Family Guy Does the Tea Party

Tea PeterI just watched the “Tea Peter” episode of Family Guy from the tenth season. In general, I’m not that happy with the series when it does politics. Like most shows, it tries to have things both ways. Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever fully forgiven the producers for allowing Rush Limbaugh to whitewash his career. This episode was certainly better.

In the episode, Peter is running an illegal business out of his home that police shut down. This makes him angry, so he joins the local Tea Party group. It turns out that it is run by Lois’ billionaire father, just as Brian had predicted. They manage to get the mayor to shut down the government and then everything goes to hell. At the end, Peter gives a speech in which he replaces the government with something even better:

Now that we’ve freed ourselves from the terrible shackles of government, it’s time to replace it with something better. The first thing we need is a system of rules that everyone must live by. And since we can’t spend all our time making rules I think that we should elect some people to represent us, and they should make rules and choices on our behalf. Now this may be kind of expensive, so I’ve got a plan. Everyone should have to give some money from their salaries each year. Poor people will give a little bit of money. And rich people will give a larger amount of money. And our representatives will use all that money to hire some people who will then provide us with social order and basic services.

It’s pleasing, because I’m afraid that most Americans (not just conservatives) tend to forget what government actually is. But when it comes to conservatives, they have the market cornered in the business of discontent. They don’t like the way government works (Who does?!) but they want revolution rather than reform. This comes from the fact that they know that their ideas are unpopular. They can’t really work toward changes because “the people” will never agree with them.

My problem with the episode comes in its treatment of the Tea Party members. In general, they do not want to get rid of the government. And sadly, it is a whitewash to suggest that they do. What they want is to keep the government just the way it is and eliminate the programs that help “those people.” I’ve never met a Tea Party member who wanted to cut military, Medicare, or Social Security. Well, that and the national debt make up about 70% of the budget. And they are in favor of most of the remaining 30% too. So all their ranting about budgets is really just vindictiveness against groups that they don’t like.

I’ve been having a discussion about my video on Amy Kremer of Tea Party Express. For years, she has been making speeches and going on television talking about the budget deficit. But after all that time, it seems she has learned nothing of the federal budget. Most especially she doesn’t seem to have noted how it has decreased ever since we got a Democrat in the White House. If she really wanted what she claims, she would be a Democrat. But she isn’t. Because she doesn’t want what she claims. She, like almost all of her peers, wants to take money away from “those people.” And there isn’t a lot of question about exactly who those people are.

The Family Guy episode was inaccurate in another way. It aired on 13 May 2012. But it showed big crowds at a Tea Party rally. In 2012?! By that time, it would have been 8 protesters and 30 people from various news organizations.

Afterword

I just found this great clip of Amy Kremer on CNN last year. She doesn’t know what’s she’s talking about. And the funny thing is that the question she gets about the $5 trillion Romney tax cut is one that I’ve seen her struggle with a few times. She just can’t admit that supporting Romney goes against what she claims to be for. And that’s because she isn’t for Romney because he would be better on the debt. She is for him because she knows that he is for the right kind of people and against the wrong kind of people. That’s it. This is what passes for a conservative activist:

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Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Family Guy Does the Tea Party

  1. Rant alert.

    People like Kremer are not morons. Far, far from it. A few are unhinged true believers (hello, Michelle Bachmann, R-MN) but most are foot soldiers being paid for their loyal part for repeating focus-tested talking points in what is a very, very long con. That’s the thing about the right; they can wait. Our side wants policies that help people now, today. When policies don’t, we get frustrated. The right has an ethical commitment to cruelty that transcends immediate benefit. Sure, handouts to Halliburton are fine (the far right doesn’t consider Bush II to be really conservative, anyway.) The important thing is altering the very way human beings relate to one another. All empathy and compassion must be ground into shards. Whether this takes a long time to accomplish, or even is harmful to the very rich in the end, does not matter. It’s something of a holy quest.

    Which brings us to Kramer’s "shining city on a hill" mantra. "American exceptionalism" is in the same vein. These are code phrases for evangelicals. What they mean is, "we were a great and prosperous country when we pleased God. Now we have made him angry, and He’s made our lives less pleasant. If we please him again, our lives will be good. And Democrats hate baby Jesus."

    This is the actual thought process of about 25% of the people in this country. Most of the rest can’t grasp how deeply felt these beliefs are. Last year, I took an adult college course, taught by a respected instructor, on world religions. (Most of it was really cool; I got to hear an Imam sermonize against greed at a mosque and see a fucking awesome Hindu temple.) The professor, with a PhD in theology, did not realize how many Americans believe our fate is wrapped up in making God less angry. That shocked her. Mind you, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson attributed the 2001 terrorist attacks to God’s wrath for America’s slight tolerance of gay people. (Then why didn’t the terrorists attack, say, Copenhagen?) The most popular books of all time, "by" Tim LaHaye (if he bothered to write wrote a word of them I’ll eat my shoelaces) feature a theology where God gets medieval on our asses for gays, sex in general, stupid shows on TV, and the like. "Social decay." "American exceptionalism." "City on a hill." It’s the secret handshake of crazy people. At least the Mormons and Quakers and Amish had the common courtesy to set up their own sequestered theocracies.

    Let’s just analyze this "God’s mad at us" logic for fun, why not? So God was cool with killing natives. Cool with slavery. He thought these things were great, because a collection of mostly-atheist rich dudes wrote a magical sacred document called the Constitution, mostly to collect taxes to pay off war bonds and to secure their speculative land holdings.

    But then God started getting peeved. The New Deal, which saved capitalism, made God cranky, because it was socialist or something. (That’s the philosophy of the John Birch Society, and its currently popular raving promulgator, Glenn Beck.) Equal rights for people with more melanin in their skin? That made God more angry. (It also made William Buckley and Billy Graham’s careers.) Equal rights for people with vaginas? Now God’s pissed as hell. Then, to really rub salt in His wounds, we passed laws making it a prosecutable offense if you beat a gay man to death to prove to your gay friends that you weren’t gay. That put God over the edge, and he let crazy people attack New York and Washington.

    As others have observed, the Bible mentions gays a handful of times. It mentions evil rich assholes in every other chapter (and it has a LOT of chapters.) As I don’t think I’ve read anyone else observing, the Bible never, ever, prohibits extramarital sex. It bans screwing someone else’s wife, or slave. It says if a Jew dies without producing a little male-baby future-warrior Jew, his brother should bone his widow until a male baby pops out. A good way to make more future warriors, like banning masturbation and gay sex. (Although a better scheme would have been to demand that you screw your dead brother’s wife until she pops out a female baby. Seems the author of The Laws Of Moses was a bit daft on how to expand populations. Had it right with polygamy, though, that works.)

    Oh, well, I’m tired. What can ya do? I’ll watch that "Family Guy" before bedtime. Although, for you, I’d think the less-crappy episodes of "Futurama" (the opening to "A Clockwork Origin, in the ninth season, is priceless) or "South Park" (this whole thing is priceless: http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s13e03-margaritaville) are more your speed than Seth MacFarlane.

    All of those creators love musicals, though, so none can be all bad!

  2. @JMF – I think you’re wrong about Bush Jr. The far right only turned against him once he became an embarrassment. As long as the wars were going well, they loved him. And fundamentally, they still do. He cut the top tax rate! What other legacy does a Republican need? After he was re-elected in 2004, I said that in 2 years you wouldn’t be able to find a conservative who would admit to voting for him. I underestimated their truthfulness. I should have said you wouldn’t be able to find one who didn’t regret it and that’s true.

    I don’t see the conflict between our views about Kremer. I completely agree: she’s a hired gun. But she actually is rather dim. Watch the many, many videos of her and you will see that she is truly confused most of the time. She’s being paid because she is a true believer. She isn’t like Bush Jr, who really is very smart but plays an idiot.

    Your teacher doesn’t surprise me. The people who are most interested in religion are at a real disadvantage. These evangelicals are not religious so much as superstitious and vindictive.

    Conservatives are literally reactionaries. It really isn’t an ideology. It is simply a reaction to liberal ideology that is forever trying to make society more egalitarian and inclusive. So I think that’s all that we are seeing. As an atheist, the only sense I have of living past my death is how people will remember me. I would hate people to remember me as the guy who spent his life trying to deny rights that in a few generations will be taken for granted. I suppose that these people think in terms of other worldly life beyond death. But I still don’t get it. I know that people like Obama will be a little tarnished about their hypocrisy and cruelty toward drug users. But the blatant racism etc of the conservatives is so obvious.

    I do watch [i]Futurama[/i]. It is a much better show. [i]South Park[/i] is as problematic as [i]Family Guy[/i] for me. It is half brilliant and half offensive. But I’m very fond of Brian and Stewie, so I will seek out their episodes. But when I saw the listing for "Tea Peter" I knew I had to watch it.

  3. @JMF – I’m glad you liked it. That’s a good clip. It is from "The Road to Berlin" I think. I’ve watched all the "Road" episodes. They really are the best: more of what I like and less of what I don’t like.

  4. Thanks for your thoughts on the tea party and perhaps ‘conservatives’ in general, particularly those claiming to be spending cutters, being about distinguishing between ‘types’ of people. The immigration issue falls into a similar situation. The GOP wants to be pro-family and pro-work ethic yet wants to send hard-working heads of families away from their jobs and families. There is little laissez faire or pro-family about this attitude, as epitomized in another fine Family Guy episode, "Padre de Familia."

  5. @Brett Huebner – Thanks for the tip. I will check out that episode.

    I’m deeply divided on conservatives generally. When I have conversations with them, I generally find an enormous amount of common ground. But they seem almost naive in how easily they are manipulated. I keep coming back to the most important fact about the Tea Party: when the government was handing out hundreds of billions of dollars to banks, they did nothing; it was only when moderate income homeowners were getting helped that they leaped into action. I don’t think it is because they are bad people; it is just that when [i]Fox News[/i] and other opinion leaders told them about what they should [i]really[/i] be outraged about, they followed. It’s sad. I despair for democracy.

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