So, against my better judgment, I slogged through this awful Truthdig piece by Amy Goodman, beloved host of the lefty news program Democracy Now. After a dull, cliche-ridden first paragraph about the emptiness of post-election discourse she asks –
What happens when the community organizer in chief becomes the commander in chief? Who does the community organizing then?
I’ll put aside the laughable stupidity of Goodman’s construction here to openly hope that I am not the only reader who actually checked the article date at this point. Don’t we already know the answer to this question in some detail? Hasn’t the ‘community organizer in chief’ been president for close to four years now?
But for Goodman and so many of her compadres, what actually was is dramatically less fun than what they’d hoped it could be in 2008. So, once again, into the time machine we go, or rather, out of a lengthy coma we barely come. On her first pass, Goodman answers the question, incredibly, not with anything that’s actually happened, but with an anecdote from a 2008 campaign event in New Jersey:
Someone asked [Obama] what he would do about the Middle East. He answered with a story about the legendary 20th-century organizer A. Philip Randolph meeting with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Randolph described to FDR the condition of black people in America, the condition of working people. Reportedly, FDR listened intently, then replied: “I agree with everything you have said. Now, make me do it.” That was the message Obama repeated.
There you have it. Make him do it. You’ve got an invitation from the president himself.
Yes. There you have it, indeed! ‘An invitation from the president himself.’ Chills, I tell you, chills!!!
Oh, once again, where to begin with people like this! Let’s just start with the ‘Make Me Do It’ story — among the most beloved of all liberal gospel tales — and what it actually says: that as far back as FDR’s time, the president has been bought and paid for and is unlikely to do a single principled thing without threat of a mass uprising.
Any intelligent person should find this tale of the captive president horribly depressing, not least because history bears it out completely. But when aspiring captives like Obama in 2008 happily trot out this dire caveat, professional lefts like Goodman actually find it inspiring. They want us to be inspired too.
Of course, why wouldn’t they? It’s their bread and butter to know, that, yes, the government IS bought and paid for and to remind us of that again and again in laborious, depressing and mostly disempowering detail. But it’s also built into their job to hint at the way out and this they crucially do by habitually endorsing Democrats with loose talk of ‘making [them] do it’ via grass roots agitating. But if the government is bought and paid for and only mass uprisings will help, why squander time and money on elections at all? Why not just get straight to the shit-disturbing?
Forget about ever hearing those questions posed, or answered, by Goodman and her ilk, at least not with any seriousness. That’s not what they’re paid to do. In my recent post on GE/Comcast ‘socialist’ Lawrence O’Donnell, I applied the concept of the ‘heat vampire’ liberal, a concept that applies to Goodman as well. A heat vampire liberal stakes out a position at the left-most margins of acceptable debate to authenticate a counter-intuitive insistence on less bad oligarchs and faith in an oligarch-controlled political system. As such, they are role models of compliance for people who, left on their own, might choose more radical forms of engagement or disengage altogether.
As I said in my earlier post, O’Donnell demonstrated this function in fascinatingly literal terms, on one night making an impassioned, cynical speech about a gamed political system and two nights later filling out his ballot on camera, checking off Democrats under the watchful eye of California ex-governor Gray Davis.
Goodman’s vampirism is more sophisticated than O’Donnell’s in that it’s bundled with actual journalism and the occasional interrogation of power. I have no interest in examining Goodman’s entire career for the precise journalist/shill quotient, which would no doubt be higher than, say, an MSNBC personality. The point is, with this Truthdig article, she is, at the very least, having a heat vampire moment – by no means the first – and a quite toxically dishonest one at that.
Certainly if one is going to, for the umpteenth time, invoke happy tales of making FDR or Obama’do it’, one should probably tell less happy tales of what agitators confront now when they try. When Goodman finally gets to the present, her encouraging story of resurgent activism doesn’t mention Obama’s war on whisleblowers, including the vicious persecution of B. Manning, whose guilt Obama publicly pronounced before Manning’s trial has even commenced; the nationwide crackdown on Occupy encampments executed by mostly Democratic mayors, including Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel, Obama’s former chief-of-staff ; the brutal assaults on activists by militarized police forces flush with Homeland Security cash; the carte blanche for unlimited snooping given the surveillance apparatus; the FBI’s ginned up ‘terrorist plots’ and raids on activists homes; and finally and most critically, the Obama Administration’s institutionalization of due process-free detainment and execution. Goodman doesn’t mention the Obama-ordered murder of Americans Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan nor the subsequent murder of al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son and several friends.
Goodman is, of course, aware of all of this, having covered it more than most journalists. Still, incredibly, she’d have us believe that agitator/government relations have actually improved under Obama:
For years during the Bush administration, people felt they were hitting their heads against a brick wall. With the first election of President Obama, the wall had become a door, but it was only open a crack.
There is a line between useful idiocy and outright compliance with tyranny. ‘Kill List Tuesday’ is a thing and Goodman has definitely crossed that line.