The Washington Post columnist, on Sept. 3:
Health-care reform is said to be in trouble partly because of those raucous August town-hall meetings in which Democratic members of Congress were besieged by shouters opposed to change.
But what if our media-created impression of the meetings is wrong? What if the highly publicized screamers represented only a fraction of public opinion? What if most of the town halls were populated by citizens who respectfully but firmly expressed a mixture of support, concern and doubt? […]
But the only citizens who commanded widespread media coverage last month were the right-wingers. And I bet you thought the media were “liberal.”
Dionne, Aug. 20:
This is not about the politics of populism. It’s about the politics of the jackboot. It’s not about an opposition that has every right to free expression. It’s about an angry minority engaging in intimidation backed by the threat of violence. […]
All this is taking place as the country debates the president’s health-care proposal. There is much that is disturbing in that discussion. Shouting down speakers is never a good thing, and many lies are being told about the contents of the health-care bills. The lies should be confronted, but freedom involves a lot of commotion and an open contest of ideas, even when some of the parties say things that aren’t true and act in less than civil ways.
Yet if we can’t draw the line at the threat of violence, democracy begins to disintegrate. Power, not reason, becomes the stuff of political life.
Jonah Goldberg also quotes from Dionne’s column today and adds, “what I really like is E.J.’s tut-tutting tone about those naive and myopic electronic media types who fell for these alleged stunts”:
This is the same E.J. Dionne who not two weeks ago was fretting the “politics of the jackboot,” warning that these townhall meetings were the manifestation of some sort of crypto-fascist uprising of angry white militias. No, wait, maybe that was the column two weeks before that, in which he urged the GOP to purge the dangerous “extremists” in its midst. Whatever.
The point is that Dionne is partly responsible for the electronic media’s coverage of the town hall meetings. Look at it this way. If you’re a typical TV news producer who takes columnists like Dionne and Krugman seriously, then of course you’re going to cover these potent powder kegs of the paranoid style. Who knows what might happen in these beer town halls?
Meanwhile, most conservative columnists insisted these protests were little more than democracy in action. Politically significant, to be sure, but not something to fret over. If the producers listened to us instead of Dionne & Co., would the town halls get less overage? I think the answer is obviously yes. Would that coverage be more evenhanded? Again, the answer is obviously yes. It’s fine for E.J. to bemoan the TV coverage of the town halls, but it’d be nice if he owned up to the fact that he was part of the problem.
Or as the Professor writes, “E.J. Dionne says don’t listen to people like E.J. Dionne.”
Fortunately, I was waaaay ahead of the curve on that one!