Does the Tea Party movement remind you of the movie “Meet John Doe”?
Today’s topic for discussion: what is the Tea Party movement? Unlike the usual post on the FM website, we have too little data to do anything but speculate.
- My guess
- Historical background
- Origin of the Tea Party Movement
- Articles about the Tea Parties
- For more information from the FM site, and an Afterword
(1) My guess (nothing more than a guess)
The Tea Party movement is a real-life version of the movie Meet John Doe (1941), Directed and produced by Frank Capra, starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. The film tells about a grassroots political campaign during the Depression, created by a newspaper columnist and exploited by a wealthy businessman. The popular angst is genuine, but conservative groups provide a small but important element of direction, funding, and organization.
(2) Historical background
Popular movements often spontaneously form during periods of social unrest — like the 1930’s and today. Like the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 and the thousands of such uprisings since. Sometimes powerful elites shape and direct these to their own ends. As in the Protestant Reformation, where the elites used popular discontent with the established church to enhance their own power.
These are complex social phenomena. Even the original Tea Parties, which we protests against imports of inexpensive tea (undercutting the prices of tea smuggled in by Americans).
Sometimes they catch fire then fade away, like the Bonus Army in 1932. Sometimes they grow to power yet suddenly die (like the New Model Army after Cromwell). Sometimes they sweep all before them, like the Protestant Reformation and the American Revolution. Nobody can accurately predict these things.
If this recession continues much longer, or even grows worse (aka the double dip), then we’ll see real public anger. The political map may change in ways we cannot now imagine.
(3) Origin of the Tea Party Movement
“Rick Santelli: I Want to Set the Record Straight“, CNBC, 2 March 2009 — About his original broadcast.
Two websites previously set up went live shortly thereafter.
- Here is the website claiming to be the “official home of the Chicago Tea Party”.
- Here is the “Official Chicago Tea Party” website.
After that there was the “Tax Day Tea Party” website, “Online HQ for the April 15th Nationwide Tax Day Tea Party Rallies”.
(4) Articles about the Tea Party Movement
The infamous article alleging that this was well-planned agitprop: “Backstabber: Is Rick Santelli High On Koch?“, Mark Ames and Yasha Levine, online at Playboy, 27 February 2009 — The authors are editors of The Exiled Online (see Wikipedia entry for details). Amidst rumors of threatened litigation, Playboy removed it without comment.
Other articles — esp note the February 2010 New Yorker article.
- “I Want to Set the Record Straight“, Rick Santelli, CNBC, 2 March 2009 — His reply to the allegations.
- “The Rick Santelli ‘Tea Party’ Controversy: Article Kicks Up a Media Dust Storm“, Mark Ames and Yasha Levine, AlterNet, 3 March 2009
- “Uprising? Corporate Lobbyists Helping To Orchestrate Radical Anti-Obama Tea Party Protests“, Lee Fang, ThinkProgress, 9 April 2009
- “Fake Teabaggers Are Anti-Spend, Anti-Government: Real Populists Want to Stop Banks from Plundering America“, Mark Ames and Yasha Levine, AlterNet, 15 April 2009 — “The tea parties are AstroTurf, fake grassroots.”
- “Party Foul! Tea Partiers Eat Their Own In Bitter Internal Feud“, TPM, 12 November 2009
- “The Movement – The rise of Tea Party activism“, Ben McGrath, New Yorker, 1 February 2010 — The most detailed reporting I’ve seen about this.
Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, has strongly promoted the movement: see this Google list of his posts about them (with photos!). Also see his paean about them: “Tea Parties: Real Grassroots“, op-ed in the New York Post, 13 April 2009.
(5a) For more information from the FM site
Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page. To see all posts about our new wars:
Other posts about the tea party movement:
- Are the new “tea party” protests a grass roots rebellion or agitprop?, 1 March 2009
- Our ruling elites scamper and play while our world burns, 11 March 2009
- The weak link in America’s political regime, 16 September 2009
- More examples of Americans waking up – should we rejoice?, 10 October 2009
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