Not altogether untrue

by on March 19, 2013 at 4:21 am in Books, Current Affairs, Political Science | Permalink

If the Tea Party is to be disparaged for anything, it is not for being too conservative, too right wing, or too libertarian, but simply too immature, quick-triggered, and impatient for final answers.  Traumatized by the collapse of the narratives that used to organize reality and armed with what appears to be access to direct democracy, its members ache for harsh, quick fixes to age-old problems, something they can really feel — as if fomenting a painful apocalypse would be better than enduring the numbing present.

That is from Douglas Rushkoff’s Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now.

1 joan March 19, 2013 at 4:42 am

Immature, quick-triggered, and impatient for final answers sound more like OWS than the of middle aged well off middle class people I see in photos of the tea party.

2 Rahul March 19, 2013 at 6:58 am

I loved this characterization:

The Tea Party was more “a frustrated state of mind” than “a classic political movement”.

It could just as well apply to the OWS crowd though.

3 j r March 19, 2013 at 10:31 am

What do the flaws of OWS have to do with the flaws of the Tea Party? Does one absolve the other?

4 john personna March 19, 2013 at 11:33 am

Don’t forget that OWS was instigated by funny anarchists, who actually did eschew official “answers.” It was almost a performance art thing on a theme of inequality. Quite different in that respect.

5 Andrew' March 19, 2013 at 4:43 am

And what caused the Tea Party? In other news El Prez is still droning on and the sycophant-in-chief Lindsey Graham burns calories chastising Rand Paul over demanding clarification over the treasonous equivocations of the horrific Holder. Do I exaggerate?

6 Andrew' March 19, 2013 at 4:48 am

And the government running itself into the ground is a bit different than an age-old problem, btw. In fact, that would be the exact opposite of a permanent condition. Expect more age-old congressmen in safe districts to continue to resign as the job becomes a lot less fun.

7 The Original D March 19, 2013 at 10:57 am

And what caused the Tea Party?

A Kenyan anti-colonialist. Obama’s rage. His deep-seated hatred for white people. Something like that.

8 Matt March 19, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Actually it was TARP, but thanks for giving us the MSNBC take.

9 john personna March 19, 2013 at 11:37 am

I was initially a skeptic to reports that the Tea Party was shaped by paleocon billionaires, but I think the money tracks are a little more proven now, aren’t they? Basically it was one or two hot button issues, shaped to easy answers, without intellectual rigor. Who can forget “keep government out of Medicare?”

10 derek March 19, 2013 at 11:24 pm

Maybe they are quite a bit more sophisticated than you. Maybe they understand that if you take a tenuously funded program and add another how many millions of people as beneficiaries it will take something away from the program benefits for themselves.

11 Jacob Lyles March 19, 2013 at 4:55 am

You don’t rally latent political muscle with a slow-burn movement. In fact, a slow-burning movement isn’t a movement at all. These things are non-linear.

Meanwhile, 2010 went pretty nice for the Tea Party.

12 Rich Berger March 19, 2013 at 5:54 am

You may wish to contrast the immoderate approach of the Tea Partiers with the deliberate, measured actions of Obama and the democrats.

13 Jacob Lyles March 19, 2013 at 7:05 am

Obama and the Democrats are much more experienced at the political game and are operating from a position of strength. The Tea Partiers don’t have an established power base to operate from. They originated on the fringes of the Republican Party – disgruntled activists upset by the Bush years followed by Obama’s win. They used the 2010 and 2012 elections to force their way into the center of the GOP. Now they can begin to play a longer game. But their position isn’t anywhere near as secure or strong as Obama deftly straddling the divide between Dem factions.

14 Popeye March 19, 2013 at 8:23 am

Tea Partiers have a more favorable opinion of Bush than other Republicans. They were led by Dick Armey, a true Washington outsider if you ignore his decades in Congress and House Majority Leader role.

Basically the Tea Party is the more conservative wing of the Republican Party engaged in a rebranding exercise after Bush’s approval rating collapsed. Look at some basic polls,

15 Andrew' March 19, 2013 at 8:29 am

Names. Polls.

16 Mo March 19, 2013 at 12:32 pm

A higher percentage viewed Bush favorably than viewed Ron Paul favorably, even if you remove the uncertains.

17 eccdogg March 19, 2013 at 10:42 am

Yeah I would like to see some proof on this, because it does not match my experience.

18 ad nauseum March 19, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Express, Patriots, or independent? The Tea Party Express was courted by Palin and Fox New’s cohorts (Its probably them). The Tea Party Patriots and independent groups stubbornly hold their ground as fiscal hawks and hold Bush in revile. Having attended the first Tea Parties in Chicago, I saw anti-Bush sentiment first hand.

19 TheAJ March 19, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Sorry, the data shows otherwise.

20 ad nauseum March 19, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Please refer to the question I presented. The data treats the “Tea Party” as a single, centrally organized movement. They are not, there are factions (namely the Tea Party Express and Tea Party Patriots). The data does not take that into account.

21 dirck March 19, 2013 at 5:58 am

After watching two gangs of lying fools do nothing but make the problems worse for too many years is it any wonder that they want positive action NOW ?

22 8 March 19, 2013 at 6:08 am

The national debt is a car driving towards a cliff. Liberals think there is plenty of time to turn, they can step on the gas now and they’ll still avoid the cliff. Far left people have problems with the car’s carbon emissions and would rather walk. Conservatives think it’s time to start turning away from the cliff or at least ease off the gas (Ryan plan). Tea Partiers think the cliff is really close and the driver keeps saying, “I’ll take my foot off the gas, don’t worry.” They are getting scared and don’t think the driver is serious, and demand he start hitting the brakes. Far right people are amused by the people arguing in the car as it sails off the cliff.

23 foosion March 19, 2013 at 8:06 am

Federal spending has been flat since the official end of the recession.

24 jpa March 19, 2013 at 8:18 am

which would imply the car is maintaining speed towards the cliff. Neither accelerating nor decelerating.

25 foosion March 19, 2013 at 8:49 am

No evidence we’re heading for a cliff. Spending was increasing steadily for hundreds of years with no ill effects. We’d be better off with much higher spending today

26 Andrew' March 19, 2013 at 9:35 am

Then why is it flat? Rand Paul?

27 Andrew' March 19, 2013 at 9:41 am

“Spending was increasing steadily for hundreds of years with no ill effects.”

Spending has increased steadily for one hundred years. Simultaneously completely separate events have masked ill effects.

28 Brian Donohue March 19, 2013 at 9:46 am

Hit the gas!! Classic. Way to make ‘8’s point.

29 dead serious March 20, 2013 at 9:04 am

No, we’d be better off with much smarter spending today.

I love the sequester. Cut defense spending in half. Or more. Cut some benefits too, especially those for elected officials. Boost infrastructure spending.

30 john personna March 19, 2013 at 11:41 am

The contrast between spending panic and spending data is astounding. And how the heck do people who think spending is out of control in 2013 end up at a site as data friendly as MR? Reading it with hands over eyes, squinting through fingers, like in a too-scary movie?

31 Effem March 19, 2013 at 10:41 am

Interesting how the “free market” types are panicked about debt levels. Yet the market signal (interest rates) of excess borrowing shows no concern. This puts the “free market” crowd in the odd position of suggesting that a handful of bureaucrats/economists are in a better position to determine what is sustainable than the market. And the argument that the Fed is controlling interest rates, and therefore distorting the signal, comes up short – if that were the case, the market would respond by driving the value of the USD down. Rather ironic.

32 Anthony March 19, 2013 at 11:26 am

The market *has* driven the value of the USD down. Haven’t you been shopping lately?

The USD hasn’t fallen relative to other major currencies because they’re either too dependent on the U.S. economy, or their governments are at least as fiscally imprudent. In 8’s metaphor, there are a lot of other cars on that highway to the cliff, and a not-so-small pile at the bottom, with the most recent arrival labeled “Cyprus”.

33 john personna March 19, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Didn’t “shopping lately” contribute to that? Trade and currency balances?

34 Effem March 19, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Then you clearly do not trust CPI statistics. I do feel like CPI is somewhat understated but on the other hand I don’t feel massive inflation. If inflation is understated then that should be the focus of the “unsustainable debt” crowd because a large upward revision to CPI would change the entire argument.

35 maguro March 19, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Interest rates aren’t exactly a pure free market signal, the central banks have taken some pretty heroic measures to keep them as low as they are.

Reading current rates as the market telling us that debt doesn’t matter seems like wishcasting to me.

36 Brian Donohue March 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Not panicked, mostly ashamed. You should be too, if you’re 40 years old or older.

37 dead serious March 20, 2013 at 9:06 am


38 mulp March 19, 2013 at 12:08 pm

So, only after the car is running at the maximum speed do you begin screaming to slow down??

The Federal debt increase by calendar year:
1993 8.26%
1994 6.33%
1995 3.97%
1996 6.59%
1997 3.10%
1998 2.27%
1999 2.59%
2000 -0.40%
2001 3.56%
2002 7.69%
2003 9.27%
2004 8.73%
2005 7.41%
2006 6.43%
2007 6.13%
2008 15.39%
2009 15.64%
2010 13.89%
2011 8.77%
2012 7.92%

Why wasn’t the Tea Party created in 2004 in opposition to President Bush and the Congressional Republicans who were stealing from future generations?

Given a Tea Party movement that elected Clinton as the least loser (43% of the vote), Clinton’s budgets were constantly under attack for adding too much to the debt, with Republicans taking all the credit for the mythical budget surpluses.

But once Republicans took control, the Tea Partiers were attacking the Republicans fo failing to make the long term debt spiral totally out of control by making the deficit create tax cuts permanent and larger. Not a word of protest over the pork and increased entitlements, until the Democrats took over Congress.

The Tea Partiers started objecting to entitlements being given to non-Tea Partiers because they see them as threatening their own entitlements.

39 Maurice de Sully March 19, 2013 at 1:16 pm

— Not a word of protest over the pork and increased entitlements, until the Democrats took over Congress.–

Which is why the Republicans had such robust turnout amongst their base in the 2006 election. Oh wait…

40 Rich Berger March 19, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Well put Mo. mulp is like Bluto Blutarski on a roll, with the comedy removed.

41 Rahul March 19, 2013 at 6:18 am

Being immature, quick-triggered, and impatient in a lot of other contexts just leads to a detour to the penitentiary.

42 Andrew' March 19, 2013 at 6:34 am

And in others it is called being President (not just the current one of course). So, we’ve had one Paul who people thought was going to eat the Fed and we had another that forced the Admin to commit to not assassinating political enemies. And these are the guys who people are criticizing.

43 john personna March 19, 2013 at 1:20 pm

The Obama Administration never moved from the words of the Constitution. “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” Paul did ask the Executive to reiterate that the exception was thus restricted, but that was all.

44 Alan March 19, 2013 at 6:22 am

The Tea Party is the id of the poorly educated.

45 Careless March 19, 2013 at 10:17 am

Funny, you’d think you’d see that in prison.

46 Thor March 19, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Not entirely incorrect. But what sub cognitive area correlates with the Occupy movement then? The Uber-Id in teen years?

47 ad nauseum March 19, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Or that’s just what they show you on tv

48 ad nauseum March 19, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Here’s more:

The article is slightly dated though. At least in 2010 this poll found:

“They are better educated than most Americans: 37 percent are college graduates, compared to 25 percent of Americans overall. They also have a higher-than-average household income, with 56 percent making more than $50,000 per year.”

They don’t separate it by faction either.
However, this being considered, they still do deserve the label of immature.

49 Popeye March 19, 2013 at 10:49 pm

The same poll showed that 57 percent of Tea Partiers have a favorable impression of George W Bush. This was in 2010. 5 percent identified as Democrats.

Gee I wonder who they voted for in 2000 and 2004.

50 E. Barandiaran March 19, 2013 at 6:35 am

Reading Amazon’s book description, the relevant sentence seems to be “Rushkoff offers hope for anyone seeking to transcend the false now.” I have yet to read the book but it seems that Tyler enjoys too much living Rushkoff’s false now and have no interest in transcending it. Has MR made Tyler anxious to the point of replacing knowledge by futile efforts to game the blogosphere in real time?

The past few days, Tyler’s failed posts about what was going on in Cyprus motivated me to seek to transcend Rushkoff’s false now. To those interested in Cyprus, I recommend to read Wikipedia’s entries on Cyprus (including referred documents) and recent editions of the Cyprus Mail (it has an interesting opinion section) and then to attempt to reconstruct the negotiations to bail out Cyprus over the past 12 months, leading to a critical deadline the day after tomorrow (March 21, 2013) that apparently precipitated last Friday/Saturday’s announcement. It’s fascinating because it brings back some big conflicts the world has been facing for a long time. It’s not about being an island, it’s about location, location, location.

51 Pinball Wiz March 19, 2013 at 7:20 am

Anyone else just cringe when they hear the words “tea party”, and not necessarily because they disagree (I spose I agree with them on some things, but then when someone like Ted Cruz is held up as an American Hero I remember why I don’t identify as one)? Could there be any lamer a name for a political movement?

@joan: interestingly enough, OWS (at least here in New York) was found to be roughly dominated by well educated, upper middle class white dudes so the demographics of the two may be a little closer than realized, although I’ll venture to say that the “tea party” spans across more lower income brackets…

52 Steven Kopits March 19, 2013 at 8:26 am

On come now, Wiz. The OWS crowd camped right outside my office on Wall Street. They were not “well educated, upper middle class white dudes”. The white upper middle class dudes were the guys on their way to the office. The OWS crowd was a motley crew, mostly disaffected student types, some black, some white, no Asians, no Hispanics, mostly guys. The income cuts varied. Some were counter-cultural types, not necessarily unemployed. Others were unemployed or students with flexibility in their schedules.

53 Rich Berger March 19, 2013 at 8:40 am

The OWS crowd down in Zuccotti Park looked like your typical G7 protesters. I am so glad we are rid of them and that infernal drumming. A public nusiance that lasted far too long.

54 Wiz March 19, 2013 at 1:03 pm

I’m going off of survey work that was done with the crowd which found a rather large portion were upper middle class, educated, white dudes; whether their education was of any value (as mentioned below, a degree doesn’t necessarily equate to a good education) I’m a bit more skeptical, and from the times I was dragged down there by some of my loonier friends (mostly just to see what the fuss was about) my impression was far closer to yours than the surveys that were done. Perhaps they were conducted later on/at times when that specific demographic was out in more force?

Of course, I was less than impressed with most of what was being parroted down there but thankfully I don’t have to go to school anymore and see “99%” posters placed on every inch of real estate…

55 john personna March 19, 2013 at 1:56 pm

I am an independent and a moderate. I can look at both movements and see elements of sense. I can also see partisans on each side pass tokens of group membership, and group rejection. I mean seriously, Tyler sees an element of truth in criticisms of one side, and the immediate (and pervasive) tokens offered in this thread are “yeah, but did you see the other guys?”

All that said, if the two frames offered were “the 99%” and “the 47%” (both imprecise reductions), who won?

Is this thread an attempt to relitigate the last election?

56 Anthony March 19, 2013 at 11:29 am

Having a sociology or “peace studies” or whatever degree does not make one “well educated”.

57 Joe Smith March 19, 2013 at 12:32 pm

” I’ll venture to say that the “tea party” spans across more lower income brackets”

And lower education levels.

58 Steve Masteller March 19, 2013 at 7:34 am

The tea parties problem isn’t that they are immature or quick triggered. It is that they are not closely aligned with Wall Street like both the RNC and DNC. Just recently the RNC moved to eliminate caucuses and make all states primaries, half the number of primary debates, and shorten the primary season into a few super teusday like events. All of these actions favor big money television candidates over grass roots oriented campaigns. They are designed to further solidify the advantages of the establishment candidate. It is the revenge of the establishment republicans for the successes of the tea party.

59 Edward Burke March 19, 2013 at 7:56 am

Self-proclaimed tea partiers seem to suffer a bit from amnesia, as do many of their detractors, concerning organization. In the Colonial period the tea parties were organized and their activities coordinated by the revolutionary Committees of Correspondence: tea parties were not spontaneous or self-directed outbursts of tea dumping, although tarring and feathering might have been spontaneous enough once the tea dumping festivities subsided. (Or does memory fail me, too?)

60 CMS March 19, 2013 at 8:57 am

“their activities coordinated by the revolutionary Committees of Correspondence: tea parties were not spontaneous or self-directed outbursts of tea dumping”

Those committees were the very definition of spontaneous order. They were formed by locals at no direction, and often in direct opposition, from royal governing bodies.

61 foosion March 19, 2013 at 8:10 am

The tea party is the party of “keep the government’s hands off my medicare” and I’ve been on food stamps and welfare, did anybody help me out? No.”

62 Andrew' March 19, 2013 at 8:42 am

So an apocryphal anecdote is what passes for data from the reality-based community these days?

63 Andrew' March 19, 2013 at 8:45 am

And so, people are confused about entitlements and dependence and cost growth and solid and dotted lines of responsibility . You did that. I mean that in the general ‘you’ sense. That is to say, if Medicare were a solvent program, which people have been lied to believe, then the government would not have to be raiding it to pay for Obamacare, which they are.

64 foosion March 19, 2013 at 8:52 am

The existing alternatives to Medicare are much more expensive, presuming we want to preserve the health of the beneficiaries. Solve healthcare spending, we don’t have a deficit issue. Don’t solve it, we have major problems, whoever pays. Note that Medicare spending growth has slowed recently

65 Andrew' March 19, 2013 at 9:39 am

No. Solve healthcare spending, which the government is making worse, and all you’ve done is stopped the total displacement of everything else with transfer payments at near total displacement.

66 ThomasH March 19, 2013 at 9:43 am

After almost handing over to the ececutive the decisions about which expenditures authorized by Congress to honor with their debt ceiling stunt, they can certainly not be accused of being conservative. “Too immature, quick-triggered, and impatient for final answers” and “ach[ing] for harsh, quick fixes to age-old problems, something they can really feel — as if fomenting a painful apocalypse would be better than enduring the numbing present” is about a kind a characterization as you are likely to get.

67 RAstudent March 19, 2013 at 9:52 am

OMG, you cannot be serious. The biggest problem with the tea-party is that its filled with idiots. I would bet money that 80% of tea-partiers really really believe that the world is 5,000 years old (because the book of genesis says so), that Obama is secretly Muslim, that only legitimate rape should be a crime, that 47% of Americans don’t pay any taxes, that the majority of people on welfare are black….

I wish I could sympathize with the tea-party but they are simply to dumb across the board. Thats their problem.

68 Careless March 19, 2013 at 10:25 am

I’ll take your money, thank you. How much did you have?

Granted, you’re the only person I’ve ever seen suggest that non-rape should be the crime of rape, so you’re probably right about that one.

69 Careless March 19, 2013 at 10:31 am

‘ 16 percent of mainstream conservatives believe Obama is a practicing Muslim; 27 percent of tea party conservatives believe that.”

There also isn’t any slice of America I’m aware of aside from small specific religious groups where 80%+ are YEC.

So, about that money, how do you want to pay me? PayPal?

70 RAstudent March 19, 2013 at 11:02 am

Touche. I stand corrected, they are only about twice as idiotic as mainstream conservatives. Checks in the mail.

71 Thor March 19, 2013 at 12:18 pm

C’mon. At least you can poll Tea Partiers, even the dumber ones. Can you poll the Occupiers, even the brighter ones? Imagine asking them about fiscal policy. You’d get this: “Dude, once I put my bong down, I’ll tell you how to get money. The rich are hiding it all! Take it back from them and give it to the people.”

72 RAstudent March 19, 2013 at 12:44 pm


1. I have no idea what “At least you can poll Tea Partiers, even the dumber ones. Can you poll the Occupiers, even the brighter ones?” even means. That makes no sense.

2. Your bong comment makes me wonder if the limited government tea party supporters would agree with OWS views on legalizing MJ? Seems like limited government proponents would favor legalizing the most harmless of all drugs (including alcohol and tobacco).

3. Seems like your hypothetical OWS stoner caricature may be correct, in spite of the bong hits.

73 ad nauseum March 19, 2013 at 1:18 pm

And you would lose money

74 Brian Donohue March 19, 2013 at 9:54 am

Isn’t it “Taxed Enough Already”? These people are in profound denial about taxes.

OWS, it seems to me, suffers from a more general cluelessness.

Both movements embody inchoate frustrations, and I have some sympathy with their impulses, but they are both childish and need to go away while the deal-making is done.

75 msgkings March 19, 2013 at 1:36 pm


It is nice to live in a country where movements like that can and do pop up from time to time.

76 JWatts March 19, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Agreed. It’s helpful to see some new ideas and some people participating in a Representative Democracy.

77 TGGP March 19, 2013 at 9:57 am

Is this the same Rushkoff who sometimes contributes to I’d ask for a second opinion if he told me the sky was blue.

Alan, the uneducated aren’t very politically engaged. Tea partiers are more educated than the average American.

78 DocMerlin March 19, 2013 at 3:13 pm

This is the stort of nonsense that someone says when they dislike someone’s message but can’t actually directly attack it.

79 mofo March 20, 2013 at 10:33 am

“Traumatized by the collapse of the narratives that used to organize reality and armed with what appears to be access to direct democracy, its members ache for harsh, quick fixes to age-old problems, something they can really feel”

This is typical Rushkoff, vague, deep sounding rhetoric that actually doesnt mean anything. What “narratives that used to organize reality” collapsed? That statement is so non-specific that damn near any preconception can be made to fit into it. Show me the actual ‘collapse’. Show me the actual trauma. Isnt all this just a fancy way of saying that they are dissatisfied with the status quo and so they elected new people? Couldnt this line just as easily apply to Ross Perot voters, or OWS, or Greek dissidents, or anyone who chooses to elect new people in the face of difficult times.

Meaningless drivel.

80 mofo March 20, 2013 at 10:38 am

The Amazon book description reads like a smorgasbord of vacuous platitudes:

““If the end of the twentieth century can be characterized by futurism, the twenty-first can be defined by presentism.”

This is the moment we’ve been waiting for, explains award-winning media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, but we don’t seem to have any time in which to live it. Instead we remain poised and frozen, overwhelmed by an always-on, live-streamed re­ality that our human bodies and minds can never truly in­habit. And our failure to do so has had wide-ranging effects on every aspect of our lives.

People spent the twentieth century obsessed with the future. We created technologies that would help connect us faster, gather news, map the planet, compile knowledge, and con­nect with anyone, at anytime. We strove for an instanta­neous network where time and space could be compressed.

Well, the future’s arrived. We live in a continuous now en­abled by Twitter, email, and a so-called real-time technologi­cal shift. Yet this “now” is an elusive goal that we can never quite reach. And the dissonance between our digital selves and our analog bodies has thrown us into a new state of anxiety: present shock.

Rushkoff weaves together seemingly disparate events and trends into a rich, nuanced portrait of how life in the eter­nal present has affected our biology, behavior, politics, and culture. He explains how the rise of zombie apocalypse fic­tion signals our intense desire for an ending; how the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street form two sides of the same post-narrative coin; how corporate investing in the future has been replaced by futile efforts to game the stock market in real time; why social networks make people anxious and email can feel like an assault. He examines how the tragedy of 9/11 disconnected an entire generation from a sense of history, and delves into why conspiracy theories actually comfort us.

As both individuals and communities, we have a choice. We can struggle through the onslaught of information and play an eternal game of catch-up. Or we can choose to live in the present: favor eye contact over texting; quality over speed; and human quirks over digital perfection. Rushkoff offers hope for anyone seeking to transcend the false now.

Absorbing and thought-provoking, Present Shock is a wide-ranging, deeply thought meditation on what it means to be human in real time.”

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