“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, May 14, 2005

intellectual scabs

This is the kind of post my friend T. will frown at. Having already violated my vow, this week, to make this blog a Hitchens free zone, I am now going to post about one of the “friends of Hitchens,” Marc Cooper.

However, instead of concentrating fire on Cooper’s brand of Bush era leftism – four parts surrender, one part reminder of what a groovy radical past Cooper possesses, why he was even against Pinochet! – let’s expand the parameters to a broader question: why did the New Left generation fail to socially reproduce? This is the kind way to put it. Another way to put it is: why did the generation of 1968 produce such ace putzes of the Cooper/Hitchens variety?

First, we should briefly review Cooper’s m.o. In the past year, Cooper has bravely unmasked Naomi Klein as a useful tool of Islamofascist terrorists; has sternly criticized the paranoid rantings of the left re Bush; took up the cudgels against world renowned celebrity Ward Churchill and his plan to reduce your mother, dear reader, to sexual slavery; and in various other ways has rightly become the leftist most likely to be linked to by an Instapundit.

His absurd post about Iraq is par for Cooper’s course. Having checked out the tv news and seen that 400 people have been murdered by the insurgents in the past month, Cooper’s humanitarianism is offended. And of course in this mood he can see right through the moral idiocy of calling for an American withdrawal from Iraq. He goes right to work, barking at various leftists who advocate just that.

Now, in fact, there is a strict correlation between these deaths and their occurence in those areas where our heroic Uncle Sam has scattered his forces. There is also the little matter of the history of the occupation. Cooper's position seems to be that the occupation was a total disaster, so we should keep on with the occupation. This is worthy of the man. This is how he covers the path that took us to those four hundred murders.

The new tack, as we all must have noticed, is to pretend that now, it is all about supporting democracy. In fact, American newspapers have taken to describing the Bush doctrine, shorthand, as supporting democracy. Which is like describing Bush's social security proposals, in shorthand, as "saving social security.' So we are 'supporting democracy" by transforming our occupying force in Iraq into a weapon used by Talabani's Kurds and SCIRI against their opponents. Let's lift the veil of amnesia a bit. What’s forgotten?

- That, up until the week of the elections, the major coalition of Shiite parties did support a a timetable of withdrawal.
- That even the American propaganda poll, done by the IRI, showed majority support for the timetable.
- That the dropping of that provision was the result of heavy American pressure.
- That the three month lag in governance was the result of the American designed occupation law.
- That the law was designed to maximize the occupier’s power in the country.
- That the law under which the constitution is to be decided in Iraq is an American enforced law, of no real validity.

Cooper’s humanitarianism, while extended to the four hundred killed in one month, is apparently unmoved by the more than one hundred killed in one week by the Pentagon in Western Iraq. This, however, is typical Cooper -- a fine selectivity of indignation. As the Lancet group showed, and as was further shown by the UN study of living conditions in Iraq this week, and what the offensive in Western Iraq showed as well – the majority of deaths in Iraq come by way of American firepower and the semi-criminal attempt, by the COA, to run Iraq as a profit preserve for America's biggest War contractors. A suicide bomber blowing up a bunch of out of work Shi’ites is called a terrorist act by the Coopers of the world. An American plane blowing up a restaurant with a bunch of Sunnis dining in it is called a tactical strike. The insurgents, so far as I know, have not reduced any major city to the totalitarian rule of segregating males and letting them walk in their own neighborhood on sufferance – as the Americans are doing in the ruins of Falluja. Nor have the insurgents dropped bombs from planes on Iraqi cities, nor machine gunned streets from helicopters. This is what Cooper supports.

Now, the truth is, if we hadn’t gone via Harry to the Cooper site, Cooper would not be on our mind. If we want Hitchens, we can get him elsewhere – and Cooper’s much weaker beer. We don’t often look at his weblog. But the larger question is, why did the antiwar movement in this country so politically suck? And why did it never revamp into an anti-occupation movement?

Our own feeling is that this has to do with the ties with the old left – the old communist left from the thirties – having long died out. The anti-war movement in the sixties benefited from the tacit knowledge held by veterans of the thirties. But the knowledge they passed along was, unfortunately, mostly passed to a college educated elite whose basic interests are much closer to the basic interests of Bush’s suburban supporters than they are to the working and lower middle class. In LI’s own terminology – we have been working this out – the difference between the Vietnam era and the Bush era is that the momentum of the movement shifted. There is, definitely, a Movement on the right – in fact, there are converging but separate movements, who have targeted the Republican party as their vehicle.

On the left, the movement is in severe crisis. The Democratic Party continually seeks to exert control over any movement, and has successfully inducted into its orbit the leaders of the Vietnam era. Kerry was, in many ways, typical – a mamby pamby liberal, vain, an instinctive comformist, a showboater, a laughable acolyte at the alter of JFK, elevated by way of the usual path – in the Democratic version of the Beatitudes, it is said that the mediocre will inherit the earth – whose role as most electable was a judgment of the Party professionals – Cooper’s kind of people.

The journalistic camp followers of the Cooper type play the role of movement breakers – intellectual scabs. The scab ideology comes out, among them, as “criticism” – they are all honest to god Orwells, speaking truth to power. In reality, they are speaking half truths in order to render powerless. And they do a good job of it, week after week. This interruption in the progressive line in America – a line that goes back to the abolitionists, and through the Wobblies and to early civil rights activists like Du Bois and Ida B. Wells up through the fifties – has impacted the ability to organize the clear discontent with Bush’s domestic and foreign policies. That is all around. When we go and have our little lunch here – lately, we’ve been going to the new, anti-union Whole Foods and getting sushi and a cup of coffee, since it is cheap – we usually sit out in the patio area. This is a store that definitely caters to the well to do, as well as the aspiring post punker. And we always overhear the same things -- complaints about what is happening in this country. If we go to the Tex Mex place up the street, which is a frat and sorority hangout, we still hear things like that. Unfortunately, these complaints are always couched in party terms – which is a measure of the success of the intellectual scabs. The little enders and the big enders, as Swift put it in Gulliver’s Travels, take up all the political space – rendering it conveniently tedious. In an electoral democracy, the status quo must make politics boring. Otherwise, it can be used as a weapon to exploit the exploiters.


Brian Miller said...

I think you nail it, roger-the current left has no ideas and no roots.

Still, because most people, including myself, I have to admit, remain agnostic/atheistic/antagonistic towards your "religion," the great dream of Marxism, I'm not sure what ideas/driving force the opposition can draw from?

That's my dilemna. Maybe I'm just too much a class enemy : )

roger said...

Brian, I'm no Marxist, man. I use the categories and the slogans as part of the verbal mix -- but economically, I'm your regular Keynesian. Sometimes the approach to an economic situation -- such as paying for health care -- requires vigorous government intervention. Sometimes it requires shrinking the government role -- the damming up of Western rivers in the fifties and sixties is a great example of counter-productive government activity. I am not for allowing contracts or private property rights to trump common sense, but I think they exceptions to sanctioning them are unusual.

I'm against dreams, I think, in general, as political things because there is no temporal parameter in dreams -- it is just the now. But in reality, there is the temporal parameter. Ironically, I think if people began to vote as real conservatives in this country -- that is, in terms of their economic interest -- we'd have much more liberal policies. It isn't in the interest of the guy making 80,000 dollars to vote for policies that will benefit the guy making 2 million -- or at least the overlap is very imperfect. Whereas the guy making, say, 40 million can afford to be as liberal or as conservative as he wants to be - he can, in essence, afford to put his morality first. In my opinion, morality is a baseline, a framework. It shouldn't be intruded as the first motive in political discussions -- prudence should. It is imprudent to act like a millionaire and make 80,000 bucks a year -- your debts soon sink you. If more people understood that among those imprudent acts is voting for politicians who only act for people who are millionaires, I think they would do it less.

I think that is where the left goes wrong in the U.S. Lefties who can imaginatively inhabit people making the kind of money I make -- below 20 thou -- are rare among liberal "thought leaders." So they never appeal to stewardship or prudence, they always appeal to fairness and a host of other things I'd totally bow down to, but simply think of as frameworks. In other words, there isn't a conflict between prudence and fairness, mind you -- but one should prioritize.

Now, I've made this interminable reply to you depend on voting, but actually I think voting is the most negligible political activity. Movements vs. parties -- that is what I am into at the present. More on that another time.

Brian Miller said...

Well, roger, since I am lazy as hell :( voting is pretty much what I've done to date. That and reading blogs. Pretty useless, no?

A good response, by the way. I'm just rather reflexively anti-Marxist in the sense that I find most Marxists to be very religious-even when their god has killed so many. (Not that OUR Western God, MAMMON, is a slouch in the death and destruction party himself, either). I understand you are no doctrinaire Marxist-the reaction is just my own biases showing. And, the odd thing is I think Marxism can be an illuminating way of explaining and looking at the world.

I agree with you vis a vis reality and pragmatism.

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