If you read any of the extensive coverage of the Tea Party Convention going on this weekend in Nashville, TN, be prepared for dramatic stories of rampant grassroots infighting, questionable convention finances, and radical convention-goers flocking after polarizing demagogues.
The real story? Much different.
Attendees are wildly enthusiastic, not just about speakers, but about ideas. Those ideas are focused almost exclusively on basic conservative principles like limited government and fiscal responsibility (not the Obama birther conspiracy). And attendees are barely aware of the criticism that has been launched at the Tea Party Convention by mainstream media outlets.
"It's a good idea," said one attendee, pithily, when asked why he drove in from Ohio to participate.
Attendees are mainly being informed about the manufactured scandals through convention speakers, who have taken every opportunity to punch back — like Mark Skoda, head of the Memphis tea party group.
"We've come so far in the world of socialist values that we're now criticizing a for-profit event," he said, during a morning briefing on Friday. "We've put six hundred thousand of our dollars into the Gaylord Hotel (where the event is being hosted). We didn't ask for a tax benefit, a subsidy, or a stimulus."
That point was echoed by several convention-goers, who questioned the media's skepticism about their gathering.
"So what if the convention price is what it is?" one asked. "It just shows that tea partiers exist at all different income levels."
In fact, it seems that the only people who are disappointed in the event are the media. A woman in Southern Baptist Pastor Rick Scarborough's break-out session explained why critics were wrong.
"For those who don't know why we're here, I'll tell them. You know what we're here for? A little bit of R&R: revival and revolt," she said.
Revival and revolt was a good way to sum up the opening night speech by Rep. Tom Tancredo, who got people so riled up that they jumped out of their chairs. Tancredo didn't mince words, saying that not just Democrats, but everyone, is wrong about politics. He launched sharp barbs at Barack Obama just as quickly as he launched them at George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and John McCain—even thanking God that McCain didn't win the 2008 election. Tancredo brought up his literacy test—a throwback to his failed 2008 presidential campaign—and insisted that the attendees were part of a counterrevolution.
Steve Milloy, science commentator for Fox News, gave a poignant talk on global warming. He took down everything from junk science to school indoctrination, and the faces in the after-breakfast crowd revealed that his words were a welcome morning jolt. Rick Scarborough gave a religiously-focused speech about why it was important to get pastors to preach politics in addition to bible verse. Not speaking about politics from the pulpit is not just "denying history, but the reality of God's world."
"I firmly believe that the Ten Commandments were not just God's ten suggestions. There comes a time in a nation's existence where if they forsake God long enough, God will start to forsake them," he said.
Those are the sorts of statements that the leagues of journalists—who number at least one for every three conferencegoers — seize upon, and will continue to seize upon, as Fox News analyst Angela McGlowan and World Net Daily's Joseph Farah take the stage tonight, followed by tomorrow night's much-anticipated keynote by Governor Sarah Palin.