Cleaning House

Last fall, Michael Walzer of the leftist journal Dissent wrote an article (which is no longer online) called, “Can There Be a Decent Left?” A year ago, I wouldn’t even have understood Walzer’s question. We’re the left! We’re decent! Case closed.

Then again, when you read about stuff like this, you really start to wonder.

Well. This too we shall overcome. And let me assure you, despite the best efforts of the Right to portray things otherwise, reports of the death of the ‘Decent Left’ have been greatly exaggerated. See, over the last year, it’s become pretty clear how the “Left” breaks down:

  • Category A: Those who believe that we as a nation are irredeemably evil, and that nothing we have ever done has any moral justification.
  • Category B: Those that don’t.

One can disagree vehemently about the policies of our government — in fact, contra Ashcroft and Fleischer, that is the defining characteristic of good citizenship. But there’s a difference between healthy dissent and curling up into a fetal ball of hate, anti-Semitism, and victimhood. Those who fall into Category A are simply not leftists… nor are they even thinkers. They’re… well, I don’t know what they are, but they’re something else. In any case, the most charitable thing that you can say for them is that they force real lefties to waste energy fending off strawman attacks that are (presumably) targetted at the Fakers. Well, I’m tired of it. To the Fakers, I say: Get out. Piss off. Quit wasting our time. Oh, and another thing: go find yourselves another goddamn label.

With that off my chest, here are three examples of real lefties fighting the good fight.

Michael Walzer himself, in a reprint of an article he wrote last fall for The American Prospect, “Excusing Terror: The Politics of Ideological Apology“:

It is not so easy to reach the last resort. To get there, one must indeed try everything (which is a lot of things)–and not just once, as if a political party or movement might organize a single demonstration, fail to win immediate victory, and claim that it is now justified in moving on to murder. Politics is an art of repetition. Activists learn by doing the same thing over and over again. It is by no means clear when they run out of options. The same argument applies to state officials who claim that they have tried everything and are now compelled to kill hostages or bomb peasant villages. What exactly did they try when they were trying everything?

Could anyone come up with a plausible list? “Last resort” has only a notional finality. The resort to terror is not last in an actual series of actions; it is last only for the sake of the excuse. Actually, most terrorists recommend terror as a first resort; they are for it from the beginning.

David Remnick and Hendrik Hertzberg in the New Yorker, “A Year After“:

This week, we remember the dead. It will be an overwhelming commemoration. Some of refined sensibility have complained in advance that the media will exploit this anniversary, that television commentators will wax fatuous, that people are tired of it all — tired of the anthems and the flags, tired of the invocations of “9/11,” tired of a certain kitsch, civic and commercial, that has attached itself to the event. Fair enough. But to spend one’s energies this week calibrating levels of rhetorical sophistication in public and private grief seems like time, and refinement, ill spent.

Louis Menand, critiquing the critics in “Faith, Hope, and Clarity: September 11th and the American soul“:

[Baudrillard's argument] is as fantastic, in its way, as Alice Walker’s colored threads. It supposes a universe that (like Walker’s) operates by an internal equilibrating mechanism that just happens to be in perfect synchrony with the writer’s own prejudices. Globalization is evil because it destroys “singularity” by imposing a system of “generalized exchange.” O.K. “Singularity” being a good thing and “generalized exchange” a bad one, the universe will automatically correct the insult to itself by having the extinct “singularities” exact “revenge” on the very agents of “generalized exchange” — the folks who work in the World Trade Center — by means of a “terrorist” act (or let us call it a “terrorist situational transfer”) perpetrated by a fanatical Saudi millionaire sitting in a cave in Afghanistan. Like all superstitions, it makes perfect sense. “For it is the world, the globe itself, which resists globalization,” as Baudrillard proclaims. “Terrorism is immoral. The World Trade Center event, that symbolic challenge, is immoral, and it is a response to a globalization which is itself immoral.” If this is too metaphysical for you, stick with the threads.

As for me, I’ve certainly changed my reading habits. For one thing, I’m cutting way back on my media consumption. First things first: I’m dropping Andrew Sullivan. Yes, again. He’s an ideologue, of course… but worse, he bores me. Ditto for the cacophony of the “warbloggers”. No more Salon or Slate either. And I’m definitely not dumpster-diving in The Nation or The National Review anymore. I used to have a sort of car-wreck fascination with their nonsense, but when you get right down to it, they’re the equivalent of watching reality TV. That goes for the tech rags and the tech blowhards as well.

So now my daily and weekly reads are down to a reasonably trim list:

  • Good Morning Silicon Valley for tech news.
  • The O’Reilly Network for tech goodies. Plus I dig their books.
  • TAPPED for political commentary.
  • The New Republic for more political commentary. (My only regret is that Michelle Cottle is married.)
  • Carolyn Hax for her advice and her husband’s cartoons. (Tough luck about her being married too.)
  • The Onion for humor, along with every other college-educated twentysomething in the Western Hemisphere.
  • Spinsanity, because they do the dumpster-diving better than I ever could.
  • Prof. Jeff Cooper for cogent legal analysis, wine recommendations, baseball, and links to other interesting lawyers and law students.
  • Last but certainly not least, M’ris. To paraphrase Jeff Cooper, thou shalt honor thy blogmother!

And that’s it. Looks like it’s time to edit the ol’ Links page yet again…