- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 25, 2010


By John M. O’Hara Wiley, $24.95, 308 pages Reviewed by Ron Capshaw

Asign of cultural lag among the mainstream media is the refusal to deal with the gap they have left for others, such as Rush Limbaugh, to fill. Rather than confront their biases and report all sides of an issue, they explain away the continuing appeal of the radio host because of the entertainment factor and not any intellectual connection. This bias, which is in reality a set of blinders, dates from 1972, when Pauline Kael, longtime New Yorker film critic, said she couldn’t believe Nixon won because “nobody I know voted for him.”

Then came the Tea Party, an authentic grassroots response that echoed Mr. Limbaugh’s anti-big-government message. On tax day last year, hundreds of thousands of participants appeared in more than 800 cities protesting reckless government spending. On Sept. 12, more than a half-million marched on Washington.

At first, the media wrote them off as ignorant at best (“You’re getting a $600 check from the government,” one CNN reporter exasperatedly tried to tell a protester), Nazis at worst (“There are swastikas at these rallies,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated). When it became apparent even to the powers-that-be that the movement was informed, popular and present in even such blue states as Massachusetts, the media reacted like deer in the headlights.

They simply couldn’t rationalize away this movement. The old medleys of attaching racism to such movements couldn’t stand in the face of the diverse crowds taking time off work to protest.

The media would do well to stop scrambling for easy generalizations and instead consult John O’Hara’s impressive study. Mr. O’Hara, a self-described libertarian and key grassroots organizer of the movement, never lets his own biases dominate the work. He patiently explains the philosophy behind the movement. Big-government solutions diminish individual freedoms - a maxim as old as the Founding Fathers. Mr. O’Hara impressively shows the libertarian tradition in American history, from Tom Paine to Ronald Reagan.

Then Mr. O’Hara explains the Tea Party’s mode of organizing. Written off by CNN as cave people, these members and their command of e-mails and petitioning show that technical savvy is not exclusive to the hired hands of the Democratic and Republican machinery. They have learned the lessons of the ‘60s, too: Popular pressure on elected officials does produce, at least, backtracking.

Nor does he argue that only Democrats are quick to seek government solutions; both parties do as a result of being in Washington too long and assuming every problem can be solved with a committee. What comes across in Mr. O’Hara’s book is not so much a brief for a Republican takeover of the House and Senate as an argument for throwing out the incumbents.

The book also emerges as the ultimate citizens guide to making the government accountable, including such strategy tips as “bring a camera to your rally if the media won’t cover it,” “Alert your base - use the phone, Facebook, Twitter, Meetup, e-mail lists, Web sites.”

Mr. O’Hara has a grown-up attitude other conservative activists don’t have. Sarah Palin could take a leaf from his book that the media does exist, and to be effective, you have to work with it. He argues for alerting the media about upcoming Tea Party events and timing events during news cycles. The media is here to stay, and Mr. O’Hara seems to be asserting that for the Tea Party still to be an influence, a workable rapport with the media must be found.

In “A New American Tea Party,” Mr. O’Hara not only explains a movement that the media has tried to marginalize, but also provides a study in how our nation’s reporters should report what is happening rather than what they think should be.

Ron Capshaw is a writer in Midlothian, Va.

Sign up for Daily Opinion Newsletter

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide