Senator Nelson’s PR spin on “Town Hall” meetings

by Deidra Lynch -- Orlando, FL August 10, 2007 -- Florida’s Senator Bill Nelson's office is falsely reporting that he is touring the state doing "Town Hall" meetings yet his meetings are not being announced publicly until just hours before he arrives and most of them have only been with city and county officials, not the public. These "invitation-only" audiences with selected press only are costing Florida taxpayers and lulling them into believing the he is concerned about public sentiment. His office has refused to even announce his travel schedule or place any requested alternative press members on the pre-notification list. This is open government? NO, this is a PR spin!

Senator Nelson, who is on vacation from Congress was pressured in June by leaders in the Peace communities across the state to hold true "Town Hall" meetings in August to meet with his constitutents about the 25 billion dollars of the Iraq debt that Florida now owns. Enough is enough, it’s time to come up with a plan to get us out of this endless war and the only way that's going to happen is to stop the funding. Florida For Peace members said they feel like Senator Nelson has been supporting the war sine the beginning and they want him to be one of 67 senators to override a presidential veto and bring the troops home now.

After occupying all eight of his offices with representatives of over 50 different peace organizations including Vets for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, Grannies for Peace and CODEPINK to name a few, Senator Nelson finally agreed to meet with Florida for Peace, "We were ecstatic about the opportunity to speak with him and discuss the costs of war, the needs of Floridians, the treatment of our returning veterans and the horrendous rate of female soldiers returning as victims of sexual and physical assault by their own comrades which is 20% to 2/3 depending on the source" said Lydia Vickers of Florida for Peace. We had hoped for true “Town Hall” meetings in August but apparently Senator Nelson doesn’t understand the true meaning of the term.

Originating in New England when everybody in town showed up to speak their piece and then vote on an issue, today's "Town Hall" meetings are now held so people can influence elected officials in their decision-making process, often in large conference centers where people from every part of the community attend to express their opinions. No point of view is excluded or censored which is the very “Essence of Democracy” in action.

When Governor Schwarzenegger made this mistake, he was called on the carpet in "Governor corrupts 'town hall' " by Dennis M. Clausen:

"In his classic essay, "Politics and the English Language," George Orwell warns us that such abuses of language involve more than just semantic differences. "If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought," Orwell writes. "A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better."

According to Orwell, politicians corrupt language, and then a corrupted language corrupts the culture ---- which in turn makes it easier for politicians to further corrupt the language. The vicious cycle feeds off itself like a hurricane gathering strength over warm tropical waters.

When we reverse the meanings of certain bedrock democratic institutions and traditions like town hall meetings, and these corruptions of language go unchallenged, we are well on our way to a total corruption of our political culture."
I know it's hurricane season and we face this with half of our disaster equipment still in Iraq with many of our national guard but Senator Nelson's corruption of the "Town Hall" meeting strikes deeply into the center of my heart and raises my radar even more. This week’s PR spin by Nelson gives me even more to worry about then what’s brewing over our very warm waters right now.

*Dennis M. Clausen is a professor of American literature at the University of San Diego .
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