The origins of the Tea Party

Ever feel there’s something not right about the Tea Party? All that flag waving and dressing up in patriot costumes seem a little forced and fake? Well you’d be correct. An American academic (video summary here) has noted a link between the Tea party and various right wing lobby groups in the US notably the Tobacco industry and other elements of the so called “MOD Squad” (Merchants of Death, a term associated with the lobby groups in the US who promote things designed to kill people, e.g. tobacco, firearms, etc.).

In her report she notes how many of the tactics of the Tea Party date back to the late 1990’s. Indeed she questions whether the Tea Party really is the grassroots “spontaneous” organisation that it claims to be, but perhaps more a fabrication of various republican lobby groups, wealthy elites (she establishes a direct link to the Koch brothers) and of course Robert Ailes of Fox News.

Inevitably the response of Fox News itself has been to go full fanatic Birther on her, see here. The Fox News lady doth protest too much me thinks!

In truth I suspect she may be partially correct. For sure the tobacco and firearms lobby in America have long attempted to blur the lines between “freedom” and “regulation”. i.e. the government allows us the freedom to drive private motor vehicles, but does “regulate” this right by for example insisting we drive on one side of the road or the other (we can’t just drive down any side we choose), impose speed limits, enforce traffic signals (unlike the silly woman in a red Ford Ka I saw the other day or the guy in the blue BMW who likes to take right hand turns without signalling!), forbid’s dangerous activities such as drink driving, etc.

Now unless you are of the opinion that such regulation is somehow bad (i.e. you think people should be allowed drive drunk either side of the road they choose and as fast as they like), then it’s hardly a problem if governments were to regulate things for the public good (such as firearms ownership, banking, financial institutions, health care, meat processing, etc.). Banning these activities, or seriously curtailing them is a different kettle of fish mind, but some common sense regulation is not an assault on personal freedom. But the Republicans have always been keen to portray it as such…. except of course when they want to “regulate” things like gay marriage or abortion or something!

Terrified by Obama’s victory the Republicans went into full fanatic Swiftboating mode and rehashing some old tactics from the Clinton era, they created the Tea Party as some sort of sock puppet to beat the government with. Indeed one of their minions was recently caught on camera discussing tactics.

Unfortunately, like the Frankenstein monster the Tea Party has since grown beyond their control and the lunatics now threaten to take over the Republican asylum.

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