Times Finally Marks Anti-Spending Tea Party...With Merciless Mockery

Tea parties were "spawned in the red-meat districts of right-wing talk radio and cable TV....the green lawn was rumbling with grass-roots anger. Actually, its grass-rootiness was highly debatable."

Liberal double standards ahoy! The Times news pages have virtually ignored the grass-roots "tea party" protests held in various towns across the country opposing Obama's big-spending and supporting free markets. The paper hasrun not a single story on aprotest, even when one happened in the paper's own backyard of Ridgefield, Conn.

By contrast, a much smaller "bus tour" protest organized by a left-wing group of the homes of AIG executives received prominent and sympathetic coverage in the paper's National section, a protest where the media (50) outnumbered the protestors (40).

On Tuesday, Times editorial writer Lawrence Downes took the plunge and covered a genuine "tea party" in Northport, N.Y., a hamlet on Long Island Sound, complete with costumes and wooden crates for the dumping.

The only question is: Why did he bother?

From the start of his signed editorial, "Don't Tread on Them," it's clear Downes considers the movement a patchwork of right-wing kooks, snottily caricaturizing the protestors as silly, lazy, and greedy ("mostly, it was about tax cuts"). The text box: "Long Island patriots strike a blow against tyranny and whatever."

They were a band of like minds bent on dire provocations seldom witnessed in the harborside hamlet on Long Island Sound. It was a day for brandishing signs, shouting imprecations and donning silly clothing: tricorn hats and breeches, bonnets and petticoats. A few carried pitchforks, the better to jab the message home. We good farm folk are fed up and will be silent no more.

Their enemy: a tyrannical government heedless of the people's will and blind to its manifold injustices. Their tactic: a Boston-style tea party, a symbolic rebellion for times that once again are trying men's souls.

Tea parties are a recent phenomenon, spawned in the red-meat districts of right-wing talk radio and cable TV. It was strange to see the rebels reach Northport, whose antiques 'n' potpourri Main Street, with a half-dozen empty stores, could use a little federal stimulus.

But down at the park gazebo, the green lawn was rumbling with grass-roots anger. Actually, its grass-rootiness was highly debatable....Was this about Wall Street? Evil automakers? Greedy lenders who pillaged Long Island with predatory housing loans? No, no and no. It was not about fixing unbridled free-market capitalism, but ensuring its glorious restoration. Mostly, it was about tax cuts.

The local authorities keeping a rather zealous eye on the protests ("The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, alerted to the possibility of tea dumping without permits, had sent two armed officers")were somehow seen by Downes as a refutation of the point of the protest, instead of being seen as proof of the reality of excessive government:

Whatever trouble these rebels found themselves in, the federal, state and local governments had it covered.

Downes concluded with another puzzling vignette, about the empty tea crates tossed into the harbor that began floating away. The story is meant to signify...actually Times Watch is at a loss about what Downes is driving at, but the anecdote is clearly meant to be unflattering:

A lone man in a big black hat, the Stars and Stripes waving from his fishing-rod holder, paddled out to snag the boxes. Fighting a stiff wind, he slowly towed them back to shore.

It was a gallant act of individual responsibility. Too bad hardly anyone noticed. The crowd had gone to Skipper's Pub, which was offering drink specials.

In May 2007 during the immigration debate, Downes wrote an editorial frothing about the "loud and loony right" and calling opponents of amnesty "un-American."