Is the Tea Party Movement a Cult? The Case of Idaho Resident, Pam Stout

The New York Times recently did a profile of the Tea Party movement, and after reading the article I came away with the sense that what we’re seeing is more akin to a religious cult than a political movement. Here, for example, is how the New York Times describes the conversion of Idaho resident Pam Stout to Tea Party activism:

Worried about hyperinflation, social unrest or even martial law, she and her Tea Party members joined a coalition, Friends for Liberty, that includes representatives from Glenn Beck’s 9/12 Project, the John Birch Society, and Oath Keepers, a new player in a resurgent militia movement. When Friends for Liberty held its first public event, Mrs. Stout listened as Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff, brought 1,400 people to their feet with a speech about confronting a despotic federal government. Mrs. Stout said she felt as if she had been handed a road map to rebellion. Members of her family, she said, think she has disappeared down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories.

Isn’t this akin to what family tend to say about loved ones who get sucked into cults?:

So-and-so just disappeared down a rabbit hole of religious certitude, and we never could get the person that we knew back!

And it’s interesting that, later in the article, the New York Times uses the language of revival in relation to the movement:

The Tea Party movement has become a platform for conservative populist discontent, a force in Republican politics for revival, as it was in the Massachusetts Senate election, or for division. But it is also about the profound private transformation of people like Mrs. Stout, people who not long ago were not especially interested in politics, yet now say they are bracing for tyranny.

I think that the black hole quality of the movement has to do with the circular reasoning that conspiratorial thinking is so masterful at: once you think your way into a conspiratorial paradigm, every new piece of data can be made to fit it, and you need never think your way back out again. Like fundamentalist and cultic religions, the Tea Party movement is an intellectual Black Flag “roach motel”—a truly sad thing for a person’s imagination to find itself caught in.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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12 Responses to Is the Tea Party Movement a Cult? The Case of Idaho Resident, Pam Stout

  1. Ulanigida says:

    Whether a People United is of faith or strictly political in structure is NOT the matter for debate but rather a matter of Government accountabilty and the attempts to bring about despotic rule.
    If you or anyone else should happen to prefer having your entire life and death decided and dictated too you as was what happened in Germany under hitler then by all means do NOTHING!Stand for NOTHING and you will fall for ANYTHING!
    It is quite apparent that those that want to rule and control others are spewing their ‘Christian Terrorist’ propaganda the same as they did against the Jews in Germany and Poland. This is old hat! Shameful and displays a total and complete lack of knowledge concerning all the issues involved. Please educate yourself before making such assessments and attempting to pass them on as fact!

    • 152 says:

      Whoa, wait a minute. Christian Terrorist? In your analogy, who are the Jews? Your comment makes no sense. The President has been attacked by liberals for being too bipartisan.

    • DHembree says:

      I agree. The TEa Party is a cult. Definatly Christians should not belong. They espouse bigotry, narrow mindedness and hate. Every Tea Party demonstration I have seen is full of hatred, vile words, and bigotry, not to mention posters and billdobards full of lies. People simply place on the billboard what they are told. How do I know this? If they had researched, they would find the truth and not write the lies./ For example, taxes are the lowest ever, my family got a refund for the first time in 10 eyars. Check stats on the fact. So tea party revolot is based on tax revolt/ But there are no tax hikes to revolt. Negative words, lies, and hatred is never acceptable in any country. But again, Tea Party opinions are protected by the constitution.

  2. bydesign001 says:

    The New York Times, the same newspaper that has since pulled an article they printed two weeks ago accusing New York Governor, David Paterson of carrying on a torrid drug laced love affair while at the same time reporting that the Governor would be resigning any day now is not worth the ink its paper is printed on.
    Paterson ordering the NYT to put up or shut up has asked for a retraction from the NYT, a propaganda tool for the White House who by the way ordered Paterson several months ago not to run for re-election. The NYT has refused to print a retraction. In the meantime, it should be noted that their readership and sales is at an all time low.

    As an African American child, in the 60’s, I recall only too well the vitriol and ugly attacks thrown at African Americans and their supporters fighting for equal rights and the right to vote. I recall only too well how the media tainted realities and brainwashed those who simply did not know any better.

    As I witness the escalation of attacks against members of the Tea Party as co-ordinated by the media, propaganda tool for the White House, I am forced to constantly revisit those episodes.

    Not everyone has such a short memory.

  3. santitafarella says:


    America under Obama is like Germany under Hitler?

    You lost me.


  4. santitafarella says:


    So people should trust your sources of information over the New York Times? Is that right?



  5. Nice one.

    Retweeted this. Yours, Sprizophrenia 🙂

  6. santitafarella says:


    Thank you for that.


  7. David Main says:

    Why did Pam Stout go to California. I have been a local in Sandpoint, Priest River, and Old Town for at least 90% of my life. Under no circumstance would I move to California, that is credo and normal for my home area. Statistically we are the least racist individuals in the country, and even the Arian Nation Compound feared us. The only racist activity we involve ourselves in is against racism, that is just normal. Pam Stout claimed to be the president for Sandpoints Tea Party, but where is she now. Who is going to take the peaceful approach in this day and age. She is not normal and doesn’t even support the schools in their time of need. Who is she, really. I believe, she is a Californian. The worst thing for North Idaho.

  8. jim says:

    I have spotted similarities between the Tea Party and Southern California’s biggest cult, Scientology, which I think are interesting. Both have passionate followers who believe everything their leader says (Palin says the Constitution cites the Bible; Sci says smoking is good for you); both think its urgent to do anything (Sci calls for “fair game”, Tea Party for “2d amendment remedies”) to achieve their goals; both distrust the government; both believe their own ideas with little evidence, (toxic levels of Niacin is good for you according to sci; Obama was born in Kenya according to Tea Party) but reject real evidence (Sci ignores L. Ron Hubbard’s bio, Tea Party refuses to believe in global warming); both are homophobic. Both see their critics as evil. Neither tolerates dissent (Scientologists get forced labor for telling a joke about its founder; Tea Party refuses to endorse a popular governor for the Senate solely because he is pro-choice); both distrust (and often avoid) the mainstream media, with the exception of Fox News. Neither really has any novel ideas (Tea Party is the old cold war mentality; Dianetics is Freud and hypnosis-past life regression); both mix religion with something else (one with politics, the other with medicine). Neither has much respect for people with high educational atttainment, preferring their own elite.

  9. David Main says:

    Thanks for the information Jim. I see that this tea party stuff in public view of the feds that are aligned with scientology and their oppressive cult has devastating effects on our economy especially since the biometric readers are in plan for most local city halls. The truth of 2012 will suprise you, but having an idea of what is to happen I do not want a witch-hunt requested because I said something, I will instead be a rebel if this goes down.

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