Not long ago, we wrote about an online music video by local black activist Jasiri X titled, "What if the Tea Party Was Black?" The premise of the song, of course, is that the Tea Party's aggressively anti-government rhetoric would be far more controversial -- and perceived as much more threatening -- if its members weren't white.
What I'm wondering this morning, though, is: what if the Tea Party were green? How tolerant would our government, and our media, be if it were made up of environmentalists expressing misgivings about, say, the rampant growth of natural-gas drilling in our state?
What prompts the question is a story I first mentioned last week. Your state government has been issuing "Intelligence Bulletins," keeping tabs on the actions of environmentalists. The story was first reported by online journalism outfit Pro Publica last week, but didn't get any local MSM traction outside of this blog (which yeah, doesn't really count) until last night, when Ed Rendell held a press conference expressing horror at the situation.
Now I'm not about to start digging a bunker in my backyard. I think this fiasco is more absurd than anything else. (I mean, if the government was so skilled at monitoring subversives, would the head of state Homeland Security have copped to the program in an e-mail to the wrong person?) But what pisses me off is ... how come it's only lefties who merit government scrutiny?
The Intelligence Bulletin that kicked off this mess is 12 pages long. Among the events it warns of presenting "additional risk factors" are the Jewish High Holidays and Ramadan (see? Muslims and Jews have some things in common after all! Let the healing begin!). Also supposedly presenting an opportunity for trouble: zoning hearings in Upper St. Clair, a Pittsburgh City Council hearing, and gatherings of such bloodthirsty groups as the Brandywine Peace Community.
It's a comprehensive list, except for one thing: It's only interested in political activity on the left.
It's not that conservatives are staying home. The Tea Party Patriots website lists tons of upcoming gatherings, some of which sound far more militant than a screening of Gasland. An Oct. 23 rally at the state Capitol, for example, is billed as a chance to show "We DO have a voice. We DO know when our government has gone awry ... We WILL be involved in forming the future."
Another event, slated for Sept. 12, was pitched as a chance to assert that "We The People are FED up and want [elected officials] to do their job as We The People direct them to."
(Note to state Homeland Security: Hey, I've helped compile a list of potential threats to public order. Can I bill you for $125,000 now, just like your vendor the Institute of Terror and Research Response did?)
None of these events are disclosed in the 12-page intelligence bulletin. In fact, the only mention of the Tea Party is a heads-up about a protest against them -- "Burn the Confederate Flag Day.," which the bulletin notes is "targeted at the Tea Party and 9/12 movements." Funnily enough, the bulletin does mention that TP groups are "holding rallies on the same day" ... but obviously doesn't view those gatherings as a threat, since it provides no details.
So see if you can follow this logic. On the one hand, you have a pseudo-populist movement that noisily asserts its Second Amendment rights, and whose members widely consider the current government to be illegitimate and marching toward socialism. On the other hand, you have a demonstration slated to burn the flag used by an armed rebellion against the U.S. government. And guess which of these two groups apparently merits scrutiny?
State officials have insisted that environmental groups merit additional scrutiny, because there have been acts of vandalism against some natural-gas drilling sites. There's no evidence tying these acts -- a scattered handful of occurrences which could easily be attributed to drunken teens, or methed-out militias shooting at black helicopters -- to environmentalists. Even so, Homeland Security Director James Powers warned that the presence of environmentalsts at public meetings may "spark something else" and "escalate to physical criminal acts."
And yet, no mention in the bulletin -- or anywhere else -- about the potential for bad blood resulting from angry Tea Partiers lashing out at "town meetings."
It's just a sickening irony. The Tea Partiers fret about government intrusion in their lives, about jackbooted thugs oppressing their rights. And yet time and time again, it seems, the only people who government is really worried about are those of us on the left.