Of Tea and Tyranny

Last week, current RI Future proprietor Brian Hull linked to a Boston Phoenix article authored by David S. Bernstein titled “Tea is for Terrorism”; Brian Hull chose a similar headline for his post, “Tea is for Terror”. Early on, the article warns of a potential terrorist strike in the U.S….

[I]t would almost be surprising if there are not any “lone wolves” or “small terrorist cells” preparing to strike.
Given that early graf and the title, you might expect the bulk of the article to be about connections to actual or threatened violence, but it isn’t. Instead, the subject is protests, how the tone of political rhetoric might lead to violence, and how, in the author’s opinion, fringe group, tea party and mainstream GOP rhetoric have all crossed the same line together…
The distinction between legitimate and fringe speakers…has disappeared. Also wiped away is the line of demarcation between disagreements over policy and claims of illegitimacy.
And what kinds of examples does Bernstein use to support his that is a claim that the fringes are now part and parcel of the mainstream GOP? Well, one is the fact that past and possible future Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and a significant number of Republican Attorney Generals have expressed dissent concerning the recently passed Federal healthcare law…
Mitt Romney, for example, released a statement calling passage of the health-care legislation “an unconscionable abuse of power,” and “an historic usurpation of the legislative process.”
And, after its passage, more than a dozen Republican state attorneys general immediately filed suit, claiming the bill is unconstitutional.
According to Bernstein, this is crazy stuff that reinforces the birthers or those who believe that the Obama administration represents the dominion of the antichrist. Ultimately, this argument boils down to that since there are crazies in the world, the loyal opposition should be as quiet as it can in opposing the actions of the governing majority — keep that particular phrase in mind, because I’ve borrowed it from someone else, whom we’ll get to in a moment — because dissent can lead to dangerous outcomes, so we are better off with less of it.
Quoting Jeff Montgomery of the People for the American Way, the article says…
“There is apparently nothing they can say or do that is so extreme that the party leaders will disavow them,” says Montgomery. As a result, “we have millions of Americans being told daily, by the people they trust, that the US government is on the verge of tyranny“.
But if Bernstein paid closer attention to his own newspaper, he would know that its editorial board in 2007 was also concerned with the U.S. being on the verge of tyranny…
If the lies that produced the Iraq War can be considered a soft form of presidential authoritarianism abroad, then should we consider Bush’s perversion of the government’s prosecutorial power at home an equally dangerous form of tyranny? Following Karl Rove’s footsteps will help the nation understand the answer. Expect the worst.
…raising an obvious question of why it is within the bounds of professional journalism for alternative newspaper editors to say the U.S. is on the verge of tyranny, but out-of-bounds extremism when tea-partiers reach the same conclusion.
Brian Hull might be similarly interested to know that the prior proprietor of Rhode Island’s Future has also told us that both Federal and state governments are on the verge of tyranny…
The march towards an American Police state continues. First, Don Carcieri rips up the Rhode Island constitution, now the US Attorney General unilaterally repeals the 4th Amendment
At this point, I could continue tossing out examples of the continuing invocation of tyranny by the left, e.g. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert saying “the rule of law is succumbing to the tyranny of fear”, or Village Voice columnist Nat Hentoff in 2002 approvingly quoting another paper’s editorial that stated that “actions taken over the past year are eerily reminiscent of tyranny portrayed in the most nightmarish works of fiction”, and most of us could probably settle around a nice common-ground milquetoast position of sometimes people on both sides employ some hyperbole when using politically-charged terms.
But if your interest goes beyond dismissing the use of the term “tyranny” as something that everyone does, and you want to capture the spirit of the Tea Party rally to be held tomorrow at the Rhode Island statehouse, I would like to suggest a section of a 1927 Supreme Court Opinion written by Justice Louis Brandeis as a good starting point, Justice Brandeis not being, as far as I know, someone who is generally regarded as a right-wing kook…
Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties, and that, in its government, the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary…that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty, and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government….Recognizing the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and assembly should be guaranteed.
Writing with the precision of a Supreme Court Justice, Justice Brandeis saw at least the occasional tyranny of a governing majority as a legitimate concern. Is this thought now too fringe for what purports to be a mainstream left? And are David Bernstein and Brian Hull ready to tell Rhode Island’s Tea Partiers that Justice Brandeis’ opinion is now outdated, and that civic disengagement and inert behavior are now the new patriotism?

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13 years ago

OK, fine. Tyranny is a concern of the left, especially given the Bush administration’s view on executive authority and the Obama administration’s continuation of those same policies. What you don’t address is the bat-guano crazy opinions that now pass as legitimate questions in conservative talk and in today’s GOP.
No surprise that Harris poll finds Republicans believe GOP smears of Obama

13 years ago

What the tea party is fighting is not tyranny – in fact, in their quest to bring back the “conservatives”, what they are fighting for is MORE tyranny. That differs every so slightly from Bush/Cheney and the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping, checking your library card, torture, suspension of habeus corpus, rendition, murder and all the other abhorrent acts which were cheered by many on the right.
And now you are going to expend words trying to convince us that those masses of sheeple have seen the light? That is completely impossible!
Stand on the soapbox – I have no problem with that. But all your friends who have been calling for more ammunition and rebellion are dangerous to themselves and others! Furthermore, it was purely the election of a Black President of the other party which set them off. I saw all the emails telling folks to quickly “arm up”.
In the scope of recent history, you (the right) have absolutely no credibility as regards quests for a more free country. First we had 8 years of fearmongering concerning terrorists under our beds (so, folks, lose your freedoms and daddy Bush will protect you) and now we have KKK-type fearmongering.
Sorry. You may personally mean well – I always leave room for that, but the movement by and large does not.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
13 years ago

Amazing-russ and Stuart would do well to listen to Nat Hentoff-he is kind of a leftist-BUT he’s actually pro-life and he often makes a lot of sense.
These two boys are blinded by fear of a bogeyman.
If I hear KKK one more time from the comfortable fellow in Portsmouth I think I’ll just throw up(hopefully in a leftist’s face.)

13 years ago

“that Justice Brandeis’ opinion is now outdated, and that civic disengagement and inert behavior are now the new patriotism?”
… well, yes. President Obama is in office.
Bernstein’s article is all headline and no story. Also, hasn’t he heard that the word “terrorism” is now frowned upon?

13 years ago

Andrew, thank you for addressing the article. As I said before, the article so casually dismisses fear of goverment expansion as a valid perspective while comparing the Tea Party movement to domestic terrorists (in the printed version the terrorist Michigan militia mugshots are opposite a pic of a tea party) that there is really no reason to debate or care what detractors say anymore.

13 years ago

>The answer is that the citizenry has to deliberate and reach some agreement I think that is where you are wrong! Our system of government is not the tyranny of the majority, which is why the protections such as habeus are written into law. I’m not going to play tit for tat, but the pizza guy was an American citizen: “President George W. Bush designated him an illegal enemy combatant and transferred him to a military prison, arguing that he was thereby not entitled to trial in civilian courts. Padilla was held for three-and-a-half years as an “enemy combatant”. You can duck and bluff all you want, but that is suspension of our rights! If you actually read my posts, you will see that I have no problem with people gathering nor petitioning the government. What I do have a problem with are the seemingly hypocritical stands of many of the recent “converts” as well as their instant conversion to activism once Fox news said so and once a black guy who they didn’t vote for got elected. That makes it either the biggest coincidence in history or a sham – you pick one! As far as library records, that is 100% true! “The National Security Letter provision of the Patriot Act radically expanded the FBI’s authority to demand personal customer records without prior court approval” It’s the last 4 words which should worry you – that is, if you subscribe to the US Constitution. “In August 2005, the ACLU disclosed that the FBI used an NSL to demand patron records from the Library Connection, a consortium of 26 Connecticut libraries” I think you have now clearly established yourself as one who supported the Bush/Cheney regime – which, IMHO, puts you on the wrong side of history AND the constitution.… Read more »

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
13 years ago

Let’s see,Stu-I don’t like the Black guy that got elected.I don’t like his advisors,appointees,or really anything about him and his whole entourage.guess I’m just a racist in your book-good thing being your book wouldn’t sell to anyone with half a brain.
I’m not saying you’re stupid-you just subscribe to base,stupid ideas.You smear people for having an opinion.And then you hide.
Andrew-I never liked the Bernstein side of my family very much anyway,although I’m quite certain I’m not related to this sh*tbird.

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