Sabotaging the Tea Party

The "Crash the Tea Party" campaign wants to infiltrate the grassroots movement and tarnish its name. But how?

Who might crash the Tea Party?
(Image credit: Getty)

Tea Partiers planning to protest at today's Tax Day Tea Party rallies are on the lookout for liberal infiltrators. Although this might sound like a paranoid conspiracy, a "Crash the Tea Party" movement actually exists. The self-described "nationwide network of Democrats, Republicans and Independents" says it is "sick and tired of that loose affiliation of racists, homophobes, and morons," and aims to blacken the name of the grassroots organization. Just how will they do it? (Watch Sean Hannity's comments on the "Crash the Tea Party" movement)

What is the stated ambition of the Crash the Tea Party movement?

To "exaggerate [the Tea Party's] least appealing qualities" by displaying "misspelled protest signs" and making "wild claims in TV interviews." It is hoped that this will "further distance them from mainstream America and damage the public's opinion of them."

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Who is the leader?

Unlike the leaderless Tea Party, this movement has a boss: Jason Levin. The Oregon-based technology consultant says he got the idea from protestors who "outcrazied" protestors from Fred Phelp's controvesial Westboro Baptist Church last January. "[The Westboro people] realized they couldn't get their message out, so they just left," Levin tells Talking Points Memo.

What would be an example of "out-crazying" the Tea Partiers?

"Whenever a tea partier says 'Barack Obama was not born in America,'" Levin says, "we're going be right right there next to them saying, 'yeah, in fact he wasn't born on Earth! He's an alien!'"

How big is the movement?

Levin claims to have 66 member groups preparing to infiltrate Tea Party rallies today.

How is the Tea Party responding?

They are on high alert for fake protestors. Brendan Steinhauser, head of Tea Party group FreedomWorks, told the Washington Post: "We have a strategy to deal with them and a strategy to identify them... Anyone who has a racist sign or an offensive sign, we'll ask them to put it down or leave." Conservative bloggers, meanwhile, are outraged. "It is Saul Alinsky on steroids," fumes Mark Tapscott at the Washington Examiner. "It's a classic KGB-style disinformation campaign."

Could this get violent?

Levin has urged his party crashers not to use violence, but added that they were "free to do as they wish." Many on both sides of the debate fear fights could break out if infiltrators are caught.

Could it backfire for Tea Party opponents?

It certainly could, says Stephen Stromberg at the Washington Post. This "gives Tea Partiers a way to blame the ugly antics at their rallies on malicious outsiders." If it is successful, "Americans might be more willing to believe that the clownish behavior they see at Tea Party rallies is actually the work of Manchurian candidates."

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