Manufactured Meltdowns at a Town Hall Near You

Opposition message follows a familiar pattern, says former health insurance exec

Hmm, maybe the paranoiacs are right.

From early on, some folks have suggested that the major sources of disruption at senators' and congresspeople's constituent town hall meetings have not been private citizens at all, but instead representatives of shady special interest groups sent to give the appearance of popular unrest where none actually exists.

Health care reform opponents argued, naturally enough, that these accusations were a load of hooey, and that in fact the astroturfing frauds were the SEIU and ACORN and who knows what else, probably the ACLU.

So things got shouty and most folks just stayed at home and watched the protests on their televisions, where they'd be safe from gun-wielding nuts. It was hard not to get cynical when distinctions between "ordinary voter" and "astroturfing fraud" grew so blurry so quickly. Both sides could put together front groups, backed by their lobby of choice, to encourage people to show up at these meetings. It was probably safe to assume that, if it was possible, they were both doing it.

Nobody can ever confirm what nefarious deeds their opposition might be up to until somebody comes forward with inside knowledge of the formation of front groups. And now we finally have a winner!

A former health insurance executive says the disruptions taking place at lawmakers' town halls around the country are the result of stealth efforts by health insurance companies.

Wendell Potter, a former CIGNA vice president, detailed what he said were past covert efforts by the industry.

[...] Potter said during his 20 years in the insurance business, the industry would funnel money to large public firms who would create front groups and find friendly voices in conservative media.

Of course, Potter also said that he'd been out of the industry for about a year and did not "have specifics for what is occurring now." So it's entirely possible that this go-round, for the first time ever, all of people's laments about "the slippery slope to socialism" and "rationing" are motivated entirely by sincere, spontaneous beliefs that just happened to spring simultaneously into their brains, all across America, in front of TV cameras everywhere.

And then there's the other explanation, which seems slightly more plausible.

Native plants advocate Sara K. Smith writes for NBC and Wonkette.

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