Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tea Parties Revisited

The Rasmussen Report released this report about the public perception of the 'tea parties'.
On a sub page they have less processed numbers. Note that they show only 1000 respondents, which is pretty typical of polls like this; that seems a strong argument against taking polls like this too seriously.

Living on the internet as I do, it is strange how much my sense of things like this gets distorted. The week before the 'parties' commentary about them just dominated the left blogs. Right blogs that were promoting the 'parties' didn't spend half the words as blogs questioning, criticizing, and of course mocking them.

Myself, I can't say I had a lot of interest in the 'parties' themselves. They need to have a message more clearly defined than 'I don't like this' before I am going to pay much attention.

I do find the accusations of astroturfing amusing. First off, I was a regular at one of the blogs that helped launch the whole thing at the time it caught on. I watched it develop in real time. Secondly, look at these people. They are just not organized well enough to be a planned campaign. Where are the catchy, universal slogans? Note the lack of buses. Note the blatant inexperience with things like permits. The interest groups are not driving this, they are trying to cash in on it.

Also interesting is how much this is portrayed as a Republican thing. At least one of the liberal bloggers I follow was active. Supposedly, Steele himself was turned down when he asked to speak, although he denies asking. Most everyone I have read who went for any purpose but heckling mentioned the effort spent on keeping it non-partisan. Elected officials of any stripe were largely excluded.

Really, this was a libertarian protest; most libertarians are just Republicans. Many don't know it.

In the end I think I will neither support nor deride their efforts. Their message is too poorly developed to deserve my support; their protest too heartfelt to deserve my scorn.

11 comments:

(O)CT(O)PUS April 21, 2009 at 11:27 AM  

OMR, your defense of Gray Headed Brother was kind and thoughtful, and I have expressed in previous comments my appreciation and respect for you. Our disagreements with respect to public policy were always about issues, never personal attacks.

Nevertheless, there is a subject that is not pleasant to talk about but needs to be discussed ... openly and honestly. I live in a part of Florida where there are wealthy retirees, many who are self-identified conservatives ... whom I count as friends.

During the last election, some of my conservative friends switched parties and voted for Obama. There were others, however, who became more radically right wing, more shrill, and very angry. Two months ago, one of these folks verbally attacked a wealthy black resident of my condo with the "N" word. At about the same time, another one of these folks made personal threats against me (a "bounty" on my life along with a threat to either "shoot" me or "drown" me in the pool) that forced me to report the matter to law enforcement. The state attorney general started a prosecution of these individuals.

I bring these incidents to your attention because there are aspects of the current political debate that have crossed the line and border on incitement. With respect to tea baggers, I refer to the some of the fringe groups that have joined the movement ... especially the ones who question Obama's birth certificate, nationality, religion, and patriotism and the rhetoric of "socialist, communist, islamofascist" which I find especially offensive.

You are no stranger to the Internet and have probably witnessed vicious personal attacks that have nothing to do with conducting a civil debate.

BTW, I still get death threats from far right-wing verbal assassins via e-mail. I believe there should be an open and honest debate about this this kind of uncivil conduct, and it must come from ALL sides.

TRUTH 101 April 21, 2009 at 6:36 PM  

How do we start a debate about this Octo? The blogs I visit regularly are I believe run by sane, responsible people. Either that or just start a members only group, or just stop blogging, are the only ways to try and keep civility.

Back to your post OMR. The tea party in my hometown was a republican office holder and seeker fest. I can respect and grudgingly admit the legitimacy those that were not.

But this goes to a deper problem. Only around half of those elegible to vote go and vote. How many of those at the tea party are noit voters. They had their chances every election to say they were upset with their votes. Half the people didn't. Those people need to hold up a big home made sign proclaiming themselves to be be idiots with no right to complain about politicians they neither voted for or against.

(O)CT(O)PUS April 22, 2009 at 7:33 AM  

T101: Either that or just start a members only group, or just stop blogging, are the only ways to try and keep civility. 8PUS: one of these folks verbally attacked a wealthy black resident of my condo with the "N" word. At about the same time, another one of these folks made personal threats against me (...) that forced me to report the matter to law enforcement. Selective hearing, T101? Does this also mean stay off the street, avoid restaurants, avoid places where verbal abusers go, disavow your religion or politics when someone threatens you?

T101, perhaps you think this is just one more video game.

TRUTH 101 April 22, 2009 at 12:52 PM  

Kooks are one of the drawbacks of a free society and free internet Octo.
If you want to debate kooks fine. I'll go first:

Kooks are kooky and will act kooky no matter what I do.

OpenMindedRepublican April 22, 2009 at 5:04 PM  

I gave some thougt to what can be done about people who get so far out as to threaten violence, and I really don't have much. I sincerely doubt my initial response (arm yourself) would be attractive to you, and other than that you have done what can be done. Although if they did these things on common property like a clubhouse, you may have additional recourse there.

I do not like this trend towards blaming the talking heads for the crazies. So far, in each case where I have followed up on what the talking heads have said, it has turned out to be true. Shutting down people from saying true things because a crazy is going to do something, well, crazy, is not a solution.

For the online crowd, well, there is a large degree of 'reap what you sow' involved. If you post inflammatory rants (yes, I'm talking about you Truth :) ) then you will get inflamed responses. If that suits you, all to the good.

I would think the keys to having a civilized discussion are threefold. First, be civil ourselves. Second, simply ignore personal attacks completely. Actions that accomplish nothing generally fade away. And finally, police our own. That is to say, ignore the people on the other side who get out of hand, and try to reign in those on your own side who ge out of hand. Keeping it 'in the family' brings the focus onto the objectionable behaviour rather than the discussion topic.

(O)CT(O)PUS April 22, 2009 at 7:40 PM  

OMR, many thanks for your comment and much appreciated.

Your three part prescription (last paragraph) is a good one, and with your permission I'd like to share it with others.

Not to harp, I left in my last comment (under my "Tea Bag" post) two links: one about Kathy Sierra (the well-known IT consultant who was forced to cancel a public appearance due to online threats to her safety), and another about the MySpace suicide case -- how a mean-spirited prank pushed a vulnerable teenager over the edge?

My personal experiences plus these linked examples lead me to believe that a principled stand should be taken against those who harass, humiliate, stalk, and victimize other bloggers?

OpenMindedRepublican April 22, 2009 at 8:20 PM  

You are welcome to share anything you find usefull I put up here.

I agree that some things should be done, but I am also aware of how easily such measures can get out of hand.

I would not use the 'internet bullying' case as an example... that is one story I tracked back to the sources and got a more complete picure of a while back. And it is not as it appears.

As for the rest... even on the internet (and especially in our little cul-de-sac here) the civilized people outnumber the barbarians. We CAN control this sort of behaviour simply by not allowing it in our individual forums. Delete without comment. Or, when it's a fellow righty I sometimes say something like "Be quiet, the grown-ups are talking".

I will say that the current trend of calling most conservatives 'crazy' and 'wingnuts' is not productive in this regard. Labelling a large group as 'crazy' or 'racist' provides cover for the real crazies and racists. But that is a lesser factor; the big draws are rants and attention.

(O)CT(O)PUS April 23, 2009 at 1:10 PM  

"I will say that the current trend of calling most conservatives 'crazy' and 'wingnuts' is not productive in this regard. Labelling a large group as 'crazy' or 'racist' provides cover for the real crazies and racists. But that is a lesser factor; the big draws are rants and attention."

Acknowledged. Since I read your comment, I have been thinking of writing a post tentatively titled: "A Change in Nomenclature" which would frame the issue with my fellow contributors and audience.

It would ask the folks on my side to refrain from painting all conservatives and Republicans with the same incendiary brush. Generally, Swash Zoners are a thoughtful group (most are professors at well-known universities) who would support this effort.

One thought comes to mind: There are always scoundrels out there who will smear and jeer anyone who does not agree with them. One incident comes to mind. Jennifer (formerly of Conservative Convictions) was hounded by fellow bloggers and called "RINO" and "traitor to the cause" just because she dared ask a thoughtful and honest question: "Do we really want our new president to fail?" She quit CC after taking a pounding.

I sent her a private e-mail offering words of comfort and support, which she has gratefully acknowledged.

Here is the question: What do we call these people ... those who ridicule others? Bullies? Indignant Desert Birds? Is there a shorthand language (i.e. a label) to distinguish these folks from our friends who engage in honest and sincere conversation? Any ideas?

Is this worth, perhaps, a mutual effort?

TRUTH 101 April 23, 2009 at 5:21 PM  

Slapping down the trolls is part of the fun of blogging on both sides. When I post on a rightie site, I know they will line up to call me names. Just like when a rightie posts on my site. Of course my side knows better than to harass OMR, Tom The Redhunter and Oracular Opinion Lady. But the rest of them will get thumped.

Now I'm a realist Octo. I know there are creeps a plenty out there. Right now you might be lumping me in with them. I was going to explain myself in a post on TSR but I won't steal your thunder on this subject. It means alot to you and I don't want my style to appear to be belittling what is an important subject best left to somebody with better skills than I.

OpenMindedRepublican April 23, 2009 at 7:07 PM  

Octo, do we need to call them anything? They are looking for a particular kind of response from their actions; denying them that response is the most effective counter.

They are looking to get into a fight. They enjoy a fight. They cannot be discouraged by giving them what they want. But ignore them completely and they get nothing. They will go somewhere else to get what they want.

Truth, you do what it suits you to do on your blog, just as I do on mine, and Octo does on his. I see nothing wrong with that. We are each here to achieve certain goals, and we act accordingly.

(O)CT(O)PUS April 23, 2009 at 7:41 PM  

OMR: "But ignore them completely and they get nothing. They will go somewhere else to get what they want."

Again, I am quoting my most esteemed colleague at the Zone, Bloggingdino, who said:

"Life is short, and every second you spend corresponding with mean-spirited idiots is a second of life you won't get back and in which you can't do something else. You cannot win an argument with a mean-spirited idiot. They win simply by wasting your time."

... which is consistent with what OMR is saying. Taking into account your feedback, perhaps an appeal to Internet civility would be an exercise in futility ... which means I should stay within my comfort Zone.

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