Saturday, April 18, 2009

Time for Tea...

I've been watching must of the post-game analysis on the nationwide Tea Parties this week, and I'm a little embarrassed for the Media. Someone has to be embarrassed for them, because they themselves are pretty shameless.

Red Eye had a nice send-up of CNN and MSNBC's adolescent humor:



CNN's Susan Roesgen went after protesters with the MoveOn.org talking points memo in hand. I expect this crap from MSNBC, but CNN?



On the flipside over at Fox News, the network is quick to jump on the coattails of the movement, and all but take credit for it. Neil Cavuto hit the Sacramento Tea Party, and Sean Hannity decided to take his show to the Tea Party in Atlanta. Newt Gingrich joined him from the one in New York. The Republican party, starved for leadership and a message is trying to glom onto this movement. But RNC Chairman Michael Steele was allegedly rebuffed by the Chicago Tea Party organizers.

This attention from conservative media led some of the liberal (nay, mainstream) media to question the grass-roots nature of these protests. Nancy Pelosi went on to call it astroturfing. Of course, the further left you are, the less likely you are to comprehend spontaneous organization, and the more likely you are to see the need for a technocratic guiding hand behind every action people take. Hey, that's why you need a planned economy, right?

Many people of various conservative flavors have brought their own baggage with them, but the gist of the Tea Parties was a direct protest to out-of-control government spending and a planned economy. You'll notice in many of the pictures, that people are complaining of things like generational theft, hyperinflation, bailouts, the stimulus package, and public control over private companies. To think that these protesters are simply angry over their current tax burden is to mistake them greatly. They know that Obama has cut middle-class taxes. But they also know it's unsustainable, and their children and grandchildren will have to pay the bill for a government-directed economy mis-allocating resources trying re-inflate a bubble of false properity.

I have been watching this movement since it's start in February, before it was even called a Tea Party (that name came from Rick Santelli's now infamous CNBC rant). Back then it was just a gathering of folks opposed to the stimulus bill. Michelle Malkin has a wonderfully documented timeline of the phenomenon.

What I really want you to note is how out-of-touch the media is (on both sides). Nobody at CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC, can even properly characterize what the protests mean to the protesters and organizers. The Right grabs the coattails in search of an identity, while the Left just makes dick jokes.

These protests started with web-savvy citizens. Bloggers, and Twitterers. Google Maps mashups, and Facebook groups. Concerned citizens who now have the organizational tools and social networks available to them that didn't exist even 5 years ago. Media people who are dismissive of the Tea Parties have asked repeatedly "where were these people 8 years ago". For certain, many people were roused by the difference in magnitude of proposed government spending under Obama as compared to Bush (Frying pan. Fire). But the real answer isn't that they were silent because they liked the borrow-and-spend conservatism of George W. Bush. The answer is simply: They weren't on Facebook yet.

The organization of the Tea Parties was spread out, disorganized, messy, chaotic, and beautiful. It's a real display of spontaneous organization and distributed democracy.

Consider this for a moment: a quarter of a million Americans, without so much as a 503(c) organization like MoveOn.org backing them (let alone, celebrities, mainstream traditional media, or a political party) pulled off simultaneous protests in 700 different cities with no confrontations with authorities, no arrests, and no destroyed property.

Do you really want to dismiss the magnitude of this event? Over a year ago, I wrote
The changes the Internet has wrought in our economy and our personal lives is about to come crashing over Washington D.C.

When someone talks about the sweeping changes that the Internet is going to bring to politics, they are usually talking about recent or near-term trends like Online voting, scandal scoops from the Blogosphere, or tapping into internet-based campaign contributions. These symptoms are certainly novel, but they are just that... symptoms. The real sea change is occurring in the populace now. We expect to have a voice, not just in the "strongly agree/somewhat disagree" opinion polls, but in shaping and driving opinion and dialogue[...]

Mark my words, it may not seem like it right now, but this is a milestone event in the transformation of American politics. Citizens are starting to realize that they have the power to direct the public discourse, and that traditional media is ignoring them, if not mocking them. This doesn't bode well for future of traditional media, or for the politicians who only know how to play the game with 20th century rules.

Update:
The Other McCain points out that David Axelrod's response to the Tea Parties hits the usual talking points: "Where were these protesters 8 years ago?". "But the President has cut taxes for 95% of Americans!". RSM's response is as concise as it could be:

What you, David Axelrod, don't understand is that those of us who support a growth-oriented economic policy aren't in favor of tax cuts on a "more-money-for-me" basis. It's not about who gets what, it's about increasing prosperity by expanding liberty.

1 comment:

  1. If people aren't throwing bricks, preferably flaming bricks, it's not a proper protest.

    ReplyDelete