I'll say one thing about all these tea parties -- they're bringing out the worst in a lot of pepole all over the political spectrum. I found this clip, which by now is all over the political blososphere, fascinating and repellent at the same time:
Fascinating for the interesting clip found of the guy who spoke up at the Pensacola Tea Party and quite correctly told the crowd that massive deficit spending and the immediate roots of the financial crisis began under President Bush, not President Obama. It did indeed take the crowd several beats before they understood what they were being told -- and then they booed the speaker off the platform.
Repellent because that same clip betrays the intellectual and philosophical flimsiness that is at the heart of the tea party movement. It could have been something really good. But when you see something like that -- with enough time to hear the speaker's remarks in context, and enough time to assess the audience's reaction in context, you can see that indeed, this was a partisan and not a principled activity.
Fascinating because the discussion between Olberman and Garafalo presented a case where the host has lost control of his guest, desperately wants to get it back, but cannot because while he disagrees with some points, he agrees with others, and wants to keep on good relations with the guest. During Garafalo's discussion about the limbic systems of conservatives, Olberman was visibly uncomfortable and he tried to interrupt her three times but got run over. As forceful and unafraid to take on conservatives as Olbermann is, he is at a loss for how to restrain the excesses of his own side of the discussion -- and well aware that those excesses do harm to that for which he would advocate.
But ultimately it is repellent, simply because of the toxicity of what Janeane Garafalo said. Garafalo insists that everyone who came to a tea party is either racist or mentally retarded, or both. In so doing, she proved herself to be a left-wing asshole, and left her side of the discussion (well, it was a one-sided discussion between her and Olbermann, so let's say her side of the ideological spectrum instead) looking worse off than when the discussion started.
Ms. Garafalo, you hve failed to take stock of what you have observed and consequently made an ass out of yourself on national television. You wanted to see one thing when in fact something else was there -- and so powerful are your mental filters that you cannot interpret things in any other way. In fact, there would be quite a lot there for you to take on and score good points for your crew. Here, please allow me to help direct your criticism in a more meaningful and effective manner.
These social conservatives are not protesting because of the sudden, sharp increase in taxes. Your point should be -- there has been no sudden, sharp increase of taxes. The tax increase that has been imposed is quite unlikely to affect any of the people there.
They are not protesting because of a objection to the federal bailout. That is, not because of any principled objection to it -- your point here is that these people raised nary a whimper when George W. Bush did it back in 2008. Then, they called this sort of thing "necessary" to cope with an "emergency," and only now is it "socialism."
They are not protesting because of a concern about the hemorrhaging federal deficit. Had that been their concern, they would have protested George W. Bush. You point here should be that for all their talk of fiscal responsibility, for more than two generations in this nation, deficits in this nation have bloomed exclusively under Republican Presidents, and President Obama has done nothing since taking office in this regard that was not openly contemplated by President Bush.
As for the bit about conservatives having limbic systems that function differently than that of liberals, inhibiting their cognitive abilities, I think that was intended to be a joke. Two problems here. First, it wasn't particularly funny. You can do better, although maybe not on short notice. Second, your delivery was too deadpan; you left no clue to your audience that you were having a little fun. A wink, a smile, a smirk, a giggle, slap your hand on the table and pause for a beat -- these are ways you can tell someone else that what you have just said is intended to elicit laughter rather than be taken as thoughtful, serious commentary. In fact, you are a talented (or at least experienced) stand-up comedian and actor, so you should have known that already.
Your big message here is that they're a bunch of sore losers. These folks were protesting because a Democrat is in power. Nothing more, nothing less. It has nothing to do with Barack Obama's race. Had Hillary Clinton been elected President, we'd be seeing the same thing -- and it wouldn't be because we had a woman as President. (And you, Ms. Garafalo, would probably be calling them all sexists.) We'd be seeing the same thing had John Edwards been elected President, too. And had John McCain been elected, they would all be at home watching coverage of liberal protests on Fox News, grousing about defeatist liberals.
Come on, Ms. Garafalo, you know that is the absolute truth. A joke is only funny when it hits on a truth. A political argument only has influence when it addresses something true. What you did was to discredit yourself and your side of the issue, and to make the other side look good by virtue of having to endure your gratuitous and insulting non sequiturs. Do better.
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