Like rubberneckers on the misinformation highway, let's slow down and gawk at the wreckage from last Saturday's Tea Party rally in Philadelphia. Let's look at the scattered debris and see what it says not only about the state of today's Tea Party movement, but also what clues it provides for the political press corps in terms of how it should cover the anti-Obama rabble rousers.
The Saturday event was dubbed Uni-Tea, and was designed to feature mostly minority speakers as a way to send a message that not only isn't the Tea Party movement racist, but that it seeks diversity amid its ranks.
Optimistic organizers, who boasted that their website had attracted 2 million hits during the run-up to the big rally, predicted a crowd of 3,000-4,000 people for the Philadelphia event. And they had every reason to be confident. After all, right-wing celebrity Andrew Breitbart, fresh off his Shirley Sherrod star turn, was scheduled to speak at the event, which was held on a gorgeous summer day in downtown Philadelphia on Independence Mall, where throngs of tourists would already be milling around. So it made sense, as Talking Points Memo reported, that organizers had 1,500 bottles of water on ice to hand out for the throngs who descended on the rally to cheer the Tea Party message.
But how many people actually showed up last Saturday for the national Tea Party rally? One local report put the number at 300. That's right, 300, or less than one-tenth of the expected turnout. In fact, it's possible more people showed up in Philadelphia last week to commemorate the opening of the new Apple computer store than showed up at the nationally promoted Tea Party rally featuring Andrew Breitbart.
Memo to the media: The Tea Party movement has collapsed.
And its collapse means it's time for the press to rethink the way it covers the political equivalent of the Pet Rock, a fad that appears to be in its waning days of popularity.
I'd suggest that for more than a year the Beltway press has spent far too many man-hours obsessively chronicling the conservative Tea Partiers. Part of that overindulgence has been fueled by the bullying GOP Noise Machine, which has demanded around-the-clock Tea Party coverage as proof that journalists aren't liberally biased. And part of it has simply been the media's attraction to a political story that was new and rather unorthodox.
But it's time to pull the plug, or at least it's time for the press to tell the truth about the Tea Party's rather sad state of affairs.
Read the entire Media Matters column here.