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April 25, 2010 5:34 AM   Subscribe


 
Yeah, that would be quite something.
posted by From Bklyn at 5:39 AM on April 25, 2010


"I'm like the fly Malcolm X, buy any jeans necessary." - K West.

I have absolutely nothing productive to say.
posted by boghead at 5:46 AM on April 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Tim Wise makes plenty of spot-on, undeniable points here, no question about it. If these tea party people were black, if this was a black movement with the same message and tactics, forget about it: half of them would be in jail, the other half under surveillance.

duvatney: if the 2 links to the same page thing wasn't a mistake, but rather your way of saying "this is really important" or whatever, it was ill-advised for Metafilter. I didn't care for it and I imagine most others here will be ticked off about it as well.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:49 AM on April 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic?

This is a useless thought exercise. You cannot divorce race from the factual, historical injustices visited on black Americans by white Americans.

The real thought exercise is to imagine if white defenders of the second amendment would be so vociferous in their defense of open carry rights if black Americans were the ones carrying weapons.

I think not.
posted by three blind mice at 5:50 AM on April 25, 2010 [16 favorites]


Thankfully, I've not received any right wing email forwards from anyone for several years now, but if I did I would fire this one off in response. Many older white males have a hard time understanding that "white privilege" actually exists (like the fish who asked what water is), but this little thought exercise is about as simple a lesson as I've seen.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:52 AM on April 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think I see how Arizona's near majority of legal Latino citizens can make a statement in a state where unconcealed carry laws empower them to do so.

My ID officer? Yes, let me just take off this Glock so I can reach into my pocket, comprende?
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:53 AM on April 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


Imagine a competent president. I'm OK with that.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:58 AM on April 25, 2010


Pretty muddled I thought.

The main reason that the right approves of the teaparty people is because they themselves are teaparty people. In fact (and I don't think this is too much of a stretch), if 50% of the people at these demonstrations were black, I don't think the right-wing media would be any more scared.

Imagine (to borrow a rhetorical device) that you had McCain now as president, and there was an equivalent left wing demonstration replete with guns, spitting and veiled threats, populated solely by white people. Now imagine what they'd be saying on Fox.

I'm not denying white privilege here, but the argument as presented ignores the tactics that are used by politicians of all stripes and their media dogs to demonise the enemy.
posted by seanyboy at 6:04 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well I think it's fucking dynamite. Thank you for posting it. Much food for thought.
posted by Monkeymoo at 6:14 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pretty muddled I thought.

Hmm... I thought he had a very simple point to make, and made it about as clearly as possible.

I'm not denying white privilege here...

Well, that was the whole point of Wise's essay. White privilege, plain and simple. Perhaps his message wasn't so muddled after all.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:17 AM on April 25, 2010 [18 favorites]


And you linked the same URL twice because... ?

Good point, well made sir!
posted by the noob at 6:18 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's this about the link being linked twice, I don't see that?
posted by dabitch at 6:18 AM on April 25, 2010


Our ever-diligent Mods must have cleaned it up. Yay mods!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:21 AM on April 25, 2010


Unbelievable. Someone links to a really thought provoking article and half the comments are about the technical aspects of the link. Wut?
posted by Monkeymoo at 6:27 AM on April 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


flapjax at midnite: I meant that I'm not denying white privilege exists. I just don't think this hypothetical situation is a good example. To my mind, swapping the imaginary black demonstrators with anyone from the left would (to my mind) provoke the same reaction from the right wing.
posted by seanyboy at 6:33 AM on April 25, 2010


I should review my comments before pressing post.
posted by seanyboy at 6:34 AM on April 25, 2010


Imagine if the tea party movement were made up of blue people with hair that connects to flying dragons. Would the government not attack them and steal all of their unobtanium?
posted by pwally at 6:46 AM on April 25, 2010 [12 favorites]




Between both the D.C. and Virginia open carry demonstrations on Monday there were less than 100 people.
That aside the Tea Party is looked upon by the media as being quaint as compared to how the media viewed the Black Panthers.
posted by vapidave at 6:52 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


To my mind, swapping the imaginary black demonstrators with anyone from the left would (to my mind) provoke the same reaction from the right wing.

If it were armed black people in this situation, I'm pretty sure that the full might of the US state apparatus would be brought to bear with terrible consequences for many, regardless of people's supposed right to assembly, to free association and to bear arms.

Are you suggesting they'd simply be left alone to march in protest while a few windbag pundits sounded off about the situation?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:53 AM on April 25, 2010 [13 favorites]


Good post, thanks. I'm saving this for when some dingbat from the office (I'm in Texas) sends me some more misinformation from the tea party.
posted by arcticseal at 6:54 AM on April 25, 2010


This would make an excellent performance art piece, to have a group of black and latino protesters literally mirroring everything the Tea Party does, but say in a different part location. Could be fun.

Still, it should be noted that Wise does an excellent job here of branding the Tea Party as racist by default and in the most ugliest of terms. I'm not sure that helps things, but then again, I'm not what would help things, other than people gaining some $#$$# common sense and start thinking more like how I do.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:01 AM on April 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


How is the tea party movement not some thinly veiled white power movement?
posted by chunking express at 7:08 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tea Party-ers will, for the most part, never be able to comprehend this message. In their minds, they genuinely are the victims.

The thing is, in some cases they are. Falling wages, decreasing jobs, a lot of these people are facing severe economic difficulty. Where was this American utopia they were promised? Reagan. Bush Sr. They did so much for the average hard working American. Yes, the country temporarily lost its way during the Clinton years, but luckily George W. came along to save us from the perils of Big Government. But now Obama is undoing everything great that was put together by those Good Conservatives.

It really is something similar to Stockholm syndrome. Tea Party-ers aren’t mentally able to place the blame for this country’s economic condition (at least partially) on conservatives—not when they’ve spent the last thirty years believing conservative ideas and promises (i.e. “trickle down”)—so they are instead lashing out at the groups that have been conveniently presented to them as the root causes of the problem by conservative think tanks and media: minorities and liberals.
posted by mazniak at 7:10 AM on April 25, 2010 [33 favorites]


Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

That's a damn good point.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:12 AM on April 25, 2010 [88 favorites]


How is the tea party movement not some thinly veiled white power movement?

How IS the tea party movement a thinly veiled white power movement?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:14 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


how about imagining the tea party were black?
posted by kitchenrat at 7:24 AM on April 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition

We don't have to imagine.
Tensions in the already intense debate over convicted killer Gary Graham's scheduled execution escalated Friday as a dozen armed black activists shoved a delegate outside the state Republican convention in downtown Houston.
...

Quanell X's group - comprising members of the New Black Panther Party, the National Black United Front and the New Black Muslim Movement - arrived wearing all black, except for Quanell X. Many carried shotguns, AK-47s and other rifles.

It is legal in Texas to carry such firearms openly as long as the carrier is not a felon and does not aim the weapon at anyone.
I remember seeing this on the CNN or something at the time. They spent like 30 seconds on it and their explanation was basically "Well, it's Texas. People are allowed to carry guns around"

You know, I just hate this whole "IMAGINE IF IT WAS THE OTHER GUYS ARGUMENT!". The key problem is the first word. IMAGINE. The whole 'thought exercise' essentially involves taking your your own biases about how the world works and imagining how unfair it is to yourself or your group.

Rush Limbaugh does it all the time. Always saying "Imagine if the Liberals did X!" Where X is something he thinks is analogous to something conservatives are getting bashed for. Or the other way around, "Imagine if Conservatives did Y!" where Y is something he thinks "Liberals" are doing and getting away with. Usually when I hear clips like that, it's something pretty ridiculous. But in his case it's an opportunity to both complain about the unfairness of the world towards conservatives and also and also propagandize about what "Liberals are like". That's my main reason for disliking this rhetorical device.

I'm sure this blog poster is sincere, but the fact of the matter is that unless something is done we can't complain about how unfair the reaction would be in our heads.

---

The other thing is: There were huge protests against Bush. And they were full of plenty of normal liberals/progressives. But of course there was a fringe element as well. Instead of birtherism, there was 9/11 trutherism. And these people got complained about on the right, called traitors, etc. but you see the same rhetoric about tea partiers on the left now. But the MSM mostly ignored them.

So if anything, I kind of think this kind of thing would mostly get ignored.

But mostly I hate the whole "let's imagine stuff and get mad about it" line of reasoning. Imagination is, obviously, an inherently unreliable way to learn things about the world.
posted by delmoi at 7:26 AM on April 25, 2010 [40 favorites]


Something about the tea people's firearms obsession and the vitriol has troubled me in a way I could not quite get a handle on, and I think this article has helped. The unwillingness to apply the label "terrorist" to white folks clearly engaged in terrorist acts is further reflection of racial bias when it comes to conservative culture. Great post... really woke me up this morning.
posted by kinnakeet at 7:28 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


How IS the tea party movement a thinly veiled white power movement?

Well, firstly, they have some times to actual white power movements and language:

White Nationalists Tied to Tea Parties
Pat Buchanan and Tea Party Going "White Power"

But, more importantly, it's a mainly white movement that seems primarily motivated by outrage over a black president (and not taxes; actual surveys demonstrate they're mostly pretty happy with their tax burden).. All the "Kanya" stuff, and the "where's the birth certificate" stuff, and the statistics that they think Obama cares more about blacks, and that somehow the system is set up to make things easier for blacks --

Well, if it walks like a duck.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:28 AM on April 25, 2010 [18 favorites]


Kenya, not Kanya.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:30 AM on April 25, 2010


From the article:

How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

Well, at least one. Having weapons isn't the problem, it's using them. For me, at least, the line is active threats toward specific people, or actual violence. Beyond that, say what you want and carry what you want, no matter how much melanin you have in your skin. You can have any opinion you like, no matter how much I may despise it.

I don't expect, however, that the authorities or most of society would look at it in the same way. A white person carrying a weapon is 'just posturing'; a black person packing is considered an active threat. And an Arab with a gun, making incendiary political speeches? That poor bastard would disappear forever, if they didn't just assassinate him. Hell, the gun's probably optional.

I find that completely appalling, but I also feel exceptionally isolated in that opinion. I keep saying that we've lost our cultural narrative, that we've fallen into expedience over ideals in virtually every area of society, but people look at me like I'm an alien when I make that claim. I should point them at that article. It's a good thought experiment.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights...." ALL men (and women, of course). Not just whites, not just American citizens. ALL people. And it absolutely drives me around the bend to watch people equivocate around that fundamental truth, that everyone has those rights, no matter where they live or what opinions they hold.

Expedience über alles, no matter that it has cost us our collective soul.
posted by Malor at 7:30 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I question the wisdom of this kind of political strategy.

If it weren't for people giving them attention (negative or otherwise), how many people would even know the Tea Party existed? Doesn't attacking political opposition in the media only tend to legitimize it - or at least give it exposure for growth - when you do it this far out from elections?
posted by empyrean at 7:33 AM on April 25, 2010


How IS the tea party movement a thinly veiled white power movement?

Let me count the ways.

It's obviously a white power movement. Anyone at all familiar with the white power movement in the US can hear the dog whistles blowing like crazy. And sometimes, it's an air horn (the racist signs, for example). But the underlying logic of the teabagger right -- faithfully repeated by the press every time they're covered -- is that they are fighting to get "their" country back, as if "they" obviously held title to it by virtue of being white, above and beyond anything else (and the part that goes unspoken) but also of course "Christian," "straight," (yeah right) and with their own families' immigrant history safely at least 2 generations back. If you don't see the white power aspects of the tea party, you're trying not to. The furious denials that this is what it's about are the best evidence that this is precisely what it's about. The US is trending steadily toward a non-white majority future, already arrived in some places (hence the special vehemence of the white-power/tea party alliance in the Southwest).

This is the Southern Strategy nationalized. That's all it is. Anyone who says different is either a lying racist covering up for what s/he knows to be true, or ignorant of the street-level political views of the people holding the illiterate signs on TV.

It's not just the demonstrators. I just returned from a funeral where I got to see the west coast half of my family (whom I would happily never see again). They're white, protestant, and mostly filthy rich and politically naive. They aren't unemployed or struggling. Most of them drive fancy cars and live in fancy houses. And yet they sit around telling bigoted jokes and praising Sean Hannity and his ilk as if the mere fact of the US having elected a black president meant the colored hordes were right outside their well secured doors. They were always like this. Now they've got a legitimating discourse and a "party" for themselves. They're not out protesting or riding the bus to DC. But they're firmly in support of those who are. They honestly believe America is "their country" and that blacks (and especially Latinos, this being California) are trying to "take it away from them" and leave them poor.

These are reasonably educated people. With more money than they will ever need. Living in heavily secured white enclaves. They feel entitled to their wealth as if their money proved they work harder and are morally superior to the guys who valet park their cars and mow their lawns. Yet they act like they are up against the wall and about to be driven into the sea by rampaging minorities out to take away "their" country.

Took me several showers to wash off the stench when I got back to New York.

I told several of them I had converted to Islam and was considering moving to Pakistan. Freaked them right out.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:34 AM on April 25, 2010 [92 favorites]


>How is the tea party movement not some thinly veiled white power movement?

Because for many of its members, it's not a thinly-veiled white power movement.

Look, I'm not interested in wasting my time to defend people who support the Tea Party. (Here I pause to shudder.) But...and God, am I embarrassed to admit this...I have a few family members who have attended their rallies.

I don't profess to understand why these highly-educated, by-all-other-appearances rational people find this movement appealing, but they have certainly tried (FAR too often for my comfort) to explain their reasons to me. From what I can tell, a strong sense of alienation from the government, inspired by recent wars and Washington's fumbling attempts to address the economic recession, compels them to throw their full weight into this movement. Rationality goes out the window. An affective solidarity with others who feel "betrayed" is what's most important here.

Of course, racism IS at the core, insofar as white privilege is the foundation that makes this movement possible in its current, loud, obnoxious form. But to say that the movement is propelled by an ideology of "white power" is to grossly misunderstand the reasons for which many* people have joined the Tea Party. I think a clear view of members' motivations and self-understandings is important information when trying to formulate strategies to oppose this "movement."



* Of course, this isn't to say there aren't out-and-out lunatics and unabashed racists in the Tea Party, either.
posted by artemisia at 7:35 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


To my mind, swapping the imaginary black demonstrators with anyone from the left would (to my mind) provoke the same reaction from the right wing.

The first thing to point out is that a black organization might have a very difficult time obtaining permits for the events, thus rendering any public gatherings extra-legal. Why? Because many municipal governments in white-dominated areas are heavily racist and fear any gathering of black people for any reason; much less a gathering of heavily (legally!) armed black people talking about seizing the reins of power. So the gatherings would be extra-legal in most places, exposing attendees and organizers up to arrest and prosecution.

The next thing to think about is the media narrative. The narrative of armed black men in the United States is never a positive one. The narrative only touches on the idea of "patriotism" if the men in question are active duty military far away from the the US. Armed black men in the US are presumed to be criminals; the public would be alarmed; their gatherings would be criminalized; their leaders jailed. It's really not that complicated. Now, if the question is "Why are black people treated this way in the United States," I suggest you immerse yourself in popular media and newscasts from the last 50 years, and construct a mental image of what an black American man is in the popular imagination.

Finally, for what it's worth, I don't think anyone should be attending political rallies with firearms; but that's just me.
posted by Mister_A at 7:36 AM on April 25, 2010 [12 favorites]


Because for many of its members, it's not a thinly-veiled white power movement.

Defending white privilege is inherently pursuing a white power agenda, even if the people who do it don't realize it.

Make no mistake, it is entirely possible for people who do not think they are racist, and are not especially interested in pursuing a race-based ideology, to do so anyway through a selfish, unthinking desire to protect their privilege at all cost, when that privilege is rooted in their skin tone. And, when you boil down the Tea Party's message, it becomes one of "Our country is being stolen from us, our opportunities are being taken, our taxes, our influence, our religion, our guns," and when you manage to track down who they think is taking it and where it's going, you find all sorts of creepy, coded, race based messages about undeserving people who are not America or people of color who get too many opportunities or urban criminals or whatever.

Please don't argue it's not racist because the people in the movement don't think it's racist. This is the least thoughtful movement in recent American history; they're more defined what what they don't bother to think about than what they do.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:45 AM on April 25, 2010 [89 favorites]


I'm sure it'd be all cool so long as there was a couple token white guys.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 7:45 AM on April 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


alienation from the government, inspired by recent wars

Really? The not-yet-militant fellow traveler tea party supporters I know all just loved the Iraq war and despised the MUCH larger number of Americans who opposed it than are now coming out to tea party events. 400 right wing bigots show up in DC and CNN covers it all day long. 200,000 anti war protesters (with whom I would be there is almost no tea party overlap) show up and it merits a 10 second story.

I'm not sure what you're saying. So there are some people at these rallies or carrying their guns around or whatever who aren't actually motivated by racism first and foremost? I'll concede that. But I doubt it's many of them, and I don't necessarily think that even the most bigoted among them could honestly admit to themselves that this is about race. But it obviously is for most of them.

I hope they still have some capacity for shame. When one of these mobs turns truly violent, or when some tea party type pulls the next McVeigh incident, there had better be some accounting.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:47 AM on April 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Or what Astro Zombie said. The more teabaggers cry and whine that they're not really racists (or their apologists do), the more I'm convinced that's exactly what they are.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:48 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm sure this blog poster is sincere, but the fact of the matter is that unless something is done we can't complain about how unfair the reaction would be in our heads.

But....that's kind of the whole point of a thought exercise, is to point out the inherant unfairness so we do do something. No?

In this case, I think the "do something" would be "start treating the Tea Party members who abuse congresspeople and carry weapons like a dangerous group, the way we WOULD do with members of other groups."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:49 AM on April 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Really, it's like saying the anti-immigrant movement that overlaps the tea party very substantially is not worked up about race but about economics. It's worked up about racialized economic privilege. That's racist.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:51 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry, but I don't think there's a lot of equivalency between the protests taking place during Bush's presidency and the ones going on now. There'd be, say, a multi-million person global protest against the war in Iraq, and it would get only token mention on the news. The Tea Partiers, on the other hand, have gotten, I think, pretty consistent coverage (whether good or bad).

Part of the difference is that protest movements of all kinds probably have more weight now that there is this huge social information infrastructure set up. I mean, that's definitely part of why the protests in Iran had such influence, because for the first time it hardly mattered how much the media was willing to pay attention, the news was still getting through.

So that's probably why the tea party is getting the attention it is now.

But this is the biggest difference: very few of the protesters disliked or feared Bush for who he was. They feared and disliked him for what he did and the behavior of the company he kept. A good portion of tea partiers don't think Obama should be president, not because he's incompetent, but because they have serious misgiviings over whether he is an "American". This is not because there is any factual uncertainty as to his origins. It is because he is black. It is because there is a "Hussein" in his name. It is because he was raised in countries where Christianity is not the dominant religion, and where white people were not the dominant race or culture.

This is racism.

I know I am b it of a hypocrite politicallly, more likely to forgive the actions of someone who is liberal rather than someone who is conservative, but I'd like to think that at least my position is at least marginally consistent. I'm not against government spending, I'm not against regulations, I'm not against government healthcare. I am against mixing religion or moral rules with government, and I don't like it when the government starts wars in countries they have no right being involved in (hell, I didn't even like it when we invaded Afghanistan, and that war was actually legal). I protested those things and I think I was right to do it. Tea Partiers claim that they are simply fed up with government spending and government intrusion when most of them said nothing or reacted positively at the thought of a multi-trillion dollar war. Few of them went out into the streets when the Patriot Act was signed. Few of them spoke out against wire tapping or monitoring internet usage by the government.

And now they're coming out to protest government intrusion and government spending.

I thought this article was really dead-on and I think that even if it's largely meaningless or an over-simplification to do these imagination exercises, I think the main point still stands, which is that the country as a whole does not appear to be threatened by the expression of dissent voiced by white people in the same way that they fear the expression of dissent by black people.

I'd add another criteria, though: these white protesters are also solidly in the middle class. So they also don't represent a threat of class warfare. If large groups of very poor white people showed up in protest, I suspect that this would also be viewed negatively.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:54 AM on April 25, 2010 [28 favorites]


I think this is one of the very few thought experiments that might actually get through to people sympathetic to the teabaggers. Thanks for posting it.
posted by digitalprimate at 7:57 AM on April 25, 2010


Of course, the people who should do the imagining that Mr. Wise suggests here, already hide behind their excuses and implicit (or completely open) acceptance of the inherent racism of their movement...I do not doubt it will fall on deaf ears. For the rest of us, this is an interesting exercise in understanding our own...
posted by Chuffy at 8:00 AM on April 25, 2010


...own double-standards. To what end, I'm not sure.
posted by Chuffy at 8:00 AM on April 25, 2010


Okay, so as far as I understand the etymologies and historical development of each of the terms, "white power," "white privilege," and "racism" are not interchangeable in meaning or application. All are deplorable and equally worthy of condemnation. But they aren't interchangeable, and it just seems to me to be supremely unhelpful to conflate them in this discussion. What it does is promote the idea that everyone who joins the movement is quietly but knowingly subscribing to an ideology of white supremacy.

If you think this is the case, okay; I hope you're wrong, because it makes the whole thing even MORE profoundly disturbing than it already is. I'm only going here on my pained discussions with cousins whom I've never much enjoyed anyway.

I think what inspired me to post was the term "thinly-veiled." "Thinly veiled," to me, implies that the veiled object is something that everyone can see, that everyone knows is there. Yet based on the discussions I've had with a few members, I don't think everyone who is a part of the movement sees or knows white supremacy as a motivating factor in their participation. This is, of course, anecdata in the truest sense.

Add to that the fact that I feel kind of gross and uncomfortable even writing this post, because I'm not interested in defending anyone's membership in this organization... so maybe I'll bow out of the discussion now.
posted by artemisia at 8:01 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what you're saying. So there are some people at these rallies or carrying their guns around or whatever who aren't actually motivated by racism first and foremost? I'll concede that.

Yeah, that's pretty much what I was saying -- it was not in response to the blog post, but to a comment someone made here about white supremacy.

But I doubt it's many of them, and I don't necessarily think that even the most bigoted among them could honestly admit to themselves that this is about race. But it obviously is for most of them.

Like I said, all I've got is anecdata, and suddenly I don't know why I even bothered to post about it -- it's not like I'm trying to change Mefites opinions of the Tea Party; I find it as loathsome as you do. So... yeah.
posted by artemisia at 8:05 AM on April 25, 2010


It's a hallmark of all American racist discourse that it is "just saying," and "doesn't think of itself as racist." A feature of racism is that, because it is socially stigmatized and repugnant, one must convince oneself that one's racist views are not based on race but on "objective" or "natural" or "apparent" "facts." And it feeds itself.

I too think the signature feature of the tea party is that it is a middle class, not working-class, movement. Its economic populism is the "thin veil" over its vehement racism.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:10 AM on April 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


I've been doing a different mental exercise: it's called "What did I do during the Reagan/Bush/Bush era?" Question: Did I support ridiculous candidates for president? Answer: I supported Jesse Jackson, who wasn't ridiculous but wasn't especially qualified to be president; it was in the hope that my support of his platform would influence the platform of the eventual Democratic candidate. So when I see glazed-eyed supporters of Sarah Palin, I ask myself, "Did I look like that?" and think I did not. Question: Did I participate in idiotic protest marches with badly spelled signs? Answer: I recall a few anti-Gulf War rallies where my group of protesters was wedged in between pro-hemp protesters and pro-PLO protesters, and I felt a little uncomfortable. However, the spelling was flawless. Question: Did I ever post inflammatory Facebook status updates where I wished harm on the president? Answer: Facebook didn't exist then, and no one in his right mind would wish W harm with Cheney as vice-president- still, I don't recall vitriol like this. We genuinely believed the solution was to elect a different president. And now we have, and it's my job to try to tolerate dissent. I truly don't like the tea-baggers, but I'm straining with all my might to see their point of view. Question: would they do the same for me?
posted by acrasis at 8:13 AM on April 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


One thought I've had on the gun-toting folks is pretty simple. It's a lose-lose situation, only, at least currently, without violence.

If the police allow them to protest peacefully, we appear to be accepting the double-standard (and, really, how many people truly care about the double-standard? It is probably the prevailing sentiment in America, to be honest - I am rarely shocked to find that even my liberal friends don't understand racism and white privilege). If the police move in to deliver the happy hippie beatdown, they will be met with armed conflict.

So, we let the angry white people get away with it. They want violence, they're itching for it. They're armed. They are flaunting it. So what should we do about it? Validate them by letting them get away with it, or invite bloody conflict? Lose lose.
posted by Chuffy at 8:16 AM on April 25, 2010


This is the problem w/ all you librels. Always freaking imagining shit and putting yourself in other people's shoes and empathy and shit. You're damn right we'd lock up a bunch of black people if they did this stuff. Why? Because they'd be out to get ME. That's why we protest now. Because the gov't is out to get ME. There's no hypocrisy here, because it's all about protecting ME.
posted by brevator at 8:16 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Two things that, to my mind, spell trouble for the Tea Party idiots:

1. The "anger" they have at being "ignored" will pale in comparison to the real victims in our society if things don't get better. If the middle class are losings jobs and homes, the lower class are going hungry. When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.

2. They may be winning the battle as they see it, but they are losing the demographics war. Tea Partiers, just like Republicans, skew white and older. Brown people (and minorities, in general) are out-populating them. They are also learning to use their political voices. This country, as always, is changing - the dinosaurs who refuse to acknowledge that will go extinct.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:17 AM on April 25, 2010


Please don't argue it's not racist because the people in the movement don't think it's racist. This is the least thoughtful movement in recent American history; they're more defined what what they don't bother to think about than what they do.

I think this is the best description of the issue with the "intent defense" regarding privilege and power.

The people who try to use the excuse they haven't thought about what they're doing or saying, or why, as a defense against doing so when it's pointed out to them, just admitted they're the least qualified people present to give an informed opinion, they absolutely want to stay that way, and yet demand their opinion be given weight over people who HAVE.
posted by yeloson at 8:25 AM on April 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


If the Tea Party was Black, would that turn Glenn Beck into Louis Farrakhan? And how awesome would it Be if Farrakhan got an hour every night on MSNBC with a giant blackboard?

To me the real issue isn't the fringe racism of the Tea Party, or it's suspicious timing. It's the inflation of their importance by the media. The media narrative that drives this stuff has proven itself time and time again to be wrong. This is the same media that blew it in 2000, on the Iraq war, and the financial mess. They were totally befuddled by the Obama campaign, continued to take Sarah Palin seriously after that Charlie Gibson Interview, and now they're propping up the Tea Party.

Rachel Maddow seems to be the only one actually shedding some light on just how much of a corporate funded sham this whole "grassroots" movement is.
posted by billyfleetwood at 8:27 AM on April 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


Monkeymoo: Unbelievable. Someone links to a really thought provoking article and half the comments are about the technical aspects of the link. Wut?

It isn't thought provoking because it isn't a 'thought experiment,' we know what would happen if a group of black people did something similar, because they did, and we know what happened. This is just a wank.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:28 AM on April 25, 2010


I understand artemisia's sentiment though I suspect fourcheesemac, Astro Zombie, Deathalicious are correct.

My own experience to 'Talking with Tea Partiers' (at least some of the vocal ones) is that they don't suffer from not having thought about things. They have elaborate rationales for why everything under Obama's watch is unconstitutional. They will give lip service to not supporting Bush too, but conveniently they were never moved to act... until now.

Their position often reduces to being such strict, narrow constitutionalists that it's uncertain that they would recognize the legitimacy of the FAA.

It's an interpretation that would happily keep US firmly in the 18th century for now and all time and if that means losing the 13th and 19th amendments -- hey -- I'm sure they never thought about that!
posted by mazola at 8:29 AM on April 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Uh, "tea party" attendees are typically armed with nothing more than illiteracy on a stick. Other accessories are sold separately.

Now: imagine, just for a moment, that the tea party was not real. Imagine that healthcare was snuffed in the cradle by an act of concentrated lobbying, and not by the apparent refugees of Wrestlemania VI. Imagine that the tea party itself was just the ultimate stage of reality TV, a television-led agrarian psuedo-movement as useful to the Right as to the Left. Imagine that the levers of power were not out here among us, and that political outcomes were never, in fact, a product of our engagement in culture war. Imagine that we never mattered.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:29 AM on April 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


There'd be, say, a multi-million person global protest against the war in Iraq, and it would get only token mention on the news. The Tea Partiers, on the other hand, have gotten, I think, pretty consistent coverage (whether good or bad).

I've been struck by this thought lately, too. Can't figure out why such a small group of people are getting such a disproportionately large representation in the media. The best answers I've come up with are the charisma and connection of the celebrity activists. There was no one like Sarah Palin on the anti-Iraq front, that I remember. Sure, in Seattle we'd get Sherman Alexie, but no one who really fired people up the way Palin manages to, both for and against her. It reminds me of the line in the Howard Stern movie when Pig Vomit (or somebody) runs through the listenership data of Stern's show. I can't remember the exact numbers... Fans of Howard stern were listening an average of 1 hour each day with the number one reason stated for tuning in to the show being that they wanted to hear what he would say next. People who said they did not like Howard Stern were listening for an average of 2 hours a day, again with the number one reason for tuning in being that they wanted to hear what Stern would say next.

Additionally, the protests against the Iraq war weren't all that out of the ordinary. They meant a lot to those of us doing the demonstrating, but not a lot to outside observers. Sure, there were a million people, but they were just protesting a war and lumping together a handful of other issues the same way they do at every protest. There wasn't anything particularly newsworthy about those protests (though on occasion, the size of the protests made the events newsworthy, even if it was only a mention in the hourly traffic report). Now, we've got protests by people who don't look like most protesters we've seen in the past and they're doing crazy things like walking around with guns and talking about things that protests don't usually address. And often these protesters do stupid things or misspel their signs, which makes people who disagree with them want to tune in. Even more striking, perhaps, is contrasting media coverage of the tea party protests and protests of more run-of-the-mill conservative activism. Anti-abortion protests have been going along quite steadily for many years, and I doubt recent anti-abortion protests have gotten much press aside from the relatively out-of-the-ordinary murders here and there.
posted by msbrauer at 8:31 AM on April 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


The more teabaggers [object] that they're not really racists...the more I'm convinced that's exactly what they are.

And that's really the issue. For all the talk of ulterior motives, subconcious biases, etc., it flips right back around there.
posted by cribcage at 8:31 AM on April 25, 2010


My Venn diagram for the Teabaggers shows a lot of overlap between racists and the disaffected but both sets are easily circumscribed by the set of 'people who don't think for themselves'.
posted by vapidave at 8:32 AM on April 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


You know, I'm with delmoi here. I fucking hate the Tea Party, but you've gotta know your enemy — and "thought experiments" like this strike me as an impediment to real knowledge.

It's one thing to ask yourself "How would my Tea Partier uncle, who I hang out with every Sunday, feel about an armed movement of black protesters?" It's possible to give a well-informed and nuanced answer to that sort of question, provided you know some things about what makes that uncle of yours tick. You can ask yourself "How racist is he?" "How empathetic is he?" "How critical is he?"

But asking "How would THOSE PEOPLE feel...." is an exercise in false generalization and deliberate strawmannery. There is simply no single answer to the question. Some folks in the movement would be thrilled by a black militant resurgence; some would be horrified; some would be confused; some would ignore the whole thing. I wouldn't be surprised if the dominant reaction was horror, but then I would be surprised if the dominant reaction was confusion or boredom either.

I agree that the rhetoric of the Tea Parties is often horrifyingly racist. That's a bad, bad thing, and I'll join the rest of y'all in condemning it. But as others are pointing out, it's easy to be an instrument of structural racism — a mouthpiece for other people's harmful rhetoric, an unreflective user of privileges you didn't earn — without having a thought in your own head one way or another on the issue. You can hang a Malcolm X poster on your wall and still be part of the problem, you know? And the converse of that is that you can be part-of-the-Tea-Party-problem and still love the Nation of Islam at least as an idea. Do people like that actually exist? Well, you can't just guess. You've gotta go look.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:42 AM on April 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


The most flawed premise in the article is that the 100 armed demonstrators on April 19 were part of the Tea Parties. They weren't. The "armed march" loons were mostly clustered around Larry Pratt of the Gun Owners of America. Larry has a long and sordid history of sucking up to white supremacists like Pete Peters, John Trochmann, Louis Beam and the like.

Pratt was the fellow at the Estes Park Meeting Of Christian Men in 1993 who proposed white supremacists begin forming "unorganized 2nd Amendment militias" as a way of sucking gun rights radicals deeper into the insurrectionary theory of the 2nd Amendment and broadening the base of armed white supremacist conflict with the federal government.

The underlying strategy was promoted as Leaderless Resistance, an explicitly terrorist form of political violence. It was developed and promoted by Louis Beam, one of the defendants in the Ft. Smith sedition trial (which featured the same charge of seditious conspiracy as was used to to recently arrest the Hutaree.) All of the Ft Smith defendant were acquitted and went back to their nefarious business of promoting a war against the federal government.

So 15 years ago, the "militia movement" was strongly shaped and guided by white racialists. The Tea Parties are a little different. The movement was started by remnants of Ron Paul's presidential campaign -- an extreme fringe of electoral politics, but not a bunch of anti-government terrorists and over white nationalists like previously. So the white supremacists are playing catch-up with the Tea Parties, not shaping and guiding them from the start.

So the Tea Parties do have a white nationalist terrorist component, but they are subversive infiltrators of the movement, rather than the architects of it. The political agitation is stirring up the separatists, violent extremists and terrorists devoted to white nationalism, but they (like the Republican Party) are not leading the movement, but are attempting to direct it (with notably mixed success.)

The people with explicitly terrorist agendas will continue to shoot up crowds (Pentagon and Holocaust Museum shootings), crash airplanes into buildings, get infiltrated and busted by law enforcement for a variety of extremely stupid terrorist actions (Hutaree, etc ad nauseum.) The problem remains the most dangerous ones (lone wolves like Tim McVeigh and Eric Rudolph) will fly completely under law enforcement informant radar. So the chances of a really horrendous mass casualty terrorism event remain high.

So unless something is done to turn down the rhetoric coming from the Tea Parties and their Republican/corporatist media cheerleaders like Limbaugh and Beck, they will continue to incite violence from their right. Political extremism is a weird relativistic continuum, but compared to people like Louis Beam and Tim McVeigh, the Tea Parties are relative moderates. (* exploding head warning *)

But comparing the Tea Partys to Black Panthers isn't going to clarify anything or lead to insights among significant numbers of the polity so as to reduce the risk of catastrophic political violence.

The majority of the Tea Party participants are willing to accept the social and economic benefits that accrue from their mostly passive racism, but few of them will step out and take an overtly white nationalist position (like Pat Buchanan) without lots of political cover (such as we will undoubtedly see if immigration reform becomes a national political issue before the mid term elections next Fall.)

Oddly enough, the current power and responsibility for bettering the situation lies with the political establishment -- and they are most assuredly screwing the pooch as this situation deteriorates. After next Fall's elections, the explicitly terrorist factions will shed a lot of the restraints they are currently operating under and we will see the excrement proceed into the air-moving equipment.
posted by warbaby at 8:43 AM on April 25, 2010 [14 favorites]


So right, Benny. The long view of this situation is so comforting to me. What we've got here is two trends intersecting. The one you describe is the primary trend, continuous with the long history of modernity. The world gets smaller, generations pass, our challenges become more severe and more collective, and reason, slowly but surely, creeps up on religion because in the end the best explanation is the one that helps you survive and reproduce, and there's no getting around that. (Why do you think the right despises the theory of evolution by natural selection so much? It would make me uncomfortable as a dinosaur too!)

So of course things like the right-wing-circus-du-jour of teapartyism (or the rise of Islamic militancy in the last couple of decades, exactly paralleled by racial supremacist and Christianist movements worldwide, and by nationalist and separatist movements more generally under the modern global order) are the reactions to all that. We are seeing a desperate global effort to muster and concentrate the forces of social reaction (in support of entrenched hierarchies of social power) in the form of a last stand for conservatism as we have known it. Their god has failed, no less that the communist one seemed to do at the end of the last century. They have taken a defensive posture, under an apocalyptic rhetoric. They are, fundamentally, acting like children, in a spectacle of evolutionary regression under fight or flight conditions -- or perhaps, "beasts" more than children. Children have faith. These people have only fear. And ignorance. Carefully cultivated -- forced on the poor, embraced as virtue by the better off among them. When the facts conspire to make you irrelevant, you just make up better facts.

They want to take us all down with them. That's what this is all about. If they can't be in charge they're not just leaving. They're kicking the game board over and taking a shit on the table before they toss a match on their way out and fuck you all very much you were never really American (Muslim, White, Party Line) enough anyway. Sore fucking losers. No wonder we're (Americans of all stripes) going to get asskicked by India and China and Brazil for the foreseeable future. Our culture is so fat and indolent and mean spirited and delusional that any little disruption in the 3D reality distortion field causes some of us to strap on guns and hunker down for battle.

The good thing is that all such movements have their very predictable cycles, and the Jacobin phase of this one is very nearly upon us.

We just can't let them win ever again.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:48 AM on April 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


Imagination is, obviously, an inherently unreliable way to learn things about the world.

Thought experiments are starting points intended to challenge received opinions or positions. That is their value. They worked out well for Einstein and many others.
posted by barrett caulk at 8:48 AM on April 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


I was once told by a tea-bagger co-worker of mine that he doesn't hate Obama because he's black, but "tons of black people support Obama just because he's black", and that the "racist blacks" are the ones oppressing the "hard-working Americans" today.

Yes, imagine if the Tea Party was black! And why not? They already see themselves as such, more or less. I don't think at any point in the history of Western civilization has a conservative, counter-revolutionary organization ever portrayed itself so rabidly as the oppressed anti-racist underdogs.

They are literally pretending to be exactly the opposite of what they are. They hold enormous political and economic power in this country -- they have millions of supporters at all levels of government, in the media, in the police and military -- yet they believe themselves to be under tremendous oppression by poverty-stricken minorities and merely one step away from being herded into cattle cars destined for concentration camps.

If turn-of-the-century American conservatives will be remembered for anything, it will be the hijacking and subsequent utter mastery of the Cult of Victimization.
posted by Avenger at 8:57 AM on April 25, 2010 [18 favorites]


I judge the Tea Party sympathizers in my life by something I call the BHO Quotient. Every time they refer to our president as "Barack Hussein Obama" (emphasis theirs) they get one strike.

(They have lots of strikes)
posted by oinopaponton at 9:04 AM on April 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


msbrauer: "I've been struck by this thought lately, too. Can't figure out why such a small group of people are getting such a disproportionately large representation in the media. The best answers I've come up with are the charisma and connection of the celebrity activists."

Iraq war protesters got by with flyers and group meetings. The promotional side of the Tea Party, on the other hand, is on channel 33 of my television right now.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:07 AM on April 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


So what I am discovering is that if something is an imperfect parallel, it is useless.

Well, there goes the use of metaphor and simile in the English language.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:10 AM on April 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


and not by the apparent refugees of Wrestlemania VI.

Oh shut your mouth. I'm not a die-hard wrestling fan, but I know plenty of them, and while troglodytes like McMahon are certainly conservatives, there's a sizaable population of wrestling fans who are solidly working class and are liberals.

I mean, you only have to look at TNA's treatment of Sarah Palin and its generally positive reception to know that wrestling fans are not necessarily the right-wing knuckle-draggers you seem to think they are.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:14 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


a lot of that bunch (TP) just pissed because the GOP lost the elelction...unable to get over it.
they may call themselves TP, or Libertarians, but the voted and continue to vote GOP
posted by Postroad at 9:15 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, I was pissed that George W Bush won a second time, but didn't engage in a similarly bizarre shadow puppet show of invented allegations and racialized dialogue. Being a poor loser might inspire some of this, but it's so coupled with genuine outrage over race that it can't be uncoupled.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:17 AM on April 25, 2010


it will be the hijacking and subsequent utter mastery of the Cult of Victimization.

Oh yes. This. I am constantly struck by how much discourse on the right resembles an utterly caricatured parody of the worst excesses of discourse on the academic left in the 1980s and 90s. In fact, I am struck that the right wing in American politics has, simply, embraced postmodernism as a political philosophy, and victimhood as virtue independent of context. Of course, the academic left was actually trying to articulate (however absurdly at times) solidarity with people who actually could claim a history of victimhood. But tea partiers are practicing pre-emptive victimhood. In years of mocking and belittling and denying the victimization of others, they became what they claimed to despise. Crybabies.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:18 AM on April 25, 2010 [12 favorites]


Okay, so as far as I understand the etymologies and historical development of each of the terms, "white power," "white privilege," and "racism" are not interchangeable in meaning or application

Supporting white power and white privilege IS racism, whether you're conscious of the fact that you're doing it or not. The first step in anti-racism for white people is the self-examination that white privilege makes it easy to avoid.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:19 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not a die-hard wrestling fan, but I know plenty of them, and while troglodytes like McMahon are certainly conservatives, there's a sizaable population of wrestling fans who are solidly working class and are liberals.

Anybody else see this chart? Some of it is pretty obvious but check out that bottom left corner.
posted by furiousthought at 9:28 AM on April 25, 2010 [14 favorites]


Say one thing, think another. Even if you don't acknowledge to yourself what you're thinking. This is a common mindset for many Americans when they think about race. It stems from holding two beliefs in your mind at the same time and trying to reconcile them: 1) racism is bad, 2) I'm good. If you have to reconcile the two and never, ever admit that you hold some racist beliefs, you will go to great lengths to come up with alternative rationales for those beliefs, to lie to yourself as much as anyone else. This is the unique pathology we're dealing with.

I bet this is clear to most Arabs, Sikhs, or people of a certain shade of brown. I was living in Chicago near the Sears Tower when 9/11 happened. One or two days later I was at the Union Station trying to travel to my parents' house, both out of fear of a subsequent attack and to comfort my distraught parents. What greeted me at that train station was several angry, bitter looks in my direction from complete strangers just because of the brown color of my skin. Those looks have always stayed with me since - it was the exact moment I was forced to come to grips with the real, unthinking ugliness my country was capable of. Couldn't they see that I was scared and seeking answers, just like them? How did I suddenly become the national enemy? In the weeks and months and years that followed, these angry people built up elaborate justifications for that singular, mindless racist feeling, which you're all familiar with. The media made a big deal out of the "national unity" and fellow-feeling that arose out of the attack, and everyone was quick to agree. The subtext to the rest of us was that this was national unity, but only for normal Americans of a normal color and normal religion. Everyone else is the Other and should be treated as such. That unique mindset in the wake of 9/11, with elaborate rationales and hiding your racist views from even yourself, set the stage and directly led to what's going on now with the Tea Partiers.
posted by naju at 9:34 AM on April 25, 2010 [31 favorites]


I've never found arguments from hypothetical facts particularly interesting. Hypothetical people can be said to behave in whatever way suits one's views, and one can never shown to be wrong.
posted by planet at 9:45 AM on April 25, 2010


I get the feeling that many of them are closeted racists. They have racist views, but they think those views are simply "facts" or just "not politically correct, but true." In this day and age, we know that a racist is a bad person, and a political pariah. Thus, almost no one but a Skinhead will say "yes" when asked point blank if they're a racist.

That's not to say this is the norm for the tea party. There are probably people who are just afraid of liberals (not black people) and have some Cold War era fear of socialism/communism, and the paranoid style on Fox News riles them up. It's definitely a fear-motivated movement. Deficits get people to write polite letters. Fear gets people to cry and make insane signs.

That said, I'm not considering gay a "race." Homophobia definitely seems to be the norm for the party. The ugliness of the GOP/Tea Party's views on sexuality mean that I will never be a Republican unless the party is somehow warped beyond recognition. They'll be as popular with gays and people empathetic to gays in 20 years as they are with black people right now. Between the growth of minorities, I don't see how the GOP can survive.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:55 AM on April 25, 2010


Imagination is, obviously, an inherently unreliable way to learn things about the world.

You know who else used imagination to learn things about the world?
posted by vibrotronica at 9:58 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tea Party-ers will, for the most part, never be able to comprehend this message. In their minds, they genuinely are the victims. The thing is, in some cases they are. Falling wages, decreasing jobs, a lot of these people are facing severe economic difficulty. Where was this American utopia they were promised?

They are not victims: they voted in support of the pain they are now experiencing. The mess that America is in is largely due to the actions of people that Tea Party fools elected.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:02 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


you don't need to imagine. the black panthers used to exercise their first amendment right by openly carrying weapons and some gun control laws at the time were passed in reaction to the black panthers.

from their platform:
We believe we can end police brutality in our black community by organizing black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our black community from racist police oppression and brutality. The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States gives a right to bear arms. We therefore believe that all black people should arm themselves for self defense
posted by drscroogemcduck at 10:03 AM on April 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


And then in California, Ronald Reagan banned open carry to keep the Black Panthers from policing the police!
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:05 AM on April 25, 2010


I get the feeling that many of them are closeted racists.

This and other similar statements should surprise no one. "Racist" is dropped at Metafilter on a regular basis, in almost every thread involving political beliefs that the collective does not like.

The most obvious outcome of a black, packing heat TeaParty rally would be:

1. people making fun of the spelling on the signs [like pretty much every metafilter thread on the teaparty] would be called racist

2. the reaction from the public would be characterized as racist no matter what it was

Beyond those two certainties, the rest of this thread is rank speculation.
posted by rr at 10:10 AM on April 25, 2010


rr, you are living in a fantasy world.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:12 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


THE EMPEROR CANNOT BE EXAMINED...
posted by clavdivs at 10:13 AM on April 25, 2010


Actually, there has been quite a lot of direct discussion of evidence of racism. You can address that, but merely pretending that MetaFilter cries "racist" without any cause whatsoever is just dropping a turd in this thread, and is not appreciated.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:13 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unbelievable. Someone links to a really thought provoking article and half the comments are about the technical aspects of the link. Wut?

No, it's like this: WHAT THE FUCK, PEOPLE??!??
posted by e40 at 10:17 AM on April 25, 2010


Can't figure out why such a small group of people are getting such a disproportionately large representation in the media. The best answers I've come up with are the charisma and connection of the celebrity activists.

Big media these days is exclusively about selling your eyeballs to advertisers. You are nothing more than a profit margin. The Tea Party is job security. The anti-war protests weren't well-covered because they harm the financial interests of the corporations that make the media profitable.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:18 AM on April 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Actually, there has been quite a lot of direct discussion of evidence of racism. You can address that, but merely pretending that MetaFilter cries "racist" without any cause whatsoever is just dropping a turd in this thread, and is not appreciated.

You're on weak ground in a thread that revolves around dancing about a strawman argument being a legitimate characterization.
posted by rr at 10:19 AM on April 25, 2010


And you're not interested in participating in, or addressing the discussion, but instead insulting the people who are participating in it and sabotaging it. Do you really think you're standing on terra firma?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:21 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


LOL.

MADDOW

Funny how they needed to run a "WE'RE NOT RACIST!" PSA. Maybe if they weren't so racist the healthcare bill wouldn't have passed. High five!
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:22 AM on April 25, 2010


This conversation has turned pretty quickly from the subject matter "a though experiment about privilege" to yet another screed about how racist the Tea Party is.

The Tea Party may be racist. Or it may contain trace elements of racists. Or it may have been hijacked by unsavoury elements. Or whatever.

But none of this matters. The subject here is privilege. It is "what would happen if there was something like the tea party filled with black people." In essence, it has nothing to do with the themes, beliefs or behaviour of the people who go to tea parties, and everything to do with how WE would react to those themes, beliefs and behaviour if the people involved were not white. Despite this, a huge number of people here have just picked up on the words "tea party" and "race" and are happily rehashing the "tea party people are racist" threads.

If anything - this is further evidence of what a weak thought experiment the article proposes is. And further evidence of how ridiculously incapable of rationality the hive mind is too.
posted by seanyboy at 10:37 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


And here's something (on subject). To be completely honest, it's hard for me to say this. And the stupider people here will almost certainly get on my back about it. But.

If I had an option of walking through the white republican gun-toting crowd, or the black liberal gun-toting crowd, I think I might choose the former. Does this make me a racist? Because I really don't think I'm a racist.
posted by seanyboy at 10:42 AM on April 25, 2010


Does this make me a racist? Because I really don't think I'm a racist.

I think you're asking the wrong question. You may or may not be racist, but that is, in fact, a racist viewpoint.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:48 AM on April 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


And you're not interested in participating in, or addressing the discussion, but instead insulting the people.

That's a pretty disingenuous remark, considering the content of the "discussion" comprising this thread.

As for whether or not a particular member's contribution is "appreciated," well, just so long as you were speaking for yourself there.
posted by cribcage at 10:49 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's a pretty disingenuous remark, considering the content of the "discussion" comprising this thread.

And what is the "discussion," and why the scare quotes?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:50 AM on April 25, 2010


If I had an option of walking through the white republican gun-toting crowd, or the black liberal gun-toting crowd, I think I might choose the former. Does this make me a racist? Because I really don't think I'm a racist.

No, it doesn't make you a racist. But I'm not sure what it's supposed to demonstrate. I would probably make the same choice, because I'm about as white as you can get. But I don't think the second group is more of a threat than the first to the country as a whole.
posted by me & my monkey at 10:52 AM on April 25, 2010


"When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose."

Unfortunately, history teaches us the opposite lesson involving revolutions - that they do not start until the underclass starts to get prosperous. Look at the French revolution, Iran, the Russian Revolution - these didn't start until the middle classes became prosperous enough that they had some spare time and energy to divert from the simple process of surviving.

Eric Hoffer is the father of writing about mass movements and talks about this in great detail in his book "The True Believer". Pretty well everything he says applies to the Tea Buggers - for example, he points out that the irrationality of a mass movement is actually an advantage, that what people are looking for is the lone voice speaking out against society, and that's much easier to attain if the speaker is saying something that's objectively stupid...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:57 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


If I had an option of walking through the white republican gun-toting crowd, or the black liberal gun-toting crowd, I think I might choose the former.


Are you white or black? Does that answer your question about whether you are a racist?
posted by binturong at 11:14 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been struck by this thought lately, too. Can't figure out why such a small group of people are getting such a disproportionately large representation in the media. The best answers I've come up with are the charisma and connection of the celebrity activists. There was no one like Sarah Palin on the anti-Iraq front, that I remember.
Well, a big part of is the fact that they have been embraced by the "right wing noise machine". These days you have Rachel Maddow, Olberman, and a few others on MSNBC but back then MSNBC was yet another right wing hack channel with Micheal Savage on TV. They actually suppressed the anti-war voices they did have, remember?

But Fox news is quite loyal to it's base. They're quite happy to promote Sarah Palin, and even give her her own show. Not to mention promote the teabaggers heavily.

On the other hand, when you look at Ron Paul supporters, many of whom are now teabaggers, you see that they were totally ignored by the MSM.

I think a good way to think about it is that to get mainstream media coverage, you need a "mainstream" establishment "sponsor". The teabaggers have it, with the entire right-wing establishment "sponsoring" them. The anti-war movement had no one.
Thought experiments are starting points intended to challenge received opinions or positions. That is their value. They worked out well for Einstein and many others.
Please, there's a huge difference between a thought experiment that least to a testable hypothesis, and one that doesn't. Einstein's thought experiments lead to specific testable experiments that people did, which proved relativity correct.
Anybody else see this chart? Some of it is pretty obvious but check out that bottom left corner.
Huh, that's fascinating. It shouldn't be too surprising that WW"E" (I still hate calling it that, it's WWF dammit)

---

Actually, as far as "racist blacks" all supporting Obama, his approval rating with them, while very high, isn't any higher then has been for other democratic presidents, like Clinton, IIRC.
posted by delmoi at 11:15 AM on April 25, 2010




Tim Wise is just gonna ride this white privilege thing out, yea? I mean, he's right, but doesn't he get tired of rehashing the same idea, forever?
posted by iamck at 11:28 AM on April 25, 2010


Yeah, and what's with all these cops arresting me every time I break into a business and steal stuff? I mean yeah, it's a crime, but don't they get tired of rehashing the same idea, forever?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:39 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Imagination is, obviously, an inherently unreliable way to learn things about the world.

Tell that to the people who relied on thought experiments a) to deduce the theory of special relativity, or b) to illustrate quantum superposition/coherence, or c) to critique the 2nd law of thermodynamics. These canonical examples of imagination helped to progress fields of scientific learning.

Gedankenexperiment

Not just in the natural sciences. Entire lives of mathematicians are based on reasoning about imaginary concepts. Consider the Poincaré conjecture. The theorem is about a four dimensional sphere! So, the study of math itself is a gigantic thought experiment.

And it's not even all that rarefied. Each and every one of us employ imagination throughout our daily lives. When faced with a decision to make, every prediction is an act of imagination. Imagination is part of the learning process; we use imagination so often that we are not voluntarily conscious of it—we live and breathe imagination. So, Tim Wise's article is only flawed because his particular attempt at mental make-believe was not rigorous enough.
posted by polymodus at 11:41 AM on April 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


The problem is that we don't get the human brain well enough to calculate what multiple human brains would do in an imaginary situation all that well. Meanwhile, we have the natural laws down pretty well, so it's possible to deduce very advanced physics with few-to-no experiments.

In short, we've go the difference between liberal arts and hard science. You can't guess what people would do to a tee.

While we would like to think Fox would freak out and call the group "the other," we can't really prove that it's likely they would do that.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:52 AM on April 25, 2010


ITT we demonstrate the outer extremes of the liberal desire to believe that everyone is a reasonable person deep down.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:20 PM on April 25, 2010


seanyboy: "And here's something (on subject). To be completely honest, it's hard for me to say this. And the stupider people here will almost certainly get on my back about it. But.

If I had an option of walking through the white republican gun-toting crowd, or the black liberal gun-toting crowd, I think I might choose the former. Does this make me a racist? Because I really don't think I'm a racist.
"

seanyboy, that must have been difficult to say and I'm glad you said it. It goes to the heart of what this article is addressing, and yes it is destructive and racist.

Racism, even when defined narrowly, is that which supports or relies on the institution of race; the idea that the heritable, economic and cultural cues which define race are in any way meaningful to things like trust, our shared humanity, our shared citizenship in our community, personal responsibility and accountability, punishment and reward, intelligence, and most centrally, human dignity and value.

In your comment you assert that you would feel more comfortable walking through a crowd of white gun toting lunatics than a crowd of black gun toting lunatics relying solely on your perceptions of the race of the crowd. Fundamentally, this is racist and likely the result of deeply conditioned racial ideology that both you and the communities you are a part of would be happier without.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:49 PM on April 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Mobs of racist loons != white privilege.

Brown disadvantage != white privilege.

White people are no more homogeneous than brown people.
posted by gjc at 12:50 PM on April 25, 2010


Some of you are way out of line in this thread in derogatorily referring to these tea party activists as "tea baggers". Now, you're probably saying, well isn't that that's what they call themselves so why isn't it ok if I use that term?

Yes they do sometimes refer to themselves as "teabaggers" or "teabaggas" but that doesn't make it ok for you, as an outsider, to use those labels. The fact that they've appropriated that term for themselves doesn't mean you can casually throw it around.
posted by euphorb at 12:50 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The problem is that the analogy doesn't go far enough. The question is not what would happen if black people protested now in the way Tea Partiers do. The full alternate-history (or near-future) question is, what will happen if Palin is elected and blacks and latinos gather to protest the yellow stars they need to wear so "we" know they aren't illegal immigrants. In that case (the other side in control, our side protesting) I don't think the reaction by the government, the MSM, and conservative blogs would be very similar to what's happening now...
posted by chortly at 12:51 PM on April 25, 2010


Please, there's a huge difference between a thought experiment that least to a testable hypothesis, and one that doesn't. Einstein's thought experiments lead to specific testable experiments that people did, which proved relativity correct.

Yes, but it still serves as a valuable starting place. The writer is not trying to prove a hypothesis, he is asking the reader to consider a hypothesis. In this instance, T.E. is being used as rhetorical device. It serves to push a frame of reference for an idea that may not have occurred to the reader. Which in the case of something like 'white privilege,' is a phenomenon so culturally ingrained that it sometimes must be forced on a reader to recognize it. 'Thought experiment' as a rhetorical tool seems like an effective approach to me.
posted by barrett caulk at 12:55 PM on April 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


The fact that they've appropriated that term for themselves doesn't mean you can casually throw it around.

Concern troll is concerned: film at eye-roll-o'clock.
posted by joe lisboa at 1:37 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure euphorb was making a joke, joe.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:45 PM on April 25, 2010


Claiming that Imagination is an unreliable way to learn about the world is too general. It glosses over epistemological assumptions as well as the actual role of imagination in how human beings acquire knowledge. Rather, a more accurate rephrasing that directly critiques the writing is:

Using hypothetical scenarios in figuring out societal issues is a tricky procedure, filled with pitfalls.

But you know what? Suppose the author did not use this technique, instead describing his problem in plain prose. No one would read it; no awareness would increased. That's the fine line you follow in persuasive writing.

Suppose!
posted by polymodus at 1:50 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure euphorb was making a joke, joe.

Thank goodness. Sorry if I misread ya, euphorb. There were folks in the last Tea Party thread who made similar claims which, I'm guessing, you were parodying. All of this garbage has warped my sarcasm meter.
posted by joe lisboa at 1:52 PM on April 25, 2010


I love black tea! When is this party happening? Will there be finger sandwiches?
posted by gc at 2:14 PM on April 25, 2010


drscroogemcduck: "black panthers"

I watched the film "Berkeley in the 60's" recently and Black Panthers were holding guns in public talking about their "second amendment rights". It was a total mindfuck.
posted by telstar at 2:41 PM on April 25, 2010


Pretend that texans were trying to get into mexico rather than mexicans trying to get into texas.

Race isn't the only issue in complex situations.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:09 PM on April 25, 2010


I've stopped being in awe of the lack of intellectual integrity in the Republican party, to wit:
Republican governors pay homage to Guy Fawkes.
posted by Dr. Zira at 3:35 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, Einstein's use of thought experiments notwithstanding, what about Orwell? Don't we see speculative fiction as serving some potentially useful purpose?
posted by Ouisch at 3:41 PM on April 25, 2010


The whole post assumes that the Tea Party is given a lot of credibility and respect that I just don't see. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen a single positive thing said about the Tea Party.
posted by brenton at 4:00 PM on April 25, 2010


Well, they get massive coverage in the media, FOX News says all kinds of nice things about them, and 24% of respondents in a recent survey consider themselves either part of the movement or a supporter of it, so I'd say you're maybe living in a bubble.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:11 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The plutocrat-owned news sources are definitely pushing the tea. Hundreds of thousands marched against the Iraq war and garnered no coverage at all. A few hicks carrying misspelt signs are all over the news.
posted by telstar at 5:12 PM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Tell that to the people who relied on thought experiments a) to deduce the theory of special relativity, or b) to illustrate quantum superposition/coherence, or c) to critique the 2nd law of thermodynamics. These canonical examples of imagination helped to progress fields of scientific learning.
First of all I responded to that here

Consider the Poincaré conjecture. The theorem is about a four dimensional sphere! So, the study of math itself is a gigantic thought experiment.

Mathematically, it's called a 3 dimensional sphere, a 3d manifold in 4 dimensional space. An ordinary sphere you hold in your hand is "two dimensional" because you can only move in two directions and stay on the surface of the sphere. Interestingly, someone came up a proof for N-dimensional sphere where N != 3 before t hey were able to figure out the solution for the 3sphere.

But that's kind of beside the point.

I didn't say imagination wasn't useful, I said it wasn't reliable. And it's not. People imagine incorrect mathematical ideas all the time. In fact, what you imagine is more likely to be wrong then right. You can filter out incorrect ideas by using formal logic, or doing experiments, or whatever.

But the point is, when you think about society there is no way to test your ideas.

Also, Jesus Christ I didn't think I needed to point out the difference between "imagining" things about easy (or not so easy, but possible) to test scientific/mathematical ideas and talking about things that can't be tested.

And the other thing is that the breakthroughs you're talking about, done by Einstein, Poincaré and others were things that were thought up by experts in their fields with years of study. But blog posts like this ask the reader, with little formal understanding of whatever it is they're talking about to imagine.

But imagine using what? Just using their own biases and perspective on this! Not using anything empirical.

I dug up one example of black people, black militants even, actually doing this! Holding an armed rally in Texas (an open carry state). No one cared! It wasn't a big deal.
The problem is that the analogy doesn't go far enough. The question is not what would happen if black people protested now in the way Tea Partiers do. The full alternate-history (or near-future) question is, what will happen if Palin is elected and blacks and latinos gather to protest the yellow stars they need to wear so "we" know they aren't illegal immigrants. In that case (the other side in control, our side protesting) I don't think the reaction by the government, the MSM, and conservative blogs would be very similar to what's happening now...
Uh, you know that's already happening in Arizona, right? Except instead of armbands "everyone" who cops might "reasonably suspect" is an illegal will need to keep their proof of citizenship on them at all times.
So, Einstein's use of thought experiments notwithstanding, what about Orwell? Don't we see speculative fiction as serving some potentially useful purpose?
My point was that it was unreliable. Orwell's book was meant as a warning about how things might end up. He wasn't saying that that was how things were going to be (in fact, the book was an attempt to prevent it)

There is a difference between saying "things could be like this" and saying "things would be like this if X instead of Y, and that's unfair!" the problem is you're claiming that Y is unfair when compared to something in your own mind, as opposed to something real.
posted by delmoi at 6:16 PM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've stopped being in awe of the lack of intellectual integrity in the Republican party, to wit:
Republican governors pay homage to Guy Fawkes.


First of all, they only used the phrase "remember november". There's no direct reference to Fawkes or the gunpowder plot. Secondly, anti-bush types were all over Fawkes when V for Vendetta came out, it was essentially an anti-bush movie. So I actually think that anyone complaining about this movie, who didn't feel the same way about the movie is actually being intellectually dishonest.

And complaining, from either side in general, is really quite wussy. November is when the election is, remember. The slogan makes sense.


(Now, if any republicans criticized the watchowskis, but not this, then they would be hypocritical. And i'm sure there are some.)
posted by delmoi at 6:27 PM on April 25, 2010


Secondly, anti-bush types were all over Fawkes when V for Vendetta came out, it was essentially an anti-bush movie

So much so that Alan Moore even came out and slammed the Wachowskis for that.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:40 PM on April 25, 2010


If you can muster such a great postmodern shrug as to compare pop sociology with the study of manifolds, and you're not a three-decades dead Frenchman... well, I don't believe you. Your shoulders can't carry that much irony.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:53 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Uh, you know that's already happening in Arizona, right? Except instead of armbands "everyone" who cops might "reasonably suspect" is an illegal will need to keep their proof of citizenship on them at all times.

I was consciously alluding to that, yes. I probably wouldn't have used such Godwinian hyperbole in my analogy prior to three days ago.

That said, although I think the Tea Party would have no qualms about requiring external badges of "real" Americanness were they in power, the great thing about the American version (from their point of view) is that armbands aren't necessary because the untermenschen are conveniently color-coded already.
posted by chortly at 7:48 PM on April 25, 2010


hey Delmoi—you brought up a number of good points, but I will focus on the one most relevant to the article.

But the point is, when you think about society there is no way to test your ideas.

That's kind of what the study of history is for. The error output of humanity, no? Moreover, I'm not sure what this statement really means. Am I supposed to stop thinking about society? Or to stop speculating or considering alternative scenarios? Obviously not, and I doubt that is what you are implying by this.

To summarize, the gist of this thread's criticism of the article is understood: Using hypothetical scenarios in figuring out societal issues is a tricky procedure, filled with pitfalls.

One caveat. Even this view assumes that the author is appealing to reason. As others have pointed out, he isn't—the text appeals to imagination and emotion, the purpose of which is to unsettle the reader's mind. It may not be rigorous, but it turns heads. And ads.
posted by polymodus at 7:52 PM on April 25, 2010


I dug up one example of black people, black militants even, actually doing this! Holding an armed rally in Texas (an open carry state). No one cared! It wasn't a big deal.

That example was of a dozen black men taking part in a larger peaceful rally. That is maybe equivalent to crazy militia groups or KKK rallies or whatever, that people would be freaked out by if they were major movements, but "laugh off" when they are small enough and dismissable like that. The blogger asks us to imagine a tea-party equivalent, not a westboro baptist equivalent.
posted by mdn at 8:04 PM on April 25, 2010


First of all, they only used the phrase "remember november". There's no direct reference to Fawkes or the gunpowder plot.

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I see no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

That rhyme's been around long before Alan Moore or the Wachowskis. You don't need any more than "Remember November" to reference Guy Fawkes. For the Republican Governor's Association to reference an historical terrorist figure out of one side of their mouths, while simultaneously supporting a party who has both explicitly and implicitly compared Obama to a terrorist, demonstrates a perfect example of the inconsistency and hypocrisy in the politics of the Republican Party right now.
posted by Dr. Zira at 9:01 PM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I should add that I'd be happy to give 'em a pass on the hypocricy if they'd burn this sign in effigy, though.
posted by Dr. Zira at 9:14 PM on April 25, 2010


This is the least thoughtful movement in recent American history; they're more defined what what they don't bother to think about than what they do.

Nah, we've been down this road before.
posted by electroboy at 10:16 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The 1850s seem recent to you?
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:18 AM on April 26, 2010


Interesting link, electroboy. I vote we rename the Tea Party as the Know Nothings. Perfect!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:21 AM on April 26, 2010


I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor or degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes" When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty -- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy [sic].
-- Abraham Lincoln
posted by kirkaracha at 6:35 AM on April 26, 2010 [17 favorites]


Excellent Lincoln quote.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:09 AM on April 26, 2010


Interesting link, electroboy.

The history of the Know-Nothing/American nativist parties is fascinating. Right now I'm working my way through Hanging Henry Gambrill: The Violent Career of Baltimore's Plug Uglies. The short version is that just prior to the Civil War, the independent fire companies in Baltimore acted as enforcers for the nativist parties.
posted by electroboy at 12:03 PM on April 26, 2010


I've never found arguments from hypothetical facts particularly interesting.

Yeah, no one ever changed his or her mind after reading fiction. TEMPEH SANDWICH.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:17 PM on April 26, 2010


Imagine if the tea party was black.

Imagine if you knew when to use the past subjunctive mood.
posted by nicwolff at 4:39 PM on April 26, 2010


If I had an option of walking through the white republican gun-toting crowd, or the black liberal gun-toting crowd, I think I might choose the former. Does this make me a racist? Because I really don't think I'm a racist.

You need to ask yourself a few questions; why are you more afraid of a crowd of armed black people? Do you think that black people would shoot you if you walked among them? Do you think black people would shoot each other and hit you in the process? Do you just generally think black people are angrier, more prone to violence, than white people? Personally I don't care what color the crowd is-- black or white-- if everyone is angry and pumped up and talking about shooting while bearing arms I would be uncomfortable. If they are peaceful and quiet, not so much.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:54 PM on April 26, 2010


My brother calls them (TPers) "medieval Americans".
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:25 PM on April 26, 2010


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