Tea Leaves

Nate Silver estimates that yesterday’s “tea parties” altogether drew about 250,000 participants. Chris Good puts the number of tea partiers a lot lower, at a mere 25,650, but Nate is the numbers guy so I’m going with his estimate.

As many have pointed out, there were more people than that in some anti-war protests in New York City alone. However, I’ve seen some hand-wringing on the Left from people who say that the tea parties show the wingnuts are catching on to online organizing. We should be afraid.

I don’t think so. I believe most of the people who showed up to tea party yesterday were not “organized” online but by Fox News and talk radio. They may have been told how to go to a website to find the closest tea party, yes. But considering all the hype the tea parties have received from electronic mass media, a turnout of 250,000 nationwide falls way short of impressive.

On February 15 2003, between 6 and 10 million people in about 60 countries around the world participated in a day of protest against the invasion of Iraq. At least 300,000 to 400,000 of us — and those are the lower estimates — were jammed together on First, Second and Third avenues that day. This organizing was done almost entirely online. And in the U.S. this achievement was largely ignored by news media, even in New York, both before and after the event.

For that matter, the immigration marches of a couple of years ago were considerably bigger and more impressive.

So the shills on Fox News were able to stir up 250,000 of the hard core, “low information” whackjob Right, a crew far more alarming than inspiring. There are plans for a bigger event on July 4, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the powers behind yesterday’s tea parties quietly drop plans for follow-up events.

Update: I think somebody needs to have a talk with this guy.