CNN correspondent Susan Roesgen could barely get through her live shot at the Chicago tea party this afternoon. Over shouts of, "You're not a reporter," Roesgen quickly wrapped up an interview with an attendee, then said, "I think you get the general tenor of this. It's anti-government, anti-CNN since this is highly promoted by the right-wing conservative network Fox." A Fox News spokesperson responds to TVNewser, "Judging by their lack of ratings, everyone seems to be anti-CNN." – Media Bistro
Dominant Social Theme: Silly CNN!
Free-Market Analysis: The tea parties across America have answered the question about whether they can attract attention. They can, and they did. The mainstream media has been forced to cover them. But in doing so, we can't help note that a predictable left/right meme has emerged. Hmm-mm. All about controlling the conversation is it? And if you can't control it, at least you attempt to box it.
We think we can trace the tea party protests back to demos held by Libertarian Ron Paul supporters several years ago. But somehow the current tea parties are being attributed by many in the mainstream press to MSNBC's Rick Santelli who went on a populist rant against mortgage bailouts several months ago.
It is fairly clear that the tea parties are aimed at protesting higher taxes and a more intrusive government, yet according to reports that have taken hold, the tea parties were initiated by a fellow who covers trading for a fairly left-wing cable news program. Odd, eh? Even odder, one of America's leading Conservative lights hadn't really been covering the gathering tax revolt until recently. How do we know? Ann Coulter admits it herself in her current column, as follows:
I had no idea how important this week's nationwide anti-tax tea parties were until hearing liberals denounce them with such ferocity. The New York Times' Paul Krugman wrote a column attacking the tea parties, apologizing for making fun of "crazy people." On CNBC, hosts Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow have been tittering over the similarity of the name "tea parties" to an obscure homosexual sexual practice known as "tea bagging." Night after night, they sneer at Republicans for being so stupid as to call their rallies "tea bagging." Every host on Air America and every unbathed, basement-dwelling loser on the left wing blogosphere has spent the last week making jokes about tea bagging, a practice they show a surprising degree of familiarity with. Except no one is calling the tea parties "tea bagging" — except Olbermann and Maddow. Republicans call them "tea parties."
So Ann Coulter had no idea how important the tea parties were until she found out that liberals were upset about them. Once she was aware of this discontent, she focuses a good deal on sexual innuendos. Her point seems to be that Conservatives and Republicans are on the side of fewer taxes and liberals are on the side of more. This is a neat paradigm but one that conveniently leaves out the last eight years of Republican domination of the American political machinery. During this time, former President Bush managed to spend trillions the country didn't have. The resultant tidal wave of economic dislocation has nearly swamped the globe.
For so many reasons it is impossible to see the tea parties as a left/right issue, even though it is being tried. The American and European left and right have been drifting together in the last quarter century, until it is difficult to tell them apart on a number of issues. In America, the right is more overtly patriotic than the left, while the left is more prone to ever-larger public works projects. By trying to place fundamental questions about freedom within the left/right box, both sides seek to make the issue of big versus smaller government their own.
The tea-parties are neither left nor right but Libertarian, and free market. On this issue, the waters are muddy indeed. While the mainstream media cannot ignore what is going on in America, and to a lesser extent Europe, it can still represent powerful interests that would like to recast the current controversies within convenient Hegelian limits. It is getting harder and harder to do.