Home / Robert Farley / Divorce?



So, it seems like there was a hippie punching party and nobody invited me.  Two thoughts:

1. The term “hippie punching,” while satisfying in an @OldHossRadbourn “Beat the Irish” kind of way, does not accurately describe the dynamic of internecine strife in Left Blogistan.  Freddie gives as good as he gets; for every “I’m still pissed about Nader” post you see at LGM, you’ll see a similar 1500 word anti-liberal rant from Freddie, or from folks with very similar political attitudes as Freddie. Liberals (if we shall call them such) undoubtedly still see some value in harsh critiques of the Left (if we shall refer to it as such), just as the Left often finds liberals to be easier targets of opportunity than conservatives. The “hippie punching” terminology suggests a passivity that does not capture the relationship. It’s for this reason that I find questions like “why can’t liberals make peace with Ace Cockburn?” almost entirely useless; Cockburn hated liberals, targeted them regularly with nasty invective, and didn’t give a damn what they thought about him.

2. Maybe it’s time to drop the pretense that Freddie and Erik (or Freddie and myself) are on the same side of anything. As we know, the institutional structure of American politics makes the persistence and dominance of two large, broad-coalition political parties extremely likely, and given that the development of Left Blogistan during the Bush administration was characterized by accidental coincidence between liberals and leftists, it’s perhaps not surprising that an inappropriate sense of community would take hold. Let’s be frank, though; while I’m certainly on the left of any kind of linear scale of American politics (and probably in the left-most quartile), I don’t give a damn about Freddie’s “socialist pacifism.” It’s not my kind of politics, it doesn’t interest me, and given my druthers I wouldn’t engage in much of any kind of political action to further whatever program Freddie thought necessary to realize his goals.

If we abandon the idea of a Left Blogistan community, then these arguments stop being about strength of ideological commitment (on the one side) or poor strategic decision making (on the other side) and become simple policy arguments. Pluralism is great; people think all kinds of different things, but intra-group dynamics in groups that probably shouldn’t be groups in the first place probably make conflict a good deal more bloody than it needs to be. There is, to my mind, no natural relationship between the group of people on the left side of American politics who are deeply interested in policy detail and believe that such detail (and the elections that modify this detail) is consequential, and those who believe preferences between the policies of Romney and Obama amount to rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic of Late American Imperial Capitalism.

Phrased differently, a world in which Freddie doesn’t have to pretend that he cares about the public option, the Medicare retirement age, or the specifics of the drone campaign and in which I don’t have to pretend that I can about Freddie might be a much better world than the one we have now.  Of course, whenever you have borders there’ll be borderline cases, but it seems to me that the intra-group dynamic of Left Blogistan is kinda ugly right now, and might be better served by Partition. There is precedent; the political Blogosphere that existed in 2004 resolved itself into two distinct ideological groups by 2008, with not much conversation taking place between them. If you really valued the blog wars of 2004 this was a sad development, but it seems that almost no one really wants to relieve those days.

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  • Eric

    Prediction: 350+ comments.

  • Joe

    Where’s the hippie punching video? I have in mind something like the elephant beating up the donkey on the Colbert Report.

  • Sophia

    I thought hippie-punching was something done by Villagers. If you have no power and no one cares what you think, you don’t really have the necessary audience to hippy punch. (Soft pitch tree-hugger falling in the forest set up not intended.)

    • Eggplant

      There’s a proud tradition amongst powerless liberals of punching left.

      • Jon

        Those last two threads weren’t really about “punching left.” Down, maybe, but the assumption that Freddie’s further to the left than anyone here just because he says so… Well, it’s not well supported by past experience.

        • Eggplant

          I don’t know the guy, and I’m definitely not reading those two threads. Just responding to one comment.

        • swearyanthony

          Freddie is just the last true Pure and True Warrior, patrolling the wall on the edge of civilization. Or at least that’s his own mental image.
          In a previous thread, someone posted a magnificent Tiger Beatdown dismemberment of his nonsense (from 2+ years ago). Reread it. Different topic, same bullshit games he uses, even after Sady Fucking Doyle grabbed his nutsack and pulled it so far over his head that it looked like he was wearing a pink slanket.

          I cannot emphasize this enough: ignore him. Please, ignore him. Do not waste precious thoughts and brain on him. He will Always Be More Pure, and will always, always have a followup post.

      • Sophia

        I’m not sure that alleged tradition could be meaningfully distinguished from “people disagreeing about politics.” My point was more along the lines of the essence of hippie-punching being people with power beating up on people without power.

        • LGM isn’t a locus of power? I’ve been severely misinformed about things.

          • Anderson

            Just yesterday, a cop pulled me over – something about my ironizing a stop sign – and was literally writing me a ticket when I casually mentioned how I would work the experience into a LGM comment. The terror in his eyes almost made me sorry for him, but he’d retreated to his car before I could say another word.

            • BigHank53

              At least you didn’t have to bring out the sarcasm. I always feel terrible on the inside, watching the tears roll out from underneath the mirrored sunglasses.

        • Eggplant

          It can’t be hippie-punching because you’re powerless? What other critiques of liberals are invalid due to their impotence?

          • timb

            Wow, now you’re accusing liberals of not being to get it up….is there no decency any more?

      • But that’s political disagreement between factions that disagree with each other. Which is different from those in power lashing out at a powerless minority as a deliberate distraction or as political theater.

      • wengler

        It’s more of a tradition of who has the most ‘serious’ tactics.

        We could be talking about radically reforming the governing institutions of the US or making the humpback whale the official sea mammal of the US, the debate would remain the same: reform from within or rebel from without.

    • Scott Lemieux

      I thought hippie-punching was something done by Villagers. If you have no power and no one cares what you think, you don’t really have the necessary audience to hippy punch. (Soft pitch tree-hugger falling in the forest set up not intended.)

      Right. Back when countless nominally liberal pundits were asserting that Iraq War opponents were right for the wrong reasons, “hippie-punching” was a useful term that meant something. Now, it seems to mean “any leftier-than-thou argument should be ipso facto exempt from criticism on the merits.”

      • Anonymous37

        Incidentally, I was actually one of those Iraq War opponents who was right for the wrong reason. Kind of.

        My main reason for opposing the war was that the rest of the Middle East (with the exception of Israel) was not in favor of the war. We would be going in alone, and instead of having rhetorical cover, we and we alone would be the object of hate of the Middle East minus Israel.

        This wasn’t entirely wrong. And to some extent, the fact that we didn’t have strong partners in the region to back us up should have served as a sign that Iraq would be a longer, harder slog than the Bush administration expected. But if we did have some regional partners for our actions, things would have probably been almost as bad for us. And that’s leaving aside the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who died too soon.

        But I considered myself (and still do) a moderate Democrat. Arguably I deserve a punch or two, but the Villagers and their spiritual kin wouldn’t think to aim their fists at me, because my argument is reasonable sounding enough.

  • Eggplant

    True, rearranging the deck chairs is not a good description of the policy differences. The Democrats mostly argue that maybe some of those deck chairs should be taken down to serve as beds in steerage, or at the very least John Jacob Astor shouldn’t be able to hog every last one.

  • There is precedent; the political Blogosphere that existed in 2004 resolved itself into two distinct ideological groups by 2008

    I don’t recall this or what it was about? Are you referring to the pie thing?

    • wengler

      I thought it got all split over the PPACA. It’s hard to remember who I’m supposed to hate.

      I’ll just settle for hating anything associated with HuffingtonPost.

    • Are you referring to the pie thing?

      I think he means the thing with the bad videos.

      • Malaclypse

        Mini-Mal became quite attached to this one back in the day.

  • Roger

    If only The Left had a forum to defend itself. I miss Happy Furry Puppy Story Time.

  • Linnaeus

    Left Blogistan

    Max Sawicky, at his old blog, suggested that “Blogistan” be reserved for right wing blogs and that left wing blogs be part of “Blogovia”.

  • bob mcmanus


    FOUCAULT: It seems to me that the political involvement of the intellectual was traditionally the product of two different aspects of his activity: his position as an intellectual in bourgeois society, in the system of capitalist production and within the ideology it produces or imposes (his exploitation, poverty, rejection, persecution, the accusations of subversive activity, immorality, etc); and his proper discourse to the extent that it revealed a particular truth, that it disclosed political relationships where they were unsuspected. These two forms of politicisation did not exclude each other, but, being of a different order, neither did they coincide. Some were classed as “outcasts” and others as “socialists.” During moments of violent reaction on the part of the authorities, these two positions were readily fused: after 1848, after the Commune, after 1940. The intellectual was rejected and persecuted at the precise moment when the facts became incontrovertible, when it was forbidden to say that the emperor had no clothes. The intellectual spoke the truth to those who had yet to see it, in the name of those who were forbidden to speak the truth: he was conscience, consciousness, and eloquence. In the most recent upheaval (3) the intellectual discovered that the masses no longer need him to gain knowledge: they know perfectly well, without illusion; they know far better than he and they are certainly capable of expressing themselves. But there exists a system of power which blocks, prohibits, and invalidates this discourse and this knowledge, a power not only found in the manifest authority of censorship, but one that profoundly and subtly penetrates an entire societal network.

    • Dave

      Well, that’s nice, but let’s not for a moment kid ourselves that any of it applies to Freddie, who is just a big-mouth jackass who might, like the proverbial stopped clock, have at least one hand pointing in the right direction upon occasion.

    • Paula

      The fact that Freddie is any kind of intellect is hilarious, more so the idea that his type of unsubtle binary thinking would bear notice as such by actual historians, anthropologists and political philosophers.

  • Jeffrey Beaumont

    Well, as much as I am usually happy to defer to you guys with your hands on the lever, I have to disagree with Robert’s last point.

    I am extremely interested in the details of policy, in the elections, etc. I think I have a good sense of pragmatic politics that allow me to choose the lesser of two evils and really dig the strategic side of the whole process.

    I also, mostly for environmental reasons, and partly for totally Marxist reasons, believe this is all re-arranging deck chairs on the titanic. I dont want to live through a revolution, collapse, disaster, or anything of the sort, but I do believe that our system is unsustainably flawed and ultimately a lot of better ideas are already floating around out there to give us alternatives.

    But this is all theory versus reality, utopian goals versus actual existing politics. There is nothing wrong with looking forward to the proletariat revolution, fearing my kids will witness real environmental cataclysm, and still thinking the ACA is of life and death importance because it really is.

    • Jeffrey Beaumont

      And also none of that changes the fact that Freddie is a troll who would rather play holier-than-thou than actually think about real issues.

    • Right, but it’s about what you do as much as what you think. I know plenty of people who are to my left ideologically who still engage in the kind of political organizing and who operate within the realm of political strategy that I do, and I can work with them no problem. It’s the people who don’t politically organize or think strategically and who actively disparage doing either that I can’t work with.

      • “It’s the people who don’t politically organize or think strategically…”

        I concur, but I think this comprises a large part of the blogosphere. People who don’t want to do the grunt work that’s needed because it’s below them, but are happy to sit around telling others what they should do. That’s why my first reaction when I read something like this is, “Are any of these guys even doing anything? And why do they think that definitional issues on the left are more important than political actions?”

      • JL

        What about the people who do organize but don’t think strategically (or at least, suck at it)? The people who go around organizing for vanity third-party presidential campaigns, or who are really good at outside-the-system protest-based organizing but disdain engaging with the two-party model?

        I know a lot of those people. I do both in-the-system and outside-the-system activism (though not third-party vanity presidential campaign activism), so I work with them no problem where we overlap in the domain that they like and are good at working in, the outside-the-system domain. And then I shake my head to myself at the way they talk about “liberals”.

        Of course, I get the mirror phenomenon on the other end of things, when I do inside-the-system work with people who pearl-clutch at the idea of civil disobedience or the idea that people like socialists and anarchists exist.

        • StevenAttewell

          If they can actually organize, I’m willing to at least try to win them over, because they might actually get some work done.

  • wengler

    This post brings up an interesting topic, because there are certainly more like-minded blog sites to me on the internet but I tend to hang out here because the commentary is better.

    That is all that matters these days. Great Orange Satan isn’t a daily stop because its comments are numerous and shitty. Balloon Juice is gazing at its navel(and pets), while Atrios is non sequitur city.

    So a lot of the times when there is a post of somebody on some other site saying something that someone on this site didn’t like, I’ll chime in and give a hearty ‘Yeah fuck that guy!’. Even if I don’t care that much.

    Consider this a confession.

    • sparks

      Having a seriously low UID at the Great Orange Satan, all I can say is it’s turned into what it threatened to turn into all along, with a rec list that includes some of the dumbest, most trivial shit I run across. Eschaton is a quip machine with a comment club which I’d never want to be a member of.

      I’m here often enough, but it’s not without its problems, too. The only two places I really like hanging out at are Pierce’s and Driftglass.

      • I myself am far too cool for my own blog’s comments section.

        • DrDick

          It is true! I know because I hang out there.

        • Malaclypse

          I myself am far too cool for my own blog’s comments section.

          The world does not need a second Yglesias.

      • Warren Terra

        Pierce’s comments require turning my life over to Facebook, which I’ve so far refused to do.

        • tonycpsu

          +1. Plus, how can you top anything Pierce says? I feel like if I did have a Facebook account, I’d just be a gushing fanboy posting “yeah, you go get ’em, Charlie!” on ever post.

    • Uncle Kvetch

      there are certainly more like-minded blog sites to me on the internet but I tend to hang out here because the commentary is better

      I’d put myself in the same category. I lurk at Wonkette and Alicublog for the laffs, because there are regulars at both sites who are flat-out hilarious. There are also some funny folks at Charlie Pierce’s blog (and a recurrent troll who never seems to tire of getting his ass handed to him, which is amusing). But LGM and Crooked Timber are the only places where I still actually comment.

      In terms of “like-mindedness” — I wouldn’t say that regular reading of this blog has made me any less of a lefty, but it has done a lot to convince me that the structural roadblocks to progressive change in this country are pretty much insurmountable. And I’m still trying to make peace with that fact in my own head without just giving in to complete apathy and disconnecting from politics completely.

  • Given the history of the American Left (social democrats (aka “social fascists”) vs. the Communist Party, Action Faction vs. Praxis Axis, the future Weathermen compared to the “Clean for Gene” folks, etc. is anyone surprised?

    • Cody


      You didn’t close your parenthesis! Sorry, but it annoys the hell out of me. When did your aside finish?

      • StevenAttewell

        Should end after etc. Sorry, if I could edit, I would, because that annoys me as well.

  • [BONERS]

    • Jon

      There have boon over 400 comments about Freddie so far, but this is still the only thing that needs to be said.

      • rea

        Although I could point out that this whole post is based on a false premise. Freddy ain’t to the left of me, or anyone here. He’s just out on some non-reality based axis somewhere. He’s mad at Obama and the real left for a bunch of shit that never happened.

  • What is this 2004 split you’re talking about?

  • Marc

    It’s worth remembering that extreme political views are grossly over-represented on the web. In the Usenet days you’d run across what seemed like a large number of libertarian true believers. Once you established that they wanted, say, private ownership of nuclear weapons, it became apparent that they were a pretty vocal and tiny minority.

    The far left in US terms is tiny but over-represented for the same reasons. If you’re fragmented then you need to get online to have a critical mass – and no matter how small your faction you’ll get more of a quorum than you could have dreamed of in person.

    Add in the dynamics of hating the (perceived) traitor more than the infidel and you can explain an awful lot of what we’ve been seeing in these online confrontations.

    • NonyNony

      Yes. All of this. Plus one or like or whatever the kids these days use to approve a message.

      Except that I recall the libertarian arguments on Usenet being over the private ownership of tanks rather than nukes. But then, I was on the libertarian side of the equation at that time in my life and am probably remembering the stupid-but-not-as-stupid arguments being made by fellow idiots at the time.

      • rea

        Scalia, of all people, has pointed out that it’s the right to bear arms, and you can’t carry a tank.

        • JohnTh

          What was his point of view on surface to air missiles (whish is about the deadliest man-portable weapon I can think of)?

          • rea

            or suitcase nukes. I think he thinks they are protected.

    • Murc

      Oh, lord.

      I could talk for hours about how libertarianism is grossly over-represented in the tech community, on account of how for a long time it was basically 99% white guys from privileged backgrounds who taught themselves tech skills and didn’t understand why everyone didn’t found a start-up in their garage and get rich.

      While they completely ignored the massive government programs necessary to create and maintain the modern computing environment.

      • JL

        It’s very true.

        On the more positive side, social conservatism is strongly underrepresented in the tech community in my experience, and liberalism has gained a lot of ground.

  • Farley is exactly correct. The reason why liberals get so upset with leftists is because they don’t understand they are actually different ideologies, going all the way back to first principles. Which means you either make deals with them or ignore them, but they owe liberals nothing if liberals choose not to make deals.

    • dollared

      I don’t think that’s true, unless you think that FDR had a different ideology, going all the way back to first principles, from Bill Clinton.

      In which case you are not describing a split between liberals and leftists, you are describing a split between liberals and neoliberals.

      • Dave

        Sorry, of the two, which one is supposed to be the leftist?

        • Davis X. Machina

          The one on the left. The one on the right is just a liberal.

        • Dollared

          That’s the point: they’re both liberals, although Clinton less so than FDR.

          I just don’t know who these “leftists that aren’t liberal” are. In this country? Puhleeze.

          • Scott Lemieux

            Right. Antiliberal leftists in this country are a rounding error; they didn’t make up any significant portion of the Nader coalition, including Nader himself. I’m disappointed to see Rob endorse this self-serving guff.

            • Robert Farley

              I don’t think any part of my argument presupposes that the anti-liberal left is particularly large; if it were, there might be more reason to maintain some sort of communal affinity. As it is, there’s hardly even any strategic reason for pretending that DeBoer (and his internet-overrepresent co-ideologists) are part of the same community as the liberals they critique.

              • Scott Lemieux

                DeBoer (whose ideological position seems to be “leftism, c’est seulement moi”) might actually be an exception, but I think most of these disputes don’t have any real ideological content at all. The primary ideological difference between me and Matt Stoller, as far as I can tell, is that I never supported the Iraq War.

                • Robert Farley

                  I dunno; I’d say that Stoller has moved “left” in non-tactical ways, perhaps in part because he’s finding so little actual purchase among policy types. I haven’t lately heard you arguing for a state-controlled solar power monopoly that would employ 10 million people and be funded on cheap Treasury monetary policy.

                  I’d also say that the arguments over the ACA aren’t strictly tactical; belief that the ACA “locks in” the private healthcare industry may be deeply problematic for the reasons that you’ve pointed out, but some lefty discomfort with the ACA comes from people who are considerably less amenable to an enduring private role in healthcare than you or I. But then there are certainly borderline cases, and things tend to get fudgy.

                  Finally, I think that on foreign policy the ideological disagreements are genuine, not just tactical. The “but Mitt Romney would be even worse” is a true and useful claim in many circumstances, but I certainly think that my preferences for optimal foreign policy diverge substantially from a significant proportion of the self-described left.

                  And finally (finally!) I think that a lot of the politics of Occupy, while it may be a residue, is much closer to Freddie than it is to the LGM median. Small in numbers, but rhetorically significant.

    • Warren Terra

      Both are in favor of greater social justice. The principal difference is that the liberals are pragmatists, and too many who announce themselves to be The Only True Left are narcissistic purity trolls. Effectively, they’re nihilists.

      • Leeds man

        too many who announce themselves to be The Only True Left are narcissistic purity trolls

        Or quickly assumed to be, if they touch on certain subjects.

      • Steve

        Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.

      • Leeds man

        Actually, who announces themselves to be The Only True Left?

        • Marc

          The Judean Peoples Front, of course.

          • Manta


          • El Guapo

            Feck off! We’re the People’s Front of Judea.

      • Dave

        Oh, dear heart, if even the most cursory reading of the dictionary definitions of ‘liberal’ and ‘socialist’ can’t get you to a greater insight than that, there really is no hope.

        • I am getting the feeling from these threads that a lot of liberals do not even know the basic intellectual history of their ideology, let alone others.

      • spencer

        Effectively, they’re nihilists.

        Sounds exhausting.

  • Oh c’mon, who doesn’t love a good old timey Firebagger vs. O-bot throw down? Sure it’s the exact same argument every single time, but that’s because it’s a classic!

  • tonycpsu

    Robert, I’m not sure how this divorce would work. Was there ever really a marriage?

    Some lefty blogs are more policy focused, while some are more focused on organizing, electing Democrats, etc. Some are full of firebaggers, and some are full of O-bots. I see the blogs of Left Blogistan as a bunch of free agents, associating with each other, forming coalitions when it suits them, etc. What kind of tangible structural changes are you proposing?

  • I don’t know, Robert.

    There are those in the group you call “leftists” who actually do represent an ideology distinct from liberalism, and whose contribution to spats actually does represent a meaningful disagreement.

    But there seem to be at least as many people who, while they culturally identify with said leftists, are not meaningfully distinct in any way from the mainstream liberals they punch on an ideological level, and are arguing about tactics, personalities, and cultural signifiers.

    • Also, I actively identify as a leftist rather than a liberal, so I’m not sure how I would fit into all of this.

      • pete

        That sums up the whole meshugaas quite nicely.

        Also, this seems like an appropriate time to say that your labor history posts are invaluable for their mere existence (content a happy bonus), and your general focus on labor issues is really, no kidding, important. Thanks.

        • Aaron Morrow

          I agree!

          Also, you’ve moved me to the Left on labor. I mean I “know” we can’t get 50 Senators to overturn Taft-Hartley, but I’m convinced now that we need to chip away at that every which way we can.

      • Scott Lemieux

        “We are all Republicans, liberals, and we are all Federalists social democrats.”

        • rea

          And of course, the people with whom we are dealing think the guy who said that was a fascist.

      • Bridget

        I would follow Erik anywhere, or I would have until I found out there would be no coffee.

        • Cody

          There’s beer though!

          OT: Just had a Pacific Pear Cider. Was amazing.

      • And to add a not totally uninnteresting data point of the tribal identifiers thing: even though I don’t think anyone really considers me a leftist, I don’t conceptually disagree with any of the ten things on your list.

    • LeeEsq

      I think this is right. A lot of the more involved in OWS are not liberals. In NYC, OWS has had a presence in Union Square for months. At OWS Union Square, there has always been a table maintained by Anarchists with free Anarchist literature. There version of society is different than what I as a liberal want. However, other people involved with OWS probably do not want a radically different version of society and just want better regulation of business and more redistribution but have the cultural identifiers of anarchists protestors rather than say a professional liberal.

      • tt

        Yes. Cultural identifiers are more important than tactical differences. I actually think Loomis is more “radical” than DeBoer from a tactical perspective, if you actually read the meanings of the words each of them use (in particular, Loomis seems more comfortable with using violence to advance his ideological goals). But he posts on a blog with Lemeiux so he becomes identified as mainstream left labor blogger.

      • JoyfulA

        I have sometimes found myself co-protesting with people who have very different cultural identifiers. This can be fun or not.

      • JL

        Oh yeah, Occupy has always been full of anarchists. And you know what? I fucking loved working with most of them (this may have something to do with the dynamics of my particular Occupation). They were committed, they didn’t insist that everyone else had to be an anarchist too, and they didn’t think they were too good to do unpleasant gruntwork like security patrols or washing dishes (in fact, they were usually the first to volunteer for unpleasant gruntwork). Unfortunately, that was in stark contrast to many of our socialists, social democrats, or mainstream Dems, most of whose actual ideologies are closer to mine.

        …but have the cultural identifiers of anarchists protestors rather than say a professional liberal.

        Hmm. This is an interesting way of putting it. I think I’ve become a social democrat (more or less) with (many of) the cultural identifiers of an anarchist protester.

  • Linnaeus

    Popular Front/coalition politics are difficult and messy. But I don’t see how you can have an effective left-liberal without said politics. So I’m skeptical about the value of a “partition” or “divorce”.

    • Linnaeus

      “…effective left-liberal movement”

      And I just realized that my comment appears tautological – I should clarify by saying that the left side of the political gradient is murkier than the blog fights may suggest, so I think terms like “left-liberal” are useful, particularly when distinguishing between the present day and older versions of liberalism in particular.

  • I just wish you commenters would not go after Corey and Glenn when they come after me. Corey is a true mensch. Glenn is passionate in the way most people wish their children would become. And I am a big boy who has been living the consequences of politics since I was 15 years old. You all can focus on me directly. I can take it.

    Incidentally, Woodstock always seemed like bullshit to me.

    • If I had a child who was as big an asshole as Glenn Greenwald, even in service of a noble cause, I would disown it.

      • FlipYrWhig

        I think “May your children have the passion of Glenn Greenwald” sounds rather uncomfortably like “May you live in interesting times.”

      • David Nieporent

        Irony is dead.

      • Ethan

        Would you also refer to him or her as ‘it’ while doing so? I hope so. That’s deliciously cold.

    • Vance Maverick

      What are you referring to? LGM commenters are defending you from Corey Robin? Woodstock? As with the more serious accusations Scott was responding to, it would help, a lot, if you even linked to some substantiation.

    • sharculese

      Nobody did that you whiny liar.

      • swearyanthony

        You spelt that comment wrong. You meant to say


    • arguingwithsignposts

      Which is why you run away from the comments section at Balloon Juice, big boy.

    • John (not McCain)

      Has Christmas always smelled like oranges to you?

    • I do like the implication that Greenwald and Robin are not big boys!

      I also like that being a “big boy” is the key thing.

      I also like that attention should be directed against you you YOU!

      I esp. like that people who participate in a conversation must be shielded from the consequences of that participation.


  • Scott Lemieux

    As I said in comments, I’m not sure I buy your premise. While there are a few genuinely anti-liberal Cockburn-style leftists out there, I think that for the must part these are tactical debates between people with fundamentally similar policy views.

    • Marc

      There really are a couple of prominent threads in the fierce criticisms of mainstream liberalism. One is a consistent focus on purity, and this is quite consistent. You could call this the “adopt Tea Party tactics” approach, with an emphasis on confrontation. This is frequently combined with an express desire for radical outcomes. If you define “leftist” by the latter alone then the circle is smaller.

      I do think that a lot of the fiercest critics of liberals actually are leftists (in your nomenclature) and not liberals. But even if not, they really do seem to genuinely hate their targets. And they focus their attacks on liberals far, far more often than they do on conservatives. And this to me does seem to be a hallmark of genuine radicalism.

      And I’m skeptical that this will end in polite advocacy. You’re not attempting to persuade someone who you sneer that they like killing brown babies, or that they are blind cult worshippers, or that they’re torture-loving degenerates. You’re beating your chest and attempting to humiliate and silence them. Attitudes have hardened for a reason, and that reason is that hostile and confrontational rhetoric has consequences.

    • I’d go a little bit further than that and say that I don’t even think actual policy differences plays much of a role in things at all. Partly because there isn’t a ton of variance between these two camps (at least as it plays out in online comment wars), and secondly because that just isn’t where the fault line is. Just looking at LGM, even within the spectrum that runs from the most “moderate” of liberals all the way out to, oh, DrDick or Erik, there’s plenty of cohesion there, even with people who are defining their views differently.

      The reason for this, I’d say, is that when we say the one camp “doesn’t care about policy,” we mean that they don’t care in the same way wingnuts don’t care: the policies they’re defining themselves by represent tribal shibboleths far more than they represent any sort of reasoned commitment to them on the merits (the public option/single payer being he obvious example). The tactical arguments come down to the same sort of dynamic, with the Ben Nelson is a liberal if you want it crowd being primarily motivated by tribal rivalry and not all that knowledgeable when it comes to American politics. Which, I would imagine, is part of the draw: when you don’t know a lot about politics or policy but nevertheless have really strong opinions about things, you’re naturally going to gravitate to commentatros like Greenwald with the same basic tendency, and then that ignorant sanctimony amplifies itself and gets turned outward on the apostates. Just like the wingnuts.

    • DrDick

      As a pragmatic socialist, let me just say that I find this whole pissing match (a la De Boer) a huge waste of time. I do not always agree with liberals, whose goal is to tweak the capitalist system to make more humane, while mine is to replace it with an inherently humane system. I also know that we share certain goals and that people like me constitute, and likely will for a very long time, a small fraction of America. Therefore I need to make alliances with them to accomplish anything. As long as there is a powerful far right extremist party, like the GOP, which must be destroyed, it makes no sense to pick fights with potential allies, though we can debate tactics and short term goals.

      • “As long as there is a powerful far right extremist party, like the GOP, which must be destroyed, it makes no sense to pick fights with potential allies, though we can debate tactics and short term goals.”

        Well, on the flip side of that, I do think that that means it does, in fact, make plenty of sense to smack down the so-called radicals like de[Boners] or Stoller who are essentially advocating that “leftists” actually disavow this sort of coalition with “liberals” and see the latter as more closely aligned with the far right than with themselves because they dare to disagree with the purists on tactics, priorities, differences of degree, or near term feasibility.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Right. I suppose you could construct a mere liberal-to-REAL LEFTIST continuum in which this blog would run Farley-Lemieux-Campos-Loomis, but the fact is Farley is so far to the left of the median elite American political opinion that these differences are meaningless in practice. They might be meaningful if this blog was based in Denmark.

  • [BONERS]

    • HAH! “Gambol on the sidelines of the dappled sward of irrefutable logic” – oh, that actually hurt I laughed so hard.

    • Scott Lemieux


    • Beautiful. 5 minutes later and I’m still giggling.

  • dilletaunted

    HE’S A POSEUR!!!

  • silver

    How many times has warfare changed history due to advancing technology? Is a cluster bomb better technology than a drone? Are landmines preferrable? Warfare can be argued on its merits or lack thereof, but the technology used to kill people has been advancing for thousands of years. There will always be collateral damage.Better arguments can and should be made on whether we should be engaging in the particular theater of war than in the technology used.

    I’m firmly for arguing for equal voting access for all our citizens; progressing womens rights vs regressing; against the growth of income inequality; how to further improve healthcare.

    Some people hoard a position like others hoard possesions.I still think leftists and liberals have more in common than not, but I’m also a firm believer in fighting for the things you can change instead of beating your head against a wall.

  • tomk

    Is it possible that talking about these things (Erik’s idealistic proposals) will help bring them to possibility?

    1. Make recognition of the state of Israel dependent on moving the boundaries back to the 1967 lines and destroying the settlements.
    2. Repeal the 2nd Amendment
    3. A constitutional amendment to guarantee employment
    4. A constitutional amendment to guarantee collective bargaining
    5. Extend the most vigorous provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to the entire nation
    6. A government ban on the harvesting of most fish with vigorous regulations and punishment provisions for violators
    7. An 100% estate tax. You die, the government takes it all.
    8. Pricing based upon percentage of income. You go to the gas pump–the price of gas is based upon last year’s income that would be encoded on a card you have to show.
    9. U.S. companies can move overseas if they want–but the U.S. minimum wage applies to those workers. Also to contracted suppliers.
    10. A constitutional guarantee to terminate a pregnancy, no questions asked.

    • Malaclypse

      Not within my lifetime.

    • Dave

      As I don’t think even the USSR confiscated all personal assets upon death, I think trying to talk about all of these things as some kind of package would reveal you to be a loony of the first water. No. 9 is some kind of bizarre exceptionalism, and no. 10 is an offence against common sense – no questions asked? At 39 weeks??

      • TT

        How many women have ever demanded an abortion at 39 weeks “no questions asked”? Any? Conservative propaganda (which has a rather elastic relationship with the truth) notwithstanding, something tells me that the number lies between zero and zero. No, the right to terminate a pregnancy should be guaranteed “no questions asked” so that the woman who suffers a catastrophic health event with her pregnancy five days before the due date doesn’t have to face a grotesquely humiliating interrogation about sluttiness, banging, etc. at the hands of the (religious?) police.

        • Dave

          Really, that kind of shit happens in your country? I’m so glad I live in the civilized world.

          Still, be careful when you give the general population unquestionable access to blanket rights – they might use them to do all sorts of very strange things. And that might then have all sorts of backlash consequences that could have been avoided with a little more common sense to begin with.

          • “Still, be careful when you give the general population unquestionable access to blanket rights ”

            The problem is that, even to the extent there would be some number of 39 week abortions for “the wrong reasons,” in the real world this number would be so trivially small that basing public policy on it would be…an offence against common sense.

            • Anonymous

              Even though few parents would kill their own children, doing so is a crime. You make some basic moral calls in the law.

              The fact that an embyro or a 12-week fetus can’t survive independent of the mother is what makes abortion different. The fact that a 39 week fetus could makes deliberately killing them also a crime. You could imagine a different definition, but I doubt that it would command anything but a small minority in favor.

              • Blanket laws against murder, however, don’t impose on anyone’s rights otherwise, whereas an arbitrary abortion regulation that would affect approximately zero actual cases annually would create actual hurdles to medical abortion, or impose an additional trauma after the fact if you’re going to engage in “abortion auditing” or something.

              • JL

                No, what makes abortion different is that even if you accept the premise that a fetus is a person, we don’t force people to allow other people to live off of their bodies. We don’t force a parent to donate blood or bone marrow or a kidney to save their dying kid, even if we think the parent is immoral for not doing so.

          • sharculese

            “We shouldn’t give people rights because then maybe possibly sometime in the forever future somebody might do something bad.”

            That is not a childish worldview, and you are not a disingenuous anti-choice concern troll.

            • Scott Lemieux

              Also, Canada doesn’t have these kinds of restrictions, and I haven’t noticed this leading to widespread infanticide. Actually existing women generally don’t get third-trimester abortions on a whim.

              • T. Paine

                You obviously don’t know the women that anti-choice cranks associate with. The women in their MINDS!

      • bobbyp

        A, woman’s, right, to, choice, shall, not, be, infringed.

    • spencer

      A 100% estate tax? Who is proposing this?

      • spencer

        Never mind, I see it.

      • StevenAttewell

        Andrew Carnegie?

    • JoyfulA

      I can go along with these, if you can hold off on #7 for a decade.

    • Aaron Morrow

      If by “talking”, you mean supporting state and US representatives and talking up them and their staffs…

      I could see #5 happening in my lifetime, assuming a filibuster-free Senate. I can see a voluntary version tied to sweet, sweet cash subsidies for more and better voting.

    • bradP

      8. Pricing based upon percentage of income. You go to the gas pump–the price of gas is based upon last year’s income that would be encoded on a card you have to show.

      Any reading on how in the world this could possibly work?

      • Andrew

        Easy, you just show your “poor” card in public every time you want people to know that you are poor. There are no problems with this idea at all, sociological or economic.

    • Leeds man

      #8 seems a bit overheady to me. Decent marginal income tax rates would do more or less the same, no?

      #3 sounds great, but its implementation might be problematic. Why not just a guaranteed basic income?

      I’m guessing #9 would be prone to all kinds of loopholes.

      • Yeah, I don’t have a conceptual problem with #3, but I don’t really see how the application will work. It’s not like anyone actually wants mass unemployment or anything, so just getting someone a job isn’t really going to be addressing many real problems most of the time.

  • bradP

    If its lib-on-leftie here, I’m going with the lefties.

  • cpinva

    how much “conversation” can take place,

    the political Blogosphere that existed in 2004 resolved itself into two distinct ideological groups by 2008, with not much conversation taking place between them.

    between a group that believes women having complete jurisdiction over their own bodies shouldn’t even be an issue for discussion, and a group that believes men should have total, unquestioned dominance over women’s bodies?

    when “polar opposites” define groups, there just isn’t much to converse about.

    • IM

      But actually they split about Iraq. As far as I remember in 2002/2003, not 2004.

      But there was once some genuine discussion between the right and left blogosphere. In late 2003/ early 2004 when I started to read the american blogs, I could still view some remnants.

  • scott

    Gotta love it when LGM does its favorite thing, caricaturing anyone with whom they disagree and anathematizing them. For folks who like to toss the word Stalinist around as an insult, they do seem as interested as the commies used to be in defining their own (pragmaticGreenLanternthe perfectistheenemyofthegoodRalphNaderSucksblahblah) brand of idelogical purity and denouncing strayers and deviationists. It’s quite odd to see this sort of polemical ferocity allied with the most milk-water, watered-down “progressivism” on offer, but perhaps the contrast is what makes it fizzy for y’all. Congrats, Tovarish Rob!

    • Okay, this settles it: definitely a parody handle.

    • tonycpsu

      I actually think the LGM proprietors have gone out of their way to argue with deBoer in good faith in the past. Yes, there have been insults and ad hominems thrown around — this is the Internet, after all — but Freddie’s no shrinking violet, and does plenty of ad hominem on his own blog, which has basically switched to an “All GRAR, All the Time” format in the last few months, with regular programs such as “Who’s Wronging Freddie Now?” and “Ten Things I Hate About Obama Voters.”

      The idea that the leftier-than-thous are the ones being driven out by the “ideological purity” of their opponents is absurd. It’s their own ideological purity and the weakness of their arguments that marginalizes them.

      • And what’s more, the de[boners] whining that started this whole line of argument literally defined “leftist” in such a way as to exclude anyone who didn’t agree completely with Freddie. So yeah, “scott” would seem to lack any sort of self awareness whatsoever.

      • This is the first time I remember reading deBoer’s name:

        A bunch of thoughts on Freddie DeBoer’s thoughtful post on the progressive blogosphere and leftism.


        DeBoar is absolutely correct that the relationship of the contemporary progressive blogosphere and leftist political thought is not satisfying.

        It’s a long post featuring 0 invective, and still worth reading.

    • Murc

      Gotta love it when LGM does its favorite thing, caricaturing anyone with whom they disagree and anathematizing them.

      Please to be providing proof of this. I would concede the point that LGM has occasionally tried to anathematize certain viewpoints, such as when it was fighting with Donalde back in the day over the right of Professors to be creepy pervs all over their students.

      To which I can only say, some viewpoints deserve to be anathematized.

      they do seem as interested as the commies used to be in defining their own (pragmaticGreenLanternthe perfectistheenemyofthegoodRalphNaderSucksblahblah) brand of idelogical purity and denouncing strayers and deviationists

      This is called ‘politics.’ You make your case and try and prove it, and when you see people you think are doing it wrong you say they’re doing it wrong.

      What is LGM supposed to do with those with whom they have serious political and policy disagreements? Join hands and sing kum-bye-ya? This isn’t summer camp.

  • JL

    I’m not sure I buy this. The end goals of anarchists, state socialists, mainstream liberals, etc, might be significantly different from each other, but there also tends to be enough overlap to be able to talk to each other and form effective coalitions. Look at the LGM commentariat – you have significant disagreements, but you also see plenty of common ground between, for instance, syndicalists and quasi-mainstream Dems. I don’t think the liberal vs left divide is as obvious as you’re claiming (nor do I know which camp I’d be in).

    A lot of the inter-blog arguments that I see here are mostly about tactics, and how certain tactics contribute to strategy. And that’s something that people can strongly disagree on no matter how close they are in ideology. I’ve seen people who were all left-anarchists argue about that just as viciously or more viciously than what I normally see from Left Blogistan.

  • scott

    At least DeBoer and Greenwald didn’t do something that would have been truly unpardonable for Comrade Rob, which is question the value of naval expenditures. That earned Crooked Timber a string of spittle-flecked tirades. Compared to that, this is a tempest in a teapot, so I guess we should be thankful for that small mercy.

    • You didn’t read Doyle’s old beat down of de[Boners], did you?

    • Murc

      That earned Crooked Timber a string of spittle-flecked tirades.

      … seriously?

      That blog fight was fairly civil as things go. It was HEATED, but I wouldn’t have called anything written then a spittle-flecked tirade.

      • rea

        And, you know, the idea that navies were useless in terms of military power was pretty spectacularly foolish, particularly coming from an economist.

    • Leeds man

      That earned Crooked Timber a string of spittle-flecked tirades.

      Things were learned, tears were shed, but it ended in kisses and hugs. Or am I misremembering?

      • rea

        ended in kisses and hugs

        To the point at which a CT front-pager is over here making coments about boners.

  • Jameson Quinn

    No, you can’t have a divorce. As long as we use plurality voting and winner-take-all seats, you are eternally handcuffed together by the force of Duverger’s law.

    Yes, a divorce would be healthy. It wouldn’t mean you couldn’t still be good neighbors and occasionally even friends. But if you want divorce to be possible, you need to reform the voting system. And if you want that, somebody in some blogosphere somewhere is going to actually have to talk about it in a front-page post.

  • David W.

    Based on the results of the last election, the “2 Left 4 Obama” crew on the leftist spectrum is mostly harmless. Sure, they can be irritating (sometimes usefully so, admittedly) but until they rise to the level of influence that the libertarian right has on electoral politics I don’t really care anymore if they’re being wrong on the internet. The fact that Jill Stein & the Greens did so damned badly at the polls in 2012 indicates to me that most of us who care about politics on the left have concluded that a strategy based on heightening the contradictions is a bad idea.

    That said, I appreciate the sincere efforts made at LGM to show how Naderism is a political dead end for the left in general. I’ve ended up divorcing myself from a few blogs/bloggers that haven’t figured that out yet, and am happier for it.

  • Above, JL wrote:

    “I’m not sure I buy this. The end goals of anarchists, state socialists, mainstream liberals, etc, might be significantly different from each other, but there also tends to be enough overlap to be able to talk to each other and form effective coalitions. Look at the LGM commentariat – you have significant disagreements, but you also see plenty of common ground between, for instance, syndicalists and quasi-mainstream Dems. I don’t think the liberal vs left divide is as obvious as you’re claiming (nor do I know which camp I’d be in).

    A lot of the inter-blog arguments that I see here are mostly about tactics, and how certain tactics contribute to strategy.”

    This is where the pejorative “purist” comes in. I think it’s clear that the disagreement is much more over what constitutes a tolerable compromise, than it is over actual values or principles.

    The mood of the comments thread demonstrates this to a degree. Who cares about critics to *our* left since the return on time invested in trying to convince them is so poor given how little political power they have?

    It’s clear that people are more intersted in marginalizing inexpedient critics than actually engaging on the ethics of political compromise (i.e. when is it okay, to what degree, etc.)

    And yet what’s interesting is how much time so many people are willing to spend dimissing the greenwalds and deboers. If they are so easily dismissed, and their contributions will not be missed, why keep taking the time to declare it?

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