ABSENT KNOWLEDGE LEADS TO MISUNDERSTANDING: THE DEBATE BENEATH THE NEWS — WEEK ENDING 11/13/2010

Polite society raised each of us within an indoctrination system run by the people who lead our institutions. Within this system, institutional appointees stand up at the front of a room, solemnly place themselves before a camera, or prepare to speak into a microphone. Then they tell us what to believe about this and that. We call such people: teachers, pundits, politicians, experts…… Our society considers us:

  • “Educated” after countless teachers certify our instruction and give us a degree.
  • “Informed” if we regularly listen to newscasts and read newspapers.
  • “With it” if we watch numberless televisions and listen to popular music.

Is society right?

A Seemingly Innocuous Example

Delegate John O’Bannon (R-73, Henrico) recently introduced HB 1418 into the Virginian General Assembly. His bill:

Authorizes the issuance of special license plates bearing the legend: DON’T TREAD ON ME.

Here is what the plate would look like.

How did the news media react? How did our fellow citizens react? Some reporting consisted of bare facts:

Perhaps the best report was Tea for the Road at nbcwashington.com. Like most of the news media, P.J. Orvetti could not help himself (or herself). He mischaracterized the Tea Party. Nonetheless, he at least understands the origins of the Gadsden flag.

The new plate is being tagged as the “Tea Party” plate, since Tea Party activists and small government enthusiasts campaigned to make it available. (This led one site to incongruously say Virginians “will soon be able to express their support for smaller government and protest the Federal Government’s intrusion into the affairs of private citizens” by paying extra for a government-mandated plate. But still, it beats higher taxes.) Texans could soon have a similar option.

The plate represents more than just the small government movement, however. It is based on the Gadsden Flag, designed by Christopher Gadsden, a Revolutionary War general and South Carolina statesman. Its rattlesnake image is derived from Benjamin Franklin’s 1750s gibe that since the British sent their convicts to America, the colonies should return the favor by sending some of our native rattlesnakes across the sea. Franklin later published his famed “Join, or Die” woodcut showing a divided snake representing the disjoined colonies — and so the snake became a symbol of colonies united against Britain, and later united in a new nation.

Most reports, however, just covered the feuding. In Bill would create tea party-aligned Virginia plate, the PilotOnline.com tells us how Democratic Party reacted.

”Even as families across the commonwealth struggle to make ends meet, John O’Bannon and Virginia Republicans are more focused on printing license plates for political allies than on creating jobs, improving education or fixing transportation,” said Brian Coy, a spokesman for the Virginia Democratic Party.

In fact, to further stoke controversy, the PilotOnline.com now has a useless, unscientific poll, Should lawmakers allow a “Don’t Tread on Me” license plate in Virginia?

The Washington Post’s Compost made fun of the proposal.

Don’t tire-tread on me. Virginia was for lovers. Now it’s for the cold-blooded — specifically, the reptile that will appear on a new license plate if a Tea Party effort prevails. Tea Party-backed legislation has been filed in the assembly to create a license plate with a coiled snake and the words “Don’t Tread on Me.” (from here)

The Sun Gazette told us Another Year Could Bring License-Plate Battles. Then it detailed all the past battles over specialty plates.

In their story, Don’t Tread On Me License Plate Coming to Virginia?, NetRight Daily ended with this comment.

I wonder if the Department of Homeland Security will amend their “Right-Wing Extremist” memo to profile folks with this license plate.

IYRTP: Get off the Road, Tea Partiers by John McManus provided one of the few news-opinion articles that actually mentioned the origin and meaning of the Gadsden flag. Unfortunately, as the title indicates, the author has an attitude problem that renders his words nearly incoherent.

Other Views

For the most part, Virginia’s blogs did relatively little to illuminate the discussion.

Bearing Drift’s Brian Kirwin admitted his ignorance in Government-issued “Don’t tread on me”.

Maybe I’m the only person who sees irony in this, but doesn’t it seem a bit odd for the Tea Party folks to want Government-issued license plates with their adopted “Don’t Tread on Me” symbol?

FAMILYFOUNDATION.BLOG, in “Don’t Tread On Me” Plates Bill To Come Before General Assembly, provided a relatively informative report, every detail except why anyone would want the license plate. Like almost all the news reports, that blog also failed to note the full significance of the Gadsden flag.

The blog at the Prince William-Manassas Family Alliance’s website provided the only post that went into some detail on the origins of the Gadsden flag. In SUPPORT THE “DON’T TREAD ON ME” LICENSE PLATE, Tom Salmon used Benjamin Franklin’s words to explain what that rattlesnake represented to the colonists.

“I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids—She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance.—She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage.—As if anxious to prevent all pretensions of quarreling with her, the weapons with which nature has furnished her, she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a most defenseless animal; and even when those weapons are shewn and extended for her defense, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal:—Conscious of this, she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of stepping on her.—Was I wrong, Sir, in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and conduct of America?”[3]

Why This Post

Every time we speak or write, we communicate what we value to each other. We accomplish this feat using using words and symbols. When we do not share the same understanding of the meaning of our words and symbols, there can only be one result, a failure to communicate.

Because symbols and words have power, propagandists seek control over their meaning. To defend ourselves, we must educate ourselves. We must work to understand our language, the symbols of our civilization, the history of our people, and the values previous generations sought to pass onto us.

Because the Tea Party is a loosely constructed movement, we cannot speak with a single voice; we cannot present a clear vision. Therefore, our opponents will take our words, from 912 Richmond VA in this case, and happily contort and misrepresent them.

When our opponents misrepresent us, there is one appropriate response. We cannot wait for the news media to correct itself; it won’t. We must do it, and we must do it calmly. We must first educate ourselves, then our opponents, and finally the undecided.

  • No one website represents the thoughts of the entire Tea Party movement.
  • The Tea Party movement is not just a demand for smaller government. It is also a call for Constitutional government.

We must also agree on our symbols. If, as members of the Tea Party, we are going to use the Gadsden flag to represent ourselves, we must both understand and be prepared to explain the meaning of that symbol. Otherwise, what is the point of having the Gadsden flag represent our movement?

7 thoughts on “ABSENT KNOWLEDGE LEADS TO MISUNDERSTANDING: THE DEBATE BENEATH THE NEWS — WEEK ENDING 11/13/2010

  1. Romm Jones – You read the Orvetti piece? Good!

    Orvetti’s is one of the better reports. To some extent, I will admit being a bit oversensitive. I am sick of nasty people calling Tea Party members vile names just because we think the big spenders and power grabbers need to be restrained in child safety harnesses. So this part raised my ire a bit.

    The new plate is being tagged as the “Tea Party” plate, since Tea Party activists and small government enthusiasts campaigned to make it available. (This led one site to incongruously say Virginians “will soon be able to express their support for smaller government and protest the Federal Government’s intrusion into the affairs of private citizens” by paying extra for a government-mandated plate.

    Nonetheless, other news outlets cited the same website. So perhaps it is just as well Orvetii did also and put that site’s message in context (in the next paragraph).

    When Orvetti said that “the plate represents more than just the small government movement,” I did not have much left to complain about. So I should have been more gracious and set aside my annoyance, but I did not. Like most people, I sometimes find it difficult to settle for “good enough.” That is particularly true when someone else is doing the work.

    The better is the enemy of the good. — Voltaire

    Like

  2. I read the Orveti piece — how is the tea party mischaracterized in it? It seems fair and accurate to me

    Like

  3. It’s an honor to have posts re-posted, so thanks for your compliment. I’ve been trying to address the problem with elitism, spending and lack of transparency in my Village (own back yard) so I can imagine the difficulty in following. Bill Whittle’s video’s are succinct, clean and simple…a pleasure to view. So much stuff needs to be shared!

    Like

  4. Robin, thanks for the compliment.

    I checked out your blog. Since most of your posts seem to be about local issues, I found it a bit difficult to follow. Nonetheless, I found a few on more national issues.

    Hope you don’t mind the fact that I reblogged your post on elitism.

    Like

  5. Great post Tom, I especially appreciated your wisdom about communication. Thanks for explaining the Gadsden Flag.

    Hopefully the irony will become a moot point in the near future. If the Tea Party had their way, I’m sure they would opt for the government agency that produces license plates become privatized. Privatization produces a better product for a better price with better customer service that would also eliminate taxes paid for that entity to exist and create jobs in the private sector to boot.

    As T2T pointed out, I have witnessed first hand the viciousness the liberal left can easily dole but they have a lot of scheming tricks up their sleeve before they resort to physical violence. Seems more like a good vs. evil thing to me, not right vs. left. God, thank you for our Founding Fathers and bless those standing with the Tea Party.

    Like

  6. I was reading about this license plate in one of the other forums. I had commented how nice it might be to get plate number: 000-001. What did I get in return? Comments were made following my post that now people would know which car to smash the windows out of.

    I suspect Northern Virginia or the Metro area for that matter, doesn’t really understand what the Tea Party is all about, though they remain devout Democrats. However, they will demonstrate their ignorance by producing violence against vehicles with these plates displayed.

    Like

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