White Coat Underground

From open political warfare to open warfare

It seemed inevitable. Crowds more akin to brownshirts than concerned citizens have been disrupting health care town hall meetings, depriving their fellow citizens of their right to be heard. It was only a matter of time before the intimidation become more overt.

Today, a protester showed up outside a venue where the President is appearing. His sign was disturbing enough: “It is time to water the tree of liberty!” To refresh your memory, he is paraphrasing a famous Revolutionary-era quote which says that to water that tree it is, from time to time, necessary to spill the blood of tyrants.

This protester is also carrying an unconcealed handgun.

Ignoring for a moment the bizarre fact that the Secret Service hasn’t hauled this guy away (yes, it’s legal, but not if they think he poses a threat), what message is this individual sending to the people around him? If I am there to express my opinion, and it differs from his, might he consider me a party to tyranny? Might he not decide that I have a role to play in “watering the tree of liberty?”

No matter where you stand on health care reform or the presidency, this rhetoric of violent insurgency, this infantile, anti-democratic approach to policy disagreement is dangerous. Every pundit and politician, from every side, should be publicly decrying this behavior.

If they feel safe doing so.


  1. #1 WcT
    August 11, 2009

    I understand the strength of feeling, but I question the Godwin.

    It’s entirely possible for these people to be anti-democratic, idiotic, ignorant, violent thugs fighting against their own self interest who should be jailed for their “speech,” without them being Nazi’s.
    There’s is still time for them to turn the ignorance up to 11. When that happens, who will we compare them too!?

  2. #2 PalMD
    August 11, 2009

    Brownshirts aren’t necessarily Nazis, but the Nazi used the concept well. They are a “citizen” arm of a party, one that can squelch opposition:

    On 4 November 1921 the Nazi party held a large public meeting in the Munich HofbrÀuhaus. After Hitler had spoken for some time the meeting erupted into a melee in which a small company of SA distinguished itself by thrashing the opposition. The Nazis called this event “Saalschlacht” (meeting hall battle) and it assumed legendary proportions in SA lore with the passage of time. Thereafter, the group was officially known as the Sturmabteilung.[7]

  3. #3 catgirl
    August 11, 2009

    Considering the recent assassination of Dr. Tiller, I won’t be surprised at all when they escalate this to the level of violence. They know that they are in the minority so democracy doesn’t give them what they want, which is for “undeserving” poor people and minorities to die and generally suffer.

    Also, I agree that you should be careful with references that are associated with Hitler in any way, even when they are actually relevant.

  4. #4 Devlin Carnett
    August 11, 2009

    The police have yet to crack a single skull, pepper-spray a face, prone anyone out, or hook anyone up. This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that these people are not actual dissenters and the cops are there to protect them from the citizens.

    Real dissenters would be broken, bloody, caged, and tortured.

    These villains are on the same side as the police, who want a corporate state because that will give them maximum power and wealth.

    These shock-troop ringers are using the tactics and strategies that worked so well for — guess who — Der Fuhrer.

  5. #5 rob
    August 11, 2009

    WTF? Obama isn’t leading a division of tanks into Canada. or suspending constitution. he’s trying to setup affordable healthcare for everyone.

  6. #6 DrugMonkey
    August 11, 2009

    Mudflats on Alaska “deathers”..


    what swell Americans they are, heckling the sick.

  7. #7 Art
    August 11, 2009

    Most police departments accept and respond to ‘man with a gun’ calls. Adding a good description (height, weight, skin color, eye color, and in detail what he is wearing and the fact he is shouting at people and acting irrationally) should speed action and make identification easier.

    If he resists, so much the better. In most states if your convicted of a felony, like what might occur if your spirits are high protesting government control and a policeman says you have to come along and surrender your gun, you lose the right to own firearms.

    All good.

    I would also like to see people photographing these guys and finding out who they are, who they work for, if they are being paid to protest, and if they show up at multiple protests. Finding out they work for or are hired by astroturfers would be good to know.

  8. #8 JohnV
    August 11, 2009

    If anti-healthcare reactionaries don’t want to hear the nazi comparisons, they need to stop using swastikas to commit hate crimes: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090811/ap_on_go_co/us_health_care_protests

  9. #9 antipodean
    August 11, 2009

    Ok. Let’s unpack this person’s logical chain of thinking.

    1. You hate the idea of other people getting healthcare.

    2. You carry a gun and threaten to use it on people who want universal healthcare.

    3. Hospitals have an ethical responsibility to treat anybody who has just been shot.

    Doesn’t this just mean that these wackaloons are making their imagined problem worse?

  10. #10 Donna B.
    August 11, 2009

    He’s got a gun, so he’s got to be BAD… haha.

    I love New Hampshire and wish more people understood the meaning behind the sign. But, gosh, it just sounds horrible doesn’t it! But he had a gun! OH NOES! It must be a threat! I should be afraid!!! OH NOES!!! (what’s that smell??)

    Honestly, how frickin’ silly can you be to fear a man legally and openly wearing a holstered gun and carrying a sign paraphrasing the words of a few historical figures?

    What’s nauseating to me is that this man could not legally do in Texas what he legally did in NH.

    Reminders are not threats.

  11. #11 LanceR, JSG
    August 11, 2009

    Reminders are not threats.

    In this case, they are. “It is time…” his sign says. Not “From time to time…” or “There may come a time…”, but “It *IS* Time…”

    That is a threat. Semantic word game bullshit aside, that is openly advocating armed rebellion. And that, as our gracious host suggests, “is dangerous”.

  12. #12 JohnV
    August 11, 2009

    “But, gosh, it just sounds horrible doesn’t it! ”

    He’s carrying a gun and there’s that sign suggesting that blood needs to be shed.

    I know its totally outlandish to view that as a threat, I mean, it’s not like President Obama gets hundreds of death threats a month, and its not like reactionaries are pretty much constantly ringing the armed insurrection bell or anything.

    Yup no threat at all. And these aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

  13. #13 Donna B.
    August 11, 2009

    Obviously, the police and the Secret Service didn’t view him as a threat, so why would you?

    Remember the tree of liberty must also be watered by the blood of patriots… was he perhaps threatening those opposing Obama since they’ve been “portrayed” as so unpatriotic the last few weeks?

    Or was he perhaps threatening to kill himself in protest?

    It is frankly silly to get all worked up about this guy or any of the protests. If the individual congressmen/women can’t deal with their constituents when the constituents disagree with them, they don’t deserve the job.

  14. #14 JohnV
    August 11, 2009

    “Obviously, the police and the Secret Service didn’t view him as a threat, so why would you?”

    Because I’m a patriot.

  15. #15 mxh
    August 12, 2009


    WTF? Obama isn’t leading a division of tanks into Canada. or suspending constitution. he’s trying to setup affordable healthcare for everyone.

    exactly, this isn’t about healthcare itself, as much as it’s a Republican ploy to make Obama look like a failure (at the expense of the well-being of the country, of course).

  16. #16 Donna B.
    August 12, 2009

    It’s more about Congress’ runaway spending policies, passing bills they haven’t read, and don’t understand than it is about health care, health insurance, or the basically unknown bill that is supposed to cure both than it is about Obama.

    Obama is trying to come to aid of Reps and Sens that are being questioned, but Obama is not the target.

  17. #17 Paul Browne
    August 12, 2009

    The claims made by the anti-healthcare reform mob have got so bad that the British Embassy is finding itself obliged to step in and (in its usual rather timid way) counter the lies, misrepresentations and distortions about the health service in the UK that the right are spreading.


    The NHS may not be perfect, but at least excluding a large segment of the population isn’t part of its architecture.

  18. #18 mxh
    August 12, 2009

    @Donna, this is the first time that congress has spent a lot of money on a bill they haven’t read? I don’t remember people going this crazy the last 8 years.

  19. #19 BB
    August 12, 2009

    @Art, recent news stories on MSNBC and elsewhere reveal these “protesters” are paid lobbyists.

  20. #20 Donna B.
    August 12, 2009

    mxh – you are absolutely right, except in the time frame. I suspect it’s been much longer.

    But, if not now, when?

    I’m not against health care reform or health insurance reform. I think both are needed, but I have no idea what’s being proposed, do you?

  21. #21 Captain Obvious
    August 12, 2009

    Obama should just rename the health care reform bill to “The Patriotic Health of American Patriots of America” bill.

    It would completely paralyse the opposition and would cause most of their pundits heads to explode, saving civilisation from any more of their rubbish.

  22. #22 LanceR, JSG
    August 12, 2009

    I’m getting a little tired of this meme about “bills that nobody has read”. Congress critters have staffers. Some of those staffers do nothing but “read the bills”. Let’s just drop the dishonest dog-whistles and stick to real topics, shall we?

    Do we know what will be in the final bill? No. There is not a final bill to read. There are a dozen conflicting proposed bills, and they are all still fluid.

  23. #23 Blake Stacey
    August 12, 2009

    Gosh, I wonder if my fellow citizens of Somerville would have more luck getting their complaints heard by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority if they started bringing Uzis to the community meetings. The Green Line extension project and the location of the new maintenance yard are serious business, by George! The tree of mass transit must episodically be watered with the blood of patriots and tyrants!

  24. #24 mxh
    August 12, 2009

    @Donna, actually I didn’t include anything before the last 8 years, not because the president was a democrat, but because I was too young to read through or care about bills back then. As for now, see Lance’s response at #22 and I’ve read enough of the proposed bill to know that lots of what people are angry about just aren’t true.

  25. #25 Donna B.
    August 13, 2009

    Lance – I didn’t elect any staffers, did you?

    Honestly, if any bill is too large, long, complicated, incoherent enough that it cannot be read by the individual who is going to vote yea or nay, it is not good law. Practically, by definition, it can’t be.

  26. #26 Denice Walter
    August 13, 2009

    My congressman is holding a series of 8 town hall meetings, an informed older couple(Obama supporters) has asked me to attend with them tonight and ask questions, and as much as I’d like to… I just don’t think that I have the stomach for it.(Actually,this reminds me a bit of a story from Iceland- c. 1000 A.D.-a rich man,Hrafnkel, kills a servant,the surviving father takes him to “court” where basically whoever is loudest gets heard and wins: of course,H., bringing many hirelings and supporters, wins.)Fortunately,there’s e-mail and phones- and my congressman isn’t in a time-warp.

  27. #27 LanceR, JSG
    August 13, 2009

    Lance – I didn’t elect any staffers, did you?

    See, this is called “moving the goalposts”.

    Do you really expect our elected representatives to read every single piece of paper that crosses their threshold? Sounds like a recipe for bad law to me. Nobody could possibly keep up with the thousands of resolutions, amendments, meaningless “Sense of the Senate” motions, etc. They would very quickly become overwhelmed. I would much rather they hire smart people who *know* something about the topic to read over the bills and create executive summaries for their boss. Just like I would hire a professional accountant to manage my business affairs, I would hire professional researchers to manage my research needs.

    This is how a “society” works. I don’t personally have to be an expert on everything. This notion of “bills they haven’t read” is pure bullshit. It’s a dogwhistle for people who don’t understand law. There are real issues to discuss regarding healthcare reform, but we keep getting bogged down in these bullshit distractions.

  28. #28 catgirl
    August 13, 2009

    but I have no idea what’s being proposed, do you?

    Your concern has been noted.

    There’s plenty of information available, but I can guarantee you that the proposed plan does not include death panels or killing off your granny. Here’s a general rule of thumb: If you hear it from Limbaugh, O’Reilly, or Beck, the reality is probably the exact opposite of what they tell you. This applies to nearly every situation, not just health care reform.

  29. #29 Dianne
    August 13, 2009

    I didn’t elect any staffers, did you?

    You elected (or at least voted for, if your candidate didn’t win) representatives, senators, and a president, right? Why did you vote for them if you didn’t trust their judgement enough to think that they would appoint competent and reliable staff members? Knowing how to delegate and who to hire is part of the job description of a high level politician. So, representative X may not have read all 14 versions of the health care reform bills that are running around Congress right now but if s/he is competent then s/he has hired a competent and honest person as a health care staffer who has read all the bills in detail and provided an executive summary along with flags noting oddities of particular versions (i.e. version 5 of the bill inexplicably allocates $3 billion to build a bridge in Alaska or version 9 has the most specific caps on what is paid while version 1 is the most flexible…or whatever) which the rep will read and make a decision based on (along with any furhter information needed to clarify the issues involved.)

    The bottom line is that if you don’t trust your representative or senator to have picked reasonable people to aid in the massive amount of work required to be a good representative of the people, you should probably not vote for him or her next time.

  30. #30 PalMD
    August 13, 2009

    The US is a republic–a representative democracy. To claim “i didn’t vote for the staffers” is disingenuous at best, a fundamental misunderstanding of our system at worst.

  31. #31 Donna B.
    August 14, 2009

    If the representatives had better staffers, they’d probably do better at the town hall meetings. The few I’ve seen are not prepared or organized.

    Nah, Pal. It’s more like a fundamental loathing of what the system appears to have become in the last 30 years.

  32. #32 Dianne
    August 14, 2009

    It’s more like a fundamental loathing of what the system appears to have become in the last 30 years.

    Er…become in the past 30 years? What about the system in the 200 or so that preceded that?

    75 or so years ago, my grandmother changed her name from Garcia to Harris so that she could be considered “white” and be allowed to keep the family property (and not be at risk of being deported to Mexico.)

    Around 65 years ago, FDR was putting people in Concentration Camps (his phrase) because of their ethnic background. At least he was fighting a real enemy that really was a threat.

    About 45 years ago, Johnson was inventing the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Talk about bills that probably no one read, the Gulf of Tonkin resolution must have been one.

    Thirty years ago, a black president would be unthinkable and a woman running for president would be a joke, not a frontrunner.

    So, while I’m not thrilled with some of the things going on today, I can’t see how things were wonderful in the past and we’re sliding into degeneracy. The reps and senators haven’t read all the bills they pass since Jefferson was president (or then either, most likely…at least the politicans now all CAN read). There are recent developments I could do without–Patriot act, government torture, etc.–but even those have historical precedent. And there is definite progress. There’s less overt prejudice, society is accepting of a broader range of people, and more voices being heard.

    And if you don’t like what your congresscritters are up to, including who they hire to help them, you know what to do about it: vote, lobby, donate. Run for office yourself.

  33. #33 LanceR, JSG
    August 14, 2009

    @Dianne: And if you don’t like what your congresscritters are up to, including who they hire to help them, you know what to do about it: vote, lobby, donate. Run for office yourself.

    Nah, it’s easier to bring guns to a protest, threaten to kill the president, threaten his wife and children, and secede from the country. Ever so much more satisfying! Not at all like toddlers threatening to hold their breath if they don’t get their way.


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