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 😉