#BiggestLiberalAsshole2012: Heat 4 – Rebecca Solnit vs. Michael Cohen (@speechboy71)

UPDATE: Michael Cohen (@speechboy71) has won this heat. Don’t forget to congratulate him on Twitter.


So Rebecca Solnit has now won three heats of #BiggestLiberalAsshole2012 and in my view the voters have gotten things exactly right. So far only the race against Kevin Drum was close and this also is as it should be.

For heat 4, my pal Kade Crockford (@kade_ellis on Twitter),  much braver than most about lifting up rocks to find unimaginably slimy creatures underneath them, has drawn my attention to this shameful and disgusting performance on Bloggingheads by professional shill Michael Cohen of the New Century Foundation. He’s tasked himself with defending Obama’s drone program against Conor Friedersdorf, the bête noire of the moment for the Drone Left, due to his recent anti-Obama article in The Atlantic.

As arguments go, it’s pretty unremarkable on both sides,  but what really sells Cohen as an asshole to rival Solnit is the synergistic blend of  irrelevant and stupid arguments, his idiotically starry-eyed faith in the essential goodness of the War on Terror generally and the Drone program  specifically and, perhaps above all, the abundance of mirthful, supercilious,  enjoyment he takes in himself, comically oblivious to how foolish and repellant tepid Friedersdorf is making him look to anyone who doesn’t worship power for a living.

I think Solnit and Cohen make for an interesting study. It would be a mistake, I think, to make too much of Solnit’s activist bona  fides. In the end she aims to produce the exact same effect as Cohen but for a different audience and she argues in even worse faith. Still Cohen is worth considering because he is straight up arguing for murder, rather than simply making a case for overlooking it. To be honest, I’m still up in the air about which of those is worse.

Going to keep this open until Monday. Please vote with hashtag #BiggestLiberalAsshole2012. Votes without the hashtag  will be ignored without comment.

Would be great if people took enough interest to comment here.

Heat 4

Rebecca Solnit “Hey Left Wing, Quit Griping

Michael Cohen “The Good Fight”  Bloggingheads discussion with Conor Friedersdorf

Follow me on Twitter for updates.

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9 Responses to #BiggestLiberalAsshole2012: Heat 4 – Rebecca Solnit vs. Michael Cohen (@speechboy71)

  1. Kade says:

    You are hilarious. This write up is great. I’m pulling for Cohen here for reasons I don’t have time to fully articulate. But if anyone wants to feel the disgust themselves, I suggest they watch the video. The first thirty minutes are chock full of material that ought to make you think twice about your locked in votes for Solnit. It’s a big bad world full of liberal jerks, guys. Let’s not limit ourselves, shall we?

  2. So let me start with the caveat that I only watched about 6 minutes of Cohen and couldn’t take it anymore.
    I think this is a fascinating match-up, featuring two different archetypes of asshole. Cohen plays the smug insider who can’t be bothered with moral arguments because he knows how the world really works. Solnit is the wizened activist who wants to help me stop shooting myself in the foot.
    Ultimately, Solnit bothers me more, I think, because she’s her argument is predicated on the fallacy that the people she’s talking down to want the same things that she does, and really the only disagreement is tactics. I think Cohen would freely admit he wants different things – like winning the War or Terror – than I do. This doesn’t make him less of an asshole, of course, but it probably enrages me a little less.
    That could change, of course, if I ever make it beyond minute 6.

  3. ohtarzie says:

    FTF, I agree with you on the two different types of assholes and agree that this is a nice match-up. I am grateful to Kade for bringing it up.

    I have a similar response to yours. I don’t ever expect liberals to be principled or believe things that I do since their primary social function is to temper resistance to the status quo. Therefore when I say liberal asshole I don’t mean someone who supports bad things and bad people – that goes without saying – but rather someone who seeks compliance in extremely bad faith with a bunch of really obnoxious tropes, mannerisms and gimmicks. From this perspective, I still think it’s no contest for Solnit.

    Since liberals do disagree on principles, I guess it’s fair to factor these differences in even if they make almost no difference in actual practice. If so then this heat hinges on what’s the more assholish thing to do: agree with the War on Terror and argue (badly) for it or disagree with it and nevertheless bully people into keeping their misgivings to themselves. My instinct is that those two things are roughly equal so there’s still nothing to mitigate Solnit’s overall superior accomplishment. Nevertheless, if the vote went the other way, I wouldn’t feel like a great mistake had been made.

  4. Walter says:

    I pushed myself and was able to make it about 18 minutes into the video before I quit. Cohen has literally one of the most obnoxious voices I have ever heard, and he uses a despicably passive aggressive debate technique of ending all his sentences with a stretched out “ummmmmmmm,” which prevents his opponent from responding while he gathers his next inarticulate and incoherent thought. Cohen also wins for me for being such a condescending dick to the clearly out of his depth and underprepared Conor Frieforwahtever – every time Conor tries to appeal to Cohen’s humanity Cohen just frats around with a bunch of numbers and studies because humanity doesn’t matter.

    I also vote Cohen because, and maybe this isn’t in the spirit of the contest, but I don’t think he actually believes anything he’s saying. He’s one of these tools who showed up on Twitter circa 09-10 basically just trolling Glenn Greenwald literally every day for weeks at a time, arguing in the worst possible faith for Obama’s foreign policy. If Obama had come into office and suspended all drone strikes, pulled out troops from Afghanistan and Iraq and given all terror suspects civilian trials Cohen would basically be a Glenn Greenwald commenter. I’m not sure if hypotheticals figure into this contest, but for me Cohen is so symptomatic of the conviction-free militaristic liberal that it practically oozes out of his pores.

    • ohtarzie says:

      Hi Walter:

      Nice job nailing down some of the intangibles, all worth factoring in. Don’t forget to do your actual vote on Twitter: #BiggestLiberalAsshole2012.

      Not sure I agree on the plasticity of Cohen’s war ethics. There are always war liberals and he seems like the real thing to me. I think the Against War Under Republicans/For War Under Democrats thing is greatly exaggerated and ignores the extent to which rank and file liberals supported the attack on Afghanistan and career liberals supported the War With Iraq. I am still trying to wrap my head around the massive anti-war uprising of 2002-2003. I don’t think that will happen wrt Iran, regardless of who’s president.

      • Walter says:

        Yeah well obviously saying “if Obama wasn’t a war-mongering fuck” implies a whole set of separate systemic changes that would have never happened in 2008. It’s kind of a chicken or egg thing for me – who’s trying to please who in the exchange between Obama and the Cohen’s of the world?

        Re: Iran, if it comes to war the government and media (but I repeat myself) are already showing that they’ll play it much smarter – we won’t have war without broad international consensus, incontrovertible intelligence, and a long term light-on-troops strategy. They’ll be able to do whatever they want in Iran with minimal domestic resistance.

  5. Party Loyalist says:

    I love this game. It’s like a purifying filter for my hatred of liberals. Thank you for creating it. My hate is pure.

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