No True Leftist

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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111 Responses

  1. Michael Drew says:

    If Freddie can pose “the greatest threat to Freddie’s ideas receiving [] exposure by Very Serious People” by simply removing himself from the debate, the I believe you are implicitly, maybe even nearly explicitly conceding to Freddie the argument about that Freddie makes about the size and formidability of the representation of Freddie’s ideas on the Intertubes. That being said, I believe the point you make about the size of the group of people in the world at large, and certainly in this country, who share Freddie’s ideas, as compared to the group holding much more moderated liberal (which I don’t see a reason to differentiate from neo-liberal, to be honest, but I am persuadable on that point) views, is entirely apt and rather greatly, though perhaps not entirely (and I have not yet read Freddie on the question, and certainly will do so) explanatory of the state of things on the Internet as I think Freddie rightly assesses them. IMHO.Report

    • Scott in reply to Michael Drew says:

      There is no one stopping Freddie from entering the marketplace of ideas on the web. If no one chooses to buy those ideas then maybe something is wrong with what he is selling. However, Fredie can’t seem to imagine that it is even a possibility.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Scott says:


        – I did not claim otherwise. I merely say that if Freddie can greatly affect the size of the representation of the “real Left” as he sees it on the internet by merely absenting himself from that group, then it is axiomatic that his assessment about its size is factually correct.

        – This is clearly quite possibly the case. It does not change his factual assessment of the size of the remnant of the Left represented on the Internet whether his ideas are good or bad. Nor does Freddie deny that people who hold views that differ from his hold them with earnest substantive conviction.

        – Freddie holds his ideas because he is convinced they are right. In that sense it is true that he believes that they are not wrong. But that does not mean he believes it is impossible that they are wrong. I believe any of his former colleagues here would not for a second concur with your assessment that he can’t imagine that it is even a possibility that he is wrong. But I suppose we can let them speak for themselves.Report

        • E.D. Kain in reply to Michael Drew says:

          Freddie is very sincere in his beliefs; and as he notes in his essay, he likes and admires many of the people he critiques and even wishes he could agree more with them. This is exactly how I feel about Freddie, actually.Report

      • E.C. Gach in reply to Scott says:

        Not everything is reducible to a marketplace metaphor. But if it were, we might say that consumers don’t know what they are missing, and just need to be blitzed more with advertisements (persuasive arguments).

        Plenty of products are of great quality, sometimes greater than what is currently getting people hot and bothered in the marketplace. They are just actively resisted by the plethora of current winners who unwilling to face fair competition.Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    Indeed, so far as I can tell the greatest threat to Freddie’s ideas receiving no exposure by Very Serious People is Freddie deBoer himself.

    In more ways than one, I suppose.

    For Freddie to get the best exposure for the ideas he sees as missing from the internet, he needs to do two things:

    1) Have a blog similar to Andrew Sullivan’s insofar as there are no public comments… and he should also have a rule regarding reading emails that would say, more or less, as soon as he feels agitated reading one, he just deletes it and goes to the next one. Life’s too short, etc.

    2) Have a blog similar to the League’s but not interact overly (if at all) with commenters. Have partners #A, #B, and #C do that. It’s his job to write long essays and the occasional policy paper. If someone wants to talk to him, they can write him an email (oh, and I suppose that he needs to follow the rule set out in #1).

    It strikes me that this formula, if followed, is most likely to result in Freddie being able to write the essays that he writes sustainably.Report

  3. Superluminar says:

    Thanks for passing that link on, E.D. It was a good read and as a lefty myself i sympathise with a lot of it. I would like to know, however, what you thought of the long passage dealing with Freddie’s feelings about Libertarianism/liberaltarianism. That is, in general terms and not so much regarding his relationship with this blog.Report

  4. Jason Kuznicki says:

    I can’t agree that Kos is the best examples of left-wing marginalization. His site remains enormously popular. My sense is that many still keep him at arms’ length not because of his ideology, but because he is so often inflammatory in his rhetoric. This is not something the American left tends to enjoy, just as a matter of political style.

    If Kos were a right-winger, he’d be pretty much the same as he is now, except he’d be on Fox all the time.Report

    • Superluminar in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      Long term lurker before my post above, and as such i haven’t agreed with a lot of what you’ve written (although it’s nice to find a voice on a different side that doesn’t make me want to bash my head through the screen!) but what you just said was 100% right. Kos is, like Jane Hamsher, someone whose primary aim is to get on TV rather than offer cogent analysis of anything pertaining to policy. Further to ED’s comment: a post by yourself and/or Jason on that passage would be great!Report

    • Freddie in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      You wouldn’t say that Reason has carefully constructed a particular kind of inflammatory pose? What’s inflammatory, I’m afraid, is not easily separable from what one perceives as true.Report

      • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Freddie says:

        I’d basically agree that Reason has its own language of ire, yes. It’s peculiar enough that even many libertarians don’t care for it anymore.Report

  5. Rufus F. says:

    I agree with your DIY spirit and, in general, I’d like to see Freddie post a lot more often. He has a very unique voice (which, of course, proves his point) and, even when I disagree with what he’s saying, he’s got balls, he speaks his mind, and he’s smart. Compare that to the tepid, confused “leftism” on the Huffington Post. I’d much rather read Freddie any day.

    Here’s where his critique hits home- for all of the bitching on the left and right blogosphere about the ‘mainstream/corporate media’, almost everything on the blogosphere apes that media. I cancelled my cable subscription about two years ago and, since then, I still know what is being discussed on CNN/FOX/CNBC almost all the time. Why? Because nearly every blog I read takes their discursive marching orders from the same media they all claim to hate.

    Not only that, but the blogosphere seems to be dividing into amateur and professional wings and it’s pretty clear that, if you want to go pro, you’re going to speak the language of the media establishment (while decrying the establishment in completely toothless ways). There’s a very glib, mainstream, uninteresting “liberalism” in mainstream media discourse and the bloggers who are going to go pro will speak that language. The right still has voices who are unmistakably conservative. The left? It’s the status quo with a bit more acceptance of homosexuals. About as radical as Oprah.

    One can agree or disagree with Freddie that this is a bad thing for political progress. But, I’d say it’s definitely a problem for the political conversation, if only because it makes that conversation dreadfully boring.Report

    • MFarmer in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I would rather debate with someone like Freddie than a moderate leaning either left or right, as long as ad hominem attacts are left out. The only time I get angry reading Freddie is when he implies racism or some such when none is clearly intended. I think Freddie should forget about opposition, or the flaws of neo-this or libertarian-that and just make his case for leftist ideas and policies. If these ideas are compelling then he will be successful. I hardly ever see any the core ideas or beliefs I express praised by others or promoted by others, so I figure I need to try harder or just keep at it as I’m going until my brilliance is discovered.Report

  6. MFarmer says:

    Also, I think it’s true that there are many sympathetic with, and supportive of, the socialist cause, as morphed by Democratic Socialists in the break from communism after WWII, but their sympathy and support is muted because they do, indeed, want to be accepted by the main stream, but not necessary just seek fame and fortune, but to incrementally change the system from within — Obama is probably the greatest example. It was the big idea in the 70s, post Kent State, that socialists-types (of which I was a spiritual part at the time) must work within the system, which means becoming respectable, keeping deep convictions under wraps and making small changes until the time is right.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to MFarmer says:

      This is funny.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to MFarmer says:

          Oh Mike, just because of the way it shows that we all have to do what we have to do to keep our myths about the other alive.Report

          • MFarmer in reply to Michael Drew says:

            Myths? Edward Gibbons showed that the fall of the Roman Empire, with its incrementalism, political manipulations and hidden agendas. We can now look back and understand the political intrigues of the French Revolution, and the hidden agendas, manipulations and false fronts of Napoleon — the appeasement of Hitler when the facade as praised by intellectuals either self-blinded or overly pragmatic — and Stalin was being praised for what some thought he was doing, while what he was doing destroyed millions of lives — more recently there was the facade of Nixon and his great China accomplishment, then all the behind the scenes deals were revealed, then the secret conversations of LBJ revealed — history is full of political operatives, intellectuals and political parties saying one thing while planning something quite different, yet, in your cute patronizing way you call what’s happening now the real deal, up front and transparent? Why is it that the smartest people can be so arrogantly gullible and think that the lessons of history smehow don’t apply in the present, that we in the present are too truthful and smart to allow such to happen, that what we are doing is just pragmatic planning with a few minor adjustments here and there?Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to MFarmer says:

              Hmm… Not sure, Mike.Report

            • greginak in reply to MFarmer says:

              Ah ha…so then what are the secret plans of Libertarians?Report

              • MFarmer in reply to greginak says:

                The left’s plans (much of the left) aren’t that secret, they are just strategic, obscured and not full-throatedly promoted — for some it’s manipulation of image to get ideas put into policy. If I can see it and others can see it, it’s not much of a secret. Most people paying attention can see this, whether they admit it or not — the ones who call attention to it are called extremist fear-mongers. Libertarians who think they can compromise with statism (liberaltarians) are being too strategic and pragmatic, whether they are trying to bring progressivism closer to libertarianism or libertarianism closer to progressivism — like Freddie says, the ones who are forthright about their ideas and beliefs are being marginalized. But because some have hidden agendas doesn’t mean all have hidden agendas — most libertarians are upfront — that’s why they don’t have political power, it’s not what they want. Manipulation and hidden agendas in politics is to gain power and control — libertarians want the opposite.Report

              • greginak in reply to MFarmer says:

                wow the glow from your blinding nobility and goodness stuns my twisted, scheming, lying, three sizes too small heart.Report

              • MFarmer in reply to greginak says:

                Too bad you don’t have anything substantive to say – no refutation.Report

              • greginak in reply to MFarmer says:

                how can anybody refute an accusation of lying or having a hidden agenda. I could say you are wrong and just throwing insults and assuming bad faith and immorality by people you disagree with. I could say you only hear what you want to hear so anything that doesn’t fit your conception of my beliefs you will ignore. I could say that you project your own absolutist views on others, assuming others must be similarly absolutist and ideological.

                But what does it matter, any refutation i can provide is just more evidence of my skill at duplicity. Thats how conspiracy theories work, lack of evidence or refuted evidence always ends up proving the conspiracy even more.Report

              • MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

                I hope it doesn’t escape you that those responses would denigrate my motives but would do nothing to establish wheter the left is really going right, or whether they have more statist/left.socialist plans to incrementally implement. And this is not about you and me. If you are supportive of duplicitous efforts, to the extent Freddie is right, and like Freddie, you believe all on the left should stand tall with their beliefs, then you go can go that way. But for the sake of Millie, don’t just suggest all the nefarious movites I might have with no proof. Like I said, I can make a case that Big Goverment Republicans talk to the right and move toward statism — look at what they actually do — just like I’m looking at what the left does, regardless how they talk. I think this proves I don’t have any motive except to honestly state what I see happening.Report

              • MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

                motives, and all the other errorsReport

              • Bo in reply to MFarmer says:

                What a weird and wonderful discussion has arisen here. I am touched by the outpouring of concern for my sinful, perfidious heart. However, allow me a small apologia:

                First, let me introduce a relevant fact: The GOP self-identifies as ~75% conservative and 25% moderate; the Democratic party self-identifies as ~40% liberal, 40% moderate and 20% conservative. These percentages have not changed significantly in nearly 40 years.

                There are two points that I want to make in regards to this fact. First, the Democratic Party is a Moderate rather than a Liberal party*, which explains all that moderate-sounding rhetoric. Those ‘Liberals’ you’re decrying are just as likely to be Democratic Moderates. Second, Liberals, to the extent they want any of their agenda passed, have to successfully lobby a significant number of Moderates even to get the Democratic Party to support them, a problem that Conservatives in the GOP do not have. So, when you hear ‘Liberals’, i.e. a Democrat, sounding dishonestly obscurantist, you’re probably really listening to either 1) a Democratic Moderate or 2) a Democratic Liberal trying to lobby a Democratic Moderate.

                * presuming of course that Liberal dishonety does not extend to intentionally misrepresenting even their core political affiliation.Report

              • Bo in reply to MFarmer says:

                Weird. I thought I was posting that down at the bottom. I didn’t really intend it as a direct reply to you, Mike. Sorry for any confusion.Report

              • Trumwill in reply to MFarmer says:

                Bo, the problem with those statistics is that it relies on self-identification. It’s been my experience that people to the right of center are considerably more likely to identify as such than are people to the left of center*, who call themselves “moderate”.

                Given that the center is a relative point in between the two parties, if you’re consistently voting for one party or the other, you’re not in the center. Being a “moderate” is similarly situated with being a “centrist”. If you think one party is more extreme than the other, and the extreme party is actually electorally competitive, you need to recalibrate what should be considered moderate and extreme.

                * – Inversely, I know far fewer people that are functionally Democrats that decline to identify as Democrats whereas a lot of people that vote straight-ticket GOP decline to actually identify as Republicans. And thus, Democratic party ID beats GOP ID even when the latter is winning elections and when the GOP manages to merely close that gap, it tends to be very bad for Democrats because you then have a group of functional Republicans that simply decline to identify as such.Report

              • Bo in reply to MFarmer says:

                Oddly enough, I disagree entirely. To me, the disparity in Moderate self-identification strongly suggests that it shouldn’t be treated as a synonym for Centrist. Rather, Conservative/Moderate/Liberal, Right/Center/Left, and Republican/Independent/Democrat are better understood as 3 different (albeit related) scales, not one scale with 2 improperly calibrated variations. Further, in the context of a bunch of accusations that the left is obscuring a radical agenda, the fact that a much greater percentage of the left think of themselves as Moderate is actually relevant, even if you think they’re wrong. This is because people act on their beliefs, not your opinion of their beliefs.Report

              • Trumwill in reply to MFarmer says:

                Bo, to me, the fact that liberals tend to disproportionately think of themselves as “moderate” actually speaks more of their inclination to view mainstream conservative views as extreme. They view their overhauls as being moderate and sensible but overhauls on the other side as outworldly and radical.Report

              • Bo in reply to MFarmer says:

                I don’t see how that follows at all. How does identifying as a liberal or a moderate make any difference at all on how extreme one thinks conservatism is? After all, those fine folks on the right think of liberal views as extreme and still identify themselves as conservatives just fine.Report

              • Trumwill in reply to MFarmer says:

                Because you are moderate by comparison, if the other side is extreme. Moderation and extremism are relative concepts. What qualifies as moderate and extreme depend largely on what your comparing it to.

                Yes, conservatives do identify as such in larger numbers. A couple of reasons for this. One of which is that there is less stigma to adopting that label. My views over the years have shifted somewhat between liberal and conservative and I can tell you pretty easily that it was a whole lot easier to identify as conservative (even when, in retrospect, I wasn’t very) than liberal or progressive (which, in retrospect, I wasn’t very).Report

              • Trumwill in reply to MFarmer says:

                To pick an example, when gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts and President Bush expressed his displeasure with it, I can’t tell you how many people I knew thought President Bush’s position was extreme. It was, in fact, the majority position, and outside a handful of states mostly the preservation of the status quo. Or if we don’t want to use popular opinion as a gauge of moderation, President Bush’s position on stem cell research, a middle ground between allowing the cultivation of embryos and banning it outright, was also thought by many in my circle to be a radical position.Report

              • Bo in reply to MFarmer says:

                I have 3 basic problems with this.

                First, there is no evidence at all that the increased stigma, such as it is, has had any effect at all on liberal self-identification. The number of self-identified liberals has remained essentially constant for the last 40 years even as the anti-liberal rhetoric has escalated considerably.

                Second, when someone identifies their political philosophy as being against extremism, they are articulating a political philosophy that is distinct from liberalism, even if their view of where that extremism lies is one-sided. Things, after all, actually happen in the political realm, and people get to judge whether those things are extreme or not. Those judgment not only aren’t guaranteed to be balance on the left-right continuum; they by moral necessity shouldn’t be balanced.

                Finally, you don’t actually own the term moderate, and the Democratic Party has been composed this way for 40 years (it actually had even more (self-identified, natch) conservatives pre-1968), longer than I suspect either you or I have been alive. To try to redefine people against their will, based on some odd Broderian idea that the left and right halves must be equal is just sophistic semantic-pushing.Report

              • Trumwill in reply to MFarmer says:

                Hmmm, if you don’t see a stigma attached to the word liberalism (and thus there is no reason for someone liberal not to gladly refer to themselves as such), I think we’re occupying two rather different models of thought.

                Regarding who owns the phrase, though, I generally go out of my way to refer to groups as they choose to be called (“pro-life”, “pro-choice”, etc.), but I simply have difficulty defining someone whose views as consistently being left-of-center (or right-of-center) as moderate (for the same reason I am doubtful of “independents” who only vote Republican). Moderate as compared to what? This almost certainly involves an evaluation of where you consider the extremes to be, in my book.

                I guess for me, unlike you, it implies a degree of centrism. A comparison between you and the likely alternatives to liberal or conservative ends within the body politick. I probably should have moved on when you stated that you do not share this assumption.

                In any event, next time I do run across someone that comes across as liberal who nonetheless calls themselves a moderate, I’ll inquire further as to whether or not they consider themselves left of center. I suspect that the answer will be no, but it’ll be interesting to see if they share your way of thinking or mine (or something else).Report

              • Bo in reply to MFarmer says:

                Actually, I do think there’s a stigma attached to the term liberal; I just don’t think it has any but the most marginal effect on self-identification. The ‘such as it is’ really only refers to my personal experience, which is that informing people I’m an atheist has resulted in way more uncomfortable moments than informing anyone I’m a liberal.Report

              • Trumwill in reply to MFarmer says:

                I definitely wouldn’t argue that calling yourself an atheist is riskier than calling yourself a liberal. That’s why God invented the term “agnostic”… 🙂Report

              • Trumwill in reply to MFarmer says:

                Argue against the notion that calling yourself an atheist is riskier, I mean.Report

              • Bo in reply to MFarmer says:

                Yeah, but agnostic’s not the sort of term that sits well with a know-it-all like me. 🙂

                Not that any of that came close to my 2nd cousin coming out as a lesbian when I was a kid. I was halfway across the country and 10 (so I really had no conception what any of it was about), but I still remember weeks and weeks of wailing and gnashing of teeth among the whole extended clan. Is it wrong to be glad that never came up in my case?Report

          • MFarmer in reply to Michael Drew says:

            Plus, it’s not about the “other”, we just happen to be talking about the left. If you want to talk about manipulations on the right, then I’m game.Report

            • tom van dyke in reply to MFarmer says:

              The left expends a lot of energy denying it’s “left,” per Mr. Farmer’s observation.

              the Democratic party self-identifies as ~40% liberal, 40% moderate and 20% conservative.

              Mr. Bo, self-designation of “moderate” is a claim to the center. But that does not make it true.

              In fact, such claims and self-designations are often proof of self-delusion. On the American political spectrum, Blue Dog Democrats and the senators from Maine have some claim to “moderate”; that “Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias and so forth are at best watered-down liberals – not really left-wing” is the most astounding claim I’ve heard since…well, when the right was slimed with the Tucson thing. It serves only to define the American left wing pretty much out of existence [to folks like the unjustly unlistened-to and unloved Brother Freddie].Report

              • Bo in reply to tom van dyke says:

                In my defense, I do not personally self-identify as a moderate. I think, if anything, conservative self-identification is the most problematic, as it hides a whole raft of fissures and fault lines within it, from religious traditionalists to neocons to revanchist libertarians to people who just don’t like liberals.Report

              • E.C. Gach in reply to tom van dyke says:

                the Democratic party self-identifies as ~40% liberal, 40% moderate and 20% conservative.

                “Mr. Bo, self-designation of “moderate” is a claim to the center. But that does not make it true.”

                Whether or not their self designation is “true,” it demonstrates an unwillingness to be Left. That unwillingness is a symptom of the same spinelessness that leads many on the “professional left” to laugh those who would ideologically flank them out out of the room, for fear that their (the “professional left”) cool conservative friends would think them somehow related.

                The lengths some “liberals” will go to in order to have their conservative counterparts bestow legitimacy on them is precisely why they can’t even be seen as being seen with actual socialists.Report

              • tom van dyke in reply to E.C. Gach says:

                “Cool” conservative friends? Surely you jest, Mr. Gach, and nominate not a straw man, but a chimera.

                Radical chic is still quite chic. It’s being caught in bed with conservatives that is feared. Present company included, indeed a case in point.

                We’re talking terms here more than concepts or actualities of course. The left is still liberal and vice-versa. This has been an exercise in rhetorical technique and tactics, the game, not the underlying concepts.Report

              • E.C. Gach in reply to tom van dyke says:

                Actually yes, “cool” was a jest.

                As far as an exercise in rhetorical technique, I’m not sure any dialogue can be otherwise. Rather than drop the good old “rhetorical,” I’d like for you to illustrate for me what you think has been a game and what has been underlying and remained unaddressed.Report

              • tom van dyke in reply to E.C. Gach says:

                Mr. Gach, I’m breathtook you don’t appreciate the difference between labels and concepts, rhetoric and substance.

                In fact Mr. Farmer is ringing this bell quite loudly; if you can’t hear him, you can’t hear me since civility demands I keep it down to a whisper or at least a dull roar. If I’m being obscure, it’s in the service of civility. I’ve infuriated enough people here to be sure that most readers get my point loud & clear.

                Because their rebuttals are conspicuous by their absence. 😉

                To return to the substance per Mr. Farmer, this is what a real liberal, a real Democrat sounds like:

                “The record the Democratic Party has made in the last 20 years is the greatest political asset any party ever had in the history of the world. We would be foolish to throw it away. There is nothing our enemies would like better and nothing that would do more to help them win an election.

                I’ve seen it happen time after time. When the Democratic candidate allows himself to be put on the defensive and starts apologizing for the New Deal and the fair Deal, and says he really doesn’t believe in them, he is sure to lose. The people don’t want a phony Democrat. If it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat, and I don’t want any phony Democratic candidates in this campaign.

                But when a Democratic candidate goes out and explains what the New Deal and fair Deal really are–when he stands up like a man and puts the issues before the people–then Democrats can win, even in places where they have never won before. It has been proven time and again.”

                That’s Harry Truman of course, 1952. This is a substantive, not merely rhetorical, claim to the American center. And there’s your illustration, sir.

                The Democrats today would go for it, if they could. But the New Deal itself is threatened by economic reality, not to mention the further “improvements” ala European-style Social Democrat policies [and I must call a spade a spade, Eurostatism] that the left-liberals who control the Democratic Party have been attempting since 2006.

                Indeed, as Eurostatism teeters as its utopianism is simply economically not “sustainable,” and as Ronald Reagan later made a substantive and not merely rhetorical claim to the American center:

                ” In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

                A claim that in 2010-12, seems timely if not prophetic, and there we have it. There is plenty of substance to be discussed, Mr. Gach: per Mr. Farmer, far more than trading sophistries over the meaning of “moderate.”

                The competing visions for America’s future are cast. The “moderate” center—the American consensus—is that the New Deal should neither be undone or substantially expanded—only fiddled with toward a “sustainability.” [If that’s possible.]

                As for libertarians, I dunno. No True Libertarian likes Reason anymore , if I may caricature Mr. Kuznicki’s remark a bit. This tells us even less about libertarianism than we thought we knew before. These “new” libertarians of the LoOG stripe are a donut that cite Greenwald and Excitable Andy on one side and give Buchanan’s “The American Conservative” the time of day on the other.

                Donuts have holes in the middle, of course; in this case the hole is the “present crisis,” our competing visions of the American future, and most of the American past except the bad parts.

                Scratch the donut analogy: libertarians are the Dyson Sphere of the American polity. And, the academy and its political chic being what it is, any “cool” person would rather caught in bed with Che Guevara than Rush Limbaugh, let’s face it.

                LoOG is a cool blog.Report

              • Simon K in reply to E.C. Gach says:

                tom – What do you think of the Nordic model of very free markets but high marginal tax rates and generous universal benefits? Has this model been proved unsustainable? If so, how? I don’t see Sweden and Denmark on the list of European economies sinking into a sovereign debt crisis.Report

    • Bo in reply to MFarmer says:

      They sentenced me to 20 years of boredom/
      For trying to change the system from within.
      I’m coming now, I’m coming to reward them/
      First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin. — LCReport

  7. “Indeed, so far as I can tell the greatest threat to Freddie’s ideas receiving no exposure by Very Serious People is Freddie deBoer himself.”


    Perhaps my “project” (that’s how we talk about these things, right?) is more narrowly focused than Mr. de Boer, but I’m quite certain it’s no less worthy of serious consideration than his. When Freddie’s ideas/work are discussed, but not linked to maybe we can entertain the idea that he’s been written out of the conversation.

    Elsewise this is simply saying “I’m not getting my due.” I feel that way too. I expect most people do, at least some of the time.Report

    • Freddie in reply to Tony Comstock says:

      No, actually. It’s not saying that at all. I’m not a blogger, or a pundit; this was a one off. Indeed, I’m asking for exactly the opposite: I’m asking for a left-wing blogger presence so that I don’t feel compelled to say this sort of thing. There should be leftists saying this so that I don’t have to drag my ass to the keyboard.

      When you read with charity, Tony, you’re far more interesting.Report

      • Tony Comstock in reply to Freddie says:

        “There should be leftists saying this so that I don’t have to drag my ass to the keyboard.

        I have had the thought that it’s very very sad that it falls to me, a filmmaker of such small stature and boundless inelegance, to make films that present sex in the context of love and pleasure.

        I’m sure when it’s put that way you can see the inherent narcissism in such a sentiment.

        I’ll take another pass at your essay, this time imaging it was written by someone I love.Report

        • Freddie in reply to Tony Comstock says:

          Thanks Tony.Report

          • Tony Comstock in reply to Freddie says:

            Okay; re-read, and am compelled to quote myself, from a tweet of a couple of days ago:

            “Journalism has become the purview of notoriety-seeking conformist.

            Happy now?Report

            • Freddie in reply to Tony Comstock says:

              Yeah, sorry I was being sensitive.Report

              • Tony Comstock in reply to Freddie says:

                Here’s the thing, Freddie. Being a radical is, by definition, radical. Being outside of mainstream thought is, by definition, outside of mainstream thought.

                So yeah, you or I or anyone else can complain, “Why don’t I get a seat at the table?” We can even offer iron-clad arguments for why our our exclusion is illogical and unjustifiable.

                But it doesn’t matter.

                When you/your ideas/your work are in the Sphere of Deviance, you/your ideas/your work are by definition marginalized. The onus fall on you (me) to convince people to put their status as Reasonable and Informed People at risk to certify you/your ideas/your work as Worthy of Consideration. (In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m sending $5 to the Nickos Poulos scholarship fund.)

                And guess what.

                Most people won’t. Even if they kind of think you’re getting a raw deal.

                And guess what else.

                When people do lay their asses on the line for you nine time out of ten they’re going to regret it; which doesn’t make them especially eager to do it again.

                What did Stevens say? “I didn’t move left, the country moved right” Something like that I think, and I think he’s right. I also think it doesn’t matter. The things that are most fucked up in this country have nothing to do with our left/right political paradigm. In the end, you’re going to get (more or less) exactly what you’ve been asking for. And it’s going to be awful.Report

              • Koz in reply to Tony Comstock says:

                “Here’s the thing, Freddie. Being a radical is, by definition, radical. Being outside of mainstream thought is, by definition, outside of mainstream thought.”

                That’s part of it but maybe not the crucial part. For me, the main difference between you and Freddie (as analogs) is that you’re project is aesthetic whereas his is political. Therefore his project ultimate requires the agreement of other parties whereas yours doesn’t.

                The village quality of the blogging establishment and the political establishment comes at least partially from that. People have to have some idea where the center of gravity is so they can act in relation to it.

                This part of Freddie’s complaint is really hollow, I think. In order to criticize Yglesias or Ezra Klein or whoever, he essentially wants them to say “Socialism forever!” with the intention that nobody else’s opinion matters. Once we find out the world doesn’t work that way, we have to adapt. And they have.Report

              • Tony Comstock in reply to Koz says:

                “That’s part of it but maybe not the crucial part. For me, the main difference between you and Freddie (as analogs) is that you’re project is aesthetic whereas his is political. Therefore his project ultimate requires the agreement of other parties whereas yours doesn’t.”


                I’d invite you to play devil’s advocate with what you just wrote.Report

              • Koz in reply to Tony Comstock says:

                That an aesthetic agenda requires the agreement of others or that a political agenda doesn’t (maybe both)?Report

              • Two monks were arguing about the temple flag waving in the wind.

                One said, “The flag moves.”

                The other said, “The wind moves.”

                They argued.

                Hui Neng, The Sixth Patriarch said, “Dear fellows! It is not the flag that moves, or the wind that moves. It is your mind that moves.”

                The two monks were struck with awe.Report

      • MFarmer in reply to Freddie says:

        It’s a tough situatin when the responsibility for telling the truth falls squarely and solely on your shoulders — I feel ya.Report

  8. DougJ says:

    I think this is exactly right and it goes to my critique of professional libertarians as well. Just as you only get corportatist libertarians taken seriously, you only get neoliberals taken seriously.Report

    • MFarmer in reply to DougJ says:

      But as I said above, I think this minimizes the true influence on the left by people who strategically hide left/socialist convictions in order to incrementally change the system — if healthcare goes through mostly as written, there will not be incremental changes going forward, but some big leaps. Don’t think the left in government have sold out, they are camaflouged and busy — the question that’s pertinent is what would they pass if they had no resistance? This tells you what you need to know. Does anyone remember Maxine Waters’ slip of tongue? Listen closely and you’ll feel better, if you are a lonely leftist.Report

      • MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

        A further point is that those bloggers who appear as establishment-left and influenced by resistance from the right, they are not neo-liberal — they might talk toward the center, but they vote all Democrat, and the agenda in the Democrat Party is headed slowy toward a left/socialist tomorrow rather than a moderate/right tomorrow. These bloggers understand strategy and the risky nature of letting it all hang out. Ezra Klein, to be so young, is perfecting the art of pragmatic, incremental, obscurantist leftist change. Intellectuals have always thought they are better protected and rewarded under statist management than merit, competition and free choice in a free market. Before, intellectuals were protected by the Church — now it’s the State — or so they hope.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to MFarmer says:

        I do not remember Maxine Waters’ slip of the tongue. Actually, I can’t recall anything she’s ever said. But, don’t you think people make the same case about libertarians? That they might not win a lot of elections, but there are politicians on the right hiding their libertarian agenda in order to incrementally change the system? I’m not saying it’s necessarily the case, but I’ve definitely heard people say that.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

          Oh, Lord I *WISH*.

          I would be delighted if there were *HALF* as many closeted libertarians among the statists as there are closeted homosexuals among the family values crowd. A third.Report

        • MFarmer in reply to Rufus F. says:

          Oh God, let’s hope so. Again, I wasn’t picking on the left, just commenting on a post about the left. If the post had been about the right, I have plenty of things to say. Bush, it turns out, was NOT a closet-libertarian.Report

          • MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

            Plus, although I have stronger opinions, I didn’t even place judgement of what I’ve observed, just stated this is what I see. I have no problem with people trying to get their political views accepted (I have problems if the views are accepted then I’m controlled in unjust ways by these views), but I do like it better when everyone’s upfront. But, political strategy bein the way it is, neither the left nor the right are going to reveal convictions that aren’t poll-friendly, and if the end result of an agenda is much more State controll over our lives, no one is going to advertise this upfront, unfortunately. I would respect it more if they did — if they just said “in order for us to do what we think is best for the common welfare, we are going to have to gain more control, take more money and restrict more freedom.”Report

  9. tom van dyke says:

    I’d love to see Chomsky on MSNBC every day, so America could be properly appalled. Instead we get Pat Buchanan, who represents under 1% of America, but successfully feeds the narrative that it’s the right that’s appalling.

    [The disproportionate ink that Fred Phelps gets is of the same tactic. There is far more interest in him on the left than the right, since he supports the narrative.]

    I’ve never been able to peg how this blog views itself; running from left-libertarian to outright leftism, it seems to aim at the entire gamut from A to B.Report

  10. Robert Cheeks says:

    This talk is rather above me. I’m not sure what Freddie means by “Leftist” domestic or otherwise. I’d seen a few comments while he was here but he was fading off into the collectivist sunset and I really never got much of an opinion of his intellectual abilities other than he gave me the impression he wasn’t your ordinary ‘socialist’/leftist mouthing the platitudes so favored at the barricades.
    I do sense that Freddie is a compassionate dude though I don’t know if he believes that compassion is a natural component of the odd attributes of our specie or something the state inculcates?
    Consequently, I would like to have, and yes, this is a request, Freddie blog along those lines e.g. the obligations, intellectual/moral, of the individual to the state/polis, and the relationship of the state to the individual, though I shan’t hold it against him if he can’t bear to drag his ass to the computer…I know the feeling.Report

  11. MFarmer says:

    I would love nothing more than the creation of a socialist blog site that becomes popular and allows/invites honest debate re: leftist ideas and visions for the future. That would be infinitely more interesting and enlightening than FrumForum, Atlantic, WaPo or any of the other blogs where hardly anyone reveals their deepest convictions. We have been inundated with politcal strategy which deals with images, leverage and ad hoc expediency, when underneath is a battle for two very different visions of the future, perhaps three or four, but mainly between the old battle of domination and freedom — those who would dominate have justificatios for elite guidance in a society they see as incapable of self-governance under minimal government, and their visions of dominance entails different particulars, but the bottom line is honest — it’s what we call extremes now — those who would have a strong State to legislate social justice and redistribute wealth (among other goals like environmentalism), and those who believe society is capable of self-governance, who want a free market and believe that society will care for those in need without a welfare state. From these broad categories are varying degrees of means and methods on the side of a Strong State, and differing ideas what constitutes a “limited” government. But I would love to see a site like this from the socialist perspective.Report

  12. E.C. Gach says:

    I’m curious Freddie, where would you put someone like Lawrence O’Donnell given that whole dust up he had with Greenwald over “Progressive vs. Liberal (i.e. Socialist)”?Report

  13. North says:

    What the left wing blogosphere could really use would be a Freddie with a thicker skin who really really likes to debate.

    Of course being a neoliberal myself I’m horribly biased when it comes to reading Freddie’s writing. That said I concede that very few people I read or have even heard of being widely read would be considered far left. Why aren’t there really unapologetic left winger bloggers and blogs like there are really unapologetic right winger bloggers and blogs? I certainly am not qualified to say with any authority. To me a couple thoughts spring to mind.
    -With regards to economics I feel that a lot of the fundamental tenants of a far left wing position have been given their lab tests in the real world over the last century and a half or so and that the verdict has been unfavorable. I don’t mean to yell USSR and assume that ends the debate. But we’ve seen a lot of ideals of economic centralization, heavy regulatory control, really powerful labor, continental Europe etc actually tried in the real world and the results were not positive (except for North Europe and Canada who virtually epitomize the ideas of neoliberalism). By contrast I don’t think that the ideals of the far right have been put through the same tests. The devil on my shoulder sneers “that’s because far right ideals are un-testable” the angel on the other shoulder temporizes “not un-testable, just really hard (unlikely) to test”. So since they haven’t been disproved (or are unprovable?) they can command a more dedicated following.
    -I can take Freddie’s complaint about American workers plight specifically but really his criticism of neoliberalism seems to be very cherry picky. He leaves out, for instance, the enormous and sweeping improvements to the lives of millions of people in Asia that have been brought about by globalization and ignores the fact that globally the human race is doing better by almost all the measurable standards that we have than they ever have before. I don’t know, I just don’t feel like the criticism is fair.
    -It also feels kind of near sighted, I mean the unionized well paid worker supporting a nuclear family on his only paycheck was a (historically) very recent and very fleeting phenomena brought about by the economic distortion of America being the only industrial economy in the world that hadn’t been bombed into the stone age when the dust of the World Wars settled. Short of another World War can those conditions be brought about again? I’m severely skeptical. But then again this is roaming off topic.
    -There’s something about the tone of the writing that just puzzles me. I don’t feel that it’s plausible that there is some kind of mass conspiracy by bloggers (or others?) to freeze out left wing commentary. The nature of the internets seems antithical to the very idea. If there’s a demand out there from the readertariat for a strong articulate left wing position and if a strong articulate left wing blogger popped up then no amount of cold shouldering from The Atlantic or TNR etc could prevent it from succeeding and succeeding well. Hmm additional thought, does anyone know if there is a widely popular European left wing blog site? Maybe not in English? I mean if a strong left wing commentary were to take root and grow certainly I’d think it’d be in the European sphere.Report

    • MFarmer in reply to North says:

      It would certainly be more stylish to be in the European set. I watch old French films sometimes while wearing a beret and scarf, just to get into that mood. Luckily, the European architecture where I live is within walking distance, so all I need to do is strike the pose and I’m much smarter and elegant.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to North says:

      The number one thing in the world that has helped me is Maribou.

      I may make noises about libertarianism or anacap bullshit or all that stuff but, really, it’s all secondary to her. Principles? Ethics? Morality? Feh.

      She’s someone worth living with then going to hell for. Fuck Principles. Fuck ethics. Fuck morality. It’s her. That’s it.

      (Plus she kinda believes in universal salvation and if anyone between us is right about that sort of thing, it’s probably her.)

      Anyway, Freddie needs someone like that in his life.Report

  14. Steve S. says:

    “I guess I’d just suggest patience.”

    A lot of patience. I think the main point of the essay is that his brand of leftism is systematically excluded except for vanity blogs.

    A great example of this would be Noam Chomsky. Whatever you think of him there’s simply no arguing that he’s one of the most important intellectuals the U.S. has ever produced:

    I cruise through many of the left-of-center blogs every day and the silence of the Chomsky references is deafening. In fact, on those rare occasions you do see his name it usually is sarcastic:

    Greenwald is about the only one I’ve noticed who even occasionally makes positive reference to him, though I have to say I haven’t made a systematic study of it. Point is, if even the far left outposts of FDL and Kos rarely touch “arguably the most important [left] intellectual alive” that tells you something about where the center point is.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Steve S. says:

      If the silence is deafening, I think those who feel the need to replace it with some voice should speak.Report

      • Steve S. in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        They can speak all they want, the question is what platform are they going to get. Going back to Chomsky, the world regards him as America’s most important left intellectual. He gives speeches, does interviews, and writes like crazy. But the institutional left blogosphere in the U.S. hardly ever even breathes his name. I guess that’s why you have to go to places like Chomsky Info or Znet to find him.Report

  15. E.D. Kain says:

    What about Crooked Timber? I don’t read it a lot, but those guys seem pretty left-wing in a more, uhm, left-wing sense of the phrase…Report

    • tom van dyke in reply to E.D. Kain says:

      Mr. Kain, iirc, the Crooked Timber blog has many European contributors. What is centre or “moderate” in Europe is at most center-left in the US. David Cameron = Bill Clinton.

      That a Noam Chomsky could enter into their discussions without raising eyebrows is no surprise. [Indeed, on the subject of Israel, the BBC and Chomsky are rather like-minded and their treatment of Israel is admittedly outside the bounds of the American discussion, even MSNBC.]

      So, Erik, if the point of your essay on Brother Freddie’s “true” leftism is from the European POV, I can entirely see its validity. All you had to do was say so. There is no analog to the American right in Europe, even in the UK. If David Cameron isn’t Clinton, he’s at least a “compassionate conservative.”

      There is a European analog to Pat Buchanan and his nativism, however, the BNP, Vlaams Belang, and other “racist” groups that the cool and enlightened people find beneath contempt.

      And “libertarians,” Erik? I think it must be an Anglo-American thing. Hayek became a British subject in 1938, Mises came to New York in 1940.

      Libertarians are unimaginable in today’s Europe. Well, except as quaint and harmless curiosities, of course. I’m sure Crooked Timber finds you amusing, if you behave yourself. Freddie I bet they speak there fluently.Report

      • E.D. Kain in reply to tom van dyke says:

        Like I said, Tom, I don’t know much about them other than it strikes me as essentially left-wing socialist academia. I’m well aware that libertarianism and American-style conservatism are rather rare in Europe. I like David Cameron but I realize, too, how far to the left of American conservatives he is in many ways. (Though his Big Society is compelling – we’ll see how far it gets.)Report

        • Simon K in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          This point can be overdone, I think. “Left” and “Right” are more dispositions that concrete policy agendas, and what counts as Left-wing in one country would look Right-wing in another, and you can’t like up countries on a neat scale. Different countries are in different places in different areas.

          For example, the UK has a fully socialized, single-payer system of medical care, which is “left”, right? But its National Insurance system, which is essentially equivalent to Social Security in its genesis, has already been changed along lines that would have Paul Ryan salivating. The basis pension is now means-tested and not at all generous. Most people can choose whether to contribute to the secondary state scheme or cash out their contributions into private accounts. This is clearly right wing, right? Similarly unemployment and disability benefits in the UK are significantly less generous than in the US, at least long-term.

          Similarly the Nordic countries have much *less* economic regulation that the US or the UK, but have much higher marginal tax rates and more gener0us welfare schemes. Although I would not be surprised if particularly parts of those schemes were less generous that the US and UK equivalents.

          So David Cameron can do some things in the political context of the UK that would be impossible in the US – he can cut unemployement benefits and old age pensions and increase taxes, and even impose market discipline on the NHS that doctors would never accept for Medicare. But at the same time he is stuck with certain policies he probably privately dislikes that are politically untouchable – the unitary nature of the NHS, very low local taxes, and the nationalized rail infrastructure, to pick just three. And of course there are things that are accepted policy in the UK that no-one in the mainstream would dream of challenging that would be impossible in the US – the almost total firearms ban, the existence of the NHS in some form, gay marriage, and so on.Report

  16. Aaron W says:

    I don’t want to necessarily marginalize anyone’s opinion here, but as a person who used to think that communism was a good idea (yes, I know) I think the reason that you see less left-wing representation of ideas in the blogosphere is because left-wing ideas are bad ideas.Report

  17. Asking why there aren’t more socialist bloggers is like asking why there aren’t more pagan bloggers or more feudalist bloggers, in kind if not degree. I don’t mean to belittle the tenets of socialism, as I tend to agree with Mr. deBoer on a great variety of topics (nor do I mean to belittle the tenets of paganism or feudalism) and Marx has profoundly influenced my economic outlook.

    But, it seems to me like the socialist project, at least in the United States and Europe, has largely achieved its goals of safe and comfortable labor standards and a general policy focus on maintaining full employment, no matter that this was through the capitalistic/neo-liberal half-measures of The New Deal and the Keynesian program. As such, there is little practical demand for what socialism offers (beyond the pleasure of ideas), just as there is little practical demand for what paganism offers and there is little practical demand for what feudalism offers (not true in Japan).

    To the vast majority of citizens, socialism seems rather divorced from our time and circumstance. If good government is about achieving balance between the excesses of government and the excesses of private entities, the last big period where shit hit the fan it was governments that did the flinging. People who pay attention nowadays know that corporate excess is heading in the direction of catastrophe, which might explain why socialists are generally found among people who pay attention, but to many others socialism vs. neo-liberalism is a stale debate, at least until twelve-year old chimney sweeps start falling dead of the black lung en masse.Report

    • From communism to social democracy to modern liberalism and progressivism, the socialist movement has changed in many ways, and although not to the same degree as in Europe, socialism has been incorporated into the American left — not as socialism was orginally practiced but in the form statist solutions. Even “socialism” is just a form of an ancient reality of control of the few over the many. It was dcades ago, shortly after WWII, in reaction to Stalinism, that socialists dropped the idea of complete State control of the means of production, but the idea of strong State involvement over the economy and the establishment of a welfare state were prevalent to varying degrees in all European countries, and to a much lesser degree in America. The socialist influence is still present on the left in America, especially among unions. The reason most people don’t experience this effect is because it mostly affects businesses and land owners and poor people (although many poor people don’t see it as a negative effect of statism). Big Business which is favored by strong State involvement is a de facto part of the State, but small and medium size businesses experience the influence of socialism — they have no protection. One of the main effects of the socialist influence on the left is the idea that a free market is “chaotic” and must be managed by a strong State. What the middle class and the poor can’t see or many don’t seem to realize is what could be without this strong State involvement — if regulations didn’t favor Big Business, many of those out of work and on unemloyment and the poor on welfare, and even those who are stuck in big corporations but would rather work in a smaller, more flexible work environment, could find jobs. Small and medium size businesses have created the most jobs in the last few decades, but this trend is being blocked by government intervention — the employment would have been greater before and it would be booming right now, most likely, if government intervention hadn’t culminated in this Great Recession, which is causing even more regulatory activity.

      Some might call this corporatism, but I say it’s just a result of statism, the influence of socialism on the American government. In order for the State to prevent the “chaos” of a free market, certain Big Businesses have to be co-opted — so rather than the State owning the means of production, they simply control and guide the process. It’s much easier for the State because they can regulate the growth according to their plans and engineer society in ways they believe are necessary for order and managed progress. Since the State doesn’t need to micromanage every small store, business and shop, all those who work for small or medium size enterprises that haven’t been affected never see the problem with statism, but there are many who do experience the influence of socialism/progressivism/statism, and then millions who have have no idea how it could be in a much less regulated market. It takes decades, ususally, for statism to begin causing the problems we see today, but it eventually does — this is just how the socialist ideas took form in America, and even though it’s been resisted from time to time, it’s overcome the resistance and now we have built up so much debt it threatens our financial stability.Report

      • I think you’re conflating socialism with authoritarianism, which is the form it has taken historically. I’m actually interested in what kind of socialism Freddie advocates. Is it market socialism? Syndicalism? Depending on what variety, I suspect that you, he, and I may be in agreement on a lot of these issues of state power and corporatism. One thing that is undeniably true though is that self-described “socialists” have been a lot more critical of corporatism in recent years than self-described “libertarians”.

        As I’ve mentioned before I think there is little evidence that debt threatens our financial stability. It is inherently immoral on the other hand.

        On a slightly related note, I think you might enjoy this piece:

        People forget that once upon a time, the Austrian economists defined themselves in opposition to socialist/Marxist economists on the very issue of the price mechanism being an emergent spontaneous order and non-neutral. In my opinion, members of this tradition who criticize corporate capture of the mechanisms of government are natural allies to self-described socialists.Report

        • The common factor is statism. Authoritarianism/fascism, Totalitarianism/socialism — Mises said it’s all a form of socialism/statism — the State either owning or controling through regulation the means of production — the differences between facism’s authoritarian/imperialist ambitions and Stalin’s regional totalitarianism/socialism have management and control of the economy in common, which is what the Austrian economists were criticizing. All this morphed in America into an American version of statism. That’s what I’m saying — yes, this statism could degenerate and be managed from the authortarian right or a totalitarian left, but statism is the common factor. To me, it’s the statist idea that needs to be reconsidered in the 21st century — commonalities between the socialist impulse and the classical liberal impulse can be found, but not through statism — innovation in safety net provision would go a long way, and the agreement on non-intervention in foreign affairs would go even further.Report

          • Bo in reply to MFarmer says:

            It all goes back to the original sin: PharoahismReport

          • Would that assessment change if we are the state and all economic activities were still voluntary?Report

          • I wouldn’t be so quick to lump those other very nuanced and layered and sometimes perojative to the point of meaninglessness terms into the label “statism”. After all, when we use law to prevent people from stealing or murdering each other, isn’t that inherently “statism”?

            “Statism” represents the use of state power to achieve certain ends. This could vary considerably depending on the particular situation. I’m not sure if your usage isn’t more appropriately called “nationalism”.

            Either way, I think the harping on “statism” characteristic of right-leaning elements of the libertarian blogosphere confuses cause and mechanism. It would behoove us to try to find the least invasive solutions to problems available, but I think where socialists and libertarians primary disagree on this is that many of both persuasions identify the same problems: i.e. corporate control of the political apparatus, exploitation of the environment, but envision very different solutions.

            Where this specifically relates to economics is with the understanding of the price mechanism. Historically, socialists believed that prices could be fixed and controlled to make everyone better off. I think the evidence that this is not the case is pretty compelling, and I think it was effectively demonstrated by the Austrian economists operating in the first half and the middle of the last century, but socialism has adjusted to this, and I doubt you’ll find many socialists who support totalitarianism.Report

  18. Koz says:

    A couple of things to be noted about Freddie’s post.

    1. We can quibble with the taxonomy ad infinitum, and if I cared enough I would. But let’s stipulate to Freddie’s perception wrt the state of blogger affairs. If that’s the case, we should at least consider the possibility that there is some substance behind this. There’s not too many bloggers keeping us up to date with the latest developments in the phlogiston theory of combustion either, but most of us don’t find that too much of a loss. Before we get too wrapped up in the politics of the blogging hierarchy we should consider the possibility that Leftist activism is a dead end in toto.

    2. Freddie’s policy views are inane just like those of any other liberal. But to Freddie’s immense credit, he perceives the essential misanthropy behind Leftist activism (political activism in general for that matter, but especially pronounced on the Left). In fact, I can’t think of any other examples offhand. That is to say, as I read him the reason Freddie periodically stops writing isn’t because it may not be politically effective, but rather because he doesn’t like the changes that it causes in him.

    So, contra Erik the best path from here is not organization but rather disorganization. Ie, to give up the attempt control over the parts of society that really are out of his control. Once we do that we actually have a chance to obtain mastery over the things that we do have control.Report

  19. Simon K says:

    There is a Lefty blogosphere. Crooked Timber is just one of several heavily interlinked blogs and websites that are well to the Left of the Democratic mainstream and related to the Left academia that they mostly come out of – there’s ZNet and Counterpunch and so on and so forth. They lack policy influence in domestic policy, though, and only partly because most of them are not Americans. Freddie is exceptional in coming from that academic world but writing for “mainstream” political blogs.

    The problem with most far-left writing on domestic policy is that it seems to lack any will to power. There’s no ambition in there to persuade people not already convinced, not desire to build any coalition or to organize, not description of how things could be different. Freddie is or was a honorable is exception to this – he very clearly does actually want to change things and wants to have an effect. But if you read ZNet or Crooked Timber or any other Lefty forum on any given day, most of what you see is … kind of detached. Detached but negative. I guess cynical is the word I’m looking for here.

    There’s a lot said, of course. But its mostly about how mainstream politics is oppressing people, and there’s a lot of boilerplate about how those people can or should be liberated in one way or another. And there’s a fair bit about how things were better in the past, or how things were headed in a better direction in the past. But ironically there’s no vision of the future, or even really any clear idea of what to do in the present. Where someone does step up and produce some kind of alternative vision for the organisation of daily life it tends to be incoherent and vague.

    When you compare this with the Old Left, or even with the old New Left, it seems really disappointing.Report