Posted by Anne Landman on August 17, 2010

Drink the TeaThe front page of USA Today August 13 was consumed with an extensive article titled "Faces of the Tea Party: Tea Party members offer ground-level view," which featured anecdotal interviews with ordinary people who agree with the movement. But the article offered no information putting the Tea Party movement in the context of the larger political picture in the U.S. For example, it points out that Tea Party candidates were victorious in primary elections in Colorado, Kentucky, Nevada and Utah, and, while it questions the ability of the candidates to win in the general election in November, it fails to mention that these candidates' victories boost the possibilities that Democrats will prevail in these states. Another significant omission is that article also fails to mention how remarkably far out of the mainstream the many Tea Party candidates' views are. Nevada's victorious Tea Party Senate candidate, Sharron Angle, seeks to dismantle Medicare and Social Security and hand their functions to the private sector. Kentucky's Tea Party Senate candidate, Rand Paul, belongs to a group of physicians who deny the link between HIV and AIDS and argue that Barack Obama controls his audiences through a covert form of hypnosis. Colorado's victorious gubernatorial Tea Party candidate, Dan Maes, told a crowd of supporters that Denver's new bicycle sharing program is really part of a hidden United Nations plot to "rein in American cities," put the environment above citizens' rights, and curtail personal freedoms.

Grassroots + Astroturf = Tea Party

USA Today's article emphasizes the decentralized nature of the Tea Party movement, reinforcing the idea that it is solely a grassroots movement. That has been far from the case. USA Today doesn't mention that, unlike other "grassroots movements," the Tea Party benefits from major media sponsorship by Fox News, and receives financial backing from corporate lobbyists. The article also fails to describe the many factions of the movement and their origins, which are confusing to many: the Tea Party Patriots (arguably the least well funded and most "grassroots" faction of the movement); the for-profit Tea Party Nation (a domestic for-profit business entity that sells baubles like bejeweled tea bags for $89.95 apiece) and the Tea Party Express, which is basically a professional PR campaign sponsored by FreedomWorks, which is headed by former Republican Majority Leader-turned-lobbyist Dick Armey.

What Else USA Today Left Out

The USA Today article gives a thumbnail sketch of what the Tea Party movement signifies to a handful of individuals who identify with it, but fails to tell the real story of the extreme views of many in the party and the huge financial subsidies it receives from corporations and their front groups. The article also perpetuates the idea that the "Tea Party" is purely a grassroots movement, while ignoring important information about what drives the movement financially and logistically, as well as ideologically. Including this information would have given readers a more complete description the what the Tea Party movement is about. USA Today's coverage was a real PR coup for the Tea Party, but fell far short of the kind of skeptical, probing coverage that is warranted.

Comments

now that's the stuff!
offering free space to allow any sort of irresponsible babble to to go unchallenged by the truth is a disservice to the both the USA Today's readers and the USA Today's (Constitutionally protected) purpose. It is not journalism, it is a media- sanctioned gossip foodfight. This is what sells papers, but it is not journalism and it helps legitimize the public's mistrust of media just when we need it most.

If extreme views includes concern over our Country's 12 Trillion dollar
debt, and Congress over spending money that we DO NOT HAVE.
Then count me in.

If extreme views inviews include concern about a horrible economy
and a President who has spend more in one year and a half than
George W. Bush did in eight. (And believe me I was no fan of Bush)
Then count me in.

If extreme views include a hugh concern that Congress is no longer
listening to the majority of the people, then again count me in.

I am an Independant voter. an open minded School teacher whose kind
wonderful educated parents just happened to be Tea Party Members,
and I am sick of the Media /news trashing people who just happen to love
our country, and care enough to express from their loving hearts concern
over their children's and Grandchildrens future.

This is a good letter and you are right. Look at what Mother Jones' Kevin Drum does in its last issue to the Tea Party goers. (Aug. 2010) He describes them with at least 23 terms from medical psychiatry and concludes that they are just a "symptom of an old disease." This is more like Fox than Mother Jones--or at least I thought so till I began to read their Tea Party stuff. There is absolutely nothing in it to suggest that many of them are sincere and have very many justifiable grievances.
Advice: Publish your name. Teachers in order to be true teachers must also be warriors.
This is my first time on this site and I am disappointed by this article. There is a huge area of common ground between both parties. This is almost totally ignored and there can be only one reason for it, politics as usual. Mother Jones supports the party of the people but not the people. They are closet elitists. What about the Center For Medal and Democracy? Does democracy belong just to the left, or to all of us? J. Warren Clark, educator

Bill Moyers presents "United States of ALEC," a report on the most influential corporate-funded political force most of America has never heard of -- ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.