Whatever the benefits of a Democrat in the White House, this campaign is the furthest thing from a radical repudiation of what has become of the mainstream media I can imagine. A significant portion of the Left has wholly adopted not just the tactics but also the frames and content of the Right against itself.
The most radical part of the netroots has been its claim to oppose the media, both the right wing noise machine and the increasingly co-opted mainstream media. The Left was finally gaining the same critical distance from the major media as the Right had adopted years before, and with the advent of the Internet was also able to self-publish their alternative perspectives in a cost effective manner. This had always been a disadvantage vis-à-vis the Right because, until the Web, dissemination of information had been the difficulty. Now, anyone with access to a terminal at a public library and a willingness to experiment with these things called “blogs” could let their opinions be heard. I remember the thrill of discovering new blogs with great voices. Daily Howler and Media Whores Online were the cornerstones. On an old LJ page, I can still see other finds – Altercation, TPM, Opinions You Should Have, Common Dreams, Truthout. There still is no replacement for Bilmon and Whiskey Bar.
Looking back, there is a trajectory of the A list blogs starting in and around the advent of the Iraq War, rising to critical mass with the 2004 elections, hitting a golden period between 2004 and 2006, then starting to tilt away from “documenting the atrocities” to becoming participants in it. I really think the high point of the blogger influence has to be the battle against Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security, led by Josh Marshall. Since the 2006 Yearly Kos, however, anyone paying attention has been able to see where the big-name blogs were headed, and wasn’t to stay in opposition to the MSM.
One question that no one in the MSM or the “serious” blogosphere has tried to answer is why have so many hard-core Democrats, people in the party for decades, rallied so strongly to Hillary’s side, their support becoming stronger and more obdurate the more she was declared a failed candidate? In most political races, the perception of being a winner or a loser will usually sway the voters, emphasizing the upside – like Obama’s big bump after Iowa – or reinforcing the downside – like Edwards never recovering after losing in Iowa. Hillary’s support increased the more it was accepted by the media that she had already lost. Take this phenomenon seriously because it did happen. When else have we seen this pattern in the rank and file? When Bill was under impeachment. The regular Democrats evidently know when someone is being railroaded by the media and they push back.
The press did to her what it did to Al Gore in 2000, inventing faux scandals and alleging words and behaviors that never happened. The epistemological status of the “stories” spread in the news is exactly zero – they have no real, rational basis. It is interpretation based on flimsy (if any) evidence. It simply did not exist. The difference between the rightwing hunting of the president in the 90s and the wilding of Gore in 2000 is this time the allegedly opposition blogosphere and “left” media fell all over itself to lap up the sewage flowing out of the same sources that have been brutalizing the Democratic Party, the left, liberalism and, frankly, democracy, since Reagan’s ascendency in 1980. They have picked up the crap, eager gobbled it down, and have fully incorporated it into their perspectives, rhetorical methods, and standards of evidence.
The liberal opposition has disappeared, all too eager to do the Right’s work for it.
Why else is there no conception or acknowledgement that there is a crisis of legitimacy at the core of the Democratic Party right now? As long as the loser is a Clinton, who the hell cares? appears to be the rejoinder. Even today, in blogs, online magazines, print newspapers and TV shows that ostensibly have a liberal bent, the news of the day is how can be finally be rid of that bitch. That she exists at all is an affront to their sense of how the world should be - and that comes right out of Scaife's Arkansas Project.
So many of us who remember the 90s sit here, aghast, and watch the wholesale incorporation of the 90s rightwing narrative by the alleged left. Every last line of bullshit, right down to drug dealing in Arkansas and who killed Vince Foster. If this were a movie, it would be a comedy by Terry Gilliam, or maybe the Cohen brothers, one with a knife edge doing the tickling, and too many innocents destroyed. Why are these fiery liberal spirits so swift to join in the rightwing assault on their own side?
Part of the reason in the blogosphere is simply careerism. Josh Marshall, Matt Yglesias, Young Ezra, etc., are simply trying to jump in and get their careers going. I’ve written that up before. Bob Somerby does an even better job of this, documenting the eagerness of these Boyz to be agreeable and acceptable to the people who can pay their bills and give them celebrity. And thus you have WKJM shilling for a candidate whose chief economic advisor is comfortable with privatizing Social Security. I think that pretty much explains where Josh’s commitment to the left starts and ends. When WKJM is willingly taking his stories directly from Matt Drudge, where exactly is the line between the rightwing noise machine and the opposition?
But what of the people who aren’t careerists, at least in that way? Intra-party fighting can only explain so much, because there are some attack modes that they won’t jump into. There is something to it being class based, as I’ve discussed before and will continue to evaluate – a smug sense that somehow prejudice against lower class whites is justified, and thus you shouldn’t defend those kinds of people. It’s also not a mistake that the bulk of the people gulping this sewage are white and male. It would appear that the upper class white males of the Democratic Party have more in common with the upper class white male Republicans than they care to admit. It is not a mistake, I think, that the people on the left who responded best to the anti-Clinton spew of this round are socio-economically similar to those on the Right who share their taste in Drudge and sludge.
There was a time in the 90s and the early Uh-ohs that the left understood that the MSM had gone off the rails. The era of Murrow, Cronkite, Brinkley and Huntley (describing contrapuntally), John Chancellor, and other luminaries of post-war reportage was over, we knew it, and we knew that FOX was the enemy. It is a sad day when a lefty turns to FOX for news because at least you know the score with them. I remember the 1996 Republican convention (yes, I was there, it was in San Diego and I worked a booth there) when we were all giggling in anticipation of Pat Buchanan going off like a freak on national TV during prime time. It is weird now to think Pat Buchanan is the most sensible, rational person on the stage. Now, the more the media behaves in a way specifically designed to delegitimize our candidates, the more the left accepts and repeats what it hears. Bob Somerby and Paul Krugman are nearly alone in their insistence on telling the truth.
A few days ago I wrote up my disgust about the willingness of some people to go along with what seems a very clear ratfucking operation by the Republicans involving a tasty mix of misogyny, racism and anti-Muslim sentiments. What I also want to make clear is that should this particular attack continue – and it will – and should others of this kind surface and gain traction against Obama, then that part of the left that eagerly embraced a reprise of the MSM assault on the Clinton White House and the Gore presidential run have no ground to stand on. You whored your brains, your logic and your leftist credentials out to the bottom feeders of the right to try to gain a little advantage for your candidate and in the doing you have undermined him and every Democrat running for national office. You cried ”Yes, yes!” to painting millions of Americans as racists, you turned a blind eye to grotesque misogyny, you prostituted the corpse of a dead man to spread a lie, you eagerly defended nullifying votes of people in Michigan and denying full representation to Florida to rig the vote for your candidate, you continue to threaten to riot if anyone denies you what you want.
Here’s a little secret. If Obama has run an aboveboard campaign, if the Democratic Party leadership hauled off and slapped Chris Matthews et. al. silly for their Clinton Derangement Syndrome, had the Blogger Boyz been able to argue for their candidate without getting scoops from Matt Drudge, the chances are very good that he might have won in a squeaker. And then he would be poised to put together a Unity ticket, because the other candidate would not have been declared a monster and her supporters would, after the usual grumbling, have willingly thrown full support behind the ticket. At worst, he would have been second by a nose, and everyone would have been very happy to give him the VP slot.
Whatever one can say of Hillary, she was not and never has been the beneficiary of the rightwing noise machine. Obama has benefitted from the cooptation of the MSM and now the willing capitulation of the opposition netroots to that operation, behaving like extensions of Drudge, Scaife and Murdoch. If you support Obama, you are all right with that.
Well, are you?