GOP tries to co-opt the culture jam with a tea party

With the Tax Day Tea Party, it looks like Fox News and the Republicans have now embraced a form of activism: the theatrical culture jam.  Now co-opting activist tools for corporate purposes is nothing new, in fact stealth marketers have been doing it for years, but using an activist technique to bolster a right-wing message or in this case protest a tax hike for the wealthiest people in society is new.


early cultural appropriation: the Boston Tea party

This event taking place in several cities around the US today, is scheduled to coincide with American tax day and is modeled on the famous Boston Tea Party of 1773 where a group of colonists threw tea into the waters of Boston Harbor in protest of the British Parliament’s desire to tax them.  Not only was this an early example of cultural appropriation (the colonists who threw the tea overboard were dressed in Native garb) but the event that many consider sparked the American Revolution and eventually led to independence from Britain.

Now, the GOP is using this historic example of cultural appropriation as the basis for their appropriation of viral media and culture-jamming. This “collaborative grassroots effort” (yes, that’s what they’re actually calling it) involves people dumping the contents of coolers labeled “TEA” (stands for Taxed Enough Already) into bodies of water around the US.  Online, it almost looks like the real deal: there are several blogs all linking to a main page, viral YouTube videos, a live streaming broadcast and they’re even on Twitter and Facebook.


viral marketing for old ideas

When you look a little deeper, though, you’ll discover that this “new movement” is actually run by old Republican bosses and an attempt to slam Obama’s economic policies which actually cut taxes for all except the wealthy and make it look like he’s taking money away from your average American.  There’s even a YouTube video that ends with a little white girl pleading with the president to not steal from her piggy-bank.

That hasn’t stopped Fox News from jumping on the bandwagon, even to the point of denying that they are promoting the event and then, immediately following that assertion, promoting it, have a look:

While their bias in this case is not surprising, it is funny given their unconditional support of the Bush administration’s suppression of individual freedoms.

Regardless of your view on Obama and his policies, it is clear that this “rebellion” is one for more status quo, no matter how it looks online.  Let’s only hope that people can see through the façade.

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