Today I'm going to use the Town Hall meeting of Health Bill sponsor Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) as typical of all Town Halls, and his local newspaper, the Gannett owned Asbury Park Press, as representative of all mainstream media.
Because they're all the same.
I blogged about my experience at Pallone's Town Hall meeting here. I went with a question about an analysis of the bill that found the promise to get rid of all "pre-existing medical condition exclusions" in insurance policies, as promised by the President, isn't actually in the bill.
I purposely asked my question respectfully and in a non-accusatory, non-partisan manner. I even gave the Congressman a break and conceded that the issue is so complicated I didn't expect an answer from him that night.
There were many well presented and rational questions - like the accountant who brought with him a report drafted by him and other accountants about financial shortcomings of the bill.
What did the media think of my question and the accountant's question? BOOORRRRRIIIIIINNNNNGGGG! Neither of us were mentioned in any of the news coverage the following day.
Oh but the screamers - boy did they get press coverage!
I was the first speaker. The speaker right after me, without referencing any portion of the bill or even letting on whether he read it, did what we've seen in news clips and YouTube videos at every Town Hall Meeting - he began breathing fire into the microphone - complete with untoward insinuations against the Congressman.
The media rushed to interview that man for his biographical information. When I inquired of New Jersey Network (public television) reporter Adrienne Supino why she hurried to interview that angry man, she dropped an "F" bomb on me! I guess she was looking to interview like minded people as herself.
The day following the Town Hall, the Asbury Park Press, corporate media with a daily monopoly covering more than a million residents in central New Jersey, made certain they covered only the screamers, including the firebreather who spoke after me. They showed photographs of a man holding a sign saying, "Obamacare May Kill My Daughter." The Asbury Park Press column described the crowd as "booing and hissing."
Yet there was no mention of those of us who read the bill and posed real questions about its problems. We were there too, but the crowd was only portrayed as angry, not inquisitive.
I guess that Jerry Springer stuff sells newspapers, and questions about the bill don't.
Hey but look - the Asbury Park Press is a private company. They can edit their stories to sell papers any way they wish. If I don't like it, I can go start a competing paper.
Then, as usual, the Asbury Park Press went too far. A couple of days later, they "editorialized" the Pallone Town Hall.
You can read the sanctimonious blather here.
Let's do a descriptive word round-up used by the Asbury Park Press about the crowd at Pallone's Town Hall:
Incivility, rancor, disgraceful, unsettling, disinterested, unreasoned, rude, heckling, booing, echo chamber, misinformation, misconception, ignorant, not factual, disturbing, shouting, cheap talk, lynch mob, lies, hijackers, rabble, incendiary.
Wow. Makes you wonder if the crowd, so described, should ever buy the Asbury Park Press again.
My two favorite descriptions of the crowd used by the Asbury Park Press editorial board were these: "Rugby Scrum" and "Reign of Terror during the French Revolution." The writer, on metaphor steroids, managed to put those two concepts in the very same sentence!
Reign of Torror? Really? I suppose if I had brought my guillotine and killed 30,000 people rather than pose a question about whether pre-existing health conditions will be covered under the plan, I would have been taken more seriously by the Press.
The editorial's final analysis was this:
"Those who wouldn't let others voice their opinion did nothing to advance the cause of a badly needed nuanced, intelligent debate."
There were people who brought "intelligent debate" to Pallone's Town Hall, but the Asbury Park Press refuses to acknowledge or cover us. Instead, by showing nothing but the screamers in print, they, like the rest of media, invite and perhaps even create the screaming. Nothing enables like the media.
Here's a challenge to the Asbury Park Press: Why not have us opponents of the bill and Congressman Pallone up to your editorial board offices for a discussion on real questions about the bill? You can cover that in your paper to advance "nuanced, intelligent debate."
If you're worried that it won't attract readers, I promise to throw at least one Jerry Springer chair at the Congressman.
For a similar blog post about the misleading Asbury Park Press coverage of Pallone's Town Hall, go see the Dean of New Jersey's blogging contingent, Art Gallagher, whose post is here, complete with video of the audience being respectful to Pallone.