If You Love The Tea Party . . .

I know that many, if not most, of my readers are more conservative than I am on matters of public policy; a few might even identify themselves as Tea Party members. And while I find both the Tea Party ideals and the tidal wave of uncritical coverage they’ve received from the news media lamentable — she said, putting it mildly — two recent articles on the movement are well worth your time to read.

I am not — and this is undoubtedly a real revelation to most of you — a regular reader of either Rolling Stone or Vanity Fair. I’m not cool enough for Rolling Stone and not rich or elite enough for Vanity Fair; the vulgarity of the former and the vacuousness of the latter are a bit off-putting, and so my magazine dollars go to High Country News, Mother Jones, The Progressive Populist and Christians For Biblical Equality’s two publications, Mutuality and the academic quarterly, The Priscilla Papers. (Alas, neither of them have fragrance samples tumbling out upon
opening …).

But this month brought two excellent, penetrating, and insightful pieces that every American ought to read. Journalist Matt Taibbi’s analysis of the Tea Party in Rolling Stone is worth the cost of a ten-year subscription; he highlights the intellectual and moral paucity of a movement that consists of people in Medicare-paid scooters screaming about the long arm of government spending and interference in their lives. It’s probably just a coincidence that the Vanity Fair story on Sarah Palin appeared right at Halloween — it’s a chilling, bracing account of Palin’s conduct, ascendancy to power, and apparent need to cast herself as a modern-day Biblical Esther, a prophet bravely confronting the latter-day Persian and Median debauchery flooding our nation.

Both articles are examples of solid investigative journalism. That Taibbi’s reveals a bias is less the fault of the reporter than the information and people he uncovers, and while his analysis wouldn’t be appropriate in a news story, it is entirely spot-on journalism, the kind of work that makes it easy for discerning readers to grasp the difference between true journalism and the clumsy, ill-informed, and often malicious “citizen journalism” that evades, by its very nature, the accountability rightly demanded from real journalists. As a third-generation print journalist, I’ve worked as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and magazines; my grandfather, dad, and I were held to rigid expectations of accuracy and attribution, ethics and execution, that “citizen journalists” aren’t. Freedom of the press allows them to flourish, as it should, but confusing their work with classic, professional journalism is a bit like comparing Vienna Sausages to a filet mignon.

I think Palin is the most dangerous woman in the United States, and I think the Tea Party is a tremendously destructive force that’s had a contaminating effect on culture, politics, and the Christian faith it purports to represent. My readers probably disagree. But I hope the two articles receive the serious attention they deserve — not just as examples of solid reporting, but as lighthouses that illumine the jagged, harsh, and unforgiving rocks of a movement that already has caused the shipwreck of integrity and decency in politics and, as it gains momentum, will imperil every American from sea to shining sea.

Yeah, it makes me angry — four metaphors’ worth, apparently!

One Response to “If You Love The Tea Party . . .”

  1. Ashwin says:

    Your readers do disagree. The Tea Party seems to be a bunch of unsophisticated people speaking their minds. There is plenty of scope for knaves to twist their words to make traps for fools.

    As Cardinal Richelieu said “Give me twenty lines written by the most honest man and I will find something in there to hang him for.”

    That is what seems to be happening to the Tea Party. Perhaps this is also happening to Ms. Palin.

    Trouble is, you are not in a position to say otherwise – you have decided to play the partisan. Your have made it clear that your opinions are biased – “My Party, right or wrong.”

    Wish you would cut it out. But then beggars would ride …

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