Intellectual Ammunition for the Tea Parties

September 11, 2009 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

Inside the ballroom of the National Press Club, the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights and the Competitive Enterprise Institute are holding an “Intellectual Ammunition Pre-Tea Party Strategy Workshop.” Most of the room, which typically hosts the big-ticket events by celebrity speakers and politicians, was full; on every chair, there was a copy of an Ayn Rand sampler with excerpts from her novels and her philosophy texts.

“You are the heart, the soul, and the mind of America,” said Lin Zinser of the Ayn Rand Center, bringing the meeting to order.

“You’re not lying!” yelled a friendly heckler.

The first lecture came from Iain Murray, the CEI scholar and National Review contributor who wrote “The Really Inconvenient Truths: Seven Environmental Catastrophes Liberals Don’t Want You to Know About — Because They Helped Cause Them.” With slides and self-deprecating humor — Murray, who’s English, called himself a “refugee from Socialism” — he took the crowd through a history of citizen protests that linked their Tea Parties to lesser-known revolutions of the 14th, 15th, 17th, and 18th centuries.

“When you think of a Tea Party,” said Murray, “don’t just think of the Boston Tea Party. Think of this — the Peasant’s Revolt.”

Murray’s presentation included a few jokes about violent overthrows — he got warm applause with a slide quoting Dick the Butcher’s line from Henry VI, Part II, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” But during the Q&A, several questioners asked whether the right to bear arms meant to the right to take action against people “taking it away,” and about a domestic military force they worried President Barack Obama was creating. Murray cautioned his audience to calm down a little, telling them how Winston Churchill lost the 1945 UK general election after comparing the Labour Party to the Nazi gestapo. “When you talk about domestic armies,” he said, “you’re on dangerous ground.”

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