When Protests Matter: "The Vocal Minority"

While the Dem blogs are intent on dismissing the Tea Party/Health Care protests as astro-turfing, I think the more interesting question is why the Media thinks these protests matter as opposed to say, the hundreds of thousands who protested the Iraq War? Indeed, as late as September 2007, the Washington Post was referring to war protesters as "the vocal minority."

Of course by 2007, opponents of the war were clearly the majority in the country. The 2006 election was proof of that. So how come a few dozen protesters (astro-turf or not) at selected town halls held by Congresspersons around the country is supposed to mean anything at all?

Proving yet again that Media's problem is not mainly bias, but rather the problem is its incompetence.

Speaking for me only

< Bill Clinton in N. Korea to Negotiate for Jailed Journalists | Sotomayor Nomination Senate Floor Debate And Vote >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    These protests matter to the media... (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by kdog on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 07:55:30 AM EST
    because the protestors look like Ozzie and Harriet....the Iraq war protests were just a bunch of dirty hippies, far lefties, and anarchists as far as the media is concerned...seeing them on tv might upset Ozzie and Harriet.

    Has Obama lost the momentum on Health? (5.00 / 0) (#2)
    by Saul on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 07:57:48 AM EST
    I feel Obama should have defined his program rather than having Congress define it for him.  

    If I was Obama I would go on prime time on  all the major stations and explain specifically what the propose bill will do and to show how many of the GOP ads are so distorted and are based on fear mongering.

    Bad news travel fast and if he does not get on top of this quick he might have lost the momentum so I would not sell the teabaggers short.  

    The problem with Obama telling America (5.00 / 0) (#12)
    by Anne on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:36:55 AM EST
    what is in the bill is that there is a House bill and a Senate bill, and they have not been to conference for reconciliation, so...how would Obama explain anything?

    What Obama should have done is have his own plan; if nothing else it would have told the American people what elements of reform he was committed to, and given the Democrats in Congress something to come together around.  Instead, we're in a situation where the Blue Dogs had the opportunity to suck all the oxygen out of the room and control the agenda, and Obama's spent too much time "not ruling out" a variety of ideas and options that are in opposition to each other, to the point where no one really knows what it is he believes in or expects the Congress to produce.

    Obama always seems to believe in the impossible, is passionate about the impossible, right up until conditions are such that something actually is possible, and then...he backs off  Or he lets go of the most important parts of an issue, until whatever victory might be attained is a hollow one.

    As for the protests, those organizing them have figured out that going local will have more impact than national demonstrations; every local media outlet will cover their respective members of Congress interacting with their constituents.  The overall impression, in city after city, will be one of overwhelming opposition to the Democratic plan for reform.

    Local media is no better than national media in terms of understanding the arguments and explaining what's at stake, but that's okay with the protesters, because they're not looking for the media to explain anything - the optics alone will say a lot, and chances are that local interviews of protesters will be conducted such that the protesters get to explain the issues - their way - and the media - as usual - will just let it stand with no pushback.


    A different question (none / 0) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:06:06 AM EST
    than the one I write about in this post.

    it sure (none / 0) (#16)
    by Capt Howdy on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:45:35 AM EST
    seems that way
    as far as the "protesters" its pretty clear that most of these people are being bussed around by Dick Armys group, no?

    In this case I think it IS a matter of bias (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by ruffian on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:00:36 AM EST
    though of course the baseline incompetence colors everything. Protesters that reflect the opinion of the media  (health care reform = scary, too complicated, socialist) get assigned outsize importance.

    An example of media incompetence (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by ruffian on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:06:31 AM EST
    Last week I posted about a story in the Sentinel (I think via the AP) that reported that Mitch McConnell had contacted the NRA and told them to 'score' the Sotomayor vote, meaning use it in their ratings of Senators. The NRA obliged, and this was reported as an unusual event,when the NRA took their marching orders from the politician.  Now this morning there is a story from the Tribune news service reporting that the Republicans are voting against Sotomayor to please the NRA.

    Well played, McConnell, with the help of the incompetent media that can't follow the thread of a story.

    It is "bias". (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Samuel on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:33:58 AM EST
    The media didn't fall out of a tree.  If it's filled with incompetent people it may be the case the the owners, who themselves have interests which may not align with you or I, saw it to their advantage to do so.  

    Let's be fair here (none / 0) (#40)
    by ChiTownMike on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:50:29 AM EST
    Bias also runs rampant on blogs including this one. Week after week I see blogs ignoring all sides of a story, a sin they criticize the media for.

    Gates was the latest example with people just making up things out of thin air to the point that it became truth in many peoples minds.

    So I wouldn't be so quick to cast stones at the media when the bias on blogs is just as bad.


    Sure. (none / 0) (#43)
    by Samuel on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:58:56 AM EST
    I was criticizing the original poster's analysis that the story proved the concept of the "media" as an incompetent entity rather than the result of a series of decisions made by a handful of owners for a desired end.  

    My apologies (none / 0) (#47)
    by ChiTownMike on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 10:17:04 AM EST
    I was not posting about your thoughts specifically but rather making a generic statement on the bias of blogs in general.

    For blogs to criticize the MSM for bias without examining their own bias is myopic.


    Apples and oranges (none / 0) (#53)
    by Lora on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:33:25 PM EST
    While it's healthy for blogs to examine their own bias from time to time, blogs don't pretend to be unbiased.  The Mouth Piece Media does.  They deserve to be criticized for their bias.  Yes, bias.  Nobody's THAT stupid all the time.

    Good post (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:04:54 AM EST
    but I would disagree that the media is acting incompetently.  These news folks are doing exactly what they are being paid to do, "catapult the propaganda."  The Right pays for these protestors and pays for the coverage they receive.

    Corrupt beyond even one's most cynical view of journalism, yes.  Incompetent, no.

    Silly (none / 0) (#44)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 10:00:02 AM EST
    If only it were that simple.  The dysfunction of our news media culture is far more complicated and far more difficult to do anything about.

    The Media Is/Are Not Incompetent! (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by tokin librul on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:13:11 AM EST
    Please, friends!

    Just as it always was a mistake to judge the Busheviks as incompetents as they were succeeding with every aspect of their agenda. The only significant item at which the Busheviks failed was privatizing SS. They got everything else--everything--that they wanted: war, tax reduction, enviro obstuctionism, huge profits for the financial industry, reducing civil rights, undermining the Constitution, installing (tacit) martial law. What did they NOT accomplish that they set out to do?

    Neither are the media incompetent. They are following their orders from their corporat owners. The things that are ocurring in the (soi-disant) "Press" are exactly what the media's owners WANT to happen.

    exactly right (none / 0) (#31)
    by Capt Howdy on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:26:27 AM EST
    idiots yes, evil very likely, incompetent no.

    I think it's ideological (none / 0) (#6)
    by lilburro on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:17:28 AM EST
    I don't see how it can be anything but ideology.  Why isn't Code Pink discussed on the TV all the time then?  They have fun outfits and all sorts of stuff going for them.  They protest members of Congress all the time.

    I don't think the fun outfits (none / 0) (#8)
    by ruffian on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:25:31 AM EST
    are helping. Just gives the media an excuse to dismiss them.

    Well (none / 0) (#14)
    by lilburro on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:40:34 AM EST
    nothing's goofier than calling yourself a "teabagger."

    But they don't (none / 0) (#19)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:00:21 AM EST
    call themselves "teabaggers." Rachel Maddow made that up so she could snicker about it.  It's very much what BTD is talking about, since she's a pretty good MSM version of the blogs.

    They call themselves "tea partiers."


    I don't recall... (5.00 / 0) (#36)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:40:08 AM EST
    ...RM running around with signs that read "Teabag the liberals" and similar nonsense at the "Tea Parties".  They self-identified themselves.  Very little self-awareness on their part.  

    The TV people and bloggers just ran with that.  Low hanging fruit and all that.


    I hate this whole movement (none / 0) (#23)
    by CST on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:07:59 AM EST
    The people involved clearly do not understand history or what the "tea party" was about.  Although - considering "taxation without representation" was more of an excuse than a reason - maybe some of the Glenn Beck types do know what they are doing - trying to overthrow the gov't.

    I can't hate 'em... (none / 0) (#28)
    by kdog on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:19:29 AM EST
    I can't hate on free people demonstrating and being heard, even if it ain't my scene or my fight, even if they ain't too bright.

    Sh*t I'd got to a tea-party if they drew more of my kinda crowd...make it a tea party in the jazz-era definition of tea and I'm there baby:)...I ain't down with a ton of government actions and spending.


    Agreed (5.00 / 0) (#30)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:22:42 AM EST
    in the sense that I applaud anyone willing to fight for what they believe in.

    that said, I can dislike what they are fighting for and the way they are fighting for it.


    they can protest (none / 0) (#33)
    by CST on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:31:19 AM EST
    taxes all they want.  I just wish they didn't hi-jack the name without knowing what it was about.

    It's a small city - somewhat over protective of our slice of history.  And a super nerd.  So if you're gonna steal it, at least get it right.


    Point taken... (none / 0) (#34)
    by kdog on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:36:27 AM EST
    I got no problem with calling 'em on their bull CST.

    They aren't even disguising themselves as Native Americans:)


    Plus (none / 0) (#39)
    by CST on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:46:50 AM EST
    being armed with hatchets is way cooler than tea bags.

    It would make more sense if they were ex-cons and actually couldn't vote.


    Though... (none / 0) (#41)
    by kdog on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:52:45 AM EST
    I have voting rights and excercise them and don't feel "represented" in the slightest...so I can understand where they're coming from on that angle, though I'm tempted to tell the tea-baggers to take up recreational drug use and gambling to see how it really feels to lack true representation in government:)  I mean if these folks don't feel represented, who the hell does?

    Oh yeah, monolith corporations...thats who feels well represented.


    That's a Republic/Democracy (none / 0) (#42)
    by CST on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:57:25 AM EST
    in action though.  It doesn't mean you get your way.  It just means you have the opportunity to have a say.

    You're right... (none / 0) (#46)
    by kdog on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 10:05:44 AM EST
    maybe we need a rewrite of the slogan..."no taxation without a say in your often sh*tty representation"...for the sake of accuracy:)

    Whether (none / 0) (#27)
    by lilburro on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:14:27 AM EST
    or not they call themselves that, I think the whole "teabagger" name has stuck to their movement in popular consciousness.  Yet they are still taken seriously...by the same media who enjoyed making fun of them, however briefly.  And that humor wasn't limited to Maddow IIRC.

    true (none / 0) (#20)
    by ruffian on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:02:11 AM EST
    Neither name 'teabagger' or 'code pink' inspires a lot of confidence IMO, however much I agree with the goals of Code Pink. If we are talking about perceptions and PR, I think they both could do better there.

    Because the teabaggers (none / 0) (#7)
    by andgarden on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:24:03 AM EST
    Hire the right PR firms? Or maybe the Republicans are still better at staying on message.

    PR firms 'hired' the teabaggers (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by ruffian on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:32:13 AM EST
    Teabagger were always created and financed by the Republican PR machine. I'm not saying the individual people realize this when they join the protests, but they are part of the machine.

    I disagree a bit (none / 0) (#24)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:09:16 AM EST
    The GOP is as much a bunch of hired contractors as the teabaggers and these health reform protestors.  Pulling the strings are some very well heeled and deranged folks whose sole concept of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is the dollar.

    It may be too late, but it is important to keep the Dmeocratic Party from selling completely selling out to these sociopaths too.  Obviously Baucus and others are a lost cause.


    A: (none / 0) (#9)
    by Addison on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:27:06 AM EST
    A dozen protesters is a spectacle, a million is a statistic.

    Stalin (none / 0) (#13)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:39:55 AM EST
    Didn't matter on 2007 since we all still had money (none / 0) (#15)
    by vicndabx on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:44:59 AM EST
    2009 people are scared because they see folks losing jobs, homes and cars and we have a shifty-eyed joker as president (/s).  The media has to do it's part to feed the fear machine.

    wow, I really need to proof-read (none / 0) (#17)
    by vicndabx on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:48:21 AM EST
    Didn't matter "in" 2007

    Silly (none / 0) (#18)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:54:22 AM EST
    It mattered in the 2006 elections.

    And act I of the 2008 primaries (none / 0) (#21)
    by andgarden on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:03:02 AM EST
    Arguably, it made Obama President.

    Yes, but I thought the question was about (none / 0) (#25)
    by vicndabx on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:10:44 AM EST
    the protests and why those didn't matter to the media in 2007.  Hence my slightly snarky reply many were more comfortable financially in 07 than are now.

    i thought it might be (none / 0) (#29)
    by The Last Whimzy on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:22:34 AM EST
    media incompetence.  

    that too. (none / 0) (#32)
    by Capt Howdy on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:26:52 AM EST
    Not Buying it (none / 0) (#35)
    by Slado on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:36:34 AM EST
    War protests by 50 people were covered by local and national Media.

    It's the same.  The only difference is you're now on the other side and you don't like that the public is turning against the democrats.

    The majority of the country wants health reform.   The problem is that a majority of the country doesn't want what the democrats are offering in way of reform and are going to let their elected officials know about it.

    Sure some of the protesters are partisan hacks but that's no different then any protest movement you can name.

    Democratic Health reform is unpopular.  Period.  Get used to it.  If you think democrats should ignore popular sentiment and jam it through then just say so but don't pretend that they're standing with the majority when they're not.


    What about 100,000's? (4.00 / 1) (#38)
    by Lora on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:43:45 AM EST
    Perhaps 50 war protestors were covered.  Too bad the 100,000's more who marched on DC and in NYC and other cities in the US and around the world were not.

    Not true (none / 0) (#52)
    by Slado on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 03:42:45 PM EST
    I remember the march on Washington, the marches in Europe and I remember them because I watched them on TV.

    Also I remember massive media attention being given to a Mrs. Sheehan as she staged a small intimate protest in front of president Bush's ranch.

    That got tons of media attention and there where what, maybe 50 people there?

    All the same.  


    OK, Good (none / 0) (#54)
    by Lora on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:35:36 PM EST
    I remember trying to find them when they were happening, and not finding anything.  Maybe something scrolling across the bottom of CNN's screen.  And nothing in the newspapers that I could find.  You had better luck than I.

    Media coverage of Iraq (none / 0) (#55)
    by Lora on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:10:36 PM EST
    There are some comments about media coverage of the protests scattered in here.  The coverage was there, but downplayed considerably.

    Isn't the correct Iraq (none / 0) (#37)
    by dk on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:40:26 AM EST
    analogy here to the fact that 72% of Americans want a government run public option that is open to everyone?

    Other than HR676, none of the plans being floated by the Obama administration and Congress achieve this result.  So, I think this is one of those circumstances where the media is right to focus the story on the opposition to Obama's plan.  They're just wrong, however, in focusing on the Republican opposition (if the goal is to accurately reflect the opposition of the people in general).

    What Sells? (none / 0) (#45)
    by SDU Polticsdotcom on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 10:05:14 AM EST
    War protesting is nothing new. Fighting the demons of terrorism is a far more interesting story than people protesting a war that's can't be summarized in epic battles. No one has protested health care before today. It's new and there's nothing more likely to sell. The media has to obligations, to sell their stories and to report the news. When the topic of the day is as dry as health care, the media is going to do anything to find an interesting angle.

    -Politics.com Intern

    Here's how I think it works (none / 0) (#48)
    by MikeDitto on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 10:38:29 AM EST
    The side with the most money and organization can afford to hire press people to bird-dog stories and get their talking points into the coverage.

    Make no mistake--this is astroturf. The "protests" are a sideshow masking an army of PR professionals who are hammering the crap out of reporters and editors. Our side has some (but not enough) resources but lacks the organization. As I'm in the middle of it in my job, there are signs this is changing--fortunately.

    The pro reform coalition consists of dozens (hundreds even) of nonprofits that don't think in campaign terms. Groups that promote cancer research, or meals on wheels. They're slow to coordinate and get more political because it's just not in their DNA, whereas the anti side is all Republican political hacks. But I think they're adjusting quickly in the face of these near-riots at twon halls this week. Stay tuned.

    Obama's political team (5.00 / 0) (#49)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 10:39:38 AM EST
    does not lack for resources.

    Agreed (none / 0) (#50)
    by MikeDitto on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 10:53:45 AM EST
    But the White House saying things doesn't change the on-the-ground story done by the local TV station about the latest astroturf rally or disruption of a congressman's town hall. That's where the local coalition has to step in, and they just aren't media savvy.

    Should Obama also (none / 0) (#51)
    by dk on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 10:58:53 AM EST
    spend money to silence single payor advocates, who are more in synch with the 72% of Americans who want a government run health care plan that covers everyone than are Obama and the congressional Democratic leadership?

    Just asking.