Explaining the elephant: International media and the Tea Party

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World and DC SPJ Pro

Welcome to the world of the foreign press trying to explain to their home audiences the U.S. Tea Party movement.

It’s about the same as that story of the five blind men trying to describe an elephant. Each described the part he was touching but failing to understand the whole animal.

The Horror, The Horror… and the Pity: How the international media is covering the Tea Party.

In a way, each national report is accurate and yet not accurate.

  • PAKISTAN: The Tea Party is an Islam-bashing political front
  • GERMANY: The Tea Party is about fear of American decline
  • CHINA: The Tea Party will lead to U.S.-China conflict
  • FRANCE: The Tea Party is a movement of conspiracy theorists, reactionaries, and anti-elitists
  • SPANISH-SPEAKING WORLD: An ultra-radical right-wing movement in the mold of authoritarians of another era

Many thanks to Foreign Policy for posting this. Even with the Internet and access to media from around the world, it still takes time to review all that material. And it is interesting to see how each media outlet sees the Tea Party movement with the prejudices, biases or domestic agenda of their readers/viewers/listeners.

I would expect howls of complaints from the TP crowd — if they cared about how folks overseas see them. But would they see that maybe the news from the rest of the world as written by American journalists might also have a cultural bias? (And not just the “liberal, lame-stream media” bias the claim on domestic affairs.)

Maybe it is time for SPJ chapters to reach out to foreign correspondents in their areas and run some programs that let those correspondents discuss how they explain American culture, society and politics to their home audiences.

We did that many years ago in DC in an informal News Schmooze in the back room of a bar. The event was well attended and the foreign correspondents and American pariticpants all walked out with a better understanding of each other.


Sorry, I missed an accompanying article by Kate Zernike who has spent a lot of time investigating the Tea Party and who spent lots of time explaining it — as best she could — to the foreign press.

The Tea Party, Exported: How do you explain Christine O’Donnell to the French?

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