Sunday, December 31, 2006
Over the last week or so I've been revisiting some of the most powerful, heartfelt and wrenching writing I've ever read. No matter the subject, whether rape, war in Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan, American exceptionalism, or something as mundane as who controls the remote control, the kids or the elders, these writings I speak of had a magical way of weaving a story and taking me into the heart of the writer and feeling the joy, the pain, the outrage...and the love that poured forth from it.
I know not where my friend is or how he is doing. I only wish that he is in peace. That his heart remain steady. That he can know some sense of the respect and yes, love I feel for him.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
From last summer, let's recall the pro-Lamont post by Jane Hamsher (of Firedoglake fame) at Huffington Post that in and of itself was fairly innocuous except for one glaring problem: a photoshopped image of Joe Lieberman in blackface. Needless to say the fallout was fast and furious, and the image was taken down at Huffington Post, though it remains available still over at Jane's place. That was followed by a somewhat bratty non-apology "apology." The artist who did the very crappy photoshop job on old Holy Joe was also characteristically dismissive. Slate's John Dickerson referred to Jane as "the blogger who isn't helping Ned Lamont." BAGnewsNotes had some commentary of its own:
Also, excuse me for being technical, but the phrase "choice of image" is not that forthcoming, either. As I understand it, Hamsher didn't just choose this illustration -- she conceived it.A pretty good graphic meta blog post can be found at ebogjonson, who creates a graphic titled should I use blackface on my blog? Liza at Culture Kitchen had a scathing meta rant titled "Jane Hamsher is an idiot" which not only takes Hamsher to task, but also Barb of Mahablog fame who chooses to play the role of enabler. Kai Chang has another thoughtful rant (yes, rants can be thoughtful!), Blackface Joe: Five Grievances. Just the tip of the old iceberg on that one, but you get the picture.
On the visual alone, the use of "black face" is so culturally loaded, it's hard to believe Ms. Hamsher wouldn't see this coming back at her. But then, maybe she truly is missing the visual dynamics of the sphere. (As a further reflection of the mindset, FDL -- in spite of its prominence and heavy use of graphics -- has yet to adopt photo or illustration credits as standard practice.)Finally, doctoring Lieberman side-by-side with Bill Clinton only heightens the blasphemy. But it's based on the controversial campaign flier, you say? Sure. But, because Hamsher's post made no mention of the flier, and had nothing to do with race, how were Huffington Post readers supposed to "appreciate" the context?
Let's move on to September of this year. Several A-list bloggers got to bask in the glory of Bill Clinton at a lunch in Harlem. That in and of itself is essentially par for the course. And yet, there seemed to be something missing from the lovely photo-ops. Notice it? Well, Liza (among numerous others) sure did. The A-listers in attendance were, as one might expect, quite oblivious and not too terribly keen on fielding those uncomfortable questions about the lack of, say, Black and Hispanic bloggers at the luncheon. Chris Rabb simply notes that blogtopia is largely reflective of society at large - the racial inequities we find in the world outside blogging show up here as well. Kai makes note of a chasm illuminated, and of a wide perceptual gulf that we ignore at our own peril. of course leave it to TRex (who strikes me from what I've read of him as the gay "liberal" equivalent of David Duke - Donna's quick capsule summary of his general anti-Asian vibe is a must) of FDL to say:
So, Liza, dear, before you go assailing your betters and making Jane stand in for every blond white woman who ever pissed you off, maybe you should head back to eighth grade English and, you know, learn to spell and to write in a linear fashion.No matter how much the dude tries to nuance that later, it still smacks of white privilege as Feministe's Zuzu correctly notes in here excellent post know your place (by the way - the comments to TRex's post are quite educational in and of themselves as an exercise in groupthink). Is Jane the "left's" answer to Ann Coulter? One must wonder. Certainly there is tone over at FDL that is nothing short of bullying - not only Jane but the other front-pagers over there are indeed culpable. Barb of Mahablog falls into a secondary role of enabler of the other A-listers' defensiveness.
Now let's fast forward to the last week or so. It ain't only race, as numerous others point out. Often intolerance (whether of the overt variety or the more covert variety that is more typical of polite society) of one group co-occurs with intolerance for other groups. If you see a pattern of racism, you'll not have to do much digging to find at least one other "ism". Indeed, there is a pervasive pattern of sexist language over at FDL as well. Barb of Mahablog becomes conflicted, and seems to temporarily drop the enabler role. Blackface Joementum? Kewl. White elite bloggers schmoozing with Big Dog? Okay, though not as kewl as Blackface Joe. Use of the C-word or W-word? Muy malo. Huh. Other meta-blogging makes the connection over at FDL between the racism and sexism that seems to run rampant.
There seem to be some interesting discussions regarding the efforts by mainstream white liberal bloggers to obfuscate matters of racist or sexist behavior by playing the "good intentions" card (i.e., "Person X didn't intend to be racist, it just unfortunately looked that way") whereas people of color tend to look at the tangible behaviors themselves (an approach I generally advocate taking). This reminds me of what we see in North American society at large, as I've been reminded while reading Sherene Razack's book Dark Threats & White Knights. Other A-listers have preferred to play the "intellectual superiority" card by contending (usually in an obscenity laden manner) that their critics simply do not understand the abstract level in which they are supposedly operating. Still others have played the "hipness" card, such as when one of the FDL front-pagers claims that FDL posts are "punk rock" whereas their critics are more into "Guy Lombardo". Word to the wise: Jello Biafra wrote the post-mortem for punk in 1986 at the tail-end of the first wave of American hardcore. That little pop culture history lesson aside, let's note that punk itself was about shocking its audience into awareness (via profanities and obscenities) as a means of challenging social conventions - not about using such language and imagery as a means to maintain the status quo and silence dissent. A-listers would be wise to avoid referencing punk or the hip-hop notion of "keeping it real" as a mere debate tactic, while divorcing themselves from the social-historical context of those concepts & movements.
In the meantime, the necessary conversation about the extent that the liberal and progressive end of blogtopia (and indeed society at large) is harboring latent (and periodically overt) racism and sexism, how American liberalism and progressivism are themselves products of a historical and social context that itself is largely racist and sexist. That discussion itself is long overdue.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
A lot of us call ourselves "leftists". I wonder sometimes how we're defining the term, and I wonder more about what exactly we do have in American politics. When I think of a "leftist" I'm likely to think along the lines of the myriad forms of anarchism, to the various forms of communism, (ranging from classical Marxist, Leninist, Trotskyite, Maoist, etc.), socialism (be it the populist socialism advocated and practiced by Hugo Chavez to the sort adhered to by European Social Democrat parties). Although these various "leftisms" diverge in terms of the relationship between person and state (e.g., for the anarchists there is ideally no state), there is as I see it a great deal of overlap in terms of their shared views of the relation between people (cooperative rather than competitive) and in their shared distrust of capitalism in its numerous forms (from "pure" laissez-faire capitalism, to fascist capitalism, to neo-liberal globalism).
If we take the above as a decent quick-and-dirty description of "leftism" that leads to the question of where this "leftism" resides in the US. My short answer, as I've stated elsewhere: nowhere any more. I'm definitely not alone in my assessment (and those are just the comments on the margins of the Big Box Blogs - go outside the big boxes, and one will surely find more).
So what are we left with? One major party that currently controls the White House (and until January both Congressional chambers) that looks strikingly like the UK's British National Party or Germany's National Democratic Party and another major party that looks strikingly like the UK's Conservative Party (i.e., Tories) or Germany's Christian Democratic Union. In other words, our politics nationally is distinctively right-wing, with a range of choices limited to right-wing hardliners (GOP) to somewhat more moderate populists and globalists (Democrats). Our "center" in the US seems to be those Democrats who have bought into the whole neoliberalism theory and practice hook, line, and sinker; those espousing somewhat more populist approaches to governing and economy tend to get labeled as "left-wing extremists" by respectable pundits. No one from either party dares question the wisdom of corporate capitalism, varying only in flavor (neoliberal globalism is the favorite of the DLC crowd and the some of the GOP crowd; some form of populist capitalism is espoused by some elements of both the Dem and Republican parties, usually in the latter tied to taking a hard line on immigration and ethnic minorities; still others would like a Mussoliniesque fascist capitalism, which to a degree fits the neocons and assorted others mainly in the GOP; and of course there are still a few good old fashioned laissez-faire capitalists who comprise the libertarian element within the GOP). Some might be a bit more favorable to organized labor or to providing some sort of financial safety net for those in need, but regardless, capitalism is a sacred cow.
Nor is there any real question about the "necessity" of a vast military in order to pursue the building of empire (some may voice uneasiness about that word) as "we" continue to take on "the white man's burden" of bringing "democracy" to the "uncivilized" dark corners of the planet. Some may vary in the degree to which military force should be actually used in the process of maintaining and expanding hegemony, but there is little quibbling over the "exceptional" character of our nation as the government to varying degrees bombs and starves others competing for whatever resources "we" covet.
As for the Big Box Blogs, my short take is that they could be considered "leftist" only if one thinks within the framework of Beltway elites. DK, BT, MLW, etc. are best thought of one a broader level as Tory blogs in which there may be a bit more room for populism and a bit less preference for bombs. But "leftist"? If anything, as many of us have learned the hard way, the left is, well, left out.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Most of us here identify ourselves as "progressives", so let's start with the term "progressivism" itself. We don't really have time available to go into this very deeply, but I'll just observe that it comes from the word "progress," and that the progression involved is basically to start with what is already here and carry it forward.Some food for thought as the latest discussion, if you will, on what is or isn't progressivism unfolds at BT and MLW.
The underlying premise is that the social order we were born into results from the working of "iron laws" of evolution and, however unpalatable, is therefore both necessary and inevitable. By the same token, these same deterministic forces make it equally unavoidable that what we've inherited can and will be improved upon. The task of progressives, having apprehended the nature of the progression, is to use their insights to hurry things along.
This isn't a "liberal" articulation. It's what's been passing itself off as a radical left alternative to the status quo for well over a century. It forms the very core of Marx's notion of historical materialism, as when he observes that feudalism was the social precondition for the emergence of capitalism and that capitalism is itself the essential precondition for what he conceives as socialism. Each historical phases creates the conditions for the next; that's the crux of the progressive proposition.
Now you tell me, how is that fundamentally different from what Bush and Clinton have been advocating? Oh, I see. You want to "move forward" in pursuance of another set of goals and objectives than those espoused by these self-styled "centrists." Alright. I'll accept that as true. Let me also state that I tend to find the goals and objectives advanced by progressives immensely preferable to anything advocated by Bush or Clinton. Fair enough?
However, I must go on to observe that the differences at issue are not fundamental. They are not, as Marx would have put it, of "the base." Instead, they are superstructural. They represent remedies to symptoms rather than causes. In other words, they do not derive from a genuinely radical critique of our situation - remember, radical means to go to the root of any phenomenon in order to understand it - and thus cannot offer a genuinely radical solution. This will remain true regardles of the fervor with which progressive goals and objectives are embraced, or the extremity by which they are pursued. Radicalism and extremism are, after all, not really synonyms.
Maybe I can explain what I'm getting at here by way of indulging in a sort of grand fantasy. Close your eyes for a moment and dream along with me that the current progressive agenda has been realized. Never mind how, let's just dream that it's been fulfilled. Things like racism, sexism, ageism, militarism, classism, and the sorts of corporatism with which we are now afflicted have been abolished. The police have been leashed and the prison-industrial complex dismantled. Income disparities have been eliminated across the board, decent housing and healthcare are available to all, an amply endowed educational system is actually devoted to teaching rather than indoctrinating our children. The whole nine yards.
Sound good? You bet. Nonetheless, there's still a very basic - and I daresay uncomfortable - question which must be posed: In this seemingly rosy scenario, what, exactly, happens to the rights of native peoples? Face it, to envision the progressive transformation of "American society" is to presuppose that "America" - that is, the United States - will continue to exist. And, self-evidently, the existence of the United States is, as it has always been and must always be, predicated first and foremost on the denial of the right of self-determining existence to every indigenous nation within its purported borders.
Absent this denial, the very society progressives seek to transform would never have had a landbase upon wich to constitute itself in any form at all. So, it would have had no resources with whcih to actualize a mode of production, and there would be no basis for arranging or rearranging the relations of production. All the dominoes fall from there, don't they? In effect, the progressive agenda is no less contingent upon the continuing internal colonial domination of indigenous nations than that advocated by Bill Clinton.
Perhaps we can agree to a truism on this score: Insofar as progressivism shares with the status quo a need to maintain the structure of colonial dominance over native peoples, it is at base no more than a variation on a common theme, intrinsically a part of the very order it claims to oppose. As Vine Deloria once observed in a related connection, "these guys just keep right on circling the same old rock while calling it by different names."
Since, for all its liberatory rhetoric and sentiment, even the self-sacrifice of its proponents, progressivism replicates the bedrock relations with indigenous nations marking the present status quo, its agenda can be seen as serving mainly to increase the degree of comfort experienced by those who benefit from such relations. Any such outcome represents a continuation and reinforcement of the existing order, not its repeal. Progressivism is thus one possible means of consummating that which is, not its negation.
Monday, November 06, 2006
I erroneously thought the 'progressive' Democrats or lefties were liberals like me. Even Daily Kos is often referred to a 'liberal' site in the MSM, despite the fact that kos has self-identified as a 'Libertarian Democrat' - which is the topic of his next book. As for the rest of the kossacks, my perception is that the majority are far more centrist than liberal.
On Sunday, Booman wrote about embracing conservatives under the big tent of the Democratic party (and I'm sure he'll correct me if I'm wrong in that summary):
In the long run we need the Democratic Party to be huge. But in order for it to be huge, it cannot be as ideologically pure as it is now. It has to be more nebulous and its appeal has to be populist. That's what I meant when I said I'd like to see a Congress more like the ones under LBJ. No, I don't want to welcome back segregationists. I want to win back conservative values voters by improving their wages, their education, their health care, their pensions, and their environment.
He also hopes for more moderate Republicans so there can be more bipartisan middle ground. That may be ideal (for some) but in the current political climate, it doesn't appear to be very attainable and liberals don't necessarily find that desirable since they'll be stuck with representatives in Centrist Land which invites more Joe Liebermans - not less of them.
Last week, pyrrho wrote a diary about this phenomenon. Here's what he thinks about luring conservatives into the Democratic party:
That is a goal that will fail, again, know why? Because the problem is people like Webb... the problem is conservative ideas themselves. They suck. They are not good for the nation. They claim to be about XYZ, but are really about death, self-destruction, and potholes. It wasn't really just that Stalin didn't get a chance to really try his ideas, Stalinism was bad! It isn't that the Republicans have fallen off the golden path illuminated by the glowing footsteps of Reagan, it's that it FOLLOWED that path, and it leads to ruin, emotional and material.
Of course, since I am a liberal, I agree wholeheartedly.
Which brings me back to my original question: what is 'progressive' politics anyway? Is it the big tent, 'grab 'em where you find 'em' type of ideology to broaden the base of the Democratic party? Is it a movement towards more widespread liberalism? Is it somewhere in between in Centrist Land?
Is Red Dan right when he says:
The views held by liberals are actually MORE popular in this nation than the views held by conservatives or moderates.
It is about time that ONE of the political parties reflected that.
If we do so effectively, we will win MORE seats.
I know that's true in Canada...
So what is 'progressive' politics?
Sunday, November 05, 2006
That atmosphere, of course, brought with it some SYFPH wars between those who wanted to practice their right to free speech - no matter how close to election time it was - and those who preferred the happy cheerleader routine. So, I just watched from the sidelines and SMFPH about the whole scenario even though I believed anyone should be able to write about whatever they wanted to - positive or negative. I'm not one of those who reacts well to authoritarian-type discipline. Quel surprise.
Anyway, the past fews days have seen quite the revolt on Daily Kos - against kos - whose has been the victim of more SYFPH demands than I've seen there in a while. (I'm not a regular reader there anymore, so I may have missed one or more SYFPH wars in the recent past). I won't post links to all of the relevant diaries but this one and the attached comments sums up what happened. Kos gave up on Ford. Kossacks got mad and told him to SHFPH. Some believed that maybe kos was using reverse psychology when he said that the Ford race was all but lost (that justification is known as 'denial') and many others accused kos of abandoning what he'd written about in his book Crashing The Gates.
On and on it went. And on and on it still goes. Oh, the anxiety.
Maybe it's just me - and it's true that Daily Kos isn't my site - but it would seem that this whole SYFPH belief is causing a wee bit of a problem. While I'm of the opinion that kos still doesn't seem to understand the political clout he has and thus perhaps shouldn't have voiced his opinion against Ford so close to election time, I also believe in being honest. It's a fine line but, in this case, I'm not exactly with the SYFPH crowd who throughout the year write kos off as 'just the guy who owns the site, so he doesn't really matter because it's the rest of us who count' and then have a complete blowout when he writes something that pisses them off because they believe he may have caused the death knell in Ford's run. I'm probably more on the side who are fighting hard to get Ford elected (regardless of what I think about Ford) who feel like they've been slapped in the face by kos's remarks. That's personal and I don't blame them for feeling let down.
Since Daily Kos came into existence, the site members and kos still haven't been able to measure its political impact. Sometimes, members give the site far more credit than it deserves as far as its influence goes. Other times, they minimize it. Sometimes, kos is just that guy who owns the site. Other times, when he appears in the MSM, he is their dear hero of a leader. It's an odd dynamic.
And then there are the fights over topics - thou shalt not write about election fraud lest thou be labeled a 'fraudster'. Yet, the most crucial concern of people who live in a democracy ought to be to ensure that every vote is counted. And anything that comes near to the definition of conspiracy is definitely out, even though many such conspiracies actually do have some truth to them. Wasn't the Jeff Gannon affair a conspiracy type of topic to begin with? A gay hooker in the WH press corps? Who would have believed that?
In the end though, Daily Kos is what it is and if people want to participate there, they know they do so under limited parameters. It's unfortunate, however, that so much time is wasted with things like SYFPH wars and other meta issues but that is the direct result of the attempts to strictly control the environment. There will always be rebels but we don't last very long in places where our minority opinions are attacked by a loud majority who prefer strict discipline to freedom of expression.
P.S.: Anyone who disagrees with what I've written in this post can just SYFPH. :)
Monday, October 23, 2006
And, as far as sucking goes, here's what really sucks:
“Most people think life sucks, and then you die. Not me. I beg to differ. I think life sucks, then you get cancer, then your dog dies, your wife leaves you, the cancer goes into remission, you get a new dog, you get remarried, you owe ten million dollars in medical bills but you work hard for thirty-five years and you pay it back and then -- one day -- you have a massive stroke, your whole right side is paralyzed, you have to limp along the streets and speak out of the left side of your mouth and drool but you go into rehabilitation and regain the power to walk and the power to talk and then -- one day -- you step off a curb at Sixty-seventh Street, and BANG you get hit by a city bus and then you die. Maybe.”
- Denis Leary
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Yes, that was an ad for Chevron. Chevron. On Daily Kos.
It was there one minute and now it's gone.
There was quite the little discussion about that Chevron ad, including the infamous 'Start your own fucking Blog' in response to the diarist's complaint about the ad being on the site and the usual defence of 'but Markos needs the money!'.
Yes. Complain about a corporation that has committed grievous human rights abuses and you'd better SYFPH or just buy a subscription to make those pesky dkos ads disappear because the biggest so-called progressive blog can shill for whoever the hell it wants to.
The petrochemical company Chevron is guilty of some of the worst environmental and human rights abuses in the world. From 1964 to 1992, Texaco (which transferred operations to Chevron after being bought out in 2001) unleashed a toxic "Rainforest Chernobyl" in Ecuador by leaving more than 600 unlined oil pits in pristine northern Amazon rainforest and dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic production water into rivers used for bathing water. The toxic crude oil and formation water seeped into the subsoil, contaminating surrounding freshwater and farmland. As a result, local communities have suffered severe health effects, including cancer, skin lesions, birth defects, and spontaneous abortions. Indigenous communities have been dispossessed of their lands, and millions of hectares of rainforest have been destroyed to make way for the company's pipelines and oil wells.
Chevron is also responsible for the violent repression of nonviolent opposition to oil extraction. In Nigeria, Chevron has collaborated with the Nigerian police and military who have opened fire on peaceful protestors who oppose oil extraction in the Niger Delta. In 1998, two indigenous Ilaje activists were killed by Nigerian military officers flown in by the company while protesting at an oil platform in Ondo state. In 1999, two people from Opia village were killed by military personnel paid by Chevron, after soliciting a meeting to complain about the company's harmful effects on local fishing. And in 2005, Nigerian soldiers fired upon protestors at Escravos oil terminal, leaving one protestor dead.
Additionally Chevron is responsible for widespread health problems in Richmond, California, where one of Chevron's largest refineries is located. Processing 350,000 barrels of oil a day, the Richmond refinery produces oil flares and toxic waste in the Richmond area. As a result, local residents suffer from high rates of lupus, skin rashes, rheumatic fever, liver problems, kidney problems, tumors, cancer, asthma, and eye problems.
In December 2004, the Unocal Corporation, which recently became a subsidiary of Chevron, settled a lawsuit filed by 15 Burmese villagers, in which the villagers alleged Unocal's complicity in a range of human rights violations in Burma, including rape, summary execution, torture, forced labor and forced migration. Despite the settlement, human rights abuses continue along the oil pipeline in Burma, which is still "secured" by the Burmese military. Chevron is responsible for the risks associated with this pipeline.
A proud sponsor of Daily Kos! Won't you join them?
Update: 14.11.2006 kos has finally addressed this issue. Bottom line: controversial ads can stay.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Actually, I enjoy the bad cop role
It is my legacy online. Whole communities have formed due to their hatred of me (Booman Tribune, My Left Wing, Mariscat's blog). It is fun googling "Delaware Dem" when you [sic] websites saying "Delaware Dem is an asshole."
by Delaware Dem on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 08:17:19 PM PDT
Well. That solves that mystery!
Oh, and just in case you were wondering why liberals can never get their collective shit together:
Yes, in the end....
that is what I want. I want all Kossacks and all Democrats to speak with an unified voice and have a single goal: winning this election.
I find, among liberals, such unity is impossible. We are anti-authoritarian to begin with. And we cherish not only our freedom of thought but the diversity of it. We kick the ass of anyone who tells us to put aside that freedom for a larger purpose, if even for a short time.
by Delaware Dem on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 07:19:29 PM PDT
This ends your trivia lesson and explains why we liberals are all such rebellious losers.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Oh for fucks sake, this is a surprise to our friends on the left? Really? Man, that's what fascist regimes do... propaganda. Hell, the entire past 5 years have been one massive psy-ops campaign with the support of the Democrats (exceptions being Conyers, etc.).
The country was lost in December 2000 when American citizens did not take to the streets to defend their Constitution. Everything that's been done since then is predictable and most certainly NOT surprising.
Come on now, no one anticipated that Karl would have a trick up his sleeves for the 2006 mid-terms? And of course that trick would involve 9/11? HELLO??? HAS NO ONE BEEN PAYING ATTENTION FOR THE LAST 5 YEARS?
Whining on blogs and sending money to pseudo-liberal candidates has gotten the "progressive movement" exactly what in the last 5 years?
But at least everyone has something to do IN THIS MOMENT, for the SHORT TERM, to feel like they're helping to take their country back... they can send an angry letter to Disney and ABC... and watch while it's still aired, becomes an even bigger phenom due to all the other networks coverage of the "drama unfolding", and watch those other networks distort the truth enough that it will seem like the Dems are just trying to cover for the incompetence of Clinton.
Bet on it.
Monday, September 04, 2006
Since 1998, more than 3,000 people are known to have died trying to cross the border. While in 2002 there were 320 documented deaths, last year a total of 472 bodies were recovered. In the past 11 months, in Arizona alone, 124 people have died making the journey. Those deaths include more than a dozen women and children as young as three years old.
the border . . . more and more difficult to
cross . . . more and more women and children
to be with their husbands
No More Deaths
the tearful man who has his shirt half-unbuttoned, and a pair of worn leather boots sitting by his side. His feet are covered in oozing blisters and his legs are swollen.
hundreds of underground sensors buried all over the desert. They also use vehicle patrols and unmanned drones to locate their human prey.
pages of a Spanish version of the New Testament flap in the breeze. A bra hangs from an Ocotillo cactus. A few disposable nappies peek out from a torn, black plastic bag.
(omega) food and water
easy living in the desert
scorpions, tarantulas and rattlesnakes
six people say You've saved my life. In your entire life
if you hear that once
steep hills and dry river beds
sprained ankles or broken bones
then forced to walk back into
(the words lifted entirely in order of appearance from Michael Park's article in the UK Independent (9/03/06), "Mexican immigrants trying to cross the great divide")
Friday, September 01, 2006
I say they won, if only because they have managed to free themselves from the sticky net of cultural solipcism, thus becoming Others-by-choice, foes of their own countrymen, even those who have perhaps themselves been dabbling with some gentle questioning of their country's policies.
They're progressives, you see. All they are asking is that people from other cultural groups be polite and properly humble, as befits their station, when criticizing US/Israeli crimes against humanity.
They are very civilized people, they don't agree with it one bit, in fact most of them believe very strongly that these crimes should be committed by gunmen from other countries, maybe even wearing blue hats. And some would even be in favor of more humane methods of extermination than those employed by the current administration, and that the contracts go to companies owned by Democrats.
We know they believe this very strongly because they frequently urge others to send money to politicians who have pledged to do these very things. So they do not appreciate it one bit when their fellow Americans side with foreigners against them. Especially dusky Muslim foreigners, who, if they feel obliged to be critical of America, should at least have the decency to do so in a way that shows they know their place.
Maybe something like, "It is possible that there are some people with ties to the region who may have wondered if perhaps America might consider slaughtering just a bit fewer people, and who have been leaning lately toward a less positive reaction regarding burning the flesh off children, but this should not be taken to mean that they are any the less admiring, any less in awe, of the true greatness of America, or ungrateful for all the good things America has done for the entire Majority World over the decades, and all the wonderful people who have made it possible through their loyal devotion to their corporations and the politicians who serve them."
That, you see, would be an acceptable sort of criticism from a non-American.
It's kind of like the difference in reaction to Barack Obama and Al Sharpton.
Al and Barack are good examples to use because for one, both are well known, and two, they just illustrate the point more clearly than a Sharpie marker on Brooks Brothers broadcloath.
Al and Barack are both politicians, they're both playas, but their personas are as different as well, black and white.
Barack is one of those Bryant Gumbel-style black folks, talks white, acts white, if it weren't for his skin, he'd be white.
Al, on the other hand, has retained his identity, which, to be fair, so has Barack, for all we know. We could say both have remained true to their culture, too. It is not likely that Barack, for instance, ever saw the inside of a projects apartment until someone on his staff suggested he visit one for a photo op and to boost his credibility. Al saw a lot of them in the course of his regular life before he ever started working for James Brown.
And yes, both would quite rightly be decried as utter fakes should they attempt to reflect a culture other than their own.
Barack acts "white" because that is how he was raised, that is who he is. And Al doesn't because that is how he was raised, that is who he is.
And Barack is acceptable to the US mainstream, while Al is not. Now we could ascribe this to Al's being about ten times smarter than Barack, but that has to do with the business of US politics and not Anti-Otherism per se, and is something that, like their culture, that neither one can help.
Barack is not angry, he is quietly and understatedly grateful for the advantages he has enjoyed, he is not uppity.
Al, in contrast, is frequently openly angry, for all his playahood, is quietly and understatedly scornful of the few advantages that he has been able, as a politician, to wrest from the beast, and he is uppity as hell.
The Democratic party could easily run Barack, at least as a vice presidential candidate, without upsetting even their southern contingent too much, when Sharpton ran in 2004, he was considered the campaign's comic relief.
Any honest career or guidance counselor will advise any student of color who wants to be successful in a high profile, public life-type field to try to seem as white as possible, so that white folks will "react better." Of course they will probably not put it in those terms, unless they themselves are openly uppity, and thus on the verge of losing their counselor job. They will use the term "mainstream" which is the code for white.
One frequently hears the mainstream excuse their Islamophobia by expressing the view that "Muslims have not apologized enough for 911."
It is therefore, even more outrageous to them that Muslims should complain that the US mainstream has chosen to be represented internationally by a bestial horde of torturers and sexual predators.
That's uppity. If a Muslim, or for that matter, a Hindu, or an African Animist, or a Latin American of indeterminate faith tradition, wishes to criticize US policies in his or her region, or in the Majority World as a whole, the mainstream will "react better" if this criticism is obliquely and indirectly hinted at, heavily loaded with disclaimers absolving all present from any sort of collective responsibility, and prefaced by and appended with lavish praise for the US in general - and its wonderful people, all present included, of course.
Ironically, it is this insularity which has been the ruination of an entity that did quite objectively have tremendous potential for good, though if truth be told, and I, being uppity, will not hesitate to tell it, by tremendous potential despite its mainstream.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
"The assumption that what currently exists must necessarily exist is the acid that corrodes all visionary thinking." --Murray Bookchin
The excuse for this post is to point to a rather incredible 1970's talk by Bookchin, "Ecology and Ideology," that was rebroadcast today (8/30/06) on the KPFA program, Against the Grain. The talk starts about 5 minutes into the broadcast (after news headlines & a little trouble with the tape). If you've got the time, treat yourself to the voice of a man who dared to Imagine! a better world. Highly recommended!
Murray Bookchin was a left-libertarian social theorist who, in the early 1960s, introduced the concept of ecology into radical politics. A self-described utopian, he sought a decentralized, genuinely democratic society and placed ecology in a humanistic and social framework. He wrote more than two dozen books on ecology, history, politics, philosophy, and urban planning. At all times he upheld reason against the alternatives and sought to bring a lived revolutionary past forward into the future. [snip]
His first book, Our Synthetic Environment (written under the pseudonym Lewis Herber), published in 1962, addressed a broad range of ecological issues. Preceding Rachel Carson’s famous Silent Spring by nearly half a year, it called for a decentralized society using alternative energy sources. In this and later writings he developed what he called social ecology, which holds that ecological problems can be remedied only by the creation of a free and democratic society. At a time when “ecology” was an unfamiliar concept to most people, he lectured indefatigably on the subject to countercultural groups throughout the United States. . . . His 1960s essays were very influential both in the counterculture and in the New Left and were anthologized in Post-Scarcity Anarchism (1971).
During the 1970s Bookchin’s writings and lectures influenced the formation of Green movements in the United States and abroad. [snip]
In 1982 Bookchin published The Ecology of Freedom, which became a classic in social thought. His 1986 The Rise of Urbanization and the Decline of Citizenship (1986) presented his program for direct-democratic politics at the municipal, neighborhood, and town levels. In Burlington Bookchin attempted to put these ideas into practice by working with the Northern Vermont Greens, the Vermont Council for Democracy, and the Burlington Greens, retiring from politics in 1990. His ideas are summarized succinctly in Remaking Society (1989) and The Murray Bookchin Reader (1997).
That's from the obituary written by his longtime companion Janet Biehl. The 85 year old Bookchin passed away earlier this summer. A good, on-line selection of his writings can be found at The Bookchin Archives.
Brian Tokar has a nice memorial in Counterpunch, The Visionary Life of Murray Bookchin, where he adds:
During the 1950s and '60s, Bookchin built upon the legacies of utopian social philosophy and critical theory, challenging the primacy of Marxism on the left and linking contemporary ecological and urban crises to problems of capital and social hierarchy in general. Beginning in the mid-sixties, he pioneered a new political and philosophical synthesis-termed social ecology-that sought to reclaim local political power, by means of direct popular democracy, against the consolidation and increasing centralization of the nation state.
From the 1960s to the present, the utopian dimension of Bookchin's social ecology inspired several generations of social and ecological activists, from the pioneering urban ecology movements of the sixties, to the 1970s' back-to-the-land, antinuclear, and sustainable technology movements, the beginnings of Green politics and organic agriculture in the early 1980s, and the anti-authoritarian global justice movement that came of age in 1999 in the streets of Seattle. His influence was often cited by prominent political and social activists throughout the US, Europe, South America, Turkey, Japan, and beyond.
Even as numerous social movements drew on his ideas, however, Bookchin remained a relentless critic of the currents in those movements that he found deeply disturbing, including the New Left's drift toward Marxism-Leninism in the late 1960s, tendencies toward mysticism and misanthropy in the radical environmental movement, and the growing focus on individualism and personal lifestyles among 1990s anarchists. In the late 1990s, Bookchin broke with anarchism, the political tradition he had been most identified with for over 30 years and articulated a new political vision that he called communalism.
Andy Price begins an article on Bookchin's critique of Marx with this 1991 quote: "Perhaps the most compelling real fact that radicals in our era have not adequately faced . . . is the fact that capitalism today has become a society, not only an economy."
If the books Our Synthetic Environment and Carson's Silent Spring were ground-breaking in the 60's, the issues raised in his long 1952 essay "The Problem of Chemicals in Food" could be described as near prophetic. In a 2000 interview, he notes:
DV: The summarizing phrase that is commonly associated with your work is "We cannot solve the environmental crisis without solving social problems." To whom specifically were these words addressed when you wrote them for the first time? To the environmental movement of the time?
MB: No, it was 1952, and there was no environmental movement at that time — just a few books on conservation and overpopulation, most of which were very reactionary. There was no organic gardening movement except for experiments among a few people who had come over here from Europe and especially England. I strongly believed, however, that making a few small changes would not solve the ecological problem — on the contrary, a transformation into a rational, egalitarian, and libertarian society was necessary. When I talked about solar and wind energy, I didn't just propose them as alternative technologies; I proposed them as part of the technological apparatus of a new communal society.
A wholistic approach was one he continued to cultivate:
"Nor do piecemeal steps however well intended, even partially resolve problems that have reached a universal, global and catastrophic Character. If anything, partial `solutions' serve merely as cosmetics to conceal the deep seated nature of the ecological crisis. They thereby deflect public attention and theoretical insight from an adequate understanding of the depth and scope of the necessary changes." (from The Ecology of Freedom, 1982)
"To speak of 'limits to growth' under a capitalistic market economy is as meaningless as to speak of limits of warfare under a warrior society. The moral pieties, that are voiced today by many well-meaning environmentalists, are as naive as the moral pieties of multinationals are manipulative. Capitalism can no more be 'persuaded' to limit growth than a human being can be 'persuaded' to stop breathing. Attempts to 'green' capitalism, to make it 'ecological', are doomed by the very nature of the system as a system of endless growth." (from Remaking Society, 1992)
In an "Open Letter to the Ecology Movement" published on Earth Day, 1980, Bookchin articulated clearly what lay ahead (& in fact played out in many of the large environmental & other social advocacy groups); it echoes dilemmas many face today:
It is necessary, I believe, for everyone in the ecology movement to make a crucial decision; will the eighties retain the visionary concept of an ecological future based on a libertarian (anarchist) commitment to decentralization, alternative technology, and a libertarian practice based on affinity groups, direct democracy, and direct action? Or will the decade be marked by a dismal retreat into ideological obscurantism and a "mainstream politics" that acquires "power" and "effectiveness" by following the very "stream" it should be seeking to divert? Will it pursue fictitious "mass constituencies" by imitating the very forms of mass manipulation, mass media, mass culture it is committed to oppose? These two directions cannot be reconciled. Our use of "media," mobilizations, and actions must appeal to mind and spirit, not to conditioned reflexes and shock tactics that leave no room for reason and humanity. In any case, the choice must be made now before the ecology movement becomes instituionalized into a mere appendage of the very system whose structure and methods it professes to oppose. It must be made consciously and decisively -- or the century itself, and not only the decade, will be lost to us forever.
--quoted in Deep Ecology, Bill Devall & George Sessions (1985)
For his withering critque of the deep ecology movement, take a peek at Social Ecology versus Deep Ecology: A Challenge for the Ecology Movement. Then, aiming his fire at the left, here's a snippet from Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm:
Today's reactionary social context greatly explains the emergence of a phenomenon in Euro-American anarchism that cannot be ignored: the spread of individualist anarchism. In a time when even respectable forms of socialism are in pell-mell retreat from principles that might in any way be construed as radical, issues of lifestyle are once again supplanting social action and revolutionary politics in anarchism. In the traditionally individualist-liberal United States and Britain, the 1990s are awash in self-styled anarchists who -- their flamboyant radical rhetoric aside -- are cultivating a latter-day anarcho-individualism that I will call lifestyle anarchism. Its preoccupations with the ego and its uniqueness and its polymorphous concepts of resistance are steadily eroding the socialistic character of the libertarian tradition. No less than Marxism and other socialisms, anarchism can be profoundly influenced by the bourgeois environment it professes to oppose, with the result that the growing 'inwardness' and narcissism of the yuppie generation have left their mark upon many avowed radicals. Ad hoc adventurism, personal bravura, an aversion to theory oddly akin to the antirational biases of postmodernism, celebrations of theoretical incoherence (pluralism), a basically apolitical and anti-organizational commitment to imagination, desire, and ecstasy, and an intensely self-oriented enchantment of everyday life, reflect the toll that social reaction has taken on Euro-American anarchism over the past two decades.
I'll close with his closing words in the 2000 interview:
We live in a very confusing time. Sometimes people look for easy answers to complex questions. If a machine or item functions poorly, it is easy to blame technology rather than the competitive corporations that try to make money, or to blame people's attitudes rather than the mass media that shapes people's thinking, or to say we should go back to old ideologies — Christian fundamentalism, Islamic fundamentalism, orthodox Marxism, orthodox anarchism, even orthodox capitalism — for solutions.
People need new ideas based on reason, not superstition; on freedom, not personal autonomy; on creativity, not adaptation; on coherence, not chaos; and on a vision of a free society, based on popular assemblies and confederalism, not on rulers and a state. If we do not organize a real movement — a structured movement — that tries to guide people toward a rational society based on reason and freedom, we face eventual disaster. We cannot withdraw into our "autonomous" egos or retreat to a primitive, indeed unknown past. We must change this insane world, or else society will dissolve into an irrational barbarism — as it is already beginning to do these days.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
But, obviously, clearly, it isn't having an effect. Or more accurately, it's not having the effect we hope, of ending the war, or ending immigrant-bashing, or bringing down Bush. Then again, I'm not convinced the antiwar protests in the 1960s succeeded in their aims either.
Obviously, that last observation is clearly wrong, but the first part of his comment reflects the views of a large number of people and that is one of instant gratification. It goes like this: 'if I do something and don't see results right away, why bother doing it at all?' and, not only that, the change must be one of immense measure such as "ending immigrant-bashing" - which was not what those protests were about in the first place.
Western society is plagued with people looking for quick fixes. Whether it's expressed in the form of chasing a high with alcohol or other drugs, believing that this week you'll win the lottery and life will then be wonderful forever, thinking that all you need to do to change a government is to show up on election day or living vicariously through others and letting them do the dirty work for you because you don't want to get your hands slapped. You want to stay safe, of course.
I think Americans sometimes forget that they're supposed to be involved in the pursuit of happiness which is far different than having it handed to you on a silver serving dish. And, of course, some believe that happiness is a goal that, once reached, is yours ad infinitum - unwilling to believe that the reaching of it ebbs and flows throughout life and that happiness is not some place you arrive at - only to stay in forever.
But, while there is a chorus of 'baby steps, baby steps' expressed in that diary's comments as well, there is a tone of obvious resignation and acquiescence to the power of corporations and the status quo of the political infrastructure. Once again, if it can't be fixed on a grand scale, then we'll just struggle for decades hoping our little actions might cause some change somewhere down the road.
There is no sense of revolution in America anymore. And, if America ever needed a revolution again, that time is now.
Our Damnit Janet is doing her best over there to explain that to MLWers, but the atmosphere of fear and 'I do what I can, what more do you want me to do?' is overwhelming. She's not the only shining star, of course. Witness Lilian Friedman who says she knowingly broke the rules at BT by posting 6 diaries in one day asking why people weren't out on the streets and was summarily banned for being such an undisciplined shit-disturber. Did anyone over there actually realize she was trying to make a point? I don't know. I wasn't there at the time. But, she broke the rules and obviously had to be punished. If that type of reaction happens among so-called progressives, no wonder so many people don't want to risk what might happen if they actually do get out there and protest amongst those who oppose their opinions. (Janet can tell you stories about exactly what goes on in the face of dissent. Luckily no one can ban her from the streets. They've tried, but they haven't succeeded. We love Janet.)
What's with this culture of ennuie? This culture where staying safe is revered among all else? This culture of keyboard revolutionaries who often don't get beyond their own front door? This culture of endless hoping that someone, somewhere will change everything for everybody else? This culture that believes the only way to change the system is to work within it? This culture of defeatism? This culture of 'oh well, maybe next time'? This culture of only doing things that are comfortable? This culture that is so stunned it needs laugh tracks to tell people when to laugh and sad music to tell people when to cry? This culture that is so lazy it has lost the will of aggressive inquiry? This culture that obssesses over the murder of a child beauty queen 10 years ago while little Iraqi, Palestinian, Sudanese and [fill in the blank] girls are being murdered every single day?
You cannot change political institutions and corporations quickly, but you can change a culture. First of all though, you must have the willingness to do so. Unfortunately, the fear that holds too many back - fear that we on the so-called left often believe is the exclusive domain of those on the right who've bought into Bushco propaganda without even realizing that the Rove machine had beaten us as well - is the prime obstacle.
We say we're free. We think we're fearless. We believe we do all we can.
We are wrong.
('This Revolution Won't be Televised' is the name of a book by Joe Trippi)
See also: Call Me Old School: Protests Matter by me and Quit Your Bellyachin' About Antiwar Demonstrations by Meteor Blades.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
"Even within the framework of mutual tolerance, I believe that there are non-negotiable rules understood by all groups," she said.
"Those who seek to cause conflicts and tension in our communities must be marginalised by the responsible majority.
"That means everyone needs to be involved."link
Nope, those words don't refer to BT (& you are hereby commanded to NOT think of how they possibly might) -- they're from British Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly, questioning the values of multi-culturalism. Which, in a roundaboutway relates back to the gated-community discussions. It's a questioning I fear will become more prevalent in the States in the coming years. One of it's more insidious aspects is how remarks like hers get bandied about (esp. in a climate of fear) as 'common sense,' that manipulative 'value' Booman himself was calling for the other day in the threads here:
"In our attempt to avoid imposing a single British identity and culture, have we ended up with some communities living in isolation from each other with no common bonds between them?"
communities living in isolation from each other with no common bonds is NOT the result of multi-culturalism; in fact it's in opposition to those values. The answer to isolated mono-cultural communities will NOT be found in some nationalistic singlular identity. That she can ask whether multiculturalism (can we call it an "-ism"?) "is encouraging separateness" should indicate the depth of her misunderstanding about what a truly pluralisitic society might become or look like, as well as the dangers these linguistic frames herald. The implied preference for a nationalistic identity that submerges if it doesn't totally obliterate diversity holds, in the words of Penguin (below), "a swarm of untested assumptions." Though I wonder if those assumptions haven't been by now thoroughly tested and found short, but are still clung to anyways despite apparent failure?
Identity Politics are a necessary endeavour and can offer the jumping-off point for the listening, sharing, exchanging & borrowing that doesn't submerge the different & unique in quest of assimilation, that Grail known in the US as the Melting Pot. Gumbo with discernable ingredients is so much more satisfying than puree anyday.
Reality (as in the words of Ms. Kelly) too is often more satisfying leavened with fiction. The following "letter," written in 1979, is from an open-ended, epistolary novel (From A Broken Bottle Traces Of Perfume Still Emanate). The setting is when the band, the Mystic Horn Society, goes down to the local record store to 'face their critics.'
24. IX. 79
Dear Angel of Dust,
Funny what a odor can do. This afternoon in the produce section of the supermarket I bent over between the oranges and the nectarines and unexpectedly caught a brief whiff of what was exactly the scent of the Nago incense David used to bring back from New York four years ago. I wouldn't exactly call what I went into a swoon, but it did carry me back to the night he and I sat up late drinking port and listening to the album of Tunisian music he'd brought over.
In any case, I'm writing not so much to play Proust as to tell you about the, press conference we held this morning. The band decided it was time we confronted our critics face to face, so we reserved some space down at Rhino Records, the hip record store in town, and sent out invitations. A pretty large crowd showed up. The people at Rhino were nice enough to provide refreshments, so it turned out to be something of an event. Things got under way with a fellow from one of the local radio stations clearing his throat to say that while he admitted being "somewhat uninformed" on recent developments in music the trouble he has with our compositions is their tendency to, as he put it, "go off on tangents." He then said that "a piece of music should gather rather than disperse its component parts" but insisted that he wasn't asking that our music be made easier exactly, "Just more centered somehow," etc.
This line of argument was a piece of cake, as they say, for Lambert, who sat fidgetting, smirking and jotting notes on the back of an album cover he'd been looking at the whole time this fellow spoke. (I have to give Lambert credit, knowing his temper, for even hearing him out.) Anyway, the guy did at last finish, at which point three people back towards the budget classical section applauded. Lambert stared at them a moment, then began by saying that all the talk of being "more centered" was just that, talk, and had long ago become too easy to throw around anymore. He then asked what, or where, was this “center" and how would anyone know it if it were there. He went on, tilting his chair back on its hind legs, folding his arms across his chest and saying that he wasn't sure anyone had anything more than the mere word "center," that it didn't simply name something one doesn’t have and thus disguises a swarm of untested assumptions about. Then he shifted his argument a bit, saying that if our music does have a center, as he could argue it indeed does, how would someone who admits being "somewhat uninformed" recognize it, that maybe the fellow from the radio station wasn't saying anything more than that our music churns out of a center other than his, one he's unfamiliar with. He pointed out that, as he put it, "you don't know any center you don't go to" and finished the matter off by rising from his chair, wagging a very preacherly right index finger and admonishing, "But if, 'somewhat uninformed,' you refuse to make the journey to that center and instead pontificate on its need to be 'more centered,' then you're asking for nothing if not an easier job, that your work be done by someone else, that our music abandon its center and shuffle over to yours." With that he sat down to cheers and stamping of feet from the folk imports section.
Next a fortyish, not bad looking lady from one of the neighborhood weeklies spoke up. She had a lazy way of talking-not a drawl exactly, but a way of almost retracting what she had to say. And not exactly lazy either, considering the care she took, the effort it must have taken to sustain (like a sigh, only longer) that blase way of speaking she took for charm.
Anyway, what she had to say was that she considered herself not a critic but a fan of our music, but that she wondered why we couldn't, to quote her, "place the music within the context of the whole culture, rather than just the African, Asian and generally 'Third World' references you like to make. " She sat down and those of us at the table, the members of the band, looked around at one another for a moment. Finally Heidi, whom I don't think I've mentioned before but who plays violin and congas and also calls herself Aunt Nancy, spoke up. "All I can say"-- she said, "is that the culture you're calling 'whole' has yet to assume itself to be so except at the expense of a whole lot of other folks, except by presuming that what they were up to could be ignored at no great loss." She went on to accuse the lady of "speaking right from the heart of that exclusionary sense of dichotomy to even ask such a question." There was a bit of rumbling at the back of the room but she went on. "What makes you think of Africa, Asia and other parts of the world," she asked, raising her voice, standing up and putting her hand on her hip, "as not a part of 'the whole culture'? What makes you feel excluded by our sources if not the exclusionistic biases of the culture you identify as 'whole' boomeranging back at you?" The lady from the neighborhood weekly blushed, and Heidi (or Aunt Nancy) went on to say that while she was standing she might as well reply to something in the first guy who spoke's remarks which'd bothered her. And what she said she said so eloquently I have to quote her again. "I don't know where you get this business of gathering vs. dispersing," she argued, turning to the fellow from the radio station, "the sense of them as an either/or proposition, one a choice against the other. We inhale as well as exhale, the heart dilates as well as contracts. Those of us in the band want music that shows similar signs of life. You may want something different, something more modest maybe, but your modesty betrays its falseness, shows itself to be the wolf-in-sheep's-clothing it is, when you saddle up your high horse to tell the rest of us we have to likewise lower our sights." She then took a drink of water and sat down. Again there was applause. This time from some people over near the used reggae bin.
Well, things went on pretty much like that, back and forth, for three hours or so. I'd go into more detail-and maybe at some other time I will-but I've begun to get hungry, so I have to bring this to a halt. But that reminds me: You may be wondering what Penguin had to say during the press conference. I forgot to tell you he wasn't there. Yesterday, as you know, was John Coltrane's birthday. Penguin, by way of homage and celebration, insisted on eating three sweet-potato pies, just as Trane did one afternoon in Georgia in the late forties when he was in the Cleanhead Vinson band. We all warned him but he wouldn't listen, so he ended up sick and had to have his stomach pumped. Won't get out of the hospital till tomorrow, perhaps even later.
I'll be in touch.
fr. Nathaniel Mackey's Bedouin Hornbook, pp. 10-13 (Callaloo, 1986)
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Anyone who ventures onto the internets, whether as a site administrator or participant, is bound to encounter points of view and opinions that are different from their own.
For this reason some sites that wish, whether for reasons personal, financial, or both, to present a particular tone or perspective of message content, do not allow public participation or review messages before publishing them, etc.
While we here discuss a small number of websites, little that we discuss, in its essence, is unique to those few.
BooMan, for instance, wishes his site to be open to the public, and he does not wish to enforce message content. However, he also may have other aspirations for his site that are in conflict with this.
Like any site owner, this is something that he will have to resolve for himself.
Some posters may wish to participate on the internets, yet are extremely displeased and alarmed to find that other posters have views which are very different to theirs.
Especially in the middle of World War III, it is to be expected that one will find champions of the aggressors, and champions of the Resistance, and elements of both who also oppose the war entirely.
The American sites are crawling with virals, mostly devotees of one politician or other, or a political organization. They will encounter people who are devotees of an opposing politician, and people who prefer a different political organization. Most do not bother with unbridgeable gaps, but some of the less experienced do.
Non-Americans are unlikely to be interested in US domestic politics, but have strong views on US policies, especially US activities in other countries.
While America speaks with one voice, there are a small (and to me, very precious) number of peace-loving, pro-Reform individuals whose views will be very displeasing to most of their countrymen.
And if a site owner chooses to open his or her site to the general public, he or she can expect to get some of those pro-Reform Americans, and some foreigners, and their views will be very different from those of his more traditional American participants.
He will also get some people for whom the wide variety of views might be too disturbing. The internets are not for everybody.
He may find himself up to his ass in alligators, and forget that he set out to drain the swamp.
Monday, August 21, 2006
I imagine that the vast majority of site owners are quite aware of this, but for the benefit of any would-be contributors to those sites, just in case you need to hear it, I wish to make a few things very clear.
Whether we are blessed with the gift of word writing, or whether we simply have an opinion and a desire to express it, we who write are in the driver's seat here. We have our choice of literally millions of internet sites on which to cast our words.
We can start our own sites. We can cross-post to a handful, a dozen, scores of them. That is entirely up to us. It is we who have that choice, that power. If we feel that we have something of value to say, we have the responsibility to say it on any public website we choose.
The pursuit of the site owner's financial or political interests is his own concern, not ours.
It is the prerogative of every site owner to keep his site "private," to decree who may publish there and who may not, or to open it up to the public for our comments. Whether he, or we, are American or not is irrelevant. Here on the internets, we are the public.
It is we who decide on which public websites we will express our views, share our sonnets, shyly offer our short stories and novels, proclaim our essays, holler our haikus!
He or she who wishes to run a site on which many people contribute do not have such power. We are the ones with the desirable goods, they are the humble petitioners who hope to be chosen to receive them.
While we, as noted, can freely post our work to as many websites as we choose, the only power the site owner has is to close his site to the public, or to "ban" specific users, to REDUCE the number of contributors to his or her site, and in so doing, risk his website being "banned" by yet more contributors and potential contributors.
In some cases, new contributors may arrive to replace the departed ones, however there is no guarantee that they will be any more pleasing to the site owner than those s/he lost.
On the subject of commercial websites, it is certainly no sin to wish to have one. Many, many people dream of running a website that generates for them so much revenue that they do not need to do any other work in order to meet, even exceed their expenses. This is, however, not an easy thing to do, and if this is what one aspires to, one's best bet is something having to do with online gambling or images, still or moving, of unclothed human beings engaging in sexual activity.
Or one can try one's hand at something like the enterprise recommended by no less than Dick Cheney himself: people who spend half the week scouring local flea markets for things like antique postcards which they then spend the other half hopefully waiting in line at the post office to ship out all they have succeeded in selling at a profit on eBay, or people who make children's swimming trunks printed with popular cartoon characters, which they then sell on eBay and preferably also an Amazon shop.
A website whose only "product" consists of the work of an indefinite and constantly changing number of individuals expressing their opinions on issues of the day, which one hopes will attract so much traffic that corporations will wish to purchase advertisements is a very poor choice.
However, if such a website is one's goal, one would do well to remember that the absolutely only thing one has to offer these corporations has nothing whatsoever to do with which opinions are expressed on that website, and everything to do with just how much traffic is attracted, because therein lie "page views," and "page views" are the path to "clickthroughs," and "clickthroughs" bring the possibility that someone may purchase the sponsor's product.
I should hasten to add that, in the case of the BooMan Tribune site, when it was quite new, in a thread discussing the site's future, I made mention of message content vis a vis sponsors. I was referring to arrangements more like those that some sites may make with politicians, where the sponsor simply "likes" the site and wishes to give the owner some money.
However since that time, I have been apprised that such arrangements are not as common as those which do depend on very quantitative data regarding the traffic, clickthroughs, etc.
And this may have been the case at the time of my former comment, and I was just unaware of it!
You will note that this is all a very iffy business, and if you will speak with people who have studied the science, if you wish to call it one, of page views and clickthroughs and purchases, you will find that a great many page views indeed are required before the likelihood of even one clickthrough, and in turn a great many clickthroughs are required before the likelihood of a purchase, so as you can see, one's site traffic is rather key.
Controversy, regardless of where the site owner, or the sponsor stands on whatever the controversy is, is more likely to increase traffic than the consistent presentation of one point of view.
It does not matter how important the site owner, or again, even the advertiser, may feel about the importance of unity, or staying on message, or where owner or sponsor fall along that four inch balance beam that passes for a political spectrum in the US.
What matters is how many people visit the site. And as anyone with knowledge of the subject will tell you, the phenomenon of ratio of clickthroughs and page views has nothing to do with where the viewer falls either.
Such a website may feature a written work that many people disagree with. Very few of the site's visitors will consciously NOT click a sponsor's link because the website has featured the written work.
A certain number of people who are interested in purchasing cellular telephones will click a link advertising such phones no matter where they see it, and while the crucial question of just how many and just how many dollars that means for the site owner, will be predicted differently according to every expert and every study, all agree that the number of page views necessary is large.
Thus, any website owner whose only value to advertisers consists of his traffic will not be acting in his own best interest by attempting to decrease the level of controversy, of "division," of "disruption" on his site. On the contrary, such things are his best friend, and his only hope of success.
As I said, such websites are not considered the best bet for someone who wishes to make money.
The case of kos is not unlike the case of the person who sold a domain name to altavista for some large amount of money a few years ago and in the wake of the sale sprang up a cottage industry of people buying up domain names in hopes of selling them for large sums to huge corporations. The vast majority of these individuals were disappointed with their investment, and wish they had purchased google stock instead. Or even just taken a nice vacation with the money they sunk into all those domain names.
If one hopes to receive money from politicians and political parties or organizations themselves, that is quite a different story, and if that is the case, the would-be money recipient's job is even more difficult, and his chances of success even slighter.
Like the corporations, the political sponsor is also interested in high traffic and page views, but since he or she will also be interested in having the website reflect a particular point of view, controversy will be counter-productive, and as we have explained, controversy is the single most likely factor in driving traffic to the site.
Political organizations frequently employ "ghost bloggers," or "virals," either paid or volunteer, for no other purpose than to give the appearance of increased traffic and increased popularity of a specific politician and/or political view. And it is quite amusing, on occasion, to watch them debate each other. One never knows if they are aware that their opponent is also "working."
Corporations, large and small also employ this strategy, it is a step up from the "spam" posts one sees these days on blogs and message boards. It is a product that is today routinely offered by public relations firms to their clients.
So it is into a most complicated and difficult to navigate stew that the aspiring recipient of political cash dives. His product must be a neatly herded horde of cats, and he might be better off using the Democratic Underground combination model of minimizing controversy by legislating permitted message content and allowed external links to such absurd lengths that posting anything there bears more resemblance to a text-based role playing game than anything remotely related to an exchange of ideas and information.
In addition to that, DU also depends heavily on "user contributions," offering "subscribers" access to a wide array of non-political forums, which has the added advantage of attracting the desired class of participant and establishing "community," all of this, they hope, will somehow result in a bloc of politically on-message and docile deliverables that will be deemed by politicians and political organizations, worthy of cash for the owner's wallet.
I have rambled on about this longer than even I intended, and if you are still reading, I thank you for your patience, and as a reward, I will offer, for what it is worth, my opinion that those readers and thinkers with their controversy and comment-provoking messages are an asset to any website on which they deign to participate.
And especially within the context of the American blogosphere, which "speaks with one voice," any political website that hopes to make money on traffic would do well to cultivate those readers and thinkers, because it is they who are more likely to diverge a bit from that one voice, thus creating all that controversy and division and disruption, and thus providing an increase in page views, an increase in clickthroughs, and thus increasing the chance that some small sum may find its way into the site owner's hand.
There is perhaps no better illustration of this than catnip, an especially good example for me to use, as she disagrees with me on a wide variety of topics, and naturally so, as she is significantly to my "right," yet even her writings have spurred that controversy, and her own blog immediately developed quite a remarkable bit of traffic of its own, and should she wish to do so, I imagine that any number of corporations would be interested in discussing some sort of mutually beneficial arrangement!
I cannot conclude without pointing out that while I neither judge nor fault those who seek to "make money on the internet," my own personal preference, and highest regard, are reserved for those who establish websites simply for the purpose of free and open exchange of ideas, without motives of personal gain, financial or political, for those who cherish the illusion that there is a difference.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Play nice and don't shoot anybody in the face (as Atrios would say).
I'm off to watch that lovable and level-headed Wolf Blitzer tell me just how terrified I should feel tonite - because you just never know unless someone pounds it into your head 24/7 and I sure don't want to be Left Behind.
I do not apologize for my opposition to US policies, or for expressing such opposition, or for anything I have said in any post to any website at any time.
I do apologize for failing to be as selective as I should have regarding which websites I visit.
When I became aware that my presence at the BT site was causing individuals, some troubled, and some common bullies, to mount vicious, replusive, and inexcusably trashy attacks on anybody who had as much as said a kind word or had a couple of paragraphs of civil conversation with me, I realized that the inappropriateness level of the site had surpassed even my over-generous level of forbearance, and I decided to discontinue visiting the site.
Since then, I have only posted once on any of the imperialist blogs, which experience provided me with a tragically bold and revolting underscore of an interesting blogosphere trend I had noted, and confirmed my conviction that my interest in The Situation, and world events in general, including my interest in reading varying opinions about them, does not justify my visiting those sorts of websites.
However, I have had the goodness to add a few more to the META-rant inspiration links section for those with an interest and high hip-boots. Please feel free to add your own "favorites." ;)
I hope no one will take it amiss that I am commenting on a previous thread by beginning a new one, however the comments page there is a bit unwieldy, I was able to load it up once, with difficulty, but my browser insurged before I could even read it all, much less comment.
I suppose I should comment on the comments. Yes, I oppose US policies. Yes, it is World War III.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
yeah, yeah...but do you have a blog dedicated to trashing you?
To which I would reply, 'I do! I do!.' I won't link to it here. Let's just say she calls herself a 'stubble jumping redneck' and the rest of the url is blogspot.com. (Wouldn't want her showing up here. She's somewhat unstable.)
And then there's the ever popular blog 'dedicated to those who have suffered and been raped and abused by the troll posing as a liberal blogger, Ductape Fatwa' which, thankfully, has become eerily silent.
So, all in all, I'd say poor Booman gets off pretty damn easy around these parts considering what Monsieur Ductape and I have had to put up with.
Now, there seems to be a new renaissance over at the pond with the influx of nouveau users and the outflux (is that a word?) of nasty people like me. 'I'm too nasty for for shirt - too nasty for my shirt - too nasty.' And, I'm sure there will be smooth sailing over there from now to eternity (unless they start piling on Sirocco or until MWAC gets back). Then again, we all know that purges (just like enemas) can't keep out the unhealthy bacteria forever because the monster must be fed. So I hope they enjoy their relative calm while it lasts. Group hugs fix everything in the end, don't they? (she said, sarcastically)
(Best wishes to those in that thread who are ill and hopes for a speedy recovery.)
And, oh yeah, 'we are all Hezbollah'. ;)
And who doesn't like Dressing Paris Hilton??
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Later this evening, when I attempted to return to the scene (My Left Wing) to check the invective levels, alas, the spittings and sputterings of loyal Americans eager to demonstrate to their fellow affluent white people and the world that their regulation Unconditional Support For Israel is firmly in place had swollen the thread beyond the capacity of my own fine museum quality drunken squirrel-powered computer, and the modern laptop-owning descendant had taken it home to perform her evening database exercises or xhtml crunches or some such. So if you wish to see the kicked kittens, and the righteous wrath of right-thinking you will have to go look for it because I can't go there and get the link.
I then checked my email, and was disappointed to find not even one message of recognition or offer of suitable honorarium from a single American manufacturer of nerve pills nestled among the unusually large number of death threats from individuals whose writing styles bear purely coincidental, if uncanny, resemblance to those of a number of popular My Left Wing denizens.
The important part of the day, however, went very well, no day passes that I do not learn something, and usually several somethings, and I am pleased to report to you the following Important Messages:
Brown will continue to be the New Black throughout the fall, and ladies with black hair can wear brown without fear of being "washed out" as long as they are careful to make sure that the shade is one that harmonizes or contrasts with their "undertones." (I am still working on understanding undertones, or perhaps forgetting them, I have not yet decided which will be best).
The "twinset" will never go out of style as a basic and essential wardrobe item of western style feminine clothing, and it does not have to be worn with pearls. It can be worn with other bling, even eastern bling, as long as it "looks right."
Oversized purses are "out" except in cases where they are legitimately needed, and used to contain large items such as laptop computers or schoolbooks. Ladies who do not have such requirements may return to their smaller bags without fear of being viewed as unfashionable.
As western ladies have discovered the benefits of embroidery and beaded "embellishment" of their blouses, there are some embroidery houses in the east who used to be very nice people, and reasonable, too, until they got contracts with these western companies and now they have raised their prices and stick their noses in the air in response to inquiries about what they now consider to be too small an order to bother with, but which they used to be quite happy to get, thank you very much, and they need not worry, they will not be troubled further with such annoying requests, at least not from a certain family.
Just because a lady has not worn anything in any shade of pink for three or four decades, even going so far as to give away anything of that color she receives from well-meaning but misguided lady friends (family members know better), that does not mean that she does not need at least half a dozen "tops" of varying styles and shades of pink THIS year, because she has changed her mind, and didn't I always say I thought she looked perfectly lovely in pink? (I did, and she does).
Pink can be a "semi-neutral." Pale pink for all ladies, and any becoming shade, even "hot pink" or "fuschia" for ladies whose skins are not pink. Knowing which shades of pink are becoming is very dependent on how well a lady understands her undertone.
Whichever ancient Rabbi who wrote that prayer with which even today some Orthodox Jewish men begin each day, thanking God they were not born female, probably wrote it after accompanying the love of his life shopping, and realizing that he does not understand undertones, and for a brief and rather frightening moment, wondering if he, though a man, might have one that he has not been taking into consideration when making sartorial decisions.