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Tea Partiers Want You to Remember the Days When the Left Was Crazy

Here’s a video making the rounds on the right — a compilation of outrageous scenes from 2002 and 2003 anti-war protests. The editor: Evan Coyne Maloney, a documentary filmmaker who cut his teeth on these videos and went on to make the education expose “Indoctrinate U.”

Conservatives haven’t given any ground on this since the end of the health care debate, and that strategy seems to have worked — interest in the “Tea Parties gone wild” narrative has petered out. But as someone who watched these Maloney videos way back when, seven and eight years ago, I both understand why conservatives think they’re being covered unfairly now and why liberals think that they, at the time, were covered unfairly.

“Anti-war protest invites kooks” in 2002 was really a dog-bites-man story — the wild-eyed types who showed up at big events in New York and San Francisco had been acting out like that for, well, decades, to the great irritation of the moderate liberals who were getting out into the streets and swelling the attendance of these rallies. But the Tea Party movement is really something new under the sun. The number of conservatives (if you don’t count social conservative extremists like Randall Terry) who’d show up to protests waving signs was, in the modern media age, negligible. Because they’re so new, they get (now, if not initially) largely explanatory “what makes them angry” coverage from the press — the left, seven and eight years ago, was getting pro forma “liberals on the march” coverage.

Another angle here is that the wave of threats against Democrats last week is hard to compare to anything that beset Republicans (and Democrats) who backed the Iraq War — although it’s really not fair to tie those threats to Tea Party activists.

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