It was inevitable that the Occupy Wall Street protests would be compared to the tea party.
Slightly less inevitable: that Occupy Wall Street protesters would get the same criticisms as the tea party…from the tea partiers themselves.
Van Jones, who started the progressive Take Back The American Dream movement, even said that he studied tea party tactics as part of his group’s effort to mobilize progressives. “We made a mistake, we thought that was just about one person,” Jones said this week, referring to President Obama.
“I’m not mad at the tea party for being so loud,” he said. “I’m mad at us for being so quiet for the past two-and-a-half years.”
If you ask the tea partiers, however, the two movements could not be more different. But if you look closely, those differences start to sound a little bit familiar.
Exhibit A: It’s just an angry mob
For one thing, Mark Meckler of Tea Party Patriots said of Occupy Wall Street: “These are law breaking people.”
“We have nothing in common with them other than we are all American citizens. My read on the news is that they do not even know what they are protesting,” he said.
Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation had a similar take. “While the left wants to tear down and destroy all that is good in America, and replace it with an ideology if [sic] evil, the Tea Party movement is based on love,” he wrote in a blog post Tuesday. “Real Americans love their country and their neighbors. The Tea Party is not motivated by hatred as the left is.”
Sean Hannity called Occupy Wall Street “destructive” and “incoherent” protests in a segment with Ann Coulter this week. “It is a classic mob uprising,” Coulter agreed. “It’s utterly incoherent. They’re always left wing and completely destructive.”
“There is no violence at tea parties,” she added. “They are reading the Constitution. They are reading the Federalist Papers. This is a mob.”
Peter Johnson Jr. called the protesters “deluded” with “absolutely no purpose or focus in life” on Fox & Friends, and host Steve Doocy dismissed them as getting “between me and a steak dinner.”
Back in 2009, when the tea party was making waves disrupting health care town halls with elected representatives, they were definitely not seen as the huggable peace-lovers Phillips and the others described. Congressmen reported threats, demonstrators brought guns to political rallies, and one leaked memo laid out the tea party’s town hall strategy as “yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early…. to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda…stand up and shout and sit right back down.”
Exhibit B: It’s all white people
A Daily Caller article from Tuesday cites the plethora of pictures and slideshows that have come out of protests in several cities, that supposedly have not shown much diversity. This is something one “unofficial” organizer acknowledged to the Caller. “That’s an interesting question, and it comes up often,” OccupyWallSt.org’s Patrick Bruner said. “Unfortunately, we have a very high turnover rate, and nobody as of yet has come up with official diversity related statistics for us.”
Right-wing columnist Michelle Malkin pounced, telling Matthew Boyle of the Caller: “When Occupy Wall Street activists call themselves the ‘99 percent,’ it turns out they mean 99 percent non-diverse (by their own politically correct measurements).”
“We heard endless derision about the tea party’s lack of skin-color diversity from Hollywood and the national press. But not a peep about the Abercrombie & Fitch-meets-Apple central casting mob swamping lower Manhattan,” she said.
Dan Gainor of the Culture and Media Institute of the conservative Media Research Center agreed, saying the protesters are “not as white as new-fallen snow, but almost.”
Of course, everyone remembers the various accusations about diversity and racism lobbed at the Tea Party. The claims were punctuated by stories of anti-health care reform protesters shouting racial slurs at lawmakers on the Hill, among other things. Some tea party groups even (rather unsuccessfully) attempted to address this in a diversity rally called Uni-Tea.
Exhibit C: It’s not really grassroots
“The big question is ‘Occupy Wall Street’ and [the] tea party,” Brian Kilmeade said on Fox & Friends Wednesday. “They’re actually equating the two? One was an, was an, organic movement that started across this country without any one definitive leader, that just talked about getting spending in order.”
Steve Doocy added: “And this Van Jones is somehow tangled up in ‘Occupy Wall Street.’”
Mandy Nagy, a blogger for Andrew Breitbart’s Big Journalism known as “Liberty Chick,” believes the protests to “smell” of astroturf, but her culprit is Al Gore. She cited comments Gore made on Current TV: “We need to have an American spring. You know, the Arab Spring — the nonviolent part of it isn’t finished yet — but we need to have an American Spring, a kind of an American Tahrir Square. Non-violent change, where people from the grassroots get involved again.”
This will sound familiar to those following purportedly grassroots tea party groups like Americans For Prosperity, which was revealed to be backed by the billionaire Koch brothers as part of their continuing push for various conservative causes.
And though it’s no secret that Fox News supported the tea party movement, anchor Megyn Kelly once made things rather explicit, saying on-air that the network had given “publicity or p.r.” to the tea parties before anyone else.