Tue Dec 15th, 2009 at 06:03:42 PM EST
(mostly the same in Boomantribune)
During the US Presidential primary campaign, Paul Rosenberg's essays (from here) on ideology and "hegemony" provoked nothing more than laughter from me, but he was sort of right. It's impossible to understand the destructive role of the "anger left" as represented by Taibbi, Rosenberg, Firedoglake, and others in American politics without applying some class analysis. First, consider the cohesive underlying political message of this group - which can be boiled down to
We, the people, have been betrayed by a weak, unqualified Obama who is under the control and inimical influence of a shadowy Rahm Emmanuel and too close to bankers like Ben Bernancke.
All you have to do is fill in the ethnicity of the characters, which everyone knows, and you've produced something from the traditional language of the far right. Now mentioning this provokes howls of rage from the guilty, who are deeply offended that anyone should question their enlightened bone-fides - howls that are especially ironic from people like Rosenberg who throw around the term "hegemony" apparently with no understanding of what it means.
The widespread prejudices and media themes that permeate our society affect all of us, the Pabst swilling good ol' boy with the confederate flag on his pickup no more than the earnest blog pundit with a copy of "Rules for Radicals" in his bookshelf. We all share the implicit bias of the culture in which we live - good and bad (me too, of course). This bias and cultural conditioning is not necessarily determinative, but it's there. Think of it as a current in a river that determines the direction of drift. Slapdash, sloppy, especially emotionally charged, or dishonest "thinking" tends be particularly vulnerable to this drift: the phenomenon of nice polite white people blurting out shockingly racist words under pressure is not unusual. Being black or jewish or a woman or any other target of discrimination does not confer immunity either. Anyone witnessing the embarrassing spectacle of Michael Steele trying to talk ghetto knows that black people a can believe in the most stupid racial canards about black people.
So the "anger left", which has been fuming about Obama since the primaries naturally incorporates ambient prejudice its critique -- to make up for the missing analytical content. There's a lot of anger that sounds a lot like the "knife-in-the-back" so beloved of the far right. There is a good deal of dishonesty in that the goals of some of the most prominent Anger Leftists are clearly to climb the policy/pundit hierarchy.
But there is no real effort to understand how economic policy is driven by the imperatives of the corporate and military elites, and delegated to a small insular group of "intellectuals" who inhabit a tiny ideological spectrum (from Krugman to Hayek). Instead, we learn that Tim Geithner is a bad man. Rather than examine how the ideology and raw power of economic and military elites shapes congressional processes, the media, and who can get jobs in the Administration, we are asked to demand that Ben Bernanke be brought to justice for, shock, operating the Federal Reserve to benefit banks. In fact, people who do attempt to look at structural issues are derided as "stooges" or paid White House staff.
And this brings us to the effect of the Anger Left on the political operation of the Republic. Public demands for a decent reform of medical insurance are partly drowned out by cries of "sellout" and "betrayal". Every framing device of the right is reincarnated as a "Anger Left" theme. The Democrats are weak, corrupt, sold out, inept, cowardly - and sexually suspect ("bending over", "on their knees" etc.). The black President is characterized as a weak and dishonest puppet of powerful Jews. The actually powerful figures who surround the President, such as Valerie Jarret, are ignored - not surprising that a black woman disappears from view.
Results 1 - 10 of about 1,610 from firedoglake.com for "rahm emanuel". (0.32 seconds)
Results 1 - 10 of about 938 from openleft.com for "rahm emanuel". (0.32 seconds)
Results 1 - 10 of about 101 from openleft.com for "valerie jarrett". (0.31 seconds)
Results 1 - 10 of about 120 from firedoglake.com for "valerie jarrett". (0.21 seconds)
Results 1 - 10 of about 98 from firedoglake.com for "Hilda Solis". (0.25 seconds) Results 1 - 10 of about 108 from openleft.com for "Hilda Solis". (0.72 seconds)
If you look at the articles, you'll see it's worse than that - although to be fair, Hilda Solis might be ignored because she's in the Department of Labor not because she's a latina.
So, functionally, the Anger Left operates to drown out actual analysis of the power structure, to reinforce right wing themes about the unworthy character of social democrats, and to endorse the psychopathology of the right. That is, the Anger Left operates like a dissident elite faction attempting to use the standard ideology to force their way up a step or two