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Mark Ames: Why the American Right Never Liked V.S. Naipaul

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By Mark Ames, author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion from Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine. Cross posted from The Exiled.

I’ve often wondered why the American Right has been so quiet about V.S. Naipaul. He’s easily the most talented reactionary writer in the English language–maybe the only living talent left in the right-wing zombiesphere. The American Right devotes an insane amount of resources into manufacturing hagiographies on anyone whom they believe makes them look good–even the Soviets couldn’t compete with today’s American Right when it comes to glorifying their pantheon of degenerate cretins like Ayn Rand, Phyllis Schlafly, Friedrich von Hayek…

I found a few passages that I think explain why they never liked Naipaul much. Basically, it comes down to this: The American Right only needs “team players”–shameless, cynical hacks who can be counted on to churn out whatever rank propaganda ordered up by the Heritage Foundation. For that, you need a Rotary Club nihilist like Dinesh D’Souza, someone totally devoid of a literary ego, intellectual curiosity or a gag reflex.

I was just reading Patrick French’s brilliant biography of Naipaul, The World Is What It Is, and came across this interesting scene from Naipaul’s visit to America in 1969. Naipaul had already started developing a reputation at that point as one of the rare examples of a dark-skinned reactionary Tory from a Third World colony, making him one of the most despised literary figures among the trendy-left.

His first impressions of America weren’t good: ”They [Americans] are really now a group of immigrants who have picked up English but whose mental disciplines are diluted-European,” he wrote in one letter home.

In another letter, he confessed:

I now dread meeting Americans, especially their alleged intellectuals. Because here the intellect, too, is only a form of display; of all the chatter about problems (very, very remote if you live in an ‘apartment’ in Manhattan: something that appears to be got up by the press) you feel that there is really no concern, that there is only a competition in concern…The level of thought is so low that only extreme positions can be identified: Mary McCarthy, Mailer, Eldridge Cleaver and so on. Ideas have to be simple…The quandary is this. This country is the most powerful in the world; what happens here will affect the restructuring of the world. It is therefore of interest and should be studied. But how can one overcome one’s distaste? Why shouldn’t one just go away and ignore it?”

A good question–I ask myself that just about every morning. The “relevancy” argument he raises is losing its persuasive appeal fast. (The best answer I can come up with is, “To make some of their lives as miserable as they’ve made mine.”)

Anyway, it’s interesting that Naipaul mentions the name of Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver here in 1969–because Cleaver’s name comes up again in an essay Naipaul published in 1984 on the Republican Party Convention in Dallas. This was at the height of the Reagan counter-revolution, when a reactionary like Naipaul should have come to pick up his check, make a few speeches, write a glowing account of America’s turn to Conservatism, and find his books turned into bestsellers via the right-wing mail-order pipeline.

But Naipaul was always too intellectually honest–and too vain. In the essay on the 1984 Republican convention, titled “Among the Republicans,” Naipaul describes the degradation of Eldridge Cleaver, the Black Panther whom he once lumped in with all the “simple” American intellectuals he had contempt for. It’s the first morning of the Convention, and Naipaul sees this announcement in his Dallas Sheraton hotel:

11:00 AM. Press conference, Richard Viguerie and Howard Phillips, Populist Conservative Tax Coalition. Subject: “Are Liberals Soft on Communism?” Guest speaker: Eldridge Cleaver, former Black Panther.

Eldridge Cleaver! One of the famous names of the late 1960s: the self-confessed rapist of white women, the man who had spent years in jail, the Black Muslim, the author of Soul on Ice (1968), not really a book, more an assemblage of jottings, but a work of extraordinary violence, answering the mood of that time. In 1969, when for a few weeks I had been in the United States, I had heard it said of Cleaver that he was going to die one day in a shoot-out with the FBI. That hadn’t happened. Cleaver had found asylum in Algeria and then in France; he had become homesick there and had returned, a born-again Christian, to the United States.

In Paris earlier this year I had met a man who had made an important film about Cleaver during the revolutionary days of the late 1960s. The film man now regarded that time, which had its glory, as a time of delusion. And now Cleaver himself was part of a side-show—or so I thought of it—at the Republican convention.

It seemed a big comedown. And it was even sadder, when I got to the conference room, to find that there was no crowd; that Cleaver was not the most important person there, that he was sitting on the far right of the second row, that some people didn’t seem to know who he was; that the few journalists asking questions were more interested in the other people of the Populist Conservative Tax Coalition.

So ordinary now, so safe, this black man for whom a revolutionary’s desperate death had been prophesied. I had known him only from his younger photographs. He was now forty-nine and almost bald; what hair he had was gray. There was something Chinese, placid, about his eyes and cheekbones; he looked very patient. His eyebrows were thin, like penciled arcs, and his hooded eyes were quiet.

Seeing Cleaver paraded around like a defeated, conquered aborigine struck Naipaul hard, opening up deep raw wounds: that of a colonized, backwater, dark-skinned twerp whose only way out of Trinidad was through Tory England, his conquerors.

Although a reactionary, Naipaul was never a lackey like today’s right-wing “intellectuals”; he never shied away from describing about the brutality of colonialism (unlike bootlicking scum like Dinesh D’Souza, who never missed an opportunity to glorify his white right-wing masters for colonizing India, despite the tens of millions of Indians who died of famine in the Raj).

Naipaul continues:

And at last Cleaver stood up. He was tall beside the CIA man. He was paunchy now, even a little soft-bellied. His blue shirt had a white collar and his dark red tie hung down long. The touch of style was reassuring.

Somebody asked about his political ambitions. He said he wanted to get on the Berkeley city council. And then, inevitably, someone asked about his attitude to welfare. His reply was tired; he gave the impression of having spoken the words many times before. “I’m passionately opposed to the welfare system because it’s made people a parasitic dependency on the federal system…. I want to see black people plugged into the economic system…. Welfare is a stepping-stone to socialism because it teaches people the government is going to solve our problems.”

That was more or less it. It seemed to be all that was required of “Eldridge,” that statement about socialism and welfare. And soon the session was declared closed. A repeat began to be prepared. As in a fair, shows were done over and over again, and in between business was drummed up.

Naipaul is so affected by the sight of this conquered, lobotomized-Republican Eldridge Cleaver that he goes back again to Cleaver’s Black Panther days and finds himself not just empathizing but actually appreciating Cleaver’s literary and intellectual talents, something Naipaul couldn’t see back in the 60′s:

…Away from the dark corner, Cleaver, placid, gray-haired, leaned against a wall. Two or three journalists went to him. But the very simplicity of the man on display made the journalists ask only the obvious questions, questions that had already been asked.

There was a many-layered personality there. But that personality couldn’t be unraveled now, with simple questions in a formal public gathering. To find that man, it was necessary to go to his book, the book of 1968, Soul on Ice. And there—in a book more moving and richer than I had remembered—that many-layered man was: with his abiding feeling for religion and his concern with salvation (as a Roman Catholic, then as a Black Muslim, then as a revolutionary); his need for community constantly leading him to simple solutions; his awareness of his changing self; his political shrewdness:

And here Naipaul quotes an amazing passage from Cleaver’s Soul On Ice:

I was very familiar with the Eldridge who came to prison, but that Eldridge no longer exists. And the one I am now is in some ways a stranger to me. You may find this difficult to understand but it is very easy for one in prison to lose his sense of self. And if he has been undergoing all kinds of extreme, involved, and unregulated changes, then he ends up not knowing who he is….

In this land of dichotomies and disunited opposites, those truly concerned with the resurrection of black Americans have had eternally to deal with black intellectuals who have become their own opposites….

In a sense, both the new left and the new right are the spawn of the Negro revolution. A broad national consensus was developed over the civil rights struggle, and it had the sophistication and morality to repudiate the right wing. This consensus, which stands between a violent nation and chaos, is America’s most precious possession. But there are those who despise it.

The task which the new right has feverishly undertaken is to erode and break up this consensus, something that is a distinct possibility since the precise issues and conditions which gave birth to the consensus no longer exist.

That was Eldridge Cleaver in the late 1960s’s, describing exactly what would happen over the next two decades.

Now that Naipaul could compare the two Eldridge Cleavers–the Black Panther vs. the Republican lackey–the message was clear. If Naipaul wanted to pick up that check from the American Right-Wing, it wasn’t enough to have fought on the front-lines of the ideological battle of the 1970′s against the literary Marxists. He’d have to become a lobotomized, conquered version of himself, an Eldridge Cleaver. He’d have to give up everything interesting about himself.

Instead, Naipaul essentially banished himself to the whispered margins of the American Right by doing what he was always best at: Describing exactly what he saw at the 1984 Convention, without artifice, without pandering. Here is Naipaul describing the effect of the climactic speech by Ronald Reagan:

So that at the climax of the great occasion, as at the center of so many of the speeches, there was nothing. It was as if, in summation, the sentimentality, about religion and Americanism, had betrayed only an intellectual vacancy; as if the computer language of the convention had revealed the imaginative poverty of these political lives. It was “as if”—in spite of the invocations and benedictions (the last benediction to be spoken by Dr. Criswell)—”as if inspiration had ceased, as if no vast hope, no religion, no song of joy, no wisdom, no analogy, existed any more.”

The words are by Emerson; they were written about England. English Traits, published in 1856, was about Emerson’s two visits to England, in 1833 and 1847, when he felt that English power, awesome and supreme as it still was, was on the turn, and that English intellectual life was being choked by the great consciousness of power and money and rightness. “They exert every variety of talent on a lower ground.” Emerson wrote, “and may be said to live and act in a submind.” Something like this I felt in the glitter of Dallas. Power was the theme of the convention, and this power seemed too easy—national power, personal power, the power of the New Right. Like Emerson in England, I seemed in the convention hall of Dallas “to walk on a marble floor, where nothing will grow.”

All of the young reactionary intellectuals I knew when I was younger eventually came around to a similar epiphany. At some point, it just couldn’t be ignored: These people were scum; mean, sleazy, boring scum. It became impossible to be near them. They–we–dropped out of the Right, and wanted nothing more to do with it all. But by ruining everything in this country–economically, culturally, intellectually, militarily–the Right essentially chased us wherever we went, poisoning everything they could get their hands on. Until finally there was nowhere to go but Leftward. A hardened, mean Left.

Either get the Republican lobotomy (just look at poor P.J. O’Rourke), or go Left: those are the only choices in this country today.

Naipaul’s career developed at a time when Western reactionary intellectuals could still be formidable, dynamic and unpredictable; there was space carved out on the Right for reactionary talent like Naipaul. They had to struggle for publishing success at a time when the printed word was dominated by left-wing/Marxist philistines. Those Left-wing intellectuals no longer exist today, except as phantom boogeymen in the heroic fantasies of the Right. What’s worse, the American Right has no need of unpredictable talent like V.S. Naipaul, so they’ve driven his species into extinction as well, poisoning the intellectual eco-system forever, making it impossible for a new Naipaul to threaten them again. They’ve replaced the Naipauls with libertarians, the fake, predictable, genetically-modified version of reactionary intellectualism–so insanely corrupt and so profoundly retarded that, like a skunk spraying foul stupidity whenever threatened, libertarianism has successfully scared away anyone with brains and dignity from bothering them while they feed.

Naipaul always despised facile thinking. It was because Naipaul was so committed to merciless observation that he allied himself with reactionary intellectuals of the pre-Reagan, pre-Thatcher era–it was the Left that wore the rose-tinted glasses back then. What Naipaul didn’t realize was how much worse, how much more intellectually stifling America’s right-wing intelligentsia would turn out to be once in power. And sentimental to the point of disgusting–that’s the other thing that comes through Naipaul’s essay on the 1984 Republican Convention: the cheap, contemptible sentimentality of the American Right, the very opposite of rigor.

What’s left today, three decades after Reagan’s victory, is a ruling class of Rotary Club nihilists. Right-wing degenerates. And they’re not even interesting degenerates anymore, the way some Right-wingers used to be. They just scream a lot. Scream and bang a stick on the ground–and at the end of the stick-banging, they go to pick up their checks from their billionaire sponsors.

All of which brings me back to Naipaul’s original question: How can one overcome one’s distaste? Why shouldn’t one just go away and ignore it?

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83 comments

  1. Francois T

    The American Right only needs “team players”–shameless, cynical hacks who can be counted on to churn out whatever rank propaganda ordered up by the Heritage Foundation.

    Just look at what happened to David Frum.

    1. Sundog

      Bruce Bartlett is the prime example, IMO. Worked for Reagan, Kemp. I’d be happier if NC cross-posted him often.

      Pawlenty would cut the top individual income tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, cut the corporate rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, and eliminate completely all taxation of capital gains, interest and dividends – the principal sources of income for the wealthy. Implausibly, Pawlenty asserted that despite reducing revenues by some $8 trillion over the next 10 years – from the lowest level of federal revenues as a share of GDP in 60 years – that his plan would balance the budget. I could find no data or analysis of how Pawlenty’s plan would actually achieve this goal.

      My purpose today is not to criticize the particulars of Pawlenty’s plan, which is very much in the Republican mainstream, but rather to talk about the nature of economic growth and how one-dimensional the GOP view is. The truth is that economists know a lot about what causes growth and what policies will raise the growth rate, and tax rates have a far smaller role than most people and all Republicans believe.

      Bruce Bartlett, “What Really Matters for Growth (It’s Not Tax Rates)”
      http://www.capitalgainsandgames.com/blog/bruce-bartlett/2268/what-really-matters-growth-its-not-tax-rates

      How about David Stockman, of all people, for shredding Bush the Second? Not sure if he’s been exiled just yet, but I have an mp3 of a Mises Institute lecture that doesn’t seem to show on their website. That’s a shame, because after a couple of minutes of obligatory Obama bashing he trashes Bush for a good half-hour.

      Mike Lofgren might be joining the club. Apparently he’s a Republican with long years in DC, working as staffer on both House and Senate budget committees.

      Raising the debt ceiling isn’t, as the GOP tries to say, Congress giving itself permission to continue excessive spending: It’s something that’s necessary to pay for past congressional decisions on taxes and spending, and those decisions were made primarily when Republicans were in charge.<

      "Borrowing and spending the GOP way"
      http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-lofgren-budget-republicans-20110626,0,7490630.story

      Frum seems to think US security policy must be led without slightest deviation by the whims of the far right in some other country; while his excommunication is notable that doesn't make his opinions less odious.

      The sad fact of the GOP and the American right more generally is that they're dedicated to destroying the legitimacy of government, organized labor and any form of collective action other than industry lobby groups and what drifts from the miasma of an apocalyptic middle-eastern death cult.

      1. pws4

        I also think of people like Chalmers Johnson and Paul Craig Roberts when I read this. Right Wingers who question Right Wing orthodoxy because they are patriots disgusted by watching the United States destroyed by a small elite composed of unpatriotic “citizens of the world” who make up the leadership of the modern American Right.

        1. Renee Dumas

          True. The people running the American right (and the American left) are pouring money out of this country as quickly as they can.

          Why not? The only acceptable position in the United States right now is that criticizing the looting and de-wealth-ifying of this country is Communist and immoral.

          Personally, I think folk philosophers here have fetishized greed as “natural”, but like Rawls, Hayek, and the various liberals they worship, they have neglected to address envy.

          That’s fine. Envy will eventually force them to address how they’ve eliminated any way for class dissatisfaction to be dealt with by the state, when mob violence becomes rampant.

      1. RichardB

        OK. I looked it up and found this response from Von Hayek:
        ‘Yes,’ replied Hayek, turning to a blackboard full of triangles, ‘but it would take a very long mathematical argument to explain why.

        Where is the “brainlessness?”

        1. hondje

          See the lack of a cogent answer? That would be the aforementioned brainlessness. WHOOSH

  2. W.C. Varones

    The American Right only needs “team players”–shameless, cynical hacks who can be counted on to churn out whatever rank propaganda ordered up by the Heritage Foundation.

    This leftist partisan hackery is not worthy of Yves’ excellent blog.

    While Yves and I disagree on many policy prescriptions, we are on the same page on the Dirty Banksters, and I respect her views on a range of issues. This Mark Ames guy, whoever he is, is just a deranged angry Krugmanesque partisan.

    1. YankeeFrank

      You display the exact qualities Ames and Naipaul are decrying in the article: puerile name calling and hucksterism with no foundation. Krugman’s economics might be somewhat misguided, though not for the reasons you think. But his politics are not as you describe. He has a moral conscience which is severely lacking in your cohort. If you want to criticize, use fact, logic and example, not ad hominem attacks. Otherwise you just prove the rule that your “side” are soulless hacks.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Not only is your attack ad hominem, but you’ve stereotyped, and badly too.

      Ames is not Krugman fan.

      And in case you managed to miss it, he comes by his antipathy for what the right has become via seeing it first hand. I also must note you didn’t dispute his conclusions, just made it loud and clear you didn’t like them.

      1. Anon

        This Mark Ames guy, whoever he is

        If you don’t know who Mark Ames is by this point, your opinion is worth zip.

        Unlike most of the corporate shills who pass for journalists in the US these days, Ames actually has a pair.

        Plus he’s set foot outside of the US once or twice (unlike most of his fellow citizens). Hell, the guy can even speak Russian.

        Ever heard of The Exile? Know why it had to become The Exiled?

      2. W.C. Varones

        Ames’ broad-brush attack is absurd. While his claims may be true of some on “the Right,” he is apparently willfully ignorant of the large, thoughtful, principled, libertarianish segment of “the Right.”

        I’m not the one throwing the ad hominems here.

        1. readerOfTeaLeaves

          Here’s what intrigues me about Ames: he’s reported in Russia.
          And in Russia, it would appear, the mafia has set up political parties in order to claim a political legitimacy that enables them to loot, pillage, and control mercilessly. Politics, as well as the law and judges, have become the enforcement tools of criminal gangs. (google: khodorovsky for more)

          I am not an expert on Russia, nor do I speak Russian.
          I glimpse bits here and there.
          But you don’t have to be a genius to spot the alarming fact that Russian politics appears to have morphed into some kind of politico-mafia dystopian mess.

          Ames has observed that process, and it makes him invaluable. He has some equally talented colleagues, and anyone who ignores what these reporters are saying leaves themselves utterly defenseless in a rapidly shifting world. (It’s as foolish as ignoring Misha Glenny, but I digress…)

          My fundamental interest in economics is in the area of ‘externalities’: pricing failures. Russia, with its history of communist centralized planning, might be called ‘The Mother of Economic Externality Creating Systems’.

          After all, it took some incredible ‘externalities’ to build and operate Chernobyl — and then have Gorbachev learn **from the Finns** that it was melting down.

          The Russians excel at producing environmentally horrific externalities, another of which was drying up the Oxus River. It takes some serious dysfunction to dry up an entire river system (plus a sea).

          In order to screw up on that scale, you have to ignore millions of ‘feedback loops’ repeatedly, and institutionally. You need to construct a system of denial so entrenched that you refuse to hear, or acknowledge, what your local citizens/subjects are seeing and living through daily. It takes deep, systemic denial to dry up an entire river system, along with the Aral Sea. In order to create systems that dysfunctional, you need deeply corrupt political systems.

          A healthy political and economic system, with sound science and reasonable feedback loops, simply could not produce externalities as severe as the two that I’ve mentioned.

          There is no way to poison the environment, do terrible science, and have massive social dysfunctions without some kind of weird, voodoo political structure to keep the lid on things. It’s probably going to look pretty thuggish, because it has to be ‘tough’, and it’s probably going to concentrate wealth and obsess on controlling energy and telecomm resources. It will eradicate individual freedoms, and crush initiative. To achieve that kind of control, it is probably going to have mafia-like characteristics, including surveillance systems and thuggery. In other words, thuggery is rewarded; creative entrepreneurship, probably not so much. (And FWIW, it’s social externalities will manifest as a lot of alcoholism and drug addictions, because those always seem to accompany systemic denial, social distrust, and widespread despair.)

          Ames, informed by Russia, is alert to dangerous shifts in US politics that more mainstream, Beltway inhabitants miss completely. Understandably, quite a few people would want to ‘kill the messenger’ rather than listen to the warnings Ames is trying to sound.

          Click on over to the guardian.uk and google ‘russia, putin’, and you will find that some Russians are finally willing to be quoted (by name!) as objecting to Putin’s thuggish pressure on their organizations to buckle under to his mafia-like political ‘party’ Russia United. Judging from English-language reports, Putin’s party appears to be some kind of dystopic, mafia-politico entity. Imagine the US Corleone Party supporting the candidacy of … well, some daft twit who doesn’t understand science and thinks it’s a ‘good policy’ to load toxic waste onto barges and dump them off the coasts of Somalia. The ‘waste management guys’ get their ideal candidate: publicly appealing, and totally under their thumb. And if the cargo is tax-free via tax havens, so much the better! Externalities build on themselves and suddenly, no one can figure out why the Somalies hate us, or why there are rising rates of cancers and dead fisheries…

          To underscore that this is not simply a Russian or Central Asian phenomenon, note Putin’s reputed closeness with Berluscone, and you begin to see that the political and economic systems that create, perpetuate, and enable breathtaking externalities — like drying up river systems — are consistently linked with political corruption. They are based on systemic denial, on refusal to conduct responsible science.

          In other words, political corruption is dangerous for your health. (And your kids’ health.)

          Ames is one of the very few reporters who seems to have scoped out the grim, terrifying implications of the kind of mafia-flavored variety of political corruption that Russia is perfecting. But if we pay attention, it’s now clear that we appear to be seeing this style of political corruption inside the US.

          For instance, note that in Alaska, the Russians own access to oil resources.
          I don’t have time in a day (or a year) to track down all of Sarah Palin’s campaign donors, but it is odd that the US press hasn’t done more digging into **who is funding her**. She’s witless about basic science, which is a critical necessity if you want a media personality and-or a Eye Candy Candidate who will screw the environment; they need to do it sincerely, and ‘sincerity’ is one of Ms Palin’s specialties. (Ditto Pawlenty.)

          The dangerous mafia-like political systems we are seeing in Russia, in Italy, and quite possibly within the US are only one reason the SCOTUS decision on ‘Citizen United’ was extremely dangerous — it’s opened the flood gates to oiligarchs, the mafia, and other environmentally destructive, corrupt entities to completely control US politics with zero accountability.

          You may like Ames, or you may despise him.
          But you ignore him at your peril.

          This guy has glimpsed the mouth of hell, and he’s writing about it.
          You may want to ignore him, but you can’t accuse him of intellectual laziness, or of dishonesty.

          1. lambert strether

            Je repete:

            There is no way to poison the environment, do terrible science, and have massive social dysfunctions without some kind of weird, voodoo political structure to keep the lid on things.

            Gee, that rings a bell. I wonder why?

          2. kievite

            I am not an expert on Russia, nor do I speak Russian.
            I glimpse bits here and there.

            That’s a serious problem. It’s very difficult to follow the country if you do not understand the language and never worked for some time in it. Classic example is your views about Khodorkovsky, who for those who understand Russian language looks very problematic figure. His head of security got life for multiple killings of competitors.
            http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1685150/posts

            The second in command was involved in the same but managed to escape to Israel.

            See also http://allantoin.wordpress.com/2011/03/18/khodorkovsky-pipescorpses-preparations-for-third-yukos-trial-begin/

            A curious film surfaced on the Internet recently. It is called Khodorkovsky. Pipes/Corpses (it’s a mediocre wordplay: in Russian, the word “pipes” (truby) and the word “corpses” (trupy) only differ by one letter) and it was made by a journalist Andrey Karaulov, who hosted a show called “Moment of Truth” (Moment Istiny) on one of Russian central channels. Khodorkovsky. Pipes/Corpses claims that Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former head of oil corporation YUKOS and once-richest man in Russia, who has been in prison since 2003 on charges of tax evasion and embezzlement, is a serial killer guilty of at least four murders and several attempted murders.

            I think you might benefit from reading some blogs with opinions different from MSM reporting like http://marknesop.wordpress.com/

          3. readerOfTeaLeaves

            Thanks, kievite –

            If I don’t pare down my comments, Yves is going to kick me off and tell me to GYOFB (get your own f&$#ing blog). My comments here were way too long, but I sincerely appreciate your response and will follow up.

            Best, rOTL

          4. Glenn Condell

            ‘Russian politics appears to have morphed into some kind of politico-mafia dystopian mess. Ames has observed that process, and it makes him invaluable. He has some equally talented colleagues’

            Matt Taibbi too has a perspective tempered by time working in Russia, as does Dmitri Orlov, whose comparisons of current US decline with the recent Russian past are rather too close for comfort.

          5. Renee Dumas

            I hope you are not making the laughable assertion that Khodorkovsky is a sympathetic figure or that he is the helpless free-market victim of the Russian stae.

            That’s an American Know-Nothing propaganda line that Ames, Levine, and Taibbi have all attacked as evidence of American idiocy about Russia.

            Khodorkovsky vs. Putin can best be seen as a crime boss who has fallen out of favor vs. the one who’s ascended to the slimy throne.

            The only reason Khodorkovsky has wealth to defend is because he was complicit in the looting of state enterprises – he is effectively one of Russia’s greatest manipulators of state power for personal gain.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          I don’t buy at all that libertarians are either thoughtful or principled because if they thought hard enough about their prescriptions they’d understand that they are a fantasy and the societies that have tried implementing major elements of their program, have led to plutocratic land grabs (the poster child is Russia, which Ames observed first hand).

          “Principled” stands for “fooled into buying an ideology which is bad for the vast majority of the public”. I debunk the incoherence of the “free markets” ideology in Chapters 4 and 5 of ECONNED. It is rife with internal contradiction, and is therefore often effectively redefined as needed in particular context and serves as a Trojan horse for pillage by the powerful.

          1. W.C. Varones

            Libertarianism has its issues, but then so does Leftism.

            The Left’s record in Russia, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, etc. isn’t so hot. Even in soft-socialist European nations, the economic record is pretty weak.

            Meanwhile, in libertarianish economic locales like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong, they’re doing pretty well.

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            Since when did “left” = Communism? This is the oldest smear in the book.

            Your definitions are daft. I’ve lived in Australian and done business in Canada. They are so far from libertarian it isn’t funny.

            Both are WAY to the left of the US. They have universal health care, much more progressive taxation (and far more cumbersome tax reporting in Oz than here), much higher minimum wages, have laws more favorable to unions, far more aggressive regulation (Australia’s version of the FDA makes the FDA look like pussies; they shut down a major drug maker while I was there and have much tougher policies on food than we do. Similarly Canada, New Zealand, and Australia have more extensive and intrusive bank regulation by a country mile).

            Voting is MANDATORY in Australia, for Chrissakes. Paid political advertising on TV is forbidden. People there do not believe CEO of companies they did not build deserve to be paid a lot. Hedge fund manager John Hempton has said flat out no CEO is worth more than $2 million a year, and I’m sure if I asked him he would not object to confiscatory taxation to support that. And he has plenty of company in the top tier in Oz (I know because I met about half the people at that level in Sydney, they are very accessible if you make the effort).

            And Australia is also rated as having one of the most intrusive surveillance states in the world, in the same category as the US, the UK, and China. So how libertarian is that?

            You are just demonstrating that you either don’t know what you are talking about or are willing to lie to try to score points. Neither interpretation reflects well on you.

        3. liberal

          While his claims may be true of some on “the Right,” he is apparently willfully ignorant of the large, thoughtful, principled, libertarianish segment of “the Right.”

          LOL. Most so-called libertarians are in fact freedom-despising crypto-feudalists.

      3. Dan Duncan

        Yves, WTF are you talking about?

        Yves writes: “I also must note you didn’t dispute his conclusions, just made it loud and clear you didn’t like them.”

        In writing such a ridiculous reply to W.C. Varones, Yves implies that Ames actually supported his conclusions.

        Give me a break.

        Here’s the deal with this achingly stupid Ames’ post:

        Ames states that he has often “wondered” why the American Right has not embraced V.S. Naipaul.

        Then Ames simply uses this introductory statement of wonder as an excuse to rail against the Right. And he does so with nothing but unsupported, opinionated conclusions guaranteed to pander to the mouth-breathing Leftists, drooling all over their keyboards as they lap this shit up.

        What a f*cking joke.

        There is nothing interesting or insightful about this post.

        –Ames disdains the Right.
        –Ames admires V.S. Naipaul.
        –Ames admires Naipaul because Naipaul lamented the change in Eldridge Cleaver and claims that Cleaver is a sell-out.

        All that scintillating stuff brings us to this monumental conclusion:

        Naipaul’s disillusionment with Cleaver is proof that “intellectuals” on the Right are nothing but “mean, sleazy, boring, lobotomized, Zombie scum.”

        “Oooohhh, the criticisms of Ames are ad hominem! Ad hominem, I say!”

        Seriously…this is laughable stuff.

        1. Moonbeam McSwine

          Danny darlin’ don’t pay him no never-mind. He just thinks he’s smarter than you with his fancy deegree from that big-time school you couldn’t get into, and those complicated idears nobody can’t make head or tail of, and he thinks he’s so worldly wise from living in places that you know much better cuz you read all about em in yuor Ann Rand books over and over, more times than he read it, I bet. Hold your head up high, Danny darlin’ you are my may-yun, come get some of my smelly love, I’ll make you proud again despite all your failures.

    3. Glenn Condell

      ‘This leftist partisan hackery is not worthy of Yves’ excellent blog.’

      I think it’s relevant here that not so long ago Yves took the Roosevelt Institute to the woodshed for a damn good thrashing after it took Peterson’s blood money, and the subsequent thread was largely a series of laments that the Dem Party has ceased to be a genuine opposition to Big Money, having turned itself into a rival locus for corporate and fatcat sponsorship. It too is now infested with ‘team players’ and ‘cynical hacks’ up the wazoo, as they say in the classics.

      If you hang around you will see that it’s not all one way traffic here, and ‘partisan’ is one thing this blog is not. Hence it’s popularity with sensible people not emotionally beholden to one tribe or the other.

      And it’s not partisan hackery FFS, it’s pretty good stuff and I for one would be amused to read whatever Mr Ames might have to say about the left. I wonder if you’d call it ‘partisan hackery’ then.

      1. Foppe

        No need to call these contemporary non-right people ‘the left’. Just call them “liberals”.

    4. ScottA

      “This Mark Ames guy, whoever he is?”

      Dude, THIS is who Mark Ames is:

      http://www.nypress.com/article-9576-spite-the-vote.html

      ie, he’s the guy who figured the deep, dark, secret reasons why bitter losers like you continue to vote against your own interests (and f*ck up American politics):

      Millions of Americans, particularly white males, don’t vote for what’s in their so-called best interests. Thomas Frank recently attacked this riddle in his new book “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” but he fails to answer his own question. He can’t, in fact, because his is a flawed premise. Frank, who is at his best when he’s just vicious, still clings to the comforting theory that Middle Americans are being duped by an evil corporate-political machine that subtly but masterfully manipulates the psychological levers of cultural backlash, implying that if average Americans were left to their own devices, they would somehow make entirely rational, enlightened choices and elect sensible New Deal Democrats every time. This puts Frank in a bind he never quite gets out of. Like all lefties, he is incapable of taking his ruthless analysis beyond a certain point.

      The reason is simple. The underlying major premise of humanist-leftist ideology states that people are intrinsically sympathetic. If people are defiantly mean and craven, the humanist-left structure falters. “Why the f*ck should I bother fighting for Middle Americans,” they ask, “if they’re just as loathsome, in their own petty way, as their exploiters, with whom they actively collaborate?”

      Rather than grapple with that dilemma, the left pretends it doesn’t exist. This is why they will forever struggle to understand the one overriding mystery of why so many working- and middle-class white males vote against their own best interests.

      I CAN TELL YOU WHY. They do so out of spite. Put your ear to the ground in this country, and you’ll hear the toxic spite churning. It’s partly the result of commercial propaganda and sexual desperation – a desperation far more common than is admitted. If you didn’t know anything about how America’s propaganda worked, you’d think that every citizen here experienced four-dimensional multiple orgasms with beautiful, creative, equally satisfied partners, morning, noon and night.

      The wretched truth is that America is an erogenous no man’s land. Most white males here (at least the straight ones) have either dismal sex lives or no sex lives at all. As bad as this hurts, the pain is compounded every time you expose yourself to the cultural lies that await you at every turn – that is, every waking hour and during deep REM sleep, when the subliminal messages kick in. This wretchedness leads to a desire for vengeance, to externalize the inner famine – it leads directly to the Republican camp.

      Spite-voters also lack the sense that they have any stake in the future of the country. There is something proprietary implied in all of the didacticism and concern found in the left’s tone. The left struggles to understand why so many non-millionaire Americans vote Republican, and yet they rarely ask themselves why so many millionaires, particularly the most beautiful and privileged millionaires in Manhattan and Los Angeles, vote for the Democrats.

      I can answer both. Rich, beautiful, coastal types are liberal precisely because their lives are so wonderful. They want to preserve their lives exactly as they are. If I were a rich movie star, I’d vote for peace and poverty relief. War and domestic insurrection are the greatest threats to their already-perfect lives – why mess with it? This rational fear of the peasantry is frequently misinterpreted as rich guilt, but that’s not the case. They just want to pay off all the have-nots to keep them from storming their manors and impaling them on stakes.

      Republican elites don’t set off the spite glands in the same way, and it’s not only because of a sinister right-wing propaganda machine. Take a look at a photo of the late billionaire Sam Walton, a dried-out Calvinist in a baseball cap and business suit, and you’ll see why. If Republican billionaires enjoy their wealth, they sure as hell hide it well. As far as one can tell, Republican billionaires genuinely like working 18-hour days in offices. Their idea of having fun is a day on the golf green (a game as slow and frustrating as a day in the office) or attending conferences with other sleazy, cheerless Calvinist billionaires. If that’s what all their wealth got them, let ‘em have it – so says the spite bloc. This explains why the Republican elite – the only true and all-powerful elite in America today – is not considered an “elitist” class in the spleens of the white male have-nots. Elitism as defined today is a synonym for “happy,” not “rich” or “powerful.” Happiness is the scarcest resource of all, not money. And the happy supply has been cornered by the beautiful, famous and wealthy coastal elite, the ones who never age, and who are just so damned concerned for the have-nots’ well-being. In that sense, you can see how the Republicans were able to successfully manipulate the meaning of “elitism” to suit their needs. They weren’t just selling dogshit to the credulous masses; they were selling pancreatic balm to the needy.

      At the other end of the economic spectrum, non-millionaires who vote Republican, the so-called “Reagan Democrats,” know that the country is not theirs. They are mere wage-slave fodder, so their only hope is to vote for someone who makes the very happiest people’s lives a little less happy. If I’m an obese 40-something white male living in Ohio or Nevada, locked into a permanent struggle with foreclosure, child support payments and outsourcing threats, then I’m going to vote for the guy who delivers a big greasy portion of misery to the Sarandon-Robbins dining room table, then brags about it on FoxNews. Even if it means hurting myself in the process.

      This explains the mystery of why Bush still has a chance of winning in November, even though most Americans acknowledge that his presidency is little more than a series of slapstick f*ck-ups with apocalyptic consequences. Inspector Clouseau meets the Book of Revelations. Close to half of this country will support Bush simply to spite that part of America that it sees as most threatened by the Iraq debacle. If the empire ends up collapsing into that filthy, sizzling hellhole in the desert, if more terrorists are created to help set off dirty bombs in Manhattan or Los Angeles, our spiteful voter has a real chance of finally achieving some empowerment.

      It’s simple mathematics: Bring down the coastal elite and the single 40-something Ohio salesman might actually matter. And if they’re not brought down, but instead remain in a constant state of indigestion over policies that could ruin them at any time? Well, that’s still better than nothing.

      This is why all the talk about “personal interests” is a sham. Spite voters don’t care solely about their own interests, nor are they bothered by how “the left talks as if they know what everyone’s best interests are,” an argument you often hear from the whiney right. What bothers spiters is that the left really does know what’s in their interests. If you’re miserable, you don’t want to be told what’s best for you by someone who’s correct – it’s sort of like being … occupied by a foreign army with good intentions. You’d rather fuck things up on your own, something you’re quite good at, and bring others down with you.

      Spite voting is mostly a white male phenomenon, which is why a majority of white males vote Republican. It comes from a toxic mix of thwarted expectations, cowardice and anomie that is unique to the white American male experience.

      Yeah. THAT’S who Mark Ames is. The guy who finally figured out why losers like you want everyone else to lose as well.

      1. MontanaMaven

        Love Mark Ames, Yasha Levine from “Exiled”. Taibbi was with them for a time in Russia. I had not read Ames “Spite The Vote” though. Stunningly right on the mark. “This is America, not Denmark. In this country, tens of millions of people choose to watch FoxNews not simply because Americans are credulous idiots or at the behest of some right-wing corporate cabal, but because average Americans respect viciousness. They are attracted to viciousness for a lot of reasons. In part, it reminds them of their bosses, whom they secretly adore. Americans hate themselves for the way they behave in public, always smiling and nodding their heads with accompanying really?s and uh-huhs to show that they’re listening to the other person, never having the guts to say what they really feel. So they vicariously scream and bully others into submission through right-wing surrogate-brutes. Spending time watching Sean Hannity is enough for your average American white male to feel less cowardly than he really is.

        The left won’t accept this awful truth about the American soul, a beast that they believe they can fix “if only the people knew the Truth.” ”

        This behavior is sometimes called “passive-aggressive”. Montana is the most passive aggressive place I have ever lived. Having lived in NYC where people are aggressive but rarely passive, I am always being told here that I’m “too blunt” i.e. truthful and that I shouldn’t “wear my heart on my sleeve”. I should be more “politic” i.e. smile and lie a lot. (I was also told that when I worked in a large LA company).

        Thanks for posting these thoughts by Mark Ames. We are not supposed to discuss our nation’s shadow, but Jung would call that a very unhealthy way to live.

      2. abprosper

        Spite the Vote was a most impressive article. Thanks.

        However as always a rub, Ames like many liberals misses a big big point, that is why many people are spiteful. Simply, the spiteful do not want the same kind of society that liberals want and have.

        The big changes in the workplace status of men, the changes in marriage and the massive demographic change simply took the society that the conservatives wanted out behind the proverbial chemical shed and shot it.

        Had there been penetrated the wall of oligarchy and make America socially moderately conservative and fiscally leftist as it was say before the uproar of the 60′s odds are it would have been a great success and prevented the neo-con strangle hold. However its probably far too late for that now and such movements and movers Pat Buchanan aside were snuffed in their cradle anyway.

        In fact there is no reason that they should support such a society and what appears to be spite is actually a pretty rational selection of the best of crud choices

        Ames was of correct about the Republicans actually understanding White Conservatives here and being able manipulate that but thats not entirely a failing of the left but of its ideology. Many of those views (at least to right wingers) are a garbage pie.

    5. Renee Dumas

      Ha! Look at this instant McDonald’s style pseudo-commentary.

      You can’t even be bothered to Google “Mark Ames” and prove yourself wrong, so you just blurt out whatever your high school education prompts you to write.

      It’s going to be impossible to get this country back on the right track with redneck yahoos like you out there practicing faith-based politics.

  3. readerOfTeaLeaves

    What’s left today, three decades after Reagan’s victory, is a ruling class of Rotary Club nihilists. Right-wing degenerates. And they’re not even interesting degenerates anymore, the way some Right-wingers used to be. They just scream a lot. Scream and bang a stick on the ground–and at the end of the stick-banging, they go to pick up their checks from their billionaire sponsors.

    Actually, the few that I know don’t pick up checks from their billionaire sponsors. They pick them up from a tax code that values ‘capital’ above all other things. They worship capital gains. They still claim that markets are always and everywhere ‘efficient’, no matter whether it is an asset market, a goods market, or a futures market.

    Go figure.

    They mistake rent for ‘work”.
    If they actually had to create or compete, they’d be toast.
    They focus enormous resources on controlling the political system (which is their means of controlling the tax code upon which their wealth depends).

    Their wealth is built upon legacy systems, and the more stressed those systems become, the more erratic behavior we see. And IMVHO, the more frequent, more bizarre unpredictable behavior we see in national politics, as well as some markets, is symptomatic of a system in deep distress.

    So why doesn’t one just go away and ignore it?
    Because the damage they’ve done to the biosphere is in the process of coming to public consciousness, and these fools are going to finally be exposed as the vapid frauds that they are.

    They are in the process of losing all credibility, which will probably turn them into surveillance-obsessed authoritarians. They don’t have many other options; it’s what they know how to do.
    But even that will only exacerbate their problems.

    Because I depend on the biosphere, which they’ve damn near destroyed, I don’t have the option of walking away from the mess these idiots have left for us all.
    And since my life depends on the health of the ecosystem, I don’t have much other choice but to man the proverbial economic, political, and social barricades.

    They’ve already lost the future.
    It’ll take them awhile for that fact to sink in.
    When it does, the rest of us will already have left them in the dustbin of history, because we simply don’t have any more time for their bullshit and they have absolutely nothing of substance to offer in a very challenging future.

    Why not just go away and ignore it?
    Because I can’t afford to – biologically.

    Also, because there are a ton of opportunities.
    These clowns have f*#%ked up so badly, there’s nothing but opportunity for the rest of us.

    I realize that probably sounds completely bizarre, but I actually have come to believe it.

  4. L Beria

    Why shouldn’t one just go away and ignore it?

    You can try but they’re everywhere. Even, or perhaps especially, Obama and co.

  5. lark

    Terrific entry. Terrific writing.

    You took me an a fascinating unpredictable intellectual ride. Thank you.

  6. Attitude_Check

    What AMAZING DRIVEL this “article” is. The whole thing is ad-homenim attack after another.

    Yeh let’s juice up the left/right venom while the US burns due to a kleptocracy that creates and uses the fake left/right divide to channel folks justified anger into unproductive (for the public) nonsense like this.

    1. Foppe

      Did you read the same article? I’m having a bit of trouble relating your response to the article posted above, anyway.

    2. ambrit

      Dear Attitude_Check;
      Foppe above is right. Have you even read Naipaul? Much less Soul on Ice, Emerson even? This is a taste of what real Leftist Intellectual writing can be. The public discourse has been dragged so far to the right that former center-right operatives like Clinton and Obama are touted as demonic anarchists today. I fear for your sanity if you were to be forced to read some Trotsky, Bukanin, Leibknecht, et. al.

    3. Martin Finnucane

      Attitude check said blah blah ad hominem blah blah …

      I’ve noticed in this comment board that anytime a commentator left-of-center disparages the Right’s henchmen, then instantly said commentator is accused of launching an ad hominem attack. I’ve also noticed that that accusation is usually or always characterized by a lack of understanding what an ad hominem attack is.

      Calling a sellout a sellout, or a Koch-funded shill a Koch-funded shill, does not, by itself, constitute an ad hominem attack. I’ll leave it at that.

      I think the reaction to Ames comes from what we’ve been taught to think of lefties since the dissolution of the New Left into narcissism. That is: a lefty is 98 lb weakling: shy, meek, harmless, neutered. When a lefty acts out, then it’s “your gibes are scurrilous, sir”. If that doesn’t do the trick, then there’s the Libertarian’s old standby, red-baiting: “you, sir, are worse than Stalin.” Scanning the comments to this post, and I think you’ll find both.

  7. Greyridge

    Blimey! Sit down, take a deep breath and have a nice hot cup of tea. So much bile, so much impotent fury. The leftists (‘anti new rightists’? – do they define themselves by what they are against?) aren’t fading away: they’re all dying of apoplexy.

    1. ambrit

      Dear Greyridge;
      Hello, hello! I’m sorry to disagree, but the new Leftists are in the streets all over right now, and lots of them are dying from police ‘containment actions.’

  8. Max424

    Comparing skunks to libertarians takes what really is a pretty cool animal and makes them seem like their some some kind of degenerate vermin.

    So I genuinely feel Mark was overly tough on skunks in the piece — for no good reason.

    Off-topic note: My “never-learns-his-lesson” cat gets sprayed by a skunk pretty much every spring, and you know what; he doesn’t smell THAT bad afterwards. He smells like a Molson Golden, is all, one that has been left out in the sun … just a tad too long.

    And, as any Canadian knows, a skunky Molson is not the most unpleasant thing. In fact, even after the beer goes “bad” it still makes a nice complement to a salami on rye with a tart horseradish sauce.

    “Right, Skunk Boy?” My big dumb cat is sitting right next to me.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, I was bothered by the slur on skunks by comparing to libertarians. I’m told skunks have nice personalities (who wouldn’t if you didn’t have to worry about predators). But if you read closely, he was referring more to skunk smell than skunk behavior.

  9. PaulArt

    This sentence makes my long week end a beeeoootiful one! “unlike bootlicking scum like Dinesh D’Souza”. This was a wonderful read Yves, great job. Warms the cockles of our hearts.

      1. Mel

        Hmmm… makes me think of Albert Finney’s role in _Breakfast of Champions_ … just before he gets to the hotel to the testimonial dinner.

  10. Tom

    Damn! Woman – who are you?

    An extraordinary combination of intellect, scholarship and writing ability.

    Early on in the internet blogging era I would read countless articles. I was like a kid in a candy shop. As time went on I read less and less. All the same clichés. I’m down to a few reads a day and heading to one – yours.

    “Keep those cards and letters com’n”.

    1. Tom

      My Red Face!

      I just realized that Yves did not write this very well written article. It is so much in her style that I thought it was her. Nevertheless all that I wrote above is still true.

  11. bob

    “They’ve replaced the Naipauls with libertarians, the fake, predictable, genetically-modified version of reactionary intellectualism–so insanely corrupt and so profoundly retarded that, like a skunk spraying foul stupidity whenever threatened, libertarianism has successfully scared away anyone with brains and dignity from bothering them while they feed.”

    Beautiful.

  12. Skippy

    Yes…lets have the real fight and not some ponced, ginned up play fight made for MSM…cough cortex injections.

    Skippy…the Rightwing is so soft these days…they have to hire the help and what is called the left…is just left]over right wing dregs. The Rightwing_is now_the biggest drag on capitalism since its mortal enemy…sincker…it has become what it decries!

  13. Sufferin' Succotash

    Hasn’t it occurred to anybody that the current crop of conservatives wouldn’t know V.S. Naipaul from Uncle George?
    It would be like expecting them to understand the works of Evelyn Waugh, another conservative laboring under the curse of honesty.
    Really. When “Atlas Shrugged” is put in the same literary category as “The Magic Mountain” or “War & Peace” the only conclusion one can draw is: “those boys ain’t right!”

    1. Dikaios Logos

      I really enjoyed this piece!

      Though I think some things here were overwrought, particularly the idea of Naipaul as a reactionary, Ames’s discussion of the right’s response to Naipaul rings true to me. In fact, I can remember discussing Naipaul with a right-wing thought-leader about a decade ago. He went silent once I took Naipaul out of the box of simple anti-leftist with a brown face! Glad someone else saw this weakness in the American right!

  14. doom

    Great to see Ames here. This place is now officially the cu source of all the world’s most insidious subversion.

    1. sidelarge

      FYI, Mark Ames is someone who has been talking about nothing but the Ruling Class, non-stop for the last god-knows-how-many years. You could even say that’s the only perspective he got from living in Russia. In a lot of ways, what he writes is a nice litmus test, to discern those who “get” it from those who don’t.

      Those who only see the Left/Right dualism in it of course belong in the latter. You clearly do.

  15. W.C. Varones

    We have a Ruling Class problem, not a Left/Right problem (well, I’d say we have a Left problem, but that problem is secondary and I, unlike Ames, am willing to put it aside to unite against the Ruling Class).

    Trying to label the Ruling Class as belonging to the Right is a lazy and pathetically transparent ploy. Remember Robert Rubin, Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Franklin Raines?

    1. Just Tired

      When I read the comments at NC, almost without exception I hear the voice of Jack Nicholson saying: “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth’. A “Ruling Class” problem — sounds a lot like the truth to me.

    2. Anonymous Jones

      I’m sorry, but no, you’re not getting away with something that facile.

      It’s not even that I disagree that there is a “Ruling Class” problem. I basically agree. But if you think such a reformulation of the problem does anything to upend the previous commentary, you’re tremendously delusional.

      Do you not realize that it is possible that the “Ruling Class” problem is the direct result of the homogenization of the “right,” the distinct rooting out of anyone who doesn’t sing the chorus of clearly discredited memes (which do not in fact increase the well-being of the citizenry as promised but only increase the concentration of the power)?

      Look, I’m not sure that this is the problem, but can you honestly rule this out? Seriously? You really think the Reagan revolution of deregulation and lower taxes doesn’t contribute to the concentration of power, and the continued drive toward lower taxes on the rich perpetuates this power? Really? It isn’t possible that this *created* the “Ruling Class” problem?

      Do you really disagree that the most famous on the right have clear anti-intellectual commentary in their communications? Reagan, Norquist, Limbaugh? What popular right wing force am I missing on this list who is willing to actually go against the memes and display real intellectual honesty? Or is it your contention that the right has evolved so perfectly that reasonable disagreement is no longer possible?

      Of course, I can’t stand talking about the ‘right’ or the ‘left’, but this abstraction sometimes does have some merit.

      And I can’t leave without this: “large, thoughtful, principled, libertarianish segment of ‘the Right.’” Oh, please, one of my favorite things is watching these people start fighting amongst themselves, each telling the other that “libertarian” is this, not that, and you don’t have the liberty to create your own version of ‘liberty’ or ‘libertarianism.’ It’s one of the most foolish of all religions ever created by man, and that makes it *foolish* to the nth degree.

      I love liberty, let me tell you, in all its complex positive and negative glory. Naive libertarians who deliberately see liberty only from their own peculiar perspective? Well, not so much.

  16. Reed Hammans

    This article is an example of why “Naked Capitalism” is one of the very, very, very few websites I visit every day. The comments–at least most of them–are equally worth reading.

  17. craazyman

    VS Naipul and E. Cleaver come off pretty well. Everyone else seems like a doo-doo bird.

    It’s hard to be human. If anyone got dragged through what Mr. Cleaver was dragged through they’d be dead like roadkill. And how many shallow bloviating stereotypes can you throw in to one polemic. Black white colonialist lackey masters etc etc.

    Black white this. Big afro that, Colonialist this, subjugated that. Khaki British this. Lord have mercy that. There are stars and there are constellations. and if you have a mind you see the stars and you make up your own constellations, the real ones.

    So Mr. Cleaver did. And he called it like he saw it. Like Mr. Naipul did. I would trust their eyes.

    I tip my hat to both of them. And I can see the angels around their shoulders. As for the other library astronomers, look at the stars, not at the star charts, and you’ll See too. ha ha. Glad I didn’t try to text this driving down the NJ turnpike this a.m.

    1. Ludwig Von Friedman

      You mean Glenn Greenwald of the libertarian Cato Institute?
      http://www.cato-unbound.org/contributors/glenn-greenwald/

      The same Glenn Greenwald who last year vigorously defended the Citizens United decision (supported by the Cato Institute) against liberal/progressive outrage, confusing everyone on the left who had no idea that Greenwald is a Cato/Koch libertarian?

      Here’s Larry Lessig on Greenwald’s support of Citizens United:
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lawrence-lessig/a-principled-and-pure-fir_b_439082.html

      Here’s Greenwald on Amy Goodman’s show defending Citizens United against Dennis Kucinich:
      http://www.alternet.org/rights/145610/dennis_kucinich_vs._glenn_greenwald:_is_citizens_united_a_deathblow_for_democracy_or_a_1st_amendment_victory

      It’s sad that Greenwald hasn’t disclosed this conflict-of-interest with the Koch brothers yet. If you read Greenwald’s article, Greenwald writes, “a Koch-linked libertarian (whatever that means)” without disclosing his own Koch conflict. That’s bad–Glenn should know better.

      Also, you forgot to mention that John “Don’t Touch My Junk” Tyner, the guy whose honor Greenwald defended in his attack, later admitted he’d lied and planned the whole thing. So Greenwald defended a liar.

      http://exiledonline.com/the-real-john-tyner-anti-labor-extremist-anti-gay-marriage-pals-with-neo-confederates-and-john-bircher-conspiracy-theorists-and-deceives-america/

      1. The Secret Agent

        I just did a google search on “Greenwald of the libertarian Cato Institute” and it came up with 4200 results, most of which refer to your website exiledonline.com. 
        This shows how obsessed you are with Glenn Greenwald and his associations.

      2. Patricia

        Your beautifully linked comment unfortunately exhibits the complaint in Ames’ article. You do not allow people out of a narrow view without slinging them into opposite and equally narrow camps. Glenn straddles camps, following integrity and ideas where they go. This why I enjoy his blog. This is why I enjoy NC.

        1. Greenwald doesn’t always get it right. Glenn was wrong on Citizen’s United. He defended it via a particular strict narrow reading of the amendment, but in terms of intentions and “externalities” he was wayyy off Constitutional purpose. He tends to rigidity and it got him that time.

        2. You don’t always get it right. Greenwald despises the corrupt actions of the Koch brothers—if you read him regularly, you’d know it. Neither does he work for Cato—he occasionally has stuff published through that venue, when his thinking happens to coincide with theirs.

        3. I don’t always get it right. If you want to know where, ask my daughter.

        There’s a difference between getting things wrong through making mistakes and getting things wrong because of a lack of integrity. The former is inevitable for humans, but the second is always based on a series of decisions.

    2. Greenwald Fan

      Interesting bit about Greenwald and his Cato/Koch libertarian link. Never knew that he worked/works for such a nasty, powerful rightwing outfit. It’s a huge problem for his progressive creds, I think.

      I’ve always been a huge Greenwald fan, but to be honest I have also always been bothered by his total disregard for economic issues, despite the fact they are what’s ripping America apart…and the central problem confronting our today, and his close relationships with libertarian nutters—for the sole reason that they say they support civil liberties. As if detainee abuse is the biggest, most important problem in America! Ha!

      I’ve always wondered how progressive Greenwald really is. What is his stance on labor rights, gov regulation, wealth distribution, social services/spending, privatization of infrastructure, social security, pensions or banking reform?

      Looks like Greenwald would have supported freemarket right-winger Gary Johnson for President?

      https://rootedcosmopolitan.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/glenn-greenwald-neither-a-liberal-nor-a-progressive/

      Then, there’s the issue of his overall political acumen and whether he has a well-formed and resolute set of political values. His written output suggests that Greenwald is politically engaged primarily by civil liberties and security state issues. He writes comparatively little about economic quality of life issues like wealth and income disparities, life opportunities and other forms of economic and social justice, including the rights of workers to act in solidarity to form unions and collectively bargain through their labor unions. And now, in learning he’s open to supporting Republican Gary Johnson, we see enough to know it’s almost certain he doesn’t share with liberals and progressives the core belief that the government has a necessary and essential role in taming the excesses of capitalism or of addressing our existential challenges as a species.

      According to the 2002 edition of the Almanac of American Politics, as governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson cut taxes on the rich while cutting social services for the poor. He tried to pluck money out of public schools and funnel it in to private school vouchers. He vetoed a minimum wage bill. He signed in to law a late-term abortion ban. He won’t affirm a belief in global warming, and says even if it is happening that the effects are exaggerated and too much money is being wasted on it. And he vetoed a bill that would have continued the collective bargaining rights of public employees. That’s right, without the bluster but apparently to the same intended effect he did the same thing to public employees in New Mexico that Scott Walker did in Wisconsin.

      Oh, by the way: Gary Johnson doesn’t support same-sex marriage.

      Glenn Greenwald may be a brilliant legal mind (although he may also just be an slippery sophist trafficking in thoughtless or disingenuous outrage). He may also be right in some of his criticisms of the Obama administration’s legal actions, especially concerning terrorism, secrecy and due process. But if he thinks Gary Johnson is worthy of his support, he’s either hostile to progressive politics, or he’s a political nitwit. You simply can’t consider yourself a progressive in any broadly accepted meaning of the term and thoughtfully and in an informed way support for president someone with the views and history of Gary Johnson. And if you’re going to complain–rightly–that it’s wrong that in the US he can’t marry the man he loves, and he complains that Democrats, including Barack Obama don’t support marriage equality, why in the hell would he play political footsies with someone who’s far, far worse on most issues and is at best no better than Barack Obama on marriage equality?

      By saying he might support Gary Johnson, Glenn Greenwald has now demonstrated that he is a narrowly-focused advocate who cares about only a few issues, and is not a liberal or progressive with a broad sense of the common good. He’s also a poor political analyst, for if can’t he recognize the damage that would be unleashed by having as a president someone who cavorts with 9-11 truther Alex Jones and who in 2008 endorsed nutball libertarian Ron Paul for president, why pay attention to what he says outside the narrowly legal boundaries of his claims about the government, our politicians and public policy?

  18. Not So Secret Agent

    My, we’re defensive. Are you saying that Glenn Greenwald is not with the Koch-founded Cato Institute? Are you arguing that Glenn Greenwald of Cato didn’t vigorously support Citizens United last year, and offer himself up to debate against progressive opposition, and convince them that Citizens United was the right decision?

    In the spirit of fair debate, I just took your Pepsi challenge and googled in these 4 words:

    glenn greenwald cato institute

    The first 10 results were almost all from the Cato Institute. anyone else get something different?

    1. Heavy Armor

      And, in the spirit of full disclosure…

      Those “First 10 results” are about Drug Decriminalization…In Portugal – in which Greenwald documents how the “War on Drugs” proponents were wrong about everything; AND

      A discussion on Bush’s “Good vs. Evil,” “You’re With Us or Against Us” mentality and how it helped to define his legacy. Mind you, this was a book that Greenwald published in 2007 (A Tragic Legacy).

      Some of the links are podcasts about these subjects. Others are articles he either published about these 2 subjects or are reprints from other sites where he discusses the subject.

      If Greenwald were “Of the Cato Institute,” he would have been listed on this page:

      http://www.cato.org/people/experts.html

      Under one of the subsections where Cato lists their policy scholars, adjunct scholars, or fellows.

      Greenwald, however, is nowhere to be found.

      Instead, the most you’ll find is this page, as a “contributor”:

      http://www.cato-unbound.org/contributors/glenn-greenwald/

      And, even then, they only mention his writings on civil liberties and diminishing government transparency.

      The “Koch-funded Libertarian” smear was an attempt by Democratic partisans as an effort to discredit Greenwald’s writings, particularly when Greenwald turned his attention to President Obama’s war on whistleblowers, which intensified with Bradley Manning’s arrest and interment (which Greenwald documents at Salon.com) as well as the attempts to incarcerate Julian Assange on spurious charges in order to get into custody and extradited to US to face even more spurious charges.

      Try again.

    2. siwuloki

      Even if Greenwald were “with” Cato, so what? Norm Ornstein is certainly “with” AEI, and takes their paycheck. Both are people of principle; neither is a partisan hack. Both are worth reading, whether you agree with them or not.

      1. Greenwald Shill

        You’re evading the issue again, all of you apologists. The issue is very simple: Glenn Greenwald took money from the Kochs. Glenn Greenwald did not disclose this, yet Glenn Greenwald attacked critics of the Kochs to discredit them (while not disclosing his conflict-of-interest), and Glenn Greenwald promoted one of the Kochs’ biggest most important victories: Citizens United. This is NOTHING like Norm Olstein, and you know it.

        Out of respect for Glenn, he never said, “Norm Olstein had conflicts-of-interest, therefore Lanny Davis et all are fine.” He said, “If you have an undisclosed conflict of interest, you should be called out.” Period. Learn from Glenn’s writing and stop defending him like he’s some infallible cult leader for chrissakes.

          1. Greenwald Shill

            Thank you for revealing your priorities: you care more about proper spelling than about Glenn Greenwald’s corruption. Anything to divert attention from Glenn Greenwald’s conflict-of-interest, anything to avoid having to face up to the fact that your cult idol took money from the Kochs and didn’t disclose it while pushing the Kochs’ book and attacking the Kochs’ critics.

            It’s sad to watch a cult tool suffering from cognitive dissonance.

            Good luck winning your spelling bees!

        1. Martin Finnucane

          I suspect that these Libs tend to have a problem with ethics. That is, a problem with the easy, straight-forward stuff that they teach in law school, like “conflict of interest.”

          Recently, in a fit of random googling, I ran across a post on something called political hotwire from a self-professed Ron Paul fan. The topic was Eric Cantor’s investment in a fund that aggressively shorts US treasuries – i.e., bets on default – at the same time that he is involved in the debt ceiling negotiations. The guy’s take was not “this allegation is not true” or “this is not a conflict of interest because …”, but rather “this is a smart move on his part.” As if personally benefiting from exploiting the conflict of interest makes the conflict of interest non-problematic. That’s like saying that it’s ok to take a bribe, as long its a big one.

          Of course, one random Paultard does not a representative sampling make. However, I sense that there may be an unresolvable tension between ethical standards and the Libertarian ethos, that ethos being represented by the six foot floral arrangement in the shape a dollar sign at Ayn Rand’s funeral.

          In any case, “Greenwald Shill” is right: Greenwald’s hypocritical non-disclosure is highly problematic.

  19. Paul Tioxon

    The right wing mouth pieces, even pseudo intellectual would be an insult to the 3rd rate posers, are so devoid of substance, the insight of the phrase, ‘there is no there, there’, speaks volumes in contrast. Take for example a simple talking head moment on CNBC.

    “The U.S. tax code is “absolutely broken” and the only way to fix it is to spread the burden to lower-and middle-income earners, Scott Hodge, president of the Tax Foundation, told CNBC Thursday.

    “The United States leans more heavily on the top 10 percent of earners than any other country on Earth and our poor people actually have the lowest income tax burden of any industrialized country,” he said.

    According to Internal Revenue Service data, the top 25 percent of earners paid 86.3 percent of federal income taxes while the bottom 50 percent paid 2.7 percent of taxes. Those in the middle paid 11 percent of taxes.

    “We need to broaden the tax base,” Hodge said. “I hate to say this because no one’s going to like this in Washington but we need to bring many of those people who no longer pay any income tax back on the tax rolls.”

    http://www.cnbc.com/id/43596762

    Now, he is expected to be taken seriously. I will not even bother to scrape the bottom of the barrel with Coulter, Levin or even current Sen Pat Toomey’s writings about the economy. Apparently, every stash of cash in the US Government is unsustainable, broken, a ticking time bomb, an egregious infinity of regulatory blather and yada yada yada that is impossible to master, comprehend if read or readable at all in one lifetime.

    There is a shift in the nonsense, starting in the streets of striking, steaming mad public workers, teachers, cops, firemen and others who are now the source of the final wheezing gasp of a bankrupt America, that just got too giddy with New Deal generosity, Great Society social welfare and has driven us all over the edge into a Stygian darkness no light of reason can penetrate. Or something to that effect.

    There was money to rescue Lockheed and Chrysler twice, for GM, for Goldman and Stanley, I presume even AIG and foreign banks were saved by the Fed in the most recent manifestation of billions and billions of dollars to save the elect before the eyes of god. Now, we can not come up we can not, according to the republicans, come up with one red cent more. Now we see it, now we don’t. Where oh where did we get all of those trillions, and now, we broke, Gov Christie asks, where will he get the money? We have none. Funny, it was just there before he got into office. Why can’t they get more from the Washington DC politicians who kept the state workers and teachers all across America in business for years until the republicans came in and said, “NO MAS”!.

    So now, more taxes for the lowest 50% because we are deadbeats and cheap, and that is so unforgivable, more so than lying about the reasons for a war that plundered the treasury for trillions and bled a generation for thousands dead, wounded, psycho anxiety ridden wrecks. And no pensions, no medical care. I can only suppose that they really believe that there will no blood bath if they keep this up for another 5 or 10 years and the blood that people like mr tax them as well as rob will bathe in will be his own.

    I usually urge the dimwitted politically out to lunch on this site to pick a side. I know I let everyone know that there is no 3rd party alternative and to pile into the dems and take it over like the tea baggers took hold of the Rs. I lied, there is a third alternative. The police state wins and the party of riot and revolt and murderous rage runs its own write in candidates. That is a party that will sweep the land. THE THIRD PARTY OF THE 21ST CENTURY IS THE BLOODBATH. So people, pick a side. 2 of the 3 alternatives are real, and building momentum. Unbridled madness and chaos and murder. Not at the polls. It is starting in the Arab countries. It is in the streets of Greece. It is growing. It will not stop. Unless, the social welfare of all is protected, no one will be.

  20. Hugh

    This post is what is called a “righteous rant.” It doesn’t tell you what Ames is for, but it does give you a pretty clear idea of what he dislikes.

    I’ve known conservatives who were honest people, but I have never met a conservative position that was. And I have always thought that phrases like “conservative intellectual,” “conservative thinker,” “compassionate conservative,” and “principled conservative” were oxymorons. Truth be told, I don’t have a high opinion of Establishment “intellectuals”, like Krugman, DeLong, or Bacevich either. Invariably, anytime they give an indication of having a clue, they quickly follow up with something that shows, nope, they clearly don’t.

    I agree with those that say that the focus should be on kleptocracy. Democratic/Republican fights are just an instrument of distraction. Plugging in right and left changes very little in this kabuki dynamic. The right sold out to the corporatists in word and deed decades ago. The left except for a tiny uncoopted sliver of it sold out in deed about the same time. What we see nowadays, epitomized by Obama, is the slow but sure closing of the divide between the corporate left’s rhetoric and their actions. Change we can believe in is being replaced by calls for the necessity of cutting Social Security and Medicare, bailing out banksters, continuing and multiplying the imperial wars, and curtailing individual rights for all but the wealthy. More and more the Democrats and the liberals are pretending less and less about their real positions supporting all of these.

    As for that sliver on the left I mentioned, I said here once how odd it was that having progressive inclinations and favoring solutions that are both fair and work puts one today not just on the left but the far left. It’s become the default space for those of us who support none of the above but still believe that our society can be fixed.

  21. Bernard

    wow, what an awesome column today. this guy Ames can call things what they are. and to watch the conversation, too. Ames really calls it in so many ways. the symptoms of the demise are staring us directly in the face.

    like the last post said, any attempt to call a spade a spade is not allowed. the trickery of the left and right to control the conversation and avoid the facts of how we got here and who covers for whom. no one is completely “right”, just the summation of their argument shows where the truth lies in what they say.

    to see the path to today described so aptly. and the comments about the spite vote is so on the mark. “If i can’t have it, then no one can.” how to get over on everyone, cause i don’t have mine” voter. and to enjoy watching your brother/sister get stabbed and then fried by the system. what always amazes me is the absence of connection. the idea that somehow this “greed/envy/hate delusion doesn’t come back or wont come back to bite you in your own behind. like it is right now.

    the simple answers to the Medicare, Social Security, the Banks and all the other socio economic issues are not allowed to be talked about. just so the Rich power brokers can keep stealing, keep on keeping on.

    “nothing to see here, just move along” is all that is allowed.

    wonderful blog, i am so lucky to have found this.

    thanks for all the posting. i can’t begin to say how much better i feel to know i was not crazy. Not being one of the “Powers that Be”, thinking what i did about all those “lunatics” in charge of the insane asylum.

    and what is also important is that the “diversionary” tactics of some posters are not working as long as common sense is continued to be allowed to be spoken.

    thanks Yves, this really matters.

  22. nobody

    “the simple answers to the Medicare, Social Security, the Banks and all the other socio economic issues are not allowed to be talked about. just so the Rich power brokers can keep stealing, keep on keeping on.”

    Isn’t that part of what happens here?

  23. Mark P.

    These days, the American Right probably wouldn’t like William F. Buckley or Margaret Thatcher if they were to come back from the dead.

    Pat Buchanan and a few of his ilk of paleocon still have a few brain cells to rub together, but otherwise, as Ames says, a preponderance of “Rotary Club nihilists.”

    Good piece.

  24. akaison

    My criticism of your article is that you are not talking the Right alone.

    I can understand why you choose to focus on the American right. They are the obvious example at this point in world history since they have held power now for 20 years without any real world wide challenge.

    However, what you are discussing is probably human nature. We are an irrational animal despite what philosophers claim. We are spiteful, and petty creatures, and that’s why we need rules.

    Not because it is impossible for us to be better than what you describe, but because we so often choose not to be. Once you stop believing in self-interest and altruism, and start accepting irrationality as the central driver of our behavior, then you start to understand what policies are probably best for us.

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