We Must Take the Tea Baggers Seriously

In a recent lecture at the Orpheum Theater in Wisconsin, Noam Chomsky warned people not to ridicule the Tea Bag movement. Why? Because their anger, while misguided, is legitimate. From ReaderSupportedNews.org (h/t Susie Madrak):

“The level of anger and fear is like nothing I can compare in my

lifetime,” he said.

He cited a statistic from a recent poll showing that half the

unaffiliated voters say the average tea party member is closer to them

than anyone else.

“Ridiculing the tea party shenanigans is a serious error,” Chomsky


Their attitudes “are understandable,” he said. “For over 30 years,

real incomes have stagnated or declined. This is in large part the

consequence of the decision in the 1970s to financialize the economy.”

There is class resentment, he noted. “The bankers, who are primarily

responsible for the crisis, are now reveling in record bonuses while

official unemployment is around 10 percent and unemployment in the

manufacturing sector is at Depression-era levels,” he said.

And Obama is linked to the bankers, Chomsky explained.

“The financial industry preferred Obama to McCain,” he said. “They

expected to be rewarded and they were. Then Obama began to criticize

greedy bankers and proposed measures to regulate them. And the

punishment for this was very swift: They were going to shift their money

to the Republicans. So Obama said bankers are “fine guys” and assured

the business world: ‘I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge

people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.’

People see that and are not happy about it.”

He said “the colossal toll of the institutional crimes of state

capitalism” is what is fueling “the indignation and rage of those cast


“People want some answers,” Chomsky said. “They are hearing answers

from only one place: Fox, talk radio, and Sarah Palin.”

I’ve written about this before, and I think it is important to stress: We must feel sorry for the Tea Baggers and we must understand where their anger is coming from.

In 1992, Los Angeles erupted into a bloodbath of racial violence on an unprecedented scale. African Americans took to the streets over legitimate grievances yet acted out in illegitimate ways. The rioters caused billions of dollars of damage, and many people lost their lives. It was a horrific outburst of anger and hate that had fomented over many years from a potent combination of discrimination, poverty and social exclusion. While the rioters actions were inexcusable, it didn’t take a genius to see why it happened.

The same logic can be applied to the hordes of angry white people screaming about a the horrors of government overreach and taxation. Yes, they have almost all received tax cuts, unemployment benefits and medical assistance, but their anger is real and we must understand why. It’s easy for liberal elites to mock the unarticulated ramblings of undereducated middle Americans, but it doesn’t help solve anything. The outlook for the middle class in the US is bleak and people are angry that their futures have been wiped out in a very short period of time. And that is nothing to joke about.

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.