The Truth About the NAACP - Tea Party Conflict
Spoiling for a Showdown: The Media & the NAACP-Tea Party Conflict
You know it’s a rather sluggish week in the media when, apart from the ennui of the Gulf Oil spill saga, the top news stories on the airwaves vacillate between the apprehension of the barefoot bandit, Mel Gibson’s latest garbled invectives and the NAACP/Tea Party imbroglio.
Regarding the latter, as a student of the profession, I find the depth to which the major media outlets and the faceless moguls and barons of capital that bankroll and control them sank to stoke this so-called feud repulsive and distressing.
From the very beginning, the story had the outlines of the classic winner-takes-all face-off. Little wonder, therefore, that in its most characteristic spirit of thoughtless opportunism, it was only a matter of time before the self-appointed opinion molders in the media pounced on it with their groveling and most unctuous little paws.
The NAACP, by far the oldest, most reputable and influential American human rights organization with a declared mission “to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination” but a largely African-American following against the Tea Party, an amorphous and somewhat disjointed group of activists with a long-standing interest in limited government, lower taxes and fiscal responsibility, predominantly white and essentially sworn to discrediting, embarrassing, neutralizing or deposing the first African-American president in US history.
However, beyond the foregoing backdrop, all the fluff and seeming appearance of conflict of epic proportions, what is in contention here is really not terribly complicated.
This past Tuesday, the NAACP passed a resolution at its annual convention in Kansas City accusing Tea Party activists of tolerating bigotry and condemning racism within the larger movement itself.
In quick succession, the National Tea Party Federation issued a statement on Wednesday repudiating the NAACP and in turn calling it racist.
Since then, media organizations have been stumbling all over themselves parading or propping up “spokespersons” from either side or the same lame coterie of pundits, almost always a person of color against a Caucasian, and working everyone into some kind of a frenzied delirium over nothing; shamelessly spoiling for some good old mud fight.
While the Tea Party followers may rightfully be incensed by NAACP’s charge, it is difficult to dispute the fact that they do in fact have large swaths of members with varying degrees of racist leanings. The timing of the rise of the movement (conveniently coinciding with Obama’s ascension even though the Bush administration nearly bankrupted the nation spending like a drunken sailor), the speeches and placards tell an unambiguous and unadulterated story.
Granted that these elements constitute a minority interest within the Tea Party Movement, there has not been an honest, concerted effort on the part of the movement’s leadership to denounce or distance itself from this strand of activism.
Quite to the contrary, the movement leadership opted to turn a blind eye to the recalcitrant, racist wing which, arguably, houses some of its most ardent or vociferous supporters.
It is obvious that, by labeling the NAACP racist, the Tea Party Movement basically sought to trivialize or cheapen the discourse. It is no different from calling the Dalai Lama a terrorist!
To me, it seemed like, caught with their pants down, the movement leaders proved incapable of stringing together a reasoned, credible defense.
That said, the media establishment should spare us of all the drama, the annoying attempts to spool through the same storylines or create clever twists and intrigues, and return to the basic journalistic excellence we once knew; which now shines through infrequently and so fleetingly in original news coverage that captures the human condition and occasionally challenges us to rise above it.