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The Grass Is AstroTurf-er on the Other Side

town hall meeting

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a town hall meeting on health insurance reform at Portsmouth High School in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, August 11, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES POLITICS HEALTH)

As I explained before here on Fox Forum, the "manufactured anger" talking point was itself manufactured by a left-wing, George Soros-funded spin-machine with the Center for American Progress at its center and a wide network of union, green, social justice, and Democratic Party organizations surrounding it.  Nancy Pelosi is still running with this story a week and a half later, calling protesters against a Washington takeover of health care "un-American."  Contrast this to her instruction to radical left-wing activists, who she chose to address at last year's NetRoots Nation convention (Code Pink protestors included):  "You make America more American, because of the vital participation in the process...  be persistent, dissatisfied and relentless in making us, taking us, pulling us over to where you believe our government should be."

So which is it?  Is it America as its finest when people get politically involved and try to pressure Congress to do what they think is right, or is it disruptive, disrespectful, and anti-American?  Clearly, some activists on both sides cross the line and do inappropriate and disrespectful things, but the Democrats are trying to smear millions of regular, hard-working Americans who have legitimate concerns. 

Moreover, the big industries supposedly pulling the string of activists opposing a Washington takeover of health care are all actively supporting a big-government bill.  They do oppose a public-plan, but they actively support employer mandates, individual mandates, and manner of regulations.  Both the big insurance companies and the big pharmaceutical companies have TV ads in heavy rotation demanding a reform bill be passed.  It seems like a pretty wild conspiracy theory to suppose they are also secretly deploying armies of fake grassroots activists to attack it.

The assumption of those who push the"manufactured anger" angle seems to be that the left has an exclusive franchise on protests, and that well-dressed, middle-class people couldn't possibly get angry enough to show up and protest.  But think about it -who is likely to show up because their ideological heroes told them to or because someone gave them $10 an hour?  Well-dressed middle-class professionals, or college kids, enviro-radicals, and service employee union workers?

This contrast will be clearly on display this weekend in Pittsburgh, Pa., where competing conferences of online activists will be taking place.  On one side of town is the NetrootsNation convention, this year's edition of the event where Pelosi expressed her thanks to the left-wing protest crowd.  On the other side of town will be the second annual RightOnline conference, where I'll be speaking.

NetRoots will bring out the usual suspects of the angry left-AFSCME, SEIU, the DailyKos, MoveOn.org, the DNC, Greenpeace, and a complete who's who of Democratic politics, environmentalists, and unions.  There full sponsor list is here, and you'll notice they've got some pretty deep pockets.

Our event, as you can clearly see on the RightOnline.com website is different.  There is no affiliation with any organ of the Republican Party, and there are no big money interests.  The people attending will be real grassroots, people who are concerned about the direction of the country and want to become more effective advocates for limited government by learning how to more effectively use all of the online tools available.

As they showed so effectively promoting the "manufactured anger" myth, the left is light-years ahead in terms of generating and disseminating talking points and using new media technologies to set the agenda and influence the national conversation.  But their structure, which is heavily top-down and centrally coordinated, is inherently less well-adapted to using new technologies than the de-centralized, market-oriented approach of the right.

We have an entire generation of Americans who grew up with the Internet their whole lives, who are used to customized user experiences, to getting access to exactly what they want, and to intense competition for their consumer dollars.  This generation will not stand for centralized government control over large aspects of their lives, the inevitable consequence of proposed a Washington takeover of health care, or of energy via a cap-and-trade scheme.

Free market activists have embraced new media technologies to find each other and spontaneously organize in the tea parties in April and now in health care town hall protests.  We may be at a turning point in the ideological battle to control the Internet, and the competing conferences in Pittsburgh will show exactly who the different sides are and how they're organized.  I'm pretty sure the grass is AstroTurf-er over on the NetRoots, big-government side.

Mr. Kerpen is director of policy for Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which hosts the RightOnline conference.  He can be reached through www.philkerpen.com.

Phil Kerpen is the founder of American Commitment Action Fund, on the web at www.BookerFAIL.com.