HomeOp-EdThe Tea Party Actually Did Call Themselves ‘Teabaggers’

The Tea Party Actually Did Call Themselves ‘Teabaggers’

I’ve read a lot of comments in the past few months about whether or not the Tea Party once called themselves “teabaggers.” Actually, they did.  They did call themselves teabaggers.  The problematic connotation of the word was enough for Tea Party leaders to try to scrub the internet and the minds of conservatives as to hide the comical mistake.

There was an article very eloquently written in the National Review Online by Jay Nordlinger titled, Rise of an Epithet. In it contains some of that proof of early Tea Party leaping before looking–things they have been desperate to change ever since.  The original location of the article is… here.  Jay Nordlinger is the senior editor for the National Review Online which is a conservative news organization founded by William F. Buckley Jr.  Buckley is noted for his support of McCarthy and his ability to scrub out Communists from Hollywood (aka target Jewish people).  He wrote a book on the subject and then went on to produce his own news journal which somehow turned into an anti-Semitic haterpalooza that even Buckley had to walk away from to start a new publication that wasn’t as racy.  One very interesting parallel in the National Review’s founder (who seems to have a fan in the senior editor) is the stalwart conservative idealism with any means justifying the end results.  Sometimes that can be considered noble, however when the cause you are pushing is white Christian men, the nobility more resembles conquering and oppressing.

But this is the internet!  If the developers wanted authority and archived their files, they get stuck into the Wayback Machine.  Here is the some of the article that was scrubbed…

To “teabag” or not to “teabag”: That is not the most pressing question of these times, but it is a question to consider. Routinely, conservative protesters in the “tea party” movement are called “teabaggers,” and those calling them that do not mean it in a nice way. Many conservatives are mulling what to do about this term: fight it, embrace it, what?

After the multitude of protesters started to embrace the term “teabagger,” media had a field day with it.

“For most Americans, Wednesday, April 15, will be Tax Day, but . . . it’s going to be Teabagging Day for the right wing, and they’re going nuts for it. Thousands of them whipped out the festivities early this past weekend, and while the parties are officially toothless, the teabaggers are full-throated about their goals. They want to give President Obama a strong tongue-lashing and lick government spending.”

Jay realized his audience is a little older demographically and therefore weren’t in on the joke.

Ma and Pa America may not have been in on the joke, but plenty of other people were. On HBO, the lefty comedian Bill Maher commented, “When the year started, ‘teabagging’ was a phrase that referred to dangling one’s testicles in someone else’s face.” And the tea-party protesters “managed to turn it into something gross and ridiculous.” Tuh-dum.

After Cooper and the others smirked about “teabagging,” the word went utterly mainstream — although you could say that, if Cooper used it, it started mainstream: because how much more mainstream can you get than a CNN anchor? On ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, E. J. Dionne, the liberal columnist, spoke of “a right-wing candidate supported by the teabaggers.” The host himself, Stephanopoulos, followed suit. On PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, senior correspondent Gwen Ifill used “teabaggers” as well. At the New York Times, Paul Krugman used it in a column. Elsewhere, Roger Ebert used it in a movie review. And so on.


Hmmmm.  Do you mean like I tend to hear the word “liberal” when coming from the angry and uninformed?

Some on the right are using “teabagger,” but mainly the word is a putdown from the left. Conservatives realize that nothing friendly is meant by it. You can tell by tone and context, for one thing. (Or is that two things?) Of course, some people use “teabagger” in innocence — unaware of any vulgar connotation. One such person is, or was, Gwen Ifill. Some of her NewsHour viewers wrote to complain. And Ifill later said, “Turns out I am the only person with access to email who never knew this was a term with a sexual meaning. I used it in an offhand manner as a shorthand referring to the ‘tea party’ movement. It was a slip I was unaware of, and I regret it.”


I liked this part.  He starts to embrace the comical term.

Some conservatives are happy to embrace “teabagger,” or are at least willing to do so. They are “owning the insult,” which is to say, taking what is intended as a slur and wearing it proudly. There are many words and names in our vocabulary that started out as slurs and became something else. Several of these words and names are found in religion — “Christian,” for example. According to a Bible dictionary, this was “the name given by the Greeks or Romans, probably in reproach, to the followers of Jesus.” Soon enough, it “was universally accepted.” “Jesuit” had a defamatory beginning. Same with “Methodist,” “Unitarian,” “Quaker,” and “Shaker.” (You can sort of tell with those last two, can’t you?)

The article took an interesting turn when he started comparing the n-bomb to teabagger:

What about a special case — the worst word in American English, as some of us see it, namely the N-word? When I was growing up, in Ann Arbor, Mich., there was a little debate: Should school officials try to prevent black students from using the N-word? I don’t believe the issue was ever settled. And this brings up the question of whether “teabagger” could be kind of a conservative N-word: to be used in the family, but radioactive outside the family.

The article concludes with exasperation over the fight to get rid of the word teabagger:

In any event, it may well be too late to purge “teabagger” from our discourse, certainly from discourse controlled by liberals. But I’m for giving it a try: for running “teabagger” out of town, even at this late date. It is really a lowdown term. “Tea partier” is a neutral term. “Tea-party patriots” is a positive term, used by some of the protesters themselves. “Teabagger” — not so positive, and not so neutral.

It could well be that liberals at large are recognizing this too. In a discussion at Slate, the online magazine, Sam Tanenhaus wrote, “Even today the right insists it is driven by ideas, even if the leading thinkers are now Limbaugh and Beck, and the shock troops are tea-baggers and anti-tax demonstrators.” As he told me, he subsequently learned that “teabagger” had this vulgar meaning, and was used as a pejorative. So he changed his text to “tea-partiers”: “tea-partiers and anti-tax demonstrators.” Much better, don’t you think?



Americans Against The Tea Party is a group committed to exposing the Tea Party’s lies, violence, racism, ignorance, intolerance, bigotry, and corporatist fascist efforts to subvert our democratic process – and we are organizing to defeat Tea Party/GOP candidates on ballots everywhere.
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  • http://www.newscorpse.com/ncWP/ Mark

    Here is some evidence that the Teabaggers embraced the term with pride

    This post has an image from the official GOP web site (slightly modified). And there is also a video where they announce their teabagger pride.

    • http://adamgoodrich.com Adam

      Nice! I scoured out the bulk of the letter so that the National Review doesn’t get their Conservative panties in a twist.

  • Shawn Crippen

    Awwww, c’mon, Adam! I didn’t have any idea what ‘tea bagging’ meant until you clued me in, and now you tell me I can’t use the term? When it’s so DELICIOUSLY appropriate??

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