Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Divisions of the Left

In the previous thread, Nanette posted a comment in response to this post by Maryscott O'Connor at My Left Wing.

I think Nanette's comment serves as a good jumping off point for the broader conversation about the divisions in the left-wing blogosphere and it expands on the point that many people want to aim for more than just winning elections for Democrats, which I had tried to address in this post.

Here's her reply to Maryscott:

Maryscott, while we all may be headed in the same general direction, I think people have, over time, come to the conclusion that no, we are not all on the same side. And we don't all have the same destination in mind.

(Some) women realized that at kos a couple of years ago and on into the present. Non mainstream white people learned that about kos, booman, mydd and even your site (all of which poll (or would, if they were taken at bootrib and mlw) at 98% or more white, and the rest various "other". Why do you think that is?

Leftists, those who don't believe in the political system as is... and don't believe in supporting it staying the way it is (which is basically what the BBB's are doing), also have found sometimes that their "home community" just really... isn't.

There is a huge gulf between those that want a tweak... and those that feel that what is really needed is a change. Most of the kos and kos satellite blogs - bootrib, fdl, mydd, mlw to a lesser extent, etc - and participants are tweakers. They've convinced themselves (especially the mydd'ers... good god) that, yes, they really can be THE progressive movement, even if their ranks are made up of primarily comfortably well off white males. Tweakers. A mile wide and an inch deep... because, as I mentioned to Stoller, when whatever burr is in their hide (war in iraq, Bush in white house, etc) is removed, the slightly discomforted will be comfortable again and go on with their lives.

I saw in your mlw post of this that you have a photo of a little kid and 'no war with Iran' or something... close to the text of "something that really matters" or something like that. I am anti-war. Not only anti this war, but anti all wars. HOWEVER... I will not coalesce with people and groups around being "anti-war" - well, not primarily.

I coalition with people who are pro social justice, pro environmental justice, pro human rights, pro human dignity, pro anti-racism, pro anti-imperialism and exceptionalism, and things such as this... with the knowledge that being pro these things necessitates also being anti war, and working to find and build solutions and alternatives. Changers.

The reverse isn't true, however... you can be as anti *this* or the next war as you like, and still not give a hoot about any of that other stuff. That's one place where many divisions arise, in my opinion.

Anyway, I think the divisions are perfectly fine. I believe the party operative blogs will be one vehicle (or group of vehicles) heading in one direction, following the routes they wish to go, making inroads in the party and so on and that those who have other views or goals will move in directions that they feel they need to go. And that's okay.

The rancor will fade, it always does - none should consider themselves immune to criticism however, as some seem to.

Some of us have had long discussions about the role of "The Others" in relation to the big box blogs and the wider political scene in general while trying to address the huge topic of American exceptionalism as well - a topic that affects domestic and foreign policy attitudes. Sometimes, they're not easy conversations to have but, imho, they are certainly necessary if we are going to try to work with each other. You have to recognize the divisions before you can deal with them and then it's a matter of figuring out what to do about them in a way that embraces the diversity of opinions, needs and goals. An age old challenge, to be sure, but one that the left-wing blogosphere needs to keep talking about in order to move forward.


glo said...

Have spend considerable time trying to post two response to this, but get "timed out" messages, and then of course, lose my comment totally. Just seeing if I can get one through now.

glo said...

Oh sure, THAT one came through. (sigh) Ok, sets see if I can remember what I said, one more time. (computers make me CRAZY!)

Nanette, I am so in accord with all your wrote here. I am a born "Other" in all the ways you describe so well.

And I have spent far too much of my life energy seeking places to "fit into" this culture. And far too much of it blaming myself because I couldn't, with a whole LOT of help . Seems endless, the harsh labels we have for anyone who thinks for themselves.

The hardest part of it all has been the roller coster ride. Thinking again and again,I may actually HAVE found a place where I could be who I am, then the painful often harsh realization that no, I really wasn't welcomed that was after all, and was not seen more as a burr under saddle of the people there, who always and forever had unwritten rules I could not stop breaking.

The same thing has happened to me in the blogosphere. Twice, after carefully watching for awhile, I thought I just might have a place online. (It gets so lonely being an isolated "Other".) The first online disaster for me was Kos, and it whacked me hard. Very hard. Talk about a horrific wake up to reality call, about how things still really are for women in America, even in liberal/progressive places.

Now BooTrib. One more time, it seemed a possible place for me to land awhile, to share in a space of mutual connection and to contribute what I could.

Then I watched other "Others" there, that I respected and was learning do much from, begin to leave, some with help. Still I hung on, loath to give up the familiar contact with so many peole I truly liked and admired.

And once again, I have had to walk away with the sense that I was duped one more time. I was accepted by the power structure there, who gladly accepted whatever I could contribute, until I disagreed too much. Until my ongoing association with other "Others" who were no longer welcome there, was called some kind of betrayal of "loyalty" and I ended up being painted with the same ugly colors being used now using to paint everyone who couldn't or wouldn't conform well enough to the unspoken norms and "higher authorities".

So ok, I finally get it. The mainstream, primarily white liberal blogosphere is really no different than the primarily white mainstream 3D world is. I learn slowly sometimes, but I DO learn.

So now I finally know my place online, too, and is with the "Others", wherever I can find you all. It is in places like ECFS, where together, we can try to build something new where welcome is NOT conditional on where one was born, or color or ethnic heritage or gender or generation or party affiliation or even whether we all communicate in exactly the same ways.

And where it truly IS all encouraged to talk about the toughest issues we face, no matter how "loaded" those issues may be,with some measure of mutual respect and willingness to learn from each other.

It can take a very long time to find a place one can linger awhile. Sometimes there just isn't any, and we have to build our own.

Thank you Nannette and Catnip, for this posting.

James said...

Identifying underlying assumptions seems to be a good chunk of the battle in keeping any "dialogue" such as it is among this entity called "the left." Someone who takes as the Gospel the American Exceptionalist narrative will have a radically different view about military interventions - likely to be relatively pro-intervention and likely to express views about bringing "democracy" to those "savage" foreigners. "We" will be the beacon of all that is positive about humanity - economically, culturally, militarily. Such individuals are likely to be offended easily by any suggestion otherwise.

The narrative of "progressivism" is also one that many will accept without question: the idea that we will continue to get "better and better" over time. To suggest that "progress" however defined (and sometimes, the "progress" suggested gives me the creeps) will quickly get one labelled as one of the "nattering nabobs of negativity."

Just a few random thoughts this late morning. Maybe I can come up with something semi-coherent a bit later.

Janet said...

nice alliteration there :) nattering nabobs of negativity

supersoling said...

geswfknoemokryThat's what Spiro Agnew called the anti-war movement of the 60's and 70's Janet. He was really pretty creatve, all in all. Creative with his taxes too, something that brought him down, back when illegal was illegal for everyone.

glo said...

But we haven't progressed in the most important ways, only in material ways that primarily benefit the "haves". My gawd, how powerful this thing is, whatever we call it, exceptionalism, blind even intelligent progressives to this simple fact. It truly reminds me of the kind of denial I lived in for so long, as an active alcoholic. How can you know you are denying something that you are convinced does not even exist?

Shalimar said...

Who in the left blogosphere supposedly accepts the gospel of american exceptionalism?

glo said...

I see signs of it all over the place, in whatever place is made up primarily of white Americans. But I don't see it as some "gospel" people consciously accept at all.

The only way I found out I was operating that way too, was to dig deep enough into my own innards first. And it wasn't exactly a pleasure cruise, believe me.

It was like a culturally imbedded mindset that I'd accumulated over a whole lifetime, and didn't even know was coloring my perspectives at all.

James said...

Boston Joe had a pretty good start:

Shalimar said...

So Booman says that he believes in "American Exceptionalism", even though his examples are economic rather than militaristic. It sounds like he is trying to redefine the term into something he finds palatable. Do you have any evidence he has ever said anything in favor of American military interventionism?

James said...

Let's just say that at this time I have precious little interest in trying to dredge through everything Martin has written. I know he's not a big fan of what's gone on in Iraq, but then again a lot of folks are pretty sour on that particular intervention without necessarily being against such interventionism elsewhere (e.g., see all the various cries for sending troops to Darfur from liberals and progressives of all stripes).

My initial statements about exceptionalism were meant to be fairly broad, rather than aimed at a specific person. I would say that no matter how much one tries to separate the economic from the military, to do so is a futile exercise.

Janet said...

7 minute abs is futile exercise :) Sorry nervous energy coming out as dark humor

Arcturus said...

I'm not gonna waste my time hunting up quotes, but MArtin has expressed unquestioning support for the military adventures in both Afghanistan & the former Yugoslavia.

The mere suggestion that there might have been an plausible alternative response to 9/11 other than bombing the shit out of A, that this invasion can be seen in the consistent light of American imperialism is enough get him sputtering:

'but! but! haven't you seen the holes in the ground in Manhattan?'

the attitude is on full display at BT

Arcturus said...

not to mention much blather about the "peaceful" Clinton years . . .

Janet said...

I think those holes in Manhattan were done by other members of the Bush Regime. You know, the same ones who are related to Prescott Bush.

"Towers of Deception" The media cover-up of 9/11 by Barrie Zwicker - it also has a dvd in it.

Most can't begin to wrap their minds around the idea that America did it to themselves in order to control the masses easier. If you're sick, scared and broke... you won't be protesting much.

Whooot.... kinda refreshing to be typing out something about 9/11 and Bush causing it. Most sites would ban ya...

glo said...

All I know for sure is that the first time I heard someone raise the possibility that 9/11 could possibly have been an inside job, I was pretty shocked that anyone would think that possible in America.

After seeing what this administration has done since that time, I believe I am now shock proof.

spiderleaf said...

I don't have time to dig through archives at the pathetic green swamp, but here's a good starting point (including the comments).

If Martin wonders when I stopped thinking of this as "our fight", well, it was right about here. I'm an internationalist. I'm a Canadian. I don't buy the exceptionalism crap. Never did. Never will.

catnip said...

Martin reposted his simplistic look how we saved the camel people and made them civilized defence of American exceptionalism today in response to sjct's "non-democrats" diary over there and I definitely recall his defence of covert CIA operations. (You can google that one shalimar).

Exceptionalists define success in one way, the measure of which is how well America has succeeded in making other countries just like theirs - just like Bush and his delusions about spreading democracy throughout the ME without any regard to the differences of culture, religion and historical realities. That is blatantly obvious in Martin's post which has a picture of American-like skyscrapers in Saudi Arabia as an example of that kind of so-called success.

All hail oil money! All hail concrete and glass! All hail despotic monarchies! Have no fear though. They've been civilized.

glo said...

Once, on a political list, I tried to point out how extensive poverty is in America, and how little so many of us elderly have to live on.

The response I got was to be reminded that although I may be poor, I still have SO much more that those in third world countries do, like indoor plumbing, a warm place to sleep, enough to eat, and I won't be bombed when I go out.

Well! Shame the hell on ME for not being grateful enough to live in such an exceptional land, huh? Of course, this fellow is a member of upper middle class.

Janet said...

The whole, they are better off due to America is such BS.

They'll even say they are better off dead.

I remember in one American Exceptionalist type diar I think it was BostonJoe's a regular had the gaul to say that yes America has done some bad stuff and things aren't good here but can't we focus on the good things like how some people will let you cut in line at the store. OMFG. Forget about NOLA, dying elderly citizens without care... because some Americans will let you cut in line at Safeway.

If 50 million people without healthcare... I mean think about that... 50 million people without fucking health care doesn't get people riotting in the streets... I don't know what will. But I'll keep trying.

glo said...

Well well well.

sbjt and nannette are quoted on front page Kos in Boomans diary. (Sorry, someday I will learn how to link but it wasn't today.)

glo said...

scratch that front page part, I goofed. Just a regular diary.

catnip said...


I posted a link to this post at dkos since Martin didn't include one to indicate where Nanette's quote came from.

Arcturus said...

catnip - I woke up to see that diary splashed on the FP the day after he & I had gone thru a vicious (at times descending into stupidity by both of us) "debate" (like this is some freakin' ivy-league contest!) in one of Ductape's infamous diaries. His last comment in that one had been something to the effect of 'I'm done talking about this subject.' umm, yea . . . the following apologetics diary (he really reposted that idiocy???) was the intellectual straw that broke my camel's back of patience w/ that site

I urge everyone to go read it. As I recall it's another marvelous display of the language of racist jingoism that as scribe has pointed out several times now, we (or certainly at least most of us() grew up with & absorbed uncritically. It's also illustrates nicely how, when insitutionalized in a society, that language & the sort of thinking it engenders has real world consequences in us prosperity & others' repression.

Shalimar said...

I have tried to follow all of this on both sides but I guess I'm done. All of you hate him, he hates you. I get that part. So much wasted time and energy to accomplish nothing, but there really isn't anything that can be done about it.

Janet said...

I don't hate him. I don't hate anyone really. Except Bush and his regime.

Oh I do hate the little word verification thingy though... :)

catnip said...

All of you hate him, he hates you.

Wrong. As I've stated here and elsewhere repeatedly, I don't "hate" anyone - not even Bush.

This is about the issues and Nanette's comment raises tough ones that need to be talked about.

You asked a question about who in the left blogosphere supports Amercian exceptionalism and people here have provided you with some examples.

Arcturus said...

It's not about him, much as Martin seems to enjoy wearing the martyr-mantle.

For me it's about who we are, who we 've been, and who we dare dream to be.

It's about the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. & the language we use to say it.

glo said...

Hate is an emotion, shalimar. And it is arrogant as hell of you, imo, to think you know how any of us feel from reading a few patches of written communications.

It is also entirely possible to not like what people say or do, without "hating" them.

James said...

For whatever it's worth shalimar, I harbor no hatred towards Martin, and really wish to lay that particular narrative to rest once and for all. Frustrated, angered, etc. at the double-standards that seem to exist in the management of his site? Damn straight. Disagreements on issues of ideology? Oh yeah. But hate? Nah.

If he feels the need to hate me, and/or to believe that I hate him, that's okay. I'd prefer he didn't, but that's not my choice to make.

Regardless, I go on calling 'em as I see 'em: sometimes a bit too bluntly for most people's taste. At 40-something, I'm not likely to change my personal style over the internets or in person.

So it goes.

But hate? Nah. That's just not my scene.

Now back to our regularly scheduled meta...

The Unapologetic Mexican said...

it's a good thread. a good topic i've been thinking on, too. this strange idea that we on the nets are all As One. this pressure to conform. an odd idea that somehow because we are against Bush and the obvious crimes being perpetrated against the world (symptoms) that we want to ignore the underlying causes. hey, we've finally got a worldwide conversation among the People. let's not waste it. let's really talk.

and i've not been sure what the big deal ever was about the Koz Klan, despite all the raving i've herd. [sic] :)

pink was an interesting choice.

James said...

Hi Nezua!!

The guy who started this place, Ductape Fatwa (who is in seclusion these days), put it this way in a comment to the inaugural post:

Yes, it is pink because I am a secure male and I also thought it would be a nice way to thank Miss Janet and the Code Pink people for their efforts. :)

James said...

The pressure to conform appears to be just as prominent in what passes for a "leftist" blogosphere as is the case elsewhere.

Usually takes on at least a couple forms: one is the in the form of using guilt and shame as a tactic to stifle nonconformist discourse. Those using this particular tactic have a number of weapons at their disposal. They could try to reminisce about "the good old days" when we "were all on the same side" and lament the current state of dialogue. Another weapon is to take on the role of the victim who has been "attacked" by the hordes of "savage" leftists. The tactic is most effective if delivered with a sufficiently stern motherly or fatherly voice. Some might fall for it, and clam up. Others, smelling the stench of manipulation, will call bullshit, continue as before, with maybe a flamewar or two added for good effect.

Another tactic I call "you're just no longer cool." Let's say the dissident blogger quotes a source considered taboo by the "Liberal Blogging Elders." One can play the tactic thusly: "if you're quoting Raimondo (a libertarian), you're just a step away from completing the transition to being a David Horowitz clone." No self-respecting leftist blogger would wish to associate with neocon slime such as Horowitz, which is why the tactic can be effective. Actually it's no different than the old junior high school trick of saying "if you keep doing x, you'll end up just like the weird dude who eats his boogers during spirit rallies." Again, this tactic is only effective to the extent that the targets don't perceive that they're being manipulated (in which case, all bets are off).

If none of that works, there's always raw coercion. Some might simply go off threatening to shoot the alleged "naughty" dissident bloggers. Other than making one question the mental state of those issuing such threats, it's usually fairly safe to assume that the person making the threat will never carry it out. They end up looking stupid, and the dissident bloggers go merrily about their business.

Somewhat more effective might be the threat of banishing the dissident bloggers from the tribe. To the extent that we humans are social animals who thrive on interaction and who dislike isolation, that threat can carry some substance up to a point. The weakness of that threat is that the internets allow for the formation of multiple communities that can subsequently become homes for wayward dissident bloggers.

The other alternative would be to actually try listening to the dissident bloggers rather than view them as those weird aunts or uncles who must be kept hidden in order to keep up those appearances of perfect normality in blogtopia's Wysteria Lane. That would be nice...I wouldn't be willing to place any bets on that happening though.

Janet said...

(((((DUCTAPE))))) I miss you!

PS James, I want to thank you for the Hunter diary you did. Took my mind on a little trip this afternoon.

James said...

Not a prob. I discovered Hunter S. Thompson via an anthology The Great Shark Hunt roughly the same time I discovered hardcore punk and industrial music (one of the few redeeming phenomena of the 1980s pop culture). One can imagine the transformation that combination had on an impressionable late adolescent!

James said...

An aside: it's hard to believe that I first read HST's work nearly a quarter of a century ago. Time flies, and life really is short.

When I teach my research methods course, I do cite HST's classic Hell's Angels as a decent example of an investigator utilizing the method of participant-observer research.

Maryscott OConnor said...

Thank you for this measured and thoughtful response.

However, you have your numbers wrong when it comes to MLW's minority membership. I don't have exact figures -- though now that you bring it up, I'll be posting a poll and leaving it up till I have sufficient numbers to answer it -- but I know for a FACT it's not 98% white.

Anyway, more later. But thank you -- and I hope no one read my post as being critical of Mo Betta any more than it was critical of MLW itself, or any of the other blogs mentioned therein. It's not even the blogs, really -- just us, we flawed humans who just can't seem to put down our swords, even when we have our pens in the other hands...

Maryscott OConnor said...

Okay, one more thing:

PLEASE don't generalise and define MLW as being solely coalesced around being atni-ear. It is, in fact, almost exacty what YOU descvribe as what YOU wish to be: a coalition of...

"people who are pro social justice, pro environmental justice, pro human rights, pro human dignity, pro anti-racism, pro anti-imperialism and exceptionalism, and things such as this... with the knowledge that being pro these things necessitates also being anti war, and working to find and build solutions and alternatives. Changers..."

to a tee.

Just wanted to clarify that, though if anyone were to read the MLW Manifesto, they'd know it already.

: )

Janet said...

MSOC and that's why I like MLW :) There also seems to be alot of activists there. Not just anti-war but... you can learn what else is going on in the world and what others are doing about it.

Also CodePink isn't just anti-war. They also support libraries, free speech, human rights and mucho mucho other things.

The Unapologetic Mexican said...

funny, james. that's what i answered when asked about my chat room a while back, which i had built in shades of raspberry and purple. (the secure male part). of course its a jokey answer, because i am also secure with gay humans and i dont decorate my room with them. nor buy all pink clothes. ;)

code pink reminds me of that glorious summer of 04 (?) think so, when i got locked up for protesting the RNC convention. and my time in NYC in general. right on.

DavidByron said...

Who in the left blogosphere supposedly accepts the gospel of american exceptionalism?

Americablog is pretty bad for it. They said that Haitians ought to be grateful for the US liberating all these times for example.

But at the low end of the threshold there's anyone who backs the Afghan occupation I suppose, or the Clinton bombing of Serbia/Kosovo. Anyone like Glenn Greenwald who thinks that the US congress has the right to tell Bush it's ok to attack Iraq and that makes it legal regardless of international law.

Oh and anyone younger than about 4 years old. Until about 4-6 people have a hard time putting themselves mentally in the point of view of other people. Some of course never seem to get it...

DavidByron said...

All I know for sure is that the first time I heard someone raise the possibility that 9/11 could possibly have been an inside job, I was pretty shocked that anyone would think that possible in America.

I seem to remember reading that the great majority of black people in NY in a poll taken relatively shortly after the attack, figured it was some sort of inside job. I was not surprised to hear that. it goes to show how different groups can have very different ideas of what is conventional wisdom.

Unfortunately I don't have a reference for this factoid.