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Think Progress, MSNBC 'Manufacture' a Story With Putative Smoking Gun 'Mob' Memo

5:35 PM, Aug 5, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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When the "manufactured" outrage the Left is trying to demonize lines up so inconveniently with public polling, it's sometimes necessary to create evidence for the "manufactured" storyline.

Enter Think Progress, which unearthed this shocking, secret memo from the leader of a small grassroots conservative organization in Connecticut, which allegedly instructs members on "infiltrating town halls and harassing Democratic members of Congress."

Right Principles PAC was formed by Bob MacGuffie and four friends in 2008, and has taken in a whopping $5,017 and disbursed $1,777, according to its FEC filing.

"We're just trying to shake this state up and make a difference up here," MacGuffie told me during a telephone interview. He's surprised at his elevation to national rabble-rouser by the Left.

Right Principles has a Facebook group with 23 members and a Twitter account with five followers. MacGuffie describes himself as an "opponent of leftist thinking in America," and told me he's "never pulled a lever" for a Republican or Democrat on a federal level. Yet this Connecticut libertarian's influence over a national, orchestrated Republican health-care push-back is strong, indeed, if you listen to liberal pundits and the Democratic National Committee, who have crafted a nefarious web out of refutable evidence.

Think Progress highlighted his memo's directives to "Yell, Stand Up And Shout Out,' 'Rattle Him'," calling it a "right-wing harassment strategy against Dems." The blog falsely connected MacGuffie to the national conservative group FreedomWorks through the most tenuous of threads. The Think Progress link that purports to establish MacGuffie as a FreedomWorks "volunteer" leads to his one blog posting on a Tea Party website (on the free social networking site, ning.com). Think Progress calls Tea Party Patriots a "FreedomWorks website."

The problem is it's not a FreedomWorks site, according to FreedomWorks spokesman Adam Brandon. FreedomWorks is a "coalition partner" of TeaPartyPatriots.org, but does not fund the site in any way.

"There is no formal structural connection," Brandon told me. "Never has been. Never will be. We're just fellow travelers in the movement."

When I asked MacGuffie if he was a volunteer for FreedomWorks outside the specious evidence Think Progress cited, he said, "Absolutely not. You can Google all day; you won't find it. There is no formal connection. I don't know anyone from FreedomWorks."

He joined the Tea Party Patriots community site when it was mentioned to him by several local Tea Party activists (whom he admits knowing . . . smoking gun!), and "blogged there, very little." So MacGuffie, a local activist in Connecticut who never volunteered for FreedomWorks wrote a memo and also wrote a blog post on a site not paid for or hosted by FreedomWorks. There's your national conspiracy, folks.

The block quote Think Progress provides from MacGuffie's memo (dutifully reproduced on other liberal blogs) also implies there are sentiments in the memo that simply aren't there. Each of TP's examples of the "harassment" MacGuffie is inciting is preceded by a headline MacGuffie didn't write, which lends a considerably more sinister tone than MacGuffie used. The bolded headlines below do not appear in the memo, but do appear in Think Progress' block quote of it:

- Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: "Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up...

- Be Disruptive Early And Often: "You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep's presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep's statements early."

- Try To "Rattle Him," Not Have An Intelligent Debate: "The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down...

The attempt to paint him as a professional, funded operative is off-base, MacGuffie said, laughing.

"I guess they don't believe that people in America will stand up and fight back when government gets overbearing," said MacGuffie, who added that he originally e-mailed the memo to 8-10 Connecticut activists in June.

As is often the case, MSNBC anchors and the DNC alike have taken Think Progress' inaccurate sleuthing at face-value, elevating the humble Right Principles to heretofore unknown levels of national importance.

The Rachel Maddow Show repeated Think Progress' reporting on MacGuffie's connections, showing the memo, and declaring its author "affiliated with an organization called FreedomWorks."

The DNC has now made the memo the centerpiece of its "Mob" ad out today, from which I grabbed this screen shot, at the :40 mark:

Mob ad.png

The voice over for this image says behavior at health-care town halls is "straight from the playbook of high-level Republican political operatives."

Or, the memo of Bob MacGuffie of Fairfield, Conn., who once wrote a blog post on Tea Party Patriots, a site that is not funded or hosted by FreedomWorks. It's all the same if you're looking to discredit an entire movement of real voters, I suppose.

The memo also includes these phrases, which are left out of the reporting and demagoguery:

"Do not bring the signs into the hall if you want any chance to be picked for a question."

"Don't carry on and make a scene, just short, intermittent shout-outs," which may sound familiar because the shout-out part was quoted without context by Think Progress.

It also offers such guerrilla tactics as, "When the formal Q&A begins, get your hands up and keep them up- be persistent throughout the entire session. Keep body language neutral and look positive to improve chances of being selected." It instructs participants to be ready with follow-up questions and insist that representatives answer questions instead of launching into talking points.

The memo outlined strategies MacGuffie had used during a town hall meeting with his Rep. Jim Himes in May of this year. While organizing that event and writing the memo, he emphasized that critics should not get out of hand, he said.

His objective was to "make sure we didn't get kicked around, asked good, thought-out questions, and had follow-ups ready," he said. "We took him off his script, but we did not shout him down."

The tactics in the memo produced this horrifying civic spectacle. This is what the liberal blogs, Rachel Maddow, and the DNC are intent on preventing. I dare you to find even one errant word or rude action in Bob MacGuffie's "orchestrated, hateful" action. After all, he is the father of our movement:

"[Our representatives] work for us, and there's a lot of good people up here who feel that way," MacGuffie said. "All of us have better things to do with our lives...and these are all real people. They just have to paint us as something else, I guess."

Update: Meredith Jessup at Townhall has a round-up of all the mainstream media accounts that include the false Think Progress narrative about the memo. Funny how that works, huh?