Tribal mindsets are tough to crack. When it comes to American politics, it's nearly impossible.
An obvious statement, you say. Well, yes, it may seem fairly obvious on the surface, but when you really dig into a collected group of online commenters, this observation accelerates and is reinforced with crashing cymbals, hammered pianos, breaking glass, and endless piles of flung horseshit. It's enough to send one screaming to the happy world of comedy writing. And if you've ever written comedy, you know just how happy that world can be.
Years ago, before I began blogging, I surfed through numerous sites, looking for opinions and attitudes that might inspire me to comment. Back then, I spent most of my time at right wing blogs, soaking in the hysteria and hatred, getting a feel for various rooms. When I joined the, er, "conversation," I usually did so with my actual politics, and of course I was immediately attacked, getting it from all sides. The commenters never addressed my actual arguments; they simply went after me personally, telling me that I was insane, anti-American, pro-Saddam, probably a fag, or better yet, transsexual. Once they read certain key words, their brains clicked into auto-assault mode, and nothing, n-o-t-h-i-n-g, could stem or alter their spewing. At Little Green Footballs, several commenters bluntly advised me to leave the site, or they would track me down via my IP address and kill me. Probably hot air, but there are plenty of crazy people in the world, and arguing at an anti-Arab racist site wasn't worth taking the risk, however slight.
I then drifted to less nutty rightist sites, places where supposedly "intelligent" exchanges were encouraged and cherished. This time I presented myself as a classical conservative, someone steeped in Burke, Hayek, Albert Jay Nock, with flashes of Ayn Rand for spice. Having spent years reading right wing history, and the many writers and philosophers who influenced and defined it, the arguments came easily, and once in character, I could and did spend hours, sometimes days, battling over concepts of private property, "real" anti-Communism, as opposed to the phony, sell-out-to-the-Soviets kind, whether or not religion had a central place in a conservative world, and so on.
It was a kick, but even among these people, there was uncertainty, and a real lack of knowledge about their own political tradition. When I brought up figures like Westbrook Pegler or James Burnham, most commenters had no idea who these people were. I recall one silly spat with an older woman (or so she claimed) who insisted that George Will, her favorite columnist, got his start at National Review. I corrected her: Though Will contributed a few things to Buckley's mag in 1970, his first regular column, "Letter From a Whig," appeared at the then-obscure American Spectator in 1971, before he had a steady gig at National Review. The woman said I was mistaken, despite the fact that I provided links and sources to prove my point, while she simply offered her opinion. She finally told me that I was helping to kill the conservative movement, then disappeared into the ether.
Around the time my first blog appeared, I had left the rightosphere to read the rising libloggers. I rarely commented at these sites, and when I did, it was usually under my real name. I would go undercover if I felt I could get more out of an exchange, or if I wanted to argue from a different position. Still, this was rare, and when I dove into the blog world myself, I saw little reason to speak at other sites when I had a place of my own to tend. For the last three years, this has more or less been the case.
Recently, as part of my research for "Savage Mules," I pulled from storage several of my liberal masks, and went to various, well-populated lib sites to test the present Dem waters. I won't identify those blogs I visited, or what I specifically said, but trust me, there are a lot of frightened, angry Dems out there. A lot
. And in my recent study, most of these liberals are very hostile to any left opinion that doesn't ultimately end with voting for the Dems, no matter what. Now, conceptually, I already knew this, and have posted many critiques of online libs. But when one engages them directly, this awareness assumes a junky, tattered shape, and you soon realize that if these people represent "progressive" America, then we are in for a very shitty future, to the degree one even exists.
The main hive is unhappy with Hillary, but after eight years of Bush, she will more than do. Husband Bill is still revered and treated like a rock/porn star. Al Gore, of course, is even more popular, and there are those liberals who still believe that Mr. Nobel will enter the presidential race. I've read several President Gore fantasies, either as the next chief executive, or as a parallel universe president who took office in 2001, stopped the 9/11 attacks, didn't invade Iraq, spread peace and prosperity where he could, and saved the planet from ecological destruction. No mention of Joseph Lieberman in those scenarios. Gore was Batman sans a neocon Robin.
Critique either these fantasies or the corrupt system that make them necessary, and the liberals will vomit all over you. You are insane, in need of professional help, a Naderite, a Bush supporter, a Christo-fascist, or at the very least a very stupid person who doesn't understand the Two Party System. Is it perfect? No, they'll concede. But that's all there is, all there could conceivably be, so shut the fuck up, vote Dem early and often, and focus all of your critical energies on Michelle Malkin and David Horowitz.
James Wolcott once compared liberal bloggers to 18th century pamphleteers, and indeed there are similarities, primarily in the Publish Yourself realm. But many of those early polemicists were radical democrats who saw a world beyond that of Crown and Church. That world had yet to exist, but this didn't stop them from pushing for its realization in the face of tremendous opposition and derision. They were told by the liberals of their day that direct democracy was a boy's dream, that the radicals needed to grow up and get with the existing program. A world beyond Crown and Church? Tosh, pish-posh, and twaddle.
Today's liberals, many of them, anyway, cannot see a world beyond that of Global Corporate Order, which is why they'll continually serve one of the GCO's control mechanisms, the Democrats. The corporate mules know of and count on this acquiescence every election season. And you wonder why Hillary smiles so much.
Labels: corporate mules, liberal provincialism