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April 07, 2010

The Media's Strange New Respect for the Tea Party

We always loved you guys! I guess maybe you got the wrong idea or somethin' that we didn't like you.

There was a time, oh, a week or two ago, when the mainstream media portrayed the tea-party movement as an assortment of crazed angry extremist redneck racist idiots. What changed?

The headline we've given this column is a phrase coined by the conservative writer Tom Bethell to refer to the media's attitude toward conservatives who veer leftward. What we're about to describe is a bit different: more an epiphany on the media's part than a change in the object of coverage. It seems unlikely that the tea-partiers have suddenly become mainstream.

Yet that's what you'd think from reading some of the recent coverage. The Christian Science Monitor, which a month ago baselessly labeled Pentagon shooter John Patrick Bedell a "right-wing extremist," begins a Saturday story by rehearsing the stereotypes but then cautions that "political experts say that many such criticisms are near-sighted, if not outright inappropriate--and ultimately may miss the point[."]

Let's take a look at that Christian Science Monitor article. Before reading it, I assumed that the Monitor would use the passive voice in reporting the slurs against the Tea Party -- saying the Tea Party "have been called" racist, instead of identifying who called them that. As in, "Democrats frequently call the Tea Party racist" or "the media, including this very newspaper, frequently call them racist."

I was right.

Their faces sometimes twisted in anger, 'tea party' followers have been called neo-Klansmen and knuckle-dragging hillbillies.

Note right from the jump the choice of the word "followers" -- one who follows -- over the more generally accepted word "activist" -- one who acts. It's all the stranger a word choice given that there is no person called "Tea Party" to actually follow. One can say "Barack Obama's followers" or "Sarah Palin's followers" -- at least there there is an actual person to follow -- but how on earth does one "follow" oneself?

The word "followers" echoes the Washington Post's notorious description of the religious right -- "largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command."

(Also note that while the media could say "followers of Barack Obama," in fact, they wouldn't -- they'd call them "supporters" or "activists." "Followers" they would reserve for Sarah Palin's supporters. Easy to command, you know. Without independent thought.)

Even as the CSM pretends to play nice-nice they use the least complimentary word choices possible.

Back to the article:

To be sure, angry town halls, the N-word thrown at black congressmen, and signs comparing President Obama to Adolf Hitler play into the hands of the movement's critics. And demonizing tea party activists tends to energize the Democrats' left-of-center base.

There continues to be a $10,000 bounty for anyone producing evidence of these slurs. The CSM assumes them, because the source is impeccable -- a black liberal. Might as well be the Pope of Knowing Stuff.

But political experts say that many such criticisms are near-sighted, if not outright inappropriate – and ultimately may miss the point. Indeed, polls suggest that tea party activists are not only more mainstream than many critics suggest, but that a majority of them are women (primarily mothers), not angry white men.

Here they slip in the "angry white men" stereotype without acknowledging who it was who so stereotyped them. It just seems to have happened without author or agency.

What's more, the release this week of the top three planks of the "crowd-sourced" Contract From America project, to some activists, shows a maturation from sign-wielding protesters to a political reform movement grounded in ideas.

It doesn't really show a maturation of the Tea Party. It shows a maturation of the media's nasty, sneering juvenile reportage of the Tea Party. The Tea Party has always been idea-oriented. But the CSM missed that because they were too busy calling them racists.


Still, many critics look at a tea party crowd and just see a "fantasy-based" movement of "angry white people," as Monitor Facebook commentator Bill Downey points out.

Again, no acknowledgement that these "many critics" are exclusively Democratic politicians and flacks and the liberal whore media.

CNN also takes a stab at curing these "stereotypes" which apparently self-organized out of aether and dreamstuff without any human intervention whatsoever:

But here’s what you don’t often see in the coverage of Tea Party rallies: Patriotic signs professing a love for country; mothers and fathers with their children; African-Americans proudly participating; and senior citizens bopping to a hip-hop rapper.

Last week, I saw all of this during a five-city Western swing as the Tea Party Express national tour made its way across the country. CNN was along for the ride, and I was charged with planning CNN’s coverage for five stops in two states: St. George, Provo and Salt Lake City, Utah; and Grand Junction and Denver, Colorado. …

Together, we beamed out images of the anger and the optimism, profiled African-Americans who are proud to be in the Tea Party’s minority and showed activists stirred by “God Bless America” or amused by a young rapper who strung together rhymes against the president and Democrats. …

Being at a Tea Party rally is not quite like seeing it on TV, in newspapers or online. That’s the reason CNN is covering this political movement — and doing so in ways few others can or choose to do.

It is important to show the colorful anger Americans might have against elected leaders and Washington. But people should also see the orange-vested Tea Party hospitality handlers who welcome you with colorful smiles.

"Being at a Tea Party rally is not quite like seeing it on TV, in newspapers or online." -- Um, why is that, exactly? Isn't the goal of reportage to accurately portray the subject? Why is that TV and newspaper coverage has been deficient and skewed?

This guy pretends it was just a procedural glitch -- see, we didn't embed with them before, and now we are; just a mistake of process, you see. We're only guilty of an error of resource allocation!

Nonsense. It was deliberate and calculated decision, made at the highest editorial levels, with the singleminded goal of destroying the movement at the outset in order to increase the political fortunes of Barack Hussein Obama and the Socialist Demcoratic Party.

Taranto sums up:

Reader Taylor Dinerman notes: "Part of the function of a political media operation is to make the other side despair, lose hope, feel bad, etc. It's one of the reasons I gave up reading the New York Times. In one of Isaac Asimov's Empire series, he describes a drug called 'desperance' whose function is to make whoever takes it despair and be ready to kill or commit suicide. The bad guys feed it to someone they intend to use to murder the galactic emperor."

Tales of tea-party racism could have been calculated to demoralize America's anti-ObamaCare majority by presenting them with an ugly choice: accept the fate the Democrats have imposed upon us, or side with (as the Christian Science Monitor puts it) "neo-Klansmen and knuckle-dragging hillbillies." The strange new respect for the tea-party movement suggests that this approach is too invidiously partisan even for the mainstream media.

Taranto's wrong -- that approach is not too invidiously partisan for even the mainstream media (a term, by the way, I don't use anymore, as they're not mainstream at all, as Bernard Goldberg noted, but radical and leftist). The media was more than willing to throw every stereotype and slur at the Tea Party, including graphic sexual ones.

They are walking it back not because they've suddenly developed ethics but because it wasn't working and in fact was costing them audience and influence. Much has been made of a recent poll finding that something like 71% of Tea Partiers get their news from FoxNews, as if that proves some kind of fringe agenda. No -- it proves what is already known (that they lean conservative) and furthermore it proves that people don't like having sexual slurs meaning "ball-sucking" tossed at them by their media sources.

Does that occur to anyone? Maybe they watch FoxNews partly because it's the only news outlet that's not going to unprofessionally accuse them of indulging in deviant sexual habits for shits and giggles.

I think far more likely than Taranto's What Color Are the Skies On Your World thesis of a media suddenly concerned with objectivity is a a simple recognition that the old tactics weren't working.

The media has treated the Tea Party as if the media were a hostile, alien occupying force engaging in psychological operations against an indigenous peasant rebellion. (Which actually isn't far from the actual situation, is it?)

What's the first line of attack? Attempt to contain the "disease" -- the viral outbreak of Tea Party rebellion -- by innocculating the population against it. Feed them every slur about the rebels -- call the queers, deviants, racists, ugly, uneducated, dangerous -- in an effort to make the movement unappealing to the majority. Limit their numbers by painting them with such ugly colors that recruitment becomes difficult for them.

Containment didn't work. So they turn to the next step in the counterinsurgency playbook -- cooptation. Unable to limit the numbers in the resistance, their new strategy is to pretend they were with them all along, and attempt to manipulate the movement to their own ends. If you can't stop a movement, pretend to be an ally of it in order to pervert its goals.

The next step? The media will denigrate the movement less and instead play to its populist discontent -- but will start offering up bogeymen favored by the left wing for the Tea Party to focus its anger on.

Expect the media to start talking up the broad-based anger of the movement, while emphasizing the leftist-bait they hope can turn the Party into a less coherent movement -- hey, look at those damn bankers! If only they hadn't been so greedy, we might never be in this situation. And GM? Its smug, fatcat management sort of forced poor populist Obama to take over a couple of car companies, didn't it?

That is my belief -- and yeah, I really do think it's a genuine conspiracy at this point. I do think the media coordinates these stories, coordinates its angles, coordinates its spin. Some of them engage in this conspiracy halfway oblivious -- they are so stupid and without critical thought it doesn't even occur to them there's another legitimate viewpoint counter to their own -- but most know exactly what they are doing. They are not reporters, they are informational bagmen for the corrupt Democratic Party.

They are nothing short of the disinformation and propaganda organ of a corrupt, hostile, anti-american force. Just as terrorist groups invent "legal" fronts to be their legitimate spokesman -- Yasser Arafat invents the PLO to be the propaganda arm of Black September -- the media is nothing more than the supposedly-independent propaganda arm of Obama's Organizing for America.

But I think the media is going to find out that the right they so despise is not quite so "uneducated and easy to command" as they might think.

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posted by Ace at 04:10 PM

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