Syndicated columnist Jonathan Kay wrote an exclusive piece for newsweek.com about the TEA party convention in Nashville - not to report on the speeches or the goals of the movement, but to smear attendants as kooky, paranoid fringers who believe 9/11 truther theories.
Conveneniently, Kay just happens to have a book scheduled for release next year that chronicles the spread of trutherism in America. How fortunate he found so many believers.
Kay began his piece with the all-too-cute headline "Black Helicopters Over Nashville." It was just the beginning of an endless rant about unhinged conservatives, culminating in an explicit effort to place trutherism at the TEA party convention:
I consider myself a conservative and arrived at this conference as a paid-up, rank-and-file attendee, not one of the bemused New York Times types with a media pass. But I also happen to be writing a book for HarperCollins that focuses on 9/11 conspiracy theories, so I have a pretty good idea where the various screws and nuts can be found in the great toolbox of American political life.
Within a few hours in Nashville, I could tell that what I was hearing wasn't just random rhetorical mortar fire being launched at Obama and his political allies: the salvos followed the established script of New World Order conspiracy theories, which have suffused the dubious right-wing fringes of American politics since the days of the John Birch Society.
This world view's modern-day prophets include Texas radio host Alex Jones, whose documentary, The Obama Deception, claims Obama's candidacy was a plot by the leaders of the New World Order to "con the Amercican [sic] people into accepting global slavery"; Christian evangelist Pat Robertson; and the rightward strain of the aforementioned "9/11 Truth" movement. According to this dark vision, America's 21st-century traumas signal the coming of a great political cataclysm, in which a false prophet such as Barack Obama will upend American sovereignty and render the country into a godless, one-world socialist dictatorship run by the United Nations from its offices in Manhattan.
Before dissecting his argument, it should first be known that Jonathan Kay is very much one of those "bemused" members of the mainstream media. He's an editor for Canada's National Post, and a freelance columnist who has appeared in - wait for it! - The New York Times, as well as countless other liberal rags like the New Yorker, the LA Times, and Harper's.
Kay made every effort to disguise himself as an unassuming attendant....right before mocking the entire convention in a tone of absolute elitism.
Beside's Kay's questionable grassroots credentials, his innuendo about the convention wasn't based on reality. Neither Alex Jones nor Pat Robertson was invited, and Kay offered no evidence as to why they were even relevant. Readers had to simply take his word for it that "this world view" embodied by TEA parties considers Alex Jones to be a prophet.
In fact, Kay didn't manage to pinpoint a single speaker or prominent figure who arrived at the convention to promote trutherism. The entire crux of his case was anonymous attendees and a certain mood in the air that he was singlehandedly able to discern.
Perhaps Kay should have paid attention last summer when conservatives and independents, appalled by Glenn Beck's discovery that Van Jones was a truther, led the campaign to get him removed from Obama's cabinet. Or maybe when conservatives recoiled at Rosie O'Donnell's public promotion of truther theories. It is an indisputable fact that the conservative movement, by and large, rejects trutherism at every turn.
But no matter to someone with a book to sell. Kay needed trutherism to be hiding behind every tree, and his research in Nashville shockingly came through for him.
If something as scandalous as trutherism abounded at the TEA convention, why didn't the rest of the media report it? Because, according to Kay, it's just what America has come to expect from conservatives:
Perhaps the most distressing part of all is that few media observers bothered to catalog these bizarre, conspiracist outbursts, and instead fixated on Sarah Palin's Saturday night keynote address. It is as if, in the current overheated political atmosphere, we all simply have come to expect that radicalized conservatives will behave like unhinged paranoiacs when they collect in the same room.
That doesn't say much for the state of the right in America. The tea partiers' tricornered hat is supposed to be a symbol of patriotism and constitutional first principles. But when you take a closer look, all you find is a helmet made of tin foil.
And when you take a closer look at Kay's piece, all you see is a snooty columnist scaring American liberals to make his book seem more urgent.