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September 23, 2009

Big Media Missing the Point

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Everyone who bickers about the size of the crowd in Washington on September 12, or what network covered it and what media did not cover it, or whether the protest was the work of conservatives or un-American racists is sorely missing the significance of the entire event.


I was more than amused with The Washington Post lead paragraph on September 13, in an article titled, “Lashing Out at the Capitol – Tens of Thousands Protest Obama Initiatives and Government Spending”:


“Tens of thousands of conservative protesters, many complaining that the nation is racing toward socialism, massed outside the U.S. Capitol on Saturday, angrily denouncing President Obama's health-care plan and other initiatives as threats to the Constitution.”


Out of laziness, lack of intellectual depth and integrity, or plain simple bias, much of the traditional media has taken great pains to identify the people who attended the rallies as marginal conservative kooks and loons.


However, some political observers have begun to pick up on the meaning some of the persistent iconography that has appeared at the rallies, 1776 garb, and the Gadsden Flag – “Don't Tread on Me.”


Amanda Carpenter, who I think ‘gets it,’ quoted Corey Thompson, a history teacher in Charlotte, N.C. in her column “Don’t Tread on me,” on September 14.


Read carefully: “It's pretty safe to say there are a lot of folks right now who don't want to be linked to an elephant or a donkey, and a rattlesnake is a perfect substitute,” said Mr. Thompson.


This plays into a persistent contemporary theme. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, an independent opinion research group that studies attitudes toward the press, politics and public policy issues, published its recent research on September 13: “Press Accuracy Rating Hits Two Decade Low – Public Evaluations of the News Media: 1985-2009.”


Pew says, “The public’s assessment of the accuracy of news stories is now at its lowest level in more than two decades of Pew Research surveys, and Americans’ views of media bias and independence now match previous lows. Just 29% of Americans say that news organizations generally get the facts straight, while 63% say that news stories are often inaccurate.”


The “news” coverage of the tea party rallies certainly demonstrates in a nutshell why the traditional media continues to be held is such disdain.


One of the many questions that persists: Does the Obama Administration and the ruling party really believe the sycophant press it is generating?


To continue to buy into the attempts by the ruling party apparatchik and the Democrat Industrial Media complex to marginalize, disenfranchise, and trivialize the protest movement will do the public, the Democrats, and ultimately the country a disservice.


Oddly enough, some of the more insightful reporting on the political science of what is currently transpiring in American government is being written across the pond in England – and Europe.


The Guardian published a particularly intelligent article on September 18, “Republicans steal Barack Obama's Internet campaigning tricks – Since their election disaster, the right has used new media to gather strength, culminating in last weekend's huge protest.”


Guardian writer Ed Pilkington brought out several key points.


While the traditional media is pitifully pre-occupied with vilifying Fox News and Glenn Beck, Mr. Pilkington calls to our attention two key grass roots political organizations to take note of, FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity.


One of the key players in the future of center-right politics is Erik Telford, young Internet strategist for Americans for Prosperity.


Mr. Pilkington notes that for Mr. Telford, election night last fall was a double disaster. “Not only had Obama won the votes, he had outwitted his Republican opponents in his use of new media tricks such as email recruiting and social networking.”


Overlooking “new media tricks” is a mistake political strategists like Mr. Telford are more than ready to rectify. “On the right, people had known new media was important but they were still hesitant about it. After the stimulus experience, no one was left in any doubt about its power,” said Telford.


Which brings us to one of the keys lessons to be learned from the tea parties, as observed by Mr. Pilkington:


“For Telford, though, dismissing the eruption as extremist or racist was to miss the point. For him, the 9/12 rally marked the moment at which conservative America finally embraced the new world and recovered its confidence.


“He believes the movement is now close to catching up with the Democrats in terms of Internet savviness; in some ways he contends it has even surpassed them, particularly on Twitter, where much of the heavy lifting behind the so-called ‘tea parties’ against Obama's tax and other policies is being done.”


Keep this in mind as you keep one eye on the upcoming critical 2010 elections.


“The historical parallel on everybody's mind is 1994, when Clinton's young presidency was bloodied by Republicans taking over the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years,” observes Mr. Pilkington.


“It is perhaps no coincidence that the most popular conservative on Twitter, with almost a million followers, is Newt Gingrich, architect of that same revolution.”


As important as that point is on the macro-political level; arguably the more immediate point worth pondering was made by Matt Kibbe.


He “heads FreedomWorks, a national conservative group that led the push behind” the 9/12 rallies and he correctly observed, “that those Democrats who try to pigeonhole the tea parties as a crank phenomenon are playing into the anti-Obama movement's hands.”


“The Democrats,” said Kibbe, “who want to marginalize this movement are making a big mistake. They are insulting the people who they should be courting, and every time they do that our numbers seem to double in size.”


Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at


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