Tea Party Version 3.0: Hate Speech Edition. Racism, anti-Semitism...a record- breaking protest on the National Mall, or the biggest puppet show in history?
Yesterday's 9/12 Tea Party Express in Washington, DC was the third Tea Party your intrepid blogger has attended--as an observer--and it was profoundly different from the last two. This one was a stunner of a big shindig--and it really was a shindig, with people bringing picnics, lawn chairs, and blankets to enjoy a day of feel-good fun with like-minded strangers. It was Woodstock with tea and acrimony--complete with kids in strollers, jugglers, live music, t-shirts, funny hats, souvenirs being sold. But the happy reveling--and lots of the gathered masses were really happy--had a very dark underside.
Since April, the Tea movement has changed not only in terms of scale, but also in the way the discourse now routinely skews toward viciousness. Sure, there was volatile language before, but images of President Obama as a murderer, as a Socialist, as the Anti-Christ, as a Communist, etc., were not yet so frequent that they now seem mundane. So let's call yesterday's Tea Party Express what it is: Version 3.0, Hate Speech Edition. There were literally thousands of people speaking hate, and those who weren't speaking the hate were tolerating it. And after hanging with the Tea Baggers on The Hill--and all the way down the National Mall, as well as very early in the morning over by the Capitol Hilton near the White House (which was ground zero for the party--the hotel was booked solid with Tea Baggers, and there were events like protest sign-making workshops) your intrepid blogger has begun to shift towards the idea that the Tea Party movement is, in fact, racially motivated--as have many other people who are also observing. A White House aide announced today that President Obama doesn't believe the Tea Baggers are racist. But as Tim Wise, author of Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama pointed out last night on CNN--no one would be questioning the legitimacy of the President's citizenship if he looked more like his white mother rather than his black father. And no one would be comparing him to Hitler without getting in big trouble, would they, if he was white. Gordon Duff, a writer who is a Marine combat veteran, is calling yesterday Klan Rally In Washington, No Sheets Allowed --and it certainly felt like that. One of the tenets of the Tea Party movement is to stop citizen enslavement to government--by demolishing big government. Slavery is a big Tea Party catch word, and slavery, in America, is associated almost exclusively with African Americans. So lest everyone in America get enslaved by our black President and thus "turned" black, too, the Tea Baggers are seeking to destroy government and the leader of our government. Too much government=white people magically turning black--or at least living in the "degraded" state of slavery--blackness. A personal anecdote: Your intrepid blogger was Teabaggin' at the Capitol for hours before seeing a single person who was not white (click these pix--they blow up big, and see if you see anyone who's not white...).
The blacks and the Jews: The comparisons of President Obama to murderers--and particularly to people who assured their place in history by murdering Jews--is also deeply disturbing. Yesterday, there were countless Obama-as-Hitler signs and Obama-as-Stalin signs, as well as a new entry into the category: Obama-as-Joseph Mengele, the Angel of Death of the Holocaust, who performed hideous experiments on concentration camp children before murdering them. Waaay back in November of 2008, when the President was still a Candidate, G. Gordon Liddy seems to have kicked off the black/Jew killer meme, by announcing on his nationally syndicated radio show that if elected, President Obama would send people to concentration camps with his special forces "gestapo," just because they were white. Liddy added that the white prisoners would be served hamhocks and turnip greens, foods historically associated with African Americans--again, whites getting "turned into" blacks (above: Obama-as-Hitler poster, and Madame Speaker Nancy Pelosi as "She wolf of the SSS").
It all comes together in Czaristan: Commingling black racism and anti-semitism is a little bit of fuzzy math when you're trying to parse oppressor vs. oppressee, but for Tea Baggers, it all seems to come together with Obama's "czars." Green jobs adviser Van Jones, an African American, was the first "czar" to be forced out of the Obama admin, thanks to Glenn Beck, head of the Tea Bag org, and Beck has developed an entire "czar" hit list. Sitting in the #1 and #2 positions on the list right
now are Jews--Cass Sunstein, the President's choice for regulatory "czar," and Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a senior health policy adviser. Dr. Emanuel is also the subject of hate speech, and coming under intense scrutiny--there were lots of posters of him at the rally, too (above). Perhaps it's safest to say that Teabagsm is not entirely racially motivated, but there's definitely plenty of racial profiling going on. (Big photo above: Protesting "Czars"--the Green, Boob, and Transparency Czars. The Green Czar refs Van Jones, in a stereotyped version of "blackness")
Every fifth sign was about Rep. Joe Wilson--the shrieker at President Obama's health care address to Congress on Wednesday--and he's the darling of the movement. In the same way that Congressional Representatives refusing to say that the President is an American citizen gave fuel to the Birther movement, having a Member of Congress publicly shriek "You Lie" at the President and then suffer no consequences for it has given fuel to the Liar Fire. Wilson got a free pass for behaving badly, since he wasn't officially reprimanded. In fact he's profited from it, with campaign donations flowing in, and tons of media exposure--and the public mob now has a free pass to behave badly, too. Joe Wilson is being promoted as a Presidential candidate for 2012--and at the very least, he's now a "hero." Behaving badly in public, in the hallowed halls of Congress now makes you a hero? Behaving badly has now moved from being just socially acceptable to being a goal. Civil discourse is better when prosecuted uncivilly, apparently.
Puppet Terror: Glenn Beck is also being promoted by the Tea Baggers as a candidate for president in 2012. Many Tea Baggers seem oblivious to the fact that their movement is heavily funded by major corporations, as is recapped here on ThinkProgress. There were many protesters carrying signs that read the equivalent of "I am not astroturf"--but yeah, the Tea Baggers are, on some level. Their ideals and beliefs and calls for action may be entirely valid and heartfelt, but the movement is being manipulated and controlled by a brilliantly coordinated media campaign run by big corporations--and many are not even aware of it. Your intrepid blogger questioned many people in the crowd--who were all very very nice, it should be added, even when holding posters of President Obama as Hitler--and most didn't know who Freedomworks is, or Grassfire, or where the funding for these organizations originates. Many don't know who Dick Armey is, for that matter. So while the Tea Party might not have been the biggest crowd to ever protest on the Mall, it sure was the biggest puppet show ever held there. Too bad the Guinness Book of World Records wasn't called in to certify it. (Big photo, above: Beck's own personal drill team, who had a nice routine worked out for flipping the signs)
How many people were at the Tea Party? Wow, no one can put an accurate figure on it. Organizers are, of course, claiming 1.5 million, ABC News cites between 60-70,000, based on estimates by the Washington, DC fire department; The Washington Examiner flings the figure of 100,000. Here's what Ob Fo knows: Yesterday, it was no problem walking up and down the Mall multiple times--and even getting within spitting distance of the Capitol Steps, where the speakers' podium was. Easily. At the Inauguration, which had an estimated 1.3 million people on the Mall, you could neither move nor see your feet when inside the crowd--for hours. The Tea Party crowd yesterday was nowhere near as dense. (Above: There was so much room to move that these Civil War re-enacters from Virginia were actually having tea during the Tea Party, near the Capitol reflecting pool)
So what's next? The Tea Baggers have almost exhausted the name-calling game, so your intrepid blogger can only conjecture that the lack of public civil discourse could, if it continues unchecked, turn violent...Tea Baggers are already bringing their side arms to rallies. An amusing note to end on: The people who don't like government interference left their trash behind for government employees to interfere with...trashcans overflowing with ditched protests signs were all over the Mall (in photo).
*Photos by Obama Foodorama. Ob Fo tweeted the Tea Party, too.
Related: Posts on the April 15 Tax Day Tea Party in DC are here and here.