How Best To Use the New Media?

Yesterday (May 5), the Senate Finance Committee heard presentations by 15 different witnesses on the issue of "reforming" the U.S. health care system.  (See "
Roundtable Discussion on ‘Financing Comprehensive Health Care Reform’," May 5, 2009.)

These hearings were interrupted as many as eight different times by protestors whose single question was: How can the Senate Finance Committee hold hearings on health care reform in the United States without including a single advocate for the single-payer method? 

According to Dow Jones Newswires ("Single-Payer Health-Care Advocates Disrupt Senate Hearing," May 5):

One-by-one, the eight people stood up just before a Senate Finance Committee hearing and spoke in favor of so-called "single-payer" health care — a system by which the government would provide health insurance for everyone and essentially supplant the private insurance market. The Finance hearing is a "roundtable" in which 15 witnesses are set to testify on health care coverage. "You have 15 seats at the table and not one for single-payer," said one man, before being escorted from the committee by U.S. Capitol Police.

All eight protestors were taken into custody; by now, presumably all of them have been released.  (See, e.g., "Protestor Delays Senate Committee Opening," CSPAN-YouTube, May 5; "Doctors Arrested at Senate ‘Roundtable’ on Health Care," Institute for Public Accuracy, May 5; and "Disruption of Congress?" Ralph Nader, Single Payer Action, May 6.)

As Ralph Nader wrote earlier today ("Disruption of Congress?"):

[Committee Chairman and Montana Democrat Max] Baucus crafted a hearing to kick off the health care debate in the Senate yesterday where 15 witnesses would be at the table to discuss health care reform.  The insurance industry was at the table. The Business Roundtable was at the table.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was at the table.  Blue Cross Blue Shield was at the table.  The Heritage Foundation was at the table. And corporate liberals like Andy Stern, Ron Pollack, and AARP were at the table.  But not one person who stood for what the majority of Americans, doctors, nurses, and health economists want — single payer — was at the table.  Not one.

Curious to see whether or not the establishment news media reported about not only Tuesday’s committee hearings, but also the 8 single-payer advocates who disrupted it, I ran searches of the Factiva database (wires, print, TV, and radio) according to the following parameters:       

(‘Senate Finance Committee’ or ‘Baucus’) and
(‘single payer’ or ‘socialized medicine’ or ‘protest’)

As of the present moment (Wednesday afternoon, May 6, around 1 PM ET — note that some material, in particular transcripts of TV and radio fare, very well may load into the database some time later on), what I’m finding is that, aside from the live coverage that CSPAN gave to the May 5 Senate Finance Committee hearings and that has been discussed by several Internet-based sources (one very good place to follow the Internet sources is the Single Payer Action website), only two separate wire-service reports mentioned the single-payer protest actions: Associated Press (May 5) and Dow Jones Newswires (May 5).

True, within establishment sources, a few other items matched the search parameters, but not the single-payer protest part of it.  In my favorite one of them, two days ago, veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas had an exchange with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs that was to-die-for ("Briefing By White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs," May 4):

MR. GIBBS: Yes, ma’am.
MS. THOMAS: What is the President’s chief objection to single payer for universal health care when it works so many places?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think among many is I think it is not likely to be workable. I think -
MS. THOMAS: Why do you say that? We have Medicare, we have Social Security.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I say that because, Helen, we’ve been debating health care reform for 30 or 40 years. I think if that were the magic silver bullet, then you guys would be asking me why we were taking on something else to our agenda because health care -
MS. THOMAS: Why are you afraid of universal health care by a single payer?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I don’t think anybody is afraid of universal health care. We’re trying to get – our objectives are to cut costs for families that are watching their premiums and their co-payments and their deductibles skyrocket.
MS. THOMAS: Single payer is supposed to cut costs.
MR. GIBBS: We are looking to cover more of those that aren’t lucky enough to have health insurance. And equally as importantly, you cannot tackle the long-term costs that are being borne by this government without tackling health care reform. The President is adamant about that. And he looks forward to working with Congress to find a workable solution that can get through Congress.
MS. THOMAS: But Social Security works, and Medicare works. Why do you think it couldn’t work for universal health care?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think there are – I would point you to – there’s, I’m sure, down the street about 535 opinions on this.

Tell me now: Isn’t it fun to watch a White House press secretary squirm?

But that has been about it.

Nevertheless.  There is a very important lesson to be learned from the May 5 protest actions in the Senate Finance Committee.

First, these 8 single-payer advocates garnered the live coverage over CSPAN (very good for them), but then only two reports on the established U.S. wire services, and nothing (certainly nothing of any substance) in the established U.S. print media.

The CSPAN attention, therefore, was the key to the protest’s success.  Because of it, the video of their protest actions now exists on the Internet, wherefrom it can be archived and shared to infinity.  That’s the real key here.  A regular how-to-guide for circumventing the established media organs of the corporate-state, with all of its professional gatekeepers.

The lesson: Start one’s protests at the beginning of an event covered live by CPAN (or by similar broadcast and cable TV channels).  Then get video copies of the live-feed onto YouTube and similar information-sharing platforms ASAP.

And don’t forget it, either.

"Roundtable Discussion on ‘Financing Comprehensive Health Care Reform’,"  Senate Finance Committee, May 5, 2009
Protestor Delays Senate Committee Opening," CSPAN-YouTube, May 5

"Protestors disrupt Senate health care hearing," Associated Press, May 5
Single-Payer Health-Care Advocates Disrupt Senate Hearing," Patrick Yoest, Dow Jones Newswire, May 5 
"Health care activists disrupt Senate Finance Committee hearing," Carrie Budoff Brown, Politico, May 5
Order in the Senate!  Single-Payer Advocates Disrupt Hearing," Sarah Rubenstein, Wall Street Journal Health Blog, May 5

Single Payer Action (Homepage)

"Doctors Arrested at Senate ‘Roundtable’ on Health Care," Institute for Public Accuracy, May 5
Disruption of Congress?" Ralph Nader, Single Payer Action, May 6

"How Best To Use the New Media?" ZNet, May 6, 2009


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