It's also a fascinating visual. When was the last time you saw such a spontaneous eruption of conservative grassroots anger, coast to coast? On both counts, the Tea Party movement should be cause for massive television coverage. Except for one thing. It's a conservative uprising, so it gets different treatment.
It's ignored as long as possible, and when it's no longer possible to be ignored, it's savaged.
The movement was launched in February 2009, when CNBC's Rick Santelli suggested throwing a "tea party" to protest government takeovers. A new study by Rich Noyes of the Media Research Center found only 19 news stories on the Tea Party movement for the entire year on ABC, CBS and NBC. The Obama family dog received more attention.
How anemic is this? Compare those 19 stories in all of 2009 with 41 stories the networks gave the "Million Mom March" against gun rights in 2000 -- and all before the math-challenged protest even happened. Consider racist and anti-Semitic Rev. Louis Farrakhan's "Million Man March." On Oct. 16, 1995, ABC, CBS and NBC together aired 21 stories just on one night.
The difference in tone was just as dramatic. Amazingly, the Tea Parties were assumed to be racist, but Farrakhan's event was not. ABC anchor Peter Jennings devoted all but 75 seconds of his newscast to promotional goo for the Nation of Islam.
Jennings sanitized the gathering. "For most of the hundreds of thousands who came here today, the event far overshadowed the man who organized it," Jennings claimed. He concluded the show on Farrakhan's behalf, that "it would be a terrible mistake not to recognize that here today he inspired many people, and in a broader sense, as one participant here after another has reaffirmed, this day, at this time and at this place, really did mean unity over division."
Jennings defied logic, and his own ears. The event meant "unity over division" even as speakers angrily attacked whites for "rolling toxic waste" into black communities, and screamed about the "growing racism and incipient fascism of white America." A young poet called blacks "God's divine race."