Saturday, September 12, 2009

Who's protesting?

I have to stop reading the New York Times -- I read their headline today, "Thousands Rally in Capital to Protest Big Government" and eagerly clicked in -- news, news! But the article never once told me who organized the protest. Who's out there? Who's in charge? Who rented the microphone? No answers -- and a group with some kind of specific opposition to some particular policy or government priority is transformed into a faceless checkmark on a party-politics scorecard.

So I figure, hah. Liberal media bias. And I go over to the Drudge Report -- nothing. There isn't even a headline today, but buried somewhere down the page is an article "Bomb Threat Forces Evacuation of DC TEA Party Planners" from which one can find out that the demonstration was planned by FreedomWorks, headed by former House Majority leader Dick Armey. So -- as opposed to the groundswell of opposition to health care reform that the Times (and FreedomWorks) would like us to believe this demonstration represents, let's look at FreedomWorks specifically.

FreedomWorks, formerly called Citizens for a Sound Economy, is funded in part by donations from MetLife, Phillip Morris, and the Scaife family fortune. Their stated goal is to increase individual freedom by decreasing taxes; they were organizers of the April 15th tea parties (pictures here), although they generally prefer to label their events and websites as 'grassroots' in an attempt to prevent the devolution of responsibility onto them personally. The term NPR uses, daintily, is 'faux grassroots'.

As far as I can tell on their website, FreedomWorks formally opposes: the bank bailout, the stimulus package, environmental cap-and-trade legislation, the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act, and most other government initiatives that require significant spending or limit corporate power (which they equate with individual liberty) in any significant way. As a group, they also seem to be strong supporters of Israel, strong opponents of abortion, and Christians generally. This has led to them being confused for rank-and-file Republicans, but although they were real supporters of President Bush (who was the right religion, and passed big tax cuts for the wealthy), the last presidential candidate they really loved was Steve Forbes, who serves on their board of directors.

Much of the press online about FreedomWorks centers around discoveries of the extent to which they are willing to go to lie to their own members and the public about their tactics. The Washington Post caught them out secretly signing up members through insurance sales (i.e. want a low group rate? Sure! Just sign this contract -- um, petition/membership form/contract) and they are particularly energetic astroturfers -- creating fictitious sites and conversations online in order to expand positive perception of their issues (we'll see if tagging their name and linking to a bunch of stories about them as I do here attracts some 'concerned democrats' who are worried that government is 'just too big').

Anyway, this is still developing -- if they break 50,000 demonstrators (by any estimate other than their own, which I'm sure is already at like 4 million people) in Washington, I'll do a little bit about Dick Armey tomorrow. He's a colorful fellow!

EDIT: I seem to be getting some traffic from searches for estimates for the size of the rally, so I'll bite: ABC is going with the DC Fire Department's estimate of 60 to 70 thousand people; CNN is elaborately silent on the issue of size; the New York Times's headline says that "thousands" came to the capital; the Washington Post says only that 30,000 people registered for the protest. It seems like all the links estimating 2 million (which, if it really happened, would be larger than the Inauguration, FIFTY times larger than the largest sourceable media estimate, become immediately visible to any onlooker of any party, and be the lead in any news story that wanted to be credible) go back to Michelle Malkin. For a complete debunking of the 2 million figure, see here.


  1. The DC police called it 1.2 million earlier this afternoon.
    ABC and CNN said over 2 million.
    The organizers were hoping for 50,000.

  2. Nice! I didn't think this would be long. Can we have some links to the ABC, CNN or DC estimates? I've been googling for ten minutes and all I can find is freepers and Michelle Malkin, all of whose counting abilities I question.

    I did find some great pictures of people waving Confederate flags, though!