This morning, I tweeted this disturbing and sometimes insightful, but ultimately maddening, guilt-ridden sanctimony dressed up as constructive criticism in op-ed by Steve Almond in the NYTimes. Wanting to think more about it, the best I could say at the time was this tweet:
RT @Shoq: I've been scolded for saying we mock rather than advance ideas. Still, this a mea culpa from a liberal Fox watcher j.mp/KXyDQR
I shared it with my good friend, Joy-Ann Reid (@theReidReport
), Managing Editor at TheGrio.com, and a Miami Herald columnist. As usual, within hours, she'd let loose with blistering critique that captured much of what irked me when I read Almond's piece the first time. You can read her post here.
On any given day, I agree with almost everything Joy says, and this day was no different, for the most part. But I did have some concerns about dismissing the entirety of Almond's essay too casually, feeling that as is often the case, that all elusive truth may lie somewhere between two poles. So I wrote this to Joy in response, and felt I'd blog it. Just because I can.
Thank you joy,
You have told the other side I've been wrestling with so much better than I could. But I am still torn because while my reaction this morning was just like yours (and I tweeted about it), after reading it again, I am still plagued by the nagging sense that he (and Karoli) are also more than partly right; that we do give them too all far much attention in a meta sense. While, as you point out, there are damn good reasons do that, it's become such a reactionary passion on the left, that it empowers all the lefty demagogues (those self-flagellating masters of the liberal universe), while generally sucking all the energy from the progressive room. There's just not too much remaining for the political process (which serves the status quo nicely). I see this progressive anger-fatigue every day, and it's really worrying me. I see it worrying others, too. Obama can lose, and lose convincingly. And the Senate may go with him. We all know this. And I think all the anger-merchandising, so well played by the corporate media (and the liberal and conservative industrial complexes, as well), are to a large degree distracting us from really focusing on shaping messages and getting out that vital progressive congressional and presidential vote, without which, we're probably just doomed.
But what the writer doesn't get right at all (besides the ridiculous title) is that he has no real end game; he never discusses where all that surplus attention that he wants to conserve would go if recovered. He hints at it, but so minimally, that he's implying that just turning the other ear and merely showing up to vote will mitigate the damage that a highly cultivated incivility is now doing to us. It won't. All the polite rhetorical salon parties he imagines won't make the smallest dent in the Koch/Fox audience axis, and they still vote far more reliably than we do.
No, as you point out, ignoring and negotiating just doesn't work. We have to defund, deflect, or somehow denude their omnipotence; strip it from our politics and culture with a combination of strategies that ignore the more cynical of the noisy megaphones, while pushing back effectively against the most influential of them, denying them social and financial currency where possible In the absence of bigger plans, I am going to keep on with efforts like StopRush, which may yet show that market forces can greatly impact how these influencers really operate on and against all of us.
It's all I can do… for now.