Maybe I was Wrong About the Crazies

30 Sep

I have previously posted a lot on healthcare. As the healthcare debate ended up stuck in the mud during the post-Obama speech period, I decided I’d wait to post again until Something Happened. Well, Something now did Happen, as liberals once again failed at the act of governance with Baucus’ knife in the heart of the Public Option. I was writing the post on that subject in my head when I made a mistake this morning. I turned on Tom Bauerle, and after listening for five minutes, had a revelation.


Maybe I’ve been wrong about the Birfers, Freeners, Screamers, and Teabaggers the whole time. Maybe, just maybe, its the duty of every sentient human being in this country to denounce this crap daily until rationality (not unanimity) is present once again in our country.

My God, what are these people smoking? The only thing more terrifying than the rhetoric was the knowledge that the people on this show live in my city, and may someday interact with my children.

Today’s topic on Bauerle was ostensibly about the evils of vaccinations, and how terrible it is that New York would force state healthcare workers to receive the H1N1 Flu Vaccine, or face disciplinary action. Bauerle and every single one of his callers, (as Pundit has discovered, no dissention in the echo chamber) see this an invasion of their personal liberty because 1) no one can tell me what to do with my body, 2) all vaccines are unsafe and untested, and 3) Obama is a dictator.

Obviously a sense of irony is not a prerequisite for this group. I assume most are Pro-Lifers, but the fact that Argument #1 is the main Pro-Choice defense is lost on them. As well, lets for a second ignore Argument #2 – I only have time for one crazy conspiracy at a time. Instead, lets look at #3.

Somehow the topic of vaccines in NY was a perfect segue into a discussion of Obama the Foreign Dictator. Forced vaccines would lead to, among other things, the institution of martial law, forced birth control, the canceling of the 2012 election (Obama would declare himself President-for-Life), Communism and Hitlerism. Proof that this would happen? That Obama received student aid as a foreign student and is spending $1M to fight the release of his birth certificate. Also, his trip to Copenhagen to fight for Chicago to get the Summer Olympics is about Union kickbacks to his funders, and national healthcare is bad.

Of course, most of these things are mild compared to calling Obama the Anti-Christ based upon some numerology. To me, its easy to dismiss a couple websites that I think Alan spends too much time perusing. But somehow hearing it on the radio today, on a “news program,” made it a lot worse.  WBEN may not be CNN, but its audience is much larger than Birfer conspiracy groups. Judging by the content, no wonder most the commercials were for hypnotic weight loss and “miracle” anti-aging cream.

 I’ve previously thought that this fringe too will pass – ignore them and they go away. But their influence and size is growing, not shrinking. And as Tom Friedman points out:

The American political system was, as the saying goes, “designed by geniuses so it could be run by idiots.” But a cocktail of political and technological trends have converged in the last decade that are making it possible for the idiots of all political stripes to overwhelm and paralyze the genius of our system.

We need to tamp down the idiots. Republicans, Conservatives and those on the Right have a special obligation to do this, because these people claim to be on our side (though many claim the Republican party has let them down too). What John McCain did with the crazy woman at one of his town halls, we need to do every day. Correct. Refute. Inform. Advocate.

This doesn’t mean Obama has the right policies. I don’t care for many of them. But call me old fashioned – we should respond with ideas, not fear mongering lunacy. Silence is becoming acquiescence.

19 Responses to “Maybe I was Wrong About the Crazies”

  1. STEEL September 30, 2009 at 2:49 pm #

    Not becoming – IS acquiescence.

  2. Starbuck September 30, 2009 at 5:47 pm #

    But their influence and size is growing, not shrinking.

    What’s the evidence that their influence is growing? Compared to what previous influence and when?

    What’s the evidence that their size is growing? Compared to what previous size and when?

  3. Brian Castner September 30, 2009 at 6:10 pm #

    Their influence and size is growing compared to the last several decades. Our country has always had parties with various bases they had to placate. What we’re talking about here is an outside the party movement that is bleeding over into the mainstream. Screamers at the town hall meetings. A Congressman calling the Pres a liar in an address to Congress. They may not be physically larger, but the internet allows such organization that they have a much larger presence and effect. Other outside-the-party movements occassionally have influence (anti-war movements – for Iraq or Vietnam) but they are issue based. This seems to be ignorance and conspiracy based. If you truly believed Obama wanted to cancel elections in this country, that the government is trying to take your guns/kids/healthcare, what would you do? That’s the problem.

  4. Mike In WNY September 30, 2009 at 11:08 pm #

    Brian, do you really believe that NYS should be able to order people to inject their bodies with a relatively untested vaccine? For a flu with a mortality rate that is no worse than the run of the mill seasonal flu?

    As far as Argument #1 goes, it is not the same as the argument the pro-lifers use. Their argument involves two human beings, only one of which has its voice heard.

  5. The Humanist October 1, 2009 at 9:15 am #

    @ Brian – well said

    @ Mike in WNY – “As far as Argument #1 goes, it is not the same as the argument the pro-lifers use. Their argument involves two human beings, only one of which has its voice heard.

    Does a fetus get a birth certificate? A Social Security number?

    • Alan Bedenko October 1, 2009 at 9:21 am #

      Does a fetus get a birth certificate?

      Orly Taitz is on it.

  6. Brian Castner October 1, 2009 at 9:54 am #

    @ Mike: 1) Yes, I do think they should have to take a safe and tested vaccine as a condition of employment. Our national healthcare crisis models for disease outbreak are based upon innoculating key sectors first: healthcare workers, police, military, etc. Military personnel already receive plenty of vaccines as a condition of employment. Healthcare workers already have to get TB tests and shots as a condition fo employment. We force our children to get shots to attend school. For decades, after every flu season, the CDC figures out which strains were present and makes a new mix for the next flu season. In this case, H1N1 has been added to the cocktail. But new flu strains are used every year. Therefore, you could argue, its an untested vaccine every year. Vaccines are not a magic bullet, and like all medical procedures, there is some risk. But if you want to be employed, get the damn vaccine, and don’t spread lies and misinformation. And as far as the mortality goes, h1N1 is different because it showed up at the end of the season, and continued to spread in the summer. There is a real chance that this years flu seaon will be terrible. Would you rather wait, or take some preventive action now.

    2) I’m pro-life, and I agree with you. There are two people, and they should have the rights the Humorist mocks. But it is the same argument – its my body, I can do what I want. Not true for abortion, not true to be a state healthcare worker.

  7. Mike In WNY October 1, 2009 at 10:57 am #

    Yesterday I had an appointment with a pulmonologist. He is considered a top notch doctor and has been featured on the cover of Newsweek. I asked him, given my history of contracting pneumonia, if I should get the H1N1 vaccine. His reply was an unequivocal NO. He did recommend getting the seasonal flu vaccine and the pneumonia vaccine. I then asked him what he thought of NYS ordering health care workers to submit to the injection and he replied, “it’s a communist action”.

    For the record, I had no previous inkling what his answers would be, I only asked because I wanted his medical opinion to augment my thoughts before deciding what t do.

    • Alan Bedenko October 1, 2009 at 11:35 am #

      Does the good doctor think that requiring licensure is a “communist action”?

      I can’t fathom how it’s communard to require health care workers who come into contact with sick people to require them to be inoculated against a contagious virus that can kill people.

      My kid has to show proof of inoculation to enter school. It’s a longstanding requirement going back to when I was in public school in New York. Shall I call that communist, too? Everyone’s a victim.

  8. Brian Castner October 1, 2009 at 11:10 am #

    @ Mike – 2 points – 1) Your respected doctor pulling the communist card is more proof of the spread of the crazy fringe and 2) once you apply a healthcare policy to a specific person, there are always changes to be made. I read recently that because H1N1 tends to induce pneumonia (the killing people kind), they are recommending high risk patients receive both the pneumonia shot and the H1N1 shot. Is this why he recommended otherwise for you? I don’t know. But just because you make alterations for some individual cases doesn’t mean 95% of healthcare workers shouldn’t get it. Isn’t the pneumonia-link more proof that we should head this off at the pass, instead of just labeling it “run-of-the-mill” and being reactive?

  9. The Humanist October 1, 2009 at 1:44 pm #

    I wish my doctor was Captain America, too.

  10. Starbuck October 1, 2009 at 6:58 pm #

    Their influence and size is growing compared to the last several decades.

    What I wondered is if there’s any evidence that the influence and size is growing. Shouting during town hall meetings or a presidential speech, the two things you cited in reply, aren’t necessarily signs of influence or size.

    For example, do any primary or general election results indicate the influence and size of crazies is growing compared to the 70s, 80s, 90s? Or is there any polling data to show growing size of influence? Or anything objective?

    Was there any time in recent decades in which someone like Bauerle couldn’t have filled his show with a dozen or so crazy sounding callers – enough to fill a few hours? Obviously his calls are screened in favor of crazy views, so how can listening to shows like his be a meaningful basis?

    They may not be physically larger,

    What does growing in size mean other than becoming physically larger?

  11. The Humanist October 2, 2009 at 12:35 am #

    @ Starbuck – I think the movement being addressed here is how the right-wing has completely hijacked talk radio. With Reagan’s eradication of the Fairness Doctrine, a whole cottage industry of right-wing clowns exploded on AM talk radio, beginning with El Rushbo. Beck, Hannity and all the other clones followed. Baurle exists because WBEN gets mucho advertiser dollars because they believe his brand of wingnut insane paranoid blather attracts a wide, advertiser-friendly audience. That might have been the case in the Clinton 90’s, but now, they will find, like Fox News, that their audience is getting older and more unattractive to advertisers coveting the 25-40 demographic.

  12. Brian Castner October 2, 2009 at 9:28 am #

    @ Starbuck – I don’t agree with Humanist – the Right may have talk radio and direct mail, but the Left has deep internet roots (Netroots Nation anyone). I think the media stuff balances out. I could quote polls that show more people believe Obama is not a citizen than believe 9/11 was planned by Bush, but I don’t think that proves anything. I think the size is more indirectly measured by that influence – I find the “astroturf” argument that the town hall screamers were not legit to be asinine. No matter who paid the bill, average middle class folks decided it was a good idea to go to a town hall meeting and yell at their Congressman. That didn’t used to happen. A Congressman yelled at the Pres during the speech – he would only do that if he thought he had the political cover to do it, and he’s a hero in his district now. So its not direct data (I don’t run Rasmussen Reports out of my home office part time), but I think the indirect implication is overwhelming.

  13. James October 2, 2009 at 11:19 am #

    I think the reason for the growth of brfers and teabaggers and other causes is more deeply rooted than our current set of elected officials. I agree with many of the “hands off my everything” complaints that the teabaggers hold and reached my own boiling point before the initial bailout plans approved by W. Our country is in a difficult place and someone is going to have to shoulder the burden of our past mistakes. I think that the teabag movement could be swayed to the other side of people willing to begin an appropriate dialogue of working hard to pay off our debts and restoring our country away from consumerism and back to a more socialist production model. It’s not popular because it’s hard work, but people are unhappy and frankly embarrased by their lack of participation in their own government. We can’t depend on others to do what we should be doing. No one felt a need to shout down or fight back agains the 9/11 conspirists and they lost most of their steam. If the Democrats feel a need to combat the people that are the loudest and most ignorant voices of the the teabaggers/brfrs, they will lose. They simply don’t have the resources to beat the crazy and the unrest beneath it. If they choose to ignore it and press on with their views then it probably will evolve or die down as it gets filtered into the masses or out of them. I think the underlying disapointment and frustration with our government is the bigger issue in all of this. That’s a good and healthy place start the dialogue that has to happen in order to address the future of this country and the burden we are placing on future generations through our inaction. I think we need to focus more on educating the anger to action.

  14. Starbuck October 3, 2009 at 11:41 pm #

    I could quote polls that show more people believe Obama is not a citizen than believe 9/11 was planned by Bush

    FWIW, polls I’ve seen put those numbers pretty close to each other. It’s strange to see a lot of nutty things that have a surprisingly high level of the public saying they believe – not just those two things. Reminds of George Carlin line:

    average middle class folks decided it was a good idea to go to a town hall meeting and yell at their Congressman

    Folks with average demographics perhaps, but isn’t the number who’ve yelled at a congressman extremely small? There’s 535 senators+representatives. I wonder how many have been yelled at this year in town halls and how many times. 100 yellers? 200? Plenty to generate punditry about and show on cable over and over, but not enough to draw conclusions from in terms of size and influence of crazies.

    On another note, I’m not sure most of the people who yell at public hearings or town halls are “crazies” as defined in your above post even if they’re foolish and not people I’d want to spend time with. It depends what they yell.

    That didn’t used to happen

    It didn’t? Before the web and 24-7 cable news, how did the national public learn about it when it did happen? I’d suppose usually they didn’t. It might usually have been reported in local news or not at all.

    Haven’t we seen over the years news video of countless local public hearings (about anything – development proposals, school policy changes, etc.) at which members of the public yell at elected officials? Lots. Isn’t that the same thing? Yelling at public hearings (a.k.a. “town halls”) is rude and stupid, but not new at all.

    Aren’t national political conventions and campaign speeches often interrupted by some idiot shouting until removed? At high profile Congressional hearings, isn’t it not too unusual for someone in the audience to yell and be dragged out?

    Youtube might encourage more of all of the above these days, but to say that never used to happen sounds pretty shaky.

  15. Brian Castner October 5, 2009 at 10:39 pm #

    Starbuck – you make extremely reasonable points. This is one of many places where its hard to tell what is changing (relatively), and what is simply being reported more. Or, what is simply happening during your own personal experience, and you don’t have the personal background to remember 1953. People have yelled at town halls for many many years. Hundreds, probably. I’m trying to narrow it down to post-WWII, and it seems like this is not a school-board meeting gone wrong. This was distintctive for being regular, repeated, and planned from the start of the meeting. I originally compared this to Code Pink. While partly legit, one place that comparrison breaks down is that Code Pink did not make up 50% of the audience in Congressional hearings. Not the same for the healthcare town halls.

    So, let me turn it around. Do you think its just over-reported? Or is the fringe actually getting more vocal and more influential?

    • Alan Bedenko October 6, 2009 at 6:11 am #

      When semi-informed people get whipped into a “socialism is coming, hide your daughters” frenzy by a compliant media that feeds them dumb half-truths, and they get called out to tea parties and are encouraged to “confront” their congresspeople by that media and by health insurance reform opponent 527s and lobbying groups, then you get what we got in August.


  1. I Wish You A Tolerable Thursday | - October 1, 2009

    […] Castner tuned into the Tom Bauerle Happy-Fun Sedition Show on should-be-ashamed-WBEN and came to the realization that it’s everyone’s duties to call out the crazies, […]

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