Monday, September 14, 2009

About "Tea Party's"...

As much as I seem to do it, I'm actually pretty reluctant to overtly discuss politics outside the context of a relevant film or game topic on the blogosphere. When it comes to movies I'm an expert, I don't consider that bragging. When it comes to video-games I'm an extremely well-read, experienced fan. When it comes to politics... I'm just a guy who watches a lot of news, reads a lot of papers and feeds, listens to a lot of radio and reads a fair share of books on the subject. Not an expert, not a pro, just another blogger. I am, of course, also more reticent as of late now that my name(s) are "branded" in various places; and while no one has ASKED me in any way, shape or form to say the following preface I'm going to say it anyway of my own accord: Anything I've got to say in this post is being said by ME personally, and has no association with any entity for whom I contribute web content. So if you've got an issue, it ain't with them. It's with moi. SO...

There are two things about the "Tea Party" faux-nomenon that piss me off, neither one of them wholly related to the professed politics of (most of) the people attending. I LIKE a little chaos an incivility in political debate - it keeps things interesting. If EVERY politician in America was met by an... "enthusiastic gathering" of citizens upon the occasion of every major piece of legislation coming up, I think we'd have a better-functioning country. Elected officials were never meant to become complacent. So, let's be clear right off the bat: This isn't primarily about ideology.

THE FIRST THING in the "pisses me off" category is, however, ideological-INCONSISTENCY - both on behalf of the folks AT the "protest" and on behalf of some of the people NOT there. The "Tea Partiers" claim, in the broad strokes, that they are against "big government." They are against wasteful spending, expansion of the federal government and intrusion by The State into individual privacy. Now, ON PAPER, those are things I can get behind. I am, after all, a libertarian (please note the SMALL "l") at least to the extent that if you ask me what my thoughts are on the ideal way to manage a "society" I'm likely to reply "Natural Selection" and only be a little-bit 'kidding.'

So yeah, ON PAPER I'm inclined to be sympathetic... until I regain my grasp of recent history and am compelled to ask: WHERE THE FUCK HAVE YOU ALL BEEN!!?? If you're against "wasteful government spending," where were you for the last SIX YEARS during which the previous administration sunk BILLIONS of dollars and - more importantly - thousands of American and Iraqi LIVES into a worthless experiment in "Iraqi Democracy?" If you don't like "intrusion by The State into individual privacy," can I assume you were just as upset about the Patriot Act as you are about nationalized healthcare?

Do they not have IRONY where you're from? You can't say you're FOR an ideological blanket-statement like "small government" and then suddenly turn AGAINST it once the party opposed to you is in power if you want people to take you seriously. If you're "against government expansion," that means you're against it no matter WHO'S doing the expanding. If that's the case, then just be honest: You're not against "expansion," you're against "expansion in THIS direction." In other words, what you're REALLY mad about is that President Obama is a Democrat. You're a partisan. And that's FINE! You've got a side! Own it! But don't abuse the language to make it sound like your dissent is coming from some untainted well of ideological purity when it's plainly NOT.

Egh. Deep breath....

The SECOND element is a bit less specific to the "Tea Parties," but thrown into sharp-relief by them: People, if you're going to co-opt icons, slogans or images from earlier historical "movements" in order to add the veneer of legitimacy to you and your "events;" at least try and develop a working UNDERSTANDING of what these images, icons or even PEOPLE actually believed in relation to what you're saying.

Let's start with that name "Tea Party." The obvious frame of reference being "The Boston Tea Party," a historical even that occured about a twenty-minute drive from my home. Folks... the "Boston Tea Party" was NOT a big show-offy "protest" event staged for the media - it was a gang of rowdy young proto-patriots costumed-for-effect as Indians committing an act of politically-symbolic vandalism under cover of darkness. The people at these rallies have about as much in common with the Sons of Liberty as Kanye West does with Crispus Attucks.

Then there's the ever-subtle Glenn Beck, using the "Don't Tread On Me" snake imagery as the icon for his assinine "9.12 Project." Right off the bat, he's mixing his metaphors (at least on his TV show graphics, I've not seen if he's since corrected it) - making the common error of conflating the original Ben Franklin "Snake In 13 Pieces" from the French & Indian War with the coiled "Don't Tread On Me" snake from Revolutionary War-era "Gasden's Flag," but to be fair people have been screwing that up for years...

Finally... Ayn Rand. I'm actually a little surprised to see her OR her philosophy coming up in this at all, since so much of the mythology of the "Tea Partiers" is framed as a battle of "the common folk" versus "the elites" and, let's face it: If there's one thing Objectivism AIN'T, it's "on the side of the common folk." (Shorthand descriptive of Objectivism: Did you play Bioshock? All that stuff Andrew Ryan keeps going on about, THAT'S Objectivism. SHORTER-hand: "Revenge of the Nerds.") But, though not in great numbers, you're starting to hear them bring it up. Now, to be sure, ON PAPER Objectivism, Rand and particularly her book "Atlas Shrugged" is an ideological fit; being that's it's the quintessential anti-nationalization tract. But I'm inclined to doubt that anything CLOSE to a majority of the "partiers" have read the damn thing or even known what it's about other than that it's a well-known book broadly on their "side." If they had, I'd gather we'd be hearing "Who is John Galt" being chanted instead of "You Lie," no? That'd be kind-of a no-brainer, right?

But what really both irks and amuses me is the inescapable fact that Rand is now being invoked by the disgraced and degarded remnants of a political movement that she would BARELY recognize as being political "conservatives" as she knew them. Objectivism - and it's founder - may be/have-been a wee bit on the "nutty" side, but at least they were consistent and would've BALKED at the strange alliance between so-called "conservatives" and Christian social-engineering that dominates the agenda of the Republican 'right' today. And, conversely, do you think that any of the "religious conservatives" among the "Tea Partiers" know that this person they're invoking had THIS to say their favorite pet issue:

Abortion is a moral right—which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?

--Ayn Rand on abortion, 1968.

So... if I HAVE a point other than being annoyed here, it'd be that it's probably a good idea to form a working grasp of what you're ACTUALLY upset about and what you REALLY support before you start holding a "march." Otherwise, you end up looking kinda... well, stupid ;)


Anonymous said...

Okay, self-admitted member of the left-wing conspiracy here...but IMHO, stupidity has been the operating principle of the far right hate parade for over a decade now. The whole point is to foster, and then mainstream, stupidity over intellect.

tyra menendez said...

i never understood how the right could label the other guys elites and convince the nascar-watchers that they have so much in common. bush was at yale, for fuck's sake. why? because of his legacy; his father and his grandfather, prescott bush, were ivy leagues. the republican party is full of "better-than-you because i'm rich" assholes. how is that not elite?
or the fact that the bush administration used the idea of another attack, with the "threat level" board and vague fears of "terrorists", to get what they wanted. yeah, that's terrorism.
americans don't seem to go past the sound-bite, never investigating past the 30 second mark and making snap judgments on complex issues.
on labor day, i saw the masses gathered on the courthouse lawn, holding their signs, proclaiming that universal health care is bad, mmkay. some of these people are the ones that could benefit the most. the others are sitting in ivory towers, full of claims about long waiting times and red tape. been to an emergency room lately?

Nixou said...

"When it comes to politics... I'm just a guy who watches a lot of news, reads a lot of papers and feeds, listens to a lot of radio and reads a fair share of books on the subject."

Well, does'nt that makes you a, you know "well-read, experienced fan" of politics? like video games? Why being so shy, you mixed politics with some of your gameoverthinker videos, so why displaying so suddenly some false modesty?

CrunchyEmpanada said...

Am I the only person having trouble figuring out who Bob's talking about here? He seems to start off with attenders of "tea parties" but moves on to in general libertarians, but then equates them to the right-wing republicans. But I could be completely wrong of course.

Bob said...

"i never understood how the right could label the other guys elites and convince the nascar-watchers that they have so much in common."

To be fair, it's the same basic principal by which the "left" - which is JUST as overwhelmingly staffed by white, upper-class, ivy league educated elites - courts votes by convincing the urban poor, minorities and the poverty-class that they "feel their pain" ;)

It's all just a bunch of those little contradictions of our system: We pay elected officials a pittance (compared to the import of their office) to prevent public service from becoming a for-profit career; which assures that only the wealthy and well-connected can run-for and maintain elected office. And since those wealthy and well-connected will, by simple mathematics, NEVER be a majority in and of themselves, both sides are involved in a game of convincing "little people" to vote for them.

untra said...

American political ideaoligies is far easier when looked upon more as a two-dimensional plane than as a one-dimensional line, Bob. Of course the left and right sides of the political spectrum are exactly as how you perceive them (hopefully), as the left side being more liberal and the right being more conservative (this referring to the size of government, not the current political parties in currently in tow). As of so, you can see that heading far enough left would lead to forms of socialism and communism, while heading farther right would bring one to stronger forms of hyper-capitalism, and libertarianism.


The next step would be looking at the up-down side of the spectrum, which correlates to the social contract theory (we give up certain freedoms to gain certain safeties). As such, America has found a certain balance in the middle of this vertical spectrum, as that was one of the intentions of the framers (to find a balance between freedom and safety(John Locke vs Thomas Hobbes). To the far "north" we would find forms of radicalism, and eventually (in the form of ultimate freedom over no safety) Anarchy.

But than look at that spectrum to the far "south", and see forms of government where freedoms are stripped away and personal safety is greatly emphasized. The greatest way to express this is Fascism.

No take a look at what Ive done to your political spectrum, Bob; Ive just mixed your personal politics with Alan Moore's V for Vendetta. Who would've thought?

Charlie said...


As best I understand things, libertarianism calls for, in simplest terms, "small government." Supposedly, this is what the Tea Partiers want since they say they're against government spending and high taxes. Republicans in general favor small government since it leads to smaller taxes and less interference in, amongst other things, the economy. In theory, Republicans and libertarians should be on about the same page, except that during the Bush era, the government took a pro-war, pro-censorship, pro-get-involved approach that pretty much demanded a bigger government that spent a lot of money.

So in summary, the Republicans are supposed to lean towards libertarianism, but they haven't lately. The Tea Partiers say they're libertarians, but they probably aren't. Bob could probably explain what libertarians really want better than I could. Does that explain it?

tyra menendez said...

i had a nice retort to some of these comments, but it didn't post, for some reason.

basically, someone like w. who only got into yale because of his legacy and father's wealth, while someone like obama was raised by a single parent and, if i remember correctly, was on welfare at one point. so the idea of the bush administration calling someone else elitist, is ultra-mega bullshit, not just regular political bullshit.

and in response to charlie, the republicans have been hooked up with the religious right since reagan. the religious right want a christian state, which means "bigger" government through the removal of any personal freedom that isn't granted by a narrow interpretation of the bible. some evangelicals want to go so far as to impose the death penalty for things like adultery. how do i know this? they've said as much in public forums, like radio shows.

Laserkid said...

I can't speak for everyone on the right wing here, though I do tend more liberetarian then conservative (I'm some weird hybrid of the two), but for me - I was completely blind to Bush's stupid government enlarging bullshit at the time it was happening. I was being a partisan idiot at the time, and I'm rather ashamed of this fact.

I will be the first person to tell you I blame Bush for the government bloat MORE then Obama, as he helped set the framework Obama is using.

This all said, I am still fed up with the continuing of what Bush started. I'll call BS on Bush now, but he's gone. I find it's more productive to point at the current problems rather then complain about the past.

What I want to know is a converse of your question, where are all the left wing people who screamed Bush was overstepping his power (correctly mind you) now?

Both sides have a lot of hypocracy going on here, to the point that I delisted Republican and went Independant because I'm fed up with both parties.

I guess the ultimate point of this response is yes, you're quite right to point out a lot of right leaning people, myself included, gave an undue pass to the Bush administration. Sometimes you have to see it in a way you can see it to get past ones own rose tinted glasses. That Obama is doing this HELPED me realize W was doing it too.

As for those invoking Ayn Rand, or the Tea Party name...yeah thats stupid.

Anyway, thats my thoughts, and I hope it helps. A lot of us are KICKING ourselves for being blind idiots to the last six years. I may be the only one to admit it, though.

SomethingGerman said...
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SomethingGerman said...
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SomethingGerman said...

This stuff is the reason I come to your site, Bob.

Also I disagree on Andrew Ryan to be the leader of an objectivistic underwater utopia, in an object. society wouldn't there be no need for a police force and many thingy rapture actually has?

But that's just me.

Oh and I know it goes without saying but Ayn Rand probably is right now spinning in her own grave and quite frankly I would LOVE the idea of a zombiefied Rand to go out and butcher each Tea Party member but I guess that would be wishful thinking