As the Occupy Wall Street protests continue to multiply and spread nationwide, conservative commentators are doing their best (worst?) to undercut, and even demonize, the grassroots movement. How? One way is by comparing Occupy Wall Street unfavorably to the far-right Tea Party movement, and to suggest the New York protesters aren't serious and thoughtful the way Tea Partiers were when they crashed the political scene.
The heavy-handed revisionism underway is significant and represents a key way conservatives want to simultaneously ding Occupy Wall Street, as well as a maintain a false narrative about what the anti-Obama Tea Party rallies were really like. (The spin may have something to do with the fact Republicans are increasingly concerned about the anti-Wall Street movement.)
For instance, appearing on ABC's This Week, Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal insisted the key differences between Occupy Wall Street activists and their Tea Party counterparts is that the Obama critics were politically "mature," but that activists camped out at the southern tip of Manhattan are not. (See the 3:00 mark)
The Tea Party movement, when it erupted in early 2009, almost before Obama had finished filling out his cabinet, was "mature"? Where to even begin? It's not just that Tea Party rallies were famously dotted with swastikas posters, or that an Iowa Tea Party group erected a billboard comparing Obama to Hitler, or that former Tea Party boss Mark Williams denounced America's first black president as as a "half white, racist president."
It's that collectively, the movement seemed to be fueled by grand delusions.
From a summer of 2009 Wall Street Journal report:
"Adolf Hitler was for exterminating the weak, not just the Jews and stuff, and socialism -- that's what's going to happen."
Rather than do their homework and understanding the issues of the day, Tea Partiers simply parroted Fox News and AM talk radio rhetoric. They railed against fictional "death panels," claimed health care reform would ban private health insurance, urged the Federal Reserve be terminated (it's a scam!), denied climate change, and invited a birther to address the first Tea Party convention.
By contrast, Occupy Wall Street protesters are targeting financial institutions which clearly shoulder blame for damaging the economy.
Indeed, the Tea Party was a movement built on misinformation. And no matter how many times partisans like Noonan try to dress up the past in order to tear down Occupy Wall Street, that's the true legacy of the Tea Party movement -- one populated by profoundly immature people.