For Immediate Release
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167
Angry Populism, Prejudice, and Superficial Punditry
Berlet is senior analyst at Political Research Associates. He recently wrote the piece "Tea Party Loyalists Biased Against Blacks, Latinos, Immigrants and Gays."
Berlet also recently delivered the talk "Reframing Resentments in
the Tea Party Movement," which states: "The signs, slogans, stories, and
tropes of the Tea Party troops are often incomprehensible to many
observers. A frequent response is to rely on outdated social science
models to describe the Tea Party Movement participants as stupid,
ignorant, or crazy. What else could explain the 'extremist' idea that
Obama is both Hitler and Stalin? Who but a 'wing-nut' on the 'lunatic
fringe' would claim that government reform of healthcare could result in
a bureaucrat unplugging grandma?
"The underlying frames and narratives which produce these seemingly
absurd claims popular in the Tea Party Movement are common in
conservative, economic libertarian or Christian evangelical households;
and they have been for decades. The signs and statements at
demonstrations might reflect garbled prose, but the ideas have a clear
"The Tea Party Movement is the latest extension of a campaign by the
political right launched in the 1930s to roll back the social welfare
policies of the Roosevelt administration. This campaign has always been a
loose-knit coalition of large corporate interests, small business
owners, economic libertarians, anti-union activists, conservative
Christians and moral traditionalists. They all share an antipathy to
collectivism in general. Their opposition to taxes, however, is
selective. For example, they tend to support funds for the military and
law enforcement, but tend to oppose government programs that weave a
social safety net. ...
"The Tea Party Movement largely has been mobilized using fear-based
frames and narratives in which liberal and left ideological opponents
are demonized and scapegoated as consciously or unconsciously destroying
the America of liberty and freedom. Ask Tea Party activists where they
get their news and political information and they mention Glenn Beck,
Lou Dobbs, Fox News, AM talk radio, and internet sites such as Free
Republic and World Net Daily. ...
"Too often major liberal media pundits frame the Tea Party movement
as populated by a lunatic fringe of irrational, uneducated, and ignorant
rubes. Liberals then dismiss the grievances of Tea Party supporters
without engaging them in a discussion that could illuminate issues the
nation needs to address."
Berlet is co-author of Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort.
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