Leaving the people out of the debate

Published on Online Journal, by Laura Flanders, Jan. 7, 2011.

… By way of conclusion, a couple of remarks are in order. The first is to note that the left has routinely made much of its own censorship at the hands of the mainstream news media acting in service to an elite agenda. In this instance, it has shown that it has no compunction about using the same tools to squelch legitimate questions with respect to its own de facto elites. Being on the receiving end of it, along with more than a few derogatory and condescending remarks from left luminaries, who were, it should be noted, addressed respectfully and politely in the open letter, has been eye-opening though not altogether pleasant. 

No doubt some will dismiss the above as a combination of small potatoes and sour grapes. Why worry about censorship when the internet provides an unlimited medium for disseminating one’s views — which will surely be provided exposure if they are seen as having merit. Of course, the view of the internet assumed by many as an uncontrolled forum of ideas is a fantasy. The reality is that a small number of major left sites are hugely influential in conferring legitimacy on the range of acceptable discourse through those submissions which they choose to publish. Those which they reject are not only marginalized but for practical purposes might as well not exist: the readership of the top sites Counterpunch,  Commondreams, Alternet and a few others will be seen to exceed that of small sites which are the eventual resting place of rejected submissions by two orders of magnitude.

The result is when these major sites unify around a particular agenda and exclude dissenting voices a herd mentality becomes established which becomes very difficult to dislodge, no matter how ill-founded and counterproductive its premises. This occurred during the Obama campaign with the consequences we are living with now: Obama’s right wing agenda is being undertaken with near total impunity as the left rank and file attempt to rebuild a mass protest movement from scratch, largely without direction or anything more than token support from the left establishment.

Perhaps, as some have argued, the criticisms made above and in previous pieces are counterproductive and are more likely to generate animosity than the unity necessary for a functional protest movement to emerge. In deference to this possibility, I’ll simply note here my intention that this will be my last piece addressing this topic-which is not to say that I have any illusions that what I have written or am likely to write is likely to exert much influence.

Aside from their own inertia and small mindedness, nothing is preventing the left establishment to committing themselves fully and passionately to making 2011 a year defined by the return of the protest movement: where consideration of cuts to Social Security trigger massive work stoppages, where a demand for action on the impending global environmental catastrophe is accompanied by sit-ins at congressional and oil industry executive offices, where further cuts in medicare are met with blockades of the internet highway system, where bonuses doled out to finance industry parasites are met with millions on Wall Street attempting to shut down all trading and deal making and other forms of economic terrorism.

It is not Polyannish to recognize that a unified commitment call out from the left establishment to their numerous followers could accomplish this, one indication of which is the stunning total of 360,000 “friends” on Michael Moore’s Facebook page. A 10% rate of participation among Michael Moore’s core followers would constitute the largest anti-war demonstration in Washington since Obama took office.

But, frankly, I’m not optimistic that this is in the cards; for example, an announcement of an April 9 New York anti war protest includes a substantial list of endorsers from which all of the high profile leftists addressed in the letter were conspicuously absent.

If it has accomplished nothing else, the open letter and the response to it has demonstrated that the left establishment, mirroring the Democratic Party establishment whose lock on the progressive left it has enabled, does not take kindly to being pressured from below.

And so I will join the majority of the left rank and file which has no choice other than to passively wait on the sidelines to see whether they will do the right thing. (full long text).

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