Rancid Discussion Thread: ‘Obsessed’ with Greenwald/Omidyar/First Look

The recent dust-up at the Media Lens forum has, among other things, really made me appreciate — even more than usual — the smart, funny, talented people that read and comment here. I’d like to have discussions rolling constantly, but for various reasons I can’t create as many full-fledged blog posts as that requires. So I’m going to try something tonight where I just throw out some food for thought, and see what you all make of it.  You can work with the topic, or you can throw out something else you think is more interesting. If it works out, I’ll make it a regular thing.

Look at these two tweets. Tell me what you think (more below).

 

 

I’ll start by saying that the fact that Marxists and anarchists now call a billionaire by his first name is reason enough to keep looking at/writing about the social phenomena that brought that about. So the accusations of monomania for doing so are increasingly wrong-headed, especially since people like Henwood are no less obsessed. They’re just obsessed in a different way.  The right way. Accusing people who critique rather than applaud of fighting a ‘war’ or ‘sour grapes’ just aims to ostracize, in the way Patrick Higgins wrote about here in part 3 of his excellent recent series.

Once  again, I’m with Mark Ames (sue me).  As I have said before, the way left journalists and media watchdog groups like Media Lens and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting have stood down on this story is nothing short of shameful. The sad thing is, there will be no catching up. There is a timeframe when something is newsworthy, and somehow Omidyar and Co have managed to avoid scrutiny and analysis during their allotted time. They will be old news before they’ve been anything more than the stuff of successive press releases.

There is no question that there is something really very odd about how heavily disciplined and vigorously policed discussion of the Snowden Leaks, Greenwald, Omidyar and First Look is on the left. Why is that?

Tell me what you think. Keep it loose. If you have something else on your mind, let it rip. Links to other interesting stuff welcome. Be cool, be you, as Pierre would say.

———

UPDATE

This is a continuation from the Media Lens thread, but it’s apropos here since it goes to the weird policing I mentioned. Commenter MickStep informs me that, after a 3-day argument over yours truly provoked by this post, a Media Lens forum user has put a disclaimer on a post linking to material about First Look.  This is an actual quote:

disclaimer: posted in the interests of media criticism and not intended to be an attack on the integrity of Greenwald or anyone else.

Response from another board member:

Love the disclaimer!

Yesterday, the same user promised that she –

won’t link to Tarzie’s work again, given the reaction

Just gets weirder and weirder. Disgruntled members of Media Lens Forum, please do chime in. Gruntled members also welcome.

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104 Responses to Rancid Discussion Thread: ‘Obsessed’ with Greenwald/Omidyar/First Look

  1. b-psycho says:

    I found the response to Mark Ames someone gave implying Omidyar was no big deal because Look at the Other Media CEOs just about laughable. Yeah, they exist, but they don’t pull the ham fisted “love me, lefties!” crap he does. Someone literally trying to purchase Left credibility like it’s cheese should inherently draw a flag on desperate audacity grounds alone.

    There are right wingers that criticize the influence of Rupert Murdock. No one calls them obsessed.

    • Tarzie says:

      Yeah, exactly. It’s such a lame answer, too, even if there wasn’t a whole bunch of things that lefties should be concerned about. Just from the standpoint of news: it’s a new venture; Omidyar is the sole owner; it grew out of the Snowden Affair; two of his journalists are the only people in the world with the full Snowden trove. And that’s putting aside what you call the ‘love me, lefties’ stuff and the ties to regime change in Ukraine. If you are a journalist and you really, really, really think there is nothing to see here, you’re just an idiot. It’s really that simple.

    • LP Steve says:

      At this point, hasn’t “Left credibility” hit the level of store-brand Velveeta in terms of purchase price?

      • Tarzie says:

        At this point, hasn’t “Left credibility” hit the level of store-brand Velveeta in terms of purchase price?

        It’s even cheaper. Omidyar bought it by just offering every ‘left’ journo the remote possibility of a dream job.

  2. Paley Chayd says:

    “War on Greenwald.” What-fucking-ever. He now has more money, respect and power than ever. If I were the Government, and I knew some of this NSA shit was going to leak eventually, I’d be totally stoked with the way Greenwald, Snowden and Associates have handled it thus far. They get to pretend we now know all these dirty secrets and somehow the “discussion” or “debate” somebody is supposedly having will improve transparency and democracy. The NSA will have to cut it out now because WE KNOW THE TRUTH! Gag me.

    • Tarzie says:

      I know. The return to the US has made this farce look more ridiculous than ever. That educated adults actually believe you can win Polks, Pulitzers *and* strike at the heart of Empire all at once just defies belief.

      Rhetoric like ‘war on Greenwald’ is ridiculous. No matter how high he rises, he’s a victim of sorts, because, someone, somewhere, thinks he’s a dick.

      • And of course at the same time they love to make the claim that because the government is working against them so much, they clearly must be doing something that hurts the empire. Which is both at odds with these accolades and a transparently stupid conclusion in the first place.

  3. Pingback: Mark Ames vs Amy Goodman and Glenn Greenwald on USAID | The Rancid Honeytrap

  4. thedoctorisinthehouse says:

    Put it to bad faith from competing journalists who have none of this info since they don’t do any research or don’t want to package their product as anything but unique. If you come out with “but I’ve been researching this for years and there’s all kinds of use of the system as an oppressive tool” it has to be under a [YAWN, BEEN THERE DONE THAT] flag. Can’t suggest synergy because that means your readers should also keep an eye on this snowden fellow, owned by greenwald, the NYT and Washington Post and other papers you don’t work for.

    Doug Henwood seems an unusual character in that he’s not a moron citizen fan but a paid journalist working at a competing organization. Unless the entire venture stands to benefit in subscriptions and donations from their usual dull witted, pearl clutching leforium readership, who see terror clouds of Orwell hanging over their heads, blocking and suggesting the surveillance blood moon as many twitters are complaining across the land, it would make more sense to talk about how one has the REAL story, not this over exploited, under exposed Snowden pittance his papers of choice are feeding them.

    As for commenting on the political leverage and debasement of effective left action, that might be off the table for these players because it would bring up sinful thoughts that would undermine not just a billionaire funded venture but their own credibility. You can’t seriously attack the idea of participatory fascism from the pages of Nation when that paper spilled so much ink telling it’s readers that what matters above all, is participating in a 2 party system to vote for the very party that is now slapping them around.

    They’re fakes, and to point out that something like a billionaire run celebrity vehicle of low competence and a conformist ideology is to be rejected could just get their readers’ widdle woggins thwobbin and thinking that all these info fetish outfits are not worth their time.

    As to why they should fear their dumbass readers might think of something better to do? I leave that to someone else to say. I have no clue.

  5. Dirty says:

    The servility of liberals and fake radicals(Henwood,etc) to billionaires and media darlings(Scahill sucking up to Bill Maher, etc) is bottomless. Chelsea Manning is in prison and Assange locked up in an Embassy as Greenwald and Co are allowed to enter US with fanfare and collect prestigious journalism awards.

    HONY SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE for any upstarts daring to mutter an ounce of criticism!

    When Greenwald and Poitras trumpeted Snowden as “the responsible, proper kind of leaker” and then signed deal with Omidyar the Imperial Gestapo relaxed, smiled, and toasted the cooptation.

    • Tarzie says:

      Chelsea Manning is in prison and Assange locked up in an Embassy as Greenwald and Co are allowed to enter US with fanfare and collect prestigious journalism awards.

      Also Barrett Brown and bunches of other state-repressed troublemakers we never even hear about because Greenwald and Co haven’t used them to burnish their brand. It really is quite the grim, bizarre spectacle. Recalls Chomsky’s ‘worthy victims’ idea. The qualifications for worthiness get higher and higher.

    • robertmstahl says:

      Because there is so little mention of him, there is Bernard von NotHaus in a similar lockup scenario to Julian Assange, while I remain familiar with many of the more well known. Certainly, or generally, this is all about fucked up ‘exchanges’ one way or another. von NotHaus was making headway with a silver backed numismatic called the Liberty Dollar when the FBI confiscated $50 million and has had him in limbo for many years waiting on a trial. It is an ecological anesthetic of thought, something like Rudolf Steiner warned about vis a vis Ahriman-like deceptions, 50-50 propositions, for a truly ecological mindset he tried to introduce, and we are, still. It is limbo, man.

  6. Lorenzo says:

    With Glenn’s friends, I think it’s simple careerism–it pays to be on his good side. With the fans, who’ve no financial stake in his success, I think it’s something else. I think there’s a very revealing similarity in the tone and tactics of Glennmania and Obama ’08 fervor. In 2008, anyone who criticized the then-Senator from the left got shut up and shut down, with similar language to that used by the legions of idiots determined to protect a millionaire star journalist today. Now, as then, I think it’s a desire to see your salvation coming, in a way that doesn’t require much from you. It’s comforting to think that FINALLY, your trust that a decent guy would fix everything and take those crumb-bums down a peg or two has been rewarded! Here he is, it’s all going to be okay now! When someone says “no, this isn’t it, we’re going to have to work a lot harder than this, change things more radically,” they’re ruining the fun. Like you say, it’s religious more than anything. That’s why the “discussion” looks like it did on Media Lens’s forum, with that one poster continually calling you “dishonest,” without actually engaging your criticism or saying what precisely is dishonest. For my part, though I’m loathe to admit it now, I was a huge Greenwald fan until I read your blog–but I read it with an open mind, and you’re right about all this. So you have that going.

    In the spirit of keeping it loose and letting it rip, I was thinking about what Margaret Kimberley said in response to someone asking her what she thinks of Elizabeth Warren. Kimberley responded “I think she’s a Democrat.” It got me thinking about how effective the system is at keeping people thinking on its terms–for those disillusioned with the Democrats for, say, their Wall Street-friendliness, here is a NEW and BETTER Democrat! She’s willing to take on the big banks–while working within the oligarch-owned American system, of course (and also willing to bomb Iran). The point has been made before, but for those left of the Democrats, you can place all your trust in this one org with all the Lefts in it, which is mediating the leaks in a State-friendly way. Even if in a year, everyone grew disillusioned with First Look (yeah, right) and resumed criticizing, I’ve no doubt that we’d see some Newer, Leftier alternative that everyone could rally around and not ask questions about. I’m not saying that it would require some sort of nefarious design to bring it to life, merely the systems in place doing what they have done every time.

    • Tarzie says:

      Love that quote from Margaret Kimberley. Never heard that.

      My take is much the same as yours, that The Snowden Affair is the logical successor to savior Democrats, for people who think they’re too smart to get snookered by the electoral extravaganza. It has all the indoctrination characteristics of an election campaign — underneath all the resistance theater, essentially an extremely cheesy advertisement for the legitimacy of state power — except we’ll not be marched into voting booths. We’re just given the promise of more and better information via resurgent journalism. By way of beneficent billionaire Omidyar it’s even legitimized the state’s puppet masters, dispensing with the insipid class war trappings that usually attend liberal saviors like Warren. So to summarize: State power, the Fourth Estate and toxic inequality have all been given a good polishing. That’s quite a lot of legitimizing, made even more potent with the helpful, almost counter-intuitive reminder that people are really powerless to change anything and, oh yeah, we’re being watched.

      With voting removed from the equation and beloved left celeb GG added to the mix, cooler-than-thou, upper middle class ‘radicals’ like preening ACLU clown Kade Crockford and Charles Davis say bullshit that is barely distinguishable from a PragProg shitstain. They’re every bit as vigorous as their precursors at policing the naysayers — possibly even moreso — following GGs lead in framing radicalism as a variously vain, pedantic or puritan pose. It’s really quite the coup. I’d be convinced it was Psy Ops except I can’t imagine anyone in government being demonically clever enough to think it up.

      • Lorenzo says:

        It’s been said about the Democrats that they’re a party of big business who, for electoral reason, have to pretend that they’re not. One billionaire swooping into this “radical” milieu to save the day eliminates even the populist pretense from all this.

        Who could’ve predicted it would cost $250-million-U.S. to buy the Left?

      • robertmstahl says:

        I maintain an open mind for the basic undertones of the Karen Hudes kind, she a World Bank whistle blower who claims to have located in the Philippines and elsewhere, three to four times the amount of gold thought to exist in all the world, capable of reinstating currency exchanges around the world, while she operates outside of the buildings of the World Bank she is kept from entering, as the attorney representing it, the gold, supported by all the countries invested, the entire financial partnership. For the IQ, then, she goes into the history of the Jesuits, and further. Generally, I don’t really care about that aspect, except that the non-randomness of these ripples in our society means there has, likely, been oversight for a long long time.

        When you think of someone like Pierre Tielhard de Chardin and his refusing the promotion to the ‘order’ of being a 33rd degree mason, the basic tenet of the maintenance of these corrupt types, PTC dying on Easter Sunday for his commitments, if I can take this that far, having maintained the notion of ‘being a step in time,’, there is a real ring of truth in the notion of order in the disorder, however supported by the status quo. Especially, when considering how far afield we have come from the higher epistemology of evolution’s origins (Gregory Bateson), or now, where the requirement for convergence (F. J. Varela’s notion) demands that randomness is not an option, but is something different in the history of learning, that said, I retain this open mind for a mechanistic survival instinct intact vis a vis an old guard. So, only in the sense of the ‘purity’ of Dante locked up in his dungeon, I am open, also, to the work of Eric Jon Phelps. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_F31TmQ9GwU

        The issue remains, being a step in time. Silber gets it that it is a Death State. The second law of thermodynamics, itself, screws time in the ass however, so, to go further one has to consider the evolution of thought, or GUTCP, with some deep philosophical implications about the chaos of the moment. Francisco J. Varela said, “Life fills in what is missing.” Most, if not all, is. Why is that? Saul Bellow said, “I think there is a leap involved.” Then, he, too, was murdered, as promised by Gus Alex after his autobiographical writing of Humboldt’s Gift identified Alex as his co-apartment builiding dweller where Bellow was instructed never to report on the mob again, which is what he did with More Die of Heartbreak.

        I have my own ‘liberal’ connection to that, vis a vis the FBI having ruined a major art piece in Birmingham, AL where I live, and has never allowed the communication of the artist again, aside from a little bird feed. On the other hand, it has reversed the message of this 30′ tall black marble obelisk, square at the base with water falling over the side, triangular to its top with steam emanating from the three corners going up. Only three days before the Iraq war, and there is a lot more to this story, I called a friend to let him know of its ‘power’ in the non-verbal for the mass murder on the horizon.

        Standing alone in front of the IMAX theater 50 feet or so from the intersection, a car ran into it having run a red light. When it was fixed, finally, a while after a picture was made of flame coming out from where steam once did. Almost, always, the steam has been turned off, again, blowing the artist’s message sky hight. If ignorance is the issue, for that and a lot of other issues about this ignorance, including my own, I left the oil patch and a very good paying job to find out what all of this was about and to study a lot. Least of which was being ignored, I am convinced, still, was GUTCP, which is absolutely real.

        So, there is an agenda, and there are patterns to human behavior that don’t have the necessary conversation developing that is here, quite clearly. Thank you for everyone trying to put something into it. NO, REALLY!

    • Reilly says:

      I think there’s a very revealing similarity in the tone and tactics of Glennmania and Obama ’08 fervor.

      Since you were at one time a big Greenwald fan, you may recall him inveighing against “leader-glorification” which he’s done numerous times, many of those in reference to Obama. Since the first time, years ago, that I read Greenwald lecturing his severely devout followers about the dangers of “leader-glorification,” I have been unable to find anything on the internet approaching that level of amusing irony.

      • Tarzie says:

        Oh yeah, he used to excoriate Obamabots and I can remember all us Glenn fans scoffing when the Obots said the same thing about us. How we laughed when Angry Black Lady called us a cult. But, of course, we were right about her and she was right about us. There’s a lesson somewhere in there about human self-awareness.

  7. dominique says:

    Remember that scene from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining?

    Everyone thinks Jack has been hard at work on his novel, but instead he’s been writing the same sentence over and over…”All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”…

    Maybe that’s how it is for First Look Media…All work and no play makes Glenn a dull boy….

    At this point, Greenwald, Scahill et al could stop writing altogether….they could divide their time between ostentatious dinners, polo at the Billionaires Club, shopping at Gucci, LV, Hermes and Bulgari…. yachting holidays with Omidyar, and so on…

    GG could give interviews to Business Jet Traveler (a magazine for executives and billionaires who fly private jets) and proclaim: “Vive les riches, and to hell with the poor…”

    And none of it would make any difference. The GG fan boyz and fake left crowd (like Doug Henwood) would keep applauding and making endless excuses for him. I agree that what we’re seeing here is a religious cult, like your Obama fan…

    These people are fucking morons….

  8. Nell says:

    I’m with Lorenzo :: it’s a desire to see your salvation coming, in a way that doesn’t require much from you.::

    Snowden’s statement on the Pulitzers, posted at Freedom of the Press Fdn, ends with an explicit statement of this; it made me laugh out loud, bitterly:
    :: Their work has given us a better future and a more accountable democracy.::

    How nice! The heroic journalists gave us a more accountable democracy, and we didn’t have to do a thing. This is a really ludicrous level of delusion.

  9. Dave Bartram says:

    Arthur Silber has written quite a lot about Tribalism. In this post from2009 (http://powerofnarrative.blogspot.com/2009/02/ravages-of-tribalism-iii-learning-to.html), he begins with four observations about Tribal Beliefs and Behavior. For me, these observations tell you all you need to know about the behavior of people defending Omidyar, Greenwald, et al. For one reason or another, many people seem to have their sense of self worth bound up with their identity with some group or ‘tribe.’ This identity transcends whatever it is that the tribe is actually supposed to believe in.

    I suspect the reason why some people need to belong to tribes and others don’t is related to early childhood experiences. Arthur writes a lot about the Swiss psychologist, Alice Miller. I think that’s what she believed.

    When you come to realize that people like Doug Henwood are coming from a position of defending their tribe, rather than the values or ideas they claim to represent, you can either ignore them or try to filter out the defense of tribe part from the rest of what they are saying. As others have pointed out, once you realize they are using the same tactics as the people they are supposedly working against, it’s a good clue that you can safely ignore them.

    • Lorenzo says:

      That Silber series on Tribalism is really next-level, it’s so good. Tribalism explains so much of our politics today, and it definitely provides context for why people seem so willing to surrender their critical faculties. “Oh, if InfoDad says this oligarch is okay, then he must be ‘a different kind of billionaire!” What’s the point, though? We have such a limited time on this Earth, we shouldn’t be wasting our time mindlessly repeating what will earn us approval from our social “betters,” we’re autonomous beings.

      • Tarzie says:

        I haven’t read Silber’s series on tribalism, though I have heard great things about it. My interest has always been on institutional forces acting on individuals, and so if something seems to emphasize psychology, I don’t gravitate to it as readily. I get frustrated when people — not Silber — talk about psychology in political life but leave out propaganda, Psy Ops etc. I don’t know if Silber goes into that, but a few people who used to invoke his tribalism series all the time, rarely did.

        I find myself increasingly frustrated by friends who can take full account of say, the USAID Twitter clone story, but for whom the idea of professional trolls playing divide and conquer all day on Twitter is just beyond the pale. There is this need to be sensible, which thanks to people like Chomsky, is to insist that oligarchs and their agents don’t play the domestic population as hard as they play everyone else. I am getting rather sick of this, tendency, actually. The charitable view is that other possibilities are too frightening to contemplate. But I think it owes more to vanity. The need to be sensible. Not wacky.

      • @fperodov says:

        This is a reply to Lorenzo and Tarzie. An ornament to the conversation, really. At the risk of sounding cliche…

        “At the risk of sounding ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by feelings of love.”

        The path to individualization, to authenticity, lies in stark contrast to the toxic web of assumptions, privilege and self-delusion the mainstream (sociopolitical sphere) demands we become part of. This reminds me of earlier observations by Tarzie on Greenwald’s writings, along the vein of “Reading GG makes you dumber.” Yeah. People like GG, Scahill etc. are ignorance factories. All good intentions become null if your fundamental motivation is not your own freedom to love. Let’s be honest: this is why we’re all here, isn’t it?

        At the risk of sounding ridiculous, I love you.

      • Tarzie says:

        Putting aside how ‘lovable’ is not an adjective most people would apply to me online, I don’t think you sound ridiculous to anyone who isn’t a complete jerk. I think a politics that strives to be loving, open and oriented toward solidarity — which I really believe yours does — is really laudable at the very least, and 100x more revolutionary than people who work, or run interference, for predatory billionaires and their celebrity lackeys all day. Expressing it is more fearless than silly. I think it’s also a really good example for the rest of us. You are among the most unique left voices I’ve heard online because of this. If you’re ridiculous, well then, we’re really fucked.

        My own ideas about love are such that while I can feel a lot of affection for people I only know from online engagement, I am disinclined to call it love especially as I become more acquainted with how very ephemeral these ties really are for a lot of people. This isn’t to second-guess what you’re calling love. It’s only to offer an excuse as to why I can’t simply say I love you back, for no fault or lacking of yours.

        At first glance, I don’t think my fundamental motivation is my freedom to love, but who knows maybe if I really dug down into my politics that is in there somewhere. We all want a better world and for me, I guess, that is one where the barriers to human fellowship are removed, even if I am something of a misanthrope. But I feel that is so far away – beyond my lifetime – I don’t give it much thought. I just hate the liars, charlatans and, as you call them, ‘ignorance factories’, that perpetuate this toxic system — which, among other things, definitely impedes our freedom and ability to love, not just in a utopian sense, but as family members, friends and spouses — and feel inclined to explain why from time to time.

  10. Janice Golden says:

    tarzie, I don’t write on very many comment pages. can’t handle all the sign-ins. only at informationclearinghouse and one or two others. it takes me too long to write. I suck at it and am so jealous of you perfect writers, especially when it’s all so interesting and timely! but just this.. I hope you read this and go to the facebook of wayne madsen reports. what would you say to what he writes up on april 6? please give me a quick reply if you think it’s damn heavy, like I do. or not? does it add another whole new dimension worth consideration, would you say? carry on! you’re doing a great job drawing out the aspects and the sides around “democracy’s”deficiencies and dangerous ….fakery. I just read paulcraigroberts’ latest. he keeps on “saying it all” , but he still has to do it again tomorrow. we’re all ( most of us ) so thick. the machinery has sucked out our brains for our whole lives. it takes a lot of work to see through the rubble to the sky now… and then the sky’s so awfully cloudy and full of threats! thanks once more for your writing and discussions! we need these examinations so badly! it’s a start, isn’t it? a good one, I think. I just hope more people begin to “listen up.” check out madsen. he’s for real, would you say? do you read his reports? there are lots of his at strategic culture or more at his subscription page, WMR, and it’s cheap. maybe you subscribe already.. I believe he posted that article first at his subscription pages. best to you!

  11. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    Billionnaire fluffers? The more left journos jumped on the Greenwald bandwagon, the more I thought there could be an element of groupie love to it. The magical thinking that you too as a “left” (!!radical!!!11!!) writer could be called up by Greenwald or Omidyar reps or Cook and told that you’re invited to ride the “visionary” train. You know they’d be setting records in how fast they run into Omidyar’s arms.

    The Glennbots have never been more than groupies anyway. They cheered him when he was hating on the Bolivarian movement, when he kissed up to “moderate” Republicans, when he supported Obama, when he was giving love to Bush imperialism. Didn’t matter to them.

    Not a nuanced view, but could there be celebrity/rich man coat-tailing involved. The ruling class has managed to steer the majority of the working class into that pen with their propaganda, this entire spectacle is propaganda a mile high. The commenters for sure were never class conscious, the way they are carrying water for Omidyar since the Intercept began has been a disgusting spectacle in its own right.

    I used to roll my eyes when I would read about people like Justin Bieber and his groupies and fans. Shit, they’ve got nothing on this crowd. Their boy hot-boxed a plane. The Glennbot’s idol supported the rolling of an entire country with a neofascist coup. And they’re out there in front of it dancing for him and Greenwald like fucking court jesters.

    • Tarzie says:

      The Glennbots have never been more than groupies anyway. They cheered him when he was hating on the Bolivarian movement, when he kissed up to “moderate” Republicans, when he supported Obama, when he was giving love to Bush imperialism. Didn’t matter to them.

      While the overall point here is sound, I think this is somewhat imprecise. A lot of GG’s following, certainly on the left, picked up on him when he became disillusioned with Obama at the same time they did. I had no illusions with Obama to begin with, but I discovered Greenwald myself around this time and, feeling more of a need to see some part of my politics in a high place, enthusiastically jumped on board. I think a lot of people do what I did at that time — they hear vague rumblings about his weird, reactionary past, his Cato work etc — and they one, don’t really look into it, and two, they forgive it. In keeping with the clearance that beloved public figures have to metamorphose overnight in a way that is really at odds with how change in people really occurs, it’s considered entirely credible that the Greenwald of today is a completely different person from the shitstain that, only 9 years ago, wrote about ‘obese’, Castro-loving, ‘drug-addicts’ with poor national characters who had the gall to protest Bush. The same people that issue him this pass are also inclined to insist that no one who publicly supported the War in Iraq can be taken seriously ever again, but nonetheless exclude Glenn from this, even though he also supported the war, on the technicality that he wasn’t blogging at the time. He has an unlimited Get of Jail free card, and I think it’s quite possible that, as his star continues to rise, Glenn may metamorphose back into a fashionably less racist version of the shitstain of nine years ago, and take a lot of his idiots with him.

      • Goldfish Training Institute says:

        You’re right that the majority of the followers came on about that time you did. On the earlier work, he was writing that garbage to somebody nine years ago, his audience was probably the libertarians and disgruntled Bush fans, but 2005 was still early in the Iraq invasion timeline for Bush supporters to start jumping ship. And you can see his viewpoints change with his pieces, so if disgruntled liberals found him before he got to Salon, they were the ones who pushed him to the center.

        But no matter how he came to his more “liberal” views, you’re right that he gets a pass no matter what he says.

        Interesting about metamorphosing back to who he was previously. He’s managed to jump over the boundary line of the inner circle by riding in on Omidyar’s horse with Snowden. Are White House cocktail parties that far behind? His boss is already on the comp list. Does he even have to tone down any of his rhetoric (anti-imperialist for example) to start eating cheese puffs with them? This is the new media ops message – embrace the faux anti-imperialists and just continue on with the bombs, counterrevolutions, and neoliberal policy. Write critically about Obama while schmoozing with him at the next fundraising dinner.

      • Tarzie says:

        This is the new media ops message – embrace the faux anti-imperialists and just continue on with the bombs, counterrevolutions, and neoliberal policy.

        Seems you’re exactly right. They’ve realized that framed the right way, what looks like harsh criticism can be unleashed on the system with no harm done. Done the right way, it’s completely disempowering, in fact. It makes me think of that old Warner Brothers cartoon, where the wolf and the sheepdog say hello, punch time clocks, and commence to fighting with each other. Then, at the end, they clock out, with a pleasant ‘See you, tomorrow.’

        I can imagine some problems with individuals taking it personally, though. Omidyar’s friendship with Obama raises interesting questions.

  12. I’m intrigued by Tarzie’s idea of “professional trolls playing divide and conquer all day on Twitter.” Has anyone seriously looked into this? I’d appreciate a link to a well-researched exposé that names names (or at least Twitter handles) and documents their connections to underwriters. Cass Sunstein wrote a few years ago—before he joined the Obama administration—about government-sponsored “cognitive infiltration,” but he was theorizing in the course of an academic law article. I’ve seen no evidence, including Snowden’s stolen NSA slides, that any such program in the United States has ever gone beyond the brainstorming stage. Perhaps what Tarzie has in mind are professional trolls secretly funded by organizations or individuals outside government. If so, that too is worthy of study and exposure, not just vague conjecture.

    • Tarzie says:

      I don’t have anything particular in mind. But I think if people in high places in govt sector and private sector think Twitter is influential, that of course they would stack the deck.

    • The following all are widely known to exist:
      – professional services where you can buy not only Twitter followers or spam bots, but (for a higher price of course) actual, real people whose job is to create a realistic persona on Twitter or forums, engage with people as a real person, and then casually advocate for your product
      – politicians that have engaged the above services for election campaigns
      – lobbying services where you can straight-up buy advocacy from political commentators/pundits
      – off-line government infiltration of dissident movements
      – government surveillance of online dissident activity
      – national security contractors who treat an online smear campaigns against public dissents (as well as Greenwald, per Anonymous’ hack of HB Gary) as a matter of course

      None of those, I suppose, are directly what tarzie is referring to, but they’re only a step or two away, each from a different direction. It would seem very odd to me if the empty space between them didn’t exist.

    • hubri5 says:

      There certainly is a lot of fake accounts being used to promote software allegedly used by Snowden

      See here http://anolen.com/2014/04/16/do-you-hear-snowden-uses-tails-and-tor/

      RE: LOVE

      I don’t even like Tarzie – every conv we have had so far ends in snark from one side or the other (mostly one side tbh 😉 – but I LOVE what he does and how he does it, nonetheless.

  13. AmishRakeFight says:

    My take is much the same as yours [Lorenzo], that The Snowden Affair is the logical successor to savior Democrats, for people who think they’re too smart to get snookered by the electoral extravaganza. It has all the indoctrination characteristics of an election campaign — underneath all the resistance theater, essentially an extremely cheesy advertisement for the legitimacy of state power — except we’ll not be marched into voting booths. We’re just given the promise of more and better information via resurgent journalism. By way of beneficent billionaire Omidyar it’s even legitimized the state’s puppet masters, dispensing with the insipid class war trappings that usually attend liberal saviors like Warren.

    The more I think about this, the more I find it to be quite an appropriate comparison – particularly because I myself used to fit the description here. I used to read Greenwald, Chris Hedges, Taibbi, and Scahill almost religiously and for some reason I felt empowered by consuming all of this “dissident” information and commentary. I, too, felt like I had wised up and would never be voting for one of the two major parties again. Thankfully I stumbled into more radical writing, and the reasoning offered in the arguments forced me to confront these delusions I had lived in, and to question people and institutions I had previously held sacred. I still feel a bit of shame about my recent past, but I’m better off now and I am much happier now that I don’t consume so much political media. Thanks again for your role in that.

    Anyway, back to the point. I think that the points you and Lorenzo raise can potentially provide a great answer to your question: “There is no question that there is something really very odd about how heavily disciplined and vigorously policed discussion of the Snowden Leaks, Greenwald, Omidyar and First Look is on the left. Why is that?” Here’s my theory. Think about the type of fan who would hold Greenwald, Scahill, etc. in such high regard and who would never see anything Snowden has done or said to be damaging. I’d bet that the vast majority of such fans are disaffected liberals who feel betrayed by all but a couple Democrats (such as Warren). Since 2008, such naysayers and Obama critics were on the receiving end of the discipline, accusations, ad hominems, and calls to shut up being forwarded by loyal Democrats, lesser-evilist liberals, and pragmatic progressives. So it’s no wonder that they are now dishing out the same exact policing methods and leftward punching – they’ve had ample opportunity to learn it so well. And with Greenwald & Co’s ascent, they feel validated and empowered, which only increases the viciousness they direct towards heretics.

    This theory only explains the crowd-based policing, not the top-down punching directly from Greenwald and Co, but I’d welcome comments/criticism from anyone here. Sorry for the long-winded post.

    • Tarzie says:

      Amish —

      Never apologize for a long-winded post. Long posts are my favorites.

      I pretty much agree with everything you’ve said. I have fought with Obots and I have fought with Glennbots and it’s really very similar. I am inclined to say Glennbots are actually worse, but then, I didn’t blog about Obama in 2008, nor was I on Twitter, so have no basis for a fair comparison. I can, however, confidently say that Obots could not possibly be worse. I think Glenn’s fans tend to be dumber and more humorless. I can recall from spats with Obots being occasionally impressed by their flare for insults and use of language. That hasn’t happened once with any of Glenn’s dolts. I was initially shocked that someone whose brand is fiercely independent intelligence attracts so many dumb idol-worshiping conformists, but after having looked at Glenn up close, I see no real disconnect here at all. The greater mystery to me now is why so many bright people idolize him.

      I am toying with a theory that from the standpoint of securing allegiance, saviors actually benefit from there being a wide disparity between the myth and the reality. Or at least from their true essence being something of an unknown. It creates a canvas onto which a lot of hopes and dreams can be projected. But equally important, the doubts this creates induces a stronger need to convince oneself, and certainly invalidating naysayers is part of doing that. These doubts are what make people so particular vicious and authoritarian toward critics. Put another way, the unknowns induce a situation that comes closer to religious zeal than simple political allegiance based on shared principles. Obama and Greenwald are similar in being tabula rasa for their followers. Obama even remarked upon it.

      • AmishRakeFight says:

        “The greater mystery to me now is why so many bright people idolize him.”
        I’m less familiar with, though certainly aware of, how this applies to Greenwald. But I have said the same thing regarding Obama. Another issue I follow closely is climate change, and there as well I find myself wondering how obviously intelligent people, capable of understanding the complexities of the science, can then be so monumentally off when it comes to prescribing solutions (State intervention! Elect Democrats! Ban this, ban that! etc.). This phenomena of bright people being fooled is everywhere. So far the best explanation I can come up with is one of my favorite quotes from Carl Sagan, one which pretty much applies to everyone (including me): “Intellectual capacity is no guarantee against being dead wrong.”

        It’s amazing how comparable Obama and Greenwald are. One of the things that makes Obama so effective is his deliberately vague word-crafting that enables his followers to project onto him and thus identify personally with him. Your canvas metaphor is spot on. Greenwald similarly chooses his public words quite carefully as any skilled lawyer would, being careful to omit specifics, always inserting rhetorical life vests to preempt criticism, and knowing how and when to rouse the emotions of his followers. Maybe Glenn learned a few skills from his writing on Obama, but I think his history shows that he has a much longer history of being a slimy asswipe. One differentiation between them, though, is that Obama is strategic enough to ignore criticism from the radical left, whereas Glenn obviously takes it quite personally, no matter how powerless or non-influential the critic.

        You brought up religious zeal and I think that’s quite appropriate for describing either Obots or Glennbots. It’s saddening that Glenn can brand himself as anti-authoritarian and yet the people he draws in are clearly not (and neither is Glenn). The religion metaphor is very applicable. Snowden as the sacrificial lamb, beyond questioning. Glenn and Co, the prophets who have leveraged the leaks to ascend to Vatican-levels of wealth and influence (and corruption). The rubes who cannot see the injustice and damage being carried out by their saviors. And the heretics who dare to question the sanctity of it all, who sew doubt, get the harshest treatment of all.

      • Tarzie says:

        no matter how powerless or non-influential the critic.

        Hey, I resemble that remark!!!

        Actually, I think I have to disagree with your focus on Glenn’s fragile psyche here as opposed to his shrewdness.. Glenn’s got more cred on the left and with transparency advocates and it’s a big part of his brand. He needed radical lighting on his shitty dissident theatre, especially considering the thoroughly reactionary character of it. Also, as we’ve all kind of agreed, this is a post-Obama co-opting event. GG can’t possibly predict that criticism will remain on the margins forever. So I think the MO outta the gate was kill criticism before it grows and it succeeded. I don’t think you can see the exceedingly marginal place of criticism right now where, after all these months, it’s still restricted to Pando and a handful of bloggers, as entirely organic rather than bound up with GG’s fly-swatting and all the discipline it incited.

      • AmishRakeFight says:

        I should’ve added to my last paragraph: The Constitution – the Rule of Law – are the sacred texts of the religion, which must be obeyed and never questioned.

      • Goldfish Training Institute says:

        AmishRake, totally agree about the Constitution. It’s been mythologized to the point that you’ll be shouted down if you even attempt to criticize support for it.

    • Goldfish Training Institute says:

      This point is terrific, and I just wanted to add that there’s an element of Psych 101 to all of this too. It’s the oppressed becoming the oppressor, the bullied becoming the bully.

      A child who has been bullied is more likely to be an adult bully
      Nazi Germany: Jews –> Israelis: Palestinians

      There is an element of shame involved, like with damaged ego structures in the case of individuals. I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility that a sort of collective shame as it were contributes to this phenomenon in groups.

    • Lorenzo says:

      >I felt empowered by consuming all of this “dissident” information and commentary. I, too, felt like I had wised up and would never be voting for one of the two major parties again.

      I really think there’s a lot to this idea–that information is its own utopian good. One of the notions of which the Snowden spectacle has fully disabused me is that “information” accomplishes anything on its own, without political will behind it.

      To carry on the “Vote Obama” / “Read Greenwald” formulation, with savior Democrats, you’re simply supposed to vote for Obama (or Warren) and that is a good in and of itself. If that’s not left enough for your liking, you can read Greenwald or Scahill, in which case, the good is that you are receiving information. What happens with that information is immaterial, the fact that “dissident information” is being disseminated is its own reward.

      Back when I was a Greenbacks fan, I sometimes wondered whether I shouldn’t be exploring something more substantive. I was reading one of GG’s Guardian Q&A’s, and someone asked him whether he would deepen his critiques, and he said basically that that’s not what he does or will ever be interested in, he criticizes bad policies. I wish I’d listened to my gut and sought out deeper critiques, rather than just being satisfied reading celebrity left journalism–it’s obvious now that just knowing what bad shit is going on isn’t enough.

    • davidly says:

      AmishRakeFight: Insightful observation. I have seen this transformation in progress, so can vouch for the veracity of your theory, with the lone qualification that I am not sure it is “the vast majority”.

      The ability of the human to hold contradicting beliefs (and faiths) simultaneously brings us to the kind that shift back and forth as the pressure induced by massive campaigns of bullshit during election cycles ebbs and flows. Thus, can the Obot be a Glenbot and vice-versa, to varying degrees depending on which way the wind blows. And when you factor in the belief that our heroes say and do some things in a tactical manner which relieves them of surface responsibilities, well, then, you can believe whatever crazy crap you want and call it rational: As if the president is, after all, really fully supportive of whatever I believe and whoever I believe in; that he would indicate otherwise is just politics.

  14. tanglebum says:

    This “the idea of professional trolls playing divide and conquer all day”.
    In the early days of the surveillance state, the 70’s say, there were a substantial number of disabled people on the receiving end of the immediate signals. Because it required a lot of equipment and a mostly sedentary work-day. Pre-algorithm, pre-mobile devices, and way before wireless etc.
    The use of willing, yearning really, people who want to help, to serve, and there’s a place for them.
    So now, in this digital new world, nasty dysfunctionals can be trolly for hire. Lots of applicants.
    Volunteers and entry-level wannabes. A distributed mob.
    I think it’s probably really extensive, way more than just a fringey ad hoc thing..
    Once stuff like dedication to “truth” is out of the way, once honesty and integrity are subsumed in team well-being as prime value, it’s a moral system whose architecture isn’t any higher than the benefits of the particular group. Or tribe whatever. There’s no sense of a larger “us”.
    That isn’t confined to online stuff, it’s visible in a lot of the public takedown scandals, mostly around the violation of pretty conservative sex-rules. The use of vague unthought-through moral indignation and inarticulated anxiety. Manipulation of the half-awake.
    In its most banal form, it’s the constant low-grade info-pumping of “conspiracy theories” as whack mind failure, promulgated by conspiring obscure and hard-to-see groups. A conspiracy to invalidate any theory of conspiracy. So that conspirators have more, you know, freedom.
    What interests me personally more than the details of day-to-day intrigue is the ultimate goal of these idiots. What do they see? What are they working toward?
    What’s up ahead that they’re trying get to?
    A world safe for clueless billionaires and their employees and servants. Safe in a world convulsing with the metastisizing consequences of their selfish idiocy.
    Lots of these celebrity rebels are playing some kind of nudge-nudge we know what’s really going on here, and it’s all about them
    That Greenwald and Co. used their Pulitzer venue to self-promote and position and never mentioned Chelsea Manning and Hammond and Brown kind of says it all.
    Somebody was talking about Afghanistan being now the world’s largest narco-state. Biggest opium crop ever. After the longest military engagement in US history.
    Those facts are intimately connected. By conspiracy.

    • Tarzie says:

      That Greenwald and Co. used their Pulitzer venue to self-promote and position and never mentioned Chelsea Manning and Hammond and Brown kind of says it all.

      I wondered about that. Looking at their speeches would be instructive.

  15. I realised how far from shore I’d drifted just this past weekend when I tried following a twitter hash-tag conversation on freedom of information (think it was #righttoknow). I dawned on me that these activists were talking about the challenge journalists faced in trying to pry information out of governments. I’d just assumed they thought – as I do – that the more immediate challenge is how citizens can go about prying information out of journalists.

    Another thing I noticed this weekend was a tech article on something or other (probably heartbleed) that made a passing reference to “documents leaked last year by Edward Snowden.” The “last year” bit really hit home – in some quarters, this NSA stuff is already “last year’s news.” The book and movie might pump it up again in a few corners, but the window of opportunity – such as it was – has probably passed. The Pulitzer thing was like the closing ceremonies. It’ll be the Ukraine and the ‘new cold war’ (along with Dropbox and the next tone-deaf thing Google does in San Francisco) that has people engaging now.

    • Tarzie says:

      The Pulitzer thing was like the closing ceremonies.

      An excellent way of putting it.

    • Goldfish Training Institute says:

      Didn’t Cryptome report that by their calculations, the NSA output with the “Greenwald method” would be about 30 years? Shit, we barely have a news cycle that lasts 30 minutes. It’s been totally overhyped.

      And especially now with Ukraine. U.S. imperialism muscles its way into the backyard of a regional nuclear power, and we’re supposed to get behind articles dissecting the lunchroom antics of NSA contractors (with charts!! and graphs!!).

      In my mind, NSA is an “exploding Castro cigar.” It’s the tactic, the tool. It’s not the main point. In that sense it really is the “look over here while we fuck you up over that way.” Just misses the forest for the trees.

  16. Happy Jack says:

    Is that the “Marxist” Doug Henwood? I’ve heard he’s planning on writing a “book on the current American ruling class, whoever that might be.” I think I have an answer for him. It’s probably most of his subscribers.

    Oh, I guess I’ll have to explain. If you read the About page at Left Business Observer, Henwood details his background and current activities. Except one. He neglects to mention his involvement in The Liscio Report. A newsletter with a yearly subscription price of $7500. A must read for traders and hedge fund managers.

    While Tarzie’s finances remain in doubt, I think we can feel confident how Doug can afford to live in Park Slope.

    • Tarzie says:

      Yeah, I had heard rumors about how Henwood was tied into finance, but I never had the specifics. There is no clean money, but that’s really something.

      But as far as his, and everyone else’s, Park Slope bullshit goes — to the extent that I can make any sense of it — there is no contradiction. Henwood’s complicity and compromized politics make it ok for him to live in Park Slope. Apparently I am too much of a purist to live here. If I punch hippies and make routine, anguished pitches for Democrats the way Henwood does, my pleasant neighborhood would not embody my hypocrisy as it does now.

      At least I think that’s what it means. Who the fuck knows? Doug and pals have one little tidbit of information about me and they make a smear out of it whether it makes sense or not. I’ve noticed that shitty people will say things as if they’re damning, even when they know they’re not, for the entertainment of really dumb rubes wanting to sit at the cool table, who take all meaning from the insinuating affect. It’s pathetic.

      I was going to ask you about your source, but was surprised to find it easily online. I noticed that he’s mentioned it exactly once on Twitter. An excellent tip. Thanks.

  17. diane says:

    Whatever my dislikes of certain of what I feel are Ames omissions and commissions (more so than Levine, though I take issue with both on what seems to me an overdose of testosterone white guy stuff, and in between the lines seeming (too me) lurve of ‘Idealized’ Capitali$m) – and certainly I admit have a hatred much of Pando’s slobber for an algorithmic whirled – I love many of his detailed and highly referenced take downs – certainly his current Omidyar take downs.

    But this??????:

    Omidyar is the biggest media-oligarchy story, period.

    Really???? Fuck no it isn’t, for one: Bezos is every bit the dangerous $limebag that Omidyar is.

    Too bad the acquired NSFW (and Exiled, before that) crew white male crew doesn’t extend the same energy against those despicable flecks of shit: Bezos; Zuckerfuck, ……AND…. Andreessen (Andreessen: A rare Republican in Silicon Valley [Romney FanBoy] (rare? I think not and certainly Sly Con Valley DemRats [Obombster FanBoys] are cut from exactly the same cloth). Of course that might require he is not under Sarah Lacy’s payroll, and actually desired to do so.

    If I had the money to do it, which of course one generally never attains without others suffering for it, I’d give Ames and Levine full rein … if they actually desired to publish take downs on those three (and more) also.

    • Tarzie says:

      I dunno, Diane. I see your point about Bezos, but he hasn’t been given the same wide berth or star treatement as Omidyar, nor has he captured the heart of the left by way of bulk buying left journalists. No one is pretending he’s going to ‘fuck with power’ the way we’re told Pierre, Glenn and Co are going to. And while Bezos is leasing some of the Amazon cloud to the CIA, I don’t yet see evidence of the kind of ties with American imperialism suggested by Omidyar’s involvement with USAID. While Bezos’ deal came with a trove of state secrets, too — depending on his relationship with Gellman — it’s much smaller than First Look’s.

      It’s splitting hairs, in a way — they’re both important — but First Look has a whole campaign aspect to it, fortified with branding from star journalists and The Snowden Leaks. There is just no comparison to WaPo in this respect. There is no bizarre policing of opinion going on. You won’t get trolled for eight months on Twitter for saying mean things about Bezos or any of his journalists. If Ames is overstating, it certainly owes, in part, to this campaign aspect and the embargo on criticism that comes with it.

      Returning to my original post, if everything else were equal, but Pando had been writing about Bezos and WaPo all this time, no one would give them any shit for it, least of all Doug Henwood.

      • diane says:

        I don’t at all agree as to Bezos not receiving: wide berth, …star treatment, and capturing the hear of the left …… it was far, far more subtle in Bezo’s case (and perhaps even more deadly as a consequence ….out of sight, out of mind ….)…and not wrapped around a time sensitive government expose (out of sight, out of mind ….)….

      • Tarzie says:

        Well perhaps First Look is the magician’s one hand we’re all watching while his other hand (Bezos/WaPo) is doing something else, in which case, you’re still wrong because then they’re both part of the same scam and the same overlooked story. What, exactly, is Bezos getting away with that we’re all supposed to look at?

        Where is the Bezo’s analog to the ideological, co-opting aspect of the Snowden Leaks/First Look campaign? Where’s his connection to regime change in other countries? From where I sit, Bezos is just doing what billionaires do. So is Omidyar, of course, but he’s making it look like something else.

      • diane says:

        Actually, I never implied that they weren’t part of the same scam and the same overlooked story, I was just wondering why Bezos, etcetera, appear to have gotten such a stunning pass.

        Had Omidyar followed through on his serious consideration of acquiring the WAPO, I imagine he’d be sitting somewhat in Bezos’ shoes right now, and I would still be wondering why the WAPO acquiree was being let off the hook so easily. Perhaps Bezos would be the one starting a New Media and consequently relying on an ideological, co-opting aspect regarding the largest current expose going, along with a sickening First Look [!!!!!!] similar title in order to launch it. Bezos didn’t need to do that with the already established WAPO.

        As to Omidyar’s disgusting support for USAID, etcetera, who the fuck knows what Bezos has pumped his energy and billions into the last few decades; ……I don’t recollect an Ames, or anyone, appearing to have much interest in that, which has always bewildered me, perhaps it’s because The Left have never witnessed the delight of working in an Amazon Warehouse.

        Anyway, I agree with much of what you express, I just don’t agree that Bezos shouldn’t be being highlighted right along with Omidyar, etcetera.

      • Tarzie says:

        I agree with much of what you express, I just don’t agree that Bezos shouldn’t be being highlighted right along with Omidyar

        It’s a fair point. It is really one story, this takeover of media by tech moguls. But I think the role Omidyar plays is uniquely pernicious, because of the campaign aspect, which helps Bezos also inasmuch as it burnishes the billionaire brand and whitewashes toxic inequality.

    • diane says:

      Re Andreeessen, a major Pando Funder, occassionally laudingly twitted by Paul Carr and possibly Ames (to my recollect):

      Andreessen has given $100,000 to the Restore Our Future super PAC, in addition to more than $60,000 to the national Republican congressional and senatorial committees.

      As co-founder of Netscape and a director of eBay, Facebook and Hewlett-Packard, Andreessen is a tech icon. He’s also a founder of Andreessen Horowitz, a venture firm that has invested not only in Facebook, but in Twitter, Groupon and Zynga.

      Yet when President Obama had dinner with industry leaders last year at the home of venture capitalist John Doerr, Andreessen was not at the table.

      Andreessen backed Romney during the primary season. “You do not get a high-end, professional CEO running for president very often,” he told CNBC.

      One of his gripes about Obama: “I want a principled stand that there are other ways to solve problems than through regulation – which often becomes a sledgehammer that hurts companies that never were part of the original problem.”

      Andreessen isn’t avoiding the Obama camp altogether. Lawrence Summers, who headed Obama’s National Economic Council until 2010, joined Andreessen Horowitz last year as special adviser.

      Source: June 20, 2012 at 7:10am Andreessen: A rare Republican in Silicon Valley

  18. Anonymous says:

    The newest identity product to be authorized by PTB is called the “Glennbot”…be sure to stop by The Intercept and order your “Be cool, be you” GG bags, handbags, and purses, starting at $199…

    Identity Politics Exposed

    “For each identification (the creation or cobbling together of identity) creates a figure that provides a material for its investment by the market. There is nothing more captive, so far as commercial investment is concerned, nothing more amenable to the invention of new figures of monetary homogeneity, than a community and its territory or territories…… What inexhaustible potential for mercantile investments is this upsurge — taking the form of communities demanding recognition and so-called cultural singularities — of women, homosexuals, the disabled, Arabs! And these infinite combinations of predictive traits, what a godsend! Black homosexuals, disabled Serbs, Catholic pedophiles, moderate Muslims, married priests, ecologist yuppies, the submissive unemployed, prematurely aged youth! Each time, a social image authorizes new products, specialized magazines, improved shopping malls, “free” radio stations, targeted advertising networks, and finally, heady “public debates” at peak viewing times. Deluze put it perfectly: capitalist deterritorialization requires a constant reterritorialization. Capital demands a permanent creation of subjective and territorial identities in order for its principle of movement to homogenize its space of action; identities, moreover, that demand anything but the right to be exposed in the same way as others to the uniform prerogatives of the market.”

    – Alain Badiou, Saint Paul: The Foundations of Universalism

    • Goldfish Training Institute says:

      I’m thinking game show. I’ll take government stakeholders for a thousand, Alex.

    • Anonymous says:

      Alex: from government stakeholders for $1000…..

      And here’s the clue: All discussion concerning the battle between left and right as supposedly seen in our political environments is merely a superstructure set up and propagated to keep the masses busy with whatever the “smartest people in the room” tell us we should keep busy discussing.

      Contestant’s response: Who is the ruling class?

  19. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    Doug Henwood and Corey Robin – two peas in a Brooklyn pod. Robin sided with Greenwald on a corporation’s right to open a business anywhere they damned well pleased, even if said owner was an anti-gay bigot discriminating on the basis of religion and firing employees for reporting abuse.

    I haven’t read Robin in a few years but doesn’t he play the Charlie-Brown-Lucy-football version of Marxism? Talks a good game and just when you’re getting sucked in, makes a snide remark about socialism or starts the apologist round for capitalism.

    • Tarzie says:

      even if said owner was an anti-gay bigot discriminating on the basis of religion and firing employees for reporting abuse.

      Jesus fuck. What’s the source for this?

      • Goldfish Training Institute says:

        Greenwald’s piece on the Chick FilA (?sp) franchise in Chicago few years back (Salon), and Robin chimed in on his own blog defending Greenwald’s position here:

        http://coreyrobin.com/tag/chick-fil-a/

        This is not a new issue, it dates back to Salon days but some of Robin’s readers were calling him on it in the comments.

        For the record, I’m not putting Robin in the “defending Omidyar” category because I have no idea if he’s even commented about the situation, just that he always seemed like a fake leftist to me.

      • Tarzie says:

        that he always seemed like a fake leftist to me.

        Well they all are. Robin’s schtick is to condemn everything on Marxisty grounds but to find the Democratic Party slightly less bad than everything else. He’s part of the Great Libertarian Conspiracy Truther Movement, which helpfully runs interference against right-wing anti-imperialism.

      • Tarzie says:

        Wow, that’s a really great comment thread. I give Robin props for attracting a smart readership at least.

      • Goldfish Training Institute says:

        Agree, CR always seemed to attract high level commenters. But you can see him in that article doing his tap dance between the two poles. “Gotta go after the cities for trying to jack up a corporate cappie! But yeah can you imagine what the oppressed must be feeling?”

        Insanity.

        I forgot to do a search for “Omidyar” when I was there. I wonder if Robin’s even commented on the spectacle.

      • Tarzie says:

        I foolishly went and read the Greenwald piece that Robin thought won him the argument. The more I read him the more I despise him. The simple-mindedness, and vulgarity of his invariably power-serving Constitutionalism communicated through those endless fucking briefs make me wonder what on earth I ever fucking liked about the guy. Why does any self-respecting person of the left like him? What the hell is wrong with everyone? How starved everyone is to see the barest, fucking minimum of left principles represented in public life.

        He’s a fucking toxic nuisance.

        We really need to develop a response to free speech purism. It’s a lot of power-serving smoke and mirrors.

      • Goldfish Training Institute says:

        The one he did on Citizens United is just as bad. I think he got his ass handed to him in the comments on that one, many people saw through his shit. I know all the bots like to say that he’s changed since 2005 on his chauvinistic nationalism and racism about Latin America, but he’s never renounced anything he’s said about Citizens United as far as I know. Shit, has he ever even apologized for calling Chavistas idiots and losers?

        I don’t believe he’s anything but a fucking neoliberal anyway.

      • Goldfish Training Institute says:

        You can’t beat yourself up for once buying into Greenwald, everybody does come to their political consciousness at different times in their lives. If you’re not fucking born a red diaper baby in this country, you’ve got an uphill battle finding the truth. Even now with the internet it’s not easy.

        What you’re doing now is a huge service to people on the fence, people getting that cognitive dissonance feeling about the bourgeois liberals, it’s really important especially because you have a way with words that makes your style easy to absorb and you do make these concepts easier to understand. I’m terrible at voicing what I’m trying to say but getting it paraphrased back to me by good writers and thinkers helps me get clarity. So yay you. 🙂 Plus you fix italics gone amok. :p

      • Tarzie says:

        You’re so sweet!

        I really appreciate the encouraging words but feel I almost got them under false pretenses because I feel less shame at having once been a GG fan than just complete bafflement. I find him so completely repulsive now. I am just periodically stunned by how circumscribed our discourse is that some people even call him a radical and that our Stockholm Syndrome goes so deep that this is not widely regarded as a thoroughly ridiculous proposition.

        I don’t agree that you have trouble making yourself understood at all and you do it with a lot of humor, too. I am always happy to see you show up in my notifications.

        I am curious about your take on Chik-Fil-A. I must say I didn’t follow it very closely at the time, so haven’t really given it much thought. I think the First Amendment defense of Chik-Fil-A is legally pretty sound, and it has a lot of social currency, but it’s another one of those cases where I think there are interests more compelling than some rich fucker’s right to promote hate groups, a practice which to me is damning enough — even putting aside his deplorable employment practices — to warrant lefts doing everything they can to see him fail. So considering the purchase that First Amendment purism has on Americans across the spectrum, where do you begin with something like the Chik-Fil-A case? Just looking for your quick take from the hip.

      • Tarzie says:

        Of the things in Robin’s comments, I find this very satisfying at least as rhetoric:

        The notion that anyone remotely serious about the condition of the working class would consider for one moment the “rights” of some poor capitalist as ever having been “infringed upon,” much less that some supposed infringement sets a dangerous precedent which must be opposed, is well beyond my comprehension.

      • Goldfish Training Institute says:

        I’m not really the person to ask about that, I’m in the camp that believes the Constitution is not a legitimate document. It’s purpose is to protect the power of the property and wealth classes. Yes occasionally fights ensue and the masses start making demands about changing this and that, and the ruling class throw out a new amendment, legislation, or interpretation. But they do it because the consequences of not doing it are worse for them. I don’t want to delegitimize all the substantive changes that have occurred because of blood spilled by the working class (in my mind, the more important revolution in this country was the Civil War, not the American Revolution) because we need and should demand civil rights, but we are still doing it under the umbrella of a ruthless, violent, unequal, and exploitive system.

        But clearly the representatives of the people in some places are going to stand up to the ruling elites, like this Chicago thing with Chick Fil-A, I got from the comments at Robin’s place that the city of Chicago found some loopholes or whatever to keep the guy from coming in temporarily, or maybe they pushed him out completely I don’t know the outcome, but this is the case for “think globally act locally” here. These constitutional issues have to be fought to protect the masses, the ruling elites have entrenched bourgeois protections as overarching federal law.

        Look at the ruling from a few days ago from the Supremes on campaign contributions. I thought I saw Thomas say he’d love to eliminate campaign reformism altogether (I’d have to go back and read it, I just saw a headline yesterday about it somewhere so the details are a bit fuzzy and I may be off on that). But the bottom line is they’re not afraid of the masses anymore, they just up and said “give as much as you want — open season on the working class by the billionnaires.” So unless we end up with our own “Ukraine” (that day is coming but who knows when, not soon enough), fights locally can work. That socialist city council person Sawant lady in Seattle is one example. And if the city of Chicago wants to fuck the fast food guy six ways from Sunday using whatever means at their disposal, I’m all for it. But it’s a fucking uphill battle no question.

        If there is one area that is completely lost on bourgeois apologists though, it’s the class aspects of speech. Huge threat, IMO. They don’t understand it, it’ll ruffle the shit out of their fur every time, even if they can intellectually grasp the differences between bourgeois power as oppressor v. workers as oppressed.

      • Goldfish Training Institute says:

        For the “person not to ask,” I’m a longwinded asshole – sorry! :p

    • I haven’t read Robin’s books but I did follow him on twitter for a while and have perused his blog. He’s never seemed to me anything other than a 21st century Liberal academic. I mean, he’s got a blog post “A Very Bourgeois Post on Buying a House”.

      His writing is larded with references to and quotes from 18th and 19th century thinkers, sort of a pet peeve of mine, but I suppose as an associate professor he’s contractually obligated. I simply couldn’t wade through his 5 part intellectual history of fear or his “Nietzsche’s Marginal Children” piece at the Nation. I’m open to the possibility that the fault lies with me, but I tend to doubt it. He’s recently become defensive about Kristof’s criticism of how disconnected and unhelpful University professors are, which I think the pieces I mentioned are decent exemplars of.

      That said, in a short post defending Snowden back in September he does find an interesting quote from Robert Lowe, a 19th century guy no one has heard of:

      The first duty of the press is to obtain the earliest and most correct intelligence of the events of the time, and instantly, by disclosing them, to make them the common property of the nation. The statesman collects his information secretly and by secret means; he keeps back even the current intelligence of the day with ludicrous precautions, until diplomacy is beaten in the race with publicity. The Press lives by disclosures; whatever passes into its keeping becomes a part of the knowledge and the history of our times….For us, with whom publicity and truth are the air and light of existence, there can be no greater disgrace than to recoil from the frank and accurate disclosure of facts as they are. We are bound to tell the truth as we find it, without fear of consequences—to lend no convenient shelter to acts of injustice and oppression, but to consign them at once to the judgment of the world.

      Someone should forward this to the Intercept. Perhaps I was too skeptical of the modern applicability of old timey wisdom.

  20. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    LOL.

    I remember when The Reactionary Mind came out and I mentioned it to a leftie friend. He said, “Must be an autobiography.”

  21. Anonymous says:

    The Glennbot Confession of Faith:

    The final belief is to believe in GG’s Snowden story, which you know to be a fiction, there being nothing else. The exquisite truth is to know that GG is a fraud, and yet you believe him willingly.

    • dominique says:

      You’re giving GG fans too much credit here….the truth is that in the shopping mall of the mind, Glennbots are in the toy department, running a few French fries short of a Happy Meal.

    • robertmstahl says:

      GG reminds me of Hurricane Erin on 9/11. There was a lot of house cleaning involved, but what for?

  22. robertmstahl says:

    I think you are about the most important journalist, basically after reading the piece about Chomsky, making me wonder about Greenwald for a longer while, and culminating with Ames versus the ‘scifi’ duo GG and AG, reminding me of Solaris by Tarkovsky. Anyhow, I am about to digress a little, stemming off of what I think is, an astoundingly (as far as it is hard to find it) well tuned intention, and not overly complicated approach I believe you are the very first to embark on, hardly distancing the separate hemispheres across the corpus callosum in a time where this ‘stretching’ is about all there is to deal with.

    In this recent rant by Stefan by Stefan Molyneux about taxes, http://libertycrier.com/truth-taxes/?utm_source=The+Liberty+Crier&utm_campaign=b770cb2488-The_Liberty_Crier_4_15_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_600843dec4-b770cb2488-284732725, I had this to add. Again, this is a digression because of perspective, which I think you have become ‘all-too-important’ as introducing it, now. The thing is, is it just being a step in time?

    My comment: Don’t forget what Larkin Rose showed, also ever so eloquently in A Theft by Deception, the history of the NEGATIVE relationship over time between the statutes and the regulations of laws set out by the Constitution about taxes, how the lies have been kindled over time with the statutes being far more simple, and really, the law. If we start seeing that real intelligence is not this theme about ‘fire’ that the regulations have ‘expanded’ into over time like so many other things, but more like the ‘kindling’ patina does by making a mirror work, that would be the solution.

    Note: for formality reasons, the comprehensive text approachable from any angle, GUTCP, the Grand Unified Theory of Classical Physics, has this notion as the central theme, where the electrical impulse is different from the fire involved in today’s landscape of learning. It brings about the ‘patina’ analogy by redefining chemistry to include dark matter we all know to exist, and, which is 200 times more stable than the most stable form state known.

    Before now, over the course of time, we have gone in the opposite direction with regard to stability, particularly for the chemistry, or modernization from it. With Mills’ work, now, the hard work has been done here, and just about everywhere else, but for the maintenance of the status quo, thus totalitarian motives bending into this chaotic cusp. It is a distribution problem, nevertheless, and not only with the inorganic, but the organic. Lynn Margulis, Francisco J. Varela, Gregory Bateson, these are all examples of what needs spreading, vis a vis the utilization of this fissure, not its destruction. The extinction, for the ‘stretching,’ is likely not something we can stop altogether. But, why stop trying?

  23. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    Solidarity. :p

  24. Jay23 says:

    I think it’s fair to declare this experiment a success. Absolutely fantastic commentary. Please make this is a weekly or biweekly thing Tarzie.

  25. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    Stop and frisk Bloomberg is now the good guy. AIPAC shill-school voucher Warren is our friend.
    Who knew the Koch brothers are a force for good.

    No words. There are just no fucking words.

    • Tarzie says:

      I know. Is he not the most toxic piece of shit on earth? Why is hating him such a hard sell?

      By the way, I am opening up another discussion thread in which you play a starring role. Stand by…

  26. Pingback: Rancid Discussion Thread: Blow Me, Rich Dude. | The Rancid Honeytrap

  27. mardy says:

    I can’t get enough of this thread. The dissection of why otherwise intelligent people jump off the deep end for idols has been a huge mystery for me. One that until now, I’ve been trying to solve alone. Your commenters really hit the nail on the head.

  28. robertmstahl says:

    I would like to know what that lesson is with regard to the Ramparts. All connections to Stalin, or to the wars leading to the ones we have now, should we not try be aware of for some other understanding of cause and effect larger than this? Maybe, but what is it? What would this autopoiesis principle be?

    I think the moment we live in has made a lot of mistakes maintaining the system where it is, like never leaving out metaphysical analogies about our place in history (e.g. Islamic causes maintaining the ‘communism’ that West is adamant about), versus the more broad consideration of epistemology, or something more aligned with thought, not just a random map of evolution, but the fact that we are a subset of something (the blue attractor as opposed to point or periodic, a math proof?) or the ‘access’ to our intellect via structural coupling with our senses, which is more than structure, per se, because there is NOT an inactive principle. Life, then, is ultimately the real lesson, but what of this ‘leap?’ But, for all the failing to structurally couple that becomes history by default, it, then, becomes just nostalgia. So, I don’t see where you are going with your take on the Ramparts.

    Academics, for the ‘influences’ of history, communist or otherwise, is more out to lunch than anything. Is Obama a symptom? I have never backed him up, nor did I Bush. For a time, I defended Clinton, and before that couldn’t fathom any of it, so I stayed out and tried to read literature. This does seem circular, as you say. Is there a difference between the bubbles and the spherical?

    If so, what good does it do for some other appreciation of cause and effect than to ‘just know?’ I think I have ‘just known’ and that is why I am looking for something else. If there is some epistemology of higher consciousness, where is F. J. Varela, Randell L. Mills, Gregory Bateson, or Lynn Margulis in the cultural landscape, or, for the Arts and Letters of, lets say, Barrett Brown, why is it all passing into oblivion? Is it? Is your lesson about the way the Ramparts were part of history just more glue that keeps us stuck in the tribal incarnations (reincarnations?) of our existence, maybe something with regard to our senses being more advanced, otherwise, than to what it is that divides us into these tribes? Gregory Bateson said, “All tribes have one thing in common, they kill their own kind.” Is that where you are going? Is that where all of this is going?

    • Tarzie says:

      I think powerful people doing what powerful people do is explanation enough. They steal. They kill. They accumulate. They conquer. They resist people who don’t want them to do these things. Part of the lie is that this shit is complicated, that these people operate on theories like libertarianism, or communism, which suggests they are animated by ideals, however twisted. They’re not. Those things are just pretexts they sell to functionaries lower in the chain and maybe to themselves if they’re guilty types. Power always wants more. It’s painfully simple. Which is not to say people don’t conspire, but it’s frequently beside the point.

      Putting all that aside, though, the idea that communism is all around us and that Obama is part of a great commie conspiracy is just unsupportable. I mean, if you are going to indulge a taste for this stuff, you should hold out for a more credible theory.

      • robertmstahl says:

        That is about the finest thing I have read for a long time, your first paragraph. Nevertheless, I have been on some direct “receiving” end of a very real agenda since 2003 marked by the destruction of the obelisk in front of the IMAX, never fully restored, then followed by various other ‘measured’ impedance to not being so corrupt, not the least of which has to do with the short selling of the marketplace. So, here I am having lost most of everything I worked 56 years to gain, in a good enough situation at this very moment, but, for how long? The 2008 crash made my story one akin to Job in the bible, something about not being able to return home as one fully grown. So, perhaps, I have learned a lot of what is NOT that counts, or does tell of the nature of some actual agenda, conspired even, if only because of patterns that are repeated. Ultimately, it is all just the resultant of some mathematics about reflection. Hindsight is 20/20. The consolation, then, is what Saul Bellow said, “You are judged in the end by the company you keep.” Thanks, again, for the “painfully fucking simple.”

  29. aresnick says:

    A belated follow-up from twitter— I’d like to suggest a plausible separation of concerns: 1) the disease of discourse characterized by tone policing on the ‘left’, 2) the on-the-merits case which makes Omidyar et al a big/rotten media oligarchy story.

    I’d like to leave aside the entirety of (2)—not because I don’t think it’s reasonable or important, but because I think it’s a distraction.

    To return to your original question,

    There is no question that there is something really very odd about how heavily disciplined and vigorously policed discussion of the Snowden Leaks, Greenwald, Omidyar and First Look is on the left. Why is that?

    I mentioned a favorite excerpt from Chomsky’s “We Own the World”, viz.

    So we had the usual kind of debate going on, which illustrates a very important and pervasive distinction between several types of propaganda systems. To take the ideal types, exaggerating a little: totalitarian states’ propaganda is that you better accept it, or else. And “or else” can be of various consequences, depending on the nature of the state. People can actually believe whatever they want as long as they obey. Democratic societies use a different method: they don’t articulate the party line. That’s a mistake. What they do is presuppose it, then encourage vigorous debate within the framework of the party line. This serves two purposes. For one thing it gives the impression of a free and open society because, after all, we have lively debate. It also instills a propaganda line that becomes something you presuppose, like the air you breathe.

    I think of this excerpt whenever I hear tone-policing or formal (in the strict sense, i.e. ‘concerned with form’) objections in discourse, because it often suggests to me that the emotional energy of someone’s objection is coming from someone or something pushing on something like their Overton window.

    I think the on-the-merits debate is important, but I think that in the context of a diseased discourse, that debate actually fulfills the function of “vigorous debate within the framework of teh party line.” So what’s the analogue of the “we own the world” hypothesis here?

    My guess is that it’s something along the lines of, “Our betters should be trusted to govern us over ourselves.” i.e. I think there’s an extension of the divine right of kings into the context of our modern-day, managerial technocracy going on. Basically, when you hear people talk about Omidyar et al‘s credibility or trustworthiness, I think you should usually hear, “they’re better than us and should be trusted.”

    I think an important facet that’s left out of Pando’s analysis (and the analysis in this comment thread so far) is tactical: I think it is easy to conflate ideological purity with pragmatic inflexibility because—especially when we’re talking about movement-building—it doesn’t just matter who is pure and right, but it matters who can move people. So a generous—and I’d even say largely accurate—take on Henwood’s response would basically be, “Listen, there are big fights out there that for historical, contingent reasons, the pure among us cannot fight. By focusing on the impurities of the best defenders we’ve seen come along in awhile, you’re sowing seeds of suspicion in ways that are largely unactionable and largely counterproductive.” We’re walking right up to the tone-policing line now, because I think there are other versions of that which basically read, “Fall in line, you’re either on this team or you aren’t.”

    Now, the thing I like best about the Pando crowd is their willingness to punch up and the extent to which they’re very impolitic-ness means I trust them to provide a counterpoint. And I’m not really interested in giving them advice or commenting on their approach because a) what the fuck do I know, b) I still think the interesting question is the one you originally posed about the discourse (and implicitly, what we might do to fix it).

    If you believe this so far, then I think an interesting place to turn for an extension of the answer is Agre’s “What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?”, viz.

    The tactics of conservatism vary widely by place and time. But the most central feature of conservatism is deference: a psychologically internalized attitude on the part of the common people that the aristocracy are better people than they are. Modern-day liberals often theorize that conservatives use “social issues” as a way to mask economic objectives, but this is almost backward: the true goal of conservatism is to establish an aristocracy, which is a social and psychological condition of inequality. Economic inequality and regressive taxation, while certainly welcomed by the aristocracy, are best understood as a means to their actual goal, which is simply to be aristocrats. More generally, it is crucial to conservatism that the people must literally love the order that dominates them. Of course this notion sounds bizarre to modern ears, but it is perfectly overt in the writings of leading conservative theorists such as Burke. Democracy, for them, is not about the mechanisms of voting and office-holding. In fact conservatives hold a wide variety of opinions about such secondary formal matters. For conservatives, rather, democracy is a psychological condition. People who believe that the aristocracy rightfully dominates society because of its intrinsic superiority are conservatives; democrats, by contrast, believe that they are of equal social worth. Conservatism is the antithesis of democracy. This has been true for thousands of years.

    I think it’s clear that Omidyar is a member of an aristocracy. And while the means (and perhaps historically, the legitimacy) of that membership and corresponding dominion was financial, I think that you can take a look at Omidyar’s leadership and action and welcome entry into ‘the left’ as an act of projection on the part of the left, i.e. “We cannot act, but They can.” If you believe that, you can see why there’s a strong incentive to believe They’re to be trusted—otherwise, you’re simply disenfranchised and disempowered. It’s marginally more comfortable to believe that there’s someone fighting for you than you’re not important enough to fight.

    So my armchair diagnosis of the discourse’s disease can be summed up as, “The left [including me!] feels largely disenfranchised and disempowered but won’t/can’t admit it. That pain puts us in a position to want a savior, or at least to feel like we’re participating in a process of salvation (to dramatically overstate the case). Those who can act as a savior—semiotically and pragmatically—must be visible and powerful. Critiques from within threaten the exact and immediate function of this savior to the extent that they Other him; therefore, we ignore the plutocratic birthplace and tone-police the dissent.”

    I say “armchair diagnosis” but I can see this within myself. This is what I wrote the first time I saw Snowden’s video, “I typically feel disaffected and vaguely hopeless about ‘the world.’ [Greenwald] & Snowden’s work make me feel proud” Now, compare that to this sentiment during #occupyoakland, “Reading #occupyoakland via @xeni makes me proud of Americans and ashamed of America. As though those were different.” In #occupyoakland, my savior is populist—it’s the Crowd. In Snowden’s case, it’s Snowden & Greenwald—which importantly, I think parse semiotically as “any one of [the white, techie males who enjoy enormous privilege in the United States, including me] us.” But with First Look, it parses as a billionaire whom folks like Ames make me wary of—so when he comes in and polices my excitement about our salvation (again, dramatically overstating the case), I can imagine a place emotionally where I’m thinking, “Lay off! Don’t you see? There are much bigger fish to fry here, and this is maybe our first chance to really fry this fish, what’s the deal??”

    So because I think this armchair diagnosis can both be correct/terrifying and tactically irrelevant when it comes to the question, “Should you critique/suspect Omidyar?” I think it’s worth separating the on-the-merits and the meta-discourse conversations as well. Since otherwise it seems quite hard to be serious, much less be taken seriously.

    • Tarzie says:

      Thanks Alan, I appreciate that you took me up on my invitation. Good to have another voice around here.

      I think the on-the-merits debate is important, but I think that in the context of a diseased discourse, that debate actually fulfills the function of “vigorous debate within the framework of teh party line.” So what’s the analogue of the “we own the world” hypothesis here?

      If I understand what you’re saying here — and, admittedly, I’m unsure — I don’t really agree with this. Ames point, in the tweet above, is that no ‘on-the-merits’ discussion is permitted within ‘the framework’ established by Henwood and everyone else. Therefore, I don’t see how the insistence by Ames and a few others on discussing merits feeds the illusion of vigorous debate. How exactly do you make a case for enlarging the framework of the debate, or the case for how weirdly circumscribed it is, without producing evidence of Omidyar’s unworthiness as an ally to serious leftists?

      whenever I hear tone-policing or formal (in the strict sense, i.e. ‘concerned with form’) objections in discourse, because it often suggests to me that the emotional energy of someone’s objection is coming from someone or something pushing on something like their Overton window.

      Well, I’m a simple guy, and whenever I hear tone policing, I just hear an elaborate ad hom, doing what ad homs do, which is shutting people up by means other than a humiliatingly sound argument, because no sound argument can be made. I think you’re right to introduce the Overton Window, though, because like I keep saying, Greenwald, Omidyar, and dutiful servants like bond-trading, $7500 per-year newsletter publishing Marxist Henwood, are midwifing a shift right for the left, of which the rebranding of toxic inequality (as non-toxic) is a large part.

      So a generous—and I’d even say largely accurate—take on Henwood’s response would basically be, “Listen, there are big fights out there that for historical, contingent reasons, the pure among us cannot fight. By focusing on the impurities of the best defenders we’ve seen come along in awhile, you’re sowing seeds of suspicion in ways that are largely unactionable and largely counterproductive.

      Well, I think that is quite generous, in that it suggests there is something well-intended by shitty Doug Henwood’s shitty attempt to shut Ames up. Feeling absolutely no need to be generous toward a complete shitstain and, in a lot of ways, quite strikingly stupid person like Henwood, I take his tweet at face value. I really think he is too clueless, deluded and self-interested to see anything wrong in the left-oligarch alliance, and really believes that naysayers like Ames are just suffering some kind of brain fever brought on by their envy and feelings of inadequacy. It’s hilarious because they are all of them absolutely besotted with Greenwald and all he touches themselves, so obsession isn’t really what they’re objecting to. Their objection to Ames is his wrong opinions, and the obsession they see in him is merely projection.

      I will concede however that the motive you attribute to Henwood is found all over the place, by people who state it outright. But to me, the idea that Omidyar is ‘one of us’ symbolizes the gutter of deep stupidity and credulity the alchemist Greenwald is dragging us into and should really be called out as such, rather than charitably indulged and explained. The idea that people complaining that the association with Omidyar impedes the attack on the security apparatus are actually helping the security apparatus is so unutterably stupid, it’s truly horrifying that ostensibly sensible people say such shit in public. It goes to the religious side of our left idiocy. The implication is that by unconditionally loving Greenwald and Omidyar we give them strength for striking at the heart of empire. By disliking them, we sap that strength. It’s so fucking stupid, childish and primitive it’s sickening.

      So my armchair diagnosis of the discourse’s disease can be summed up as, “The left [including me!] feels largely disenfranchised and disempowered but won’t/can’t admit it. That pain puts us in a position to want a savior, or at least to feel like we’re participating in a process of salvation (to dramatically overstate the case). Those who can act as a savior—semiotically and pragmatically—must be visible and powerful. Critiques from within threaten the exact and immediate function of this savior to the extent that they Other him; therefore, we ignore the plutocratic birthplace and tone-police the dissent.

      I pretty much agree on this, and despite our willingness around here to not separate concerns so as to “be serious” and “taken seriously”, this very thing and similar have been said around here numerous times. We also think there is a lot more to it.

  30. aresnick says:

    Ames point, in the tweet above, is that no ‘on-the-merits’ discussion is permitted within ‘the framework’ established by Henwood and everyone else.

    I think the whole point of tone-policing is that it isn’t on the merits. You could easily imagine Chris Hayes (or Rachel Maddow or whomever) picking up the on-the-merits mantle far more smoothly than Ames and gaining ground/credence/success. I’m not trying to say Ames should change his tone, but I am saying that his failure doesn’t necessarily represent an antipathy for the on-the-merits discussion.

    Therefore, I don’t see how the insistence by Ames and a few others on discussing merits feeds the illusion of vigorous debate.

    Because now there is the appearance of debate sans engagement, and the underlying issues driving the diseased discourse are left untouched. In analogy to the Chomsky essay, this would be like asking, “Therefore, I don’t see how the insistence on discussing whether weapons of mass destruction exist in Iraq feeds the illusion of vigorous debate.” The point is that the “We Own the World” thesis is assumed to make that question possible. “Is Omidyar trustworthy?” assumes there is someone like Omidyar, but better, out there with whom he should be replaced.

    How exactly do you make a case for enlarging the framework of the debate, or the case for how weirdly circumscribed it is, without producing evidence of Omidyar’s unworthiness as an ally to serious leftists?

    Good question! A few ideas for starting points that I think you can connect directly to that discourse while side-stepping the on-the-merits discussion:

    “Why doesn’t Omidyar endow an independent foundation that simply empowers Greenwald et al to do their work? Or to hire a boss for themselves?”
    “I’m worried we can’t trust this billionaire. Rather than persuade me to trust him, could we design alternatives where we don’t need to?”
    “When was the last time that a billionaire intervened like this and we, as a country, benefitted?”
    “Whom would you suggest we hire as an ombudsman to watch Omidyar’s influence? What transparency measures should we hold First Look to?”

    It’s hilarious because they are all of them absolutely besotted with Greenwald and all he touches themselves, so obsession isn’t really what they’re objecting to. Their objection to Ames is his wrong opinions, and the obsession they see in him is merely projection.

    Agreed.

    The implication is that by unconditionally loving Greenwald and Omidyar we give them strength for striking at the heart of empire. By disliking them, we sap that strength. It’s so fucking stupid, childish and primitive it’s sickening.

    I get what you’re saying, and you’re right that it follows logically, but that’s clearly not what many people actually think—even if it follows from what they say. If you identify as part of a marginalized or disempowered group, it is completely understandable (even if wrong in this case) to worry about public dissent or critique undermining your efforts tactically. But I think the more fundamental mechanism is the armchair diagnosis.

    Ultimately, I think a tension to resolve in these discussions is simply whether you care more about the correctness or efficacy of your speech. These aren’t mutually exclusive, but if Ames is writing to “alert” it is different than “persuade” it is different than “market” it is different than “smear” and so on. Until Ames et al are simply more powerful, understanding the mechanisms behind the diseased discourse seems essential to destroying/healing it.

    • Tarzie says:

      Until Ames et al are simply more powerful, understanding the mechanisms behind the diseased discourse seems essential to destroying/healing it.

      I completely agree on the value of ‘understanding the mechanism.’ But Ames et al will never be more powerful — not without huge tradeoffs — and I reject the possibility of ‘healing’ the mechanism. For the moment, ‘destroying’ the mechanism seems unrealistic, so my implied recommendation around here is to use it for what it’s good for, while attempting to produce alternatives. This is encapsulated in my laboriously and pathetically ongoing critique of Chomsky: I think, in the final analysis, he’s bad for us. But I don’t think I could have reached this conclusion without him (or at least Ed Herman).

      A few ideas for starting points that I think you can connect directly to that discourse while side-stepping the on-the-merits discussion:

      “Why doesn’t Omidyar endow an independent foundation that simply empowers Greenwald et al to do their work? Or to hire a boss for themselves?”…“I’m worried we can’t trust this billionaire. Rather than persuade me to trust him, could we design alternatives where we don’t need to?”[etc]

      I agree with what you’re getting at here pretty much entirely, in that you’re focusing less on Omidyar as an individual, and more on him as a widget in a structure. Now I am starting to get what you mean by ‘on the merits’ objections. But I think the Pando crew and people around here are all generally in agreement that the idea of a billionaire as a guardian of press freedom is simply ridiculous on its face. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that Omidyar is simply the wrong billionaire, even if he does seem almost comically ill-suited to being Greenwald’s patron. From Levine/Ames first piece about him, using a line they probably lifted from Arthur Silber:

      the fabled “civic-minded billionaire”—you’ll find him two doors down from the tooth fairy.

      I think Paul Carr, who is more directly accountable to Pando’s own billionaires than Ames and Levine, is kinda muddying the water with ridiculous stunts like getting Greenwald to make Twitter pledges of independence and dumbing shit down by digging up old videos where ZOMG, Greenwald said shit that is, like, totally opposite of what he says now! The problem with Pando is their own analysis is just so half-baked. Levine and Ames kicked this all off with Omidyar as Libertarian Trojan Horse, but they’ve thankfully toned that down since moving to Pando, and generally seem more clued in than Carr.

      • aresnick says:

        But I think the Pando crew and people around here are all generally in agreement that the idea of a billionaire as a guardian of press freedom is simply ridiculous on its face. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that Omidyar is simply the wrong billionaire, even if he does seem almost comically ill-suited to being Greenwald’s patron.

        Frankly, I don’t think that this necessarily comes through in their coverage. Far more airtime is devoted to Omidyar than billionaires. Compare their coverage to someone like Taibbi—he effectively indicted Dimon and Blankfein and whomever, but the received message from many of his articles is about Wall St., write large.

        The problem with Pando is their own analysis is just so half-baked. Levine and Ames kicked this all off with Omidyar as Libertarian Trojan Horse, but they’ve thankfully toned that down since moving to Pando, and generally seem more clued in than Carr.

        I totally agree with this, and it’s a more generous take on why I find myself mistrusting them—their own hunger for scoring points and rhetoric seems to drive them more reliably than any particular attachment to a deeper understanding. I’m sure because I see more of Carr I unfairly judge Pando more broadly though, too—

      • Tarzie says:

        it’s a more generous take on why I find myself mistrusting them—their own hunger for scoring points and rhetoric seems to drive them more reliably than any particular attachment to a deeper understanding

        Yeah, I think this is true, though I think Ames and Levine probably are true socialists — of a really authoritarian, state-loving kind — with an old fashioned antipathy to oligarchs. But your comparison to Taibbi is apt. Taibbi gets very personal about individuals he dislikes, and particular crimes, but that’s secondary to the attack on the entire class they represent. Pando unfortunately turns that around. Carr in particular has completely allowed Greenwald to frame the matter entirely in terms of his journalistic independence.

        The simple fact is that because of the longstanding feud Ames/Levine have had with Greenwald, they’re among the few lefties with no social capital to lose by taking him on. Between the lefties idiotically in thrall to his self-mythologizing and those who simply fear his and Omidyar’s prodigious influence, there is really no one else who is willing to do the work. Fortunately writers with mixed motives and muddled politics can do useful work and I think Pando has. The question for me when I read a piece isn’t ‘what’s motivating this’ but, rather, is it telling me something useful? I think the blogger, Patrick Higgins, did a great job here of inverting the attacks the Greenwald gang throws at Ames to avoid contention with his actual claims. An excerpt:

        Let’s avoid substance for a moment to take a journey into the gutter of psychology. Ames hates Greenwald’s guts because Greenwald once wrote disapprovingly about a piece of his. Ames’ old writing partner, Matt Taibbi, was much more talented and so was, in contrast to Ames, bought up by those ever plentiful Omidyar dollars in the market, leaving Ames fumingly jealous. Good, I say. Here is a man with the advantage of holding an outsider perspective on the situation at hand (you can never overestimate the importance of an outsider perspective, in my mind), a man who wasn’t invited to the cool kid’s table, a man resentful, full of hostility, hosting a massive fucking chip on his shoulder as regards the system. Sounds like a man ready to do some decent journalism.

        Higgins then takes off with what Ames has disclosed and does the more holistic kind of analysis the Pando crew isn’t capable of. It becomes clear that Ames’ first piece on Omidyar’s partnership with USAID was very valuable, not just in terms of imparting factual information, but also in exposing the subservience of Greenwald and Marcy Wheeler to their new boss.

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