Things go better with tea © ™

Who owns the Tea Party Movement? The answer (fortunately, IMO) is no one!

This can be a blessing and a curse, as Ann Althouse points out in her discussion of the ridiculous demand issued by NAACP leader Benjamin Jealous that "the Tea Party" (whatever he might mean by that) expel the "bigots" and "racists" in its ranks:

The fray began when NAACP President Benjamin Jealous issued a challenge to the Tea Party:

"You must expel the bigots and racists in your ranks or take full responsibility for all of their actions."

Observes Althouse,
How would that even be done? Random people show up at rallies in public places and have signs that occasionally, in the opinion of some people, cross the line into what deserves to be called racist. Who is supposed to do what, and why would the failure to do that require taking "full responsibility for all of their actions" (whatever that means)? Does the NAACP apply the same standard to itself? I don't really mean for you to answer those questions, only to see that Jealous isn't trying to make sense. He's just stirring people up.
And of course, even if there were a top-down structure of some sort that could in theory expel people, and did so, none of that would please Jealous. The man is a solid left-wing activist -- who actually called radical communist Van Jones a "national treasure." Need anyone speculate about how someone like that would define "bigot"? Or "racist"? To most leftists, a "bigot" is someone who might not care what two people do in their bedroom, but thinks gay marriage goes too far. And as we all know, a "racist" is anyone who criticizes Barack Obama. Even belief in a color-blind society is now defined as "racism." So, even if there were such an entity as "the Tea Party," it would have to do nothing less than purge the entire membership to satisfy Jealous and his ilk.

But as Althouse makes clear, Jealous is hell-bent on identifying an organization with a structure and with named leaders. So he singles out a particular individual (one Mark Williams -- with whom I'm unfamiliar), calls him "a national spokesman for the Tea Party Express" and charges "the Tea Party" with being responsible for an inflammatory statement Williams made about the NAACP. Althouse sees through this lame attempt at conflation:

Well, that's pretty inflammatory. But who is Mark Williams? And why is NPR quietly conflating the Tea Party movement with the Tea Party Express? I think that last question is an easy one. Williams gave the most inflammatory quote, the one that gave the biggest boost to the Jealous rant, so NPR presented him as the voice of the movement.
Fortunately, no one owns the name "Tea Party" and there is no one organization sitting there to be the leftists' punching bag.

But there is a drawback to having an unowned, loosely affiliated name for a broad, grass-roots movement. Anyone can grab it, and then claim to own it. Like it or not, in this country there is such a thing as property rights in a name.

So this article in today's Free Press is cause for concern:

LANSING -- Veteran tea party movement activists said that an expensive, secretive campaign that submitted 60,000 petition signatures to the state Wednesday to qualify candidates for office under the banner of the Tea Party is a trick to help Democrats.

The activists said the group that submitted the petitions wants to siphon votes from tea party conservatives running as Republicans.

Mark Steffek, a Tuscola County man who described himself as head of the party that turned in the petitions, issued a statement Wednesday criticizing both major parties and claiming "the tea party is a grassroots movement that belongs to everybody. No one person, click (sic) or party boss owns the tea party."

The problem doesn't end there. Nor does it end by someone proving that he is a Democratic Party operative.

The problem with making a name free to all is not so much that anyone can use it (although this causes obvious problems, because any crank, asshole, or plant can claim to be part of it). But what this and other phony "Tea Party" registrations proves is the inherent difficulty in keeping the name from being owned.

Perhaps there has to be a legal adjudication that the name "Tea Party" is analogous to Open Source or something, because otherwise, some asshole will end up owning it simply because he played by the normal rules of property ownership. And it will join a long list of names like "Coke," "Mac," "Nike" or "McDonalds" which people are forbidden to use.

Opponents also could mount a legal challenge in an attempt to derail the new party. Potential complaints could be based on ownership of legal rights to the Tea Party name to who has the legal authority to assume leadership of a tea party political party.

If designated, the Tea Party would become the fifth minor party in Michigan, joining the Green Party, the U.S. Taxpayers Party, the Libertarian Party and the Natural Law Party. [Emphasis added.]

It must just gall some of the Aquinas Natural Law people that the Natural Law Party is based on the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, * but that's the way the name game is played!

In the world where names are property, an unowned name is like unowned property. Keeping a valuable name unowned is a challenge.

But I guess if I can call myself a small-l libertarian (which I can -- as long as we can agree that anyone who starts the "small-l libertarian party" should be killed), then it wouldn't kill me to call myself a small-t tea partier.

* Not to digress, but I think Thomas Aquinas and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi are as natural as bonobo chimps, but nature can be cruel....

MORE: After much deliberation, my legal department advised me to put the copyright symbol -- © -- after the word "tea" in the title.

We© can't© be© too© careful©!

MORE: Ditto Trademark ™

We™ can't™ be™ too™ careful™!

(Perhaps someone should protect every word in the dictionary from word parasites.)

posted by Eric on 07.15.10 at 10:04 AM


You are falling into the trap. Worry not about the name, just as you worry not about the leader. the movement continues. a rose by any other name...could avoid copyright issues.

besides, i wanna laugh at all the liberal tea parties.....bring popcorn

Bill Johnson   ·  July 16, 2010 12:23 PM

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