All Tomorrow's Tea Parties
On Matt Taibbi's new report on the Tea Party and learning pathos for the loathsome.
Tuesday, 2010-10-05 | On the Internet, Politics, Zona Roja
As complex as all the finances are, the politics aren't hard to follow. By creating an urgent crisis that can only be solved by those fluent in a language too complex for ordinary people to understand, the Wall Street crowd has turned the vast majority of Americans into non-participants in their own political future. There is a reason it used to be a crime in the Confederate states to teach a slave to read: Literacy is power. In the age of the CDS and CDO, most of us are financial illiterates. By making an already too-complex economy even more complex, Wall Street has used the crisis to effect a historic, revolutionary change in our political system - transforming a democracy into a two-tiered state, one with plugged-in financial bureaucrats above and clueless customers below.
Matt Taibbi, the incendiary journalist who first came to my attention in 2009 after RollingStone published his hilariously scathing and casually profane summary of the Bush investment bank pay-outs, has really come into his own since then.
Having parlayed a series of abusive critiques of what has come to be widely regarded as the Zenith of financial Mega Corp profit-taking into a staff position at RollingStone, Taibbi is now throwing his wonted hay-makers on what looks like full retainer. Most recently, his remarkably comprehensive and resonant Tea Party write-up has come to my attention.
Much like my own encounter with the Tea Party, Taibbi's article is a pageant of the improbable and inexplicable and, in the final estimation, a genuine brush with the surrealistic fringes of the Infotainment industry. I am sorely tempted to copy-and-paste huge excerpts of the thing, as it is chock full of great little pot-shots at the jingoism and Mega-Corp boosterism that are the heart of the Tea Party "movement":
A loose definition of the Tea Party might be millions of pissed-off white people sent chasing after Mexicans on Medicaid by the handful of banks and investment firms who advertise on Fox and CNBC.But the real gem, in the 10000-some-odd words of the article, comes when Taibbi gets to that odd pathos that I was at such pains to convey in my own amateurish reportage on the Tea Party. Somewhere, way in the background of the Tea Party's vast, unnaturally twitching, jar-of-flies tableau of White Guilt, childish escapism and utter lack of media savvy are these incredibly gentle, pitifully naive mush-brains who have been so tormented by Rupert Murdoch and his club of billionaire profiteers and elected henchmen that you can't help but step back, consider the turmoil and frenzy to which these defenseless people have been driven and begin to feel genuinely and un-ironically bad for them, in spite of their reprehensible parroting of counter-factual GOP sloganeering.
It's the weirdest thing and yet it is, to my way of thinking, the defining characteristic of all Tea Party encounters.
In recounting a sit-down debate with an apologist for Rand Paul's admission to Rachael Maddow that he is opposed to racial de-segregation on the grounds that it tramples the Constitutional right of businesses to serve whomever they please for whichever reasons they choose, Taibbi gets at the heart of the thing:
You look into the eyes of these people when you talk to them and they genuinely don't see what the problem is. It's no use explaining that while nobody likes the idea of having to get the government to tell restaurant owners how to act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the tool Americans were forced to use to end a monstrous system of apartheid that for 100 years was the shame of the entire Western world. But all that history is not real to Tea Partiers; what's real to them is the implication in your question that they're racists, and to them that is the outrage, and it's an outrage that binds them together. They want desperately to believe in the one-size-fits-all, no-government theology of Rand Paul because it's so easy to understand. At times, their desire to withdraw from the brutally complex global economic system that is an irrevocable fact of our modern life and get back to a simpler world that no longer exists is so intense, it breaks your heart.