Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Rules of Protest

In remembering the Million Man March, the Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates whacks the Tea Party movement hard:
I hear GOP folks and Tea Partiers bemoaning the fact that media and Democrats are using the extremes of their movement for ratings and to score points. This is like Drew Brees complaining that Dwight Freeney keeps trying to sack him. If that were Martin Luther King's response to media coverage, the South might still be segregated. I exaggerate, but my point is that the whining reflects a basic misunderstanding of the rules of protest. When you lead a protest you lead it, you own it, and your opponents, and the media, will hold you responsible for whatever happens in the course of that protest. This isn't left-wing bias, it's the nature of the threat.
One commenter in the comment thread below the piece asks if there's ever been a Tea Party protest that didn't include signs that were either racist or violent. I have never seen one televised event that didn't eventually find some nutjob with a badly worded, misspelled sign that call Obama a racial epithet or hinted that the people of the movement were well-armed and prepared. And now, in the wake of the Health Care Reform vote, we see images and read stories about broken windows at local congressional offices, cut propane lines at the house of one congressman's brother (mistakenly thought to be the congressman's house), gunfire through office windows, people spitting on congressmen as they walk past, or just plain calling them vile racial epithets to their faces.

However, what Coates fails to point out in his piece is that this "movement" claims not to have a leader. Individual events may have organizers, but they are trying to call themselves a "grass-roots" movement without a real leader. So, with no leader, there's nobody to advocate a central vision, no one to preach non-violence the way MLK or Gandhi did. Of course, it's bullshit that there's no leader to this movement, and we all know that Dick Armey is the leader, and we all know what kind of batshit crazy asshole he is, and we all know that as a lobbyist he lobbied for organizations considered terrorist by the US State Department, don't we? But you haven't heard him or anyone else associated with the Tea Party movement denounce violence until this past week, when -- I wonder why -- the media ran stories about the violent and racist episodes perpetrated by Tea Partiers during and after the HCR vote, including this wonderful ditty from the Queen of Batshit Crazy, Sarah Palin.

No comments: