Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tea for Two: American Years of Lead

In a recent post which uses Hitler next to Dr. Frank n' Furter, we were trying to make the point that as a cartoon villain, Hitler has essentially become meaningless. As such, he can serve as a useful foil for any cause because he and his Nazi chums, devoid of meaning, can be recast to have whatever meaning is desired. He is like one of those boards at carnivals where you can stand and poke your head through. Someone takes photo of a strongman or a mermaid, crudely painted on wood, with your face. Ho ho! Now that's fun.

Hitler is the board, anyone's head can be popped in. He has become a caricature, the Nazis something from a zillion films and comic books. The Nazis can be used to slander anyone, from Feminazis to Boy Scouts. In the book I cited in the same post, called The Pink Swastika, the Nazis were said to have as a gang of queer thugs who originally hung out in a gay bar. Indeed, the book goes far beyond the Nazis to implicate the gay rights movement as a kind of cabal bent on infiltrating America. Easy-peasy. Want to denigrate your political opponents? Liken them to Nazis.

This is the kind of attitude that worries me about elements within the Tea Party. I believe the movement is a genuine outpouring of disaffected citizens and I must admit to sympathize with many of their concerns. But like many on the left who used the same metaphor to attack Bush, the Tea People have used the easy and essentially meaningless "Nazi" smear and laid everything at the feet of Obama. I would suggest these people are prone to believing the kind of tripe purveyed in books such as The Pink Swastika.

We want our country back! they say. Who exactly, is we?

When we see photos of the Tea Party or read accounts of those who have walked among them, we see a portrait of white, older, mainly Christian social convservatives, which is telling. These people were born into a world where Christian and white hegemony over American culture was a given.

As the demographics of our country change, these people are becoming nervous. The gays they expected to stay hidden under rocks are everywhere, on TV, in the cinema, in government. Latinos seem to be everywhere. Ominous predictions crop up every year or so: whites a minority by 2050! There's now a man in the White House with a funny name and who isn't white! They could have never envisioned such a radical transformation of the demographic and moral landscape.

Let's not be naiive. Racism, or at least race uneasiness, lies behind a lot of the anger directed towards Obama, not a disagreement over political abstractions such as "socialism." Are the Birthers really concerned over Constitutional proscriptions? Even if race is not at the heart of the matter, doesn't their near-hysterical anger at least indicate a case of xenophobia? We want our country back!

Does my foreign-born mother, who became a citizen when I was four, count as less an American than you? Does it matter that she was from England and not El Salvador? Am I less American because my wife is not, and my children have funny names?

I do not want to suggest that all Tea Partiers are bigots and conspiracy theorists. But in the articles I've previously linked to, there are serious currents of this kind of thinking within the movement. This is not a liberal elitist smear. This is not malicious condescension. And the comparison of Obama with Hitler is for real.

Take for example a part of the Tea Party coalition, called Oath Keepers, who intend to recruit soldiers and policemen into its ranks. While its goals are noble, they seem to have the impression that the US is gearing up to be a giant police state. Check out the list of orders they will not obey. Again, noble aims. But they seems to think at any moment Obama is going round up dissidents and put them into giant camps. Two of the ten points:

6. We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.

7. We will NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext.

This last point is nicely illustrated by a Nazi shooting a prisoner in the head at the edge of a corpse-filled pit.

Kudos to the cops and military officers who assert these anti-fascist principles. But is it really necessary? Are people getting a little carried away with the paranoia? Does this shed some light on why we at LoS get a little pissed off at knee-jerk conspiracy theory? Are we at LoS thus deluded sheeple?

Hitler has served as a good tool for the Tea Party protesters. People jump on the "S" word in "National Socialism" and then use it to slam Obama's "socialist" agenda. Never mind that he is to the right of genuine European socialism, or that Hitler's NSDAP was merely socialist in name. It was an authoritarian, fascist movement. Control of industry remained firmly in the hands of private capitalists. Ever see Schindler's List? That factory he used for saving Jewish lives? Privately-owned, folks. Many behemoth German companies in existence today amassed large amounts of wealth during the Nazi period. They were and remain privately-owned. Naziism was no more a socialist phenomenon than is was a capitalist one. It shared elements with both, but it was its own animal.

Remember those Hitler comparisons and photos. They are instructive. First, it's so over the top to compare Obama to Hitler that it loses any sense of proportion whatsoever. Secondly, this kind of popular outpouring never happened under Bush, and the fascist qualities of his tenure were equally, if not more alarming. This period of constitutinal travesty was even kicked off by our very own version of the Reichstag Fire. Finally, we reiterate our warning (from the last post) against taking angry displays at face value. Like we said before, the Tea Party may be built to last and the heady idealism of newbie revolutionaries and tricornered would-be militiamen could signal a new phase of popular democratic engagement (if not serious social strife).

Or it could become simply another well-rehearsed and staged event which make a few empty vessels like $arah Palin into political forces to be reckoned with, without of course neglecting to collect large sums of money along the way. They call a false "grass-roots" campaign astroturfing; it is clear the Tea Party is not made of astroturf. But elements of it, such as the Republican attempt to coopt the movement, are fraudulent, and I am filled with a mixture of inquietude and wonder whenever they cross my radar.

As for Palin, you may recall her attacking government healthcare as "evil" and citing "death panels" that would threaten her baby Trig. She must be terribly worried about grandson Tripp, seeing that his healthcare is funded through the Indian Health Service. One can reasonably ask what this says about her commitment to her principle
$. Does something so inherently evil become acceptable when one's own dollars are at stake?

Whatever the case, what are we to make of this guy Joeseph Stack, who recently flew his plane into the IRS building in Austin? Fox News refers to him as a "protestor" in this article, but at which point does protest become terrorism? The article reports that fan pages set up in his honor have attracted thousands of hits, with comments ranging from lauding him as a hero to portraying him as a victim. Were these the same people slamming Obama for associating with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers? Is right-wing violence protest, left-wing violence terrorism? Was the original Tea Party a terrorist act? Were the rum-runners and landed gentry we call the Founding Fathers terrorists?

I predict this guy flying his plane into the IRS building will become a rallying point for the extremists of the Tea People, and its meaning much debated. Conservatives will decry linking it with the Tea Party as a smear, and the left will hammer away at it. Remember when the Department of Homeland Security issued a report saying that the time was ripe for a rise in right-wing extremism among disaffected veterans? How it was attacked and the DHS was forced to make an apology? The left-wing Wall Street Journal reports that there is a "steady, upward trend" of threats against IRS workers. At what point does the lone nut become a movement?

The Tea Protestors will attack anything that comes out of the current administration as a reflex when fact is, militia movements are gaining numbers, as well as mainstream defenders. The anti-tax movement is on the rise. The last time so many average Joes cried for revolution was in the sixties. Trouble is, those freaky folks were more into smoking dope and fucking than fighting. The only ones who put their money where their mouths were, the Weather Underground, the SLA, the Black Panthers, are the most likely to be derided by Tea People today. Bill Ayers, terrorist. Remember him? He wanted revolution too, and for many of the same reasons as the Tea Party. Thing is, Tea Protestors are less likely to be dope-smoking group gropers than they are proficient in firearms.

Meanwhile, over at Fox, some commentators are calling posts such as this part of an "internet frenzy" to discredite the Tea Party:

We recommend Fox stop disingenuously using fucking blog comments (!) as editorial points to discredit liberals uneasy with the Tea Party and begin examining the violent rhetoric, the wearing of firearms to political rallies, the talk of revolution and secession, instead. Let's stop pretending there's not a potential for more of this kind of "protest" to be stoked by Tea Party theater. If the right can emphasize over an over that a disturbed individual who turns a gun on her colleagues over a tenure dispute is a "far-left radical" enamored of Obama, perhaps it's not so heinous to link Joe Stack with Tea Party rhetoric and imagery.

Thing is, last time I checked, revolution and secession usually involve large amounts of terrible violence, always justifiable by those who perpetrate it. 9-11 changed America. Now we have a 9-12 Project. And their talking points are echoed in a suicide note by another guy willing to fly a plane into a building to make his point.

Wild and woolly times ahead.
Be Prepared for the Years of Lead!


  1. Damn, Daurade ... I enjoyed this post to point of feeling speechless. I don't think that I can add anything to this, other than to note that my comments to your next post were written prior to reading this post. When you read my comments to your next post, I hope that it comes across that I share some of the same feelings that you express so much better here.

    I hate dropping such a purely cheermongering comment, by the way, so just to round out the equation: FU for writing so well. :-)

  2. Wow, thanks Gid.

    I was concerned that this was too sloppy at points. At first I was concerned I'd overplayed the race angle and underemphasized the philosophical differences, but re-reading the NYT and New Yorker pieces, as well as the LA Times op-ed, I'm sure I am right on this one. Which will only serve to bolster conservative belief that the media is biased against them....

    I'm sure we'll get some less enthusiastic comments at some point!

  3. Your post has legs, Daurade. I think it's one of the finest pieces published here. It will stand out here on the internets inviting people to discover it.

    I hope to see less enthusiastic comments at some point, as they'll stretch us. I want my views to be pushed on this topic.

  4. Another insightful op-ed from the liberal elite (NYTIMES). Very well-done. Sample quote:

    "What made that kamikaze mission eventful was less the deranged act itself than the curious reaction of politicians on the right who gave it a pass — or, worse, flirted with condoning it. Stack was a lone madman, and it would be both glib and inaccurate to call him a card-carrying Tea Partier or a “Tea Party terrorist.” But he did leave behind a manifesto whose frothing anti-government, anti-tax rage overlaps with some of those marching under the Tea Party banner. That rant inspired like-minded Americans to create instant Facebook shrines to his martyrdom. Soon enough, some cowed politicians, including the newly minted Tea Party hero Scott Brown, were publicly empathizing with Stack’s credo — rather than risk crossing the most unforgiving brigade in their base."

  5. "Don't retreat, reload" and other "Second Amendment Solutions"....what role did this kind of rhetoric play in the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords?

    Hard to say, the alleged killer's internet postings go on incoherently about the gold and silver standards, typical far-right fare, but an old acquaintance says: “As I knew him he was left wing, quite liberal. & oddly obsessed with the 2012 prophecy.” (

    Kid also seems to have shown signs of possible mental illness and is named Loughner (loner). But as we all know, nuts come in a par and police are looking for a possible second suspect. At which point this becomes less the desperate act of an individual madman but by definition, a conspiracy.

    Was there in fact an accomplice? If so, will he turn out to be the mentor?

    A nine-year-old child was killed in the shooting. I suppose by some ways of thinking, killing a political adversary is justified...the old "Would you kill Hitler?" scenario comes to mind.

    I don't see how killing children fits into this logic, however. Sigh.

  6. OK, second guy cleared:

    Another lone nut?

  7. Not much politics in here, but plenty of warning signs

    One might argue that a liberal media, not finding a right wing nut, is downplaying the politics and creating a narrative amenable to gun control and improved access to health care....

    And they'd have a point: how did a man so obviously disturbed that people expected him at any moment to go on a shooting spree a) buy a gun and b) noever get any treatmet, despite run ins with his school and the police?

    If this question finds an answer, are there any remedies or do we have to accept these kind of incidents as the inevitable by-product of American society?

  8. What an utterly uniformed piece of commentary this i --- very disappointing. Self-congratulatory glad-handing aside, you should put half as much research into this as you do the series on Black Madonnas.


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