Two Perspectives on Populist Rage

The Tea Parties of earlier this week really bothered me. I found them silly but as I got involved in the comments section of my post, I found myself getting downright angry. It was more than mere silliness that had me annoyed.

Over the past 48 hours I’ve encountered two perspectives on the Tea Party and the populist rage that it represents. One view was moderate and came from a black journalist (I identify the race for reasons that will become evident later). The other view was extremist, almost embarrasingly so, and was expressed by a white actress/activist. Both perspectives helped me focus on why I have been so angry.

In the Washington Post, columnist Eugene Robinson wrote the following:

The cool, cerebral White House might logically conclude that Wednesday’s decidedly uncool, uncerebral “tea bag” protests were intellectually and politically incoherent, and therefore not worth a second thought. That would be a dangerous mistake. …

Some protesters were mad about measures they feared Obama and the Democratic majorities in Congress might take to strengthen gun control laws. Some were mad about illegal immigration, some about abortion, some about gay marriage. At times, the protests ventured into fantasyland. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, caught up in the excitement of the day, prattled nonsensically about Texas’s onetime status as an independent country and how, purportedly, the state had reserved the right to secede. … The protests were all over the map and thus hard to take seriously. … But the polls also point to what looks like a reservoir of simmering discontent. …

A growing sense of us vs. them, of the little guy vs. the big guy, is out there waiting to be exploited by anyone clever enough to fashion a sophisticated populist critique of the Obama administration’s policies. I know it seems crazy to use words like “clever” and “sophisticated” in connection with today’s Republican Party, but stranger things have happened.  via Eugene Robinson – Why President Obama Can’t Ignore ‘Tea Bag’ Protest Anger – washingtonpost.com.

Robinson makes the point that the protests lacked focus and inspired lunatic offshoot consequences like the insane ramblings of Texas Governor Rick Perry. He also points out that the amorphous us-against-them anti-government rage conspicuously lacked a leader who could give it focus. His primary point (a moderate one, in my view) is that Washington better not dismiss this phenomenon because the “right” person could light the fire to change this fizzle to sizzle.

But Robinson got me in touch with one aspect of my own rage. I like my protests to have a coherent theme. I like focus. In the past eight years, there was focus. We (liberals) did not like the war in Iraq — specific — we did not like wire tapping and violation of civil rights — specific — we did not like government incompetence evidenced by Katrina — specific. When we protested the topic was clear. What I see now and what frustrates me is that the Tea Party crowds want go grab anything and everything all at once and go nuts. Taxes, guns, abortion, gay rights, deficits. It’s a kind of protest that looks chaotic and out of control with no reason behind it, no specificity. It resembles mob protest. It’s scary. And then there is that one other thing which leads me to the ultra-liberal actress/activist.

I often get the nagging feeling that when folks are talking about everything at once, it is a way to avoid talking about the ONE thing that is really bothering them. I know that publishing the following interview between Keith Olberman and Janeane Garofalo will enrage my conservative readers. Janeane’s style of argument is condescending and represents everything conservatives HATE about liberals. But here it goes:

The video starts with a clip of a Pensacola Tea Party where the speaker is getting a warm reception until he points out Republicans’ role in our current mess. Once he goes down that road, he loses the crowd. Clearly they are not there to consider facts. They are there for catharsis. Enter Janeane Garofalo and her extremist liberal analysis. Oh no she didn’t!!! She did NOT just play the race card! Well, yes she did and in doing so she tapped into the other factor in my vitriolic reaction to the tea parties.

Where are the blacks in these Tea Party crowds? Don’t blacks stand as much or more to lose in this economic mess than white folks do? So you say, blacks aren’t there because they love Obama ‘cos he’s black. Well then, doesn’t that invite the flipside question?

I kinda picture the pathological liar character played by Jon Lovitz in the old days of SNL. “I am pissed off about ehhhh, taking my guns away and ehhhhh, deficits and ehhhhh taxes and ehhhh bailouts. Yeah, that’s the ticket.” When in fact, a good number of folks may not be able to articulate “Dammit, there’s a black guy in the White House! What the hell is THAT about?”

I don’t want to go there, believe me. When Obama got elected, I put myself on alert not to reach for the “you just don’t like him because he’s black” excuse. But all one needs to do is look at some of the signage at the protests to see that a good amount of the rage is focused on Obama, not on our current conditions. For example a sign that read “Americans are the Jews for Obama’s ovens.” Lots more like that one! If Obama were the alienating sort, I might understand his being a magnet for the rage. But Obama has spoken in consistently moderate and conciliatory tones. He has at every juncture tried to explain to the American people the reasons for his policies. He has communicated up the proverbial wazoo. When we combine that with the fact that much of what we’re doing (e.g. TARP) is similar or identical to the last months of the Bush administration one has to wonder where was all the protest under Bush? Why has this black man suddenly sparked all this populist angst? Particularly when the black man in question speaks in some of the most populist tones of ANY recent president.

So there you have it. This whole tea party thing has me by the throat because first, I am offended by the total anti-intellectual, ignorant tenor of the protest, unfocused without any intelligent leader to show the way and second, because I suspect that a good portion of the populist rage is fueled by that omni-present American tumor called racism.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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26 thoughts on “Two Perspectives on Populist Rage

  1. So let me get this straight.

    The Tea Parties were racist because black people didn’t go to them?

    It’s not like there were invitations sent out to every white Republican in the nation, and nobody bothered to invite black people. If blacks didn’t go out to protest, it’s because, for whatever reason, they chose not to. Who’s fault is that?

    As for the article you quoted, I can’thelp but point out a bit of irony.

    “A growing sense of us vs. them, of the little guy vs. the big guy, is out there waiting to be exploited by anyone clever enough to fashion a sophisticated populist critique of the Obama administration’s policies.”

    Isn’t the “us” vs “them” and “little guy” vs. “big guy” the exact mentality that Barack Obama exploited to win the presidency?

    If that mentality is growing, it’s been growing for 2 years while Barack Obama campaigned and tossed it out there daily (Remember the big deal about how many homes McCain owned?). The only difference is that now Obama is in the role of “big guy.”

    You’re going to have to do better than these race cards and hypocrisies to prove your anger over Tea Parties isn’t just faux anger to follow the marching orders of James Carville and Co.

    Those people who protested have legitimate gripes. I can’t say the same for yours here.

  2. Rutherford,
    As I’ve said before, I think that unless the GOP can harness it somehow, the Tea Parties are going to pose more a problem for the GOP than for the democrats. These are the conservative partisans, who would have likely been suspicious and angered by a liberal administration anyways – It doesn’t appear as if they are growing their numbers at all – moderate democrats and independents appear to be fairly turned off by the whole thing.

    So, while its driving away swing voters it’s also a testament to the fact that the ideological structure for conservatism is falling apart and not able to give them focus. These are non-GOP events.

    They remind me of meetings of company shareholders without the CEO – behind the CEO’s back. The CEO and shareholders likely share the same ideologies and in this angry town hall formation the difference will be in implementation. The shareholders/town people obviously aren’t getting the efficacy they’d like and so, are considering firing the boss.

  3. I’m shocked at the liberal response to this thing. For people who pride themselves as being a part of the American intelligentsia, the retort from the left has been amazingly sophomoric.

    For starters, the “tea bagging” innuendos just don’t end. Take Rutherford’s first shot at the tea party: customary tea bagging joke…yawn….and..…the people are morons. This is all a Harvard grad has to offer?

    In a follow up, Rutherford gets more analytical, yet more confusing. On one hand we are told that hardly anyone showed up. If that’s the case, end of story, right? A footnote to Tax Day, April 2009. No need for non-stop analysis and testicle jokes.

    Well, not so fast. Only few sentences later we’re given an explanation about “all this populist angst”. Now the tea party is, in fact, momentous and worthy of analysis. The sum of R’s new founded scrutiny? The reason for ALL these people showing up? We’re told, Racism!

    I must now point out the obvious. In a perfect world, African American” tea party” attendance would have been at 12%.

    No doubt about it. I saw a couple stupid signs. And yeah, the crowd had some diversity in political beefs. You always see that at these types of things.

    Do I take Rutherford to task for all the elements at, say, an Anti-War demonstration? The anarchists, the pro-jihadists, Communists, the people calling the military “baby killers”? The wacko ratio at a leftist rally far supersedes the wacko ratio at the tea parties. I don’t know who could deny that. In fact, I was shocked how moderate the tea party crowds were.

    Despite the wacko ratio, I do not dismiss Rutherford’s anti-War protesters wholesale. I certainly can understand their point of view and I try to address it with logic.

    Rutherford, let me help you. I start if off this way: “I disagree with the people against the War in Afghanistan because……

    You try it now. Let me be the training wheels: “I disagree with the people against the massive pork riddled spending packages because…[.insert thesis]

    Rutherford, if the crowd was really only made up of simple rednecks as you claim they were, don’t you think we would have seen a little bit of overt racism? Are you telling me these hillbillies, in the safety of numbers, all kept their supposed subconscious racism…subconscious? I’ve been in angry white crowds where racial tension is the catalyst. Trust me when I say this, the stupid sign you brought up as evidence (the one comparing Obama to totalitarian murderers) is not racial rhetoric.

    Look Rutherford. Ask yourself this. Is the level of spending and the over all response to the economic crisis unprecedented? Is this a unique time in American history? I’m not even asking you to take a stand. I simple want you to concede these are some crazy times and Americans are going to have some passionate views on what’s going on.

    Trust me, I have an inside scoop when it comes to the racist vein that runs through the lower middle class. I don’t pretend its not there. Put you’re race card away dude, times are so fucked up, middle class whites don’t even give a shit about the color of Obama’s skin or, to be honest, black people as a whole.

  4. I’m actually pretty proud of Rutherford. He almost went 90 days into Obama’s term before the tired cliche of “racism” raised its ugly head. That’s about the last of the feeble propaganda screamed from a lib finally before he or she resorts to Nazi calling, then goes apoplectic.

    Sorry “R”, that old excuse has worn thin and even sensible blacks who happened to vote for Big O are beginning to realize the charge is no longer as effective. Time is up.

    Marc brings up something interesting. I disagree with opinion and I think the real powers of the left are starting to realize there is a great deal of latent dissatisfaction with Big O’s start. You libs love to quote polls, and Obama’s favorability rates, and the rest of the jive. But I know a few people who voted for Obama that are starting to have major regrets. Why, I have no idea as he has been exactly what I thought he would be – Marxist and immoral to the max.

    When some of these completely ruled Democratic states like California, Michigan, Rhode Island go belly up, I think dumb Americans might finally wake up the failure of liberalism.

    This really does have the feel of ’93. If the Republican party could get its act together and quit acting like spoiled children, I do believe there could be a major ass kicking coming down the pike.

  5. The GOP doesn’t have a pot to piss in. Their hands are so slimy with pork fat over what has transpired since September that I can’t really even sit and listen to what they say with a straight face.

    Take Newt. I personally like the dude. He is outraged right now and vocalizes it in that clean, crisp Newt fashion I’ve come to love.

    The problem is, I watched the man with my own eyes get on Fox News on the eve of the first bail out and argue that it was urgently necessary. He was against it before he was for it. Now he was for it before he was against it. Where was Rush in those days? That bailout on Bush’s watch was so damn corrupt and completely rushed. So filthy. It also set the tone for Obama’s current orgy.

    It’s a hard lump to swallow, man. They didn’t even READ the biggest government spending bill since Pharaohs’ Pyramids.

    But Tex, you’re so dead on with the 90 days observation. How funny. Rutherford didn’t even make the first 100 days with out pulling the race card out. And on the very first instance of popular discontent. Literally, on the very first instance of controversy! LOL! I figured the kitchen would at least have to get hot first!

    I tell you one thing, as this country becomes less and less defined by a racial dichotomy (which we do owe a ton to the election of President Obama ) it will be entertaining to watch people look at guys like Rutherford in the eyes and call
    “Bull Shit!”

    Rutherford, let go of the teet. Let it go, man.

  6. One view was moderate…

    I know it seems crazy to use words like “clever” and “sophisticated” in connection with today’s Republican Party, but stranger things have happened

    Veeerrry moderate, it seems.

  7. 1. I deliberately presented a moderate, non-racial perspective from a black man and a very racial extremist POV from a white woman to make a point that even whites can see a racial subtext to what is going on.

    2. I think the fact that blacks are not in most of these tea party crowds (Tex’s example notwithstanding) does say something. I’m well aware no one was explicitly invited and therefore no one was explicitly excluded. But is it sheer coincidence that blacks who are just as screwed over by this economy as whites didn’t turn out in their proportional 10% or so of the crowds. I don’t think they felt welcome there because these same crowds view blacks and minorities as part of the problem.

    3. Rabbit disses me for sophomoric teabagging jokes after he’s just told me to suck his appendage (see prior post). Is this the pot calling the kettle black or what?

    4. I made it very clear in the post that I view Janeane Garofalo’s “analysis” extreme. And yes I would agree with Rabbit that there is some hate there. She needs to take a chill pill particularly in the area of her limbic brain theories. But I’ll tell you something. I stewed on this tea party thing for a few days. It all seemed so absurd to me that I felt there had to be some missing piece I was not seeing. Then my wife (a white woman) said that PART of the problem was that a lot of folks who didn’t vote for Obama still can’t get used to a black guy being in the White House. I felt she had a point but I hadn’t seen anyone go there in public. Then I saw Janeane say that it wasn’t only a PART of it … it was the whole ball of wax. That’s when I decided that the racial aspect to this just couldn’t be ignored.

    As I said in the post, the last thing I wanted to do within the first 100 days was play the so called race card. But I’m sorry folks, things are about as crappy now as they were under the white guy but the vitriol level has skyrocketed. I can’t prove a hypothetical but if McCain had been elected and done the very same things Obama did, there would be no tea parties. Now perhaps it isn’t racial. Perhaps Republicans can’t see when their own are screwing up … only Dem’s get on their radar? Maybe but I wouldn’t rule out the racial possibilities.

    5. Marc hit the nail right on the head that no self respecting rep of the GOP is standing behind this foolishness. Moderates and swing voters find this silly and unproductive.The folks who turned out for the tea parties should save their energy for finding a young articulate intellectual conservative as their spokesperson. Quite frankly, what the GOP needs is a conservative Obama!

  8. $11,197,727,850,563.37

    You’re first post had absolutely no substance and really was just low brow emotionalism. Dead Rabbit has a bad temper, and responded on your level. Many bloggers would have censored it and I give you credit for not doing so. That being said, you set the tone. I’m just better at that kind of stuff.

    Now that number, again.

    $11,197,727,850,563.37

    It pisses me off that you refuse to address this number. Instead, you write a blog calling people who do address this number, people like me, “embarrassments.” You go on to insinuate that the people who took to the streets over that number are racists.

    $11,197,727,850,563.37

    See any skin color in that number?

    You link a video and partially agree with a hate filled rant by some worthless actress who claimed ALL the people at the Tea Party are rednecks with some sort of ape brains.

    Why should I take that stuff lying down?

    Black people didn’t show up to the Tea Party because of their ape brains and sheer ignorance. After all, have you seen the high school drop out rate and math scores on standardized testing? How could we possibly expect those dim wits to even read the number $11,197,727,850,563.37 much less comprehend the compounding interest. Black people also didn’t show up because they hate white people.

    How does that analysis sit with you? Like it? Provide you any insight?

    Yeah, recoil from the Rabbit. Nasty, isn’t.

    Well, the above paragraph is a mirror image of your response to the Tea Party. Maybe you wouldn’t come out and write the above statement; maybe you would just provide a link to someone else saying it.

    I know people who were at one of those things. They are some of the kindest, well educated people you would ever meet. One of them even talked Rabbit into sponsoring a child in Africa a few months ago, for what ever that’s worth.

    Black people weren’t at the damn thing because they are Democrats and not many Democrats showed up. End of fricking story.

    People showed up because of the number $11,197,727,850,563.37. Some other right wingers demonstrated for a few other causes.

    Mainstream Republicans WERE NOT there because of $11,197,727,850,563.37. They have a lot to do with $11,197,727,850,563.37.

    $11,197,727,850,563.37

    Get to know it Rutherford.

    $11,197,727,850,563.37

  9. By the way, one more important point. Not many black people show up to leftist demonstrations either. Many anti War rallies are Lilly white.

  10. Dag, Rabbit, and I say this without a hint of sarcasm, you either need your own damn blog or make some contributions to mine. That was one powerful retort!

    Let’s put aside the race angle. Answer me this … a question I have posed more than once in this space … where is the magic in the 11 trillion dollars? Where were the friggin’ tea party folks at the 2 trillion dollar mark? Think about it. At least Obama’s got it up to 11 T trying to solve a problem. Why did Bush get it up to 2 T? Fighting a war we shouldn’t have been fighting? Got any other answers?

    There is all this talk about bankrupting our children and grandchildren. Who is addressing the short term and long term strategies at play? The spending, as we have been told time and time again, is to stimulate the economy and get the financial blood flowing again. With that done, we attack the deficit by raising fat cat’s taxes a lousy 3% and cutting some spending. What is so damn unreasonable about that approach that Obama deserves to be called a fascist? Yes, have you heard? The GOP, which should rename itself the know-nothing party, has tired of socialist. Now they’ve moved onto fascist.

    So tell me Rabbit, what number was the trigger point for the tea party and why? And what does gun control and gay marriage have to do with your $11,197,727,850,563.37?

    You know, the brain dead state of the Republican party has me almost to the point of wanting to change sides just so I can show these yahoos how to find someone who can provide real counter-solutiions and intelligent discourse.

    Did you hear that on one of the Sunday shows your genius John Boehner said we shouldn’t worry about CO2 emissions because people exhale and cows fart. That’s your friggin alternative to Obama my friend. You’re damn right it’s an embarrassment!

  11. “Let’s put aside the race angle.”…..followed up by a reasonable Rutherford post worthy of munching by my Rabbit teeth.

    I will respond to this tomorrow.

  12. Rutherford,

    But is it sheer coincidence that blacks who are just as screwed over by this economy as whites didn’t turn out in their proportional 10% or so of the crowds.

    You know I think you a reasonably bright guy, but sometimes the conclusions you draw make you appear the dim bulb. First, you are upset and have stated here on your blog you feel the vitriol directed at Obama. Let’s say you are right. And you remember that approximately 19 in 20 blacks voted for Obama.

    So do the math. Last I read, blacks make up approximately 13% of the aggregate demographic pertaining to race. Take that 13% times the 5% of blacks who voted for McCain/Palin.

    Assuming you are right, that this was directed at Obama and the parties made up of strictly those voting against Obama, you would mathematically expect less than 1 in 100 people attending to be black. What’s the big surprise?

    ————————————————

    Tell your wife to remember that Obama half white. His mother always gets left out of the equation. Just like I would consider your child half white because of your wife.

    I’m telling you “R” as a lilly white guy, the racism thing is a cop out and these tea parties didn’t have a thing to do with race. I know many people who attended and you’re blowing smoke if you think otherwise. There is a building backlash not just against Obama, but all government. It’s long overdue.

    ———————————————–

    Marc hit the nail right on the head that no self respecting rep of the GOP is standing behind this foolishness. Moderates and swing voters find this silly and unproductive

    I can only speak for my little part of the world, but Marc is desperately wrong. Half the crowd where I live were those would call themselves fiscally conservative but social liberal – and that is the very definition of the swing vote in this part of the country. I’ll wager right now, Obama would be in trouble if the vote held again.

    I know you think I’m crazy, but I would happily bet a few bucks to prove a point.

  13. Dammit,

    Half the crowd where I live were those would call themselves fiscally conservative but social liberal

    Half the crowd where I live would call themselves…

    “R”, I know you think I’m making excuses for my numerous grammatical mistakes since I started posting here, but I really do struggle with the small font in the text box (I just started wearing reading glasses). I swear, I can’t see my mistakes until submitted and accepted.

    Otherwise, the blog looks good.

  14. “Think about it. At least Obama’s got it up to 11 T trying to solve a problem.”

    You just have to love this recurring theme. Obama doesn’t have to actually succeed in anything. He gets full credit for even trying.

    How progressive.

  15. “You know, the brain dead state of the Republican party has me almost to the point of wanting to change sides just so I can show these yahoos how to find someone who can provide real counter-solutiions and intelligent discourse.”

    The only intelligent discourse that ever came out of the mouth of Barack Obama was written by someone else and read from a teleprompter.

    He says what he’s told to say.

  16. “I like my protests to have a coherent theme. I like focus. ”

    See Rutherford, here is the thing….

    Freedom of speech and assembly means that people don’t need to concern themselves with the way you or Susan Roesgen or Janeane Garofalo want them to protest. They can assemble and protest any way they want to, about any thing they want to.

    I know that’s a real bitch now that you folks aren’t the ones protesting, but you’ll all have to get over it.

  17. Red Pill, I can go along with your last comment but the two before that are not worthy of a historian or a scholar, both of which you are.

    What kind of “success” are you expecting from Obama in 90 days? Even if his policies were 180 degrees in the other direction and had a potential to work, we still would not be seeing any success yet. At this point, “trying” is all we have. To say anything otherwise borders on sophomoric.

    As for the teleprompter comment, c’mon! Your break between classes is turning your mind to mush. Point me to any reputable source who says Obama did not write his two best selling books. (And please don’t tell me the books had editors … ALL books have editors.) If you’re referring solely to his speeches, every president in modern history had a speech writer. To suggest that the former president of the Harvard Law Review and a former constitutional professor needs to have words put in his mouth is preposterous.

  18. Tex, if I could control the font in the comments box, I’d try to help you out. Unlike the wordpress.org platform which is hosted by the blogger and can be tailored to the nth degree, I’m limited on wordpress.com to what they provide across the platform.

    My only suggestion is the old CNTL+ combo which should increase the font size for the entire web page. (Or a stronger pair of reading glasses! 😉 )

    P.S. I must confess, at my age, my eyes get bleary reading my own blog sometimes! 😆

  19. “What kind of “success” are you expecting from Obama in 90 days? Even if his policies were 180 degrees in the other direction and had a potential to work, we still would not be seeing any success yet. At this point, “trying” is all we have. To say anything otherwise borders on sophomoric.”

    My issue isn’t the lack of results. It’s that he is already getting full credit for only trying.

    “At least Obama’s got it up to 11 T trying to solve a problem.”

    The fact that his plan may flop, or that your grandkids will be paying for it doesn’t seem to enter your thinking. All that seems to matter is that he tried.

    It reminds me of the gradeschool meme that came along in the late 70’s that ignored the facts of life—that there are winners and losers—and told kids that everyone is a winner as long as you try your best.

    “Point me to any reputable source who says Obama did not write his two best selling books.”

    Read what I said, Rutherford.

    Did those books come out of his mouth?

    “To suggest that the former president of the Harvard Law Review and a former constitutional professor needs to have words put in his mouth is preposterous.”

    Can you imagine sitting in on one of Professor Obama’s lectures?

    “Uuummm, the Constitution is uuuhhhhh a living uuuuhhhhh document.”

    Personally, I am more interested in how Obama got those duties than the fact that he had them. How does a man who is so ashamed of his college grades that he refuses to release them to the people he leads get to be president of a law review or a university professor?

    I would suggest affirmative action, but that is just begging for a racist label.

  20. “R”,

    Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ve enjoyed the blog and thank you for the use. I just didn’t want you to think me slipping so badly.

    I read some of these comments after I submit and then read what was submitted and think, good grief! What the hell was that and what must the world think when they read that crap?

    Some borderline illiterate has hit the board honey.

  21. Well to add salt to the wound, Tex, I do have the unfair advantage of being able to edit my own comments so if I screw up I can usually correct it.

    On rare occasion someone may submit a comment followed by a corrective comment and I’ll simply edit the correction into the first one and delete the second one. But that tends to be a hassle so I do that very seldom.

  22. Rutherford, since you didn’t bite at my Affirmative Action flame-bait, I was wondering if you would like to comment on White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’s claim that Barack Obama never taught constitutional law?

    Q Why is the President blocking habeas corpus from prisoners at Bagram? I thought he taught constitutional law. And these prisoners have been there –

    MR. GIBBS: You’re incorrect that he taught on constitutional law.

    Q — for many years with no due process.

  23. Well I would love to have been in the Press Pool to ask Gibbs what he was smoking. My guess he made the odd statement attempting to shield Obama from a perceived attack.

    According to factcheck.org, a respected non-partisan web site, the only dispute about Obama’s time at the University of Chicago was whether or not he was a PROFESSOR of Constitutional Law or a Senior Lecturer. His title was Senior Lecturer but he was regarded as a professor by the law school.

    Obama, by the way, graduated from Harvard Law School Magna cum Laude. Not something you do if you’re just skating by on your race as your affirmative action comment earlier implied.

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