In the wake of what everyone seems to agree is a momentous mid-term election that will be remembered largely for the Tea Party's influence, it's worth taking a moment to make an under-appreciated point about its origins. The Tea Party owes its existence, at least in part, to what must now be considered the most influential chunk of ROFLculture to date.
By ROFLculture, I mean silly, funny, ephemeral stuff that pings around the Internet -- Rickrolling, LOLcats, David after Dentist, Shit My Dad Says, and other little bits of micro-diversion that your bored friends send you and that you waste time consuming even though you supposedly have something important to do. CNBC reporter Rick Santelli's performance on the morning of February 19, 2009, was a classic example of one form of the genre: A normally staid talking head drops his professional persona and launches into a Network-style rant, pretty much out of nowhere. Speaking from his usual post on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, Santelli started shouting about the "government promoting bad behavior," and called for a "Chicago Tea Party," possibly involving dumping derivatives into Lake Michigan. CBOT traders egged him on, cheering the tirade, and booing suggested administration policies.