My wife and I enjoy Law and Order: SVU. One familiar scene features the child predator, smirking as he sits in the interrogation room while Benson and Stabler glower at him. "I didn't hurt those precious children," he says. "I was expressing my love for them." In the child predator's mind, what he's doing is not violent, horrific, illegal, and/or morally outrageous, because he says he isn't. By his lights, he should be released immediately, with an apology even, and be able to resume his victimization of innocent children because, well, he says he should. It's the same logic that the children he violates use with their parents and their playground friends: it is so because I say it's so, and that's all there is to it.
Same with the tea party racists, who scream and shout the most vile and denigrating racial slurs and outbursts and then turn around and say, "I'm not being racist. I'm merely expressing my patriotic outrage at what those people are doing to the America I love," or words to that effect. Like NAMBLA Boy in the paragraph above, the logic is the same: it's not racism because they say it isn't. Therefore they should continue dressing Obama up like a witch doctor, or calling him a "n!ggar", or portraying the White House lawn as a watermelon patch, or whatever. (Instead of posting a lot of links to this or that image, I'll just direct you to Google Images; I put in three words: "Obama racist sign" [no quotes]. On the screen, I saw a cartoon of a monkey Obama eating a banana; shoeshine boy Obama polishing Sarah Palin's shoes; a sign saying of Obama, "That's my n!gger;" a sign saying "Monkey see monkey spend;" a sign calling Obama "a lyin' African;" a sign calling Obama a "half-breed Muslin" [apparently they believe he worships fabric]; a button asking if we can still call it "the White House" now that Obama lives there; a picture of an "Obama Buck" adorned with watermelon, fried chicken, a slab of ribs, and Kool-Aid; a painted slogan advocating "Death to N!ggers Muslim and Obama" ... the list goes on and on and on and on and on. And, of course, signs declaring that WE aren't racist, it's Obama, or blacks, or liberals, or Democrats, or whoever, who are the real racists.) And if you say anything about the racism they spew, they retort with outraged denials and claims that you are victimizing them.
Which brings us to Tom Kalb and "Tea Party Comix". Here's a link to comic book maven Ethan Persoff's latest page on TPC, with lots and lots of clips from Kalb's comic depicting Obama as some hateful Stepin Fetchit-Little Black Sambo mix, or, perhaps even more offensively, a diaper-clad "O-Bama Lord of the Jungle!"
And Kalb doesn't limit himself to racism against African-Americans: take a gander at the "hook-nosed Jew" Ezekiel Emanuel, depicted in the bottom right of the panel.
In an e-mail to Persoff (see first link), Kalb screams and thrashes about how he isn't a racist, how he's just expressing his hatred of Obama's ideology and of course there's no racist context to anything he draws. "But somehow, ANY negative drawing of Presient Obama is automatically 'racist'," he writes. "... Be honest with yourself, if it is possible. ....Think. And maybe admit that you have an advantage that you are taking advantage OF." (All ellipses and caps are Kalb's. Apparently it's the only way he knows to communicate, making his claims VERY LOUDLY so we'll see the world his way. Do his justifications and protestations sound familiar? We see them every day from Kalb's buddies and confreres.)
According to TPM, tea party organizations are disavowing any connection to Kalb; his local (Corpus Christi, Texas) tea party group "unequivocally denounces" Kalb's TPC, says they know nothing of the comics, and says, predictably, "Racism has no place in our movement or our nation."
Well, the Corpus Christi tea partiers have hit the first talking point: we have nothing to do with racism. Nuh-uh. Say it loud, say it proud, and ignore the tsunami of racist images, signs, and slogans infesting just about every tea party organization out there.
The second talking point comes from the executive director of the Patriot Journal, the Tea Party Patriots' official online publication: it's a plant by liberal Commies! "It's a plant and a bad one at that," says Shelby Blakely. "The truth is in the details." Even some of the posters on Rachel Maddow's blog said the TPC were so far over the top that they might not be real, but parodies of tea party beliefs. Unfortunately, Kalb seems to be just what he says he is. (Has the "liberal plant" meme EVER withstood scrutiny?) Another TPM article points up Persoff's column. Persoff himself finds Kalb's history of selling the "comix" on eBay, billing them as "conservative underground comic[s]" and "anti-Obama comic[s]" not for "liberal commie types." Kalb describes the compilation as "120 pages of FAR RIGHT WING FURY!" Kalb may not be a tea party organizer, or any sort of bigwig in any tea party group, but he's been hawking his wares as far-right fodder since November 2009 at least. Occam's Razor says he is what he portrays himself to be: an artist making money off of his crude, racially-fueled "satires" of Obama by selling his work to equally crude, equally racist conservatives.
And Kalb's not the only one. The Society Pages posts a cartoon by tea party supporter Darleen Chick that depicts Obama as a rapist.
Persoff, before he starts wriggling around the concept of what exactly constitutes racism as opposed to satire, makes perhaps the most cogent observation of the entire little imbroglio:
"[W]hat makes someone a genuine Tea Party member, and what makes something a genuine Tea Party product? If an entire organization is largely unhinged and unmanaged, what makes part of it a central authority, and what makes individuals outcasts of the larger philosophy. These are very necessary questions. No other counterculture is allowed a separation from individual members and a movement. For example, no one separated the actions of individual hippies from the larger movement in the 60s. From Joan Baez to the Weathermen, they were all hippies. Even Charles Manson was considered the hippie murderer in the press. No one separated individual punk zines from not speaking for punks in the 80s, etc."
The tea partiers are demanding something no other movement has ever been granted: for its individual members and organizations to define themselves, and by proxy the entire movement, as they choose, and to denounce others' characterizations and definitions even if those characterizations and definitions are based on fact and observation. I see a tea party rally boasting a raft of racist signs and slogans, I figure I'm watching a group that embraces racism. But no! the tea partiers scream, you're the racist for making that assumption! We repudiate and denounce those racist slogans that are appearing at almost all of our rallies! We have nothing to do with the racist hate speech that runs rampant through almost all of our Internet communications! (The tea partiers have even denounced critics of the movement for labeling them "teabaggers," though they themselves first used the term, describing themselves as "teabaggers" with pride until they found out what it really meant. Then within hours, "teabagger" was a derogatory term used only by liberal ragheads who wanted to mock and destroy the tea party movement. Moreover, it had always been a derogatory term, and no one ever used "teabagger" to describe tea partiers.)
If you are a tea party member who hates Obama because of the color of his skin, hates the African-Americans you work with or ride the subway with or whatever, then be that person. Be the racist you are. (But that's not going to happen, because the one thing these yahoos have learned is that overt racism is socially unacceptable, therefore you can't openly advocate it without losing credibility and influence among the larger citizenry. Kalb is a shining example of this. He flounces in public, denying the racism he illustrates and throwing counter-charges that depict him as a victim of persecution, perhaps even a victim of racism. I can only imagine the vile racist spew he indulges in when he's among right-thinking friends.)
If you are a tea party member who honestly does not hate African-Americans (or Jews, or Muslims, or women, or all the other non-white, non-conservative Americans that so many of your fellow tea partiers hate with every fiber of their beings), then stop associating with them. Stop enabling them. Stop standing beside people at the rallies waving signs depicting Obama as Curious George. Stop making excuses for them, or denying they exist, or calling them "liberal plants," or whatever. Stop portraying yourselves as victims of persecution, when it is your fellow tea partiers that are doing the persecuting.
Otherwise you're no better than that kiddie predator smirking up at the detectives in the police station, insisting that the vile and horrendous acts you perform on the kids in your neighborhood are "acts of love," and he's the victim of unfair and unwarranted persecution.