Sunday, April 16, 2006

Why the WaPo hatchet job matters

(Updated below)

Everybody is talking about the hatchet job the WaPo did yesterday about "My Left Wing" in particular and by extension, the left blogosphere. There have been two kinds of reaction I have seen: anger (which should also makes us laugh at ourselves a bit, I guess) and headscratching about said reaction. PZ Meyers offers an exemplar of the latter:
I'm baffled by it all. Shouldn't we be angry about war and torture and tax breaks for the rich and incompetence and corruption? Isn't anger and opposition the appropriate response?
He's right, of course. And we need to own our passion, and the strength it gives us. Think about how the Far Right works -- I suspect that the James Dobsons of the world would not tremble at the prospect of being labeled angry by the mainstream press. But there is another aspect to this.

The circles in which Washington Post and New York Times reporters eat their cocktail weenies are only dimly aware of us. David Finkel, the reporter who wrote the story, knew nothing about blogs before shitting on them. The people he works with, and many of the folks who read the Times and Post, know nothing about the blogosphere. We could not be more alien to the old guard if we were gansta rappers. So articles like this one damage us because they provide convenient labels, which are then used to dismiss us as unworthy of further thought or discussion.

To those who live in and profit from the status quo, the fact that our anger is justifed and rational is beside the point. The fact that we are mostly rational and fact-based in our arguments is meaningless. We are "angry," ergo we are marginal. We are angry, ergo our positions are irrelevant. The anger label is their way of innoculating themselves against having to confront the uncomfortable truths we throw in their faces.

And I'm not willing to dismiss the possibilty that the choice of an angry woman as our avatar as a coincidence. How has the right chosen to label Hillary Clinton -- the moniker calculated to turn Joe Sixpack permanently against her? That's right -- "angry." You can almost see the loaded word "hysterical" lurking in the shadows. If they want to label the Democrats the "Mommy Party," they want to make us the PMS wing.

I'm not in any way suggesting that we moderate or throttle our message, or our anger. I'm with PZ Meyers on this one. And I think the article betrays the very real fear we have put into the old guard in places like the Washington Post, and I take that fear as evidence of some measure of our effectiveness. But we also need to understand what the labeling is really about, who it is aimed at, and make sure we find ways to frustrate their attempts to frame us.

Update: For now, I don't know how to fight the Post's marginalization gambit. But I do know I have no intention of running away from my anger. So I've added My Left Wing to the blogroll, and I intend to make it a stop on my daily rounds. I suggest you do the same.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me tell you a secret. At least I think its a secret because so few people seem to understand this:
Emotions are simply incomplete thoughts.
That is, the thoughts trying to emerge from emotions are a (complete?) puzzle only to the person having the emotional tiz-woz. Often, even morons can understand what the victim (emotional person) is avoiding trying to think about.

Let me repeat: emotions are incomplete thoughts. So, if I can keep you from thinking by filling you with emotion (and if life were a zero-sum game, which it isn't but emotional people think otherwise), I would win. I really don't think you get it, but THINK about it for a while.

A corollary: when the thought that starts out as an emotion finally becomes clear to you as an idea, there are no "sides" anymore, no "us" and "them" and sure as hell no "left" (what a fucking joke) or "right" (what a fucking nightmare). What's left is issues which either: need to be addressed, or are unimportant and can therefore be dropped. Think about how much time and energy that would free up for you.

The real difficulty comes when people actually realize how "empty" their lives would be without emotion. Since they cannot imagine what might fill the void, it surely must be the absolutely scariest thing possible; which leads right back to a person full of emotion saying "See, I need these feelings."

Mind you, this is a secret, so don't tell anyone.

11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have no intention of running away from my anger...

And there you have it. "I NEED the emotion to avoid thinking certain things."

4:48 AM  

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