ObamaCare supporter Anthony Wright has a suggestion for TV networks in their coverage of the town hall protests: treat the protesters the way ESPN covers unruly sports fans. In other words, avoid pointing the cameras at them. Here are some of Wright's thoughts about censoring the town hall protesters published in The New Republic:
The Fox network has done more than any other network to showcase the protesters at health care town halls. And the coverage has been a lot like Fox’s reality shows: The more outrageous, the more likely you’ll end up on TV or YouTube. A sign referencing Nazis will get you on the local news. Shouting in a Senator’s face gets an radio interview afterwards. Bring a gun, and you get your full interview on a cable news program. After the first gun-toter made the rounds, the question wasn’t why there was a dozen folks packing outside the next presidential event, but why weren’t there more?
Sigh! First of all Nancy Pelosi was the first one to bring up the Nazi reference by claiming that protesters were bringing swastikas to the town hall meetings. A search was done and the closest thing to that claim was a protester outside a town hall meeting holding up sign with a "NO" symbol over a swastika. As to the Obama as Hitler signs, they are being displayed by the far left Lyndon LaRouche supporters, not conservative opponents of ObamaCare.
Everybody deserves a chance to speak his or her mind; nobody disputes that. But how much attention should the media give these people? It seems to me this is one case when the political media--or, at least, Fox--could take its cues from the sports media.
Stand by now for the "Wright" advice on how to treat legitimate protesters like a bunch of unruly sports fans:
When fans at a professional sporting event try to make a spectacle of themselves--by being unruly or abusive, or running onto the field--the networks go out of their way to avoid showing it. Why? Because providing airtime to the disrupters would give too much incentive for others to do the same at stadiums across the country. Similarly, the media should focus on the issues of health reform, rather than the rude and belligerent behavior of a relative few.
Of course, that "unruly fans" advice only applies to conservatives. Wright would never think of treating leftwing protesters like a bunch of unruly sports fans.
It seems clear to me that the protests are less about the substance of the health reforms--which is often attacked with claims that have no basis in reality--and more about a vehicle to oppose President Obama, for whatever reason. They are merely the second episode to the “tea party” programming that Fox News sponsored earlier in the year, where the channel even provided the headline speakers across the country, including here in Sacramento. (Those were similarly disconnected from actual policy, as it was an anti-tax protest directed at the stimulus which actually included a major tax cut.)
No basis in reality? Like the absurd claim that ObamaCare would be "deficit neutral?" And where is that stimulus tax cut?
Wright follows his slam at town hall protesters with some wishful thinking about who is now showing up at the town hall meetings:
The only saving grace is that now that the story that has fully migrated from Fox to the mainstream media, the turnout at these town halls meetings has shifted in favor of supporters--at least based on my experience in California and what I’m reading from around the country. Within 24 hours of hearing about a protest in front of an office of Senator Diane Feinstein, health reform supporters turned out and outnumbered them five to one. A town hall last week with Representative Adam Schiff, a Californian Blue Dog who supports health reform, turned out nearly 3,000 people--hundreds for both sides, but with supporters outnumbering opponents. As much as my organization and allied groups would like to take credit, you wouldn’t have had that kind of turnout from either side if this hadn’t turned into a media phenomenon.
You also couldn't have had the leftwing turnout (exaggerated by Wright) without SEIU and ACORN bringing them in to hold fancy pre-printed signs. If you want to see astroturf protesters, look no further than those two leftwing groups.
And, finally, a parting shot by Wright who is upset about citizens letting their voices be heard:
But even with supporters consistently outnumbering opponents of health reform, it still only takes a small number of rude, outrageous, and badly-behaved folks to dominate a meeting. By rewarding unruliness, by letting a small group of screamers shove their way onto television news and into the national conversation, the media may have set a standard they’ll come to regret later.
Unless it comes to covering leftwing protesters, right Wright? And remember, New Republic, the NewsBusters Eye of Sauron remains upon you.