfully debate their ideas at the congressional town hall meetings set up just for that purpose. Why should they do that, when they can go on a rampage, yell and scream, intimidate and threaten, even bring guns to the meetings? Such activity guarantees the presence of TV cameras. News organs will report these activities as “passion” for a cause, and not as the lunacy that it really represents. The Republicans in charge of the town hall mayhem have learned a valuable truth. It’s very easy to destroy someone else’s effort, to denigrate the fragile progress of those sitting at the table trying to work out a common goal. Like Republicans everywhere have learned, all you have to do is shout and swear, wave guns and flags, threaten and rant, and they can get their way. Not by converting anyone to their cause, but by simply making politics so unpleasant that most people just go home and hide.
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