Tuesday, October 21, 2008


The Incomparable Bob Somerby is one of the very few voices in Left Blogistan who rejects all truthiness and is willing to turn his criticism on his fellow bloggers for their unseemly desire to move out of remote blogospheric hamlets and into The Village. His take down today of Josh Marshall (no more jokes about who kidnapped him) is a thing of beauty, "Will someone stop Josh Marshall before he defends Bush again?"

Somerby reviews Josh's bizarre insistence that John McCain's campaign is worse than anything seen in American politics in 35 years, including Marshall's casual defense of both Bushes' excrable campaigns. I think Somerby misses a small point, that Marshall is not thinking of Nixon as the worst campaign, but of George Wallace. Why? Because it fits with the meta-narrative of dividing the electoral world into racists and non-racists, instead of into conservatives and liberals, or Republicans and Democrats, or some other issue-based form of political categorization.

Key Somerby quotes (but read the whole thing, it is powerful):

Here’s the rest of Josh’s original post—a post which helps define the broken soul of emerging “progressive” culture: [long cite of how the Bushes weren't involved in the Willie Horton or the Swift Boat Veterans smears.] That concluded Josh’s original post. It’s why this guy has to go.

First, it’s astounding to see the way Josh keeps defending the campaign of George Bush the elder. We know, we know—within the framework of the Village, this sort of thing makes you a Serious Person. But is there no end to the insults we must endure from these transparent strivers? ... Josh may be too young to remember these things; he may be too dumb to have read about them. But with his repeated defenses of Bush the elder, he is misinforming a whole generation of younger readers. We know! We know! Within the Village, this sort of thing makes you a Serious Person. But it’s time for this bullsh*t to stop. ...

Is the current campaign “the most dishonest” of the past 35 years? For a liberal or a Democrat, it’s insane to address that question without discussing the twenty-month War Against Gore—and yes, Josh understands that fact (link below). But Josh is making himself a career—and he’s willing to disinform you to do it. Within the Village, you become a Very Serious Person by disappearing what the Villagers did for twenty straight months during Campaign 2000. Josh understand that history well—and he knows enough not to discuss it. ...

Josh has played for you for many years on this score. In the process, he is emerging as the Sully of the pseudo-left. It’s long past time for this weird, creepy man to pack his satchel and go. At any rate, will someone please stop poor Josh Marshall before he boo-hoos, blubbers and cries defending Bush the elder again? Josh! George Bush 41 ran a scuzzball campaign! It was the start of modern GOP campaign culture. Our advice: Go away and grow some stones. Come back when you’re ready to say it. ...

[Cite of Josh repeating lies form Drudge] Good God! To this day, Josh continues to air that highlighted claim, which originally came from Drudge—a claim whose absurdity became clear within about ten minutes. (As an adept of The Cult of the Offhand Comment, Josh is also eager to throw in the "hard-working, white" quote.)

Hasn’t the public suffered enough from the actual Andrew Sullivan? Defending Bush, avoiding Campaign 2000, Josh makes himself a Serious Person. But you can’t build a progressive politics by respecting the need of people like this to shape-shift the recent past.

I don't think Somerby is wrong on any of these counts, I would simply push him further. He keeps hinting at it when he talks about the broken soul of emerging "progressive" culture, insults from transparent strivers, the frantic desire to become a Very Serious Person, the pseudo-left (a phrase Somerby has been using for several days), shape-shifting the recent past, and so forth. His focus is on the blogosphere and the straightforward lies of people like Marshall, Yglesias, Markos, Kevin Drum, Hamsher, Huffington, Atrios, Steve Benen, and Digby, the people who started exactly in the same place as Somerby (well, not Arianna) and who all of them, every last lying scumbag one, found out that the way to get invited onto TV, interviewed in big name news papers, sucked up to by political campaigns, was to join in the defamation of the Clinton/Gore administration.

It is more important to this group of the wanna-be punditocracy to be seen beating up that administration than to be critical of any Republican one. As we have seen over the last year, it is also more important to the Unity Democrats to defame these people than to actually unify the party into an electoral super-majority. It is this fact that Somerby criticizes by proxy in his contempt for Marshall and for the forces arrayed against Gore. He presents the media lies to expose the political lies.

To me, as I have been writing for months, the key lies with the psychosis of the Stevensonian crowd, who hate all things white and southern and who have seized the presence of racism (real and imagined) as the source of evil in the body politic. No lie is too much, no threat of violence too far, no manipulation of the process too crude in the Battle Against the Bubbas.

This is why we have the weird opposition to McCain and Palin, almost identical to the trashing of Hillary, focusing on racism and social status to the exclusion of substance. It can work if you have already decided that the poor and working class as such are not worthy of political representation. Exactly in the way that the Republicans have tried to make urban black populations stand in for everyone below upper middle class, trying to sully programs for lower classes by forcing programs benefitting those classes into grotesque blackface, now the Democrats are coming at this group from the other side, whitewashing their own class bigotry with the specter of the KKK.

Before Somerby guts, skewers and shish-kebabs Marshall, he nails Richard Cohen on Cohen's incoherent bloviating:

But why should anyone pay attention to anything Richard Cohen says? Having left the Republican Party for dead, this is the way he describes the modern Democratic Party:

COHEN (10/21/08): Ah, I know, the blues are not all virtuous. They are supine before self-serving unions, particularly in education, and they are knee-jerk opponents of offshore drilling, mostly, it seems, because they don't like Big Oil. They cannot face the challenge of the Third World within us—the ghetto with its appalling social and cultural ills—lest realism be called racism. Sometimes, too, they seem to criticize American foreign policy simply because it is American.

Still, a Democrat can remain a Democrat—or at least vote as one—without compromising basic intellectual or cultural values.

Talk about the lesser of two evils! According to Cohen, Democrats refuse to stand up to the teacher unions and indulge in irrational hatred of big corporations. They don’t have the guts to stand up to “the ghetto”—our own “Third World within.” And of course, they sometimes “seem to criticize American foreign policy simply because it is American.” This is an astounding portrait. And yet, despite these astonishing flaws, a person can be a Dem today “without compromising basic intellectual or cultural values!”

Look at who Cohen goes after - environmentalists, unions, black (ghetto) poor, and critics of American hegemonic power. Hmm, sounds like he doesn't like liberals. Sounds like he equates being against those things with being a real Democrat, calling people who want unionization (defense of working class) and policies to alleviate poverty (refusing to pathologize urban blacks or rural whites), protection of the environment and development of renewable energy (defense of life itself), and object to smacking around small countries (diplomacy, not bombs and assassinations) lacking in intellectual power and cultural values. Praising Reagan? Excusing the Bushes? That's all good.

Bob has it right. What this last political year shows us is how the Unity Democrats have Sullied liberalism.



Ann said...

Ha--nice touch with the capital-S in "Sullied." I am a huge Howler fan, but you've done him one better. Thanks!


lakelobos said...

Totally agree. As every individuals has her/his own language and biases, my perspective is as follows: the current unity crowd is not liberal nor do they intend to be liberals. They have abandoned liberalism in 2006 when Pelosi and Reid took over; it probably happened way back and Reaganism might be the poison that slowly killed Liberalism.

Calling McCain's campaign the worst in 35 years has two goals. First, it increases the magnitude and significance of the upcoming Obama win. Second, it buries the worst campaign in 35 year: Obama's dirty, disgusting, racist, hateful and disgraceful campaign against Hillary.

I used to read Huffington, Digby, Atrios, Matt Y and Josh Marshall; not anymore. Adriana started a hate campaign against Bill Clinton years ago. Digby is to naive to offer much insight and her sidekicks are even weaker. Atrios, when I was reading him, was cryptic and pointless. Matt is the hamlet's fool. For Josh, the post is more than enough.

ciardhapagan said...

Ah, and look at Cohen's underhanded misogyny too- bashing "teachers unions"- we all know that more women than men are public school teachers- thus part of that union. The "teachers union" was also one of the first union to declare they supported Hillary and stayed passionately behind her. Cohen's misogyny is showing...

fulton490 said...

It is a shame that more people don't read (or take to heart) The Howler; it is a shame that some (Atrios) discount him so easily with their condescension, intimating that he's a little crazy.
I would much rather read Somerby than the lazy, linked, "cryptic, and pointless" Eschaton, with a community that aspires to be "first" in the comments, and whose comments are typically vapid and communal "hellos" to each other.

Mike J. said...

What depresses me even more is that many long-respected liberal publications like the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic have embraced that very same rhetoric, even if they are somewhat more circumspect in advancing these views.

scott said...

Game, set, match! Re Cohen, Somerby followed up today with another riff on Tweety in which he quoted the vapid one's priceless take on Dems as a bunch of sweaty, hairy, unwashed rabble unfit for social interchange with decent people. And he ridiculed the idea that an anti-liberal despiser of the people llike Tweety could call himself a liberal. The hijacking of liberalism by people willing to pimp themselves to get paid is truly sickening, and folks like Somerby who impolitely but bravely point it out are doing God's work.