Tea parties have sparked an online insurgency, with independent media sites driving coverage of the protests, suggesting that conservatives may be catching up with their liberal counterparts in building a Web-driven, grassroots campaign to push their agenda.
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Conservatives may be catching up with their liberal counterparts in building a Web-driven, grassroots campaign to push their agenda. The online insurgency-in-the-making revolves around the so-called tea parties, the anti-tax protests popping up around the country that they expect to culminate Wednesday -- tax day -- with hundreds of rallies nationwide.
The movement, which expanded over the last two months via the Web, is now relying heavily on independent media Web sites to track and cover the campaign.
The digital evolution of conservative activists comes too late to help John McCain, whose new media arm was left in the dust by President Obama's campaign. But organizers are holding out hope that this movement has juice.
"It's thoroughly viral," said Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit.com blogger who hosts an online news show for the Web site Pajamas TV. Pajamas TV is on the frontlines of new media coverage for the tea parties. The Web site already has covered some protests and is pledging to recruit an army of citizen journalists, working without pay, to cover the hundreds of protests on April 15.
Roger L. Simon, co-founder of the blog network Pajamas Media, which includes Pajamas TV, said the site went after tea party coverage because the mainstream media didn't. He said Pajamas TV has more than 200 people registered to report on Wednesday's tea parties. He said they'll send in text reports, as well as videos and photos, to drive what he expects to be about 12 straight hours of online coverage.
"They'll be across the country essentially," he said, calling the operation a "big experiment." "What will the quality of these reports be? Variable of course," Simon said. "But that's the nature of the beast."
The Web site currently features extensive footage of Tea Party protests, including interviews with activists and roundtable discussions. From here, Simon wants to use the network of volunteer reporters for future assignments. Reynolds, who is also a law professor at the University of Tennessee, said he'll cover the protest in Knoxville and then return to co-anchor an online broadcast from his home.
"I've got an HD studio in my basement," he said. "If we can cover it in a way that traditional media isn't and capitalize on that interest, then that seems like a good thing." Pajamas TV is just one online aspect to the tea party movement. Dozens of Web sites -- some independent, some sponsored by organizations -- have sprung up in support of the anti-tax rallies. Participants have used these forums, as well as social-networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter, to connect and plan more rallies.
TeaPartyDay.com, for instance, keeps an online list of hundreds of volunteer organizers across the country, and their contact information. "There was a claim that this had to be a vast right-wing conspiracy because it sprung up so fast," Reynolds said. "I just had to laugh."
Leslie Marshall," a small time (LIberal/Progressive)" nationally syndicated radio host, dismissed the tea party protests. She said the mainstream media are not covering them because they're not worthy of coverage.
"It's not sexy. It doesn't bleed," she told FOX News, suggesting the protesters were doing the American Revolutionary a disservice by operating under the "tea party" name. "You have to look at our history. The reason these people revolted is they didn't want to pay taxes that were not presented by elected officials," she said. "Last time I checked, Obama's not taxing you to death -- he is spending to stimulate the economy and he is an elected official."
Plus she said these protests are coming too late to disrupt government actions like the Wall Street bailouts, which she opposed. But Michael DePrimo, with the American Family Association, which is helping promote the events, said the lack of mainstream coverage hasn't hindered organizers from getting their message out.
"It's all over the Internet," he said. "I'd be very surprised if any congressmen, or the White House, don't know what's going on."