Party on, tea-baggers

There’s been an interesting back-and-forth discussion about the political efficacy of protests involving Matt Yglesias and others. The focus has been on what might be called liberal protests (those orgaznied by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, for example) that had important purposes, but nevertheless, it got me to wondering: do protests with no serious purpose (like the tea-baggers) still serve some psychological purpose in terms of connecting the protest-goers to a larger community and alleviating their feelings of isolation?

I’m beginning to think that maybe, in light of what happened in Pittsburgh, the Tea Parties might be a way for disgruntled Glenn Beck watchers to blow off steam without hurting anyone. Maybe I’m wrong, and this probably argues against it.






55 replies
  1. 1
    SnarkyShark says:

    It represents one last gasp at relevancy. They will cling together in an actual public outing to show the world and each other that they still matter.

    Except they don’t

  2. 2
    Krista says:

    Hell, I’m probably a bit of a cynic, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the "goons" in Cincinnati acted as they did in a deliberate attempt to try to get more media coverage of their sad little tea parties.

    BTW: did you see the Tom Tomorrow cartoon about the tea parties? It’s delightful.

  3. 3
    cleek says:

    it’s a chance to go Galt for an afternoon.

    oh i hope the economy survives!

  4. 4
    Dan says:

    I find that it helps me identify the douchebags that live in my community.

  5. 5
    Zifnab says:

    It’s the economic version of Westboro Baptist Church. You run out into the street, make public asses of yourselves, and remind everyone why they hate you.

    But hey, at least you’ve got a cult your friends.

  6. 6
    JohnR says:

    ..serve some psychological purpose in terms of connecting the protest-goers to a larger community and alleviating their feelings of isolation

    . Well, that’s not always beneficial, of course – besides the well-known "committee effect" which has some sort of mob analogue, there is always the ‘critical mass’ problem, where people who would otherwise be uneasy about doing immoral or dangerous/illegal things become willing to do these things when there are enough people around to support them. This is how minor fringe groups become the rulers of nations (cf Russia, Italy and Germany in the 20th century alone).

  7. 7
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:

    Oops, nevermind.

  8. 8
    cleek says:

    where people who would otherwise be uneasy about doing immoral or dangerous/illegal things become willing to do these things when there are enough people around to support them

    no chance of that happening. not when the too-stupid-to-know-what-teabagging-means protesters are prepared for any eventuality.

  9. 9
    gbear says:

    They’re probably as relevant as ‘Billionaires for Bush’, but without the sense of irony or humor.

  10. 10
    The Moar You Know says:

    That last link is impressive.

    These people are idiots. They have no argument worth discussing, all that they have is their ability to generate press-worthy events. If they alienate the media, the game will be over for them.

    Ask the KKK how that strategem worked for them.

  11. 11
    David says:

    The Wingnuts are trying to drum up interest in their demonstration by claiming (hoping) that there will be "infiltrators" and "saboteurs" and talking about bringing pepper spray and advising people not to give out any personal information.

    How can paranoids form a community?

  12. 12
    gbear says:

    …claiming (hoping) that there will be "infiltrators" and "saboteurs" and talking about bringing pepper spray and advising people not to give out any personal information.

    Man, won’t that be a kick when they start attacking each other?

    How can paranoids form a community?

    Word.

  13. 13
    SpotWeld says:

    In a sense these "tea bag" parties serve the same need as Star Trek conventions, just for a community of a diffferent sort of fanatic.

    They’re both events where people can come together and
    1) Proove to themselves that they are part of something bigger than themselves. (And are not alone.)

    2) Get to show off to others within that community that they are more "something" than the avereage person (i.e. mundane/liberal).

    3) Get some sort of physical proof of thier community that they can show to others (i.e. t-shrits/photos)

    It just Star Trek nerds can usually be diffused with a carefully placed "Just say to yourself ‘It’s just a show, I really should relax’ ".

    Teabaggers aren’t really protesting but gathering to feed off of each others fanaticism.

  14. 14
    Svensker says:

    @David:

    How can paranoids form a community?

    Who are you and why do you want to know?

  15. 15
    drumwolf says:

    Here’s hoping that these clowns will end up being just as irrelevant as the clowns in International ANSWER, the Stalinist clowns who unfortunately were at the forefront of organizing anti-war protests when Bush first invaded Iraq. At the time, the right used the fact that ANSWER were the ones organizing the protests to smear the entire anti-war side as a whole.

  16. 16
    Seitz says:

    So the tea-baggers bitch and moan about the mainstream media not giving the them the attention they so deeply covet. Then when the media shows up to cover their event, they intimidate them and chase them away. Brilliant strategy!!

  17. 17
    David says:

    Tea Party Shopping List

    Tea bags (unused) √
    Comfortable shoes √
    Bottled water √
    Acme Jet Powered Roller Skates √
    Acme Instant Tornado Pills √
    Pepper spray √

  18. 18
    Brian J says:

    I wonder if the people who are likely to ever think about seriously committing some sort of violent act like a shooting rampage are really in the same group as those who want to express frustration through a sign. It seems like you are talking about two entirely different groups, unless the idea of a protest is really code for "warm up to violence."

  19. 19
    The Other Steve says:

    Protests generally server little to no purpose in terms of changing others opinions. Unless they are spontaneous, unorganized, and honest. Students protesting in Tienanmen square, or MLK Jr., etc.

    However, I do agree with you that they do allow others of like mind to meet each other and form a kind of bond.

    Although if they’re so paranoid they won’t share personal info because they fear infiltrators … I’m not sure how that works.

    BTW, the reason they fear infiltrators is because that’s what they kept doing to Democratic party functions, protests, and what not. If you haven’t yet, read the profile of Mary Lou Sapone in Mother Jones magazine from last year.

  20. 20
    Scruffy McSnufflepuss says:

    @Brian J:

    I wonder if the people who are likely to ever think about seriously committing some sort of violent act like a shooting rampage are really in the same group as those who want to express frustration through a sign. It seems like you are talking about two entirely different groups, unless the idea of a protest is really code for "warm up to violence."

    Well, the idea is that if we let people blow off steam through protests, they’ll be less inclined to turn to violence down the road. This is why we’re so committed to letting white supremacist groups organize marches through black and Jewish neighborhoods. Obnoxious? Yes. Protestors outnumbered 30-to-1 by counter-protestors and police? Yes. But if everyone goes home at the end of the day, and there hasn’t been any violence, it’s a victory for free speech. The nuts got to voice their nuttiness, the rest of us got to remember that there are nuts in our midst, and everyone had a chance to produce more free speech.

    If we didn’t let these guys protest, it would a) be harder to gauge their support (both for us, and for them- and they’d be inflating it), b) they wouldn’t get to vent non-violently, so it would be easier for the seething angst to turn to even more violence, and c) once the government bans viewpoint-based political speech for one group, it’s pretty easy for it to later ban the speech of another group.

  21. 21
    lovethebomb says:

    @SpotWeld:

    I don’t think quoting the opening theme song from Mystery Science Theatre 3K at a Star Trek convention is going to accomplish anything good.

    Social sceintists have some theories about how gatherings of like minded people results in extremism and fanaticism. It sorta works like this : you are amongst die hard fellow believers, but you need to demonstrate that you are "special," above average and unique in your abhorence/love of whatever forms the collective. This causes certain individuals, usually of an alpha male characteristic, to make pronouncements of intense sweeping grandiosity, often with dire consequences if his advice is ignored.

    This creates a "one-upmanship" among the others who are also influenced by the ready availability of indoctrination materials and propoganda. This cascades until someone brings up the fact he has a bunker full of AK-47’s.

    Resistance if futile. You will be assimilated.

  22. 22
    4tehlulz says:

    How can paranoids form a community?

    SWM looking 4 SWF 2 fight RAHOWA with; must like teabagging, AKs, and tinfoil. Serious inquiries only.

  23. 23
  24. 24
    ** Atanarjuat ** says:

    It’s fairly obvious that these tea parties are still at the work-in-progress stage. Or, as liberals are wont to say when defending Obama’s wobbly track record so far, "it’s only been [X number of] days since he’s been in office!"

    I suggest that it would be prudent to see where the tea party phenomenon is a year from now before making any meaningful judgments on their impact or significance.

    Naturally, knee-jerk leftist partisans have already dismissed the relevancy of tea parties with the whole obscene "tea bagging" smear, and are laser-focused on only the few lone idiots in the crowd of hundreds (and soon to be thousands) of peaceful yet legitimately concerned Americans. But fooling yourselves into believing that the few represent the whole; the legitimate backlash from those who value liberty will be inevitable.

    -Country First.

  25. 25
    someguy says:

    I’m beginning to think that maybe, in light of what happened in Pittsburgh, the Tea Parties might be a way for disgruntled Glenn Beck watchers to blow off steam without hurting anyone as foreplay to the real violence they are planning.

    FixFoxed.

  26. 26
    Scruffy McSnufflepuss says:

    @** Atanarjuat **:

    It’s fairly obvious that these tea parties are still at the work-in-progress stage. Or, as liberals are wont to say when defending Obama’s wobbly track record so far, "it’s only been [X number of] days since he’s been in office!"

    Yeah, normally protesting’s been left to the DFHs. The wingers are novices at this sort of thing, so it’s only fair to give them time to hone their game.

    I suggest that it would be prudent to see where the tea party phenomenon is a year from now before making any meaningful judgments on their impact or significance.

    I bet if they start tea-bagging, their popularity will boom tremendously. They’ll get more media coverage, too.

    Naturally, knee-jerk leftist partisans have already dismissed the relevancy of tea parties with the whole obscene "tea bagging" smear, and are laser-focused on only the few lone idiots in the crowd of hundreds (and soon to be thousands) of peaceful yet legitimately concerned Americans. But fooling yourselves into believing that the few represent the whole; the legitimate backlash from those who value liberty will be inevitable.

    Yes, bringing back the freedom of the Bush years, of expanding the police state and slashing taxes on the upper crust, will doubtlessly enjoy a groundswell of support amongst the truly patriotic.

  27. 27
    Brian J says:

    @Scruffy McSnufflepuss:

    I understand the point, but I was asking if there’s really any overlap between the types of people who might turn to violence at some point after doing something like protesting and those who are more prone to violence as an automatic response? I never want to say that someone is incapable of something, but something tells me that there’s a pretty big divide between someone like the guy in Pittsburgh and most others. This leads me to think that there’s nothing we can do to prevent some people from acting in a senseless manner, even if we can let some who might be more likely that most to act violent blow off steam. Of course, the more I think about it, the more it seems like I am pointing out the obvious.

    Regardless, you have a great name. A+ for you, sir!

  28. 28
    Ricky Bobby says:

    "Tea Parties", eh? Anyone notice what happened after the Tea Party they are referencing?

    Armed overthrowing of the government.

    Pretty wild coincidence with that name, huh?

    For teh slow amongst us: Obama = King George, Big Gub’ment = The Brits, Glenn Beck = Paul Revere?

    /vomit

  29. 29
    Scruffy McSnufflepuss says:

    @Brian J:

    I understand the point, but I was asking if there’s really any overlap between the types of people who might turn to violence at some point after doing something like protesting and those who are more prone to violence as an automatic response? I never want to say that someone is incapable of something, but something tells me that there’s a pretty big divide between someone like the guy in Pittsburgh and most others. This leads me to think that there’s nothing we can do to prevent some people from acting in a senseless manner, even if we can let some who might be more likely that most to act violent blow off steam. Of course, the more I think about it, the more it seems like I am pointing out the obvious.

    I’m not really sure. I’m not a psychologist or a sociologist, but probably someone’s done a study to determine whether public protests abate, or incite, greater amounts of political violence. On the other hand, someone who’s willing to kill over this crazy crap is probably going to do it whether some other folks dump Lipton packets into the river or not.

    Regardless, you have a great name. A+ for you, sir!

    Thank you! :)

  30. 30
    ken adler says:

    These Tea Parties are a problem for all. When all of us DFH went out to protest the War or GOP convention in NY 2004, you could tell the cops were laughing at us. They never thought we would be violent. I think the cops that have to watch these new right wing gatherings might come thinking that there are some nuts carrying guns and looking for a fight.

    Message to the left: stay away from these protests

  31. 31
    David says:

    The Daily Show should buzz a Tea Party or two with black helicopters. Swoop down real low — watch ’em scatter.

    *cue laugh track*

  32. 32
    Scruffy McSnufflepuss says:

    @Ricky Bobby:

    I was thinking more of a Lewis Carroll tea party, myself.

    Does that make Obama the Queen of Hearts? Who gets to be the Mad Hatter? And whose un-birthdays are we celebrating?

  33. 33
    DJShay says:

    RE: The last link – Remember the good ole days of pushing around reporters at the McCain/Palin Rallys? Relive them at the Tea Parties!!!

  34. 34

    I wonder if the people who are likely to ever think about seriously committing some sort of violent act like a shooting rampage are really in the same group as those who want to express frustration through a sign. It seems like you are talking about two entirely different groups, unless the idea of a protest is really code for "warm up to violence."

    During the Branch Davidian horror show Timothy McVeigh went down to Waco to distribute literature and bumper stickers. LINK

    Would anyone be shocked if 9 months from now one of the tea baggers climbs a bell tower and starts shooting people? I certainly wouldn’t.

  35. 35
    Comrade Darkness says:

    The focus has been on what might be called liberal protests

    The right spent a lot of energy the last 30 years demonizing lefty protesters, especially of the tree hugging subspecies. I wonder if they haven’t painted with a too broad a brush and now have to figure out how to make protesting "patriotic" again.

    Having been to a few green peace protests way back in the day I can say that the organizers of the cincin one must not have a clue. The press is your bff and you carefully control what they record and nicely answer questions for them and you positively would not let anyone at the event make things uncomfortable for them. That would be absolutely stupid.

    >Who gets to be the Mad Hatter?
    John McCain, of course.

  36. 36

    @DJShay: Yep. That’s what I think they’re headed towards as well. Since this [bowel] movement is also attracting violence-prone whack jobs who see fascism at every turn, any cops assigned to watch over these carnivals should get triple overtime and all the doughnuts they can eat.

  37. 37
    aimai says:

    SteveM over at no more mr nice blog has observed that there is quite a bit of "sixties envy" among a certain set of now underemployed wingnuts. Part of the reason, I think, is that they were at first contemptuous of the DFH and their protests and then convinced themselves, for propaganda purposes, that it was actually those protests that, for example, ended righteous war in vietnam, or toppled the Bush government. Whatever the Malkins of the world believe the low level grunts in the movement have certainly been told over and over again that local anti war protests were at once undignified and undemocratic (when aimed at the Bush admin) and also terribly dangerous and potentially transformative (because how else could our beautiful nation have gone to sleep ruled by republicans and woken up with Barack Hussein Obama?

    I come from a family of protestors who have been protesting, as it were, since 1898 probably. My purely lilly white waspy christian sister in law, belonging as she always has, to "normal" America thought that was just utterly weird and, well, undignified of me during the early part of the Bush years. Getting out and rabble rousing was so rabbly! She won’t be on the hustings with the teabaggers because she sort of gave up on the republican party under Bush. But I think the new rabble see what they think of as the new elite and see the logic of getting out there and making things messy and uncomfortable for their new muslim overlords.

    Of course their protests will be as inefffective as ours were. Its the organizing and the demographic change that put us over the top not the lame protests of UJP or code pink (both of which I was part of).

    aimai

  38. 38
    gex says:

    @David: Standard right wing projection. They really do infiltrate left wing groups. So, you know, time to accuse the other side of what you do.

    If you are a committed partner in a relationship and suddenly your SO starts accusing you of cheating, you should be very, very suspicious of your SO.

  39. 39
    hmd says:

    Isn’t there a difference, psychologically speaking, between mob violence and a loner deciding to shoot up a bus or a school?

    I’m no expert, but it was my understanding that the loner violence is driven largely by a psychology of powerlessness and isolation. Connecting to like minded people might help alleviate those feelings and reduce this type of violence. While simultaneously increasing the likelihood of mob-type violence, which is driven by a whole different psychological dynamic.

    Perhaps the take away is that people who are prone to violence are just dangerous people either way.

  40. 40
    Andy says:

    I appreciate the historical reference in holding a "tea party," but such an event should be more accurately called a whine tasting.

  41. 41
    LV-426 says:

    WKR’C’? in Cincinnati? I’m going to have that song in my head all day.

  42. 42
    jakester says:

    Ugh, I can NOT get this song out of my head now

  43. 43

    With the obvious exceptions of campaign rallies and lynchings, when has the Right ever gathered in large numbers?

    Whether it was pro-war rallies or anti-tax rallies or whatever, their crowds are always small. Nothing like the numbers that turned out to protest the war. If it weren’t for Fox’s huge biases, we probably wouldn’t even know these mini-rallies were occurring.

  44. 44
    Mr. Nobody says:

    In one of Matt Taibbi’s books (“Spanking the Donkey”) he makes the case against the effectiveness of protests as they currently exist. He was comparing the Iraqi war protests against the Vietnam ones.

    Summing up what he said (much more poorly that he did), his argument is that back in the 60’s when hippies marched against the Vietnam they did represent a radical change from generations past. They were open about doing drugs, they wore ripped clothing, women were not ashamed of their sexuality, sexuality in general was more open, the drug culture, etc. The images of these kids were a complete 180 from the “Leave it to Beaver” type view of American Society in the 50’s. These kids represented a clear threat to the status quo. Also remember that it was the violent reaction of law enforcement to a lot of these protests in the 60’s that created the most long lasting images.

    By 2003, Taibbi argues that all of the things that threatened the establishment back in the 60’s had been adopted into the mainstream. No one is shocked by men with long hair, or drug use, or ripped jeans. Signs comparing Bush to Hitler are just old hat at this point. He argues that by allowing the protest to happen, you essentially allow nothing to happen. At the end of the day most people will be satisfied that they ‘did their part’ and will just drop their signs and go back to their regular lives.

    Tabbi suggests that the real way to get Washington to shit their pants would be if a protest was staged where everyone was dressed identically and staged a march in complete silence. That kind of organization, he says, would be a truly frightening thing.

  45. 45
    AhabTRuler says:

    @Andy: [hat] … [/hat]

  46. 46
    Bootlegger says:

    @Scruffy McSnufflepuss:

    Sociologist here.
    It’s too difficult to measure whether or not specific acts of political violence stem from mass movement protests because no one can accurately sample a mass protest then follow up later on behavior.

    Some attempts have been made and there are some findings:
    1) It doesn’t appear that participation in a movement protest correlates to political violence. People ready to do violence generally avoid groups and see protesters as weak sheep.
    2) The dynamic changes if the police get too physical with the protesters. The people engaging in the protest activity have a collective identity, "we are teabaggers" for example, and an attack on one could be interpreted as an attack on all.
    3) The violence we see from left-wing protesters at various political summits or the national political conventions is the planned and premeditated work of small groups already spoiling for violence (individually for various reasons I might add). They show up, heat up some violence, battle the cops for a few minutes, then use the cover of the crowd to make their escape. The rest of the peaceful protesters are left to fend for themselves against an enraged police force. As you might suspect, the outcome is usually not so nice.

  47. 47
    Bootlegger says:

    @ken adler:

    Message to the left: stay away from these protests

    I agree. They’ll be spoiling for a fight and neither side looks good after a donnybrook. Now, if you’re a true-blue anarchist and you’re looking for a way to taste some adrenaline, then I suggest you head out for a spot of tea.

  48. 48
    Martian Buddy says:

    @ Comrade Darkness:

    The right spent a lot of energy the last 30 years demonizing lefty protesters, especially of the tree hugging subspecies. I wonder if they haven’t painted with a too broad a brush and now have to figure out how to make protesting "patriotic" again.

    Well, there is one group within the wingnut ranks that they could tap the expertise of — abortion clinic protesters. What could possibly go wrong?

  49. 49
    someguy says:

    @ Mark

    With the obvious exceptions of campaign rallies and lynchings, when has the Right ever gathered in large numbers?

    The Klan marches of the 1920s, Hitler’s Nuremburg speeches, NASCAR and U.S. mega churches come to mind.

    @ Bootlegger

    You make good points, but those studies you mention look at what it takes to stir up liberals, who are basically pacifists, into mob violence. Wingers seem to be fundamentally different, fans of violence if their rabid support of Bush’s illegal wars is anything to go by, and they seem angry and close-minded to begin with. I bet it takes a lot less to turn them violent.

  50. 50
    Delia says:

    @Ricky Bobby:

    "Tea Parties", eh? Anyone notice what happened after the Tea Party they are referencing?

    Armed overthrowing of the government.

    But the Boston Tea Party actually had a specific point related to dumping the tea, namely to prevent the Brits from collecting the tea tax they had imposed on the stuff in order to raise revenue from the colonials. It was a practical act, a political statement and street theater all in one, and it took place in an atmosphere in which the British Parliament’s taxation of the colonies was already highly unpopular. So it could have a dramatic effect on public opinion. Opening up little tea bags and dumping the contents in ponds has no context. It’s simply history repeating itself as farce.

  51. 51
    ThresherK says:

    Does it still serve some psychological purpose in terms of connecting the protest-goers to a larger community?

    Not sure about that, but I think it serves the needs of the Chris Matthews, Charlie Gibsons, John Kings and others inside the bubble who fetishize the blue collar working class up to (but not including) actually reporting on economic and taxation policies with any sort of perspective.

    PS Any liberals infiltrating would be advised to leave their loose Harney, Upton or Fortnum & Mason at home, or discuss the proper water temperature for steeping different teas. You will be caught out.

  52. 52
    AnneLaurie says:

    How can paranoids form a community?

    They can’t bond affirmatively with each other — a fact they understand far better than we can — so they look desperately for an outside E*N*E*M*Y that will allow them to bond together in fearful rejection. Imagine a lot of overaged Squeaky Frommes and Charles ‘Tex’ Watsons looking for a Charles Manson to bring a sense of coherence and disorder to their sad little lives…

  53. 53
    Batocchio says:

    Doug, basically these gatherings are amplifiers, which for crazy people is a bad thing. I believe The Wisdom of Crowds covers this angle – when a mob versus collective intelligence emerges.

    Put another way, there’s an old Bill Cosby joke, that goes something like: "I take cocaine because it accentuates my personality." Oh yeah? Well, what if you’re an asshole?

  54. 54
    Scruffy McSnufflepuss says:

    @Bootlegger:

    Thank you for the input. It sounds like the crazies aren’t affected by this stuff one way or the other. Except when they stage violence with the protests, obviously. But there’s nothing you can really do about that, except if you arrest a couple of the perpetrators and get a conspiracy case going. Maybe.

  55. 55
    Dan Smith says:

    There IS a VERY serious purpose to the tea parties. The Obama administration is about to put $9-$10 trillion dollars of debt on our children, grand children, and great grandchildren while most people don’t have a clue what it means to the future of our country. This is not about Republican or Democrat, it’s about economics and freedom. By focusing on the bailout of corporate bondholders rather than restructuring debt, we are risking a far deeper economic downturn. Making lenders whole with public funds is an ethical abomination, putting the public in the position of absorbing the losses that should be borne by those who provided capital to these institutions (i.e. the bondholders). This will not work for the simple reason that without restructuring, the debt can’t be serviced. Until there is major restructuring of mortgage debt and the debt obligations of major financial institutions, we will be applying trillion dollar band-aids while the underlying cancer metastasizes. Unfortunately, the longer we wait to restructure debt, swap debt for equity, and force those that made the loans bear the losses, the more we risk allowing this downturn to become uncontrollable and unfathomably costly to the public. Please, wake up people!

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