Thursday, September 29, 2011

Racism, etc.

I really shouldn't write a third post about that egregious Nation piece by Melissa Harris-Perry, who accuses anti-Obama liberals of being racists. (Scroll down for installments one and two.) But the ensuing discussion has been intriguing; I'll give Melissa credit for accomplishing that much. One of the most sagacious responses comes to us by way of Bob Somerby. He quotes this bit from Joan Walsh (Melissa's friend and defender):
On MSNBC, liberals Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews helmed a lineup that was hugely critical of Clinton (today Matthews is one of Obama's leading defenders, while Olbermann, once a passionate supporter, has left both MSNBC and the Obama camp). The New York Times editorial pages, helmed by white liberal Clinton critic Howell Raines and featuring (once-liberal) Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich, savaged Clinton and Al Gore.
What a strange set of recollections! We have no idea why Walsh would call Matthews a liberal even today; it’s absurd to describe him as a liberal during his very ugly 1990s incarnation. And when was Maureen Dowd ever a liberal? It’s very strange to see the way these labels get handed out.
Not many weeks ago, I noted that politics in the U.K. must be simple: Just find out which candidate has Murdoch's support, then vote the other way. In the U.S., we may use Chris Matthews as an anti-weathervane.

Somerby proves by example a point that I made in my first post on this topic:
But right through October 2000, “white progressives at the Nation” were still promoting the RNC’s crackpot trashing of Candidate Gore. With three weeks left to go in the race, a silly sad crackpot “white progressive” was allowed to rant like this:
COCKBURN (10/16/00): What suppressed psychic tumult drives [Gore] to those stretchers that litter his career, the lies large and small about his life and achievements? You'd think that a man exposed to as much public derision as was Gore after claiming he and Tipper were the model for the couple in Love Story, or after saying he'd invented the Internet, would by now be more prudent in his vauntings. But no. Just as a klepto's fingers inevitably stray toward the cash register, so too does Gore persist in his fabrications.
For the record, Matthews was worse. But that was your Nation way back then. Harris-Perry headlines this week.
That kind of shit is the very reason why this liberal got into the habit of not buying The Nation many years ago -- well before Al Gore invented the internet.


Seriously, why do we keep allowing these losers to define the left? Most of the well-known "voices of liberalism" either dismay or annoy me. Joan Walsh doesn't represent me. Neither do those jackasses at The Nation. Or Z Magazine. Or The Newly Republican. Or Chris Matthews. Or Markos Moulitsas. Or Randi Rhodes. Or Keith Olbermann.

Here's a useful general rule: If you've heard of 'em, they're no good.

With the possible exception of Olbermann, the afore-named people have resumes similar to that of the Captain of the Exxon Valdez. Yet they still think that they have a right to steer the boat.

A note on epistemology. In our previous post about Melissa Harris-Perry, I offered this quote from her work:
But the responses to this recent article have been revealing in ways that I find typical of our contemporary epistemology of race....
Can someone please explain what that phrase means?

Yes, I know what "epistemology" is: The study of knowledge. How do we know what we know about reality? How do we define knowing and how do we define reality? Those are epistemological questions.

I understand the meaning of that word. What I don't understand is how there can be an "epistemology of race" or of anything else.

A little googling reveals that academics make frequent reference to "the epistemology of" this or that. There is even a webpage devoted to something called "the espitemology of modality." Sounds scary.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about an eccentric genius named Richard Mitchell. (His works are here.) I spent three hours talking to him back in my college days; he got goofy toward the end and started singing Mahler in German. We corresponded a bit afterwards. I had long hoped to meet up with him again -- a hope which ended with his death in 2002. In his veneration of the classics and of "old school" intellectual standards, he was something of a Tory. Although he called himself the Underground Grammarian, the target of his crusade was not so much sloppy grammar as sloppy thinking. He didn't like jargon. He didn't like bureaucratese. He didn't like showy, empty language.

Does "the epistemology of race" mean something? Or is the phrase showy and empty?

I stand ready to be educated.
"If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit."
Poor Keith, that house on Nantucket is a lost dream now.

Somerby thought the politics of Dowd, Matthews, and Russert could be traced back to their Irish-Catholic beliefs. The Church does a great job of instilling guilt into its members as a way to keep the collection basket full. They were never comfortable with Choice or same sex marriage. I call it the Bob Casey wing of the Democratic party.

That and the childish urge to one better their peers in out sliming Candidate Gore led to eight years of Bush and by extension, 911.

They have no shame.
Don't dis guilt. Guilt beats shamelessness and pride, which are the great unspoken teachings of the fundamentalists. Guilt and mysticism are the two great gifts that the Catholic church has given the world.

Well, that stuff and, you know, all the art.

And sore altar boy butts too?
There's a straight line from Cockburn to Harris-Perry. Cockburn, who always had odious politics, used to at least be funny. Now he's a stumble-bum stoner who spends all his political capital assaulting liberal Democrats. He hasn't had a real political hero since the Ayatollah Khomeini. I can see defending Obama, with a jaundiced eye, given the House of Wax Rs gunning for him. But Harris-Perry et al attack the successful wing of the party and steps in it -- they're the ones who keep rupturing the center-left.
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