"This is the uprising of the working class. We're redistributing the wealth. In America you have the tea party, in England you've got this."
-- Bryn Phillips, U.K. rioter and self-described "anarchist"
Believe it or not, Mr. Phillips might very well be on to something here. In America, Tea Party activists gather across the country to peacefully dissent against irresponsible fiscal policy by Democrats and Republicans alike. In England, gangs of young nihilists wantonly assault and kill people, setting buildings ablaze and redistributing wealth by pillaging goods (though, notably, they don't seem too interested in books). This is what they've got in England indeed.
By stark contrast, of the thousands of Tea Party rallies that have taken place across the United States over the past two years or so, I don't recall any broken windows, burning buildings or bloodied foreheads. In fact, I defy anyone to name a Tea Party activist who has been arrested for either damaging property or inflicting bodily harm. And yet it is the Tea Partiers who the left-wing chattering classes in America call terrorists, accuse of waging jihad and scold for bringing the country to the brink of disaster. Well, England has gone past the brink and has been overwhelmed by disaster of the man-made variety. Do our left-wing chattering classes condemn the hooliganism in London? Thomas Friedman of the New York Times surely does not:
London burns. The Arab Spring triggers popular rebellions against autocrats across the Arab world. The Israeli Summer brings 250,000 Israelis into the streets, protesting the lack of affordable housing and the way their country is now dominated by an oligopoly of crony capitalists. From Athens to Barcelona, European town squares are being taken over by young people railing against unemployment and the injustice of yawning income gaps, while the angry Tea Party emerges from nowhere and sets American politics on its head.
So when 68-year old Richard Mannington Bowes was beaten to death for trying to put out a fire near his home in London's Ealing neighborhood and a hundred-plus hooligans prevented police from coming to his aid? That was just their youthful way of "railing against unemployment." The thug who ran off with Bowes' wallet was merely protesting "yawning income gaps." Yet in Friedman's enlightened eyes it is the Tea Party that is "angry."
If Prime Minister David Cameron's Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition directly responds to the riots by enacting some kind of youth employment initiative, then the government will have rewarded lawless behavior. Crime will have paid off. Those rioting Britons were not like the young Israelis currently protesting against Benjamin Netanyahu over the increasing cost of living in major cities. No, those young Britons were engaged in nothing more than wanton violence, and to describe their actions as a political protest is an insult to those who partake in peaceful protest worldwide -- from the Israelis who want more from their government to the Tea Party activists here in America who want less from ours.
The fact that Tea Party activists want less government is precisely what bedevils the Tom Friedmans of the world. To Friedman and his ilk, wanting less government is an unnatural state of being and thus no sane person could be in favor of such a thing. In their eyes, Tea Party activists are not engaged in an authentic expression of political discontent.
Yet Friedman has no trouble whatsoever in viewing the riots in England as such an expression. This is not to say Friedman isn't troubled by their "criminal mutations." But since he believes they share his worldview when it comes to unemployment and the wage gap, Friedman cannot bring himself to unambiguously condemn their behavior. It could be said that Friedman views the London rioters as Keynesians in the rough. If that is the case then their actions can be characterized as a vicious counter-cycle.
Thomas Friedman and the left-wing chattering classes can disagree with the aims and objectives of the Tea Party all they want. But they're deceiving themselves if they view the Tea Party as inauthentic or insincere in their beliefs. They are also mistaken if they believe the Tea Party, as Friedman suggests, "emerges from nowhere." While the Tea Party congealed during the early months of the Obama Administration, the source of its discontent has been decades of unsustainable government spending by both Democrats and Republicans alike. Tea Partiers are no more amenable to President Bush's TARP than they are to President Obama's stimulus program. They are no more enamored with Medicare Part D than they are with Obamacare.
But as long as Friedman insists on calling the Tea Party "a Hezbollah faction" that "will take the GOP on a suicide mission," then he should be viewed as an unserious person. After all, it should never be forgotten that Hezbollah was responsible for the murder of 241 of our Marines in Beirut. That Friedman likens the Tea Party to an organization that actually carries out murder while giving the hoodlums in England a pass renders me to conclude that he is incapable of reason when evaluating those who fall outside the narrow parameters of his point of view.
If there's any country in dire need of a vibrant Tea Party movement, it is Britain. Alas, it would appear that there is no tea in England.