When CNBC’s Rick Santelli roused his mob of commodities traders to indiscriminately oppose any sort of taxation (even though they have representation), he set off a campaign that hitched its identity to the revolutionary war era activists who came to be known as the tea party. Unfortunately, there was very little forethought to this aborning movement and the participants began referring to themselves as Tea Baggers. When they learned of some of the other less flattering connotations of the term, they tried to distance themselves from it. But it was too late and besides, some of their comrades decided to embrace it.
The progressive community never really countered this crowd with anything organized. There was an awkward attempt to launch a Coffee Party, but it, so far, has not gained much traction.
Well now we may have a far better branding opportunity, with a far more appealing image. And it is all thanks to the new movie Robin Hood, and its star Russell Crowe. At a press conference for the opening of the film at the Cannes Film Festival in France (oh no, not France), the discussion turned to what Robin Hood would be doing were he to be present and wandering in the woods today. Crowe offered a damn good theory that was aimed directly at the media audience he was addressing:
“Would he be political? Would he aim at certain figures and try to bring them down? Would his aim be economic? Would he be looking at Wall Street and the huge sums of money that people have been patting themselves on the back with, and the subprime mortgage collapse?
“Or would he be looking at what you guys do for a living and realizing that the true wealth lies in the dissemination of information? And my theory would be, if Robin Hood was alive today, he would be looking at the monopolization of media as the greatest enemy.”
Exactly! If there is any authority in the 21st century that is brazenly exploiting the masses for its own benefit; if there is any institution that considers itself to be above the peasants and entitled to the power and money they hoard, it is the media. They travel in elite circles and cover for one another. Once in the club you can never be ejected. That’s why so many pundits are still given airtime despite how often they are wrong. And the Sheriff of Nottingham, known to his friends as Rupert Murdoch, keeps a tight reign on the fiefdom he rules.
Crowe’s insight is not merely recognizing the threat that media consolidation and monopolization represents, but he explicitly rejected the easy analogy of Robin Hood being a Tea Bagger himself due to his opposition to the then-current administration. No, Robin is much more likely to be a liberal as evidenced by his distaste for the opulently wealthy who have no concern for working people. Robin’s policy of taking from the rich and giving to the poor made him an early practitioner of “redistribution of wealth.” He certainly would have battled the Wall Street barons, the environmental abusers, and he would have demanded that all subjects of the realm receive adequate health care, food, and housing.
So get ready for the Tea Crusaders to mount up in opposition to Robin and his Merry Men and Women. Brace yourselves for the 9/12ers and Glenn Beck’s Army of the Delusional. Be vigilant as Fox News amasses the troops on the border of Sanity. Robin Hood, the movie and the legend, will soon come under attack because the Dark Ageists won’t abide this champion of social justice and enemy of free market greed. And if you think they won’t go after a beloved cultural icon like Robin Hood, remember, the Tea Baggers already denounced Captain America.
The progressive movement, however, would be wise to embrace Robin Hood and build our future on the philosophy he represents. It is an ethical and moral philosophy, and an appealing and inspirational tale of heroism and beneficence. And it’s way better than Tea Bagging.