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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Liberal Doughboys Afraid of Tea Parties

Liberal bloggers and media groups can't get the Tea Party phenomenon out of their heads. It wasn't supposed to be this way, to them. Ordinary people getting together to protest against the liberal establishment. There is a cognitive disconnect. There must be a plot; the vast right-wing conspiracy at work.

So true to form, Media Matters sounded the horn that this was not a real protest, it's a Fox News segment. Kind of a made for T.V. reality show, with a cast of tens of thousands. Think Progress joined in with "Spontaneous Uprising? Corporate Lobbyists Helping To Orchestrate Radical Anti-Obama Tea Party Protests."

And the netroot blogosphere heard the call. FireDogLake proprietor Jane Hamsher posted "What Part of 'FNC TAX DAY TEA PARTIES' Don’t You Understand?" Hamsher also promoted "citizen-organized protests" which were unlike the "Fox-organized" Tea Parties; I guess she didn't catch the irony of promoting counter-protests to protest other people promoting protests. Anyway, almost no one showed up for the counter-protests.

Well-known blogger Oliver Willis protested that the Tea Parties are not really "Grassroots." Willis works for Media Matters, but blogs under his own name. Yet another irony lost, a blogger who works for a media organization promoting opposition to a protest movement because the protest movement is promoted by a media organization.

Despite the attempts to paint the Tea Parties as Fox-created, the netroots are coming to grips with reality, as witnessed by this defeatist post from Washington Monthly, which cites Willis as authority without noting Willis' connection to Media Matters (emphasis mine):

These right-wing events aren't just coming together naturally; they're the product of Fox News and corporate lobbyists. This is practically a textbook example of "astroturf." That Glenn Beck is charging $500 a plate to have lunch with him, to help subsidize the effort, only helps reinforce the larger dynamic.

Conservatives too often think, "We'll get some money together, deliver a right-wing message, and the grassroots will come together. It'll be awesome." Except, it never is.

This isn't to say turnout will necessarily be low on Wednesday; I wouldn't be surprised if far-right voters turned out in substantial numbers.

What is it with Media Matters and its progeny that must attempt to define and silence the Tea Parties? What do they care if people protest, if they are confident in the power of their views.

The answer lies in one of the most ingenious marketing events of all time, the Ben & Jerry's "What's the doughboy afraid of?" campaign. In the early 1980s, Ben & Jerry's was an upstart "premium" ice cream maker in Vermont struggling to get shelf space to compete against Pillsbury's Haaagen-Daz brand. But Pillsbury, as do many food wholesalers, wasn't keen on giving a competitor room to grow, so it pressured stores not to give Ben & Jerry's shelf space.

In response, Ben & Jerry's hit on a protest theme: "What's the doughboy afraid of?" The campaign took off, sprouting bumper stickers, t-shirts, and generally great publicity for Ben & Jerry's. Pillsbury eventually gave in, and Ben & Jerry's got its shelf space

The doughboy campaign holds several lessons for the Tea Party movement. First, the left fears loss of control. As a really good blog post notes, the left dominates the mainstream media and to a lesser extent, the internet. So the right is moving to Twitter, and now to the streets, to avoid the filtering of its message. The left-wing media machine embodied in Media Matters has trouble dealing with these alternatives, and so it attacks. It seeks to assert its control by framing the protests as contrived, when in fact the opposite is true.

The second lesson is that the more Media Matters attacks the Tea Parties, the stronger the Tea Parties become. Pillsbury learned the hard way that trying to muscle a legitimate brand with a loyal following can backfire. And so it is here; my post Tea Parties Are Sooo Scaaary generated more hits for me from more sources (blogs, posting boards, elsewhere) than almost any other post I have written.

There is a sense that people are fed up with having liberal ideology and politics shoved down their throat, and that Obama's overly ambitious agenda is a turning point. The movement may not be as organized as some would like, but that is what happens when movements truly start from the ground up, rather than in a community-organizer's playbook or a media boardroom.

The disparate groups involved, the great variation from location-to-location, and the sometimes disorganized nature of the protests demonstrate the genuine nature of the movement. The fact that some have lent a promotional hand doesn't take away from this. The mainstream media practically elected Obama through its over-the-top cheerleading coverage and refusal to ask hard questions. And Media Matters and other liberal organizations are extremely well funded in their efforts, far more so than the Tea Party movement. Nothing any conservative organization is doing to help the Tea Parties even comes close.
Getting law-abiding people onto the streets cannot be ginned up by promotion (ask Jane Hamsher). There has to be a true feeling to motivate people who never before have protested to get involved. And that is what frightens Media Matters and others most. Loss of control over the message, so they attack the messengers.

So I ask, "What are the liberal doughboys afraid of?"

UPDATE: Some of the comments on this and other posts have raised a good point. The Tea Parties are not "conservative" events. Most of the participants are people who are not necessarily political. Media Matters and others are attempting to define the Tea Parties as Fox News events in order to define the Tea Parties as being out of the mainstream (Media Matters already has defined Fox in that manner during the presidential campaign).

My question still holds. What are they afraid of? Clearly, competition in a free marketplace of ideas scares them. Otherwise they wouldn't spend so much effort and money seeking to marginalize the Tea Parties.

UPDATE No. 2: In the e-mail, from one of the people Media Matters belittles:

Professor, I enjoyed my first visit to your blog (doughboy one). I wanted to comment but have no idea what all those hurdles were. I am 78 years old and haven't a grandson nearby at the moment.

We are having a TEA party here in San Antonio Wednesday. The committee that set it up are diverse; Libertarians, Republicans, Independents etc., and are striving hard to keep it non partisan and reasonably polite.

My wife and I and most of our friends who are participating have never been to a protest before in our long lives but we have never seen government so out of control before so here we go...
UPDATE No. 3: Not surprisingly, the mainstream media has picked up on Media Matters' smear of the Tea Parties. This is how it works, and why Media Matters is so successful in what it does. In a thoroughly dishonest column which twists the nature of the Tea Parties, Paul Krugman of the NY Times writes as follows:

Last but not least: it turns out that the tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects. In particular, a key role is being played by FreedomWorks, an organization run by Richard Armey, the former House majority leader, and supported by the usual group of right-wing billionaires. And the parties are, of course, being promoted heavily by Fox News.
I don't recall Krugman complaining about all the support Media Matters and other liberal groups gave Barack Obama's "grassroots" campaign. The enthusiasm for Obama's campaign was genuine, and the organizational support brought that genuine feeling forward. So too, the enthusiasm for the Tea Parties is genuine, and any support merely helps get the word out which is otherwise not possible given the nature of the mainstream media. Krugman and other columnists at the NY Times can't admit they were wrong in backing Obama, and that Obama is on the wrong course. But being honest in one's own failings never has been the hallmark of the NY Times or Krugman. The only good thing is that fewer and fewer people are reading the NY Times, and this is a good example of why that is so.

UPDATE No. 4: At least Glenn Reynolds has it right (but oh, isn't he part of the conspiracy?) writing in the NY Post:

Instead of the "astroturf" that has marked the ACORN-organized AIG protests, this movement is real grassroots. So if you've had enough, consider visiting a Tea Party protest in your area -- there's bound to be one.

It's your chance to be part of an authentic popular protest movement, one that just might save America from the greed and ineptitude of the folks who have been running it into the ground.
UPDATE No. 5: Another good post pointing out the hypocrisy of Media Matters and Krugman:

ThinkProgress, Daily Kos, FireDogLake, DemocraticUnderground, MoveOn.org, Media Matters for America, Organizing For America, and numerous other professional left-wing groups and blogs subsequently spent hundreds of millions of dollars from private financiers like George Soros in order to organize citizenry around the political Left. News coverage of liberal opinion and political activism became coordinated between liberal political activists, bloggers, and sympathetic journalists through JournoList. The organized, Web-savvy New Left flexed its political muscle and ultimately triumphed, as Barack Obama moved into his new digs at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

UPDATE No. 6: And So It Goes In Shreveport has a round-up of the activity in .... Shreveport. A pretty good example of what the Tea Parties are all about, unfiltered through the Media Matters distorted filter.

Related Posts:
Liberal Ugliness Revealed On The JournoList
The American Left Outsources The Spanish Inquisition
Yet Another Cheap Attack On Michele Bachmann

Unrelated Post You May Enjoy:
Passover Is No Time To Wish For The End Of Christian America

Elsewhere on the Net - Check out these posts on the smear campaign against Tea Parties:
Memo to Steve Benen, et al. (Or How to Deal With a 'Progressive,' If You Must)
Stupid People at Fox News Forget to Ask for Money to Fund Tea Parties Be Sent to Them.
Propagandarama: Fear of Tea Parties and Tea Party Panic
GayPatriot » Further Attempts to Discredit Tea Party Protests

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  1. Hmm... for the San Antonio Tea Party benefit luncheon, Glenn Beck is only charging $300 a plate. And I am the media spokesperson for the San Antonio Tea Party, so I ought to know.

    And I hate to break the leftroots delusion.. but all of us on the SA Tea Party planning committee are all volunteers. With jobs - and not with some amorphous conservative corporation sugar-daddy who is paying us to do the Tea Party.

  2. Well said.

    Another leftist meme I've been noticing is that the tea parties aren't really people taking advantage of their 1st Amendment right to peaceably assemble, but are instead rabble-rousers calling for the overthrow of the government.

  3. Those in power fear a loss of control.

    Those who are wise realize how little control they have and use what control they have wisely.

  4. Would the doughboy be Oliver Willis?

    Just asking.

  5. Another irony is that Haagen-Daaz is awesome and Ben+Jerry thing is full of water crystals. The truth always triumphs!

  6. Golly, I just wish someone had told me that the Tea Party movement was organized by corporations. It would have saved me sooo much time before I started one.

    The leftists never understood love of Country. They never understood love of family, nor fighting to protect legacy so that others could prosper too. Socialism/facism/progressivism is the stingiest philosophy. They are absolutely befuddled that anyone could organize without their, or the governement's, express help. Good riddance.

  7. I'm as left as they come; maybe I can answer your question.

    What are we afraid of? A few things.

    1) The stimulus package (pork bill in your parlance) is widely conflated with the Wall Street bailouts and executive pay scandals. We on the left are at least as angry with Summers/Geithner/Obama for their handling of the corporate welfare package as y'all are about the stimulus. To the extent the crowd sizes are augmented by those people sharing our anger (anger which isn't as widely shared by our fellow citizens on the right), we think y'all are tapping into and benefiting from something that "isn't yours".

    2) These events will receive widespread media coverage that will be sympathetic to the conservative cause. Even MSNBC will report this as a populist revolt against the Obama agenda. Even though Obama's favorability ratings are triple that of George Bush and about 8 times as high as Congressional Republicans. We're seething over the media treatment we expect to see bestowed upon these "tea parties".

    3) Moreover, we seethe because when we rallied against the war in 2002 - I was in NYC with 500,000 others on one of the coldest days of the year - we got pretty scant coverage. The protests were world-wide; millions of us collectively said "NO" to war, but the media, seeing a cash-cow on the horizon, did a really good job of ignoring us. In fact, until Cindy Sheehan took her show to the Bush ranch, the anti-war movement - which was always substantial - was effectively marginalized by the press. We're fairly certain that y'all are going to get comparatively favorable treatment.

    4) Most of all... Our protests did not benefit from the non-stop clarion-call of right wing radio... We didn't have a national news outlet pimping our demonstrations. Our protests truly were organic. They were spread by word of mouth, posted bills, telephone calls and emails. And we turned out 500K in NYC alone. Millions more across the nation. The highly organized right-wing noise machine has been supporting the "tea-party" protest for weeks now.

    With that said, I will concede one thing to you: the march pro-lifers have in Washington every year is truly huge. And y'all get no props for that whatsoever. Even fewer than we got for our anti-war protests. So... I dunno what it takes to get the media to take note of activist's efforts. But I do entertain a grudging respect for y'all's organization on this one. If these "tea-parties" do come off as planned with the numbers we've come to expect - on a Wednesday no less - well... A tip fo the hat to y'all. You'll deserve it even if it did require the coordinated efforts of the vast right wing conspiracy.

  8. It never fails to amaze me how a leftist can look at the world and see it exactly as it isn't. Your protests were wholly organic? Are you nuts? George Soros, MoveOn and Code Pink at the DEFENITION of astroturf organizations.

    "Clarion-call of right wing radio?" Many of us who are attending these "Tea Pary" protests couldn't care less about Beck or Limbaugh. We are simply tired of the rediculous fiscal policies, and are saying so. YOUR protest most certainly had the bulk of main stream media behind you, and to think otherwise is self delusion. ANYTHING the could be seen to hurt Bush was trumpeted far and wide from MSNBC, to the N.Y. Times. The Tea Party events, on the other hand are being ridiculed by a concerted effort by the media, and the left leaning blogosphere.

    Talk about RetCon.

    In addition, the fact that you lump all of us together with "pro-lifers" and talk radion mavens says more about you, and your misunderstanding of the protests.

  9. As a former lefty, I can state that lefties' heads spin when they discover they are hoist by their own petard. We are dissenting, marching, activating, protesting - OMG it must be a corporate plot! Because that is all the lefties know. Who we are and what we are doing does not compute. We are outside their paradigm.

    Payback's a bitch, ain't it? Now I have to get back to making my signs for Wednesday. :-D

  10. For 40 years I have been writing my congressional delegation in the various states where I have lived and presidents in office asking them to rein in spending. I have felt like a voice in the wilderness. Now the 912 Project and the Tea Parties give me a voice with others of a like mind. This is not over on the 15th. We have a common view of the enemy and we the people will push forward.

    They can belittle all they want.
    This is a real protest!

  12. You have to be kiddding Michael stark.. the media "ignored" you? LOL. I was the mother of a serviceman that was in Iraq at the beginning of the war, and was looking to have to be there before that. ALL that there was on CNN, MSNBC and the alphabets IS Your view. PERIOD! I had to stop because NO one spoke for me and NO one else did! There was no "cindy Sheehan" for our side, because YOUR controlling, communistic group didn't allow it and still WILL NOT! That is why the tea parties are put down, if mentioned at all on those previously mentioned network.

    What sort of disconnect do you have to live under to ignore that you have ALL the media in your pocket and NO one but talk radio speaks for people like us?

  13. This is such a transparent GOP pr stunt. Preying on stupidity and vulnerability. Teabaggers bank on their people being fomented and uninformed. It's polite mob mentality. It's fodder for Beck, Rush and Billo to show the 'spine' of 'true Americans'.
    Actually, it's baseless nonsense that reminds us all of why we voted for a voice of measured, responsible thinking. After 8 years in the Wild West, it's good to be American. Have fun teabaggers but remember your 'grass roots' movement is Astroturf. Cute but embarrassing.

  14. Liberals always choosing against their OWN Interest. These Tea Parties send a message every American should embrace regardless of ideology. Bush and Obama are equally guilty with Paulsen and Geithner. Only the truly ignorant attempt the all encompassing argument that " Its FOX NEWS".

  15. Man, I was hoping I wouldn't get sucked into this entirely predictable circumstance. But I'll respond.


    Conservative television media:
    CNN: Lou Dobbs, Howard Kurtz, until recently, Glenn Beck...
    MSNBC: Joe Scarborough 3 hours a day, not so long ago, Tucker Carlson.
    FOX: Hannity, O'Reilly, Beck

    Liberal television media:
    MSNBC: Phil Donohue, the only host on any network that was overtly anti-war in 2002, was fired. Ashley Banfield, the 9/11 reporter that then trekked through the mountains of Afghanistan and reported from the field in Iraq, was fired after giving a speech in which she said the media acted as a cheerleader for the war. Kieth Olbermann... but he still eviscerates Obama - most recently for his broken promises re: wiretapping our phone calls and habeas for "unlawful combatants" and other detainees. Chris Matthews: but you'll have to explain his statements like "We're all neocons today" said after Bush landed on the aircraft carrier. Why he didn't report that the carrier had to turn around so the camera couldn't see San Diego in the background in beyond my powers of explanation.


    The New York Times featured the reporting of Judith Miller. She, and by extension, the paper, were key in leading public opinion to favor war.

    The Washington Post never wavered from its support of the war in Iraq. They are still one of the most vocal defenders today.

    Radio: we don't even need to go there except to say that several of the lying gasbags on talk radio have larger audiences than any television news show. In other words, more people get their news from Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh than Charlie Gibson or Brian Williams.

    Of course, someone will complain about Katie Couric asking those incredibly difficult questions of Sarah Palin. And, aw, shucks... gee whiz... I guess you'd have a point if it wasn't so obvious to the entire world that the questions were softballs and Palin is a vacuous airhead. But that's who Republicans nominate to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency. Just don't let the media mention it, lest they be tagged as liberal.

    And by the way... I spent 4 years in the Marine Corps. Your concern for your son is to be expected, but let me humbly suggest something to you: your concern would be best served if you left the right-wing echo chamber every now and then. Spend some time a Talkingpointsmemo.com or dailykos.com or washingtonmonthly.com. See a fuller picture of the world. If nothing else, you'll sharpen your skills of persuasion by knowing your enemy's argument ahead of time. (why else would I be here? ;-)

  16. After listening to Bob Beckel on Fox News "poo poo" the Tea Party protests, I said "you don't get it."

    When I read Paul Krugman's recent piece in the New York Times, my first instinct was "anger."

    So hat's off to your excellent response.

    Now, for a great song in support.


  17. I wonder how many Obama supporters are attending these grassroots protests? Unhappy with their choice now that he is in office. The latest polling shows his approvals at 68%.....

  18. @Michael Stark...I can sympathize with your seething. I seethed for 8 yrs at Bush's budgets and Congresses progressive seizure of our
    freedoms. But the size and scope of the blunder
    upon which we are now fiscally embarking makes
    me shake my head in wonder. It has caused
    me to get up outta my chair and to want to be heard. If you care about this country, come join
    a tea party, not as cons and libs but as Americans.

  19. Michael Stark,

    I'm glad to see you favor the ownership society.

    we think y'all are tapping into and benefiting from something that "isn't yours".I had no idea that lefties owned protests against corporate bail outs. I'm from the libertarian right (pro choice on everything) and I was unaware of of that ownership. If you have title to the property (intellectual or tangible) I will cease and desist. Show me the papers.

    In any case I would think that having the right vastly augmenting your numbers would be a good thing. But I guess it goes along with all the other lefty ownership of political ideas. When I offer to work with lefties against the drug war I find that I am unwelcome.

    Note: if you paint tea parties as a rightist movement and it is successful in reigning in government won't that lead to a resurgence of the right? I'd say you are screwing yourself by your claims that tea parties are a right wing phenomenon. It will cause the people protesting to move away from your camp and decrease its power. Good.

    Effective politics is finding a parade and getting in front of it. Thanks for helping to burnish the image of the right. Keep up the good work.

  20. I've e-mailed my Rep. & Sen. (both Dems) with personal invitations to come Tea party.

  21. The President's defense:


    The problem with his defense?

    Where is the pledge to bring the debt under control and balance the budget.

    How does the unconscionable amount of debt spending planned by the Obama administration over 10 years to do what he wants, totaling more than $10 trillion dollars, get us there?

    The simple reality, as the Congressional Budget Office points out, is that this astronomical amount of debt spending will only make things worse.

    Oh yes, here is another tea party song:


  22. To Michael Stark, I appreciate your comments and think it is great you share your view. As a former journalist, I can tell you that we bear left. The conservative voice isn't as noisy generally, tends to be the silent majority. Also, people tend to switch off when their guy/gal is in office, and switch on when in opposition. Who out there could disagree that the budget needs to be balanced? There is however a great divide in this country on the meaning and value of the constitution. Outdated maleable living document, or a document that gives us our democracy, unbendable, to be striclty adhered to? Having lived in Europe for 8 years and having seen first hand communism in Poland, I vote sacrosanct on the Constitution.

    I add that my baby nearly died waiting in a long line on the English NHS. Waiting lists, first they created a situtation that cuased her epilepsy and brain damage, then I was told I had a 3 year wait for speech therapy. In the end I did the therapy as well as I could myself. When I finally got to the private neurologist who was considered best in UK she told me to 'go to America the system here is broken, you will get much better care inAmerica.' She has been in and out of hospital since. I won't forget that when I lay her little body down on the sheets at Chelsea and Westminster in London there was dirt on her sheets and a smear of dog poo and when I asked they had no other sheets, just used the same one over and over in pediatrics. In my local hospital, Barnet General, pigeons had been nesting and dying in the air ducts for 3 years and maggots were falling onto the surgeries. My husband's grandmother had a 6 month wait for a colonoscopy at age 78 with severe dehydration and though we were told she wouldn't last a week there was no shifitng on that list.

    I think before one signs on to Statism, it would be wise to go and live outside of America in such a country for a while. Catholic shcools in the uK were told they couldn't recruit Catholic children, since it wasn't fair! In London there is a strong anti-faith sentiment that makes anyone who believes feel bashed, of course the religious are not a protected group. I could go on and on and on. Spend time in the UK and see what life under the State looks like. For all the programs, even paying young people to go to University there is no improvement for the lower classes, just an overwhelmed middle class who bear the brunt of the bill. When it seems like they will take no more, they find another thing to tax. The only way to avoid going there is by sticking to for the people and by the people. The more federal we become the farther we are from that principle.

    So far America is the most caring, free, and democratic country I have seen. We don't do dependency, never have, why start now?

  23. Are we really upset by or surprised that the fringe media is belittling and smearing the Tea Party movement? They are afraid, indeed, that the silent majority is no longer silent, that we are shrugging off the ridicule, raising an eyebrow at the PC brigade, and getting off our couches in response to what we perceive to be an attack on our country. That's what they miss, this is bigger than any "attack" they can dredge up; we are not worried about being ridiculed, mocked, attacked. We are Americans who are responding to a threat to our fundamental values and beliefs. That's big, and it runs deep. It inspires and drives us. Silly, vile and rude names, false charges and outright lies are never going to make a dent in that, never going to touch it. Or us.

    My own old blog, back BBO (before BO), rarely mentioned politics, instead focusing on whatever else flitted through my head, from tv shows to teaching to shoes to whatever. Before the Scott Brown campaign, I had been to exactly one political rally and had never volunteered for any campaign. Ever. Like most people I met working on the Scott Brown campaign, I was slightly uncomfortable holding a sign on the side of the street and I've never been to any protest of any kind. I've associated those with the loony left for so long that that's the last hurdle for me, as yet un-leapt (though I do plan to head to DC for this year's March on Washington). No one paid me (though they sure can!) to speak my mind, no one paid me to volunteer ("volunteer" being the key word) for Scott Brown, no one pays me to blog and tweet for conservatives and for a return to America's founding principles.

    I'm a patriot. That's what I do.

  24. Hopefully, there is a tide rising in America that will inundate those who have been cheated out of their own American history.
    Hopefully, that tide will point out that America was devised with the capability to protect its people from statements like "...a document that gives us our democracy...."
    Our Constitution and Bill of Rights is our shield against those who would ride over us with only "majority" as a weapon.
    Join in the tide, see the wrongs swept away and the strength of our founding fathers reinstated. Patriotism is being revived.