The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

My favorite online media website is that of the New York Press. This "alternative" newsweekly -- I assume "alternative" is as meaningless when applied to newspapers as it is when applied to a music genre -- prints a wide variety of opinion. The publisher, Russ Smith, is a conservative libertarian. Christopher Caldwell has written a New York Press column (Hill of Beans) for several years. Jim Knipfel is a wry iconoclast.

Then there are the left-wingers. Most of the writers have some liberal tendencies, which is not surprising in an "alternative" paper. But like Caldwell, they are not dogmatic and feel free to dissent from what they see as silly, hackneyed, or outdated. The exceptions are two overt and annoying left-wingers, Michaelangelo Signorile and Alexander Cockburn.

Signorile is a loudmouth leftist whose tone suits the Press, just as Conason suits Salon and Eric Alterman suits MSNBC. His writing is crass and obnoxious, and contains little of value. (One recent column was titled "Deflating the Gasbag Limbaugh", making me wonder if I had inadvertently accessed the archives of 1995.)

Cockburn is a paleosocialist of ancient pedigree. Two decades ago he was an apologist for the Soviet empire; in one column that I shall never forget, he argued that the capitalist and Communist economies were equivalent because while capitalist workers lost time working in factories, socialist consumers lost time standing in line. Cockburn's present mental state can be envisioned by imagining a rabid Lakers fan in the year 2023 after the team has moved to Omaha and been renamed the Wings, while all the championship flags and retired jerseys were lost in a fire. In his latest column, Cockburn oozes with concern that the young might imitate the heavy drinking habits of famous journalists -- to use a random example, one Christopher Hitchens. Cockburn even diagnoses Hitchens as suffering from "[a] severe neurological disorder brought on by years of heavy alcohol abuse, compounded in turn, by vitamin deficiencies caused by self-neglect." (I assume Cockburn called up some KGB pal who was responsible for putting dissidents in mental asylums and asked him for tips.)

The Press hit the stupid commie trifecta this week when it published a book review by Matt Taibbi. Taibbi reviews Norman Solomon's latest book; the teaser is "Norman Solomon's new book criticizes, but does little else."

Solomon is a media critic and darling of the radical left; he plays guard on the same team of which Noam Chomsky is the center. Solomon's criticisms of America would probably sound fresh and sprightly in, say, 1880, but now they are outdated, irrelevant, and insane. Solomon recently made a name for himself by criticizing Dilbert. Dilbert creator Scott Adams mocked Solomon mercilessly in his subsequent book, and called him a Commie. You have to be amazingly irrelevant and incompetent for a bland mass-market figure to feel safe in labelling you a Communist.

However I forgot all about Solomon and his foibles when reading Taibbi's review. Taibbi does not, as the teaser suggests, find Solomon too negative or critical. He thinks that Solomon cannot reach average Americans because Solomon cannot access their depravity and self-hatred:

You can talk all you want about suffering Iraqi children and the long-term consequences of using depleted-uranium ammunition, but you’re not going to convince some frustrated cubicle slave in Lawrence, KS, with a fat wife and forty grand in credit card debt and a spare tire that makes him sick with self-loathing every time he sees the cover of Men’s Health, that he doesn’t want to bomb the shit out of somebody, anybody, at the earliest conceivable opportunity, for the first reason you make available to him. He knows better than you what he wants. And your timid little pile of "facts" and tepid appeals to some abstract morality, aren’t going to cut it.

As the Left becomes further detached from reality, talk like this becomes more frequent: The Left has failed because average people just aren't good/compassionate/intelligent/sophisticated enough to agree with them. Not only is Taibbi lost, but he has no interest in finding his way back. Accepting his premise, just what is Solomon supposed to say that will sway this hypothetical monster who wants to retalitate against the world to compensate for his personal deficiencies? Maybe Taibbi thinks the more active forms of socialist will grab the attention of Mr. Cubicle Slave: Dekulakization, or information about conspiracies by Jewish doctors, or zero-based calendar reform.

I was willing to assume Taibbi's contention for the sake of argument -- for one paragraph. Taibbi's little diatribe is nothing more than the usual hatred that commies have for actual workers, in this instance manifesting itself as blood libel. Consider the horrors of the twentieth century: The Nazi/Soviet rape of Poland, the starvation of the Ukraine, the slaughterhouse of Cambodia. Who was more likely to approve of them while they were being perpetrated: Joe Sixpack or a leftist media critic?



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