THOSE WHO CANNOT WIN A DEBATE TRY TO SHUT THE DEBATE DOWN…. If you put aside civility, decency, American political traditions, and intellectual honesty, the right-wing harassment strategy makes quite a bit of sense. It’s a straightforward idea — corporate interests, which have a financial stake in killing health care reform, organize far-right fanatics to disrupt public events and discussions, and create the appearance of widespread opposition.

It makes sense, of course, because the lobbyists and their unhinged activists have very little to lose. Some lawmakers might feel intimidated enough to balk at reform. Some reporters might tell the public that there’s genuine outrage at the idea of reform, and neglect to mention that these enraged mobs are manufactured p.r. stunts.

And some members of Congress might decide it’s not worth the trouble and cancel town-hall events altogether, which would be the real victory for the right-wing — the more there’s an honest discussion about how reform would help American families and businesses, the more likely reform will pass. If far-right activists can shut down the conversation before it even begins, concerned voters are less likely to learn the truth.

When one side of a debate considers open, honest discussion to be the enemy, it says quite a bit about the integrity of their argument.

If the health care reform proposals are so awful, and would do so much damage, shouldn’t right-wing activists want more discussion? Wouldn’t they welcome a serious policy debate in which reform’s alleged shortcomings become obvious? If reform is a bad idea, why would conservatives want to shut down a civil public dialog? What are they afraid of?

Nevertheless, here we are.

The truth of all three meetings — in Delaware, in Texas and in Philly — is that there were probably at least as many supporters of the Obama administration in the room as there were opponents. That is almost certainly the case when considering the congressional districts as a whole of Mike Castle and Lloyd Doggett, as well as the state of Pennsylvania (and certainly the city of Philadelphia). But it’s not hard for an angry few to derail a meeting, especially when they’re so much more interested in confrontation than conversation.

In addition to the disrupting these three meetings, protesters have surrounded Rep. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y., forcing him to rely on a police escort to escape to his car. They’ve also hung Rep. Frank Kratovil, D-Md., in effigy. A leaked memo from a volunteer with conservative group FreedomWorks entitled “Rocking the Town Halls — Best Practices” — advises exactly this sort of behavior. (The man listed as author, Frank MacGuffie, denies having written the memo on behalf of FreedomWorks.) The memo tells protesters to spread out to appear more numerous than they are and maximize disruption, reminding them, “Try To ‘Rattle Him,’ Not Have An Intelligent Debate.”

Yep, we have right-wing groups actively and explicitly encouraging fanatics and mobs to avoid having an intelligent debate.

It’s going to be a long August.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.