NYT Ponders: Weather Underground, Tea Party Movement Just 'Varying Degrees of Rage'

The Weather Underground and the Tea Party movement: Same thing?

In the wake of Obama-care's passage, New York Times reporter Benedict Carey took the country's political temperature, and found it running a right-wing fever, in a front-page Sunday Week in Review essay. It's ominous title was cribbed from the famous scene in the movie "Network," "RAGE's DNA: Mad As Hell. And..." The online headline is even blunter: "When Does Political Anger Turn to Violence?"

The story is accompanied by a photo illustration of an open book of matches, one of them lit.

There's also a really strange choice of photo caption on the jump page accompanying an archive photo, courtesy of Getty Images, of the late-1960s left-wing domestic terrorist group The Weathermen, including Obama friend Bill Ayers, directly above a similar picture of marching Tea Party protesters from last Sunday.

Here's the caption, which suggested that while the two movements are not the same they share some DNA:

VARYING DEGREES OF RAGE The Weathermen, including Bill Ayers, second from right, during the Days of Rage in 1969, and anti-health reform protesters in Washington on Sunday.

In fairness (or is it?) Carey does refer to the Weather Underground as a "domestic terrorist group." So what do they have to with the peaceful Tea Party protests?

Carey's piece began:

The mercury is running high, all right, and it has nothing to do with the weather.

Public displays of political anger have been a staple of the American scene for the last eight months or so, but in recent days a handful directed at members of Congress have gone a bit further than noisy, sign-carrying assembly to window-smashing, spitting, threatening faxes and phone calls, even a cut propane line on a barbecue grill. At the end of last week, Democratic and Republican leaders, while denouncing any violence or threat of it, reached the point of trading accusations over who was most responsible.

(The "spitting" allegation has been debunked.)

Carey pointed the finger of blame at talk radio:

In today's political climate, where some politicians are taking their talking points from radio and TV jockeys, outraged leaders are easy to find.

Carey had a few counterexamples but focused mostly on right-wing anger (as if anti-Bush protests were models of peace and toleration).

But what about the risk of organized destructive action?

So far, experts say that the discontent pooling on the right (anti-Washington and anti-Wall Street) and to a lesser degree on the left (anti-Wall Street) has some, but not yet all, of the ingredients needed to foment radicalism.

Clay Waters is director of Times Watch. You can follow Times Watch on Twitter.