Thursday, October 21, 2010

Joan Walsh, Joe Miller and The First Amendment

I’m sorry to say that Joan Walsh and I are no longer friends, and that’s upset me. No more gossipy girls’ lunches or hour-long telephone calls, no more whispery confidences about who’s doing what with whom, no more laments over the San Francisco Giants or the Washington Redskins … but our friendship was never like that. She’s in San Francisco, and I’m on the South Coast of England; she’s the editor of, a pretty up-front and Progressive internet newspaper (for lack of a better word), and I’m a ghost on an internet page.

Nope, our “friendship” was the shadowy cyber sort encountered on Facebook. Joan would peddle her ware and opinions on her page, and I was one of the thousands of plebs who made comments on her opinions.

Until now, I genuinely admired Joan. I thought she was an honest and forthright journalist with real scruples. I thought she was a Progressive, in the truest sense of the word, who could and would put the ignorance of the Right to shame, a living embodiment of what a principled Progressive, endowed with cold, hard common sense and realistic pragmatism, could be. Besides, unlike her more strident and high-profiled soul sisters (Huffington, Hamshire, Dowd et al), she had the President’s back.

That’s not to say she was above criticizing him, but her criticism was valid and constructive, instead of snide, snarky and petulant.

But, alas! I was wrong. I misjudged a character I thought I knew; but now I know that Joan’s as much a ghost on an internet page as I am, for this week, she crossed the journalist’s Rubicon to join the soul sisters of the Dark Side: the faux Progressive trio of mean girls who use their bully pulpits to dissuade and discourage the Democratic base from ever seeing any kind of sense and rationalism in anything the President does – whatever he does usually being not enough for what their idea of perfection for the country would be.

Earlier in the week, Joan blogged on Salon about one of the current memes being propagated throughout the Democratic base by Arianna Huffington: “Obama doesn’t get it.”

The blog was in response to a feature article The New York Times Sunday magazine had published, an extensive review of the President on the even of the mid-terms, entitled, “The Education of a President.” In the article, Obama started out making what appeared to be a snarky reference to Madame Huffington’s recorded criticism of his recent redecoration of the Oval Office, something every President does with a special fund provided by the government. In my opinion, humble that it might be, Obama had every reason to make an off-hand remark about Huffington’s disapproval of his colour selection.

About two months ago, she’d published a totally gratuitous blog on The Huffington Post, criticizing the taupe colour scheme, and, in particular, the rug chosen, which featured woven quotations from the Founding Fathers. In referring to this item, Huffington joined the Beck-Limbaugh circus in poking fun at the President’s daughters, openly maligning the intelligence of the older daughter, Malia. It was a totally gratuitously cruel, bitchy and vindictive remark levelled at an 11 year-old by a sixtysomething woman, who has two daughters of her own, whom she’s ferociously shielded from the glare of the media, especially in the fall-out surrounding the break-up of her marriage to a gay Republican politician.

In Joan’s article, she chided Obama, basically for mean to her “friend”, Arianna Huffington, and - more or less, for the rest of the Times article – for sounding whiney, complaining and weak.

Just the sort of thing a Progressive, wavering between showing up at the polls on Election Day or sulking out the vote amidst a welter of Leftwing propaganda varying from the President being a corporate sell-out to his not having achieved a single thing of note that would push the country even an inch in a Leftist direction, needed to read. Not.

I read Joan’s blog with dismay. It was the sort of rhetoric I’d have expecte from the pen of Maureen Dowd or the keyboard of Madame, herself, but certainly not from Joan Walsh.

I read the article on Salon, itself, but later in the day, a link to it appeared from Joan on my Facebook page. Having read it, out of curiosity, I clicked onto the comments’ section and received an epiphany of a revelation.

Something’s stirring amongst the grassroots of Progressive Democrats. People are beginning to wake up to the fraud that is Arianna Huffington. Certain peope are suddenly remembering that Mrs Huffington immigrated to these shores with a solid history of virulent Rightwing idealogy, that she married a neocon’s neocon and not only drank the Koolaid, but served it on a silver platter to all and sundry who stopped long enough to listen. People are remembering that not only did this woman push the idea of a Gingrich Presidency in her writings throughout the 90′s decade, she recently was photographed on her summer vacation, treehugging the Newt, himself, after “coincidentally” meeting up with him in Amalfi, whilst the current Mrs Gingrich III, managed to look distracted in the background of a photo recording the accidentally on purpose reunion of two true, too true amis de coeur. People are suddenly connecting with the fact that Madame utilised the internet, during the late 90s, in a way in which it had previously never been utilised, to campaign actively for the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

Then, suddenly, on the morning of Novembe r 3, 2004, in the wake of a Kerry defeat, the neocon awoke to declare herself a fully paid-up member of the Progressive philosophy – but not before it became fashionable to hate George W Bush.

The suspicion that Huffington just might be a rogue GOPer in Progressive clothing, that she’s a plant Gingrich, if not Rove, whose brief has been to sow discord, dissension and discouragement amongst the Democrats’ base, has been slow to rise; but rising, it is. Three weeks ago, when Huffington appeared on Rachel Maddow’s program, hawking her latest ghost-written tome, she went public with the message she’s been propagating in her wanderings throughout the heartlands of the United States, moving amongst the middle classes in a desperate effort to ensure her book makes the Times best-sellers’ list.

The message is trickledown. The message is if the diminishing middle-class doesn’t stop depending on the government and start doing for itself, America will turn into a third world country, because – according to Huffington – Obama just “isn’t that into” the middle class; instead, he’d rather play war games late at night, she said, with General Petraeus.

When that program was broadcast, Maddow’s Facebook page went viral with people lining up to call out Huffington for the fraud and phony she was.

In fact, several months prior to this, Joan Walsh had appeared on ABC’s This Week, openly calling out not only Huffington, but also Maureen Dowd, for senseless, cruel and bitter ad hominem attacks on the President.

“People are even calling him names now,” lamented Walsh, at the time. “I mean, Maureen Dowd’s calling him Spock. Arianna Huffington refers to him as ‘Nowhere Man.’ And they’re loving it. And it’s wrong!”

So, on Tuesday, when more than several of Walsh’s commentators on her Facebook page called out Huffington’s perfidy and questioned Walsh’s motive for what was essentially a petty, backbiting litany of gratuitous criticism, implying that the President was weak, Joan bit back … and sounded just as whiney, complaining and weak as she accused the President of being.

“It’s obvious that most of you have misread this article,” she wailed. (And that sounded more than just a little condescending).

The plebs responded vociferously, defending their stance, calling Huffington out as a Republican plant, a Rove operative and a neocon-in-hiding with an agenda. Now it was Joan’s turn.

“Wow, from all the name-calling,” she whined, “it’s clear such people have no place on my Facebook page.”

And with that, she shut down comments entirely, dropping me and various other regulars from her friends’ list.

Now, let me make it perfectly clear, to paraphrase Richard Nixon, no one called Joanie names. This was all about her umbrage at the President snarking back at a woman who’d derided his daughters in print. The worst thing Huffington was called amongst the comments was “Media whore.” If the designer shoe fits, well … you get the drift.

My dismissal came as a result of my questioning her integrity. After all, I reasoned, it’s perfectly acceptable for Joan to use the medium of a nationally televised opinion program to chide and criticize Dowd and Huffington for unacceptable and disrespectful ad hominem attacks on the President’s character, but ordinary people aren’t entitled to criticize a journalist for the content of an article with which they agree or remark upon her “friend’s” past activities as suspect and derogatory? One rule for the Fourth Estate and one for the plebs whose opinions they hope to insinuate and influence? We can criticize the President of the United States, but once we speak out against a journalist with whom we disagree, our First Amendment right of reply is abruptly cut off because the ego of a national opinionator has suffered a fit of pique?

To quote former US President: “Give. Me. A. Break.”

I don’t know if Joan Walsh and Arianna Huffington or Maureen Dowd move in the same social circles. I don’t know if they enjoy girlie, gossipy lunches or long-winded telephone conversations, or if they even use the same deoderant, but at best, this looks like the professional Professional Left closing ranks and shutting down the response facility of the hoi polloi when they utter a thought devised in their own mind and not gleaned from the instuctive, destructive meme of misinformation the media bods, Right and Left, want to inflict upon the otherwise unsuspecting sheeple.

At worst, Joan risks acting like the proverbial high school girl who hangs desperately about the peripheries of the social boundaries set by the socially popular mean girls’ society, cravenly willing to defend their diatribes to the death, do their homework for them and carry their bookbags a mile if it means acceptance as one of the chosen few.

Either way, it’s infringing upon the First Amendment.

The day after this article appeared, Salon was awash with no less than three articles, heavily and rightly criticizing the strongarm tactics of political bully and hypocrite, Joe Millar, in using a private security force (two of whose members included serving military personnel) to handcuff and illegally arrest a reporter whose only crime was to attend a Miller rally and try to ask the candidate a legitimate question, concerning a part of his past his would-be constituents have a right to know.

Some years ago, Miller, hoping to be elected GOP chairman for Alaska, whilst employed as an attorney in a public capacity, used his firm’s computers to rig the results of an online survey which would have affected the result of that particular election. If the Senatorial candidate is running on a ticket of political purity, then his public have a right to know if he’s guilty of the smallest ethical quirk. It’s another matter entirely that he relies on bevies of armed goons not only to protect his person, but to ensure that the public he serves are prohibited from asking questions that seriously need to be asked about someone in whom we’re entrusting our representation and interests as citizens.

Again, that’s a denial of a right accorded to us by the First Amendment of our Constitution.

Not only is this unusual similarity denial of free speech common ground amongst the power players on the Right as well as the Left, it’s also a comment upon how the two sides of the political spectrum enforce supression of our Constitutional rights for their own agendae: The Joe Millers of the Right swagger into suppression with an armed guard, ready to use brute force in order to quell dissension; the Joan Walshes of the Left flounce off in a pique of anger and simply deny dissenters access to their Facebook page.

I suppose we should be thankful for small mercies and the lesser of two evils.