James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘Tea Party movement’

Is the Tea Party racist?

Posted by James McPherson on July 23, 2010

“There is no racism in the Tea Party,” Rush Limbaugh says. “They don’t have racist signs.”

Just the fact that Rush says something would make most thinking people assume the opposite, and of course in this case he’s wrong again. I’ll paste a few of the obnoxious examples below.

But in one respect, it is wrong to say the Tea Party is racist, simply because there is no specific Tea Party (even if some of them now have their own lunatic queen in Congress). There are lots of different Tea Party groups, some loonier than others, who seem to be more offended by the actions of a black president than they were by the all-too-similar actions of the white president who proceeded him.

And there obviously are racists in the Tea Party movement, perhaps in bigger numbers than elsewhere in society. But racism won’t be the factor that makes the movement largely meaningless in the long run, other than affecting a few primaries (and thereby no doubt benefiting as man liberals as conservatives); their demise will result from a lack of cohesion or any significant goals beyond “waaah!” Take this example, from a USA Today story:

“I don’t really understand it, but I like what they stand for,” says Terry Rushing, 63, of Greensburg, La., who was among those surveyed. “They just support everything I’m looking for — lower taxes, less government. … All the good things, you know.”

No, we don’t know, any more than you do, Terry. But it probably doesn’t matter. Like the one-time media darlings of the pro-Hillary PUMAs, the tea partiers will fade away. Fox News will no doubt miss them, though five years from now probably most of us won’t remember them.

In the meantime, perhaps a few of them will go back to school and improve their spelling:


Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Insurrection, conspiracy theories and truth snippets

Posted by James McPherson on July 7, 2010

Today offers more evidence of why media literacy is so important in this country–and, sadly, why many people who rely on one-sided blogs for information are so politically ignorant.

Some blogs that appeal to right-wingers and conspiracy theorists, such as this one (also here, here, here, here and here) now offer YouTube “evidence” that Barack Obama had admitting he was “born in Kenya.” Watch it quickly, the reader is warned, “before it’s pulled.” (By socialist/communist government agents who monitor the Internet from mosques and black helicopters, no doubt.)

But if you go to the original posted video–and are capable of reading–you see a description from the person who posted it that starts out: “The video starts out with some content from obamasnippets.com, which, of course is contrived. And yet, there seems to be a synthetic truth about what the president says.”

Aside from the question of what is “synthetic” (and therefore by definition, fake) “truth,” the words clearly state that Obama’s “admission” is a creation of whomever created the video. And who is that?  Someone who states that his/her site is “not ‘political,'” not anti- or pro-Obama, and  “just for fun.” One of those who has done most to promote the video, on the other hand, getting more than 200,000 hits on it, does have a clear agenda, listing his favorite “news sources” as “Hannity’s America, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity Radio Show, Roger Hedgecock, Michael Reagan, Gordon Liddy, Sec. Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove…”

Ironically, he also states on the same page, “May the Glory of God be revealed so Truth can prevail.” Perhaps God might have an easier time revealing truth if there weren’t so many supposed Christians working so hard to distort it.

Another conspiracy site unintentionally (I hope) further illustrates the silliness of the whole argument and the futility in trying to convince conspiracy theorists of anything when it states: “Was Obama born in Kenya or America? Kenya….But we will never know the truth!”

Go ahead, read that last quote again. Yep, that’s what it says: “We’ll never know the truth, but here’s the truth.”

One thing many of the conspiracy sites have in common is that they often warn against the “lies” of the mainstream media. One of those linked above also reminds us why there may be good reason to fear some of the Tea Party crowd–or at least there might be if they had the numbers, youth and courage to back up their inane words. One commenter writes:

Someday American’s will realize there are only two options left if the desire for a sane government is the objective.
Number one would be to de-legitimize DC and reform independent States, with State owned Banks, which negates the power of the federal Banksters, and provides a method of political segregation so we would not have people like [a previous commenter] for neighbors.
Number two is civil war! Take your pick.

Insurrection, anyone? Or instead, how about just doing a bit of reading from a history book, a copy of the Constitution, or Snopes.com?

Posted in History, Journalism, Media literacy, Politics, Religion, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , | 38 Comments »

I’ll take the vote Tea Partiers don’t want

Posted by James McPherson on June 1, 2010

One thing that some Tea Party folks and I have in common: Apparently neither of us wants them voting for my U.S. senators.

The difference is, unlike some Tea Party Mad Hatters and conservative elitists such as George Will, I’m not willing to give up the right to vote for the Senate candidate of my choice, while bringing back the increased corruption that spawned the 17th Amendment in the first place.

As the New York Times suggests, imagine a thousands of Rob Blogojevich-wannabe-power brokers, and the return of “the old-fashioned American political machine–a condition voters in the Internet age would tolerate for about 10 minutes, maybe less.” (And remember, one of the most common complaints about Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel is their reliance on machine-style politics.)

The argument is that repeal of the 17th Amendment would give power back to states (perhaps by giving increased power to the 10th Amendment). The problem is that it would do so through state legislatures put in office by even fewer people than vote in Senate elections. A general rule of thumb: The smaller the election (and therefore the greater the chance that any individual vote will actually matter), the smaller the percentage of the electorate that will turn out.

State legislators probably are no better today than those chronicled by David Graham Phillips in 1906. I’ll keep my wimpy little vote and the illusion that it matters, thank you. Still, I don’t mind those Tea Partiers causing problems for Republicans, especially since the repeal movement–like the Tea Party movement in general–is likely to fizzle into distant memory in fairly short order.

Posted in History, Journalism, Legal issues, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

It’s only money: Another reminder of how little your voice matters

Posted by James McPherson on January 25, 2010

CNN reports that about $600 million–“enough to pay the annual insurance tab for $45,000 families”–has been spent on lobbying, advertising and campaign contributions to try to influence the health care debate. It has become the single most expensive legislative issue ever.

And as I noted the other day, the Supreme Court has guaranteed that things will get worse in terms of you having a voice. It almost enough to make you want to cheer for the Tea Party crowd, if they had a clue about where their money really goes, or which parts of society system are the most screwed up.

Also on the money front, Barack Obama apparently will call for a freeze on “non-security federal discretionary spending.” And Fox News reports that no-bid contracts for friends of the administration, the norm under George W. Bush, apparently continue under the Obama administration.

It’s a worthwhile story, and would be more so if Fox hadn’t predictably downplayed the Bush/Cheney contracts–citing dollar figures for such contracts under Bill Clinton and Obama but simply stating about the Bush Leaguers, “The OMB Watch figures show that the practice appears to have accelerated sharply during the Bush administration, but the figures are not adjusted for inflation.” Uh, guys–what were those figures?

Posted in Journalism, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Predictably ‘shocking’ Brown win makes Dems blue, but election’s meaning far from black & white

Posted by James McPherson on January 20, 2010

“In a stunning upset that reshaped the U.S. political landscape…” “… an upset victory of epic proportions…” “… one of the biggest political upsets in modern history…” Yeah, sure. Yawn.

Reactions from both sides of the political aisle after yesterday’s Massachusetts election were as predictable as they were meaningless. Lots of celebrating on one side, much gnashing of teeth on the other. Many on both sides predict/hope/fear that Congressional health care reform may be dead. (Though he also overstates the “stunning upset” angle, Chris Cillizza offers a good review of winners and losers.)

Maybe with an electorate as uninvolved as ours (and no, religiously watching Fox News or MSNBC, an activity likely to make voters stupider rather than politically smarter, doesn’t count as political involvement), we deserve to have such an abysmal health care system. Besides, it appeared that any health care plan coming out of Congress was going to do far more for insurance companies than for most Americans with poor health care.

Still, I hope the surprise voiced by so many “experts” in politics and the media over Brown’s victory is posturing on their part, and that they’re not really dumb enough to be shocked. If they are, it again raised the question of why they’re considered “experts.” In fact, Brown’s victory over Martha Coakley falls short of shocking for several reasons:

  • Though he’s a conservative in a blue state, Brown comes across as someone personally far more like Barack Obama than Dick Cheney, and he downplayed his Republican ties while raising funds in Obama-like fashion. While he may think like Sarah Palin and the Tea Party crowd (and gladly takes their money), he doesn’t say it out loud. He’ll probably end up as a moderate (and definitely not a “family values” icon), just to guarantee his future electability.
  • Coakley ran the worst campaign of anyone since, well, John McCain. She didn’t much seem to want the position.
  • Massachusetts isn’t as blue as some people keep pretending. Yes, Ted Kennedy was a god there–but then the same is true to a lesser extent of almost all longterm incumbents who bring lots of pork and attention to their home states. But keep in mind, this is the same state that elected Mitt Romney–perhaps the most credible 2012 GOP presidential candidate–as its governor.
  • The party in power typically loses midterm elections. And even though it came earlier than most, this was a midterm election. Incidentally, Brown will have to run again in 2012, when the turnout (because it’s a presidential election year) will be much higher.
  • The 60-vote Democratic majority in the Senate was a freak event–and, considering the conservatism of many of those Dems, largely meaningless except as a further example of how stupidly undemocratic the U.S. Senate is. By the way, even if they should win a majority in 2010 (my prediction: they won’t), those conservatives who think they’ll achieve any major legislative goals under the current system are delusional. The system works only for those who exemplify the “party of no.”
  • Finally, the result is unsurprising because American politics in general (including the politics of Barack Obama) are so conservative. But then I’ve devoted much of a book to that issue.

Posted in History, Journalism, Personal, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Subjects of history and economics too taxing for tea party organizers

Posted by James McPherson on April 15, 2009

age-of-reason2Conservatives are waging “tea parties” today to protest Barack Obama’s economic policies. Protests are scheduled around the country for those who want to complain visibly about their taxes–or at least those few people who aren’t at work during the day and who aren’t frantically spending their day trying to actually file their taxes by midnight tonight.

Though of course I’m happy to see political protests–and to see them covered by the news media–to call today’s protests a “grassroots movement” is somewhat silly. After all, Fox News has been promoting them for weeks. Like other conservative organizations, Fox uses the “movement” to suggest that their side is “catching up” with liberals in their use of technology. And always mindful of the benefits of fear-mongering paranoia, Fox also warns of a potential “liberal backlash,” leading one story with this: “What would a party be without party poopers?” The story manages to get fictional ACORN threat in by the third paragraph. There’s “fair and balanced” for you.

Other ironies surrounding the event stem from the fact that conservatives typically benefit more from taxes than do liberals, the fact that untold numbers of today’s protests (including the one in my city) will be held at facilities paid for through taxes, and the fact that many of those who complain the loudest actually pay relatively little while many of those who pay the highest rates view doing so as patriotic. And speaking of patriots, journalist/blogger Jeremy Styron (who is not opposed to tweaking Fox News, himself) is among those who has pointed out the historical ignorance of many modern conservatives who keep using Thomas Paine as a model.

Paine believed that everyone had a right to free land (“socialism”?), and tended to be anti-religious. He also believed in a large inheritance taxes (what modern conservatives have managed to denegrate as “the death tax”), because he didn’t believe in royalty or pseudo-royalty like that created by unearned, handed-down wealth. Paine also favored various kinds of so-called “welfare,” including (but not limited to) public works, maternity benefits, free public elementary education, old-age pensions, and aid to poor people.

Speaking of conservatives who happen to be ignorant, Glenn Beck has even apparently turned his understanding of Paine into a stand-up comedy act. Beck calls himself a “poor-man’s Seinfeld,” which is pretty funny in itself considering he makes $10 million per year on his radio program alone–not counting his Fox salary. I’ve actually recognized that Beck was hilarious for some time, though I didn’t realize he was in on the joke. Unfortunately, neither do most of the people in his audience.

Beck and other conservatives who insist on referencing Paine should at least consult The Age of Reason. And maybe an online dictionary, so they’ll understand why so many other people have trouble keeping a straight face when they hear conservatives repeatedly using the phrase “tea bagging.”

Posted in History, Journalism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Foreign worm and snakes slither through Web

Posted by James McPherson on April 9, 2009

Apparently the Conficker worm has “woken up” and done something. We’re not sure what, or if it matters, but once we identify and start following a scary threat or trend–however inconsequential it may be–we have to stay on its slimy trail. Unless it’s Osama bin Laden, of course.

And speaking of bin Laden and similar snakes, the Washington Post reports today that Taliban extremists are getting out their message via American Web hosts–including one in George W. Bush’s one-time hometown of Houston (while “serving” in the Air National Guard). Considering how much the Bush administration did to promote worldwide terrorism, I suppose that’s appropriate, in a twisted down-the-rabbit-hole (or snake hole) sort of way.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »