Dimitriy T.M. and Pete L.C. alerted us to a post at Ethan Persoff about Tea Party Comix, which is pretty much what it sounds like: a comic book supposedly put out by some supporters of the Tea Party movement.  We’ve put the images after the jump because they’re aggressively racist and, well, not everyone wants to see that… there’s also a image that implies rape:

The covers of issues 1 and 2:

Sample pages:

The third issue appears to contain parodies of covers of Marvel comics, which might be a response to an issue of Captain America that mocked the Tea Party. And, um, you can buy issue 3 here.

My first reaction was extreme skepticism about the authenticity of these comics as actual Tea Party materials. Several commenters on Rachel Maddow’s website expressed the same response — that it’s actually a parody of the Tea Party. Others pointed out that the person selling it on ebay sells lots of other comics as well and thus knows enough about them to have the knowledge to create the Marvel parodies and might be the author. And I haven’t found many online stories about it.

But Persoff told the staff at Rachel Maddow’s show that he got the first two issues from  an “enthusiastic Tea Partier in Corpus Christi.” And racist caricatures of Obama, such as a picture of him as a witch doctor in a grass skirt, certainly aren’t unheard of. Here’s an example from Tea Party supporter and cartoonist Darleen Click that depicts Obama as a rapist:

It seems to me there are five possibilities here:

  • It’s an actual comic put out by some Tea Party supporters (which the larger Tea Party may have no control over and may not welcome)
  • Persoff is lying about where he got the comics
  • Persoff was mistaken about the person who gave them to him being an actual Tea Party member
  • The person was a Tea Party activist and knew it was a parody but thought it was funny anyway, or possibly an example of how the Tea Party is unfairly stereotyped
  • It’s a parody but the Tea Party member didn’t realize that and is handing it out thinking it’s a legitimate Tea Party comic.

Obviously if it’s a straightforward comic series created by someone who identifies with the Tea Party, it’s classic race-baiting. If not, it brings up a frequent question: to what degree does intent matter? If you create a parody and opponents of the Tea Party take it seriously, maybe that’s somewhat irrelevant; on the other hand, given that the Tea Party has tried to distance itself from racism recently, if people take this seriously at a Tea Party supporter’s creation, it will make that more difficult for them and could shape the discourse about the movement in a way they find very problematic. And what does it mean if it’s a parody by a non-Tea Party member, but some Tea Party activists take it seriously, approve of the message, and distribute it to others as legitimate Tea Party material? Does it then become an authentic, non-parody Tea Party comic, at least among some affiliates of the Tea Party (which is a loose association of a lot of groups that take on the identity) because it’s treated that way by members themselves?

I think this comic brings up a lot of interesting questions about parodies, intent, and politics, regardless of whether we ultimately find out it’s authentic or not. But I’ll keep monitoring the story and provide an update if I get any more information from sources that seem reliable.

UPDATE: A person claiming to be a Tea Party member and the creator of the series contacted Persoff and said that the comics are based on anger at Obama but aren’t racist. It’s an interesting development, but to me there’s still the question of whether the person’s claim is true. I have no reason to say it isn’t, but it seems like a situation where someone might claim credit for various reasons, and thus any such claims should be viewed with some skepticism without evidence to back them up.

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