Teabaggers: The Modern Luddites

Teabaggers: Our Modern day Luddites

1811 – The Luddite Movement is formed. Textile workers organize and destroy looms and modern textile machines because the new efficient technology destroyed their jobs and way of life. Historian E. P. Thompson argued that Luddites were not opposed to new technology simply because it was new, but to the lower, flexible prices and to the introduction of a “free” market. His claim was based on the many Luddite raids where some machines were smashed, yet those owned by owners who did not reduce prices were left unharmed.

2009 – The Teabagger movement is formed, ignorant of the more common usage of that term.

Coincidence? I think not.

At first glance, the task of distilling what Teabaggers stand for seems impossible. Unlike Marxism, Capitalism, or even the now dead and buried Moral Majority movement, the Teabaggers have had no spark of insight, no scholarly work supporting their positions, and no clear theory upon which they have organized.

With almost every other new political/social movement, there have been scholars who looked at society, posed an idea, then supported it with historical facts, philosophical arguments, and their brand of logic. Even the Moral Majority supported its political movement with facts and argument.

In all other political/social movements, it was possible to peer into their arguments and positions, and regardless of whether you agreed or disagreed with them, you could grasp from where they came and to where they wanted to go. For example, the Moral Majority claimed that only christians were moral, and that christian ideals must apply to every part of life, beginning with “moral” restrictions on certain sciences, abortion, and social policies. In all other historical movements, the movement’s members had a clue, if not a complete understanding, of their movement’s purpose, strategy, ideals and goals, even if they were ignorant about the most detailed components of that movement.

It is sad, in a way, that next month’s Teabagger Convention will likely be cancelled. After all, what better way to investigate what they stand for, to grasp what social and political theories they espouse, and to learn what Teabaggers want out of their movement. Their political ideas and ideals would have been there for all to see – except for the fact that only Fox News would be permitted to report on it, and all other MSMediot outlets would be banned. That decision alone is quite telling about the true nature of the Teabagger movement.

After reading through numerous speeches given at Teabagger meetings, after reviewing videos of interviews, and, just as important, looking at the handmade signs they carry, I have come to three conclusions about how the Teabaggers came to be and why we are blessed with this movement today.

1. Government is the enemy.
The most consistent belief among Teabaggers concerns government. To their minds, all government is bad. It is not simply a matter of “Throw the bums out,” in response to yet another family values GOPer caught with a prostitute, or a Democrat caught with cold cash in his freezer. To them, all government is the enemy, something to be cut down to size, then drowned in the bath tub (with all kudos to Grover Nordquist for creating this falsehood). The most popular speakers did not just talk about cutting taxes, or decrying the socialist take over of our health care system, they clearly argued (and were loudly cheered) that all government was bad.

It is impossible to ignore the many interviews of individual Teabaggers. The most common theme that they repeated, as if it were a mantra, had to do with how the government was their enemy, something to attack, an enemy to vanquish. Put simply, Government Bad, people good. As a few enterprising journalists learned, it wasn’t just a matter of government being bad, it was the threat of government intervention into things like . . . . . social security and medicare.

Seriously, many Teabaggers are convinced that a socialist, liberal government under President Obama, the evil witch of the west, Nancy Pelosi, and other communist fascists, was going to attack their medicare and social security benefits. Which meant that all government was bad.

I do not suggest that the underlying theory about government held by Teabaggers is in any way logical, for it is anything but. It is irrational, and amazingly free of facts and historical truths. However, the ideas around which the Teabaggers rally leads you to a second inescapable conclusion:

2. Ignorance is bliss.
I am reminded of reading about life within the Bush White House. People carrying any book, other than the New Testament, were suspect. Reading for pleasure was frowned upon, and reading for the purpose of learning something new was looked at as a danger, an outside threat to the collective.

Teabaggers have latched onto this idea wholeheartedly. For them, the educated man and the literate woman is the problem. Anyone who can find a solution to a problem is suspect. Anyone who cites facts, relies on rational thinking, who looks to history for answers, and who seeks a common sense response is the enemy. Teabaggers are not simply ignorant, feeble minded sheeple, they actually wear their ignorance with pride. It is impossible to shame a Teabagger with logic or facts, because logic and facts are so alien to their way of thinking. The vapid, contradictory responses, the badly spelled signs, their rousing cheers for ineffably stupid arguments, all of these attributes are what define the Teabagger movement. Their hatred of change, disbelief in global climate change, their fear of stem cell research, their disbelief in evolution, and their laughable claims that America’s “Four Fathers were Christan” are examples of the underlying theory. They celebrate ignorance and fear all those who would seek to educate them.

It would be a mistake to think that the Teabaggers do not represent a real political movement; they do. They are angry, they are upset, they are insecure, and most of all, change is always happening to them, out of their control and without their having a voice. But their very ignorance and hatred of government, while entertaining and humorous, represents a real danger to the body politic of the US, and to the whole structure of government at a time of crisis.

It would be ignorant for us to think that we are not in a time of crisis. We occupy two countries, against the wishes of their people. Unemployment, our REAL unemployment is closer to 20% than the official 10%. The “outsourcing” of American jobs to cheaper countries (China, India, Indonesia and other places) continues without any sign of slowing. Banks prefer making huge government guaranteed bets, rather than earn money by investment or by making loans (home, business, and auto), while the bankers personally profit on each gamble. Our relations with Iran, China, North Korea, Pakistan, India, and a growing number of South American countries remain problematic. The potential for a third world war has increased, not decreased.

It is not just whether Israel bombs Iran, or India invades Pakistan to prevent Pakistan’s nukes from falling into the hands of the Taliban. It is the lack of food and potable water in the third world. It is the growing demand for cheap energy. It is the breakdown of the very economic system that brought the world this far. In many ways, our world resembles the era just before WWI took place, with all the instabilities, the ever larger socio-economic uncertainties, and the growing competition for ever more scarce resources.

Given how quickly Teabaggers grew, we must admit that not only do they exist, they represent a segment of America that is very unhappy. They are energized. They are willing to be led, within certain limits, and they are hungry for answers that fit their many erroneous preconceptions. There is a very real problem that the Teabagger movement can get out of control. We saw signs of potential violence during the last presidential campaign, especially at Sarah Palin appearances. I would suspect that most Teabaggers are gun owners. The more they feel threatened, the more likely they will strike out in illogical ways. Riots, once they start, may be very hard to put down.

3. The underwriters
The third point about the Teabagger movement is one that may actually lead to its downfall. There exists a group of billionaires, corporate interests, and professional politicians who underwrote much of the Teabagger movement, much of it in secret. In their rush to attack a Democratic congress and to paint a Democratic president as an enemy of the country, we saw the rise of Dick Armey and his fellow miscreants who supported the growth of Teabaggers around the country. It was not so much spontaneity, as convenience (and several millions spread around judiciously and rather effectively) and timing. People were angry, and they gladly latched onto any vehicle that seemed to be heading in their direction. That vehicle was bought and paid for Armey’s army, a collection of ultraconservative neanderthals whose ideas are incredibly right wing and dangerous.

Now that the financial backers of the movement are becoming more known, the Teabaggers are reacting with understandable dismay. They did not climb on a bus to DC just to learn that Dick Armey, Richard Scaife or the Koch brothers were underwriting their nascent political movement. They got on those buses because of their fear of change, and their belief that they were not well represented in Washington. The horror that many of the Teabaggers have experienced upon learning who was behind their movement, would be akin to an ultra conservative Christian son learning that his mother is a practicing truckstop whore.

If there was any doubt about the infiltration by these ultraconservative and ultrarich clowns into the Teabagger movement, it should be swept away by one simple decision. As stated above, the Teabagger convention (if it actually occurs) will bar all outside press, except for Fox News. Fox no longer tries to report any news. They are little more than the unofficial spokeschannel and PR arm of the conservative wing of the GOP. They don’t practice journalism, they try out soundbites on an unsuspecting public. If a “news” item can pass either a World Net Daily or Drudge smell test, you are guaranteed to see it promoted as fact on Fox.

In one way, there is a lot of similarity between Fox and the Teabagger movement. Both are free from facts, they both hate intellectuals, and they revise history, especially more current history, at will.

Probably the final nail in the Teabagger coffin has been the call for Teabaggers to join the GOP. Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and others have suggested such a move. But such a call only highlights their own ignorance about the Teabaggers. If they trusted the GOP to any degree, they would have joined that party. But their loathing of politics as usual applies as much, if not more, to the GOP as it does to America’s current majority party.

The Teabagger convention may be an utter failure, but again, to ignore the underlying fear and loathing of the “intelligentsia” and liberal policies would be even more dangerous. The ignorant will rise again, and this time, they may come armed.


  1. woody188

    The original Tea Party movement was a grassroots effort formed to speak out against TARP and the health care “reform” bill. It was co-opted by the millionaires and corporate media mentioned to take the reigns and make sure the movement would pose no serious threat to their plutocracy. Seems to have worked nicely.

  2. griff

    Yep. Any grassroots movement that poses a real threat is soon infiltrated and radicalized to the point that marginalization is inevitable.

    Damage control.

  3. almandine

    Maybe not. Especially with more grassroots support. I don’t see them giving up/in anytime soon. Hope they don’t.

  4. Rob Kezelis

    just look at the anti-war movements in 2002-3.

    The FBI infiltrated the effing QUAKERS? Nun meetings? even meetings of crippled vets against all war?

  5. almandine

    That must be what Rob has going here.

    Trash a bunch of citizens turned anti-govt patriots as if what they offer is truly beyond the pale. As if they haven’t lived in this country and absorbed its political process for decades. As if they were born “last” night. As if their goal was to destroy the country, instead of save it. As if they would sell us down the river via debt and deficits. As if they actually had progeny that they are looking out for, instead of being politically “cool”.

    This is one of your poorest efforts Rob. Ineffable stupidy, I believe you call it.

  6. issodhos

    Presumably, the same place the “homeless” went the day after President Clinton was elected. They became politically unnecessary to the Democrat’s elitist crust and could have become an eventual embarassment.;-)

  7. issodhos

    As an aside, Rob, unless you were referring to an example of spelling, when you write ” their laughable claims that America’s “Four Fathers were Christan””, I would have to ask why it is so “laughable”. The majority of America’s Founders were indeed members of various Christian Denominations. And even the few Founders who were deists were deeply molded by Christian culture.;-)

    See American Founders at Wikipedia.

  8. almandine

    Easy now, Rob’s whole enterprise is a lesson in ad hominem truth… don’t pick on a mere passage or two.

  9. almandine

    Glad you’re paying attention here, Rob, but don’t dissemble. Your post is traditionally YOU.

    I invite you to tour this site at present and determine for yourself the kind of “anti-govt” comments on display. They grow in number weekly. I would copy a couple of beauts, but why sort thru them? You are way off base with your attitude for a site with a message like that on this one’s masthead. Then again, you’ve always been about 35 degrees off the beam. Maybe Huffpo or something similar is more your style?

    BTW, don’t call those patriots Teabaggers. That’s the kind of slur that only you, Maddow, Stewart, and similar ilk would sling to add weight to an otherwise sleazy post. Those people have paid their dues, have gotten up off their asses, are participating politically as never before, and are showing how to be involved Americans. They’re tired of govt squandering their heritage, and they’re afraid (yes) of what people like you would leave their progeny. Their right to protest is no smaller than yours.

    Let’s face it… what really bothers you is that they are taking advantage of the same democratic process that put your boy into office, and you can see already that he’s long gone come next election.

    Power to the people!!!

  10. logtroll

    That’s right, Kezelis! If you wanna post on this site yer gonna have to pass the anti-gummit litmus test. We don’t allow NOBODY to have a differnt opinion here cuz we’re all free thinkers and better than the common folk!

    Rule of civilization #3:

    Try not to be a close-minded, arrogant asshole.

  11. griff

    Hear! Hear!

    Let me add that there is a lot of psychological game being played out these days in politics, and particularly the media.

    For one, Rob is indeed correct in pointing out that the Tea Party movement has been co-opted by the Republicans and to some extent, the religious right. Even the founder of the tea parties has publicly denounced Republican Establishment involvement in the effort.

    What the infiltration has done is turn this into a partisan issue as opposed to what it began as – a non-partisan movement against the banksters, i.e. the IRS and the Fed.

    When it was just a couple of people with signs outside a Fed building, it was easily ignored by the media. Once it grew to the size that it did, the infiltration, radicalization grew along side the media coverage.

    Both parties have a vested interest in keeping this simple. and their assigned media mockingbirds have no trouble in riling up one another. Obfuscation.

    Furthermore I see the involvement by the radical right and their insistence that this country is a “christian nation” serves to undermine our founding principles through guilt by association, to put it simply.

    These crazies wrote our Constitution? It can’t be good. By associating the freedom movement – you may recall another poster’s recent insistence that freedom = fascism – with the radical right you trigger an automatic response.

    Those that would lean independent and actually rely on some thing other than the television are disouraged from getting involved, or even considering the undelying issue at all, because of the perceptions and distractions advanced by the media.

    Therefore Rob is probably correct in saying that this particular movement is indeed dead – killed by its own success.

  12. Carl Nemo

    Hey guys I’m going to certify this as one of the best threads ever on this site.

    It’s both contentious and sympatico at the same time with almost perfect balance.

    I have nothing to add other than the “thought distillate” is good sippin’ liquor for the mind. 😀

    Thanks Rob for this rant/editorial with Almandine, Griff, issodhos, and logtroll for the counterpoint.

    Carl Nemo **==

  13. almandine

    Yep. Any effective org will soon be targeted for co-opting by those in power and their slanted media. When that doesn’t work, the attack dogs come out to bite them via disparaging “analysis”, weaving a few facts with innuendo to paint a broad insulting portrait such as this one.

    The Tea Party movement may be rendered ineffective by these assaults, or they may prove to have what it takes to alter the political landscape. How many would welcome a new political organization dedicated to the interests of the country and the people and not the powerful?

    Well it won’t happen by accident.

  14. almandine

    Oh, Rob can have his opinion, for what it’s worth.

    You can have yours, I can have mine, ditto ditto ditto…

  15. logtroll

    Rule of Civilization # 5.3*%#0!?

    You’re gonna make me cry because of stealing my signature cleverness…!

    Oh well, I couldn’t think of any more good rules anyway.

  16. griff

    Ha. If you followed it with a (C) you might have had an infringement argument. I prefer the term “borrow” any way. You can have it back now, I’m done with it.

  17. sherry

    Why did you feel it necessary to refer to the sexual term “tea baggers’?
    Did you feel that some how added to the “stupid equasion” you were so desperate to foist on the reader? I am personally offended by that statement.
    Never been to a TEA Party. That said, I respect their right to disagree. It is in fact incumbent on every American to question government.
    Our government is not working any better than the old one.
    YES the TEA baggers realize we are in a crisis, which they don’t feel is being appropriately addressed.
    Folks like you can call em stupid. I doubt they care.
    I certainly don’t.
    Personally, I would like to fire the both houses of congress, the USSC and the POTUS. Start over.
    Hit the reset button if you will.

  18. Rob Kezelis

    The original name they gave themselves was
    as they decided to send teabags to their reps in DC, and the more foolish looking ones taped teabags to large hats.
    Who am I to change their original name for them? They chose it, they earned it. I suspect that the same motley collection also calls the majority in Congress the Democrat Party.

    You do hit the nail on the head. The previous administration’s overarching greed is the only thing that covered up how inept they were. But their friends prospered greatly.
    Today’s congress is simply inept. It reeks of incompetence, a lack of spine, and a complete lack of leadership.

    For many decades, the party leasing the White House for four years usually chose that individual to be the titular leader of the party. Policies were set, political tones decided, and agendas were created. Not this White House. They are notable, even remarkable, for their absence. I cannot think of one issue on which the president actually sought to push a statute or a bill through. He has made flowery speeches, but has MIA and absent without leave immediately thereafter.

    As for your motion to fire both houses of congress, I second the motion and move for an immediate vote. All in favor?

  19. logtroll

    I know some tea party grass roots organizers. They are rich, Limbaugh worshipers, non-christian (gasp! so much for being patriots like the four fathers!), and really naive. Very nice folks if politics isn’t the topic of discussion, though.

    Funniest thing is that they absolutely LOVE liberal things, if you don’t let them know what’s up. They only react negatively if they think they are going to have to pay for something. That sounds like a suspiciously socialist tendency.

    ‘Nother funny thing, they got “lost” while Jeeping last summer, five miles away from the main paved highway. Three days of it and they were almost dead from dehydration (afraid to drink the water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink…), when they were found by search and rescue, flown to the hospital by a national guard helicopter, and saved by an outrageously expensive medical procedure. Cost to taxpayers? Estimated $75,000.

    But they are still TEA Partying!! I just love patriots!

  20. bogofree

    Seems the original intent of the organization was to simply speak out against some rather interesting government financial moves. Really quite targeted. Limited and focused objectives. I was quite active in the CLT movement in Massachusetts back in the early 1980s with the result being the – IMO – the very successful prop 2 and ½. I see some of that same energy in this movement. The big test will be that right now circumstances have forced them to be more in the Republican score card than the Democrat score card. Will be interesting to see how they respond to those Republicans who go against TP doctrine. The internal philosophical struggles will be interesting to follow. I wish them well as it is always a positive to have another voice in the mix.

  21. Rob Kezelis

    Illinois had some sense, apparently. The Teabagger candidate for the GOP governor’s slot came in 5th. Barely 6% of the GOP vote.

    Considering that the entire weight of the Teabagger express was supporting him, I think we know where this vibrant party stands with the voters.

  22. sherry

    TEA also supported Scott Brown.
    Don’t know Brown and he may or may not turn out to be a real dud.
    The Kennedy Machine went down in flames.
    Perhaps once Pelosi and Reid are gone, the Democratic Party can reclaim its soul.
    Perhaps the next time, the democrats will actually respect the candidate with the most votes as opposed to the POS they got.
    Honestly, I thought it would take a bit longer for Obama to crash and burn. I’ve been wrong before.

  23. Rob Kezelis

    Despite its numbers, the Kennedy machine was a one man organization. Coakley had about as much in common with it as I have with a NOLA Saint linebacker. Except, maybe around the belly.

  24. sherry

    I am happy there is no longer a Kennedy machine.

    As I said, when Pelosi, Reid et al are gone, perhaps the Democratic Party can find reclaim its collective soul.

    The TEA baggers are a place for all the malcontents.

    At least someone is speaking out about this disaster.