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The Rise of the Tea Party

The Rise of the Tea Party: Political Discontent and Corporate Media in the Age of Obama

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    The Rise of the Tea Party
    Book Description:

    What to make of the Tea Party? To some, it is a grassroots movement aiming to reclaim an out-of-touch government for the people. To others, it is a proto-fascist organization of the misinformed and manipulated lower middle class. Either way, it is surely one of the most significant forms of reaction in the age of Obama. In this definitive socio-political analysis of the Tea Party, Anthony DiMaggio examines the Tea Party phenomenon, using a vast array of primary and secondary sources as well as first-hand observation. He traces the history of the Tea Party and analyzes its organizational structure, membership, ideological coherence, and relationship to the mass media. And, perhaps most importantly, he asks: is it really a movement or just a form of manufactured dissent engineered by capital? DiMaggio's conclusions are thoroughly documented, surprising, and bring much needed clarity to a highly controversial subject.

    eISBN: 978-1-58367-305-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 7-8)
  4. INTRODUCTION Manufacturing Dissent in a Time of Public Distrust
    (pp. 9-34)

    This book is not simply about the Tea Party. Rather, it is an exploration of the ways in which business interests dominate society through the power of ideas and the pull of material affluence. The Tea Party plays an important role in the dissemination of pro-business ideology, but it is merely one of many forces to do so. Furthermore, the Tea Party is largely a mass-mediated force. Contrary to popular depictions, the Tea Party relies upon elite, top-down organizing for its success as the group serves the interests of the Republican Party and business power. The power of the Tea...

  5. ONE Don’t Call It a Movement: The Tea Party as a Mass Uprising
    (pp. 35-70)

    Before understanding the role of the Tea Party in manufacturing public dissent, one must first understand what drives the phenomenon. This and the next chapter are devoted to explaining precisely what the Tea Party is. I explore in detail the ways in which it has been misperceived by the American public. Most important, I analyze the ways in which the Tea Party does not constitute a mass movement.

    Late 2010 witnessed a divergence in media coverage of the Tea Party, with two trends evident in news and editorializing. The first trend defined the Tea Party as a bottom-up social movement...

  6. TWO The Tea Party Does Not Exist: Observations on the Ground in Chicago
    (pp. 71-102)

    Our findings with regard to Tea Party activism in Chicago supplement those of the last chapter, where we found that Tea Party organizing was lacking at the local level. In this chapter we present a summary of more than six months of local observation, documenting the widespread confusion, lack of participation, extreme secrecy, and lack of movement building of the midwestern Tea Party.

    The extensive ties between the Tea Party and the Republican Party do not in and of themselves mean that the group fails as a social movement. When considering strong Republican tiesalongsidethe lack of participation in...

  7. THREE The Counter-Revolution Will Be Televised: The Tea Party as a Mediated Rebellion
    (pp. 103-124)

    Chomsky and Herman’s propaganda model for the mass media predicts that reporting on domestic protest groups will idealize those that support dominant political and business interests. Social movements that fall outside of the bipartisan range of opinions are consistently ignored. A group like the Tea Party, which is strongly supportive of Republican and business interests, should receive extensive and sympathetic coverage. This prediction is strongly borne out through the analysis provided in this chapter, which finds that the Tea Party receives far higher levels of coverage than social movements on the left, and that coverage ranges from extremely to largely...

  8. FOUR Mediated Populism: The Tea Party Captivates Public Opinion
    (pp. 125-150)

    A propaganda model for public opinion should be able to account for the roles of material affluence and neoliberal ideas in influencing the public’s policy attitudes. This model was described in detail in the Introduction of this book, and it is tested in relation to the mass media and the Tea Party in this chapter. An in-depth investigation into the sources of support for the Tea Party “revolution” in 2009 and 2010 demonstrates the tremendous powers of privilege and propaganda in establishing an emergent conservative national mood, and in stoking public opposition to liberal-left reforms in the area of healthcare....

  9. FIVE The Plot to Kill Grandma: The Tea Party, Mass Media, and Healthcare Reform
    (pp. 151-172)

    Reporters’ thorough reliance on official sourcing is a fundamental component of American journalism. Corporate ownership and advertising also exert significant pressure on reporters to promote perspectives that are favorable to business interests.¹ It is not that reporters habitually feel they must ignore stories that are critical of business. Rather, the power of hegemony plays the dominant role in socializing journalists to refrain from seriously questioning corporate power. This does not mean that stories addressing corporate malfeasance and corruption will always be ignored. It simply means that there are a variety of institutional safety valves operating to ensure that challenges to...

  10. SIX Manufacturing Dissent: Fostering Resistance to Healthcare Reform from the Top Down
    (pp. 173-208)

    A propaganda model for public opinion includes a number of material and intangible forces that are predicted to “filter” public opinion in favor of pro-business hegemonic views. In chapter 4 I documented the role of these filters in cultivating support for the Tea Party. In this chapter, I document the role of these filters in molding public opinion on the Tea Party’s central issue of healthcare reform. Perhapsthemost important filter of public attitudes on healthcare reform is the mass media. Although the Tea Party at first spoke primarily to a relatively narrow segment of American society, its Republican,...

  11. CONCLUSION The Post-Midterm Tea Party and the Wisconsin Revolt
    (pp. 209-230)

    The tall tale of the Tea Party as a revolutionary “outside” force in American politics was pervasive in the post-midterm period in 2010. However, this description became even less tenable as Tea Party congressional leaders displayed their establishment-oriented positions, and as “mass” participation from group members reached new lows. This conclusion, written in August 2011, provides a brief glimpse of the Tea Party as it existed with Republican control of the House of Representatives. I reflect upon the top-down nature of the Tea Party by examining the elitism of the group’s national leaders and its 2011 national conference, the conformist...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 231-274)
  13. Index
    (pp. 275-287)