The Tea Party: At Last a Citizen Movement the Corporate Media Can Love
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The Nashville gathering was heavily covered by the corporate media—an unusual decision given its size (about 600 attendees) and the fact that it was disowned by many Tea Party activists. CNN, nonetheless, reportedly sent a crew of 11 to report on the festivities ( Politico, 2/12/10), apparently because Sarah Palin would be making an appearance as keynote speaker.
Palin’s support seems to have cemented corporate media’s interest in the Tea Party. While right-wingers complain of an anti-Palin media bias, Politico’s Jim VandeHei and Jonathan Martin wrote: “The reality is exactly the opposite: We love Palin. For the media, Palin is great at the box office.”
But there seems to be more to it than that; many in the press seem to think that Palin’s supposed popularity is emblematic of a conservative movement that the media aren’t granting enough time. The New York Times’ David Carr wrote (4/5/10) that if the press doesn’t appreciate Palin’s allegedly wide appeal, “maybe we deserve the ‘lamestream media’ label she likes to give us.” David Broder ( Washington Post, 2/11/10) applauded Palin’s Nashville speech for its “pitch-perfect populism.”
And that may be the real point: The Tea Party’s right-wing populism is the perfect kind for corporate news outlets at a time when the wealthy elites who own and support them feel threatened by more authentic populist impulses. And for that reason, with or without Palin’s supposed star power, the Tea Party movement is likely to remain a focus of media attention.
On March 12, Politicomedia reporter Michael Calderone (3/12/10) noted that the Washington Postwould assign a reporter to “make sure the movement’s covered fully in its pages.” That’s a level of attention few progressive citizen groups will ever receive from the corporate press.