Thursday, August 19, 2010

Usurping control of the Tea Parties

Among the more interesting diversions these days is watching the Tea Party evolve, or devolve, depending on your point of view. It's no more than a couple of years old and yet "histories" of the origin of this movement are multiplying.

During the Mark Williams fiasco, we saw his version of the Party, i.e., the Tea Party Express, take a thrashing from leaders of something called the Tea Party Federation, which identified itself as a sort of "umbrella" group for all the Tea Parties.

Williams vigorously claimed that, as the co-founder of the Tea Party Express, he had never heard of the Tea Party Federation, and, further, the first time he heard of his group's membership in the "Federation" was when he was thrown out of said "Federation." He described the Tea Party movement as "millions of tea partiers involved in thousands of groups," and claimed that, "Every tea partier is a tea party leader." Translated this means that no group has power over another and certainly has no power to expel anyone from the movement.

But we all knew that nothing works that way for very long, didn't we? And it wasn't long before the proclaimed "leaders" began to emerge.

The Daily Bell offers an enlightening look at another maneuver to influence the direction of the Tea Parties. In Dick Armey's Tea-Party Coup, we learn of the recent activities of the former Congressman. Following are excerpts:
• • •

A number of months ago, we wrote a good many articles about the Tea Party movement. Along with everyone else we were trying to figure out what it was about and why there seemed to be several different movements and no real way of determining who was in charge or what the message was. ...

Fortunately, Dick Armey is willing to set us straight. Here is the history, as he recites it: "Today the ranks of this citizen rebellion can be counted in the millions. The rebellion's name derives from the glorious rant of CNBC commentator Rick Santelli, who in February 2009 called for a new 'tea party' from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. By doing so he reminded all of us that America was founded on the revolutionary principle of citizen participation, citizen activism and the primacy of the individual over the government. That's the tea party ethos."

Actually, as we understand it, the Tea Party phenomenon was inspired by the libertarian-republicanism of the Ron Paul presidential campaign that created small activist cells. Rick Santelli – and we have seen his "glorious rant" – had nothing to do with this spontaneous manifestation of anti-state protesting. Santelli's TV statement came much later. The reason we have concentrated on [Armey's] article is because it is a superb example of how the mainstream media reworks memes to make them palatable and useful to the powers-that-be.

The Tea Party, initially, was an amorphous and generalized uprising against the modern welfare/warfare state. It was libertarian in nature and fairly specific about its point of view. Today, that specificity has been mislaid (perhaps the movement is too big for one point of view) and the mythmaking has begun. Thus the Murdoch-controlled Wall Street Journal provides a vast platform for the appropriate tale. And Dick Armey provides it. (In fact Murdoch's media organization is also publisher of a book that Armey has written – Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto.)

Here is the insider's insider, a man who served as Majority Leader of the House of Representatives for a number of years and then as a $750,000 per annum lobbyist (a berth he has now vacated). Yet Armey, by dint of his connections, ability to raise funds and incessant ambition to shape the political horizon to his liking, has attempted to remake himself as political "outsider" and in the process has seemingly launched a takeover of the inchoate Tea Party. (He denies this of course and regularly emphasizes the Tea Party has no leadership – but certainly he is available to help.)

Not only has he somehow become a high profile, de facto leader of a movement and a definer of the history of a movement that deliberately has no organizational core, he has somehow managed to link himself to a Contract From America that many so-called Tea Party political candidates have "signed." The idea is that the Contract From America emerged out of the inchoate opinions of thousands of Tea Party activists and then were codified by Armey and his staff a the Tea-Party oriented Freedomworks, which he founded in the mid 2000s. ...

The military-industrial complex [whose expenditures are not mentioned in the Contract From America] is one of the largest appendages of the modern American warfare-welfare state. The lack of inclusion of central banking and military expenditures makes this Contract From America fairly useless in our humble opinion.

In fact, from our perspective, this article grants the opportunity to see clearly how a power elite dominant social theme is shaped in modern times. Murdoch provides the platform. Dick Armey poses as a radical Libertarian and rewrites history to his liking.

Read the Contract From America and the rest of this article here.


PhysicistDave said...

Well, yeah. But, as you said, it was predictable.

Ultimately, it is a long-term "hearts-and-minds" educational issue. I have a friend who recently got interested (on her own) in the Austrian theory of the business cycle, the political philosophy of the Founders, etc. So, I have introduced her to Garrett's "The People's Pottage," to Rothbard, etc.

She does not (yet, at least!) completely agree with me (or you); perhaps, she never will (in her heart, she is skeptical of Wilsonian interventionism, but she is having trouble shedding all of the neo-con propaganda she has been subjected to over the years).

But, she is now thinking and reading seriously about serious issues.

I've had similar experiences with other friends recently, inspired not by my proselytizing but by people's spontaneously starting to reconsider what they know and what they need to learn about economics, natural rights, etc. (E.g., one friend recommended to me Bastiat’s “The Law,” published, she said, by some “German institute.” It turned out she meant the “Mises Institute,” at which point I told her I’d actually been friends with the guy behind Mises, Murray Rothbard.)

Obama may have unintentionally done the country a service by getting millions of people to think!

The "Tea Party" will fade away, but, we can hope, it will leave behind more people who have some actual understanding of economics, natural rights, etc.

I'm homeschooling my kids. My homeschooling, your blog, every little bit helps. We cannot simply take control of CNN or Harvard. All we can do is to attack the problems person by person.

And, perhaps, in the end that will prove to be enough.

All the best,

Dave Miller in Sacramento

Anonymous said...

You have spread a message of self-reliance rather than hate. This is a great and noble mission. Thank you.

Anonymous said...


For what it's worth, fiscal conservatives own the Tea Party:

That's good enough for me. I'll steer clear of the Tea Cups.