Why all this willful ignorance from reporters about the Tea Party flag?
All of a sudden a certain well-known banner is being called, instead, the “Gadsden Flag” or the “don’t tread on me Flag”, which are names for it too, I guess. However, the fact is I see this yellow rectangle of cloth -- carrying an image of a coiled snake and the old Revolutionary War slogan -- suspended off my neighbor’s front porch. I don’t think it is there because my neighbor is a Ben Franklin buff. I think he is a proud supporter of the Tea Party movement, which itself is a widely known political force on the right that reporters, other pundits, and politicians talk about all the time.
And yet the Tea Party and its accoutrements seem forgotten since Sunday when a sociopathic couple who made no secret of their anti-government views proceeded to murder two policemen at a Las Vegas pizza parlor and then draped one victim with that Tea Party flag. Jeff Simpson mentioned all this in an earlier post.
Journalists such as Jodi Becker at WTMJ-AM chose in describing the news to call it the “don’t tread on me flag”. Ken Herrera at WISN-AM omitted mention of the flag entirely, noting instead the perpetrators' white supremacist views. (The couple also left a swastika in some form with the victims; one report said their intent was to imply the police are like Nazis).
In Becker’s defense, her waffly wording probably comes from an NBC report the station links to that also chose for some reason to call it the "don't tread on me flag". The New York Times at least added, in mentioning this detail, that the flag has been adopted as a symbol of the Tea Party.
WTMJ’s failure to also explain this – I was taught that reporters are supposed to explain – is surprising because a former "talent" on the station -- the phony right-wing pundit James T. Harris -- is apparently a Tea Party supporter. At his new gig at another Journal Communications-owned station in Tucson, Harris spoke at a rally in Sept. 2012 where the flag was clearly visible.
In other news stories, Allah knows we have seen perpetrators very quickly associated with causes. Journalists, of course, have seen fit to include the religion of a perpetator of violent acts if that religion is Islam. Ever since Ted Kaczynski's capture, right-wing pundits have played up the connections, if any, of bad people with leftist causes. Pundits around here, for example, whose motive is to promote the Republican Party, always try to associate any bad act with “the left” or with bumpers that carry a certain sticker.
These two murderers in Nevada are not officially sponsored by or conspiring within any Tea Party group, by all accounts. And, even though right-wing pundits imply something different all the time, it goes without saying that the fact you do something bad and support a cause does not mean all other supporters of that cause are guilty of the same bad act.
But this couple has not helped the Tea Party’s PR image, of course, which I think has legitimately been associated with racists and violent people. The damage it does to the group is motivating presidential wannabes and Tea Party supporters Ted Cruz and Rand Paul to spike any and all photos that show them among wavers of the flag.
I also have to think that the legion of right-wing pundits who support the Tea Party such as Harris will be running for cover, or at least keeping quiet. However, there is still the question of why supposed journalists make the choice to serve the PR interests of the Tea Party movement instead of doing their job of informing and explaining.