If Only the Tea Partiers Were More European


Sitting at breakfast last week in Oslo, I opened the newspaper Dagbladet and did a Tex Avery-like double take. Is that a photograph of Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity and professional tax-hatin' bogeyman of the Rachel Maddow show, in a Norwegian newspaper? Indeed it is! And according to the article, Phillips recently spoke about grassroots organizing to members of the right-leaning Progress Party, prompting outrage amongst the country's intelligentsia. Raymond Johansen, party secretary of the Norwegian Labour Party, took to the Huffington Post to warn of the "Tea Party fear in Europe," pointing out, in wonderfully incoherent English, that Phillips and his sinister band of lobbyists "traveled the [United States] with a bloody hand logo to deny poor Americans the right to health insurance."

Most of the piece is unreadable. A few favorite lines: "Next week he shares the stage with non (sic) other then the Tea Party queen herself, Sarah Palin, to fight their common goal (sic) of tax cuts and limited government." Or this bit of Norwenglish: "I am truly afraid that our society will not be recognizable in 20 years if the right wing party comes to power, with the help of a speculative American lobbyist—far away from the real grass root." After you separate out the serious Google investigation—Koch! Astroturf! Disinformation campaigns!—Johansen and his comrades are merely suggesting that Tea Party-type protests have no place in the more placid European debate (Expect when you burn tires and riot in Oslo, protesting something-or-other related to the Middle East. But that's different).

Because in Europe, when you are mad at the banks, worried about austerity measures and rising unemployment, one wouldn't be so crass as to call people Marxists and demand that the government submit to the irrational will of angry taxpayers. After all, to pay taxes is the cost of being a member of the Folkhem.

But Tea Parties? Not in Europe. Never. The pitchfork-toting crowd is a peculiar byproduct of the misinformed, disturbed politics of the United States, where Lindberghs, Limbaughs, and Levins have always proliferated. Protest movements on the continent, like the May 1st protests in Kungsträdgården, under a sea of Cuban flags and photos of Marx and Mao, are a more civilized celebration of dictatorship and egalitarianism.

Or how about the protests in Greece, where Tea Parti…errr…left-wing protesters took to the streets again today to demand that, as the government and economy collapses, that no austerity measures be taken. The result? Three people dead in the firebombing of a bank in Athens. CNN has the chilling details:

Three people died after a fire bomb hit a bank in central Athens, the Greek fire brigade told CNN. The victims, two women and a man, were bank employees, they said.

Protesters were throwing bottles at police guarding the burned-out bank, shouting "torturers" and "liars" because they don't believe people were killed inside. Riot police were moving in to push the crowd away, CNN's Diana Magnay reported from the scene.

Thank god there is no Tea Party movement in Greece, right?