Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Bringing Flowers to a Gunfight

The other day over at the venerable I Cite blog, Jodi Dean pondered the ramifications of former WH press secretary Scott "Doughboy" McClellan's defrocking of his former employers. Dean has been banging her head against the same wall as many of us for the past five (if not eight) years, and echoed Stephen Colbert's sentiment that, “These are shocking revelations — in that it is shocking that Scott McClellan thinks these are revelations.”

Dean also extracted the following subtext from McClellan's late confession:
Namely, he might be understood as telling us something about the Republicans' understanding of the media and the Democrats (and their unholy union, the liberal media). The Republicans fight like vicious attack dogs because they presume antagonism. They presume political warfare, political struggle. The failure of the Democrats and of the msm is to hold up their end of the struggle.

...[The Republicans'] game has been premised on the presence of adversaries also out for blood. But the media and the Democrats gave up, gave in, and didn't play. And it seems, then, that maybe the Republicans were a little shocked and little over their heads when they got what they wanted and more.
I wrinkled my nose a little upon reading that. Not because I doubt it; on the contrary, it's dead-on. But such an assessment of the Republican mindset is as revelatory as the fact that the Administration *ahem* "oversold" the evidence against Saddam.

This is a criticism I have of the American left as a whole - an indictment that extends far beyond the confines of a particular party. Political correctness became the ultimate expression of identity politics, and the left obliged by focusing on people's feelings and not offending anyone, as opposed to objective policies. How successful can a political movement be when its only coherent goal is inclusiveness? For the better part of the past two decades, protest marches have been miasmal gatherings of pro-choicers, anti-poverty activists, environmentalists, Black Block anarchists, consumer advocates, pacifists, pinkos, and folks for freeing Mumia. There's been no concise expression of purpose, no consenual agenda.

Now, who's going to win the fight: this ad-hoc assembly of unfocused activists, or a cabal of thugs thirsty for power?

I personally never cared for political correctness, but out of an Orwellian suspicion of any linguistic restrictions upon plain speaking & free debate. Conservatives, on the other hand, detested all things PC because it forced them to speak as though they gave a shit about others. They didn't care about anyone's feelings; they had an empire to build.

The Democratic Party's milquetoast centrism has been driven by this urge to include, rarely seeming to consider the impossibility of, say, including secular humanists and fanatical Baptists in the same group-hug. As much as I rooted for John Edwards earlier in this election cycle, I recalled the repulsion I felt when, in the 2004 campaign, he explained the Democratic strategy RE: the War On Terror as, "We'll hunt them down and kill them." If I was the kinda guy who didn't mind my elected representatives advocating murder on prime-time TV, why wouldn't I just stick with the administration who'd already demonstrated the will & means to git-r-done? Rather than than make an issue out of the Republicans' policies, the Democratic Party traded away its identity out of bet-hedging cowardice (a.k.a. political expediency).

Mercifully, the left (though not necessarily the Democratic Party) is finding its footing again, and almost exclusively I credit the internet: a medium that allows alienated citizens to tentatively broadcast their frustrations and find peers to confirm, no, they're not the only one this pissed off. The blogosphere saved the American left from becoming the eunuch slaves of some national reenactment of the Stanford Prison Experiment.

Let's just hope that Obama breaks the role-playing quicker than Zimbardo did.


marc h. said...

i think part of the problem is that the conservative media is just that, a conservative media-- there's a profitable career to be made within those publications, and you don't need to make william kristol's jump to the nyt to do it.

liberal journalists-- even at ostensible left-leaning publications like the american prospect, the new republic, the washington monthly, or the nation-- are more likely to have their sights set on jobs within the mainstream media: the new york times, the washington post, appearances on hardball and meet the press, the whole nine yards. so liberal journalists have a natural disincentive to call bullshit on the msm.

these are less my own ideas than ones i've accrued over time via the daily howler, to be honest.

Seb said...

Too true. Certainly one of the more amusing (or, perhaps, bemusing) bits of fallout from l'affaire McClellan has been the MSM's bumbling attempts to refute or excuse their culpability in promoting the invasion. It's rather telling that the vast majority of people who can legitimately say, "Told you so," are not "professional" journalists or pundits, but bloggers.