Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Small But Powerful Political Group"

I just did a quick search of NPR programming for references to "Tea Party" and found there were stories and references every day, sometimes several times a day, and so it has been for weeks.

What's the matter, aren't enough sharks in the water? And the missing white girl has already been rescued, right? So, like last summer, when the TeaBagger Rage was all over the media, especially in connection with their disrupting of congressional town halls, parading around with their guns and their "Obama=Hitler" signs, and their constant threats of insurrection if not outright revolution, we have daily TeaBagger updates on NPR (and one assumes the other media, which has nothing to report about the sharks and missing white girls, either) to keep the pot stirred.

But the story embedded above starts out by describing the TEA Party (to use their own term for themselves for once) as a "Small but Powerful Political Group," and I got to thinking about that. Why?

Why is such a small group so... powerful?

Of course NPR won't address that fundamental question, nor will the other media that constantly highlights the TeaBaggers and their Power. How is it that large political groups on the "left" are ignored by the media and are granted no power whatsoever?

How is it that a tiny group of malcontented white folk -- mostly well-off white folk -- are granted free rein to do what they will and given constant coverage for every little thing they say and do?

Of course it's summer, and during the summertime, the media is on vacation. Vacation time means fluff rules, and last summer, like this summer, the fluffing has been focused on the TeaBaggers, who, for reasons no one can quite understand, are able to dominate political coverage like no other fringe faction since the days of Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies.

Except for the fact that the TeaBaggers don't have the theatrical skill and the sense of humor the Yippies and the others who protested in the '60ss and '70s did, the TeaBaggers are like a dark reflection of previous protests, and their supposed focus -- to the point of obsession -- on the Constitution is something of a mirror image of the "Constitutional Redemption" urge of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement and the subsequent anti-war and anti-draft movements and their offspring social and economic justice movements.

It all grew out of a sense of promise that was implicit in the Constitution. The Free Speech Movement 1964-65, which was the trigger for the student rebellion that swamped campuses nationwide, was based on the Constitution. The Free Speech Movement was the offspring of protests against the House Un-American Activities Committee Red baiting in San Francisco two years before, again based on the Constitution and its promise of free speech and association, for example.

The TeaBaggers aren't focused on the promise of the Constitution, they're focused on how the Constitution can be interpreted to restrict freedom for the many while offering free rein to the few. Their vision of the Constitution is that of the Confederate Constitution with its focus on property and its protection and defense -- especially property in slaves, but not exclusively so.

TeaBagging is Opposite World from the liberationist movements of the past.

But it is just as captivating to the media.


  1. Well said.

    First problem is that they're talking about the tea party as anything other than the GOP fringe.

    I know that would tie their hands a bit. It would be a dog bites man story.

    "GOP disagrees with the Democratic Party!"

    "GOP unhappy they lost the election!!!"

    Ye olde Stop the presses!!

    How many times could they run that headline?

    And, of course, few media ever really try to get at the source of GOP anger. They don't bring up the obvious fact that Obama and the Dems have left most of the conservative apparatus in place, changing things here and there, presenting a kinder, gentler face, but essentially leaving the status quo as is.

    As we've discussed before, the Dems are at least sane in their misguided use of conservatism. They aren't correct, but they're at least sane.

    The GOP has completely lost its mind, and that's also not a subject the media want to deal with. What would help this nation the most right now is for the media to show how conservative the Dems really are and how insane the GOP really is.

    In case you've missed it, Digby has a good article about similar matters:

    Oh, and thanks for the footage of Jerry Rubin. Compare that with today. No way any major media outlet has a person like him on the air now. I can remember when shows like Mike Douglas had on DFHs more than a few times.

    That's all gone. Everything has been co-opted. There is nothing but the Establishment. No "anti-" out there anymore, at least not visibly . . .

    Hope all is well

  2. The shame of it is, Jerry was co-opted, too. I heard he made something like $150 million as a venture capitalist before he died. The number probably isn't right, but he became quite a wheeler and dealer after the Movements crashed and burned. He was extraordinarily talented.

    But he was magnificent as a Movement personality and guerrilla thespian back in the day.

    This is a pretty good tribute to the 40th Anniversary of the publication of "Do It!" -- and to Jerry, too -- by someone who didn't like the book and didn't much like Jerry, either, but like a lot of us, someone who will never forget him:

    Jerry's kind of talent and anarchy would simply be crushed today, and discarded like yesterday's newspaper, which is at least part of why we don't see his kind of in your face activism much any more. There are flashes of it every now and then, but it is muted, often inarticulate, and incapable of building the kind of mythologies that shape reality.

    There was darkness in Jerry's mythology, too.

    And today we get the dark mirror of the TeaBaggers. They are taken far more seriously than the Yippies ever were, alleged to be more powerful than the Dirty Fucking Hippies could hope to be, and yet, strangely, to hear the media begin to tell it, as deluded and misguided as any other frustrated fringe.

    Thanks for your good wishes.