We are debating the relationship politicians and the media in the Leveson Inquiry. What, then, is the role of the media in the development of America’s most important political development, the rise of the Tea Party (TP)?
Anthony DiMaggio has a startling answer in his book: The Rise of the Tea Party. Far from being a genuine social movement, he argues that the TP is a clever rebranding of the Republican Party to win back support after the dismal Bush Jnr presidency.
Not a fluid movement
It is not a decentralised, authentic, leaderless, fluid movement at all, he says. He studies it closely in and around Chicago and less closely in the rest of the USA. He finds it a “false” social movement whose members are being manipulated by wealthy corporate interests.
Where does the TP’s support come from? “Whites, Republicans, men, middle-income earners, white Evangelicals, wealthier Evangelicals, Protestants and registered voters.”
Common man’s rebellion?
So why does it look like a social movement with broad support? This is where the media comes in, says DiMaggio. “Journalistic portrayal of the Tea Party as the ‘common man’s’ rebellion likely helped encourage to overestimate the Tea Party’s prominence.”
“The national debate over the Tea Party, as reflected in the mass media, was heavily sympathetic to the group and its members,” he says. He has scoured through databases and analysed the coverage of a range of media to reach this conclusion.
There is only one word to describe his conclusion: frightening. Read the book.