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Arkansas Tea Parties: The Real Deal or ‘Astroturf’? (Updated!)

Updated: Apr 15

Tea Party in Little Rock, March 2009


A Friendly Liberal Interlocutor (FLI) e-mailed last night to ask about my recent flurry of blogging activity related to the Arkansas Tax Day Tea Party Protests. FLI asked if I was being paid by some national third party groups to promote the events.

The answer to which is, “Not at all.” No, strike that. The more precise answer is, “Hell, I wish, but no.”

My reasons for writing about the demonstrations in Arkansas have been twofold. First, I find them interesting—I’d seen some coverage on bigger blogs and was curious as to how the movement was shaping up in Arkansas.

Second, there’s a lot of interest among readers, and providing information on the tea parties in Arkansas has been helpful to people here who want to get involved (I know this from my search query reports, as well as from the e-mails and phone calls I’ve been getting every day from people seeking info on the events).

I should tack on that it’s been good for the blog’s traffic numbers and probably helped us pick up a few extra readers, and I’m all for that.

FLI was trafficking in the latest liberal canard that tries to derogate the Tea Party movement as an “astroturf” campaign, engineered by big political PR firms in Washington DC and abetted by FOX News. FLI offered no real evidence of the charge. Naturally.

It’s true that there are some big political organizations that have gotten involved with the movement, like Freedom Works. But that involvement has mostly been ex post facto.

That is to say, a number of big political organizations have jumped on board and are piggybacking on the events. I can’t speak to their motivations, but I assume they are trying to build up their mailing lists and profiles to position themselves as the next Moveon.org-style advocacy team on the political right. Fair enough.

(At this point, I’ve only received one contact from a national group: A local rep for American Majority, someone I’ve known for years, called me last week to tell me they were offering some limited assistance to organizers, but she was careful to note that they had no interest in taking over the event from the grassroots folks, and were more interested in finding ways to channel the energy going forward, after the protests. Again, fair enough.)

But the energy for organizing these events is coming from the grassroots, and I know that from talking to people here in Arkansas. Go back and read our interview with the Central Arkansas Campaign for Liberty’s Rob Richard last week—his involvement with the Tea Party movement was largely coincidental, but he’s emerged as one of the leading organizers here in the state.

If you want to criticize the Tea Parties for their aims or their message, that’s fine. But really, enough with the whole “vast right wing conspiracy” business. (I should add that FLI, doubts notwithstanding, ultimately sided with the Tea Party protesters, in spirit at least, declaring that he “likes a little revolution every now and then.” Good for him.)

More stuff:

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette advances today’s activities here.

ABC News has a good piece on the movement here, and asks a key question about the aftermath of the demonstrations: “Now what?”

Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds on Tea Parties as an “Army of Davids” phenomenon in the Wall Street Journal.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, columnist John Brummett, the Andy Rooney of Arkansas journalism, reads a single article from the LA Times to arrive at his definitive and not at all ill-informed opinion, captured here in a sneering blog post that I’m sure was carefully considered before he posted, because he is a highly paid newspaper columnist. God I love newspapers. Y’all gonna miss ’em when they’re gone.

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