For a democracy, which depends on an informed citizenry to balance a permanent lobbying class, this is poison. And it’s one reason why town hall forums on health care, which should be sharp debates about something that affects all of us, have turned into town mauls.

The lies and shouts have had the effect that all crank speech has on free speech — stifling any real exchange. In my state, Representative Brian Baird, a veteran of more than 300 town hall meetings during his 11 years as a Democratic congressman from southwest Washington, has decided not to hold any such forums this recess after receiving death threats.

But is it any wonder that some are moved to violent threats, given the level of misinformation being injected into the system? If you really believed that Obama was going to kill your baby and euthanize your parents, well — why not act in self defense?