Thursday, April 15, 2010

No True Tea Party

With the Tea Party’s favorite day of the year for protests today, I’m reminded of the alleged racial slurs and even violence that may have been associated with Tea Party sympathizers. Admittedly, that poses a potential error of correlation versus causation (i.e. I may just be connecting Tea Party extremism I see with the violence even though it may have just been perpetrated by whack-jobs that have no life outside of saying how angry they are at big government) but onto more relevant consideration. The organizers are worried that the protests might show a bad image of the Tea Party. I find this funny since even without the alleged connections of violence against supporters of the recent healthcare reform to the Tea Party that I blogged on a few weeks ago the Tea Party still seems like disgruntled ill educated citizens that are frustrated at being a minority group. Though another article I’ll note ( suggests through a poll (though we know those aren’t always the best indicators of overall thought from my blog post on the Meaning(s) of Easter) that Tea Party members are actually relatively wealthy and educated. That doesn’t mean they’re not a minority, since the poll notes only 18% of the people polled identify as Tea Party affiliated.

Back to the Tea Party Day celebration, some of the more controversial speakers that were invited (like Mike Huckabee?) have now been politely declined, security has been enhanced and people were asked to bring cameras to catch interlopers in the act. Some have suggested that the protestors that drew attention at Tea Party protests were agents placed to make the Tea Party look bad. I can’t validate this one way or another, but if we’re talking about a relatively small group of citizens that are commonly white, Republican, over 45 and married, you can’t put it past them to feel defensive, however well educated and wealthy they might be. Put another way, imagine you put an otherwise mellow domestic housecat (say a Persian) in a cage for a week with minimum food and water and I guarantee you’ll find that pussy will be less than happy to see people when you set it free. Similarly, I imagine these people feel underrepresented, marginalized and more than a minority, if not a silent majority as one image I found while searching through Google suggested. In this way, the message is communicated quite differently. Instead of being a minority that’s oppressed, they’re just the majority that’s being silenced by a minority that holds more power. I’m not even going to get into potential conspiracy theories about the Jews in politics or the NWO (New World Order).

The thing I find most amusing about this is the allegations from Tea Party members that the people who use offensive language or in some cases, imagery such as President Obama depicted in the style of the Joker from The Dark Knight are not representative of true Tea Party members. This shows what is called a “No True Scotsman” fallacy. The gist of this problematic argument form is that it refuses to admit that its initial premise is wrong because of a counterexample; instead they modify their original position and suggest that “true” members of their group are not like the counterexample offered. In the case of Tea Party activists, they insist that people that use offensive language or imagery or extremist rhetoric are not associated with their group. Problem with this is that they would suggest that people only pay attention to their status quo and ignore what is a demonstrable problem in their ranks as a grassroots movement. If they have no structure to speak of in arranging and managing their members, then it’s no wonder people think of them as little more than a fringe group that poses little to no threat except their bomb threats or the suggestion of some states (Oklahoma in particular) to start state militias. Now a counterpoint would appear in the form of a Latin phrase abusus non tollit usum, translating roughly to “misuse does not remove use”. A sincerely progressive Tea Party member (if it exists, and it may) would argue that excessively emotionally charged speeches and rousing of the masses to change being the common mantra of even non extremist Tea Party members does not suggest that the Tea Party ideal is not something with merit. Historical comparisons to the original namesake of the present movement aside, conservative ideals are something I respect, along with liberal ideals, so even the Tea Party has merit in some sense. The difficulty comes in the form of how it presents itself. A group for the common people is one thing, but a group maintained by mob rule and pure majority dominance is only going to survive for as long as people remain uneducated and willing to be ignored or dismissed. And I sincerely doubt that’s going to continue to be the case for longer in either case. Until next time, Namaste and Aloha.

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