On Monday, the Christian Science Monitor bucked its mainstream peers by reporting something truthful about the TEA party movement: police officials have begun to relax security requirements at conservative rallies because of the remarkable absence of violence.
Yes, you read that right: despite nonstop media warnings about hateful protests, violence from TEA party attendants is so nonexistent that police feel safe allowing them to bring large items and sometimes even guns.
The Monitor was compelled to check things out when a TEA party in Raleigh, North Carolina, persuaded officials to overturn a ban on flag poles. Such items are typically banned because a flag pole is really just a very big stick that could be used as a weapon. The Monitor's research led the paper to admit that conservative protests are far less threatening than many past demonstrations.
Patrik Jonsson's article drew a refreshing contrast between violent rallies of the Vietnam era versus the new model of peaceful civil uprising:
To be sure, permitting rules and police preparedness are often developed based on past behavior at various kinds of protests. Many go back to the 1960s and 1970s when violent rallies erupted over the Vietnam War. Such protests sprung up again during the presidency of George W. Bush, when protesters clashed with police in New York City and elsewhere during large-scale demonstrations against the Middle East wars. With tea party rallies so far proving more orderly, police have given them more latitude.
This flies directly in the face of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) comparing TEA parties to California in the 1970s - and that of MSNBC's Keith Olbermann comparing them to Selma during the fight for minority civil rights.
No matter how much prominent liberals talk about rampant violence, the facts on the ground tell a different story, and reporters end up leaving with rather dull footage - no police clashes, no tear gas, no images of people being carted away in handcuffs.
In fact, the narrative of violence was such a dud on Tax Day, the Huffington Post's coverage of the "most outrageous" images became a small collection of homemade signs.
Security officials in North Carolina were unconvinced by the left's hysteria, and on the morning of April 15, the state rescinded its ban on flag poles. Raleigh's News and Observer reported on the decision:
The little-known restriction applied not just to flag poles, but to any posts attached to signs or banners and was out of a concern that the metal, plastic or woods posts could be used as weapons.
But there had been no prior instances of violence, and was questioned this week in advance of a Tax Day tea party demonstration being held at 5 p.m. on the State Capitol grounds.
So comfortable are various police departments with TEA party rallies that some are allowed to bring guns as an expression of Second Amendment rights. The Monitor relayed this to show how much leeway conservatives are given:
Alarm around tea party protests cropped up last year when tea partiers began showing up armed. One much-publicized incident involved a man who carried a high-powered rifle to an anti-Obama rally close to where the president was speaking in Phoenix. The man was not breaking any laws, and the Secret Service said Obama was never in danger.
Kudos to the Christian Science Monitor for reporting the truth - but will anyone else in the media follow its example?
It isn't looking likely.
On Tuesday, The Tennessean published a vicious editorial that claimed Timothy McVeigh would have "smiled" at some modern TEA parties before warning that another bomber could be just around the corner:
Since the election of Barack Obama, this behavior has accelerated. Not only has the tea party emerged through town-hall shout-downs and ugly demonstrations that depict Obama as Hitler, but the number of anti-government militias has nearly quadrupled, from 149 to 512, according to the watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center. In Oklahoma at least, the two appear to be melding.
These enemies of peace and civil discourse are trying to draw a distinction between a force that would arm itself against federal authorities in the name of "state sovereignty'' and groups such as the Hutaree, whose leaders were arrested last month in Michigan and charged with plotting to kill a police officer and attack others gathered for the funeral in order to spark an anti-government war.
Well lookie there, the Southern Poverty Law Center. How convenient. NB has been exposing that group for months as the de facto make-conservatives-sound-violent expert source.
And that paper wasn't alone. On Monday, Politico invited federal prosecutor Aitan Goelman, who worked on the McVeigh case, to use the anniversary as an opportunity to predict similar incidents:
But we have begun to see talk of violence and revolution creeping into mainstream discourse.
We've heard a governor speak of secession, we've seen revolutionary signs at rallies for a likely GOP presidential candidate and we've listened to well-respected leaders accuse colleagues of "shredding" the Constitution.
History tells an unfortunate story about [sic] can happen next. When extreme rhetoric and hyperbole are used by mainstream figures, impressionable actors on the political fringe can take this seriously.
Conservatives have been hearing this for a year. A new violent attack, the next Tim McVeigh, has been about to "happen next" for some time now. Any example of potential violence, even from people who are registered Democrats, is quickly linked to the TEA party movement whether a connection exists or not.
Yet on the one-year anniversary of the Tax Day rally, the entire nationwide event was a peaceful success. The "ugly demonstrations" and "extreme rhetoric" produced nothing more than harmless protestors.
The longer TEA parties continue as a peaceful movement, the less credible pundits will appear if they continue to accuse conservatives of being violent.
The Christian Science Monitor has finally reported the truth - but time will tell if any more outlets join in.