John and I have been wandering the halls at Netroots Nation here in Vegas this week, having a blast hanging out with our blogospheric friends. But we also led one of the conference's first panels yesterday morning, titled "Right Wing Populism and the Tea Parties".
It also featured our friend Adele Stan of AlterNet and the amazing Hugh Jackson of the Las Vegas Gleaner. Of course, I'm a little biased, but I thought the ensuing discussion was very good, the room was pretty full and the questions very thoughtful.
Turns out that some folks from rightward publications were there too. Susan Davis of the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire was there and filed a pretty balanced story.
However, I noticed that she also truncated not only the title of our book, Over the Cliff -- she omitted the subtitle, How Obama's Election Drove the American Right Insane, though that in fact was a significant theme of the panel as well -- she also truncated the quote from me as well:
“After the 2008 election we were all celebrating, but we also became complacent,” said liberal blogger David Neiwert. “The right never gives up.”
“The answer to the tea party is to activate the populist wing of the progressive movement,” he said. “We need to seize on [the public’s frustration] ourselves and channel it to our movement.”
What I actually said in full was this:
"After the 2008 election we were all celebrating, but we also became complacent. But having studied the right for many years, I can tell you: They never, ever, give up. They are relentless. Even after their ideology has been completely discredited by eight years of conservative rule, even after they have driven the country into an economic abyss, they keep going -- even if it means going insane in the process."
And then there was Chris Moody of the Daily Caller, who couldn't take the time to talk to any of us afterward, and wrote an even more distorted account headlined "Liberals warn: Don’t write off the Tea Party (even if they’re crazy)".
You'll note, if you read the piece, that Moody omits my explanation for why we call the Right "insane," namely this, which I said:
"We say that they've gone insane a little bit facetiously, but really, we say it because they believe things -- lots of things -- that are provably untrue. And that really is a kind of insanity. It's why we sometimes just say these people are nuts."
Moody also truncated my quote in a way that left out the really salient points:
Amato and Neiwert, who co-authored the book Over the Cliff: How Obama’s Election Drove the American Right Insane, argued that the Tea Party movement is not a new phenomenon, but a fresh incarnation that is part of a long history of what they called “right-wing authoritarianism.”
“We’ve been studying the right for a long time, and let me tell you, they never give up,” Neiwart said. “They’re relentless.”
And then, of course, they contacted the Tea Partiers for their reaction:
It’s no surprise that the Left has not taken the Tea Party seriously, said FreedomWorks spokesman Adam Brandon in a phone interview with The Daily Caller. The Washington-based organization has helped organize Tea Party rallies around the country.
“Most of these people who mock the Tea Party have never even been to an event,” he said. “So they think we’re a bunch of knuckle-dragging jerks who are just upset that the president is black.”
“But I want them to underestimate us,” he added. “That’s fine by me.”
Of course, we mock the Tea Parties because nuttiness always deserves a certain amount of mockery -- but that doesn't mean we don't take them seriously. We should always take the rise of mass insanity seriously because it's so damned dangerous.