Friday, March 26, 2010

You Control The Protest

Ta-Nehisi Coates' post on the problems besetting the Tea Party protests is characteristically excellent. All three critical points he makes are really solid:

(1) The civil rights movement was effective because it knew how to choreograph a protest, to maximize its effectiveness while minimizing the potential for embarrassment. The participants were drilled in proper protest behavior. So while the media may have been rearing to go with "crazy Black people run wild in the streets" storylines, the protesters themselves saw it coming and reacted accordingly, defusing the threat.

(2) Of course folks opposed to the Tea Party agenda are going to try and paint their protests as bad things that the rest of the country should also think are bad. That's their job. It's the Tea Party folks' job to behave in such a way so as to make that tactic unfeasible, and it's their fault that they're not.

(3) The Tea Party is probably institutionally incapable of remedying this problem, because if you weed out the crazies, there's nothing left there. The sort of folks that cause the tea party to come off as extremists to the bulk of the American public aren't fringe actors, they're the base.


joe said...

Of course they're the base. That's why the tactics used are effective. These are two very dissimilar movements. They'd get virtually no press (excluding Fox) if they were just calmly and rationally explaining their arguments because complaining about a marginal increase in taxes on top income brackets while at the same time saying we absolutely can never take any money out of Medicare and oh, by the way, government paying for medical care is immoral is inherently polemic and partisan. It's not the same as very simply stating that government shouldn't be treating black people as second-class citizens and trying to appeal to an innate national sense of fair play by increasing your visibility.

So in this case, being easy to portray as a total crazypants is a rational political trade-off. Coates seems to be making sort of the same point, but I'm not sure it can be reconciled with the idea these Tea Parties (which are a top-down phenomenon) are amateur hour.

PG said...

I don't think (3) is true about the Tea Party's being made up solely of "crazies," but I do think it's institutionally incapable of remedying the problem for a far more structural reason: tea party (and Glenn Beck's related 9/12 movement) ideology is based in the idea that all current leadership is poisoned by corruption, elitism, and general out-of-touch-ness. Those who appear to be the leaders of the movement (i.e. those who get invited to talk about it on TV, etc.) always preface any statement with a disclaimer about how there are no leaders, it's all grassroots, nobody has told anyone to do anything.

At the point that you have something like what the racial civil rights movement did -- deliberately selecting who made a good icon by whether she was a sufficiently respectable woman -- the tea partiers would revolt because they don't understand themselves as representing an oppressed minority. They think they represent the oppressed majority, and therefore have no need to clean themselves up or present any particularly good face. Minority groups constantly feel anxiety about how they look to the majority. The majority never feels that way.

Anonymous said...

The problem with the Tea Party Movement is that the media doesn't show the black caucus that is a part.The only way to marginalize the movement is to call the TPM racists.Which means the left has no argument.The TPM has been in force since the election & as fixated as the left is on racism don't you think there would be more evidence.The card is being played because this country in Nov. will push back against one thing (more government).The left pushed a bill against the will of the people and then went out and gloated about it.The Tea Party & racism has to be linked together for the left to have a chance in Nov.Most of the poor neighborhoods in the USA are represented by Dems. yet generation after generation the same party is put into power.Why?Try conservatism & believe in yourself ,lets teach our children to rely on themselves and things will truly change .A strong USA will prevail not a dependent nation full of entitlements.Conservatism is not a quick fix but a long term fix once implemented. The same people who provess to help never teach the people they represent to be independent but dependent ,most want to be taught to fish.The people who want to overcome are called Uncle Toms.Racism will get in the way of your progress if YOU let it.Did Obama let it stop him?The Tea Party believes we ALL will overcome together.Open your eyes, the blacks & the whites are still at it because the media & the politians keep fanning the fire.Thats what they do to take the focus off of them.Why do we focus on the small amount of the fringe on both sides & not the majority of us in the middle who get a long.