The intense debate precipitated by a post on this site, “How Ron Paul Challenges Liberals,” and follow up posts by Glenn Greenwald and here serve to prove their simple yet frequently misrepresented thesis: that Ron Paul’s anti-war, anti-Fed positions expose fault lines among those traveling under the “liberal” banner.
Anyone who read comments on NC prior to this debate would have noticed some sympathy for Paul, ranging from the more common “he’s batshit and I’d never vote for him, but his opposition to our Middle East adventurism and the lack of accountability at the Fed is refreshing” to some making a stronger case for him. That shouldn’t be surprising given the point often made here and in the few lonely “progressive” outposts on the blogosphere (“progressive” is in the process of being co-opted in the same way “liberal” has been): that the Democratic party has been so deeply penetrated by the neoliberal/Robert Rubin/Hamilton Project types that it isn’t that different from the right on economic issues.
It should not be controversial to point out that the Democratic party uses identity politics as a cover for its policy of selling out the middle class to banks and big corporate interests, just on a slower and stealthier basis than the right. And we’ve seen the identity card used in a remarkably dishonest manner in this Ron Paul contretemps.
The strategy used is shameless straw manning in combination with gender baiting. Both Katha Pollitt (in “Progressive Man Crushes on Ron Paul“) and Megan Carpentier (“Ron Paul’s useful idiots on the left“) grossly misrepresent Glenn Greenwald’s posts on Paul, in which he says repeatedly that he is talking about broad policy issues, and not standing behind any candidate:
I’m about to discuss the candidacies of Barack Obama and Ron Paul, and no matter how many times I say that I am not “endorsing” or expressing support for anyone’s candidacy, the simple-minded Manicheans and the lying partisan enforcers will claim the opposite…”There are, as I indicated, all sorts of legitimate reasons for progressives to oppose Ron Paul’s candidacy on the whole.
What does this become in Pollitt’s piece? She depicts Greenwald as being on a par with Ron Paul enthusiasts like Andrew Cockburn:
Salon’s Glenn Greenwald is so outraged that progressives haven’t abandoned the warmongering, drone-sending, indefinite-detention-supporting Obama for Paul that he accuses them of supporting the murder of Muslim children…And yes, these are all white men; if there are leftish white women and people of color who admire Paul, they’re keeping pretty quiet.
Ah, the gender baiting card! No women or non whites have anything nice to say about Ron Paul! That’s patently untrue, but identity bigots like Pollitt apparently can’t wrap their minds around the notion that many people see themselves as citizens first and their demography second, and can and do have nuanced views based on how they weigh multiple political considerations: class, concentration of power, rule of law, civil liberties, and gender/race/sexual orientation. I’m not a Paul booster, yet I applaud his effort to curb the Fed, which has circumvented Constitutional budgetary processes to support a predatory financial services industry, as well as his criticism of Iran war-mongering. The fact that I ran a piece on how Paul is inconvenient to liberals meant I support this view, but Pollitt omits anything that undermines her tidy Obama-defending narrative.
But most important, I object to the presumption of the Pollitt position, that right-thinking women of the left-leaning persuasion must of course agree with her. I find myself appalled by the culture, such that it is, of soi-disant progressives in DC. That isn’t to say that there aren’t many talented individuals laboring to make things better. But from what I can tell, their efforts are too often at odds with and deliberately undermined by a puerile, often vicious style of discourse that values petty conformity over substantive contributions. And the sacred cow of petty conformity is political correctness (well, unless you are a “progressive” woman, that makes is OK to yell “white male oppressor” when you run out of arguments).
So it should come as no surprise that Pollitt ignored a tweet by no less than the publisher of the very magazine in which Pollitt ran her screed, Katrina vanden Heuvel. And she can’t claim to have missed it, since it was in the Greenwald piece she attacked:
I have big problems w/Ron Paul on many issues.But on ending preemptive wars & on challenging bipartisan elite consensus on FP, good he’s in.
— Katrina vandenHeuvel (@KatrinaNation) December 30, 2011
Pollitt also chose to ignore a post by Yvette Carnell, a former Hill staffer (oh, and a Democrat). And not only is Carnell female, she’s black, doubly disproving Pollit’s assertion. Carnell objected vociferously to the presumption that identity politics trump other considerations:
… at the heart of the teeth gnashing are Paul’s racist newsletters and their import. For me, this would be a much tougher nut to crack if structural and/or cultural racism were still the most heinous defect in the American body politic. But in a country where indefinite detention just became the law of the land, it’s not. In a country where unmanned American drones are killing innocent children abroad, it’s not. And in a country where mortgage scammers are protected from prosecution while Americans are being foreclosed on in record numbers, it’s not. Sorry black folks, but race and racism are not the biggest issues of the 21st century and to imagine otherwise is to conflate the issue and put the needs of your community ahead of the needs of America in particular and the global community in general. In that way, it’s a selfish usurpation of the political agenda to placate the few, and it shouldn’t be tolerated by black people of conscience.
Falguni Sheth also objected to Pollitt’s assertion that women and people of color would never give Ron Paul the time of day (emphasis original):
I am a brown woman… and I am downright livid at policies passed during the Obama administration …
Does that mean that I am a fan of Ron Paul? No. Do I admire the fact that he’s articulating an anti-war platform? Yes, but very cautiously and very sadly…And in part, we have only Paul to look to, because of “white leftish women” like Katha Pollitt, who says,
I, too, would love to see the end of the “war on drugs” and our other wars. I, too, am shocked by the curtailment of civil liberties in pursuit of the “war on terror,” most recently the provision in the NDAA permitting the indefinite detention, without charge, of US citizens suspected of involvement in terrorism. But these are a handful of cherries on a blighted tree.
Really? Half a million Iraqi civilians dead? Dozens of Pakistani children dead because of drones (or more. We are not allowed to know)? The reproductive systems of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi women decimated by decades of US-led chemical warfare? The curtailment of civil liberties of legal residents (and not merely citizens) in the US? The indefinite detention of tens of thousands of migrants, documented or otherwise? Those migrants include Latinos, South Asians, Arabs, Middle Easterners, Muslims from other parts of the world–detained not just for migrating without papers, but for merely being suspected of terrorism and held without charges, without lawyers, without family knowing, without judicial review–without a way out. These are what an anti-war position would resist. Seriously? Pollitt believes these are cherries on a blighted tree?..
Essentially, Pollitt’s column comes down to this: We want solidarity among liberals and progressives—but only on terms determined by WHITE leftish women and a segment of white men and some people of color.
The gender card is similarly played shamelessly and with remarkable hypocrisy by Megan Carpentier in the Guardian on the Greenwald post:
Nonetheless, there have been calls by progressives, most notably Glenn Greenwald, to ignore all of that and more, and focus instead on Obama’s policy failings to have “an actual debate on issues of America’s imperialism”. He went on to argue that there are no policy priorities more imperative than those – certainly not abortion, immigration rights, LGBT equality, racial justice or any other aspect of the US’s extensive foreign policy. (Greenwald, who is gay, was in the relatively privileged position of being able to travel to Brazil to circumvent Doma.) And so people whose lives, safety, livelihoods and health depend on them should accept that they are trading their concerns for, say, the lives of Muslim children killed by bombs in Afghanistan.
In fact, many of Ron Paul’s newest supporters on the left look strikingly like the majority of the ones on the right who have been following him for years: the kinds of people whose lives won’t be directly affected by all those pesky social conservative policies Paul would seek to enact as president, either due to their race, class, gender or sexual orientation.
Greenwald’s position on Paul is so blatantly distorted by Carpentier as to render her article worthy of retraction (see Greenwald’s objection for details) but her dissimulation is more important than her hatchet job.
The use of identity as a first-order loyalty test hasn’t merely diverted undue energy to what ought to be tertiary priorities; it has also allowed hard core conservatives who have mastered the PC secret handshake to be embraced as fellow travelers even when their history and stances show their loyalties lie elsewhere. By contrast, the right wing is too smart and disciplined to allow liberal operatives into its fold.
Who is Megan Carpentier? She’s currently the executive editor at Raw Story. And reading her salvo at Greenwald, most readers would assume she’s a progressive. She’s hectoring Greenwald from a presumed leftist position.
In fact, Carpentier is no such thing. She is a conservative opportunist using her feminist fundamentalism as a cover. She was a lobbyist for seven year and wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post which is noteworthy for trying to improve the public image of lobbyists by stating that they weren’t obscenely well paid, that they really were interested in politics, and that they provide helpful research to Congressional staffers.
But Carpentier is less than forthcoming about her history and her ideological leanings. Her last gig as a lobbyist was for the Tax Foundation, which was an early anti-New Deal outfit founded in 1937 by reactionary oligarchs like GM Chairman Alfred Sloan. It was “financially troubled” when the Koch brothers purchased its name and other assets and made it a unit of their’ “Citizens for a Sound Economy” (CSE in 2004 split into Americans For Prosperity and FreedomWorks). The Tax Foundation newsletter that announced she had joined touts her “extensive experience in promoting sound economic and tax policies to Congress and state legislatures.” In other words, she is a loyal and effective foot soldier for the right.
I’ve put out some feelers in the small community of self-styled DC progressives, and virtually every one I contacted was ignorant of Carpentier’s history of lobbying for the right. And perhaps more important, there is evidence that she has adopted a shrill feminist posture to divert attention from her efforts to advance a right-wing agenda in “progressive” publication (Carpentier has gone on far too often in her writings about how she got a bad grade from a professor in a women’s studies course, and presents herself as the True Feminist and her instructor as a dinosaur. I found both melodrama and frequency with which told this story to be a sign of narcissism and perhaps mental instability, but it is likely to be far more calculated, a way to make sure she is thought of first and foremost as a feminist, so people don’t probe her views too deeply).
It’s disingenuous for Carpentier to cavil about white male privilege and the need for women to have rights to abortions, when those rights are less meaningful if you can’t afford to exercise them. Soi disant feminists like Carpentier are missing in action when it comes to defending their supposed sisters on economic issues, most importantly, labor rights.
Now your might claim I’m being unfair, that Carpentier had a Pauline (pun intended) conversion from her former faith. Why is there no mention of her Koch connection?. Why hasn’t she done a David Brock mea culpa? Rather than proudly put forward why she had changed her views (which is what you’d expect if they really had changed) has she instead tried to downplay the power of lobbyists? Why, when the influence of the Koch brothers were one of the biggest progressive story of the past 3 years, has she had NOTHING to say about her time working for one of their key outfits?
In addition, as executive editor for Raw Story, she is ultimately responsible for story selection, and given that it is not that large an enterprise, one can assume she has a hand in many, perhaps all, of the day-to-day editorial decisions. It is noteworthy that one of Raw Story’s few original pieces was a hit piece on the prominent GI group The Courage to Resist, trying to connect it to an alleged plot to attack Fort Hood. The Courage to Resist has been a thorn in the side of the military establishment. Why would Raw Story give a story hinging on a thin link (a mentally unstable applicant for conscientious objector status) such prominent play?
In fact, her attack on Greenwald appears to be a badly needed effort to bolster her leftie bona fides, given the rather shameless way she’s put pro Ron Paul stories on Raw Story in her current role as executive editor. A sampling from the last year, when she has been at the helm (March of last year):
Ron Paul suggests basic freedoms depend on property rights (includes: “Paul dismissed claims that he is a racist as “outlandish” and said he would have voted to desegregate public facilities.”)
I went through the first 100 stories picked up on a Google search limited to Raw Story on “Ron Paul” from March onward in 2011. Of those, just looking at the headlines, I would classify 48 as positive, 31 as neutral, and 21 as negative (and I did my classifications quickly and not scientifically but still from a “progressive” perspective, so “Ron Paul compares Social Security and Medicare to slavery” and “Ron Paul calls for spending cuts before hurricane relief” would be negative). And aside from the skew, the intensity of the Ron Paul coverage was also noteworthy.
And when I looked at the Ron Paul headlines chronologically in my RSS reader, starting in March, you’d see headlines that were almost entirely positive or reporting on Republican poll results (even then, with Paul featured prominently) and only a scattering of headlines like this:
Ron Paul to meet French far-right nationalist leader (October 12)
Ron Paul calls Elizabeth Warren ‘a socialist’ (November 6)
Ron Paul gets ‘mic checked’ by New Hampshire protesters (November 21).
But starting on December 20, there is a shift towards negative Ron Paul coverage. Did Carpentier need to cover her tracks? Here are some examples:
In ad for newsletter, Ron Paul forecast ‘race war’ (December 22)
Former staffer: Ron Paul ‘wishes the Israeli state did not exist’ (December 26, bylined by Carpentier)
Paul senior adviser: ‘He’s not against war’ (December 29)
Rep. Steve King: Ron Paul would be ‘dangerous’ president (December 29)
I’m am hardly plugged into DC insider gossip, but I was hearing of questions raised about the Ron Paul coverage at Raw Story, so it is not hard to imagine Carpentier was getting wind of it too.
Just like Huffington Post and other sites that primarily aggregators of other publication’s content, the editor controls the ideological slant via story selection. Carpentier clearly controlled what went on Raw Story. The fixation on Ron Paul and the mix of stories in a supposedly left wing venue speaks volumes.
So here we have it: Carpentier, a closet libertarian, falsely depicting “progressive” support of Ron Paul as a symbol of white male bigotry and distorting Greenwald’s nuanced discussion of Ron Paul as an endorsement to create a brouhaha, apparently to cover her own tracks.
With Quislings like this, the progressives don’t need enemies.