The Mainstream media and Tea Party movement: match made in hell

The Tea Party movement launched in 2009 in response to the unparalleled expansion of the federal government under the leadership of President Obama and congressional ‘progressives’. The protests were originally designed as a response to the massive increase in spending, along with unprecedented bailouts, both of which have created fiscal burdens capable of crippling our economy for future generations of taxpayers.

    Within a relatively short period, the movement has shown to be a formidable political power. The force of the movement, at a grassroots level, put liberals on the edge of their chairs and almost succeeded in devastating the progressive agenda in spite of the overwhelming congressional majorities. Further, Tea Party activists and groups have proved themselves decisive in a series of electoral defeats for liberals, among them Scott Brown’s victory in the special election to succeed Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate.

    The allegedly ‘objective’ mainstream media covered one of the biggest political stories in recent years with a powerful and quite noticeable double standard by highlighting poor behavior by extreme and atypical members in the various rallies, all the while ignoring such behavior by left-wing protesters.

      This, just after Fox News became the first network to actually air clips of anti-war protesters burning an American flag and hurling epithets about the CIA and the war on terrorism at local police in Washington D.C. Author Laura Ingraham expressed her feelings regarding the mainstream media’s apparent refusal to portray anything left-wing in a negative light; “you’ve got to search for the coverage of that. I mean, you have to hunt, with those little metal detectors, to find that coverage anywhere.”

       Mirroring this sentiment later that month, Bernie Goldberg talked about reports of tea-partiers displaying questionable material on signs; “Whether there are nasty signs or these alleged shouting of racial slurs, which I am convinced at this point never happened, this fits into the narrative of most mainstream news reporters, that the Tea Party people are not too smart, they’re bigots. So when you see a nasty sign, they report it as if it were typical, certainly not unusual.”

    All of this coming on the heels of several incidents of reporters and journalists falling victim to accusations of purposely manipulating the ‘message’ for their viewers. In April 2010, CNN correspondent Susan Roesgen attended a Tea Party rally in Chicago and interrupted one protestor by asking “Why are you here today?”
     The man started to respond saying, “Because I hear a president say that he believed in what Lincoln stood for. Lincoln’s primary thing was he believed people had the right to liberty and they had the right…”
     but Roesgen cut him off, shouting, “But sir, what does that have to do with taxes? What does this have to do with your taxes?” She continued asking questions over him as he asked her to “let me finish my point.”
       Roesgen then quickly moved away to face the camera and shouted “you get the general tenor of this,” tea party – “Anti-government, anti-CNN since this is highly promoted by the right-wing conservative network Fox and since I can’t really hear much more and I think this is not really family viewing.”

       Some commentators have even asserted that there is an elitism factor at play and that the New York-Washington D.C. media corridor loves credentials like Masters Degrees from Yale or Doctorates from Columbia and that such documentation is necessary for a certain level of credibility. However, for those who went to Community College in rural Florida than you are inferior in the eyes of the high-brow mainstream media.  Vast numbers of the Tea Party movement’s members are average, ordinary Americans and the mainstream media has a tendency to judge people in negative lights who fit that description.

          Analysts at the Media research center, “America’s Media Watchdog,” have painstakingly reviewed every mention of the Tea Party on the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening newscasts, talk shows, and ABC’s Nightline from February 19, 2009, when CNBC contributor Rick Santelli first suggested throwing a “Tea Party” to protest government takeovers through March 31, 2010. Among the major findings in their report were that there was little coverage at first with ABC, CBS and NBC airing a mere 61 stories or segments about the Tea party over a 12-month period despite the movement’s demonstrated political force.  Further, that the networks virtually refused to recognize the Tea Party in 2009 (just 19 stories) with coverage increasing only after Scott Brown’s election in Massachusetts.

           Adding to this, the study revealed that there was no Comparison to Liberal Protests.  The Nation of Islam’s “Million Man March” in 1995 was featured in 21 evening news stories on the night it took place  – more than the Tea Party received in all of the year 2009 combined. The anti-gun “Million Mom March” in 2000 boasted 41 broadcast network reports spreading its message with 12 positive pre-march interviews with organizers and participants.

      MRC president Brent Bozell has concluded that the obvious negative treatment of the Tea Party movement and its participants is a striking example of a media double standard. In place of objectivity, the mainstream networks have failed to document the rise and impact of this important grassroots movement, the news networks instead chose to first ignore, and then manipulate, then blame Fox News for having the audacity to give the activists a fair share of time on air and report about the citizen army mobilizing against unpopular policies of a liberal President and Congress.

        – Christian Bentzen

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