Posted by | July 6, 2010 18:01 | Filed under: Top Stories

By James Frye

Ever wonder why the Tea Party is getting a lot of coverage?  Let’s be honest here – this far-right “movement” is a minority of a minority Republican Party that came into existence when they lost the 2008 election to President Obama.  Their rallies and demonstrations are small but lead the news when they happen.  They got national coverage of a 2009 600-attendee ‘convention’ and all the major networks covered their favorite “leader’s” speech, Half-Governor Sarah Palin, who isn’t doing so good with the rest of the country:

Palin’s approval rating has now crashed to 29%, which is down from 37% in March. Palin is also dragging down the GOP’s 2010 candidates, as her endorsement was viewed as a negative by 52% of those surveyed.

Compare that to the Netroots Nation gathering that same year that had thousands of attendees.  But guess who got the press?

The mainstream media is bending over backwards to present the Tea Party supporters as just regular folks fed up with “big government”:

The portrait that emerges fits a traditional conservative group. The ranks of the Tea Party include somewhat more men than women, and they are more likely to be married and a bit older than the nation as a whole. Residents of the South and West are the most likely to endorse the Tea Party, but it is unmistakably a nationwide movement: 28% in the Midwest and 27% in the East call themselves backers.

They are overwhelmingly white and Anglo, although a scattering of Hispanics, Asian Americans and African Americans combine to make up almost one-fourth of their ranks.

Well,  that one doesn’t quite hold up under a bit more scrutiny:

Tea Party backers expressed more resentment than the rest of the population, even when controlling for partisanship and ideology. When read the statement that “if blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites,” 73 percent of the movement’s supporters agreed, while only 33 percent of people who disapproved of the Tea Party agreed. Asked if blacks should work their way up “without special favors,” as the Irish, Italians, and other groups did, 88 percent of supporters agreed, compared to 56 percent of opponents. The study revealed that Tea Party enthusiasts were also more likely to have negative opinions of Latinos and immigrants.

These results are bolstered by a recent New York Times/CBS News survey finding that white Tea Party supporters were more likely to believe that “the Obama administration favors blacks over whites” and that “too much has been made of the problems facing black people.”

There’s a word for that, and it starts with an “r” but the coverage suggests that they aren’t really that and are nothing but regular conservatives that vote overwhelmingly GOP who just happen to be really loud sore losers.  Their true ancestors aren’t the America Revolution-era Bostonians upset about taxes imposed by England who threw tea into Boston Harbor, it’s the John Birch Society of the ’50s and early ’60s.

Which brings us to the current state of traditional media.  If the regular press and the media did their jobs, the Tea Party would have been covered as a small intraparty insurgency within the Republican Party without much following outside of Republican partisans.  Their inconsistencies would have been pointed out (such as how they claim to dislike former President George W. Bush but still defend his administration at every opportunity and their endorsement of John McCain as a conservative hero then but despise him as a RINO (Republican In Name Only) now as much as their “issues.”  Then they’d be dismissed as the minor footnote they are instead of pumping them up to the “huge movement” status they don’t deserve.

Why is the mainstream media essentially carrying the water for the Tea Party Republicans now?    They still fear the minority of conservative activists over the 53% of American voters who elected Barack Obama and increased Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress.  This was shown very directly with the two major national “liberal” newspapers’ reaction to the firing of a WaPo reporter sent to cover the “conservative movement” who dared to say bad things about the cons in emails to a closed listserve of reporters (h/t digby):

There is absolutely no doubt that if he or any other reporter had made fun of Rachel Maddow or Al Franken it would have been fine because its considered completely acceptable to treat liberals with derision. For instance, if it had been revealed that Ezra Klein had insulted Markos Moulitsas on his listserv is it even imaginable that he would have been fired? Even if a bunch of lefty bloggers got up in arms and complained? I don’t either. Of course, Ezra wasn’t hired to cover the progressive movement — but then no one was, were they?

The (Washington) Post’s ombudsman made it clear that they are determined to cater to the conservative movement. The NY Times ombudsman revealed the same thing in his post-ACORN apologia. Despite all their blathering about unbiased reporting, the two most politically influential papers in the country are admitting openly that they are capitulating to the sustained, cynical right wing campaign to force the media to treat it with kid gloves. They’re not even trying to hide it anymore.

This is an absolute shame for journalism and a disservice to its readers.  I suspect that most of you will agree that we “news consumers” don’t want a liberal or conservative media – we want to get the news straight with as little bias as possible that has no “side” to defend and challenges obvious falsehoods from either side.  We’ll then make up our own minds about the news, thank you.

There is only one industry in the United States that is specifically protected under the Constitution – the press.  What’s going on now isn’t new – we’ve had our eras of “yellow journalism” and partisan newspapers.  The difference between then and now is then the partisan papers weren’t the only newspapers available, there were more reputable papers that tried to fairly cover the news.  Now the media is all basically singing the same tune and leaning to the right.

What do we have to counter that?  Outside of a few hours of MSNBC programming and a few dozen progressive talk stations carrying syndicated liberal talkers, that’s about it.

Until we get news that doesn’t cheer-lead, this too is a crying shame.

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Copyright 2010 Liberaland
By: James Frye

Long time progressive activist in the Pacific Northwest and self-studying student of politics