On the Lack of Left Wing Discourse in the Blogosphere
January 18, 2011 8:47 AM   Subscribe

Who, exactly, represents the left extreme in the establishment blogosphere? You'd likely hear names like Jane Hamsher or Glenn Greenwald. But these examples are instructive. Is Hamsher a socialist? A revolutionary anti-capitalist? In any historical or international context-- in the context of a country that once had a robust socialist left, and in a world where there are straightforwardly socialist parties in almost every other democracy-- is Hamsher particularly left-wing? Not at all. It's only because her rhetoric is rather inflamed that she is seen as particularly far to the left.
Freddie De Boer on the lack of left wing discourse in the blogosphere.
No, the nominal left of the blogosphere is almost exclusively neoliberal. Ask for a prominent left-wing blogger and people are likely to respond with the names of Matt Yglesias, Jon Chait, Kevin Drum.... Each of them, as I understand it, believe in the general paternalistic neoliberal policy platform, where labor rights are undercut everywhere for the creation of economic growth (that 21st century deity), and then, if things go to plan, wealth is redistributed from the top to those whose earnings and quality of life have been devastated by the attack on labor.
Matt Yglesias responds.
posted by ennui.bz (84 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Poor, poor Cassandra, nobody listens.
posted by londonmark at 8:51 AM on January 18, 2011


Freddie De Boer needs to stop reading so many straight-white-man-bloggers. That's almost assuredly part of his problem - there are lots of extreme leftists who primarily blog about gay rights, feminism, womanism, anti-racism, transgender issues, etc. etc. etc. If he's looking for a single-issue socialist blogger, I'm not surprised he hasn't found one.
posted by muddgirl at 8:53 AM on January 18, 2011 [21 favorites]


Endogenize ideology
posted by kliuless at 8:54 AM on January 18, 2011


Was just about to post this, really interesting article. Muddgirl, I think he is aware they exist. He is pissed that they are dismissed entirely among the mainstream debate, even online.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:55 AM on January 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


polyglot
posted by clavdivs at 8:56 AM on January 18, 2011


Freddie De Boer needs to stop reading so many straight-white-man-bloggers. That's almost assuredly part of his problem - there are lots of extreme leftists who primarily blog about gay rights, feminism, womanism, anti-racism, transgender issues, etc. etc. etc. If he's looking for a single-issue socialist blogger, I'm not surprised he hasn't found one.

seconded!
posted by parmanparman at 8:58 AM on January 18, 2011


there are lots of extreme leftists who primarily blog about gay rights, feminism, womanism, anti-racism, transgender issues, etc. etc. etc.

it's not surprising then that DADT was repealed and card check vanished off the political radar. can you have left politics w/o labor unions?
posted by ennui.bz at 9:01 AM on January 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


Anybody else see florescent, hand-printed signs promoting "Democracy Now! With Amy Goodman ♥" on campus radio around their town? She seems to be a one-woman leftwing discourse machine.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:02 AM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


What's amazing, really, is how abjectly sensitive these people are. ... I think Michael Brendan Dougherty is about to cry over this. Weeping to each other on Twitter is exactly the kind of cult of the savvy bullshit I'm criticizing. They can all email me. I always respond, and usually will update in response. But they don't; they keep it to Twitter. You know, like real men do.

What's the equivalent of "Godwinning" when you impugn your opponent's masculinity?
posted by Joe Beese at 9:02 AM on January 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


There are plenty of actually-left blogs out there. The ones he mentions aren't them, but who reads Ezra freaking Klein looking for a real left perspective? Sure, liberals, neo- or otherwise, have always liked to describe themselves as "left" and pretend that there is nobody to the left of them but bomb-throwers and wild-eyed crazies, but that's hardly a feature of the blogosphere; it's been baked into the American political discourse for decades.

That's almost assuredly part of his problem - there are lots of extreme leftists who primarily blog about gay rights, feminism, womanism, anti-racism, transgender issues, etc. etc. etc. If he's looking for a single-issue socialist blogger, I'm not surprised he hasn't found one.

Well, I guess part of what he is lamenting is that socialism/the labor left — which, from a certain point of view, has historically been the central and defining characteristic of leftism — is now seen in the larger political discourse as just another -ism with a niche consituency rather than an encompassing framework from which work for feminist and anti-racist and other egalitarian causes. But, of course, that isn't new either; it goes back at least to the New Left stuff in the sixties and probably earlier.

can you have left politics w/o labor unions?

Indeed. Seems we are finding out good and hard.
posted by enn at 9:02 AM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well of course they're dismissed - it's little like saying "water is wet."

If he's concerned about the "young, upwardly mobile" bloggers who are slowly being pushed towards a mealy-mouthed neoliberal stance, then why not mention the few who can't help but buck the trend?

If he defines his blogosphere by "bloggers accepted by the MSM", then he's by definition excluded those voices that are outside the mainstream. It's tautological.

There are no mainstream leftist bloggers because there's no acceptable mainstream left in America any more.
posted by muddgirl at 9:04 AM on January 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


There is no "fairness doctrine" in the blogosphere.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:06 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does "tripping over each other in an attempt to be the most liberal" count as discourse? Cause if it does he has clearly never been to MetaFilter.
posted by nathancaswell at 9:12 AM on January 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


There are no mainstream leftist bloggers because there's no acceptable mainstream left in America any more.

but is that a function of the lack of an audience or about the structure of discourse i.e. are you saying that the US really is a center-right nation? part of his point is that what counts as the left in mainstream dicussion agressively marginalizes those farther left:
The neoliberal economic platform is enforced by the attitude that anyone embracing a left-wing critique of that platform is a Stalinist or a misbehaving adolescent. This is the critique of the Very Serious Person: there is a very narrow slice of opinion that is worthy of being considered reasonable or mature, and that anyone who argues outside of it should not be given a seat at the table of serious discussion. Genuinely left-wing opinion is not to be debated but to be dismissed out of hand. Those who argue for a robust series of labor protections, an unapologetic and proud left, a meaningful alternative to the capture of our economic apparatus by corporate power, or (god forbid) something resembling genuine socialism-- even to speak as if their arguments require rebuttal is too much. Far better to demonstrate true repudiation by assuming away the left-wing critic than to assume that his or her position is at least worthy of attention. 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.
if you take Yglesias as an example, I think this criticism is largely true. how can you have a mainstream left if discussion within the mainstream is (self)censored?
posted by ennui.bz at 9:13 AM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


He is pissed that they are dismissed entirely among the mainstream debate, even online.

Even moreso when the supposed left engages in stealing and co-opting the work of such writers, without any attribution. With allies like these, right?

Marginalization isn't anything new, though given how easy it is to read up on things these days with a few google searches, it only highlights how little folks care to really do the work.
posted by yeloson at 9:18 AM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Work is hard, right?
posted by Balisong at 9:19 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


are you saying that the US really is a center-right nation

Not really - I'm saying that the rich and powerful are, with some exceptions, as center-right as always. It should not be surprising to us that they attempt to control internet discourse the way they attempt to control other methods of discourse.

We combat this the way we always have - make our own channels, lift each other up, defer to minority voices, etc. etc. etc.

(I was trying to remember why his blog seemed so familiar, but then I found it)
posted by muddgirl at 9:26 AM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


But one point that I agree with here, is that while I’ll cop to being a “neoliberal” I don’t acknowledge that I have critics to the “left” of me.

Uh...exactly? You should, that's the point.
posted by DU at 9:31 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


his point is that what counts as the left in mainstream dicussion agressively marginalizes those farther left:

Hippie-punching. See any number of MeFi threads for an example. Who is the only group more hated here than the Bush White House? PETA.
posted by DU at 9:32 AM on January 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Does "tripping over each other in an attempt to be the most liberal" count as discourse?

No more than that comment counted as discourse.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:33 AM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Mike Konczal, over at Rortybomb, has a great, comprehensive response to the De Boer post. As kliuless notes,I think it's fair to include Steve Randy Waldman's response as well.

If I understand correctly, the gist of this comes down to a disagreement. I think that De Boer and Waldman are saying two things: 1. political wonks/technocrats are, ultimately, incrementalists, and 2. incrementalism isn't enough. Waldman is great on this, laying out the way that while the left gets its incremental wins, the American culture is being pushed to the right by the reality that right-wingers are creating.

I think Klein, today, has a great anecdote about how true that last part really is with the Robert Bork quote. When yesterday's "wingnuts" are quoted as saying what today's "moderate voices" say, you can't help but accept that De Boer has a point.

In then end, though, the question is whether such a piece will encourage someone to do this ideological blogging/writing. I'd suggest that there is a cost to being the standard-bearer for either the true left or the true right. Lord knows there is a cost to Tea-Partiers. And on the left, there was a cost to Alan Grayson, who Gearge Will called "America's Worst Politician". Many people don't take Dennis Kucinich seriously. Ralph Nader is a pariah.

Which is to say, for all of DeBoer's attacks, the salient issue for me is that he, himself, doesn't want to take on the role of public left-wing ideologue. DeBoer writes in an update:
It’s worth saying that I once had the opportunity, not too long ago, to blog for money– not a lot of money– for a fairly mainstream progressive enterprise. I turned it down...
The most eloquent response to which comes from a Naked Capitalism commentor.
We don’t lack people willing to ask others to take a bullet for them.
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 9:40 AM on January 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


There are some important reasons for this.

The end of the cold war also meant the diminishing of institutions that provided a critique to commercial economies. Also, for about 25 years, the right was building intellectual institutions outside the academy who had continual access to the institutional media. We should consider how the right built those institutions, why and for whom.

Some would argue we need fewer leftists in the blogosphere, and more doing face-to-face organizing. For there's a difference between the vast discussion platform of the internet, and building institutions that can demand a place at the table, who can go to the people who actually make the decisions, physically, and demand accountability. That difference is power.

It's not just that there's no "establishment" leftist, but that there are few authoritative leftists either free from the demands of the academy with serious constituents built by relationships. A decade ago, one European Leftist lamented that the only institution actually with the authority to talk about the poor, and did talk about the poor, was the Catholic Church.

I would love more leftist bloggers, but I can't help but think there's a lot of other work to do.
posted by john wilkins at 9:41 AM on January 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Greenwald isn't a leftist, he's a libertarian. He's just as vociferously critical of Obama as he was of Bush, for the exact same reasons, pretty much... expansion of goverment power, infringement of liberties.

That's not a left or right issue. That's just fighting authoritarianism. You get those from all sides.

As libertarians go, I think he's about as left as they get, but that scale doesn't go very far left.
posted by Malor at 9:43 AM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Who is the only group more hated here than the Bush White House? PETA.

The only group? I am certain you're overlooking a raft of other groups fitting that criterion.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:43 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


"We want an echo chamber! Why don't we have an echo chamber?"
posted by koeselitz at 9:44 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The point of the article is that an echo chamber is exactly what we have.
posted by enn at 9:46 AM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Freddie De Boer needs to stop reading so many straight-white-man-bloggers. That's almost assuredly part of his problem - there are lots of extreme leftists who primarily blog about gay rights, feminism, womanism, anti-racism, transgender issues, etc. etc. etc. If he's looking for a single-issue socialist blogger, I'm not surprised he hasn't found one.

First, I don't think it's actually the case that the writer isn't aware of the existence of these blogs, he's concerned that they're left out of the discourse entirely. He cites the right-wing Tim Carney as a "reactionary" (which, I think, is true) who nevertheless has his opinions aired in the "mainstream" blogosphere; I'd add Daniel Larison, who is literally a theocratic monarchist, but who's a popular link recipient of all kinds of centrist and liberal blogs. If you were to go an equivalent distance left, you'd be getting into anarcho-socialist territory.

But even if it is true that the author is unaware of these writers, doesn't it speak to the fragmentation of the "left" that nowhere can he find a single repository for far-left thought? Despite their assertions to the contrary, the religious right views themselves as right-wingers first and Christians second; the fragmented interest is subordinated to the common one of right-wing policies. On the left, not only is there not this kind of unification, the various factions are often actually hostile to one another - I can't count how many times I've heard crypto or outright racist rhetoric from feminists/womanists and gay activists.

Why is that?
posted by downing street memo at 9:50 AM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hippie-punching. See any number of MeFi threads for an example. Who is the only group more hated here than the Bush White House? PETA.

my experience of left wing labor union politics has been that it resembled nothing more than an internet discussion entirely dominated by people 'trolling.' unfortunately, it seems like PETA has devolved into a less offensive variant of the Westboro Baptist business model i.e. professional trolling.


Greenwald isn't a leftist, he's a libertarian. He's just as vociferously critical of Obama as he was of Bush

I think you can objectively state that if Obama were a politician in Europe he would be very firmly in the socially tolerant right wing. Not center-right, certainly not center-left, but firmly in the right wing.... which is why in the US he is widely believed to be a socialist. There is some dramatically wrong with political discourse in the US.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:51 AM on January 18, 2011 [9 favorites]



Chris Hedges "The Death of the Liberal Class"
posted by goethean at 9:52 AM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


the US really is a center-right nation

Centre? Only if "centre-right" is considered within the context of US contemporary politics. Compared to other developed nations it's an outlier way out there.

There are plenty of left-wing bloggers outside the US, too.
posted by rodgerd at 10:00 AM on January 18, 2011


I think you can objectively state that if Obama were a politician in Europe he would be very firmly in the socially tolerant right wing. Not center-right, certainly not center-left, but firmly in the right wing.... which is why in the US he is widely believed to be a socialist. There is some dramatically wrong with political discourse in the US.

Heh. I've always thought that Obama would belong in a slightly more authoritarian version of Germany's FDP.
posted by I_pity_the_fool at 10:13 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or, no true scotsman. Considering how coalition-based the left has always been, it seems highly disingenuous to take one particular constituency -- labor -- and say that support for them is the bright line between a squishy centrist and a true lefty. Labor is a current and under-addressed issue in the blogosphere, but that has a bit more of a systemic foundation -- like, oh say, thirty years of decline -- than simply the disinterest of liberal bloggers.
posted by Weebot at 10:19 AM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


The rortybomb post is really good. (In general, rortybomb >> yggles.)
posted by kenko at 10:26 AM on January 18, 2011


I think Aaron Bady's comment at Rortybomb does a good job of refocusing on what deBoer was trying to say, and not what everyone wants him to have said:
But the problem with Yglesias isn’t that he’s zombie Ayn Rand come to eat the regulatory state’s brains, or something. The problem is that when he declares himself a neoliberal without understanding fully what it means, he demonstrates that he either doesn’t understand or doesn’t respect the leftist critique of his position, that he pretends it doesn’t exist, that he has a blind spot where it lives . This was Freddie’s main and most cogent point (and one which much of the blogosphere has completely ignored): the argument was more subtle than that these people are “not left enough” because they are neoliberals; the argument was that these people don’t understand or show awareness of the arguments of people to their left, specifically on matters economic. Which is a different argument than the “MSM is conservative” cri de coeur that Freddie‘s piece is fast being rendered into; he was talking about the cognitive limitations of this class of liberal thinkers, their inability to take seriously arguments to their left. They disagree with people to their left and to their right. That’s fine; we all disagree with people who don’t share our ideology. But Freddie’s criticism — which seems dead on to me — is that while they understand and respect the people they disagree with to their right, they ignore and are oblivious to the people they disagree with to their left.
As Bady points out, Yglesias' response, "there is no one [valid] to the left of me," pretty much proves the point.
posted by kipmanley at 10:27 AM on January 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


I have to say that I particularly liked this passage:
I find it so hard to take, when libertarians complain about how misunderstood and oppressed they are, because nobody redbaits like libertarians do. Nobody. Nobody is more eager to excise the dirty commies from the realm of acceptable opinion than your average libertarian, while the similarly berate the powers that be for confining them to the intellectual ghetto of their imagination.
Freddie De Boer needs to stop reading so many straight-white-man-bloggers.

If that's true, you really have to ask yourself why there are so few straight white male liberals. Statements like this might have something to do with it.

That's almost assuredly part of his problem - there are lots of extreme leftists who primarily blog about gay rights, feminism, womanism, anti-racism, transgender issues, etc. etc. etc.

I think this really points to one of the causes for what he's talking about. Leftism used to mean fighting for the lower classes and the economically disenfranchised. These days, it usually means identity politics. Is it any wonder that the American working class has no use for the left wing? When your salt of the earth types are worried about putting food on the table, they aren't looking for the party that fights hardest for the transgendered. In essence, liberalism really has become an ideology for intellectuals and academics and not the working class. This has allowed the right wing to get away with painting the left as "elitist".

Which is not to say that identity politics don't have their place on the left. Liberalism has always been about looking out for the disenfranchised little guy. But identity politics have taken over the democratic party to the point that there really isn't much advocacy out there for the common man. In fact, the blue collar working class is sometimes villified by liberals, a self-defeating strategy if there ever was one.
posted by Edgewise at 10:31 AM on January 18, 2011 [14 favorites]


Just to collect the responses to this post from some of the named bloggers.

Jonathan Chait
Kevin Drum
Matthew Yglesias (from the FPP)
Ezra Klein
posted by Weebot at 10:43 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jonathan Chait, for reals
posted by Weebot at 10:45 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


If that's true, you really have to ask yourself why there are so few straight white male liberals. Statements like this might have something to do with it.

Oh, God forbid we forget about them for one second.

Leftism used to mean fighting for the lower classes and the economically disenfranchised. These days, it usually means identity politics.

I don't think these two conceptions of social justice (fighting for the lower classes vs. so-called "identity politics") are as exclusive as some people (De Boer among others) would like. That's kind of the reason so-called "identity politics" is so important on the internet - can we advocate for the poor without advocating for poor women? Can we advocate for the poor without advocating for the African-American poor?

Yes, there is a tendency for more privileged members of an "identity" to enter the movement with some conception that this is "all about them" - and many people can last a shockingly long time without realizing how these issues are interconnected... sort of how many leftists can talk about class issues for a long time without realizing how interconnected class issues are with, say, race or sexuality or gender. It's two sides of the same pie, and the solution isn't to stop talking about class, or on the other side to stop talking about "identity".
posted by muddgirl at 10:47 AM on January 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


Haha two sides of the same pie. That's silly.
posted by muddgirl at 10:49 AM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is it any wonder that the American working class has no use for the left wing? When your salt of the earth types are worried about putting food on the table, they aren't looking for the party that fights hardest for the transgendered.

Because as we all know, transgendered feminist supporters of gay rights know nothing of the working class and never worry about putting food on the table and are certainly not ever the salt of the ever-lovin' earth. Christ since when is basic human decency the extreme motherfucking left?
posted by kipmanley at 10:52 AM on January 18, 2011 [13 favorites]


Is it me, or is this thing awfully light on specific examples or any other type of supporting evidence? I honestly can't find anything to disagree or agree with in there. All these boxes he's putting people and ideas into, but the boxes haven't really been drawn and the reasons for putting things in boxes have been left out.

You really need to work to convince me when you make a statement like: "There are many myths within the political blogosphere, but none is so deeply troubling or so highly treasured by mainstream political bloggers than this: that the political blogosphere contains within it the whole range of respectable political opinion, and that once an issue has been thoroughly debated therein, it has had a full and fair hearing."

Maybe I'm just dense and missing the meat and potatoes in that beast of an article. Honestly, I couldn't slog through every sentence.
posted by pjaust at 10:53 AM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Liberalism has always been about looking out for the disenfranchised little guy. But identity politics have taken over the democratic party to the point that there really isn't much advocacy out there for the common man.

You've spent enough time punching that straw-hippie's midsection. Time to go for the knockout blow!
posted by [citation needed] at 10:54 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, God forbid we forget about them for one second.

I mean, fair enough, but isn't it awfully counterproductive to despair at political leftism's relative lack of place at the table, yet summarily dismiss the "little guys" who happen to be more representative of the racial/gender majority on the other?
posted by downing street memo at 10:55 AM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


muddgirl, in theory I agree that these two concerns are not mutually exclusive. However, I think that, in practice, I don't hear nearly as much about matters of economic justice, and in general, I don't get the impression that these issues are on the radar. Occasionally, I hear talk about organized labor or the minimum wage, but in the context of all the rest of the chatter, it doesn't seem like a very high priority, at least within the democratic party if not the American left in general. That's just the impression from where I'm standing, but it sounds similar to some of the things that De Boer is talking about, though I frame the issue very differently.
posted by Edgewise at 10:56 AM on January 18, 2011


Because as we all know, transgendered feminist supporters of gay rights know nothing of the working class and never worry about putting food on the table and are certainly not ever the salt of the ever-lovin' earth.

That has nothing to do with nothing. "Knowing" about the working class has nothing to do with talking and doing something.

You've spent enough time punching that straw-hippie's midsection. Time to go for the knockout blow!

You've spent enough time trying to be witty. Time to say something of substance!

Is it me, or is this thing awfully light on specific examples or any other type of supporting evidence? I honestly can't find anything to disagree or agree with in there.

You know, I have to agree with you there, you've got a good point.
posted by Edgewise at 11:12 AM on January 18, 2011


I don't think this is a straw man argument, nor is it a "no true Scotsman" argument. In fact, I think the writer is pretty open about the point he's making - he feels that the "mainstream" (for lack of a better word) face of the left doesn't represent the actual left, and worse, actually denies that the left-left even exists.

I have to say that I agree with him, by and large. I agree with him that issues of restribution or labor unions or free trade receive no serious argument on the left, much less in the larger political culture. The "big" spokespeople for the left have capitulated way more on basic, leftist ideals than the right has capitulated the other way. The mainstream left is attempting to make their case in terms that are acceptable to the right - and that, IMO, is doomed to failure.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:14 AM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I mean, fair enough, but isn't it awfully counterproductive to despair at political leftism's relative lack of place at the table, yet summarily dismiss the "little guys" who happen to be more representative of the racial/gender majority on the other?

(1) Maybe I'm fatalistic, maybe I've read a lot of Zinn, but I expect anti-capitalist discourse to be unwelcome at the table. It's not despair, it's rationalism.

(2) Setting up the elite as both "the little guys" and "more representative" is the type of rhetoric that encourages otherwise-leftist supporters like the rural poor to vote against our own interests (I say "our" because I grew up rural and poor, although I am currently middle-class and a white-collar worker). The point is that straight white men aren't a majority in this country - they are certainly not the majority gender. To assume that their "identity politics" are representative of a majority is just false, and to limit media consumption to their output is misguided.

It's sort of like that post with a headline, "Why aren't there any good female chefs?" - It intentionally begs the question (a correct use of that phrase!) There is lots of leftist discourse in the blogosphere - De Boer just doesn't read it because he apparently doesn't like women bloggers.

it doesn't seem like a very high priority, at least within the democratic party if not the American left in general

The Democratic party is an umbrella party made up of the left, the center-left, and the center (and perhaps even center-right). It is not a high priority for the party because a very small minority actually care about economic justice (or more rightly, fighting for economic justice won't pay their bills). This became abundantly clear this year as a Democratically-led government still failed to get consensus on actually leftist policies.
posted by muddgirl at 11:16 AM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Setting up the elite as both "the little guys" and "more representative" is the type of rhetoric that encourages otherwise-leftist supporters like the rural poor to vote against our own interests (I say "our" because I grew up rural and poor, although I am currently middle-class and a white-collar worker).

See, this is a bit of a problem. The elite? Are you saying that straight white males are the elite? This is absolutely untrue. Rather, to the extent that the elite IS almost entirely straight white men, it is still only a TINY subset of that group. In addition, most working class people are straight and white, and about half of them are male. So any political movement that addresses the underclass must address straight white men, or it is only speaking to a minority of the underclass.
posted by Edgewise at 11:24 AM on January 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


most working class people are straight and white, and about half of them are male

I think your math is a bit off here. Most are straight, and perhaps most are white, but most are not straight AND white. Venn diagrams.

The elite? Are you saying that straight white males are the elite?

I don't think I every said this, but I will say that the bloggers mentioned in De Boer's piece in some ways represent the blogging elite, and it shouldn't be surprising to anyone that they are thoroughly establishment. What would cause someone as well-read as De Boer to expect elite bloggers to be anti-establishment?
posted by muddgirl at 11:29 AM on January 18, 2011


Maybe I'm fatalistic, maybe I've read a lot of Zinn, but I expect anti-capitalist discourse to be unwelcome at the table. It's not despair, it's rationalism.

As mentioned before, the rhetoric of the Tea Party might be small-c capitalist, but much of it is threatening to entrenched power (which, I think, is maybe the point you're getting at here), and here they are, on the news every single night.

Setting up the elite as both "the little guys" and "more representative" is the type of rhetoric that encourages otherwise-leftist supporters like the rural poor to vote against our own interests (I say "our" because I grew up rural and poor, although I am currently middle-class and a white-collar worker). The point is that straight white men aren't a majority in this country - they are certainly not the majority gender. To assume that their "identity politics" are representative of a majority is just false, and to limit media consumption to their output is misguided.

I think it is awfully, awfully disingenuous to refer to working white poor men as "the elite". I mean, this is a great example of leftist rhetoric not matching the actual lives of (much of) the working poor - how many of these people would self-describe as "elite"?

Your semantic point on "majority" is well taken, perhaps "dominant" would be superior.
posted by downing street memo at 11:31 AM on January 18, 2011


think it is awfully, awfully disingenuous to refer to working white poor men as "the elite".

Again, I don't think I did. Perhaps I am talking at cross-purposes with someone?
posted by muddgirl at 11:42 AM on January 18, 2011


muddgirl, perhaps you should clarify, since downing street memo and I interpreted your statement the same way. When you said "elite," who were you talking about? You're talking about bloggers, you say? At least I know I'm not the only one who found that confusing.

I think your math is a bit off here. Most are straight, and perhaps most are white, but most are not straight AND white. Venn diagrams.

Well, considering the about 75% of the US is white, and 90% (conservative estimate) of the population is heterosexual, that gives us about 2/3 of the US population being white and straight. Unless you have some other definition of "straight." Or "white."
posted by Edgewise at 11:44 AM on January 18, 2011


Can we advocate for the poor without advocating for the African-American poor?

Yes, we can, and we must. People are too self-centered to enter the fray if they see too much that excludes them or is irrelevant to them. By making the discussion about more and more finely sliced identity issues, and less about "we are all poor and we need to pull together," we do the entire left a disservice. The left/right divide is one of economic philosophy. Yes, racism and all kinds of other forces of oppression come into it, but those cannot be the main event. The reason the right wing gets shit done (even if it's massively destructive shit) is because they can focus on their core issue without getting bogged down, or at least do it better than we do. You can't go to a protest about labor rights without some schmuck showing up with a "free Tibet" sign, and that kind of hazy inability to focus is pervasive on the left.

What once united the left was an over-arching concern with the plight of people who actually work for a living, or those who are not able (for whatever reason) to do so. When you dissect and subdivide the conversation into endlessly deconstructed arguments about identity politics, you do two things. You change the conversation into masturbatory sociological lingo that makes great dissertations but crap social policy. You also turn off a big group of people who should be your ideological boosters by convincing them that they're not welcome at worst, or that they can attend but they should STFU and defer to everyone else in the room at best.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:46 AM on January 18, 2011 [12 favorites]


Also,

Most are straight, and perhaps most are white, but most are not straight AND white.

"Perhaps"? I think you ought to check up on US demographics. It's far beyond "perhaps." I think your "Venn diagrams" might be a little off because you have some misconceptions about the numbers.
posted by Edgewise at 11:50 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think I every said this, but I will say that the bloggers mentioned in De Boer's piece in some ways represent the blogging elite, and it shouldn't be surprising to anyone that they are thoroughly establishment. What would cause someone as well-read as De Boer to expect elite bloggers to be anti-establishment?

the issue isn't that establishment bloggers say establishment things, it's that

A) from the perspective of the mainstream these people are "left" commentators
B) while the Kleinglesidrum are surely aware (well except for Yglesias) of left-criticism of their opinions, they rarely give arguments from their left any discussion.

so that

C) combining up-is-downism i.e. Obama is a socialist, with self-censorship you have the fact the mainstream political discussion in the US is hermetically sealed (the echo chamber) and unable to tell the difference between christian theocrats, big-business conservatives, fascists/reactionaries, socialists, liberals, neoliberals, etc. Acknowledged differences among political actors (and those policies) come down to tone and connection to power.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:02 PM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


One more response to throw in the mix.

I think the Rortybomb response went a long way of digging into the actual meat of the problem: do you expect your establishment writers engaging with and creating ideas, or pushing/providing cover for, the position of those in power. Are the likes of Klein and Yglesias providing a large amount of cover for the Obama administration, in the elite (to me read as ... paid) work that they do as professional journalists cum bloggers. Or should they be creating the institutions of new thought, and ideas for the left.
posted by stratastar at 12:02 PM on January 18, 2011


most working class people are straight and white, and about half of them are male

I think your math is a bit off here. Most are straight, and perhaps most are white, but most are not straight AND white. Venn diagrams.


OK, muddgirl, if you think the math is off, what do you think the correct (approximate) percentages are? What percentage of working class Americans (or Americans in general, or people in general) do you think are straight? I think the percentage is so high that if most working class people are white, it's a near certainty that most working class people are white and straight (since I don't think adding "and straight" changes the percentage much). In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if most of them are "straight white men," or at least if "straight white men" were more prominent than any other race/gender/sexuality combination.
posted by John Cohen at 12:02 PM on January 18, 2011


Well, considering the about 75% of the US is white, and 90% (conservative estimate) of the population is heterosexual, that gives us about 2/3 of the US population being white and straight. Unless you have some other definition of "straight." Or "white."

And less than 50% is male, which gives us 1/3.

muddgirl, perhaps you should clarify, since downing street memo and I interpreted your statement the same way. When you said "elite," who were you talking about? You're talking about bloggers, you say? At least I know I'm not the only one who found that confusing.

I'm talking about kyriarchy here. "Elite" is relative. So a white man in a rural community will recognize that he isn't at the top of a national political party or the CEO of a company, but he may not recognize his own relationship to women or minorities in his community. Being a middle class white lady, I can easily see how it sucks to be a lady, but how easy is it for me to see how it sucks to be gay? Or poor (putting aside my background)?

In this case, we can look at many different "elites". Who are the elite leftist bloggers? Who are the elite politicians in the Democratic party? Who are the elite academics in American leftism? Which "identity" dominates conversations about labor? About rural issues?

When I say that De Boer needs to read more female bloggers and bloggers-of-color, do you really think I meant that we should ignore poor white people? What would cause you to interpret my statement this way?

"Perhaps"? I think you ought to check up on US demographics.

In my city, for example, the majority of working class folks almost certainly aren't white. US demographics will almost certainly follow this trend.

People are too self-centered to enter the fray if they see too much that excludes them or is irrelevant to them.

I can't believe this is true, or I'd give up now and start voting Republican.
posted by muddgirl at 12:04 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, considering the about 75% of the US is white, and 90% (conservative estimate) of the population is heterosexual, that gives us about 2/3 of the US population being white and straight. Unless you have some other definition of "straight." Or "white."

And less than 50% is male, which gives us 1/3.


But you said: "Most are straight, and perhaps most are white, but most are not straight AND white."
posted by John Cohen at 12:10 PM on January 18, 2011


I can't believe this is true, or I'd give up now and start voting Republican.

Well, many people have obviously done exactly that, so I'm not sure that that's a great argument to make.

It's kind of unfortunate that this thread has taken the particular turn that it has. I really feel like this tired split between so-called identity politics and so-called labor/economic fundamentalism doesn't need to be the huge schism that people keep trying to make it. These things aren't really at odds with each other and the people who support one or the other needn't be at odds with each other either.
posted by enn at 12:12 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know, even though (as Benny Andajetz said above) this article doesn't produce much evidence or provide many examples, I think it's hard to deny that what De Boer is saying is true, at least in terms of economic policy. On the far right, the extreme economic position is total laissez faire free market. What would be the extreme left position? Presumably, communism, or at least socialism. Is there a single prominent blogger who advocates communism? Obviously not. De Boer's correct in that it's even hard to find a socialist blogger. Even in the left, these are dirty words.

Of course, this doesn't automatically say that we SHOULD have a place for the far left at the table, even if it existed. Personally, I think communism is even slightly nuttier than laissez faire, and I am not one of those people that things the best way to balance a crazy extremist is with the opposite type of lunatic. However, even though I'm not a socialist, I agree with De Boer that socialists should have a place at the table, because they do have some decent ideas, and would provide valuable perspective. But where are they? Without a doubt, socialists are not prominent within the US blogging world.

And even to the extent that they are out there, De Boer is right about the fact that they are not prominent, and they are dismissed by the prominent so-called liberals of the blogosphere. And that is troubling for political discourse.
posted by Edgewise at 12:13 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I say that De Boer needs to read more female bloggers and bloggers-of-color, do you really think I meant that we should ignore poor white people? What would cause you to interpret my statement this way?

Speaking for myself, it was the snarky, dismissive "Oh, God forbid we forget about them for one second."

It's perfectly fine to believe in and advocate for a leftism that elevates minority voices above those of dominant racial/ethnic/sexual categories. But you can't sit and blame entrenched power when your ideas fail to achieve currency with those being critiqued, because anti-establishment ideas have plenty of currency in the mainstream discourse - just not your anti-establishment ideas.
posted by downing street memo at 12:14 PM on January 18, 2011


In my city, for example, the majority of working class folks almost certainly aren't white. US demographics will almost certainly follow this trend.

Uhhh....
posted by SweetJesus at 12:20 PM on January 18, 2011


I vote for the Democratic party,
They want the U.N. to be strong.
I go to all the Pete Seeger concerts,
He sure gets me singing those songs.
I'll send all the money you ask for,
But don't ask me to come on along!
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal!
posted by Bromius at 12:20 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


And less than 50% is male, which gives us 1/3.

You just added male. Look at what you wrote.

In my city, for example, the majority of working class folks almost certainly aren't white. US demographics will almost certainly follow this trend.

I don't know about your city, but I do know about the country, and your assumptions are wrong. Your first problem is the use of the word "city," since most people in this country don't live in an urban area.

When I say that De Boer needs to read more female bloggers and bloggers-of-color, do you really think I meant that we should ignore poor white people?

No, I don't. There are two separate ideas here that are related, and you're conflating them a bit; understandable, since I didn't lay them out as such. They are:

(a) Being disdainful of straight white men is a losing strategy, and if you're right that straight white men, as a group, are not well-represented among liberal bloggers, you ought to be concerned, not flip.

(b) The reason that De Boer is not seeing many socialists is because American leftists these days seem to care more about identity politics than the working class.
posted by Edgewise at 12:31 PM on January 18, 2011


Damn, I think DSM and I are sharing a brain today.
posted by Edgewise at 12:33 PM on January 18, 2011



there are lots of extreme leftists who primarily blog about gay rights, feminism, womanism, anti-racism, transgender issues, etc. etc. etc.


I think this thread is having a crisis over the definition of politics.
I take a more traditional definition of politics, focusing on the state and economics.

The other group is talking about gender identity, skin color, and all other kinds of things, that while important, are excluded from the more traditional definition of politics.

While I recognize the importance of all of those issues, that they can be left wing as easily as right, working class as easily as bourgeois. They can be politicized, but they're not necessarily political.

Therefore, saying "Look at all of the feminist bloggers, gay right's activists, animal rights protesters, anti-fascists, etc" does nothing to challenge the idea that there isn't a lot of left wing media right now, in blogs or elsewhere.

Hardline left-wing politics aren't very cool lately. IMHO.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:33 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


And Edgewise and others beat me to it. Well. At least I'm not alone. ;)
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:34 PM on January 18, 2011


Sweet Jesus,

You realize that in the data you link, non-Hispanic white makes up less than half of the people living below the poverty line, right?

That said, I don't think below poverty line is a good proxy for "working class".
posted by [citation needed] at 12:53 PM on January 18, 2011


Hippie-punching. See any number of MeFi threads for an example. Who is the only group more hated here than the Bush White House? PETA.

PETA seems to provoke irritation rather than hatred on the left, as far as I can tell. And where I've heard them seriously criticized, it's not because they're vegetarians but because many find their advertising and promotional stunts offensively sexist or racist, beyond a reasonable amount of shock value in getting the message out. Obviously, PETA thinks that cruelty to others starts at home, specifically on the dinner table, and that if people stopped eating meat or treating animals badly then better human relations would follow. Other people feel that abuse or exploitation of women or members of particular ethnic groups is a much more pressing problem than the existence of ham sandwiches, and think that dehumanization is the problem.

But anyway, hippies and PETA are hardly the same thing; and for that matter I'm not sure when being a hippie became equated with anarcho-primitivism and rejection of science, but that's why I no longer identify as a hippie. I'm afraid complaints about 'hippie punching' inevitably remind me of the phrase 'they hate us for our freedoms.' Dear hippies, please stop conflating the expression of countervailing opinions with physical abuse. It trivializes the experience of people who have been beaten up or otherwise abused for simply expressing themselves, and is mostly used to create a negative and dishonest characterization of those whose views you find disagreeable.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:59 PM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sweet Jesus,

You realize that in the data you link, non-Hispanic white makes up less than half of the people living below the poverty line, right?

That said, I don't think below poverty line is a good proxy for "working class".

Then why the hell did you say it? Nobody else mentioned the poverty line, and you're acting like people are idiots for needing proof of something they didn't ask for. This is your second pointless post in this thread, and you've only made two.
posted by Edgewise at 1:03 PM on January 18, 2011


Oops!

Sorry [citation required], I misread your post. I thought the "Sweet Jesus" was a statement of exasperation, not someone's handle. I didn't know what you were talking about until I realized that, and saw his link, and realized your comment was perfectly relevant. My apologies...it seemed really obnoxious when you sounded like you were starting off by saying "Sweet Jesus"
posted by Edgewise at 1:07 PM on January 18, 2011


I think your math is a bit off here. Most are straight, and perhaps most are white, but most are not straight AND white. Venn diagrams.
Well, considering the about 75% of the US is white, and 90% (conservative estimate) of the population is heterosexual, that gives us about 2/3 of the US population being white and straight. Unless you have some other definition of "straight." Or "white."
Strictly speaking, or "most".
posted by Flunkie at 1:15 PM on January 18, 2011


People are too self-centered to enter the fray if they see too much that excludes them or is irrelevant to them.

I can't believe this is true, or I'd give up now and start voting Republican.


You'd better believe it. I work all day and get home exhausted. If you're going to rouse me off of the couch it's going to be because I personally and strongly identify with what you're pushing, not out of some vague positive feelings about uplifting all humanity. People aren't bodhisattvas.

All politics is personal, and if you don't offer people solutions that address their needs (or what they think their needs are) then they are not going to show up to the party. The tea party people managed to shill their way into power by reaching into the personal perceptions of millions of people and convincing them that that set of policies and ideas was the answer to what ails them. If you believe that the liberal agenda is good and worthwhile, then you have to get hardheaded about what you're doing, and that includes finding ways to reach the people who you're not reaching, not just preaching to the choir. This isn't a war, because war analogies are bullshit, but this IS a real contest of ideas, and just like VHS vs. Beta sometimes the guy with the better ideas loses the contest because he can't get his freaking marketing together.
posted by 1adam12 at 1:17 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think a lot of the "lefty" blogs were created as a response or reaction to the takeover of our media by right-wing entities, and the obvious right-wing agenda of cable "news" edutatainment.

DailyKos - former Republican, member of the armed forces realizes that our discourse is "ruled" by the right. There is no liberal media.

Eschaton - economics PhD, eventual member of media matters...responds to blogs, articles, TV. Also hints on the lack of a liberal media.

Greenwald, Firedoglake, et al - what do they do? They all were created, primarily, as a response to the misinformation of the right wing noise machine.

So, in essence, the argument is always going to be founded in a story that is "put out there" by the right wing noise machine, and responded to by "the left wing blogosphere."

Very rarely do we see a lefty blog or web site that actually promotes a left-wing agenda...mostly the types of blogs mentioned here were formed as a response to the far right, and will, therefore, be perceived as somewhat right-leaning themselves.
posted by Chuffy at 1:20 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


The reason the right wing gets shit done (even if it's massively destructive shit) is because they can focus on their core issue without getting bogged down, or at least do it better than we do. You can't go to a protest about labor rights without some schmuck showing up with a "free Tibet" sign, and that kind of hazy inability to focus is pervasive on the left.

I dunno how true this is. You know those assholes at the teabagger protests with the racist signs? They aren't the majority, they are the lone nuts like the idiots that show up at left wing protests. Any protest will have it's share of people trying to get attention for their own stupid views instead of going with the communal flow.

The reason the right wing protests get better coverage, in my opinion, tracks closely with what TFA is talking about. A left wing protest is treated like a riot by default and the cops make the prophecy self-fulfilling. You ever see the cops surround a tea party?

Nope, the media (especially but not only Fox News) show up and praise them and the cops stay far away.

Markos Moulitsas can't even get airtime on MSNBC because he used Joe Scarborough's dead intern as an example for why people like him shouldn't make false accusations without all the evidence. A right wing pundit would never be held accountable for something like that because the mainstream treats each side with far different standards from the street protest level all the way up to the pundit/blogger level.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:27 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


A left wing protest is treated like a riot by default and the cops make the prophecy self-fulfilling. You ever see the cops surround a tea party?

I'm much, much closer to left-wing than Tea Party, but are the cops wrong? How many tea parties have devolved into violence ? How many left-wing protests, whether the violence is instigated by protesters or by others?
posted by downing street memo at 1:43 PM on January 18, 2011


A left wing protest is treated like a riot by default and the cops make the prophecy self-fulfilling. You ever see the cops surround a tea party?

I'm much, much closer to left-wing than Tea Party, but are the cops wrong? How many tea parties have devolved into violence ? How many left-wing protests, whether the violence is instigated by protesters or by others?


How much of the violence at left-wing protests is instigated by the police themselves? If you were to put a circle of cops in riot gear around a Tea Party protest, and have them engage the protesters, some of whom are bearing arms, how violent would that eventually become?

They aren't the majority, they are the lone nuts like the idiots that show up at left wing protests. Any protest will have it's share of people trying to get attention for their own stupid views instead of going with the communal flow.

"lone nuts" and "idiots" - What's wrong with "Free Tibet" signs? I mean, I get the "Free Mumia" people are nuts, but where do you draw the line. (that's sarcasm...again, the article is very interesting, in that we label people with "Free Tibet" signs as loonies and nuts, when they could very clearly have a point, however tangential).
posted by Chuffy at 1:53 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Free Tibet is a great idea, the only comparison to the racist idiot teabagger minority was in degree of off-topicness.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:02 PM on January 18, 2011


A: You really don't understand, do you.
B: Hey man, don't you understand that in order to make this thing work, we have to get rid of the pimps, the pushers, and the prostitutes and then start over again clean.
A: Hey look, nobody's pushing me anywhere, okay? I mean, not you, not the cops, nobody, man. I mean, if you wanna get rid of the pushers, I'll help you, but don't send your people after me.
B: C'mon John, can't you see that we can't get rid of one without getting rid of the other? We gotta come down on both of them at the same time in order for this whole thing to work for the people.
A: Hey look, nobody's—closing me outta my business.
posted by kipmanley at 2:12 PM on January 18, 2011


I don't know about your city, but I do know about the country, and your assumptions are wrong. Your first problem is the use of the word "city," since most people in this country don't live in an urban area.

That's not right. By most definitions the U.S. has been majority urban for about a century.
posted by one_bean at 8:04 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Jay Rosen has a lot to say about this. I think he said it better. He's not talking ideology, but he talking very much to the point of who's in and who's out.
posted by warbaby at 10:11 PM on January 18, 2011


I was reminded of this thread last night. I had MSNBC playing in the background - I don't know who's show it was, the guy who isn't Maddow or Olberman. Anyways, he had some Rebublican shill on along with Sen.Kucinich discussing health care. I tuned out most of it until I realized Dennis was on and heard him say, "The problem is that health care is still being controlled by corporations. Corporations are interested in their own profits, not your health. Until it is in no longer in their hands we will never have good health care."

"I'd love to have that debate another time, Dennis. Goodnight!"
The host shut things down quick - maybe the segment was running late, but he seemed like he wanted to stop the conversation immediately. "OMG! That's ACTUAL socialist talk! My head will explode!"

So yeah, Spheres of Consensus and all that.
posted by charred husk at 6:56 AM on January 19, 2011


chuffy: the problem with the "Free Tibet" signs isn't that the cause is wrong, or silly. I'm all for a free and independent Tibet, having been there and seen the imperialistic BS that's going down there firsthand. The problem is that the people carrying those signs don't seem to realize that we're at an event that has nothing to do with Tibet.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:46 AM on January 19, 2011


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