Monday, March 22, 2010

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP. Yeah, I'm still doing these on Mondays, for the time being. Today's is about the Jesus angle on that health care bill passage anguish. Some Catholic groups had gotten involved with the struggle, which afforded ripe opportunities for hilarity, as well as a chance to introduce new readers to The Anchoress at her most stupidly vicious, laying down Catholic doctrine to actual churchmen and churchwomen from her little suburban fake-nun castle. Jesus, what an awful person she is.

Part of me wanted to get in on the nigger/faggot tea party thing, but first-hand reporting was sparse and I wasn't sure whom to believe, frankly. On the one hand, of course Democrats and their fans can get an easy lay-up by reporting they were slurred by neanderthals -- who besides the Ole Perfesser and likeminded doofuses would disbelieve them?

And they'd have cause to believe -- despite the Perfesser's carefulness to find the few black folk at these events and get pictures of them, anyone who's been to one of these shindigs knows the score. My own coverage of the early tea parties as well as their Version 2.0 showed me that the overseers of the tea parties want to make them as mainstream as they possibly can, and have cooled out the original hot rhetoric insofar as they have been able to. But, let's face it -- it's not a grassroots movement, it's a rightwing movement that wants to look grassroots, and such gatherings are bound to, of necessity, pull in some straight, white, and loose cannons of the slur-slinging variety.

So the words may have been said. The irony is, even if they were, I doubt they'd reflect much more that the deep-seated prejudices of some of the participants -- and if that were a crime, as Hamlet said, who should 'scape whipping? That's America, folks. The real question is, why and how did the equivalent of Orange County John Birch Society meetings from the 60s gone al fresco become such a big media deal?

UPDATE. Thomas asks in comments about my remark on "grassroots" in this context.

It's not that I think rightwingers less able to community-organize than liberals, but that I think most "populist" movements in our own era are mere inventions of seasoned political operatives and big moneymen. Like Ross Perot; some populist! (And let's not forget the periodic insistence that Obama, of all people, is a populist too.)

While I wouldn't write off the Tea Parties (and the closely-related anti-health-care rallies) as pure astroturf, they too have some fishy roots and receive a lot of unpaid advertising (you can't reasonably call it "coverage") from the rightbloggers. Their organizers get the crowds to show up, and famously to make their own signs, but not to draw up the agenda; when the big dogs staged those Tea Parties in New York last year, I doubt the congregation was polled to choose S.E. Cupp, Deroy Murdock, and several local Republican candidates for public office as speakers. Those picks were straight off the rightwing comintern go-to list.

Thus, they're stage-managed events, but with an open door policy. Shouters and spitters will turn up at such things and, like I said, it can't be much helped. But the belligerent response of the rightwing press to this revelation suggests stronger message discipline than most grassroots movements could manage: If it were a movement over which they really thought they had NO control, they'd just denounce the racist nuts and move on, rather than try to explain to us, first, that the incidents didn't happen, and second, that they are actually a healthful sign that racism is over.

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