Commentary by James H. Shott
Political protests in the United States are an integral part of the political process, and one of the most famous in our history was the Boston Tea Party in 1773, where colonists dressed up like Indians and threw cases of tea into Boston Harbor to protest a tea tax they felt was unjust. A hundred years later came the protest with the gravest consequences, when six southern states seceded from the Union over issues of state’s rights, leading to the Civil War.
Since then, there have been many protests, against wars, civil rights injustices, and other issues arousing the genuine concerns of a segment of the American people who want their grievances addressed. All of those protests received at least polite and respectful coverage by the media.
Hundreds of “tea party” demonstrations, at least one in every state in the Union, took place Wednesday, April 15, Tax Day. The purpose of these non-partisan demonstrations was to protest what participants regard as misbehavior by our government, its out-of-control spending, and the obscene debt this spending creates. Like other protests in our history, this one was based on the legitimate concerns of many Americans.
Reaction has been heavily polarized: supporters think they are a wonderful demonstration of concern, and opponents are ridiculing them, and the media joined sides with the opponents.
Just when you think the mainstream media has debased itself as much as possible, along comes some new example of further debasement, like when CNN’s Anderson Cooper used a term for a homosexual act to describe the protesters. Proving it can be just as sleazy and disgusting as CNN, MSNBC picked up the slur and used it. What a horrible lesson for budding young journalists.
This reprehensible episode reflects, perhaps better than any so far, just how biased mainstream journalism is, and how unprincipled and unprofessional its purveyors have become. Is it any wonder major newspapers are on the brink of bankruptcy and viewers are leaving the networks and major cable channels in droves?
On the aforementioned MSNBC, one guest said: “Which, let's be very honest about what this is about. It's not about bashing Democrats, it's not about taxes … This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up. That is nothing but a bunch of [homosexual act] rednecks. And there is no way around that.”
That analysis was offered by someone named Janeane Garofalo who is reportedly a comedian and former co-host for an unsuccessful radio talk show on the failed Air America network. If you’ve never heard of her, perhaps these comments explain why: she isn’t funny and hasn’t a clue what these tea parties are all about. A typical left-winger, she cannot imagine that intelligent individuals don’t agree with her, and she doesn’t know how to deal with it, except by insulting them. The behavior of liberals like Ms. Garofalo and the inappropriate and dishonest reporting of the media say far more about them than about the protesters and their concerns.
As idiotic and bizarre as the comments of Cooper and Garofalo were, some of the criticism leveled at these festivities is valid. There were some signs on display with crass messages, and children were used in the protests. Children are pawns in such displays; they have no idea what is going on, despite the fact that the debt being run up by our elected leaders will fall on their shoulders.
But for every objectionable message, there was at least one pretty good one. For example, one sign said: “Give me liberty, or give me debt.” Another said: “Liberty! All the stimulus we need.” And there was Ronald Reagan’s great quote: “Government does not solve problems. It subsidizes them.”
By some measures the tea parties were successful. There were hundreds of events, a few of them drew more than 10,000 participants each, and the one in San Antonio drew more than 20, 000. Estimates put the grand total anywhere from 300,000 to more than 750,000, but no total attendance figure has been confirmed.
And, reports say that the gatherings were peaceful and that there was little or no trouble and few if any arrests at the hundreds of sites. That is not always the case when you have a lot of people gathered to protest something.
The best measure of success will be if the demonstrations generate some sort of follow-up activity. Maybe they will produce a response from government, or perhaps they might generate a substantial increase in the number of people who take up the cause.
The tens of thousands of people attending the tea parties believe that it is time to stand up and say “Enough!” to the unprecedented level of encroachment by their government into the lives and business of the people from whom it derives its power. Like their predecessors in 1773 and the other protests throughout history, they’re objecting to the actions of their government, which has become an increasingly out of control, distant, and arrogant federal monstrosity.
And they won’t be shouted down by either a liberal media or intolerant left-wing fanatics.