Friday, March 26, 2010

This means us: The spectacle of the steeping tea

It's probably worth saying a word about the right-wing response to liberal health reform, which has been animated, and which has produced even greater animations.

Tea-baggery in the United States is to my mind a popular expression of discontent that is sanctioned and directed by capital (and just for clarity, by "capital" I mean the class interests of those large investors and executive managers who control the productive wealth of the country, as well as that bureaucratic caste in their cultural and political employ -- politicians, editors, etc.).

This popular discontent is sanctioned to the degree it can be dovetailed into capital's perennial fear that "big government" will be used for any purpose other than its own -- e.g., the welfare of the general population.

The class conflict between capital and, say, those rural communities who have seen their manufacturing jobs evaporate is obscured in a direct appeal by capital to the population that big government is trampling on everybody's rights. Ordinary people know their rights are being trampled, and capital supplies a slick PR spectacle to illustrate how, in Jeffersonian terms, big government is doing it.

Capital then plays the spectacle back to liberal audiences, highlighting the unwashed and uninformed qualities of the tea-baggers themselves. The prejudices of the aspiring professional are played against those of the beleaguered hourly; this sums up the civil strife implicit in our two-party politics nicely, while the differences between elites are smoothed over in the service of capital.

In consideration of all things Tea & Bag™, it is worth remembering which portion of the spectacle is meant to appeal to our own prejudices, and to weigh our judgments not solely against how the spectacle is received by others.


BDR said...

You say it much more smartly, and *way* more politely, than I do. Thanks.

Richard said...

Yes, very nice.