Freddie deBoer’s post “the blindspot” (hat tip Richard Smith) seems to have created a bit of a frisson among political bloggers. It make a long-form argument that ” the political discourse, in our punditry, lacks a left-wing.”
That should not be a controversial statement.
For instance, this blog has started to deal with political issues as they relate to the financial services industry, and now and again to the broader economy, largely as a result of the failure to implement meaningful reforms in the wake of the financial crisis. If you are not angry about the ongoing plutocratic land grab in this country, you are either not paying attention, deluded, or part of the problem. And I continue to be surprised that my views are deemed to be left-leaning. I’m middle of the road as of the Reagan era; the rest of the US has made a remarkably large shift to the right and seems to be continuing its move in that direction.
One of the reason this post has provoked a lot of reactions is that deBoer names quite a few names, but the other is the observations regarding how personal style, meaning the sort of anodyne politeness that is peculiarly prized in America, serves to influence how the political positioning of various writers is perceived.
I suggest you read the post in full, but here are some key extracts:
There are many myths within the political blogosphere, but none is so deeply troubling or so highly treasured by mainstream political bloggers than this: that the political blogosphere contains within it the whole range of respectable political opinion, and that once an issue has been thoroughly debated therein, it has had a full and fair hearing. The truth is that almost anything resembling an actual left wing has been systematically written out of the conversation within the political blogosphere, both intentionally and not, while those writing within it congratulate themselves for having answered all left-wing criticism.
That the blogosphere is a flagrantly anti-leftist space should be clear to anyone who has paid a remote amount of attention. Who, exactly, represents the left extreme in the establishment blogosphere? You’d likely hear names like Jane Hamsher or Glenn Greenwald. But these examples are instructive. Is Hamsher a socialist? A revolutionary anti-capitalist? In any historical or international context– in the context of a country that once had a robust socialist left, and in a world where there are straightforwardly socialist parties in almost every other democracy– is Hamsher particularly left-wing? Not at all. It’s only because her rhetoric is rather inflamed that she is seen as particularly far to the left. This is what makes this whole discourse/extremism conversation such a failure; there is a meticulous sorting of far right-wing rhetoric from far right-wing politics, but no similar sorting on the left..
I hardly even need to explain the example of Markos Moulitsas. Moulitsas is a blogging pioneer and one with a large audience. But within the establishmentarian blogosphere, the professional blogosphere of magazines, think tanks, and the DC media establishment, he amounts to an exiled figure….
No, the nominal left of the blogosphere is almost exclusively neoliberal. …The neoliberal economic platform is enforced by the attitude that anyone embracing a left-wing critique of that platform is a Stalinist or a misbehaving adolescent.
DeBoer is also critical of libertarian efforts at censorship (while we do have some exceptions to this pattern among regulars, the comment section at NC confirms these observations):
I am someone who frequently develops great hope for a hypothetical libertarianism and is consistently disappointed by the actual libertarianism. …. I frequently imagine that an ideology with “liberty” right in the title might be a mad, teeming collection of every flavor of crazy and dreamer, a loose confederation rife with difference and disagreement. Difference so vast that it might, by god, lead some to find common ground with someone like, well, me.
Instead, we have only the libertarianism that exists. And that libertarianism is the America ideology least accepting of difference, most committed to policing orthodoxy..I have searched but found no libertarians particularly amenable to seeing the tension between an ideology dedicated to freedom and an institutional apparatus that enforces orthodoxy. I bring all this up because I have always thought that there is room for libertarians to at once disagree totally with left-wing policy but to support the idea that the left-wing should be given a seat at the table. The reality, I’m sorry to say, is the opposite. I find it so hard to take, when libertarians complain about how misunderstood and oppressed they are, because nobody redbaits like libertarians do. Nobody. Nobody is more eager to excise the dirty commies from the realm of acceptable opinion than your average libertarian, while the similarly berate the powers that be for confining them to the intellectual ghetto of their imagination.
The post discusses the positions of quite a few political bloggers, including Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias, Mickey Kaus, Jon Chait, Kevin Drum, and the economic, social and career forces that contribute to the rightward pull.
And I have to say I understand that part, even thought I do not sympathize. Readers have often said I should be on certain TV shows. And logically, I should be on at least some of them. But guess what, they won’t have me (not even Democracy Now, but that’s because they are not that interested in finance, and when they do that type of story, they seem to prefer either Real People or academics). Even though a TV veteran says it has a lot to do with bookers (they are pretty much all female and he insists they prefer to book men), I suspect another big reason is my outspoken views. One ought to think that would make me a useful guest, since good talking heads TV often involves friction between participants with diverging views. But some types of divergence appear not to be terribly welcome.
The piece ends with the obligatory rousing finale:
All I know is that I look out onto an America that seems to me to desperately require a left-wing. American workers have taken it on the chin for thirty years. They have been faced for years with stagnant wages, rising costs, and the hollowing out of the middle class. They are now confronted with that and a cratered job market, where desperate people compete to show how hard they will work in bad conditions for less compensation. Meanwhile, the neoliberal policy apparatus that brought us here refuses even to consider the possibility that it is culpable, so certain of its inherent righteousness and its place in the inevitable march of progress. And the blogosphere protects and parrots that certainty, weeding out left-wing detractors with ruthless efficiency, while around it orbits the gradual extinction of the American dream.
But then we get this remark in an update:
It’s worth saying that I once had the opportunity, not too long ago, to blog for money– not a lot of money– for a fairly mainstream progressive enterprise. I turned it down for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is my continuing fear that my blogging will come back to ruin my career in the academy..
As one of my correspondents noted,
We don’t lack people willing to ask others to take a bullet for them.