Angry Mobs

Protesting and Civil Discourse

The left-leaning media has, as far as I'm concerned, hit a new low.

Case in point: August 7, Friday. Paul Krugman writes a column in the New York Times blasting angry protesters showing up at town hall meetings across the country. By a very twisted process of reasoning, Krugman ended up likening those who oppose the government overhaul of the health care system to racists.

I can't even find the right words for the outrage I feel.

This is the kind of rhetoric that does nothing but inflame already heated passions and opinions. Now maybe Krugman is simply trying to do what other backers of the President's health care plan are trying to do-silence the opposition.

The Speaker of the House, in fact, has written that these protests are un-American. The White House has opened a tip line on its website so people can report so-called "misinformation" about health care reform efforts. And now Krugman sees racism behind the protests.

Have some of the protests gotten out of hand? Sure. Shouting down congressmen and senators is counterproductive and disrespectful. There's no room for that kind of behavior in civilized, democratic debate.

But while the media hyperventilates over shouting matches and ascribing nefarious motives to the protesters, I can tell them a thing or two about angry protesters.

I remember very clearly being virtually barricaded in the White House during the Vietnam War, surrounded by 150,000 students. Now they were angry-and dangerous. They were turning buses over that we had stationed to try to keep them away from the White House fence. There were FBI reports that some had bombs in their possession. I myself nearly missed a gasoline can that had been ignited and thrown into the road. This was much more like a revolution in a banana republic than a protest.

I recall that soldiers of the 82nd Airborne were stationed in the Executive Office Building basement, just in case. I couldn't get home at night because we couldn't get the car through the crowd. Most of us stayed in the White House that weekend.

I was always struck at the time, however, by the very sympathetic press coverage of the protesters. They were seen really as just idealistic young people working for peace against a very unpopular, mistaken war.

I'm an expert in angry mobs. And at least what I'm seeing on television right now pales in comparison to the 1960s and '70s. Sure, some of the protesters are being uncivil and disruptive-which is wrong.

As I said Monday, there is plenty to protest when it comes to the proposed and so-called health care "reforms." And if you speak out-and you should-you should do so respectfully and with civility. Don't get angry or get into name calling. And let the other side say their piece.

Free expression is essential to a free society. This is what distinguishes us from tyrannies. And people who have these deep convictions about the truth must be permitted to air them-the hysterical rants from the Upper East Side of New York or inside the Beltway notwithstanding.

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