Meet Jason Levin: possibly the scariest man in the tea party
universe. An Oregon technology consultant, Levin is the leader of Crash
The Tea Party, a plan to take down the tea party from the inside. Levin
says he's got a growing cadre of supporters across the country, and
conservatives from the message boards to the set of the Sean Hannity's
show are getting nervous.
"Our plan is not to shout them down," Levin told me yesterday, "but
to infiltrate them and push them farther from the mainstream."
The scheme reads like a sequel to "Being John Malkovich": Levin's
group of protesters plan to get in the heads of tea partiers at the Tax
Day Tea Parties nationwide Thursday and manipulate them right out of
relevance. They'll dress like tea partiers, talk like tea partiers and
carry signs like tea partiers. In fact, according to Levin they'll be
completely indistinguishable from tea partiers, except for one thing --
they won't be out-crazied by anyone.
"Our goal is that whenever a tea partier says 'Barack Obama was not
born in America,' we're going be right right there next to them saying,
'yeah, in fact he wasn't born on Earth! He's an alien!" Levin
explained. He said that by making the tea parties sound like a
gathering of crazy people -- his group's goal -- the movement will lose
Levin said he got the idea from a counter-protest
to the infamous Westboro Baptist Church group held outside Twitter
headquarters in January. Levin said the Westboro group broke up after
counter-protesters showed up holding signs "even crazier" than the ones
held by the Westboro group. "They realized they couldn't get their
message out, so they just left" Levin said.
On the Crash The Tea Party website,
managed by Levin, he explains how the plan will work. "Whenever
possible, we will act on behalf of the Tea Party to exaggerate their
least appealing qualities (misspelled protest signs, wild claims in TV
"The lower the public opinion of them goes, the less coverage
they're going to get in the mainstream media," Levin said when I asked
him about the plan. "Then the GOP stops listening to them and they
disperse and they go back to their militias and cabins in the woods."
He emphasized that his group is non-violent, and not interested in
"perpetuating racism, homophobia or misogyny." Levin said that "members
are free to do as they wish," but if violence breaks out at a tea party
rally on Thursday, or more epithets like the ones thrown around during the health care debate are heard, it won't be because of his group.
He explained the distinction to me this way: If you see someone
wearing a Nazi uniform at a tea party, it could be one of his members.
If you see some one wearing a Nazi uniform throwing a rock, it's
definitely not one of his members.
I asked him if he was worried publicly proclaiming that the most
extreme people at the tea party rallies could be plans plants might
help the movement he's trying to destroy. The tea party movement is struggling with its own identity,
and some in the movement have already claimed that some of the darker
chapters in its history (such as the death threats that came after the
health care vote) were fantasies created by liberal infiltrators. Levin
said no matter what the tea parties say about his plans, it's a
"win-win" for his group.
"What can they say?" he said. "Either we've infiltrated their group
so pervasively that they might as well hang it up, or we haven't
infiltrated them that much they really are just racists."
Levin said he has 66 member groups (and growing) across the country planning to fan out at tea party gatherings on Thursday.
And while it's not clear how big the group actually is, or how
serious the effort will be, the idea has already set off a small panic
among tea partiers and their supporters. Upset tea partiers have posted
Levin's address and phone number on the FreeRepublic.com message boards,
leading, he said, to "silly threats" against him and his family. On
Friday, Sean Hannity attacked the group in a segment on his radio show.
And tea party groups across the country are warning their members to be
on the lookout for the infiltrators. In Oregon, a tea party group has
said it plans to get the police involved if they catch any of Levin's organizers.
Levin said all the attention just serves to make his plan more successful.
"How do you spot a fake tea partier? Do they have a tea bag tattooed
on their forehead?" he said. "Thanks to us, the next time you're at a
tea party and you see a guy with a misspelled sign you'll have to say
'is this guy an idiot? Or is he just an infiltrator?"