Darren Pope of the Columbia Independent Examiner reports estimates of the turnout to Saturday’s tea party to have been as many as two million. That’s the largest I can recall, and I am old enough to remember all of the Vietnam protests. It was bigger than Woodstock. Some claim that Louis Farrakhan’s 1995 Million Man March attracted nearly two million, but according to Wikipedia‘s article about Farrakhan’s march, “organizers…were shocked when the United States Park Police officially estimated the crowd size at 400,000″. In any case, the size of this march was greater than or comparable to the most publicized public events in my 55 years.
But unlike Woodstock, which still receives considerable media coverage today; and unlike the Vietnam War demonstrations; and unlike the Million Man March, the sources to which some Americans still look for news attempted to minimize it and to spin the tea party participants as wrong doers and extremists. In contrast, Louis Farrakhan’s, the Merry Pranksters’ and the Students for a Democratic Society’s events are hallowed in the media’s view. They paint the SDS in a more favorable light than the everyday Americans who are concerned about this country’s socialistic direction.
For many participants, this was their first political action. The dissonance that they will experience from the media’s distortions will spur them to further action. Freedom-oriented Republicans need to seize this opportunity. Organizing new political clubs, becoming active in your community, talking about the bail out and the freedom philosophy are all ways to make ripples. Lots of ripples make waves and lots of waves make a tsunami. There are tremendous opportunities, and the RLC is well positioned.
Reason Magazine’s Jesse Walker has an excellent article in this month’s issue concerning the left’s and the media’s strategy of painting people who believe in freedom as extremists who are violent. Walker traces history going back to the days of Walter Reuther, who urged President Kennedy to use the FBI to attack conservatives, and quotes one of Richard Hofstadter’s articles about how accusations of extremism are often projections of one’s own tendencies. Socialism and social democracy are by definition ideologies that depend on violence. Hence, it is natural for social democrats to project and accuse those who disagree with them of violence. Socialism is a violent creed and projection is a common psychological pattern.
Accusing others of violence is an ancient tactic. In the late nineteenth century the labor movement was able to defeat more powerful opponents by showing that they had been victimized. Conversely, if labor could be made to look violent, management triumphed. Public opinion swayed in the direction of those who could paint themselves as victims. Much of “progressive” labor history involves discussion of how workers were victimized (see, for example, Irving Bernstein’s Lean Years about the 1920s or John R. Commons et al.’s four volume History of Labor in the United States written in the early twentieth century).
The same tactic is part of what William S. Lind and Thomas X. Hammes have called Fourth Generation Warfare. Fourth Generation Warfare includes (among other tactics) the manipulation of public opinion to immobilize your opponent. This idea is not new, although Lind and Hammes show that war has increasingly depended the Fourth Generation strategy. 2,500 years ago, Sun Tzu, a Chinese general, wrote that “the way” or appropriate ordering of society is essential to win a war.
If a political faction can be painted to be disruptive to order or what Sun Tzu called “the way” then it will lose. Walker shows that the Democratic Party and its media are making repeated efforts to paint libertarians, conservatives, and anyone who disagrees with the Democrats’ claim that we exist to serve the state as violent extremists.
The reality, of course, is that it is the Democratic Party and the media that are extreme and violent, and the tea party marchers who are moderate and non-violent. It is critical to keep this clear, not to let righteous indignation get the better of us and to disassociate from extremism.
Mitchell Langbert is associate professor of business at Brooklyn College. He can be visited at http://www.mitchell-langbert.blogspot.com.