The leftist smears are getting old, and they've become more strident as today's big rallies approached.
In any case, Patrick Ruffini has published a great (non-crazy) analysis of the movement, "Tea Party '09: The Rise of the Right's New Distributed Online Activism":
By the standards of the Obama campaign and MoveOn.org, the Tea Parties happening all across the country are not very organized. Contra Talking Points Memo, no single group "owns" or is instigating tomorrow's events. The closest thing one could call to a centralized Tea Party homepage is Eric Odom's TaxDayTeaParty.com. Freedom Works has popularized a Google Map which has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times that's become the unofficial directory of the event. Newt Gingrich is driving attendance through his American Solutions (a/k/a Drill Now) list, as are a myriad of other groups.Read the whole thing, at the link.
Contrast this to a MoveOn or MyBO (now OFA) mobilization during the election. A single group would send out a call for a single day of action to its massive e-mail list (in MoveOn's case, this would go to 5 million people; in Obama's, to 13 million people). They would direct people to an online event planning tool, which would either have the hallmarks of MoveOn's internal toolset or the Blue State Digital "PartyBuilder" toolset. Host and attendee information would be hosted on a centralized database. Reminder e-mails would be sent at timed intervals through the same technology. It would be a relatively clean, seamless, and centralized process.
Nothing of the sort has happened with the tea parties, at least from a technology and logistics perspective. Organizers have had to self-report their events to various national groups. One group claims credit for putting one set of events; another group for a different set. It's a much messier process that belies the stereotype of the right as a group of mindless automatons.
This is why it's amusing to watch the left try to debate Jon on the charge of "astroturf." MoveOn virtually invented massively replicable online grassroots organizing -- which many would equate with astroturf, in that activity is actually being directed by a few people at the top, and thousands of people on the ground are (willingly) following orders.
If there are talking points, sample agendas, syncronized start and end times, or standard branding and collateral for the tea parties, I haven't seen them. When Tom Matzzie and Eli Pariser did it old school and decided to send an e-mail to drive people to, say, an Iraq War vigil, they instantly created a level of organization we haven't yet seen in the tea party movement.
And that's okay.
The lack of coordination is a sign of a still-young movement that's just learning to organize online in earnest. And arguably, the advantage brought by a massive e-mail list is much impressive now than when MoveOn pioneered the practice in 2002 and 2003, its heyday.
The Washington Post also has a take on this, "Tea Parties a Test of Conservative Online Organizing."
But for the best evidence of the collective clarity of what's happening, stayed tuned with Michelle Malkin and Glenn Reynolds.
I'll have more this afternoon!