I’m protesting against TEA Party “activists”!

While surfing the web recently an old forum discussion on DemocraticUnderground.com caught my attention:

Why are Tea Party folks called ‘Activists’ while OWS supporters are labeled ‘Protesters’ ?

At first glance I wondered if the question was academic: I assumed each word was used pretty much interchangeably when describing either group, as their definitions are almost identical:

Activist: A proponent or practitioner of the use of direct, often confrontational action, such as a demonstration or strike, in opposition to or support of a cause.
Protester: 1. A formal declaration of disapproval or objection issued by a concerned person, group, or organization. 2. An individual or collective gesture or display of disapproval

However, the subtle yet important difference in their definitions piqued my curiosity. So, I used Google to find out how often the TEA Party and Occupy Wall Street (OWS) were each labeled with either “activist” or “protester” in the headline of a published article:

Google mentions of OWS vs. TEA Party

Although there were more articles involving the TEA Party, it appeared my assumption was correct and the poster’s question moot: Someone “Googling” the entire internet for information on the TEA Party or OWS were just as likely to see the word “activist” or “protester” in the headline.

But, what if someone (such as myself) has a convenient list of websites or RSS feeds they read regularly? Look what happens when I limit my Google searching to popular news sites I recalled off the top of my head: CNN, the LA Times, MSNBC, the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal, FOX News, The Huffington Post (AOL), Politico, and USA Today.

Word "activist" associated with OWS & TEA Party(click image to enlarge)Word "protest" associated with OWS & TEA Party

Well I’ll be darned like a sock: Every one of the major news websites I chose – including the “ultra-conservative” Fox News and the purportedly-neutral Politico – labeled the TEA Party as “activists” and OWS as “protesters”. Still, that’s not too bad – I mean, just how many people read these particular websites, anyway?

Monthly Unique Viewers, Various online news sites

Oh… millions of people read these websites. And, I’ve only picked nine websites from the vast interweb.

Unfortunately, my little Google excursion didn’t address the “Why” of the original question. After all, when I think of “direct, often confrontational action” I’m thinking chants, shouting, intimidation, violence, vandalism, theft, disrespect and lawlessness: Activities I’d associate with the Occupy Wall Street movement (heck, the word “occupy”, which can be direct and confrontational all by itself, is in their name!). I certainly wouldn’t apply those words to any TEA Party member I’ve met or rally I’ve witnessed – unless one considers “activism” involving prayer, US flags, the Pledge of Allegiance, peaceful assembly & speeches, fiscal responsibility, an appreciation of our founding principles & documents, tidying up their trash, and generally better wardrobe, manners, and (ahem) reasonable hygiene as “confrontational”.

But, my next discovery was even more surprising:  The TEA Party has been routinely (and, unjustly) accused of being  discriminatory against a certain ethnic group, or, to use a word the censors will might ignore, “ray-cyst” (or, if you prefer, “r@c1$t”). Once again, let’s use Google to check if this label is placed disproportionately upon the TEA Party:

Word "ray-cizm" associated with OWS & TEA Party

Surprise! Once again every one of the major news outlets I chose associated this disparaging word with the TEA Party and not OWS.

To me, such a label is unjustified – especially when one considers the ethnic makeup of the two groups, based on info found on the internet:

OWS vs. TEA Party: Ethnicity of members.

Compared to the general US population, both the TEA Party and Occupy Wall Street not only comprise a greater percentage of Caucasians, but their percentages are essentially identical. However, the TEA Party represents a greater percentage of Hispanics and Blacks, while the OWS has a greater percentage of “Other” (I presume Asian, Native Americans, and Multiple Ethnicities).

So, if you happen to see a guy of below-average height, weight, and build, dressed in neat, casual clothes and a Red Sox cap, standing in one spot, engaged in calm, polite conversation with an interested person(s) and holding a sign saying “TEA Partiers are not Activists!” or “The TEA Party doesn’t Discriminate!“, please don’t be offended by my use of an exclamation point:

That’s just my inner “activist” being “direct and confrontational;-)

Thanks for reading!

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