There's a media pile-on afoot. Led primarily by the New York Times, a variety of news organizations are attacking the National Tea Party Convention, scheduled to begin Feb. 4 in Nashville, Tenn., with Sarah Palin as the keynote speaker. The Times claims the event is a "profiteering" enterprise, suggesting that the convention violates the grass-roots nature of the "tea party" movement. "Fractiousness," territorial disputes and suspiscions have cast a shadow over the effort, the paper says.
Yet the event is sold out. There's a waiting list, even among those seeking entrance to Mrs. Palin's speech alone. Eight sponsors include Judicial Watch, the Eagle Forum and the National Taxpayers Union. The convention center is ready, the surf and turf waiting.
"It is going to be a great event. We have a lot of people who are coming who are very excited about the event, and I think they are going to leave inspired and with some great new tools to take back to their groups," organizer Judson Phillips tells Inside the Beltway.
He adds that few journalists "have bothered" to get his side of the story, which has been ramped up in the last 48 hours by the Los Angeles Times, Politico, CBS News, MSNBC, the Atlantic, Media Matters for America and other sources.
It's a classic — and convenient — media frenzy.
"A lot of individuals want to get involved in the political process, in the organization of the tea party movement. And now we find that the news media is seizing on this, and extrapolating that the tea party is in trouble or divided," John O'Hara tells The Beltway.
He is the author of the new book "A New American Tea Party," and contends that tea party believers, while representing a spectrum of ideas, are united by the same motivation: the well-being of the nation.
"The press has tried to marginalize the tea party movement from the beginning. They recognize it as a potent political force, and they want to do it in. A little less than a year ago, these same journalists were dismissing the tea party as a 'fringe' phenomenon, not even worth their time," Mr. O'Hara says.
"Now they smell blood," he adds.
So so SOTU
An hour of great gravitas, history, dignity? Nah. Some Americans use the State of the Union address on Wednesday as an excuse to misbehave, a trend that has become so pronounced in recent years that speech-watching parties have proliferated and drinking games, well — that's the main event for some.
There are dozens of waggish advisories and public directives on such things; some go so far as to include legal disclaimers like this:
"The Huffington Post in no way encourages binge drinking. This is the comedy section."
OK. Uh-h-h-h, yeah. We concur. This is your comedic relief section, not your party guide. That behind us, we now proceed with the real floor show: Gleaned from a dozen assorted guides for "State of the Union Drinking Games," here are the best moments when viewers should either imbibe, or throw something or kiss someone:
• Whenever President Obama says, "I'm here to tell you," "Democratic leadership," or "let me be absolutely clear."
• Whenever Mr. Obama alludes to the "last eight years" or "inherited" to deflect interest from his policies.
• When the networks use the acronym "SOTU" — "State of the Union" for the uninitiated — as an on-screen graphic.
• When they cut to a shot of Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, looking "grizzled."
• If Rep. Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican, yells something.
• If someone other than Mr.Wilson yells something.
• If Michelle Obama wears a sleeveless dress.
• If House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "claps like a seal."
• If Mr. Obama receives a standing ovation, and Republicans stay seated.
"Right-wing filmmaker" (CBS News).
"ACORN Gotcha Guy" (New York Daily News).
"Fake ACORN pimp" (Newsweek).
"ACORN antagonist" (Los Angeles Times).
"Independent filmmaker" (Fox News).
Five new press designations for videographer James O'Keefe, under arrest and charged with an attempt to illegally tamper with the office phones of Sen.Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat.
So that's it
The heavily Democratic and/or liberal pollsters at Public Policy Polling revealed Tuesday that Americans only deem Fox News as "trustworthy" — about half trust the network — followed by CNN, NBC News, CBS News and ABC News. There are huge partisan divides in opinion, of course. And the explanation for the Fox victory?
"A generation ago, you would have expected Americans to place their trust in the most neutral and unbiased conveyors of news," says Dean Debnam, president of the North Carolina group. "But the media landscape has really changed, and now they're turning more toward the outlets that tell them what they want to hear."
Well, maybe. See the complete poll here: www.publicpolicypolling.com.
Just so you know
Do humans have "free will," or are their choices controlled by neurological forces, the unconscious or environmental influences? Florida State University philosopher Alfred Mele has been awarded a $4.4 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation to find out, and he is intent on finding an answer by 2013.
"I want to make significant progress on discovering whether we do or don't have free will. It's not as if in four years, we are going to know. But I want to push us along the way so that we can speed up our understanding of all of this," Mr. Mele says.
"If we eventually discover that we don't have free will, the news will come out, and we can predict that people's behavior will get worse as a consequence. We should have plans in place for how to deal with that news," Mr. Mele adds.
Poll du jour
• 69 percent of Americans say "resentment of Western power and influence" plays a significant role in motivating terrorists.
• 58 percent say their motivation is based on "making Islam the world's dominant religion."
• 58 percent say they are motivated by "U.S. support for Israel."
• 34 percent say terrorists are motivated by "death and damage caused by the U.S. military."
• 32 percent say they are motivated by their disagreement with "Western freedoms."
• 27 percent say terrorists are motivated by "poverty."
• 19 percent say they have "psychological disorders."
Source: A Zogby International poll of 2,003 adults conducted Jan. 15 to 18.
• Beeps, bleeps, bleats to firstname.lastname@example.org.