This last Monday, I had the honor of participating in the Kailua Independence Day Parade with my friends from the Honolulu Tea Party. Our parade entry was not an ostentatious one, as you can see. But in the spirit of the sort of unruly peasants that we in the Tea Party have been branded, we did the best we could with what we had, and our motley band of patriots with our little truck ended up making quite a splash. My friend Gilia Rethman had the idea to set me up with a microphone on the back of that truck; I brought with me an accompanying iPod mix, roughly equal parts patriotic pieces and crowd-pleasing pop tunes, and sang my little heart out. The genuine enthusiasm of my fellow Tea Partiers completed the package, and together we turned what might have been an unremarkable parade entrant into quite a crowd-pleaser. Oh, sure, there were a (very) few negative reactions to our merry little band — I noticed in particular a few people giving us the thumbs-down as we passed. (Who wants to bet that the thumbs in question belong to people who pride themselves on their capacity for tolerance?) But the vast majority of audience response was overwhelmingly positive.
Now, if this were merely a “Hooray for us!” piece, then I would stop here. But there actually is a larger point to the matter.
Way way back in the annals of time, back in April of 2011, the Honolulu Tea Party had a Tax Day event down at the state capital. I had been invited to sing and to speak, and so I got there well before the event started, and left after it had nearly all been packed up, so I had a first-hand knowledge of the events of the day. We started late, and had something of a low turnout (although, given the weather, this wasn’t shocking), but all in all the event came off fairly well. Afterward, I went to YouTube to look for coverage of the event, where I found the following package from our local ABC affiliate, KITV:
I could employ quite a few words to describe my reaction after having watched this video, but I think “livid” is the one that sums it up best. This was a package put together not to report on the actual Tea Party event, but to fit it into an existing and unflattering narrative. To wit:
– Their use of the phrase “happened to fall on tax day” is an implication that we’re clueless rubes who picked the date at random and managed to get lucky.
– They show a few people with signs, but the shots of the larger group, which were taken between speakers and/or before the event started, are of people just standing around as though they were promised a free sandwich after a lecture. This is to promote the notion that support for the event was unenthusiastic.
– They clearly talked to Kimberly Fletcher, one of the founders of the Abigail Adams Project (which has been featured on both national television and radio); but, given that they didn’t play any of that audio, it’s clear that they only used those clips to make fun of her costume.
– They spend a significant portion of the segment talking about how the “only” Tea Party politician there, Tom Berg, is a giant meanie-face who wants to end subsidies for seniors — ignoring both his larger points about city budgets and the presence of State Senator Sam Slom.
– The one sound bite they show from a speech was Angry Guy saying, “Let’s kick their ass!” I feel compelled here to point out that a good measure of a rally such as ours is to see which speeches are well-received and which are not. This one fell into the “not” category.
– They mentioned the low attendance but apparently thought that the torrential on-and-off rain was irrelevant to the matter.
– The longest interview they gave is to the guy who thinks we in the Tea Party are all just a bunch of big dumb-dumb-dummies, with his conclusive evidence of this being his straw-man arguments coupled with his Tired and Exasperated at These Idiots face.
– And finally, they wrap the whole thing up with a blurb about an ideologically antithetical rally that had had double the attendance (and matching T-shirts) the day before.
In short, the overall message of this “news” package can be summed up thus: “These people are way lame — the smart people are the ones in the green shirts who got more attendance and the guy who’s so much smarter that he can’t even be bothered to explain why he’s right.”
It’s one thing to hear about media bias; it’s another to see it in action, and the dishonesty of the whole thing got my blood a-boilin’. But there was nothing I could do about it at the time. Which brings me back to the parade.
The reason Gilia offered me the chance to come sing, and the reason that I seized upon it with gusto, is that we had both seen this tripe, and we knew we needed to counter it. We saw our chance in the Kailua parade — and with our combined efforts, we were able to provide a brilliant contrast to the shade of stodgy old fuddy-duddy that KITV had decided was just our color. What’s all the more brilliant about the whole thing is that, while KITV had to rely on contrivance and liberal (in both senses of the word) editing to send their message, all we had to do to counter it was to be ourselves in a public setting. It’s a strategy that Sarah Palin uses to great effect, and the reason it works is simple: Truth will out.
So don’t despair of all the negative press. Truth will out; you will get your chance, and if you play your cards right, you can use that chance to make a splash, show your true colors, and hit back with a grin.