Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger
The 2010 elections which gave the Republican Party the majority in the House of Representatives was seen as the elevation of a “Grassroots Movement”, composed of the spontaneously combusted wrath of ordinary citizens fed up with a bloated government. It was indeed a seminal moment for those people who disdained taxation, government handouts in entitlements, and the seeming waste of our tax dollars. The initial angry explosion was a reaction to the proposal and passage of the Health Care Bill. Rallies were organized, town hall meetings disrupted and a “hit list” of both Republican and Democratic members of Congress circulated.
The initial mainstream media reaction to this nascent movement was one of disdain, particularly because it was seen as an “out of the Beltway movement”, thus not to be taken seriously. However, this changed in a large part led by FOX News and copied by its “wannabe” CNN. Led by these Cable outlets, thirsting for sensation to fill their 24/7 news maws, all media began to follow suit, not wanting to be left behind. I find it interesting though that as late as April 22, 2010, Politico, hardly a left wing outlet, noted that unwarranted attention and media frenzy had begun, elevating the status of this purported movement: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0410/36185.html It is ironic that this article, while laying out the irrational amount of attention given to the Tea Party, at its end discounts the effect the movement would have on the election. Its authors certainly were not prescient.
Lost in the tumult of media exaggeration and sensationalism was the fact that this was not at all a grass roots movement of average Americans, but a crafty example of political manipulation laid out in tandem with the compliance of Rupert Murdoch’s news network’s assault upon all things they deem liberal. The prime mover in this is Richard “Dick” Armey, a former Texas Republican Congressman, House Majority Leader, and major senior lobbyist at a worldwide lobbying firm. Armey created the mythology of a grass roots movement, guided its progress, arranged, and then paid for its “spontaneous” events.
Dana Millbank, in the Washington Post related the involvement of Dick Armey in this movement. “Dick Armey is intellectually versatile: The former leader of House Republicans went from being a rainmaker for a Washington lobbying firm to being the unofficial leader of the anti-Washington “tea party” movement. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/15/AR2010031503730.html
After the 2010 election victory, sweeping away as many “old school” Republicans as well as Democrats, the media both expressed shock and provided substantive background on what had just taken place.
“There is particular irony in Mr. Armey — who has spent three decades in Washington, where he has become one of the city’s most enduring insiders — mentoring a movement that wants to hold on to its outsider ethos.” http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/people/a/dick_armey/index.html
The vehicle for Mr. Armey’s maneuverings is an organization called FreedomWorks, which if you go to the link below you will see a picture of Glenn Beck and a link to receive kits to be used in August disruptions of Town Hall Meetings. http://www.freedomworks.org/ FreedomWorks has its origin in an organization called “Citizens for a Sound Economy” which is not surprisingly a creation of the Koch Brothers that was tactically split into two entities, one being FreedomWorks. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_for_a_Sound_Economy
In trying to make sense of politics and the forces competing within it context is everything. By its nature politics is the art of using popular mythological themes (i.e. No New Taxes, less government, terrorism, etc.) to rouse the populace to given action. The Tea Party Movement, FreedomWorks and even Dick Armey have every right to try to influence our political system. They also have every right to utilize what mythology they please, or can create, to advance their cause. Whether there is danger to our political system in their belief in, or promotion of, their myths should not result in suppression of their rights. That is not the Constitutional way in our country. Indeed, their aims and their backers are not hidden, but easily researched, as I’ve done cursorily here.
My concerns are that for this country to remain democratic and viable under our Constitution we need the information and context supplied by a free press, bolstered by freedom of expression. When the popular punditry and the mainstream news media do not supply context, but actually play a role in creating myths about the forces engaged in struggle for the hearts and minds of people, our democratic institutions suffer.
That the so-called Tea Party is a movement backed by some of the most powerful forces in this country to put forth an agenda that is beneficial to them and represents their ideology, should be contextually a part of any news report, media sound bite, or internet article. The myth of this movement being a spontaneous uprising of average citizens is well represented in media reportage. For the average citizen struggling to keep their families and themselves together, getting their news from small doses of mainstream media, it serves to reinforce the myth by omiting context. That this amalgam of people, led cunningly by a Washington Insider and lobbyist, is confused as to their purpose and misled by an ideology that is possibly antithetical to their needs is best represented by that well known poster, prominently shown at a Tea Party Rally: “Keep your Government Hands off of my Social Security and Medicare!” Such is the effect of political mythology on the minds and actions of people.
Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger