Reactions to Boston: The Good, the Bad, and the Batshit Loony

Bombing Victim Jeff Bauman

Bombing Victim Jeff Bauman

A senseless act of violence (or a tragedy if you will) like the Boston Marathon bombing has a way of bringing out the best in most people. A wounded veteran of combat in Afghanistan comforted an injured woman, showing her his scars and assuring her that she would survive. An intern who had just finished a 14-hour hospital shift pitched right in and began treating the wounded. Hundreds of local residents rushed from their homes to supply water and first aid, sometimes using their belts for tourniquets.

Unfortunately, such an incident also brings out the worst in some people. For the right-wing fanatics, every such occasion is a golden opportunity to do what they live for: spread hate, divisiveness and paranoia — and try to score political points by taking cheap shots at President Obama and “liberals”.  Part of the spin after this particular incident was to declare that Obama is irresponsible and incompetent with national security because he allowed 3 Americans to be killed in a terrorist strike on American soil — while Bush kept us safe because he allowed only 3000 to be killed.

These folks can’t  even display enough respect for the victims or  basic human decency to wait a few hours before launching into attack mode; they start cranking out the venom as soon as the news breaks. Nothing is more important than giving voice to their irrational,  deranged, all-consuming hatred for the guy in the White House and anyone who might possibly like him even a little bit.

Naturally, guns always figure in the mix. Right on cue after Sandy  Hook, the gun lobby went into “it could have happened with a nail file” mode,  making puerile smears against anyone who dared challenge the supremacy of the almighty gun. The ever-entertaining National Review characterized Gabrielle Giffords’ outrage over the NRA’s grip on Congress as “childish” and “an embarrassment”.  The general attitude among right-wing reactionaries toward shooting victims is that by making their voice heard they are “bullies” and “props” of the Obama administration who have no business getting involved in the discussion over guns. And while the grief in Newtown was still raw, the NRA displayed its usual classiness by targeting the community with pro-gun robocalls and other propaganda.

But the attack in Boston wasn’t a shooting. So there was no reason to even bring up guns, eh? Do you really thing they’d let a little thing like that stop them? Sure, it took Wayne LaPierre a couple of weeks to proclaim that we obviously need more guns to protect us from pressure cookers —  to invoke the bombing in incendiary pro-gun rhetoric, and to exploit violence for personal gain, while accusing the proponents of “gun control” of doing the same, of course. (In case you didn’t know, when the president responds to gun violence by supporting measures to prevent it from occurring it again, that’s called political grandstanding and suppressing freedom; when the gun lobby exploits violence to whip up paranoia and increase profits, it’s called defending liberty. Everybody clear?)

But not to worry, Arkansas legislator Nate Bell took up the slack for LaPierre’s excessive delay. While authorities were in pursuit of the attackers, he Tweeted:

I  wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine?

This understandably sparked a great deal of outrage, especially among Bostonians.  Some of the responses were as crude as his comment solicited. Others were more sophisticated. My favorite was this:

I invite you to Boston. So you can witness true toughness, compassion and humanity. Toughest city on earth. No guns required.

That’s the Boston I know and love. Incidentally Bell, unlike others of his breed, at least had the decency to issue a half-assed apology — not for the “content” but for the “timing”. In other words, it appears he still believes that anyone who doesn’t hide behind a hunk of metal is “cowering”, but he realizes he didn’t select the most tactful possible time to say so.

Immediately after the bombing,  right-wing pundit Laura Ingraham seized the opportunity to ratchet up the hysteria over immigration, and Fox contributor Erik Rush suggested of Muslims, “Let’s kill them all.” Mind you, both of these responses were delivered before ANYTHING was known about the suspects.  After the suspects were identified, and one of the alleged bombers and three of his acquaintances were discovered to be students at University Of Massachusetts-Dartmouth,  Bill O’Reilly concluded that there must be a “huge problem” with the school itself.

The Westboro Baptist Church also weighed in, blaming the violence on Obama, abortion and gays. Makes perfect sense if you snort gunpowder and Bibles long enough.  At least a couple of right-wing gun fanatics declared that “liberals” love it when things like this happen. (If anybody “loves” it, it would have to be the people who seek occasions to make idiotic utterances like that.) And that dear old radio personality whose name rhymes with mush  concluded that the bombers were obviously influenced by the “liberal elite intellectual thought” in Boston. Can’t allow any of that intellectual thought, it’s quite dangerous — among other things, it might damage his ratings.

In fact, it appears the terrorists were influenced by rabidly right-wing slime merchant Alex Jones, whose tin hat delusions have been mainstreamed by Republicans in Congress (not the first time a terrorist has been a fan of his). Jones, who is gifted with an extraordinary capacity to find a sinister conspiracy in every leaf and snowflake, didn’t disappoint this time around.  Within MINUTES of the news from Boston, he was Tweeting things like this:

Our hearts go out to those that are hurt or killed #Boston marathon – but this thing stinks to high heaven #falseflag

Explosions at the Boston Marathon. Don’t that the FBI [sic] has been behind virtually every domestic terror plot in the US, as NY Times reported.

A false flag, in case you’re still unfamiliar with the term after all the batting about it’s been getting in the last few years,  is an incident in which a government attacks its own people (or even an individual fakes an attack on himself/ herself) in order to cast blame on someone else.  It has become an automatic response among the Alex Joneses of the world to declare that any terrorist attack, any disaster, any act of mass violence must have been staged by the Obama administration for some reason or other. The existence of emergency preparedness drills that utilize “crisis actors” is all the proof these folks need that the victims of actual disasters are merely faking it. There are people out there who believe that nobody really died in Boston, in Newtown, in Aurora, or even in the World Trade Center. And whenever you encounter such an individual,  the odds are excellent that he’ll be a fawning fan of Alex Jones.

It’s also an excellent bet that he’ll be a big fan of Alex’s chief rival for the Kool-Aid Crown, Glenn Beck — who also was true to form.  He declared not only that Obama was behind the bombing, but that he was shielding a Saudi who had carried out the deed at his behest. Furthermore, the Beckster gave the president an ultimatum to come clean by April 22, or else he would “expose” the administration big time. Don’t look now, Glenn, but April 22 has quietly come and gone, and you still haven’t exposed anyone but yourself — and most Americans are really wishing you’d zip it back up. By the way, don’t you and AJ even talk to each other enough to get your stories straight? Did the president orchestrate a real attack or a hoax? Sheesh!

Granted, some people also suspected initially that the culprits were connected with a radical Tea Party faction. (I was among them, but I exercised the discretion not to voice that suspicion in public.) After all, the attack occurred on tax day, and one of the primary objectives of the Tea Party is, supposedly, to protest taxes. It occurred in Boston, site of the real Tea Party. And Tea Party rhetoric tends to be incendiary, and often is laced with subtle and not-so-subtle exhortations to violence.  These are all solid facts, not just “evidence” pulled out of the ass of someone who’s been fed a steady diet of ideological frenzy. In any case, there’s a difference between entertaining suspicions and turning them into presumptions, paranoia, propaganda and perfidy.

The most sickening trope to make the rounds, for my money at least, concerned Jeff Bauman, who lost both of his legs to terrorism. The wingers circulated a graphic photo of him at the scene, falsely identifying him as a vet who’d lost his limbs in combat, and suggesting that he’d been fitted with prosthetics that day so he could add a touch of realism to the elaborate hoax. (As Snopes mentions, it’s a common tactic among perpetrators of such rumors to find a Person B who bears a superficial resemblance to Person A, and declare that they’re one and the same.)

In our own universe, however, Bauman’s legs were intact until April 15. But he did become a hero of sorts by assisting in the identification of the suspects. Heavily medicated in the hospital, and unable to speak, he nonetheless grabbed pen and paper and scribbled a note to indicate that he had seen one of the bombers. and the information he provided proved useful in zeroing in on the alleged terrorists.

This, surely, is Boston at its best. It’s what men like Jeff Bauman do while other people are using him as a prop to circulate nutty rumors about the president. And demonstrating their “patriotism” by venting their obsessive loathing for half of their fellow Americans.

The Biggest, Baddest, Brassiest Lies About Barack Obama (and a few Dishonorable Mentions)

Are we going to defend this Constitution that we celebrated tonight, or are we going to watch it be eroded by a Commander-in-Chief who disrespects this Constitution, doesn’t believe in free enterprise, doesn’t believe in life and families.”  — Rep. Steve King (R-IA)

Having declared that the current crop of Republicans is perhaps the most mendacious gaggle of politicians in U.S. history, we ought to back that up with more specifics. Fortunately, that isn’t hard to do. Most of the GOP’s lies and distortions are directed toward President Obama, who is surely the most disrespected and defamed president — if not the most disrespected and defamed person — in history. [This was written before Hillary Clinton overtook him for that distinction in 2016.]

You’ve no doubt heard many of the lies and wacky rumors already. They’re constantly batted about by the batty media, and you surely have friends and relatives who cut and paste them onto Facebook. Every day, all day long. But many of the golliwhoppers also have been incorporated into their act by the Romney-Ryan Revue. Indeed at the first so-called debate, Mitt Romney attained the extraordinary feat of cramming 27 stretchers into 38 minutes. For which he was promptly and universally acclaimed the winner — at least among Americans. That spin didn’t necessarily echo across the pond.  (Current TV’s Jennifer Granholm has an interesting commentary comparing Romney’s lies to Obama’s lies and discussing the common “conservative” strategy of working the refs. On the other hand, you could conclude, as Time did, that Obama’s lies are worse because they’re more accurate. Seriously.)

Virtually all politicians lie and spin, and virtually all politicians are the target of lies and spin. But the falsehoods about the current U.S. president qualify as a whole new life form. A good indicator is the Snopes tally. At last count, after less than 4 years he’s been in office, Snopes has listed 253 Obama rumors, the overwhelming majority of which are false. (The true ones often involve what other people have said and done in regard to Obama rather than what he’s said or done. Snopes verified, for example, the Internet story about a 95-year-old veteran writing Obama a disparaging letter. But that letter just regurgitated some of the misinformation and disinformation about the president, thus reinforcing the observation that he’s being severely and unjustly maligned.) And while I really get tired of having to defend him, it’s virtually impossible to survey contemporary propaganda without defending him.

The lies about Obama are of three basic types. First, there are the loony lies, such as you might hear at a rally of Tea Partiers vowing to “take back” their country from the other 98 percent. Or at a public appearance by Steve King. These include the following:

The Loony Lies

He’s a Muslim.

He’s a socialist.

He’s a Kenyan (and he admitted his birth certificate is a fake).

Death panels.

Socialized medicine.

Government takeover of medicine.

He wants to take away your guns.

He wants to outlaw fishing.

He can’t talk without a teleprompter.

He faked the death of bin Laden.

He’s had all his records sealed.

etc., etc., etc.

These already have been given far more attention than they ever deserved, so we’re not going to bother commenting on them here.

Then there are what we might call the General Myths. These are broader and more subjective, but just as false:

The General Myths

He’s arrogant and self-serving.

He assumes credit for things he didn’t do, and passes blame for things he did do.

He’s fiercely partisan and won’t work with the opposition party.

He’s unduly secretive.

He’s suppressing liberty and constitutional rights.

He’s a slacker who hasn’t accomplished anything.

etc., etc., etc.

It’s certainly possible to discredit claims like these, but to do so conclusively would require a great deal more space than we’d want to devote to it here — particularly since it would entail more an examination of politics than of propaganda. So we’ll give them a pass as well. (But in regard to the myth that his presidency has been a failure, here’s a list of 200 of the president’s accomplishments for starters.)

We’re also going to bypass the spin campaigns around certain events such as the attempts to make corruption-ridden scandals out of Fast and Furious and Solyndra,  — or even, for crying out loud, the terrorist attack in Libya. What we’re focusing on instead are the Brassy Lies: those that are (1) specific, (2) quickly disproved, (3) nonetheless realistic sounding enough that sane and reasonable people might fall for them if they didn’t know better, and (4) particularly audacious because of who is spreading them.  And they deal with matters of some consequence, as opposed to just daffy rumors about the president canceling the National Day of Prayer or giving the First Pooch his own plane. If you’re curious about rumors of that sort, see Snopes.

The Brassy Lies

Lie # 1: “You didn’t build that”.

This one is based on words the president actually uttered, but the GOPers have wrenched them out of context and totally distorted their meaning: from “We’re all in this together” to “You have no control over your own achievements”.  (Compare “Redistribution of Wealth”.) The funny thing is, whenever they trot out an entrepreneurial success story that’s intended to contradict the president’s words, it always does exactly the opposite.

Lie # 2: The “apology” tour.

President Obama is, beyond a doubt, far more diplomatic and humble, and far less jingoistic than his predecessor. But contrary to persistent right-wing claims, he’s never once apologized for America.

Lie # 3: He’s a promise breaker.

It’s becoming standard procedure among the GOP in this Age of Rove to forgo troubling the public so much with actual issues and just frame their Democratic opponents with a one-word or two-word epithet. With Al Gore it was liar (even though they couldn’t produce a single lie he’d actually told). With John Kerry, it was flip-flopper (based on a single instance in which he really didn’t flip-flop, but his words — discussing a stance he’d taken based on fraudulent intel provided by the guy he was running against — were brilliantly edited by Team Rove). Now, they’ve at least graduated to two words — unless you also hyphenate promise-breaker. But they’re still just as disingenuous.

One could make a strong case that in fact this president has had a better than average track record as promise keeper, particularly given the amount of time he’s been in office. But there’s even more to the story.

On the night of his inauguration, when most of the nation was celebrating this momentous milestone, a group of Republicans held a secret meeting to lay out a strategy for thwarting his every move. Bear in mind that this was before he’d done a single thing as chief executive that anyone might object to. Among this group was a certain Wisconsin congressman named Paul Ryan. Another attendee summed up the focus of the meeting this way:

If you act like you’re the minority, you’re going to stay in the minority. We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.

At a time when the country was sunk in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and bin Laden was still at large, they admitted that their number one priority was making Obama a “one-term president” — even if it meant stalling the economic recovery to make him look bad, keeping workers unemployed so they could pin a high unemployment figure on him.  Their vendetta has reached such South Park playground proportions that they voted down a veterans’ jobs bill the president supported — with the four of them who helped write it actually voting against their own bill!

Obama probably was guilty of being naive when he doled out campaign promises on the assumption that he would obtain at least minimal cooperation from the elephant herd. But given the level of intense and persistent sabotage he encountered instead, his level of achievement has been nothing short of miraculous.

When Tea Partiers parrot the line that he is a promise breaker, they probably just don’t know any better. When Republican politicians do it, they definitely do know better. Because they know damn well that they’re the ones who engineered the logjam. And they did it entirely for political power, using the American public as pawns. (Note: Republicans counter this with a claim that the GOP-controlled House has introduced several jobs bills that have not passed the Democratic-controlled Senate. Which just goes to show they know how to be creative in their terminology. Number one on the list of “jobs bills” is one that would reduce regulation of pesticides.)

Lie # 4. He “gutted” Medicare.

Or robbed it. Or slashed it. Or raided its trust fund. Whatever the verbiage used, the claim is essentially the same: that the president reduced the funding for Medicare benefits by $716 billion. He didn’t. But the Affordable Care Act is estimated to reduce Medicare costs  by that amount — which, far from gutting it, should make it healthier.

This lie deserves a special Brass Balls Award for three reasons: (1) Republicans themselves always claim to represent waste-cutting and fiscal responsibility; (2) Republicans themselves have never been — how shall we put this — particularly supportive of Medicare; and (3) Paul Ryan’s budget called for the same cuts, and it was heavily supported by congressional Republicans.

Lie # 5: He sued to prevent early voting in Ohio by the military.

Quite the opposite. He sued to allow early voting by all Ohio voters, including military personnel. Republicans wanted to restrict this privilege to military only. So to bolster their cause, they concocted this widely believed lie.

Lie # 6:  He’s outspent any president in the past 60 years.

Nope. Thus far, federal spending under Obama has shown the lowest increase of any president since Eisenhower (excluding Ford) in actual dollars. Adjusted for inflation, it’s shown the second lowest, and in fact actually constitutes a decrease.

Lie # 7. He’s amassed an unprecedented national debt.

There are several incarnations of this theme: he’s built up more debt than any other president; he doubled the debt in his first year; and (gotta love this one) he increased the debt more than all previous presidents combined. None of which is in the same galaxy as the truth. When Obama was inaugurated, the total debt stood at 10.6 trillion.  At the end of his first year, it had increased to 12.3 trillion, and it currently stands at about 16 trillion. When all else fails, try grade school arithmetic, folks.

We should also note that there’s a big difference between saying that these increases have occurred on Obama’s watch and saying that he actually caused them. Much of the debt is attributable to the horrendous economy and the two wars he inherited. Furthermore, we should note that the rate of increase has actually slowed.

Lie # 8. He bailed out the banks.

Despite the fact that nearly half of Americans believe otherwise, President Obama did not initiate the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). That would be George W. Bush.

Lie # 9: He’s eliminating welfare work requirements.

The president’s plan overhauls welfare guidelines, largely for the purpose of cutting through red tape, but it certainly does not  eliminate work requirements, nor does it, to use another popular Romney soundbite, “gut welfare reform”. Furthermore, at the time he took office, only 29 percent of welfare recipients were required to work.

Lie # 10:  He’s demonstrated his tyranny with over 900 executive orders, an unprecedented number.

Wrong on two counts. First, 900 is hardly unprecedented.  Theodore Roosevelt issued 1081, Franklin Roosevelt 3522, Harry Truman 907, Calvin Coolidge 1203 and Herbert Hoover 968. Second, President Obama thus far has issued only 138 — which actually gives him the LOWEST total since Chester Arthur!  (At the present rate, there’s a slight chance that after two terms he’ll end up with the second-lowest total.) Moreover, most of the executive orders being attributed to President Obama in those Facebook posts were actually issued by other presidents, often long ago.

Lie # 11:  He’s failed to support Israel.

That’s what Romney and company say. But it ain’t exactly what Israel says.

This is by no means an exhaustive list; it barely scratches the surface. It’s just meant to be a representative sampling. Nobody possibly could keep up with all of the lies. In addition to the falsehoods about Obama himself, there is a substantial body of mythology about nearly everything he’s ever done, including being born. A particularly ripe field for folklore is the Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare”. Didja hear that it’s gonna call for 16,500 armed IRS agents to enforce it?

The smears against the president, however, are part of a broader and more disturbing trend; showing disrespect for the man — and by extension for the office he holds and the nation he represents — has become something of a national pastime.  Until he came along, it would have been unthinkable for fellow elected officials to publicly make the kind of statements Steve King made, or to accuse the president of collaborating with the enemy, or destroying America, or to interrupt his speech to call him a liar. Now, such occurrences are routine.

It’s tempting to dismiss it as racism, and no doubt that’s a factor in some cases. But it’s not the whole story. I just wish I could say that there is something, anything about Barack H. Obama in particular that would prompt such irrational and all-consuming hatred; and that once they get rid of this commie/fascist/Muslim/atheist/terrorist/Kenyan who wants to (shudder) make medicine and marriage available to everyone, things will go back to “normal”.

But the truth, I fear, is worse: this is the new normal for right-wing fanatics. This is how they will behave toward any Democrat, from now until Doomsday. Why shouldn’t they? It works. Sure, the president almost certainly will be reelected in spite of the propaganda. But the race apparently will be much closer than it should have been.  Obama Derangement Syndrome has not been contained among the loony fringe; it’s spread to a lot of other people as well. After all, Ron Paul is the one who contributed the colorful touch that those 16,500 phantom IRS agents would be “armed”. And he ain’t exactly a crackpot, is he? Oh. But still.

There are plenty of intelligent and sensible people, including some who voted for Obama in 2008, who swallow the bullshit. According to one Harris poll, 40 % of Americans (and 67% of Republicans) believe that President Obama is a socialist; 38% (61% of Republicans) believe he wants to “take away our guns”; 32% (57 % of Republicans) believe he is a Muslim; 20% (38% of Republicans) believe he is “doing many of the things that Hitler did”; 25% (45% of Republicans) believe he is foreign-born. Those are all a lot more than the Tea Party’s 2%.

With that kind of success, it would be naive to expect that there’ll ever be any turning back.

(Go here for a good debunking of 5 more Obama falsehoods, including those about golf, vacations, taxes and Arlington National Cemetery.)

Redefining Incivility

There was an interesting article recently in USA Today about the anniversary of the Tuscon shooting. Not so  interesting in terms of its content, maybe, but interesting in terms of how it was presented. The gist of the article was that “civility still eludes us”. But the implication was the meme that when it comes to incivility, “both sides do it”. It doesn’t really use that phrase, mind you; but it gyrates around it very seductively. Trouble is, the article comes up way short of presenting evidence that “both sides do it” equally (an absurd premise we’ve discussed before).

There are several examples of uncivil conduct mentioned in the article, but all were committed by right-wingers; they just aren’t always identified as such. It mentions ” bickering over the Native American speaker” at a memorial service for the Tuscon victims, when in fact the “bickering” was really scathing and sarcastic attacks from right-wing media. It mentions Republican congressman Joe Wilson yelling “You lie” in the middle of a presidential speech. It mentions that  “[a] Republican leader last month walked out of the House chamber rather than allow a Democrat the chance to speak.”  It mentions that “at town-hall meetings, voters booed lawmakers and shouted down fellow citizens who tried to express differing viewpoints” without specifying that those “voters” were Tea Party activists. It mentions that “opponents of a lawmaker flood a congressional switchboard with calls to disable the phone system and prevent others from airing views” without mentioning that this tactic was used (more than once) by Republicans.

But what’s most interesting is that the writer exhibits a trend that has become quite common in media discussion of this topic: redefining incivility in different terms for “conservatives” and “liberals” to make it appear that they are more or less equally uncivil- or even that “liberals” are more uncivil. Michael Moore, who appears never to have had an uncivil word for anyone in his life – he even made a point of complimenting George W. Bush as a person, even as he expressed outrage over how Bush came into office and horror at what he did in office – has more than once been called the “Ann Coulter of the left”, likening him to one of the most venomous in an endless procession of venomous right-wing pundits.

The article contains this interesting quote from Republican representative Jeff Flake of Arizona:

“Given the mess that the country’s in, I can never blame constituents for being angry,” he said. “Far be it from me to try to call out my constituents for passionate feelings on things.”

Oh. So the numerous death threats that have been made against President Obama and the Democrats in Congress are just a matter of “passionate feelings” about “the mess the country’s in”. So why haven’t a comparable number of threats been made against Republicans in Congress? Or against George W. Bush about the mess the country was in then?

In a desperate bid to dispel the notion that “conservatives” are uncivil and to pin incivility on “liberals”, the media will even resort to things like this:

At a 2009 constituent meet-and-greet at a Holbrook Safeway, one very similar to Giffords’ 2011 event, former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., left abruptly after some people in line to see her started shouting and demanding that she answer questions.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I can’t help getting the impression that the writer is trying to shift the fault for the detractors’ rudeness onto Kirkpatrick herself – after all, she’s the one who “left abruptly” rather than respond to “questions”. The writer seems to be parroting the Republican spin that she “turned her back on her constituents”.

And here’s a real gem quoted from John Genette, identified as president of Black Mountain Communications and the organizer of a project at Arizona State University called Civil Dialogue:

“If you’re a lefty and you hear that the sun is yellow, you might believe it, but if you hear the sun is yellow according to Fox News, you might say that sometimes it’s reddish,” he said. “There is a deep distrust of the other side.”

Oh. So challenging the hateful, factually deficient ramblings of Fox “News”  is  motivated only by “distrust of the other side”. Got it. And although Genette himself doesn’t say so there is, as the article reflects, a recurring narrative that speaking up against hateful rhetoric is itself hateful rhetoric, or even worse. Here’s the type of discourse that often occurs:

RIGHT-WINGER: Liberals are communists, they’re lazy, they’re Nazis, they’re evil, they’re liars, they’re anti-American, and they’re destroying MY country. They want to outlaw prayer and penalize hard-working people and euthanize old people. Thank God (whom they don’t believe in) I have my Second Amendment rights to defend MY country against these scumbags.

NON-RIGHT-WINGER: I don’t think it’s very civil to say things like that, and it could inspire some unstable person to commit violence.

RIGHT-WINGER: See what I mean? I told you these people were nasty!

MEDIA: And there you have it, folks. Clearly, both sides do it equally.

Think that’s an exaggeration? Just start paying attention, and I guarantee that you’ll see this pattern repeated many times over.

Consider the article’s piece de resistance: Sarah’s Palin’s crosshairs, targeting Democrats in Congress who committed the unpardonable offense of supporting healthcare reform. There has been probably more outrage over the reaction to this ad than there was over the ad itself, with many declaring it the ultimate mark of incivility to suggest that it may have been one element that inspired the Tuscon gunman. But to assume flatly that it wasn’t is to divorce it from the context of the eliminationist extremism (and gun glorification) that produced it. It may be incorrect to think that the crosshaired map exerted any influence on the shooter’s unbalanced brain, but it’s certainly not unreasonable to consider it a possibility. Indeed, not long before she was shot, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (one of Sarah’s “targets”) expressed concern about that very thing. And she wasn’t just being paranoid; her office already had been vandalized.

And here’s how Sarah herself responded:

“And we will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn.”

Good grief. It isn’t enough to deny that there may have been something inappropriate about the map. It isn’t enough to call such criticism an “intolerant” attempt to “muzzle dissent”. It isn’t enough to claim that her insults have been merely “imagined”. It isn’t enough to portray herself as the innocent victim of a supposedly hostile media that in fact has been kissing her ass since she left the starting gate. It isn’t even enough to profess her inoffensiveness by working in the offensive term “blood libel.” No, this woman also has to shift the culpability to her critics for the very type of tragedy that has just occurred. Really classy, Sarah. She all but points an accusatory finger at Tina Fey.

Speaking of whom, many people consider it supremely uncivil when someone ridicules Palin’s apparent vapidity. But bear in mind that she herself appeared on “Saturday Night Live” alongside Fey doing an unflattering impression of her and Alec Baldwin saying uncomplimentary things about her. And bear in mind that nobody is calling her a commie terrorist Muslim Anti-Christ.  And contrary to what she’s claimed, there is no evidence that anyone has been making death threats against her, much less in numbers comparable to those against Democrats.

What did happen was that when she complained on her Facebook page about author Joe McGinnis moving next door to her, he received 5000 hostile emails, some containing death threats, within 24 hours. It was purely by chance that McGinnis, himself an Alaskan, acquired the house while writing a book about her. But like a civil neighbor, she framed him as a peeping tom and a menacing stalker.

Comedian Orlando Jones (who is neither a politician nor a political pundit) tweets jokes constantly, but one in particular aroused a great deal of ire because it included a punchline about “liberals” killing Sarah Palin. It was clearly a joke – maybe not a very good joke, maybe a tasteless joke, maybe even a dumb joke. But to the spinmeisters it was much more – it was solid confirmation that incivility is standard behavior for “liberals”.

Okay, fine. Deny him the benefit of a doubt if you wish. But does that one spontaneous remark really put him in a league with Tea Party leaders who deliver prepared speeches urging the faithful to arm themselves in readiness for taking out elected officials if they don’t get their way? Does it put him in a league with the Rush Limbaughs and Glenn Becks and Ann Coulters who churn out hatred day after day after day? Does it put him in a league with the anonymous Arkansan(s) who brutally killed a cat belonging to a Democratic aide and then scrawled “liberal” on its body?

Oh yeah, one more little thing. Jones was adult enough to apologize for his comment. And as long as we’re insistent upon redefining incivility as the circumstances warrant, let’s see if we can at least agree that civility includes – pay attention, Sarah – a willingness to accept responsibility for one’s uncivil actions. Like Orlando Jones. Or maybe Keith Olbermann.

While Sarah was invoking the “I’m rubber, you’re glue”, defense, Olbermann – probably the only left-wing pundit who comes within light-years of the acrimony that’s standard issue for right-wing pundits – was saying this:

“Violence, or the threat of violence, has no place in our Democracy, and I apologize for and repudiate any act or any thing in my past that may have even inadvertently encouraged violence.”

Bit of a difference, wouldn’t you say?

Of Occupying Scoundrels and Tea Party Saints

AP/ Thomas K Fowler

When it comes to covering Occupy Wall Street, the media seem to have a severely split personality. On the one hand, they’re obsessed with declaring that the movement is just like the Tea Party; yet on the other hand, they’re obsessed with painting the Occupiers as booger-eating vermin and the Tea Partiers as noble revolutionaries and defenders of The American Way.

On the first point, there is in fact little in common between these two factions, despite what Joe Biden says. (What, politicians can be wrong?) OWS is a grassroots movement (or as close to it as a movement can get these days) that has no political affiliation, no leaders and no major funding- collecting a median donation of $22. The Tea Party was a sort of grassroots movement in the very very beginning, but it was promptly hijacked by (the extreme batshit loony wing of) The Republican Party, and is heavily funded by the Koch Brothers and backed by other right-wing ideologues. And even though it has no central leadership, it’s comprised of several official organizations calling themselves the Tea Party something-or-other.

But the second point is the reason we’re here today, ladies and gentlemen. One can’t very well deny that the Occupy gatherings have been more unruly than Tea Party rallies. But why? The official spin is that it’s just because the Occupiers are an inferior species. In fact, there are several likely factors contributing to the chaos – factors that are glaringly obvious. But hewing to an ideology, as the media often do, frequently requires ignoring the obvious. So  while we’re not particularly dedicated to defending the Occupiers (especially since so many of them have started slurping the Ron Paul Kool-Aid) and we’d prefer to spend the time pointing out things that are not so obvious, today it appears that the obvious is demanding our attention.

1. The Meaning of Occupy

First, let’s not forget what is involved in “occupying”. These demonstrators are, by definition, hanging out in places where the authorities don’t want them to be. There’s scarcely a municipality anywhere that doesn’t have some kind of ordinance against camping/ sleeping in  public.  By definition then, they are in violation of the law, though enforcement of these measures is at the discretion of local officials; and the protestors certainly would argue that their transgression is insignificant compared to the offenses of those they are demonstrating against, and that their modus operandi the only way to get their message across effectively.

So inevitably there’s going to be some conflict with law enforcement, and even some arrests. Even so, these arrests, though they on occasion number in the hundreds, have been overwhelmingly peaceful. In fact, many Occupiers are trained in nonresistant protest, and taught how to be arrested peacefully.

But of course there is the occasional bad egg – not only among the protestors but also among the police.  In New York, in Oakland, at UC Davis and elsewhere, certain law enforcement personnel have used tactics on peaceful protesters that were highly questionable to say the least (not to mention showing a less than adequate response to civilian attacks against protesters). And mind you, the police, much more so than the demonstrators, have been thoroughly trained in the avoidance of conflict.

So why don’t we hear people offering blanket condemnations of police departments? Because everyone seems to realize that it’s unfair to judge an entire group by the actions of a few irresponsible individuals. Unless that group is Occupy Wall Street, and then it’s no holds barred. But when it comes to the Tea Party, people seem quite willing to excuse irresponsible statements even when they’re made by the organization’s leaders and key speakers.

2. A Full-time Job

At Tea Party rallies, participants attend, then go to their hotels and their comfy homes in the suburbs or small towns. The Occupiers, some of whom have no homes to go to, are in it for the long haul, many of them camping out in tents. That kind of round-the-clock presence is naturally going to result in more unsavory incidents. It’s a matter of math if nothing else. And note that this kind of street presence, particularly in the neighborhoods where it usually occurs, can attract individuals who really aren’t even connected to or supportive of the movement.

3. The Bigger Tent

Another important point to consider is that the Occupy movement is far more diverse than the Tea movement. The latter, despite its claim of populist anti-tax underpinnings, is designed to appeal to those who passionately despise President Obama, and relies on an extensive campaign of misinformation targeting him.  (He was born in Kenya, he’s a socialist, he’s a Muslim, he’s raised our taxes, “Obamacare” provides for death panels, etc., etc., etc.) And oh yes, Michael Moore is worth millions.

OWS, on the other hand, is designed to appeal to anyone who feels disenfranchised by the current economic paradigm, and that includes a hell of a lot of people – even most of those who are so antagonistic toward the movement. Naturally, such a varied demographic is going to attract its share of rowdy, if not undesirable, elements.

And it’s surely not insignificant that there’s a wider age range at Occupy, with an estimated average age of 33 and a median of 27 (at least among those arrested) – compared with a rather consistent fiftyish range at the Tea Party.  There’s more volatility in youth; that may be a lame excuse, but hey, if politicians can plead “youthful indiscretion” for actions in their forties (I’m looking at you, Dubya), maybe we should cut Occupiers a wee bit of slack in their twenties and thirties.

4. Genuine Anger

Listen to a  Tea Party speech, and you’re likely to hear delusional ranting about things that the speakers fear may happen: Obama will hike their taxes, Obama will try to Islamize the country, Obama will confiscate their guns, Obama will mandate death panels, etc.  Such paranoid fantasies can be quite effective in mobilizing mass action; if the Tea Party manipulators ever decide to make good on their implied threat to storm the White House armed with hunting rifles, pitchforks and crucifixes, they might have plenty of backup. But perhaps spontaneous outbursts of inappropriate behavior are more likely to be occasioned by frustration over things that really have happened.

5. Provocation

Let’s face it, Occupiers have had to deal with a lot more in-your-face hostility than Tea Partiers, and it would be naive to expect that some of them would not respond in kind. It’s hard to be perfectly stoic when you’re being sprayed with pepper, whacked with batons, or run down by drivers.  Furthermore, there has been at least one known example of a right-wing agitator infiltrating the group with the express aim of inciting violence. Are there others? I’d bet the deed to the farm on it.

The Courage of their Convictions

This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list or a profound analysis; on the contrary, it’s meant to show how easy it would be to discover factors contributing to OWS rowdiness if only the media had an interest in looking beyond the boilerplate narrative.

As for why Tea Partiers haven’t displayed more unseemly conduct, perhaps it is in part because they lack the courage of their convictions. They’ve certainly been urged on by their leaders, who exhort them to hate certain individuals who don’t concur with their ideology, and even to try to drive them out by violent means. It’s a wonder, especially considering that so many Tea Partiers are also gun enthusiasts, that this rhetoric hasn’t led to violence.

Or has it? In fact there have been numerous incidents of violence and threatened violence directly connected to Tea Party-style polemic, and in some cases to the Tea Party itself. Peeing in the streets is nothing compared to this stuff. But the fact that these episodes did not occur at Tea Party rallies completely lets them off the hook. And so the media can look for someone else to demonize – not a hard thing to do since there’s a certain gathering of protestors camped out under their noses 24/7.

The Smear Campaign Against Occupy Wall Street

It’s hardly surprising that members of the corporate plutocracy and their accomplices in government and media should smear Occupy Wall street at all costs. What’s especially impressive, however, is that they’ve convinced so many far less wealthy citizens to be water carriers in their propaganda assault. Many people (including, no doubt, people you know and hear from frequently) seem to have made a full-time career out of attacking OWS, and within that profession there is a dominant specialty of comparing it unfavorably to the Tea Party.

Grass or Astroturf?

One common theme you’ll hear is the claim that while the TP is a genuine grassroots movement, OWS is an astroturfed frankenstein formulated by a large subversive organization and passed off to the rabble to do its bidding. Perhaps the appropriate response to this is: sort of; maybe; yes; no; not really.

It’s true that the Tea Party had rather humble beginnings, with a few sparse gatherings of citizens protesting high taxes and “big government”, whatever the hell that means. But it likely would have remained tiny and insignificant had it not been quickly co-opted by the Republican Party, the corporate media and megabusiness interests- the very people, in other words, largely responsible for the very grievances that inspired both OWS and TP.

OWS, on the other hand, started out as a grassroots movement and has remained that way. This, of course, contradicts the common belief that it is the creation of the iconoclastic magazine Adbusters. But Adbusters merely supplied the inspiration, not the blueprint, and took no real steps toward making the suggestion a reality. That task, from the beginning, has been the handiwork of a leaderless mass of ordinary citizens. It’s about as close to a genuine grassroots phenomenon as it’s possible to find these days.

Some people, incidentally, make an issue out of the fact that Adbusters is published a few miles north of the Washington state border. That is indeed rather significant, but for exactly the opposite reason that the detractors suggest: it reflects that Occupy is a phenomenon of international rather than egocentric scope. Accordingly, it’s caught on in many countries besides the United States. The Tea Party, on the other hand, would face a tough sell abroad. Not only are people in other countries far less likely to be concerned about the tax rates on American billionaires, they are far more likely to revere the American presidents whom ideological extremists loathe. (The reverse is also true, as we saw under George W. Bush.)

Funding Follies

Among the major string-pullers of the Tea Party are the Koch brothers, billionaire corporatists who are obsessed with destroying Barack Obama, whom they consider “the most radical president in the nation’s history.” (Presumably, they say this with a straight face.) Consequently, they’ve poured millions of dollars into promoting the Tea Party and also were instrumental in organizing it. This fact is often overlooked, yet many people claim that another billionaire activist, George Soros, has done the same for Occupy. Hardly surprising, since he’s accused of having a finger in every pie that comes out of the oven if it tilts even one iota to the left. (You haven’t lived until you’ve watched this video, in which the excruciatingly embarrassing Victoria Jackson, who led a Tea Party assembly in chanting  “there’s a communist living in The White House”, even maintains that Soros owns Snopes, which apparently has debunked some of the other batty ramblings she’s made.) But there’s no indication that Soros has ever donated even one penny to Occupy Wall Street.

So what we have here is a sort of double standard compounded by falsification, right? Actually, make that a triple standard. Because good old Michael Moore, one of the favorite bugbears of the reactionary set, also gets dragged into the picture quite frequently. Not just because he’s a prominent presence at Occupy events, nor because he’s funded OWS himself, but because he hasn’t. Yes, you read that right: the same folks who ignore, downplay or deny the financial contributions of the Koch Brothers to the Tea Party and demonize George Soros for funding OWS when he really hasn’t also demonize Michael Moore for NOT doing likewise. Is your head spinning yet?

Not only do they seem to believe that Moore should assume fiscal responsibility for the movement itself, but for everyone participating in it. Hey, if they’re hurting financially and he’s so successful, why doesn’t he just turn over his cash to them? It’s a subtle way of suggesting that the protesters are all just lazy bums looking for a handout, an assertion that many people make with far less subtlety – often adding the glib recommendation that they “get a job”, and then they’ll have no reason to complain.

Disciples of Destruction

But probably the most common meme about OWS demonstrators is that they’re disruptive and violent – two words which the detractors apparently believe to be synonyms. And this behavior is in stark contrast to Teabaggers, who all conduct themselves like perfect angels. Well, except maybe for the occasional spitting on a black congressman. Or manhandling a woman peacefully displaying an opposition sign, throwing her to the ground and stomping on her head. You know, paltry things like that.

But those Occupants – holy Hannah. Mass arrests. Camping out in public. Littering. Even a couple of sexual assaults. Maybe even an occasional singing of “Kumbaya”. They must really be the scum of the earth, right?

This CBS affiliate video, which went radioactive on the Internet, even purports to depict them terrorizing a group of school children. What it actually reveals is a blistering self-indictment on the part of the CBS station, and an iconic illustration of the general tone of media coverage of OWS. Watch the video carefully. Do you see ANY sign that ANY protester is yelling at ANY kid? Sure, there’s a lot of commotion; it wouldn’t be surprising if some of the kids were frightened; it wouldn’t even be surprising if some parents inferred that some of the yelling was directed at their offspring. But there is just no evidence, certainly not in this video, that the protesters were harassing ANYONE.

Seeing is believing, they say. But nowadays, it’s much more common for hearing to be believing in spite of what one has seen to the contrary, particularly if something is heard often enough. Viewers of this video have been entirely willing to discard the evidence their own eyes have seen, or not seen, and accept what the interpreters tell them they’ve seen instead.

Notice the loaded words used to describe the scenario: gauntlet, nervous, fears, overwhelmed, etc. All under the banner of the leading question “How far is too far?” At one point a putative journalist talks to a four-year-old about the incident, and he comments that it was like a parade. Wow, he really must have been terrified; we all know how traumatized kids are by parades. But then the interviewer prompts him to categorize it as scary, and of course he complies.

At another point, she (the “journalist”) tells us that we’re witnessing a protester following a parent and child halfway down the block, obviously with sinister intent. But in the video, you’ll see that the man in question evidently is trying to catch up to them and walk BESIDE them, clearly wanting to just talk to them about something. He is armed only with a camera, not a Teabag rifle, and makes no menacing gestures whatsoever. In fact, when somebody yells at him to back off, he promptly does so and holds up his hand to suggest that he meant no harm.  The media, however, tell us what to believe we’ve seen. And most people comply.

Having said all of this, we must acknowledge that indeed Occupy events have been more unruly than Tea events. It would be pretty hard to deny that. Trouble is, virtually nobody is asking why. Because everyone appears to know the answer already: folks who sleep in city parks are just lower on the evolutionary scale than folks who carry signs about “Niggers” and “white slavery”. Seeking any other explanation, though it wouldn’t require much exertion at all, might border on the scary variety of investigation and analysis that used to fall under the heading of journalism.

(COMING UP: some reasons for OWS unruliness. In other words, we’ll do the media’s job for them. Somebody has to do it.)

Communists, Socialists, Marxists, Oh My!

Whoever said that nothing is certain except death and taxes made a glaring oversight. It’s also certain that whenever anyone proposes genuine change, they’re going to be branded communist, socialist, and/or Marxist (not to mention liberal, of course). If Karl Marx never accomplished anything else with his life, he at least bequeathed American reactionaries a handy epithet or two to hurl.

These epithets were hurled at labor organizers in the Thirties, some of whom were threatened, attacked and even killed for daring to demand better working conditions. They were hurled in the Sixties at hippies who rejected mindless materialism and peaceniks who protested the Viet Nam involvement. They were hurled in the Fifties at anyone who did anything to show that they were alive. And now, naturally, they’re being hurled at the protesters of Occupy Wall Street.

You won’t have to worry, though, about such labels being applied to the Tea Party – in fact, they’re quite often the ones doing the applying.  The Tea Party’s main objective isn’t genuine change; it’s undoing the changes wrought, or that they believe to have been wrought, by the Obama administration. Their much-ballyhooed “anger” is largely an irrational reaction to a mythical tax increase and a mythical version of a healthcare bill they haven’t read and don’t understand. (My favorite recent example of how the punditocracy brainwashes the masses is that 25% of Republicans expressed fear the 2012 election will be stolen for Obama by ACORN – which disbanded more than a year ago!)

Occupy Wall Street, however, at least has a beef rooted in reality: the old trickle-down economic model is not working, has never worked, and is not working even more now. The last quarter of 2010 was the most profitable for large businesses since the government began keeping records on them more than 60 years ago. Recession? What recession? The richest one percent of Americans have QUINTUPLED their wealth in the past few years. You really believe it’s because they’re smarter or work harder than the rest of us? Good! I have a rainbow I’ve been wanting to sell.

Yet a tenth of American workers remain unemployed and the number of people applying for food stamps sets a new record every month. Corporations are basking in cash and often paying no taxes on it, their CEOs are getting obscenely huge bonuses – and at the same time they’re making massive cuts to their workforce and outsourcing jobs to places where labor is much cheaper. Oil companies post record profits, but fuel prices are stuck at well over three bucks a gallon.  Washington, we have a problem. But meanwhile, rather than vote on a jobs bill backed by the current president, Congress votes on recognizing “In God We Trust” as the national motto. (There is a suspicion, not without cause, that all of this is part of a scheme to thwart Obama’s re-election, using American workers and consumers as political pawns.)

It’s probably clear to most people that there is no simple solution to these problems. It’s clear enough to the demonstrators, and so they aren’t proposing simple solutions.  (It is not true, however, that they’ve proposed no remedial measures at all.) This makes them all the more subject to vilification by a media elite accustomed to thinking in black and white. (For an amusing and yet nauseating tabulation of the media’s spin on OWS, including the common mantra that the participants “don’t know what they want”, see here.) There’s an interesting principle at work here, and so your Professor of Propaganda is going to give it a name.

P.O.P.’S LAW OF INVERSE BENEFIT: The greater the number of people who stand to benefit from a particular movement, the more intense the smear campaign against it will be.

The Tea Party is a movement perpetrated mostly by a relatively small number of  right-wing extremists. From the beginning the media trumpeted it as a grassroots revolution, greatly exaggerating its numbers and not only giving extensive coverage to its rallies, but advance notice of its planned events, encouraging the public to attend. The attendees said that Obama is illegitimate, that he is a Muslim and a terrorist, that he has hiked their taxes, that he wants to institute death panels and destroy the nation and outlaw fishing. And oh yeah, that global warming is a hoax. And with a perfectly straight face, the media gave them an unlimited spotlight and microphone.

Occupy Wall Street has said that greed and corruption are strangling the American dream. And after ignoring them as long as possible, the media met them with ridicule and contempt. Which included, of course, the commie/socialist/Marxist syndrome – and just to hedge bets, the contradictory label of Nazi was thrown in as well. (Meanwhile, the Tea Party crowd has complained about the media’s “double standard”. You think I’m joshing?)

Are there any communists/socialists/Marxists involved in OWS? Beyond a doubt. And I’d wager that none are the anti-American monsters the right-wingers have them pegged for. Unlike the Tea Party, Occupy Wall street has an extremely broad base of support; it would be miraculous if there weren’t any communists/socialists/Marxists involved. But to claim that they represent the heart of the movement is a meme that only Fox and its diehard fans would buy into.  If you look long and hard at a Tea Party rally, you’ll spot an occasional dark face in the crowd; but would anyone alive characterize the Tea Party as an African-American activist group?

Because of its broad appeal, Occupy Wall Street attracts all kinds of people-except, apparently, right-wing extremists, who seem pretty unified in demonizing it. The ones who attend the demonstrations seem to do so incognito, with the intent of inciting violence, provoking arrests and in general trying to bring down the PR quotient of the actual movement. Even James O’Keefe, the notorious creator of deceptively doctored videos, was spotted at a rally. So his next little masterpiece should be premiering any day now.

Such a diverse group as the Occupy movement, alas, is inevitably going to have its share of unsavory characters along for the ride. When a protester in New York was sexually assaulted (bear in mind that these people are camping out in public parks), OWS organizers responded swiftly, putting in place measures to prevent such attacks in the future. The punditocracy also responded swiftly, seemingly touting the incident as proof that OWS is just one big rape camp. Meanwhile, a handful of Jew-bashers in the crowd prompted a major media narrative that OWS is anti-Semitic. The hilarious thing is that many who make such a claim also vehemently protest the (also unfair, perhaps) characterization of the Tea Party as racist, even though the instances of Tea Party racism are FAR more extensive, and apparently the sentiment even extends to its leadership.

Whether or not you ultimately decide to support Occupy Wall Street (or the Tea Party), I’d like to humbly suggest that perhaps ANY movement deserves more careful consideration than Commie Tourette’s. It betrays the sorry lack of imagination that is such a major plague in the public forum. No, I take that back. It isn’t that imagination is utterly lacking. Take a look at some of the justifications people cite for using these labels and you’ll see that imagination is running amok. (Hey, if Michael Moore promotes it, it’s gotta be bright red, right? And by the way, since he makes a lot of money, that means he’s a hypocrite, because we all know that the message of OWS is that the rich are all evil bastards, right?) The problem is that it’s being used to attack rather than offer constructive input.

So if you are among those who habitually respond with the communist/socialist/Marxist chant, I’d like to issue a challenge. Try to be more creative in your insults. The old ones are causing people’s eyes to glaze over. In concocting more original epithets, you might inspire more people to pay attention to your message, if any, and that might spark a productive dialogue, which might lead to some creative solutions to the problems we all face regardless of ideological differences. Or if nothing else, you might become really skilled at venomous insults and launch a career like Rush Limbaugh’s, trashing “lubberals” and military veterans for a hefty paycheck that will land you in the top one percent.

So please, get imaginative with those smears. You just might start a revolution.

The Great Tea Party Scam: The 5 Top Myths

As you may have noticed, the Tea Party is rapidly drying up. Well, maybe you haven’t noticed, since there isn’t nearly as much media fanfare about its demise as there was about its ascendancy. And let’s face it, the media hype hasn’t exactly been honest and accurate. In fact, few movements, if any, have ever depended more on deception to gain support. Here are the five most common myths you’ll hear about the tea brigade.

Myth # 1: It’s a new faction.
The Tea Party believes that taxes are evil, government regulation of business is evil, secularism is evil, and above all “liberals” are evil. And guns are supremely good. If this sounds familiar, it should. It’s the same sermon that radical Republicans have been preaching for years. So what exactly is new?

Myth # 2 : It represents a large segment of the American public.

Depending on the poll, as little as TWO PERCENT of the American public consider themselves members of the Tea Party (which in fact, is not even a single organization, but several groups sharing the same ideology). A larger percentage (25-30) of Americans have voiced support for some of the Tea Party’s stated objectives, but that covers a broad swath – and bear in mind that its claimed objectives and its actual objectives don’t necessarily mesh. The movement’s decline is probably due to the fact that people have discovered that Tea Partiers are really just radical Republicans in populist garb. Oh, and if you’ve ever enjoyed trying to find Waldo, you might want to study photos and videos of Tea Party rallies and attempt to spot minority faces.

Myth # 3 : It’s a grassroots movement.

The genuine grassroots movement is an endangered species these days, and the Tea Party is not exactly a preserve. Sure, there were a handful of “tea party” and “tax day” protests that sprang up spontaneously. That had been going on for years. But it didn’t become a full-blown movement, much less an official organization, until the media began loudly beating the drum – first right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin and then, immediately, Fox “News”, which has promoted Tea Party events relentlessly. (And by “promote”, we don’t just mean giving coverage to events that had already happened, but giving advance notice for future events and urging people to attend.)  One organization that got the kettle boiling was FreedomWorks (Notice how extremist groups like to co-opt noble words like freedom, liberty, and family?) This right-wing think tank is the brainchild of former congressman Dick Armey, a classic Texas Republican. Additionally, the movement has been heavily funded by a number of right-wing interests, including the billionaire Koch Brothers, who never spare any expense to provide the best democracy money can buy.

Myth # 4: They’re protesting higher taxes.

According to one poll, 44% of Tea Partiers believed that President Obama had raised their taxes, while 34% believed that he’d kept them about the same. Only 2% were aware (or just made a lucky guess) that he’d actually LOWERED their taxes. In fact, taxes in 2009 under Obama and the heavily Democratic Congress were the lowest they’d been since 1971 – that’s THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS, folks. Of course, that applies only to 98% of the population. Taxes indeed were increased on the richest 2% – which, by some wild coincidence, is the bracket to which the Tea Party masterminds belong.

Myth # 5: They’re doing what those guys in Boston did.

The protestors in Boston weren’t just opposing taxes. They were opposing a monopoly on tea that the crown had granted the British East India Company, the Wal-Mart of its day, which would have been able to jack up tea prices as high as it wanted. Given the fondness for unfettered corporatism demonstrated by today’s Tea Partiers, it’s likely that if those guys from Boston showed up at a Tea Party rally today, they’d be branded socialists and possibly subjected to violence.