Sunday, June 25, 2006
It is with great regret that I must resign from the vast left wing blogospheric conspiracy today. The time has come to choose one's allegiances, and mine must lie with my liege lords, the journalistic and political leadership who have brought us where we are today. I can no longer be associated with the barbaric, illiterate jacknapes who presume to call their betters' judgment into question.
You see, I've come to realize that this business of "punditry" and "politics" is not something anyone can just "do." It is what one is born to, what one is meant to do, what one is. Some people are simply designed to have superior opinions. And those people are well known by others who have superior opinions. It is outside the natural order of things for unwashed, unknown rabble like me to set forth my ideas in the same public arena as someone like The New Republic's Lee Siegel --- and certainly not an intellectual adventurer such as David Brooks, who wrote the most important sociological work of our time, "On Paradise Drive." (Only a man of great courage could have forced himself to enter a Red Lobster and mingle with the lower ranks and we must all be grateful for those dispatches from the wild. It is from first rate observers such as he that we rustics out in Real America can better understand our own shortcomings --- as well as our delightful simple charm, of course.)
You see, the skills required to opine on political, cultural and current events are very, very special. They cannot be acquired by simply observing or reading or thinking. And writing about such topics cannot be considered useful merely because hundreds of thousands of people read your words. If anything, the opposite is true. Any circulation over 70,000 --- or outside the elite capitals --- must, by definition, be low-brow, cultural detritus and simply not worth our time. (I won't even mention the horror of the rampant solecisms and bad grammar. My God, the grammar!) One must consider this burgeoning "medium," if that is what it is, as just another vehicle for the lowest common denominator (as is that similarly destructive invention, television.) One is best served by simply not participating in it and shunning those who do. Only the wrong people are involved and I'm afraid that tears it for me, gentlemen.
I now regret very much having participated in this ignoble discourse over the past four years. When I read Mr Siegel's claim that I was a "blogofascist" I nearly fainted dead away, the pain to my conscience was so sharp. What could be worse, I asked myself, than having the "culture blogger" of The New Republic disdain my work? What could be worse? He might as well have taken a knife and chopped off my middle finger.
Here is a man of high distinction who is clearly a knight among knaves and whose only mission in life is to educate and elucidate for the plebeian masses what they should enjoy. (His review of the Tom Cruise masterpiece "Eyes Wide Shut" alone is a education in superior taste and insight.) Yet from this lofty cliff he boldly stepped off and entered the battle with a couple of blog posts (ah, irony!) so profound and so cutting that he may well have changed the course of history:
It's a bizarre phenomenon, the blogosphere. It radiates democracy's dream of full participation but practices democracy's nightmare of populist crudity, character-assassination, and emotional stupefaction. It's hard fascism with a Microsoft face. It puts some people, like me, in the equally bizarre position of wanting desperately for Joe Lieberman to lose the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont so that true liberal values might, maybe, possibly prevail, yet at the same time wanting Lamont, the hero of the blogosphere, to lose so that the fascistic forces ranged against Lieberman might be defeated. (Every critical event in democracy is symbolic of the problem with democracy.)
Yes. One does wonder about its utility at times like these, doesn't one?
The next day he further expounded on his important new thesis:
I am overwhelmed by the intolerance and rage in the blogosphere. Conscientiously criticize, in the form of a real argument, blogospheric favorites like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and the response isn't similar criticism, done conscientiously and in the form of an argument, but insults, personal attacks, and even threats. This truly is the stuff of thuggery and fascism.
Mr Siegel knew that the blogofascists would mercilessly attack him with shocking epithets like "asshole" and "wanker" and even threats yet he forged on, unconcerned with his own safety, fearlessly determined to change hearts and minds with his unique professional gifts of subtle argumentation and gentle persuasion. The time had come to draw a line in the sand. My god, what an inspiration this man is.
I shall not let him down. That column changed my life. Even as I knew it had the ring of truth, I tried to resist, telling myself that he couldn't be talking about me --- not me. How can I be a flip-flopping cowardly America-hater while at the same time a fascist? A bleeding heart, terrorist coddler while also a brownshit? How does this work? I was finally persuaded by his preturnaturally sagacious observation that the man I looked up to as a father figure (indeed, a demi-God of sorts) Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, is actually a rootless former soldier looking for meaning in a stark post-modern landscape of internet cafes and shiny espresso carts. This is the man who is leading his listserve army of angry, middle aged, liberal professionals into blind blogofascism. The writing is on the wall, my friends:
Two other traits of fascism are its hatred of the processes of politics, and the knockabout origins of its adherents. Communism was hatched by elites. Fascism was born along the drifting paths of rootless men, often ex-soldiers who had fought in the First World War and been demobilized. They turned European politics into a madhouse of deracinated ambition.
In a 2004 article in The San Francisco Chronicle, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga told a reporter that he moved to El Salvador in the late 1970s with his family--one of his parents is Salvadoran--who apparently had financial interests there. The article relates:
"I believe in government. I was in El Salvador in the late '70s during the civil war and I saw government as a life-and-death situation," he said. "There was no one to root for. The government was a corrupt plutocracy and the rebels were Maoists. The concept of government is important."
He remembers bullets flying in the marketplace and watching on television as government soldiers executed guerrillas. He also remembers watching footage of the Solidarity movement in Poland.
He was 9, and he asked his father what that was all about. His father, a furniture salesman, said, "It's just politics."
The future blogger said, "Tell me all about it."
So he loves government, but hates politics. There's something chilling about that.
It makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck doesn't it? Is Siegel the only man in America who can see the threat? Can he be the only man in America who is willing to stand up and speak the words "Never Again?"
No he is not. Today, I have joined the resistance and say goodbye to all that. I've been called up by my new leader, Lee Siegel, defender of intellectual rigor in our national discourse. The Great Lee Siegel who wrote this:
You'd think that staring into the mirror and repeating your name over and over would have the opposite effect of helping you get out of yourself, but that's not the case. The idea is to find a place so deep inside yourself that, with intense concentration, you look to yourself like a stranger. Your very name becomes an alien phrase. Physically, you start to seem imaginary. Spiritually, you start to seem more real. Hoffenshtoffen suggests keeping a packed suitcase standing in the middle of your apartment as a symbolic reminder of that magical fulfillmentÂ?self-surrenderÂ?when you leave yourself utterly and travel in a trancelike state to pure objective reception of the outer world.
Sounds silly and pretentiously spirituel, I know. But extricating oneself from oneself is the great problem of human life. Buddha's name for the smothering, clamoring self was "desire"; Plato's was "appetite"; Rousseau's was "reason." (The translations are Sylvester Cointreau's.) William James, my favorite American writer, wearily wrote to a friend toward the end of his life that the human ego had begun to repel him. I sort of feel like that sometimes. That's why, more and more, I love the sound of laughter. Not withering, or cruel, or exclusive, knowing laughter. I mean ego-bursting laughter that is like wisdom speaking in slang.
So who is this person staring back at me from the mirror in my bathroom? My lips are small and thin; Maya likes the way the upper lip protrudes slightly over the lower one. Carmencita likes the lower lipÂ?but she also wants me to wear cologne. A certain roundness and softness to my face always bothered me. I wanted to look hard and lean and chiseled, just as I wanted to have that invincible steel will of Central European intellectuals like Arthur Koestler, and not all that moist, tremulous high (and low) feeling I've inherited from my Russian-Jewish forebears. Everyone in my family is vibrato; there is not a note blanche to be found in our entire genetic pool. Weeping was a form of communication. One sob meant hello, two sobs meant good-bye, three sobs meant "There's a call for you," and so forth. Hoffenshtoffen, who gets bored by lachrymosity, says that I was born with a silver violin in my mouth.
That's what the smart people call "insight," my friends, something the narcissistic blogofascists like Markos Moulitsas Zuniga with his puerile nickname "DailyKos" know nothing of. This is how Lee Siegel and his sinecured cadre of noble elite scribblers will lead us simple progressive peasants from the wilderness.
Before you make a decision about whether to join our small resistance movement, I would ask you to think about something --- something important. Have the liberal establishment elites of the past quarter century let us down yet?
Update: I see that "Neville" Wolcott is trying to appease the blogofascists.
digby 6/25/2006 02:01:00 PM