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The Onion, or the Post? ‘One Nation’ Article an Exercise in Parody

A Washington Post article describing the latest progressive response to the tea party movement may be the most unintentionally hysterical reporting of the year.

by
John Rosenberg

Bio

July 13, 2010 - 12:00 am

On July 12, the Washington Post ran an unintentionally humorous article from staff writer Krissah Thompson about an unintentionally humorous organization, “One Nation,” a new coalition of liberal groups designed to combat the tea party movement. They are not to be confused with One Nation, about Islam in America; or One Nation, a far right Australian nationalist splinter party; or One Nation, a California initiative to end bilingual education; or One Nation, a free newspaper in the twin cities; or One Nation, an Internet Gospel FM radio station; or One Nation, who describe themselves with the following:

More than 300,000 American citizens who have joined together to defend our private property rights, protect the free enterprise system, and reform seriously flawed federal Indian policy for the benefit of Indians and non-Indians alike.

I could go on but you get the idea, and maybe you should be confused, at least until the new “One Nation” gets an address and starts posting information about itself. Even its friends are confused, such as the writer of this post on the left-wing blog Firedoglake, who has “questions”:

One question I have is to what extent the new One Nation coalition will go beyond the “usual suspects,” (e.g., labor unions, immigrants’ rights groups, and existing community organizations) to reach a broader constituency (like people who spend too much time on FDL, or volunteered for Obama but have since disengaged).

Does anyone out there know which other organizations are among the 170 groups referenced by the Post? Do any of you out there belong to one of these 170 groups and have the ability to share more information?

The second set of questions are about how One Nation will be structured. Can anyone join, either as an individual or an organization? If so, how will they be represented among the coalition’s leadership? Will they have a vote on goals and strategies? Will they be able to debate those priorities before taking a vote? Will they elect delegates to represent them on the coalition board? Will the process for making decisions be decentralized to involve many local groups or tightly controlled by a centralized leadership structure?

If One Nation turns into another top-down exercise in which a few self-selected leaders issue marching orders, I don’t see how it differs that much from MoveOn, Organizing for America, Democracy for America, the Coffee Party, Health Care for America Now, or Progressive Democrats of America. What will motivate new groups of people to organize and recruit in their communities and to participate in the coalition, if they have no voice in the decision-making process?

Finally, does One Nation have an address (i.e., a representative who can be contacted)? The Post article (and posts on a number of right-wing blogs that are much more obsessed than their left-wing counterparts with how progressives are organizing) is all that comes up in a Google search. It would be great to know who can answer questions about the new coalition, since this effort should be of significant interest to progressive netroots activists and others who may want to be involved.

Good questions all, but they too don’t get the joke — not surprising, since “progressive netroots activists,” like the mainstream press reporters they so often resemble, are also not known for their sense of humor.

Rather than explain why I say that both the Washington Post article and its subject are unintentionally humorous, let me instead try to show you by writing a brief parody. Ahem:

Progressives hope ‘One Nation’ coalition can recapture grass-roots fervor

In an effort to replicate the tea party’s success, 170 liberal and civil rights groups are forming a coalition that they hope will match the movement’s political energy and influence. They promise to “counter the tea party narrative” and help the progressive movement find its voice again after 18 months of foundering.

The groups involved represent the core of the first-time voters who backed Obama, including the National Council of La Raza, the Service Employees International Union, the NAACP, the AFL-CIO, and the United States Student Association.

Leaders of the groups have been meeting for about three months in a planning process that some participants called arduous, debating everything from the name of the coalition to what the branding and logo should look like.

In forming the coalition, the groups struggled to settle on a name. Even now, two of the major players disagree about who came up with the idea of holding a march this fall.

Despite the friction among liberal groups, the effort behind One Nation was born of a certain necessity. Indeed, a promised overhaul of immigration law is virtually dead this year. Legislation that labor unions say would make it easier for them to grow their membership is stalled in Congress. The jobless rate is 15.4 percent for blacks and 12.4 percent for Hispanics, compared with 8.6 percent for whites.

The coalition’s first goal is to plan a march to “demonstrate to Congress that these agenda items have support across multiple demographics,” NAACP president Benjamin Jealous said. “This is a way to create some intensity,” said Eric Rodriguez, vice president of the National Council of La Raza. “Month after month, we spend time pointing to these employment figures, and we’re still not breaking through on the disparities in a way that we think is important.”

At their national conventions this week, NAACP and La Raza leaders will talk to their members about “One Nation,” and they are seeking money from foundations for the effort.

Kidding! I could never come up with something that amusing. The above, from the title to the last word, is not a parody at all but direct quotes, some rearranged, from the Washington Post article. It requires a writer with far greater talents than mine to parody an article that reports with a straight face, without a hint of irony, the birth of an organization

  • that attempts to “imitate” an eruption of grassroots activism by convening months of meetings with leaders of groups;
  • that after months of inter-group wrangling, comes up with the umbrella of “One Nation” to cover a bickering coalition of racial, ethnic, gender, and other special interest groups;
  • whose member groups typically are more agitated by the “disparities” of racially and ethnically unequal unemployment than by unemployment itself;
  • whose leaders can discuss what they mean by “One Nation” only by claiming to have support “across multiple demographics”;
  • is an ostensible grass roots organization that can pay for itself only by “seeking money from foundations.”

“One Nation,“ not only divisible, but risible. You can’t make this stuff up, but at least you can laugh at it … unless you’re a Washington Post reporter.

John Rosenberg blogs at Discriminations.
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