One of my more shameful political opinions (which I just have to suck up and live with) is the fact that for a brief period -- from about 2003 to 2005 -- I was in favor of the American invasion of Iraq.
I had my reasons for this position, but one of the things that might have nudged me into accepting some of the dumber pro-invasion arguments was the fact that the other side seemed even dumber.
The people who I spoke to on the antiwar left knew very, very little about Iraq. Their mantra "no blood for oil" struck me as ridiculous. (Although less ridiculous now.) And I was greatly offended about the casualness with which George Bush was compared to Adolf Hitler.
But more than that, they seemed like louts and bullies.
I remember a few months after the invasion going to see Paul Wolfowitz give a lecture at the New School where he wasn't able to get a word out, edgewise. The packed lecture hall contained dozens -- maybe hundreds -- of hecklers who continuously interrupted him with boos and insults and comparisons to Nazis. (At least one Lyndon Larouche supporter was seized and turned out of the hall when he charged the stage giving a Nazi salute.)
There was something endlessly frustrating about the fact that the guy wouldn't even be given the chance to speak. That he was shouted down by someone louder. It seemed downright un-American; what happened to freedom of speech? What happened to reasonable debate and intelligent discussion? "What a bunch of jerks!" I thought.
Which brings us to the latest bunch of jerks drowning out opposition with their loudness --
As you undoubtedly know, they've been showing up at townhall meetings about healthcare and making themselves an all-around-pain-in-the-ass to disrupt debate about healthcare.
These people are armed with little or no information (they think old people are going to be euthanized? they don't know medicare is a government program? seriously?) and their only weapon is their power to be extremely annoying.
I think there is a temptation to counter these jokers; to shout back and shout loud. Or to point out that moneyed, conservative organizations have been the organizing factor here.
I'm all in favor of pointing out that the grassroots nature of these mobs are phony and organized by arms of the healthcare industry or the GOP. I'm a little less inclined to shout back. (Although my political instincts might be off on this.) I think there is the strong possibility that this kind of thing will backfire. If these guys continue making themselves look like a crazy, unruly mob, what will the rest of the country think?
Maybe that they're a crazy, unruly mob.