The Right wing media and the Tea Parties are playing chess while the Left and the mainstream media are playing checkers.
While they can be disparaged as being narrow minded ideologues possessed of an authoritarian personality, Conservatives in the U.S.--and the extreme Right wing that has now become the center of the GOP--have long been masters of using emotional and moral appeals to motivate their public. While the Democrats are hamstrung by an issues based approach to politics, Conservatives have mastered the art of creating an alternate world of political facts and reason (enabled by the Right wing media echo chamber) where the reality based community need not tread.
This week the note being struck is that liberal infiltrators (in the guise of "agent provocateurs") are targeting the Tea Parties in order to smear and discredit them. Without any factual substantiation (and ignoring the racist, bigoted, and violent rhetoric that is common at the Tea Party gatherings) the Right has succeeded in reframing the narrative which surrounds the tea baggers. Now, freed from any responsibility for their own actions, the Tea Parties can point to some imagined villain as being responsible for all things disruptive and violent at their protests.
This is a brilliant move because it frees the tea baggers from any measure of responsibility for their deeds. Consider the simple genius at work here: if someone has a racist sign he/she is an infiltrator; if someone spits on a black congressman "they aren't really one of us" (or alternatively John Lewis was not spat upon because there is no "proof" save for eye witness accounts); if someone incites violence "he isn't a tea bagger, it must be a crazy progressive." Not surprisingly, rather than expose this quackery, most in the media are repeating these narratives without critical intervention or comment.
My claim is not that provocation by liberal instigators is an impossibility. No, the rebuttal should be "so what?" With all of the evidence of how central white racial animus and hostility are to the Tea Party movement, what else could the infiltrators possibly do? What other bad behavior--short of bombings, shootings, and other wanton acts of violence--could they possibly provoke the tea baggers into committing?
An appeal to the liberals as infiltrators strategy is also doubly effective because it inverts the political landscape by making the Tea Parties into victims of Jim Crow 2.0 and Barack Obama's America--those liberals whom despise "the patriots" and the good white folk who only want to exercise their first amendment rights against an "oppressive" and "tyrannical" regime that practices "reverse discrimination" and "pays too much attention" to black people's needs.
The Right has upped the ante. Not content with displacing responsibility onto "liberals" and "progressives" for the brigands in their midst, the Tea Parties are now trying to take the moral high ground as the party of diversity and tolerance. To that end, the tea baggers and their Right wing media arm have been circulating a video of a confrontation between a Tea Party member and an alleged white supremacist. Here the tea bagger confronts the white supremacist and condemns him. While doing so, the Tea Party activist is sticking to a clear script: "the Tea Parties are not racist," that "racism has no place with the Tea Parties," and "that the Tea Party does not concern itself with race." In one 2 minute clip, the Tea Party has created a counter-narrative, one with compelling soundbites, that runs explicitly counter to the popular understanding that the tea baggers are racist xenophobes. This is poetry in motion.
It is also a classic false flag operation. In intelligence and military circles these tactics involve the use of subterfuge and trickery (thus the allusion to a ship flying a "false flag") to create a pretext for military intervention or regime change, for framing events in the service of your own agenda, or more simply for making the public believe that "X" is occurring when it is in reality "Y."
In keeping with this strategy, the "white supremacist" in question (and there will be other videos of similar events released soon...you can mark my words) is a Tea Party activist. He is playing the role of the devil in their midst, a cancer to be conveniently exorcised as a way for the Tea Parties to demonstrate their love of diversity and colorblind politics. It is ironic then that the Tea Parties and the Right are sounding an alarm regarding the use of dirty tricks by the Left (Conservatives such as Beck and Limbaugh assert that the Progressives are masters of subterfuge and disruption) where in the United States the truth has been that through programs such as Cointelpro, the forces of elite power and Conservatism have spied on, disrupted, discredited, harassed and even killed members of Left-leaning organizations.
The repackaging of the Tea Parties as tolerant and inclusive political organizations is happening as we speak. It will continue from its own momentum regardless of the facts on the ground. In much the same way that Dr. King has been reimagined by conservatives to be a Republican (notice how Glenn Beck, the Pied Piper for the Tea Parties, is increasingly appropriating both the language and symbolism of The Civil Rights Movement), the tea baggers will be depicted as forces of American virtue and pluralism. As this false flag operation continues to develop, here are a few things to watch for in the upcoming weeks:
- More coverage of the "racial diversity" of the Tea Parties. Expect to see the same talking heads and black and brown apologists trotted out on the major networks;
- The discussion of agent provocateurs will take on the weight of fact as opposed to speculation;
- There will be more videos of white supremacists, nativists, and overt "Birthers" being thrown out of Tea Party rallies;
- Simultaneously, there will be a great deal of attention paid to "incidents" where Palin supporters and tea baggers are assaulted by "anti-Tea Party" forces and "agents of the Obama regime";
- The Right wing media frame will continue to emphasize their long standing narrative that Conservatives and "real Americans" are "victims" of the Left and Progressives;
- Similar to what happened with the ACORN pimp and prostitute scandal (a fraud staged by Breitbart and company), the efforts to "infiltrate" the Tea Parties will be exposed as events planned by the Right;
- Loose lips sink ships: one of the "white supremacist" or other "agent provocateurs" will give up the fact that they are on the payroll of someone semi-connected (for reasons of plausible deniability) to the Right wing media and/or political establishment.