Thursday, October 27, 2011

For the Record about What Ishmael Reed Really Said

Almost seven months after igniting a Twitter race war, Joan Walsh still doesn't get it.

On Wednesday, 26 October, she tweets:-

What was dishonest about what I said about Ishmael Reed?

For the benefit of anyone who's forgotten the spark which caused the whole conflagration, Joan wrote an article for Salon, in the wake of the Wisconsin protests, wherein she encouraged Democratic supporters to concentrate mainly on local Congressional and Senate races instead of investing heavily in the re-election of the President. The article, itself, was a hitpiece, timed to coincide with the President's announcement that he would run for a second term, something which, obviously, struck a perverse nerve with Joan.

Within the article, she made a remark, with a particular reference to African-American author, Ishmael Reed:-

I deeply resent people who insist that white progressives who criticize Obama are deluding themselves that they’re his “base,” when his “base” is actually not white progressives, but people of color. Ishmael Reed laid out this pernicious line in December, in the New York Times, after many progressives, of every race, criticized Obama’s tax cut compromise. Reed compared “white progressives” who wanted more from Obama to spoiled children, compared with black and Latino voters “who are not used to getting it all.” I’ve been getting a similar message from some of my correspondents, and it’s depressingly divisive.

Here is what Ishmael Reed actually said in his December op-ed:- entitled "What Progressives Don't Understand about Obama:"-

When these progressives refer to themselves as Mr. Obama’s base, all they see is themselves. They ignore polls showing steadfast support for the president among blacks and Latinos. And now they are whispering about a primary challenge against the president. Brilliant! The kind of suicidal gesture that destroyed Jimmy Carter — and a way to lose the black vote forever.

Unlike white progressives, blacks and Latinos are not used to getting it all. They know how it feels to be unemployed and unable to buy your children Christmas presents. They know when not to shout. The president, the coolest man in the room, who worked among the unemployed in Chicago, knows too.

There is no allusion in those two paragraphs that the "true" base of the Democratic party consists of African-Americans and/or Latinos and/or any people of colour. What he does say is that when Progressives refer to themselves as the President's base, they think only in terms of what they, themselves, are - for the most part, affluent, educated, elite and white, which pretty much describes Progressives, as a whole, especially if you add in the adjective "coastal." But basically what Reed describes is massive arrogance encased in a big dose of white privilege.

He doesn't allege that only people of colour can really described as the President's base. He doesn't even hint at it. And he certainly doesn't refer to "white progressives" as spoiled children either. He merely points out what is the truth - that black people and Latinos have become accustomed to incremental benefits, because that's basically been the story of their lives: gaining this right and that right (usually enjoyed as a matter of course by their white brethren) in small doses, until finally, their presence at the table is accepted as the norm.

The "Christmas presents" reference is merely a descriptive analogy, although it would hardly be a falsehood to say that most affluent, white children of middle-class parents generally received more of what they requested for Christmas than did their black and Latino cohorts from lesser-privileged homes.

But that wasn't the point of Reed's article. The point was to emphasize how these affluent people were exercising their elitism in refusing to see beyond the fact that, to them, the two-year extension of the Bush Tax Cuts was anything more than a monumental cave on the part of the President, when it accomplished a lot more in benefits etc for the working class, the working poor and the unemployed. More than anything, the article illustrated th breach-sized gap between those self-appointed spokespeople of the middle-class and those other demographics in the Democratic party for whom progressives are supposed to have compassion.

The fact that then, and even now, these selfsame people are still whispering about a possible primary challenge, is - as Reed said - divisive.

Joan, like others of her ilk amongst the celebrity talking heads of the Professional Left, has a problem with the common-and-garden proles who disagree with her opinion rendered. When she engages in communication via social networking sites, she invites people to engage, but only if they reinforce her opinions and act as an echo chamber. Any valid criticism and you're blocked. She's not the only talking head to do that. Keith Olbermann, David Sirota and Bill Maher do the same.

Furthermore, not only does Joan imply that anyone calling out the Professional Left on their wanton and gratuitous criticism of the President is "divisive," she publically claims that any vociferous supporter of the President, any of us who disagrees with the sniping and carping and, sometimes, the outright lies these people tell about Barack Obama, is actually a GOP troll paid by Andrew Breitbart.

One of the few big names who agreed to comment in the recent Politico article which sounded a warning bell about the "ragtag army" of Obamabots who seem to be spooking the highly paid talking heads, Joan struck a more muted tone:-

“I’ve become a conscientious objector in this war,” she wrote in an email to POLITICO. “It seems to me that the energy ‘progressives’ spend fighting other progressives over the administration’s every move could power a small city. And the rising tenor of personal abuse doesn’t help.”

The last remark is rich, considering Joan's most frequent remark to anyone on her Facebook or Twitter page offering an opinion different to the accepted one (read: hers) is advice for the pleb to "get help" or an implication that the person in question was mental to the point of being frightening.

So much for personal abuse.

I don't get it, so maybe I need to "get help," but are these people saying we, who support the President, who understand how government works and who understand the need for his pragmatism, are really the divisive ones because we're not rallying around their voices raised in constant criticism of everything he does? Surely, they are the divisive ones, or is it always the fate of the Democratic party to eat its own and then spend decades in the political wilderness, having made itself unelectable, whilst watching the other guys pull us further to the Right?

The subtle meme being pushed now by various and sundry talking heads is that it simply isn't worth voting in 2012, although a few are now talking more and more about - shock, horror - Ron Paul as a Progressive voice. Both of those alternatives are shocking, and either one would result in a Republican victory.

But, then, at the end of that tunnel, Joan Walsh and her Professional Left cohorts would still have their six- and seven-figure salaries, their tax cuts their niches in the media.

It's we who will suffer for their intransigence.

1 comment:

  1. Walsh and others on the PL have reading comprehension issues. Reed used a lot of analogies to make some very valid points about the difference between many POC and the PL. What he said is true: blacks tend to be very persistent, patient, and long suffering when it comes to change. I remember a segregated America. I remember America after the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Things were slow to change. Very slow. Many of the PLers, as you point out so well, rarely/never had anyone tell them they couldn't do/say certain things. They took it as part of being an American that they had open access to all that America had to offer while they were growing up, but it never enters their mind that it was not the same for other Americans. My dearly departed parents used to say that "a hurt dog would surely holler." Walsh, Moore, Sirota, Olbermann, and Maher's screams are audible from coast to cast. I also think that one of their major problems, Emiliana, is that they don't understand why POC, particularly blacks, are sticking with PBO. The answer is easy: We study/talk politics more often than the PL could ever imagine--with neighbors, at church, in restaurants, grocery stores, beauty & barber shops, at social events like kids'/adults' birthday parties, etc. It's pretty difficult to avoid attending any event where politics are not discussed. The PL underestimate our intelligence, too, and make the same assumption as many on the right that we need them to tell us for whom to vote. Now, why would a group of people who got their civil rights via a political process (CRA 1964, VRA 1965) not have a vested interest in politics and in having someone in Congress and in the WH whose policies were more inline with their own?