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August 31, 2017 10:07 AM UTC

Please Stop Calling Everything a "Town Hall"

  • 2 Comments
  • by: Colorado Pols

Political rhetoric is inherently absurd. We understand this, and for the most part, we’re cool with it; after all, making simple things sound more interesting than they really are is a fundamental reason that this website even exists.

But rhetorical devices are not the same thing as misappropriated terms, and in 2017 few terms have been ripped off quite like the phrase “Town Hall.” This needs to stop.

Take a look at the photo on the right, which is a screenshot from a Sunday evening Tweet from “Ready Colorado.” This is two people talking on the radio. You can’t accurately call it a “town hall,” or a “candidate forum,” any more than you would call it a “tuna sandwich.”

This particular radio interview is part of a series of discussions sponsored by an organization that promotes “conservative education reform policies.” It is a perfectly fine thing as a radio interview, but it is not anything more than that.

The phrase “town hall” has been hijacked far too often recently, and we demand that it be released. The description “town hall” should be reserved for an event that features speakers and listeners discussing a subject (or subjects) while they are all actually in the same room. You know, like in a “town hall” type of building.

Take a look at the picture below. This a photo of Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) holding a “town hall meeting” in Grand Junction earlier this year. As you can clearly see for yourself, these people are all occupying the same room at the same time. This would be an appropriate time to use the phrase “town hall meeting.”

 

Many politicians are becoming fond of something they like to call “telephone town halls,” which is really just a fancy phrase for when an elected official talks on the phone to anyone who might be listening. Whenever a politician holds one of these “telephone town halls,” their respective press offices make sure to tell you that 50,000 other people were on the line at the same time. We have no way of knowing if this is true, because you can’t see any of the other people on the phone (and that’s kinda the point).

Look, we have no issue with an elected official using the telephone to talk to a bunch of people at once — just don’t call it a “town hall” meeting. If you put hundreds of phone numbers together in a group text, would you call that a “text town hall?” Of course not.

The in-person “town hall meeting” is a staple of our Democracy and an American tradition. Leave the phrase alone.

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