Ta-nehisi has an incredible post about the tea party movement and their bush league protests. I strongly suggest you check it out:
I was a student at Howard at the time, and like all the other prospective Marchers, I read the papers and was well-versed in notion of not embarrassing your people in front of white folks. The last thing any of us wanted to do was to march down to the Mall and have the next day’s headline read, “Niggers Can’t Even March Without Fighting.” In the months leading up to the March, organizers toured the country speaking to black men in the community and pushing the essential conservative aspects of the March.The theme was atonement–even as we recognized the wickedness of racism, we were going to the Mall to take ownership of our sins, to denounce black on black crime, to denounce absentee fatherhood, and recommit ourselves to the traditional cult of maledom. The concept of violence, or even boisterous anger, was counter to the March’s goals, and so while there was much surprise at how solemn the event came off, if you’d been watching from the start, it would have made sense. I think had someone done something to embarrass us, there really would have been hell to pay. We thought that media was looking for trouble, but we also thought it was within our power not to give it to them.I think we got some of that sense from the Civil Rights movement’s choreography. These guys were the masters of protest as propaganda. The Montgomery bus boycott was a strategy and Rosa Parks was not some witless old lady, but a civil rights worker who’d been trained to accord herself a certain way. When Martin Luther King would be arrested he dressed a certain way, he seemed to try to convey to the cameras a kind of solemn restraint. The marches themselves were choreographed, and the strategy of nonviolence was drilled into anyone who’d protest.I hear GOP folks and Tea Partiers bemoaning the fact that media and Democrats are using the extremes of their movement for ratings and to score points. This is like Drew Brees complaining that Dwight Freeney keeps trying to sack him. If that were Martin Luther King’s response to media coverage, the South might still be segregated. I exaggerate, but my point is that the whining reflects a basic misunderstanding of the rules of protest. When you lead a protest you lead it, you own it, and your opponents, and the media, will hold you responsible for whatever happens in the course of that protest. This isn’t left-wing bias, it’s the nature of the threat.