Tea Party Crashers

Some members of the media are in a snit about the Tea Party Movement's First Amendment-inspired freedom to peaceably assemble without them.

Only a handful of media outlets have been invited to a Tea Party Convention in Nashville later this month.

What seems to be grating excluded journalists, such as ABC's Jake Tapper, who was complaining about it on Sean Hannity's radio show the Friday before Martin Luther King Day, is that the invited media outlets include only those that haven't bashed, misrepresented, or maliciously distorted the Tea Party Movement, its events, or its adherents.

The right to assemble privately and exclusively is as important in American history as...well, the freedom of the press. Causes that were once unpopular have become mainstream precisely because of the freedom to assemble, which means the freedom to assemble privately if the organizers so wish.

Movements can be stifled or stopped by publicly disclosing certain conversations, thoughts, or plans made in private. Indeed, the government has often sought to interrupt the privacy of peaceable association before causes become too big.

When the civil rights movement started gaining strength, the government concocted conspiracy theories as the bases to subpoena membership lists of the NAACP. Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote in NAACP v. Alabama that "[i]t is beyond debate that freedom to engage in association for the advancement of beliefs and ideas is an inseparable aspect of the 'liberty' assured by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which embraces freedom of speech."

He further wrote that "compelled disclosure of the names of the [NAACP's] members would entail 'the likelihood of a substantial restraint upon the exercise by [NAACP's] members of their right to freedom of association.'"

Sam Adams, the original tea partier, was a newspaperman. Do you think for one moment he would have invited a reporter antagonistic to the cause of freedom to one of his meetings?

Much of the media have abdicated their watchdog role over corrupt government and have become symbiotic, sycophantic protectors of what the Tea Party Movement opposes. Fortunately, those media now have competition that will force them to develop the humility to become objective lest they continue to be viewed as suck-ups to entrenched power. The choice is theirs.

Tea Party organizers may extend invitations to certain media outlets and not to others. The Tea Party event at the end of this month, about which John Loudon writes at BigGovernment (at which yours truly will address, among other issues, the implications for Tea Party activists of the recent Citizens United Supreme Court decision), is open to all media. That's the choice of the organizers.

If uninvited media outlets were to attempt to gain access to a conditioned-entry tea party event, they would be trespassing and could be removed. Were those same media folks to attempt to crash an SEIU meeting, they might expect a harsher escort out.