Sunday, November 02, 2008


If the Incomparable Bob Somerby were truly just a "crank", as the Blogger Boyz would have you believe, then they would not feel so threatened by him.

Bob is not an easy blogger to read. He has an ornate, almost baroque, manner of writing that grates. He is repetitive and could benefit from an editor to help him get to the point. Sometimes the connections to Gore are a bit of a stretch. The sarcasm gets laid on with a trowel instead of a butter knife.

But what makes me wade through the stylistic annoyances is the simple fact that Bob Somerby is incomparable because he always tells the truth. With documentation. And he tells the truth about all participants in the media atrocities, even those ostensibly on his side, the nominal allies.

Somerby has a fundamental argument about the treatment of liberals (aside - I love that Somerby is unafraid to say "liberal" as a solid and respectable political stance.) and the Democratic Party by the media that he alludes to, but does not flatly state, preferring to demonstrate than to assert. He does it again in his rejoinder to Kevin Drum in todays post, "We’ll tell the truth starting now, Kevin says. To our mind, that isn’t enough," where he gives Kevin Drum sincere praise and then uses Drum's excuses to get into his real concern (My emphasis throughout):

If we’re talking about media treatment of Gore, “occasional passing references” won’t really be “fine;” most often, such references will be met with incomprehension by voters who have never heard a word about any such episode. ... In this way, the liberal silence of the Clinton-Gore era—a silence Kevin doesn’t explain—has created a world where it’s very hard for liberals to mention such matters. And of course, it wasn’t just the War Against Gore which fell down the well of career liberal silence; a long string of Major Dems have been treated rather oddly by the mainstream press in the past sixteen years. (Or do you believe that the Clintons are murderers?) Before the Drum-acknowledged “War Against Gore,” we had six or seven years of pseudo-scandals directed at Bill Clinton—and at his wife. But uh-oh! Career liberals ran and hid then too—and they ran and hid in 2007 when Hillary Clinton was subjected to a good deal of mainstream attack. Tim Russert had been field-dressing Big Dems for years when he waylaid Clinton during that October 2007 debate (along with his helpmate, Brian Williams). But career liberals had rarely mentioned such conduct—and few career liberals mentioned the trashing Russert gave Clinton that night.

Especially given the history which followed, the mainstream press corps’ War Against Gore has turned out to be the most consequential chapter in this unfortunate story. But career liberals rolled over and died in the face of such conduct, right through this year’s primary season! In fact, career liberals have an extensive history of rolling over and accepting such conduct. Their acquiescence extends well past the War Against Gore, right up into the present. ...

For reason Kevin didn’t explain, career liberals sat out the War Against Gore—and the wars against both Clintons, and much of the nonsense aimed at John Edwards. Career liberals also stared into space as the mainstream press corps spent a decade making a hero of Saint John McCain; christened Giuliani as “America’s Mayor;” and kept insisting that Bush 43 was a plain-spoken fellow who says what he means, a pose it maintained until his dissembling and gruesome judgment had largely destroyed the known world. On the whole, the career liberal world sat and stared during all these mainstream press misadventures. By way of contrast, we discussed them in real time. We started discussing the War Against Gore the week it began; simultaneously, we discussed the sanctification of McCain in detail. In all candor, this makes it a bit rich to be lectured by Kevin—whose work we do in fact greatly admire—about the best way for the liberal world to move ahead now with these themes. How about a little straight talk? Kevin has now worked for two journals which did and said virtually nothing about these matters in real time. We’d prefer to see him explain this abject past silence, rather than lecture us about future strategies—lecture us, the ones who were right, by his own (gracious) admission.

Yes, it’s hard to raise these matters now, several years after the fact. Kevin tells us that “occasional passing references are fine.” But someone needs to tell Naomi Judd (and a hundred million others) about her country’s actual history. Let’s be clear: When Kevin discusses the War Against Gore (or the preceding war on the Clintons), he’s discussing essential American history—history his colleagues avoided like the plague when it was actually happening. In our view, it falls to Kevin and his colleagues to figure out how to adjust for that error—the error which Kevin acknowledges. (For the record, he wasn’t a journalist at the time.) But make no mistake: This is major, consequential American history—history which changed the course of world affairs. It just doesn’t work for Kevin to say that it’s too late to bring it up now.

We’ll tell the truth from now on, Kevin says. We don’t think that’s quite enough. ...

Here’s the thing you must understand if you want to see how this syndrome works: Your career liberal world is closely tied to the world of the Village press corps. They want to work and play (and be paid) in that world; they want to be honored as Village citizens. As a result, they keep their mouths shut when Palin is pimped—like the great Saint McCain before her. You will not see them challenge Robinson, or ask him why he wrote such nonsense. Nor will you see them write the history of a perfect cretin like Matthews. You see, they want to play Hardball too. It’s the way career libs build careers.

We know, we know—you want to believe that you play on a one-for-all liberal/progressive team. But you have been sold, a million times, by Kevin’s colleagues (we don’t include Kevin, out on the far coast).

They want to play Hardball, too.

Somerby is talking most directly about the Blogger Boyz, but his criticism is not limited to PB 1.0. He is talking about the people who are the regulars on the talking heads circuit. He's talking about the second tier bureaucrats who traded pseudo-scandal for insider notoriety. He's talking about the columnists in papers and magazines, particularly the political magazines and politicized culture purveyors. He's talking about the current leadership of the party.

His thesis is simple and devastating: There can be no liberal politics as long as the public voices and faces of liberalism, the career liberals, want to be "honored as Village citizens." They place Village citizenship above actual citizenship, allying themselves with this power elite against the nation.

This is a deeper problem than mere careerism. If it were only the case that the Josh Marshalls and Young Ezras and Big Media Matts of Left Blogistan wanted to move out of their cheap digs and get paying jobs with health benefits and 401(k) plans, that would be easy enough to isolate. Kiss up, kick down, good riddance to ya.

What Bob identifies is that the career liberals, those people whose business it should be to describe, define, and implement a liberal vision for the nation, have no critical distance from or desire to remain independent of The Village, the clique and culture that is enamored of winners, power, and domination, and who regard national politics as their personal playground. The career liberals willingly place themselves in a dependent relationship to that power elite and mold their behavior, opinions and goals to be in accord with what The Village is willing to tolerate.

Hence Somerby's emphasis on Gore. Gore's stolen presidency has changed the course of human affairs dramatically for the worse. This was an enormous historic event, one that had devastating consequences for the nation and the world, and the career liberals have done their best to sweep it under the rug. Don't be sore losers! It's old history. Nobody cares about that stuff anymore. The focus on Gore is the stand in for a focus on the fate of the nation. Here was one of the finest people our nation has produced, and he was reduced to the butt of jokes by his nominal allies in exchange for the opportunity to munch cocktail weenies with Tim Russert. The trashing of the Clintons, who Somerby has less emotional attachment to, is coming to greater prominence in his posts as he limns an identical pattern of behavior. We know this narrative, we know how it is used to dismantle our institutions and the fabric of our government and, this time, we knew full well what we were doing.

The willingness of the career liberals to throw away the criminal treatment of three of the strongest actors in liberal politics Somerby attributes to the careerists' willingness to set aside truth to gain entry to the Village. How does Somerby formulate it? "The instinctive refusal to tell the truth lies at the heart of their culture."

This is not merely a description of the MSM. This is Bob's diagnosis of the disease that has claimed the ostensible left.

Kevin kinda gets it when he says we need to complain about media misbehavior today, but not bother with trying to defend Gore "in the last century," as if we were discussing newspaper articles about Al Smith. Gore remains a potent national figure who could very well have run in 2004 or this year, but who would have been subjected to exactly the treatment Kevin rolls his eyes at. It is exactly the behavior we saw this year against Hillary, so it isn't old news at all. It isn't news - it is a pattern of behavior, an aggressor/appeaser dependency between the right-wing owned MSM and the career liberals who want to be Kewl Kids and not be villified in the papers.

The liberal left needs to establish an oppositional relationship with the MSM, just as the Movement Conservatives have done, and treat them not as allies, but as adversaries.



Bob Harrison said...

If I weren't life-slammed right now, I'd put up a post raising the ante. Bob's ideas are spot on but he doesn't go back far enough. The Great Liberal Clusterfuck began when Jimmy Carter arrived in Washington and was immediately attacked by leading (so-called Liberal) members of his party. He didn't even get unpacked before the attacks started. His was not so much a failed presidency as it was a successful Village People attack.

So what do Carter, Gore, and Bill Clinton all have in common? Hmmmm. (Well, besides being alleged Liberals?)

Nona Nym said...

Reading you more and more lately. Thanks for this one.

I wonder though if "career liberals willingly place themselves in a dependent relationship to that power elite and mold their behavior, opinions and goals to be in accord with what [power] is willing to tolerate" isn't still shy of the mark.

There may be an unwarranted optimism hidden in that seemingly bleak formulation.

It would indeed be one thing if the desire for power (and lucre) were corrupting Our Best Liberal Minds. But it is another, worse thing if we are fooling ourselves in the first place about the quality and liberalness of these minds.

Somerby frequently feels the need to moot the (supposedly relevant, supposedly powerful) analysis skills of members of this cohort before he rightly lays into them for donning the blinders they've clearly chosen to wear. Unlike the devastating arguments that show up these folks for the courtiers they truly are, there is never any apparent call for inquiry into their otherwise (supposedly) meritorious work.

I'm not here to drub everything produced by Messers. Klein, Marshall and Drumm, but leaving entirely to one side the awful damage done to the country (planet?) in ignoring the media wars on Clinton and Gore, aren't, for example, these men's words and positions on Clinton's bombing of Kosovo and their early words on Bush's Iraq campaign indicative of something less than magnificent "analysis?"

Shainzona said...

There is important fall-out from "The instinctive refusal to tell the truth lies at the heart of their culture."...This is not merely a description of the MSM. This is Bob's diagnosis of the disease that has claimed the ostensible left.”

I have a neighbor who has made me her personal project to convince me to vote for Obama (it's never going to happen!). Today I received yet another e-mail from her saying:

"Hi Shainzona (not my real name....ha!),

The Republicans will NEVER let Hillary become President; Look how they derailed Bill's last term! She's much too vulnerable to their dirty tricks.

BUT, if we elect Obama, he can then appoint her to the SUPREME COURT!! She would actually have MORE power - for a much longer time! And the GOP couldn't touch her. Now THAT would be sweet justice, don’t you think?"

My jaw dropped to the ground when I read ”The Republicans will NEVER let Hillary become president…”. So I snapped back a reply informing the poor women that she has it backwards this time...the Democrats also will NEVER let Hillary become president. I’m sure she will think I’ve flipped my wig. But the crap does run downhill and then gets regurgitated by ill-informed voters.

I used to believe in a free press, but it's obvious that the MSM and its right and left friends have decided that they can pick our president and democracy be damned.

On November 5th I will begin to look for my own “Village” – people committed to never letting this happen again. Unfortunately, November 4, 2008 will once again be a day of shame for this great country.