Yesterday Chris Matthews hosted a documentary look at the Tea Party, right-wing militias, Republican extremists, and other components of what he calls "The Rise of the New Right." It was a generally adequate compilation of the genesis and evolution of the year-old "movement" to take our country back - to the Dark Ages.
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While Matthews touched on many of the most troubling aspects of the New Crusaders, there was a noticeable absence of fervor when discussing the very real threats posed by a small but zealous group of reactionaries bent on terminating their ideological rivals. The documentary efficiently checked off the major flash points, but did so in a rather detached manner that diminishes the dangers posed by giving serious consideration to a phony party that was created by corporatists, fed by media, and dependent on the willful ignorance that is the byproduct of greed and fear.
Nevertheless, the subjects of this program have gotten their panties in a bunch by what they regard as slander and a "left-wing propaganda hit piece". In response, FreedomWorks has joined with Tea Partiers to boycott an MSNBC advertiser. For some reason they singled out Dawn Dishwashing Liquid. From the FreedomWorks web site:
"Tea Party leaders from coast to coast are fighting back against the smears by boycotting one of the network's sponsors, Dawn dish soap, until they cut off funding to MSNBC. FreedomWorks believes it is important to join this effort, and show unity with other Tea Party groups in the face of these attacks by writing, calling and faxing the offices of Dawn (and parent company, Procter and Gamble) to ask them to stop subsidizing these vicious attacks by MSNBC and Chris Matthews."
There is a certain measure of irony in this boycott initiative. FreedomWorks just became a sponsor of Glenn Beck's radio program. Beck told his listeners that accepting FreedomWorks as a sponsor was a "hard decision" because he did not "want to send the message to you that the way to restore our republic is through the political process only." Despite his reluctance, Beck gave a full-throated endorsement to FreedomWorks and urged his audience to "link arms" with them and to "get on every bandwagon" they can.
First of all, Beck's pretension that he has some sort of aversion to politics is perhaps one of the best examples yet of his severance from reality. He rants about politics and Washington every single day. But more to the point, he has been the target of a surprisingly successful boycott that has cost him more than a hundred advertisers. Beck has taken to the air to denounce these activists as commies and thugs who are out to deprive him of his Constitutional rights. But now he is embracing a new sponsor (one of the few not ashamed to be associated with him) that is engaging in the same tactics that he fiercely condemns.
I have no problem with any group engaging in a boycott. It's a time-honored part of democracy. If FreedomWorks wants dirty dishes they are free to boycott Dawn or Ivory or Joy or any dishwashing liquid they like. I am curious though as to why they singled out Dawn. Perhaps it has something to do with this:
"For 32 years, the International Bird Rescue Research Center has had a surprise weapon in the battle against the oil: Dawn dishwashing detergent.
After a 1971 oil spill, the California-based nonprofit group began experimenting with products including paint thinner and nail polish remover to find the least traumatizing method for cleaning oiled animals. In 1978, the researchers settled on the blue liquid soap."
Dawn's website claims they have rescued thousands of animals over 35 years. They have donated 7,000 bottles of detergent to the current oil spill crisis in the Gulf. Maybe a crony corporate enterprise like FreedomWorks doesn't like the fact that Dawn eliminates oil or that they help wildlife (for the record, Dawn is an oil-based detergent and may not be the best overall choice for the environment). Maybe an organization so wrapped in hypocrisy should be boycotting Palmolive, because when it comes to hypocrisy, "they're soaking in it" (h/t Madge).
It's unlikely that the FreedomWorks boycott will amount to much. Targeting a single product wouldn't cause much of a dent even if they were successful in getting P&G to stop running ads for Dawn. And FreedomWorks isn't even focusing their effort on Chris Matthews' show but at the MSNBC network. Their announcement of the boycott leads off with this bit of bravado:
"If MSNBC‘s ratings could go down any further, they would after this show."
FreedomWorks may be disheartened to learn that the Matthews documentary posted the second highest rating for the network during primetime as well as being the #2 program in its time period. The documentary performed more than 60% better than Matthews' average rating for May 2010.
If Tea Baggers don't like seeing themselves portrayed as militant nutcases, then they should stop acting like them and associating with them. They should stop embracing leaders like Beck, Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich, who frequently use hostile rhetoric. Gingrich even called the Tea Party the "militant wing of the GOP."
Lashing out at relatively mild documentaries and boycotting their advertisers isn't going to gain them much respect. To the contrary, it will reveal just how small and impotent a minority they really are. And as for losing viewers, it's not like FreedomWorks members were ever in MSNBC's audience in the first place.