Demonstrations and Double Standards


Whatever you think about the Tea-Party protesters, whether you think their cause (or causes) is right or wrong, you cannot help but notice different standards applied to them and the demonstrations organized by the far left.

First, the matter of numbers. It’s strange how a protest of tens of thousands will make the first few pages of the NYT but a conservative protest with hundreds of thousands is back on page A-37. Moving further left, the various IMCs–the reporters of political rallies, protests, demonstrations, and the like–have been silent. Why is that?


Second, the organizations represented. When the NYT recently reported on an anti-war rally in Washington, D.C. they noted the anti-war movement “consists of dozens of organizations representing pacifists, veterans, military families, labor unions and religious groups.” Nothing was mentioned about the groups on the radical left (communists and anarchists) who organize these anti-war protests. Nothing was mentioned about the black bloc and others who routinely destroy property and aggressively confront the police in these demos.


And, as Zombietime points out, nothing ever gets mentioned about the people who threatened violence against president Bush when he was in office.


Zombie asks:

Is there a double standard? Seems to be.

Every threat to Obama is now vigorously pursued, trumpeted and dissected by the media and the blogs, and roundly condemned. And I condemn such threats as well.

But in the past, whenever someone threatened Bush at a protest, there was a deafening silence on the part of the media and the left-leaning blogs, and consequently very little (if any) follow-through on the part of the Secret Service. Which I find quite distressing. I was condemning those threats in the past (as best I could, by drawing attention to them on my blog) — but few people were joining me in my condemnation.


This is not a new development. The NYT regularly downplays the prevalence of extremists on the left, instead preferring to focus on the right. However, where were the racist skinheads, brownshirts and other neo-Nazis at this conservative demonstration? Where were the organizations representing the far-right? Nowhere to be seen or found.

Sure, you had some “birthers” and other kooks but nowhere near the prevalence of “truthers” and other crackpots one finds in left gatherings. Yes, there were nutty Paulistas and people who think Obama is a Muslim Marxist. Like this dude:

muslim marxist

But these people, and the people who compare Obama to Hitler, are far and away in the minority on the conservative right. Most conservatives find those comparisons offensive. Yet comparisons between Bush and Hitler were common on the progressive left during Bush’s two terms in office and few in the mainstream media or on the left were offended by that.


This brings me to the third double standard, the issue of motivation. What drives individuals to engage in collective action? In the case of left-wing protesters, they are pushed to participate due to a sense of great moral conviction. They protest because it is the right thing to do. What about conservatives who protest? What is their motivation?

The predictable response from the mainstream media is racism. Conservatives protest because our president is black. That is some sad commentary on the state of American politics in the 21st century.

Think about it. It used to be the right that was obsessed with race. At least that was the case when I was growing up. Don’t get me wrong, I realize there are right-wing racists and extremists out there who are incensed about Obama’s blackness. All you have to do is look around the Internet. An important thing to keep in mind is radicals are on the margins of mainstream conservatism.

When I look at the political culture of the U.S. today, the partisans obsessed with race are largely located on the left. And I am not only talking about the radical left, the liberal left engages in this as well. NY representative Charlie Rangel, other Democratic legislators and the mainstream media have been reducing conservative disagreements with Obama’s policies to racism.

Congressman Rangel claims conservative opposition is “a bias, a prejudice, an emotional feeling” and thinks “some Americans have not gotten over the fact that Obama is president of the United States. They go to sleep wondering, ‘How did this happen?’ “. Even former president Jimmy Carter felt the urge to chime in. Kate Phillips (NYT) notes:

Coupling the Wilson remark with the images in recent weeks of angry demonstrators wielding signs depicting Mr. Obama as a Nazi or as Adolf Hitler, Mr. Carter said: “There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president.”

Carter continued:

“I live in the South and I’ve seen the South come a long way.” However, “I think it’s bubbled up to the surface because of a belief among many white people not just in the South but around the country … that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It’s an abominable circumstance and grieves me and concerns me very deeply.”

You really should not have to be a conservative to find this sort of rhetoric insulting. I am not a Tea-Party protester. But the double standard applied to them is disturbing. These protests are about dramatically increased taxes, a bloated deficit, and the expansion of federal government power. For the vast majority of participants, race is not an issue.


Martin in the Margins on Carter, “race” and the right

The Stark Tenet on protesting and demonstrations

4 responses »

  1. Well said TNC. Anyone who spent any amount of time around the protests during the Bush years would have witnessed some rather appalling arguments and actions. It is strange, but not surprising, to see the same media outlets that ignored this fact 5 years ago to report every crazy individual they come across and conservative protests.

    I agree with Charles Johnson at LGF as of late, since I think that while the crazy folks on the right may be a minority, they end up hurting legitimate and moderate candidates and causes. The left’s crazy wing surely didn’t help John Kerry get elected in 2004, and the Paulistas and Tea Party protesters will hurt the chances of moderate Republicans winning elections if they end up even remotely associated with them.

    But Democrats and lefties who think they are going to win over many voters by calling opposition to Obama racist, well, they run a serious risk of losing large swaths of the country as well.

  2. Thanks for the comments.

    Most protesters participate in political demonstrations to express their dissatisfaction with particular policies and/or politicians. It is basically an exercise in political venting. Most groups that engage in these activities, whether groups on the left like ANSWER or Paulistas on the right, know the policies they happen to support have zero likelihood of every being implemented. So they are reduced to collective temper tantrums.

    The main point of this post was presenting the different way left-wing protests are presented or framed as opposed to those of the right. When conservatives claim that anti-war and other “peace” demonstrations are organized by anti-American groups like communists and anarchists they are telling the truth. One can see this in the groups represented and organizing these events. Yet liberal media organs like the NYT routinely ignore this fact. It is a blatant double standard.

    I am not arguing that the Tea Party protesters are right, or that there were absolutely no racists who attended this protest, or no racist imagery displayed by some of the protesters. But the primary motivation driving these people to protest was ideology rather than race. If this was indeed a racist demo, that is, a demo organized by and for racists, one would expect racist organizations to have been represented. But they were not.

    Roland, when you write:

    “I agree with Charles Johnson at LGF as of late, since I think that while the crazy folks on the right may be a minority, they end up hurting legitimate and moderate candidates and causes.”

    I think you and Charles are on to something. It does not only impact moderate candidates, it can damage the image of the Republican party in the minds of mainstream Americans. Sam Tanenhaus addresses this in his new book “The Death of Conservatism”.

    I have not read the book yet but I have seen and heard him making the rounds on a variety of programs and he is essentially arguing when the voice of the Republican party and American conservatism is the voice of people like Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh, rather than people like William F. Buckley and Whittaker Chambers, the conservative movement is on its last leg. This is because the latter two individuals recognized how politics work in this country. They were not satisfied with sitting on the sidelines, yelling and screaming that the country was being taken over by socialists. They wanted their ideas to actually have an impact on national policy. Paraphrasing Richard Weaver, ideas have consequences.

  3. Great post. And you’re right, a huge double standard.

    The difference, from my own observations, however, is that the extreme ugliness from the left during the Bush years was the majority, and the extreme ugliness you find within the tea partiers is a very small percentage of the group.

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