“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”
— Saul Alinsky
OK, I get it. It’s a very funny joke. “Tea party” and “teabagging” both have the word “tea” in them — a witticism worthy of Oscar Wilde. Or at least worthy of our age’s eminent wit, CNN’s own Anderson Cooper. Maybe I’m the wrong guy to complain about this. After all, I made what little reputation I have by drinking while reading the news — and being more than a little dirty-minded about it all.
That said, the sexual innuendo isn’t — for once — what interests me. What is interesting is watching the teabagging meme take hold all across the left and even the mainstream media — and why it has.
Ridicule has long been a powerful propaganda tool. Ayn Rand noted just that in The Fountainhead, when villain Ellsworth Toohey explains that he would “Kill by laughter. … One doesn’t reverence with a giggle.” Professional rabble-rouser — er, “community organizer” — Saul Alinsky’s rule five was: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” And that’s exactly what we’re seeing on display all across the left side of the blogosphere and the MSM.
The Cooper gaffe linked above — if it was a gaffe — is only the most obvious example. Others abound. Teabagging snark aside, a common complaint is that the tea parties are little more than an astroturf creation of Fox News and PJTV. And yet the Wall Street Journal noted:
The movement grew so fast that some bloggers at the Playboy website — apparently unaware that we’ve entered the 21st century — suggested that some secret organization must be behind all of this. But, in fact, today’s technology means you don’t need an organization, secret or otherwise, to get organized. After considerable ridicule, the claim was withdrawn, but that hasn’t stopped other media outlets from echoing it.
Meanwhile, Fox News recorded near-record ratings simply by taking the tea party protesters seriously. Or at least at their word. Score one for fair, even if some people chose to quibble about the balance.
Then there’s excitable Andrew Sullivan, who wouldn’t count as mainstream anymore but for his unexplainable perch at The Atlantic magazine. Says Andy:
The alarm should be judged in relation to the seriousness of their proposals to confront it. And those, alas, are so far unserious. When the tea party movement offers a specific manifesto for bringing the country back to fiscal balance with no tax increases, I’ll take them seriously.
The conservative “conscience” might be expected to give the tea party protesters at least a little sympathy, but his use of “teabaggers” or its variants some 20 times in the last week shows his crocodile tears.
A common theme amongst the editorial hand-wringers was the supposed irony of Americans protesting high taxes on a day when 95% of us would be receiving a tax break. Unless, of course, you’re one of the 15-20% of adult Americans who smoke. Or maybe one of that tiny little percentage of Americans who use any electricity after Washington imposes a cap-and-trade system of energy taxation. Or if you own (or own stock in) a business facing $353 billion in increased taxes over the next ten years. Or if printing dollars by the trillions results in inflation and you happen to be an American who uses … money. But let’s not let a perfectly good meme get in the way of ridiculing taxpaying Americans.
And what does the left, or even the mainstream media, risk with their tactics? Nothing, really. Political discourse has become so coarse — and I’m more guilty than most of being a part of it — that juvenile teabagging gags (heh) don’t generate nearly as much bad press for the jokesters as they do for the, uh, silenced majority.
It’s the Alinsky way. Or as Ron Burgundy might say, “You stay classy, Anderson Cooper!”
* Full Disclosure: I’m like a total TV star at PJTV. Tune in Tuesdays for Hair of the Dog and Fridays for Week in Blogs and Sundays for Meet the Blogs. (Closed driver, professional course, do not attempt this kind of shameless self-promotion at home, fees and restrictions apply.)