In a recent Religion Dispatches, Wade Clark Roof presented a trenchant analysis of survey data collected for the Capps Center at UC Santa Barbara, where he is Director.  Roof has been a major force in American Religion Sociology for several decades and is well-known for his work on Boomer religiosity and religious “seeking.”  Though far from Parsonian, he is a scholar who pays close attention to empirical data and to social structure.   In this piece, he shows that conservative discontent with the direction of the country under Obama has important social sources in economic and aspirational insecurity.

He thus helps us break the age-old syllogism that has unfortunately been attached to much commentary about the tea-baggers and others: the media (talk radio) create a moral groundswell that is expressed by more-or-less mindless behaviors among the easily manipulated.

No, what we have here is something more complex, but no less troubling, and where no less of a role is played by media.  There is discontent, rooted both in structural and economic issues and in social anxieties about the direction of an increasingly diverse culture.  Instead of functioning according to a code of propaganda, the media provide a powerful, synthetic, recursive imaginary that articulates social and cultural anxiety in particularly profound and–this is important–satisfying ways.

Oh, yes–in case you are wondering–I do know what “tea-bagging” means…