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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Do left-wing bloggers exist?

I'm late to the party -- actually, no-one would ever invite the odiferous likes of me to any sort of respeckable party -- but we should say a few words about Freddie DeBoer's argument that there is no real left in blogworld.

The immediate problem with the argument is this: "Blogosphere" is defined in terms of paid punditry -- Kaus, Hamsher, Levin, Yglesias and so forth. But why should we concern ourselves with the likes of them? Smaller blogs exist. There is a niche for everyone.

DeBoer wants genuine lefties to have seat at the cool kids' table, and that ain't never gonna happen. This fact of life never posed a problem for me, due to my life-long interest in the extremes and my disdain for elites. More people pay attention to Alex Jones than to Matthew Yglesias. That's why Jones, vile as he is, is on my radar -- while Yglesias (whom I kinda sorta liked back when he would occasionally do something worthy of notice) is not.

Time to remind ourselves of a cultural stereotype which has some truth to it: Bud-swillers listen to Alex Jones, while chablis-sippers read the folks who have disappointed DeBoers. If you are truly interested in the common man, you are going to have to find some way to talk to the Bud-swillers.

That said, DeBoers makes a few lovely observations:
Hamsher says bad words and is mean in print, so she is a far leftist. That her politics are largely mainstream American liberalism that would have been considered moderate for much of the 20th century is immaterial.
This is the Atlantic publishing a post full of faux-concern over the fate of the labor movement as if its leadership hadn't spent decades, secure in their upper-middle class comfort, attacking the ability of working people to provide for their own interests. This is Tom Friedman and Michael Kinsley and the whole crew of careerists at The New Republic, all of them possessed of the notion that their real enemies are not the people who create the conditions of poverty and inequity in the world but the ones most vocal and dedicated to fighting those conditions by attacking the root cause.
In this sense, conservative bloggers and pundits are actually fairer than their neoliberal brethren. I've found that they'll actually debate with me, albeit while usually holding their noses. Many neoliberal bloggers maintain an unspoken but meticulously curated policy of not allowing left-wing criticism to enter their rhetorical space.
Of Yglesias:
Look over his archives even briefly and you'll find, time after time, that he asserts that everyone largely agrees with him. This is one example, but this has basically been his jam since Obama took office. When he posts about the sublime rationality of deregulation (which, we must take care to remember, always seems like a good idea to those whose workspace contains nothing more dangerous than a laptop), or when he says (I'm not joking) that American workers are overcompensated, I want to tell him that everyone most certainly does not agree with him.
I don't know what compelled this change. Perhaps the Center for American Progress has influenced him; that kind of run-of-the-mill centrist organization inevitably redounds to the benefit of the moneyed class that makes it possible. Or perhaps it comes from spending too much time in DC, where there is always another party with folks from Cato or Reason.
The antidote to all of this is plain. Don't go to parties -- at least not to any party where you would look out of place wearing a t-shirt decorated with lunch-stains. Don't write on politics for money. Don't live anywhere near Washington.

(Oops...!)

Of Ezra Klein:
I just find him so bloodless and conciliatory that I don't know what good can come of liberalism if it takes its cues from him.
On the libertarians, with whom DeBoers seems far too chummy:
But while libertarians are tiny in number they are mammoth in influence. This is the case because they've got money, money to fund enterprises like Cato or Reason or smaller outfits. I'm not saying that this is illegitimate. (There's something awfully poetic about libertarianism getting influence by buying it.) I'm just saying that there's no sense in which the lack of a leftist blogosphere is necessarily the product of small demographic representation.
As I see it, a true lefty should argue that buying legitimacy is illegitimate.
Every time there is agreement between, say, Yglesias, Ross Douthat, and Will Wilkinson, this is taken as a sign that of a lack of disagreement to their position, rather than as an indicator of the narrow confines of blogger opinion.
American workers have taken it on the chin for thirty years. They have been faced for years with stagnant wages, rising costs, and the hollowing out of the middle class. They are now confronted with that and a cratered job market, where desperate people compete to show how hard they will work in bad conditions for less compensation. Meanwhile, the neoliberal policy apparatus that brought us here refuses even to consider the possibility that it is culpable, so certain of its inherent righteousness and its place in the inevitable march of progress. And the blogosphere protects and parrots that certainty, weeding out left-wing detractors with ruthless efficiency, while around it orbits the gradual extinction of the American dream.
Look, it's simple. You want to assail the Establishment? You're going to have to publish samizdat.

DeBoers considers the blogsophere an "aspirational" culture. No it isn't. The real blogosphere, the one worthy of attention, consists of toilers who long ago gave up all dreams of wordsmithing for lucre and who therefore have the liberty to write whatever shit they please. The sign over the doorway reads "Abandon hope all ye who enter here;" paradoxically, those words mean freedom. (It's just another word for "nothing left to lose.") The bloggers worth reading are the ones who disdain Kos not because he's an outsider but because he's too much of an insider.

Here's the sitch:

Polls told us that the majority of Americans wanted socialized health insurance -- yet Obama and the Washington pundit class never even considered that option. Sixty percent of the country thinks that the Afghan war is "not worth fighting" -- yet the folks in Versailles (to use the Corrente terminology) insist that we win this one for the gipper. Recent polls tell us that the citizenry wants deep cuts in the Pentagon, not in Social Security -- yet Obama, the Republicans and the beltway opinionators will not even consider that approach. Polls tell us that "socialism" (defined god-knows-how) is more popular than the tea party movement -- yet the tea partiers wield an increasing amount of power, while actual socialists wield none.

I could go on, but the point is made. The fix is in. The paid pundits (right and left) snicker at the will of the people. So do most politicians.

If you want to reach those workers who have taken it on the chin -- if you want to speak both for them and to them -- then you shouldn't even know about the existence of those soirees put on by the Cato crowd. It's like that scene in Titanic where Leo tells Kate Winslet: "You wanna go to a real party?"

C'mon, Freddie. Head downstairs. Grab a beer.
Comments:
I really like this piece.

There actually is one blogger I can think of who I see as genuinely left, who values and substantially affiliates with Bud-swillers, and who qualifies to some extent as "paid punditry" (though he's not one of the high-access ingroup cool kids) - Chris Hedges.
 
I don't think I've told you how glad I am to see you blogging again.

This money/blogging conflict is interesting.
 
I are one. Tho, I'm beginning to think like Spartacus.
 
It's 'real lefty' blogs you want?

How 'bout:
Lenin's Tomb

The Kasama Project

The Unrepentant Marxist

k-punk

For starters. Follow their links and discover a whole new world.
 
You forgot to mention that more than a few of the Lefty Bloggers started out with the goal of a big house in Nantucket. They thought jumping on the O-wagon was their ticket.
 
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