For weeks, the right-wing activists promoting the so-called "tea party" tax protests have been complaining that the media isn't paying enough attention to their stunt. They must be thrilled with the puff piece in today's USA Today.
The USA Today article begins by portraying the "tea parties" as the work of ordinary, apolitical Americans who have had enough:
Jenny Beth Martin remembers the day she became a protester.
Her husband's business had gone under, and the two were cleaning houses in Atlanta to stay afloat. That was when they heard about a tirade against President Obama's mortgage bailout scheme by a financial news analyst calling for a modern-day Boston Tea Party revolt.
"We had just lost our house and had ... moved into the rental house," says Martin, 38, whose husband Lee's temporary-employee firm had 5,000 workers before it went down in the recession.
"I didn't want other people paying for my mortgage, and I wanted to prevent that in other places," she says.
It isn't until 19 paragraphs later that USA Today gets around to telling us that Martin is a "former paid consultant for local Republican candidates."
Actually, it isn't clear that "former" is accurate. On the "About" page of her blog, Martin says she is currently a Republican political consultant:
But USA Today continued to portray the protests as a spontaneous grassroots uprising:
Bridgett Wagner, director of coalition relations at the conservative Heritage Foundation, sees a possible reprise of the tax revolt of the 1970s and '80s, when a California movement to slash and cap property taxes led to successful ballot measures from the West Coast to Michigan and Massachusetts.
"These movements in the past have shown that when people have finally had enough, even the politicians at some point have to listen," says Wagner, calling it a "bottom-up" phenomenon.
USA Today didn't bother to include a contradictory view, or any facts that might undermine the "bottom-up" assertion (more on that later.)
Here's another example of the "'bottom-up' phenomenon" USA Today provides:
Dawn Wildman of San Diego, who is organizing four tea parties, says lawmakers should not be dismissive.
"We're seeing how you vote," she says. "You're not paying attention to your constituency. We put you there, and we can take you out."
So who is Dawn Wildman? If you have ten seconds and an Internet connection, you can pretty quickly find out that she is a Republican activist affiliated with the "Neighborhood Republican Club."
Meanwhile, USA Today didn't make any mention of Fox News' role in the "tea parties," or the role played by conservative groups like Freedom Works (Chaired by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey) and Americans for Prosperity (run by a former partner of Ralph Reed.)
It's easy to portray the "tea parties" as grassroots uprisings if you ignore the roles played by the likes of Fox News and Dick Armey, hide the fact that the organizers you quote are Republican activists, and don't include any comments critical of the events.
Glenn's all excited about the April 15 "tea parties" and how authentically "grassroots" they are. How the corporate media are ignoring them, and how they're gonna be a huge success.
That's all well and good. Except Glenn plays dumb throughout his New York Post piece [emphasis added]:
Around America, taxpayers have had enough. Fed up with excessive spending, planned tax increases and a federal government that first caused the financial bubble through misregulation, and then grabbed power in order to "fix" it, they're hitting the streets to protest.
So this entire right-wing movement is built around the idea that taxes might go up? And these are the same protesters who sat on their hands during the Bush years while the federal government demolished previous spending records? Spare us, Glenn. These "tea party" events are likely going to be nothing more than anti-Obama mob events. Why can't you be honest about that?
And then this:
Now that the movement looks likely to be big and successful, various established groups (mostly on the right, though a lefty counterpart will march this weekend) are getting involved. But its genesis and enthusiasm are pure grassroots: a lot of people who've had enough, brought together by the power of the Web.
First, we love how Glenn dubs the protests a huge hit even before they've happened. Nifty trick. And what defines successful? If less than one million people turn out nationwide on Wednesday, will Glenn still proclaim the anti-Obama rallies were a success?
Second, regarding "pure grassroots," why is Glenn playing dumb about Fox News, the corporate media behemoth, which is advertising the events pretty much non-stop, sending its anchors to lend star power, and whose own Glenn Beck is even planning on attending a "tea party" fundraiser? Or is that Glenn's idea of true "grassroots"? If it is, than yes, we're laughing out loud.
In fact, here Glenn goes out of his way to deliberately ignore Fox News' role:
Many in the punditocracy will ignore this week's protests, to the extent possible, this week. But, thanks to alternative media and talk radio, they'll still get noticed -- in particular, by the members of Congress in whose districts they take place.
This is just priceless: it's the Internet and talk radio that are fueling the "tea parties," not that enormous, mainstream corporate entity known as Fox News.
Hey, Glenn, when the right-wing conservative movement actually is able to create and sustain a grassroots movement on its own (i.e. one that's not bought and paid for by Fox News), let us know. But your beloved "tea parties" ain't it.
UPDATE: Paul Krugman knocks down the notion that the "tea parties" represent an "authentic popular protest movement," as Glenn so proudly puts it.
UPDATE: Blogger Jane Hamsher further punctures the "grassroots" angle.
"His success is pretty simple," said Robert Thompson, a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University. "He puts on a consistently good show that is a great mix of culture and entertainment, with painstaking research to back it up. Plus, Beck's show is personality-driven. People genuinely like him."
A) That Thompson, who makes a living giving quotes to the media about the media, is so uninformed about Beck's professional mendacity and irresponsible programming is just embarrassing, both to Thompson and to Syracuse. And B), that the Tribune-Review's piece on Beck does not contain a single reference to any of Beck controversial (i.e. fictional) comments in recent weeks in months, or quote one critic of Beck, is equally lame.
UPDATE: Right on cue, in an article about Beck, here's how the AP, in its entirety, describes the controversial talker:
He's become a favorite target for Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert to lampoon, and been criticized by liberals for over-the-top criticisms of President Barack Obama.
That's it. No on-air Beck quotes and no context (i.e. Beck falsely claims Obama wants to take away people's guns.) Instead, the AP just plays dumb.
When the Washington Post hired Greg Sargent a few months ago, I wrote this about Sargent:
He has demonstrated both an understanding of many of the ways political reporting has failed its consumers, and a willingness to write about it -- a rare combination among professional journalists, as Bob Somerby frequently points out.
Here's a good example of that: On Friday, Sargent called attention to the odd disparity in David Broder's level of outrage about Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
It's hard to overstate how revered the Washington Post's David Broder is among the Establishment media. He's known as the "dean" of the Washington Press corps; he has won the Pulitzer; he has been described as the best and most respected political reporter in the country.
Needless to say, Washington Post reporters simply do not publicly criticize David Broder. When he was at the Post, Jim VandeHei (now at Politico) described him as "the best of the best." Post reporter Chris Cillizza placed Broder alongside the late David Halberstam as "titans of journalism." In short, your typical Post reporter is probably more likely to ask Broder for his autograph than to question his perspective.
Which isn't to say Broder's work doesn't deserve criticism; it often does. (Those interested in examples can find plenty in a column I wrote two years ago examining Broder's inconsistencies and shortcomings.) But he doesn't get that criticism from his peers and colleagues -- many of whom reflexively agree with his narrow Establishment views. Others probably just don't want step on any toes.
In light of that, Sargent's post on Friday is a reminder that his hiring is one of the more encouraging moves the Post has made in years.
Here's what we know: Fox News has gone all in with the "tea party" movement, which means Fox News is now synonymous with the "tea party" rallies. It owns them. Which also means that come April 16, Fox News is not going to be able to disassociate itself from whatever radical rhetoric is inevitably unfurled at the anti-Obama mob events.
The conservative site Little Green Footballs, which has been sounding a very loud alarm about Beck and what his loopiness means to the conservative movement (hint: it's not good), highlights an early Beck-affiliated "tea party."
Buckle up folks, April 15 is going to get ugly.
From LGF, which posts the video:
At a "Project 912 Glenn Beck Tea Party," an unnamed speaker rants about "infiltration by the Communist Party" (a John Birch Society talking point), says that digital cable boxes are "brainwashing machines" planted in our homes by the government, and swears to stop paying taxes. The rant begins at about 1:58.
This is some really deranged stuff, and the audience is eating it up.
Differing opinions about the not-so slow motion collapse of American newspapers.
Markos at Daily Kos says good riddance:
Newspapers like to see themselves as "essential to democracy" or some other such bullshit, but they've long been part of a much broader media landscape, in which broadcast and the internet have become the most efficient delivery mechanisms. And pretty soon, with convergence, they'll be one and the same. Newspapers have refused to adapt, or they've pissed away money buying baseball teams, or they've squeezed the value out of their product by demanding 30 percent profit margins, or they've expanded at unsustainable rates, or all of the above.
Baldwin, writing at HuffPost, doesn't see it that way:
Some friends of mine in the media business say the newspaper model as we know it is in its death throes. Papers will fold or go digital. The Times will survive only online. I hope that is not true. I hope that one does not need to own a computer and a high speed connection in order to stay connected with the world of news and opinion. The Times, like many other important journals, is not perfect. Sometimes its writing and its priorities are downright awful. But that is rare.
I still think people should read a newspaper every day and that children should be taught the importance of doing so in school. Television news can be good. It just isn't as good as the New York Times. And now more than ever.
Since President Obama's election, several conservative media figures have warned their audiences that Obama is planning to, in the words of Glenn Beck, "slowly but surely take away your gun or take away your ability to shoot a gun, carry a gun" or have suggested that a government effort to ban guns is likely. Worse still, they've often floated crazy conspiracy theories about the government's intention to do some pretty whacky things.
We've got a great new video out today hammering home some of the recent work we've been posting. Check it out:
We'd ask not why the media fail to describe Coleman as a "sore loser", but rather, why it is that
particularly since Tuesday's final count of any remaining, lawfully cast, previously uncounted absentee ballots
the media fail to describe Coleman as the loser at all, much less a sore one.
It's true. The press won't even come out and say Coleman lost the election, even though the state, and courts, of Minnesota have unequivocally announced that Franken got more votes. Last time we checked that meant Coleman lost.
Go read the whole item. Along with the press critique, there's lots of interesting legal details regarding the state of Coleman's recount challenge.
The New York Times goes deep today on it's-all-a-hoax point man Marc Morano, the former flack for Sen. Senator James Inhofe. Morano's got a new six-figure job pushing out misinformation (our words, not the Times') about global warming and trying to aggressively influence the media as the issue of curbing carbon dioxide emissions gets debated in Congress.
The Times piece is mostly helpful in letting readers know that Morano is in no way an independent or reliable source about global warming. Instead, he's a purely political player. Reporters should be clear about that when quoting him in coming weeks and months.
P.S. Favorite oxymoron from the Times article: "After college, Mr. Morano worked as a reporter for Rush Limbaugh."