Commentary: With a shout, civil discourse is silenced

Shouters who deny others the right to speak come from at least two political persuasions.

Unfortunately, if history is any guide, they do make a difference.

Loud mobs have been disrupting the town hall meetings that members of Congress are holding on health care reform this summer.

Whether the vitriol is spontaneous or the result of a grand strategy launched by conservative operatives and lobbyists is open to debate.

No doubt both forces are at work.

Whatever the motive, people are shouting down those trying to explain what they see as benefits of the various programs being considered.

At some events, it's been impossible to conduct anything resembling civil discourse.

Everyone has a right to be heard, and every special interest has a right to organize.

Certainly, both Democrats and Republicans are rallying troops for the health care debate.

But throwing tantrums to silence the opposition is not just rude, it's also degrading for the people behind it.

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