Thursday, April 22, 2010

Conservatives Blast STL Tea Party for Astroturfing, Profitizing and Radicalizing the Movement

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how the Jefferson County Tea Party was following the St. Louis Tea Party's lead by holding an astroturf pep rally for disgraced Republican Chief of Staff Ed Martin. Well, it looks like that rally set off a wave of criticism of the St. Louis tea party from fellow conservatives that calls into question the motives of some of their leadership.

I don't have the audio yet, but the controversy was apparently kicked off by an episode of the radio program HillBilly Logic. The show hosts, themselves avid supporters of the Tea Party's stated principles, had St. Louis Tea Party leader Gina Loudon on the show as a guest. They were surprised about the many ways in which the leaders use Tea Parties to move money around, and frustrated by the way Loudon, Hennessy, and Loesch push responsibility around for decisions (at times claiming that they are the leaders, while at other times acting as though decisions were made by the entire movement).

The hosts of HillyBilly Logic were scheduled to appear on 97.1 radio host Jamie Allman's show the next day, and Allman previewed the show as follows:
Has the St. Louis Tea Party been "hijacked" by the Republican Party? Or are some organizers franchising it like McDonald's franchises it's restaurants Are there some people angry about money being thrown around in the McTea Party? You want some ketchup with those who may be fired?
On Allman's show, which you can listen to here, the HillBilly crew criticized the Tea Party for a general lack of transparency about how their group is organized and how the money is changing hands, and for their bungled handling of the Proposition A campaign. Tea Party leader Bill Hennessy called in at the end of the show, and claimed they had, "shot an arrow in his back."

I'll say more about the reaction from Hennessy and Loesch, but for now let me get into the specifics of the criticisms. Here are some of the complaints of the HillBilly Logic crew;

  • The Arnold "Tea Party" was more like a political rally, with most of the time being consumed by political candidates for office.
  • LOTS of people were seen leaving the Arnold Tea Party Rally early, presumably turned off by the speaking lineup.
  • The St. Louis tea party is not up front about all of the ways in which they are making money
  • The leadership structure of the organization is unclear, even after questioning.
  • The tea party uses extreme rhetoric that seems more likely to draw donations than to draw new people. Their knee-jerk attacks against all unions and screaming rhetoric about socialists is turning people off.
  • Some tea party speakers, like Jay Stewart, do not ask for any money. But others apparently will only speak if they are paid.
  • Proposition A was a poorly chosen campaign, and didn't really map well on to the "liberal/conservative" spectrum. But even so, the leaders of the St. Louis Tea Party movement attacked other people in the movement for "not doing enough." (The reality is, IMHO, the small group of Tea Party leaders picked this issue while in Nashville without consulting their membership, and then were surprised to find out that no one else cared about it the way they did -Adam.)

  • Here are some more specific criticisms from Kevin on the HillBilly Logic blog:
    Some of us are not surrounded by supportive conservative minds all day and actually try to reach out to those that support a more liberal agenda with the hope to have them be more open minded to conservatives. Which I might add we often have our legs cut out from under us by so many of the "supposed brightest conservative minds" with their thoughtless blanket typecasting and meaningless diatribe or continual name calling. I drive onto a union lot everyday with my Ed Martin bumper sticker while trying to intelligently reason with my fellow workers only to see anything that I may reach them on discarded by a St. Louis Tea Party organizer's post on Facebook asking everyone to buycott (or buy at) a particular Dollar Tree store because the union has pickets up! You can catch the same kind of reasoning on a particular local radio show on in the afternoon (hmmm, wonder who he might be talking abot - Adam)...Please stop this kind of high school behavior as you are not winning ONE heart with these tactics and helping to turn others away, and making it almost impossible for those not preaching to the choir to influence others.
    A little later:
    Unfortunately, some seem to have started to become that which they oppose as any criticism has been handled as a personal attack with a circling of the wagons and the threat of retribution to follow. Let's see... Republicans cannot criticize Republicans, same goes for Democrats, and now it appears the same goes for the St. Louis Tea Party. And the St. Louis Tea Party is different how?
    I have been to three Tea Party gatherings and I have never seen one flyer that contains any background information or lists the board members (or organizers) names and contact info. You cannot just assume that everyone is in your little bubble of influence or take for granted that others may be attending their first event and may not be tuned into your shows. Too many people do not know what or who makes up the St. Louis Tea Party directors. That is the organizers fault, not ours! Once again I will leave you with some advice. Do not leave the calling of the shots to the few unless the few develops thicker skin and is willing to accept criticism, and not act like a bunch of liberals by becoming self proclaimed victims.
    And finally closing with the kicker:
    From what I see the level of professionalism displayed by those willing to admit they are in a leadership role is let's see... as Jed Clampett would say PITEEEEFULL! You all don't have to worry about others bringing the St. Louis Tea Party movement to it's knees; You are doing a darn good job of it yourselves.
    In a previous blog post, immediately after the Arnold Tea Party, Kevin had this to say:
    First and foremost I want to say that I am a supporter and friend of the TEA Party movement. With that said I saw some troubling signs at the Arnold Missouri Tea Party event. I am afraid that we may have some nice and well intentioned individuals in key places of the TEA Party movement, but some appear to be making the same mistakes that some of the small station programming directors I was speaking of did. I am afraid that because this is a grass roots movement many may lack the experience to handle the individuals pushing for the promotion of themselves or someone they represent....Having fewer speakers (and less politicians) can keep the wheels greased and rolling.
    On facebook, Kevin had this to say to Dana Loesch, who attacked him on her radio show (see below):
    You claim conservative but act just like a liberal in your arguments. While you are in your Bible check for a passage on bearing false witness!
    I have six years of broadcast radio experience and I can tell you that of all people you should start pointing your posts at yourself. You tell me where I was wrong about anything. I am more than happy to debate you on any live format that you want. For you to accuse anyone of a vested interest when the one thing that ALL of your National appearances have in common is the Tea Party. I would say that you have a vested interest to protect.
    The reaction from the Tea Party leaders was absolutely vitriolic. Dana Loesch spent yesterday's show railing on the HillBilly group. She alleged some conspiracy involving state auditor candidate Allen Icet:
    Wondering ... if all this faction-ing lately has anything to do with a whole mess of folks heavily promoting Allen Icet on FB, Twitter?
    Loesch's decision to attack Icet is particularly interesting in light of Jan Simpson's criticism of the Tea Party a week ago that claimed they were supporting Tom Schweich's candidacy.

    But conspiracy theroizing was hardly the most vicious of Loesch's criticisms. She repeatedly attacked the HillBilly Logic Crew for having to pay to be broadcast:
    Um, excuse me Kevin? Maybe you can get away with baseless, factless punditry on the show you pay to air but don't be shocked when you defame a group of people on air if they defend themselves. You got called out. The honorable thing to do would be to apologize to those you smeared for your lack of professionalism.
    Six years and you're still not on air anywhere? If that doesn't tell you anything, I don't know what will. I don't have time for false patriots who defame others and you can stop with the defamatory "vested interest" crap - you're the one who ran your mouth and couldn't cash it.
    Sad to see people I thought were on the same side buying the liberal narrative of tea party and money. Here's a thought: don't accuse others of benefitting from a movement when you used the stake in the back of that movement as a way to pull your pay-to-play show up on a radio station and attract attention by way of reporting that would make Jaco proud.
    Ironic that Loesch, who likes to rant about "elitists" is so willing to pull the, "my radio show is higher status than yours" card so easily. Loesch also suffers from a bit of egomania. When Kevin offered to debate her (without saying anything about where or when), this is how she responded:
    Now you want airtime on my show after that hatchet job? That's rich.

    And while Loesch attacked the HillBillies, her fellow St. Louis tea party founder Bill Hennessy went after Loesch's mentor Jamie Allman. Hennessy, in a post that he later deleted, called Allman "talk radio's stammering, pausing idiot." More from Hennessy's angry rant:
    NEVER trust a hyperventilating man. Allman’s no exception.
    Jamie is less than happy about the fact that he IGNORED my email to him on February 21, 2009. He ignored my email, but his colleague, Dana Loesch answered. Dana stepped up and led. Jamie laid back and waited like a timid little puppy. (I might have been dangerous. The Tea Party at the Arch might have been lame. How would that make ME look? )
    Anyway, Jamie Allman started Wednesday, April 21, 2010, on friggin’ FIRE! He had the St. Louis Tea Party by the . . . by the . . . nads? “Blood in the water,” he tweeted. I am a REAL journalist! he yelled into the mirror. Take THAT, CBS.
    Whatever. So Jamie Allman—ace reporter formerly of KMOV—jumped on The Story.
    “Money changing hands at the St. Louis Tea Party!” he declared with glee.
    With the piety of St. John Vianney, Jamie explained that “I strongly support the St. Louis Tea Party” and that he was exposing its Mortal Sins for All the World to Judge before the evil Post-Dispatch could get to it...But Jamie Allman is a man free of scruples.
    Hennessy closed with this:
    “I’m not really worried about the money, Jamie,” said Fredo.
    Of course not. Nor was Jamie. But Jamie’s got some envy to settle.
    In the end, Jamie Allman wrote a check his guests couldn’t cash. But Fredo and Rubes were revealed as publicity hounds who would do unnatural things to a dog like Allman in exchange for 5 minutes of air time.
    So for asking questions about the tea party, Jamie Allman is called envious, unscrupulous, stammering and stuttering by Bill Hennessy. (By the way, has Hennessy ever explained how the leadership of the St. Louis Tea Party is organized? I mean, even if they want to claim that they're "leaderless," they could at least explain who gets invited to the meetings where they make decisions)

    Finally, Gina Loudon gets in on the action by declaring:
    Friends deceive. There is a newsflash. The conservatives eat our own, every time. Then we have no one to blame but ourselves.
    No reflection or constructive criticism in this movement, thank you very much! We've got books to sell! Er... I mean, revolutions to win.

    Anyhow, another instructive set of events that shows how the St. Louis tea party leadership responds to any kind of criticism or reflection. They set up the movement, and they don't want anyone else telling them how it should work. I'm hoping that the same people stay in charge, because as long as they are the tea party will be about as effective at organizing as they were on Prop A, for the very reasons mentioned by Jay and Kevin.


    1. Hennessy may have deleted his diatribe, but he apparently forgot that he seems to have set up St. Louis Tea Party posts to be syndicated:,_Fredo,_and_The_Rubes.html

      For your reading pleasure. Gather ye screenshots while ye may.

    2. For once I actually agree with Gina Loudin. However, I am not surprised at how quickly they turn on their own, as it's been done over and over and over again.

    3. There is a style to their (Loesch and Hennessy in particular, their ilk in general) arguing that I find utterly fascinating. Circular, devoid of substance, vitriolic. They manage to carefully not respond to actual issues or questions, every damned time. Dana fascinates me, in a trainwreck-watching sort of way. She can't argue actual points or real issues, which is why, of course, she will not debate Kevin on air. She might get called on her bluff and bluster and be asked to actually say something. Instead of saying either (A) Sure, Kevin, I'll debate you, but I'm not wasting my air time doing so. You supply the time, I'll gladly support my views; or (B) I don't feel that I need to defend my point of view to you, Kevin, so no thank you, I'll forgo the debate - she turns it into something it absolutely was not (him asking for airtime on her incredibly special show) and slams him for it! And that she does this and expects not to get called out for it - well, THAT'S rich. She wants to be this edgy, conservative intellect speaking for the masses, but she always seems to make sure she can spew her stuff without debate. The one time I've written her to point out a painfully obvious flaw in her logic, it took her a full week to get back to me. I'm sure, of course, it was because she is very busy famous media person and my email was just, well, you know, from a peon, but it kinda felt like maybe it took her that week to juggle some words around to make it sound like she knew what she was talking about. Unfortunately, it didn't work.