The Tea Party’s Bizarre And Toxic Take on History

I’ve been trying to explain to some of my well-meaning, but terribly misguided relatives why I have such a fundamental problem with the so-called Tea Party “movement”. Then I ran across an excellent article by Ron Rosenbaum on the Slate web site, which discusses the Tea Party revisionism and why, as I’ve contended, it’s dangerous to dismiss these people as fringe lunatics. They might be foaming at their mouths and spouting bizarre conspiracy theories, but they’re getting a lot of media attention. Unfortunately, we live in a country where a significant number of citizens believe American had a moral obligation to invade the country of Iraq, but couldn’t find Iraq on a map if their children were being held hostage in Baghdad. The lies sink in. Fox News has long since codified the tactic of repeating a lie until it begins to sink in. That’s part of what has given rise to the Tea Baggers’ bizarre alternate reality.

Excerpts from the article follow;

I am a great believer in used-bookstore serendipity. Sometimes when you’re thinking about how to express something, you find a perfect exemplification of it just by chance in the musty stacks of such an emporium. Here’s a remarkable example. I’d been trying to find a way to write about Tea Party ideology, and in particular about the fraudulent history and distorted language it indulges in. Listen to Tea Partiers on cable news—or read the signs they hoist or their Internet comments—and you frequently encounter the flagrant abuse, the historically ignorant misuse, of words such as tyrannycommunistMarxistfascist, andsocialist.

You hear them say, for instance, that we live under “tyranny” because one side lost a health care vote in an elected legislative body. And that, in all seriousness, the president is a communist. For many Tea Party members, the word is not just a vile epithet; it’s a realistic political description. Check out this clip in which Tea Party “celebrity” spokeswoman Victoria Jackson flatly tells a flummoxed Fox News host, “The president’s a communist.” When the host (the Fox host!) starts to object, she responds that Glenn Beck has taught her that progressive is a code word for communist. (Time to put that ugly hammer and sickle logo inside the “O” on your I-hate-Obama T.P. protest sign!)

Most people with a basic grounding in history find Tea Party ignorance something to laugh about, certainly not something to take seriously. But I would argue that history demonstrates that historical ignorance is dangerous and that it can have tragic consequences, however laughable it may initially seem. And thus the media, liberals, and others are misguided in laughing it off. And educated conservatives are irresponsible in staying silent in the face of these distortions.

It’s time to take on these superliars and stop them from spreading their poisonous ignorance.

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