Heather Mallick, talk some sense into us.
July 11, 2004 7:52 AM   Subscribe

Who says shopping's a sin for a socialist? On and on it goes, this notion that a political stance wraps everything you are expected to say in a neat brown paper parcel. A nice little meditation on political ideology for your Sunday morning from the Globe and Mail's Heather Mallick.
posted by Quartermass (21 comments total)
Great article. Thanks for posting it. I can't get over the line: "just enough brain to make a blue jay fly crooked." Found it in this Wodehouse story, one I hadn't read.
posted by josephtate at 8:26 AM on July 11, 2004

Only my husband is allowed to attack my shopping.

He does not.

Mallick is great. That is all.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:55 AM on July 11, 2004

Eww. What an atrocious article. Not sure what value this has for anyone beyond starting a discussion. It is clear from the article that the author, though calling herself a socialist, appears to have very little idea what socialism means. According to her own words, she is a socialist because "she wants her taxes to help the poor, and she believes in social justice." Well, those two desires alone do not a socialist make. The first is merely a call for charity. The second is a common desire that is rarely linked to socialism. Indeed, her self-identification suggests humanism more than socialism. The whole article begs the question of whether this writer has a clue what socialism is.

I know little about Mallick outside this article, but I find her trying desperately to name-drop in a desire to build up her liberal cred: "busy reading Bill Clinton's autobiography, my first Gogol (that's Nikolai, not Ivanka) and that holy of holies, an unread P. G. Wodehouse"; her name-dropping of reading Mitford (though, I find a bit ironically, she name drops the lesser of the two sisters which makes me wonder if she knows that); Cavafy. While I often appalud calling in outside sources to strengthen an argument, I find her goal to be more about trying to build cred. The article mentions that Mallick writes a fashion column, and that doesn't suprise me. Because clearly this article represents what the fashion world calls "branding." But instead of writing about how you have the appropriate garb ("I got my Gucci purse, my Yurman rings, my Dolce & Gabbanna dress and my Bhlanik heels..."), here she is branding her political ethos. Yuck. I guess if you don't have any substance, then just brand your way into cred.

I usually skip such things, and now I remember why.
posted by Seth at 9:19 AM on July 11, 2004

Here's a wonderful article by Francis Wheen on the term Champagne Socialist. Also includes a (brief) reference to P G Wodehouse.
posted by dodgygeezer at 9:27 AM on July 11, 2004

Wow, all that just to show Seth doesn't know what those of us in the rest of the world call 'socialism'. Reading that comment was a waste.

Also, other right-wingers would have fits at the notion that taxes going to help the poor was anything like charity.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:34 AM on July 11, 2004

Also, other right-wingers would have fits at the notion that taxes going to help the poor was anything like charity.

Why? Because charity is supposed to be voluntary?
posted by trharlan at 9:39 AM on July 11, 2004

Space Coyote. Did it matter what I wrote? Or were you going to make a snide comment regardless? And in case you haven't been keeping score, I am not a "right-winger," but please keep playing that card of ignorance, if you so choose.

In fact, the reason why her article offended me is because I think she gives a disservice to the grand principles of socialism by saying that it is merely "wanting your taxes to help the poor and social justice." Socialism, as an ethos, has nothing to do with those two things. My frustration is that most people don't understand the virtues of socialism, and so it gets pigeon-holed (as she notes in the article). The reason why it is pigeon-holed is because few people understand it, and you have people claiming to be standard bearers who haven't a clue what it stands for. Some rich bitch who likes to put on airs but clears her throat about giving some money to the poor sounds more like Marie Antoinette then a socialist.
posted by Seth at 9:48 AM on July 11, 2004

I didn't say you were anything other than wordy, Seth. And I think the entire point of her article was to eschew "grand principles" in favour of a political or social stance that fits in with one's every day life, which includes *gasp* reading that may or may not be done only for the purposes of name dropping. That little embarrassment was begging for a snide remark, really.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:57 AM on July 11, 2004

I thought the "helping the poor" comment was over-simplified but then people can arrive at the same political beliefs for different reasons. And you know political labels are only there for a quick shorthand on someones beliefs - a fact that seems to be lost on a few people.

And Seth - I know you mean well but this is a light and fluffy article about buying stuff. Not the place for drawn out political definitions.
posted by dodgygeezer at 10:00 AM on July 11, 2004

I read the Globe and Mail regularly, and I've read Doug Sanders column where he trashed her, and I agree with him. Heather Mallick is no great mind waiting to be discovered. She is a vaguely left-wing Canuck trying to cover her ass when a colleague rightly pointed out that she is comfortably hypocritical. She fetishises commodities, and worse, writes a column encouraging others to do so. Therefore she is in the grips of capitalist ideology and all the "I'm a socialist" nonsense in the world will serve only to assuage her conscience, not to make her any less of a hypocrite.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 10:25 AM on July 11, 2004

In the worker's paradise, will it be allowed or frowned upon to like pretty things?
posted by skoosh at 10:54 AM on July 11, 2004

I usually don't read Mallick, because her work is so uneven. Her work ranges from the excellent to the "could have been a good column with some editing" to the "what the fuck is she on?" I hear she's mad, and I wouldn't be surprised if it were true.

That said, this column wasn't bad, approximately an 80% effort from her. And no, she didn't write any sort of socialist manifesto, but such was not her intent. I believe her point was more along the lines of "one can be a socialist and still like to shop", and more generally, "don't be so quick to assume that someone who subscribes to a certain ideology will also subscribe to all your stereotypes and preconceived notions". She's right, and she made that point not badly.
posted by orange swan at 12:51 PM on July 11, 2004

I'd suspect that this column would provoke more outrage from dyed-in-the-wool pinkos who are upset that Ms. Mallick is not sufficiently conforming to the diktats of the revolution. For right-wingers, she is perfectly socialist, as any and all use of government beyond providing favors for energy and military corporations is considered to be perfectly socialist. Heck, conservatives consider anyone left of Bush to be "socialist," so I don't see why they'd complain about Mallick being so.
posted by deanc at 3:27 PM on July 11, 2004

Here's the Doug Saunders' column that refers to Mallick.

From that column:

In the process of giving the conservative U.S. TV host Bill O'Reilly a good flabbergasting, she declared proudly that she is "certainly" a socialist. If the word can apply to the author of a weekly Style column devoted to her consumption of luxury goods, I thought, then it's a pretty durable word. In the same breath, she offered an explanation: "I'd say I'm generally opposed to American values, which I consider overly money-centred."

His first criticism is silly. It's perfectly consistent for Mallick to agree that her taxes should be used to support social programs and then have fun spending part of her take home on shoes.

The second part though, she did not address, and I must admit that her claim that Canadian values are less money-centred that American ones seems just a MITE specious.
posted by orange swan at 3:59 PM on July 11, 2004

In my experience, people in the Canada use the term "socialist" more in the British manner, to refer to (at most) the left tendency of the Labour (UK) or Liberal (Canadian) mainstream.

"Socialist" doesn't connote the specific interest in Marxism, or the generalized hostility to private capital, which the term tends to connote in the U.S.

Translated to American terms, her thesis might read something like "how can I have a well-worn Amex Gold Card and support Dennis Kucinich at the same time" ... i.e., a perfect comfort with private capital so long as sufficiently hobbled by regulation and taxation.
posted by MattD at 4:19 PM on July 11, 2004

Well, that's what gets me about this. She's running around calling herself a socialist, when all she really seems to mean by it is "I want a welfare state." Those are two different positions (FDR, for example, wanted a welfare state, but I would hardly call him a socialist). Heather Mallick is the latter, but she is trying to pretend to be the former in order to tweak political noses. She is a poseur at the least, if not a hypocrite.

And as a Canadian, I find our blase use of the word "socialist" disgusting, similar to the abuse of the words "Nazi" and "fascist". By using these terms to score cheap political points over people we disagree with, we strip them of their historical and philosophical importance.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 4:30 PM on July 11, 2004

her claim that Canadian values are less money-centred that American ones seems just a MITE specious.

Canadian Values are roughly 0.7571 of U.S. money-centered values.

Also, as a Canadian, I am both vaguely offended by just about everything and simultaneously smugly superior and insecure.
posted by srboisvert at 5:49 PM on July 11, 2004

my Daddy's bought me the Socialist Workers' Party for my birthday!

Oh, no, guys, I'm just going to have to wee on Lord Snot's head.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:36 AM on July 12, 2004

In what way do Mitford, Wodehouse or Gogol constitute droppable names? They aren't exactly obscure, difficult or particularly prestegious reads.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:12 AM on July 12, 2004

note to self: must learn to use spellcheck when posting before noon
posted by small_ruminant at 10:14 AM on July 12, 2004

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