The Greanville Post/Cyrano’s Journal Newsletter
“Defusing stupidity wherever it pops up” / Vol 28. No. 56, 12.31.10
Notes from the Editor
2010 is over, the time has come for hard thinking
As usual, this edition is packed with fine articles selected for their power not only to inform but to educate. Their relevancy to ongoing events is not likely to vanish tomorrow, next week, or six months from now, as lasting interest is one of the chief criteria we use to select our editorial offerings. Totally indifferent to the corporate media’s obsession with “scoops”, we don’t try so much to be the first but to be the best and, within reason, the most comprehensive, in presenting a particular story. Our articles, including versions of the same articles you may find in other venues, are frequently presented with editorial tips, annotations, and images designed to deepen the context of the story. As a result, our audience acquires, little by little, not just specific details about a given subject, but theoretical insights as well.
As 2010 draws to a close, the political horizon presents us with a squalid prospect: essentially more of the same, but worse. This means more endless wars, more nonstop highhanded lies, more gargantuan thefts, more repression, and probably more anger and despair among the uncomprehending victims—in the billions—of this malevolent behemoth which goes, among other euphemistic labels, by the name of “free enterprise system”.
Today, well into the 21st century, we are facing a struggle of a magnitude never seen before, a true global confrontation between the forces defending a bankrupt, dying status quo, a conclusively failed model of social organization based solely on commercial calculus, and those pushing for a new beginning based on constructive not destructive values, and compassion and generosity where only short-term thinking and selfseeking have prevailed. In this political struggle, which eventually may involve every human being on earth, and in which being a bystander, an “apolitical”, is technically and morally impossible, the very fate of the planet will be decided. By commission or omission, by action or inaction, people cast their votes every day for or against a new system. There’s no place to run. Indifference or even hostility toward “politics” is in itself a political act with consequences. (In addition to being a clear sign of ignorance about what constitutes real politics.) In this complex struggle each person will discover his or her own measure of endurance, shortcomings and strengths to stay the course, and, equally important, the ability to make intelligent personal and political choices.
In politics picking the “right” horse is not so easy or instinctive as some would think. Obvious “enemies” or “wrong paths” may be a cinch to detect for some, but distinguishing between real and false friends—with many degrees in between—is far trickier. What complicates this process is that in a fluid historical process, with plenty of shifting ground, in many cases the “falsehood” of some allies is also a moving target. Thus mature political analysis requires a cool head to identify and sort out—contextually—the value and dependability of various individuals, leaders, parties, groups and movements. The problem becomes even more complicated when we factor in the deliberate lies and manipulations injected into the information stream by powerful vested interests.
Betrayals left and right
While the real left gets continually betrayed by the “faux left” (we’ll get to that in a moment), the masses that follow the Right’s clarion also get betrayed in their most fundamental interests. In both cases it takes a neat and shameless trick to pull it off, but it’s done routinely and with great effect by the master manipulators at the top. Recently, books have been written about it. What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (2004) is one such book by American journalist and historian Thomas Frank. Frank’s volume explores the rise of conservative populism in the United States, centering on the example of Kansas. In the late 19th century, Kansas was known as a hotbed of the left-wing Populist movement, but in recent decades, it has become overwhelmingly conservative. How has the Right accomplished this sleight-of-hand? Generally by hiding the economic poison contained in their programs behind a hypocritical curtain of social conservative preoccupations, the so-called “wedge issues” technique. (Sadly, the “left” also responds to “wedge issue” manipulation.)
The squandering of the population’s political focus into issues that trump “class-driven politics” has been a boon for the fortunes of the right, which rides on both character / personal traits (i.e., authoritarian, ignorant, chauvinistic, religious, racist, etc.) and huge dollops of misinformation. The Right’s game is to mess up the nation’s proper priorities, and this it does with aplomb. Fact is, the entire message of the right is a huge imposture because ANY message calculated to benefit a puny, ludicrously small minority of privileged, highly exploitative folks at the apex of the social pyramid while pretending to benefit the vast majority is a gargantuan lie.
Divided by income, the mass of average Americans (and their counterparts around the world), whether working stiffs or petty business owners and professionals, has long been cynically used by the right through appeal to one or two major issues which command the passion of specific demographics. The radical right, for example, where religious reactionaries predominate, can be reeled in by fostering rebellion around the gay marriage issue or the fight to ban abortion. A much wider segment loyally responds to racist innuendos. Others can be mobilized through appeals to fear (hence the eternal “war on terror”, which is also highly convenient and profitable) and “patriotism” (the tribal instinct). Still others can be rallied against any progress favoring women. The so-called arsenal of “wedge issues” wielded by the Right is indeed a catalog of the filthiest and most repugnant tricks in the annals of deception, all usually grounded in massive abetted ignorance.
We all know why the Right does this. As suggested earlier, if the Right revealed its true political agenda—one ultimately designed to cement and expand the economic privileges of a criminal plutocracy—few would follow it. Unless terminally confused, people don’t normally shoot themselves in the foot when seeking relief via politics.
Deluding the “unformulated” left
The right fools its own but it also fools the masses that seek and clamor for social change. Like the false duality between Republicans and Democrats, two faces of a single corporate party, for those who pursue progressive goals the Right is ready with faux leftists and false programs. In this regard, the American establishment, broadly defined as all those who consciously work to maintain the current status quo and who benefit mightily from it, is helped by a longstanding and very “American” confusion, one that posits mainstream liberals as “leftists.” It should be understood at the outset that mainstream liberalism and rightwing policies are often virtually indistinguishable, for at bottom the main issue is allegiance to capitalism and its essential purposes, including the sanctity of private enterprise, unlimited property accumulation, and similar features. In that regard, when push comes to shove, both centrist liberals and rightwingers are in the same trench, fighting serious shifts toward egalitarianism and democracy tooth and claw. Indeed, the success of the Right—comprising the Crazy right (the paranoid arch-reactionaries) and the Machiavellian Right (liberals)—has been facilitated by the amputation of the real left from the national political spectrum. Compounding the problem, historically the label “left” has been used rather loosely and sloppily in America, admitting of a dizzying variety of adulterations.
Which brings us to the “faux left”— a slippery and often contradictory category, as we’ll examine presently.
What is exactly the “faux left”? A useful definition might go like this: The faux left in America is a political formation chiefly comprised of mainstream liberals and a sprinkling of social democrats, both faithful servants of capitalism, and capable or willing of only tinkering on the periphery of the monster, never with its raison d’etre or core dynamic. Class politics and analysis are anathema to the faux left, and consequently, as is so typical of most liberals, they’re perennially whining about the horrors of the system—which they can dissect eloquently—but suggesting aspirins to treat the cancers. Their ranks entertain a visceral dislike, fear, or suspicion of anything related to socialism, or serious redistributions of power, let alone communism or Marxism, which, without the benefit of any serious study, they tend to consider incarnations of pure evil. A distinguishing trait of the FL is their tendency, at the first shove, to protest loyalty to the status quo presided by the powers that be, lest their “patriotism” be questioned. Being regarded as “loyal Americans” (loyal to what we may ask?) is mighty important to this crowd. Left liberals in the mold of Chris Hedges are a far tougher breed, harder to classify since they present many good points and not much love for capitalism, but their inbred anticommunism and bourgeois worldview often cripple the integrity of their analysis and overall vision.
Many people on the faux left’s rank and file tend to be unaware of the grave shortcomings of their position. These are the folks who were thrilled to death by the candidacy and election of Obama, who still talk about the Clintons with reverence, who gave substance to the term “Obamaniac”, and who continue to regard membership in the Democratic party and electoral politics as the main tool for a transformation of society. The Daily Kos is one of their chief hangouts, where until recently any criticism of Barack Obama was rebuffed with a vicious and narrow-minded volley of invective worthy of rightwingers. Still, idiots aside, these are mostly well-meaning and often dedicated people, but in the end patsies of formal democracy.
Abstract definitions can go only so far, and the definition of who is left or merely a liberal gets blurry pretty quick when the Right’s propaganda machine brands a centrist or conservative as a dangerous radical or worse. In that case we have a curious situation: a politician whose own shifty identity is centrist/conservative (i.e., Bill Clinton or Barack Obama) but who the masses begin to regard as a leftist as a result of Fox News disinformation, for example. The final dimension of confusion and cynicism is reached when this same politician struts around as a genuine progressive in front of people yearning for change and as a loyal capitalist servant within the councils of plutocratic power. Again, both Clinton and Obama easily qualify for this dubious honor, but the label can be applied to most of the current Democratic party leadership, which indeed helped to create this mess. As the Wiki reminds us:
Founded in 1985 after Ronald Reagan’s reelection, the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) is a non-profit group that represents centrist and conservative Democratic party leaders. Liberal critics contend that the DLC is a corporate mouthpiece which doesn’t fight for the interests of everyday and downtrodden Americans, the traditional base of the Democratic party. [Sounds familiar?]
Given the sorry if not downright shameful record of Barack Obama (and Bill Clinton, for that matter), what does that tell us about the faux left? So far in my view the only good thing to come out of Obama’s tenure is that he may have unwittingly put a big dent on the Lesser Evil myth.
Faux Left media assets
Just like we can recognize the faux left pols by their treachery and pseudo-solutions, so can we recognize the faux left in its media incarnations. This is a lot easier than spotting phony politicians. The first giveaway—logical enough— is that such media figures almost uniformly support faux left politicians. From the high perch of the New York Times and the Washington Post, bastions like NPR, and cable stations like MSNBC plus the leading weeklies, many apologists constantly muddy the waters about the true meaning and aims of liberaloid politicians. Despite this, the role played by faux left journalists is mixed: some of it is tolerably good and some of it is bad, sometimes awfully bad. Still, judgment must be tempered with caution, for most people, including mediacrats like ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, PBS’s Gwen Ifill and Bill Lehrer, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and most of the MSNBC hosts—Ed Schultz, Cenk Uygur, Lawrence O’Donnell, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews (but not Keith Olbermann, who seems to be in transit between left liberalism and something else, perhaps a bit more daring), are themselves victims of bourgeois consciousness. Thus the question of whether they’re witting deceivers of the masses falls into a rabbit hole. Some probably are, and putting career above honesty they just stick to their deformed duties for the duration. Others may think they’re doing a smashing good job. Going as far as left liberalism will allow, they fall woefully short of the mark and end up reinforcing the rules of a rigged game.
The troublesome case of Rachel Maddow
Few contemporary media figures embody better the promise and deficits of faux leftism than MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, a woman whose career since 2008 has been nothing short of meteoric. During the Bush tenure Maddow had little trouble with her political compass; her reports and critical commentary—often impressively didactic—were consistently aimed at Republicans, from the White House mafia on down. This has continued to date with the GOP, Tea Party and other crazies and operatives of the right, perhaps at a higher and more strident pitch (no problem there, they totally deserve it), but of late Maddow has also become something of an embarrassment, a shrill apologist for the Democratic party and especially Barack Obama. In this Maddow is not significantly different than others at the MSNBC corral, especially Matthews, Schultz and O’Donnell, not to mention countless other liberals on and off the media beat. What makes her case worthy of mention is her extraordinary potential, which is now being wasted on systemic apologetics. So why single Maddow out when uneven and biased performance is almost the rule with corporate journalists? For one simple reason: she presents us with a clear and most eloquent example of the limits and dependability of liberals in the media, and an object lesson on how to distinguish not only foe from friend but also friend from false friend.
We were not terribly happy with Maddow’s shilling for Obama and the Democrats. And we didn’t much enjoy her tacit endorsement of US imperialism’s wars and gushing about the US military (Maddow is fascinated with military hardware). But on two dealbreaker issues of maximum importance for the true left in the United States, she failed the test ignominiously. (It doesn’t help that others also failed one of these issues.) The two dealbreaker issues were:
It’s disgraceful enough that Maddow, along with others in the “left” media community failed to alert the public and make a big stink when antiwar / anticorporate activists across five states were raided by the FBI in September of 2010 in flagrant violation of free speech and political association guarantees. (WBAI’s Amy Goodman didn’t fail. See FBI raids on antiwar activists: A frontal assault on democratic rights). Publicity about such abuses is just about the only protection activists have to shield them against all sorts of risks and retaliations from the government and other parties interested in snuffing them out. Dropping the ball on an issue like this is unforgivable.
Unfortunately, for Maddow that wasn’t all. Recently, during one of her “before a live audience” specials at the NYC 92 st YMCA, she went over the edge by doing a disgusting hatchet job on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, its most visible incarnation. This is serious because Wikileaks is by far the best gift progressives have received in a very long time, nothing short of a formidable weapon with all the requisites in scope and efficiency to put the empire on the defensive (see this excellent Swedish TV documentary on WikiLeaks to get a really good idea about the resiliency and potential of this organization).
In any case, judge for yourselves. We recommend you watch and read these posts more or less in the order suggested below. Then draw your conclusions.
NOTE: A second mailing will carry a full list of recommended articles for the yearend season.
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|The notion of “balance” in news is pure bunk. “In the classic example, a refugee from Nazi Germany who appears on television saying monstrous things are happening in his homeland must be followed by a Nazi spokesman saying Adolf Hitler is the greatest boon to humanity since pasteurized milk,” the former New York Times columnist Russell Baker wrote.|