Friday, April 17, 2009

Barry, Barry, Quite Contrary

Perhaps there were some national organizations that helped get the word out about, or capitalize on, the April 15 tea parties. Perhaps Fox News was savvy enough, in the marketing department, to realize that giving the parties coverage, and piggy-backing on what was happening, was good for ratings. Perhaps a few opportunistic politicos, like Newt Gingrich, hoped to seize the moment to advance their personal ambitions.

But I didn't get a sense, as a speaker and participant, that I was serving as the pawn of any organization or individual, as columnist Barry Noreen suggests in today's Gazette. If I had that sense, I wouldn't have participated.

The Gazette's (somewhat snide) reporting on the event indicated that attendees were, at least in the reporter's eyes, a bunch of loose cannons, shooting in all directions. That seems to counter Barry's thesis -- that we were collectively advancing some narrow and particular agenda, like puppets on strings.

Obama was certainly the focus of much ire (just as George Bush was the focus of so much vitriol and ire over the past eight years -- some of it deserved, in my personal opinion). That at times gave the event the tone of a Republican rally. And a few people were over the top. But Obama is the president now, and he has done some radical things. Some of the "change" he's bringing makes people uncomfortable, quite understandably in my view. Some in the media apparently think that Americans should just stuff their contrary opinions and give the new president the extended honeymoon he, in their view, deserves. I disagree.

Barry may have confused cause and effect here. This Tea Party idea all began with an unscripted outburst from a cable TV commentator in Chicago, which somehow gave voice to the alarm many Americans were feelings about the radical economic "fixes" the new administration is proposing. It spread like wildfire, thanks to YouTube and other "new media" vehicles, sparking what to me appears to be a genuinely grassroots effort.

Did certain savvy organizations jump aboard once they saw the momentum building? Sure they did. Did Fox News recognize potential audience members in the crowds that would be gathering? Of course. And because Fox could almost guarantee that the "mainstream media" would either ignore the events or dismiss the crowds as right-wing crackpots, instead of giving them the respect they deserve as concerned Americans, all the better for Fox News. Did cagey politicians like Newt Gingrich wonder whether they might also tap into the situation. Yes, again.

But I think these groups and individuals were just jumping on the bandwagon, rather than pulling it or steering it. You can't get people to turn out in such numbers unless there's a strong grassroots component to what's happening. And as a speaker and participant, I didn't feel that it was advancing any organization's agenda.

I was there to help get the word out about Limited Government Week and Local Liberty Online to like-minded folks. But I certainly didn't feel like my organization or any other was orchestrating what occurred. Quite the contrary, we were all just surfers on a wave that built largely of its own accord.

Julie, the woman who invited me to speak, was a complete neophyte, as far as I could tell. She wasn't with any of the organizations Barry mentions, or with any I am familiar with. She was new to this, and was moved to action out of concern for the country. But she and a few others managed (with minimal help from the MSM) to turn out several thousand people, mainly through viral marketing and word of mouth, for a very successful event. And that success was replicated all across the country.

And now Barry seeks to diminish that accomplishment, and scoff-off the meaning of what occurred, by suggesting that she, and we, were all the pawns of larger forces.

I've been a watcher or participant in journalism and politics for more than 25 years, and this is as close to a grassroots event as I've seen in that time. It was far more spontaneous, in origin and organization, than most other rallies that garner national attention -- virtually all of which are organized and scripted by parties or special interest groups. Barry has spent even more time as a political observer: perhaps he can provide a better example of a truly grassroots event of this magnitude.

I want to thank and applaud everyone who spoke or attended or helped organize the event. Don't let the cynics in the media -- including my friend Barry Noreen, to whom I owe a case of Mexican beer -- curb your enthusiasm or diminish your accomplishment.

1 comment:

yiquan said...

I have some very good pictures of the colorado springs event. See my post Acacia Park, Colorado Springs Tea Party at http://www.notesfromagrumpyoldman.blogspot.com