Original Link: http://www.vanityfair.com/online/politics/2009/04/the-true-genius-of-the-tea-parties-revealed.html
by Alex Pareene
HUSSEIN = COMMIE
That was the sort of sign I was planning on highlighting in my little write-up of last night’s New York Tea Party protest, sponsored by the radio station AM970 “The Apple,” the 20-year-old 527 group Citizens United, the “integrated event marketing” firm XA, and Dick Armey’s Freedom Works. You know the usual liberal-media right-wing-rally-covering drill: hey, look at the crazies, aren’t they a bunch of crazies? But after 90 minutes of talking to those real Americans, I had a change of heart.
I’ve been calling the Tea Parties a cynical exploitation of fringe loonies by rich conservatives looking for an invented populace to justify their obstructionism. But no. It’s far grander. Republicans have actually figured out how to do protests in mediated, cynical, post-60s America. They mastered it!
The Tea Parties came from a Ron Paul campaign idea that was co-opted by conservative bloggers and eventually adopted by Fox News and whatever remains of the actual leadership of the Republican party. Tea Parties, originally planned by libertarians, and held on tax day: those are protests against the income tax, right?
You fool! You have not begun the scratch the surface of the Tea Party!
Glenn Beck explained at the Alamo yesterday that Tea Parties are protesting spending, “power,” “corruption,” “mob rule,” “the rule of law,” “free speech,” and “the media that gets into bed with one party and has moved so far left that it can’t even begin to see we’re not extremists.” Get it?
If you throw an anti-war rally, only people who don’t want there to be a war will show up. But if you just throw a “shit sucks” protest, everyone has a reason to attend! An anti-taxes, anti-Democrats, anti-Obama, anti-government, anti–Wall Street protest means, hey, somebody around here must be against something you’re against.
So: last night, a good 2,000 people were standing on lower Broadway, nearish to City Hall, but not in City Hall Park, because actually arranging to have your protest in a public square large enough to accommodate the throngs of angry populists you hope will show up is for hippies! No, real Americans protest awkwardly on only one side of a narrow avenue because that’ll help stretch the crowd to the end of the block which will look good on the TV even if no one in the back can hear your speakers.
Because they had no interest in these speakers! It was radio talk-show hosts and Republican candidates for dog catcher babbling the usual platitudes to a crowd of bitchy Jersey moms, Paultards, actual bankers, crazy old people, dumb kids, and whatever Glenn Beck cultists actually live in the New York metro area.
Though to be fair, the crowd cared a bit when the emcee started in with the “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” chant, but just a bit. MSNBC got booed too, but hey, who wouldn’t boo them?
I spoke to a kid named T.J. with a sign that read REPUBLICANS + DEMOCRATS = NATIONALISM + SOCIALISM. He was protesting neither higher taxes nor the growing deficit. T.J. was protesting “the two-party state,” which is actually a “one-party state, and that party is the party of global warfare.” T.J. voted for Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney last year. He was also on Wall Street after TARP first failed in Congress, with a sign that said, WILL BANK FOR FOOD. This was not, obviously, his first protest.
But right behind him was Bob, a suit from New Jersey, who approved of T.J.’s spirit but acknowledged that this Tea Party popped his “protest cherry.” Bob was maybe more of the sort of “regular person” that organizers imagined their tea parties appealing to: a McCain voter with a real job who’d never protested anything in his life, but who was fed up with federal spending. Except Bob’s real job is at the Bank of New York.
There was the fellow with the shaved head who told CBS that “stage four” of the Tea Party movement is “breaking people.”
I tried to speak to a woman with a sign that, on one side, asserted either that Obama wanted to turn American into Cuba or that he had done so already. The other side said, KOH MUST GO. I asked her who “Koh” was, and was told to “Google it.” Koh is Potassium hydroxide. He’s also the Dean of the Yale Law School, and crazy people are protesting his appointment to the State Department because he acknowledged that he’s heard of international law, which means he wants to take away our guns and sell our children to China or something.
Toward the back was Rich, from Brooklyn, whose sign said, GAY MARRIAGE EQUALS FAIR TAX. Because, yes, why not also use this opportunity to fight for gay rights? Rich was an Obama voter who thought the bank bailout was a hand-out to Wall Street but wondered where, exactly, the rest of the Tea Partiers had been when TARP actually happened, months ago. He was the first person to mention both actual tea bags and headline speaker Newt Gingrich! We discussed Newt’s disastrous marriage history, and then: “Everyone walking around with tea bags, that’s the gayest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Thought experiment: what if liberals had thrown the equivalent of this protest? What if they just said, “Hey, are you pissed about shit? Come on down!” And then the ANSWER instigators, Leonard Peltier and Mumia-free-ers, anarchists, and NYU students all converged on City Hall, along with a couple hundred “regular people” who came down because they’re pissed about something, and this little party was heavily promoted on/co-sponsored by, say, MSNBC or something. And at the front of the crowd, accepted mainstream members of New York’s liberal establishment—Freddy Ferrer, Ed Schultz, maybe a has-been hero looking for a second chance like John Kerry—spoke, decrying Washington and fat cats and celebrating the true patriotic spirit of the protesters assembled today. What would that have looked like?
Well those mainstream types wouldn’t have showed, and with good reason, because the second they were spotted at the rally they’d all be accused of associating with socialists and anarchists. Plus that crowd would’ve been tear-gassed.
But otherwise, pretty much the same deal.