Thursday, August 11, 2011

Petty Day-to-Day

This is probably my last word on the KFO/JC dispute, and a clarification of some of the issues that came up during ergo's helpful questioning of my stance yesterday.

1. Many differences between powerful forces are mere spectacle, meant to differentiate what are generally similar and either complimentary products or substitutes. LBJ and Wilson as "peacemakers," for example. Bush campaigning against other Republicans as "compassionate."

2. There are nevertheless distinctions to be made within camps and between them. I can and will compare and contrast religious, martial, and financial camps within the Republican Party. Is some of this played up, as mentioned in Point One? Yes. Does this make it unreal? Not necessarily.

3. The "we're/they're not holding Office X" line is a canard and plays into the spectacular nature of democracy in general. The change-overs in 1980, 1992, 2000, and 2008 were all opportunities to ditch baggage, not just for the elected but especially for the departed! It's like a karmic rinse, and our cultural amnesia helps this.

4. Criticism of one side is not always playing into the hands of the other side, and this stems, at least in part, from the game of the duopoly. The narrative goes that things are zero-sum, that what is bad for one is good for the other. Tar the other guy with the brush just stuck to me and I succeed. Right? Fucking wrong. An example:

Republicans have used Clinton's support of the Iraq War to justify their own handling of it. "I don't know why you're bitching; you were all in support of it in 2003." Likewise, a Republican partisan could mention Clinton's deregulation of the banks in order to deflect criticism of Bush's tax-cuts and war spending. (They don't, of course, because that would fly in the face of both their narrative "libewals hate business" and the liberals narrative "we protect the little guy.")

That a partisan can take a hostile truth about an enemy and use it to their advantage does not make it any less a truth.

I have repeatedly cited Clinton's deregulation as a contributor to the "Bush" recession. That may appear to play into the Republican effort. I could be accused of serving Republican goals. But you'd be wrong and I'd tell you so. I can bash whoever the fuck I want, whenever the fuck I want to, and I'll be fucking right.

5. Criticism of one faction should stand alongside a comprehensive understanding of how other contemporaries act. Saying things like "Obama owns the economy" or "Bush started us down a path of" blah blah blah horrible horrible is obviously simplifying and being a fucking hack.

That said, might I say something with complete respect?

Karl? If you ask me, it seems like your Point One, probably unwittingly, grants Mr. Crow's point. If there is anti-imperialism in Buchanan's statements, and these were present in the nascent Tea Party, that's laudable. But is it unfair to mention that that anti-imperialism either existed alongside or sprang from nativism, from Buchanan's profound distrust of nonwhites coming to this country and shifting its culture, as his Irish bug ancestors themselves did?

And likewise, is there not a bit of hypocrisy in the laissez-faire chanting lashed to nativist opposition to illegal immigration and immigration of poor laborers who, ahem, drive wages down in keeping with laissez-faire economic self-interest on the part of the people who have funded the paleocons and the right-libertarians at the Cato Institute, tracing a line perhaps all the way back to the radical anti-populism and conspiracism of the John Birch Society and other Christianist nativists of the right-wing?

And is this inconsistent with an attempt to reveal the "humanitarians" and "internationalists" of liberal circles to likewise be frauds, imperialists, and puppets of the ruling class?


  1. I think the difference here in your (4) is that you are actually talking about implemented policy and critiquing that. Jack's criticisms had a tiny bit to do with policy but the large majority amounted to psychoanalysis. Criticizing policy is important. And combining it with analysis that exposes how policy gets implemented as a function of duopoly can lead to understanding. That wasn't what he was doing, though. I think part of the issue that I took with it is that, unlike his critique of progressives, which was not at all Republican boilerplate, his post on Tea Partiers was not all that indistinguishable from your average Bachmann-hating progressive loyal Democrat who thinks Obama is just cleaning up Bush's mess, and oh how hard that is and if those GOP weren't such obstructionists, etc. (Well, if you take out the paragraph saying liberals and Tea Partiers need each other.)

    I don't think Karl's point one grants Jack's point at all. To say there exists nativism on the right is quite different from Jack's protracted diagnosis of how the Tea Party is "humiliated". One strategy is to dismiss people holding nativist views as racists, end of story. That's easy, but it doesn't strike me as helpful. (Especially since the racists who matter, in my view, are those in power who are implementing the racist Drug War. Let's not let their institutional racism off the hook.) Another strategy is to examine how policies such as our funding of counterinsurgencies throughout Central and South America has destroyed those countries and then neoliberal free trade agreements have driven peasants off their lands with nowhere to go but to come here. Not to mention even longer-term history in which we conquered half of Mexico by force. Helping people understand how our system functions and causes these disparities and in fact thrives on keeping the masses hating each other seems way more useful and potentially realigning than vilification that perpetuates existent divides that are the motor of the duopoly.

  2. It wasn't psychoanalysis. I spent two or three weeks reading Hannity's thousands of regular commentators, and distilled their complaints to a gloss.

  3. I think if you had said that in your post that that is the group (a subset of the Tea Party but I know you disagree) you were talking about my response would have been somewhat different. For one thing, it would have been more clear you were talking about 100% Republican partisans. Partisanship is inextricably tied up with electoralism and the pursuit of power, which is going to warp anyone's viewpoint. Plus your data set is people who post online. I mean obviously that attracts cranks, why else would I be here?

  4. The idea that the Tea Party is anti-electoral, and therefore anyone with an electoral bias cannot be representative of the Tea Party, is without evidence.

    The Tea Party groups are organized to alter electoral outcomes.

  5. Yes groups are organized to alter electoral outcomes. I'm more concerned with the unorganized sympathizers amongst the general population.

    Ugh, I hate resorting to a poll but what about this:

    60% of tea party supporters saying they think a third party is needed? Somehow I suspect that some of that group is not represented in the Hannity forum, which contains some of the most blind partisans you will find this side of the "In" (for Four More Wars) Crowd. Yes I realize a large segment of those people come home to the two-party system. Yes I realize third-partyism is still electoralism. It's certainly not this:

    But it also indicates to me that there is some willingness to abstain next year among this group. But at this point it's really just me speculating.

  6. ergo,

    Read the forum, don't offer "somehows." They are perfectly willing to support a third party at the exact same time as the majority of them want to get a Republican elected.

    These people aren't idiots. They know that a third party is not viable. The Naderites, on the other side of the dividing line, know it too. Just because they'd honestly tell a pollster that they'd "support" a third party doesn't mean they won't vote for Democrat, come the primaries and GE.

    And Tea Partiers are not deviants from within the Republican fold. They are Republicans. They share the platform. They support privatization, maximalization and savage cuts to the Commons.

    To suggest otherwise is to suggest that the people who vote for Kucinich, Grayson and Sanders, as Democrats, are really not Democrats just because they see themselves as purer than the guys running the DLC.

  7. The point I am trying to make is why is the Hannity forum a representative sample of all Tea Party sympathizers? Me reading it isn't going to help me figure that out. In your weeks of reading did you come across talk of a third party?

    These people aren't idiots. They know that a third party is not viable. The Naderites, on the other side of the dividing line, know it too.

    Yeah but there are actually people who pulled the lever for Nader. Four times, even. And there are people who vote for the Constitution Party. And the Libertarian Party. I would suggest that these people are not functionally Democrats or Republicans, at least not in terms of Presidential voting. Then of course there are the half of the population that does not vote. I would suggest the same about them.

    Also, how does TARP fit into all this? My understanding was that the Tea Party was opposed to bailouts, in fact this was one of their catalysts. And the most obvious reason why it had to be co-opted by the ruling class. I don't expect the Hannity forum to talk about this, and if they do, they probably conveniently forgot that it was initiated under the previous administration. Do you think all TARP opponents who sympathized with the Tea Party on those grounds are so cynically motivated by partisanship that they no longer care about this?

  8. Jack's compass remains broken.

    1) Sean Hannity is not emblematic of jack shit. I could read Richard Seymour or Louis Proyect and from their blogs extrapolate that Marxists and Leninists are poised to take over the world. It would be just as "real" as Jack's bizarre paranoia about Hannity's blog.

    2) As to the rest of this: see my comment here...

    Cuneyt, you're splitting hairs whose splitting is irrelevant to my primary point. That's better than Jack's outright refusal to acknowledge my point or his fantastic paranoid spittle-casting (which resembles nothing more than Michael Dawson's fuming at SMBIVA comment threads), but it's still a bunch of irrelevant hair-splitting.

    Ergo's got the origins of the Tea Party down. On the other hand, Jack seems to be mimicking or extending the misread offered by Thunder-Pants at BDR's comment thread today... that my point (1) in my main essay is "unicorn territory." Jesus, what childish loogie-spitting.

  9. I think it's time for Jack to tell us who he really is, and who he's stumping for in this recent reversal of non-partisan essay writing.

  10. Jack says:

    Tea Partiers are not deviants from the Republican fold.

    If you use the MSM's definition, sure.

    If you know any "tea partiers," no fucking way.

    Why in hell would you be playing to the MSM's game here?

    We may as well argue about the Democrats being "Marxist" because certain eedjits in the MSM are portraying Obama as a Marxist.

    Why is Jack deflecting attention away from deconstructions of power? Whose interests is he serving by perpetuating the MSM Super Bowl of Donkey vs Elephant?

  11. Also, accusations about Pat Buchanan being racist, etc., need support. I'm not a fan of his, but I know enough about the cat to know that his 2000 run was about keeping our fingers out of the pies of other nations, and putting America first. That a bunch of marxists and "leftists" refer to this as "nativist" is nothing but faux-intellectual pseudo-psychoanalysis of Buchanan, from a ridiculously narrow, marxist view of life.

    Such analysis bound by the vision of Glossy Karl is completely irrelevant to what Buchanan was up to, and while it may impress Richard Seymour, Louis Proyect or their fanboys, it means absolutely nothing in the actual world of human beings. It more closely resembles the artificial world of the economist, the territory walked by Ouchy Pain.

  12. Ergo,

    Eight years of reading Hannity, actually. I used the last three weeks as a test sample.

    How do I know that Hannity, Limbaugh, Levin listeners are a good sample of Tea Partiers?

    Because they are who identifies as such. Tea Party demographics are well known. They are white, smallholders, relatively affluent, mostly Protestant, largely Evangelical, and Republican.

    They vote Republican.

    That doesn't mean they agree with the GOP hierarchy on everything. They don't. Obviously, TARP is a good example. But, they didn't abandon the GOP just because its leadership voted for it. And they haven't abandoned the GOP, now, just because they'd have preferred a default while the GOP leadership agreed instead to a Super Congress.

    This is a captured constituency. They're not poor white people, as some would like to impute. They're petite bourgeoisie.


    One post about nasty Republicans doesn't reveal "true colors." I don't have any fondness for small holders. Small holders are the breeding ground for popular fascism, as distinct from structural or party fascism.

    That shouldn't come as a surprise.

  13. Karl, with all due respect, it may seem like unnecessary hairsplitting to you, but I am working from a very basic level and I have found, through the experience of my early adulthood, that sometimes I need to spend a very long time splitting hairs until I feel comfortable with a topic. That is what this blog is for; I hope I have never acted like I am rendering some final and ultimate judgment. That's why I posted the Times article stating that at least the TP leadership has tried to stay away from the cultural wedge issues like abortion and gay marriage (at least ca. March 2010).

    For another example, check out my endless quibbling of "the state" with Mr. Crow. It is, at present, woefully typical of me.

    As far as Buchanan, I like a lot of what the man says, but when he harps on and on about demographic shifts and glorifies the white Christian culture as the bedrock of this country, it's hard for me not to say "that's racist." He's a hypocrite like many of the Irish that came to this country and became more staunchly Anglo than the Anglos. If that sounds like lazy lib parlor talk of racism, I regret it, but I've also lived both sides of this through my ancestry that came to this country and also those of my family who feel like this was "their land" and that they are being squeezed out. Nativism is nothing simple to me. I don't mean to throw it around carelessly. I know very well its appeal and really, I sympathize with those of common blood and affiliation who feel its draw.

    And as far as knowing any Tea Partiers, I do. I don't know if they're typical. I won't say that they are. But I know quite a few of them. They're all Republicans or self-described libertarians who vote for conservative statism consistently. That's nothing more than my experience.

  14. Man, I must be crazy dipping into this thing. I'm living in Tea Party central down here. Now there may be a "pure" element that got the Tea Party going in the first place, but by now it's just another fucking brand (and a useful foil for the MSM and the dems). There is a rank-and-file right-wing out there (mostly Republicans) that is neo-fascist and doesn't even know it. These are folks that are tribalists to the core. But they are also fools. They are the ones who think they can vote their way into running the show. You know who got rolled in this debt ceiling bullshit. The Tea Party! They get demonized for "holding the government hostage", meanwhile, the real power brokers shut them out, let them take the blame for bringing the country to brink (which is a joke), and then they come out with a lame excuse for a compromise and kick the can down to their hand-picked star chamber so they can make sure all the lobbyists...
    anyway, so the Tea Party is a patsy. They're a joke. A fake bogey man with no power except to keep the liberals frothing at the mouth. It's wonderful theatre, I guess.

    Karl's right to keep flogging the progs. Do I feel sorry for the Tea Partiers? No way. I think they're kind of pathetic. Useful tools, that's all.

  15. Also, Thanks Cuneyt for hosting this neutral forum for us. You have a great fucking blog.

  16. NONE of the tea party people I know is middle class, let alone rich whiteys.

    I still call bullshit on Jack -- on his legends, on his analysis. I'd like him to identify himself. This crap of using Sean Hannity as "the truth" about anything -- bullshit.

    As I said, I could look at Seymour or Proyect and extrapolate Leninists are prepared to take over the planet.

    Jack's engaged in bullshit here. And I want to know on whose behalf he's doing it. And for what purpose.

    At this point, I think he's been lying all along, up until 2 months ago, and now we're seeing Jack's real motive.

    Spill the beans, you fraudulent fuck.

  17. Abonilox, given the quality of your posts, that means a lot. Thank you!

    That said, if I am to be the Switzerland of this clique, I am not sitting on enough Nazi gold. Or anarcha-feminist Russian medical students. Either way.

  18. Okay, I am going to draw an extended analogy that is admittedly imperfect and highly flawed. It might end up not shedding light on anything at all in addition to being both counterproductive and a waste of everyone's time. But anyway let me try. I'm going to get some particulars wrong. Feel free to nitpick if you like.

    A Tale of Ideology: Fourth Wave Progressivism.

    Part 1:

    So in 1988, a moderate (by CW standards) Republican wins the presidency. This is after 8 years of a not-yet sanctified Ronald Reagan (definitely not as unpopular as Dubya when he left office, but also not as popular as Clinton when he left). The opposition party thought their nominee would be competitive but blundered badly and lost the election. However it's not that difficult to imagine the election going the other way (see: Donna Rice, see also: if the economy had collapsed two months later in 2008). At any rate, the "liberal" brand is widely perceived to be shit by pundits.

    In 1991, there is an economic recession. Around this, along with other developments such as the end of the Cold War, the term "progressive" is brought back into public consciousness after a 40-year relative absence (not quite the 200-year absence of Tea Party, but long enough for it to carry enough meaning for a different generation of citizens to identify with). Interestingly, this mantle was claimed by both neoliberal DLC types and the more liberal end of Democratic politicians. It was also claimed by leftist anti-war, anti-corporate activists.

    Now if you had been looking at a subset of these progressive-identifiers that only included DLC types, you would get a pretty skewed view of this nascent (though not entirely discontinuous with liberalism) movement. If you made some generalization on all progressives based on this, I think that would be called fallacy of composition, but don't quote me. We all agree that the partisan political consultants saw a good campaign slogan and began to co-opt the movement. The more duopoly-minded of us would agree the same was true of the members of Congress who formed the new caucus, however differently they may have presented themselves from their factional brethren.

  19. Part 2:

    A right-leaning anarchist comes along. And says hey all you so-called conservatives who have your boy Bush son of Nazi Prescott in the White House right now, WTF are you doing voting for these fucking Republicans the past whatever? They are spending the country into a ditch, getting us involved in a bunch of wars where we needn't be, passing godawful authoritarian, centralist, globalist policies.

    Okay. So far so good.

    Now a little later this right-leaning anarchist comes along and says, hey, guys. These progressives? Fucking Stalinists. Totalitarian marxists who will throw anyone in a reeducation camp if you breathe wrong. There is no more coddled a federal dependent than this demographic. And the fucking wars that are fought for his benefit. Etc.

    Okay. Wait what? Are you reading from Lee Atwater's memopad from beyond the grave? There's a friggin' Republican administration right now. I thought you said elections don't matter. Why are you fearmongering about the left? They are not in power, they've never been in power. What are you basing this on?

    The DLC newsletter (couldn't think of an appropriate 1991 equivalent of an internet forum). Look, they're no different than liberals. They just changed their name because their brand was shit.

    Dude these people were not sitting in the White House bombing Iraq this year and invading Panama a couple years back. Furthermore, I don't think it's fair to paint every progressive self-identifier with this broad brush. They have legitimate grievances with the government too, about the economy, the wars, corporatism, etc.

    Those are outliers. They will vote Donk when the time comes. Who cares anyway? I've seen some in person. Maoist swine.

    Well here is where we can extrapolate into the future about the progressives in ways that we cannot about the Tea Partiers.

  20. Part 3:

    In 1992, the newly coalescing 4th wave progressives got to participate in their first presidential election. On one side was an unpopular incumbent who had done much to dissatisfy his conservative base. On the other side is a DLC charlatan. Interestingly, this election features a third party candidate who gets *the highest vote total* since Fightin' Bob La Follette himself via a transpartisan coalition that includes 30% of liberal independents. 30% of liberal republicans and even 11% of liberal democrats. In 1996 there was the same third party candidate who still managed to get about half that. There was also another third party candidate, a well known dude, who specifically identified with this progressive constituency and got less than 1% of the vote. That same candidate got 2.5% in 2000. Would you still at this point identify this group wholesale with the Democratic party? Bear in mind that 1996 and 2000 had the two of the three lowest voter turnouts in modern history (1988 being the third). You can't tell me that every progressive came out to vote for the neoliberal travesties Clinton & Gore. That's three whole elections where it would be pretty misguided to say that all progressives were Democrats. You could even make a case that this would be misguided in 2004 as well.

    It took 15 years before it became clear that progressive = Donklebot. Like all terms political in America, much effort is made to evacuate it of content, which eventually succeeds. Now one could argue that the media spectacle of politics is vastly more accelerated than it was 20 years ago. I would agree. One could also argue that the Tea Party got more media attention in the past two years than the 4th wave progressives ever did. Also true. You could also argue that the decline in popular support for the Tea Party is a function of it becoming more and more closely associated with the Republican party, which is alienating independents and the disaffected right-wing. Probably true as well. But if you're only going to look at the listeners of Hannity or Levin or Limbaugh, you are going to get a skewed portrait. How skewed? I don't know, but I guess we'll find out next year.

    Also I couldn't find a more recent demographic study on the tea party than one from gallup in April 2010, but it said 20% of Tea Party supporters made less than $30,000 a year. Those people aren't small-holders, and 20% is too big to dismiss them as outliers. Again maybe this has changed in the past year, that would be believable for reasons stated above. But until I see some evidence that this group contains no poor people, I am going to continue to say that dismissing the entire Tea Party in this way is not just an error, but really counterproductive.

  21. Your theory is silly, Karl. I have not been posting for two years in order to finally come out as a Democrat in the last two months.

    I'm not a Democrat, and it's crazy that I even have to write those words.

    I think, applying the razor, there is far simpler conclusion to be reached here: you thought that I came to my anarchism by way of a conservative framework. You read a disagreement with a very narrow fragment of feminist essentialism, and with the current Administration's liberalism incorrectly. Using Marx and Debord and Emma Goldman and the labor theory of value as often as I did should have disabused you of that notion a long time ago.

    That's unfortunately your problem, all the same.


    I probably should have written a paragraph of introduction on how the original Paulist groups who started the TEA movement have had their Paulist message hijacked, and how this hijacking took place so early on that the Teaps became indistinguishable from Birchers. You are not going to find a Teap segment which manages to separate the nasty social conservatives from the fiscal conservatives for very long.

    Their (the Paulist's) motives mean nothing, because of what the Tea Party really is. I've no doubt that people doing Tea events are wildly passionate about their economic Dolchstosslegende, where the big bad gummint betrayed them at the end of the Bush years, but the idea that you can infer an underclass, populist, anarchist-sympathetic message from their rage is, well, just silly. These are law and order protos, almost to a man. Because they are petite bourgeoisie.

  22. Interesting scenario, ergo. I'm going to continue to mull this over and maintain my detached opinion. I disagree with Crow in that I do not see the petit-bourgeoisie in the TP, but rather the lumpenproletariat, which your numbers could defend. That said, the lumpen are commonly dismissed; I believe that the TP has had nativist and xenophobic nationalist strains since the beginning, but I also believe that its ranks swell for one main reason--

    The Democrats have completely abandoned working class policies and have put all their eggs in a well-educated and intellectually useless professional class.

    That said, when I see parallels between the TP and the coalition that coalesced around Obama--remember how many Republicans voted for the man!--I may detourn another one of your quotes, if you'll excuse me.

    "You could also argue that the decline in popular support for the president is a function of him becoming more and more closely associated with the Democratic party and its Wall Street backers, which is alienating independents and the disaffected right-wing."

    I think that actually works rather well, don't you?

    Ultimately, I really only have one quibble and that is that Dems and Dem-friendlies, in spite of their Congressional control, had been running scared in the late 80s, early 90s, with the exception of one four-year period, since the Johnson administration. I don't think you can say that the rightwing is profoundly out of power, that it has no responsibility whatsoever, in 2011 in the same way. I really think that rightism is more relevant in the Obama administration than leftism or putative leftism was in the first Bush administration.

    Is that really germane to the characterization or mischaracterization of the TP? Not necessarily, but that's the limit of hypothetical history.

  23. Oh, and at the risk of alienating everybody, you might find this interesting.

    Ron Paul Addresses John Birch Society

  24. Cuneyt,

    I drew my petite bourgeoisie image from this:

  25. I don't think you can say that the rightwing is profoundly out of power, that it has no responsibility whatsoever, in 2011 in the same way. I really think that rightism is more relevant in the Obama administration than leftism or putative leftism was in the first Bush administration.

    I don't agree with this statement, though admittedly my viewpoint is somewhat idiosyncratic outside of paleo circles, who disowned Bush from the beginning and do not identify conservatism or the Right with the imperialism, warmongering, corporatism, centralism, and authoritarianism of the establishment. This is probably easier to understand when a leftist disowns Obama or Clinton on similar grounds. It is rather common among them to identify the establishment with centrism, and I basically agree. Centrism is about the pursuit of power and includes all politicians in my opinion. Whatever "leftism" or "rightism" they exploit in order to get into office is so warped by the time it comes to policy implementation, that I do not see any reason to associate it with the wings of ideology.

    It really serves the establishment to do otherwise. They fucking love it when people associate Stalin with the "far left" or Hitler with the "far right". It allows them to dismiss dissidents on either side as "fringe". Hitler and Stalin are nothing but power-seeking establishment centrists on mega-steroids. Unfortunately for the establishment, this "fringe" includes the vast majority of the country who would withdraw the military from our foreign adventurism, no matter what the reason. But no, the "serious" people think "bailouts" are necessary, as is "counterterrorism", etc.

  26. Thanks, Jack. It seems there's some reason to characterize the TP either way; the folks I know personally who call themselves TP or patronized the first rallies are definitely petit-bourgeois.

    ergo, what you say prompts me to consider covering the left/right thing next week. To some extent the words are meaningless, and power is often its own reward, its own goal, and claims its own means. That said, I don't think that evil is always apolitical, or that only good people believe in ideals. Evil comes from its respective sources and is fueled by different philosophies. Maybe we should differentiate people not in terms of left and right but, as Orwell said, authoritarian and libertarian. That may be helpful.

    But a left/right lens, even if it's not our only one, may still be useful. Nobody likes to be associated with bad things and awful people, but to say that Hitler did not have rightwing characteristics is to ignore the military, religious conservatives, and businessmen who backed him initially (though we may also note Goebbels and the racist socialists who also joined the DAP in the early days). Fuck that. Call a spade a spade.

  27. Evil comes from its respective sources and is fueled by different philosophies.

    This is why I said power-seekers exploit ideology to acquire and maintain their positions. Power-holders use all sorts of apologetics to defend their actions, which always are in the service of power. They may even be sincere about their so-called ideology. Frankly, that's irrelevant to me. Serving to concentrate and defend power doesn't have much of anything to do with ideology except as mere rationalization.

  28. But I fear you are confusing the causality I posit; there is indeed, as you say, power that exploits philosophy and ideology, but there is also power that is derived from philosophies and ideologies. You seem to support an essential nature to wielders of power, that power is its own philosophy, with which I don't totally agree (although I grant at least part of your point).