So my good friend Scott pointed out that for all of my talk about Teabaggin', I was strangely ambivalent about the opportunity to see one in the flesh. Well, my inner anthropologist and innate love of freaks won out in the end. Resolved: I would walk freely among the Teabaggers, pretending to be one so that I might learn of their ways.

The first question was if I could successfully infiltrate them. I'd need something like a Soldier of Fortune t-shirt, a bandana, a ratty old Army coat, and the ability to look like a mouthbreather with an IQ of 98.

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Next, I would need someone with a funny sign that Teabaggers would laugh at without realizing that it was making fun of them. Liz?

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CHECK. Note the twin bags hanging testicularly.

But what would we see there? Would there be misspellings?

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Oh HELLSYEAH there would be misspellings. (If that's not clear, the Patriot's sign reads "Remember Descent the highest form of patriotic.") He sign make good! Was that an isolated example of poor facility with the English language?

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I have a theory that you should never protest against something until you can spell it correctly. I must admit that I got a chuckle out of "Don't Tax Me, Bro." But now for the important questions: would there be racist signs? Come on, tell me there would be racism.

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Ha ha ha! Homeschooled rural Indiana kids hold the darnedest signs. Would there also be wingnuttery? Would there be old people? White ones?

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Guys hawking guns? Well, he knows his audience!

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Yes, it was quite the human zoo. The thing is, everyone looked like they were having so much fun being furious, bitching, moaning, and directing all sorts of hate at the concept of taxation. I decided to give it a try with some archaic flags as a backdrop.

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Good times. And now a word about the event. First, I must give non-ironic, sincere props to the event attendees. The weather was lousy and there were at least 150 people there. I tip my hat to that. Good turnout. The consensus estimates among my cohort (me, Liz, Scott, Amanda, Patti, and Will) was somewhere between 150 and 200 attendees. That is respectable; now let's get a good chuckle out of how ridiculously they inflate it.

The event itself lasted about four minutes. A guy with a bullhorn led the Pledge of Allegiance and gave a "speech" that lasted just long enough to pop a bag of microwave popcorn. At this point about half of the crowd left. Literally, they sighed a collective "OK, I've done my part" and ambled back to their SUVs. What remained was a smaller number of vocal sign-wavers who lined a street that receives very little traffic and shouted at passing cars. They seemed to be mistaking the horn honks and waves as an upswell of support, but I think most of the passersby were making fun of them.

In summary, the crowd was decently sized, 99.9% white, 90% over 60 or under 6, 50% cowboy-hatted, and REALLY angry about…something. It was far from a grassroots political movement. It was a bunch of people who overcame their revulsion toward other people long enough to stand in the same place for 180 seconds before disbanding and rushing to the nearest Waffle House. No real media showed up and, in a not-coincidence I'll have much more to say about next week, there was no police presence. I guess big groups of white people without permits don't necessitate quite as many angry cops as an anti-war rally!

It was an honest oversight, I'm sure. Just remember, this is the face of real America, and the face of a new revolution sweeping the nation. Look upon it and tremble:

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  1. bughunter Says:

    Awesome Job, Ed. More than one of those photos is going in the wingnut wing of my photoshop source collection. And that photo of Liz got me wondering — what is the female analogue of teabagging?

  2. bughunter Says:

    Bad form to reply to my own post, but this is to convey the results of a survey of my cow-orkers… the cubicular consensus appears to be going with "FACEHUGGING." As in ridley-scott-hr-geiger-alien-larvae-vector facehuggers.

    Sick bastards, the lot of them.

  3. Jeff Says:

    I agreed with pretty much everything you said & found it pretty amusing, except this:

    You're kidding, right? Or did it escape your notice, like it did most of the teabaggers, that Obama and company are giving away TRILLIONS of dollars to the very people most responsible for the worst recession in 80 years? Do you think ordinary taxpayers like us aren't going to wind up paying for a lot of that? And it's a little misleading to speak of us having the smallest tax burden in the industrialized world while completely ignoring how little we get (outside of entitlement programs) for our taxes and how profoundly regressive our tax system is. Much of the higher income tax rate in most other industrialized countries goes to pay for health insurance, which most Americans must (if they can afford it) purchase separately. And so far Obama has no intention of changing that.

  4. Jeff Says:

    Didn't see this before, but the gentleman from Korea above provides a nice concrete example of what I meant by the profoundly regressive nature of our tax system compared to that of other countries. Even if it's true that overall we have the smallest tax burden in the industrialized world (and I'm not so sure that's true, especially when taxes other than federal income tax are included), it is certainly not true for people who are not affluent. And Korea is but one of many examples of countries where citizens get far more benefit from the taxes they pay than we do.

  5. irisclara Says:

    You missed the baby stroller with the big poster of Osama bin Laden and the text "I have the same goals as the FED Destroying your America" and "STOP SLAVERY AUDIT THE FED" on the side.
    Creepy stuff.

    And to all the folks talking about S. Korea's tax system, If you want America to be a small country that doesn't initiate wars or even claim to be a superpower then you are exactly right. You're not getting enough for your money. Once we get rid of the military, Social Security, Medicare, NASA, FAA, FCC, shrink the FBI to 200 people and rename it XE, and eliminate regulatory agencies just think how low your taxes will be! We'll privatize it all just like Ron Paul and George Bush want. Then health care will only go to those with enough money to appreciate it. Oh, that 4% number; it doesn't include anything other than income tax. Look for punishing sales tax.

  6. Alex Says:

    Well, "descent" does mean "going down," so that seems to fit right into the teabagging theme.

  7. Opinionated Editor Says:

    Can we lay off the spelling? The protester also failed to spell out what he was dissenting from.

    There was no context of suppression of dissent that would have given meaning to his sign.

    Is his costume supposed to tell us what his message is? Does he or anyone else think he's "dressed as a patriot"? I haven't studied up on colonial garb, but isn't he dressed like the AIG, Blackwater, and Halliburton CEOs of the time? I'll bet men who dressed like that held elitist political views that varied at least as widely as today's Democratic and Republic parties do.

    And I suspect that this history buff may not have been defending dissent way back during the Rove-Cheney administration or any of the other times I've been in the streets protesting. I'm not expecting him at my continuing antiwar protest anytime soon.

    There's plenty wrong with his sign! But my superior literacy is not a personal virtue. It's partly a function of class privilege. It's partly a function of white privilege. I have friends whose forebears were–and who themselves were–poorly served by the public educational system or outright denied a formal education. And I have economically privileged friends with more degrees than I have who are dyslexic. None of them can spell.

    Do I think people who spell poorly should recognize that and ask someone to proofread for them? And how! You. Would. Not. Believe. Professional writers who misspell the names of their sources and their subjects and the main terminology in the fields they're writing about? Publishers and editors who can use spelling checker software but frequently misuse words and make other obvious errors–and don't think they need to be proofread or copyedited? I spend /a lot/ of time thinking people should care more about their spelling and their writing. I sure thank whoever named this "movement" for helping me make the case that everyone needs an editor!

    But the movement /we/ need to build to make whoever's in office do less harm and sometimes even do the right thing is a movement where the highly literate recognize that we don't do everything as well as we write and edit. It's one that requires that we find what we do respect about people we differ with and find how we can work together as equals with complementary strengths.

    The Fox network and the movement that built it are trying to tap legitimate anger people feel over being screwed. While they ratchet up the scapegoating, how well are we presenting our interpretation of the facts to those who don't spend a lot of time reading in depth about news and politics? How readily available are our messages and the organizations working for equality?

    What would it take to walk up to this guy and respectfully engage him in discussing that right to dissent and his commitment to defending it, to ask him questions that led to discussing dissent more broadly–who's the establishment and who's dissenting from it?

    As FAIR documents all the time, a left-of-center analysis of events is simply not handed to media consumers the way the rightist one is. If you don't know you want it, what's going to make you seek out ColorLines, CounterPunch, the Public Eye, the Nation, the Progressive, Z, In These Times, Mother Jones, or anything else that suggests another way of understanding how we got in this mess and how to get out of it? For most people the only voices they hear saying we're being screwed are rightwing ones.

    I wish our fundamental assumption about this guy was not that he's an idiot but that he doesn't have the same information we have.

  8. Ed Says:

    No, he's an idiot. He has access to correct information and he declines to use it. When presented with correct information he rejects it as Liberal Media Bias and therefore false.

  9. Opinionated Editor Says:

    He's got access, if he wants to go looking for it and pay attention and think about it–and knows where to look.

    But in the other corner? He can get it on AM radio. He can get it on FM radio. He can get it on network television. He can get it on cable television. He can get it on blogs. He can get it from something called "The Washington Times" that some people treat like it's a real newspaper. He can get it on podcasts. He can get it by instant message. Coming soon, he'll be able to get it via vulcanized mind meld.

    Most people don't actually carefully weigh and seek out their news sources and pay a lot of attention to news. Most people soak in what's in the atmosphere, and we're bathing in a soup of rightwing particles you can take in without any effort.

    A friend of mine sincerely explained that she liked to get both sides of the news, so she subscribed to both "U.S. News and World Reports" and "Newsweek." Do you think she was an idiot too?

  10. Peggy Says:

    Opinionated Editor says:

    What would it take to walk up to this guy and respectfully engage him in discussing that right to dissent and his commitment to defending it, to ask him questions that led to discussing dissent more broadly–who’s the establishment and who’s dissenting from it?

    Infinite patience and a whole lot of time on your hands. And luck–the idea that he's going to greet you as a liberator if you try to tell him that he is, in fact, on the side of the people who are screwing him is ludicrous. You'll need to go slowly, piece-by-piece, and be very very very very patient.

    I'd expect you'd have about the same success rate that I do when trying to explain to some choice students at my high school that (for example) calling people "gay" when you don't like them or yelling "faggot!" at people is offensive.

    And, in case you were wondering, my success rate is very, very low.

  11. Peggy Says:

    followup to OE, after realizing I sounded slightly more cynical than I meant to: I'm not saying it can't or shouldn't be done. I'm just saying that while you may be motivated to give Media Savvy 101 lectures to a hostile audience, it strains credulity to think that someone who's gone to the trouble of making a sign, buying a costume, and showing up at a Teabagging event is going to have the scales fall from his eyes and start reading ColorLines instead of listening to Rush and Hannity.

  12. devil Says:

    @bughunter: "facehugging" is a good'n, but my wife insists that the female equivalent to tea-bagging is performed with boobies and is called "she-bagging."

  13. David Harmon Says:

    "09.9% white, 90% over 60 or under 6, 50% cowboy-hatted"… and at least 2% wiseasses…. :-)

  14. David Harmon Says:

    Sorry, "09.9% should have been "99.9%", and my coffee clearly hasn't kicked in. Maybe I should have gone for tea….

  15. Mark Nuckols Says:

    Now you're funny. Jono S at Tinyrevolution seems to have the same viewpoints, but he and particularly his buddy Bernie C. manage to come across as pure douchebags. Maybe you can give him some pointers.

  16. me Says:

    "OK, Ed, I’m going to have to interject here. I live in South Korea, which is very much part of the industrialized world. The middle class and even many of the wealthy here pay about 4% income tax."
    Tax base of global income | Tax rates
    0-10 millions Won (10 million South Korean won = 7490 U.S. dollars) | 8%
    10-40 million Won (40 million South Korean won = 29 960 U.S. dollars) | 0.8 million Won + 17% of the amount exceeding 10 million Won
    40-80 million Won (80 million South Korean won = 59 920 U.S. dollars) | 5.9 million Won + 26% of the amount exceeding 40 million Won
    over 80 million Won | 16.3 million Won + 35% of the amount exceeding 80 million Won

    Supposing you slipped up and meant 8%, not 4%, what do you do in SK? Clean toilets?

  17. me Says:

    "And Korea is but one of many examples of countries where citizens get far more benefit from the taxes they pay than we do."
    Here's why:
    Notice what >50% of the money goes on (hint: M——y-I——–l C—–x)

  18. Steaming Pile Says:

    Reminds me of a series of Dilbert strips where a demonstration comprised of stupid people picket Dogbert for making fun of them. The signs they were carrying said stuff like "DOUN WITH DOGBERT" (sic). They then try to smoke out Dogbert out of the house by turning on the garden hose and drinking all of Dilbert's water. After getting painfully full, they figure out that they would not be able to do this, and poured the water out on the ground instead.

    Dilbert eventually came by with a coffee mug and asked Dogbert what these people were doing holding signs and watering his lawn.

  19. paul Says:

    RE: South Korea. Um, do they spend as much of their treasure on national defense as we do? Do they have large numbers of troops in countries halfway around the world? Whether or not they have a single-digit tax rate, we spend a lot on stuff that maybe we don't have to.

  20. John Says:

    I was on a business trip to West Palm Beach, home of the infamous Teresa LePore. Yeah, Flor-duh. Ground zero for hanging chads and Congressional Rethug Aide Rioting. Driving past the old county court house museum with a colleague, i witnessed a similar motley crowd of malcontents and miscreants, some of them very young. Misspelled signs and frowning faces were abundant, as were some signs alluding to black helicopter type conspiracies. Yes, the nuts are popping out of the dough for sure. I wish I had had an opportunity to snap a few photos, but my schedule was tight and the camera was in the car trunk. Let me add this, however. It was a very small crowd, perhaps onyl twenty five or so people. Probably about the same size as the Flint Michigan chapter of the GW Bush Fan Club. My take on this is if they wish to continue paying higher taxes while giving us all a much needed break those of us who are working poor and middle class that is, then let them! Geez, we can write a loophole into the Obama Tax Bill exempting everyone except people who wear life is good Obama is an Islamofascist T-shirts! CIao.

  21. Charles Says:

    “Remember Descent the highest form of patriotic.”

    I guess that means that "descent through modification" is the highest form patriotic evolution.

    Strange, you would think that he would have dressed up like a combination of Uncle Sam and Charles Darwin. It's the beards!

  22. Jacqui Says:

    I had not realized until the moment I saw that final photo that I was in fact living in a fascist socialistic state under the previous regime. That explains why I'm a cripple living on a pathetically low fixed income with an equally ridiculously low food stamp allowance. It also explains why I need spinal surgery, but can't have it because there are no neurosurgeons who accept Medicaid in my state. It's the socialists!!! Damn those socialists. Bring me my capitalistic freedom and prosperity, Mr. Obama. And with this new and miraculous capitalism, I no longer have to worry about irrelevant things like grammer nor speling. Wow!

  23. Jason Says:

    That guy's sign would make sense if you hadn't cut it off. It actually read: "Remember Descent, the highest form of patriotic mine defense and robot elimination games.

  24. George W. Bush Says:

    Barrack Osama iss stewpid dumass! Hee could'n evan spel ani worth rite!

  25. George W. Bush Says:

    Paylin four precedent 2012!

  26. CassieC Says:

    99.9% white: were any non-white folk there? because that would be the % of the population that is really stupidest. Of course, your total sample was pitifully small. Next time, find a larger gathering of racist dumbass whiners, plz.

  27. kristinc Says:

    "I haven’t studied up on colonial garb, but isn’t he dressed like the AIG, Blackwater, and Halliburton CEOs of the time?"

    Historical costume geek here, delurking to engage in geekery. Pathetic, I know.

    Actually, although I can't speak to the specifics of cut, fabric and decoration, it's a decent rough approximation of the basic, universal outfit of the time — the equivalent of a t-shirt and jeans if you will. Breeches, a jacket, a waistcoat (vest) and a shirt were all required and at the time a man appearing in public in his shirt sleeves would have been like those Nascar dudes today who wander around with no shirt at all. So the jacket is not analogous to a three-piece suit, if that's what you were thinking.

    Geekery out.

  28. Dennis Says:

    South Korea has a typically has a "9%-21.375% + 36% excess: tax rate.

    The United States has typically "0-35% (federal) 0-10.3% (state)"

    That's for individual filing.

  29. John Says:

    Underestimate and discount the opposition. "Very wise of you"

    I imagine you enjoyed the little choir singing to you. If anyone looked like "tea baggers"…….and them employed the same strategy you employ.

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  31. David Begum Says:

    Food Stamps are nice and handy if you want some fast meals.'*,

  32. Harley Marshall Says:

    my sister has dyslexia but she can live a very normal life eventhough she can't read that much.'`

  33. Carpet Tiles ` Says:

    we can always avail of food stamps if we can't afford great food.*'

  34. Network Switch Says:

    food stamps are great because it is instant food and you can consider it also as free lunch ;,.

  35. Elizabeth King Says:

    there are many famous persons with dyslexia and it is not a debilitating disease. Tom Cruise is known to be dyslexic ;"'

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