Tag Archive: liberalism

Jan 28 2015

Damaging the Liberal Brand by a Pseudo-Liberal

Poor Jonathan Chait he wants so hard to take Liberalism back in time to some imaginary vision that he has of what is and in not politically correct in his world view. Poor Jon, he like all of us who are offended by racism and sexism and call it out, to STFU. We won’t. Get ready to be corrected, Jonathan, for being Politically Incorrect. First, the ladies:

When “political correctness” hurts: Understanding the micro-aggressions that trigger Jonathan Chait

By Joan Walsh, Salon

A new opus on progressive racial extremism features the liberal writer’s trademark mix of insight and overreaction

When New York magazine teased Jonathan Chait’s coming opus on race, politics and free speech last Friday – “Can a white liberal man critique a culture of political correctness?” – the hook alone was enough to send his Twitter haters into multiple ragegasms. I thought folks should save themselves some grief and at least wait until the story itself appeared before defaulting to fury. Maybe it wouldn’t be that bad.

But to anyone who hated that teaser, I’m sure, the story itself is just that bad. Chait continues to pick the scab of his suffering over the fact that the every musing of white liberal men (and women, to be fair) about race and politics is no longer welcomed for its contribution to the struggle. He no doubt finished his piece before the Twitter backlash against Nick Kristof for suggesting the police reform movement find a more “compelling face” than Mike Brown, because he doesn’t mention it, though it’s the kind of thing that sets him off.

This is not to say that there are no good points in Chait’s piece, only that his tone of grievance and self-importance, as though he’s warning us of a threat to our democracy that others either can’t see or are too intimidated to fight, makes it very hard to parse.

Chait is over the terms “mansplaining,” “whitesplaining” and “straightsplaining,” as he thinks they’ve become efforts to silence or subdue men, whites and straights. He hates the whole concept of “micro-aggressions,” and I will admit here, I have my own ambivalence about the term: There ought to be a better word for the myriad slights from white people that undermine people who aren’t white. The label mocks itself; if they’re really  “micro,” shouldn’t we be spending our time on our bigger problems? Like so much rhetoric from the left, it’s best used preaching to the choir: I’m not sure anyone who isn’t already comfortable with the notion is going to have his or her mind opened by it.

‘PC culture’ isn’t about your freedom of speech. It’s about our freedom to be offended

By Jessica Valenti, The Guardian

If the worst thing ‘PCness’ does is make people occasionally feel uncomfortable when they do and say terrible things, we can all live with that

When a writer like New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait feels it necessary to whine in print about his and other (mostly well-remunerated) writers’ inability to write offensive tripe without consequence, I think: Boo-fucking-hoo. Get a real problem. [..]

If the worst thing that Chait’s version of “PCness” has wrought is that folks occasionally feel uncomfortable when they do and say terrible things, I can live with that and he should, too.

We are finally approaching a critical mass of interest in ending racism, misogyny and transphobia and the ways they are ingrained into our institutions. Instead of rolling our eyes at the intensity of the feelings people have over these issues, we should be grateful that they care so much, because racism, misogyny and transphobia can and do kill people. If the price we all pay for progress for the less privileged is that someone who is more privileged gets their feelings hurt sometimes – or that they might have to think twice before opening their mouths or putting their fingers to keyboards – that’s a small damn price to pay. That’s not stopping free speech; it’s making our speech better.

P.C. Policeman Jonathan Chait Can Dish It Out, But He Can’t Take It

By Amanda Marcotte, Talking Points Memo

While the article purports to be a lambasting of “the culture of taking offense” and censorious attitudes, it quickly becomes clear that the only speech Chait is interested in protecting is conservative or contrarian. When it comes to people saying uncomfortable or provocative things from the left, Chait comes across as just as censorious and silencing as any of the leftist prigs he attempts to criticize.

To be clear, Chait has plenty of examples of what has become a genuinely serious problem of liberals who react to uncomfortable ideas by turning to censorship: Harassment campaigns against conservatives, canceling plays or art shows because of political incorrectness, tearing down anti-choice posters.

But outside of those few examples, most of Chait’s article is not a defense of rowdy public discourse at all, but the opposite: Most of the piece is little more than demands that liberals silence certain forms of discourse that make Chait uncomfortable. For a piece that mocks the use of “trigger warnings” to alert people about disturbing content, it sure seems Chait has no problem trying to silence anyone who says something that might hurt his feelings.

Next, the guys:

Punch-Drunk Jonathan Chait Takes On the Entire Internet

By Alex Pareene, The Gawker

So, here is sad white man Jonathan Chait’s essay about the difficulty of being a white man in the second age of “political correctness.” In a neat bit of editorial trolling, New York teased the column with following question: “Can a white, liberal man critique a culture of political correctness?”

The answer, as anyone with internet access or a television or the ability to see a newsrack could tell you, is a resounding yes, they can and pretty much constantly do. But the second half of the question, and the real point of the column, was left unwritten: Can a straight, white man do this without having to deal with people criticizing him for doing so? The answer, in 2015, is no, and that is what has Chait’s dander up. [..]

A year ago, Jonathan Chait had an extended debate with The Atlantic‘s Ta-Nehisi Coates, an incredibly talented writer whose ongoing research and thinking on race and American politics and history have led him to become one of our foremost critics of American liberalism as a credo and philosophy. Chait, a strong believer in the righteousness of American liberalism, could not let it go, and he went on to embarrass himself. A broken Chait is now taking on the entire goddamn Internet, to prove that he’s still the important political thinker – and good liberal – he knows he is. [..]

Excessive speech-policing by overzealous campus activists certainly happens. But Chait is wildly exaggerating the threat it poses-calling it a “philosophical threat” to liberalism, instead of a minor annoyance people like Chait have to deal with in the brief period just before they officially assume their positions in America’s power elite. (This wouldn’t be the first time Chait has inflated a perceived threat to America to existential proportions.)

In reality, the single most notable example in the last 15 years of an academic being punished for his speech is probably former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, who was fired not for offending feminists but for claiming that some victims of the September 11 attacks were complicit in the crimes of the American state that provoked the attacks. Just a few years ago, liberal Democratic members of Congress and other officials publicly demanded that Brooklyn College cancel a forum featuring academics who support a financial boycott of Israel. Lawmakers threatened to withhold funding from the school if the event took place. Just this month, Duke University announced that it would not allow a weekly Muslim call to prayer to happen at the campus chapel, following criticism and threats from Christians and evangelical leaders. This is what speech policing in America actually looks like: Like regular policing, it’s wielded primarily by people in power against marginalized groups and anti-mainstream opinions.

The Petulant Entitlement Syndrome of Journalists

By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

When political blogs first emerged as a force in the early post-9/11 era, one of their primary targets was celebrity journalists. A whole slew of famous, multi-millionaire, prize-decorated TV hosts and newspaper reporters and columnists – Tom Friedman, Tim Russert, Maureen Dowd, John Burns, Chris Matthews – were frequently the subject of vocal and vituperative criticisms, read by tens of thousands of people.

It is hard to overstate what a major (and desperately needed) change this was for how journalists like them functioned. Prior to the advent of blogs, establishment journalists were largely immunized even from hearing criticisms. If a life-tenured New York Times columnist wrote something stupid or vapid, or a Sunday TV news host conducted a sycophantic interview with a government official, there was no real mechanism for the average non-journalist citizen to voice critiques. At best, aggrieved readers could write a Letter to the Editor, which few journalists cared about. Establishment journalists spoke only to one another, and careerist concerns combined with an incestuous chumminess ensured that the most influential among them heard little beyond flowery praise. [..]

There are definitely people – most of them unknown and powerless – whose ability to speak and participate in civic affairs are unfairly limited by these sorts of abusive tactics. But whatever else is true, Jon Chait of New York Magazine, long of The New Republic, is not one of them. Neither is his friend Hanna Rosin of Slate. Neither is Andrew Sullivan – published by Time, The Atlantic, The New York Times, major book publishing companies, and pretty much everyone else and featured on countless TV shows – despite his predictably giddy standing and cheering for Chait’s victimization manifesto. Nor is torture advocate Condoleezza Rice of Stanford or HBO host Bill Maher. Nor, despite attacks at least as serious and personal, am I. Nor are most of the prominent journalists and other influential luminaries who churn out self-pitying screeds about the terrible online masses and all the ways they are unfairly criticized and attacked.

Being aggressively, even unfairly, criticized isn’t remotely tantamount to being silenced. People with large and influential platforms have a particular need for aggressive scrutiny and vibrant critique. The world would be vastly improved if we were never again subjected to the self-victimizing whining of highly compensated and empowered journalists about how upset they are that people say mean things online about them and their lovely and talented friends.

Jonathan Chait Upset About Diversity In Media

By DSWright, FDL News Desk

New York Magazine writer Jonathan Chait, best known for being one of the “good liberals” who promoted the Iraq War, is still mad that The New Republic will no longer be a bastion for his kind of liberalism (along with pseudo-scientific racism and fraud). So mad he decided to take out his frustrations on the the fact that people of color, especially women of color, are on the ascendency in American media. Chait knows he is going into the twilight of his relevance in political commentary but won’t go quietly and, like a deranged gunman with nothing to lose, wants to take as many people down with him as he possibly can.

As is typical, Chait’s piece is preening posing as discourse and seems a pretty obvious (if ham handed) attempt at rehabilitating his troubled reputation after he was exposed by Ta-Nehisi Coates as lacking basic understandings related to race in American history. Now he wants to let people who ignore him know that by ignoring and marginalizing him they are attacking democracy itself. [..]

Chait’s piece focuses heavily on his view of how modern feminism and anti-racism has gone too far and centers around the rehashing of an often ill-informed controversy over the concept of “political correctness” something that has not been an actual left wing doctrine of relevance since the 1950s and comes out of the post-World War 1 cultural Marxism of the Frankfurt School.  [..]

Of course, that’s Chait’s specialty – making useless points against strawman arguments in hopes of stoking a controversy and receiving the subsequent clicks. Aka trolling. And he’s done it again to great effect. Let this be the last time we fall for it and leave him to the darkness he so richly deserves.

Jonathan Chaits’s problem is that he and his pseudo-liberalism is no longer relevant and that is what needs to be exposed. Get a thicker skin, Jon, of find another hobby. This is the Internet.

Feb 27 2014

The Demise of Liberal in America

The Surrender of America’s Liberals

In a Web-exclusive interview, political scientist Adolph Reed Jr. talks with Bill Moyers about his new article in the March issue of Harper’s Magazine – a challenge to America’s progressives provocatively titled, “Nothing Left: The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals.”

In the piece, Reed writes that Democrats and liberals have become too fixated on election results rather than aiming for long term goals that address the issues of economic inequality, and that the administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama too often acquiesced to the demands of Wall Street and the right.

As a result, Reed tells Moyers, the left is no longer a significant force in American politics. “If we understand the left to be anchored to our convictions that society can be made better than it actually is, and a commitment to combating economic inequality as a primary one, the left is just gone.”

Liberals Face a Hard Day’s Knight?

By Michael Winship, Moyers and Company

Battered Knight photo Harpers-1403-302x410_zpsef237499.png That’s a pretty pathetic knight up there on the cover of the March issue of Harper’s Magazine. Battered and defeated, his shield in pieces, he’s slumped and saddled backwards on a Democratic donkey that has a distinctly woeful – or bored, maybe – countenance. It’s the magazine’s sardonic way of illustrating a powerful throwing down of the gauntlet by political scientist Adolph Reed, Jr. He has challenged the nation’s progressives with an article in the magazine provocatively titled “Nothing Left: The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals.”

His thesis flies in the face of a current spate of articles and op-ed columns touting a resurgence of progressive politics within the Democratic Party – often pointing to last year’s elections of Senator Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York City as evidence – although at the same time many of the pieces note that the wave is smashing up against a wall of resistance from the corporate wing of the party. [..]

Reed says that the presidencies of Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama too often acquiesced to the demands of Wall Street and the right. Of Clinton’s White House years, he clams, “It is difficult to imagine that a Republican administration could have been much more successful in advancing Reaganism’s agenda.” And President Obama “has always been no more than an unexceptional neo-liberal Democrat with an exceptional knack for self-presentation persuasive to those who want to believe, and with solid connections and considerable good will from the corporate and financial sectors… his appeal has always been about the persona he projects – the extent to which he encourages people to feel good about their politics, the political future, and themselves through feeling good about him – than about any concrete vision or political program he has advanced. And that persona has always been bound up in and continues to play off complex and contradictory representations of race in American politics.”

“The left has no particular place it wants to go,” Reed asserts. “And, to rehash an old quip, if you have no destination, any direction can seem as good as any other… the left operates with no learning curve and is therefore always vulnerable to the new enthusiasm. It long ago lost the ability to move forward under its own steam…”

Up dated with a link to Prof. Reid’s article in Harper’s Magazince

The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals

For nearly all the twentieth century there was a dynamic left in the United States grounded in the belief that unrestrained capitalism generated unacceptable social costs. That left crested in influence between 1935 and 1945, when it anchored a coalition centered in the labor movement, most significantly within the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). It was a prominent voice in the Democratic Party of the era, and at the federal level its high point may have come in 1944, when FDR propounded what he called “a second Bill of Rights.” Among these rights, Roosevelt proclaimed, were the right to a “useful and remunerative job,” “adequate medical care,” and “adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.”

The labor-left alliance remained a meaningful presence in American politics through the 1960s. What have become known as the social movements of the Sixties – civil rights activism, protests against the Vietnam War, and a renewed women’s movement – were vitally linked to that egalitarian left. Those movements drew institutional resources, including organizing talents and committed activists, from that older left and built on both the legislative and the ideological victories it had won. But during the 1980s and early 1990s, fears of a relentless Republican juggernaut pressured those left of center to take a defensive stance, focusing on the immediate goal of electing Democrats to stem or slow the rightward tide. At the same time, business interests, in concert with the Republican right and supported by an emerging wing of neoliberal Democrats, set out to roll back as many as possible of the social protections and regulations the left had won. As this defensiveness overtook leftist interest groups, institutions, and opinion leaders, it increasingly came to define left-wing journalistic commentary and criticism. New editorial voices – for example, The American Prospect – emerged to articulate the views of an intellectual left that defined itself as liberal rather than radical. To be sure, this shift was not absolute. Such publications as New Labor Forum, New Politics, Science & Society, Monthly Review, and others maintained an oppositional stance, and the Great Recession has encouraged new outlets such as Jacobin and Endnotes. But the American left moved increasingly toward the middle.

Today, the labor movement has been largely subdued, and social activists have made their peace with neoliberalism and adjusted their horizons accordingly. Within the women’s movement, goals have shifted from practical objectives such as comparable worth and universal child care in the 1980s to celebrating appointments of individual women to public office and challenging the corporate glass ceiling. Dominant figures in the antiwar movement have long since accepted the framework of American military interventionism. The movement for racial justice has shifted its focus from inequality to “disparity,” while neatly evading any critique of the structures that produce inequality.

Oct 20 2013

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: What Is Capitalism? Part I by Le Gauchiste

There have appeared in this space several thought-provoking attempts to define capitalism, including here see and here see:. Although this might seem to some a mere academic exercise, nothing could be further from the truth: to be effective, activism to change, transform or overthrow any human construction must be rooted in a thorough and accurate understanding thereof.

This is especially important when discussing capitalism, both because its pervasive ubiquity creates a familiarity that masquerades as understanding and because the defenders of the system work tirelessly to spew lies about its virtues. Even more treacherous than the increasingly strained defenses of the system by modern conservatives are the ideological productions of modern liberals who claim a desire to reform capitalism or ameliorate those of its consequences they don’t like.

The key problem is that liberals and conservatives share the same basic understanding of capitalism, which is rooted in the neo-classical revolution in mainstream economics that occurred in the late 19th century. On this view, capitalism is a “natural” system arising from and based on market exchanges between buyers and sellers of commodities, which are assumed to maximize “efficiency” (defined in terms of allowing “supply” and “demand” to set market-clearing prices) and human happiness (defined as the total dollar value of market commodities bought and sold (GDP), regardless of what needs they meet or how they are distributed among the population).

Thus the neo-classical view (like the classical political economy of Adam Smith and David Ricardo that preceded it) is fundamentally ahistorical: capitalism is understood not as a historically specific constellation of economic relations, but rather as the result of encouraging the supposedly natural human tendency to engage in market transactions on a competitive basis with the goal of maximizing profit.

Even worse, the neo-classical assumption that the “market” is a naturally occurring phenomenon forces it to posit an Ideal Type Market-characterized by virtually unrestrained good-faith buying and selling backed up by rules to enforce the terms of transactions-against which historical social formations are measured by the degree to which they approximate the Ideal Type and can be called “capitalistic.” In this view there is of course no room for understanding how the historical economies of pre-capitalist social formations worked on their own terms, because those terms are assumed ab initio to represent flaws, deviations from the Ideal Type that maximizes happiness.

And therein lies the reason that neo-classical economics provides an unstable intellectual foundation for capitalist reformism that unavoidably undermines any case for change, because all such reforms involve straying from the Ideal Type Market. That is why, in televised “debates” about regulation between conservatives and liberals, when the former extol the virtues of the market and call for “non-interference,” the latter start off the same way (Obama does this all the time) and then suddenly pivot to an argument that some specific reform represents an exception to the free market rule. Conservatives thus always come off as more intellectually consistent while liberals seem (and in fact are) intellectually muddled and confused-even when “the facts” seem to stand in their favor.

We, however, are Anti-capitalists, and we need an understanding of capitalism that historicizes it as a system with a definite beginning and, therefore, a possible end.

May 27 2013

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Liberalism is Dead, Now What?: Two Cheers for Bhaskar Sunkara by LeGauchist

Bhaskar Sunkara’s recent essay in The Nation, Letter to ‘The Nation’ From a Young Radical, argues persuasively that American liberalism is “practically ineffective and analytically inadequate” to the twin political tasks of mobilizing supporters and generating policy.  Sunkara blames the crisis of liberalism on the fact that, “Liberalism’s original sin lies in its lack of a dynamic theory of power,” which leads liberals–Sunkara specifically cites Obama–to treat

politics as a salon discussion between polite people with competing ideas. . . [in which] the best program … is assumed to prevail in the end…[and] political action is disconnected … from the bloody entanglement of interests and passions that mark our lived existence.

Admitting that liberalism is “a slippery term” Sunkara defines it in terms of the two dominant species of Washington Democratic insiders, which he defines as follows:

to the extent that we can assign coherence to the ideology, two main camps of modern American liberalism are identifiable: welfare liberals and technocratic liberals. The former, without the radicals they so often attacked marching at their left, have not adequately moored their efforts to the working class, while the latter naïvely disconnect policy from politics, often with frightening results.

Both sorts of liberalism, Sunkara argues, have failed analytically and politically, though in different ways and for different reasons. Nevertheless, Sankara has the same prescription: “the solution to liberalism’s impasse lies in the re-emergence of American radicalism.”  

What would that look like? The first task is that

Socialists must urgently show progressives how alien the technocratic liberal worldview is to the goals of welfare-state liberalism-goals held by the rank and file of the liberal movement. … Broad anti-austerity coalitions, particularly those centered at the state and municipal levels like last year’s Chicago Teachers Union strike, point the way toward new coalitions between leftists and liberals committed to defending social goods.

But anti-austerity is not, of course, the full program, but

just one example of the kind of class politics that has to be reconstituted in America today; surely there are many others. The Next Left’s anti-austerity struggles must be connected to the environmental movement, to the struggle of immigrants for labor and citizenship rights, and even, as unromantic as it sounds, to the needs of middle-class service recipients.

Although Sunkara’s essay, like his groundbreaking publication Jacobin Magazine, is an important attempt at creating bridges between liberals and radicals during a time of onslaught by the corporate Right, even as it demonstrates the analytical weakness of liberalism, it suffers from some of the very same analytical inadequacies of liberalism itself, especially its lack of a dynamic theory of power.

Specifically, Sunkara’s categories of analysis are rooted in politics and ideology, with no moorings in the social formation beyond a few statements about working class support for social welfare liberalism–statements which fail to recognize the accomplishments wrought via American working class and subaltern self-activity. In light of this, it is perhaps not surprising–though it ought to be–that a self-described “young radical” had no place in his analysis for a discussion of capitalism as an exploitative economic system whose nature is at the root of or contributes greatly to every one of the social problems liberals profess to care about.