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2 November 2010updated 27 Sep 2015 5:40am

Keith Olbermann on the Tea Party

A near-perfect 20-minute summary of the right-wing crazies who might triumph today.

By Mehdi Hasan

The MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, my second-favourite US broadcaster (after Jon Stewart!), concluded his show on 27 October with this “special comment” on the right-wing, populist Tea Party movement and the dangers it poses to American democracy and civil rights. It’s long – around 20 minutes – but it’s well worth watching. Or, alternatively, you can read the transcript of his typically impassioned remarks.

Here’s an extract:

It is as if a group of moderately talented performers has walked on stage at a comedy club on improv night. Each hears a shout from the audience, consisting of a bizarre but just barely plausible fear or hatred or neurosis or prejudice.

And the entertainment of the evening is for each to take their thin, absurd premise, and build upon it a campaign for governor or congressman or senator. The problem is, of course, when it turns out there is no audience shouting out gags, just a cabal of corporations and the US Chamber of Commerce and political insider bloodsuckers like Karl Rove and Dick Armey and the Chicken Little Chorus of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

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And the instructions are not to improvise a comedy sketch, but to elect a group of unqualified, unstable individuals who will do what they are told, in exchange for money and power, and march this nation as far backward as they can get, backward to Jim Crow, or backward to the breadlines of the Thirties, or backward** to hanging union organisers, or backward to the trusts and the robber barons.

Result: the Tea Party. Vote backward, vote Tea Party. And if you are somehow indifferent to what is planned for next Tuesday, it is nothing short of an attempt to use democracy to end this democracy, to buy America wholesale and pave over the freedoms and the care we take of one another, which have combined to keep us the envy of the world.

You do not think your freedom is at stake next Tuesday?

He goes on to outline, in great detail, and with supporting quotes, the craziness, hypocrisy and bigotry of these far-right Republican congressional and gubernatorial candidates who affect to be the disillusioned voices of grass-roots US conservatism. It’s a must-watch.

On a side note, for those of you here in Britain who don’t know Olbermann, or aren’t familiar with his “Special Comments”, check out the 2007 Rolling Stone profile here.