Tea Party protests against (cough) Stimulus bill have been popping up all over the country. As of yet they are not always well organized. I was signed up to received emails on them. I got the notification that there was one in my town 5 minutes before it was scheduled to start. On a workday. But continue to sprout up they have. I’ve read on some blogs that Rick Santelli should not be credited with creating the movement, since there were protests happening before his rant. I don’t argue that, but Santelli did something just as important. He gave it a name.
Names matter. They can unify very un-unified events. They can give something context before even knowing what it is about. They make for an easy catch phase in the modern sound bite world.
What Santelli did was to give a name to a huge amount of anger and disgust in the country about what the government is doing. I know it wasn’t premeditated, but his selection stuck precisely because his anger at the government led him to make a historical analogy that was both well known and (in the minds of many) accurate. In his anger he equated the anger many are feeling toward the government’s actions now with an act of unquestioned patriotism. He equated the taxing of Americans to pay for British debt to the taxing of Americans to pay for domestic business debt. This accomplished two goals at one time. Mainly it creates a context for the protests that the uniformed will automatically, even subconsiously, equate with what they know form school to be a profoundly patriotic act. Given that, it makes it more difficult for the opponents to demonize the protests, by the very fact that they are working uphill against the name before they even get to the rally’s aims.
Names matter. When liberals name a piece of legislation as the Fairness Doctrine, to mobilize public opinion against that you have to spend a lot of time explaining why the Fairness Doctrine isn’t fair. When they name legislation the Employee Free Choice Act, much effort has to be exerted explaining why the intent of that law is the opposite of free choice. Branding matters. There is a reason why companies spend millions on it each year, and why politicians hire high priced consultants to brand images.
Santelli may not have started the movement againt bail outs for failing businesses, but he deserves the credit for branding it and doing so brilliantly.
*Small aside to President Obama and Democrats. Please stop spending my grandchildren’s money.