Saturday, January 15, 2011

the blindspot (updated)

I'm sorry, but I feel compelled.

The last week has seen an endless discussion, within the political blogosphere, about the meaning of rhetoric, extremism, and what is acceptable discourse. I'm on break now, so I've been more attentive than usual. I find I can barely express what a profound failure, on balance, the conversation has been. Bloggers fail to have this conversation honestly because they are incapable of seeing or unwilling to admit that the political discourse, in our punditry, lacks a left-wing.

There are many myths within the political blogosphere, but none is so deeply troubling or so highly treasured by mainstream political bloggers than this: that the political blogosphere contains within it the whole range of respectable political opinion, and that once an issue has been thoroughly debated therein, it has had a full and fair hearing. The truth is that almost anything resembling an actual left wing has been systematically written out of the conversation within the political blogosphere, both intentionally and not, while those writing within it congratulate themselves for having answered all left-wing criticism.

That the blogosphere is a flagrantly anti-leftist space should be clear to anyone who has paid a remote amount of attention. Who, exactly, represents the left extreme in the establishment blogosphere? You'd likely hear names like Jane Hamsher or Glenn Greenwald. But these examples are instructive. Is Hamsher a socialist? A revolutionary anti-capitalist? In any historical or international context-- in the context of a country that once had a robust socialist left, and in a world where there are straightforwardly socialist parties in almost every other democracy-- is Hamsher particularly left-wing? Not at all. It's only because her rhetoric is rather inflamed that she is seen as particularly far to the left. This is what makes this whole discourse/extremism conversation such a failure; there is a meticulous sorting of far right-wing rhetoric from far right-wing politics, but no similar sorting on the left. Hamsher says bad words and is mean in print, so she is a far leftist. That her politics are largely mainstream American liberalism that would have been considered moderate for much of the 20th century is immaterial.

Meanwhile, consider Tim Carney and Mark Levin. Levin has outsized, ugly rhetoric. Carney is, by all impressions, a remarkably sweet and friendly guy. But Carney, in an international and historical context, is a reactionary. Those who sort various forms of extremism differentiate Levin and Carney because Levin's extremism is marked in language, and Carney's extremism is marked in policy. The distinction matters to bloggy taste makers. Meanwhile, Hamsher's extremism in language is considered proof positive of extreme left-wing policy platform. No distinction matters; genuinely left-wing politics are forbidden and as such are a piece with angry vitriol.

Greenwald, meanwhile, might very well have actually left-wing domestic policy preferences. I honestly have no idea; Greenwald blogs almost exclusively about foreign policy and privacy issues. In other words, his voice is permitted into the range of the respectable (when it is permitted at all; ask Joe Klein if Greenwald belongs at the adult table) exactly to the degree that it tracks with libertarian ideology. Someone whose domestic policy might (but might not) represent a coherent left-wing policy platform has entrance into the broader conversation precisely because that domestic policy preference remains unspoken.

I hardly even need to explain the example of Markos Moulitsas. Moulitsas is a blogging pioneer and one with a large audience. But within the establishmentarian blogosphere, the professional blogosphere of magazines, think tanks, and the DC media establishment, he amounts to an exiled figure. See how many times supposedly leftist bloggers within this establishment approvingly quote Moulitsas, compared to those who approvingly quote, say, Will Wilkinson, Ross Douthat, or John Cole. Do some of these bloggers have legitimate beef with Kos? Sure. But the fact that his blog is a no-go zone for so many publications, while bad behavior from those of different ideological persuasions is permitted, ensures that the effects of this will be asymmetrical. I believe that people have to create positive change by changing their own behavior, but I also am aware that the nominal left capitulates to demands that they know the right absolutely will not capitulate to themselves. And so the right wins, again and again.

No, the nominal left of the blogosphere is almost exclusively neoliberal. Ask for a prominent left-wing blogger and people are likely to respond with the names of Matt Yglesias, Jon Chait, Kevin Drum.... Each of them, as I understand it, believe in the general paternalistic neoliberal policy platform, where labor rights are undercut everywhere for the creation of economic growth (that 21st century deity), and then, if things go to plan, wealth is redistributed from the top to those whose earnings and quality of life have been devastated by the attack on labor. That there are deep and cogent criticisms of the analytic, moral, and predictive elements of neoliberalism is an argument for another day. That those criticisms exist, and that they emanate from a genuine left-wing position, is a point I find perfectly banal but largely undiscussed in political blogs. And that's the problem. Whatever those bloggers are, they are not left-wing, and the fact that they are the best people can generally come up with is indicative of the great imbalance.

There are two axes of neoliberalism. The first, substantive neoliberalism, means fidelity to the economic policy platform of globalization in the elimination of tariff walls and other impediments to the "free market," incredible antipathy towards organized labor (and, effectively if not intentionally, towards workers in general), resistance to the regulatory apparatus that has protected workers for decades, and the general belief that the way to ameliorate the moral outrages of capitalism is to pursue more capitalism.

The second axis of neoliberalism, constitutional neoliberalism, is the reflexive antileftism within the ideology. This is the tendency of the neoliberal to assume the superior seriousness of the man to his right and the utter moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the man to his left. This is the sneering, superior neoliberalism, the neoliberalism obsessed with status and authority, the neoliberalism that is utterly in thrall to the idea of Intellectually Seriousness and the notion that possessing it means falling all over yourself to dismiss the actual, historical, socialist left. This is Peter Beinart calling for culls in liberalism to ostracize and silence anyone who dares question American aggression. This is Mickey Kaus doing his elaborate dance, calling himself a Democrat and liberal while he mouths every anti-leftist screed possible, calling unions the cause of all of our problems while unions are a dessicated, impotent shell of what they once were. This is the Atlantic publishing a post full of faux-concern over the fate of the labor movement as if its leadership hadn't spent decades, secure in their upper-middle class comfort, attacking the ability of working people to provide for their own interests. This is Tom Friedman and Michael Kinsley and the whole crew of careerists at The New Republic, all of them possessed of the notion that their real enemies are not the people who create the conditions of poverty and inequity in the world but the ones most vocal and dedicated to fighting those conditions by attacking the root cause.

The two intermingle, of course. The neoliberal economic platform is enforced by the attitude that anyone embracing a left-wing critique of that platform is a Stalinist or a misbehaving adolescent. This is the critique of the Very Serious Person: there is a very narrow slice of opinion that is worthy of being considered reasonable or mature, and that anyone who argues outside of it should not be given a seat at the table of serious discussion. Genuinely left-wing opinion is not to be debated but to be dismissed out of hand. Those who argue for a robust series of labor protections, an unapologetic and proud left, a meaningful alternative to the capture of our economic apparatus by corporate power, or (god forbid) something resembling genuine socialism-- even to speak as if their arguments require rebuttal is too much. Far better to demonstrate true repudiation by assuming away the left-wing critic than to assume that his or her position is at least worthy of attention. In this sense, conservative bloggers and pundits are actually fairer than their neoliberal brethren. I've found that they'll actually debate with me, albeit while usually holding their noses. Many neoliberal bloggers maintain an unspoken but meticulously curated policy of not allowing left-wing criticism to enter their rhetorical space.

All of this sounds merely like an indictment, but I genuinely have a great deal of sympathy for those young rising politicos and bloggers who are constitutionally disposed to be left-wing. What they find, as they rise, is a blogging establishment that delivers the message again and again that to be professionally successful, they must march ever-rightward. That's where the money is, after all. For every Nation or FireDogLake, there is an Atlantic or Slate, buttressed by money from the ruling class whose interests are defended with gusto by the neoliberal order. I have followed more than a few eager young bloggers as they have been steadily pushed to the right by the institutional culture of Washington DC, where professional entitlement and social success come part and parcel with an acceptance that "this is a center-right nation" is God's will. I wish they wouldn't move in that direction, but I don't know what great choice many of them have; blogging is an aspirational culture, and there is an endless number of young strivers, emboldened by unexamined privilege and the kind of confidence that can only come from having money you didn't earn, ready to take the place of those who step out of line.

Those who are already firmly ensconced within the upper reaches of bloggy success have less excuse. Many of the young, upwardly-mobile bloggers out there take their cues from Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein. I don't begrudge either of them their policy preferences, even while I disagree with them. But each represents, in his own, the corruption and capitulation that comes with prominence and success in this culture. I genuinely don't know what the hell happened to Matt Yglesias. I long called him my favorite blogger. I've never mistaken him for someone who shares my politics. But he was, once, part of the resurgence of pride in leftism. He was one of the voices, in the midst of the Bush-era darkness, making it plain that he was unapologetic about being a creature of the left. In the last year or so, that stand has completely disappeared. He is now one of the most vocal of the neoliberal scolds, forever ready to define the "neoliberal consensus" as the truth of man and to ignore left-wing criticism. Indeed, I'm not sure that you could even understand that he has critics from his left, judging by what he chooses to discuss on his blog. This is a particularly cruel way to erase the left-wing from the discourse: to pretend that it doesn't exist. Look over his archives even briefly and you'll find, time after time, that he asserts that everyone largely agrees with him. This is one example, but this has basically been his jam since Obama took office. When he posts about the sublime rationality of deregulation (which, we must take care to remember, always seems like a good idea to those whose workspace contains nothing more dangerous than a laptop), or when he says (I'm not joking) that American workers are overcompensated, I want to tell him that everyone most certainly does not agree with him.

I don't know what compelled this change. Perhaps the Center for American Progress has influenced him; that kind of run-of-the-mill centrist organization inevitably redounds to the benefit of the moneyed class that makes it possible. Or perhaps it comes from spending too much time in DC, where there is always another party with folks from Cato or Reason. I'm not saying people shouldn't socialize; I am saying that those on the nominal left should take notes from their friends across the aisle who are able to have drinks with someone without moderating their message.

Klein, meanwhile, means well. That is 90% of what people say about Klein; he is smart and means well and has those all-American good looks and dammit, if you can't respect him, you're a bastard or an ideologue. (Mickey Kaus is obsessed with bashing him, if that tells you anything.) I don't doubt that he's a good guy. I don't doubt that almost all of them are good people. I just find him so bloodless and conciliatory that I don't know what good can come of liberalism if it takes its cues from him. This was at its worst during the Journolist imbroglio; everyday, there would be more mean meanies being mean about Journolist members, and there would be more aggrieved sighing from Klein. At his best, he is probing and incisive. At his worst, he does his Saint Ezra routine, where being correct on policy is supposed to flow directly from his moral rectitude. I can't dismiss his preference for a genial globalized social order out of hand, much as I may want to, but I wish he understood that his lack of fire, combined with his considerable access and influence teaches young liberal pundits that there is more to be gained from being a caricature of a Very Reasonable Fellow than there is from sticking to principle.

I don't know what's to be done about all this. On a personal level, I like many of the people I'm critiquing very well. If good intentions were enough this world would be a different place. And I definitely don't enjoy constantly feeling compelled to fight with people with whom I would much rather agree. But I operate within the blogosphere as it is, not as I wish it would be, and unlike people from other ideological stripes I cannot rest in the knowledge that someone out there will forcefully articulate my position. I can expect just opposite, that a genuinely left-wing position-- one from the socialist left, the internationalist left, of the kind that can be found in force in almost every other democracy in the world-- will go unsaid. Worse, the fact that it goes unsaid will be taken by those within the blogosphere that no such position exists.

I was finally driven to write this post by the recent discussions, driven by Chris Beam's article, on libertarianism. I am someone who frequently develops great hope for a hypothetical libertarianism and is consistently disappointed by the actual libertarianism. I'm sorry to say that, if the reaction to Beam's piece is any indication, what libertarians have taken from their tempestuous love affair with movement conservatism is the political salience of constantly complaining about how oppressed you are. I ask, and I wonder, if libertarians ever stop to ponder what it's like to operate from an actually forbidden perspective. I take it that there isn't, actually, a great imbalance in the number of American libertarians (in any sense amenable to the Cato and Reason crowd) and the number of Americans who would consider themselves leftists, or very liberal, or the like. The ranks of American minarchism, after all, are quite small in number. Bush's compassionate conservatism, the inverse of the standard libertarian platform, was a real winner. But while libertarians are tiny in number they are mammoth in influence. This is the case because they've got money, money to fund enterprises like Cato or Reason or smaller outfits. I'm not saying that this is illegitimate. (There's something awfully poetic about libertarianism getting influence by buying it.) I'm just saying that there's no sense in which the lack of a leftist blogosphere is necessarily the product of small demographic representation.

If there was a different libertarianism.... I frequently imagine that an ideology with "liberty" right in the title might be a mad, teeming collection of every flavor of crazy and dreamer, a loose confederation rife with difference and disagreement. Difference so vast that it might, by god, lead some to find common ground with someone like, well, me.

Instead, we have only the libertarianism that exists. And that libertarianism is the America ideology least accepting of difference, most committed to policing orthodoxy. It is, on balance, a model of lockstep adherence to the standard libertarian cause. Who could be a better symbol of today's libertarianism than Matt Welch, the snarling head of Reason, a man notorious for keeping those under Reason's banner within the small grounds of the libertarian reservation? I have searched but found no libertarians particularly amenable to seeing the tension between an ideology dedicated to freedom and an institutional apparatus that enforces orthodoxy. I bring all this up because I have always thought that there is room for libertarians to at once disagree totally with left-wing policy but to support the idea that the left-wing should be given a seat at the table. The reality, I'm sorry to say, is the opposite. I find it so hard to take, when libertarians complain about how misunderstood and oppressed they are, because nobody redbaits like libertarians do. Nobody. Nobody is more eager to excise the dirty commies from the realm of acceptable opinion than your average libertarian, while the similarly berate the powers that be for confining them to the intellectual ghetto of their imagination.

So you can imagine why I might be compelled to pull my hair out by something like this Bloggingheads episode with Adam Serwer and Michael Moynihan, where, in a discussion about acceptable rhetoric, Moynihan laments the use of the term "eliminationist" in political dialogue. On the merits, I think he has a point, but perhaps Moynihan would find the term less in use if he wasn't someone who so enthusiastically participated in the behavior that people usually describe as eliminationist. I have a hard time imagining someone less hospitable to far left opinion than Moynihan. He constantly is declaring international thinkers, politicians, and authors communists, and assuming that this terminology alone is enough to dismiss them. Meanwhile, I like Serwer, but he is in many ways exactly the kind of establishmentarian liberal who is least able to rebut someone like Moynihan-- conciliatory rather than aggressive, more likely to look for compromise than to stand his ground. Perhaps that's maturity and strength. But I look around and see a liberal dialogue that is dangerously self-marginalizing because of its refusal to take commitment to ideals as a point of pride in the same way that conservatives and libertarians do. Again, I can't fault Serwer for being who he is, and he is justly successful. But I lament the fact that he operates in a context where there are so few left-wing warriors equivalent to Moynhian, which the right seems to produce in throngs.


I long ago had to come to terms with a political era and a political machine that is not my own and never likely to please me. I do wonder what a critique like this one might accomplish, were it to penetrate the greater bloggy consciousness. It would take someone with publicity and access to bring it into the conversation, and as I've said, very, very few of genuinely left-wing socialist policy preferences are ever allowed into the Club. Even if it got there-- even if, somehow, a critique like this one could puncture the carefully constructed bubble of blogospheric consciousness, the one which limits debate and sets the boundaries of "acceptable" discourse so narrowly-- I can predict a sad response. Many would set out to deny the possibility that political blogs contain anything less than the full panoply of human political opinion, and would do so with exactly the mechanism I'm describing here: the existence of a nominal left-wing that represents merely a slightly different flavor of neoliberal doctrine would provide cover for those not even nominally left-wing. The Matt Yglesiases, the Ezra Kleins, the Jon Chaits, the Kevin Drums-- they would likely support the neoliberal orthodoxy that has captured the debate by denying that any such dynamic could exist. That would give an out to the conservatives and libertarians to say "see, even the Liberal Ezra Klein says...." Every time there is agreement between, say, Yglesias, Ross Douthat, and Will Wilkinson, this is taken as a sign that of a lack of disagreement to their position, rather than as an indicator of the narrow confines of blogger opinion. Once again, the idea that there is some sort of genuine ideological disagreement within the space would paper over the fact that little such disagreement exists.

I'm not a proponent of any kind of a Fairness Doctrine. Yes, it's true; I think the blogosphere would be a truer, more productive, more interesting, more entertaining, more generative, more self-effacing, more American place, were it to permit an actual left-wing. But you couldn't force such a thing and I wouldn't want. People are always permitted to take their ball and go home. But once they do, it would be polite for them to stop pretending that this is the same as winning the game. The blogosphere will go on being what it is, but it could at least have the self-knowledge and the probity to admit its bias and its lack of balance. I often find myself wondering of Matt Yglesias-- when he talks about a world without serious disagreement with his policy preferences, is he talking about just the world of blogs and punditry, or the wider, wilder world of political thought? And is he talking about the way things sadly are, or the way he wishes it to be? The difference means everything.

I'm a lefty. I wish I could pretend that I have the intelligence and the perspective necessary to divide my beliefs from my appraisal of the situation, but I have neither. All I know is that I look out onto an America that seems to me to desperately require a left-wing. American workers have taken it on the chin for thirty years. They have been faced for years with stagnant wages, rising costs, and the hollowing out of the middle class. They are now confronted with that and a cratered job market, where desperate people compete to show how hard they will work in bad conditions for less compensation. Meanwhile, the neoliberal policy apparatus that brought us here refuses even to consider the possibility that it is culpable, so certain of its inherent righteousness and its place in the inevitable march of progress. And the blogosphere protects and parrots that certainty, weeding out left-wing detractors with ruthless efficiency, while around it orbits the gradual extinction of the American dream.

Update:

Medicine taking department:

Erik Kain, from my old digs at the League, responds with a post entitled "No True Leftist," suggesting the "No True Scotsman" fallacy. I take the criticism that, if you  draw the lines tightly enough, you're never likely to be happy about the representation of your ideas by others. That's true, but I think that there's a lot of space between my ideal theory and a generally more leftist, labor-supporting viewpoint on the blogosphere.

Erik writes
Indeed, so far as I can tell the greatest threat to Freddie’s ideas receiving no exposure by Very Serious People is Freddie deBoer himself. By removing himself from the debate he has contributed vastly to his own complaint. Because Freddie was getting his ideas out there and then he stopped. Maybe he was frustrated because his ideas weren’t spreading into the liberal blogosphere the way they were getting attention on many conservative and libertarian blogs. That’s fair – it certainly can be frustrating to feel as though you aren’t being taken seriously by the people who matter most. I guess I’d just suggest patience.
This, actually, is untrue. It's worth saying that I once had the opportunity, not too long ago, to blog for money-- not a lot of money-- for a fairly mainstream progressive enterprise. I turned it down for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is my continuing fear that my blogging will come back to ruin my career in the academy, as it may even without professionalization. In fact, I stopped blogging because my personality is a poor fit with the prerequisites of being a good blogger. That's my fault, not blogging's fault, but there is it. And this is my larger point to Erik and to others: I reserve the right to want more from left-wing blogging and punditry than I am capable of providing myself.

In the comments of that post, Jason Kuznicki writes
I find Freddie’s characterization of Matt Welch quite unfair. When Ron Bailey changed his mind about global warming several years ago, he didn’t get fired. He’s still at Reason, still posting monthly climate updates, still shaming the denialists.
This is a fair criticism. I am talking about both things that you hear, the way you hear things, and specific complaints from more specific quarters. But while I do feel that Welch cultivates a certain image as the libertarian police, it's true that I likely shouldn't have trafficked in innuendo, and for that I do apologize. I'm quite sure Welch would tell me to stick my apology up my ass.

The Shatterer of Worlds (really!) writes

But he holds his most delicate yet withering fire for the Young Will Huntings of the lefty Blog world, Matt and Ezra. Freddie takes pains to say that he likes them both, I mean, REALLY LIKES them, but still…

This is a little disappointing-- I was actually really trying to avoid the kiss-and-slap thing, just because it reeks of dishonesty and because it can be part and parcel of the "let's just be friends" attitude where a lot of important differences go unsaid. But, yeah, it's true; I admire them both, as disingenuous as that likely now sounds.

In my own comments, (Clint) writes "Lastly, you may be ignored in the blogosphere but your viewpoint utterly rules the universities (which treat conservative dissenters with overt hostility and intimidation, both socially and institutionally)." As a life-long university brat and grad student, I think this is less true than people think. But, look, yes-- I find the academy far more hospitable to my beliefs than the world of politics. Similarly, I have a lot of lefty friends (many of whom think I'm a squish) who have their own rhetorical spaces and not-inconsiderable soft power. What depresses me is precisely that I could remain in that space, comfortably, for my whole life, and that those who don't like the left-wing could reside in the political blogosphere in the same way. In a sense, this is my point entirely: these ideas do exist, from a small but committed group, and I think that they could have real salience and positive effects for the blogging world. But I would say that, wouldn't I?

TGGP says "I found it odd that initially you complained that Hamsher & Greenwald (the latter is one of my favorite pundits) are considered extreme for their tone rather than policy. So you think we should sort pundits by their actual ideology rather than tone. Then for Ezra Klein you complain about his conciliatory tone." This is fair, and I don't have much in the way of a rebuttal.

Nyetter says, "This entire post can be reduced to 'I didn't get the memo that Communism failed.'" More graciously, (Clint) says " Please consider the role played by tens of millions of victims of state murder in Stalin's Russia, Mao's China, Pol Pot's Cambodia, etc." Here, I am unapologetic: this is bullshit. One of the points on which I am most adamant is that we need to allow people to be more radically redistributive than the American mainstream without immediately accusing them of being communists. There's a discrepancy, I think, in what is allowed in terms of ideal theory here; people on the right, for example, while often teased for them, are allowed to speak their ideal minarchist theories without having to constantly distance themselves from Somalia and Mogadishu. I ask the same of Maoism, Stalinism, the Khmer Rouge, etc.

To be clear: anyone with radically redistributive policy preferences has to wrestle with the history of those things, which represent one of the most profound moral, intellectual, humanitarian, practical, and political failures of world history. What I object to is the idea that we have to constantly tell people that we have wrestled with them, forsake Stalin and communism, etc. That itself is a form of marginalization, constantly asking people to define themselves in relation to an extreme they never endorsed.

Update II: Michael Brendan Dougherty tweets:  "@ayjay shorter freddie: Tim Carney may be addressing day to day policy questions, but really I think he is as extreme as I am. Extremer even." Well, no. Dougherty is a guy who perpetually can't decide if he wants to be in the Cool Kid Squad or not, so I don't begrudge him the dig.

But this is a  part of the larger point. Certainly, people within the American Conservative, right-wing apostate crowd know better than anyone what I'm talking about. But you'll find that they lack any particular sense of solidarity with me or those like me. I think the reason is because they remain tempted by the edifice of the institutions of right-wing thinking that largely don't exist for the genuinely left-wing. And this is one of the quiet virtues of being a leftist on the Internet; I approach every situation assuming that most people despise my positions and don't take me seriously. There's strength, in that. Dougherty knows that, sometimes.

Update III: Hard to believe I left this one off. Will Wilkinson, in comments:

Ezra Klein is a man with a robust sense of the process by which institutional change actually occurs, and he's inserted himself into the heart of that process. It's a hell of a lot of work for so little payoff, but there's a very plausible argument that the little he is able to help achieve is far more than uncompromising radicals could hope to. Maybe that's an indictment of universe or maybe it just means Ezra, unlike uncompromising radicals, cares enough to actually get SOMETHING done for justice.
I must say, though-- Will is himself a man with some radical views, and I think, if pressed, he would admit that this vision of incrementalism is often used to dismiss those who genuinely believe that radical change is desperately needed. "Care" is a tough word. I think both Ezra Klein and the uncompromising radical care. But sometimes, caring can mean so little....

Update IV: Kevin Drum:

I plead guilty to some general neoliberal instincts, of course, but I plead guilty with (at least) one big exception: I am very decidedly not in favor of undercutting labor rights in order to stimulate economic growth, and I'm decidedly not in favor of relying solely on the tax code to redistribute wealth from the super rich to the rest of us. What's more, the older I get and the more obvious the devastating effects of the demise of the American labor movement become, the less neoliberal I get. The events of the past two years, in which the massed forces of capital came within a hair's breadth of destroying the world economy, and yet, phoenix-like, have come out richer and more powerful than before, ought to have convinced nearly everyone that business interests and the rich are now almost literally out of control. If they haven't, what would?
Some people have pointed out that I am making my case less clear by using, at times, left-wing and socialist interchangeably. This is certainly true, so to be clear, what I think is lacking is a dedicated pro-labor union presence online. I take it that such a presence would have it's own extremes, one of which would be genuinely socialist. Sorry for my lack of clarity there.

Update V: Finally-- there's a lot of conservatives mocking this post and saying it's not to be taken seriously on Twitter. Alex Massie, for example, pronounces it crap and says "Perhaps. I thought it was more like SDS 40 years on. And even less convincing." You see, this Very Serious conservative person doesn't know why he should take a silly socialist seriously. There's no argument, of course, but who would need such a thing?

Tim Carney-- who really is quite nice, I think-- goes the "who is this guy, anyway?" route. Just a dude. Just some dude.

Guys, as far as rebuttal of this piece's point... you're doing it wrong. Believe it or not, you are not the cosmos.

Update VI: Last one, for real this time. What's amazing, really, is how abjectly sensitive these people are. Again, I'm not kidding-- it really does cultivate a certain strength, I guess, to not have a cadre of connected people to complain to when you get smacked a little. I've been arguing on blogs for years, and I get smacked every day. Who cares? But I think Michael Brendan Dougherty is about to cry over this. Weeping to each other on Twitter is exactly the kind of cult of the savvy bullshit I'm criticizing.

They can all email me. I always respond, and usually will update in response. But they don't; they keep it to Twitter. You know, like real men do.

223 comments:

1 – 200 of 223   Newer›   Newest»
Will Wilkinson said...

Thoughtful post. I think you're right about the full-bore socialist left having almost no place in the public affairs blogosphere. The question is why is that? In particular, why does the institutional left ignore you? I think it's because most bloggy public affairs types want to be politically relevant, but American public opinion tilts so far to the right that any association with real left-wing opinion simply undermines the persuasive authority party-politics-involved liberals. Libertarianism gets a seat because, first, by aligning with the right to fight socialism at home and communism abroad, it made the reactionaries more sympathetic to libertarianism positions than they would have been, and, second, it has a sufficiently authentic claim to some part of the liberal tradition that many liberals compelled to take it seriously. In contrast, conservatives see no reason to treat socialists as anything other than enemies, and liberals mostly just want them to shut up so their team doesn't blow it with the relatively right-wingy American public.

Also, to tenderly bait you, it just might help your cause if socialists ever made compelling arguments about policy.

Freddie said...

Heh!

I wish I was one of those "arc of history" socialists.

ryan said...

I think Will accurately explains the current state of affairs, but a little history would be helpful, I think.

The Socialist Party of America was a real thing. Their third-party presidential candidate, Eugene Debs, won almost a million votes, twice, in the first two decades of the twentieth century. But they opposed the New Deal as an essentially capitalist half-measure, and they were ambivalent about WWII. Given that the former is perhaps the single most popular governmental action in the last century and the latter still represents the bastion of patriotic sentiment, it isn't surprising that the party ceased to be politically relevant in the 1950s.

There's even still a Communist Party, believe it or not. It's got about 15,000 members. It had almost 200,000 at its peak of its influence, but the Red Scare, internal strife, Stalin's pact with Hitler, and McCarthyism, and the tensions of the Cold War have essentially marginalized it entirely.

So there's a reason there isn't a left-wing voice in American politics. Political missteps by left-wing parties and the general trend of history have served to entirely marginalize it. Even sounding like a Communist was exceptionally dangerous fifty years ago.

Anonymous said...

Re Yggles: "sublime rationality of deregulation"

Don't you think this is a little unfair? His deregulation is all local zoning stuff that stands in the way of his walkable urbanism. I don't see him wanting to defang OSHA or EPA. It's just a horse that he rides so he can call out libertarians on their lack of follow-through.

I'll confess to loving Klein; that's probably damning, because I'm a conservatarian or whatever. But here's the thing about Klein's blogging; he works hard. Really hard. (And fewer typos than Yglesias!) 10 relatively high quality blogposts a day, mostly bringing new policy information to the fore. That's worth something, isn't it?

Klein's blogging and his policy is all about "what can actually happen in Congress"; his big question about HCR was "What will Max Baucus agree to?" That wasn't because he's pale pink; it's because that's what's actually going to decide things.

Ultimately, I don't think it's fair to bring Klein into this discussion because he's basically a news blogger, so he's not going very much time pushing arguments leftward relative to other things.

I'll also note (IMHO) that he's a bit purposeful about hiding some of his more leftward policy opinions -- very few times during HCR did he mention what he *really* believes: that the medical establishment makes too much money, and he things that doctors, etc. should make less money over the coming years. (Perhaps, Freddie, you just don't find that particularly left; that's cool too.)

In the end, you're right; among the really, really, really popular bloggers, there aren't a lot of hard-core socialists. But there are plenty of left voices out there; maybe one will come sooner rather than later.

Enjoyed this post; miss the old days. -K.

Freddie said...

Debs's statement to the court is my central political document. I endorse it with very little reservation. Your history all seems correct to me, Ryan.

You might be right, k. My disappointments with Klein and Yglesias largely stem from recognizing the distance between their strengths and ideals and the effective output of their work. I'm particularly at odds with Yglesias, who I feel has made a very deliberate move lately. Ultimately, I just want to push, a little; the push from the other direction is quite forceful, after all.

ryan said...

Then while we're on the subject of history, there's something else that should be brought up: socialism (and, Freddie, when you say "left-wing," that's what I'm hearing) really is a European ideology.

The American founding generation was all over the idea that whoever it was that was to rule, said person should not be chosen on the basis of their parentage. Dynastic aristocracy was right out. But that's about as far as it went for the modernization or liberalization of politics. They were still just as aristocratic; it was just dynasties and landed gentry they didn't like. Indeed, the Articles of Confederation were, if anything, an attempt to permit a "natural" aristocracy to emerge, a republic of letters, a gentlemanly class which would run the new Republic based on rational principles, not dynastic ones.

True egalitarian principles took another half century to emerge, and they did so in Europe, not in America. It's fairly clear that Lincoln was at least familiar with Marx--there's an alternate history model that actually has a surviving but discredited Lincoln stumping for communism--but it never really went anywhere.

I'd be willing to argue that timing has something to do with this. By the time socialism emerged as a political philosophy, the United States was already almost a century into its own political experiment and, frankly, had other things to think about, namely whether workers were actually property. A good chunk of the country thought they were, and the final answering of that question in the negative represented quite a bit of enlightenment, all things considered.

Europe, on the other hand, preserved its monarchies for quite some time after 1787. Even France's came back for a while, after an abortive detour into anarchy ending with Napoleon, so that didn't work out very well. When Europeans finally got around to getting rid of the old systems, sometimes as late as the twentieth century, the revolutionaries of those time periods were able to draw on socialist ideas in ways that Thomas Jefferson could not have.

Note that the UK, which had its Revolution in the seventeenth century, is still one of the most politically conservative places in Europe. Neither the UK nor the US have had a real opportunity to do serious work on our constitutions for centuries.

In short: socialism did not start and never really took root in the US, and this has less to do with current right wing punditry as it does with the way things just worked out over the last two centuries.

Will Wilkinson said...

Apologies for the Yglesian abundance of typos in my hasty comment.

Freddie, I starting to fear you're in a place similar to the seasteading anarchocapitalists, but without the buoying pipe dream of bobbing elsysia. Recognizing that there is no feasible path from the status quo disposition of opinion and institutions to their ideal, the seasteaders are left criticizing soft sell-outs like me for ineffectual, posturing "folk activism". It seems to me you do a lot of a similar sort of complaining about the impossibility of getting where you want to go given the terms of the conversation enforced by the prevailing interests, but you aren't quite reconciled to the alternatives to persuading people through argument. (Giant oil platforms? Violent insurrection?) So mostly you just get very frustrated.

Ezra Klein is a man with a robust sense of the process by which institutional change actually occurs, and he's inserted himself into the heart of that process. It's a hell of a lot of work for so little payoff, but there's a very plausible argument that the little he is able to help achieve is far more than uncompromising radicals could hope to. Maybe that's an indictment of universe or maybe it just means Ezra, unlike uncompromising radicals, cares enough to actually get SOMETHING done for justice.

Will Wilkinson said...

Weird. My comment keeps vanishing.

Freddie said...

That is weird-- let me check the spam filter.

Freddie said...

There. The blogger spam filter appears to be way more active than it once was. Sorry about that.

Freddie said...

You may be right. It's complicated. I believe in a Russian nesting dolls theory of change. I don't mean to indict Klein and Yglesias with the sort of self-exculpation that your identifying. I think that there are very concrete and specific ways in which I'd like for Yglesias and Klein to change; I've laid out some of them here, I think. Certainly, I would like Matt Yglesias to stop pretending that nobody disagrees with him. (Really, if you look at even the last month of his posts, he does that stuff all the time.) I don't know how much the Post constrains Klein, but I do know that I talk to a lot of young liberal bloggers, and I can't help but think tat he conveys to them that the way to succeed-- to get a job at the Post, to get on Rachel Maddow-- is to engage in the kind of slow drift, stick-to-the-process kind of change that he specializes in. Perhaps I'd just like a little more fire.

As for me, well, James Poulos has warned me that I can come close to hunger artistry, and here you've identified the same thing. I don't believe that our system of resource distribution is capable of outcomes consistent with what I take to be moral outcomes, so I imagine that someday, a new system will emerge. I feel buttressed in that opinion by the fact that few in any system of resource distribution believe their system will eventual evolve away. Perhaps that's a commitment so vague as to be useless, but I do believe it.

In shorter terms, I think that the decline of respect for labor rights has degraded the living conditions of the American working class. I think that the idea that economics is not always zero-sum (certainly true) has lead some people, in that sunny American way, to assume that economics is never zero-sum (false, in my estimation). I'm not an inequality guy-- I think people argue about inequality as a proxy for arguing about poverty and need, usually-- but I do think that some of the resources that used to be distributed to the poor and working class has been sucked up by the ever-increasing growth of resources at the top. Again, I'm not positing a simplistically zero-sum relationship within capitalism, but I am saying that this doesn't mean the rich never take from the poor.

I understand, and in many ways respect, a certain line of progressive neoliberal thought: adopt neoliberal policy, watch the economy grow, then redistribute some of that wealth through social programs to the workers whose living conditions have been lowered by globalization. I think there's a lot to like there, but I have a major objection: what I want ultimately is not higher standard of living for the working class but for the working class to have the power to ensure their own standard of living. One of the advantages of markets, after all, is that people know better what they want and need than government can identify. What I'd like is that this insight be applied to the good of working people. In the globalize-grow-give system, workers are always at the mercy of the political process; their standard of living depends on the continued benevolence of the political apparatus. But if the right of workers to organize and strike is protected, the workers can defend their own interests, free of paternalism and without the shadow of democratic whim hanging over their standard of living.

I don't know if that's an answer.

ovaut said...

what about krugman?

why does yglesias resort so often -- so often it's almost a reflex -- to making a gestural criticism of the status quo by prescribing an alternative that can’t be realised? isn't this in effect to defend what one has notionally admitted is indefensible?

i don't know. but i am sure it's a comment on the pointlessness of commentary. even its counterproductiveness. in more and more posts it degenerates into something to produce and consume -- into a higher entertainment -- which distracts us from the obligatory practice of politics. 'the gain is gloss'!

all the while matt -- whom indeed i've read pretty much daily since the atlantic years -- can feel like he is making a difference.

Matoko Kusanagi said...

wow freddie.
epic fail.
the problem with blogospheric discourse is not lack of a true left perspective, it is a third culture vs first culture dynamic. First culture intellectuals like libertarians and dead-white-guy phailosophers (Hayek in particular) use non-empirical reasoning proceeding from first principles.
Libertarians and DWGs are anti-empirical.
that is why the only republican policies that are being advocated to solve the economic problems are the exact same ones that caused the economic problems.
What we see in practice is the low information segment of the electorate swayed by emotional tribalist and religious pedagoguery. This is the largest segment btw-- 75% of the population 1 std of the mean or below. It is a direct result of Salam-Douthat stratification on cognitive ability in action. Grand New Party page 154.
This results in a feedlot environment for the electorate, with the GOP as feedlot management, serving up the same recycled shit that caused the econopalpse. This is called drench. We used to do this until it turned out that feeding cattle their own recycled shit causes mad cow disease.
Which is what we see happening in the TP/GOP base today.

Wolfgang Corcoran-Mathe said...

Thanks very much for this post. Excellent commentary. Your critique of Yglesias, et al is entirely on-point; that these centrist/"neoliberal" folks are regarded as the "great left" of the Interwebs is farcical, and it's gratifying to hear someone voice the truth.

I stumbled upon this post through Twitter and was very impressed; I'll be a regular reader here from now on.

Jesse said...

I'll throw in how I'd defend Klein; I believe he sees himself as reporting on the process, not as an activist, at least professionally. Now, you can have a problem with that, in that you can hold that he's supporting the structural problems you (presumably) identify with society by not speaking out against them, but I think that's what explains his position.

Yglesias, blogging for CAP, doesn't really get to use the same defence.

Finally, I found the section where you question the difference between how libertarianism and leftism are received, when each is probably supported by a comparable portion of the population, very interesting. Two reasons I would posit for the difference in inclusion in debate are:

1) Libertarianism is more commonly (and, I think perhaps more easily) distorted by the right wing that leftist/socialist ideas are by the "usual" political left. Fragments of Libertarian ideas are just so easy to jam into ideologies motivated by knee jerk antigovernment "thinking", gun rights, anti-tax rhetoric, and supporting "big money".

2) "We should all take care of each other" just has never been as good a fit with Americans as "leave me alone".

Matoko Kusanagi said...

wallah, sry, i meant demogoguery, not pedagoguery.
conservative philosophy in the US is entirely free from empiricism, freddie.
and that is the problem.
that is one reason 94% of scientists are not-republican.
science is empirical by nature.
and also.....the TP/GOP has devolved to an entirely religious party in America. when one party has ensoulment as part of its platform, it is religious, not secular.
supply side economics is every bit as counterfactual as creationism.

Anonymous said...

RE: FDL -- The "Villagers" who dictate Seriousness declare Jane Hamsher to be beyond the pale for use of the occasional word that, were she a conservative, would be lauded as evidence of her gritty virtue. (As Atrios says, there is nothing a conservative can do that will get him or her permanently banished from public life -- unless, of course, it's to take a stance contrary to what the powers that be want. Pat Buchanan's anti-Semitism and general bigotry went unremarked by most commentators until he came out in opposition to the invasion of Iraq in 2002; then suddenly his conservative cocktail-party buddies started "remembering" various anecdotes that they'd kept to themselves all those years.)

Hamsher's real crimes are, of course, supporting unions, Social Security, and the downfall of the health-insurance industry (and of corporatism in general). Yet she, unlike the true Socialist/Communists who see involvement in electoral politics as buying into and thus helping to sustain a system (or rather a stage in human cultural development) that needs to wither away so we can have the workers' paradise, believes (as do the far-righties) in working with and manipulating the electoral system, rather than running away from it.

I used to be part of the "Socialist Liberty" listserv back in the day. It was consumed with ideological slapfights over Who Was Pure and Who Wasn't, and the purists shunned electoral politics, even as the purists among the righties were vastly increasing their own political activity. So while there are a lot of reasons for the non-existence of a Socialist Left in America (the largely successful plan by Nixon cabinet members to buy up, buy off or scare off our media being one: http://www.consortiumnews.com/1999/080499a2.html), the fact that the more pure in one's Socialism/Communism one is, the less likely one is to get involved in politics, is not a trivial factor. (Of course, this all presupposes that the only way to be lefty at all is to follow in some degree the teachings of Marx and/or Engels, if not Lenin. Conservatives, mindful of the atrocities committed in Soviet Russia and Mao's China, gleefully encourage this linkage just as they keep pointing out the claims that Mao's and Stalin's body counts were higher than Hitler's, whereas non-conservatives reject it.)

Anonymous said...

One thing really far leftist positions (particularly with regards to owning ones labor, means of production, and shared worker-power) cannot currently cogently address is massive and increasing labor automation. When many, or even most people are not needed for their labor, What to do with all those people who have jobs which will, in fact, never come back? Where do the ideas of worker guilds, councils, or unions fit in a world where humans are needed less and less? Use a customer service line lately? Gone to a supermarket? Seen a factory? We're automating things faster and faster every day; this is a very different world than the Industrial/post-Industrial revolutions.

Eventually, we may wind up with an “Arts and Leisure”/post-scarcity society (at which point Capitalism will be dead in the water. Without scarcity, we hardly need it.), but in the interim? Variants of our social-democratic/Liberal/Neo-liberal model are the only ones likely to work for the time being (let's say, next half century to century.)

We need a lot of things here in the US. Universal health care. Universal higher education. A government jobs program/new WPA. Enforced workplace protections. The whole lot of it. About a million other things that Social Democrats, Socialists, and Progressive Liberals would agree on. However, attempting to resurrect the "labor society" mode of thinking is just not going to go anywhere.

What good is worker power when business *needs* less and less workers? The two guys maintaining the the factory robots don't make much of a union.

Anonymous said...

There are a few reasons for the disappearance of the Socialists/Communists as a political force in America:

1) The successful plan of rich Nixon cabinet members like William Simon (http://www.consortiumnews.com/1999/080499a2.html) and Pete Peterson (http://news.firedoglake.com/2009/12/02/major-push-to-stop-pete-petersons-cat-food-commission/) to buy up, buy off or scare off media outlets from being progressive (both by controlling the press and the "think tanks" that provide its pundits).

2) The fact that the purer one is as a Socialist or Communist, the less likely one is to participate in electoral politics (true Communists see democracy as an outgrowth of capitalism, and both as mere way stations on the road to the workers' paradise; participation in democracy delays the transition to the next stage). Even as the far right has radically increased its electoral participation, the far left has either decided to go with spoilers like Nader (who far-righties gladly fund) to take votes from Democrats and ensure the election of conservatives who will (they hope) bring the whole system down (the 1930s German Communists' gambit), or avoid politics altogether.

thorne dreyer said...

Interesting piece!

For a consistent progressive/left/socialist perspective, folks might check out The Rag Blog (http://theragblog.blogspot.com/).

Our roots are in the Sixties New Left and underground press. I was involved with SDS and was the original editor of The Rag in Austin in 1966.(The Rag was one of the first and most influential of the '60s underground papers.)

Many of our contributors are veterans of that era; some were major figures in the New Left. We have developed a wide following, with influence beyond our numbers.

The Rag Blog has political commentary about current events, as well as cutting-edge cultural coverage

In any event, we'd love to have you check us out.

Thorne

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. It doesn't take much to start a blog. After all, you've typed this on your own blog. There should be no shortage of left wing blogs if there are enough people out there that believe in it. You don't need money or resources to start a blog.

I guess your problem is that pure left wing blogs aren't very popular. After all, if they were more popular then the blogs you listed then they would be driving the debate. They aren't popular though, not to many people enjoy reading them or agree with their opinions. That's your problem. You can't force people to start wanting to read socialist blogs. If they don't want to, they don't. You can hardly blame it on money and power when the cost of making a blog is zero and anyone with a computer can access it.

I read a lot of political blogs, they are easy to find. A google search, a link, etc. Maybe your views just aren't that popular.

Freddie said...

Well, anonymous, it's a sticky issue. Surely you'll agree that there is something like a professional blogger/pundit apparatus that has more reach and influence than the free blog variety. My concern is that the professional blogosphere/punditry is inimical to leftist ideas beyond their lack of popularity. I could be wrong about that. But see libertarianism, again, for a comparison; genuine libertarianism, in the sense that would please the libertarian intelligentsia, is supported by a very small number of people in the US. It has influence far outside of its popularity.

Anonymous said...

If you come to realize that there are countless equal and opposite manifestations of your post on the truly "far" or "alternative" right, and that some barely-mainstream characters that you would find to be extremist reactionaries only represent the very tip of a sizable iceberg (mostly made invisible from the position of your perspective), you will have achieved another ounce of wisdom.

Your immediate psychological defense to my assertion will be to dismiss or deny its truth, but I submit that there will be some value to be mined if you ever temporarily consider it to be a fact. That is - that for every sincere, lucid, firm and/or orthodox Leftist there is an equal and opposite character on the right bemoaning their utter lack of representation, the taboos against expressing their positions, the threat of the blacklist and ostracize, the pathetic centrism of the popular commentators who are purportedly agents for "their side", their feeling of exaggerated heroic bravery, even while hiding behind anonymity, of being willing to articulate their socially-forbidden "beyond the pale" opinions (completely apart from their forms of rhetoric), and so on.

Just ask Wilkinson, I'm sure he's heard his share from them and can attest to their equivalent laments. Probably, he'll just dismiss them as mostly a collection of racist, nationalist, unhinged bigots too. And that's how they see him and you - with different modifiers, of course. Dismissible.

So what remains to be done? There is a narrow window of tolerated, popular voices, and you find yourself outside the stiles. You have little choice but try to try to move the near edge closer to your position. Is there a procedure to accomplish this that avoids "playing the game" with the folks living in that window and, at least temporarily, denying one's own "outsider" status? Is this the "understanding of process" that Wilkinson accords to Klein?

Freddie said...

Well, anonymous-- isn't it possible that this is what I'm doing?

We all push, a little bit, if we aren't the people who can do the big pushing.

jkd said...

I'd say the problem is not the lack of an audience for full-left political commentary but that nobody's done it right yet. What do I mean by "right"? Two things:

1) Understanding of the medium. Whatever else you might believe about Yglesias, he gets the medium of blogging better than almost anyone else. There are very few others out there as good, at that, and someone like, e.g., Glenn Greenwald is held back from greater influence by his epic essay format.

Sure, it would be nice if people made more time for longer essays - like this one, or Greenwald's - but in this context it's about appropriateness. At a party, people communicating with each other want a back and forth - the gent who just keeps talking and talking is not going to get much in the way of interest, and will find himself caught over in the corner with the one other person interested in that discourse.

2) Lack of attention of Left thought to contemporary labor issues. I'm not concern-trolling here - I identify strongly as a Leftist and an instinctive believer in the necessity of empowered labor for a just society. But so much of self-identified Left commentary is based on a 19th and 20th C. industrial model of capitalism. Mourn the loss of that or not (well-paid by the end, but the vast majority of workers who ever participated in industrial capitalism had miserable lives for low wages in awful conditions), it's certainly not where we are, anymore.

We need an authentic Leftism that can respond to the world that is, not the world that was, in a US with increasing automation of labor. When you have more and more workers functioning as independent contractors and telecommuters and chasing fewer and fewer jobs in at deflating wages, achieving class consciousness is quite a bit harder. And what "class consciousness" looks like will be quite a bit different. But it's not impossible.

So: what is to be done? Keep trying. Despite all the incentives for liberal bloggers to sell out, this is a big country full of smart people who think seriously about the world (even if it's also full of ignorant people who don't think about the world much at all). If there's the talent, motivation, and audience for a contemporarily relevant Leftist take on US politics - and I believe there are all those things - then there's a good shot at broadening the discussion in the way you propose.

nyetter said...

This entire post can be reduced to "I didn't get the memo that Communism failed." There's no hyper-left blogosphere in America because there's no hyper-left in America, as you so keenly observed in noting that we alone in the west lack a serious socialist party. What you have failed to observe in tandem is that there is a very good reason for that.

Matoko said...

Freddie.....jeez...its not that hard.
It is segregation on cognitive ability.
Stupid people LIKE rightwing quasi-religious pseudo-libertarian first culture ideology.
do the fricking math.
there are more stupid people than smart people, and the stupid people watch FOXnews and rage out on rightwing blogs. Stupid people dont read Yglesias.
there is an operational IQ gradient.

Matoko said...

"genuine libertarianism" does not exist in America.
Libertarians are first culture intellectual wholes held in babylonian captivity to the bankstahs and the socons, and WE ALL KNOW THAT.
the Koch brothers fund Cato.
freddie wake up.
libertarianism is wholly suborned to conservative ideology in the US.
it has become a counterfactual religion.

Freddie said...

I'm not a communist, nyetter.

TGGP said...

I'm one of those awful seasteading supporters who dismisses squishes like Wilkinson, and I agree with you on Moynihan. That guy is really annoying. Welch to a somewhat lesser extent. I think they both supported the Iraq war. My advice to you is to support seasteading. Achieve leftism and if it works you might get imitators. Or maybe (like libertarianism) it will only appeal to a small number of people, who can vote with their feet to the stead.

I found it odd that initially you complained that Hamsher & Greenwald (the latter is one of my favorite pundits) are considered extreme for their tone rather than policy. So you think we should sort pundits by their actual ideology rather than tone. Then for Ezra Klein you complain about his conciliatory tone.

For a real explanation of why America, unlike Europe, does not have a strong socialist wing, I recommend reading Ed Glaeser. At the same time, the Socialist Party is considered quite successful in having gotten mainstream parties to adopt its platform. So reactionaries/libertarians I read often have a similar attitude to yours, complaining about how the Overton Window always shifts left and the government keeps getting bigger. Robin Hanson's foragers vs farmers idea is the most plausible explanation of why we might see that trend.

ShattererOfWords said...

Zing!

http://www.stateofthenet.com/zing/33/

gabriel said...

Freddie, this is something I've noticed too -- at least in part, for me, because the right turn of Yglesias has coincided with my own swing further to the left.

A few points:
1. Claims like Ryan's and Jesse's that there is simply no meaningful left-egalitarian tradition indigenous to the United States is flat-out historically incorrect. The re-discovery of the American left radicalism produced by the rise of capitalism was the signal accomplishment of the 1970s-1980s academic moment generally called "the new social history." Cf. Sean Wilentz, David Montgomery, Herbert Gutman, just to name a few.

More broadly, what you're talking about seems to me a direct result of deep structural issues in the political economy, the same issues which have led the Democratic Party to desperately flee its working-class base and attempt to give itself a middle-class makeover. The breakdown of the New Deal order and the postwar boom was, I think, such a shock to the relationship between workers (by which I mean white male industrial workers--obviously not the whole working class, but still its dominant portion in, say, 1973) and their traditional party that both fled in opposite directions from each other. The resulting neoliberal commentariat can be read directly off of that, a symptom of the political economy of post-Fordism.

Freddie said...

I found it odd that initially you complained that Hamsher & Greenwald (the latter is one of my favorite pundits) are considered extreme for their tone rather than policy. So you think we should sort pundits by their actual ideology rather than tone. Then for Ezra Klein you complain about his conciliatory tone.

Now that's a very good point, although I didn't mean to conflate Greenwald and Hamsher, only to use their status in the blogging world as similar but separate phenomena.

Phil Perspective said...

nyetter:
You obviously miss the point. There is a hyper-left in America, you'd just never know it from our "mainstream" discourse. I guess you don't remember the anti-war protests around the time the Iraqi War started? The "mainstream" media ignored them all.

Anonymous said...

The previous anonymous seems to have drunk too deeply from the au courrant fountain of bilateralism. I truly cannot imagine what he means by countless underrepresented "far" or "alternative" rightists.

I mean apart from fundamentalism and nativism--the motivations of the sort of people who turn up at rallies in Kentucky dressed in combat fatigues and carrying automatic weapons--how could a coherent ethos underlying anything more rightist than what fills the blogosphere these days be possible, to say nothing of mass media.

We have just seen the financial institutions of this country after two decades of deregulation nearly trigger anarchy. (Maybe you don't work on wall street, but the senior people I know in finance were talking survivalism in late summer 2008.) And yet free market ideology is still the dominant trope even in what I would consider to be relatively intellectually honest places like Marginal Revolution.

Republicans are treated like a responsible party while their leaders coyly dogwhistle in favor of violent insurrectionism to appease the rubes and their policy centerpiece is a theatrical opera buffa refutation of their own party's policy suggestion on confronting the for-decades-obviously-broken market for health care and health insurance.

And libertarianism is a common self-identification for people who depend on electricity, electronic communication and a world of physical objects delivered in a logistical network originating throughout the world, detouring through China for assembly and then delivered to the US and bought (through individualistic free actors' negotiations no doubt) at walmart.

People who do not recognize the lack of balance are either inattentive or evil.

Phil Perspective said...

Freddie:
Maybe this is too simplistic but Klein has almost always been that way. IMHO, he's always been about social climbing. He really wants to be the new Broder, or at least E.J. Dionne. I mean, he thinks Paul Ryan is reasonable and serious!!

Anonymous said...

There is no financial incentive to advocate zombie ideas on the left like there is on the right. If there were good ideas on the left then they would be easy to find. The internet is a big place and it's not like they're being censored. But there's no intelligent leftist commentary because a person who is intelligent and spends their time thinking about such things would not be a leftist.

On the other hand I can point you to plenty of brain-dead and unhinged leftist commentary on the internet. There is a small group of such people, but they're outnumbered by brain-dead and unhinged tea-party types on the right, and again they don't have money to amplify their voice.

Anonymous said...

rica to earn socialist ideas a seat at the table. A productive public dialogue requires its participants to draw conclusions and move forward, and that, in part, means ignoring viewpoints considered discredited. And far-left views (economic ones, in particular) are widely believed in our country to have been discredited. The solution is not to demand entry but to convince more people of the truth of your viewpoint.

No doubt there is truth in Will's point about liberal commentators avoiding a discrediting association with the far left. Ryan's historiography, which you accept, absolves the far left of all blame in this matter. Please consider the role played by tens of millions of victims of state murder in Stalin's Russia, Mao's China, Pol Pot's Cambodia, etc.

Lastly, you may be ignored in the blogosphere but your viewpoint utterly rules the universities (which treat conservative dissenters with overt hostility and intimidation, both socially and institutionally). The right fled to talk radio and later the blogosphere after its rejection by academia and mainstream news and entertainment. And it is much more socially acceptable in places like Manhattan to be a socialist than to be a conservative. You can't win them all, and there are many venues in American society where your viewpoint is considered acceptable.

(Clint)

Anonymous said...

Oops, my post should have started, "There are too few socialists in America to earn socialist ideas a seat at the table."

(Clint)

Anonymous said...

Far left economic ideas totally discredited. Yeah.

The right's "ideas" are dogma enforced by power. They're all fuckin' Robert Nozicks suing to ENFORCE rent control and get their own.

http://econ161.berkeley.edu/movable_type/2003_archives/001281.html

david auerbach said...

The point of no return with Banshee for many was when she teamed up with the vile Grover Norquist. It was not three breaking point for me but I understand why many felt the need to distance themselves from her. But that was not a question of her views or tone per se. Greenwald has not had such a divisive incident afaik.

Gabe said...

I think the main thing you leave out is the role of institutions. The center-left has CAP, the American Prospect, TNR, and the Washington Monthly; the libertarian right has Cato and Reason and the rest of the Kochtopus (sorry). As a result the most talented bloggers of those persuasions get paid to post, which means they can post multiple times a day, which is the secret to success in blogging. If there were a well-heeld socialist foundation or privately funded journal, they could pay you (or somone else with your political sympathies) to post every day, and you'd weigh in on the topics that other bloggers are talking about, and (maybe, if you were interesting) other bloggers would engage with your arguments—even if only to refute them or distance themselves from them.

I mean, maybe they wouldn't because maybe the hard left is in fact so completely excluded from the terms of the debate. (Plausible.) But it seems to me that the blogosphere is more permeable, at least in places, than e.g. the Washington Post's op-ed page.

Recommend me some talented hard-left bloggers who post at least five times a week. I'll add them to my feed reader immediately.

(Really, the problem is that the only intellectual institutions with socialists in any serious numbers are universities, and there are no incentives for university professors to blog—the reverse, probably.)

Anonymous said...

There are more flavors of libertarianism out there than you seem to imagine. For instance.

Benedict@Large said...

The real enemy of the Real Left is not the Right. They are known, and can be dealt with. The real enemy of the Real Left is the Neoliberal Left. It is easy to defend against one's self-identified enemies. It is far more difficult when you find it is your self-identified friends who are stabbing you in the back.

Tim Carney said...

"Reactionary" is an interesting choice of label for me in this blog post.

This post is all about context, right? You're upset, Freddie, that the "frame" of the blogosphere is too far to the Right, yet to have this claim make any sense, you need some other context. The ones you choose are "historical" and "international."

Calling me "reactionary" in a "historical" context is funny, because -- as the very word suggests -- today's reactionaries were yesterday's conservatives, were last week's moderates, and last month's liberals.

Am I "reactionary" because I oppose the income tax, or social security, both of which didn't exist for most of American history? Seems that makes me a moderate in your bigger "historical" context, no?

Freddie said...

Well-- I guess in my defense, Tim, I'm trying to demonstrate how context is a moving target. One thing that makes this difficult is that I don't believe that there's some magic, objective standard of how far right or left the context is. My point there is that I find your policy preferences very far to the right, but that this doesn't make it so people align you with the screamer variety of the far right. And I mean to contrast that with the way that extremity in rhetoric and extremity in policy preferences are equated for the left.

But-- fair point. There may be more than a little jiu-jitsu in that section by me.

Freddie said...

By the way-- I'm just a dude, Tim. Just some guy.

jaredkobos said...

I'll leave the bigger picture to wiser minds, but I just wanted to make a minor point:

A large part of the popularity and influence of libertarianism at the moment is that, since America has been legislating and regulating for a long time, there are enough stupid laws or regulations that almost any ideological position has some common cause with libertarians.

For example, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you, Freddie, probably oppose ag subsidies. They are a clear case of part of the wealthy corporate class securing their own interest at the direct expense of the global poor. Yet since ending these subsidies qualifies as "shrinking government" and "freer-market capitalism" and "deficit reduction," the policy is native libertarian turf, even if the results would advance the left-wing cause. Yglesias's crusade against parking requirements falls into the same category.

My point is that almost everyone has issues like this. The left-wing equivalent, on the other hand, doesn't really hold true. What true left-wing propositions would Jim Manzi support? What expansions of socialism would even a pro-safety net conservative like David Frum go in for? Single-payer health care is about as close as you get to a policy position that draws support from many who aren't left-wing. This could change if there were more voices making clear arguments for specific liberal policy positions. But even so, the relative strength and weakness of libertarians and left-wingers owes a lot to this fact.

Freddie said...

For example, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you, Freddie, probably oppose ag subsidies.

True. But the example is important; ag subsidies suggest that we're unlikely ever to get the pure globalization that neoliberals desire. Instead we're going to get a partial globalization that favors entrenched interests, as we do in agriculture, textiles, etc. I can't possibly fault people for the fact that their preferred policy regime is only partially enacted. What I do wish people would understand is that saying "oh and we should get rid of ag subsidies too" is like saying "oh and bring me a unicorn." The elements of neoliberalism that aren't enacted, like those that are, are largely the fault of corporate capture. The left has a history and philosophy conducive to opposing that kind of corporate control.

Anonymous said...

Anon11:15 writes:

Pat Buchanan's anti-Semitism and general bigotry went unremarked by most commentators until he came out in opposition to the invasion of Iraq in 2002; then suddenly his conservative cocktail-party buddies started "remembering" various anecdotes that they'd kept to themselves all those years.)

Yes, unremarked upon. Except for a 40,000 word essay in NR by none other than William F. Buckley. In 1991.

-K.

Anonymous said...

"Really, the problem is that the only intellectual institutions with socialists in any serious numbers are universities, and there are no incentives for university professors to blog—the reverse, probably."

Instapundit
Marginal Revolution
Volokh Conspiracy
Ann Althouse
etc. etc. etc.

Incentives or no, many do. Not the left, for some reason, although they constitute an overwhelming majority within tenured academia.

Petey said...

"All I know is that I look out onto an America that seems to me to desperately require a left-wing."

Then why do you like those whose job is to defeat you?

Back when he ran a "reality-based" blog, Matt used to regularly mention that he wanted to sell out, if anyone wanted to buy. Most folks took that as a joke. But it pretty obviously wasn't.

If you are incapable as seeing folks like Yglesias and Klein as those who are quite literally paid to defeat you, then you will have trouble understanding their conduct.

Paul Krugman is somewhat to the right of me. But he's an honorable man. Folks like Yglesias and Klein are pretty much defined by their lack of honor. If you like them, you are either a masochist, or you aren't paying close enough attention.

If I may try to make a constructive suggestion, try reading some Roberto Bolaño. He is a master at describing a particular method of how the ruling class can try to completely co-opt the intelligentsia.

The method he describes is what we have been witnessing in the "lefty" blogosphere over the past few years.

Anonymous said...

Firedoglake is super far-left not because of their angry tone, but because they were opposed to major policy initiatives of the Democratic party because they weren't liberal enough. Opposed so much that they advocate voting against it and primarying Democratic politicians who voted for it.

Petey said...

"I'm not an inequality guy-- I think people argue about inequality as a proxy for arguing about poverty and need"

Then perhaps that is your blindspot.

Bad things happen to a nation's political processes when GINI starts getting really out of control.

I'm not a Maoist. I believe in the economic virtues of a non-equal distribution of wealth. But I think that a society with an out of control GINI, (such as ours has become over the past few decades), is close to incapable of dealing with poverty, not to mention the needs of folks closer to the median.

When I worry about GINI, I'm worrying about the median. Poverty is always a concern, but things at the median are more crucial to the health of the political processes of a democratic republic.

The growth in the past generation of an American left that defines itself exclusively as a concern over poverty, as opposed to a concern for the median, is at the heart of the the demise of an actual viable left-wing. In such an atmosphere, paid shills like Yglesias and Klein find it quite easy to pass themselves off as "voices of the left". The problem pre-dates them, but that doesn't make their conduct any less reprehensible.

BenSix said...

Come to Britain (or, at least, its little part of the internet): our Communists can blog with pride.

nimh said...

First off, I came this excellent post via Kevin Drum - and I note that a couple of the people you mentioned in your post responded in the comments. So to the extent that true left-wing voices in the blogosphere are frozen out and ignored, this doesn't seem to be wholly true in your case. Which makes it all the more of a pity that, as a newcomer to this blog, I just found out that this post is a bit of a one-off, and you basically stopped blogging last year!

Anonymous said...

I think you are underestimating the necessity of having a dominant center-left coalition in politics to make far left/true left ideas relevant and obtainable. If leftie ideas were thought of as relevant and obtainable, this would lead to a Far Left/True Left which is taken seriously by the establishment. When there was a dominant center-left coalition from the 1930's to the 1970's, you had serious lefties capable of influencing policy (from Henry Wallace to Ramsey Clarke to Katherine MacKinnon and Bella Abzug). Center-Left politicians and judges were adopted some left ideas. Moreover, truly liberal judges and economists were appointed to important positions and operationalized some true left policy prescriptions.

Similarly, from the 1980's to the present you have libertarians able to influence policy largely through their affiliation with the center-right coalition. Libertarians like Alan Greenspan, Frank Easterbrook, and Antonin Scalia were and are able to influence policy largely through appointed positions arising from their alliance with the center-right. This is why libertarians have such outsized influence- because people like Antonin Scalia and Ben Bernanke might very well operationalize their ideas. There are very few levers of government where Socialists will receive a sympathetic hearing (and a partial implementation of their ideas). As such, the socialist left is ignored by people who are interested in the obtainable (like Klein, Yglesias, and Markos).

nimh said...

I admit that I admire Ezra Klein, for exactly the things that Wilkinson describes about him in his second comment:

"Ezra Klein is a man with a robust sense of the process by which institutional change actually occurs, and he's inserted himself into the heart of that process. It's a hell of a lot of work for so little payoff, but there's a very plausible argument that the little he is able to help achieve is far more than uncompromising radicals could hope to."

That, and what one of the anon commenters here pointed out: "Klein [..] works hard. [..] 10 relatively high quality blogposts a day, mostly bringing new policy information to the fore. That's worth something, isn't it?"

This appeals to the side of me that's inspired by my mother, who was a can-do, practical-minded local councillor, civil servant and activist, always aiming to just get stuff done for people that could be practically done. She had little up with more intellectual musings about the state of the world. So I really appreciate the work Klein does, digging into the policy issues that are politically moveable at the moment, and doing his little best to influence the debate on those points. I'm glad he's deservedly gained prominence for doing so. Ditto for Drum. (Not a fan of Yglesias, who's always seemed too libertarian-friendly to my tastes).

But it's true, they always leave me unfilfilled - and your post hits home for me there.

They leave me unfulfilled not simply because they don't have enough "fire", tonally - I actually like that. I like their level-headed approach when the blogosphere is full of rants. They leave me unfulfilled, however, first, because the point you raise about their ideological position. It is basically that of U.S. liberals throughout the twentieth century, tinkering with the market economy to make it more humane but not offering up a fundamental critique of it. That in itself wouldn't be bad, if there were, in addition, true left-wing voices that did raise such fundamental critiques, and here your post hits home for me again. There aren't, and the absence of true left-wing voices, from CNN talk shows to DC think tanks, creates a damaging imbalance in the U.S. political discourse. It is an imbalance that I believe directly contributed to the palpable disinterest among Democratic policy makers, since at least the Clinton days, in engaging with the troubles of workers and unions.

The last point you made that hits home with me is how an actual leftwing perspective doesn't just happen to be absent in mediatized discourse; it's that there's a consensual pretense among the Very Serious People dominating policy discourse that any such voices would be irrelevant at best and despicable at worst, don't deserve a place at the table, and should in fact never even be acknowledged as a potential alternative in the first place. The result: within the acknowledged range of views on TV and in the online newspapers, Ezra and the like have _become_ "the left". And the pretence that they are is maintained by both the institutions that hire these moderately-left-liberal bloggers and their conservative opponents. A true left-wing voice, one that would put labour issues and poverty up front without fear of not seeming reform-oriented enough, one that would question not just the implementation, but the fundaments of the market economy, and one that proudly places itself in an all-American progressive tradition ranging from Debs to La Follette, is not just absent, it's taboo. It's maddening.

nimh said...

Ugh. I wrote a much longer comment, but first, the Blogger software told me it was longer than 4,000 characters (although it wasn't), so I cut it in half; then, after reloading the original post and going back to the comments from there, it wouldn't let me post it because there were "conflicting edits" ("there was more than one attempt to edit this resource at the same time"); the next try around, it just told me "We're sorry, but we were unable to complete your request"; and on the subsequent try to post the same comment, I got "Request-URI Too Large".

Let's see if another comment works...

Freddie said...

Got it, nimh-- please have patience with the Blogger spam filter, everyone.

nimh said...

(OK, that one went through, so let's try this again, bit by annoying bit...)

I admit that I admire Ezra Klein, for exactly the things that Wilkinson describes about him in his second comment:

"Ezra Klein is a man with a robust sense of the process by which institutional change actually occurs, and he's inserted himself into the heart of that process. It's a hell of a lot of work for so little payoff, but there's a very plausible argument that the little he is able to help achieve is far more than uncompromising radicals could hope to."

That, and what one of the anon commenters here pointed out: "Klein .. works hard .. 10 relatively high quality blogposts a day, mostly bringing new policy information to the fore. That's worth something, isn't it?"

This appeals to the side of me that's inspired by my mother, who was a can-do, practical-minded local councillor, civil servant and activist, always aiming to just get stuff done for people that could be practically done. She had little up with more intellectual musings about the state of the world. So I really appreciate the work Klein does, digging into the policy issues that are politically moveable at the moment, and doing his little best to influence the debate on those points. I'm glad he's deservedly gained prominence for doing so. Ditto for Drum. (Not a fan of Yglesias, who's always seemed too libertarian-friendly to my tastes).

But it's true, they always leave me unfilfilled - and your post hits home for me there.

nimh said...

Oops, saw your comment, Freddie - sorry! Now I double-posted. What a mess, my apologies. :-/

Anyway, at the risk of defying the wrathful gods of the Internets, here's the last part, and I promise I won't try to post it twice unless it doesn't show up by tomorrow...

***

OK, so far the agreement - sorry if I long-windedly just ended up rephrasing you. But hey, then there's people like me, eager to add such properly left-wing voices to my reading material alongside Drum and Chait. This is where the side of me that's more inspired by my father, an intellectual socialist who avidly read Dissent and TNR when he was in the U.S. in the fifties, comes in. Media and money bring visibility, so Ezra's and Matt's blogs are the easiest to find, but I'm eager to find good leftist blogs. I don't mean people like Jane Hamsher, who as you rightly point out is classified as far left just because she speaks more vehemently - not because she actually necessarily represents a substantively more left-wing ideology, at least not in any coherent way. But someone who understands blogging and does it well, like Ezra - but from a socialist or anarchist or at least properly social-democratic view?

This is where Gabe's and Jkd's comments come in. Yglesias gets the medium of blogging, Jkd wrote, whereas Greenwald writes epic essays. Nothing wrong with that, but where are the skilled left-wing bloggers? TNR moved far right, and the Dissent site doesn't seem to post all that much, and seems slow to catch on to current debates. My dad reads Krugman now, and treatises by economists who teach in unfashionable places like Iowa or Salt Lake City because that's where Marxian economists have been pushed out to, apparently. Like Gabe wrote, "Recommend me some talented hard-left bloggers who post at least five times a week [and] I'll add them to my feed reader immediately." Or to take Gabe's thought, if there was a wealthy financier willing to set up the kind of foundation or journal that would force mainstream bloggers to engage with it, which skilled writers would he hire to post every day, about current topics, from a socialist or social-democratic POV?

Gene Callahan said...

"But Carney, in an international and historical context, is a reactionary."

Well, thinking 'reactionary' has a valid theoretical meaning and that tossing it out as an accusation at someone is a sign of anything other than theoretical illiteracy is a pretty good sign of a lack of seriousness, hey?

Freddie said...

And I'm sure your opinion is untainted by your own ideological preconceptions, hey? Gene? Hey?

Ezra said...

I think the fourth comment gets my own theory of my work right, and to a degree I find really heartening: I'm just not a theorist. Frankly, I don't think I'm quite smart enough to be one (Matt, I think, has a much better mind for that sort of thing than I do). I try to do a good job explaining both policy and process, and I think that has value. I don't spend a whole ton of time engaged in debate with people very far to the left or right not because I think these critiques are illegitimate, but because it's not really my topic, and I think my time is better spent doing what I'm good at. I think it's a good thing that I try to be respectful.

That said, I'd echo the question that some of the other commentators have asked: Who are the bloggers or writers you'd have me read? I value the libertarian critique and would like a left-wing one that's similarly engaged with the ins and outs of American public policy -- or at least the problems that that policy is trying to solve. But who's offering it? The thesis of your post is that these voices are being ignored, but in my case, at least, I legitimately don't know who they are. Tony Judt, sadly, didn't live long enough to really take to blogs, but if he's got an intellectual successor, I'd like to hear about it.

Anonymous said...

Hey Freddie--

You write that you wish some libertarians would break free of their orthodoxy and find common ground with your viewpoint.

Have you ever asked your libertarian counterparts what was so "small-government" about Taft-Hartley, the singular act that was basically the death warrant for the American labor movement?

In his wide-ranging series, Tim Noah of Slate (that neoliberal bastion) pointed to the decline of the labor movement in the wake of Taft-Hartley as one of the key reasons for the inequality we see in 2011. Isn't the fact that the right wing needed the help of the government (through Taft-Hartley) to kill the labor movement a real piece of hypocrisy at the center of their universe?

Anonymous said...

A few observations:

1. This is about seven trillion words longer than it needs to be.

2. There are tons of left-wing blogs out there, and by "left-wing" I don't mean "liberal"; I mean "to the left of you." Perhaps they aren't a part of your own reading circle, but they are certainly a part of "the political blogosphere."

3. The fact that so many liberal, libertarian, and conservative bloggers have waded through this and commented on it suggests that you yourself are part of their reading circle. Which makes your pity-party tone all the sillier.

4. The phrase "a mad, teeming collection of every flavor of crazy and dreamer, a loose confederation rife with difference and disagreement" is an excellent description of the libertarian movement. The fact that you think it isn't a good description suggests that you've spent as little time exploring the libertarian blogosphere as you have exploring the left blogosphere.

5. And yes, there's a ton of libertarians out there who make common cause with the left. I realize it might be difficult for you to find them, as this would require you to, oh, spend five or six seconds Googling the words "left" and "libertarian" together.

6. And speaking of libertarians: The image of Matt Welch as an ideological enforcer is pretty hilarious.

7. I clicked through to Michael Brendan Dougherty's Twitter feed to see what he'd said that supposedly sounded like a man about going to cry. I found a couple of terse putdowns at your expense, and that's it. Talk about projection.

8. "Believe it or not, you are not the cosmos." You wrote those words, but I don't think you've really listened to them. You know?

Anonymous said...

Unless you are implying that Klein, Yglesias, Chait and Drum are secretly true blue left winger who are hiding their real opinions because they are ambitious careerist, I don't think you can blame them for being who they are. It is their responsibility to write about the things they care about and believe in. It is not their responsibility to make sure that all spectrum of the left is represented. It is the responsibility of the people who actually believe in that spectrum to speak up and be heard. You had a good platform with League of Ordinary Gentlemen but gave that up. I don't think that people who refuse to engage with the fight have a lot of ground to complain about being ignored.

sharliza_my said...

I don't understand this antipathy towards Klein because of his tone.Should he pretend to be a fire breathing liberal because hey, right wingers are loud and noisy and like that? Everybody fights in their own way, not everyone has to be rude and obnoxious to be forceful. This is just a ridiculous critic IMO. You can fault him for being to enamored of Paul Ryan, or too forgiving of the Obama administration, but to say that the main problem with Klein is his tone? Weird. I'm wondering if you have any personal issues with the guy.

Stephen J. Smith said...

I can confirm that life on Matt Welch's libertarian reservation is, indeed, pretty bleak. Whenever I think it can't get any worse, it does – the interns are kept in a giant cage in the middle of the rez, and the natives have very high rates of alcoholism and meth abuse.

It's pretty ugly out here, but I'm glad to see at least one person out there still is telling our story.

Maju said...

It may not be a problem of "the blogosphere" but of which blogs you read, in which languages and from which countries. Certainly the USA is an "ethical desert" but as soon as you touch the UK or Ireland you find more class stuff and if you go to the largest English-speaking nation such as India, there is also some very Hot Maoist Red stuff. Of course, if you switch to Spanish, for instance (something very healthy to do if you can), the discourse is totally different and Marxism and even Anarchism is extremely easy to find.

Also a problem is the concept of "mainstream political bloggers": anything "mainstream" is by definition center-right to fascist.

You cannot be "mainstream" and letfist, except maybe in some revolutionary moments in which the world is upside down. I mean, google reader is not going to place anything minimally radical in its list of suggestions.

At this moment the US left has to import from other places because there almost no left nor historical experience of class movement in that country. But that's normal... it's the USA!

Freddie said...

Re: the length - please feel free too take your browser elsewhere. Perhaps a nice game of Snood would be more entertaining.

Freddie said...

Re: the length - please feel free too take your browser elsewhere. Perhaps a nice game of Snood would be more entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Ezra's question is a good one, no? Who are the "real" left wing bloggers we should be reading but are neglecting?

Christopher Carr said...

I'm curious where Kevin Carson and the Center for a Stateless Society fit on your spectrum. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Re the "real" leftwing bloggers we should be reading. Please don't say Kos or Jane Hamsher. IMO they are not representative of the left that you are advocating for here. They are partisans. The only thing they care about is defeating the Republicans. They are probably more useless than those neoliberal bloggers. At least those neoliberal bloggers have specific principles and policy prescriptions they believe in, even if you disagree with them.

Freddie said...

It's not so much a question of not reading left-wing bloggers as the lack of an institutional, professional left-wing blogging establishment like there is for other ideological facets, even unpopular ones like libertarians. Also, I should reiterate, because I'm taking some flak about this-- I'm not proposing that anything can or should be done, inorganically. I'm not looking for some blogger Fairness Doctrine. What I am looking for is, one, a recognition from those within the debate that the lack of left-wing voices in the high-profile blogs doesn't mean left-wing criticism doesn't exist. Two, a more hospitable attitude towards the left-wing from left, right, and center, so that an organic left-wing blogger presence might freely grow.

Anonymous said...

"Two, a more hospitable attitude towards the left-wing from left, right, and center, so that an organic left-wing blogger presence might freely grow."

Well, we still need to know which bloggers we need to be more hospitable to. Why is it so hard for you to come up with examples? So many people in this thread are asking for examples, showing their willingness to actually listen, but so far, you have not given any. How can we change if we don't know how we can do better?

JumpingAfrican said...

What a breath of fresh air... thanks for the post. From outside of the US empire, it takes a lot more than acknolwedging that empire's have their own logic, the debate in the US seems surreal. Workers and worker safeguards are the problem while forclosures based on fraudulent documents are not?
While I am not sure that you could change everything in the Blogosphere an article like this DOES mean it can never be the same again.
It was bad enough during the Obama campaign to get "left wing" Americans to think straight, naivete can be disconcerting... but now with the masterful art of the political u-turn in so many quarters it is trite to say "told ya so" because one should not believe it even to start off...
trouble is that these kinds of views were useful when the empire was riding high... it is sailing ok, but it is not all good... and the same people who could not foresee a crisis are still the pundits... I guess this is an inverse meritocracy that goes all the way from Larry Summers through to Greenspan... the act better come together cos there is a dragon in the wings...

Petey said...

Klein writes:

"I try to do a good job explaining both policy and process, and I think that has value."

Of course, you spent the 111th Congress "explaining" process in an intentionally corrupt manner, as did Matt Yglesias.

Both you and Yglesias spent the 111th Congress relentlessly and intentionally misreporting the relevant veto points in the process, and the actions of the various players.

Whether Jane Hamsher is to the left of you or to the right of you, what marked her as someone to be demonized during the 111th Congress is that she bothered to cover process honestly. That, not her tone or ideology, is what marked her as a danger to be neutralized.

"No enemies among the intelligentsia" is the playbook of the political machine currently running the show, and that makes reality-based coverage something to be demonized at all costs, no matter where on the political spectrum it comes from.

Freddie said...

Anonymous, I think you're reading a bit selectively. I haven't, actually, leveled terrible criticism on Yglesias and Klein; I think I've leveled constructive criticism.

Meanwhile, isn't my point that these pro-labor union bloggers don't really exist? I like Glenn Greenwald very much, but domestic policy isn't his thing. Kevin Drum indicates that he is becoming less enamored of neoliberal critiques of the labor movement, so that's a place to look. Ezra seems reluctantly unwilling to speak out in favor of labor, although I don't want to speak for him; perhaps he'll evolve in that direction. Mike Konczal is a guy that I think may have some pro-labor tendencies. The guys at Balloon Juice show some regard for labor unions, although I don't think that this is true of John Cole. Ta-Nehisi Coates, I think, is someone who has support for unions. Good enough?

Freddie said...

I understand, Ezra. I just hope that you understand the pressures that the next generation of young bloggers is under.... It's an aspirational culture, one where people fight tooth and nail to get into the conversation, and there's frankly relentless pressure to move into a particular kind of progressive thought.

You're not responsible for that, of course. But boy, they look up to you. And they should; it's a credit to your decency and your work ethic. Just keep it in mind.

Petey said...

"Mike Konczal is a guy that I think may have some pro-labor tendencies."

It's worth noting how over the past two years, other than Firedoglake, the only places to go to get reality-based blog coverage of Washington are econoblogs, not political blogs.

The entire lefty political blogosphere that writes for an intelligentsia audience has been successfully co-opted by the political machine currently running the show. And since that political machine has almost no common purpose with the left, we are left with the void which you correctly identify.

Anonymous said...

"And the blogosphere protects and parrots that certainty, weeding out left-wing detractors with ruthless efficiency, while around it orbits the gradual extinction of the American dream."

If you are saying that these left wing blogs don't really exist, how are you squaring that with saying they are weeded out? Weeded out means people don't read them, don't link to them, but at some point they exist. So which is it? They never existed in the first place, or they stopped blogging because OMG, people are so mean to them? I find it hard to believe that these leftist bloggers are so thin-skinned and fragile. I think the better explanation is, they exist, and still exist, but like the people you are criticizing, you don't actually read them yourself. Like me, and like most people, your blogging diet consists of those despised neoliberal and those proliferating libertarians. So these "leftist than thou" trick that you are pulling is pathetic, because you are just as bad as the people you are criticizing.

Freddie said...

I think you're dedicated to reading the argument that you want to be reading and not the one that you are reading, anonymous. Just telling you how I see it.

Petey said...

"It's worth noting how over the past two years, other than Firedoglake, the only places to go to get reality-based blog coverage of Washington are econoblogs, not political blogs."

And right on cue, Yves Klein chimes into your debate...

Folks like Matt and Ezra were easily purchased to spin tall tales for the current regime, but for a variety of reasons, the econoblogs were left free to tell the truth, perhaps because they are less influential to the mainstream of the intelligentsia, and perhaps because they are less easy to purchase.

Petey said...

Oops. Yves Smith is not Yves Klein...

Petey said...

"It's worth noting how over the past two years, other than Firedoglake, the only places to go to get reality-based blog coverage of Washington are econoblogs, not political blogs."

Right on cue, Yves Smith chimes into your debate...

(Blame the spam filter for why I posted the previous comment.)

Anonymous said...

Don't get too excited Freddie. She pwned you in the end.


"But then he makes this remark in an update:

It’s worth saying that I once had the opportunity, not too long ago, to blog for money– not a lot of money– for a fairly mainstream progressive enterprise. I turned it down for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is my continuing fear that my blogging will come back to ruin my career in the academy..

As one of my correspondents noted,

We don’t lack people willing to ask others to take a bullet for them."


Hah hah. She has your number perfectly. Nothing else needs to be said about Mr Freddie de Boer, leftier-than-thou blogger extraordinaire.

Freddie said...

I find myself little diminished.

Pat said...

Yglesias may, as jkd said, "get" blogging, but he's been phoning it in for a few months at least. It's been a mushy stream of pap usually consisting of a paragraph quoted from some other blogger, an awkward pivot, and then a conclusion that is either tangential, ill-thought out, and caustically flippant (e.g., barber licenses) or windy nothingness like "Care must be taken." (Except when he's advocating militarization of domestic police, of course.)

As for raising the profile of the left, I'm not usually one for "heroes" per se, but I think we need to better publicize the people who have occupied the spectrum between Clinton and Pol Pot. Tommy Douglas was voted the greatest Canadian of all time, for fuck's sake, and I bet less than 1% of Americans have ever even heard of him.

Petey said...

Let's return once more to what the guy Freddie finds so likable, Ezra Klein, writes:

"I try to do a good job explaining both policy and process, and I think that has value."

How many lefties here understand that the big fights of the 111th Congress had nothing to do with Max Baucus, Joe Lieberman, Mitch McConnell, or Jim Bunning?

How many lefties here understand that the big fights of the 111th Congress took place between the White House and the Democratic Senate Leadership? Raise your hands.

How many lefties understand that the big fights were about the structure of healthcare reform, whether or not to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich, and whether or not to pass additional stimulus measures beyond ARRA to deal with the 17% U-6 unemployment rate?

These fights took place in spring 2009 and fall 2009. These fights were all won by the White House over the Democratic Senate Leadership, and the White House victories resulted in federal government policy considerably to the right of the Democratic agenda and considerably to the right of what the 111th Congress had the votes to enact into law.

Did Ezra ever write anything about those fights? Or was Ezra covering Washington "process" with the singular purpose of selling the White House's tall tales of "process" to the intelligentsia?

Covering kabuki is not covering process, but it certainly is better as a career path...

Anonymous said...

You know what Freddie? I want to sincerely apologize for mocking you and harshly criticizing you in rude terms not suitable for civil conversation. I realized I am in danger of turning into Petey with his obsession with Yglesias and Klein. Not content bashing them at their respective blogs, he has to bash them at other people blogs as well. I don't want to be a commenter obsessed with a particular blogger like that. So you made some good points, but I disagree with a lot of your conclusions. Let's leave it at that. Again, I apologize for my previous rudeness. Anonymity can do strange things to people.

Freddie said...

Hey man, I'm no shrinking violet. I'm happy to be criticized. But thanks.

Petey said...

"I realized I am in danger of turning into Petey with his obsession with Yglesias and Klein. Not content bashing them at their respective blogs, he has to bash them at other people blogs as well. I don't want to be a commenter obsessed with a particular blogger like that."

Y'know, you can call me obsessed, if that's your chosen method to dismiss my argument. I certainly am pretty shrill on the topic.

But am I wrong?

You can try to dismiss folks like me or Hamsher who have actually been following process. Given that you don't have reality on your side, that's obviously your best rhetorical path.

Freddie has identified an actual problem, though he doesn't see how and why the problem has come to be. I'm trying to provide some actual background on the techniques that have been employed to quite intentionally produce this problem.

The problem is an important feature, not a bug, for those who have been responsible for creating it.

Freddie said...

Oh, Alex Pareene-- I love Alex Pareene. He's more of a media critic though.

BenSix said...

We don’t lack people willing to ask others to take a bullet for them.

Eh? He's not asking people to join the bleedin' army, he's saying it wouldn't suit his own career ambitions. The nation isn't suffering from a dearth of would-be journos, is it?

Anonymous said...

Since Freddie seems unable to name anyone who's getting ignored, I'll throw a few names out there. Seen the very smart, very funny and rather prolific Jonathan Schwarz or IOZ or Lady Poverty linked at your favorite milquetoast blurg lately? Neither have I. I also don't see Noam Chomsky get a lot of play, and yes you'll say 'But he's not a blogger,' which is technically true but not really—he gives a LOT of interviews, most of which get quickly transcribed and tossed up at chomsky.info, and if anyone wanted to read his critique into the debate they would do so.

While I say this in a joshing manner, by the way, I'll agree with those who essentially accuse you, Freddie, of needing to sack up. People pay attention to what you say. If you want a far left voice in the blurgosphere, be that voice. Write anonymously if you're worried about your career...

Anonymous said...

Indeed. Well Said. Kudos. But here is an even greater blind spot.

The rich are as a matter of policy using population measures to force increases in population, to keep wages low and profits high. In Mexico the oligarchs created a population boom by encouraging massive families. In the United States we have a record number of legal immigrants which is more than canceling out job growth. High unemployment is official policy actively maintained by deliberate actions. Yet it is absolute taboo to mention this. Indeed, the 'left' supports cheap-labor immigration policy as 'social justice'. They didn't used to. As you say, we have a rigidly enforced orthodoxy...

Anonymous said...

Moe Tkicak was also smoking the milquetoast Brodersphere like sticky icky—she can write! and she's mad!—though now she doesn't have a blurg as far as I know. What was notable is that even though she is a much, much, much better writer than her competition she was not getting much play even though you would think she would get some if only because the blurgosphere is so male.

E.D. Kain said...

Freddie - your update VI loses me and this is the point - when you start to describe others as oh-so-sensitive - that you need to look in a mirror. It's also the point where you take an hour before posting, come back, and just delete. I'm not sure you realize how over-sensitive you come across as when you critique others for being overly sensitive. You are a tremendous writer, as I've said before, but you sure do come across poorly when you do this.

Freddie said...

Perhaps, but Erik, you really want to be in their Cool Kid Club, and that colors your opinion. You're entitled to that. But I'm entitled to fight back with people who are fighting with me. If Alex Massie pronounces something, publicly, as crap, what level should I engage in? When Michael Brendan Doughtery can't stop complaining, childishly, what obligation do I have to rise above? I am taking plenty of criticism here, and I'm happy for that. What I will stand on is this: I say what I feel, I sign my name to it, and when people are fighting with me, by god, I fight. I don't engage in comity fetishism, I don't pretend to like people when I don't, and I don't engage in half-truths and weasel words about "how much I truly respect my opponent."

You might not like it, but it is honest, and it is open, which is more than can be said of my critics on Twitter.

Petey said...

"Moe Tkicak was also smoking the milquetoast Brodersphere like sticky icky—she can write! and she's mad!"

I do love Moe. But like Matt Taibbi, she writes rants. That's (sort of) allowed, since it's not really a threat.

It's reality-based coverage of political process and policy in a sober manner for the intelligentsia that is taboo at the moment. Anything that falls under that rubric has been aggressively bought out or ferociously marginalized over the past few years.

So in the political sphere, we are left only with the rants of Taibbi and Tkicak (if she gets another gig), which are easily dismissed, since they are rants. Other than that, it's only the marginalized "firebaggers" trying to hold down the fort, and they're successfully ignored.

The destruction of the reality-based left political blogosphere over the past couple of years is why the econoblogs have become, by default, one of the few blog sources remaining for actual Washington news.

purple said...

There are tons of leftists out there, but you won't find them in the establishment blogging circles for obvious reasons. People with money (who own, fund, or support said websites) don't like the politics of the Left.

If you want to find a 'reasonable sounding' Leftist you could start with Doug Henwood.

purple said...

CAP was seeded by a billionaire financier. How can anyone expect it to be Leftist ?

dick said...

Check out youtubes by van jones. He and the soros center for american destruction have 40 billion to push around. get-sum.

Wendy Kloiber said...

It was fascinating to me that Ezra (the commenter, who I'm assuming is the real Ezra Klein) mentioned Tony Judt.

I appreciate Ezra's work daily and lean on him to develop my own arguments. I also think he's right that he's not smart enough (yet) to act as the kind of theorist and public intellectual on the left that Freddie is seeking in the blogosphere. (I of course am not smart enough either and never will be.) Tony Judt was, and his loss is heartbreaking.

What made Judt unique was his fully-owned repudiation of communism - not a "distancing" as a matter of maintaining respectability, but an impassioned critique that came from deep experience and research. He had the profound relaxation in argument that can only come from having made peace with having no apparatus of allies while being in complete command of the terrain.

I don't think he does have an intellectual heir (much though I appreciate Tim Snyder's work in Bloodlands) and it is a huge loss.
Like Ezra, I am searching. Suggestions here are welcome.

Nellie said...

Freddie – I couldn’t agree more – but I think there is one thing that you miss to mention.

Most people don’t know the first thing about socialism - and the smarter part of the bunch is at least intelligent enough to realize that. Why would they be inclined to make a fool out of themselves by engaging ideas that they don’t understand?

Even though e.g. real libertarians (i.e. not right wing) and individual anarchist certainly is a minority, even among the far left, and usually much more radical/utopian than your average socialist – its, according to my experience, infinitely much easier to be taken seriously (or at least to not be constantly misunderstood) in a discussion when you enter it from that angel (compared to taking a more classical socialist stance). Of course some of this might have to do with a feeling that those ideas are so far out there that they don’t feel intimidating, but I also think a lot has to do with the fact that their worldview is much more similar to the right wing ideas and therefore more understandable (of course a real libertarians worldview is radically different from, say, a rightwing libertarians but I don’t really know how else to describe it – it´s more something in the way you do the analysis and how you argue about things. Well, I hope you understand what I mean)

PS – I’m not (extremely) sloppy. English isn’t my first language.

PS 2 – Great post!

Dana Houle said...

I think this boils down to something like this:
"In the old days, socialists and social democrats had prominence in American civic and political discourse disproportionate to the actual support for their ideas and program that could be found in the American electorate and body politic. Back then much of serious American political discourse took place in bi-weekly big magazines and bi-monthly literary journals--a format hospitable to the socialists and social democrats, with their love of long-form writing, and their penchant for discussing politics and culture in a wider cultural criticism that often incorporated psychology, Continental philosophy, European film and classic and modernist literature. But now, we've shifted to constantly streaming online commentary. Online commentary is quick and transient, and the libertarians--with their ahistorical ignorance, glibness, and shallow cultural interests that barely extend beyond science fiction, graphic novels and films that are based on science fiction or comic books--have taken the place of the socialists and social democrats as the ideological cadre with influence in American politics most out of whack with the actual support of their ideas and programs among the American body politic.

"Since the libertarians have more online influence than the socialists and social democrats, I guess I'll blame liberals for not filling the role once filled by leftists."

As for other aspects of this, your "upwardly mobile" is a petty dig. Invoking Kaus is like a time capsule from 2003. Using the phrase "political machine" without any connection to who runs the machine, on whose behalf, where and how looks like just some shibboleth to establish that you're outside the control of (who? what?) to which others have succumbed (presumably because they're upwardly mobile). And referring to "the blogosphere" as if it's some controlled and controlling monolith leads nowhere.

In the old days, rigorous leftists made pointed and precise structural analyses of the failings of capitalism. I'm not sure what structural analysis is happening here. If any.

E.D. Kain said...

Freddie this has nothing to do with wanting to be in the Cool Kid Club. That's just a straw man you use to diminish criticism - it's a dodge, and should be beneath you.

The entire point of my comment is that you come across as whiny as self-pitying when you say other people are overly sensitive. It belies your own thin skin and weakens your argument. I say this because I think it's one of the only flaws in your rhetoric (leaving aside our disagreements over the issues), not because I want to be in any club at all.

Edwin said...

So - I bookmarked you - now I hope you renege on your September post. I understand the anger and lack of civility - I unfortunately go there too...

Still you have interesting things to say and I want to read more.

I think that you have understated things a bit on the left being not allowed to present their view - The left has been so silenced that it seems that people don't even know what the left wing is - assuming that left wing and communism are synonymous - or that liberals and left wing are synonymous - and then expanding it to liberals and communism are synonymous.

Anonymous said...

Honest policy question:

In order for one to be a "good socialist" in the modern day, can one defend labor (via redistributive policies, politics geared toward workers) while advocating for free trade?

Protecting labor unions often seems like it's protecting American workers at the expense of foreign ones. I'd rather direct policy toward them without that added cost.

CFB said...

Neoliberals use words to choose their reality, instead of using reality choose their words. And being the business of words turns them deathly afraid of them freely. The blogosphere is a place of safety for them and their response to you is a circling of the wagons.

Neoliberals do not exist outside of blogs and policy, and it is the same for their readers. I self-unfulfilling prophecy that what they are doing is changing the world. They are under the delusion that their writing is "social action" because it allows the ito feel important without taking any risks. I saw this in saddening reality on a popular local blog where someone posted that an animal research facility was leaking waste into the local watershed. When I sent a rallying call that we should go out to the facility and protest I did not get one response. The neoliberals are the same ones that will praise the police for protecting their property from the society they are exploiting.

And the Libertarians are authoritarian control freaks just like the neoliberals. Note that I used an uppercase letter for Libetraians, as is proper, since it has nothing to do with libertarianism. Which brings me to the second part of my response.

You see, the underlying goal of Libertairains and neoliberals is the same; the desire to control others. The neoliberals focus mainly on controlling people and the Libertarians focus mainly on controlling property.

I am frustrated that the left does not talk about social libertarianism anymore. Yeah, I said it, Anarchism. It would be the saving grace of the "true left" if we unbiassedly used the term Anarchism, since that is what we are at heart. The anarchist fought long and hard not just against Communists and Capitalists, but against all forms of control.

But my hand is out to you friend, for living in freedom.

Wendy Kloiber said...

Another honest policy question: Can you be a socialist (or social democrat) while offering critiques of and/or proposed alternatives to unintended negative consequences of the past-century gains of the labor movement in the US?

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't some of the criticism about a lack of blogspheric support for organized labor be directed at...well, organized labor? The British TUC's ToUChstone blog isn't the most riveting out there, but it's still a pretty good blog overall (in my opinion). I can't say that I feel the same way about, well, the AFL-CIO Now blog, for instance. It just doesn't really READ like a blog should--well, like blogs tend to read, at least. I don't know just how well Richard Trumka would take to blogging, but if it read anything like his speeches I'd follow it quite closely.

Petey said...

"In order for one to be a "good socialist" in the modern day, can one defend labor (via redistributive policies, politics geared toward workers) while advocating for free trade?"

Sure.

You need to be pretty activist about helping American labor in various ways, (continental Europe offers some options), but I'm to the left of Krugman, and I still believe in properly designed trade agreements that expand world trade, just as long as the government is pretty activist about helping American labor

You can get pretty far to the left of the current American spectrum of opinion without leaving economic reality as we currently understand it. Trade can help Americans, both at the median, and in the bottom quintile, just as long as the government takes in an interest in the median American and bottom quintile American...

Don said...

Oh bullshit. Doesn't anyone listen to Pacifica Radio. That would be WPFW 89.3 in DC, available on the web at: http://www.wpfw.org/?db=content/Programming&tbl=Programming&id=1. Or is your argument limited to the white bloggers' cocoon?

Anonymous said...

Well I'm a bruised member of the software techno grunt 'class' and seeing up close and personal how the industry has changed, due to the ravaging effects of outsourcing etc ad nauseum, has pushed me left. Very much so. And I find there is no comfortable home for me in American politics.

Why is that?

Leftists are academics for the most part, that is a problem. They don't grow their politics in the workplace most of us suffer in. So they are out of touch and fail to connect.

The liberals have abandoned the American middle and working class, at least when that loyalty conflicts with raising up poor people in the 3rd world. Yglesias is a good example. Note his commenters though - he is swimming against the stream. Sentiment is against him. He is a minority. Institutional forces have selected those with views like his for representation.

The Democratic party is in effect sitting on middle class and working class discontent, as it works assiduously for the financial elites and outsourcers. It has the impact of coopting and thus preventing a new movement.

Finally, we need consciousness raising. I heard two stories in 15 minutes the other day. One about racial prejudice in the workplace, which met with instant indignation and a clear moral stance. The other about just another outrage by a dictatorial workplace against a working stiff. There was a big sign and abject acceptance. This is where we must learn our own struggles, share with each other, and fight back.

Petey said...

"The Democratic party is in effect sitting on middle class and working class discontent, as it works assiduously for the financial elites and outsourcers. It has the impact of coopting and thus preventing a new movement. "

Welcome to the Obama administration...

nimh said...

This comments section is now becoming useful for those of us who immediately recognized Freddie's argument about the absence of true left-wing critiques - or even the acknowledgement of the existence and legitimacy of such critiques - in the top tier of the policy blogosphere. Lots of suggestions of names outside the box that might provide a bloggy taste of such critiques after all.

I'd occasionally read Ta-Nehisi Coates, but more for his perspectives on culture and race; and I'd come across the naked capitalism blog before. Many of the other names are new to me, though, so I hope to be able to add some voices to my reading that have Ezra's and Drum's level-headed observational skills, but write from a position clearly to the left of them.

Petey, while somewhat myopic as usual, has a good tip too. He mentions that independent bloggers voicing fundamental critiques may be absent from the most visible tier of political blogging, but are vibrant in the economo-blogosphere. I mentioned my dad before - he's 72 now, and still a vigilant reader, and beyond Krugman he seems to have primarily turned to those blogs too. I'm afraid I don't have the patience or intelligence for blogs that go into the weeds of economic theory, though - I'm more shallowly interested in the political and policy issues of the day.

nimh said...

Freddie, I do want to add a note of annoyance, by now, about your complaints in the updates and the comments of being ignored by the snobby "Very Serious Persons". They talk about (and deride) you to each other on Twitter instead of addressing your argument personally by email, you complain - all while accusing fellow bloggers like E.D. Kain of being influenced by a desire to be part of the cool kids club. But dear Lord. You've got a wide range of the people whom you criticized in your OP commenting right here or on their own blogs now - including Ezra and Drum. I think you have more of the "Very Serious People" talking to you than about you - and plenty of both.

I tried blogging for a couple of years - a group of us, who met on a forum first, kept up a blog called Observationalism for a year or two, and then I moved on to another group blog for a while. At Observationalism, I think, we wrote earnestly and with decent quality about current affairs from a range of left-to-liberal views. We spent a fair amount of time and research on some of the more in-depth pieces. At one point, a couple of my posts were linked to at The Monkey Cage, if only after I first engaged in email with one of the profs there - and I was elated. That was how hard it was to break through into any professional acknowledgement. I'm sure there are many people like us still continuing out there, who'd be grateful for just the one link on a blog like yours.

My point being that, for the "some dude" you proclaim yourself to be, and for someone who accuses others of wanting to belong to the cool kids club, your updates are starting to sound like you, yourself, are fuelled by some resentment about not being properly enough acknowledged by the other serious bloggers. To a truly "some dude" former blogger like me, OTOH, the wealth of reactions you've received to this one-off post from those same in-crowd bloggers whom you accuse of freezing out truly left-wing voices, makes you seem firmly part of the accepted and acknowledged upper tier of bloggers, who all seem to know each other from back when. So a little sense of perspective on that one, please.

Freddie said...

So you see why I stopped, right?

Anonymous said...

Um... no. You have an audience, and you have ideas. Use them. Or don't! Either way, the put-upon act is tiresome.

dell said...

There IS a real blogospheric left out there: TruthDig, OpenLeft, Chris Floyd, Counterpunch, Common Dreams, TheNation, Truth-Out, TomDispatch among others.

The problem is that they are, near to universally, ignored in the conversation among those you do discuss. There is a 'realist' argument, I guess, for doing so; but the result is that, viz. Michael Lind, Social Democratic Liberalism is, in the U.S., barely heard from.

MN said...

Erik Kain? The intellectually bankrupt ED Kain at Balloon Juice? He's not worth taking seriously by what he's posted there. Maybe he's better at his original place.

Anyhow, Matt Yglesias Responds here, and I'd like to see your take on it.

http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/2011/01/pas-dennemi-a-gauche/#comments

Johnny Caustic said...

Wow, the words "left" and "right" sure mean different things to you than they do to me. I agree that the working class is taking it on the chin, and something needs to be done about it, but in America today, the right wing looks more working class to me than the left wing.

To my eyes, the main things that distinguish modern American left from right are:

- The left believes that all humans have equal potential and equally good values, and any inequality or differences in outcomes must be caused by discrimination. The right believes that some people, cultures, and values are actually superior to some others and should be protected (but with equality before law and equal opportunities).

- The left believes that because humans are selfish, decisions about how to allocate money, jobs, and status should be policed by institutions and policies designed to enforce egalitarianism. The right believes that committees and governments are even less competent at making these decisions than individual selfish humans, and that liberty is a higher value than social engineering.

The days when the American left cared more about jobs for the working class than the American right are long gone. The only reason the left is still associated with labor unions is because the Democrats are the politicians the labor unions traditionally buy off. At the same time, the Democrats screams "racist!" at every working class guy who opposes the immigration that's taking his jobs away. But both parties are sure and unflinching in their support for continuing massive transfers of wealth from the poor and middle class to the bankers. The death of the working class is simply not a left vs. right issue anymore; it's the entire governing/media/elite class vs. us.

Anonymous said...

The demise of the left can be traced directly to the period beginning in the 1960s when the question of class analysis was elbowed aside by self serving proponents of a thousand points of identity politics. It was here that the left lost both its claim to universality and the loyalty of a very considerable number of its rank and file. Consider, for example, the effect of in-your-face abortion advocacy on religious persons who had once considered themselves economic progressives. An entire generation of these people were all but exiled from the left by those that wished to pursue goals that bore solely on narrow personal interests grounded in sociology. The selflessness was snuffed-out and with it the viability of the left as an historical phenomenon. And it will continue in eclipse like this until the universality and the self-donative aspects are recovered. No one's excluding anyone here, Freddie. Its just that no one remains on the left to participate in the conversation you desire.

Lavrenti Beria

derek l. a. said...

For what it's worth, my wife and I were in Poland for over a year in 2009-2010. While there I swore off reading anything written in English about US politics, including blogs. We came back in late 2010 and I began reading the blogs I used to read before we left, including Yglesias. My reading supports LeBoers view: Yglesias, both in substance and tone, has become much, much less left wing and much more neo-liberal and rightwing. In fact, I regret to say [I say this more in sorrow than in anger] there really is very little difference now between reading Matt's posts and Tyler Cowen's Marginal Revolution [I also read Cowen, on the theory that one should know what one's opponents/adversaries are reading and writing so you can at least understand them]. Since there are only so many hours in the day, I am now faced with the dilemma of choosing between Yglesias and Cowen: since one gets the same old, same old from both of them, what is the value added in reading both? I have not yet made up my mind on that question.

Steve From Virginia said...

Hmmm ... lotsa words here. Should be saved as they might be useful elsewhere.

A list of peeps you don't much like? Cool! A friend in the wine business always said, "It's not, 'the wine is bad'; it is 'I don't like this particular wine'"

You guys should get out more and read Michael Hudson.

Meanwhile, the overall argument is pointless: Coke vs. wine. Both 'left' and 'right' are rooms in modernity's mansion: modernity being the great cultural envelope that reduces all to trivia.

Modernity is the rationale for machines and machine supremacy in all things with the pathetic, helpless humans as barely necessary adjuncts.

Unlike humanoids and other life forms that eat 'food' or sunlight, he machines cannot function without fossil fuel inputs. Left and right are rationales or 'sales pitches' for the 'proper allocation' of machine resources.

The 'left' might be a bit more self- aware and realize its place in the machine- culture is marginal.

The existential issue is whither machines?

The entire 'machine dialectic' of (industrial) socialism vs. (industrial) quasi- capitalism is becoming irrelevant. Without cheap energy there is nothing for the machines to 'eat'. With useless or counterproductive machines, the ad campaign loses its way.

The 'right' as well as the 'left' exist to pimp material/machine 'progress' along with machine- driven 'prosperity'. The idea has been to rationalize the allocate machine- created surpluses to the bosses ... even as the form or 'worth' of the surpluses has been promoted unambiguously in machine- friendly terms.

You are 'rich' because you have more ... 'money', whatever that is. Our forests and fisheries are depleted ... we are really destitute!

The ad campaign is incapable of pimping 'less', which is what consumption economics allows after two centuries of relentless and efficient resource extraction. The cheap inputs have been wasted! What remains is too valuable to waste.

Driving the waste machine forward leaves us insolvent. Carrying forward from the point of insolvency is completely ruinous. This ruin is the responsibility of both 'left' and 'right'. Both lack the imagination -- or realism -- to visualize any other process but industrial- scale waste as the operating mode of the world's economy.

Both left and right are stranded by peak oil and rising real input prices. The new dialelectic is gardening and starvation.

The choices that modernity pose are to drive a car or have a job: afterwards it is to drive a car or have something to eat. Neither left nor right are structurally able to propose a response that leaves out the possibility of the car. Both make the fraudulent car promise along with everything else promises and argue their particular approach is the only means to that un- achievable end.

Left and right represent the 'useless' extremes of the cultural dialog: one standing for naiveté and the other notable for its mendacity.

The fatal flaw of religion is that greatest actor in our society is the machine and neither the Koran, Bible or any other religious tract mentions machines. This is also the ideological vanishing point for modernity as a whole. Modernity created the machine as an elemental force to be taken for granted as well as taken as a 'given'. These machine imperatives only exist in arguments. Sorry, but in the real world the whole law is entropy.

The rest is commentary.

rootless_e said...

All you have to do to see how this division of left/right fails is to examine the number of articles on LeftWing Site Firedoglake that mention the Labor Secretary. When I did this exercise a couple of months ago, the number since inauguration was 0. Farm laborers in Florida win wage/benefit increase. Silence. DOL demands stronger mine safety laws. Silence. DOL goes after pension/benefit fraud. Silence. This is a "left" that considers union organizing less interesting than the Volcker Rule - named after the guy who destroyed American manufacturing. It appears that the "left" has been purified into a class based organization representing the ambitions of resentful overlooked middle managers.

Larue said...

Great read, I'm still wading thru it, and our links.

Led to here by Steve Hynd who posted on this topic at MyFDL of Firedog Lake.

I like your writing style and points of view on things (scrolled thru your archives).

Good to find another place to add to my bookmarks, this will be a must check blog for me.

Thanks.

-Larue

Larue said...

Heh, read thru some comments.

1) Class war. Social movement change is all that's left, cuz political change is out of the question.

2) Ezra and Matt are corporate toadies.

Once hired on, they divorced themselves of liberal/progressive reality. End of story.

If anyone is a fan of theirs, that person is a pure status quo elitist who finds their present sitch to be just fine, and damn the masses who aren't.

To the dude in comments who supports Klein/Yglls, you can't hide that shit of what you are, no matter HOW many big words and academic theories you espouse. Yer an elitist.

3) Either the masses are energized and unite in common cause over the Class War meme, or the status quo continues . . . and it's unsustainable, as are all empires. It WILL collapse, this empire, this country, these elitists. History proves it.

Again Freddie, a joy to find this place . . . I intend to visit often. Thanks.

*G*

MarcWPhoto said...

I find your tossaway answer above to the "didn't get the memo" comment intriguing. You're not a Communist. Fine. If you don't mind a little advice from the Loyal Opposition, here's a suggestion:

Communism was the bogey of American politics, except for Marxist campus types, for decades. The world's largest Communist power had nuclear missiles pointed at all our heads, fought us in proxy wars that killed tens of thousands of Americans, and said it would bury us all in the name of the People while its actual, non-capitalized people lived in obvious squalor (compared to Americans) which was denied laughably. Eventually, it collapsed utterly and caused even more chaos. Americans don't like the word Communist. They don't like being threatened (nobody does,) they don't like being told they're evil (ditto) and they don't like a loser, and Communism is the biggest loser most Americans can think of since the Confederate States.

They don't like the idea of Communism, is what I'm trying to say here. And then here you come, saying, "Oh, no, I'm not a Communist, I'm a $WHATEVER," but saying basically the same things American Communist apologists spouted the whole time all this was going on.

Don't point me at Wikipedia. Don't tell me to read some dense tome. Tell me in a hundred words or less why you're not a Communist, what the difference between you and Communists is, and why we wouldn't end up where the Communists did if you were in charge instead of the murderous leaders they started out with or the bureaucraticly inept apathetic tyrants they ended up with. That's your job. That's your burden, that's your cross. Drop her, Jack, and all be lost.

But do it, and somebody, somewhere, over the age of twenty-five who's ever had to work for a living may actually listen to what you say. I won't, because I think that you are an agent of the Adversary. But somebody might. Probably more people than would ever listen to me, because parts of what you say are much more appealing than anything I have to offer. Fail, and the right-wing sleazeballs will continue to rule populist opinion and you will stay right where you are.

And if you challenge any of my assertions about historical Communism above, you've lost already. They lost. Demonstrably. Provably. Utterly. And what I said is the common understanding of How The Shit Went Down. You will NOT change it. Ever. Defending it only brands you with the Loser Brand. You can only make progress if you make yourself distinct from it. If you can't do that, you lose.

MarcWPhoto said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MarcWPhoto said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brendan said...

Probably you're done talking about this, Freddie, but just in case you want to know (and are still reading comments in this thread), there's a bit of a discussion about your post over in the Bloggingheads forum, starting here.

Pat said...

Don't point me at Wikipedia. Don't tell me to read some dense tome. Tell me in a hundred words or less why you're not a Communist, what the difference between you and Communists is, and why we wouldn't end up where the Communists did if you were in charge instead of the murderous leaders they started out with or the bureaucraticly inept apathetic tyrants they ended up with.

See, this is what I was trying to get at earlier. This guy appears to have no idea of the existence of, let alone the quality of life in, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, France, etc. etc. etc. Everything's either the Wild West or the gulags.

That's your job. That's your burden, that's your cross. Drop her, Jack, and all be lost.

What are you, Pontius Pirate?

Freddie said...

You seem to be under the mistaken assumption that I feel this great need to explain myself to you. I don't, and I particularly don't feel obligated to do so when you try to set the conditions by which I'm theoretically going to define myself.

MarcWPhoto said...

Pat:

My comment mixes the theoretical me with the actual me, but the nice thing is that I don't care whether you think I'm actually stupid or that I'm trying to illustrate what a theoretically stupid me thinks/believes/knows. The argument is unaffected, as is the solution it is intended to suggest. I try to be helpful, and this is what I get. Alas.

In any event, yes, take what you said and run with it. Apparently I am unaware of it, or else I am unconvinced of it. Making me aware of it and/or convincing me of it will advance your cause. Find some way to do so. The middle-ist media you and the original poster despise talk them up quite a lot, but for some reason the argument does not hold sway with me and my ilk. Figure out why, and fix it. If the facts really are on your side, pound on the facts.

And the quotation has nothing to do with that mascara-crusted murderer so popular in this degenerate age. It's from another piece of pop-culture trash entirely.

Nora said...

I fundamentally agree with you, most especially Kevin Drum's comment which you quote, seemingly with approval, but would note the glaring omission of digby in your roundup of "serious" bloggers on the Left. She's called it on labor, on hollowing out social security, on the nature of the Right, over and over and over and few of her purported allies ever give her the credit she's due for faithfully calling it like it is. I'd like to think it has nothing to do with her independence [lack of position in Academia or any other institution], or her sex, but as another woman of a certain age without any relevant institutional home, it does make me wonder.

Jack Crow said...

Freddie,

You have a thoughtful, reasonable post, here. Written with the same self-searching pathos of your League entries.

I'm not dismissing it out of hand, when I write what follows. I think your "blindspot" works on its own terms.

But...

I think "the left" has no value in the national discourse because "the left" represents a population which has (a) renounced useful or effective violence and (b) has abandoned ordinary language.

Very few people are afraid of leftists. Well, Sean Hannity and Glen Beck are "afraid" of us insomuch as their feigned apprehension lets them sell books and earn gold advertising. commissions.

And I think it's fair to conclude that very few people can relate to the language leftists - especially the large slice of the population pie which inhabits academia - use to communicate their ideas.

Which is not to suggest that there are no institutional and moneyed gatekeepers. There are, and obviously so.

But, who are we for people to be afraid of us, to take us seriously, really?

We're like the liberal feminists who complain about the depiction of women on "Law and Order." They have a critique of the system's output, not the system itself.

They - and we - have contented ourselves with the margins, with being consumers and producers of moderated, mediated, commodified discontent.

When what we have to do, what we must do - and the language of personal compulsion perhaps cannot communicate strongly the necessity of that "must" - is scare the hell out of those who rule. Intelligently, with a view to the world that is.

Put them on notice.

With respect,

Jack

Freddie said...

digby. Yes, definitely an omission.

Anonymous said...

I don't honestly know which Matthew Yglesias you were reading lo those years ago in a halcyon time when he was a vigorous lefty. The dude was a supporter of the Iraq War! I've read him as long as he's been blogging, and it's always been a bunch of audience-building neoliberal horseshit. He and Josh Marshall and a bunch of others tangoed to Bush's war tune up to the eve of the War. It has always been thus...they were never left-wing. They were only left-wing compared to what existed at the time, which was effectively nothing but a diluted NYTimes.

Maju said...

Getting between MarcPhoto and Pat, obviously Marc knows a lot better.

Whatever the case there are two "lefts": the socialdemocrats (who brought Hitler to power) and the communists and anarchists for fought till the last man.

There are snobby posers who could be Obama's ministers and advisors and there are people who really wants democracy at the economic level.

If you people are interested in socialdemocracy, then there is a lot of that in the US scene under the name "liberalism" (not such a misnomer after all because who is the good dog of Capitalism? The socialdemocrats!) If so, I am not interested at all because those sugar-coated lackeys of the banksters are not substantially different from Sarah Palin, they just speak softer.

When I say left, I mean revolutionary left, not socialdemocracy.

These are the blogs in English I follow with a clearly Red viewpoint (most are not even from the USA)

- Anarchists against the Wall (Palestine/Israel)
- Antifascist calling
- Indian Vanguard (Maoists from India)
- Random Pottins (England)
- Revolution in South Asia (Nepal, Maoist)
- Washington Blog (USA, "liberal" I'd say but compromised and strongly worded)

You can also read my political blog (from Europe to the World, eclectic but deep red). And you should definitively read in second languages, not just in English.

Careless said...

So... who are the right wing bloggers? Who are the right wing equivalents of Yglesias, Krugman, DeLong?

Anonymous said...

People consume that which they desire. Socialism is the spoiled meat and stale bread of political ideologies.

James said...

Who is IOZ?

Freddie said...

Nobody knows... he's like the Shadow.

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent and thoughtful post. But it's striking that it, and all the comments and tweets about it, lack any reference to what's going on on the rest of the left outside the U.S. This is a longstanding hallmark of the American left: its isolationism and provincialism (mirrored by those who worship whatever's going on in the USSR, China, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Chiapas etc etc). But there is a discussion on the international left that goes beyond the cartoonish views of socialist history on the right. So, open up your minds--engage with the ideas of Zizek, Callinicos, the Monthly Review people, etc etc. And read some literature--Gramsci, Lukacs, Poulantzas. Learn. Engage with the debates at the world social forums, the Indian left, etc. By all means weigh in with your own ideas. But break out of the stifling American cultural bubble.

Frank Pembleton said...

three good left blogs:
http://chriscutrone.platypus1917.org/
http://permanentcrisis.blogspot.com/
http://platypus1917.org/category/pr/featured/

jeffry house said...

There is no communist left in the relevant blogosphere because communism failed, and pretty much everyone knows it.

Much of the American left is still compromised by its defence of Castro or Chavez.

Rarely will anyone on the left bother to learn about Norway or Sweden, nor the way these countries have risen in the world. Instead, we have hopeful nonsense about Bolivia, a country struggling to outdo Paraguay, and failing.

Colorado Goat said...

Great analysis of Mr. Yglesias. He has become a source of wonderment for many of his readers, to the point where many of us now go only to see what far-fetched, reactionary policy he can espouse.

To be honest however, I think Matt was always this way, but the Bush years disguised his economic positions due to the prevalence of a war in combination with an artificially propped up economic system keeping the jobs and labor issues on the back-burner.

But ever since the financial crisis, Matt's economic positions have come to light, which invariably are nothing more than Will Wilkinson's (i.e. - globalist in terms of thinking about policies, versus nationalist - and therefore, policies that benefit the impoverished masses in third-world countries at the expense of Western labor is an overall a net positive).

I can only guess living and growing up the way he has, his insulation from typical middle- and lower-class economic anxiety and fears allows one to damn these people to generations of misery without much grievance in the same way that we can watch the news about a natural disaster in some far away land and immediately after flip to the sports ticker without nary a thought.

Yglesias's solutions are (like all neo-liberal solutions to this problem) are to tax the wealthy beneficiaries of this system. We all know this will not work, both politically (we cannot even return tax rates to 1990's levels) as well as due to the ability of the wealthy to essentially live above a the sovereignty of any one nation. As highlighted in the recent issue of the Atlantic, the new global elite really do not have loyalty or any sense of country. Their own social and economic class are a country unto their own, and accordingly, the ability to move outside of the United States jurisdiction and taxing authorities will result in nothing more than the same race-to-the-bottom, only this time it will be chasing the lowest income tax rates. Neo-liberals know all this, and I can only surmise that they support this type of policy to either soothe their own guilt for selling out the middle-class of America (again – because they are more concerned with global poor than declining Western standards of living but still feel some guilt over what is going to happen), or are deeply Machiavellian, and use this to hopefully keep the masses at peace as they sell-out the American worker in order to continue to gain the support of CEOs who fund their think-tanks or pay their fees on the Speaker Circuit.

Colorado Goat said...

Great analysis of Mr. Yglesias. He has become a source of wonderment for many of his readers, to the point where many of us now go only to see what far-fetched, reactionary policy he can espouse.

To be honest however, I think Matt was always this way, but the Bush years disguised his economic positions due to the prevalence of a war in combination with an artificially propped up economic system keeping the jobs and labor issues on the back-burner.

But ever since the financial crisis, Matt's economic positions have come to light, which invariably are nothing more than Will Wilkinson's (i.e. - globalist in terms of thinking about policies, versus nationalist - and therefore, policies that benefit the impoverished masses in third-world countries at the expense of Western labor is an overall a net positive).

I can only guess living and growing up the way he has, his insulation from typical middle- and lower-class economic anxiety and fears allows one to damn these people to generations of misery without much grievance in the same way that we can watch the news about a natural disaster in some far away land and immediately after flip to the sports ticker without nary a thought.

Colorado Goat said...

Yglesias's solutions are (like all neo-liberal solutions to this problem) are to tax the wealthy beneficiaries of this system. We all know this will not work, both politically (we cannot even return tax rates to 1990's levels) as well as due to the ability of the wealthy to essentially live above a the sovereignty of any one nation. As highlighted in the recent issue of the Atlantic, the new global elite really do not have loyalty or any sense of country. Their own social and economic class are a country unto their own, and accordingly, the ability to move outside of the United States jurisdiction and taxing authorities will result in nothing more than the same race-to-the-bottom, only this time it will be chasing the lowest income tax rates. Neo-liberals know all this, and I can only surmise that they support this type of policy to either soothe their own guilt for selling out the middle-class of America (again – because they are more concerned with global poor than declining Western standards of living but still feel some guilt over what is going to happen), or are deeply Machiavellian, and use this to hopefully keep the masses at peace as they sell-out the American worker in order to continue to gain the support of CEOs who fund their think-tanks or pay their fees on the Speaker Circuit.

Demosthenes said...

I have little to add to this at the moment, except to note that this is one of the best pieces of blogging I've seen in a damned long time. It's summarized a lot of issues I've had with the development of the form over the last most-of-a-decade or so, and why the Right keeps on clobbering the Not-Terribly-Left online. (It has nothing to do with the quality of the argumentation, but simply that the neoliberals don't even put up a fight.)

Brocktoon said...

I find this post interesting not for what it says about the blogosphere but rather because it dovetails with something Chris Hedges wrote not so long ago. Namely, that true left wingers and radicals have been banished from public discourse. No, they're not at universities just because there's a close reading of Marx each semester. They're nowhere to be found.

So it's important to realize this is a holistic thing in American society and, gradually, the Western world. Shorter: there are no active American Marxists under the age of 80.

rturpin said...

Most policy debate today accepts the necessity of capitalism. Capitalism, in the broad and pragmatic sense of the real economies of every nation that has a stock market, including modern-day China, not in the sense of the fantasized capitalism of the libertarian. That admits a broad range of policy debate on issues from social programs to trade to environmental regulations. All of which the socialist recognizes as quite consistent with capitalism and not aimed at its abolition. Of course. What the rest of us want to hear from the socialist is just how he would replace that capitalist part of the economy that evolves the production of everyday technology that we all enjoy. It is not just that the old, planned economies failed so spectacularly, but that there is much broader understanding of how the market ecology that includes entrepreneurial gambles, enterprise destruction, and secondary markets for liquidity delivers the knowledge and processes that burp out tomorrow's iPhone. At this point in the 21st century, socialism's failure to provide a believable alternative is every bit as embarrassing as the right libertarian's continued homage to natural rights. So yes, the rhetorical landscape has shifted. Those on the American left today may point to Sweden's social safety net. They are not longing to abolish the Stockholm stock exchange, liking what it provides also.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...

People consume that which they desire. Socialism is the spoiled meat and stale bread of political ideologies."

Clue to the over-privileged:

In the real world, outside your gated community, people consume from their WAGES. These come from JOBS.

The problem we have now is that the logic of consumer capitalism has moved the jobs overseas, so that the consumers are strapped, anxious, and angry.

That is exactly why the left is more relevant now than it has been in decades.

Beth Gallock said...

Your final update rocked. As well as the entirety of your post. Thank you for saying it. Sorry I can't weed through the comments but just wanted to voice my support and gratitude.

EngineerScotty said...

I'd like to echo the sentiment of at least one anonymous commenter.

Of course, there's a left-wing blogosphere out there; google will help you find any number of committed trade unionists, socialists, or other allegedly "unserious" positions, being flogged in blogs on a daily basis.

What there isn't, and you note it so well, is a professional left-wing blogosphere. The true leftists out there are volunteers, toiling away for nothing more than a sense of fulfillment of duty, with a few notable exceptions like Kos. And while Kos is certainly a Leftist As You Define It; he's more of a political operative than a commentator these days--admittedly it's often hard to tell the difference sometimes, especially on the right where the distinction is often blurred--and his blog is more about political organizing than anything else.

Here's another thought, though. It's easier to be taken seriously at the margins of US politics when the opposite party is in power. One thing that may have undermined the fervor of the "professional left" (Gibbs infamous remarks notwithstanding) is the election of Obama--suddenly, the greater-left coalition now has to govern rather than merely oppose, and you get into all sorts of arguments regarding what's reasonable vs what's not. When W was in power, they all agreed that his administration was terrible. When Clinton was in power, the same cracks appeared in the coalition (with the result that many on the far left believed that Al Gore and George Bush were politically indistinguishable--one of the biggest and costliest miscalculations in US political history).

By the same token, the rhetoric on the far right is far nastier and more strident with a Democrat in the office than with Bush; the GOP establishment was, for the most part, able to muzzle the far-right elements of the conservative coalition and keep them from peeing on the carpet. With Obama in charge, the various GOP factions have one big thing they can agree on.

But, Freddie--here's where you can help. You seem to be, if not seated at the "grown up table", at least someone who's permitted in the room. Guys like Matt and Will and Andrew link to you, will entertain having you on their blog roll, and even call you "Freddie" as though you're a member of the club. This post, of course, made the rounds of the "major" blogs--you seem to have their attention. (The manner in which A-list bloggers refer to each other as though they were Brazilian football players has long struck me as cute).

So why not resume blogging full time? And why not advocate full-throated the positions you think are being neglected, and which you truly believe? You're taken seriously by the "A-List" crowd, even if you're not paid to write; put your voice back into the conversation full-time!

And if you get booted from the room where the Very Serious People dine, and if Sullivan and the like excise you from their blogrolls, and no longer bother to link to your stuff other than to mock you as a kook or issue you Moore Awards--so what? There's a good life, and a lot of good stuff, in the amateur blogosphere--and as you probably know, not having a boss to please with your words is liberating.

EngineerScotty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
McGuire said...

I confess to having merely skimmed this terrific article (having bookmarked it for later study), but I did not see Joe Bageant's name. Could be wrong; I'm in a rush.

Also Jim Kunstler. Just sayin'...I'll get back to this later, and hope to stand corrected.

Anonymous said...

More on this "debate" here:

http://whoisioz.blogspot.com/2011/01/farewell-my-son-farewell-from-machine.html

and here:

http://www.stateofthenet.com/why-must-we-always-play-poke-matt-yglesias-with-a-stick/73/

Anonymous said...

I don't have the time to read it, but the Communist Party USA has a blog:

http://www.cpusa.org/blog/

Also, Brian Leiter is pretty far to the left, and he runs the most popular and influential philosophy blog in the Anglo-speaking world for sure. It doesn't focus on politics, but there is certainly a good amount of political commentary there.

And I'm pretty sure, from the armchair, that I could find quite a few far left blogs.

El Cid said...

To me there have been two very prominent recent developments which thoroughly changed the likelihood of any coherent and quite clearly identifiable left (even to the small degree that there was such before) acting on and leading debate on policies and power and so forth.

The first was the stealing of the 2000 election by Bush Jr., and the ascension of such an apocalyptically and openly class war, imperialist Republican rule that the CPUSA's election viewpoint every single election appeared correct:

(1) That the leadership of the Democratic Party and its most powerful politicians were indeed supportive of the US system of upper class domination and worker repression and imperial foreign policy, but a degree of possibility existed to organize and pressure for reforms to help the lives or ordinary people;

(2) And that it was necessary, since most of the time there was no other realistically available alternative, for even US Communists to vote for Democrats because otherwise the party of outright fascism and nakedly brutal class warfare against the majority -- Republicans -- would take power and make the Democrats' assault on the economic status of the majority and rights and the US' foreign policies seem tame.

I think most people, liberal and left alike, concluded that both (1) and (2) were correct pretty soon into the Bush Jr. regime. One which would soon make the loony rightists of the Reagan era seem sane and pragmatic by comparison, in so many ways.

And for this reason criticisms of Clintons' policies were pretty much avoided or attacked more so than before, and not just because of the Nader factor in 2000, but because the focus really was on surviving and remaining sane and doing whatever Democratic candidate and party supporting and organizing as possible so as to stop the most severe assault on the American political system and economic system and several areas of foreign policy since Reagan, but so much more rapidly and severely and with so little political opposition as to possibly have dealt a death blow to to the US economy. (Which certainly seems to have been a possibility in the crash, despite the sensibly argued point by many dissident economists or economic analysts that far different and more just solutions were possible.)

Well, I had written a lot more before and good deal after this comment as is, but I didn't at all notice in my stream of consciousness typing that this had become way, way longer than a permissible comment.

El Cid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
El Cid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
El Cid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
El Cid said...

Outside of screwing up a bunch with multiple posts and posting my million word screed in bits, I just wanted to add this:


Though yes, the most significant and prominent and media accessible bloggers either are openly or mostly Democratic Party supporters, the areas of discourse and available arguments and facts read by and engaged with by readers and commenters and diarists / posters on ostensibly liberal and pro-Democratic blogs covers arguments and discussions which in the 1980s and 1990s took place among self-identified leftist institutions, groups, and writes.

Even sometimes verging on opposition to capitalism and particularly its neoliberal, anti-social-welfare and anti-New Deal and anti-labor and anti-ecological modern nature.

I sure as heck didn't know any liberals or Democrats not involved in some leftish activist movement like solidarity groups or the like with whom I could discuss so many issues and perspectives as I can today outside the typical magazines and radio shows and local activist groups and the like.

Such as discussions of US wars continuing against Iraqi and Afghani civilians in ways which no one but the most engaged and dogged liberals and leftists used to be.

I mean, in person. Okay, it's still comparatively rare, but it's much more common than it used to be and isn't just confined to university towns and traditional left etc. havens.

It's at least different from my personal view, no matter how little effect it has on national discourse.

j r said...

Freddie, my problem with your post is that you begin with a somewhat self-serving taxonomy. You seem to define legitimate leftist as anyone who is offering meaningful critique to the capitalist system and reactionary as anyone who vehemently defends that system. By that conception I guess it makes sense to call Tim Carney or the Cato Institute members of the far-right and wonder how they manage to have a place in the mainstream political conversation while the corresponding members of the far-left either don’t have such a place or simply don’t exist.

There's a reason that this is the case; for most Americans capitalism isn’t the same pejorative that it is elsewhere in the world. Americans, for the most part, believe in the free market. We have differing taste for the appropriate level of government involvement in markets, but don’t particularly buy into the Marxist dialectic and its elevation of the struggle between workers and capitalists as the world’s dominant historical theme. Other than an affinity for belonging to the large and amorphous “middle class”, Americans don’t seem to have a great deal of class consciousness. And that is what you would expect from a great big country with lots of freedom to move about it.

I would also point out that your conception of the far-right seems to ignore the existence of an actual far-right which is both fairly anti-capitalist and largely excluded from the mainstream conversation. By way of evidence, I would point out that far right political movements, like France’s National Front or Austria’s Freedom Party, are every bit as critical of free markets as leftists are. If America were more like Europe, we would probably have a large Socialist Party and a large Green Party which would fill the void that you lament. At the same time, we would probably also have a large Nativist Party and perhaps some sort of Evangelical Party as well. Personally, I prefer it the way it is.

Downes said...

I am a left wing blogger (very left) and I am in the blogosphere. If the (predominately) right wing establishment doesn't recognize me as an establishment blogger, well, that's their problem.

Anonymous said...

If you want to know where to find genuine leftism in the American blogosphere, you need to look beyond the hegemony of white men. If you're looking for people who don't reflexively mock and deride leftist positions, have you checked out prominent feminist blogs like Shakesville which just this morning published a critique of the pandering to "economic growth" that has so typified this presidency. Or read flip flopping joy for analysis of food, class, immigration. If you want to know who stands up for workers, who truly bemoans the decimation of unions, and who stands up for the proletariat...stop exclusively reading the oppressors.

EngineerScotty said...

One other remark, and this gets to the excellent notion of what it takes to be a Very Serious Person: Fundamentally, one trait of VSPs is that they only discuss policies which are tractable within the bounds of US political discourse. Within said bounds, major concessions to labor unions (regardless of merit), let alone things like punitive taxes on the wealthy, rewriting or termination of trade agreements, or even seizure of the means of production on behalf of the masses--ain't just happening. So it's not surprising that establishment media (including the establishment blogosphere) treats proponents of such things like drunken uncles at Thanksgiving dinner.

It took a generation or two, and many billions of dollars in media penetration (establishment and alternative) and scholarship (real and fake), but what you write about left-wing politics and media today was largely true about right-wing politics fifty years ago. Extreme right-wing positions which a generation ago were considered politically toxic (i.e. discussion of the gold standard, and numerous instances of transparent racism), have become rehabilitated as within the bounds of acceptable discourse. The Overton window shifted rightward, and such is the outcome.

Freddie said...

Very good point, Scotty.

rootless_e said...

"And read some literature--Gramsci, Lukacs, Poulantzas. "

Wow, some seriously stale advice. The tediousity of Poulantzas was an experience I will never forget, though I try.

capital is in a crisis
yes I know - what else is new
reading my Poulantzas
is not as fun as getting flu
that labor theory of value
just don't cover this process
the hegemony of boredom
has made my head a mess
doh dah dah dah

Steve Sailer said...

Good post.

I've been impressed with Thomas Geoghegan's recent work, such as his latest book on Germany's economic success, "Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?" There's a lot of wisdom in old-fashioned AFL-CIO-style analysis that has largely been lost over the years.

One obvious cause for the decline of class in politics is the rise of ethnicity in importance: in particular, the discovery by the elites of the two parties that they could use immigration to achieve their goals. Karl Rove wanted to use immigration to crush the power of unions, while Ted Kennedy wanted to use immigration to elect a new nation. Both look like they will succeed.

rootless_e said...

Anonymous said...

Firedoglake is super far-left not because of their angry tone, but because they were opposed to major policy initiatives of the Democratic party because they weren't liberal enough. Opposed so much that they advocate voting against it and primarying Democratic politicians who voted for it.
January 16, 2011 5:51 PM


That's a perfect rendition of the argument. Somehow a demand for Jacob Hacker's "public option", as polled by Celinda Lake, a policy provision dreamed up as a technocratic fix for the unpopularity of single payer, becomes radical leftist when it is presented as a particularly unpleasant attack on the Obama administration. And the public option is further to the left than provisions actually included in the bill such as public health clinics because - why because it is used as a club to attack the administration.

Bravo!

Gadfly said...

Freddie seems to think Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias were at one time really liberal (at least Yggs) then got corrupted or something. Actually, they never were that, that liberal.

And, he thinks Markos Moulitsas, Kos, apparently is the victim of a freezeout from neolib talking head types, and I'm inferring Freddie thinks that is because Kos is too liberal.

The man who cares about Dems winning first? Who thinks there's a phalanx of secret liberals inside the CIA? He's too liberal?

Mara Avila said...

I've enjoyed reading this post! We've got quite a topic here! And I've even thought of doing more research about it...though I guess we'll come to the evident conclusion that we are so immersed in capitalism and in the so-called globalization that, for example, journalists are bound to emphasize that Tunisia's revolution has been possible thanks to the merits of social media, which leaves the question of what revolution really means out of discussion (I've been thinking about this these days...).

Daniel McGuire said...

Your ideas would get more play - on Facebook and elsewhere, if you, like put a friggin' addtoany set of buttons on the bottom of your posts. I will now go through the relative chore of selecting/copy your url and posting it in an email to various friends who might like it. But why don't you make it easier?
Cheers, DMCG

Freddie said...

I don't know how to do that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post.

Steve From Virginia: you rock! I live in the wilderness -- what's left of it.

It's all chatter in the face of The Borg -- and the machine is ultimately the borg as we know it.

The inputs are gone, or almost. Humans will morph, or not. Doesn't mean squat to a tree, or those left standing.

peace

Anonymous said...

Surprised that nobody has mentioned Paul Rosenberg at Open Left (http://www.openleft.com), who has been conducting an in-depth critique of neo-liberalism for at least a year.

El Cid said...

rootless_e: There's always a lack of interest in distinguishing between using the term "radical" as having to do with someone's or some organization's ideological outlook on a political spectrum versus using "radical" to address the emotionality or harshness or vehemence in the pursuit of or opposition to some subject.

Most of the people and commenters I read like it just fine that when they say "radical leftist" it means someone / some group vaguely on the 'left' and who acts 'radical'. Meaning, exaggeratedly, immaturely, and potentially dangerously. (I.e., the threat that very angry and organized non-leftists might help the right to defeat health insurance reform.)

And why not? No one cares about engaging ideas of an actual politically radical left flavor, so why not use "radical" to just mean extreme in rhetoric or actions?

I guess it would be shocking for most folks to consider that there have been centrist and moderate extremists ("radicals") throughout the world, willing to use extreme measures and violence to oppose the power of political groups on one or another side of the spectrum.

Anthony said...

MarcWPhoto has it mostly right, though the advice doesn't have to be directed at you, personally.

For *any* seriously left blog to become respected enough among the blogosphere's top commentariat to be worth responding to, they would have to explain how and why their program won't end up with either Stalin or Brezhnev, and how it's significantly more left than, say, what Sweden has now. (I'm assuming that advocating adopting Sweden's politics doesn't really make one seriously left.)

Regarding the "professionalization" of the blogosphere, and the left's absence from that, why doesn't The Nation, or Dissent, have a blog which gets taken as a serious intellectual challenge to the market consensus? They have funding - the subscribers and advertisers never have been enough to pay for the printed publications - but even if they have the blogs, nobody seems interested in engaging with them, not even Crooked Timber.

UncertaintyVicePrincipal said...

Has anyone responded by pointing out the part that Obama worship plays in this? Because in my opinion it nearly explains the entire shift you talk about particularly with people like Yglesias, but at the very least it's a factor. With bloggers like say John Cole it's blazingly obvious, not in his case as what shifted him from left to right because he's gone exactly the other direction as a blogger, going from right to left, from staunch Bush supporter to even more staunch Obama booster. What's obvious however even with him is the way that views on position are pretty much entirely driven by how they align with the Obama administration, rather than anything more detached about the positions themselves. This brings him in alignment with many other bloggers that you bring up here who came to the same place from the other direction. What's common, and where they meet, is how closely it all aligns with whatever the Obama Administration says, for example when Obama or his spokesmen engage in triangulation by bashing the left, which a whole chorus of these bloggers nod along with in agreement with at the very least and often take it further, ferociously bashing the left themselves as part of defending whatever bashing the White House engaged in.

In other words, our Democratic President's political voyage from left to right, either perceived or real, and surely some combination of those two is where reality lies, is sufficient to explain many of the bloggers' own shifting in that direction and the two often match almost exactly.

Felix Dzerzhinsky said...

Matthew Yglesias was always an unctuous little shit. He supported the war in Iraq. His later apologies notwithstanding, that should have disqualified him from being taken seriously ever again. I later read something by him in which he explained himself for being 21 at the time. When I was that age I was not a ladder-climbing Harvard laptop bombardier; what's his excuse?

EngineerScotty said...

I think having some actual fire-breathing Socialists prominent in the public discourse, loudly proclaiming their support for policies such as nationalization of industry, confiscation of accumulated wealth, and other assorted ideas presently beyond the US political pale, would do some good. Not that I support these policies (I don't); but because it would expose the ridiculous lie promulgated by the right that the President and the rest of the modern Democratic Party are somehow "socialist".

rootless_e said...

el_cid:

Originally I thought there was a problem in the argument here, which begins by asking the obvious question about what makes Jane Hamsher "leftist" and then goes on to:
For every Nation or FireDogLake, there is an Atlantic or Slate, buttressed by money from the ruling class whose interests are defended with gusto by the neoliberal order.
but on second thought, is "The Nation" very different in political outlook to FDL? They both share, it seems to me, a common Naderism, a kind of soured progressivism in the Wilsonian sense, appropriate to to the class basis of their readership but not very much related to e.g. the broader based social critique of e.g. a MLK or what Richard Rorty describes as the left.

Bartman said...

I recall how short was the time devoted to the possible, temporary nationalization of the banks a couple of years ago. That said it all for me; that they owned us and were unstoppable. That nearly everyone quickly moved on to throwing money at them shows how weak is our Left.

Stephan said...

Great post! Unfortunately a serious lefty from Europe can't help out. Most Americans are too xenophobic and will immediately conclude that a socialist dictatorship is imposed on them by some evil European frog-eater.

Morgan Warstler said...

Freddie, Will handled all the basics. I'd add, that before the Internet, in the earliest days of BBS, there was a massive libertarian movement relative to our real numbers (no countries, no laws, global citizens) and in many ways the Internet is the tool set created by our ideals - the medium / message thing.

If you blog, you have been converted. And if you don't, you don't exist. We KILLED your ideas by making them impossible... or at least put them in a coma... unless you use this stupid thing we built to reach out to the laborers in China, and Thailand, and Africa, and get them all to join in a new global labor movement. Until the, you are just another node in network built to reduce small pond advantages - you can't get your hair cut in China, so cutting hair might be smarter than learning video editing.

Now you might think that is forever away, my gut says no, my gut says 20 years from now or less, Intentional Labor will rear its ugly head - and Freddie can be their king.

Until then, your side makes OBVIOUS unforced errors, not because you bend to conventional wisdom, but because you don't play sans ideology for maximized outcome.

If your side just admitted that the 70% haves who have medical insurance would NEVER accept the bottom 30% getting the same kind of care they can afford, your side could have a won a single payer public option modeled on the VA...

But you would have had to have SOLD it as, "not a good" as the haves get.

And your side couldn't do it.

You are doing the same thing with Public Employees vs. Popular Government.

If you accepted that consumers are good judges of value, just ACCEPTED it - then when they hate government, you'd not say it was a problem of "do they like the services," you'd say it was a problem of costs.

Public Employees can be incredibly high paid, but there have to be half as many.

Anyhoo, at a professional level, I'd say go tell the UAW you want them to pay you to blog.

Freddie said...

Warstler, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

Morgan Warstler said...

And whilst, there are a bunch of poor ladies who want to cut hair in the kitchen for money... you will support it. And when they get a 55" TV for $400 by 2012 you will cheer it... And when they can take any Ivy League class on that TV for $5 per month... you will sacrifice the wages of tenured academics to deliver it.

That's what you are of, that's what your labor brethren in China are delivering, and that's what the hackers are determined to unleash... and FINALLY because the smartest on each team, have a moral obligation to police their own side...

You need to grow up, go big, and think outside the box.

Anonymous said...

What a left of neoliberal=socialist smearcampaign here in the comments.

Even in the sad American political context, most citicen are to the left of those neoliberal blogers. Socialists make maybe 2-5% of that spectrum.

Neoliberals are a minority in the Democrats alliance. Not even all Republicans economics is to the right.

And those are just the haves, those with organication power within parties.

Freddie is right on, neoliberals in particular the extreme neoliberals represented by those blogs called out are a minority with disproportional power.

Let me add that from a European perspective, theres a huge specrum where people get called neoliberals, from labour centrists to UKIP nuters. That is not just a smear, those all do have some neoliberal content. Im afraid, the named blogers are closer to the UKIP party extreme of that spectrum.

MarcWPhoto said...

Morgan Warstler:

Loud cheers!

In a post-scarcity world, either everybody's a "leftist," in that they want all human beings to have a share of the endless abundance we can produce, or nobody is, because it won't even make any sense to argue about it.

The pre-Crash society of the There Will Be Dragons novels is what we should be shooting for, not some squalid Marxist enforced-fairness global gulag. Arguing about what to do between now and the finish line - which is in sight, one way or another - just makes it take longer to get there. And, to be blunt, makes it more likely we'll reach the wrong one.

Zack said...

There are a few tax and economics blogs that I think fall pretty far to the left of the mainstream consensus. The most obvious econ blog is www.nakedcapitalism.com; because it's about economic malfeasance, it's really about the power of interest groups.
In terms of tax blogs, the ones off the top of my head that I can think of are ataxingmatters.blogs.com (from a law professor) and increaseourtaxes.com.

wtrewger said...

In a sense, the snow cover the mountain,rift gold, this year's work will be a paragraph out. Luo Fei faint heart kind of relaxed and sense of relief.rift gold,This feeling was that he did not show up in the face. In fact, when flying in Romania to think when someone is very difficult to try to speculate on

his face out of his inner thoughts.rift gold, Some of his natural relaxation of facial skin, rift

gold
,which makes his eyes he always looks down, worried look.silkroad gold, Even though he was very pleased with the performance of that smile

on the face in the mouth is only apparent at two months there hook. silkroad gold,Luo do not understand people will fly and that he cold,

unapproachable, runes of magic gold,in fact, Luo Fei is a typical Raisin in the Scorpio man.vindictus gold, When dealing with others, usually happens: the other effort may still pondering Luo Fei's attitude,dofus kamas, and Luo Fei

may already be full to the other side as their friends. Of course,dofus kamas, this person should first character on the fly to get some recognition of

Romania.

Don Joebob said...

Liberal doesn't mean Socialist or Communist. It means Liberal. Not to simplify it too much but we draw from historical progressivism by seeing our movement in the context of its perpetual ebb and flow within society.

Being a liberal in a Center Right nation with a serous case of latent Calvinism, is tough enough, but if you have to battle each other to determine who is farthest to the left we'll end up making no headway at all against the powers who threaten the nation.

Anyway for a laugh visit http://baldytrump.blogspot.com/

bondage sex said...

Great website, looks very clean and organized. And very interesting to read Your the article!

«Oldest ‹Older   1 – 200 of 223   Newer› Newest»