I’ve been spending a lot of time lately writing on the various events and issues surrounding the health care reform controversy. You haven’t seen any of those entries yet, though I’ve written (by my count) 54 so far, with plenty more coming. I haven’t posted any of them yet, and probably won’t for a few days yet. It is truly astonishing.
I’ve gotten entries up to August 7, five days before as I write this. I would guess that I have over 100 links to various news sites and blog entries left to cover (I just added about two dozen just from yesterday and today to the link list). Many of those stories and entries contain several links that need following up as well. So I would guess that if I want to catch up to today’s breaking news, I would have to summarize about 300 news stories and blog entries. It isn’t going to get done tonight, and tomorrow ain’t looking so good, either.
I’ve never seen this kind of coverage on any issue I’ve covered, not torture, not warrantless wiretapping. Maybe Kevin, Matt, and the other 9/11 writers can draw comparisons, but the History Commons wasn’t in existence in September 2001, so we weren’t attempting to cover that day’s tragic events and the vast array of events and issues that surround it.
I am, frankly, overwhelmed. There are, what, 300 Democratic House members and 60 senators. Are they all holding town halls in August? I know a few aren’t, but most seem to be, and I’m documenting most of them, it seems. (Kudos to Massachusetts Reps James McGovern and Richard Neal for doubling up on a single forum. One less entry for me to write.)
There are a few themes that are emerging from the sometimes-chaotic coverage of events, as they are documented by an array of partisan and not-so-partisan media outlets and citizen blogs.
- First, the “rumors” that the anti-reform protests are being orchestrated by industry lobbying groups are quite accurate. Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks are two of the lobbying organizations that are getting most of the press coverage for their involvement, but there are others as well. America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the industry’s trade association, is heavily involved.
- Secondly, the outrage among Americans is real, not manufactured. Certainly it is being played up and manipulated by the lobbyists and the GOP, but the protesters at these health care forums are, for the most part, sincerely angry and frustrated at what they perceive as a government takeover of their health care. The fact that they have been lied to and manipulated doesn’t make their outrage any less real.
- Third, the racism and bigotry at these events is just as real. Usually it simmers beneath the surface, but in recent events it has boiled to the top, disconcerting, frightening, and angering those on all sides of the debate who have no racist agenda to thrust forward. As happens so often, the racists manage to garner an outsized share of the media coverage and attention from these protests. I am certain that the large majority of protesters at these events do not espouse or condone the racism, jingoism, and under-the-surface violence being advocated by the wild-eyed few. Though I would ask a simple question: if you don’t support it, why don’t you challenge it when you see it?
Another point: I’m using an array–from the right and the left–of “alternative” media sources, including a number of blogs, that I usually wouldn’t rely upon. We have a strong policy of using sources that might not always be considered “mainstream,” but should always be reasonably reliable. We rarely consider non-journalistic blogs reliable, except in very specific and rare instances. (Tom Goldstein’s SCOTUSblog is one example; Glenn Greenwald’s blog/column at Salon is another, though we didn’t often use it until after he joined Salon and gained a modicum of “respectability,” though his writing has changed little from his earlier, independent work.) Now I’m using sources like TX 912 Candidates, Burnt Orange Report, TPMDC (Talking Points Memo’s Washington insider page), Fox Nation, Connexion, Tea Party Patriots, My Fox Houston, Daily Kos, Everyday Republican, and others. It’s unusual and sometimes a bit uncomfortable, but when these sources are the only source for eyewitness reports from these town halls and rallies, I feel it necessary to use them. I have, of course, labeled the entries’ content appropriately, so you can see where the information comes from and judge its accuracy and relevance for yourselves. But I think this is a harbinger of things to come, as the reliability and non-partisanship of the “mainstream” media becomes increasingly a thing of myth, and viable news reporting and commentary becomes ever more frequent on citizen blogs. As you mull this point over, try a little exercise: name ONE media source that you consider absolutely non-partisan. I can’t.
In the next few days, I will begin posting these entries. They will probably not see publication for a week or more, because the sheer volume of the entries will tax my ability to post them, and the ability of our hard-working content and copy editors to process them. I have tons of other material that needs posting–torture/abuse entries, civil liberties and propaganda material, an entire timeline covering the Valerie Plame Wilson outing–but this is important and must be covered, as fairly, accurately, and completely as I am able.
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