The BBC struck a surprising blow against the right-wing of American Republicanism this week, with Andrew Neil’s documentary “Tea Party America” (BBC 2, Monday 7pm).
The hour-long film investigates the origin and growth of America’s “Tea Party” movement.
Tea Party activist Liz Matz sums up the movement’s anti-Obama, anti-Big Government agenda in the phrase: “Progressivism is stateism, and they both add up to Socialism.”
Under the de-facto leadership of figureheads such as former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Fox News’ Glenn Beck, the Tea Party seeks to amass the support of libertarian capitalists in the US and drive politics to the right.
Kentucky activist Anne Nagy offers an illustration of the eloquent political fervour that grips Tea Party supporters, when she says: “We are going to fundamentally change [the way America does politics] because we don’t have a set leader, you can’t cut off our head.”
Barry Goldwater Jnr. (son of the 1964 presidential candidate, who had the support of Ronald Reagan) is characteristic of those interviewed in his instance that Obama cannot answer the demands of the American people: “That kind of hope and change is not what Americans want. They don’t want Socialism, they want freedom.”
One of Neil’s great strengths in this documentary is his analysis of the language of the Tea Party movement. He identifies a uniformity in Tea Party activists’ use of images of “tyranny” and “freedom”, and their constant comparison of Obama to dictators of the past.
This analysis enables him to unearth the FreedomWorks propaganda machine.
Under the leadership of president Matt Kibbe, this rightwing lobby that has invested an enormous amount of money in the Tea Party and provided training and guidance for the new activist movement.
It was Kibbe who identified the Tea Party (its name stems from an acronym for “Taxed Enough Already”) with the Boston Tea Party of 1773.
He reveals that by perusal of leftwing texts that claim the Boston Tea Party as a part of their tradition, he was able to learn direct action techniques to bring to the American right.
The documentary lacks one crucial element in terms of access — there is no interview with Glenn Beck, and so he remains the inflated caricature that is his Fox News persona, without the challenge of a live, intellectual interview.