A rather peculiar performance: We’ve been curious about Christopher Parker since 2010.
Parker, an associate professor at the University of Washington, burst on the scene at that time with a somewhat murky, somewhat bungled study of the tea party’s racial attitudes. The study produced substantial excitement in some liberal precincts.
The bungling struck us as odd. We’ve been curious about Parker ever since.
Over the weekend, C-Span aired an event at Colby College featuring Professor Parker. Colby students were in the audience, along with some people from the local community (Waterville, Maine).
Parker spoke about his new book for 55 minutes, then took questions for 35. We’d call it one of the oddest university events we’ve ever seen on C-Span.
To watch the event, click here.
Parker has a large personality. As you can see if you watch the tape, he started off with a warning and a pre-emptive apology:
PARKER (11/20/13): All right. I see I have two mikes here. I promise you I won’t need either one.We’ve watched the 90 minutes twice. For what it’s worth, none of the threatened F-bombs were dropped.
Anyway, so let me just say this by way of introduction. I can do this the more traditional, sort of stuffy academic way. Or I can do this my way.
So I’m gonna do this my way. And doing it my way consists of sometimes, you know, dropping an occasional F-bomb. So if you are sensitive, if foul language offends you, I would invite you to leave right now. Because when I discuss this stuff I really get into it.
So I’m going to offer a mea culpa now, to you, and to C-Span, and I’m also going to offer one later as I conclude.
On the other hand, we’re not sure we’ve ever seen a more disjointed academic presentation. Even after watching twice, we can’t tell you what Parker’s thesis was, except that he made a point of comparing the tea party to the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920’s.
What was the basis for the comparison? We’d have to say that was never explained.
Parker has a lot of personality, but good lord, what a performance! Around the 9-minute mark, you will hear his account of the time he and his wife went to Lanai, “perhaps the most remote of the Hawaiian Islands,” and got stuck having dinner with some tea party people.
Out of all the rum joints on all the islands of the world, they had to walk into his!
Around the 29-minute mark, you will see the Colby director break in to (our interpretation) stop the professor from sassing an audience member who sympathizes with the tea party. Your interpretation may differ.
No F-bombs were ever dropped, but we found the event depressing.
We Americans are having a very hard time interacting with one another. When we break apart into warring tribes who can’t communicate or work together in any way, the most extreme hyper-conservative mission is at last complete.
The F-bomb warning comes one minute in. But go ahead—take the tea party challenge! Can you define Parker’s thesis from watching the whole 90 minutes?
Frankly, we could not. We’ve seen his book’s thesis described in print, but we didn’t hear Parker describe it that night. C-Span’s synopsis seems quite hard to square with what we actually saw.
We found this event depressing. Your reaction may differ.