What’s the reason? Have you seen the posters decrying the rise of new right-wing radicalism with crossed-out swastikas?
Well, apparently someone brought this to the attention of the right-wing blogorama, specifically 96.9FM radio host Michael Garahm. You may remember him from the Bill Ayers controversy when he claimed that Ayers was connected with the actions of Katherine Power and Susan Saxe and the murder of Boston cop. He spends 15 minutes on his talk show about how needs more xanax because someone sent him an email about these posters and browsing the links on the event website. Apparently he spoke at the Tea Party Express rally and was offended.
Anyway, this blag-rant ended up on TheFoxNation.com: a news site hosted by Fox. The contention is with this statement involving the tea-party by the conference:
“An interdisciplinary conference featuring transatlantic scholars from the US and Europe. Topics include the rise of the tea-party and the resurgence of right-wing militias in the US as well as the evolving right-wing radical landscape in Europe.”
… it appears that they don’t like being mentioned on posters also decrying neo-Nazis. But, if the tea-parties were simply a political movement as agitating for “limited government” as is professed, then I would support their contention. However, the tea-party isn’t just that.
Last Wednesday, the 14th, I went with a group of friends to check out the Tea Party Express rally on the Boston Commons – the one with Sarah Palin. I went there to make some observations on a movement that like all other political movements in this country has been variously demonized and vilified by the media. I simply wanted to understand the character of the tea-party.
I talked to many people, and found that there were probably about a quarter there that had some honest and decent political grievances – whether they were states’ rights folks, libertarians, constitutionalists, etc. – and seemed to me to be reasonably versed in the issues at hand. They seemed to be more ‘original flavor’ tea-party, were suspicious of the two-party system, worried about being hijacked by the Republican Party, and were more anti-militaristic.
I would say that there was another quarter there that protested against the tea-party and Sarah Palin. People were there from United for Peace and Justice who had an anti-war banner and rally contingent. There were people there from Bail Out the People Movement. There was a picket line with union members who eventually marched through the crowed to disrupt the event – more on that later. There was a Real Tea Party with actual tea, which was full of deliciousness and polite conversation. And, there were the ‘trolls’ – people who brought signs to make the tea-party look crazier and to mock the tea-party stereotypes. Such as “MIT Nucular Engineers for Palin!!1!”, and “Sarah Palin for 2010.”
Another quarter seemed to be scared and frustrated people who were worried. They seemed to me to be the kind that whole-heartedly supported Bush, listen to Beck and his crowd, and were only with the tea-party because they were rallied by their Republican affiliation into the nearest opposition movement. They seemed like the neo-con base; they were ‘new-flavor’ tea-partiers and a little too saccharine for my taste.
Finally, there were the detestable reactionaries which composed the last quarter. They were anti-immigration folks (there are anti-immigrations positions which are not inherently racist but these folks were holding signs like “I speak English” etc.), hardline-christian folks who were vocally homophobic, skinheads (presumably not the anti-racist kind), and “white-unity” idiots. There were also people with gun imagery and banners, though I don’t know what their politics were since I stayed away from them, but that’s an escalation of rhetoric/action which I would place in this more dangerous section.
In all, I was surprised at the degree to which the image of the racial and age make-up of the tea-party was reflected in reality: it was an older and white affair. Spelling mistakes weren’t as prevalent as in the news-coverage.
A friend of mine was told to go back to China. When the protest-march disrupted the crowd with a chant of “Sexist, Racist, Anti-Gay; Sarah Palin Go Away” a tea-partier said “hell yes we are.” Two individuals carrying a banner saying “Green Gay Loggers for Jesus” were accosted by a man who asked “what happens when you die?” and “why do you have to put your pornography in my face?”
In summation, the tea-party is a rather large tent of trends that are discernible but unorganized in association with strange bedfellows (e.g. libertarians say that they are against racists, reactionaries, and militarism). It seemed to be held together by occupying a common space of simple opposition to the currently dominant party – a sentiment which has been exploited and amplified without meaningful content by the Republican Party and affiliated megaphones. This opposition seems to be united in discourse by a call for limited government, invocations of militarism and sacrifice for freedoms, flag-waving beyond meaning, and a poor taste in music. The previous analysis of the failings of the two-party system was gone and so too were the sentiments against the influence of unions and corporations in politics. A concern is that the demands of these folks will likely not be successful through electoral politics or other official channels (because they have no coherent demands and exploitation by the Republican Party) and that the more reactionary elements will resort to extra legal means.
When those most-likely to engage in extra-legal means are racists, the issue becomes more severe – the target of racists vehemence is people, not buildings, profits, institutions, or social relations. Though I know that they have done so elsewhere, I didn’t see any tea-party supporters denouncing the reactionaries.
Some gems from the comments at TheFoxNation.com which are now over 200.
“Here’s proof that Jews are also stupid in their own special way………” –Puddlejumper
“Money to this University should stop!!!!” – ar547 (this one’s just included for the lulz, if only they knew!)
“What more would you expect out of a liberal (just say left-wing), jewish university located in Waltham, MA. just outside of Boston. Just sayin.” – mad maximus (Oath Keeper)
“Brandeis = Brown Shirts” – Kini
“Jews just hate traditional white Americans, it’s part of their folk-culture…….” – Puddlejumper
The tea-partiers are not Nazis. That is correct. Yet, the tea-partier counter-argument is that the left are Nazis. That is not correct. Neither are Nazis (except for y’know, the neo-Nazis which find harbor in the tea-party). Nazism was a syncretism.
However, the reason that Nazis have been so vilified was due to their territorial-expansionist policies, the establishment of dictatorship, their racial policies of genocide, among other things. Nazis were not demonized for their social programs, of which the purported similitude with the Obama administration serves as the basis for accusations of the Left as Nazi. Furthermore, neo-Nazi groups in the US are organized on the basis of reactionary racial politics, not future social programs, hence their position on the right.
When the tea-party is a breeding ground for organizing white-supremacy, is it a question why it is lumped in with other rising right-wing movements including neo-Nazis?
Update: Miranda N. found the link to the Fox New TV spot on it, here.
My favorite part: It’s extremism for Brandeis (coded as a Jewish University) to put an anti-swastika logo on an event dealing with right wing radicalism.
Also, I feel that I must say, that I think that there is there is plenty of space for the left and the tea-party movement to work together, particularly on issues such as campaign finance reform, fighting corporate bank bailouts, restoring civil and privacy rights, and so on. There are good elements to the tea-party. However, the point remains that the tea-party serves as a breeding ground for white-supremacy, militias, and other reactionary politics by being such a large tent on the right and for not denouncing and distancing itself from those elements.
Update II: The hosts of the conference responded to pressure and removed the swastika logo from their website. Brandeis issued a statement here, where they state:
The logo created for the conference showed a swastika inside the international symbol of negation, reflecting the legitimate concern people feel over the activities, often violent, of neo-Nazi extremists.
Unfortunately, this logo created an impression that Brandeis and the conference organizers equated a range of organizations, including the Tea Party in the United States, with extremist groups on both continents.