EXPLAINING NET NEUTRALITY IN A WAY TEA PARTIERS CAN UNDERSTAND…. Apparently, Tea Party groups and leaders have been giving net neutrality a look, and they’ve decided they don’t like it.

A coalition that included 35 tea party groups sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Wednesday urging the agency not to boost its authority over broadband providers through a controversial process known as reclassification. […]

The Virginia Tea Party Patriot Federation was among the groups that signed the letter. Jamie Radtke, the group’s chairman, said interest in net neutrality is rising in the tea party movement. […]

Radke said the tea party opposition to net neutrality stems from concerns over increased government power. “I think the clearest thing is it’s an affront to free speech and free markets,” she said.

Now, like most of this crowd’s positions, that’s obviously backwards. In fact, watching the Tea Partiers for a while now, there seems to be one common thread to all of their positions: seemingly well-intentioned, but deeply confused, people let their anti-government zealotry get in the way of reason.

In the case of net neutrality, the whole point of the debate is to prevent service providers from favoring some content and applications over others. In the dispute between consumers (the American public) and providers (corporate media giants), Tea Partiers have chosen to fight for the latter.

These conservatives are convinced this has something to do with free speech. That doesn’t make any sense.

Let’s put this in a way Tea Partiers can understand. Let’s say Mr. and Mrs. Tea Party Zealot love to use the Internet for political activism — they frequent right-wing websites, send around clips of Hannity and Limbaugh, organize right-wing events, post sycophantic praise on Sarah Palin’s website, the works.

But let’s say their service provider is a (cue scary music) liberal company, which contributes heavily to Democrats. The media giant that this family pays for Internet access wants to make it easy for customers to access socialist content, send around pictures of Karl Marx, coordinate with the New Black Panther Party, and send money to gay illegal immigrants, but would make it exceedingly difficult to access RedState.com, visit Glenn Beck’s activist sites, access Palin’s Facebook age, etc.

At that point, Mr. and Mrs. Tea Party Zealot would probably be pretty unhappy. It’s not fair, they’d conclude, that some Internet content (which they don’t want) is easily accessible, while other content (stuff they do want) is slow and difficult. What they’d prefer is a level playing field, where all content is equally easy to reach.

What they want, in other words, is net neutrality.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.