I’m in Jerusalem and mainly focusing on the Tomorrow 2011 political conference, but I couldn’t let this item pass without some comment. The Right Online conference has shadowed the annual Netroots Nation confabs since 2008, allowing the media to cover both simultaneously. That strategy has led to the rapid growth of the conservative conference, as well as its increasing visibility. To say that this has Netroots Nation worried would be an understatement (via Legal Insurrection at its new site):
Organizers of the liberal Netroots Nation conference to be held in Providence in summer 2012 have taken steps to keep a traditional conservative counter-event at a distance.
The conservative conference RightOnline, a project of the Virginia-based group Americans for Prosperity, has staged its convention in the same city around the same time as Netroots Nation since 2008.
Raven Brooks, Netroots Nation’s executive director, said Tuesday the group had a noncompete clause in its contracts with the Rhode Island Convention Center and two Providence hotels.
“Good luck finding a venue in 2012,” he tweeted over the weekend, in reference to RightOnline. “Two words, non-compete clause. Hugs and kisses.”
Brooks tried walking back that taunt in an e-mail to the Boston Globe. He claimed that he doesn’t have a problem with Right Online sharing the same city as Netroots Nation, but that conservatives caused an “unpleasant experience.” Supposedly this involved harassment of women wearing hijabs, an accusation that progressives tossed in Minneapolis with no evidence to back it up — especially evidence that any purported harassment came from conference attendees. And if Breitbart’s visit was the problem — another example cited by the Globe — then maybe Brooks should actually check the tape to see where the hostility and uproar originated.
However, actions speak louder than words. By insisting on a non-compete clause for the specific purpose of excluding conservatives, Brooks proves that Right Online has him rattled. It also strips the activist Left of its claim to superior tolerance. What kind of tolerance includes a demand to cleanse a major city of organized political opposition as a condition of contracting for its own conference?
Put it this way: what kind of treatment should conservatives expect if these people ever make it into positions of power?
Besides, the provocateurs (such as they were) went mainly in the other direction. One NN attendee attempted to throw glitter on Rep. Michele Bachmann as she left the main stage. For even more pathetic attempts by would-be provocateurs, check out the “Incog-Negro” post at Jack & Jill Politics. Try to count the stereotypes employed by the authors about conservatives, and then ask how that would be received if anyone made the same kind of assumptions on the basis of religion, gender, or ethnicity. (For a bigger laugh, note how they ridicule the fact that Right Online is actually less expensive than Netroots Nation. Hey, who is it that hates the working class?) And don’t forget the attempt by one NN activist to get arrested at Right Online, who got roundly ignored instead.
It wasn’t conservatives who tried attacking event speakers or staging disruptive demonstrations in the middle of the progressive conference. And it’s not conservatives who are insisting on a progressive-free venue for its next conference. We don’t mind the comparison one bit, which is more than can be said of the organizers of Netroot Nation.