Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Saturday, February 16, 2013 :::

The charge that the Tea Party is a tool of broader corporate interests is one often leveled by Democratic critics. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was fond of calling the movement "astroturf" in the run-up to the 2010 mid-term elections where Tea Partiers helped Republicans take control of the House.

The research at the University of California-San Francisco echoes the claim, while weaving in an attractive narrative for Tea Party critics -- that the Tea Party is continuing the agenda of the tobacco industry.

Tea Party leaders, though, roundly rejected the findings. They argued that the groups the study focused on do not compose the entirety of the movement, and that the tobacco issue is a relatively minor aspect of the present-day small-government agenda.

I haven't looked at the study itself, but the story goes into a little more detail, and it strikes me that the most accurate complaint raised against Glenn Beck (at least in my not-extensive experience with him) seems to be true of these researchers. He knows a small set of facts about some subject - all true, mind you - but doesn't know the broader context in which they lie and generates a story which is consistent with the facts he knows, but which lacks perspective. It's a sort of opposite of the scientific method - instead of starting with a theory and looking at data that might contradict the theory, he cherry picks the handful of facts that support it (either deliberately or just because it's all he knows).

Similarly, I assume the researchers have their facts right - certainly, many of the groups and people in the Tea Party movement would have supported the positions of tobacco companies (at least smaller tobacco companies that would have been hurt by regulation). But the notion that more than a handful of either the rank and file or the organizers in the Tea Party movement are driven to their activism principally or even largely by their position on tobacco regulations is pretty implausible.

Again, I haven't actually seen their paper, so consider everything I'm saying accordingly hedged - it just struck me as an interesting connection. I'd also like to emphasize that the fact that there exists this one connection between them and Glenn Beck isn't enough to convincingly demonstrate that Beck himself conducted this research.


::: posted by Steven at 11:46 PM

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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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