Occupying Ohio: The Tea Party, Occupy Cleveland, and the Cold War That Wasn't

For a couple of hours last weekend, the Tea Party gathered in downtown Cleveland for a rally entitled "Occupy the Truth." Yes, the Tea Party was operating under the banner of their apparent rivals, the Occupy Movement. That is because the stated purpose of their gathering was to protest the mainstream media's lack of coverage of a foiled bomb plot by five individuals associated with the Occupy Cleveland movement last spring. One by one, the featured speakers railed against Occupy and the liberal media to a crowd of about 250 (the organizers claimed 1500, the cop I spoke to estimated 250) mostly 50 and 60-year-old white Ohioans. Except for Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder and CEO of the Tea Party Patriots, all the speakers were themselves media pundits and producers; most were bloggers. In essence, it was a war against the media by the media. But the enemy was utterly absent from the battleground.

Deeming it a "war" is not the product of my own interpretation. The demonstrators adopted the word used by Andrew Breitbart, deceased conservative commentator and publisher, to challenge the media. Breitbart's face was prominent in the crowd, printed onto fans distributed to participants, some of whom wore t-shirts declaring "#WAR." His legacy was extolled extensively throughout the day. In this theater of war, the military-industrial-complex was replaced with the "Democrat-media-complex," as described by Jim Hoft of the Gateway Pundit. Hoft invoked the legacy of Rosa Parks to declare that, "with God's help, we are going to win this revolution!" When I spoke with Diane Mueller, a volunteer for the Tea Party Patriots from Lorain County, she told me that events such as this were "the battleground." On the importance of the elections in November, Mueller, a sweet mannered senior citizen, told me that it is "going to be do or die."

The two apparently complicit enemies in this "cultural cold war," as one speaker deemed it, were Occupy and their liberal media supporters. None of the mainstream media outlets were in attendance, but they were the target of claims that the media is quick to call the Tea Party racist, sexist, and violent although there has never been a documented act of violence among its members; to them, it is Occupy that runs a "campaign of chaos" perpetrating rape, assault, public defecation, and other crimes in their "hipster camps." The organizers also turned racism accusations around on liberals, making a great deal of their presentation of two black speakers (Sonny Johnson and headliner Michelle Malkin). The speakers led chants against Occupiers ("Take a Bath! Behave Yourself!"), called them Marxists who are somehow similar to the new rulers of the "Islamic State of Egypt," and singled out the few counter-demonstrators in attendance as "cowards."

And herein is the irony. For, those counter-demonstrators, all ten of them, embodied the deficiency of this purported enemy. They were not there on behalf of Occupy, but rather their own support group for the "Cleveland 4" accused of the bomb plot (there are five defendants, but one has entered a plea deal). Occupy has repeatedly distanced itself from the suspects, disavowed the incident, and reaffirmed its commitment to nonviolence. On the eve of the Tea Party demonstration, they discussed a response (a press release versus physical presence at the rally), and in the end decided on neither.

It's not unusual for Occupy Cleveland to do nothing. Indeed, last week I went to observe an Occupy Cleveland General Assembly in Public Square as per the schedule on the group's official website. There, I found no one. Upon inquiry, an organizer explained that members of Occupy Cleveland "are mostly doing activism work on their own these days rather than as a large group together." Although it has so obviously petered out, in Cleveland and elsewhere, the Tea Party is holding rallies against it. And yet, as the Tea Partiers themselves proudly -- and perhaps rightly -- boast, they are the ones winning seats on Capitol Hill anyway. And for this spoil alone, they intend to continue waging their war, even if the media and the Occupiers leave them alone in their battle.