When facts can be so easily distorted by trusted figures broadcasting on stations or channels that ostensibly report the news, however, and when enormous fortunes are made by political parties and media entities themselves through the work (i.e. The continued fact-distorting and rhetoric chanting) of these media figures there is a compelling public interest in restoring rationality to public knowledge and discourse. What form this interest should take in practical terms is a matter for much discussion and debate in and of itself, but both parties should be prevented from paying "volunteers" to turn out at events and disrupt others' attempts to gain access to their elected representatives and public officials, and financial ties between for-profit media entities and political parties should perhaps be more closely scrutinized.
The root problem at the heart of the town hall meeting disruptions, however, and in fact the root problem at the heart of the above issues as well, is that the public has a strong desire for understanding and control over their democratically elected government yet is not receiving adequate or appropriate information in this regard. This is evident on both sides of the political aisle (and even by the notion that there are only two sides available in political and policy discussions), as Democrats were trying to hold town meetings in order to educate a public that was still uninformed about healthcare reform despite months of explicit discussion and media coverage while the right-wing/Republican disrupters made their ignorance known through many of their specific arguments and refusals to rationally discuss their talking points. Other situations might show a reversal of sorts, where uninformed left-wing/Democrat activists feel empowered with misinformation and cause disruptive clamors. With so much media attention given to political matters, it is somewhat astounding that the more vocal and active elements of both parties are ultimately so uninformed when it comes to major policy issues. Part of this can be traced again to the specifics of the media coverage, which focuses on the sensationalized aspects of public debate and can even warp facts to make for better headlines and stories (in the healthcare debate, talk of "death panels" and misinformation regarding the cost of the proposed legislation became major points of protest), and part perhaps to the general education system in the United States that does not necessarily prepare the nation's citizenry for critical thinking and analysis.
Some of this blame falls on public officials themselves, however, who take direct benefit from such ignorance and thus often propagate it themselves. The brief mention of Republican office holders congratulating the "real people" who were disrupting these town meetings is perhaps the most disturbing part of the entire case description. Figures of authority and public esteem or even simply public office should be encouraging public discussion and debate on real issues, not supporting the use of "freedom of speech" to drown out other elected representatives and rights-bearing citizens. The electorate and public figures -- in the media and in the halls of policy -- seem to be locked in a cycle of ignorance and rhetoric rather than rational debate, and it will take some strong characters to run for public office and attempt to change this situation.
The level of rhetoric used as debate in this country needs to be lowered in favor of a greater degree of rationality. The town meeting in Tampa and the other town meetings that were even more violently disrupted are clear and pressing examples of a need to change the way in which politics are practiced and the public gains its political insight, though whether or not this can reasonably be accomplished through actual policy is a serious question. It is the spirit and the overall morale of the country that appears to be broken and that is helping to cause such divisiveness amongst the populous at large and amongst lawmakers and politicians. The fact that this sensationalized arguing and rhetoric makes for good entertainment and thus big business is a depressing commentary on the country's social values and degree of political care, but media focus and style are only part of the perpetuating force behind this trend. Deeper and more profound elements of public discourse must be touched to truly correct this problem.
Refraining from the type of debate and rhetorical opposition built into most political speech and commentary and instead attempting to engage in truly knowledge and well-reasoned dialogue is recommended. The only way to begin addressing the central problems identified in the case is to lead by example, and in this case this means foregoing the immediately perceived benefits of wooing a mob and instead countering those mobs that do exist with extreme patience and calm. Taking and answering all questions, waiting out any shouting that might occur, and finding ways through various media (perhaps especially the Internet) to ensure that a rational voice is heard in a non-aggressive, non-oppositional way that welcomes commentary and questions would be the best approach for any public official or figure wishing to address the identified problems. Those in a position to do so might also look into legislation regarding the intertwining of politics and for-profit media to see if there are abuses that can be stopped without damaging the basic civil liberties government must protect.
Beutler, B. (2009). Tea Party Town Hall Strategy: "Rattle Them," "Stand Up and Shout." Accessed 23 September 2012. http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/08/tea-party-town-hall-strategy-rattle-them-stand-up-and-shout.php
CNN. (2009). Disruptions drown out debate at health care meetings. Accessed 23 September 2012. http://articles.cnn.com/2009-08-10/politics/health.care.questions_1_health-care-president-s-plan-clinton-s-plan?_s=PM:POLITICS