“The Americans are poor haters in international affairs because of their innate feeling of superiority over all foreigners. Should Americans begin to hate foreigners wholeheartedly, it will be an indication that they have lost confidence in their own way of life.” — Eric Hoffer, The True Believer
Be sure to read Steve Benen’s take on Beckapalooza and the tea party movement and the emptiness of its rhetoric.
This is about a fight for American “liberties.”
That sounds great, too. Who’s against American “liberties”? But I’m still looking for some details. Might this include law-abiding American Muslims exercising their liberties and converting a closed-down clothing store into a community center? No, we’re told, not those kinds of liberties.
This is about giving Americans who work hard and play by the rules more opportunities.
I’m all for that, too. But would these opportunities include the chance for hard-working Americans to bring their kids to the doctor if they get sick, even if the family can’t afford insurance? No, we’re told, not those kinds of opportunities.
It goes on. The point is that (a) the teabaggers don’t actually have a cause, just a lot of resentments; and (2) their slogans and symbols are displays of tribal dominance only. Most teabaggers have no idea what the slogans and symbols mean.
To get a clue about what’s going on with the teabaggers, look to Eric Hoffer and his analysis of mass behavior. Like another wise man, Erich Fromm, Hoffer recognized that people march blindly into mass movements because the group provides something the individual feels is lacking in himself.
In slightly different ways, both Fromm and Hoffer noted that the fanatic was someone trying to escape himself by merging with a group. Within the group the helpless can feel powerful; the confused can find certitude; the guilty can find absolution. Theatrical events such as yesterday’s Beck-a-palooza provide temporary relief from the fears and disappointments gnawing at their psyches.
So, ultimately, a successful mass movement doesn’t need a purpose other than to be a mass movement. It may be that a mass movement so utterly content-free and so obviously contrived as the “tea party” is exceptional, but show me a population of frustrated, disappointed, and resentful people, and there’s a mass movement waiting to happen. All it takes is a “leader” who can tap into those frustrations, disappointments, and resentments.
As Hoffer says, the propagandist does not instill new opinions but “articulates and justifies opinions already present in the minds of its recipients. The gifted propagandist brings to a boil ideas and passions already simmering in the minds of his hearers. He echoes their innermost feelings. Where opinion is not coerced, people can be made to believe only in what they already ‘know.'”
So, it doesn’t matter that the tea party has no discernible cause other than its own existence. It’s got everything else a mass movement needs to thrive and grow, especially hate. Hoffer went on and on about the power of hate as a unifying agent.
You don’t have to be Freud to realize how mostly white, mostly middle class, mostly middle-aged and older people can feel that today’s America is not the country they knew when they were much younger, and not like that one bit. Even white privilege, while still around, ain’t what it used to be. To powerful interests manipulating public opinion to their particular advantage, this demographic group is low-hanging fruit.
And with the help of adulation junkies like Palin and Beck who know exactly what to say to bring those ideas and passions to a boil — and have no scruples about saying it even when it’s nonsense — the mob is primed for the master’s command.
I’ve referred before to the study done a few years back which suggested that when it comes to religion or politics all processing takes place on the right side of the brain. To recap: Left brain; linear, logical, sequential, verbal, symbolic, reality-based processing. Right brain; holistic, intuitive, random, nonverbal, concrete, fantasy-oriented processing.
Most of the time we use both sides of our brain. But when it comes to religion or politics, alas, only the right side functions.
Other than that stuff, I think we are at peril if we make fun of the ‘movement.’ As I child I remember watching the newsreels of Hitler/Mussolini standing at a podium speaking/ranting at a rapt crowd below, their faces filled with adoration and complete belief in the words being spoken. (And history tells us what resulted.)
In particular, the German people suffered physical hardship following WWI and more importantly they felt shamed – ripe territory for the demagogue. And what did Beck title his ‘event’ – an event to “restore honor.”
Yes, Felicity. I was thinking of that, too.
As an older American, I am appalled at what the Reckless Right is doing. I am heartsick at how certain groups are distorting the Constitution and tearing at ther very foundations upon which our country was built. It’s time end the silence for many of us and stand up for what this country was built upon — and it has nothing what Beck et al are saying.
White people who are into Buddhism usually lack self-confidence.
They have invested their very identities in things that by their nature pass away: power and property relationships that cannot forever endure. They claim Christianity as their own, but they have built their houses on foundations that are impermanent. Buddhism is not the only religion that knows about the impermanence of all that is visible and conditioned by human preferences and proclivities. The tea party members have forgotten the words of the old hymn:
Some build their hopes on the ever drifting sand,
Some on their fame, or their treasure, or their land;
Mine’s on a Rock that forever will stand,
Jesus, the â€œRock of Ages.â€
The patterns of tribal dominance, and the America they grew up with, are and ever were made from ever drifiting sand. There are Christians whose hopes are built on the Rock that is made not of fame, or treasure, or land; do not look for them at tea party rallies. They will not be there.
The hate these people have is for the black man in the white house. So, this mass movement is based on racism. Nothing more, nothing less. Always has been.
Righties who get pissed off at what I write usually leave a juvenile retort.
The internal dynamics are interesting, but it’s the historical correlates that are truly scary. I was reading comments about Beck’s rally yesterday on Yahoo (and I felt like taking a shower afterwards). One commenter claimed to know German, and said that Beck’s slogan “Restoring Our Honor” is very similar to slogans used by the Nazis at their rallies. Rightwing movements are a lot about some sort of purification, with all the ominous meanings of that word.
I’m not saying Tea Partiers are Nazis; I am saying there is plenty of parallels between these resentful people with poor cognitive skills and those who ultimately got swept up into the original Nazi movement. The context in which this is occurring today is frightening.
Chris Hedges interviewed Noam Chomsky, some months ago:
According to Chomsky, we’re lucky that Beck is mostly regarded as a buffoon, but that could change. When I first saw him over a year ago, he scared the shit out of me: a gifted performer who could emote, come across with sincerity, and be believed by masses of religiously oriented people. I saw the potential in this guy, and I still do, especially if the economy continues to sour and people see no improvement in their lives.
If there was any doubt left in my mind that Beckapalooza was nothing more than a “Christian”-fascist festival, Kevin Bove’s ugly, ignorant comment squashed that doubt.
This flogging of “God,” just a meaningless word in the mouths of the smug and foolish, is offensive to Americans of all faiths who actually use their brains.
Seeing lots of photos of the rally since yesterday, I better understand the demographic to whom this empty rhetoric appeals: white, age 40+, lower-middle-class, and with all the health problems attributable to bad diet, no health insurance, and no exercise (heart disease, cancer, diabetes).
Unironically, it’s the same demographic to whom the KKK appeals. And of course, the KKK doesn’t burn swastikas; it burns crosses. It uses the same symbolism as Beck. Beck’s just better at disguise, even without the sheets.
Beckapalooza was all about Beck; he and MS. Palin had better watch the retoric.
This “reloading” and” taking back” bullshit will no doubt prompt some neanderthal to act out; at that point, it will be time for a class action suit against tha provocateurs.
They are yelling “FIRE” in a crowded building, when they should be offering solutions.
Beck would do better selling Amway, and Palin, well the “Momma Grizzly”
should go can some salmon, idiots with bullhorns.
” Look toward the heavens”…. 🙂
Noam Chomsky rocks.
People keep forgetting that Beck is a Mormon.
Ah, yes, and of course the comments are moderated. I’d forgotten how much the left loved free and unfettered speech.
[Note from Maha: Plenty of right-wing bloggers moderate their comment threads or even choose to not have comment threads, and that’s their right. A blog is private property, and I maintain this one to provide a haven from the craziness for a few of us lefties. I occasionally approve a right-wing comment if it (a) amuses me, or (b) is not just the usually juvenile nastiness that righties confuse with “opinion” but actually says something more substantial than “lefties stink.” See commenting rules.]
Oh, there’s a movement alright. What we’re seeing with the Tea Party is the political equivalent of ‘Network’; the ordinary folks who are the backbone of the country are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it any more.
Take what? Take having almost a trillion dollars dumped down the toilet. Take being forced by buy health insurance, and watching as the companies they work for are being forced to cancel their health insurance benefits. Take having their money taken and given to those who have made deliberately reckless choices. Take being told that if they don’t agree with the program it’s because they’re stupid, or racist, or irrational, and they should just shut up because Obama WON! and deal with it.
Obama had a once-in-a-generation opportunity to truly be the politician he portrayed himself as a candidate, to be post-partisan. He blew it, and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid certainly didn’t help. The Democrats could have shoved the Republicans out into the wilderness for 40 years, but like the scorpion who stung the frog carrying it across the river causing both to die, they couldn’t help but act the way they have over the past 18 months. It was just their nature.
The Dems are going to lose Congress, and if the Republicans can get their act together Obama will be a one-term president, most likely after a bruising fight for the nomination in his own party.
South Park episode 1313/ dances with Smurfs,
you can watch it at the South Park website. Great parody of Beck.
So, what was your favorite moment at the “Million ‘Moran’ March – 910,000?”
Take what? Take having almost a trillion dollars dumped down the toilet…. Take having their money taken and given to those who have made deliberately reckless choices. Take being told that if they don’t agree with the program it’s because they’re [un-American], or [atheists], or irrational, and they should just shut up….
Who did that? George W. Bush. Where were you when he was doing that? Waving flags and supporting him.
Selective outrage, sir. Not even remotely credible.
Bonnie, I don’t think we’re forgetting that Beck is a Mormon. I think a lot of other fundie Christians who normally fulminate against Mormons have forgotten, however.
IMO there’s been a Great Meltdown in conservative Christianity in which the distinctions between different denominations have blurred. Years ago I remember most Southern Baptists and Pentecostals and Nazarenes and whatever could explain in precise detail exactly which doctrines and practices set them apart from other Christian denominations. Many people can still do that, of course, but it seems to me a lot of self-identified Christians really don’t pay attention to those details any more. They are concerned less with how a church understands communion and baptism and more about a church’s views on social and political issues.
If you go to Steve B’s site, “Political Animal,” you’ll see that Mormonism is creating a problem for The Beckster.
That poor, stupid sap. He went ‘all Christian’ on everyone, but chose an unpopular flavor.
Good! We need some more division in the Teabaggers. When you start to combine political and religious messianism is when you get the very worst of both, and positively lethal in combination.
This fails to explain why a solid block of conservatives lead by Newt Gingrich went on a crusade to impeach president Clinton. Their concept of loyalty and justice to the tribe is based on more than just race. There is a substantial religious component, as well as a substantial economic injustice component. That is, you must not only be white but also Christian and demonstrate favoritism to the already rich and powerful.
I speak only for myself, but I do not love “unfettered”, that is, wholly unrestrained, speech. I don’t love any absolute or intractable rights of any kind. To give any one person absolute power to act in any respect is to diminish the capacity of others. At one time, conservatives in this country understood that rights and freedoms had a cost. Now they seem oblivious, tossing out straw men about freedoms whenever anyone questions whether their ideas.
Liars and frauds like Glenn Beck have a right to speak in the public square because it is infeasible to constrain unjustified speech in public places without placing an undue burden on justified speech. I don’t think censoring Beck would help much, either — it would probably just feed the martyrdom and oppression complex he has.
If absolute rights are critical, why are some conservatives worked up into such an outrage that a few Muslims want to build a modest community center a couple blocks from WTC? By reasoning of absolute property rights, there is no basis upon which you could stop them.
This concept is most significant in this discussion. As joanr16 points out, the rights and principles which Republicans espouse, allegedly adhere to, and claim to protect, are thrown by the wayside just as soon as any leader they disagree with on one or more other (usually irrelevant) issues is elected. That is a huge problem, and few seem to want to address it on the substance. Go take a close look at how several issues were viewed under Bush as opposed to under Obama by the media and laymen. Warrantless wiretapping, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bank bailout, and deficit spending are all good examples. When one guy was in charge, they were all just fine, wonderful things. The next guy takes over and now they’re all evil takeovers and destroying the country. What do you call that, other than authoritarian?
I don’t claim that all, or even most, liberals and independents are completely consistent in their thoughts and actions. However, I see a higher degree of willingness to address the facts and reasoning of the case at hand from them, and less degree to accommodate hypocrisy and short-term post-hoc rationalizations from them.
It’s notable that the wall street bank bailout (TARP, as well as behind the scenes programs by the Federal Reserve) is brought up a lot by some conservatives. The reason why it’s interesting is that, for the most part, a rather large percentage of liberals thought it was a bad idea as well. Obama isn’t getting much praise for helping big banks from anyone. Many see the program as an utter failure, having not accomplished the goal of expanding lending to small business and individuals. The liberal idea, in case you were wondering, was the wipe out the bank executives and the shareholders entirely. That temporary nationalization, an “evil socialist” idea, would have made private entities pay for their mistakes. Unfortunately, we have an absolute right to personal property, power, and wealth in this country — and so that didn’t happen.
Further, it’s pretty strange that even after this many years of foreign war, you rarely ever hear the big name conservative leaders talk about the costs — whether in blood, dollars, or lost opportunities. The total cost of Afghanistan and Iraq have exceeded a trillion dollars, and the final long term cost will undoubtably be more. But if you want to find a “conservative” thinker who would mention this prominently with a straight face, you have to go to the likes of Ron Paul, a clear outsider for the movement as a whole. Is Libertarianism the place where conservatives are exiled for not loving Jesus enough? Or not loving war enough?
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@CUNDG, I didn’t watch it on TV nor did I attend… and neither did you. I find it illustrative, however, that your instinctive response is to denigrate and insult everyone who did, to stereotype them. Why is it okay to stereotype conservatives but not Muslims? (I don’t think it’s okay to stereotype or generalize about either.)
@Kagarato, the reason I, as an individual, supported Clinton’s impeachment is because he committed perjury… he lied under oath in a federal court proceeding. Nixon was going to be impeached for a lesser offense (obstruction of justice), and rightly so. Yes, Clinton also lied to the American people and perhaps to his wife, but those were political and personal offenses, not legal offenses (and if he’d had to face the public in another election he’d have been thrown out). Most of the people I knew who also supported Clinton’s impeachment did so for the same reason… the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the United States cannot be above the law.
Re TARP, it was a bad idea for many reasons, but at least the federal government has gotten most of the money back and is on track to actually make money on the it. We can’t say the same for the so-called “Stimulus” bill, actually a huge Democrat pet projects omnibus bill wrapped up in a “let no crisis go to waste” bow that totalled almost two-thirds of what has been spent to date on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars… and the deficits for FYs 2009, 2010, and projected for 2011 and several more years will EACH be more than the total costs spent to date on those wars.
@JoanR, having anyone on the Left accuse the Right of selective outrage is the ultimate in gall. Can you say “Pot calling the kettle black?” Is what you’re actually doing defending Obama by saying “Bush did it too?” In short, are you saying that Obama should be expected to be no better than Bush? That’s a pretty damning indictment, isn’t it? Or, was Bush actually not that bad because Obama is about the same?
Votes, folks. Does anyone want to attempt to explain reality to ObiJohn, or should I put him in the twit filter? I’ll leave it up to you. I don’t have time to respond to him myself.
You fear the Movement – and well you should. Blacks and feminists stand the most to lose when (not if) discrimination and taxation without representation are ended.
Beck and Palin are patsies, and you know it.
However, the groundswell is there, just waiting for an electrical jolt (itÂ´s like something from a Frankenstein B-movie. Igor:”ItÂ´s ALIVE, Master!”).
It will be interesting – aye, it will be amusing – to watch.
I don’t fear the “Movement.” I fear the place of tyranny and poverty into which the “Movement” is dragging the nation.
First — Actually, everyone who didn’t inherit a fortune and who works for a paycheck will lose, big time. And the jackboot of oppression will not discriminate based on race or gender.
Second — “Taxation without representation” ended a long time ago (look it up under “American Revolution”). Now all matters of federal taxation originate in the House of Representatives, who are the elected representatives of the people. You may not like the decisions they make, but you can’t say you aren’t represented. It’s a big country, and the representatives represent all of us, including people who have different views from yours. So they won’t always do exactly what you want all of the time.
Third — See item First. Teabaggers who believe they can restore white male privilege are going to be sadly disappointed, because the Corporate Overlords who are bankrolling the tea party don’t give a hoo haw about any of us. All they care about is low taxes, cheap labor, and being able to exploit that labor without government interference. And they don’t care whether that labor is black, white, male, female, legal, or illegal, as long as its cheap and compliant.
Yes, and so are you.
[Literary Reference Follows] I’d say the rough beast is slouching around already, although I’m not so sure it’s heading for Bethlehem.
Yes, we’ll all laugh all the say to the Soylent Green factory. It’ll be fun.
ObiJohn, ‘Can-you-be’ so dense as to think that Joan was defending Obama by saying ‘Bush did it too?’
And as for me, I didn’t go because I’m over 50 and didn’t want to see some of the worst minds of my generation that had gone on to rot, and I didn’t suspect that you went either. But I could tell by your tone and what you wrote that you were a supporter of the Teabaggers (don’t blame me, you folks named yourselves).
As for stereotyping, well, when a crowd has a good number of old, overweight white people carrying Confederate flags or paraphenalia, I don’t think it’s stereotyping to consider them morons or racists (and please don’t give me the old, ‘The War of Northern Aggression, States Rights, Southern Honor, blah, blah, blah, BS). If you carry a Confederate flag, or wear Confederate paraphenalia, you are either advocating racism, a return to a racist state, or are pig ignorant to the point of having a vacuum between your ears. Period! That, ObiJohn ‘Can-you-be-so-dense,’ is a fact.
Whether he stays or goes doesn’t matter to me. He hasn’t done anything to break any commenting policies, so I say let him stay if he so chooses. And if he breaks policies, “Bye bye…”
To maha @ 7:04pm:
I see the potential for a post based on Kevin Bove’s definition of “self-confidence”. I’m quite sure it has nothing to do with compassion, empathy, generosity, peace or mindfulness. So, yes, most Buddhists would be lacking.
I don’t know who Kevin Bove is. Further, based on what you say about him, I am not terribly interested in finding out who Kevin Bove is.
I will say that an ability to bullshit yourself about yourself should not be confused with self-confidence, although it usually is. In my experience, most people who are charismatic and oozing with assertive self-confidence are strangers to themselves. The genuine spiritual masters I’ve met, on the other hand, have been quiet and gentle beings except when the situation at hand calls for assertion. It’s not all about them, in other words. Show me someone who seeks adulation, and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t deserve it.
I’m not sure what you think I’m lacking, but I suspect I’m better off without it.
About race — yes, there was an irrational right reaction to the Clintons. so we can’t say that the whole rightwing reaction to cultural changes is based solely on the race of the President. But I do think we can say that the rapidity with which this TeaPartyism has moved to a frenzy beyond what was directed at the Clintons is a form of race panic. Let’s remember that those of us over 42 were born in a country where apartheid was still legal throughout the South.
Apparently, my comment above was not very clear. You responded to Kevin Bove’s statement, “White people who are into Buddhism are usually lacking in self-confidence”. I was simply suggesting that his definition of “self-confidence” likely does not include the personal qualities that a practicing Buddhist would be trying to perfect. My mistake for not referring directly to his comment and your reply.
Again, I find it illustrative that rather than argue against their positions, the knee-jerk response here is to label those who attended the Beck rally as racists… so you don’t have to argue against their positions, but instead argue against racism. I guess Alveda King, MLK’s niece, is a racist?
Here’s a serious question: can anyone on this site stretch their intellect enough to actually conceive of a reason that large numbers of Americans might be opposed to the current leadership in Washington and their policies that is principled rather than racist? Even if you disagree with that reason? Anyone? Buehler?
BTW, Maha, I commented on this site to try to get an honest dialogue going… but so far it ain’t happening. Instead, it’s the “call ’em racists” echo chamber. Come on… surely someone can do better than that. Think of the karma that would be earned.
I argue against their “positions” all the time, as near as I can make them out. The issue is that the tea partiers don’t seem to know what their positions are. “Take our country back” (from whom, exactly?), bring honor to America, get the country going in a better direction, etc., are not positions, but platitudes.
It’s like what I said to Linda — we probably agree more than we disagree on major goals, as near as I can understand them. But on one issue after another, whenever tea partiers do discuss a specific direction, it’s one that goes in exactly the opposite direction of what they say their goals are. I thought Steve Benen’s post, linked in the post above, articulated that very well. I’ve yet to see a single rightie address what Steve wrote. They all just whine about it.
But it’s because the tea partiers are so irrational, so contradictory, when they do stake out a specific position (again, consult Benen for a list), that one does get the impression none of them are thinking much. All they do is spew out whatever they’ve heard Beck, Palin, Limbaugh, etc., say.
I don’t personally think that racism is the primary motivation of the tea partiers. However, I do think they are steeped in a stew of fears, confusion, and bigotry, which is why they respond to dog whistles rather than reason (again, see Steve Benen’s post).
If you want to pick out a specific issue to debate you are welcome to do so, but be prepared to back up what you say with LINKS to ACTUAL DATA. Don’t just repeat the talking points. We’ve heard ’em already. And if you actually care to know what I’ve already written about a particular issue, you are welcome to use the search box in the left-hand column to search by keyword.
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Amerika erwacht! Beck is unleashing his Black Robe regiment. Today America tomorrow the world.
I haven’t figured out what the black robe regiment is. I associate black robes with priests and judges, or maybe church choirs. Of course, I wouldn’t mind a saffron robe regiment.
I don’t think you will ever figure it out, Maha…only because it originated in the mind of Glenn Beck where reality has no boundaries..It’s the twilight zone.. Patriotic tithing? a melding of a bunch of TV evangelists with Glenn Beck’s patriotic enterprises. It makes purchasing survival seeds sound like a good idea by comparison.