Many a partisan and pundit-provocateur has spent the last year trying to convince us that the tea parties consist of violent extremists. The multi-front attack has come from the media, Hollywood, and the current White House.
At the genesis of the movement, David Axelrod couched criticism of the Obama agenda as “unhealthy” on national television. Last April, the infamous “right-wing extremism” report released the week before the tax day tea parties by the Department of Homeland Security. The report referenced “disgruntled veterans” and lumped those that believed in states’ rights in with white supremacists and militia members. It was an embarrassment to the Department of Homeland Security and the administration. Public apologies to veterans and regrets regarding the extremely broad language were issued.
A while back, “Law and Order” ran a ridiculous episode where a lawyer declared that Rush, Beck, and O’Reilly drive people to commit violent hate crimes. Before that, there was an episode referencing a tea party in the context of discussing extremists. In February of this year, Marvel Comics issued an apology after a comic implicitly painted tea parties in a racist, violent light.
Countless guests have appeared on Keith Olbermann’s show to dissect the tea party movement psyche. Most notable was budding amateur psychologist Janeane Garofalo who erroneously dismissed tea partiers as intellectually deficient violent racists. More recently a guest on The Rachel Maddow Show, talking about the recent Midwest militia arrests, conflated the tea party movement and right-wing militant extremists and implied that the nation is somehow in danger of the tea party splintering into militia terror cells.
In recent days, the violence claim has been invoked in conjunction with the equally baseless racism claim to discredit those that oppose ObamaCare. Yet, as John Steele recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal in a piece entitled “As Peaceful as a Tea Party,” “the only person arrested in recent days for threatening violence against a politician was held for threatening Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House.” Last week, news broke that a man was arrested after threatening the life of Representative Eric Cantor and his family. The suspect, Norman Leboon, is an anti-Semite and an Obama donor.
As Mr. Steele accurately points out, the tea parties aren’t immune to odd sign bearers:
“To be sure, tea partiers have carried signs saying such things as “If [newly elected Massachusetts Senator Scott] Brown can’t do it, a Browning can,” referring to the American firearms manufacturer. But how do those differ from the signs regularly seen–if seldom reported on by the mainstream media–during the previous administration calling for President Bush to be tried for war crimes and shot as a traitor?”
They don’t. The only difference is, these kooks wandered into a tea party and not a Code Pink rally, so they got an abnormal share of the spotlight from the leftist media.
Such messages are rare at tea parties and an inherent hazard of hosting an event in a public arena for both the left and the right. It would hardly be fair to extrapolate from the Cantor threat that all Obama supporters are violent anti-Semites taking marching orders from the propagandists on MSNBC. Yet such perverse logic is invoked to form the shoddy foundation of the left’s constant tea party attacks. One odd sign somehow translates into a movement-wide sentiment linked to orders from Fox News. Worse, these attacks typically don’t even invoke an actual incident or individual to reach the perpetrators’ unreasonable generalization. Claims of racism and violence arise regularly with virtually zero supporting evidence.
In fact, from the St. Louis SEIU racist beating of tea party participant Keith Gladney to the recent Nevada bus attack and threats against Andrew Breitbart, the tea party opposition has perpetrated every instance of actual violence at tea parties over the past year. Yet, time and time again, politicians intimate and media hacks declare that the tea partiers are the violent fringe. It is simply stunning.
It is often said that the best way to lead is by example. Hatred and violence have no place in political discourse or civil society as a whole. That’s why they have no place in the mainstream, non-violent grassroots movement exhibited in the tea parties. Period. As tax day tea parties kick off this month, let’s hope that the tea party opposition comes around to the same way of thinking.