The phenomenon that is the Tea Party has swept across America like a bizarre epidemic of all that is internationally fascinating and shocking about the country.
We from across the pond and around the world hear some of the more stunning examples of their influence in political circles. Very few actually know who they are and what their purpose is. And I suppose they have something in common with the Tea Party themselves as a result; because the members of Tea Party don't seem to know either.
We hear talk of 'Taking our country back!' Something that is rarely asked in the American media is 'From what?' What do these people want to take their country back from? 'The socialists!' 'The Liberals!' And so on. Anyone from a European country can tell you though, the current Democratic power base across the country is nowhere near socialist, and barley liberal (indeed, the actual liberals in the House and Senate all seemed to be viewed in the media as some kind of anomaly).
See, the members of the Tea Party, the alleged grass roots of the movement, don't seem to understand many of the subjects that it is they are screaming about. They shout of socialism, fascism, communism, liberalism. We hear charges of the President being a 'fascist communist', the shouters of which seem incapable of understanding the amazing deficit of political intelligence it requires to make that statement.
And that it is where we hit on something is so important about the Tea Party. Possibly the most important thing. So many of its members seem absolutely bereft of the very basics of political though. As highlighted in Chris Matthews' excellent documentary 'The Rise Of The New Right' recently, so many of the members of the Tea Party freely admit to being complete political newcomers. Now, where there is nothing wrong with people who have previously never been involved with politics getting involved - rather it is a good thing - it does become a problem when they revel in their ignorance and have no desire to expand their political knowledge.
This is where the crux of the problem lies with the Tea Party. You have vast swathes of people who have heard so many different things through the news media and who have made no effort to understand what these statements mean. They hear them from various sources, but their method of explanation is not research, it is not reasoned, balanced political debate, it is whatever explains the idea easiest. And, I'm afraid, those ideas are explained easiest by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or Fox News.
Glenn, Rush et al. actually have a very different agenda. They are personalities known across the United States, but they are not known for reasoned commentary. They do not explain things, they give their own very partisan opinions on them. They portray themselves as the bastions of freedom, truth and liberty, though they are anything but. Rush and Fox are spokesmen for the extremes of the Conservative movement and Glenn Beck is the most easily manipulated, paranoid, woefully ignorant figure with a messiah complex I have seen in recent years.
They are the spokespeople for this movement, they are the figureheads, and the new uninitiated, who come to the Tea Party with curious ears and unfounded worries lap up the words of Beck, Rush and their ilk without question. They have never been interested in politics, and now they hear easy, clear answers to seemingly complex political issues they think they have found a home. They quickly think themselves experts because they hear so many opinions on so many different subjects that they take as fact.
And thus the machine grows, the distortions permeate. It is accepted without question by people who do not and have not ever strived to grasp the complexities of political discourse. While someone like George Will may not be the most bipartisan member of the political commentary machine, one could not argue that he is not an intelligent man. Far from it. But George Will does not speak to the likes of the Tea Party. He is rarely listened to by them. The answers he has to their questions may be along the lines of what they want to hear, but they are not given in the easily digestible chunks that the likes of Beck may throw out.
Even Republicans are no longer safe. Senator Lyndsey Graham, a longtime bastion of conservative values, has been turned upon by the Tea Party, for he has refused to bow to their demand to simple answers to complex questions. He has refused to toe the line of outright obstructionism. And he has refused to bow to simplistic political solutions to massive problems. Graham in turn, has revelled in turning on them. Indeed, he seems to be enjoying his new found 'maverick' status.
And it has been Graham that has been so keen to point out the question that we asked at the beginning of this article. What do the Tea Party want to take their country back from? We know it is not socialists because there are none - they are imagined. We know it is not communists or liberals. They are not the people in power right now. The people in power are merely seeking to end the corporate lobby's stranglehold on America. It should come as no shock that the Tea Party is funded by so many very rich people with very close ties to the corporate machine.
But do the grassroots members of the Tea Party brigade question this? Do they even acknowledge it? No. They brush it off, as with so many things, as a smear attack by the 'liberal media', a charge that is as ridiculous as it is false. They are told it is a smear attack, usually by the biggest name in news - a conservative news network (so much for liberal media) and they believe it. They do not question it, they do not even attempt to look at it from another angle. They just accept it.
So it becomes clear that the Tea Party doesn't really know what they want to take their country back from. They are being told that it is time to take their country back and they repeat it. No questions, no challenges, just repeat.
And once they have their country back, what do they do with it? The people that control the Tea Party have no further plan other than destroying those who wish to put checks on their interests, influence and power. So the grassroots don't know what it is that they are going to do.
What it seems that they (the grassroots) want to move into is a Christian state, where corporations have unfettered power and no regulation. They want a world without Government intrusion into their lives, where the media is allowed to broadcast only what they agree with and the liberal scum that they believe infect their society are banished. The will not have to put up with a secular agenda, they will not have to put up with a gay agenda, they will not have to put up with a liberal agenda. History can be distorted to fit their patriotic agenda, and the ugly truth of America's history will be whitewashed with a coat several coats of red, white and blue.
So what they seem to be wanting is the very definition of a fascist state. The fascist state that they seem so keen to tell the rest of the world that they are worried they are heading towards.
They just aren't interested in understanding that it I'd their movement that is heading there.
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