January 18, 2005

“We Can’t Get Bogged Down in Analysis”

Back in the day when I still thought of myself as a dissident liberal instead of a swing-voting Independent with rightish tendencies at the top of my list, I was surprised at how many of my old comrades on the left thought that because I favored regime-change in Iraq (something I supported long before I even knew George W. Bush existed) I was somehow, all of a sudden, a Republican. What the hell? I was genuinely baffled. Why couldn’t I just be a liberal hawk? I understood perfectly well that anti-war liberals thought the liberal hawk position was a noxious one. But I couldn’t understand why others couldn’t grasp that liberal hawks even existed. A liberal hawk is no more a “conservative” than a pro-choice Republican is a “liberal.”

“Conservative Democrat” and “Liberal Republican” are, perhaps, fair designations for party members who wander off the reservation. But no one ever thought to lob “conservative Democrat” in my direction instead of something along the lines of “Republican shill,” “Republican hack,” “fascist neocon,” or what have you. I might have accepted “conservative Democrat,” even though actual conservative Democrats like Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman make me cringe with their sanctimonious moralizing and bombast. I’ll take the liberal blue-state Republicanism of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rudy Giuliani any day over the so-called liberalism of those two.

I finally figured out that the war in Iraq had nothing to do with anything, really. It was a lightning rod for something else. I should have known all along what it was. I had experienced it in the past.

Back in 2000 I watched the election results in Portland’s fanciest hotel, The Benson, where the president of the United States (whoever he happens to be at the time) stays when he rolls into town. I was there with my friend Sean LaFreniere. We were Democrats and this was where the Democratic Party had its election night headquarters. So we felt right at home, even though both Sean and I voted for Ralph Nader as a protest vote against the mind-bogglingly irritating Al Gore and Joe Lieberman. (Since then Gore turns me off even more, if such a thing is possible, and I’ve come to have some margin of respect for Joe Lieberman, who still generally raises my hackles for many of the usual reasons.)

Anyway, as the election results came in Sean made an utterly innocuous comment about Ralph Nader: “It looks like he’s doing pretty good in Madison (Wisconsin).” This was overheard by a woman sitting next to us who exploded with instant and frightening volcanic rage. Spittle flew. Her face became red. She actually raised her fists. She screamed. God, she must have screamed herself hoarse.

It was quite a scene, let me tell you. I thought for sure that others in the room would come to Sean’s and my defense. But I was still pretty naïve about politics then. We faced a hostile mob. These were well-dressed professionals in the swankiest hotel in the entire state of Oregon, trembling with rage and shouting “Fuck You,” “Get Out,” and threatening physical violence if we didn’t comply. A photographer from The Oregonian was there (and he was on the clock, too) and he came to our defense. I thought it was a bit brave and rather interventionist for a man who was supposed to be a neutral journalistic observer. But that’s how bad it was.

Sean and I were successfully driven out. We were both shaken, and neither of us have had any affection for the Democrats since. Both of us at that time would have described ourselves as farther to the left than 90 percent of Americans. Yet we agreed that the Democratic Party, at least its active core, reeked with a palpable Stalinism. We were “traitors,” “objectively pro-Bush” since our votes for the leftist candidate were actually “votes for” the right-wing. I’m still shocked five years later at how much we were hated by total strangers in a place where people were expected to behave at their absolute best.

I am aware that it was Sean and I who were dabbling in the fringe politics of the left, rather than the so-called liberal mob at the hotel. And so perhaps it was slightly silly for us to think of those people as reeking of Stalinism. Their opinions were in all liklihood far more moderate than ours. But that’s how it felt at the time. They didn’t act remotely like moderates. We were infinitely more tolerant of our own differences with them than the other way round. Otherwise we would not have joined them with what started out as good cheer. If Sean and I had expressed some sort of nasty communistic International ANSWER-like opinions in public, maybe I could have understood their fierce denunciations. But we weren’t lunatic crackpots or freaks. We were just unhappy liberals who didn’t think much of either Al or George W.

It didn’t make any difference that Sean and I said we were registered Democrats, that we agreed with the core principles of the Democratic Party, that our vote for Nader was a protest against a pathetic gasbag of a candidate rather than an endorsement of his opponent or anything “right-wing.” What we believed and cared about was irrelevant. Only our actions mattered. This makes sense on some level, since action and results really do matter more than thoughts and intentions. Still, these people could not accept us as a part of their group in good standing because we had behaved incorrectly and gave “aid and comfort” to “the enemy.”

The same sort of thing happened in the runup to the war in Iraq. My support for the war may have been made on liberal grounds, but it gave “aid and comfort” to the Republican Party. Hysterical denunciations commenced. (I wasn’t kind to anti-war lefties then, and to this day I still don’t go easy on those who can’t show a little integrity, unlike Matthew Yglesias, Todd Gitlin, and Matt Welch who do have some integrity. I accept that I was asking for it at least to an extent. If I send out bad vibes to a group of people, I shouldn’t expect hugs in return - and I don’t.)

Anyway, it finally clicked, what separated me from the left-wing herd for many years even before 911. So many of them are activists. I’m not – not in any way shape or form whatsoever. I’m a book-reader, an intellectual, and a writer. I’m interested in history and ideas. They are interested in activism and power. You can’t tell an activist that Al Gore is a blowhard and a phony, or that Saddam Hussein ran a filthy regime that had no right to exist. These ideas are important to intellectuals, yet they are obstacles to activists. These ideas, whether they’re true or not, help the Republican Party. Therefore, to an activist, anyone who points them out must want to help the Republican Party. Otherwise, why do it? They certainly wouldn’t. It flies in the face of their job description.

My friend and editor (at the LA Weekly) Marc Cooper is a leftist intellectual. He likewise isn’t an activist, at least in part because he has many years of bad experiences with them under his belt. He links to an essay in Lip Magazine by Doug Henwood, Lisa Featherstone, and Christian Parenti, also left intellectuals, who butt heads with the same (literally) mindless beast.
"WE CAN'T GET BOGGED DOWN IN ANALYSIS," one activist told us at an antiwar rally in New York a while back, spitting out that last word like a hairball. He could have relaxed his vigilance. This event deftly avoided such bogs, loudly opposing the US bombing in Afghanistan without offering any credible ideas about it (we're not counting the notion that the entire escapade was driven by Unocal and Lockheed Martin). But the moment called for doing something more than brandishing the exact same signs—Stop the Bombing and No War for Oil—that activists poked skyward during the first Gulf War. This latest war called for some thinking, and few were doing much of that.

So what is the ideology of the activist left (and by that we mean the global justice, peace, media democracy, community organizing, financial populist and green movements)? Is the activist left just an inchoate "post-ideological" mass of do-gooders, pragmatists and puppeteers? No. The young troublemakers of today do have an ideology and it is as deeply felt and intellectually totalizing as any of the great belief systems of yore. The cadres who populate those endless meetings, who bang the drum, who lead the "trainings" and paint the puppets, do indeed have a creed. They are activistists.

That's right, activistists. This brave new ideology combines the political illiteracy of hypermediated American culture with all the moral zeal of a 19th-century temperance crusade. In this worldview, all roads lead to more activism and more activists. And the one who acts is righteous. The activistists seem to borrow their philosophy from the factory boss in a Heinrich Böll short story who greets his employees each morning with the exhortation "Let's have some action." To which the workers obediently reply: "Action will be taken!"…

How does activist anti-intellectualism manifest on the ground? One instance is the reduction of strategy to mere tactics, to horrible effect. Take for example the largely failed San Francisco protest against the National Association of Broadcasters, an action that ended up costing tens of thousands of dollars, gained almost no attention, had no impact on the NAB and nearly ruined one of the sponsoring organizations. During a postmortem discussion of this debacle one of the organizers reminded her audience that: "We had 3,000 people marching through [the shopping district] Union Square protesting the media. That's amazing. It had never happened before." Never mind the utter non-impact of this aimless march. The point was clear: We marched for ourselves. We were our own targets. Activism made us good.
Such people may not wish to get “bogged down in analysis.” But that only means they’ll get bogged down in something else, something worse: a reactionary anti-intellectual quagmire. If dissidents are democracy’s anti-toxins, deliberately brainless reactionaries are its toxins. They’re also thugs, and about as much fun to hang out with as fundamentalist religious fanatics and book-burners.

Marc Cooper writes in his own comments section in defense of yet another disgruntled leftist who posts there named Josh:

I personally find Josh's postings to be quite authentic and heartfelt. Do they reflect a certain amount of resentment and disillusionment? Yes. So what? He's entitled to feel that. It's extremely difficult to maintain normal personal relationships with hyper-activsists--- the atmosphere leaves little room for doubt or nuance. Perhaps someone should ask Josh what it was in his personal experience that generated so much hostiltity toward the Lefties he once worked with. And then after you ask, you might actually listen. Personally, I can’t think of anything worse than spending a Friday night in a dreary meeting with preachy self-righteous activists. About 20 years ago I ceased that practice. And then about 8 years ago I found it was TOO painful to even attend those meetings as the invited speaker (I would always regret having pissed away a perfectly good evening). And for the last 5 years I try to avoid those functions even as a reporter... I can only watch people twinkle with their fingers so many times before full nausea sets in.

I dunno..my wife is a Chilean Socialist and feels pretty much the same way about those sort of meetings. And my daughther, the infamous union organizer, was probably turned off for life by the BS she experienced as a member of small campus-based “Progressive Student Alliance" during the run-up to the Iraq War. Indeed, that's one reason she went into the unions-- to escape into the real world and flee from the sectarian grupuscle wanking off that dominates activist politics.

A healthy democracy really does need its dissidents. And dissidents need to be active. It’s not always enough to write books, articles, and blog posts.

Perhaps my endorsement of the invasion of Iraq really was a stupid idea. Believe me, I wonder sometimes. I’ve been wrong about foreign policy before, and I’m bound to be wrong again. I like and need to have smart people who think I’m wrong tell me where I’ve gone off the rails. That’s why I read the likes of Marc Cooper and Matthew Yglesias. An echo chamber is an invisible mind prison. I’ll pass on that, thanks. I wish more people felt the same way.

UPDATE: See also Bravo Romeo Delta at Anticipatory Retaliation: "I wish, I do wish, that the Democratic Party would expel this particular kidney stone - I prefer living in a two party system. Not a system of one party and one rabble of the outraged."

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 18, 2005 10:28 PM
Comments

Over a thousand of dead people on our side, thousands of deaths of innocent Iraqis, an election shaping up to be more of a sham and chaos than anything concrete, and all you can get out of that is "I wonder sometimes". Come on, man, think.

Posted by: Oliver at January 18, 2005 10:53 PM

Great post. Thanks for going beyond the talking points.

Posted by: Mark Poling at January 18, 2005 10:55 PM

Thanks Michael, a thoughtful piece that resonates with any of us who have seen ourselves end up not quite pure enough for our "activistist" friends. It's a weird feeling. Typical that the first post in response is from self-righteous Oliver.

Posted by: miklos rosza at January 18, 2005 11:12 PM

So, you agree that the left's activists are the product of "the political illiteracy of hypermediated American culture [combined] with all the moral zeal of a 19th-century temperance crusade". Stupid, unfair, uninformed, and insulting, but let's not quibble. You decide to reject all that is Left because some woman yelled at you for voting for Nader, and you run to the side of ... the most anti-intellectual, poorly informed mass of bigoted, frightened humanity that ever got the name of a political party, the GOP? Okay, they have better funding and so can pay for think tanks. (Perhaps that's why the Left focuses on grassroots activism - we can't afford the Wurlitzer.) They put a patina of research papers over it, but still, they're the party of xenophobia, prejudice, and privilege. You think you traded up?

P.S. - Perhaps my endorsement of the invasion of Iraq really was a stupid idea.

Go with that thought.

Posted by: Mithras at January 18, 2005 11:20 PM

A healthy democracy really does need its dissidents.

Is this true? Certainly there should differences of opinion, and in a free society there will always be such: people are simply too diverse to agree on everything. But dissidents? Communists, Nazis, do we need these folks? Thoreau, I can make an exception for. John Brown? That's an iffier proposition. But these folks who are fundamentally undemocratic in outlook and in their desire for power, do we really need them?

Posted by: chuck at January 18, 2005 11:21 PM

Oliver, many times in history have many more thousands of lives been been spent in conflicts that everyone now agrees were in the service of the greater good.

Why exactly isn't Iraqi democracy (shaky as it may be early on) worth the price we (and the Iraqi population) are all paying?

Be specific, please.

Posted by: Mark Poling at January 18, 2005 11:26 PM

the most anti-intellectual, poorly informed mass of bigoted, frightened humanity that ever got the name of a political party, the GOP?

Ah, the enlightenend Left.

Makes the Ku Klux Klan look nuanced.

Posted by: Mark Poling at January 18, 2005 11:29 PM

Sorry for the mess in the previous two comments. Preview is my undeservedly neglected friend.

Posted by: Mark Poling at January 18, 2005 11:39 PM

Mithras: the most anti-intellectual, poorly informed mass of bigoted, frightened humanity that ever got the name of a political party, the GOP?

Who are you calling a bigot?

My liberal journalist friend Steve Silver just sent me an email that included, in part, the following. I can back up with experience what he said about Jessica and Karol:

[Y]ou touched on something interesting when you mentioned being at dinner where everyone voted for Bush. I've gotten to know a lot of the New York right-leaning bloggers (Karol, Jessica, etc.), who I think you met while in the city, and they're some of the nicest people I've ever met, and completely accepting of me even though they know I'm a Democrat and voted for Kerry. I don't know that I could say the same thing about most Democratic/anti-Bush activists I know. Especially that night I mentioned when we watched the presidential debate, when they were having good-natured arguments with me, while the Democrats in the room were running up to the black guy and saying "how can you be a Republican?"
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 19, 2005 12:07 AM

a couple of voices from the other side might help make sense of why the 'activistists' ... did i get the word right? ... do what they do.
lee harris wrote an essay in policy review a couple of years back on 'al qaeda's fantasy ideology.' he saw a parallel to al qaeda in a friend who planned to take part in a disruptive protest of the vietnam war. harris objected that the protest was not likely to have the desired effect:
' ... his answer was that even if it was counterproductive, even if it turned people against war protesters, indeed even if it made them more likely to support the continuation of the war, he would still participate ... because, it was, in his words, good for his soul.
'what i saw as a political act was not, for my friend, any such thing. it was not aimed at altering the minds of other people or persuading them to act differently. its whole point was what it did FOR HIM.'
and there was eric hoffer's classic observation in 'the true believer' ... how did he put it? ... that communists, fascists and other extremists didn't march because they believed in the cause, they believed in the cause because they were marching.

Posted by: greeneyeshade at January 19, 2005 12:16 AM

"I finally figured out that the war in Iraq had nothing to do with anything, really."

Better late than never, I suppose.

On a slightly (but only slightly) less snarky note:

"It didn’t make any difference that Sean and I said we were registered Democrats(...) Only our actions mattered."

The last sentence is right. In a solid Gore state, a vote for Nader was a protest (legitimate in my opinion). In a swingstate, a vote for Nader was a vote for Bush (that is don't vote for Nader unless you were okay with a Bush win).
And anyone who thought there was no qualitative difference between the two (no matter which you preferred) is a fool - this includes Nader, if he really believed that). But enough ancient history.

"You can’t tell an activist that Al Gore is a blowhard and a phony"

An activist is more likely than most to realize that any nationally known politician is a blowhard and a phony. The current system precludes any other option. The question is which phony blowhard will support and enact better policy. I thought that Kerry (though I intensely disliked him for many reasons) would be better policy-wise than Bush (who in the right circumstances is probably a lot more fun to hang out with) and so I voted for Kerry. A minority opinion as it turned out, so now we'll get four more years of what we've had so far.

"or that Saddam Hussein ran a filthy regime that had no right to exist"

No argument from me, the question is in a world filled with filthy regimes that have no right to exist, why pick that one for invasion and occupation?
In a pseudo-war against Islamic radicalism, why invade and occupy one of the most aggressively secular Arab regimes and so so in a way to strengthen Islamic radicals (at least in the short term)?

Posted by: Michael Farris at January 19, 2005 12:19 AM

Michael Farris: the question is in a world filled with filthy regimes that have no right to exist, why pick that one for invasion and occupation?

Because we had to start somewhere in the reforming of the Middle East, and Saddam was far and away the nastiest ruler of them all.

Saudi Arabia is also a gigantic problem, but transforming a Wahhabi society into a democracy is surely less likely to succeed at this time.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 19, 2005 12:33 AM

No argument from me, the question is in a world filled with filthy regimes that have no right to exist, why pick that one for invasion and occupation?

This could be asked at any time with anyone chosen - it should be a non-issue. If you choose to act you have to start somewhere. If both your right and left eyes have cataracts you only get one operated on at a time. If you do the left does everyone call you wrong because "why didn't you start with the right eye - it has cataracts too"?

In a pseudo-war against Islamic radicalism, why invade and occupy one of the most aggressively secular Arab regimes and so so in a way to strengthen Islamic radicals (at least in the short term)?

There is actually a well thought out reason for this. You may or may not agree with it but until it is tested someplace we can only argue about it. Several essential reasons. First is that we don't care so much about short term as long term, short term safety can be bought with money and time but can't be sustained for long periods of time (that should be true for all of us - pro-war or not). Second, Iraq was one of the easiest targets to overrun. Thirdly it is easier to convince a secular mostly Muslim dictatorship than a fundamentalist sharia law country to instititute a secular democracy (they are still muslim and already accept secularism to a decent degree). Fourthly it is better to have the terrorist high profile attacking the military instead of hiding and plotting against civilians (this should also be regardles of your stance on the war).

If it works - other Muslims see a secular democratic middle eastern society (that is mostly muslim) and want it on their own it will totally transform the region for the better - I say this because that is the ultimate goal. If it fails we get a 500:1 (or better) kill ratio of terrorist and several years of thier entire focus on a country besides ourself (from our point of view Iraq can't be any worse so we trade soldiers lifes for a few years of domestic peace and killing quite a few terrorist. Being that I do not live in Iraq I can only speculate if it could be worse if you live there so I will not comment). The vast majority of soldiers I have known would take those chances because of the possible outcomes, YMMV if it is worth it if it fails - if it succedes I can not see how you would think it is not worth it. Iran, Syria, etc would be MUCH more difficult to achieve this, a democratic free Iraq means that we may only need to support dissidents or threaten dictators (after all, the threat of removing you from power by any means neccesary has much more wieght when you have recently succesfully done so elsewhere).

Posted by: strcpy at January 19, 2005 12:45 AM

"Back in the day when I still thought of myself as a dissident liberal instead of a swing-voting Independent with rightish tendencies at the top of my list, I was surprised at how many of my old comrades on the left"

I notice that political affiliation (or rather lack thereof) is a very identifying theme for you. As a regular reader of your exceptional weblog, I can recall, several times you making references to your old halcyon days 'on the left', referring to yourself and similiars as 'disgruntled lefty types' and something to the effect of 'people like me become neoconservatives' and now referring to yourself in the present as an 'Independent with rightish tendencies'

Since your weblog has been concentrated primarily on foreign affairs and foreign policy issues; diverting to domestic issues to highlight exremism and political tribalism only secondarily, I must ask what makes you think of yourself as a Rightish Independent rather than a dissident Liberal, or even just a Liberal hawk?

From what I can tell, your decision to vote for President Bush was primarily singular in issue, and the only defection from voting for a Democratic congress; unless I'm mistaken, you seem to hold liberal views when it comes to the rights of homosexuals and the freedom to terminate a pregnancy; you paint (liberal) Joe Lieberman in a negatively conservative light, not unlike 'Progressives' and their chattering of 'GOP Joe' (this could just be due to a misconception about the man however, especially in light of your praise of Giuliani and the Governator). If I recall correctly, you even once stated that FDR was your favorite president ( a vote you would cast, seldom accompanied in most 'Rightish' circles I can assure you)

Unless I'm missing the blog entry where you complain about poor kids getting food stamps because too many of them are overweight already, I fail to see, at least from this weblog, the transformation of someone who once voted for Ralph Nader to someone who could seriously threaten to get all neocon on your ass.

I'm not challenging your independentness and truly I know nothing about you or your politics to pass such judgements; but if I were to categorize you, I would categorize your 'rightish tendencies' as merely supporting aggressive, interventionist foreign policy favoring confrontation rather than containment; someone who has his head on straight about the evils of communism and the danger of religous extremism.

Based on the admittedly limited knowledge I have about your domestic political views, I would still put you around and probably to the left of myself and similiars who would refer to ourselves as 'liberals' in the anglospheric, social democratic sense.

In other words, your a liberal hawk :-)

But of course, you're whatever you want to be.

Just my unasked for opinion.

Posted by: Epitome at January 19, 2005 12:56 AM

> Because we had to start somewhere in the
> reforming of the Middle East, and Saddam was
> far and away the nastiest ruler of them all.

And that's only the beginning. Saddam's regime was the fulcrum for the geopolitical forces behind 9/11. Note, this is not at all the same thing as saying Saddam was behind 9/11. No evidence for that. But some points are inarguable:

Bin Laden's main cause is to drive US soldiers out of Saudi Arabia. His secondary causes (or rather, the causes that he cynically exploited, to gain Muslim sympathy) were the suffering of the Palestinians and the Iraqis.

But why were US soldiers in Saudi Arabia? To contain Saddam. Why are Palestinians suffering? Because Israel was unwilling to engage in peace negotiations, so long as Hamas terrorists kept attacking their civilians-- terrorists who were, again, financed by Saddam. Why were Iraqis suffering? Well, you know, Saddam.

Therefore, the only way to remove bin Laden's main causes and their galvanizing force-- without seeming to acquiesce to his demands, that is-- was to remove Saddam.

Also, speaking of Wahhabism, perhaps the only way to forcefully pressure the Saudis to curb their exportation of that Al Qaeda-primer version of Islam is to remove the Saudi's monopoly power over Middle Eastern oil. Which, again, requires the removal of Saddam and the restoration of its oil production infrastructure.

Now all of this may or may not lead to the conclusion that taking out Saddam when we did, in the manner it was done, was the right choice. That's a debate we can have, and will have, in the next few years. But the thing is-- to bring this all back to Michael's latest post-- I suspect most anti-war liberals are not even aware of this argument, or the larger context which provokes it. They haven't even considered its existence. And this speaks to the fundamental, anti-intellectual unseriousness of most anti-war liberals (certainly the noisiest ones.) Ironically, it seems like a kind of bourgeois, bovine frivolity-- a hunger for comfort and avoidance of risk, an unwillingness to discuss uncomfortable choices between the lesser of many evils. And consequently coupled to that, an anger, a spitting rage, when others propose that they need to think beyond the alternatives that have been put before them.

Posted by: WJA at January 19, 2005 01:18 AM

Epitome: I must ask what makes you think of yourself as a Rightish Independent rather than a dissident Liberal, or even just a Liberal hawk?

I'm kinda sorta all of the above, depending on how I feel on any particular day. I'm really just an independent, the other labels are only qualifiers.

Unless I'm missing the blog entry where you complain about poor kids getting food stamps because too many of them are overweight already, I fail to see, at least from this weblog, the transformation of someone who once voted for Ralph Nader to someone who could seriously threaten to get all neocon on your ass.

I have never complained about food stamps, and I doubt I ever will. But I can still get all neocon on your ass. They don't complain about food stamps, either. Irving Kristol wrote that neoconservatives have made their peace with the welfare state. I'll take his word for it since I don't hear them griping about it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 19, 2005 01:26 AM

WJA: I suspect most anti-war liberals are not even aware of this argument, or the larger context which provokes it. They haven't even considered its existence.

I do believe that is correct.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 19, 2005 01:29 AM

Ah, Oliver Willis, partisan hack. Always an unoriginal thought. Thanks Oliver! Good night!

Posted by: Michael Hall at January 19, 2005 02:00 AM

Oliver says, "...an election shaping up to be more of a sham and chaos than anything concrete..."

What evidence do you have of this? Perhaps it's just a wish of yours?

Posted by: likwidshoe at January 19, 2005 02:14 AM

Brilliant, Michael, about activistists.

Please consider the 4 main quadrants of the Myers-Briggs personality tests (my memory from Please Understand Me): NT & NF for abstract (iNtuitive) thinkers and abstract feelers; SP & SJ for sensory (concrete) Ps (open ended) & Js (closure oriented). With about 25% of the people NT & NF; 75% SP & SJ.

The SJ concrete-closure folks are prolly more likely to be church goers, civic minded activists, PTA members, nuns and teachers. (NOT all Reps)

The SP concrete-open ended (messy desk) folks are more likely to value sexual liberation, and the freedom to do their own thing; and NASCAR. (NOT all Dems).

The Left, since before Stalin, took a wrong turn about empowerment of the "worker". They thought concentration of power, in the hands of a chosen (NF/ NT) elite, would be a paradise.

What workers really want is job security, and freedom of action off the job (clear tension there); and the ability to justify to themselves the feeling that they are good people, doing good. At least trying (Homer Simpson like?). ... [too long]

Today the Dems seek power for power's sake, NOT for results. The Clinton (/ Newt) Welfare Reform, presaged by Charles Murray's great Losing Ground, means US poverty is much less a real problem than ever before.

The Dem orgs, based on opposing unjust victimization, have pretty much succeeded in their original goal -- an end to excessive abuse. Now what? Frist, er, First Law of Bureaucracy -- always expand and grow.

Teach a man to fish, and he feeds himself ... but he still needs clothes and housing.
Offer him a job and you offer him -- civilization.
Tom Grey

The Dems need a Full Employment vision. Supporting employers, those (usually rich and greedy guys) who will hire more workers.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at January 19, 2005 02:59 AM

It's not a question of whether there "should" be dissident voices in a healthy democracy because differences of opinion are the natural state of things.

On many of the issues we face there simply is no objective means of measuring the rightness or wrongness of a certain point of view. One of the comments above refers to the deaths in Iraq of our military and civilians as definitive proof that being there is wrong. That is a subjective position. So is the point of view that those deaths are part of the cost and that, on balance, the sought after result is worth the cost.

So, as Michael so perfectly lays out, we will have differences, debate is valuable, but civility need not be the first casualty of our disagreements.

Personally I tend to tune out pretty quickly when the verbal tactics turn to "fuck you!". At that point we might as well be in a Monty Python skit:

"I'm here for an argument."

"No you're not."

"Yes, I am."

"No your're not."

and so on.

Posted by: too many steves at January 19, 2005 03:51 AM

The people at the hotel threw you out, MJT. Isn't the fact that they assumed that it's all about power indicative of, well, the fact that they assume it's all about power? You're trying to appeal to their desire to get things right when you argue for the inclusion of diverse points of view. But isn't it clear that they do not desire to get things right because they think that all that matters is might and nothing more? How many intellectuals on the left have been placed upon pedestals for trashing the concept of truth in moral deliberations? Marx, Foucault, etc.

An echo chamber is an invisible mind prison.

They can simply reply, "No, it's not; it's a disciplined force for change. You're trying to hoodwink us into believing there is some objective truth about morality. Well, nice try. This is all about who wins."

Instead of appealing to the desirability of getting things right, you should just continue to make your writings examples of excellent attempts to get things right via argument, analysis, facts, and evidence. Calling for intellectual diversity doesn't appeal to the mind numb to the value of truth. Keen use of evidence and argument, on the other hand, can - over time, and in some cases - compel such a mind to come to its senses.

Posted by: Jim at January 19, 2005 04:32 AM

I'm sure Matt Yglesias must be delighted that you credit him with possessing [i]some[/i] integrity.

And speaking of echo chambers, have you been to Mr. Simon's site lately? I fear your fine blog is in acute danger of going down the same road. Pointing out the idiosyncracies and contradictions of "the left" or liberals might be a worthwhile and even noble enterprise, but once the focus becomes too narrow and the wingers start to dominate the comments section, all you're doing is provide fodder for the freepers, who are not at all interested in rejuvenating liberalism.

Posted by: novakant at January 19, 2005 05:24 AM

See what I mean, MJT?

Posted by: Jim at January 19, 2005 06:03 AM

Michael, you remind me of the noted dissident Natan Sharansky, who himself, sees President Bush as a dissident. Sharansky's current book "The Case for Democracy" is a must-read for world dissidents. You also remind me of my friend who is a dissident against the idea of gayism by preferring to call himself homosexual.

That said, I personally see extreme "activists" from the Left and the Right exist at the same point of the political spectrum, both equally dislike dissidents.

By the way, it was a pleasure to meet you at dinner last Saturday nite in NYC. (I was the lone non-blogger who unfortunately had to leave before going to the blogger party)

Posted by: susan at January 19, 2005 06:07 AM

>I've gotten to know a lot of the New York right-leaning bloggers (Karol, Jessica, etc.), who I think you met while in the city, and they're some of the nicest people I've ever met, and completely accepting of me even though they know I'm a Democrat and voted for Kerry. I don't know that I could say the same thing about most Democratic/anti-Bush activists I know.

Gee, the people whose party controls every aspect of government are generous to the rest of us? Wow, we should all fall to our knees and weep with gratitude. I wonder how many of them would have been so accepting of Democrats back when Clinton was in power?

Posted by: pdf at January 19, 2005 06:20 AM

"Because we had to start somewhere in the reforming of the Middle East"

That sort of makes sense if you think you need military force and that the US has the power to 'reform' the Middle East irregardless of the wishes of the inhabitants).
But, why not start with a country like Tunisia, which has gone a large part of the distance toward being a secular civil society despite being surrounded (on land) by real considerable nastiness.
Some well-placed aid (dependent on transparency and accountability) and increased cultural/educational contacts would do Tunisia a world of good and not dangerously stretch your military and you'd have a good working model much sooner ... but that's me.

Posted by: Michael Farris at January 19, 2005 06:37 AM

"Ah, the enlightenend Left.
Makes the Ku Klux Klan look nuanced."

Actually, no. Left-wing radicals are not generally in the habit of pulling their enemies out of their houses in the middle of the night, castrating them and lynching them.

Posted by: Vanya at January 19, 2005 06:41 AM

Michael, this is absolutely your most perceptive post yet. I can't even do it justice it's so good. You've cut to the very essence of what made so many of us backlash against the Left. You're conclusion about intellectuals vs activists, also brilliant. The activists are in charge over there.

Yes, I know you're an "independent," but I still have high hopes for you.

Posted by: David at January 19, 2005 07:00 AM

My funniest Liberal moment came recently during a game of "Apples to Apples". In the game an adjective is revealed and players choose a card from their hand that most closely fits. The player who revealed the adjective then chooses their favorite card (and the person who threw that card gets a point). It's a pretty silly game.

It was one of our Democrat friend's turn and she pulled up "Patriotic", everyone threw cards and she went through them. There was "Elvis" (sorta patriotic), "Grand Canyon" (sorta patriotic), a few other things that were silly, and she finally came down to two cards. Which of these two would she choose. She put down "The Fourth of July" because while it was pretty patriotic, it wasn't as patriotic as the cards she chose: "Democrats"

Yes, she believes that Democrats are more patriotic than the Fourth of July.

I love Dogma.

Posted by: Ratatosk at January 19, 2005 07:16 AM

"Perhaps my endorsement of the invasion of Iraq really was a stupid idea. Believe me, I wonder sometimes."

Good, asking yourself if what your doing is the right thing is probably the best way to tell if your one of the extremists you describe in your post. I ask myself exactly the same thing from time to time.

Posted by: sam at January 19, 2005 07:25 AM

Left-wing radicals are not generally in the habit of pulling their enemies out of their houses in the middle of the night, castrating them and lynching them.

Right, they find the gulags or well-placed bombs to be more efficient.

Posted by: Jim at January 19, 2005 07:31 AM

Why exactly isn't Iraqi democracy (shaky as it may be early on) worth the price we (and the Iraqi population) are all paying?
Because America is less safe, the people who killed 3,000 Americans are on the loose. Terrorist attacks are up, and thanks to us screewing around in Iraq, its only a matter of time before we have another attack here on our soil. An Iraqi democracy would be nice, but I prefer less dead Americans.

As far as the integrity of the Iraqi election, I consider an election where candidates don't reveal themselves for fear of getting shot to be a bad thing, or one where ballots are being sold, or where some of the major cities look to become warzones, to be less than reassuring.

Posted by: Oliver at January 19, 2005 08:03 AM

Michael -

You may have written a better essay back down the road somewhere. If you have, I haven't read it yet.

Dissent for its own sake is indeed a hollow thing; the poster up above who felt compelled to remind everybody that the GOP is the party of bigotry is a snapshot of your politically illiterate actor in action...

The passion and fury of the sign wavers and drum beaters is built on the conventional wisdom that Republican/conservative... nah, strike that - that ANYONE outside the circle is a tool of dark reactionary forces, either 1) consciously, actively pursuing crass material gain at the expense of (insert downtrodden label here; the environment, minority ethnic groups, the poor, the third world brown people) or 2) too stupid to recognise their place as cogs in the corporate machine.

The dangerous thing about activists is that they stand ready and willing to crash the system simply for the rush of having made something happen. I wonder how many giant walking puppets were carried at the Bastille?

Dissenting against Big Brother in 1984 would be an noble thing. Problem is, it's not 1984 and G.W. Bush isn't Big Brother. In spite of the Right being Evil Incarnate we seem to continue to have elections on a regular basis. The dwindling fortunes of the Democrats aren't the product of Rovian mindrays or chemicals in MacDonald's SuperSized meals - it's the result of the Democrats' adherence to an ideological script overwhelming the actual purpose behind elections, which is to elect officeholders who serve the citizenry. Not rule.

I would propose that the election trends of the last thirty years demonstrate the true strength of a sound constitutional republic: the citizens have voted in their interest after weighing the ideas, messages, and individuals of the different parties seeking power and the result has been to place a majority in government that by and large believes in free markets and individual potential as the best hopes for a sustainable, successful society.

That word "sustainable" is important. In my opinion an integral component of intellectual interest is the tendency to seek ideal solutions. Where people are concerned there can never be an ideal - just a mechanism that works well enough to protect the community as a whole. By defining individual rights as trumping government power we have enjoyed over two hundred years of success as a nation. That a political division would seek to solve all problems is not necessarily a bad thing. That that same political division has evolved to equate contradiction with malevolent intent is - and that mindset has cost the Democrats dearly.

I support the war in Iraq because it is a battlefield in a larger war, and the necessity to fight the larger war is solidly in my personal interest. The jihadis care less about multinational corporations or JLo's buttcrack than they do that their existence under sharia has molded them to believe that they are victims of anyone who doesn't adhere to Islam. Yes, there are lots of odius regimes out there that could rate removal on mere principle - Zimbabwe, Sudan, etc, - but the organized international group actively engaged in attacks on our citizens right now happens to be the adherents of fundamentalist Islam who operate under various banners. They've published their version of Mein Kampf. They've executed their Pearl Harbor. We know who the main state supporters of the movement are and have set out to deal with them because it is in our interest to not be murdered. Even Hitler's camps were a soi-secret until after WW2; our enemy times their beheadings and bombings to ensure maximum exposure. And we are supposed to be intimidated?

They have no clue as to the character of the West... or of most Americans in particular. Dead is dead. Anything else is just public relations.

I don't see the Democrats as much of an intellectual franchise myself; the fading crop on the national stage seems to be in an implosion state. By becoming beholden to niche agendas in their quest for personal power they have marginalized themselves. Zell Miller was right.

They are arrived at 2005 with their electoral power reduced across the board. They obstruct or attack. They do not bring constructive critique. They damn a war that in the opinion of a majority of Americans must be won. And they sense that judicial fiat as a tool of legislation may have cost them more than they thought it would.

I'm no bigot. I like clean air. I've travelled enough to know that poverty breeds despair and that despair is the nuclear fuel for the reactors of despots. I also know that charity fails to cure poverty - the transfer of wealth for the best of intentions never solves long term problems. No, better to knock off chains and get out of the way of free peoples than to attempt to buy good will with sack lunches. I'll vote accordingly, thanks.

And Howard Dean is front runner for DNC chair. Gotta love it, eh?

Posted by: TmjUtah at January 19, 2005 08:06 AM

Michael,

Here are my thaughts; activists have a different 'calculous of voting.' I think of it this way, when deciding who you will vote for, it is a near impossibility that your vote could effect the outcome of any electon of large size, therefore, your vote should be the one which gives you the greatest personal satisfaction at the end of the day. This is the way I believe most individuals vote. However, now imagine that your vote either carried a large amount of swing because, let's say, you have a voice heard by a great many people. Or alternatively you think of yourself as more a piece of an unbreakable voting block which must all vote as one. This is the mind of the activist. Now you can see your priorities are altered. You must choose the 'optimal' candidate. Which is to say, if there are 3, and one has no chance to win then unless there is absolutely no difference whatsoever between the other two, then you must pick the one you prefer from amoung them.

Maybe I'm full of it... just the way I've thought about these things.

Posted by: semm at January 19, 2005 08:07 AM

Michael--

I used to participate in an Internet forum with a bunch of old high-school acquaintances. To call them "liberal" would be an understatement--"lunatic" isn't as polite, but it's closer to the truth.

Anyway, I used to frequently cite your writings on that forum, since you have some verifiable liberal street cred (Krauthammer, Hanson et al. were "Nazis" whom they refused to read seriously).

Know what happened? They came to hate you more than anyone else, even Krauthammer. Because you were a "poser." You were a "fascist in sheep's clothing." And for all the many, many times I cited you, they never once deigned to address a single point you made.

I don't know about you, Michael, but I'm done with asshats.

Posted by: Pete (Alois) at January 19, 2005 08:15 AM

Perhaps the Democrats have calcified into activistists precisely because they lose so many elections. If they had to answer for their actions, as all elected officials do, they might still be a viable party.

Posted by: Patricia at January 19, 2005 08:43 AM

I don't know about you, Michael, but I'm done with asshats.---Pete

Nothing more to say really.There is no longer any'objective'reason to debate,discuss,argue,cajole,implore,or otherwise communicate with these 'moral midgets'. They have,by their own deliberate actions,placed themselves'beyond the pale',and having bought the ticket must now ride to the end of the line.
I have no doubts that they will not care for the final destination,but they are an historical dead-end and won't be missed.

Posted by: dougf at January 19, 2005 08:54 AM

Good post. I see extremism as being independent of ideology. Whether one is an extremist is more a matter of temperament. One's politics can be hard right or hard left, but if you are willing to talk rationally about politics and avoid hysterics, you are not an extremist. OTOH, no matter what your politics are, if you will not listen to opposing views, shout down anyone who disagrees with you, refuse to look at evidence that contradicts your position, become angry with opponents for no reason other than the fact that they disagree with you, aggressively proselytize even when it's not appropriate to do so, you are a fanatic.

Posted by: Ben at January 19, 2005 09:19 AM

Great post, it provides an acute modern relevancy to Orwell's "Notes on Nationalism".

As the son of an Youngstown Democrat and a Long Island Republican I have grown up seeing strong opinions on either side, and when ever I began to list in one direction or the other I always had someone to give me perspective on the merits of the other side.

It is for that reason that I have no loyalties to anyone but myself, my country, my god, and those I care about. All things in life are viewed and judged through that prism. As a result I often find that I get a mix of conservatives and liberals whom share my same principles as I do.

It would be easier to pick a side and run with it, in theory at least that way I'd have a 50/50 shot at being right. However I find it impossible to "buy the whole package" that either side is selling. Because of that I am a traitor, and am villified for having such disparate opinions as I do. For that reason I very much get the point Michael is trying to get across.

I don't know why but ndividuals whom might on any other occasion act completely rational, seem to lose their mind when placed together with many other like minded individuals. I think it was George Carlin who once said "it's not people I hate, it's groups of people." Enough said.

Posted by: Mike at January 19, 2005 09:25 AM

tmjUtah -

Nice essay yourself. Very eloquently put. I hope others read through the whole thing.

Posted by: Mike at January 19, 2005 09:41 AM

Vanya - " Left-wing radicals are not generally in the habit of pulling their enemies out of their houses in the middle of the night, castrating them and lynching them"

That's right Vanya, southern Democrats were...

cough...Robert Byrd...cough...

Posted by: Mike at January 19, 2005 09:47 AM

"And speaking of echo chambers, have you been to Mr. Simon's site lately? I fear your fine blog is in acute danger of going down the same road. Pointing out the idiosyncracies and contradictions of "the left" or liberals might be a worthwhile and even noble enterprise, but once the focus becomes too narrow and the wingers start to dominate the comments section, all you're doing is provide fodder for the freepers, who are not at all interested in rejuvenating liberalism."

Novakant-

You dissemble. It is very plain that what both Michael Totten and Marc Cooper are addressing are not 'ideosyncracies' and 'contradictions' in The Left. What they addressing are some of the fundamental weaknesses of a ideology/movement that has been in headlong retreat since Ronald Reagan's overwhelming defeat of Jimmy Carter nearly a quarter century ago. And you're bright enough to know that.

Your plea for silenced criticism as a show of some sort of 'solidarity' is little more than a more polite version of the mindset of what Totten experienced in that ballroom. To the credit of Totten and Cooper, they will have none of that sort of self-marginalization. Yeah, self-criticism will provide your opponents some fodder for their attacks, but the bottom line is that at some point The Left has to realize that what they are doing NOW is providing even more fodder. Get it? Michael and Marc do.

I do remember you from Roger Simon's site, by the way. You and I crossed swords more than once. But the bottom line was that you weren't savaged by me or anyone else because of your views, you were savaged for being unable to buttress your opinions with fact or logic. If you wish to believe otherwise feel free, but that will be little more than flattery. There's a difference between being intolerant and demanding intellectual rigor...something people like Oliver Willis simply do not now, and never will, understand in their opponents.

You know, while Michael and I agree on Iraq, we agree on little else. We can still talk to each other because we have shown to each other a bit of thoughtfulness. Marc Cooper and I agree on absolutely nothing, and Lord Knows I've ragged hard on him here and elsewhere. But the bottom line is now I've got to rethink him a bit...not because he's criticizing The Left (big freakin' deal, I can do that), but because he is demonstrating a thoughtfullness and introspection that you want in a serious opponent.

Yeah, Oliver thinks the war is bad. Another big freakin' deal. We knew that 2 year ago...what has he done lately? Nothing. It's always the same old schtick and it still isn't working with the great foul-smelling herd. Willis gets paid for traffic, not for content...same with Marko$. At some point somebody better start wondering if content might just be the difference between victory and defeat.

That is the crux of the biscuit Cooper and Totten are attempting to address.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at January 19, 2005 10:13 AM

Mike -

"I hope others read through the whole thing."

Small chance.

Posted by: TmjUtah at January 19, 2005 10:14 AM

This is one of the most intelligent discussions I've ever read on the net. Thank you all.

Posted by: BillBC at January 19, 2005 10:21 AM

I think that many progressive activists do live within, if not actually hold and understand, an ideology. The best shorthand of it that I've seen was in American-Israeli anti-Chomskyite Benjamin Kerstein's "Road to Damascus". He describes post-Vietnam American liberalism --the "progressive" voice" in these terms: a quasi-pacifist libertarian socialism shot through with a fierce strain of racialism. This corrals most of what I hear from progressives --and I live right in the middle of San Francisco, so I know whereof I speak.

My second thought is that for activists, politics is their religion. And we all know how touchy people can be about that! And the worst treatment is meted out to traitors, those we thought were with "us", but turn out not to be.

Part of my turn rightward has been my experience of progressives, experiences not as overtly violent as the Totten-LaFreniere Expulsion, but on the spectrum. And conservatives have shown themselves able to hold a conversation, discuss ideas with passion, but treat me like a human being with whom they disagree. All that says something about whence they come.

Posted by: EssEm at January 19, 2005 10:25 AM

Michael,

I think you've misunderstood the struggle. The struggle for someone with your views (which overlap mine in relevant ways) is to remain a Democrat.

There is no Independent Party. It's Democrats or Republicans or nothing. Yes, the Democratic party, like any political party, is full of anti-intellectual morons (or, if you want, 'activistists'). But this is what politics is all about: debating and taking political action with people you despise.

No one, no one, pisses me off more than my fellow Democrats. And that's as it should be.

Posted by: Ted H. at January 19, 2005 10:45 AM

“We Can’t Get Bogged Down in Analysis”

because analysis only reveals their internal contradictions, and it also exposes the one thing that unifies those contradictions-- anti Americanism.

Too simplistic you say? Think about it. They hate Pinochet but idolize Castro. What's the common denominator?

Conservatives also have contradictions at times. I'll admit it. But PRO Americanism is what unites conservative contradictions.

I'll take the latter over the former thank you.

Posted by: David at January 19, 2005 11:33 AM

You seem to miss that Henwood is critical of leftists who share with you ideological understandings of captalism, he's not at all against protest marches or the protestors' marching against the war. I would invite you to Henwood's LBO-list, he makes mincemeat of persons who have delusions about the greatness of American foreign policy or free markets like yourself Michael. Really, you should give it a go, it's harmless, kinda like fighting the Iraq war from behind a computer.

Posted by: orily at January 19, 2005 11:45 AM

Thank you MJT

Required reading:
http://www.slate.com/Default.aspx?id=2108561&#ContinueArticle

Posted by: JBP at January 19, 2005 11:56 AM

Activistism is also intimately related to the decline of marxism, which at its best thrived on debates about the relations between theory and practice, part and whole. Unfortunately, much of this tradition has devolved into the alternately dreary and hilarious rants in sectarian papers. Marxism's decline (but not death: the three of us would happily claim the name) has led to wooly ideas about a nicer capitalism, and an indifference to how the system works as a whole. This blinkering is especially virulent in the US where a petit-bourgeois populism is the native radical strain, and anti-intellectualism is almost hard-wired into the culture. And because activistism emphasizes practicality, achievability and implementation over all else, a theory dedicated to understanding deep structures with an eye toward changing them necessarily gets shunted aside.

Marxism's decline isn't just an intellectual concern—it too has practical effects. If you lack any serious understanding of how capitalism works, then it's easy to delude yourself into thinking that moral appeals to the consciences of CEOs and finance ministers will have some effect. You might think that central banks' habit of provoking recessions when the unemployment rate gets too low is a policy based on a mere misunderstanding. You might think that structural adjustment and imperial war are just bad lifestyle choices.

http://www.lipmagazine.org/articles/featfeatherstone_activistismp.shtml

Posted by: orily at January 19, 2005 12:06 PM

That is the heart of Henwood's argument btw, which you cherry pick to avoid.

Posted by: orily at January 19, 2005 12:07 PM

orily-

You really put Totten in his place. Wow. Calling him a Chickhawk. Wow.

I guess somebody has to have the job of making Oliver look smart...

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at January 19, 2005 12:08 PM

Oh...

Marxist economics. Wow. You're blinkered, Michael, and cannot see reality or the obvious truth due to your limited intellect. Wow.

Surrender Totten, resistance is futile.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at January 19, 2005 12:12 PM

Oliver:

Because America is less safe,

According to whom?

the people who killed 3,000 Americans are on the loose.

Actually, the people who killed 3000 Americans died in the process themselves. The infrastructure that produced them is badly damaged though, and if you know where the training camps that replaced those destroyed in Afghanistan are, please share that knowledge with the Pentagon.

Terrorist attacks are up,

Where?

and thanks to us screwing around in Iraq, its only a matter of time before we have another attack here on our soil.

Non-sequitur. Besides, I’d like you to show how not being engaged in Iraq would make us safer. Personally, I’d rather have the jihadi’s hands full of Marines instead of Manhattanites, but maybe that’s just me.

An Iraqi democracy would be nice, but I prefer less dead Americans.

Of course. I prefer fewer massacred people in general. One way to get there is to make running genocidal regimes and movements a less attractive option. The way to do that is to put honest-to-god screws to those in place today. Think of this as an educational process that will take some time.

As far as the integrity of the Iraqi election, I consider an election where candidates don't reveal themselves for fear of getting shot to be a bad thing,

True. But man do I admire those who have the balls to run, and despise the hooded bastards who would shoot them.

or one where ballots are being sold,

??? (Got no idea where you're coming from here, but dead people in Seattle get to vote, so I'm out of the habit of expecting perfection in any election.)

or where some of the major cities look to become warzones, to be less than reassuring.

Considering how many people think we've fighting and losing a war, it would be surprising if there weren't, you know, war zones.

I really want the world 20 years from now to be better than the world today. Frankly, the strategies and tactics of the last decade of the 20th Century didn’t work out that well.

Oliver, I don't ask that you spec out a comprehensive "Plan B" but I'd like it if you could at least link to one. Me, I'll continue to support the current fight against Islamofascism.

Posted by: Mark Poling at January 19, 2005 12:15 PM

Orily: If you lack any serious understanding of how capitalism works

I gotta ask...do you think anti-capitalists and evil corporate masters are the only ones who have a serious understanding of how capitalism works?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 19, 2005 12:20 PM

Careful Michael, he just finish "Marx For Beginners" and is pretty full of himself.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at January 19, 2005 12:28 PM

"finished"

Dang, I'm never going to make varsity on the typing team.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at January 19, 2005 12:29 PM

Hang on Michael, I thought you said you thought Henwood was a sharp thinking dude...Now you're making fun of what he's saying? interesting.

Posted by: orily at January 19, 2005 12:29 PM

n' dennis, ya got me all wrong, i admire guys in their late twenties who fight wars behind computers. especially wars against terror.

Posted by: orily at January 19, 2005 12:31 PM

n' dennis, ya got me all wrong, i admire guys in their late twenties who fight wars behind computers

I love guys who want to help "the poor" with other people's money, that way they don't have to make any sacrifices out of their own pocketbooks, or even lift a finger in effort.

Posted by: David at January 19, 2005 12:36 PM

Marxists understand the deep structures and how to change them, whereas the rest of us live at the surface of things as benighted servants to economic forces we know little about. Over and over, Marxists have demonstrated this fact, though few of us can comprehend their proofs.

Marxists understand that all moral values (private property, freedom of speech, etc.) are merely epiphenomena of economic structures, lacking any possibility of genuine justification, except for the value of communism, which is uniquely justified. This has been demonstrated repeatedly by Marxists, as well. Few of us are able to grasp the demonstrations, however.

Don't just get left, get deep left: get Marxist

Posted by: Jim at January 19, 2005 12:40 PM

Whoa Only! Your post is dripping with pseudo-intellectualism and your ignorance of American psyche is blaring.

Posted by: Mike at January 19, 2005 12:44 PM

Vanya - " Left-wing radicals are not generally in the habit of pulling their enemies out of their houses in the middle of the night, castrating them and lynching them"

That's right Vanya, southern Democrats were...
cough...Robert Byrd...cough...

And your point Mike? I'm well aware that most KKK members were Democrats. But they were certainly not liberals in either the classical or modern sense of the word, and definitely not left-wing. My point is that while MT is quite right that there are a lot of doctrinaire arrogant idiots running around on the left, for the most part these people, while annoying, are dangerous only over the long-term. The modern American left is dangerous mostly in the paranoid minds of certain conservative thinkers, it does not generally contain people as vicious as the KKK. Neither does the modern American right for the most part either. The most important thing to remember about left-wing activists is this - their actual power to influence events or the direction of American policy is close to nil, hence their bitterness.

Posted by: Vanya at January 19, 2005 12:44 PM

The most important thing to remember about left-wing activists is this - their actual power to influence events or the direction of American policy is close to nil, hence their bitterness.

What makes you say nil? Because of their numbers?

That's why they have the courts. They're a minority leading the majority by its nose.

Posted by: David at January 19, 2005 12:46 PM

Vanya - The modern American left is dangerous mostly in the paranoid minds of certain conservative thinkers, it does not generally contain people as vicious as the KKK

Two words Vanya...

Weather Underground.

Posted by: Mike at January 19, 2005 12:48 PM

It's always lovely to be quoted, but:

1) I had two co-authors, my wife Liza Featherstone and our good friend Christian Parenti. Christian's done a lot of reporting from Iraq, and he thinks the war is evil & fucked up. Check out his Nation articles, his interview with me at , and his excellent book The Freedom, from the New Press.

2) All three of us are leftists. Not liberal hawks, or right-leaning swing voters. We think capitalism sucks, and U.S. imperialism a plague upon the world. We criticized activistism because it badly serves the task of transforming the world into a better place.

Doug

Posted by: Doug Henwood at January 19, 2005 12:48 PM

That's why they have the courts. They're a minority leading the majority by its nose.

They're about to lose the courts as well.

Posted by: Vanya at January 19, 2005 12:52 PM

The most important thing to remember about left-wing activists is this - their actual power to influence events or the direction of American policy is close to nil, hence their bitterness.--Vanya

So,what'objective'purpose do they then serve?If they are merely legends in their own minds,and largely engaged in mere self-validation,are they not the worst sort of historical flotsam,merely taking up "space" that might be more usefully employed by a more 'useful'political force?

Posted by: dougf at January 19, 2005 12:56 PM

Ow...He called me a Chickenhawk. Ow!

Michaellll...make him stop.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at January 19, 2005 12:57 PM

Weather Underground? Sorry Mike. Won't cut it. Weather Underground was certainly a force for bad, but not as vicious as the KKK, and nowhere near as powerful. The KKK in the 1910s-20s was truly a vile, and influential, organization.

Left-wing (Communist/Marxist) terrorists are extremely blase about the taking of human life, but they don't seem to take the sadistic pleasure in the act of killing that the Nazis, KKK, and Jihadists do. The KKK actually has a lot in common with Bin Laden - xenophobic and racist, defending the honor of a glorious past that they feel is being desecrated by present-day humiliations, etc. Just another example of why islamofascist is a good moniker.

Posted by: Vanya at January 19, 2005 01:04 PM

Oh wait...I'm 47 years old. He must have been talking about you, Michael.

Hang on Michael, I thought you said you thought Henwood was a sharp thinking dude...Now you're making fun of what he's saying? interesting.

You can acknowledge someone as being a sharp thinking dude and also think he's dead wrong on a few issues (like the war, capitalism and 'imperialism'...whatever that is). Sharpness is all in how much you know, how well you think and how you present it.

Take a lesson.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at January 19, 2005 01:04 PM

Orily: Hang on Michael, I thought you said you thought Henwood was a sharp thinking dude...Now you're making fun of what he's saying?

No, I made fun of what you said.

I disagree with Doug about both capitalism and the war in Iraq, but I still realize he's an intelligent guy. I think capitalism, like all things, has its problems. But I wouldn't trade it for something else. It's the least bad system there is. Tweak, don't replace.

Doug and I have a personal friend in common, and so I know he's a decent human being as well. Obviously I did not set out to trash him today.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 19, 2005 01:04 PM

Doug Henwood,

Sorry for not citing your co-writers. I followed the link to the article from Marc Cooper's site, and somehow I missed the byline. I will correct it now.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 19, 2005 01:05 PM

So,what'objective'purpose do left wing activists then serve?If they are merely legends in their own minds,and largely engaged in mere self-validation,are they not the worst sort of historical flotsam,merely taking up "space" that might be more usefully employed by a more 'useful'political force?

Sounds about right. But we live in a free society. Why does anyone have to serve an "objective purpose?" That sounds vaguely Marxist.

Posted by: Vanya at January 19, 2005 01:07 PM

I'm too busy publishing my constitutionally- protected opinions on a PC manufactured by a corporation using an operating system developed by a corporation employing a browser built by open- source developers connected to a communications infrastructure built and maintained by a corporation, all powered by energy discovered/developed/delivered by a corporation and processing the responses therefrom by other free (I assume free, in this particular conversation) citizens toward informing myself adequately enough to participate usefully in the selection of candidates or parties I may support in the now or in the future to give any serious consideration to somebody who thinks that "capitalism sucks" and that Marxism should exist in any reality involving human beings.

Posted by: TmjUtah at January 19, 2005 01:18 PM

Sounds about right. But we live in a free society. Why does anyone have to serve an "objective purpose?" That sounds vaguely Marxist.--Vanya

It might have a bit of a Marxist tinge,I suppose.But if one believes in some sense of history(very limited near-term history),then movement from one historical point to another is perhaps identifiable and predictable.It is possible to use some of the descriptive tools of Marxism without in any way accepting the essential premises or believing in the 'class'theory of development.
Besides,I rather like the theoretical possibility that the'leftist-activists'might be considered as 'losers'even by the intellectual basis for so much of their value systems.
Sort of the final insult.

Posted by: dougf at January 19, 2005 01:41 PM

Damn TmjUtah, you're making me feel inadequate. God help me if I didn't agree with you.

Posted by: Mike at January 19, 2005 01:43 PM

I can tell by these replies that most people are just self-righteous lefties who seem to get a kick out of being "right" and telling Mr. Totten what to do instead of mature thought (ie "I agree because" or "I disagree Because...") Mike, I'm with you man. I can relate. I believe such zeal has produced nothing but a second term for W.
And Oliver, shut your arrogant self up. Just because you have a website it doesn't make you God.

Posted by: Rachel at January 19, 2005 02:25 PM

“I see extremism as being independent of ideology. Whether one is an extremist is more a matter of temperament.” (Ben)

“My second thought is that for activists, politics is their religion. And we all know how touchy people can be about that!” (Essem)

There is a truism about human nature – which is that people most despise in others what they are in denial about in themselves. So look at who or what you most despise – and you might discover something very important yet hidden about yourself.

(So who do I hate ….um…..Cher? – Whaaat? Okay – I’ll have to think about that one…)

Anyway – I have an extremely left-wing “activist” sibling living in Portland. Said sibling has even started a “Peace and Social Justice” Department (or some similarly sounding left-wing institution) – at an academic institution, in a neighborhood near Michael no less.!

Anyway – said sibling told me in dead seriousness long ago, “Everything is politics to me” (this in the midst of some innocuous discussion about women). In the past few months our ability to communicate has completely degenerated to zero.

Me: So I was reading an article by David Horowitz the other day..

Sibling: David Horowitz is an idiot!

Me: Okay – well Bill Cosby made some very interesting comments the other day…

Sibling: Bill Cosby is an idiot. What a scumbag to say that…

You get the picture…

So anyway – whom do extreme lefties despise the most in American society - to judge by recent press? American evangelicals! And since it struck me that the common ‘temperament” or personality trait there was most likely “self-righteousness”, I did a quick dictionary and google search. I found out that “righteousness” means “morally upright” and that “self-righteousness” means “piously sure of one’s own righteousness”. Further exploration led me to concepts such as “intolerance of ambiguity”, authoritarianism (“Authoritarianism generally presumes to know Truth, with a capital "T", and has almost no tolerance of disagreement. It is characterised by moral and philosophical certainty…”) and so on.

Then I found this interesting article about a Berkely CA study purporting to explain the temperament of “conservatives”:

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=33714

yet at the end it points out that the same temperament holds true for left-wing ideologues such as Castro and Stalin.

There can be no doubt that the extremes have more in common than the middle.

To admit “I don’t know” is a very good thing, as Michael has done in his post. I would venture to say that that is why he now feels the need to define himself as an “independent”. Simply so he can continue to say that and actually mean it. As a lifelong Democrat who voted for Bush I am sorely tempted to follow his example…

Posted by: Caroline at January 19, 2005 02:32 PM

"Doug and I have a personal friend in common, and so I know he's a decent human being as well. Obviously I did not set out to trash him today."

No, what you did was misread and misinterpret his thoughts as consistent with yours. And your thoughts on capitalism are what he is criticising in the article, i.e. ideological [that is, misinformed, poorly thought out...] understandings of captalism and the types of organizational strategies that that gives rise to. Your merely using him to 'prove' that the left is up to no good and all wrong, something that, as he notes, he doesn't accept at all.

Posted by: orily at January 19, 2005 02:43 PM

Caroline,

Yes, and one of my dear friends, a leftist America-hater yearning to emigrate, admitted the following to me the other day, honestly and forthrightly, when I'd pinned her down on the point. She said, "Well, I guess I have a little fascist in me." She plead "benevolent dictatorships, such as Castro's."

You've put your finger on it: Those who get too far off of center are peas in a pod. The distinction between "left" and "right" amongst them pales in significance when compared to the similiarity they share: totalitarianism.

Orily,

Are you going to show where MJT misrepresented Henwood? You keep promising that he has, and I want to know where.

Posted by: Jim at January 19, 2005 02:50 PM

I already did that jim, he makes Henwood out to be someone who agres with his bitterness at the left, which Doug is not. Nor would he attack the left the way that Totten does in any sense, even in his most critical moments.
And I pointed out that Totten cherrypicked the article for an example of how he 'agrees' with Henwood, even though Henwood is plainly criticising those who, like Totten, have a very ideological and simplistic understanding of capitalism--one that, interestingly is not that much different from those on the left that Henwood is criticising.

Posted by: orily at January 19, 2005 02:58 PM

Of course I have to quote from my favorite writer Jiddu Krishnamurti:

“Is it possible for the mind to be free from knowledge and belief? Is not the mind made up of knowledge and belief? Belief and knowledge are the processes of recognition, the center of the mind. The process is enclosing….Mind, as we know it, has belief behind it, has desire, the urge to be secure, knowledge, and accumulation of strength. If, with all its power and superiority, one cannot think for oneself, there can be no peace in the world…A man of peace, a man of earnestness, cannot isolate himself and yet talk of brotherhood and peace. It is just a game, political or religious, a sense of achievement and ambition. A man who is really earnest about this, who wants to discover, has to face the problem of knowledge and belief; he has to go behind it, to discover the whole process of desire at work, the desire to be secure, the desire to be certain.”

That is really the ultimate endorsement of admitting “I don’t know".

Posted by: Caroline at January 19, 2005 03:02 PM

Orily: Your merely using him to 'prove' that the left is up to no good and all wrong, something that, as he notes, he doesn't accept at all.

I absolutely did not say, now or ever, that the left is all wrong. Nor did Doug say he "doesn't accept" that I quoted him.

He made two points: One, he wanted me to include his co-authors on the byline, which I promptly did. Two, he wanted to make sure we all understood that he and they are leftists. I had already made that absolutely clear in my post so there would be no misunderstanding here.

Your problem is that Doug gave "ammunition" to the "enemy" by writing what he wrote. At least you have the decency to take it out on me rather than on him.

In any case, I'm free to quote whomever I damn well please, as long as I don't take it out of context or refuse to provide a link to the source material. "Free use" and all that. If Doug didn't want to be quoted, he would not have written that article. But, anyway, he didn't complain about being quoted. You are complaining that I dared to quote him. Boo hoo.

You are exhibiting precisely the behavior I wrote about in my post. Did you show up here only to illustrate my point? People like you are the reason I refuse to call myself liberal or left anymore and choose "independent" instead. People like you are a big part of the reason George W. Bush is still president. I think you need some quiet time of self-reflection.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 19, 2005 03:10 PM

Also, Orily, I quoted Marc Cooper. He and I have disagreements about politics, but he never ever complains when I quote him to make one of my points. Nor will I ever ever complain when he quotes me to make one of his. That's because we're adults (and also friends).

It is not necessary to agree with someone's absolute ideological position in order to quote them. If you were a writer you would understand this instinctively. But you have an activist mentality instead, and that (apparently) explains your brainless knee-jerk reaction.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 19, 2005 03:16 PM

"You are exhibiting precisely the behavior I wrote about in my post. Did you show up here only to illustrate my point? People like you are the reason I refuse to call myself liberal or left anymore and choose "independent" instead. People like you are a big part of the reason George W. Bush is still president. I think you need some quiet time of self-reflection."

Touche.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at January 19, 2005 03:17 PM

"You go to war with the leftists you have - not the leftists you might want or wish to have at a later time." Rumi

Posted by: d-rod at January 19, 2005 03:26 PM

"You go to war with the leftists you have - not the leftists you might want or wish to have at a later time." Rumi--d-rod

LOL. :-)

Posted by: dougf at January 19, 2005 03:34 PM

Orily: [Totten] makes Henwood out to be someone who agres with his bitterness at the left, which Doug is not.

Orily, would you quote Totten to substantiate this claim, please?

Posted by: Jim at January 19, 2005 03:46 PM

Orily - you have accurately stated it (correct me if I'm wrong). Its about capitalism. That is the left's ultimate panultimate issue. And from what I have observed, capitalism is so manifestly evil that the left is willing to align themselves with Islamo-fascism - just to fight the darned thing - at any cost. Will some enlightened person please explain to me why fighting capitalism is worth the obvious results (in terms of leftists aligning themselves with the worst totalitarianism forces - so as to make even living under Sharia law worth it in the end)? Truly - if thats what it comes down to - then I really want to understand why American capitalism is worse than all of the alternatives. Hoooboy - is that a big subject? Really - I am quite serious. I admit my ignorance. But the truth is that all I see are big huge emotional reactions. Never facts. It seems that hardly anybody ever outright weighs the relative merits of these systems. Its the big elephant in the closet as it were. Its all innuendo - as if everyone should already be in on the joke. But the thing is - some of us aren't laughing...

Although some who are in on the joke might well be laughing at me for posting this. C'est la vie!

Posted by: Caroline at January 19, 2005 03:56 PM

"ultimate panultimate"

Egads - Poste-haste!

Posted by: Caroline at January 19, 2005 03:58 PM

Orily - you have accurately stated it (correct me if I'm wrong). Its about capitalism. That is the left's ultimate panultimate issue.

Bingo. And the U.S. is the living embodiment of capitalism. Everything the Left believes emanates from this basic core value--that the U.S. as we now know it, must be destroyed. From the ashes of those figurative ruins will emerge the "real America", the "good America"-- the one that resembles the Leftist dystopia of their dreams. When they claim to be "patriotic", that's the America they love.

Posted by: David at January 19, 2005 04:10 PM

David - From what I have observed - I actually don't think you are overstating that case. (Of course I find myself agreeing with you on on most issues. If that makes me a 'republican' then so be it. I have to call it as I see it irrespective of labels) But I want to understand WHY! I understand the utopian ideal for something better - but we have what we have - however imperfect (for now)- and it seems that we are defending ourselves against something far worse. So I am still waiting for someone from the far left to step up to the plate on this and explain it to me (i.e. the case against American capitalism from a RELATIVE POV). I would ask my leftist sibling but as I have explained - communication between us is literally impossible so that is no longer a feasible option.

Posted by: Caroline at January 19, 2005 04:59 PM

Everything the Left believes emanates from this basic core value--that the U.S. as we now know it, must be destroyed.

David-

how are you defining "The Left"? The Communist Party USA? The Nation editors? The Democrats in Congress? The 50-some million Kerry voters? All of the above?

I don't doubt that, say, some extreme elements on the fringes who feel that way. But to suggest that, say, the Senate Democratic caucus believes "the US must be destroyed," is a whole lot of nonsense.

Posted by: Stephen Silver at January 19, 2005 05:02 PM

Stephen - please separate the "left" from David's stereotype and explain what they stand for. You might do the Democratic party a real favor by doing so. While you're at it - could you please address my question (above) about the "left's" antipathy towards capitalism?

Posted by: Caroline at January 19, 2005 05:21 PM

Stephen,

I'll qualify it for you. When I say "the Left", it certainly does include marxists and Communists USA, International ANSWER, and your average moonbats sticking up for jihadis. But I'll take it further than that.

Contemporary Liberalism itself can trace it's origins, it's "seed" if you will, to the earliest marxist thought. It goes back to the days of robber barons and unions and Woody Guthrie, etc. We don't have those robber barons anymore, so the hard Left of yesteryear has ceased to be relevant. But its spirit of anti-establishment/ anti-capitalism lives on in modern Liberalism. It's much softer now of course, much more palatable and presentable to the public at large. Most Libs are completely ignorant of the origins of their own ideology, and don't really care, but because their ideology was spawned by anti-capitalist (and therefore anti-American) thinking, they find themselves on that side of the argument virtually every time. It's no mistake that they're perceived as America haters. We're not crazy.

But here's the thing. If you ask your average Lib whether he hates America, he'll deny it, and he'll be telling the truth as far as he can tell. He really believes he "loves" America. Yet he sees it as the greatest source of evil on the planet as well. Dichotomy (or mental illness).

And here is the source of the dichotomy: They hate what America IS, and only really love what America COULD BE. But America as it "could be" doesn't exist! So they love a figment of their imagination, and the America under their very feet they despise.

Posted by: David at January 19, 2005 05:24 PM

Steve Silver: I don't doubt that, say, some extreme elements on the fringes who feel that way. But to suggest that, say, the Senate Democratic caucus believes "the US must be destroyed," is a whole lot of nonsense.

Absolutely.

When Bill Clinton was president and he had (at least for a while) a Democratic Congress, he didn't embark on a program of destoying America or anything like it. If that's what the Democrats were really about, why on earth would they ever win any elections or being one of our two major parties. Americans just aren't that masochistic.

Come on, David. You're wandering into the right-wing version of Bush=Hitler territory here.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 19, 2005 05:26 PM

“And speaking of echo chambers, have you been to Mr. Simon's site lately? I fear your fine blog is in acute danger of going down the same road.” (Novokant)

“you weren't savaged by me or anyone else because of your views, you were savaged for being unable to buttress your opinions with fact or logic.” (Dennis the Peasant)

Kudos to Dennis the P - Roger Simon has a great blog. I couldn't agree with D the P more strongly. Try visiting Kevin Drum's site. If you state one opinion out of the mainstream you will be instantly accused of not being a "Democrat" and summarily dismissed. I am not surprised to observe his declining comments numbers. Not his fault. Rather the fault of his posters who do things like post under your name to discredit your own comments. Even for a democrat it's like wading into shark infested waters. I have never observed anything remotely similar on Roger's site.

Posted by: Caroline at January 19, 2005 05:29 PM

David: If you ask your average Lib whether he hates America, he'll deny it, and he'll be telling the truth as far as he can tell. He really believes he "loves" America. Yet he sees it as the greatest source of evil on the planet as well.

Stop. What you say is undoubtedly true of some leftists and even some people who describe themseleves as liberals. But "your average lib"? No. Almost all my friends are self-described liberals, and so is my wife. One of my friends really is the kind of person you describe, and I find it increasingly exasperating to hang out with her because she brings politics up constantly when it isn't appropriate and goes straight off the deep end into Che-worship and Bush=Hitler nonsense. But the rest of the liberals I'm friends with just aren't like that. I wasn't like that when I was on the left, either, but I was accused of it constantly.

When you overgeneralize in this way, it makes it much harder for me to apply these labels to those who really deserve it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 19, 2005 05:32 PM

Michael - you don't mean to suggest that Bill Clinton was on the "left" do you? The problem with Kerry is that he flirted way too closely with that element - Michael Moore, Ted Kennedy and so on. IMHO the Democrats have some serious work to do to separate the "Democrats" from the "left". I want to understand where the line is. I just have an intuitive feeling that Kerry crossed that line (you might disagree) - and in that sense I'm not sure that David is really overstating the case that much - as I take it that is what he is referring to.

Posted by: Caroline at January 19, 2005 05:37 PM

But the rest of the liberals I'm friends with just aren't like that. I wasn't like that when I was on the left, either, but I was accused of it constantly.

Michael,

I understand. I also have Lib friends. What I believe however is that they have chosen "Liberalism" as their philosophical tool, and that places them on the wrong side by virtue of the ideology itself-- not by virtue of their own particular feelings about it, or America-- but by their ideology. The ideology is anti-American, and even though our friends may not feel that hatred of America personally, by towing that party line they inevitably find themselves on the anti-American side of the argument. It logically leads to that side. They are anti-American and don't even know it, even without wanting to be. And these are the good Libs mind you. There are plenty of knowing haters, and it's them I usually vent at. The rest I just consider dupes.

Posted by: David at January 19, 2005 05:42 PM

Michael J. Totten says, "...she brings politics up constantly when it isn't appropriate and goes straight off the deep end into Che-worship and Bush=Hitler nonsense. But the rest of the liberals I'm friends with just aren't like that."

But is that normal? When America sees what Michael Moore says, and then sees Moore get a seat of honor next to Jimmy Carter at the DNC convention, it's hard to believe that they don't loathe America. When America sees some of the biggest voices on the left (think Ted Kennedy and John Kerry) harangue America at every turn and negatively compare America to the worst elements of the world, it's hard to believe that they actually like America.

Posted by: likwidshoe at January 19, 2005 05:48 PM

David says, "The ideology is anti-American, and even though our friends may not feel that hatred of America personally, by towing that party line they inevitably find themselves on the anti-American side of the argument."

This about succinctly sums it up.

Posted by: likwidshoe at January 19, 2005 05:51 PM

So the consensus seems to be that left=anti-America. That means it is still possible to be theoretically Democrat and pro-America. Kerry didn't pass that test. That is the conundrum that the Democratic party faces. To somehow simultaneously be associated with both "left" and "pro-America". Dick Morris had a recent article in I think the NY Post - copied at frontpagemag that showed Hillary Clinton racking up huge numbers across the US, across party lines, among both males and females - as a feasible candidate in 2008. Maybe she fits the bill...

Posted by: Caroline at January 19, 2005 06:01 PM

Caroline: Michael - you don't mean to suggest that Bill Clinton was on the "left" do you?

Okay, we're having a semantic misunderstanding. When I say "the left" I often mean everything left of center. When I say "leftist" I'm referring to people to the left of the Democratic Party. Still, there are plenty of leftists (Marc Cooper and Paul Berman, for example) who are nowhere near anti-American. It really does depend on who we're talking about.

I screw up and overgeneralize, too, sometimes, so I'm not trying to get on a high horse or anything here.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 19, 2005 06:11 PM

Caroline,

I don't think John Kerry is anti-American. He was knee-jerk anti-Bush, but he was running against him in an election so I can't blame him too much for that, even though I think it did cost him that election. That is punishment enough. No need to throw "anti-American" in on top of it. The Bush Administration does not equal America, after all.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 19, 2005 06:13 PM

Vanya,

The Marxists/Communists may not have enjoyed killing so much, but they did more of it than any of the other people you mentioned. The last figure I heard was over 100 million. Even Stalin killed more than Hitler did and he did it with impugnity.

Another thing that people don't seem to understand is that the KKK started out and stayed all its existence as a democratic organization. Even David Duke when he ran for office in Louisiana ran as a democrat.

As Michael has said, he gets treated better by conservatives he disagrees with than by liberals he disagrees with by far.

Posted by: dick at January 19, 2005 06:18 PM

Michael,

Norman Geras deals with the same questions you have raised. As always, his discussion of the point is quite apt: link.

Posted by: chuck at January 19, 2005 06:31 PM

JFK and Roosevelt were liberal hawks. Or, as we say now, ‘classic liberals’.

Even the Left used to be anti-fascist. Calling rabid, power obsessed reactionaries like the ones at the hotel ‘Leftists’ never worked, because there are plenty of reasonable people, like the lefties at Harry’s Place.

I’ve met reasonable leftists but I’ve never met a reasonable activist.

Classic liberalism brought great benefits to society – social security, the regulation (but not the suffocation) of corporations that managed to benefit workers without strangling profits. They managed to do all of this without hating America and Americans, in contrast to the anti-war activist.

It’s not clear if the activist left controls the Democrats, but it is clear that the activist left is a destructive force that has more influence over Democrats than it should.

On his site, Oliver creates posters that pretend that the Democrats haven’t changed since FDR’s day. But when he says anything remotely pro-war, his regular activist readers shoot him down. (in a peaceful, quakeresque way). Face it, the party now caters to anti-war, anti-capitalist zealots. That’s why there are so many ex-Democrats.

One quick question. There’s no question that JFK and Roosevelt-style classic liberalism has benefited society in a lot of ways. But what benefit has the pro-totalitarian ‘no war but the class war’ activist ever brought to society? What good have they ever done?

Other than inspiring a few catchy protest slogans, I can’t name one single thing

Posted by: mary at January 19, 2005 06:33 PM

Yes, the ideology is anti-American, although they would deny that -- "I am a patriot, I'm just protesting injustice!" -- but it boils down to the same thing: socialism, no use of military force, etc. But it's the unthinking dissent of an adolescent. 'I hate war, so I will make no war.' Looks good on a placard.

I just read an article by Tom Hayden and he said that those of "us in the peace and justice movement" have to stop Bush and his wars. Peace and justice for whom, I would ask? Surely he cannot be asserting the Afghans enjoyed peace and justice with the Taliban, the Iraqis with Saddam.

Politicians don't have the luxury of making simple choices; in disputes between nations, people die. And since 9/11, to most of us, the slogans of isolationism of the "peace and justice" movement ring pretty hollow.

Posted by: Patricia at January 19, 2005 06:35 PM

Classic liberalism brought great benefits to society – social security, the regulation (but not the suffocation) of corporations that managed to benefit workers without strangling profits. They managed to do all of this without hating America and Americans, in contrast to the anti-war activist.

I agree. But if robber barons were a disease afflicting this country in the early day of capitalism, and the Left was an antibody, the anti-body has now turned on its host for lack of a better target. What are they going to do? disband? No. They simply look for another target-- the "Establishment", or "christians", or imaginary "racists", etc.

Posted by: David at January 19, 2005 06:43 PM

"I don't think John Kerry is anti-American" (MJT)

I think he came dangerously close to the line and frankly - I think that was why he was defeated (that peception that he was "anti-American"). In defense of that I would cite - his post-Vietnam activities - he was running for CIC as well wasn't he? - his pro UN/global test stance, his over the top criticisms while we were at war (wrong war, wrong place, wrong time), and his refusal to denounce/separate himself from Michael Moore. I don't think we can possibly overestimate the impact on the election of the fact that MM was given a front row seat at the Democratic convention. I am pretty much a knee-jerk Democratic voter. It takes a whole lot to turn me off. MM at the Democratic Convention was undoubtedly the straw that broke the camel's back for me - a straw that screamed loudly and clearly (lets assume for the sake of my lousy metaphor that straws can scream) - "anti-American". And I'll bet I'm not alone on that.

Posted by: Caroline at January 19, 2005 06:48 PM

mary says, "JFK and Roosevelt were liberal hawks. Or, as we say now, ‘classic liberals’."

The term "classic liberal" or "classic liberalism" more often than not refers to libertarians and libertarianism.

Classic liberalism brought great benefits to society – social security...

I wouldn't say that Social "Security" has brought "great benefits to society". I would say that it's created a burden for society - giving up 15% of their income to a government mandated Ponzi scheme.

Other than those two minor quibbles, I agree with the rest of your post.

Posted by: likwidshoe at January 19, 2005 06:50 PM

What are they going to do? disband? No. They simply look for another target

If the party was still made up of classic liberals, they'd put a lot more effort into the fight against Islamic fascism. Instead they see Republicans, fellow Americans, as the enemy. Whenever a Democrat talks about the enemy, you know they're not talking about Osama.

To these Democrats, JFK would be more unelectable than Lieberman. But their new activist philosophy offers absolutely no benefit to Americans. That's why they lose.

Posted by: mary at January 19, 2005 06:55 PM

likwidshoe - well, older people appreciate Social Security, Ponzi scheme or not.

that's an interesting alias (unless it's your actual first name :-)

Posted by: mary at January 19, 2005 07:01 PM

New Sisyphus has an interesting post with a slightly different twist on this same issue. It's available here:

http://newsisyphus.blogspot.com/2005/01/eu-dependence-theory-blame-canada.html

Posted by: Ben at January 19, 2005 07:11 PM

Stephen - please separate the "left" from David's stereotype and explain what they stand for. You might do the Democratic party a real favor by doing so. While you're at it - could you please address my question (above) about the "left's" antipathy towards capitalism?

Caroline-

I'm not the guy to answer this question, since (despite what you may have gathered from my question), I don't consider myself a leftist. My politics are similar to MJT's, though I did vote for Kerry.

I just believe it's very wrong to make such generalizations about, oh, half the country. That's tens of millions of people.

Posted by: Stephen Silver at January 19, 2005 07:54 PM

Dick Morris had a recent article in I think the NY Post - copied at frontpagemag that showed Hillary Clinton racking up huge numbers across the US,

Let's be clear- we should NEVER believe ANYTHING that comes out of Morris' mouth, in regards to Hillary Clinton. Do I have to run through all the false predictions/conspiracy theories he's come up involving Hillary over the years?

Posted by: Stephen Silver at January 19, 2005 08:00 PM

Even David Duke when he ran for office in Louisiana ran as a democrat.

Wrong. He ran, for governor in 1990, as a Republican.

Posted by: Stephen Silver at January 19, 2005 08:03 PM

"JFK and Roosevelt were liberal hawks. Or, as we say now, ‘classic liberals’"

Just minor quibbles, but this old fashioned decency liberalism isn't 'classical liberalism' is the dictionary sense. Maybe classic American liberalism. Roosevelt was a social democrat who believed in things that would make it tough for him to get elected in today's political climate. JFK isn't easy to pigeonhole, but no one who ever lobbied on behalf of the welfare state would be considered a 'classical liberal'

On a different note, I wouldn't call (most) libertarians at least big 'L' ones 'classical liberals' either, at least not in the Hayekian in sense; a man who'm if you listen to the Randians of the Mises institute was too 'moderate' and Ronald Reagan a 'statist'

Posted by: Epitome at January 19, 2005 08:17 PM

I'll confess, Leftist "peace" protestors remind me of the Brownshirts. But for good reason.

And Michael Moore, though not a nazi, could teach Goebbels a trick or two.

Posted by: David at January 19, 2005 08:51 PM

"If you were a writer you would understand this instinctively. But you have an activist mentality instead, and that (apparently) explains your brainless knee-jerk reaction."

Rubbish, I'm the one who informed him that you had quoted him out of context and he responded to make sure that people realized that he didn't share your disdain of "anti-American" leftists like him. I know you didn't say he was "anti-American", but your talk of Leftists like myself as "anti-american" is a reference to people with Doug and my politics. Everything that you refer to as "anti-american" in your blog is stuff that a Doug Henwood would generally not agree is "anti-american".
I never complained that you quoted him. I stated that you quoted him with the purpose of misleading people with the view that his view of the left is even remotely similar to yours. He is, in fact, deeply critical of persons on the left who share many of the same illusions about capitalism as you do. That is what the article is about I'm afraid. Just jump over to his LBO-talk discussion list and see for yourself, he would qualify as "anti-american" by your bizarre definitions.

Posted by: orily at January 19, 2005 08:52 PM

I'll confess, Leftist "peace" protestors remind me of the Brownshirts. But for good reason.

And Michael Moore, though not a nazi, could teach Goebbels a trick or two.

David- After all this time trashing "the Left" for their depravity in comparing Bush to Hitler, what are you doing comparing your own political opponents to the Brownshirts and Goebbels?

Posted by: Stephen Silver at January 19, 2005 09:26 PM

Stephen Silver -

Maybe it's the fact that the only seperation between Leni Reisenthal and Michael Moore is sixty years, a beard, and two bra sizes?

In terms of art they are indistinguishable.

Posted by: TmjUtah at January 19, 2005 10:17 PM

"Let's be clear- we should NEVER believe ANYTHING that comes out of Morris' mouth, in regards to Hillary Clinton."

I totally agree, but the last four words are completely unnecessary, actually, you can drop the word 'mouth' and it's still 100 % accurate.

Posted by: Michael Farris at January 19, 2005 10:17 PM

"And Michael Moore, though not a nazi, could teach Goebbels a trick or two."

Lemme get this clear, Michael Moore is a nazi, but Henwood is ok? WOW, now that is really ideologically incoherent, muddled, and wierd.

Posted by: orily at January 19, 2005 10:28 PM

And Michael Moore, though not a nazi

orily:

Lemme get this clear, Michael Moore is a nazi..

Dude, can you read? Looks like no child left behind arrived a bit late for some of us. And posted on the wrong thread too. Lord, save us from untamed genius.

Posted by: chuck at January 19, 2005 10:37 PM

Orily: Just jump over to his LBO-talk discussion list and see for yourself, he would qualify as "anti-american" by your bizarre definitions.

OK, genius. Tell me what my "bizarre" definition of anti-American is. I didn't mention it even once in this post.

And by the way, I have never accused Doug Henwood of being anti-American, so I have no idea what brought on this latest tirade of yours.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 19, 2005 10:54 PM

Orily: Lemme get this clear, Michael Moore is a nazi, but Henwood is ok? WOW, now that is really ideologically incoherent, muddled, and wierd.

Who, exactly, do you think you're talking to? You addressed David, not me. I seriously doubt David thinks Doug Henwood is okay on any level, and I regularly argue with his overly broad definition of anti-American.

Do not conflate David's comments with my posts. We are different people with different opinions. Got that? Good.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 19, 2005 10:58 PM

Thanks Michael, a thoughtful piece that reflects deep thinking with use of real world lessons. I for one back you 100%.

Posted by: Gene at January 19, 2005 11:18 PM

Thanks Michael, a thoughtful piece that reflects deep thinking with use of real world lessons. I for one back you 100%.

Posted by: Gene at January 19, 2005 11:19 PM

?? I was responding to David, I thought that was crystal clear.

Posted by: orily at January 19, 2005 11:27 PM

"Dude, can you read?"

Ok, he's "unamerican" and "can give Goebbels a run for his money". I don't see any relationship between Moore and Goebbels, sorry. That's not really a serious argument, just emotional rhetoric.

Posted by: orily at January 19, 2005 11:28 PM

If you choose to act you have to start somewhere.

Right, but the implication is that Bush is acting based on human rights issues, which is, to put it colloquially, absolutely insane.

Invading Iraq was terrible policy to start with, but the fact that Bush was in charge of it meant that by definition it would be brutal, badly mismanaged, and totally counterproductive.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 19, 2005 11:37 PM

Michael I think you are on to something when you compare Leftists at their worst to the Temperance movement and Carrie Nation. Someone somewhere had a breakout of the political/regional traditions, which made sense to me as a model of American Politics. You have the often Utopian New England Puritans, and their political descendants in the Upper Midwest and Northwest. You have the Jacksonian "Westerners" who embody a populist approach. Lastly you have the Southern Jefforsonians who embody small-town agrarianism and social conservatism.

The New England group are often elitist reformers, guys like say Upton Sinclair, or John Lindsay would fit into this group as well as Kerry, Tom Hayden, and Barbara Boxer. Often they do good work. They ended the corrupt reign of Frank Shaw in the Thirties in Los Angeles, helped establish the Food and Drug Act, many, many truly great things. But they've always had a dark side and you hit it. ELITISM. At it's worst it expressed itself in the Temperance Movement, aimed as much at immigrants and the need to control them as anything else. Or the Eugenics movement. Many respectable people including Margaret Sanger (Planned Parenthood's founder) and the Provost of Stanford, the President of CalTech, and other blue-blooded elitist/leftitst reformers backed California's eugenics law, which allowed sterilization of those deemed morally or mentally deficient. Sanger herself called for sterilization of those "inferior" including African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and especially American Indians. In New England similar reformers and laws targeted American Indians and French Canadians who were often poor and Catholic.

Blue-Blooded elite reformers have their dark side. When you do the work of God, or the good of the people, it's easy to break a few eggs. Jacksonians have their own dark sides (ask the Cherokee) as do the Jefforsonians (the Klan, really).

The bigger problem for the Left is that they are almost exclusively the New England type Puritan reformers, utopians out of touch with America's current Jacksonian mood (angry populists intent on crushing terror at home and abroad). I think you do Zell Miller a dis-service here. The guy fought to remove the Stars and Bars from Georgia's State Flag cause it was the right thing to do; and created the Hope Scholarships. He may love the USMC, the Flag, and his State, but that hardly makes him the bugaboo, he IS a leftist. Just a Jacksonian one not a Puritan. His time on Capitol Hill was an unhappy one, with supposedly Kerry and Kennedy's staff openly mocking his accent and humble origins with their bosses assent and humiliating him in various ways. Not fun for a respected and retiring Democrat doing his Party a favor. Payback I guess was a bitch.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at January 20, 2005 12:16 AM

Jim Rockford: Michael I think you are on to something when you compare Leftists at their worst to the Temperance movement and Carrie Nation.

I didn't make that comparison, Doug Henwood did. Be careful! You're agreeing with a leftist out of context. Orily might call the police.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 20, 2005 12:24 AM

"why not start with a country like Tunisia, which has gone a large part of the distance toward being a secular civil society despite being surrounded (on land) by real considerable nastiness."

Tunisia wasn't financing and harboring terrorists, building WMDs, and running a horribly oppressive police state. Tunisia can get there on its own. You don't invade a country and depose its leader unless you have to.

Posted by: Yehudit at January 20, 2005 02:39 AM

"Tunisia wasn't financing and harboring terrorists, building WMDs, and running a horribly oppressive police state."

EXACTLY!!!!!! If you want to promote democracy and civil society, then you should reward those who are doing well rather than concentrate on punishing those who aren't. Among other reasons, rewarding a society going in the right direction will conceivably increase pressure on governments like Egypt and Morocco, which are at least slightly vulnerable to public opinion. Start with the easiest of easy targets before getting to the really tough cases in other words.

But then that would be people work, which is harder and less glamorous than bombing stuff.

There's also the issue of W never being forthright with the reasons for invading. The only public justification (pre-invasion) was WMDs (and we know how that went) there's been some after the fact backpeddaling and lots of intricate analyses of the good things to come following an invasion but the fact remains that the initial invasion can only be evaluated honestly by the initial public reasons. In that light it was a failure or misguided though possible good outcomes may eventually happen, it would be a case of the ends justifying the means.

Posted by: Michael Farris at January 20, 2005 03:46 AM

I love this:
"The only public justification (pre-invasion) was WMDs..."

Yes, I remember it well. That was the ONLY reason. No other reasons exists, especially all the UN resolutions. Those were made up and somehow predated using PDFs from CBS.

Posted by: steve miller at January 20, 2005 05:11 AM

David- After all this time trashing "the Left" for their depravity in comparing Bush to Hitler, what are you doing comparing your own political opponents to the Brownshirts and Goebbels?

Your "Bush=Hitler" comparison is despicable because it's so flat wrong, not because you're a "meanie" for making it.

First of all, I didn't call Michael Moore a nazi, though I did make a comparison to Goebbels as a propagandist. Someone else referred Leni Reifenstahl and Moore's bra size.

The difference between my accusations and your "Bush=Hitler" is that mine have some semblance of reality to them. The comparison is recognizable.

So just because your "Bush=Hitler" comparison is irrational and self-defeating, and damaged Kerry's elections more than it helped him, doesn't mean my legitimate comparisons of Moore=Goebells are also irrational and self-defeating. Same with your Brownshirts.

If your comparisons/accusations weren't so totally irrational, you wouldn't be so vilified for making them.

Posted by: David at January 20, 2005 05:21 AM

and ps. Stephen,

it's one thing to comment among like-minded people about Goebbels and Brownshirts, vs. how you moonbats showed up in public with your Bush=Hitler placards. The latter is self-defeating, the former isn't.

Posted by: David at January 20, 2005 05:33 AM

Shorter David:

Saying someone is like Hitler is bad, but it's ok, if you're a Republican.

Posted by: FactCheck at January 20, 2005 06:24 AM

David-

So just because your "Bush=Hitler" comparison is irrational and self-defeating, and damaged Kerry's elections more than it helped him, doesn't mean my legitimate comparisons of Moore=Goebells are also irrational and self-defeating. Same with your Brownshirts.

Whoa. MY "Bush=Hitler" comparison? MY brownshirts? You must not have read anything I've written above, but I've never compared Bush to Hitler, and never would. I'm just as opposed to lazy analogies of American politics to Nazi Germany as you are. The difference is, I don't believe it's right for either side to do it.

Moore, noxious as he is, is NOT an agent of anything resembling Nazi Germany, nor is he complicit in genocide. So therefore there is no moral justification for comparing him - or any other American political figure, for that matter- to Goebbels.

Haven't you ever heard of Godwinn's Law?

Posted by: Stephen Silver at January 20, 2005 06:37 AM

"Yes, I remember it well. That was the ONLY reason. No other reasons exists, especially all the UN resolutions"

The UN resolutions are irrelevant since IIRC we didn't get final UN approval (and were kind of public about it).

Posted by: Michael Farris at January 20, 2005 06:50 AM

Kimmitt has perfectly illustrated why many on the Left opposed & still oppose the Iraq War: "Invading Iraq was terrible policy to start with, but the fact that Bush was in charge of it meant that by definition it would be brutal, badly mismanaged, and totally counterproductive." Iraq is a proxy for how much they hate George Bush. Someone accurately described this as "Bush Derangement Syndrome."

Posted by: Ben at January 20, 2005 07:00 AM

Ben, you're saying the invasion has been gentle, well-managed and has brought us good returns?

Posted by: Michael Farris at January 20, 2005 07:38 AM

Saying someone is like Hitler is bad, but it's ok, if you're a Republican.

Factcheck,

you'll never catch ME engaging in exercises of moral equivalence. If your comparison is accurate, fire away (but it's not). And if it's not accurate, then you make it at your own risk. And I think it's safe to say that the risk didn't pay off, and that's why you lost the election. Your comparisons didn't have the rings of truth that regular folks require.

Stephen,

I didn't mean to imply YOU made the Bush=Hitler comparison. I meant your fellow moonbats.

Posted by: David at January 20, 2005 08:10 AM

"Ben, you're saying the invasion has been gentle, well-managed and has brought us good returns?"

For a war of 20 months duration, yes. Your question would be more relevant five years from now. If Kerry wants to apologize all over the globe, fine, but I think it's a good thing that our lazy allies and evil enemies are angry and frustrated with us.

The Civil War was horrible during its duration but was ultimately judged by history to be worthwhile. Iraqis know that this is only the beginning; how else can you explain that 60-70 percent plan to vote, terrorists notwithstanding?

If you want a historical parallel, look at Algeria, if you can bear to read something at a site called rightwingnews.com.

Like your comment about elitism, too, and Puritans. The left today seems to me to be a great big Church Lady, wagging her finger at all us sinners. :)

Posted by: Patricia at January 20, 2005 08:11 AM

"I didn't make that comparison, Doug Henwood did. Be careful! You're agreeing with a leftist out of context. Orily might call the police."

No, I'd say it's better to realize that that isn't the argument that Henwood is making, that he's arguing that too many on the left have a weak understanding of capitalism, much like Mr. Totten.

Posted by: orily at January 20, 2005 08:25 AM

I grew up on a farm in Mid-Missouri working 7 days a week growing food for people who now call me anti-american for not agreeing politically with them. What a country, huh?

Please, David, fly to Kansas City and call me "anti-american" to my face. Then, parse it out for me, that because I don't share your love for W. Bush and his wonderful war, I'm at heart a traitor. Bring your health insurance card, because you'll need it after I'm done with you.

Some of us on the left are out of tolerance for having our patriotism questioned by partisan hacks like David.

Posted by: Ras_Nesta at January 20, 2005 08:42 AM

Stephen,

I didn't mean to imply YOU made the Bush=Hitler comparison. I meant your fellow moonbats.

My fellow moonbats? Gee, Thanks for clearing that up.

Posted by: Stephen Silver at January 20, 2005 08:49 AM

Vanya,

Left-wing (Communist/Marxist) terrorists are extremely blase about the taking of human life, but they don't seem to take the sadistic pleasure in the act of killing that the Nazis, KKK, and Jihadists do.

I am sure that will make their victims and their families feel a whole lot better. "It is not that we like killing you, it is just that your life is an obstacle to our goals." Oh, O.K. then no hard feelings about killing my child, spouse, or parent. You have caused immense pain and ruined my life, but I take consolation in the fact that you did not enjoy it. After all, the real sin is in enjoying things too much.

What does NAZI stand for?

Posted by: JBP at January 20, 2005 08:53 AM

Michael, your analysis of activists is held up by the statement of a protester today, January 20th in Meridian Hill Park in DC, as reported by CNN.com:

"'It's important to show that when Bush's second inauguration goes into the record books, there was healthy dissent' said Jared Maslin, 19 of Hanover, New Hampshire."

It couldn't be clearer - we're not acting for any positive change in the world, but only to secure our own identities for our peers and for history.

Posted by: Nate at January 20, 2005 09:11 AM

Then, parse it out for me, that because I don't share your love for W. Bush and his wonderful war, I'm at heart a traitor. Bring your health insurance card, because you'll need it after I'm done with you.

Ras,

I've heard legitimate criticism of the war and of Bush, and then I've heard the crap you people call "documentaries," and how the American people are the stupidest people on the planet. If you, Ras, call our president "Hitler", and call me the stupidest person on the planet, then you ARE next to a traitor in my book, and YOU should be the one carrying the health insurance card, not me.

Posted by: at January 20, 2005 09:24 AM

Nice strawman Nate. There ought to be a law that only "constructive" dissent is allowed. Whatever that is.

Mind if I put words in your mouth now?

It couldn't be clearer from Nate that dissent with Bush is never constructive. You could disagree with everything Bush stands for, but unless you are always mouthing "constructive" alternatives to every one of Bush's positions during said dissent, you should keep your mouth shut.

Like it, Nate?

BTW, to me, that protestor is absolutely correct. I do want history and the majority of my fellow world citizens who dislike Bush to know that not everyone in this country, at this time, support Bush. Some of us vehemently oppose him.

If you have a problem with that, take it up with the Constitution.

Posted by: Ras_Nesta at January 20, 2005 09:34 AM

Michael Totten,

As another so-called "reformed leftist" your article is another reminder of why I so love reading your blog. I couldn't have stated my own feelings on the subject better, even if I tried. Here's what I wrote 2 weeks ago, albeit not as eloquently :

misterpundit.blogspot.com

My biggest disappointment is not that the left opposes the Iraq war, it's that they don't seem to be too thrilled about political freedom and democracy either, aside from the usual scripted platitudes.

I can respect someone who says they oppose the war because they feel there was a better chance of political change through diplomacy (I don't personally think that's a viable solution, but I can respect such a view). However, I can not respect those who wish for the US to be defeated in Iraq just so they can score political brownie points.

Posted by: MisterPundit at January 20, 2005 09:39 AM

And to the anonymous at 9:24, I've never called Bush "Hitler". I've also never made a documentary, so your fantasy smear-by-association fails miserably.

I have been called "un-american" here in the real world, though, and will not take it anymore.

Posted by: Ras_Nesta at January 20, 2005 09:44 AM

Ras,

anonymous at 9:24 was me. If the shoe doesn't fit you, then don't wear it. Fortunately, I've never met you or read your posts, so I'm talking about the Left in general. If you choose, however, to accept it as a personal indictment against you, then I guess you're free to do so. But I think I have good reason to indict the Left.

However, I can not respect those who wish for the US to be defeated in Iraq just so they can score political brownie points.

Misterpundit,

ain't that the truth.

Posted by: David at January 20, 2005 10:27 AM

Orily is actually still worried about capitalism. How 20th Century.

Wealth creation no longer requires concentration of the means of production. Ownership of the means of production no longer requires concentration of capital. It can still be done that way, but doesn't have to. Jeff Bezos is not rich because he owns the servers Amazon runs on, or because he underpays all those struggling Amazon employees; he is rich because he had an idea and implemented it.

The first nail in the coffin of Marxism was when Henry Ford (the anti-Semitic @$$hole) figured out he could become richer faster if he payed his workers above the prevailing rate. I don't even care what the rest of the nails were; it is time to shovel dirt on the coffin.

Posted by: triticale at January 20, 2005 10:35 AM

Many of the conservatives who comment here are among the stupidest people on Planet Earth.

Posted by: Andy Charleston at January 20, 2005 10:45 AM

Many of the conservatives who comment here are among the stupidest people on Planet Earth--AC

From an obvious expert in the field of 'stupidest people',I guess we can only bow to your vast experience.
Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: dougf at January 20, 2005 11:33 AM

"Many of the conservatives who comment here are among the stupidest people on Planet Earth."

Smart people often appear stupid - to stupid people.

Posted by: MisterPundit at January 20, 2005 11:36 AM

To a fellow Portlander, Michael, I say hi.

Now, I'm conservative (and in the PDX area, that's saying something), but I often wonder about the self-defeating nature of Leftist activism.

In Portland specifically, we have the Blak Bloc idiots and assorted Leftist grievance groups who hold their marches around the evening commute time. All this does is inconvenience workers in a DEEP blue county. Multnomah went something like 75% for Kerry. These are the people you want to piss off are your ideological buddies?

Far be it from me to suggest assistance to the liberals and the Left, but you might consider thinking about who you alienate with your tactics.

Spot on analysis across the board about activists (Left and Right), though, Mr. Totten.

Posted by: hobgoblin at January 20, 2005 11:48 AM

Speaking of alienating people with tactics, we've also got Not One Damn Dime! Day.

Democrats are supposed to “Boycott Bush's inauguration by not spending any money on inauguration day”

Note that this bit of activism isn’t confined to ‘Leftists’, Chomskyites, or other ‘radical’ groups. This is a message that’s supposed to appeal to all Democrats.

And it does in my blue state (NJ)

Of course this will mostly hurt retail establishments and businesses IN the blue states. It’s likely these retailers are friends and neighbors who voted against Bush. So what is the point of hurting these people economically?

Posted by: mary at January 20, 2005 12:03 PM

Yeah, as someone with an Economics background, that idea struck me as particularly stupid.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 20, 2005 12:07 PM

Many of the conservatives who comment here are among the stupidest people on Planet Earth

coming from the person who just made the stupidest comment on the thread.

Posted by: David at January 20, 2005 12:08 PM

Excellent read Michael, interesting perspective. I've become more and more annoyed with the anger, lack of logic, and avoidance of true discussion from activists of the Left (i.e., Michael Moore, Nancy Pelosi, and the like). To say "the war in Iraq is bad" (or "good") is simplistic and meaningless. The answer is that the war in Iraq is good AND bad. Any decision concerning a complex system, (such as the socio-economic-political systems in the Middle East with the rise of Islamofacsism), will have both pros and cons, short-term and long-term, as well as unintentioned consequences (good and bad). When evaluating choices one can make a chart of the pros, cons, risks, and unknowns involved, do some research and analysis, figure out what the trade-offs are, and come up with a logical decision, and know that the decision can never produce a perfect solution. How hard is that? It seems that activism doesn't allow for this process - only a knee-jerk reaction of "it's bad" or "it's good" (or "screw you" or "you're an idiot") is shouted over and over. Capitalism is bad. No, capitalism is both good and bad. Same with democracy. Same with every system. This is why I like your blog so much - you are one of the few that will take a look at both sides of an issue. And the discussions in the comments section are some of the best around.

Posted by: BGrear at January 20, 2005 01:17 PM

Mister Pundit: Smart people often appear stupid - to stupid people.

That's funny - and true.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 20, 2005 01:33 PM

Everyone wants to point out that Kerry lost because he hewed too closely to the bush=hitler crowd, but no one wants to ponder why Bush almost lost. IMO it is for the very same reason -- too much Kerry=apocolypse rhetoric. Kerry ran against Bush and Bush ran against Kerry. We voters were offered precious few reasons why we should vote for either one of these candidates.

Caroline wrote a very insightful post above, about how the far right and the far left share the same authoritarian instinct, before she joined in on dogpile on the lefties. I, for one, am frustrated by the expectation that we must "pick sides" and once you have picked a side, you are tarred and feathered with every nutjob associated with that side.

People like MJT and Andrew Sullivan are in desperate short supply. We need more people who are willing to engage with those they disagree with and challenge our own assumptions.

I agree we need fewer Micheal Moores. We also need fewer Rush Limbaughs, Sean Hannitys and Bill O'Reillys.

Posted by: sivert at January 20, 2005 01:44 PM

Michael -- I stand corrected. It was Henwood.

My reading of the Left is that they are frustrated that folks are following their own economic benefits rather than the the elitist rhetoric. "What's the Matter with Kansas?" posits an America too stupid to figure out it's own economic interests and vote Left/Democrat, yet I'd say they understand their own interests very well.

Moore's "Stupid White Men" pretty much states where the Left wants the great majority of the working class/middle class Americans, right at the very back of the line, behind the protected class of gays, minorities, and other new elites.

Take Affirmative Action. It's needed as a remedy for past discrimination, and I would certainly not argue that it should not be part of the broad public policy of this country. Yet it creates winners and losers, and the losers are the vast majority (whites and particularly white men). Losers in government contracts, hiring, higher education, and government programs (like say first time home buying). That's just the way it is.

Yet the Left won't get past it's Puritan utopian/reformer elitism to offer other things of economic value to the vast majority, so that a vote Left/Democratic is a net economic plus. There are no massive programs to get renters into houses (regardless of protected class status) or reduce commute times or lower health care costs or otherwise put time or money into people's pockets.

Instead the major issues of the day are gay marriage (laudable but of little concern to most people) and the "illegal" nature of Iraq. The Left has made it VERY clear that their concerns are not of the vast majority, and so have nothing to say to them. They are the "stupid white men" and women of Moore and ANSWER and MoveOn and "screw em" Kos, with all the anti-American counter-culture baggage laden on TOP of the economics.

Guys like Zell Miller, or California's Pat Brown understood how actually building things (ala the New Deal) brought majority governance to the Left and Dems. Something the Utopians of the Left forgot.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at January 20, 2005 03:43 PM

whoa TMJ Utah, whoa right there!

have you actually seen any films by Riefenstahl? I have to stick up for her, though it may mean little to most. Some of her early films are ethereal, poetic pieces that stand as fine examples of German expressionist story-telling.

Among her works is Triumph of the Will, which lots of folks have an auto-response too, but the woman achieved so much more. I have no opinion in particular on Michael Moore, cause he's one of those yelling guys, but to even put him in the same universe as Leni as a film-maker is way inaccurate.

I thankyou.

Posted by: viacollins at January 20, 2005 03:51 PM

I've seen Triumph of the Will. I thought it was rather dull, actually.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 20, 2005 04:41 PM

I've seen Triumph of the Will. I thought it was rather dull, actually.

Yes, by today's standards. Citizen Cain, the "greatest movie ever made", sucks by today's standards too. But they broke ground.

Posted by: David at January 20, 2005 05:00 PM

Sivert: "Kerry ran against Bush and Bush ran against Kerry"

I disagree Sivert. Bush ran against his own record (ABB) and Kerry ran against the same thing - Bush's record. The reason Kerry even came close is because Bush's record was so bad - mainly the fiasco in Iraq but also the deficit. You're discounting the fact that other people (NOT Bush) ran against Kerry. The Swift Boat vets. I firmly believe that Kerry would have won if we had been at peace and not at war. But electing the CIC was as important as electing POTUS. I think Kerry mainly lost on that score (well on several scores - including his association with an anti-American like Moore - at a time when our soldiers are dying and we cannot afford to play civics-class games or "Model United Nations" - something I actually took part in in college).

I notice that above you took issue with my piling on against the lefties. I have always been a democrat - although in the past year I realize that I am perhaps equally a republican (hence an independent? - call me at minimum a swing-voter). But it is true - I am not a "lefty". I am sorry to say that "lefty" has become almost a dirty word to me (something that would not have been the case say 2 years ago). And frankly - I don't feel the need to apologize for that. I think that that is the problem of the Democrats. In fact I sometimes get the impression that it is the RIGHT - more so than the left - that desperately hopes the Democrats will sort out their internal problems for the sake of a strong 2 party system that benefits all of us.

Posted by: Caroline at January 20, 2005 06:02 PM

Yes, by today's standards. Citizen Cain, the "greatest movie ever made", sucks by today's standards too.

What are you, crazy? 'Kane' is as great today as it was in '41.

Posted by: Stephen Silver at January 20, 2005 07:19 PM

I'll second that.

Citizen Kane is brilliant in both it's vision, and its inception. And that applies in 1941, and every week, month, year since.

That's the thing with genius. It never dates.

Agreed re: Triumph Of the Mill MJT. It's surely no great shakes as a picture, but it's become a symbol. Reifenstahl's "The Blue Light" from 1925 is a superb piece o' work. 'Course, last film I saw was The Incredibles, just in case this was getting too film school!

Posted by: viacollins at January 20, 2005 07:28 PM

What are you, crazy? 'Kane' is as great today as it was in '41.

I liked it. But it sure didn't live up to the hype.

Then I was instructed by the experts on how "groundbreaking" it was.

Posted by: David at January 20, 2005 08:46 PM

What are you, crazy? 'Kane' is as great today as it was in '41.

I couldn't see what all the fuss was about, myself. A very forgettable movie. Ho hum. 'Horse Feathers', now there's a movie that sticks in the memory.

Posted by: chuck at January 21, 2005 09:05 AM

Truly it would be nice to have two parties that recognize we are at war and wish to fight it. Then I could see criticisms as a means to win the war rather than a means to win the next election.

When political foes are viewed as mortal enemies as Michael relates; and mortal enemies are viewed as allies of convenience, I despair that we can have two competing bodies of thought on how to win this war.

Posted by: Brian J. Dunn at January 22, 2005 08:11 PM

Truly it would be nice to have two parties that recognize we are at war and wish to fight it.

And I wish we had two parties that were committed to actually capturing bin Laden and declining to act as apologists for torture. But we can't always get what we want.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 25, 2005 12:00 PM

Quote Mary:

"I've met reasonable leftists but I've never met a reasonable activist."

"It's not clear if the activist left controls the Democrats, but it is clear that the activist left is a destructive force that has more influence over Democrats than it should."

I would agree with these two points for the most part. But I would also say these two things in response.

I've met reasonable rightists, but I've never met a reasonable fundamentalist.

It's not clear if the religious right controls the Republicans, but it is clear that the religious right is a destructive force that has more influence over Republicans than it should.

Ultimately, both sides have thier extremists. Both types of extreme thought are destructive in thier own way. Republican government officials tend to pander to the religious right as much as Democratic officials pander to activist groups.

Activists shout and scream, persecute and ostracize. They have closed minds. They have decided where they stand, how the world should work, and nothing under the stars is going to change their mind. They are out to change the world to fit their vision.

The religious right does the same thing.

The problem in this country is balance. When we have equal parts left and right as members of our goverment, the worst excesses of the other side are canceled out.

The problem is....right now, there is no real balance in America. The Presidency, and both Houses of Congress are firmly Republican. With the possible selection of new Republican justices by President Bush in the next four years, as the retiring members of the Supreme Court step down, the tenuous balance has been skewed sharply to the right. Who will counter the worst excesses of the religious right now?

Posted by: Dstarr at January 25, 2005 05:23 PM

Dstarr:

Your indictment of the “religious right” is intriguing.

What has the “religious right” done that has made your fearful?

Do you differentiate between the “religious right” and your average Christian?

The author Tom Wolfe had an interesting comment about the use of the term “Christian Right:

” It tickles me when people talk about “the Christian right”. These people aren’t right wing, they’re just religious. If you’re religious, of course, you’re against gay marriage and abortion. You’re against a lot of things that have become part of the intellectual liberal liturgy."

That’s from his Timesonline interview: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-1347653,00.html

Posted by: moneyrunner at January 26, 2005 08:38 PM

Thanks, moneyrunner. Wolfe is on target, but he focuses too much on the reaction and not enough on the thing-in-itself. Christians are presumably people who believe in Christ and his teachings; those teachings include that some things are morally wrong. The Left has defined itself in such a way that Christianity is increasing "right" by comparison, but there is nothing Christianity can change about this, without ceasing to be Christianity.

Posted by: Sammler at January 27, 2005 02:57 AM

"We marched for ourselves. We were our own targets. Activism made us good."

Sentimentality: The enjoyment of emotion for its own sake, without regard to the true character of its object. The fundamental feature of sentimental emotion is that it is founded, not in a belief about and desire to understand its object, but rather in a belief about and admiration for the subject, as a vehicle of heroic, dignified or tender responses. Hence it accompanies and necessitates a lack of real interest in its object, a preference for fantasy over reality, and a disposition not to observe but to falsify the world . . . . The thought of the true lover is "This deserves my love," that of the sentimental lover, "I am admirable, loving this" . . . . In politics sentimentality is an important motive, since it is a public and recognition-seeking state of mind. Thus there is sentimental grief, such as the frequent conservative regret over the nation and its lost traditions, and also sentimental anger, which searches the world for supposed injustices in order to say, "I am admirable, being angry at this." --Roger Scruton, A Dictionary of Political Thought

Posted by: RWD at January 27, 2005 07:53 AM

For the commenter who asked why start with Iraq?

Gee, how about because we were already at war with Saddam? That's right. There was this Gulf War back a dozen or so years earlier. Fighting stopped on the condition that Saddam do certain things. Saddam failed to do them.

The US had every right under international law and under any sensible moral system to insist that Saddam be forced to account for his WMDs. He didn't do it. He's gone.

Anyone who premises his arguments on the hope that his audience will completely ignore all the relevant history deserves to be dismissed as a fool.

Posted by: stan at January 28, 2005 07:57 AM

You were assaulted Michael. It sucks; it happened to me here in Seattle in conversation with peacenik thugs in our university district.

The contemporary upending of the left and right in America is fascinating. Formerly, when I thought "democrats" I thought of magnanimity, humor, compassion and wide scope. Nowdays when I think "democrat" I think of hissing reactionaries, aplauders of failure, bestowers of equanimity upon terrorists, hyperventilating nit-pickers of our sometimes clodhopping leaders. Now it is Republicans who can joke about themselves and free the oppressed.

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Posted by: usr at November 22, 2007 04:28 PM
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