Friday, August 27, 2010

Some of Us on the Left Are Being Royally Ratfucked

All ye who failed to believe my last blog concerning the REAL political leanings of Arianna Huffington, please take a look at the picture she recently tweeted below.

She’s on holiday in Italy, and whilst in Amalfi, just “happened” to run into an old friend and his wife. Guess who? Click on the link:-

What’s the old Rod Stewart song say – every picture tells a story? She’s even asked him to blog. Huffington Post takes a sharp turn to the Right, with the man who likens Muslims to Nazis.

I feel vindicated.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The White Wings of Icarus Fall Silent

Arianna Huffington is the founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post. She fancies herself a powerful voice in the world of American Progressive politics, and I suppose she is, although I’ve always doubted the liberal credentials of someone who was closely-knit, literally and figuratively, into the framework of Newt Gingrich’s political philosophy throughout the 1990s. People change, yes, but lasting, believeable and genuine change is often of the calibre which occurs slowly, almost imperceptibly, throughout a number of years – much in the way the conservative former Supreme Court Justice, John Paul Stevens, evolved from a conservative jurist into the liberal conscience of the Court.

So pardon me, a natural secularist, if I found Huffington’s Damascene conversion from hardcore neocon and Gingrich neophyte into a fully paid-up member of the Progressive Populist club, practically overnight, more than a bit difficult to swallow.

Even harder to accept was the ease with which the liberal media readily accepted her within their fold. More than Mitch McConnell “taking the President’s word” that he’s a Christian, the media elite embraced this woman as one of their own.

She certainly has been making the rounds – from Morning Joe to various appearances on CNN, with stops in between on Ed Schultz’s and Keith Olbermann’s echo chambers, as well as a quasi-regular stint on ABC’s This Week – especially when there’s an opportunity to criticize whatever the President has said or hasn’t said, has done or hasn’t done, which hasn’t met her personal standard of excellence. And then, there’s always the opportunity for her particular brand of argumentum ad hominem. I believe her favourite reference to the President is “Nowhere Man.”

Don’t get me wrong. Politicians were made to be criticized, their feet being fashioned to be held to the fire by the people who elect them; but – Lordy! – according to Arianna Huffington’s political perspective, it’s amazing that the President is able to walk down the street and chew gum without tripping up. There’s criticism, there’s nitpicking … and there’s cherry-picking.

However, I’ve noticed, during yet another summer of discontent, that Madame’s been curiously quiet of late, starting right about the time of the Shirley Sherrod/Andrew Breibart incident.

In an interview printed earlier in the year in Wired magazine, Breitbart amply credited Huffington as being his mentor, saying she’d taught him everything he knew about his particular type of journalism – which is, at best, described as “press hackery” and, at worst, as a variety of ratfucking: shady, oblique quotes from anonymous sources, phrases and sentences taken out of context and spun with a view to imparting a message completely different from the original, and loads of nuanced criticism, which never offers any alternative suggestions, but always ends with a sneer and more than a dollop of condescension.

Needless to say, the interview went viral in the age of the internet, and more than a few of the many people who comment regularly on Huffington Post were quick to point out, not only the association between Huffington and Breitbart, but also the fact that Breitbart was the co-founder of HuffPo, himself.

This guilt by association was just enough to jog some memories of Huffington the virulent neocon of the Nineties – neophyte of Newt and the founder of a website dedicated entirely to securing the impeachment of one President William Jefferson Clinton, Democrat. It was also enough, for awhile, for several commentators to slam accusations of “Breitbart journalism” against certain of her regular reporters, each time their “reporting” proved to be shoddy and inaccurate – which was quite a lot.

The dots were connected.

Huffington never referenced Breitbart, and, although her site offered many and varied articles concerning Shirley Sherrod, Fox News and the Obama Administration, with most of the blame being heaped heavily onto the President’s shoulders, she never offered up a word, distancing herself from this man and his shady practices, never reassured her adoring gaggle of fans that she totally condemned what he’d tried to do. She simply ignored the name Breitbart altogether, as if he didn’t exist in her fragrant world of expensive facials, debutant balls and speaking up for the “small people.”
It seemed as though Arianna, for once, had lost her mighty voice.

And now, with all the kerfuffle surrounding the Park51 incident in New York, all the not-too-cleverly disguised innuendo insinuating that Muslims, as a whole, are to be feared, vilified and persecuted, we’ve yet to hear Mrs Huffington expound upon this. The verbal attack on a construction worker, trying to thread his way through the New York mob, who appeared to “look Muslim” didn’t raise a whimper of protest from Arianna’s throat. Nor did the fact that recent polls reveal an increasing number of people seem to suspect our President is a Muslim. These are ordinary people who believe this, the sort of people for whom Arianna claims to speak, especially in her recent book, which has yet to climb onto the New York Times best-seller list.

Arianna, who always speaks the truth (according to her dittoes), should be guiding and enlightening these people to the contrary.

Instead, she’s uncharacteristically silent.

Sometimes silence reverberates more astoundingly than a plethora of loud and gratuitous criticism, and sometimes silence can be interpreted as tacit assent.

In days of yore, in the Nineties when the budget was balanced and everyone believed they had money in their pockets, Arianna was the First Disciple in the Church of Newt Gingrich. Now that Newt’s likening the Muslims to Nazis, one wonders if the sheets Arianna might be thinking of donning are made of designer-labelled white linen.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Just a Final Word about Robert Gibbs

I think he was right.
He may not be the most naturally popular person in Washington or even in the Administration, but part of his brief is to keep an eye on the media for the White House and to report back to his boss about what’s being said as such.
I guess Gibbs is a company man as much as anyone who works for an establishment, having to listen, day in and day out, to various and sundry spin spun your way about your company or your brand. It’s never a good company man who turns tail and agrees with the person making the insinuations.
The media tries this all the time. How many politicians have you seen sit in front of a pundit-cum-interviewer and how many times have you seen them try every trick in the book for a gotcha moment?
It’s been well over a year since the first of the Obama-criticisms emanated from the Left, or that part of the media which considers itself Left. Bill Maher, a real Leftie – a Progressive who believes in the Death Penalty, who’s anti-Union and believes in stringent gun control whilst admitting to owning a gun, himself – bragged all of the second part of last year about how he started the real criticism of the President, by saying he’d done nothing after 6 months of holding office. He ended the year with a series of tweets, calling the President “Barry” and likening him to George Bush.
For all of the past 8 months, Gibbs has heard the Professional Left nitpick, parse, second guess, misinterpret and deride everything this Administration has achieved, and – admit it or not – the Administration has achieved a lot – a significant lot. Each time these thought manipulators were proven wrong, they blithely ignored their mistakes and, instead, parsed about the Presidents comments, actions, what-have-you for something else about which to criticize, carp and complain.
They took purism to a new level and, in doing so, became as guilty of deliberate misinformation and delusion as anything for which they ever derided Fox News. In fact, they descended to the level of Fox News in sensationalism, obsession and sheer tripe.
They have become blatant to the point that when they are genuinely challenged, by a colleague or even a politician, they are adamant in righteous indignation, as if they can only be the ones who are right about what a President should say or do, and everyone else is wrong. They willfully take advantage of viewers who, in their own way, are as incapable of critical thought and interpretation as any of their counterparts who populate the Teabagging Rightwing hanging on every word of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh.
I read the words of a Spanish-born naturalised resident of Washington state, desperate to be considered a member of the Progressive Left, assuring members of a like-minded forum that she gets her news from Ed Schultz and Keith Olbermann and reads Huffington Post as her “daily newspaper.” Rachel Maddow blithely admits to David Letterman that people watch opinionators’ shows to find out the opinion of the person whose name is on the billing.
Why? What happened to people digesting facts and forming their own opinion.
The saddest thing about all of this, is that the people who buy into this deliberate misinformation, from Rush’s dittoes to theh people who swear by Keith Olbermann and Bill Maher as gurus, political aspirants and saviours of the country, bristle and bite back with belligerance against anyone who dares to criticize these imperfect demagogues’ interpretation of how the President is getting it wrong. They defend these corporate media whores with the same ferocity as a religious fanatic defends his faith, never mind their obvious contradictions. Bill Maher praises the public option all season long on Real Time, then – at the season’s end – discloses to Bill Frist, in an unguarded moment, that he doesn’t trust government-administered healthcare. Ed Schultz berates listeners on his radio broadcast last week to boycott voting in the Mid-Terms to SHOW the White House what they think of them, in reaction to Gibbs’s venting, then praises the White House, smilingly on his television program the following day.
The faithful public don’t bat an eyelid, and the demagogues laugh all the way to the banks which contain their off-shore accounts.
Gibbs was right. He hit back and gave the pundits of the Professional Left a taste of their own bitter medicine, and the ones at which he aimed, showed that they couldn’t take the dosage.
And I applaud Gibbs’s non-apology too. At the beginning of the Obama administration, in the wake of Rush Limbaugh’s announcement that he wanted the President to fail, several ranking Republicans, including Michael Steele, made disparaging remarks about Rush in public statements. Almost immediately they said these things, they rushed to apologise, in an act akin to scores of mafiosi kissing the hand of the reigning don. More than anything this confirmed the fact that Rush Limbaugh, media figure, is the de facto head of the Republican party.
For Gibbs to have attempted any modicum of apology would have been tantamount to admitting that the likes of Olbermann, Schultz, Chris Matthews, Bill Maher and Arianna Huffington controlled the Democratic party and pulled the Presidential strings.
Imagine a country polarised by and controlled by the likes of Rush and Beck on one side and their counterparts Schultz, Olbermann and co on the other. It doesn’t bear imagining.
What’s saddest of all is that two elected Congressmen, both facing stiff competition in the Mid-Terms, should call for Gibbs’s resignation. Keith Ellison was the first, who did so in an interview with Huffington Post, then later tried to wriggle out of that in an interview with his local paper, intimating that Huffington Post lied. While I’m first on the list to question the veracity of HuffPo, with their murky anonymous sources purporting to know the minds of public figures, even they wouldn’t risk a libel charge of actually saying someone said something he didn’t without printing a retraction. No retraction is forthcoming, so one is left to assume that Ellison thought better of his remarks, thinking that perhaps he might need some campaign help from the White House.
I would think that Ellison, the only Muslim member of Congress, might have been better off directing his comments elsewhere, like at the growing Islamaphobia being not-so-subtly encouraged by the Republicans throughout the country, rather than taking time to make petty comments about the President’s Press Secretary which have nothing to do with him at all.
Ditto Alan Grayson, a man I actually admire very deeply for his political passion, courage and conviction; but Grayson’s on television – and specifically on certain programs on MSNBC – a lot lately, and I fear he’s in danger of believing his own hype. To call for Gibbs’s resignation, when Gibbs was directing none of his remarks to Grayson is one thing, but to infer that “a lot of people he knows” refer to Gibbs as “Bozo the Secretary,” was conduct unbecoming a member of Congress. Had Gibbs made comments about Congress in particular, spleen could be explained; but the media serve Grayson and Ellison at their whim, and they’d be well advised to remember that today’s hero is tomorrow’s villain.
Fifty-two years ago, in a speech given to a media convention in Chicago, the great Edward R Murrow, a giant to whom Keith Olbermann dares compare himself in action and mannerism, offered prescient warnings about the state of television, and the danger of it being used, in all spheres as an instrument to entertain, amuse and insulate. Those qualities have entered into the news sphere in a particularly pejorative way, and Murrow is probably spinning in his grave at some of the political hackery practiced by the man who considers himself Murrow’s spiritual son, amongst others of his ilk today.
Let’s take stock of Murrow’s speech, herein recreated by the actor David Strathorne from the film, “Good Night and Good Luck”:-

For those of you who are unfamiliar, it might be a good idea to read about Murrow’s media fight against Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist pogroms against innocent citizens. Throughout it all, Murrow offered little opinion in the way of Special Comments. Instead, he showed the McCarthy proceedings and interviews on film and let the public – a public considerably more innocent and less educated than the public today – decide for themselves.
I would love it if Americans could find their own opinions again, without the help of media bullies like Limbaugh, Schultz and others.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Robert Gibbs, Ratfucking and The Professional Left

I’ve been thinking a lot about Watergate lately.
Watergate, as much as it was a political coming-of-age for America, coincided with my own personal coming-of-age. The actual break-in occurred just weeks after I’d graduated from high school and the initial furore continued throughout the summer as I prepared to leave for my first year at college. The repercussions, investigations and hearings continued throughout my first two years at college and culminated with Richard Nixon’s resignation, when I was in summer school in Spain in August 1974. I watched his resignation speech on a flickering black-and-white television set in the living room of my host family at 2AM in the morning, European time.
It’s not unusual at all that the current political climate in the US should make me think about the definitive political scandal of the late 20th Century. After all, the media has been looking for another Watergate since the last one was resolved (as much as it could ever be). Every newspaper reporter, every media journalist fancies himself this decade’s Woodward or Bernstein, never mind the fact that they happened upon their golden egg purely by chance. One of Watergate’s many legacies is the intense desire on the part of the media to discover some socio-political scandal latent in every subsequent Administration, and so almost every official in every subsequent Administration has been subjected to the scrutiny, for better or for worse, by the Fourth Estate.
And the Fourth estate has mutated rampantly since the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine under President Reagan.
But the name which keeps popping up in my mind more often than not, lately, isn’t one of the bigger guns from Watergate – not Haldeman or Erlichmann or John Dean – but a lesser-known character called Donald Segretti.
Segretti was a young lawyer, who, during the early 1970s, was engaged by the Committee to Re-elect the President (aptly anagrammed CReeP). He specialised in a particular brand of practical joke, or dirty trick, designed to make the victim look particularly bad. The aim of CReeP wasn’t only to insure that Nixon was elected to a second term; the principal aim was to insure that the Democratic party fielded the weakest candidate possible in 1972, one that would virtually guarantee Nixon a Presidential victory.
Of course, Nixon’s chief political strategists at the time, the late Lee Atwater and Roger Ailes (yep, that Roger Ailes), were busy formulating a tactic which they would call The Southern Strategy – convincing all those Southern Democrats who were less than lukewarm about the idea of Civil Rights, that their natural political party was none other than the GOP, considering the fact that George Wallace’s reincarnation of the Dixiecrats – the American Independence Party – had disbanded after its third party attempt in the 1968 election. But to really secure a second term, Nixon and Co would have to be absolutely certain that the Democratic candidate was loser material.
It was practically a foregone conclusion that the Democratic candidate for 1972 would be Maine Senator and former Vice-Presidential candidate Edmund Muskie. Muskie was impressive as a speaker during the campaign, and the Democrats, rightfully, thought that he would stand a good chance in challenging Nixon. After all, America wouldn’t wash 8 years of Dick Nixon.
Right before the silly season started, North Dakota Senator, George McGovern, a very Leftwing and very progressive politician, announced that he, too, would seek the nomination.
CReeP’s aim was to discredit Muskie to the point that Muskie would drop out of the race. With no other Democrat on the horizon at that point, and the Democratic Party in a weakened state, generally, McGovern would run and lose heavily.
This is where Segretti stepped in. Financed by funds from CReeP – laundered money, really – Segretti did his stuff. Segretti engaged hundreds of young Republican volunteers – mostly college students and recent graduates. Their mission was to imbed themselves in various Democratic offices and campaigns as volunteers, walk the walk and talk the talk of Democrats, get close to staffers and other genuine volunteers, even to the candidates themselves, get the gossip, sow discontent and be subtly, but brilliantly divisive.
The strategy was amazing. Someone managed to steal some sheets of Muskie’s Senate stationery, along with some samples of his handwriting, fished from rubbish bins in his office. The result was two, seemingly original notes, penned by “Muskie” on official notepaper, trashing Canadians in objectionable terms. Someone else started rumours of Muskie’s wife having a drinking problem and mouthing off about another Democratic politician in a lewd way. Mores forged notes emerged, depicting Muskie as speculating about another Democratic Senator, Henry Jackson of Washington, having a lovechild by a 17 year-old girl, and passing hints alluding to Hubert Humphrey’s sexlife as well.
The end result was Muskie, who’d denied all these allegations, giving an impassioned defence of his wife’s honour, so impassioned that he ended up in tears, a fact which, effectively, ended his Presidential aspirations, and paved the way for George McGovern’s nomination.
A few years later, in the course of the Watergate investigations and trials, Donald Segretti’s part in all of this was revealed. Segretti told Bob Woodward that such practices, which he’d perfected to art form, were known to him and his circle as “ratfucking.”
Ratfucking was only in its rudimentary form as developed by Segretti. There was plenty of room for development and improvement.
Oh … and one of the many of those earnest, young Republican volunteers who infiltrated the Democratic party, undercover, for Segretti was a Texas college senior named Karl Rove.
Rove took ratfucking to another level in his work for George Bush. At first, he developed the doctrine of “continuous campaign,” of never allowing the Bush Administration to get comfortable with its success, of operating every day with the aim in mind of securing a second term. 9/11 handed them their modus operandi on a plate: keep the public scared and use fear to keep the usually liberal media on side too. After all, when the country’s under attack, no one wants to be labelled “leftist and unpatriotic” (which had almost come to be synonymous).
Rove’s ultimate aim was an unbroken hegemony of Republican Administrations – something akin to Hitler’s vision of the Fourth Reich lasting 1000 years – which meant that whatever had to be done to secure that aim, was sanctioned. This time the Ratfucker-in-Chief was operating inside the White House and on the public payroll.
When the Republicans lost the White House in 2008, Rove moved to Fox News as a political commentator – a natural move, considering Fox’s CEO was none other than that same Roger Ailes, the Nixon strategist from the years Rove was a lowly ratfucking operative under the tutelage of Donald Segretti.
A couple of months ago, Rove, rather disingenuously announced that he’d had a strategy in place for awhile that would result, not only in delivering substantial gains to the Republican party in this year’s Mid-Terms, but it would also insure that Barack Obama served one term and one term only, that the Republican Party would regain the White House in 2012. Rove admitted that, as he spoke, he’d had “operatives” working the length and breadth of the country for the past couple of years, dedicated to dividing and conquering the Democratic Party and its ambitions.
Empty rhetoric and bragging?
Maybe, but Rove’s never one to brag without substance to his bragging.
Rove, if he knows nothing else, knows the American people. He certainly knows the base of the Right, and he’s probably made it his business to know the base of the Left. He’s also astute enough to capitalise on the similarities between the two, and the basic similarity amongst the two ends of the political spectrum is the overwhelming ailment affecting the American public as a whole – the singular inability to think for oneself and to think critically.
Both ends of the spectrum are television addicts. They read little, comprehend less and live for entertainment and instant gratification. Unable to digest and bored by news bulletins, their information must be delivered with panache and passion – thus, they need to be “infotained.” More than being infotained, they need to hear the opinions voiced of various and sundry paid talking heads on television – people who voice and articulate that which the average person from the extreme end of the Rightwing and the average person from the extreme end of the Leftwing are thinking. If the opinionator is likeable and amusing, he or she will gain not only a fanbase, but a disciple.
And, as television is an illusion, what if the people voicing opinion on the box, are just selling the brand of what their network is supposed to be? What if the opinionators are merely … salesmen?
The lack of critical thinking in all this never ceases to amaze me, as I watch various and sundry opinionators from both the Left and the Right.
That the social-climbing ex-wife of a former Republican Congressman and oilman, a woman who’s never been anything else in her adult life spent in two countries, than the most conservative of conservatives, a woman who led a virulent and strident campaign for Bill Clinton’s impeachment, a woman who taught Andrew Breitbart all the fine points of blatant press hackery (another form of ratfucking), should decide – the day after the 2004 defeat of John Kerry – that the Left needed an internet aggregate to challenge Matt Drudge and could result in being a nice little earner for her, that in the space of 24 hours, Arianna Huffington could go from being a neocon’s neocon (and devotee of Newt Gingrich) to being a fully paid-up Progressive, without ANYONE in the media batting an eyelid, is pure shallowness in and of itself.
I never bought the original Damascene conversion, and I never bought this one, especially not during the 2008 campaign season when Huffington’s attacks on Hillary Clinton became increasingly nasty and personal.
The only thing I do know is that, of all the Presidents I remember, and I remember a lot, this President is the only one whom I’ve known to be criticized, second-guessed, ridiculed, name-called and parsed by the Rightwing media and equally so, by the media on the Left, the so-called “Professional Left.”
It’s important to remember that the Professional Left is, more than likely, on the payroll of the Corporate Right, who are also bosom buddies with Rove, who writes for their bible, the Wall Street Journal.
When the Shirley Sherrod incident saw light, not only Fox, but also MSNBC, ran with the story that Breitbart propagated that very first day. It took CNN and The Atlanta Journal Constitution to get the real facts out and amongst the people. Fox then, promptly, apologised. MSNBC pulled all evidence of their hysteria from their website. No one … no one blamed Breitbart in this. He got scant mention; the emphasis was all on the Administration’s preciptous reaction. It was all how quick to jump the gun Tom Vilsack (and by extension, the President) had been, how weak the Administration was, how frightened of Fox News they were perceived to bel. Ed Schultz, in his usual bullying way, intimated that this Administration were pussies. Later, during his appearance at the Netroots convention, big Ed let slip that the real reason he was throwing a strop was because the President wouldn’t appear on his hour-long MSNBC program to be shouted at and hectored; instead, he preferred to be interviewed and interrupted by Bret Baier of Fox News.
At the end of the day, the Rightwing media treats this President like an escaped slave who needs lynching, and the so-called Professional Left treat him like the natural child of a token Affirmative Action appointment and Prissy from Gone With the Wind.
And either way, that boils down to one, singular, unmentionable thing.
When Robert Gibbs vented his frustration in that infamous interview last week, it came on the heels of having watched Dylan Ratigan, another sudden convert from corporatism to Progressivism and a thug who pretends to be a journalist, slate the recently passed States’ Aid Bill as a “bailout for the teachers’ unions,” Gibbs had had enough. And rightly so.
The allusion to the “Obama is like Bush” meme comes right from the whining mouth of Bill Maher. He’s been preaching that sermon for over a year, even alluding to the President as “Barry,” a name commonly used by the disaffected, old white men of the Teabagging Party, but then, earlier this season in an attempt at satire, Bill donned a Teabagger’s hat, and if it fits …
The Professional Left has done its fair share of deliberately misinforming, spinning and ratcheting up discontent amongst its base and convincing them why they should be disaffected with the President. The plain truth is simply that the base of the Left, as well as the base of the Right, for some reason either doesn’t read or doesn’t read widely enough and can’t for some reason think for themselves enough to form opinion without cravenly depending on people who get paid the corporate penny to spin for the network they serve.
Sometimes they, like the broken clock which is right twice a day, reveal their real intentions, which sometimes seem to be the opposite to the posture they effect:- Bill O’Reilly lets slip he favours a public option in Health Care Reform, Chris Matthews admits racism in admitting that sometimes he forgets Obama is a black man, Bill Maher admits to being in favour of the death penalty, something no real Progressive would admit.
Maybe some of the Professional Left are really Rove’s operatives – this generation of refined ratfuckers. After all, Bill Maher follows Rove on Twitter and Rove follows Bill. Rove and Huffington go way back in association. Last week on his syndicated radio program, in the wake of Gibbs’s outburst, Ed Schultz urged Progressive listeners NOT to vote in the Mid-Terms, to stay home. (Ed, by the way, is an ex-neocon, himself, who once ran for Congress as a Republican, and not too long ago.)
Yet if anyone challenges any devotee of a media opinionator, from Beck to Bill Maher, from Hannity to Olbermann and Schultz, the challenger is meant with a stream of invective as strong as if one had insulted a personal friend, a relative or a loved one. In fact, insulting one of these people is as though you’ve issued a personal affront to the disciple’s own opinion and mindset.
Here is a news flash: The Professional Left is the same as the Professional Right – bought and fully paid-up members of the corporate club, be that club Murdoch, ComCast of TimeWarner. They don’t give a rat’s ass about their devoted fans. Their aim is to generate ratings/clicks etc which generate profits, which mean fatter wallets for them which will accommodate their even fatter wallets. That Arianna Huffington attempts to speak for the middle class whilst her daughters attend debutante balls and hobnob with titled gentry from Europe makes her Progressivism as much of a joke as John Kerry’s multimillion dollar yacht.
What happened last week was simply this: Gibbs got frustrated and gave the Professional Left a dose of its own medicine which it had been hurling at the President for months, and the Professional Left couldn’t take it, after dishing it out. Big Ed Schultz, the biggest mouth and the biggest bully of the lot, even cravenly attempted to convince his regular viewers that this criticism wasn’t about him, really, it was directed at them. (It wasn’t; Gibbs clarified precisely whom he was criticizing). That was crass. Even crasser was his exhortation for the Democratic base NOT to vote – in short, to enable the Republicans to come in and undo every incremental thing upon which real progress and real change could be built. But hey, Big Ed would still have his Bush tax cuts, right?
This whole ordeal, this whole new level of ratfuckery – because that’s what it is – was foreseen by the writer Paddy Chayefsky, in his screenplay Network, a brilliant film made in 1976. It’s worth a watch again these days, because everything alluded to in that film has come to pass, regarding the television industry. And so I leave you, with the prescient words of the film’s hero, the iconic Howard Beale, juxtaposed with some contemporary images which enhance the prescience of a film made 34 years ago:-

Maybe it’s time for those of us who consider ourselves to be Democrat and progressive, to turn off the television, and learn to think for ourselves and to think critically.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

C*ntry First?

The cover of the latest edition of TIME magazine shows the noseless face of an 18 year-old Afghan girl, who was disfigured as a result of running away from a forced marriage. The cover suggested that this is what would happen when the US left Afghanistan.

Like many on the Left side of the political equation, I vehemently oppose the continuation of this war. Like many on the Left side of the politcal equation, I knew from the getgo that Iraq was a lie. Like many on the Left side of the political equation, I am a woman, who came of age during the decade of the 70s, that era in which great strides of gender equality were achieved.

Many on the Left side of the political equation cry out that this heart-rending picture is nothing less than blatant emotional blackmail. It may be; I don’t know, but it makes me uneasy.

I have a friend from my college years, a lifelong Republican and conservative, an educated man and a lawyer, who’s served several hitches in Iraq and Afghanistan as a JAG lawyer. We often disagree politically, but I appreciate his insight and respect his opinion. Even before the TIME cover became a topic of conversation this week, he made my conscience squirm.

"You were always at the forefront of feminism in college," he remarked once in an online exchange. "Yet I wonder at how you and your fellow Lefties can just turn a blind eye to the mistreatment of women in Afghanistan. I mean, that’s supposed to be your thing, isn’t it?"

I suppose it is, and it makes me uncomfortable. The picture of Aisha on the cover of TIME made me more uncomfortable, but the reaction to some people, who purport to be from the Progressive Left, made me downright shameful. A woman, who is a regular commentator on Huffington Post flatly stated that she didn’t give a rat’s ass about the women in Afghanistan, that if they didn’t stand up to the men controlling for their rights, they, basically got what they deserved.

Charming. And oh-so-au courant-liberal. Actually, that attitude positively reeks of the attitude promoted by the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan during the Eighties – the meme of "I’m all right, Jack; fuck you." I know that Ronald Reagan’s supposed to be to the Left of the current crop of retrograde Republicanism, but since when did Progressives morph into exponents of Ronald Reagan’s philosophy?

Other than that woman’s reaction, the rest of the commentary was filled with people one could visualise squirming in their chairs as they typed painfully constructed rigamaroles of sound bites gleaned from the latest fashionable infotainment pundit, trying to justify that Aisha’s punishment was everything to do with the way her culture was intended to be and simply wasn’t worth our effort and expenditure in lives and money.

But Aisha’s treatment has everything to do with us, because we enabled the Taliban. Once we decided to look the other way, in the wake of Russia withdrawing from Afghanistan, leaving a trail of chaos, as the warlords battled to outdo one another, we allowed the Taliban to rise from the rubble, and we condemned a whole generation of women and girls to the darkness of ignorance and brutality.

And now the Left are looking away again.

Look, I’m not advocating staying in Afghanistan any longer than is necessary. I’d have the troops home tomorrow if I could. I’m not even sure what can be done to help women like Aisha, but the attitude I found from the Left towards this – and especially the crass comment made by the woman on HuffPo, amazes me that there’s an attitude towards women here that ranges from abject indifference to callous cruelty.

Last Sunday night, Bill Maher finished a three-night stint through the Midwest, ending up in Madison, Wisconsin. The next day, Bill posted a raving review of the Madison gig on his Facebook page. The reviewer, clearly a fan, literally bent over for Bill in praise. One of the funniest aspects of the evening, the writer gushed, was Bill’s take on Sarah Palin (a staple for Bill Maher – more than any other commentator or fundit he goes out of his way to bring the subject of Palin into the discussion, even when she hasn’t been in the news.)

The reviewer thought it an absolute riot that Bill managed to call Palin a c*nt no less than six times in a minute – in a New York minute, knowing Maher’s delivery.

I thought it appalling.

I am not a Palin fan. I loathe the woman. I despair that this willfully ignorant woman, someone disdains quality higher education as exclusive and elitist, blaming the latter for all that’s wrong in the country, whilst elevating the mundane and ordinary to new heights of misconceived excellence. I find her divisive, hateful, and extremely derisive and disrespectful of our President. This is a would-be politician who begins by criticizing policy and ends with a full-on personal attack. She is unfamiliar with government and government processes, poorly eductated, inarticulate, quasi-illiterate, sly, untrustworthy, nepotistic, and blatantly untruthful. In short, she is a narcissistic liar.

But she is not, nor does she deserve to be called a c*nt – and certainly not six times in one minute in front of an audience in a public venue.

No woman does.

Yes, you’ll say, Palin is certainly capable of being just as vile, without resorting to crude, guttersnipe language (unless you want to count her pathetic and misspelled attempt at bilingualism – always better to say "balls" if you can’t spell cojones. And she certainly does deserve to be hit hard verbally and discredited.

But any man who resorts to calling a woman a c*nt in public is certainly less of a man, in himself, and shows a singular lack of intelligence in doing so.

Congratulations, Bill ... you’ve just joined the ranks of celebrated men whom you’ve previously criticized as their moral equals:-

*John McCain, who famously referred to his wife by the c-word in 1992, and

Mel Gibson, whom you recently flayed in a tweet, referring to his very ugly verbal abuse of the mother of his younger child, whom he called – yes – a cnt.

To your credit, Bill, you’re nothing, if not genuinely fair and balanced, because in February 2008, you famously referred to Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, by the c-word on Real Time, in frustration at her refusal to give up the ghost in favour of your candidate of the moment; so maybe there’s a place for you on Fox News after all.

When I objected to this on Facebook, I was met with a torrent of criticism - some rational, most blindly loyal to Bill to the point that people began to sound like blithering and blathering followers of a religious cult.

Some of those arguing actually called the word "quite beautiful" and pointed out that Shakespeare used it regularly. Wrong. Shakespeare used it alliteratively in allusion and as a clever play on words, never actually saying the word directly. Bill deals in directness. He called Palin and Clinton the actual word.

Others maintained that it’s used in quite normal conversation both in Australia and in Europe. Again, mostly wrong. I can’t speak for the Australians, but the British have the filthiset mouths in Europe when it comes to swearing. Even then, it’s a word used in the extremest and ugliest cases and by the lower gene pool of society (which seems to be expanding rapidly). And it’s understood that a man who refers to a woman as that word is living at the extreme of society at best. It’s something that’s never heard in polite company on the Continent.

Worse than the rational arguments, were the reckoning, by men and also by women, that Palin deserved this epithet, for all the reasons I listed above. One mature woman with grown children purported to use the word all the time, and saw noting wrong with it.

But would she like to be called a c*nt?

No reply to my question. When she carried on in a wild fervour about how Bill was the ultimate purveyor of truth in the United States, I asked her the question again: would she mind if someone called her a c*nt?

She finally said she’d rather be called a c*nt than a Republican.

I then replied, "Consider it done. You’re a c*nt, and by the way, you’re more than halfway to being a Repuiblican, with your attitude to fellow women and your narrow-mindedness intact." And then I blocked her.

But the one question no one deigned to answer was this: If they’re OK with Bill calling Palin a c*nt, does that mean they were OK with him calling Hillary the same?

Budding politicians came to the fore, mouthing words which said nothing. Not even sentences made sense. Waffle. I sensed the disciples of the man who purports to speak power to truth suffered a singular Aisha moment.

What a quandry! How could Bill be wrong about calling Hillary a c*nt and right about calling Palin the same? For people on the Right, surely Hillary is just as fearsome, just as divisive, an Ivy League elitist who encompasses everything that is wrong with this country (in their eyes). One side’s c*nt is another side’s Queen Mother, only Bill didn't differentiate.

Bill is the only political satirist-cum-pundit, other than Glenn Beck, who consitently brings Obama’s race into the fray; but not in a positive manner. Thus far this year, Obama’s been "President Sanford and Son", the "tanner of two evils" and the ineffectual, professorial President who needs to "black it up a little" with some stereotypical ghetto culture. His disciples decry criticism of such things as harmless, considering Bill’s "only a comedian." Yet if Beck or O’Reilly had said the same things, they’d be all over their asses like a duck on a june bug. It seems one man’s perceived racism is another man’s comedy, depending on which side of the political coin on which you be found.

Because we on the Left are never racist, are we? And we can never be accused of being sexit either, can we? Or even homophobic, now that Prop 8’s on its way to being ruled unconstitutional.

And if we are, we can laugh it off, can’t we, as comedy. After all, we on the Left, who occupy themoral high ground, we kknow, don’t we, who really puts c*ntry first and who puts the c*nt in country.