The liberal media’s longtime love affair with The Protest is undeniable. They are two peas in a very cozy, opportunistic, codependent pod. What good would all the marches, strikes, rallies, demonstrations, riots, and walk-outs have been if there hadn't been a sympathetic reporter or television crew there to courageously document them?
Just because the 1960s were half a century ago, and the average price of a home in Haight-Ashbury is now a decidedly upper-class $700,000, that doesn’t mean protests have become any less newsworthy to liberal outlets. If there are more than five Code Pink members within a one-mile radius of one another, well, you’d better believe MSNBC will be there to document their every move.
Last year, the New York Times wrote at least seven stories about the demonstrations against Proposition 8 in California, which sought to ban gay marriage. Seven stories, in less than two months.
During the past five years, the Times also has lent its coverage to a group of parents protesting plans to change the kindergarten sign-up process in New York City, and a protest at a San Francisco movie theater against its plans for family-friendly programming. It wrote about animal rights activists when they protested the NFL’s tepid response to charges against Michael Vick.
And it wrote about the protests outside the Republican National Convention in 2004, and about a 150-person protest in Long Beach over California State University system’s decision to cut enrollment. And it covered a student protest at Duquesne Law School over the firing of a dean. In the A section, no less.
But to no one's surprise, the coverage hasn't always been fair or apolitical. When then candidate Barack Obama spoke in Berlin in the summer of 2008, the San Francisco Gate and other liberal outlets jubilantly proclaimed a crowd of 200,000 had turned out to soak up the hope and change. This, despite reports from a German public television station that, in reality, only 20,000 had come.
And at Obama's inauguration, if there was anyone in the Washington metropolitan area who was less than positively orgasmic over the election results, the Times didn't see them. "Those who raised their voices were more likely to be expressing gratitude that George W. Bush was leaving office than displeasure that Mr. Obama was replacing him."
The nonpartisan tea parties that took place last week in nearly 2,000 cities and towns across the country brought out, by conservative estimates, 300,000 demonstrators who galvanized around a call for lower taxes, smaller government, and fiscal responsibility. In very blue New York City, where I was asked to speak, the NYPD reported that 12,500 people came, which is more than four times as many professors are on staff at NYU. But to hear the liberal media tell it, the mini-revolution looked more like a sad, underground basement meeting of a few disgruntled crazies and fringe lunatics.
The Times, for all its devotion to of-the-people protest coverage, was nowhere to be found. Two thousand parties across the country simply didn't happen.
The Village Voice, a small New York City alternative weekly that's covered the counter culture diligently since its inception in 1955, sent Roy Edroso to the New York City protest, where he estimated only 2,000 had shown up. Of course, by his own admission he left half-way through — "There were still more speakers to go, including Newt Gingrich, but we realized that we weren't going to hear anything new." That didn't stop him, however, from critiquing the speeches he did catch, and deciding summarily that event organizers had "overpaid."
Washington Monthly "blogger in chief" Steve Benen was equally unimpressed, and also undersold the turnout. “In a nation of 300 million Americans, 100,000 conservative activists getting together — for reasons that are still a little unclear — is likely a disappointing figure for event organizers. It's very hard for conservative leaders to point to this kind of turnout as evidence of a strong national hunger for more right-wing economic policies.”
This kind of smug condescension was rampant in the days leading up to the tea parties. The country's leading liberal voices -- the ones that actually covered this story -- united in their own protest of sorts to dismiss the participants as feeble and silly, throwing a colorful and varied collection of unsavory adjectives their way.
Paul Krugman insisted that the grassroots efforts around the country were supported by the "usual group of right-wing billionaires." Though plenty of Democrats and liberals, libertarians and unaffiliateds participated in the tea parties, for Krugman they were all just "AstroTurf" Republicans, who were "crazy," "embarrassing to watch," "clueless," "bad for the country," and the "subject of considerable mockery, and rightly so."
The Daily Kos wrote that tea partiers are "stupid," and gleefully proclaimed, "We can never laugh enough at your expense."
And MSNBC's Rachel Maddow devoted hours of her program to sophomorically making fun of tea parties, and, in a particularly proud moment in cable news, followed a number of other liberal personalities who crudely referred to participants as "tea baggers."
Competing cable outlets contended that FOXNews — the only network that seemed genuinely interested in what was a major news story — had lent its considerable weight to backing the protests because a few of their top personalities agreed to speak at several of them. For deigning to broadcast coverage of the tea parties, FOX was just "in on them."
I've talked to tea partiers from around the country, all of whom were thrilled with the nationwide turnout and reinvigorated by the nonpartisan calls for more accountability and less government expansion. The parties were an opportunity, seldom granted, to tell the country that not everyone is happy with the direction Washington is taking them. Buried under stories about the President's new dog and his many fans overseas is the rumbling of a new and decidedly un-silent minority who will slowly become an un-silent majority while MSNBC is busy laughing and calling them crazy. If there's any doubt that the media is awash in bright blue Obamamania, and that it's thrown objectivity out the window along with reason and dignity, the tea party coverage is undeniable proof.
But good luck getting liberal news outlets to care or revise their coverage. I just heard there are 11 people at a PETA rally outside the Whole Foods in Seattle, and they've got a big story to cover.
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