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.