More Tea Party Symbiotics: Fox News

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Some on the left are dismayed at Fox News for its unabashed support of the "tea party" protest movement, wherein citizens protest the government's use of taxpayer money in its response to the economic crisis--primarily in the TARP bailout, and also the $787 economic stimulus package.

Frustration culminated this week with Glenn Beck, who promoted the tea parties on his show Monday, encouraging viewers to "celebrate with Fox News" and join the protests April 15. Some of Fox's more popular personalities--Greta Van Susteren, Neil Cavuto, Sean Hannity, and Beck himself--will broadcast live from tea parties in DC, Sacramento, San Antonio, and Atlanta on tax day.

"If you have a tea party anywhere that--we're not covering one of those, e-mail me at glennbeck@foxnews.com. We may cover your tea party live on April 15," Beck said, according to a Media Matters transcript.
This is exactly what Pajamas Media did in Feburary: promote the tea parties, offer its own coverage as an incentive for citizens to attend, then actually cover the thing. Pajamas and Fox have certain similarities--both conservative news/commentary hybrid outlets with a nose for commercial appeal--and it's interesting to see them engaged in the same business, fundamentally, when it comes to the tea parties. It's a business model of conservative activism and outrage, one that highlights the naturally symbiotic relationship between media outlets and the events they cover.

The tea party movement is a tricky one to observe, since protests happen in different cities at different times. It's hard to know how heavily each was promoted, so it's hard to gauge whether turnout was impressive or lame. There's a definite mystique over whether the movement embodies a significant contingent of America that's outraged with the government, whether it's a fringe of far-right-wingers, or whether it's mostly staged--by Pajamas, Fox News, and conservative bloggers who post photos of events.

What would big protests on April 15 mean? Will it prove that many Americans are truly outraged at the government's handling of their money--or simply that lots of people watch Fox News? And now that Fox is backing the protests, more or less, is there any difference?

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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