Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Somerby on Nominal Allies

I am working on a big post and don't have anything to add to the general furor over the Hanky Panky. Instead, here is Bob Somerby on Atrios (Duncan Black) changing his reporting on the first preseidential debate to fit the media narrative, my emphais:

One last point about “nominal allies,” for whose likely decency Atrios thoughtfully vouches.

Starting in the summer of 2002, we began to express an unfortunate theme, one we had only begun to ponder: We began suggesting to readers that their nominal allies are often not actual allies. (We tepidly mentioned E. J. Dionne first.) This takes us back to a political era which may now be nearing an end, as American institutions disintegrate. But looking ahead to what may become a vastly changed political landscape, we’ll suggest to readers that the growing inanity of the liberal web makes that entity no ally either. Increasingly, the liberal web is written by and for fly-weights. You’re handed silly, childish tales—silly tales that will make you feel good.

You’re told that you play on a team called The Shirts—and that The Shirts are very good people. You’re told about the vile team called The Skins—and you’re handed endless proof of their troubling ways. Just yesterday, the Post’s Shankar Vedantam did a nice job describing the general way this process works, as he has done many times in the past. (His weekly pieces are true must-reads.) But increasingly, the liberal web is written for rubes. People like Atrios serve you crap sandwiches, assuming you’ll wolf them straight down.

Unfair to Atrios? To tell the truth, we can’t exactly say. But again, just click here to read that third post, the one about the way McCain was treating Obama “on a par with dog shit.” Do you really believe that Atrios thought that? Or was he just serving another thick sandwich—scripting you with the words you should say? Trust us: If you believe he really thought that, there will be many fine meals ahead. For ourselves, we can’t help wondering if the Three Tenors didn’t all learn a catchy new tune.

Their outrage was stirring—by Saturday noon. In real time, it seemed oddly muted.

Nominal versus actual allies. I think this really sums up the way Left Blogistan has been going, PB 2.0 as much as PB 1.0. Perhaps it s an unavoidable outcome of an environment in which partisanship is the ground for all subsequent discussion. Bob Somerby has no respect, let alone love, for John McCain, so his criticism of Duncan's change of story has to do with the integrity of the reporting, particularly reporting that is done in real time and with a wide audience.

Somerby has always and only been concerned with one thing - the lies of the media that serve to defend the debasement and dismantling of our institutions. It is truthiness that has become the lasting institution. Women have certainly found out that unless they embrace the "Bros before Hos" ethos, our presumed allies on the left are nominal, not actual. The Paulson bill gave us another view on this, with a horrifically fascinating mix of reasons for casting this or that vote, all claiming to be in the service of the ordinary citizen.

We need to learn how to pick our allies.



Anonymous said...

Talked with my son who runs a union/LGBT coalition against the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego. He said something very interesting: "they (organiztions) all become corporations dependent." That's what happened to the Democrats and Atrios and his ilk.

There only a few Paul Wellstones, Feingolds and Hillarys. We better get used to it. It almost seems as if the real left has to resort to Guerilla warfare. After all, we are a small minority.

Personally, I see very little hope for the country in the next eight years.

Anglachel said...


Your optimism is a source of inspiration to me.

Good for your son organizing against the Hyatt. I'm voting against Prop. 8 in November. It's about the only thing getting me to the polls now. It is ironic that high AA turnout for Obama in CA may keep Dems from defeating Prop. 8.

Insitutions are required to maintain power, and institutions are inherently conserving in their operation. They need other insitutions and deter extremism. But there is understanding the inherent power structures of institutions and then there is capitulation. Even Wellstone knew how to go along to get along.

No clean hands in the corridors of power.


Nick said...

I'm glad to see somebod calling Atrios out. He has one of the biggest and most engaged (judging by volume of comments) audiences in the 'sphere, and yet he squanders it on snark and snide remarks. ORGANIZE dude. Anything less is criminal negligence. Of course, maybe his followers PREFER total impotence and ENJOY prattling on to one another in the comments section. I find it extremely odd.