FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2023
We offer a basic suggestion: "Now we're engaged in a great civil war," Abraham Lincoln once said.
He made the statement at Gettysburg at the start of a famous address. Here's the well-known fuller passage:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.
In Lincoln's assessment, this new nation, at its very birth, had been "dedicated to the proposition that all men [sic] are created equal." He said the war to which he referred was testing the ability of any such nation to endure.
Our situation today strikes us as painfully similar. It isn't obvious that there's any clear way out of our current mess.
The so-called "democratization of media" has turned out to be quite unhelpful. Yesterday, Kevin Drum offered a sketch of the relevant history within the other tribe.
Personally, we'd skip his use of the phrase "the common man," which was probably offered tongue in cheek. Also, we'd include Jerry Falwell's relentless pimping of the claim that the Clintons murdered all those people.
There was no Internet at that time, so the very reverend fellow had to stampede around pimping his lurid film.
Other than that, here it is! This is a reasonable history the way the "democratization of media" has played out within the red tribe:
DRUM (2/2/23): Before the late '80s, there was really no choice except print if you wanted to get a daily dollop of right-wing opinion. That meant George Will and William F. Buckley and a bunch of other hyper-educated conservative elites, none of whom really appealed to the common man.
But the demise of the fairness doctrine upended the airways, and later on cable news became a staple. When that happened, everything changed.
First up was Rush Limbaugh. Maybe no one really remembers it now, but he was completely nuts! It was all feminazis and Billary and Vince Foster—and the common man loved it.
But Limbaugh needed the Clintons as foils and lost some of his mojo when they left the White House. The 9/11 attacks opened up new opportunities, and the Fox News prime-time trio of Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Bill O'Reilly seized it by upping the outrage—and the common man loved it.
Eventually 9/11 faded and Iraq turned into an unpopular debacle. Then Barack Obama took office and that demanded a whole new level of outrage. The old Fox News gang didn't seem quite suited to the era of the tea partiers, so Glenn Beck took over. He was so deranged he made the rest of them seem like Ivy League scholars—and the common man begged for more.
Glenn couldn't keep up the craziness forever, so he quit. Up stepped Andrew Breitbart, whose website was willing to go where even the lunatics hadn't dared tread before—and the common man was ecstatic.
But Breitbart died and times changed. Tucker Carlson, shrewd and calculating man that he is, decided there was a vacuum to fill. The way to fill it, as usual, was by dialing up the outrage yet again, so that's what he did—and the common man loved it even more than ever.
"The common man loved it even more than ever." We'd skip Kevin's use of that particular phrase, but that's largely the way the democratization has gone Over There, within the devolving red tribe.
We don't know how to assess the motives and psychology of Tucker Carlson. Other than that, we largely agree with that capsule history, while noting that those various players have occasionally made valid points.
That said, it's always easy to see the history as it plays out in The Other Tribe. It tends to be harder to see the errors and failures of the tribe to which we ourselves belong.
Concerning that, consider this:
"Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans," Langston Hughes beautifully wrote. This past Monday, Charles Blow penned a column about what had just happened in Memphis.
Charles Blow is a good, decent person. Headline included, the column started like this:
Tyre Nichols’s Death Is America’s Shame
The spectacle of a televised countdown to the showing of the video in which Tyre Nichols was savagely beaten by Memphis police officers doesn’t just theatricalize Black death; it is a damning indictment of American perversion.
It was horrific, as promised, but unfortunately not singularly so. It was instead yet another data point in a long line of videos showing the torturing of Black bodies by the police. It was more snuff porn with Black victims, in a country becoming desensitized to the violence because of its sheer volume.
The newly anointed President Trump once spoke of "American carnage." Given the perilous state of the nation, was it helpful when Blow began this column with a reference to "American perversion?"
Was it helpful to take that stance? Please note what we're asking:
We aren't asking if Blow's assessment can be viewed as accurate in some way. (He seemed to be speaking of CNN's "televised countdown" last Friday night, though that isn't clear.)
We aren't asking if Blow's obvious anger was understandable or justifiable. In our view, it's obvious that such anger is understandable. Justifiable is a whole different play.
We're asking a different question. We're asking if Blow's reference to "American perversion" was helpful, given the current very dangerous state of play.
We ask that because, not unlike Lincoln, we think a test is underway of a certain highly imperfect way of life. We think events are testing whether some semblance of our modern "diverse democracy" can long hope to endure.
You'll note that Blow's first few paragraphs sketch a picture which Karen Attiah rendered a few days later, though in a less nuanced manner.
In Blow's rendering, the video of Tyre Nichols' beating death was another example of "snuff porn." A few days later, Attiah used similar language.
Back to Blow! Did the airing of that video represent an attempt, by major news orgs, to inform the public about a brutal case of police misconduct? Or did it simply represent a decision to "theatricalize" black death?
Blow's prose was a bit obscure on that point. A few days later, Atiah took the harder approach, calling it "entertainment."
We asked if Blow's presentation was helpful. We've asked that for a reason.
If we're now engaged in a great tribal war—if it really could turn out that our form of government won't long endure—then we the people may want to be careful about the things we do and say.
We may want to be careful about "own goals"—about the kinds of presentations which may empower the other side and help defeat ourselves. Such presentations may be understandable, or even justifiable. But could they help bring the democracy, such as it is, crashing to the ground?
Over here, within our blue tribe, we don't seem all that sure. Sometimes we act like that actually matters. An enormous amount of the time, we act like it pretty much doesn't.
We thunder and storm and talk to ourselves in self-admiring ways. Eventually, Rachel jumps in with her incessant childish clowning, helping us learn how to love her.
(On Monday night, as she burned time away about poor Stormy Daniels, Rachel went on, at some length, about how embarrassed she is when she has to say David Pecker's last name. Also, when she has to say the word "affair!")
No tribe which tolerates bullshit like that can expect to long endure. That said, how has the so-called "democratization of media" affected life in this struggling nation?
The red tribe is now routinely awash in crazy belief. And over here, within our blue tents, we routinely behave in ways which give aid and comfort to Tucker Carlson and others.
Our silly blue tribe just piddles along. The truth is, we aren't super smart.
We like to scream and yell about the conduct we see Over There. (George Santos is such a liar!) Next week, we'll focus on our floundering tribe's "own goals," on the three million ways we insist on defeating ourselves.
Lincoln said the nation might not endure. Do we think that's true again today?
Routinely, we say that we believe some such thing. Routinely, we act like we don't.
In our view, all physicians within our blue tribe need to devote a bit more time to the task of healing ourselves. We need to get on The Road to Helpful—or in the end, is it possible that we don't really care?
"Maybe no one really remembers it now, but he was completely nuts!"
He wasn't nuts at all, dear Bob; he was funny. Sarcastic and funny.
...we still remember your brain-dead tribe trying to create a brain-dead dembot alternative. Air America, it was called. And of course it flopped. Because your tribesmen are brain-dead zombies. No chance for a funny dembot live call-in show, dear Bob. Simply no chance...
Let's give him credit, in 2 weeks he'll be two years sober.
Nice job, Rush.
"Other than that, we largely agree with that capsule history, while noting that those various players have occasionally made valid points."
And this is why Somerby is no liberal and most likely not a Democrat either, despite his claims. No one I know on the left listens to any of these right wing nutcases long enough to know whether they make any valid points. But even if they did, they would not be admitting that there is anything valid coming from the right wing.
What is it that Somerby finds compelling on the right? Things that right wingers support, such as that the left is too woke and focused on silliness, that the 1619 Report was factually incorrect, denial of equal rights for trans people or supporting the cops instead of calling for an end to cops shooting unarmed black people, or his unwillingness to recognize that Trump is a liar. These are not liberal positions. Beyond that, given the amount of outright disinformation on right-wing media, there is no reason for Somerby to be urging anyone on the left to watch these guys. But Somerby has been doing that since Trump first ran in 2015.
"We aren't asking if Blow's obvious anger was understandable or justifiable. In our view, it's obvious that such anger is understandable. Justifiable is a whole different play."ReplyDelete
In Huntington Park CA yesterday, a black double-amputee was shot 10 times by police and killed as he attempted to flee on his stumps. It is fair to ask whether some other method of stopping the fleeing man could have been used.
Is Blow's anger justifiable. Somerby magnanimously admits that it might be. But Somerby has shifted those goalposts to "is it useful" instead. Useful for what? Pointing out the impotence of black anger at unjustifiable acts of violence against black men, strikes me as cruel and a kind of taunting of the victim, in a country that plainly has no intention of stopping police abuse of power, especially when aimed at black citizens.
This sophistry by Somerby is outrageous. There can be no pretense by Somerby that he gives a damn about civil rights (a core liberal belief) after an essay like today's. Is it perverse to present video of these killings, so that white racists can slaver over their violent acts? I think so. But I felt the same way as I watched Kyle Rittenhouse engage in his victory dance on video, over and over and over, before the jury set him free.
And today Somerby has the nerve to pervert Lincoln's words about our nation's affirmation of equal rights for all, claiming that we are in another such divide, while himself sticking up for the right wing's unconscionable actions, claiming that they have some valid points. Which ones? The one where they support the right of white armed police to shoot and kill at will, with impunity, as long as the target is black and can be made to seem ever-so-scary to white people?
I've had it with Somerby. There is nothing reasonable about today's essay. There hasn't been for quite a while now. And no, I don't know a single Democrat who thinks that Carlson occasionally makes a valid point.
Carlson is a scum-sucker. Having said that, Carlson makes dozens of points every night he's on air. To say that none of them are valid is kindergartenish.Delete
"Carlson makes dozens of points every night he's on air"Delete
You would know and that's kindergartenish if you think he's a scum-sucker.
"If we're now engaged in a great tribal war—if it really could turn out that our form of government won't long endure—then we the people may want to be careful about the things we do and say."Delete
Is it helpful to refer to our current culture wars as "a great tribal war" when that is exactly what the right wing militas are hoping to provoke? Is it helpful to use war as a metaphor for conflict when there is a right-wing element that is armed to the teeth and itching to be allowed to "use the guns now". We have mass shootings in the country because we have too many guns, but Somerby ignores the FACT that 25% of them were instigated by right wing conspiracy theorists who encourage violence via campaign ads, tweets, calls for patriotic resistance to socialists trying to steal their freedom, and similar incitement by the right, including politicians currently holding office, not just talk-radio and Fox News idiots. This use of langauge by Somerby strikes me as so unhelpful as to be irresponsible in the current climate.
There are active secessionists in TX. I have a right wing associate who moved there to participate in their activities, because he is eager to see the divide turn into a shooting war. Yet Somerby does his best to blame those circumstances on liberals and tell us that we should be deescalating conflict, when it is the right who believes that guns can solve our diversity problem. Ask the fully out white supremacists who are now operating in the open with Trump's approval and the support of conservative celebrities. But Somerby chides the left! It is difficult consider Somerby innocent under these circumstances.
"We think events are testing whether some semblance of our modern "diverse democracy" can long hope to endure."ReplyDelete
What is the alternative to enduring as a multicultural, diverse society? Balkanization perhaps? Is Somerby suggesting that our nation divide itself into separate states, the Northeast for the woke whites, the South for blacks, the SW for Hispanics, and the NW for white patriots, with perhaps enclaves for native Americans, SE Asians, Asians and other large minorities, or perhaps a single no-man's land. Then we can declare actual wars against each other instead of just doing every perverse thing the right can think of to irritate the left, while the left tries to enact the humane policies that the right abhors. How would that be, Somerby?
Right now, Somerby makes no useful proposals himself. His main suggestions seems to be that the left capitulate to the right and try not to irritate them so much. Because that strategy always works so well with bullies (hint: NOT). But more than that, I don't think
sorry, cut off, but have to go do something else now...you get the gistDelete
Take your time.Delete
I don't think there is a solution to our current divide that involves silencing people, banning books, restricting teachers, suppressing votes, and stacking the courts. Somerby expresses little concern about any of these threats to our democracy, when democracy is what enables us to continue as a diverse society, with equal protection for all citizens and for the rights of minorities. The winner take all attitude on the right, which Somerby never discusses, is the biggest threat to our diverse nation, because the winners want to impose their own version of society on others who do not believe in their approaches. That tramples the freedom of everyone. The shooting of black me is only one aspect of the fascist denial of legitimacy to all views except the right wing, with their eliminationist approach to those they disagree with.Delete
The press, including Blow and all the others who Somerby criticizes harshly, is a bulwark against the right wing tyrants who have tried to run roughshod over our democracy, but were unsuccessful in making Trump their tyrant. They announced that AZ went for Biden. They report the news accurately enough to undermine the worst of right-wing disinformation. They give a podium to leftists, including opinion columnists, especially the ones Somerby most dislikes because they say things he disagrees with. Those are exactly the people our nation needs to hear, in order to remain a diverse democracy instead of an autocracy with forced-homogeneity and restrictive laws enacted by right wingers who think their beliefs should be forced on all others.
The mainstream media is not perfect, but it is our best and only barrier against the wannabe dictators incubated in right wing states, supported by rabid cultists such as Q-Anon and the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.
Somerby said nothing about the disgraceful 1/6 insurrection. He argued against impeachment of Trump both times. He has been critical of the 1/6 hearings, distrustful of the Republican witnesses and undermining what they said. Somerby is no friend to democracy and no liberal. His understanding of Lincoln's words show no respect for what Lincoln meant, as he grabs at superficialities, such as that we are a divided nation, without understand Lincoln's abiding faith in democracy. Lincoln fought to preserve our union. Somerby fights to give voice to Tucker Carlson, while disavowing all efforts to extend civil rights to all in our country, to preserve our national institutions (esp education and our free press, voting and free speech), and to give voice to all perspectives.
Somerby conveniently ignores the fact that Lincoln, for all his magnanimity and desire to find compromise, was ultimately unsuccessful. The South refused to share Lincoln’s vision. And so, Lincoln chose the Union side, and was forced to destroy the South militarily. The lesson is that even a Lincoln couldn’t force events to conform to his will and couldn’t force others to share his better angels.Delete
Well, today with have a summation of anotherReplyDelete
writer’s work and a repost of what Bob has written before. Could laziness be part of our problem?
One thing this old timer has noticed is
that while, yes, Limbaugh did bring
creepy degenerate types (see Mao) into
the fold, people who would otherwise
stick to Hee Haw, even half hearted
serious analysis fell by the wayside from much of anyone.
W gave conservative ideas, under
Excellent conditions for succeeding,
every possible chance. He failed
miserably at Home and abroad.
This created the vacuum for the
total slob movement. We may never
have a serious conservative
Mostly stuck in pandering mode, the
corporate left Press rarely offers much
useful work either, for those attempting
to pay attention. The left is often easy to
con into eating its own.
A writer like Bob could still be useful
in pointing some of this out. But as a
Human being, he just wasn’t up to
the Trump Catastrophe, and he had
mostly lost his way long before that.
Somerby says we need to be careful what we do and say, in case the others win. Why? What will they do if they win? It sounds a lot like a threat.ReplyDelete
Notice Somerby chides Maddow, a woman, for action childish.ReplyDelete
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