Tea Bagging Requires a Dick Armey

Several bloggers are pointing to MSNBC’s David Shuster’s quip that “[I]f you are planning simultaneous tea bagging all around the country, you’re going to need a Dick Armey.”

This is amusing on a number of levels.

First, it’s a very good line.

Second, the Left is applauding Left-leaning MSNBC for going after Right-leaning FOX for its touting of these tea parties.  Yet, it’s not as if MSNBC and other outlets haven’t hyped protests from the Left that were orchestrated by well-heeled interest groups.

Third, and most intriguing to me, is how quickly the use of anti-gay slurs[*] has caught on with not only the Left but with such conservative luminaries as Andrew Sullivan in describing the Tea Party protesters.  Seriously, what’s up with the juvenile “teabagging” sniggering?

Now, goodness knows, OTB hasn’t been a big fan of the movement  (see “Tea Parties Protest Stimulus,” “Tea Parties, Going Galt, Iraq, and Delicious Irony,” and “Protesting Banks“).  Then again, I think organized protests outlived their usefulness forty years ago and are mostly absurd spectacles (see “Protests Don’t Work” and “Protests Cause Closures” — but also “On Dissent“) .  But I’m not understanding the level of outrage aimed at these protesters by online intellectuals.

Large protests are always organized by elites with money. This includes not only the civil rights and anti-Vietnam marches of the 1960s and the Million Man March of the 1990s but the original Boston Tea Party.  There’s a collective action problem that has to be overcome by professional organizers.

The fact that many who are outraged by the bailouts and stimulus packages supported George W. Bush’s massive spending no more obviates their right to protest than does the fact that many supporters of said bailouts and stimuli opposed Bush’s programs.  All spending is not created equal and differences in degree can become differences in kind.  Plus, protests are often rather irrational.

*UPDATE: Several commenters have challenged my terming “teabagging” an “anti-gay slur.”  Franklin correctly surmisses my meaning.  While the practice wouldn’t be considered a slur to those who engage in it — and, for that matter, heterosexuals could engage in it — its usage by opponents of the Tea Party protests is to ridicule with insinuations of homosexuality.   Ditto, too, the recent sniggering over 2M4M with allusions to gay hookups.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Raoul says:

    See Dailyhowler.com. The political discourse has sunk very low; I thought, right or wrongly, that the impeachment of Clinton revolved around this particular sodomy- as- what will we tell the children? Now both sides snicker with double entenderes and juvenile humor with what is an absurd issue. Of course the point here is not so much the issue (taxes) as the fact that extreme conservatives feel dispossessed. It is almost as if politics have become a parody. Out of this, I hope the GOP finally perishes.

  2. Derrick says:

    Second, the Left is applauding Left-leaning MSNBC for going after Right-leaning FOX for its touting of these tea parties. Yet, it’s not as if MSNBC and other outlets haven’t hyped protests from the Left that were orchestrated by well-heeled interest groups.

    James,

    You have to stretch the definition of promotion very, very far to equate anything that MSNBC or CNN has done over the past 8 years involving Code Pink, Cindy Sheehan, Pro-Immigration Day with what Fox is doing now with the Tea Parties. I don’t mind Fox covering this as a news event, but at this point its hard not to argue that with every show and just about every segment giving out meeting places, covering organizers and encouraging people to go out that they have crossed that imaginary line of a news organization. This can become Tea Parties hosted by Fox News if they want, but let’s not ignore the fact that this is something different.

  3. The Other Ed says:

    The actual sponsorship of these events by corporate entities is what crosses the line. I don’t remember any anti-war demonstrations,

    “…brought to you by CBS News! With New York speeches featuring Walter Conkite, Mike Wallace in Washington and Morley Safer at the Alamo!”

    Here in Boston, the conservative radio station WTTK is promoting the event and supplying logistics and personalities. It’s being run just like a Howard Stern or Opie & Anthony radio promotion stunt.

    This is all fine with me, just don’t try and foist these planned and sponsored promotions as a grassroots movement. There may be a sucker born every minute but I’m not buying this snake oil.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Derrick: I haven’t watched the FOX coverage but think it likely that they’ve crossed further over the line than MSNBC and others have done. That’s rather their shtick.

    The Other Ed: That’s more a sign of the modern communications age than anything else. The tea party protests started as a grass roots phenomenon and some organizers glommed on to them to try to make them go viral. I’m not sure there’s anything wrong with that.

  5. Billy says:

    Third, and most intriguing to me, is how quickly the use of anti-gay slurs has caught on with not only the Left but with such conservative luminaries as Andrew Sullivan in describing the Tea Party protesters. Seriously, what’s up with the juvenile “teabagging” sniggering?

    James – can you provide an example of a single anti-gay slur used by the left? While I am loathe to tout my expertise on the etymology and practice of “teabagging,” my well-informed understanting is that it has almost nothing to do with an anti-homosexual bias.

  6. Rick Almeida says:

    …how quickly the use of anti-gay slurs has caught on with not only the Left…”

    James,

    Teabagging” is not an anti-gay slur in any way, shape, or form. I think your attempt to spin it as such is pretty transparent and amusing, but a decent first attempt at creating a new reality.

  7. Franklin says:

    I agree with points 1 & 2, James.

    Point #3 is interesting. My opinion is that the Left is deliberately antagonizing the Right with the teabagging comments because the Left knows that any gay things tend to irritate the Right.

    The Left sees this as an anti-gay slur, because being gay isn’t bad. It’s on the same level as a “Your Mother” joke or any other crude reference. But on the Right, insinuations that someone is gay is itself insulting.

    You are, of course, exactly correct that it is juvenile. I thought Maddow’s segment on teabagging (with guest Ana Marie Cox) went way too long, but I’ll admit that the Armey line is clever.

  8. Franklin says:

    The Left sees this as an anti-gay slur, because being gay isn’t bad.

    Sorry, that was supposed to read “The Left DOES NOT see this as an anti-gay slur …”

    Rick: See my point above. Of course teabagging isn’t itself a slur, but that’s not what James is saying. Implying that these right-wingers are gay could be seen as an anti-gay slur, depending on one’s point-of-view.

  9. G.A.Phillips says:

    You are, of course, exactly correct that it is juvenile. I thought Maddow’s segment on teabagging (with guest Ana Marie Cox) went way too long, but I’ll admit that the Armey line is clever.

    lol I acednetly turned to the channel of punks to see this attempt to talk smack by Olberman’s twin sister, WTF would she know about tea bags anyhow?

    I’m thinking she would be more knowledgeable in the area of rugs and carpets from the look of it.

    Stupid liberals talking sh-t and thinking it’s funny.

    You know whats funny? Whats funny is how the twins Olberman and Maddow both look like an asexual Frankenstein and come across with the same MENTALITY “fire bad..Good goood, clap clap clap…….”

  10. Rick Almeida says:

    its usage by opponents of the Tea Party protests is to ridicule with insinuations of homosexuality.

    Implying that these right-wingers are gay could be seen as an anti-gay slur, depending on one’s point-of-view.

    But…teabagging isn’t a gay thing at all. That’s the kicker. It’s a drunken slob/frat boy thing. So, if anything, the slur is that conservative teabaggers are idiot frat boys.

    It’s interesting to me that James, a conservative who to his credit candidly admits to ambivalence on gay issues, sees the “teabagging” slur as implying homosexuality when it’s probably the case that anyone who has or has been teabagged would claim to be 1000% straight.

  11. G.A.Phillips says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cw2IIU0a9qw

    Olberman – Maddow, the similarities in looks, mannerisms, and mentality are unmistakable.

  12. G.A.Phillips says:

    GOT TEA???????

  13. Scott Swank says:

    To me the entertaining component of the far right’s use of the term “tea bag” as a verb is that the far right has such a large contingent of homophobes. It’s as if the klan started to use language straight from Malcolm X, or if the USSR’s communist party advocated capitalist markets. Except it’s sex, and that’s funnier right out of the gate.

    Cheers.

  14. DL says:

    “But I’m not understanding the level of outrage aimed at these protesters by online intellectuals.”

    I understand it –it’s called fear -the same fear that crept into Admiral Yamamoto after his great success. If there is one thing they fear it is grass roots rejection of all their deceits and power grabs.

  15. Bithead says:

    @ DL: Exactly so. It’s the same fear that causes Harold Koh to call for a restriction on free speech rights. The same fear also causes the government to issue reports indicating that the American Legion is a radical org and a threat to the government. It’s the same fear that you’re going to see spread all over the left side of the sphere tonight.

    @Almeida: Have we become so over sensitized that we get into this kinda crap so quickly? It’s as I’ve said for years… newton’s law suggests that for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Florack’s corollary says “For every action, there’s some power-hungry yutz trying to make you feel guilty about it.” Case in point. Sheesh.

    @James;
    Agreement on points one and two, point one particularly, I agree that the two are analogous. The difference in reactions between the two events, is telling, I think. To put it into a snark, one wonders if these protests will get the same inflated figures the ‘million man march’ did.

    If the dinosaur press refuses to give this happening the weight it deserves… and the indications are that they’re already trying mightily to ignore it to the same degree they pumped up anti-Bush protests… they relegate themselves to irrelevance. Truth to tell, they were already on the path to it, as evidenced by the New York Times and other news orgs going down hill. If the Dinosaur news agencies that remain ignore this happening, today, they’ll be in effect adding rocket power to the irrelevance -bound sled. Fox, as you suggest, has been doing the best job of any of them in covering this, but one gets the impression they’re doing it out of self-preservation, much as any other motivation. Maybe they understand how hot this thing really is.

    Protest marches are in the end a measurement. That measurement, though needs to be tempered with an understanding of the protestor. Look at the heat from the left about ‘tea bagging’. The left tends to get angry as a reflex action. It’s like bbreathing. OTOH, and as I said a few weeks back, Conservatives, generally speaking don’t protest things, particularly on work days. They’ve got jobs and families to provide for. They’re not getting paid by unions and other groups to carry pre-printed signs. By their very nature, they’re simply not as inclined toward public displays of anger as our lefist bretheren.

    Point three, see my response to Rick.

  16. davod says:

    It is amazing how just about any word can be turned into a slur.

    Maybe this is why, in forty years of tea drinking, I never once heard any reference to tea-bags as a slur.

    Did the coffee growers come up with this as a way of driving tea drinkers back to coffee.

  17. Bithead says:

    Did the coffee growers come up with this as a way of driving tea drinkers back to coffee.

    Yes. It was in response to allusions from Tea companies that coffee drinkers had a certain fascination with Juan Valdez’ ass donkey.

  18. Herb says:

    “its usage by opponents of the Tea Party protests is to ridicule with insinuations of homosexuality.”

    I disagree. The insinuation is that the movement is out of touch and insular.

    “Tea Parties” seems to be the nomenclature being pushed today, but I recall getting an e-mail from my right-wing aunt quite some time ago inviting me to “Tea Bag the White House.”

    Knowing about the connotations, my initial impression was, “No way, man! That’s disgusting!”

    A self-inflicted wound? Probably…

  19. Tlaloc says:

    Second, the Left is applauding Left-leaning MSNBC for going after Right-leaning FOX for its touting of these tea parties. Yet, it’s not as if MSNBC and other outlets haven’t hyped protests from the Left that were orchestrated by well-heeled interest groups.

    I don’t think the problem is that the tea thing has well financed backers. The problem is that so many of the people involved are so shrilly screaming that this is a grassroots spontaneous happening when that’s quite clearly, what we call, “a lie.” If they’d just be honest about it then there’d be no reason for this fact to matter. As is typical the coverup matters more than the crime in terms of PR.

    Third, and most intriguing to me, is how quickly the use of anti-gay slurs[*] has caught on with not only the Left but with such conservative luminaries as Andrew Sullivan in describing the Tea Party protesters. Seriously, what’s up with the juvenile “teabagging” sniggering?

    There’s nothing explicitly gay about teabagging. It requires one participant to be male but says nothing at all about the sex and orientation of the other participants. The reason for the sniggering is that it’s , well, funny when stuff conservatives who are desperate to show they are still relevant and in touch with the body politic go out and pick a term that is best known to the population at large for being a crude sexual act.

    See? Funny.

    But I’m not understanding the level of outrage aimed at these protesters by online intellectuals.

    What outrage? I haven’t seen it. What I’ve seen are attempts to put the record straight about the faux-grassroots aspect (and I suppose you could say there is some outrage about the blatant lying by the right on the matter, but isn’t that warranted?) and the, as you point out, sniggering over the organizers and participants cluelessness with regards to popular culture.

    Really the “aren’t they precious” patronizing far outweighs any outrage.

    The fact that many who are outraged by the bailouts and stimulus packages supported George W. Bush’s massive spending nor more obviates their right to protest than does the fact that many supporters of said bailouts and stimuli opposed Bush’s programs. All spending is not created equal and differences in degree can become differences in kind.

    there are differences in spending but the problem is all the differences here make the current spending infinitely more rational and supportable than Bush’s. The current spending is meant to help us get out of a bad economic time. It is money being spent on our interests. Bush took good economic times when we could and should have run a significant surplus (to offset times like now when we have to deficit spend) and screwed it all up by burning hundreds of billions on stupid foreign wars and tax cuts for the rich with no ROI.

    So, yeah, the protesters now who are loyal bushies are hypocrites. But mostly they’re just ridiculous.

  20. davod says:

    Tlaloc: I did not know that this did not start as a spontaneous gesture. Certainly the movement, as it has become, has supporters. Show me the money, show me the well heeled corporations, or for that matter, the multiple non-profits pouring in money and resources.

    Or just maybe someone has forwarded you the Journolist talking points of the day.

  21. An Interested Party says:

    This is all so predictable…partisans for the party out of power stage silly, over-the-top protests that accomplish little, and members of these protests as well as those sympathetic to their cause get up on their high horses with their self-righteous indignation, screaming, “How dare you make fun of us! We’re a serious movement!” Except a few years ago, it was the left doing this..it’s especially funny seeing anyone who, not that long ago, was making fun of the antiwar protesters, express that self-righteous indignation now…turnabout is fair play, I suppose…

    I understand it -it’s called fear -the same fear that crept into Admiral Yamamoto after his great success. If there is one thing they fear it is grass roots rejection of all their deceits and power grabs.

    Awwww…that really is so precious…I’m sure “they” are just so terrified of these tea things…

  22. Davebo says:

    But I’m not understanding the level of outrage aimed at these protesters by online intellectuals.

    Do you have any examples of this alleged high level of outrage James.

    All I’ve seen has been people laughing their asses off, but I could have missed it.

  23. davod says:

    “Awwww…that really is so precious…I’m sure “they”

    Golum, is that you?

  24. MM says:

    There’s nothing explicitly gay about teabagging. It requires one participant to be male but says nothing at all about the sex and orientation of the other participants. The reason for the sniggering is that it’s , well, funny when stuff conservatives who are desperate to show they are still relevant and in touch with the body politic go out and pick a term that is best known to the population at large for being a crude sexual act.

    Pretty much this. I don’t see this as a slur or fear, as much as a chortle over something that was guaranteed to have a double meaning. Heck, one of the signs from one of the first tea parties showed a protestor with a sign saying “Teabag liberal dems before they teabag you”. At some point, the folks behind this were aware that the “teabagging” would take on a life of it’s own. I’m just not sure they realized that this was the direction it would go (See also McDonald’s ill fated “I’d hit it” campaign).

  25. tom p says:

    Wow. One week in the hospital and 2 weeks back at work have left me seriously out of touch with the “serious” events of the world… Funny thing is, I am a resident “leftie” (with several gay friends)(“tea-bagging never came up in any of our conversations) and don’t really know what the F you all are talking about. Guess that is what happens when you have a life.

    Closest thing to a “tea-bag party” I have seen today was on a “Town and Country” shelf (pretty boring, they just sat there and looked at each other), and that comes from one of the reddest parts of a red state (MO).

    I understand it -it’s called fear -the same fear that crept into Admiral Yamamoto after his great success.

    DL- to be honest, we don’t care. For the past 30 years we have been hearing about how taxes are too high. But the world didn’t end then (in fact it was just fine), and taxes have been dropping ever since and they still aren’t low enuf, and in fact they will never be low enuf for some. OK, so what? Meanwhile, the deficit keeps climbing. Hmmmm… anybody see a pattern here?

    I don’t think “fear” quite captures our emotions of the moment. Something more along the lines of… “Huh? Were you saying something?”

    The left tends to get angry as a reflex action. It’s like bbreathing.

    Bit, this is really rich coming from you, and I find it quite humorous that you couldn’t get it out with out stuttering.

  26. G.A.Phillips says:

    DL- to be honest, we don’t care.

    thats why it’s time to make you,we’re fierce and we’re on your face……..or something like that, I stoled it from the femanazi chant book.

  27. G.A.Phillips says:

    Tea bagging: it’s when Maddow straps on a pair and slaps them on Olbermans drunk unconscious face while special Ed giggles and snaps an embarrassing photo after a wild Bush hating party.

  28. An Interested Party says:

    re: davod at April 15, 2009 15:48

    Actually, concerning the reference you were trying to make…it’s spelled G-o-l-l-u-m…glad to be of help…

  29. davod says:

    “Actually, concerning the reference you were trying to make…it’s spelled G-o-l-l-u-m…glad to be of help…”

    Thanks. I apologize if you were offended by my spelling your name wrong.

  30. davod says:

    “DL- to be honest, we don’t care. For the past 30 years we have been hearing about how taxes are too high. But the world didn’t end then (in fact it was just fine), and taxes have been dropping ever since and they still aren’t low enuf, and in fact they will never be low enuf for some.”

    Just think of this number – Twelve Trillion Dollars – And The One has not yet finished.

  31. An Interested Party says:

    re: davod | April 15, 2009 | 06:38 pm

    To be honest, your inane prattle is far more offensive than the misspelling of any fictional character’s name…

  32. davod says:

    Twelve trillion dollars – prattle. You must be rich, or a democrat, or probably both, working from the Geithner view of paying income tax.

  33. Tlaloc says:

    Best estimate so far of tea party numbers is a little over 100,000 with a further estimate that once all the numbers are in we’ll be looking at about a quarter million. (estimate here: here)

    Not bad at all, in terms of protest numbers but also not spectacular and a world away from the “millions” some teabaggers definitively claimed would be marching today. The real test will be to see if the right can actually take this forward with any momentum. Personally I’m guessing not. With the tax day behind them, most of the big budget bills for the year passed, and the total power vacuum in the GOP currently, I just have trouble seeing them make much of this opportunity.

  34. Coffee drinker says:

    In hopes of ending the least relevant part of this whole discussion, “teabagging” as a colloquialism has two meanings, depending typically on the region you’re from:

    1. Hilariously putting testicles on someone drunk and taking a photo (frat boy stunt)

    2. A sexual act involving a male or female mouth and a pair of testicles.

    So… the first one, pretty “straight”, second can go either way.

    Please proceed with your loftier discussion!

  35. Matt says:

    So apparently I’m anti-gay now cause I snickered at one of my friends teabagging another friend that made the mistake of falling asleep first?

    Have you watched sex in the city? You’re seriously missing out if your gf doesn’t teabag..

  36. Matt says:

    Oops failed at posting a link

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGNWCwCrUKk