The Teabaggers Are Nuts

Via Brayton I caught this disturbing video of the new right-wing fringe movement:

Now, if you guys have been following along for the last few years of denialism blog, you know you should immediately be suspicious of people alleging conspiracy theories. This one is a doozy. The administration as a culmination of a 5 decade communist plot to take over the country? This movement is disturbing, and as radical and unhinged as the 9/11 truthers. I would emphasize as always, no political ideology is safe from this paranoid fringe, and this is a great example of how ideology is the universal threat to rational thinking.

I also can’t help but think this teabagging movement represents a more mainstream identity of growing right-wing hate in this country. With new reports of growth of white supremacist recruiting, recruitment of members of the military and the Father Coughlin-esque ranting of Glenn Beck and Limbaugh I’m worried we’re seeing the rise of new hate movement. Seeing their signs – blaming Obama for economic woes he’s had all of three months to address, Obama’s Plan:White Slavery, The American Taxpayers are the Jews for Obama’s ovens, Obama is the Anti-Christ, drumming up paranoia about guns, and internment camps, secession from the union for the love of Benji, Obama is a Muslim, let’s waterboard Obama – my interpretation of these events isn’t that they are legitimately angry at government spending or taxation. I just don’t buy it. After all, why get angry now? We’ve spent hundreds of billions under Bush, and wasted huge amounts in foreign wars and disastrous national policies. The tax increase? 3% on those making more than 250k? I somehow don’t see that as taxing our children’s future away, or these folks as representative of the wealthy Americans that are targeted by the tax. The people leading this movement may be recruiting a large number of people who share this unbalanced delusion about taxes and “big government” but it’s clear there is also an ugly, nationalist, and frankly racist theme behind this new movement.

The leaders of right-wing talk are playing a dangerous game, tapping into a dark, paranoid underbelly of American politics. I’ve been following Orcinus pretty closely in the last few months and am increasingly disturbed by what I see. While we might want to dismiss the paranoid rantings of pundits like Beck, we should remember that such conspiratorial beliefs aren’t meant to convince the masses. They exist to radicalize ideologues, and ideologues are dangerous, whether left-wing or right-wing. Conservatives may be furious that the the FBI and DHS are tracking right wing extremism, but I see this as a rare example of them actually seeing a threat coming, and being ready to do something about it. For those of us old enough to remember Oklahoma City, I don’t think we should be dismissive about the terrorist potential of the militant right, especially with Beck and Limbaugh stoking the fires of paranoia.

Comments

  1. #1 Christophe Thill
    April 20, 2009

    What fascinates me to no end, in American politics, is how much ordinary people are willing to follow parties (mostly the Republican on,e of course… but not only) that go straight against their direct interest. How is it possible to make working class people (who seem deluded enought to call themselves “middle-class”: that might be the start of an explanation) demonstrate against tax cuts for people whose level of wealth they haven’t the slightest chance to reach, ever? Is there some voodoo magic involved?

  2. #2 Colugo
    April 20, 2009

    Beck, Levin, Limbaugh, and Ron Paul’s libertarian economic prescriptions are very different from those of 1930s populists like Huey Long and Charles Coughlin. Joe the Plumber’s ranting against “spread the wealth” is the opposite of Long’s “Share Our Wealth.” Also, the targets are different; the ire at “tea parties” tends to be directed against the lumpenproletariat and “socialist” political and media elites rather than the classic 30s target of financiers (international bankers, speculators, profiteers). What is similar is the paranoid conspiracy-mongering, but that’s a generic feature of many protest movements.

    It will be interesting to see if these “tea parties” finally turn against Wall Street and becoming more in the mold of Coughlin and Long. Another interesting development would be a left wing protest movement against the administration’s economic policies, especially the bailouts and protection of Wall Street by Summers and Geithner. Already I see a split on the left of center with the hard left (e.g. Naomi Klein) being increasingly outspoken against Obama’s economic policies (which overlap considerably with those of Bush and a hypothetical McCain administration).

  3. #3 Kagehi
    April 20, 2009

    The locals here are both right and left, but mostly right wing, claim its non-partisan, despite whining about Obama 100% of the time, but do have one minor point. They are pissed off that everyone from the federal government down to their own town councils are doing things they don’t like. They are also all idiots, since they can’t seem to grasp that these people are doing this crap because they elected assholes in the first place, and can never seem to see past the assholes claims to care about them, claims to dislike the things they do, etc., and actually look at their fracking track records. If the government isn’t, as they claim, accountable to the people any more, its because the people let themselves be bamboozled into picking the least personally offensive candidate, from a small number of candidates, none of whom have any damn interest in doing anything they promise, unless you just happen to be in the one group they also belong to, and pander to.

    But, all these idiot teabaggers not only imagine non-existent conspiracies, claim they are not *actually* represented at all (so their protest was just like Boston), but the next election cycle they will fall for the same stupid bullshit, and end up electing someone even worse. Not because Obama has been horrible, but because they can’t stand that he has allowed companies to be bailed out, and messes of other officials, including state and local, are raising rates and taxes that “do” effect them, while they **imagine** he should somehow keep that from fracking happening. Oh, and… apparently, at my work, they are pissed off and consider him untrustworthy, I kid you not, because he picked the wrong dog, instead of rescuing one from the pound. Arrrgggghhh!

  4. #4 Toaster
    April 20, 2009

    I can’t help but to see the teabaggers as inherently selfish. They rail against the money they pay into the common pot of tax revenue going to help others less fortunate than themselves. They resurrect the illusion of “welfare queens” and beat it with racist stereotypes and ignorance. They see any attempt by the government to help others or to ensure a more equitable society as flaming communism. This is all inherently greedy and selfish. Maybe a fundamental difference between progressives and conservatives is that progressives see improving net social good as an EPIC WIN, while conservatives see failure to improve their immediate lot in life as an EPIC FAIL.

    I’m also more than slightly annoyed by all of this as I, naively perhaps, hoped I wouldn’t need to pay attention to politics anymore after January 21st, 2009.

  5. #5 Art
    April 20, 2009

    These people, Beck and his ilk, are, IMHO, just the moderated and toned down manifestation of the bent minds of Janet Porter, Alex Jones, and their ilk.

    Buck is a raving lunatic but he is just riffing on the deeper currents of toxic sludge stirred up by the crashing of the American Dream circa 1947. The distance between what is and what ‘should be’ circa 1947 has become impossible to bridge. For better than sixty years the culture, wealth, advertising, welfare, Prozac and self-delusion have served to cover the cracks. But as time went on the distance between where we are and where the average white male thought they should be kept growing. It can’t be straddled and each has to decide which way to jump.

    Much of the die-hard right chose to give up on reality and to live in a bygone age of assumed privileged where the US is still world leader in all things and the average white male can get by on the color of his skin and a mix of self-assurance, divine right, and physical violence.

    Which, in and of itself, is fine. As long as these things still work. As long as the rest of the world snaps to attention at the sight of an aircraft carrier, and nods in agreement when the US envoy makes pronouncements and all persons bend over for the almighty dollar everything is copacetic.

    Problem is the old talismans of power no longer work as well. A US Navy ship arrived in Haiti and was driven off by a riot on the dock. A bunch of dirty tribesmen, armed with little more than the contents of your average mid-western gun show, have give the US Army a run for their money. The dollar has bowed to a barrel of oil. The average white male high school graduate can’t get a decent job. The prayers no longer bring the rain or keep the gays away.

    This result is a mix of blame reallocation, they did it but we are blameless, and we are weak because we were betrayed from within, and despair, disappointment and alienation. The end result is that they are caught between fundamentalism; if we just believe more and are purer God will love us enough to save us, despair; it is all a conspiracy against us and we will fall back to our like-minded, all-white, goosestepping communities, bunkers and special web sites where the ugly truth cannot reach us, and nihilism;’we want Armageddon and we want it now’ so we can emerge from our holes to a fresh-washed world where our assumptions are still valid.

    As with studying any disease the examination of the purer forms leads to firmer conclusions. To understand this view your better off reading the styling and raving of Janet Porter and Jones than the watered down blithering of Beck. It also serves to make clear the dog-whistle references and code words.

  6. #6 barkdog
    April 20, 2009

    My pedantic hostory teacher’s soul is appalled that everyone buys the assumption that the original Boston Tea Party was an anti-tax protest. It was not. It was a protest against the monopoly in the sale of tea granted to the British East India Company and occured after the repeal of the tea tax made company tea competetive with smuggled tea. My twelve year-old daughter spent the day setting the record straight at school.

  7. #7 D. C. Sessions
    April 20, 2009

    What fascinates me to no end, in American politics, is how much ordinary people are willing to follow parties (mostly the Republican on,e of course… but not only) that go straight against their direct interest. [...] Is there some voodoo magic involved?

    Don’t underestimate the power of group identification.

    If the Foo Party hits your checklist for “people like me” on things like guns, jingoism, religion, contempt for “social parasites,” murder of babies, and a few other issues then you’re likely to identify with the Foo Party. Including the Foo Party spokesheads.

    So when the Foo Party spokesheads tell you that the Bar Party is out to jack up taxes and take away everything you’ve worked hard for to pay for their Gestapo-managed Health for the Lazy Slackers program, you’re going to believe them and wave signs attacking the Bar Party. The fact that their leader is very visibly Not Like You, and talks like he went to school somewhere that they teach multisyllabic words just frosts the cake.

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  10. #10 llewelly
    April 21, 2009

    What fascinates me to no end, in American politics, is how much ordinary people are willing to follow parties (mostly the Republican on,e of course… but not only) that go straight against their direct interest. How is it possible to make working class people (who seem deluded enought to call themselves “middle-class”: that might be the start of an explanation) demonstrate against tax cuts for people whose level of wealth they haven’t the slightest chance to reach, ever? Is there some voodoo magic involved?

    No voodoo. Just that modern marvel, marketing. The same tools that make so many tools love Microsoft, Apple, Budweiser, Nike, or any of dozens of other brands. That’s all it takes.

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  12. #12 rob
    April 22, 2009

    i always chuckle when i see hear these protesters encouraging everyone to go out and teabag…

  13. #13 Jason R
    April 23, 2009

    I think this kind of right wing nuttery flames up every time a Democrat is elected President. I seem to recall a lot of this during the Clinton administration. I am too young to remember the Carter years, so I’m not sure about that time frame.

  14. #14 Morris Ben
    April 23, 2009

    I disagree with this article. Liberals too have talked about conspiracy. Remember Hilary Clinton: ” A vast righ-wing conspiracy.”

  15. #15 Skwrr
    April 23, 2009

    i always chuckle when i see hear these protesters encouraging everyone to go out and teabag…
    Today, we are all Beavis and Butthead.

  16. #16 Adam C.
    April 25, 2009

    …My god… there’s someone that looks like my uncle in there. Please tell me this isn’t in Pittsburgh.

  17. #17 Brian X
    April 27, 2009

    What I find a little disturbing is the finding of common ground between the Constitution Party and the Libertarian Party. The Constitution Party, essentially a misnamed party of hardline theocrats, really has little bearing on the actual Constitution, given how their platform seeks fundamental changes in the document that are entirely at odds with two and a half centuries of American jurisprudence; meanwhile, the Libertarian Party, as unrelentingly ignorant of the facts of economics as they are, seems to be supporting people whose primary mission is exactly at odds with their stated platform. “Republicans who want to do drugs” indeed.

    Morris Ben:

    While the use of the term “conspiracy” may have been a bit strong, it does adequately describe the right-wing marketing push dating back to Nixon’s southern strategy. That’s why they’re so keen to blame everything on George Soros — virtually everything movement conservatives have done over the last thirty years has been astroturf, either directly or indirectly (Richard Mellon Scaife’s bankrolling the Clinton witchhunt, for example, or the Mormon church’s push for Prop 8 — neither was even remotely grassroots, but succeeded primarily on deep pockets able to promote the message), and blaming Soros (who is well-known as someone who funds left-wing grassroots causes) for doing exactly what their rich benefactors have been doing all along.

    Christophe:

    There’s two things you need to understand — the authoritarian mindset, which says essentially that if one is not a leader, one should be proud to accept a role as a follower. (For that, I recommend Bob Altemeyer’s book The Authoritarians.)

    The other is the narrative of the American Dream. The positive spin on this is that the USA is a country where anyone can succeed; the negative side is that if you don’t, you weren’t trying. Poor conservatives support cutting taxes on money they’ll never receive on the assumption that they might have a shot at getting it someday, and when they do get there, they don’t want to have to pay for it. (Those who say they’re willingly doing the bidding of the rich who keep them down are missing the point — they are, but they’re not thinking past the end of their own noses.) The flip side is that they see the American Dream as a zero-sum game — every “lazy” “parasite” who gets government assistance, every illegal immigrant, every brown person who didn’t come over on the Mayflower or whatever, is someone who is getting a piece of the pie that they aren’t getting.

  18. #18 Suricou Raven
    April 28, 2009

    I had an interesting discussion with a far-rightwinger about a week ago – he said that ideally, there should be no benefits at all. I asked him what he thought should happen to the unemployed or unemployable – should they just starve, or should they be forced to turn to crime in order to feed themselves?

    He said that if benefits were cut to zero, the rich would have to much money to donate to churches that those churches would be able to feed all those who really needed it – the unemployed and unemployable could just go to their church and accept handouts, paid for by donations.

    My attempts to criticise the viability of sustaining the level of donations required were met with the brick wall of religion: God, he said, will care for His flock, and so it would all work out somehow.

  19. #19 Skemono
    April 28, 2009

    God, he said, will care for His flock, and so it would all work out somehow.

    His track record for doing so is less than stellar. I suppose he won’t do that until we cut social programs that your associate dislikes.

  20. #20 N.Oz
    April 29, 2009

    One can be against government intervention in the market and still be a sane person — and a liberal at that. For instance,

    (1) our taxes more often than not subsidize large corporations while small companies do not receive such large subsidies; the same goes for any sufficiently wealthy organization that can afford to send a lobbyist to Washington to get legislation enacted in his company’s favor.

    When a large corporation begins to fail, it demands even more money, as if a company producing a crap product will suddenly fare better once all taxpayers pay the company to produce more crap. In essence, the money isn’t funneled from the rich to the poor, but from all individuals to already-wealthy corporations that collude with the government (see the Military-Industrial Complex).

    (2) Government-sanctioned monopolies that extend over many decades favor big businesses that own such monopolies, thus restricting many small entrepreneurs from ever entering a market, and thus preventing a reduction in the price of goods.

    That being said, teabaggers aren’t making those arguments…

  21. #21 Bill F.
    May 5, 2009

    Mark, you had me until the latter half of the last paragraph.

    In fact, government efforts to “track rightwing extremism” have been a hot mess of misidentification and villification. The reports at issue attempt to label as a potential extremist people who do such crazy, off-the-wall, unacceptable things as “preferring state authority to Federal authority,” or attending a Ron Paul rally.

    Now, to be sure, there are quite a few rightwing headcases who prefer state authority to Federal authority and who attended Ron Paul rallies. There are a lot of pacifist stoner libertarians who did the same thing, too, though. I would argue that the latter group is much, much, much larger. Any attempt to define (and investigate) rightwing extremism as “a group that prefers state authority to Federal authority” is bound to produce more injustice than justice, more useless information than actionable intelligence, more alienation than understanding.

    I would have expected the government to do better than this. Oh, wait, no I wouldn’t have.

  22. #22 Laura
    May 12, 2009

    But isn’t the move toward the equitable distribution of wealth, the “share the wealth” philosopthy that Obama espouses, as well as the move by our government to control the economy the definition of communism? I don’t think the teabaggers are conspiracy theorists, I think they’re just calling a spade a spade. It is the government that the majority of people elected and only time will tell if the teabaggers are actually right.

  23. #23 MarkH
    May 12, 2009

    No Laura, that is called taxation. One of those inevitable things along with death. The wikipedia on communism defines it as such

    Communism (from Latin communis = “common”) is a socioeconomic structure and political ideology that promotes the establishment of an egalitarian, classless, stateless society based on common ownership and control of the means of production and property in general.[1][2][3] In political science, the term “communism” is sometimes used to refer to communist states, a form of government in which the state operates under a one-party system and declares allegiance to Marxism-Leninism or a derivative thereof, even if the party does not actually claim that it has already developed communism.

    That doesn’t sound at all like what Obama is doing. The ideologues in this instance are using as a scare word to describe any government activity for the common good as communism.

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