Deja Drew

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APRIL 16, 2010 12:59AM

Free PR Tips for Tea Partiers! (Updated!)

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Hey there, friendly Tea Partiers:

Apparently many of you think that the press and the pollsters are misrepresenting who you really are. You're getting all this attention but no one seems to get you. Bummer. It's like you're actually really awesome people with legitimate grievances and great ideas on how to make America better – but all that's getting lost under a cloud of insinuation and heavily edited sound bites.

Are you getting a bum rap?  Sounds like you need a makeover! Luckily, you have the power to change your public image so that it better reflects who you think you are.

Allow me to offer you a few friendly public relations tips:

Problem:  Apparently a lot of people think you're a racist mob.

Solution: Ouch. Even Fox News knows that doesn't play well on TV. But we can fix that!  If you don't want to be seen as being racist, try this little trick:  Next time someone at a rally hurls a racist epithet or shows a photo of Obama as a witch doctor, why don't you be the first ones to disavow it?  Or, if something unfortunate happens, like someone who happens to be at your rally happens to spit on a black congressman on his way to work, quick, blow the whistle!  Condemn the action with your megaphone!

I hear you saying "But... but...some of my best friends..."  Stop right there. Never rationalize or deny or make excuses, and God no, do not suggest that the perpetrators are really "plants" from among your detractors. Defensiveness and denial are classic PR mistakes. Never works. This just draws more attention to the problem.

Problem: There seems to be a growing perception that too many among you are bat-shit crazy and willfully unhinged from reality.

Solution: If you think that seeming crazed or unreasonable might possibly hurt your cause, then why not loudly disavow any association with anyone who spouts crazed and unreasonable views? Things like Obama wasn't really born in Hawaii and is secretly Muslim, or  "death panels" are going to cull the elderly and disabled, or even the Obama administration is going to outlaw sport fishing...  you get the picture. Rule of thumb: Crazy unsubstantiated assertions tend to make you look, um... crazy. You so don't need that.

Problem: Too many are quick to dismiss the substance of your ideas, in particular your calls for smaller government and less deficit spending. (Boy, that must be frustrating.)

Solution: If you want to be seen as having a legitimate concern about spending and the deficit, let's try something counterintuitive.  How about rather than ranting about a bunch of tax increases that haven't happened, go ahead and flip this one on its head and loudly and vociferously condemn the huge increases in deficit spending that occurred first under Reagan, then under Bush.  Better yet, if you want people to think your goal is to get back to surpluses and pay-as-you-go, then demand a repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and restore the Clinton budgetary guidelines.  Problem solved! Steal that issue from the Dems and you've got yourself a winner there!

Problem: Too many people think you are hypocrites when it comes to your condemnation of policies that borrow from socialism.

Solution: If you really want folks to believe that you genuinely hate socialism and think it's the death of our country, then demonstrate that you even understand what socialism is.  Here's a fun idea: Gather round the TV cameras and burn your Social Security cards and Medicare reimbursement checks. (Think of it as throwing tea into the harbor.) Nothing says patriot more than a little self-sacrifice!

Problem: You're wrapping yourselves in the flag and dressing up as Founding Fathers but too many people still see your tactics as un-American.

Solution: Yes, image control is tricky. Try this: if you want to be seen as being patriots enamored of the Constitution, then how about you make it clear that your followers need to respect other's First Amendment rights rather than shouting them down at town halls and at rallies. (Bonus points for loudly condemning threats and hate speech against duly elected representatives of We the People.) This might sound crazy, but taking the high road might provide the side benefit of having people actually listen to you...  Wouldn't that be cool?

Problem:  Credibility. No one seems to believe you – like that whole incident of Tea Partiers supposedly yelling racist and homophobic slurs at Congressmen on the Capitol steps?  Without instant replay, it's a classic case of He Said/We Said and no one's taking your side!

Solution: Don't despair. There's a surprisingly easy way to gain credibility in situations like this. Stop lying.  Does that seem too simple to be true? Trust me. It works like a charm. (Of course, if it's a habit, it's going to be hard – but take it one day at a time and yes you can.) Stop lying. You see, when so many of you who make it onto the TV machine keep peddling easily disprovable falsehoods, no one takes your incoherent arguments seriously. And, from a PR perspective, that's not helpful.

So, next time you have a gathering or a bus tour, why not hire an independent fact checker – like an ombudsperson – and then give that person a big loud gong to chime every time someone says something demonstrably false like Obama's raised our taxes (instead of cutting them), or healthcare reform is going to give free insurance to illegal immigrants (when in fact, they are explicitly excluded from even buying their own coverage).  Or the debt has quadrupled under Obama (when even Wikipedia knows better than that).

Have faith that the truth will out! But to get the full benefit, it's got to be true.

Summary: Your movement has potential. You are right that there are lots of serious problems out there and, yep, it's darn frustrating that they're not getting solved. With a little makeover, you can be part of the solution rather than being perceived as being part of the problem.

So go for it! Put a little touch up on that racism and homophobia and jingoism and mean spiritedness and historical myopia and hysterical crazy talk and the lying bullshit lies. It's the little things that make you look bad.

Consider this: Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King both excelled at civil disobedience and built powerful movements around ideas – and, guess what? They succeeded.  Why? Because their tactics generated sympathy, not disdain. Admiration, not revulsion. When they maintained their civility, it drew out the ugliness in their opponents and created a unity of purpose that was impossible to ignore.

It also helped that they were on the right side of history.

So, if you really really really believe you are on the right side, then get your shit together and look and act like it. Right now you're not even acting like you want to succeed.

It's more like you're acting out.  And while your anger may be therapeutic – take it from a PR guy – it's neither attractive nor persuasive.

Still, good luck all the same.

Your friend, 


P.S.  Hey by the way, I was wondering: why do those creepy LaRouche folks feel so at home at your rallies? If I were you, that question would be gnawing at me.

Below:  Can you spot the PR no-no's?   Look closely.

Tea Party PR No-No's 

Update: July 22, 2010.  How's that image coming along? 

November approaches and everyone's been working so hard to get ready for the big close up:  Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, Andrew Breitbart – even Bristol. And yet, somehow, a blemish or two keeps marring your otherwise reasonable and patriotic image.   (Have you tried teeth whiteners?)

No matter.  With a bit more introspection, I'm sure you'll find your groove.  So sit back,  pour yourself a nice hot cup of chamomile tea – so calming – and study these images closely for ideas on how you can hone your message and make yourself seem even more appealing.  

Racist birther tea party sign

Racial stereotyping and Islamophobia and xenophobia, huh?  If you want message discipline, you can't have all three.  Pick two.

teabagger sign racist obama terrorist

This one's a little confusing because the planes aren't flying directly into the buildings.  Plus Obama seems happy that the protestors are exercising their Second Amendment rights.   What am I missing?

tea party sign racist white slavery

Question:  Have you focus grouped the term "reverse slavery"?   

racist tea party signtea party sign gun toting protester


It's 2010 and Magic Markers still don't have spell check.   But polite is good! 

racist tea part sign monkey obama

 I think involving children sends a very positive "family first" message! 

misspelled tea party sign racist

Careful.  Sometimes you can be too sophistimacated.

tea party sign obama muslim marxist

For some reason, when I Google Muslim Marxist, all I get are Tea Party Signs.  Do you know why?

Homophobic tea party sign Barney Frank

Now we're getting somewhere.  Nothing stirs the spirit like the "ick factor." 

Obama as Hitler Tea Party SignTea Party Sign Obama Hitler


Subtle coded outreach to Jewish allies can't possibly fail.  Right?

Racist anti-obama tea party sign

True, one form of equality is to offend and alienate absolutely everybody. 

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"Problem: Too many people think you are hypocrites when it comes to your condemnation of policies that borrow from socialism.

Solution: If you really want folks to believe that you genuinely hate socialism and think it's the death of our country, then demonstrate that you even understand what socialism is. Here's an idea: Gather round the TV cameras and burn your Social Security cards and Medicare reimbursement checks. (Think of it as throwing tea into the harbor.) Nothing says patriot more than a little self-sacrifice!"

I love this, love the whole list in fact; it just makes sense. Of course, for the Tea Party movement to get better PR, they'd have to jettison a lot of what makes them THEM; they'd need in effect to be something other than, well, the Tea Party.
This is just so great I can't even put it into words. It's everything I've wanted to tell them. I have almost given up sharing this type of thing, but this is going on my FB.
In the piece I did about yesterday's demonstration here in Chicago, this guy led the crowd in a theme song. He is the GOP's Congressional candidate for the 9th district. We need to stop telling ourselves the lie that these people are plain dumb and uneducated.

Part of the guy's bio...

Joel Pollak is a human rights lawyer and author from Skokie, Illinois. He immigrated with his family to the U.S. from South Africa in 1977 and became a U.S. citizen in 1987. He attended Solomon Schechter Day School and Niles North High School, where he graduated first in his class in 1995. He was also captain of the swimming team, president of the math team, and an All-State Scholar-Athlete.

Joel went on to Harvard, where he was the first student to combine the fields of Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy. His thesis examined the response of Inupiat Eskimo communities to oil development on Alaska's North Slope. In 1999, he graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa, and won a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship to study in South Africa.
Marvellous, awesome, PR advice.
Dear Lord. Just got this from a CNN story about a TP in Kentucky. You couldn't write better comedy than this -

"Worried about liberal infiltrators, Kevin Terrell, a self-described colonel in the Ohio Valley Freedom Fighters militia based in Louisville, led about two dozen camouflaged followers on a patrol around the park. "I'm a little apprehensive because of the left-wing nut jobs out there," Terrell said. "
Wonderful. Truly a great piece. Articulate and funny!
The Koch family and Dick Armey should hire you at $10,000 a month plus all expenses for your advice. But I think that bat shit crazy thing and socialism and lying things will be tough nuts to crack.
Robin -- First off, loved your piece. We need more of that!

Second, I agree that saying they're just dumb and uneducated is inaccurate and unhelpful. To me, the key is willful delusion. I think you can have legitimate gripes and join the Tea Party. You might even be persuasive and articulate. And I bet there are a few folks there that I'd find points of agreement on. But when I read all this blow-back that pins their cartoon image on the media, I think they are willfully and conveniently not noticing a lot of the ugly behavior around them.
I really liked this and thought it underscored something many of us see with Tea Party anger.

Some might say it's a bit simplistic, but to me the only question that counts is to ask "What was so different in April of 2009 that it solicited this much anger?" It wasn't the tax structure, fiscal responsibility or foreign policy as those are on the same path now that they've been for a long time. So what was the difference?

Maybe Michelle Bachmann can tell us. She addressed the Tea Party in DC yesterday by talking about Obama heading up "gangster government."
Sympathy for the devil, Drew?? I love your caring, warm tone. Never judgemental, never quite bringing down the hammer.
Thanks nolalibrarian!

You know, it's a little weird but I actually started this as a non-satiric piece. Then I couldn't escape the sense of absurdity behind the premise that somehow everyone else is to blame for their bad rep. From there, it didn't take much to convert genuine PR help into a little bit of fun.

The whole phenomenon has been infuriating but I feel infuriated out, man. The only response left to all the shouting is a sweet smile. I have no doubt that some of my favorite peeps are Tea Partiers. What's a guy to do but give a helping hand?
Drew-Silla took my favorite quote, but I have another one:

"Consider this: Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King both excelled at civil disobedience and built powerful movements around ideas – and, guess what? They succeeded. Why? Because their tactics generated sympathy, not disdain. Admiration, not revulsion. When they maintained their civility, it drew out the ugliness in their opponents and created a unity of purpose that was impossible to ignore.

It also helped that they were on the right side of history."

Blue in Tx said it best, this is too awesome for words! I agree with every single comment, especially Kevin's and nolalibrarian. We have to remember that we are ALL Americans, regardless of our point of view and tolerance goes BOTH ways.

Thanks for giving a voice to my own thoughts summarized by the quote above and the one that Drew-Silla stole from me. Rated
Excellent post. Thank you. The first step toward a cure is realizing you have a problem. This requires a modicum of personal introspection. Something tells me is in short supply in this little group.
I am glad you posted this here. I love it. But this you already knew. :D
OMG I can't believe you live in Seattle.... Me too!
I decided yesterday, after having read a number of the first hand accounts of The Tea Party gathering, that a lot of people are dramatically overestimating the power and in fact compassion of The Tea Party. Essentially, we're putting too much emphasis on the Protest and not enough emphasis on the Party, as the Tea Partiers themselves are.

Essentially, The Tea Party is to America and Politics what Carnivale is to Catholicism
@teresa There you are! The comments yesterday inspired me to put a bit of polish on my Good Deed for the Day and post it here. Glad you likey.
WHAT? Bring civility and clear eyed logic to the situation? That is blasphemous!! Love it, thanks!
Ok I am in a hurry but I think I get this: you are advising them to tell the truth and to not lie and be decent and try to participate in our deliberative democracy like real Americans? Check, check, check, and boyhowdy-double-check!

Well done.
You're kidding! The administration of "O" is trying to outlaw "Fishing"?
I still say tea-party schmea-party, why don't they quit messing around, put on their brown shirts, and start breaking glass so their 15 minutes can be over already!
And people think PR people are useless mouthpieces! Just look at all the good advice you've proffered -- and for free at that. If there's just one tiny flaw I might be permitted to point out, it comes across as a little too...too -- how shall I put this? -- logical. But don't worry; they've got their own people who will spin it into racist rant.
This former corporate PR director couldn't agree more!
This is absolutely brilliant.
I love love love love this. _r

Mayor of Champaign, Illinois, telling reporter at Tea Bag Party that Obama is not an American. This mad presides over the city that is home to University of Illinois, one of the greatest schools in the midwest. Dear God!! Scary!
I liked this so much I shared on Facebook. Not that I have many friends there. Because I live in a cave and read books all day. But when I have ventured out, some people befriended me. And I shared this with them.
Thanks for the comments everybody.

And thanks for the clip of the Champaign Mayor! I'm not sure if he's had too much bubbly or not enough. Something ain't right.

And thank you nolalibrarian. I went through the trouble of posting this on a Facebook "note" -- but their interface is direly lacking and no one can find it. So I got wise and just put the link.
Drew, if you do become the party PR person, will you please check the spelling on those damn signs? It's driving me crazy.

Also, please give a refresher course to all protesters regarding those pesky little amendments to the constitution. Thanks!

I hear ya. But I must warn you that my pro bono work must remain limited.

Now if I could just get a grant from the Heritage Foundation or SarahPAC, I'd be doing overtime to attend to your priorities.
I think we have to really analyze WHY the Tea Party Movement is gaining so much momentum. Also to analyze the people who make up the Tea Party Members--who Gallup shows "their age, educational background, employment status, and race -- Tea Partiers are quite representative of the public at large." . Gallup Polls showing that 37% of the country look favorably upon the movement. Gallup polls also showing that 50% of the country were against the current Healthcare bill. [Rasmussen polls have the percentages much we have to consider that the real results are somewhere in between].

I watch this and wonder why so many people feel disenfranchized Does it help that one of the Major News Networks call them "Wing Nuts" or "Right Wing Crazies"? Maybe it's the Twittering or the Facebook flashes that are calling them all homophobic and racist. [Since most are middle aged and grew up in the Kennedy/Johnson era, marched for Civil Rights, protested against Vietnam (and even the invasion of Iraq), did all we could to assist in the right to Freedom of Speech and were key in environmental movements..these types of comments are extremely hurtful as well as designed to alienate and discredit a very vast number of American Citizens.]

Some additional unsolicited advice to everyone. Think about what you're posting, saying and protesting about. Do your research (which is getting harder and harder to do with all the quickie, opinionated blurbs that are pretending to be news). The more everyone does this, the deeper the holes we're all digging. God help us!
CeliaE, thanks for the comment. I appreciate where you're coming from but if my piece gives the impression that I haven't considered where the Tea Party angst is coming from, it's not because I haven't given it thought (or not read up on it). It's that it's not the focus of the what I was writing about.

In case it needs clarification, my piece is meant as satire, not analysis. My jumping off point was the rising howl of victimization I am hearing on all media from Tea Partiers feeling that they do not deserve the bad rep as an unruly and undisciplined mob. And yet, after a full year of well-documented coverage that shows a considerable amount of racism, incivility, wing-nuttery and such, it is very telling that the outrage from Tea Partiers has never been directed at the ugliness in their midst -- but only on how others dare to point it out.

If that’s unfair, it’s… Not. My. Problem. Of course there is distortion left and right in the media -- but, I'm sorry, the Tea Party is responsible for their own image, their own message and their own behavior. Even if the incidents and behaviors and extreme attitudes represented only 2% of Tea Partiers (and I am being charitable to the extreme), then it is still incumbent upon rally organizers, spokespersons and the considerable Tea Party-branded growth industry suckling off its outrage, to disavow those elements that they feel don't represent them.

And guess what? That would mean disavowing Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Michelle Bachman, to name a few. Do you honestly see that happening anytime soon?

No, instead, I get the impression that the rank and file means to say “we’re not all like that” but instead it’s coming off as “I know you are, but what am I.”

Last, I think your question of just who the Tea Party is and what they want is a great question but it probably can’t be answered in any definitive way. Having said that, Gallup’s poll is hardly the only attempt to provide an accurate profile. The NY Times poll (link at the top of the piece) arguably gives a much more detailed and nuanced portrait. And, guess what? The Tea Party folks are considerably more male, more white, older and way more Republican than the country. In fact, the demographic decidedly does not reflect the country as a whole. It reflects the GOP and little more. Why am I not surprised?

There’s a case to be made that this isn’t a movement as much as it’s a re-branding effort. If there are a considerable number of Tea Partiers who themselves are not aware that they are being manipulated or misrepresented, then I would argue that they are the ones that might want to expand upon their sources of information.

To that end there's a lot of detailed analysis about various polls on the Tea Party at . If you're interested in going beyond my admittedly cursory overview here, it's a great place to start. I have looked at the Gallup poll, the NY Times and others and I certainly do not see the Tea Party as anything resembling a snapshot of America.

There’s more to your comment that bears a response but I think I’ll save that for my next piece. You have inspired me to further investigate questions of identity and credibility.

"NICE," said Swift....
Loved it, Drew- I'm linking your blog on mine-
And I've forwarded this to Bilerico....
Thanks, Greg! I will do likewise.
Oh, but it's so much easier to blame it on LEFT WING INFILTRATORS!

Why can't I write like this? Rated and shared!
Thank you, Kenny1948. You are too kind!

And, wow, there really is a place called Bayonet Point. I looked it up. What an ominous address.
I hear you, Gary. I honestly don't think the Tea Party is really anything all that new. Sure it's attracted some folks who hadn't been "activated" yet -- but by and large it seems to a re-branding effort for a part of the GOP that wanted and needed a shiny new identity.

Given the 8 years under Bush the Younger, I'd want a new identity too if that whole mess had been what I'd been hanging my hat on. Thanks for the comment!
Funny AND a good analysis. We will enjoy watching them take down the Republican Party.
Too tired to describe how tickled i am that this was so smart and written so well. Thank you for this. Rated. fav'd!
Thanks Charlie. Thanks Gigabiting. I have been away from OS for a wile and need to get back and get busy. I appreciate the feedback :-)
You might be a better writer than I am.

For that I really, really hate you.

But yeah, I'm a lot more prolific than you are. So there.
Robert - you had me at "I hate you." But honestly, I can't take credit for this one, not really. It wrote itself.
Thank you for even taking the time to focus on this issue. I find it so appalling I can't even stomach watching it on television.
Wow! I thought of you and your PR tips today as I read this today...Clearly, folks still aren't taking your suggestion about appearing as a racist mob. This fella wasn't shunned in the least, but had decided to step away from the Tea Party group because "This nation is in crisis, and beyond the struggling economy and suffocating deficits, is what I consider to be the most troubling development recently: this nation’s slide towards socialism and abandonment to the fundamental Constitutional principles that have made America great. I do not wish to be used as ammunition against our own cause so to that end I am removing myself from the equation and severing ties to the Tea Party Express."

And what were "socialists" so upset about? Read on...

From Sean Cockerham in Anchorage –

Tea Party Express spokesman and former chairman Mark Williams says he’s stepping away from the group because of the furor over of his blog post about “colored people.” This comes as the Lisa Murkowski campaign says Joe Miller shouldn’t accept Tea Party Express help because of the controversy over Williams.

“I feel compelled to separate myself from any further involvement with the Tea Party Express so that I can pursue other interests and to free the tea party movement from any more distraction based on my personal comments or blog,” Williams said in a letter released this morning by the Tea Party Express.

The Tea Party Express, which is promising to spend several hundred thousand dollars to support Miller’s campaign against Murkowski, has received lots of bad press over Williams’ post. Williams wrote on his blog a fictional letter from what he called” colored people” to Abraham Lincoln. “"We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don't cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!" he wrote.

Read more:
@Monsieur Chariot Yeah, this kind of overhyped directionless disputation is exactly why I don't own a television.

@Kelly-with-an-I Fancy seeing you here :-) Yeah, I read about that little intra-Tea dustup but hadn't realized that it was centered in Alaska. That's a state that just keeps on giving . . .
Brilliant! Thank you!
Ha. Very nice. I like the Problem/Solution format. And it goes without saying that one should find the opportunity to use "bat-shit crazy" whenever possible. I'm going to find an opportunity now...