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The Teabaggers Doth Protest Too Much

April 18, 2010

Let me say at the outset that I don’t suggest ad hominem attacks against Teabaggers since that form of argumentation doesn’t serve any cause particularly well.  The technique ignores the political idea and implicitly legitimates the individuals who are at least eloquent in voicing profoundly misguided opinions by leaving the core ideas uncontested.  But these Teabaggers’ protest signs have got to be some kind of joke to someone.  There’s simply no way there are thinking people who produced this blather masquerading as arguments.  E.g.,

And there’s more. What’s depressing about the Teabaggers is that the rest of the media is forced to cover a “polarizing” movement as such, but that the New York Times published a piece entitled “Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated” is genuinely disgusting and misleading.  As Julian Sanchez eruditely points, that should have read “…than the general public.”

…we know that older white men are likely to have higher incomes and more schooling than a random sample of the population—and, of course, education and income are themselves related.  Obviously, the headline gets a lot less interesting if it turns out to amount to: “Tea Party Backers Exactly as Wealthy and Educated as You’d Expect for Their Demographic.” Though without someone doing a proper regression, we don’t know if that’s true either.

Of course, you can flip the direction of explanation.  Suppose, plausibly enough, that a movement concerned with the level of taxation and debt might disproportionately appeal to higher earners. A group like that will tend to skew whiter than a random population sample even if race per se is not motivating people to join up.

The Internet, as it so often delightfully does, has its own perception of Teabaggers:

The problem, again, is that the preceding picture puts the focus on the people advancing the argument rather than the argument itself.  Granted, a little bit of schadenfreude and levity in the face of absurdity is a great way to keep a cheery disposition.  But as I said, I’m not trying to get into ad hominem arguments.  Nonetheless, can we at least acknowledge that these protests are not arguments in the first place?  They’re simply vitriol and demagoguery.  And I don’t think that disqualifying the political legitimacy of these protesters for lacking anything coherent to say about anything is out of line.  I’m not hating on any player; I’m hating on their game.  Hate hate hating.


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