9. Town Hall Politics as Zombie Theater: Rethinking the Importance of the Public Sphere
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Town Hall Politics as Zombie Theater
RETHINKING THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PUBLIC SPHERE
The bitter debate that unfolded over Obama’s health care plan garnered a great deal of media attention. The images were both familiar and disturbing—members of Congress being shouted down, taunted, hanged in effigy, and in some instances receiving death threats. In some cases, mob scenes produced violence and resulted in a number of arrests. Increasingly, people were showing up with guns at these meetings, revealing an intimate connection between an embrace of violence, politics, and a disturbing hatred of both the public sphere and the conditions for real exchange, debate, and dialogue over important social issues. Rowdy, zombie-like crowds, many of whom read from talking points made available to them by right-wing groups and legitimated by conservative television pundits, embraced a politics reminiscent of the Brown Shirts, whose task in Germany in the 1930s was to disrupt oppositional meetings, beat up opponents of the Nazi or Fascist Parties, and intimidate those individuals and groups that criticized authoritarian ideology.
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