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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

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Yet even after 3 years of having our noses rubbed in it, there are still a considerable number of people producing similar gooey encomiums.

HA! You made me lulz in public.

"But the sun comes out at noon today . . ." wtf? i thought, in america, that the sun came out before noon (except maybe in some parts of alaska during the dead of winter).

It is the East, and Obama is the sun!

the sun "came out at noon" IN A FIGURATIVE SENSE because midday January 20 was when the Bush years ended and the Obama era began

Hah! Beat you to it!

Sure, but you didn't work Elvis and puppies into yours. Ha!

You're right about DN's questionable rendition of the U.S. being chased out of Iraq, though, and it's of a piece with what I've been seeing on there for some time now--the mainstreaming of DN, basically, to the point where sometimes the headlines sound like they could have come from CNN. Amy Goodman's own starry-eyed Obama predilections have been and still are pretty obvious, and she keeps interviewing Michael Moore on topics (like Obama) where he's shredded his credibility and shows no signs of reconstructing it...which seems to me like it's part of a general pattern of more mainstream milquetoasty guests.

All in all very disappointing, given the fearlessness and radicalism that drew me to the show in the first place. Obama truly has neutered the left (more accurately: convinced those on the left to neuter themselves).

I've been told that if you stare at a drone while rubbing crushed red peppers in your eyes, you can see the faint outline of an olive branch.

I wonder if red peppers are prevalent around the globe.

I'll agree, John, but I don't think it's quite as bad as you say. They still have good people on, even if they are giving too much time to Michael Moore. Even after that, as I noted, she talked about the ongoing US mercenary presence in Iraq. And I know she knows better, that's what frustrates me. If you were to ask her, she surely knows that the US left unwillingly after trying to pressure the Iraqi government into letting us stay. I (or anyone else who wants to) should send her e-mail about this; I'm curious to see what kind of response she'd make.

And I know she knows better, that's what frustrates me.

Yep, that's exactly it. I wonder if part of it's just the growth of the show--it's not just her writing headlines all night long like (I get the impression) she used to.

If you do write I'd be interested to hear what kind of a response you get.

After being exposed as absolute prestitutes during this entire Libyan "Revolution" Al-Jazerra and Democracy Now both can wither away for all I care. I used to reject the claim that Amu Goodman had a salary of over $90,000. Now I have my doubts.

While the former has shown its stripes I find Real News Network hasn't disappointed. I figured Gore Vidal endorsing them would be a good sign. So far they've been spectacular. Stuff like this you'd be hard-pressed to find even in independent sources.

Especially Al-Jazeera, the Beirut Bureau Chief just resigned over its shameless propaganda campaign against Syria. Its amazing how it fell so low, from a network deemed so dangerous that the U.S. military targeted them in Iraq and Afghanistan to becoming am imperialist propaganda weapon. Has to the biggest disinformation trick I've seen in my life.

Let me know when those networks stop being government stenographers and I'll watch them again.

if goodman's salary is over $90,000, that is not excessive.

I agree. If she's getting $90,000/yr, she's still a long way from the 1%.

I think of Democracy Now as the mainstream: safe, solid, anything but radical. That's why I'm disappointed, not outraged or shocked by this slip. It's not as if Noam Chomsky, say, were suddenly to start gushing about how dreamy Obama is. I wouldn't trust anybody who relied on one news source, or who suddenly threw out a good organization because it fucked up now and then. Who hasn't? I love and admire Chomsky, for example, but I have my disagreements with him, which are different from John's disagreements with him.

I just sent DN a comment on the story. I don't really expect a reply, but I'll report if I hear anything from them.

Cf. Goodman's column here (via American Leftist). She seems to argue that since Obama gets so many Wall Street dollars, he needs the likes of OWS to counter-balance him so that he has cover to do the right thing. The comment thread at AmLeft talks about the people-blaming nature of the FDR "make me do it" narrative. A few people at the CiF column rail at Obama, which is encouraging; comments there are usually appalling.

$90,000 is far from the 1%, but that doesn't make it appropriate to the budget of the show.

All you had to do was watch Goodman pimp the melodrama and psychopompery of Troy Davis' death to know how she butters her bread.

I didn't watch that. I couldn't bear to. It disturbed me a bit to hear that they were doing a six-hour live death watch, but I was hoping it wouldn't be as bad as you describe.

"if Noam Chomsky, say, were suddenly to start gushing about how dreamy Obama is."

What the hell difference would it make? He just comes to the same conclusion from a different angle: The state is evil, dont participate except for an anguished, reluctant vote for the Democrats every two or 4 years. The kind of radical only a ruling class could love. Sad that the worshiping left isn't clued in yet and a new generation is about to get snookered.

As for Goodman, she's now working the FDR "Make Me Do It' angle of OWS, writing a throughly reprehensible article to that effect in the Guardian recently.

These people are where they are because they're fucking harmless. No, they're worse than harmless. The get a good portion of the blame for surrender of the state to a kleptocracy. Fuck them all. It they were good for anything, we wouldn't all know their names.

"All you had to do was watch Goodman pimp the melodrama and psychopompery of Troy Davis' death to know how she butters her bread."

Hi Jack, I've seen you say that elsewhere and have wondered exactly what you meant. I found the evening of Troy Davies's murder extremely unsettling for a number of reasons. At the same time, I'm not sure I understand what, exactly, Amy Goodman did wrong by covering it so closely. Trust me, I have no reason at all to defend her. I don't really care for her. I am just not sure what the specific grievance is in that particular case.

HillOfBeans, "These people are where they are because they're fucking harmless. No, they're worse than harmless. The get a good portion of the blame for surrender of the state to a kleptocracy. Fuck them all. It they were good for anything, we wouldn't all know their names."

Horseshit. Where exactly are they, that's so prominent in American discourse? Chomsky's comfortable because he was an important linguist in a prominent university, not because he's a safe political dissident coddling the powerful. Is this some sort of Oedipal thing? I reject the cult of personality among so many Chomsky fans who don't even understand what he's saying half the time, but that doesn't mean I think it's cool to jerk your knee in the opposite direction. I have my own differences with him on various issues, just as I do with everyone I've ever learned from. But too much of the criticism I've been seeing of him on left websites has been purity trolling and the anxiety of influence: as Norman Finkelstein wrote once, one of the rites of passage for (mainly male) American lefty-liberals is to heave some shit in Chomsky's direction. It doesn't stick, but it marks you out as a bold independent thinker fit to be a serious contrarian (Conason, Hitchens, Proyect, et al.), unlike the knee-jerk minions of Chomsky's vast power. Snort.

I know a lot less about Goodman, because I've never seen her as anything but a news anchor; she's not a deep thinker, but I can usually learn useful stuff from her broadcasts. I don't rely solely on her for my information; no one should rely solely on anyone for their news. The two things about her that got my attention was that she (along with Allen Nairns) was severely beaten by Indonesian military in East Timor, where she was covering a story that the US corporate media still aren't interested in knowing about; but that was 20 years ago. Ten years ago she got the chance to interview Bill Clinton, who was calling various radio stations for election day and got a lot more from her than he'd bargained for. She asked him some pretty hard questions, though not all the questions I'd have liked to her ask, but he wasn't happy. (Still, he stayed on the line for quite a while, which is to his credit; I don't imagine Teh Obama would have put up with it.) I don't overrate her, I don't think, but this kind of cheap sniping doesn't count for anything with me.

Ditto for Jack's attack on her for the Troy Davis coverage. Matter of taste, and I wasn't entirely sure of the validity of the job, but I still think it's worth a lot more than obsessing over the Superbowl, or a former football star fleeing from the cops -- covered in hopes it would end in a spectacular crash or violent arrest, remember? And I don't see how it exactly "buttered her bread." Was her phone ringing off the hook from the networks wanting to hire her? When was the last time the corporate media paid that much attention to the execution of a probably innocent black man? Granted, there are a lot of innocent people who are killed by the US State all the time, but DN covers a lot more of them than the corporate media do.

By the way, I still haven't heard from DN on the e-mail I sent them.

HoB,

If you can find a copy of the live feed, watch with whom she is impatient, and who she sneers at (the black kids making points about black concerns in "black" idiom) and who she gushes over (the credentialed doctors, professors and heads of orgs, who speak in voices a middle class whitey could love).

Then, perhaps note the maudlin tone, that "what can we do?" coverage, and how she takes the pose of the lone voice of sanity (despite the fact that literally millions of people were expressing outrage, across the media spectrum, but without her access, name recognition or cameras-ready), as if Amy Goodman was the key herself to preventing the unpreventable.

Troy Davis was always going to die that red-door death. Everyone watching knew it. Goodman knew it. If a person was writing, preaching, speaking or crying about Troy Davis, they knew he was dead already.

But, baited and breathless, she covered the whole thing as if watching her was important enough to achieve the miracle prevention of Davis' death. As if spectating the gala event was a deed, in itself. Goodman was doing distraction.

It was about Amy Goodman, Do Gooder Crusader of Light.

Troy Davis was her damned prop.

Anyone with a half a brain in the head bin could already have predicted the inevitable: Troy Davis was going to die. Clarence Thomas wasn't gonna let similarity of skin tone get in the way of sound murder doctrine.

So -

The point of drawing attention to his then impending murder was outrage, anger, rage, and even hatred for those who would do it. It was to highlight the tragedy. Troy Davis was a doomed man, the moment the cops cuffed his black ass. That's the import of his arrest, conviction, imprisonment and death by poisoning.

But, that's not how Goodman covered it. She covered it like a good liberal. For Goodman, it was about the institutions. About doing the light-work of angels. About making good government (hah!) out of the nightmare mess.

Fuck her. Fuck all that.

You pay attention to the murders, and the murderers, of men like Troy Davis so you know who's got it coming come reckoning.

We pay attention to know who gets what they deserve.

Duncan: ...as Norman Finkelstein wrote once, one of the rites of passage for (mainly male) American lefty-liberals is to heave some shit in Chomsky's direction.

Norman Finkelstein wrote that? Very interesting. When? I ask because I've noticed a major upsurge lately in the take-a-shit-on-Chomsky trend--so much so that I've been thinking of writing a posting about it--and I'd be interested if Finkelstein noticed it a significant time ago.

"It marks you out as a bold independent thinker fit to be a serious contrarian..., unlike the knee-jerk minions of Chomsky's vast power" is dead on. It's genuinely sad to watch, and one of the things that most makes me want to give up on the left entirely.

Ditto for Jack's attack on her for the Troy Davis coverage.

Ditto on your ditto. I didn't watch it, but in the lengthy coverage I've seen of the Troy Davis case on DN! over the years I've never gotten the impression that it was motivated by anything but outrage at the injustice that was being done and a desire to bring as much attention as possible to the case. And I'm glad it got as much attention as it did, even as I know there are many other issues that deserve as much or more.

Norman Finkelstein's remark is completely inappropriate to what I am doing since he was talking about people who raise their status by attacking from the right. I don't need to raise my status (not a pundit) and I am attacking from the left.

As for the rest Duncan, I admit I started just skimming after Oedipal, I tend to ignore people who psychologize, especially when they start off with the compelling "What horseshit."

The fact is, we don't all know Chomsky because he's a linguist. We know him because he's an icon of the left.

I can't speak for why other people are bashing him except to say that OWS has incited me to do more thinking about the American left than I have done in some time. I watched Chomsky's remarks at #OccupyBoston and thought he was dreadful, offering assurances that America was virtually immune to fascism, counseling disengagement from the state, hoping for massive worker takeover, which he insisted was unrealistic now. The kind of thing that induces political comas.

My point stands. In 2008, he didn't praise Obama. He criticized him and told his acolytes in swing states to vote for him just the same. In 2004 he gave an equally anguished endorsement to Kerry.

"It marks you out as a bold independent thinker fit to be a serious contrarian..., unlike the knee-jerk minions of Chomsky's vast power" is dead on. It's genuinely sad to watch, and one of the things that most makes me want to give up on the left entirely.

Ditto for Jack's attack on her for the Troy Davis coverage."

You do realize, of course, that you're not offering anything substantive here, right?

Believe it or not, even if I were using my real name, I don't feel the need to set myself off as a serious contrarian. I worshiped Chomsky for a long time. I don't anymore, in part because I think his analysis applies unflatteringly to himself and other left celebrities.


As for purity, Duncan, my misgivings with Chomsky are exactly the opposite. In my view, like most of the American left, he combines the worst qualities of sectarianism and utopianism with thoroughly toxic splash of pragmatism each electoral cycle. He bashes Marxists to his left, an-caps to his right in between anguished endorsements for neoliberals

Your substance-free litany of insults does not do you or him credit.

"Norman Finkelstein wrote that? Very interesting. When?"

He wrote it in a diatribe about Hitchens exit from the left following 9/11. I think it is still available online at Finkelstein's website. It's very clear that this rite of passage is a career thing, not an Oedipal thing. I don't think Finkelstein does the psychologizing thing.

Worshiping Chomsky was a mistake, HoB, in the same way that switching from that to assigning him "a good portion of the blame for surrender of the state to a kleptocracy" and dismissing everything he's done with a "fuck them all" is a mistake. Maybe there's some middle ground between those extremes?

"Worshiping Chomsky was a mistake, HoB, in the same way that switching from that to assigning him "a good portion of the blame for surrender of the state to a kleptocracy" and dismissing everything he's done with a "fuck them all" is a mistake. Maybe there's some middle ground between those extremes?"

That has a faint whiff of psychologizing about it, but I'll let it pass. Worshiping is far too strong a word. It's just that for years I thought he was the most correct person that ever lived and, on certain matters, still do.

I don't think you can exempt the American left from the political coma the country has been in for several decades. I don't feel the need to develop that position except to say that the American left has 101 ways to say surrender.

I see no particular reason to find a middle ground just because some fanboys frothed at me any more than I need to upgrade to an Iphone 4S. However, I feel I occupy a middle ground: Chomsky is excellent for parsing media and for understanding American foreign policy. I think he's toxic on left strategy in much the same way Goodman and Moore are.


Duncan, I actually managed to slog my way through your 'contribution'.

Nice one there with the 'mostly male'. You are a died in the wool cardboard cutout. A complete stereotype. Nothing contrarian there, no sir.

Congrats.

Re-read your Finkelstein, btw. You got it wrong. It has nothing to do with the likes of Proyect or me.

HillOfBeans: "Worship" was your word, which you've used not only to describe yourself but to distance yourself from people you feel are still clueless by comparison ("Sad that the worshiping left isn't clued in yet and a new generation is about to get snookered"). Sorry, but that looks like a textbook example of Duncan's characterization of "it marks you out as a bold independent thinker...unlike the knee-jerk minions of Chomsky's vast power." I'm glad to hear you say your choice of that word was far too strong for what you felt, but what you don't recognize is that it's also far too strong a word to apply to millions of people who don't agree with you--and that throwing it around as freely as you have is exactly the kind of psychologizing you say you find so offensive. If you don't like it, you can be pretty sure other people won't either.

For what it's worth, I disagree with Chomsky on left strategy as well, but I don't go from there to assigning him "a good portion of the blame for surrender of the state to a kleptocracy", dismissing him as good for nothing, calling him "the kind of radical only a ruling class could love", etc etc. What you're saying now is much more reasonable and less hyperbolic, but Duncan was responding to your initial comment.

Too bad no one cited that Guardian article upthread — could have saved you a line.

I always feel uncomfortable when the Judas goat/gatekeeper label is applied to anyone much to the left of Michael Moore, because these aren't positions that win popular support or financial well-being. As influential as Chomsky is on the Anglophone left, most of the population probably hasn't even heard of him, and the corporate media dismiss him as a joke.

I am getting used to being disappointed by the positions of people I used to implicitly trust. It's part of growing up, I guess, something that should have happened for me a long time ago. But it doesn't mean I can't learn things from them still.

As far as strategy, Chomsky, throughout his career, has largely leaned away from making specific recommendations as to actions, to the annoyance of many people, and Goodman is a newscaster (and weekly opinion columnist). Even with Chomsky's election-time lesser-evilism, I feel like you're overstating their responsibility.

It might improve your discussion to say more about what you envision as a successful strategy, or at least who you agree with who has already said it.

"Conversion and zealotry, just like revelation and apostasy, are flip sides of the same coin, the currency of a political culture having more in common with religion than rational discourse. A rite of passage for apostates peculiar to U.S. political culture is bashing Noam Chomsky. It's the political equivalent of a bar mitzvah, a ritual signaling that one has "grown up" - i.e., grown out of one's "childish" past. It's hard to pick up an article or book by ex-radicals - Gitlin's Letters to a Young Activist, Paul Berman's Terror and Liberalism… - that doesn't include a hysterical attack on him. Behind this venom there's also a transparent psychological factor at play. Chomsky mirrors their idealistic past as well as sordid present, an obstinate reminder that they once had principles but no longer do, that they sold out but he didn't. Hating to be reminded, they keep trying to shatter the glass. He's the demon from the past that, after recantation, no amount of incantation can exorcise."

http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/article.php?pg=4&ar=6


''It is the East, and Obama is the sun''

Haha, that's *perfect*.


@HillOfBullshit,

If you found "The state is evil, dont participate except for an anguished, reluctant vote for the Democrats every two or 4 years" in Chomsky, it's your comprehension that's the problem. Chomsky has quite simply never suggested anything remotely like that as a political program.

Cites, or the highway.

Thanks, Smitty (my original working title was "Like Romeo critically supported Juliet", but that didn't quite capture the relationship...).

Earth: Actually HillOfBeans' description of Chomsky's position is close to the reality, though "anguished" is completely wrong:

CHOMSKY: ...[T]he election is a marginal affair, it should not distract us from the serious work of changing the society, and the culture and the institutions, creating a democratic culture. That’s what you work on. [...] So the main thing is keep on with your work. You can’t ignore it. You should spend five minutes, maybe, thinking about what you should do. In that five minutes, you should recognize there is some difference between the two groups contending for power, and one of them happens to be really extremist, and very dangerous, and it's already caused plenty of trouble and could cause plenty more. The other is bad, but less extremist and less dangerous. So in that five minutes that you devote to the topic, you should come to the rational conclusion, if it's a swing state, keep the worst guys out. If it's another state, do what you feel like. It’s the same thing I said in 2000 during the five minutes of time I spent on it.
That's not anguish but dismissiveness, but it's true that Chomsky subscribes to lesser-evilism (incorrectly, in my view) and safe state voting. He does say elsewhere that he voted for Nader in 2000/2004 and voted Green in 2008, by the way.

StO: Even with Chomsky's election-time lesser-evilism, I feel like you're overstating their responsibility.

Agreed—neither Chomsky nor Amy Goodman have any meaningful level of influence over U.S. elections. The closest you could come on the left would be Michael Moore, and even there I don't think he has much.

jcapan: Thanks for the quote, which shows that Finkelstein was in fact talking about (ex-)radicals, many of whom are still of the ostensible left. He's taking it in a different direction—pragmatists scorning an idealist vs. purists attacking a heretic (savor the irony)—but the point about a "rite of passage" applies in both cases. On the purist side it's the rite of passage of denouncing Chomsky as a worthless hypocrite who's really just a servant/enabler, conscious or otherwise, of the institutions he appears to be criticizing (Israel, the military, The State, etc). And the vehemence of the attack often mirrors the strength of the original devotion—"Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned", as the poet said. This is not at all to say that all left criticism of Chomsky fits this description, but when you see someone going nuclear on him I think there's usually some of this in play.

I never thought much of Chomsky myself because he was a zionist. That said I also never "got" all the attention he got on the left. Not too insightful or charismatic. I suppose he gets bandied about so much because he won a nobel.

John, your point is well-taken about how my original remarks could have given offense. I apologize. I don't, however, think that gives Duncan's or your immediate follow-ups more substance and they were certainly more unappetizingly personal.

This discussion began with discussion of Moore's support for Obama. My original point was that Chomsky's grudging support for Obama and Moore's gushing support lead to the same place. As I made clear in my follow-ups, his periodic endorsement of neoliberals is only one of the things I fault him for. One amusing highlight was his participation in the red-baiting/anti-Semite baiting of New York's antiwar movement in 2002/2003.

John, we also don't agree on Chomsky's influence. Left-wing icons help determine left-wing action. If Chomsky doesn't have influence, we might as well all pack it in and dedicate ourselves to gardening. Voting is only one area in which he has influence.

I am glad someone put in Finkelstein's actual quote whether or not they think it damns me or not. Clearly, it doesn't. Perhaps, John, you can read the whole article. You're of course at liberty to keep insisting that no one comes by disliking Chomsky by any route besides emotional and moral weakness, but please stop using an essay you haven't read to do it. I have misgivings about Chomsky AND also agree wholeheartedly with Finkelstein, not least for his spot-on diagnosis of politics is religion in America. Duncan's frothing response to my apostasy, your ridicule and insistent psychologizing, and random asshattery like calling me 'HillofBullshit' and demanding 'Cites or the highway' make the point loud and clear. Chomsky's political puritanism along with the tendency to make him into some infallible saint feeds this kind of crap which saps left advocacy of anything remotely resembling camaraderie or fun. For the record, I am not of the 'ostensible left'. I am a non-sectarian radical and happily unknown. That immunizes me from Finkelstein's critique.

I am fortunate to live within a 20 minute subway ride of Zucotti Park and among the things I like about this new movement is that there is clearly a collective effort to bring joy and fellowship back into class struggle. Maybe that's why I found Chomsky's joyless, occasionally stupid droning at Occupy Boston so particularly disheartening and also why I find myself spending less and less time on blogs like this.

"It might improve your discussion to say more about what you envision as a successful strategy, or at least who you agree with who has already said it."

I'm kind of hesitant to to do that in an environment where parsing the difference between "anguished support" and "dismissive support" counts as rebuttal, where people think Chomsky's lack of concrete impact actually speaks against, rather than to my point and where I have already been renounced as self-serving and emotionally broken.

In rough outlines, I reject Chomsky's overall compliance with state power and his unwillingness to play collegially with anyone but neoliberals. Infer a strategy from that Duncan can drop by and fill in the details with a caricature and a psychological profile.

I think the consensus process of OWS might yield something akin to what I want, which is probably why the sectarian failure junkies hate it so much.

You're of course at liberty to keep insisting that no one comes by disliking Chomsky by any route besides emotional and moral weakness....

This is what I actually said: "This is not at all to say that all left criticism of Chomsky fits this description" (and "this description" was nothing like your rendition either). Why pretend otherwise? That's of a piece with things like "Chomsky's political puritanism along with the tendency to make him into some infallible saint"; I don't see how lesser-evilism makes Chomsky a puritan (it seems to me just the opposite), and the "infallible saint" bit just reiterates your original swipe at the worshiping left who haven't clued in to Chomsky like you have. It's hard to have a worthwhile discussion when you're arguing against such distorted versions of what people--Chomsky included--are saying.

I also don't see how you square your desire for "joy and fellowship" with sneering at the worshiping left/fanboys/sectarian failure junkies who haven't clued in yet, tossing a "fuck them all" at people like Chomsky and Amy Goodman who've dedicated their lives to social causes, and so on. And in scanning your old comments under this and other aliases I see you've also thrown out a "fuck Nader" and declared that you hate him (and others), called Jeremy Scahill a namby-pamby tool, etc. You embody every single thing you've claimed to dislike so much, from the psychologizing right through to the vicious sectarianism. Maybe instead of ranting about the mote in everyone else's eye you should do something about the beam in your own.

As you said above, "It's genuinely sad to watch, and one of the things that most makes me want to give up on the left entirely."

And a Chomsky quote about the division in the anarchist movement, which could stand in for those on the left writ large:

"I think the main criticism of the anarchist movement is that it just ought to get its act together and accept divisions and controversies. You know, we don't have the answers to -- we have, maybe, guidelines as to what kind of a society we'd like, not specific answers; nobody knows that much. And there's certainly plenty of range -- of room for quite healthy and constructive disagreement on choice of tactics and priorities and options, but I just see too little of that being handled in a comradely, civilized fashion, with a sense of solidarity and common purpose."

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