There’s A Way To Go About These Things

September 14, 2009

This is going to be my last political blog for a little bit. Not because I don’t like blogging about politics or sharing my views on things, but because I like to vary what I write about, and sadly political blogs tend to repeat themselves quite a bit. So, for this blog I’m going to talk about what I see as the problem with the 9/12 protest, the Tea Parties, and the Town Hall Outbreaks.

Now, before I get started in all of this, I would like to preface my observations with a very important point (and maybe two or three, even.) I have actually been to a Tea Party protest; I talked to people, asked questions, took pictures, took notes. Not only that, but I happen to be from one of the most Conservative parts of California, and I was raised in a very Conservative family, many of whom have gone to Town Halls and Tea Parties. So I’m writing this not as an outside observer, but as someone who has first-hand observations and has daily conversations with these people. While my family may not be on the fringe, they do accept as fact all of the wild theories and assertions made by these people. Now, allow me to share my observations.

Now what I believe to be the two main functions of a protest are to a) display opposition to something and/or b) create and raise awareness about the issue being protested and hopefully sway people’s opinions. You and I may disagree on this, but this is just my opinion from observing various protests. So what do I see as the main problems with these protests? The problem is that they are ONLY showing opposition, in true Republican “Party of Opposition” style. The signs, buttons, T-shirts, and slogans aren’t aimed at people who don’t agree with them, at least not in order to convert them to their way of thinking. They are only aimed at people who agree with them or to show what they really think about the issue. Let me offer some examples. Tea Party signs often have slogans like “Where’s The Birth Certificate?”, various takes on “Obamacare” and “an Obamanation”, and signs with pictures of Obama as Hitler with accusations of Socialism, Marxism, and Fascism. Also, lest I forget, plenty of signs that state “We The People”. Also, I have seen signs that declared “God only takes 10%”, “Jesus is the Messiah, not Obama”, and the occasional sign that quotes Thomas Jefferson. You know which one, “The Tree of Liberty must be watered with the blood of Tyrants”. I always think it’s funny that they leave out the last part, “and Patriots”. Before I offer counter-examples, I’ll share with you my favorite: “Republicans Freed The Slaves, Democrats Freed The Terrorists”. Yeah, and I have pictures of it, too. I’ll compare this to signs at the protest in San Francisco against the California Supreme Courts Decision about Prop 8. Signs often proclaimed how long couples have been together, made statements like “I was raised by Gay Parents, I came out ok!”, “Gay Straight Black White, Marriage is a Civil Right”, “History judges bigotry”, and “End H8 Now!”. My favorite from that protest? “I can’t believe we’re still protesting this shit!” The difference? Apart from the obvious difference in types of slogans and signs, the Prop 8 protest had signs that didn’t try to alienate or offend. The signs focuses more on emotional appeals than just plain statements. Not to say that Tea Partiers don’t use Appeals to Emotion, but their appeals to emotion tend more towards fear than empathy. The signs are aimed at making a rhetorical point, at trying to sway people’s opinion. Also, they don’t seem to care that their signs are being used as political fodder against them by those who disagree with them. They just seem to care about voicing their opinion, which is well within their right, and to show those they oppose that they, as Glenn Beck said, “We surround them!”. In only showing opposition they are restricting themselves to themselves. They gain no more supporters, and they only keep themselves in the fringe, in their oppositions eyes. This is the biggest problem, in my opinion.

The second problem I see is that the people protesting are ONLY protesting. They walk away from these protests feeling as if they’ve made some sort of impact, as if they’ve accomplished something huge. They walk away, smiling, laughing, talking about their lives as normal. They act as if they’ve done the penultimate act to accomplish political change, and it only took three hours out of their day. Basically, the mindset is that by protesting and showing opposition and waving pictures of Hitler and screaming at Congressman that they are changing things and getting out an important message. With this mindset nothing can be expected to be accomplished. I’ll compare their movement to that of Gay Marriage Proponents and the Activists who got Obama elected in the first place. Gay Marriage Proponents give up months of their time standing on street corners asking for donations, sending out emails, passing around and signing petitions, maintaining websites, going door to door trying to drum up support. They use Facebook, Myspace, Moveon.org, Twitter, and other forms of Social Networking and the Internet, to include YouTube, to sway opinions, garner support, and hopefully accomplish something. And it’s not just a small number of people accomplishing this, but vast numbers of people. There are leaders of these movements, but they aren’t the only ones truly doing anything. Both leaders and supporters have been arrested for civil disobedience, have went door to door, have made videos on YouTube. Where are the Tea Partiers doing the same thing? Besides showing up in force where TV Cameras will be present, they do nothing, save for maybe the occasional letter to a member of Congress. I have yet to be approached on the street to support the 9/12 Project, to donate money to Tea Party Patriots, to join them at the next Town Hall Meeting, however I have been approached countless times to donate money to Equality California, to sign a petition to overturn Prop 8, to make a YouTube video against H8, to encourage my friends to go to a protest with me, to vote for change, to call my representatives and Senators and voice my opinion on Health Care Reform, Marriage Equality, and other progressive ideals. This lack of true activism is where the movement truly falls apart. Without the extra effort, the movement will not extend beyond those who already support it and go to such events.

The third problem? Even the grassroots Tea Partiers aren’t truly grassroots at all, even if they don’t realize it. Where I would call these people grassroots is that a majority of them are going to the Tea Parties of their own volition. They are driving themselves there and they are making their own signs. However, where the astroturf begins is that the people pushing these events are high-level individuals. FreedomWorks, led by Dick Armey, Glenn Beck, Fox News in General, Newt Gingrich, various representatives. Fox News goes so far as to give time normally devoted to real news stories to promote Tea Parties and to detail various locations and cover them with cameras and reporters. Fox News and various organizations and conservative websites list Town Hall Meeting times and give potential attendees questions to ask their representatives. While organizations on the left may be organizing and promoting protests and other activities on their websites, there are no media outlets actively supporting, promoting, and covering these events like Fox News is for the Tea Parties, 9/12, and Town Halls. That’s where it truly becomes astroturf. These people may be going because they really are angry, I won’t deny them that. I talked to many of them myself. They really are angry, but only about what they are hearing on Fox News and reading on WorldNetDaily and Politico. And then they are told by these same sources where to go to vent there anger, at what time, and who will be speaking at these events. Beyond that, they take the conspiracy theories they hear on Glenn Beck and WorldNetDaily and accept them as akin to Gospel truth, and anyone who can’t see it the way they do is deluded, or a member of ACORN. The astroturfness of the movement, coupled with the fringe conspiracy theories that have been debunked countless times, make the movement seem all the more to the fringe, and not worthy of true support or even consideration, much less credibility.

These are the problems I have noticed with the movement. Granted, these are just my observations and my opinions based on these observations. I see a movement that is only devoted to opposition, a movement that lacks any true activism beyond protesting and voicing opinion, and a movement that is supported by Media Outlets and personalities and that embraces fringe and radical beliefs without any rational thought or examination of evidence. Unless the movement decides to turn these three problems around, I sincerely doubt they will change anything, much less make any progress, beyond creating noise and patting each other on the back. Then again, if they changed anything, they wouldn’t be Tea Partiers anymore, but probably Obama supporters and evil liberals. “God” forbid.

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2 Responses to “There’s A Way To Go About These Things”

  1. swingeth Says:

    digging the astroturf metaphor.

    also, tangentially related article I found extremely interesting: http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/czar_wars/

  2. Eric Lowe Says:

    Thanks for the link!

    And I’m glad you enjoyed the post!


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