I won't review John O'Hara's The New American Tea Party. It does not need to be reviewed, it needs to be edited. It needs to be edited and it needs to be reprinted. Immediately.
Forget for a moment the book's abundance of self-aggrandizing references (apparently O'Hara was one of the founders of the Tea Party movement). Move past the partisan comments about liberal and progressive ideology. Instead, simply bask in the glow of all the egregious mistakes, by which I mean not just spelling errors but serious errors of fact, misrepresentations and omissions with which the piece is rife. It's amazing that Wiley published this. Cited references either contradict the author or don't exist; major players in the Tea Party movement are practically ignored; the author's own writing contradicts itself from one chapter to the next.
The error that really caught my eye, the one that would get any reporter's heart all twitter-pated, is on pg. 52. This incandescent, priceless gem reads like an editor's nightmare (or a reviewer's dream). O'Hara quotes Janeane Garofalo as saying of FOX News, "[T]hat's why Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch started this venture, is to disinform [sic] and to coarsen and dumb down a certain segment of the electorate." No, that [sic] should not be there, but it's in the text. At this point O'Hara perpetrates truly heinous crimes against publishing:
"Well, isn't that calling the kettle black, as Garofolo [sic] and Olbermann foster anti-intellectualism and pseudo-science? Of course 'disinform' is not a real word. Ironic that Garofalo would make such a blunder while ranting about conservatives' lack of intellectual prowess. We'll give her a bye this time."
First of all, he spells Garofalo's name two different ways within three sentences. Then we have "disinform", which is in fact a word, despite any claims to the contrary. To claim that "disinform" is not a word is to spread disinformation, which is itself the very definition of "disinform." Finally, O'Hara does all this in the same breath as criticizing Garofalo's intellectual prowess. How ironic.
On page 188, O'Hara incorrectly suggests that at White House press conferences in August, "friendly press were given precedence to ask prearranged questions." His citation for this is a Wall Street Journal blog post, "Obama's Press List: Membership Shall Have Its Privileges." The piece does say, "The President was running down a list of reporters preselected to ask questions. The White House had decided in advance who would be allowed to question the President and who was left out." The piece certainly does not say anything about friendly press getting precedence, nor does it make any reference whatsoever to any questions being prearranged. If anyone is guilty of press confidence prejudice it would be the Bush administration. As Dana Perino recently admitted on FOX News, towards the end of the Bush administration they "didn’t do a lot with MSNBC."
O'Hara makes an almost identical, just-as-false claim on pg. 64, that "Barack Obama gave an address at a town hall meeting where the audience provided preassigned, preapproved questions." The citation for this reference is to a March 27 Washington Post blog post, "Obama Town Hall Questioners Were Campaign Backers." Unfortunately for Mr. O'Hara, while the article in question says the questions were "soft", it explicitly states that they were "far from planted." The audience members were indeed Obama supporter
s, but who is most likely people to show up to see the President? You probably couldn't throw a teabag in that place without hitting an Obama campaign volunteer. Thus there is no basis for the claim that the questions were preassigned. Moving swiftly on...
In response to an April 9 report from the Maryland National Guard citing the potential of the Guard becoming a "target of opportunity" during the April 15 Tax Day protests in Washington, O'Hara writes, "[T]he Maryland National Guard specifically named tea party attendees as potential threats ... Just why are peaceful protesters and their philosophical nature important to the National Guard?" Perhaps it is because of "protesters" like Richard Poplawski, who shot 3 police offers on April 4, 2007. A friend said Poplawski feared "the Obama gun ban that's on the way" and "didn't like our rights being infringed upon." O'Hara mentions the shooting on pg. 56. On pg. 84, he writes of someone on the internet called 'waxwing' who, in reference to the Chicago Tax Day Tea Party, posted the following on the white supremacist website Stormfront.org: "If you live in Chicago, please help me by infiltrating the event and holding an interesting sign." Another post on the same thread, one conveniently ignored by O'Hara, reads, "Go where our people are starting to stand up around symptoms of the problem, and INTERVENE to guide them. Just because these started as an anti-tax protest doesn't mean that they must be limited and can't be developed upward toward an explicitly racial mass struggle." Anti-government protests are important to the National Guard when people start getting shot and when extremists start expressing an intent to infiltrate such events. O'Hara even acknowledges that "racists" are attracted to tea parties as "mass, high-profile gatherings where they could possibly hold up a sign and get attention." If we're talking about what's possible, then extremists and/or domestic terrorists could possibly use the opportunity for their own violent purposes. It might sound ridiculous, but so does a man trying to crash an airplane with his underwear.
One blindingly glaring omission, most obvious on pg. 237, is the complete and total absence of any reference to Glenn Beck in connection with the 9/12 March on Washington. This is only odd in that Beck masterminded what he calls "The 9/12 Project", comprising nine principles and twelve values, the adherence to which will lead us to become the people we were on September 12, 2001. By which he means wounded, terrified, angry and looking for something to kill. "Choking with impotent rage," as Jon Stewart said on The Daily Show. Actually, Beck has some sort of positive connotation for it all. On March 17 Beck told his radio listeners, "You can say, look, we're going to do this project, we're going to do a march on Washington and it's going to be on this day, and you can try to put it all together as long as it's all framed with those principles and values, then I'd be with you. I'd be for you." And yet according to O'Hara, Beck wasn't involved in the planning of the event.
When asked why he neglected to mention any connection between Glenn Beck and the 9/12 March on Washington, O'Hara replied, "I don't recall not specifically doing that." According to his understanding, "FreedomWorks got a coalition together in line with those groups and those dates." Brendan Steinhauser, who in March pulled the permit for the 9/12 March on Washington, responded via email to say than in March he pulled the permit for the 9/12 March on Washington. The way he tells it, "FreedomWorks raised 99% of the money to pay for the stage, sound and equipment, and we also did most of the planning and organizing. The other two groups that were really helpful in putting on the event were Tea Party Patriots and National Taxpayers Union. Beck's involvement was very little, other than some promotion." Here is Steinhauser's pre-history of the 9/12 March:
"Once the February protests began, I saw that we could indeed organize a March on Washington, and began talking to my boss, Matt Kibbe about it. Once we decided to roll the dice and do it, Tax Day tea parties were being organized and gaining momentum. We saw this and saw that April 15th would be big, so we figured a March on Washington was possible. Thus began the journey of raising the funds, trying to get media attention, building the coalition of groups and setting up the logistics. Beck's role came at the very end of this process, when he first mentioned our event on his radio and tv shows."
It's interesting he should mention February protests. On February 9 Steinhauser contacted Mary Rakovich of Florida, who had attended a FreedomWorks training session, and suggested she organize a protest in response to President Obama's upcoming visit to Ft. Myers. That would be the start of these protests of which he speaks, the ones which galvanized FreedomWorks into action, the ones FreedomWorks helped plan. Also, Beck first spoke to his listeners about a September 12 march on Washington on March 17. According to Steinhauser's timeline, this would mean his group's fundraising, attention-getting, coalition-building "journey" took all of a month. How arduous.
In the lead-up to the 9/12 March on Washington, Beck told his viewers he would see them in Washington on September 12. He encouraged his viewers to bring their families, their children. The day of the event, Beck stood proudly in front of his cameras with screens behind him showing waving flags that read, "The 9/12 Project." Beck's 9/12 Project website has a section entitled "Scenes from 9/12" comprised of video and photos from the march. Nowhere does it state that the event, the site or the project are separate entities. Was the 9/12 March part of Beck's 9/12 project? Or was it all FreedomWorks? O'Hara doesn't know - the best he could offer was that "the origins of the march are not 100% clear."
Beck isn't the only one who might feel left out after reading this book. On pg. 38 O'Hara writes, "A major part of the 2008 campaign, and one that I'd be remiss not to dismiss, was the rise of libertarian sensation Ron Paul." This makes sense, as Ron Paul supporters organized what could be called the first modern-day Tea Party in 2007 on December 16 - the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. Any book on the rise of the Tea Party movement would surely mention this seminal event, right? Wrong. Though O'Hara tells of Paul's "highly motivated network of grassroots supporters who held rallies and held fundraising events across the country," he makes no reference whatsoever to Paul's nationwide Tea Party. The event was far from insignificant - it netted Paul over $6 Million in one day, breaking the single-day fundraising record set by John Kerry in 2004. The media called it the Ron Paul Money Bomb or the Tea Dump, and according to the Daily Paul there were over 60,000 participants nationwide.While making sure to point out that "[i]t wasn't that Paul had originated new ideas," O'Hara goes on to almost completely ignore Paul for the rest of the book - he is only referenced twice, both times in throwaway lines reflecting admirable qualities of Paul's campaign tactics. Except, of course, for throwing tea parties.
On pg. 142 O'Hara writes, "[W]hat the nanny-state proponents want is to legislate ... whether you can smoke in your own home, allegedly due to safety concerns, and much more." The citation given for this claim reads, "Berman and Company, '60 Minutes Video,"www.bermanco.com/60min.htm but don't even bother because the link doesn't work. There is, however, a 60 Minutes interview with Berman on the main page of bermanco.com. I would assume it's the video referenced, except that it makes no reference to smoking in or outside of the home. The videodoes begin by pointing out that Berman is known as Dr. Evil. When Morley Safer suggests Berman is a hired gun, Dr. Evil replies, "I go out to people and I say, 'You believe in what I believe. Will you help fund it?' I don't know if that's a hired gun or not, but yes, I get paid to educate people." Berman gets paid to educate like the Mafia gets paid to protect.
O'Hara uses pg. 123 to suggest that global warming is in fact a myth. He claims that "global temperatures have been decreasing over the last decade." Which is why the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA all report that eight of the ten warmest years since they began recording global temperature, in 1880, have all occurred since 2001, with the warmest being 2005. Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, recently told reporters, "The decade 2000-2009 is very likely to be the warmest on record, warmer than the 1990s, which were in turn warmer than the 1980s."
The one article O'Hara cites as evidence for his claims, Falling Temperatures Confound Alarmists, was published in September 2009 by the Heartland Institute, the same group which employs O'Hara. The article is all of 546 words, and seems to have been cited in ... tens of ... blogs. Meanwhile, ExxonMobil gave $115,000 to the Heartland Institute in 2006, and the group also receives funding from the Claude R. Lambe Foundation and the Charles G. Koch Foundation, both of which are Koch Family Foundations. Koch Industries, with extensive oil, gas, coal and lumber interests, is the second largest privately-held company in America. One division, Flint Hills Resources, has a combined crude oil processing capacity of more than 800,000 barrels per day.
articles/news/energy/2009/12/ 08/un-2000-2009-likely- warmest-decade-on-record.html
On pg. 133 O'Hara theorizes that the stimulus package is unconstitutional because it allows for a state legislature to accept stimulus money "if funds provided to any State in and division of this Act are not accepted for use by the Governor." O'Hara believes this would render the stimulus "unconstitutional in states where all resolutions must be presented before the governor." He would be correct if it weren't for the Constitution. Under Article IV's Supremacy Clause, any state law that conflicts with a federal law is preempted by that federal law. According to the Supreme Court's decision in Crosby v. Nat'l Foreign Trade Council, "a conflict exists if the state law is an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress." The stimulus bill is a case of an implied conflict preemption, as the federal law does not explicitly express a desire to conflict with the state law and yet the legislature cannot accept stimulus money without, according to O'Hara, violating their respective state constitutions. Ergo conflict, ergo supremacy clause, ergo not unconstitutional. We're done here.
O'Hara can't seem to make up his mind about just how many people showed up to the April 15 Tax Day Tea Parties nationwide. On pg. 76 he confidently states that "half a million Americans" showed up to protest. But by the time he gets to pg. 93 that number has changed to "a net turnout of a quarter to half a million people." That's quite a spread there. Again, on pg. 211, O'Hara writes, "By most estimates, there were a quarter to half a million people in the streets on April 15, 2009." That's like saying, "Last night I had 10 to 20 beers," or, "I have three to six children." He only cites the third guesstimate, and his citation is a single blog post from Americans For Tax Reform, one of the event's primary sponsors according to O'Hara's website NewAmericanTeaParty.com - which doesn't seem to have been updated since April.
O'Hara references the book SocialNomics (also published by Wiley) on page 241 while discussing how tea party activists can use social networks, using author Erik Qualman's well-researched examples of just how powerful, effective, and pervasive social networks are and will be. He even dutifully cites all the references that Qualman already cited in his book (without citing the book itself) There's only a small problem - O'Hara spells Qualman first name with a C. But we already know O'Hara's not really a 'name' guy.
O'Hara decides to criticize old media on pg. 48 of his freshly published, 308-page, ink-on-paper hardcover book. He writes, "As if the bailouts weren't enough, liberal politicians decided to target another noncrucial sector of the economy that they owed alms to: newspapers." He suggests that liberal politicians rely on newspapers for free publicity,claiming today's newspapers are "struggling to survive under the auspices of delivering unbiased news." Thus one may infer that in this context, "newspapers" refers to the media outlets themselves rather than one particular medium. That newspapers are not crucial to American democracy would surely be a surprise to, among others, the founding fathers of our great nation. They only mention it in Article I of the Constitution. Ben Franklin ran a newspaper. On pg. 73, as an epigraph to Chapter 5 (The Media Strikes Back), O'Hara quotes Thomas Jefferson - "I read ... chiefly the advertisements, for they contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper." In fact Jefferson's praise for newspapers far outweighed his criticism. O'Hara might have considered this Jeffersonian gem - "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."
On pg. 81 O'Hara parrots the false conservative talking point that the group ACORN was the President's first employer. This is thoroughly false. Not only did ACORN never employ Obama, but in fact his first job in any organizational context was as director of the Developing Communities Project (DCP), a church-based community organization made up of eight Chicago Catholic parishes, where he worked from 1985 until 1988. His first job in the legal field was as a summer associate with the law firm of Sidley Austin in 1989 and Hopkins & Sutter in 1990. Obama did not work with Project VOTE, a group affiliated with (but not run by) ACORN, until 1992 - a good seven years after starting his DCP job. However, if you want to get really literal, none of these qualify as Obama's first employer. The President's first-ever employer was the Honolulu Baskin-Robbins.