The Media Built up the Tea Party to Get Advertising

I blame the media for the mess America finds itself in. Oh, sure, there are a lot of others to point fingers at, but the media was the Great Facilitator.

TV and internet pundits are agog today because a university professor has published a study exposing the Tea Party for what it is – the cranky right wing of the Republican Party. But the pundits can’t pretend they didn’t know all along that the “movement” was nothing more than the same old, same old, collection of racist xenophobes and Bible thumping God botherers that have festered on the fringes of American politics since the demise of the Dixiecrats.

Joan Walsh writes in Salon today that:

It’s great to have data, but this is something a lot of us believed all along — the Tea Party was the Republican base dressed up in silly costumes. Why was the media so quick to declare them a vital new force in politics? Of course there were some innovative twists on the old mix, but those details got less attention than the supposedly spontaneous democratic uprising (against the Democrats, of course). What enlivened the GOP base and made it look brand-new was the cash and savvy of the Koch brothers, Dick Armey and Americans for Prosperity, who quickly noticed small early anti-stimulus rallies and got some of the organizers money and logistical support, so they could spread their Astroturf.

Walsh lays most of the blame at the feet of Fox News:

Most important was the role of Fox News, which did energetic publicity for the early Tea Party rallies. Richard Nixon’s media aide, Roger Ailes, finally figured out how to turn his supposed Silent Majority into a Noisy Minority.

And she’s right, of course.

But, Joan, tell the truth, didn’t you have a hand in it, too? Didn’t you go on MSNBC and talk about this bunch of loonies as if they were a legitimate political factor?

(I can’t recall specific instances of you doing that, Joan, but I’m willing to bet you did.)

I don’t think there’s anyone in the punditry game that can claim to have clean hands in the creation of this monster. Nobody could resist the allure of crowds dressed up in period costumes waving outrageous signs and spouting provocative nonsense.

That’s the kind of thing that builds audiences, and without audiences, you can’t attract advertisers.

That’s why the “Tea Party” was featured so widely on the networks, on all of the cable channels, in the newspapers, and on the internet.

In contrast, the recent anti-war protests all over the country have attracted zero media attention. They’re just not “colorful” enough.

Michele Bachmann is “colorful.” That’s why MSNBC;s Chris Matthews dug her out from under her rock and paraded her before his viewers. He thought they would laugh her out of existence. Instead, he set her on the path to becoming a presidential contender.

And it’s the media that built up the menace of the Tea Party, spotlighting their triumphs in Republican primaries and exaggerating their appeal to the American public.

Now,  a recent New York Times/CBS survey shows the Tea Party is much less “grassroots” than the media would have you believe.

Check it out here.

As another Salon writer, Alex Pareene, points out:

This tiny band of fanatics is largely distrusted and despised by regular Americans, but a terrified media coddles them and pretends they’re harmless. I am speaking, of course, of the Tea Parties, a group now officially less popular among Americans than Muslims.

Click here to read today’s Salon.

Life imitates art. So, as the pundits pretended, the Tea Party has become a real power in Washington. And look at the horrors they’ve wrought!

It just goes to show that the loss of a responsible “press” has caused irreparable damage to American democracy. It’s something the Founding Fathers never could have anticipated.

Thomas Jefferson must be turning over in his grave.