Friday, May 15, 2009

Death Of The Nation

A sample of what used to be. From JFK's era.

Shovel some quicklime on The Nation. Katrina vanden Heuvel has turned what was once a great, eclectic American radical mag into the mushy, puffy, largely unreadable mess it is today. Yes, earlier Nation editors have overseen some down periods, publishing their share of shit. But KVH's reign has proven to be consistently soppy, pandering to centrist concepts of "progressivism" and "relevance," which now find a natural home in Obama's America.

Indeed, The Nation's slobbering over the new imperial manager is its main feature of late, resulting in embarrassing appeals to Obama's "conscience," as if Wall Street's point man gives a flying fuck what worried liberals think. Many of Obama's recent actions should give any serious person plenty of reasons for doubt, if not full ammunition for dissent. But not in today's Nation. Sure, there are the requisite "concerns" and kindred hand-wringing; as we've seen, that's how many liberals cope with shit flung in their faces. Yet KVH smiles through it all, either out of acceptance, denial, or simple political expediency.

In a recent summation of Obama's first 100 days, KVH recites the standard litany, by now a staple to anyone familiar with Obamaspeak. But amid the apologetics stands this revolting sentence:

"But there are two areas which I fear could endanger the Obama Presidency: military escalation in Afghanistan and the bank bailout."

Note where KVH's concern lies -- with the Obama Presidency. That the man is incinerating poor people in Afghanistan while allowing prisoners held without charge to rot in Bagram cages, and is paying back his wealthy benefactors with more state assistance while millions of Americans struggle to meet basic needs doesn't seem to seriously concern KVH. It's how all this might "endanger" Obama's rule that moves her to write. State apologetics served with a sexy, cynical smile.

With sentiments like these, it's no wonder KVH is invited to flap her bleached gums on cable chat fests. It used to be that Nation editors and writers were considered too crazy to appear on TV. When they did, they brought a perspective that upset the consensus. (Alexander Cockburn's 1986 appearance on a "Nightline" special about terrorism and the media lit the show on fire, stating that Abu Nidal was small potatoes compared to a major terrorist like Ronald Reagan, which made Ted Koppel and his elite guests sputter and fume. Those were the days.)

Even with something as cut and dried as Obama's reversal on releasing torture photos from Afghanistan and Iraq, The Nation pulled back, advocating healing over rage and rebellion. Melissa Harris-Lacewell, taking KVH's submissive cue, stated:

"Thus I find myself in an unsatisfying gray area with respect to the current torture photos. I generally support President Obama's decision not to aggressively pursue prosecution of the government officials or lawyers implicated by the torture memos. I derive that position from a belief that truth and reconciliation is the best model for the U.S. to follow on this issue. I believe that revealing information and understanding what happened is the most important task we should engage in with relation to torture. I don't want Cheney in jail, but I want him to have to tell the truth -live- on TV- repeatedly. Consistent with that commitment, I believe we should release the photos and simply cope with the political, moral, and national pain that may follow."

If, after reading this, you didn't coat your screen with projectile vomit, you may find a rewarding career in the exciting autopsy industry.

Personally, I would love to see Dick Cheney in jail. Bush, too. Adding Obama to the perp walk would make my day complete. But that's not going to happen, and clearly this doesn't bother The Nation.

As for the torture pix, Harris-Lacewell's convoluted reasoning deadens what should be unconditional anger. Then again, anyone who believes that imperial states can experience "moral pain" has already digested the national myth. And it's this type of mythology and open-eyed wishful thinking that typifies The Nation more and more these days. Where have you gone, Victor Navasky?