For all intents and purposes, the movement known as the tea party started in the mainstream media, on a national show. CNBC’s Rick Santelli, fired what cable news would later dub “the shot heard around the world” in 2009, when he lamented paying for the mortgages of the “losers” who couldn’t pay their bills. “President Obama, are you listening?” he bellowed.
Well, it was broadcast on national television.
By the way they snarl about the mainstream media on Fox News, you’d think they were disseminating their programs via ham radio instead of on the number one cable news network in the country. Fox News is as mainstream a media as any. And they’ve puffed up and promoted their pet protest group called the tea party for the last two and half years.
And just like the imaginary death panels in the health care reform act or the fantasy Sharia law threat – the tea party got its legs from Fox News.
So when criticism is lobbed at the tea party as being an astroturf re-branding of the Republican Party, sponsored by interest groups and corporate media, it’s because it is.
To put this into perspective, look at movement Fox News hasn’t endorsed and Karl Rove’s group, American Crossroads, haven’t chartered busses for: meet Occupy Wall Street.
Occupy Wall Street started as a couple thousand protesters marching through lower Manhattan and camping out at the detonator of the economic meltdown.
For the first two weeks, the protest was largely ignored by actual mainstream media. Then NYPD officer Anthony Bologna pepper sprayed a couple of young women peacefully assembling at this public demonstration. The footage landed on YouTube: Then there was attention. A skirmish with police. A Story. Last Saturday, 700 of the protesters were arrested by the NYPD. Another Story. Worthy of a mention even on the venerable Sunday Shows.
Who are these people? Are they the anti-tea party?
No. In fact they are not in any way like the tea party. If they were the tea party, the media would be giving value to all their political peccadilloes. Yes, “What does the tea party think?” has become a staple in American political discourse. And for what? They’re identical to Republicans. They have a public approval rating, according to some polls of 26 percent. And the tea party-led House suffers a historic low of around 13 percent (more people approve of salmonella).
Yet the tea party is given credence and credibility as a swell of a movement to give rich people and corporations more tax breaks. How is that populist, exactly? It’s a protest movement that just so happens to be suspiciously business-friendly. How, as they say in corporate-speak, synergistic.
This tea party now has a seat at the table of power. Their corporate sponsors must snicker every time they hear about the “tea party’s take” on whatever issue.
I was at an Occupy Wall Street solidarity demonstration over the weekend in Los Angeles. Around 3,000 people were there when I arrived. The first thing apparent is the crowd is young. These are not cantankerous retirees worried about the government getting involved in Medicare. No these are the children of the middle-class’ Lost Decade. These are kids whose American Dream has been eroding while the rich have gotten richer. These are the young people on Facebook and Twitter calling for an “American Autumn” to match the Arab Spring.
And the Arab Spring is a far better comparison for this group.
Like the Egypt and Tunisia uprisings, Occupy Wall Street are youths worried about their futures’ downgrade. It’s about the lack of prospects in the “land of opportunity.” Their battle cry: “We are the 99 percent and we are too big to fail.” They’ve succinctly stated their goal is “economic justice.” Pandering to the wealthy minority is the disease: Occupy Wall Street is a symptom.
What does economic justice mean? Maybe a better question is: How top-heavy can the wealth inequality get before something tumbles?
The hurdle for Occupy Wall Street is that it was not birthed on cable news. Cable news doesn’t own it so it can’t show it off like they have the tea party.
But the Arab Spring revolution wasn’t televised; it was re-tweeted.
Taking Eternal Vigiliance Too Far