NGOs, Iran, Healthcare Revolt, and the Media

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Citizens have taken to townhall meetings to vociferously demonstrate to their elected representatives opposition to a government takeover of the healthcare system (don’t hurt their feelings by telling them that the government had actually taken it over long ago). This is a good thing, though, in so far as any popular revolt against the ruling class could serve to shake things up and possibly delay bad things which are planned for us. (I do wonder where these budget warriors were just a few years ago, however, when some of us were protesting unnecessary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have thus far stolen more than a trillion dollars from our pockets in one form or other.)

The point I wish to make is simpler, however. It is a point about propaganda and the media and the world of the non-government organization (NGO).

I find it more than a little fascinating to read the The Washington Post‘s reaction to citizen revolts against their sacred healthcare reform. In today’s issue, we hear that:

Hectoring protesters at a handful of Democratic town hall forums became a flash point Wednesday in the health-care debate, as party leaders cast the critics as “angry mobs” trying to “destroy President Obama”…Video footage of the sometimes-belligerent protests has taken hold online and on television in a relatively quiet news week, threatening to drown out any health-care debate.

There is much one could say about this, particularly the notion — in a news rather than opinion piece nonetheless — that vocal opposition to a particular public policy proposal serves to “drown out” debate on said issue. Apparently “debate” is to be conducted between those who agree with a favored policy proposal and…well, those who also agree with it. That has the ripe whiff of totalitarianism about it.

But the Post‘s main concern over opposition to the healthcare plan is whether it is driven by “conservative groups” or whether it is genuinely “grassroots.”

The Post points out, approvingly, that:

Liberals have seized upon a “strategy memo,” issued by the Connecticut-based group Right Principles, which calls on conservatives to “pack the hall” and “yell out and challenge” lawmakers. The group’s leader has ties to FreedomWorks, an advocacy organization headed by former House majority leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.).

…and disapprovingly that, “[a]nother major group, Americans for Prosperity, has supplied thousands of printed placards for protests around the country.”

One US Representative singled out for a tongue-lashing by his constituents complained that: “This was very much feigned outrage that creates a phony grass-roots appearance of people coming out with their pitchforks.”

Hold on a minute! These disdained “advocacy organizations” have another name abroad when they are funded by the US government to affect political change in foreign countries: they are called NGO’s and are hailed as exemplars of democratic advancement by the Washington Post and these same politicians who are feeling the heat in townhall meetings.

The US government has funded many thousands of printed placards to those overseas seeking to overthrow their elected governments in favor of “pro-US” puppets. Roses and Oranges and Tulips and Greens have no doubt all been generously watered with US government printed placards. But somehow Dick Armey is the bad guy here because he uses money that is given to him voluntarily in attempt to participate in a policy debate?

The Post was positively giddy with glee at the US-supported “color revolutionaries” who took to the streets to overthrow their own governments in recent years! Page after page was devoted to breathless reporting on the various NGOs who were, in Iran and Moldova at least, Twittering toward freedom. But all of a sudden “NGOs” are illegitimate when they operate on US soil — with private, US funding nonetheless?

There are, of course, many reasons to be wary about political non-governmental organizations, some of which are pointed out brilliantly by the Paris-based Institute of Democracy and Cooperation.

But it is beyond irony — beyond hypocrisy — to read of the disdain for homegrown private advocacy groups by the same publications and individuals who incessantly slobber praise on similar organizations overseas funded by the US or other foreign governments. Frankly, it is nauseating.

9:40 am on August 6, 2009