Monday, April 13, 2009

Grassroots and the tea parties

marjorie says...

LP at FBI Hop has a couple really interesting commentaries about the nature of the "tea parties" happening this week to protest the Obama administration's deficit spending. The "tea parties"are being generated from the right, spurred by the rant of a FOX "newscaster."

Since I don't have FOX, and wouldn't watch it if I did, I have to take LP's word for it that in promoting the protests FOX refers to them as "...efforts from grassroots organizations on the Right."

The point of LP's musings is that the protests can hardly be considered grassroots since they're pushed by the national conservative organizational infrastructure, including FOX. LP points us to Think Progress for more details about the lobbyist/think tank organizations behind the events, Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works.

Think Progress calls the work of these two organizations "astro-turfing." You know, making fake grass! Apparently, they do things like plant "single moms" to ask questions at events, and create amateur looking websites to create the impression of movement at the base. How ingenious.

Here are some of the things the two groups have been doing:

Freedom Works staffers coordinate conference calls among protesters, contacting conservative activists to give them “sign ideas, sample press releases, and a map of events around the country.”
Freedom Works staffers apparently moved to “take over” the planning of local events in Florida.
Freedom Works provides how-to guides for delivering a “clear message” to the public and media.
Freedom Works has several domain addresses — some of them made to look like they were set up by amateurs — to promote the protests.
Americans for Prosperity is writing press releases and planning the events in New Jersey, Arizona, New Hampshire, Missouri, Kansas, and several other states.

The word grassroots is finagled over by people a lot. But what is it really? At its most pure, it's from the roots, or bottom up--in terms of ideas, initiative and action.

National think tanks and cable news channels aren't grassroots. The question is, do they have a base at the local level? And by that, I don't mean a fan base. I mean people at the local level who make decisions through an open decision making process, which then flow upward. Is there accountability between the national and local organizations?

So what about the tea parties? Could it be that there's a symbiotic thing happening between FOX news and it's core audience--the organized Right? Is there a national infrastructure being propelled by local infrastructure? Just how are all of these tea parties being organized? Here in New Mexico, who organized them? Reading through the article by Heath Haussamen, I can't tell. It's as though they simply exist. Which takes us back to LP's point.