Hello, and welcome to Sunday evening's open thread.
This week, supposedly progressive author and blogger Rebecca Solnit decided to join the ranks of all those centrists wagging their fingers, and tongues, at progressives who insist on not pretending that the Obama Administration doesn't do things like kill thousands of civilians in Pakistan and illegally detain prisoners without due process.
She thinks that people who say and write things like this piece in The Atlantic are out of line:
I don't see how anyone who confronts Obama's record with clear eyes can enthusiastically support him. I do understand how they might concluded that he is the lesser of two evils, and back him reluctantly, but I'd have thought more people on the left would regard a sustained assault on civil liberties and the ongoing, needless killing of innocent kids as deal-breakers.
According to Ms. Solnit, in an essay that can be found, among other places, at Common Dreams, the "Dismal Left" is harshing the Democratic Party's buzz:
O rancid sector of the far left, please stop your grousing! Compared to you, Eeyore sounds like a Teletubby. If I gave you a pony, you would not only be furious that not everyone has a pony, but you would pick on the pony for not being radical enough until it wept big, sad, hot pony tears. Because what we’re talking about here is not an analysis, a strategy, or a cosmology, but an attitude, and one that is poisoning us. Not just me, but you, us, and our possibilities.
My response to Ms. Solnit is something along these lines: Bite me.
Thankfully, others have invested a bit more time and thought into their responses. I refer you specifically to emptywheel, who takes out the red pen and calls out (among other things) Solnit's hypocrisy:
She has called or implied her audience is “dismal,” “rancid,” “Eeyore,” “snarky,” “poison[ing],” “sour” “complainers,” “kvetchers,” “caustic,” “pile of bile,” She accuses her audience of “bitch[ing],” “pound[ing] down,” “habitual[ly] tearing down,” engaging in “recreational bitterness.” She disdainfully labels the “lesser of two evils” metaphor a cliché, but then informs her readers that, “when you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail”–and that’s just one of her many clichés. And all that’s before she accuses her audience of asking that “Che Guevara give them a spa pedicure.” She calls other people snarky?
Given the way she attacks her audience, I find it hard to believe that Solnit didn’t see the irony when she suggests we “thrive in this imperfect moment [ ] through élan, esprit de corps, fierce hope, and generous hearts.”
A somewhat less, um, bitchy, if equally spot-on, reaction by VOTS' own Cassiodorus can be found here:
In Solnit's argument there is a presupposition of a "progressive" trend, a trend that isn't present in the economics of the day. Whereas in earlier eras an expanding capitalism was compatible with "progressivism," in this era a capitalism in decline works against everything we know and love, and so campaigning for the better defenders of the capitalist system (e.g. Obama) has become an exercise in futility.
This futility has become self-evident, and so one might argue that a "dismal left" has arisen to complain about it. Solnit's complaint about the complainers, then, appears as a nostalgic wish that we return to the attitudes of an earlier era of expanding capitalism in which "progressivism" was compatible with the capitalist status quo.
In short, Ms. Solnit, you are not only barking up the wrong tree, you are barking up the wrong tree while holding the wrong end of the stick, and you're being damned sanctimonious and obnoxious about it. Objecting to the slaughter of innocent civilians and the undermining of the US Constitution by the President and those who work for him makes me "rancid"? I'm just a "kvetcher"? Really?
Shame on you.
So, how was your week?