I hate to find myself in the position of being an apologist for the government. But there is an important issue: by focusing on minor and even meaningless stories, we distract from very real issues. We have yet more news about our government’s attempts to keep the public ignorant and intimidate government whistleblowers. But what do we get? More coverage on the Inspector General’s report on the IRS: what did the president know and when did he know it?! Truly, the way the media are dealing with these scandals makes me think that the only training they’re received was a screening of All the President’s Men.
Think about this IRS scandal. Imagine that you were in charge of deciding which 501(c)(4) applications were approved. In order to be approved, the group must be primarily concerned with social welfare. And one year, you get deluged with applications with “Republican” in the names of the groups. “Republicans for Tax Fairness.” And “Republicans Against the Estate Tax.” And “Republicans for Barefoot and Pregnant Women.” You might think, maybe I should pay a little extra attention to these “Republican” groups.
As I wrote in Tea Party Myth, there is no Tea Party. There is just the Republican base that has managed to get the entire media system to accept its branding as though it were something distinct from the Republican Party. Everyone knows that the Democratic Party has a left wing. But no one goes around calling it the “Progressive Party.” Because that would be wrong: it isn’t the Progressive Party; it is the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. Just the same, there is no Tea Party, there is just the Republican Party. (It isn’t the conservative wing; the Republican Party is the Tea Party.)
So until I get far more information on the IRS scandal, I’m assuming there is nothing there. As Norm Scheiber brilliantly noted, “The only real sin the IRS committed in its ostensible targeting of conservatives is the sin of political incorrectness—that is, of not pretending it needed to vet all the new groups that wanted tax-exempt status, even though it mostly just needed to vet right-wing groups.” It is certainly possible that these IRS agents were thinking, “Let’s get those conservatives!” But it seems unlikely.
Meanwhile, there is no surveillance scandal. That’s because the Democrats and Republicans are on the same side. There are no Republican operatives to funnel Jonathan Karl misinformation against the president. Since both parties want to ship the Constitution down the river, the Fourth Estate will just allow it. After all, pushing back would require real investigation. And all these bozos know about that is what they learned watching Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.
There is a bit of a paradox. Supposedly, a group with “tea party” in its name isn’t necessarily just a conservative political group. If that’s the case—if Tea Party groups really do have Democrats and Republicans—then they aren’t conservative groups. Thus, the IRS wasn’t targeting “conservative” groups. On the other hand, if groups with “tea party” in their names are in general conservative political groups, then they shouldn’t be applying for 501(c)(4) status. I’m sure the IRS agents must have confronted this paradox.