2078 Go on Struck the Mysterious Mind of Modern Progressives

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Empire Burlesque I must have born too long ago, in a world that's dead and gone. Maybe that's why I can't understand the progressive politics of our day. All across the blogosphere -- and in those few niches in other media where outright corporate harlotry and hardcore militarism don't yet hold absolute sway -- I see earnest, eager exhortations to our political leaders, urging them to act with wisdom, morality, mercy and justice. I see calls for those in power to think of the future, think of
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  Empire Burlesque I must have born too long ago, in a world that's dead and gone. Maybe that's why I can'tunderstand the progressive politics of our day.All across the blogosphere -- and in those few niches in other media where outright corporateharlotry and hardcore militarism don't yet hold absolute sway -- I see earnest, eagerexhortations to our political leaders, urging them to act with wisdom, morality, mercy and justice.I see calls for those in power to think of the future, think of the children, think of the planet, thinkof the vulnerable, think of the needs and interests of working people. I see vast expenditures ofmental and emotional energy devoted to parsing the politics of the high and mighty -- and todevising the best strategies and tactics (especially the oh-so-savvy tactics) for advancing thefortunes of those top dogs whose rhetoric occasionally seems simpatico  to the ideals of peace,freedom, equality and human advancement.There seems to be a widespread, deeply held supposition that politicians –  politicians  ! -- willsave us, if we can only put the right ones in charge of the power structure. And behind thissupposition there is an unspoken -- and, in many cases, unconscious -- belief in the inherentgoodness of this power structure itself. To be sure, it is a goodness that most progressivesbelieve has been lost or diminished, or perhaps not yet realized. But there seem to be fewdoubts in the ultimate moral efficacy of this power structure, however lost or latent it might be atany given time. It just needs to be guided properly.All this is very strange to me. I came of age in a time when politicians of every stripe wereconsidered little more than sinister buffoons: gasbags, grifters and gloryhogs in the pay of therich and powerful -- and in happy thrall to a brutal power structure based on violence, war,corruption and cronyism. We thought this not because we considered ourselves too cool or toohip or too cynical for that establishment drag, man; we thought this because of what we hadseen with our own eyes.We saw people torn from their private lives by an implacable militarist state and forced to killand die in a savage, pointless imperial war that left millions of innocent people dead. We sawpeople gunned down in the street or clubbed into bloody goo for peaceful acts of dissent againstthe power structure. Politicians mouthed witless pieties that no one believed they believed,while behind the scenes elections were fixed (or ratfucked ), contracts were rigged, laws werelaughed at, and rules were broken at every turn. Cities were left to choke and rot; an entireindustrial infrastructure was sold off to enrich a tiny, tax-dodging elite feasting on foreign slavelabor. The wars went on and on, covertly and overtly; the living standards of working peoplekept plunging relentlessly; the prisons filled up; the farms went down; torturers, murderers, liarsand thieves were applauded to high heaven.This was the power structure. This is  the power structure. This is the same system that bredevery politician dancing on top of the greasy pole today. I have lived a politically aware lifeinside it for more than 45 years. When did it change for the better? When did the courtiers ofthis system suddenly become vessels of hope and goodness, and not the third-ratetime-servers and witless goons they have been from days of yore? [Naturally, there have been 1 / 5  Empire Burlesque a few exceptions; but then, there are always exceptions. You will always find a few individualsmore concerned with the common good and acting honorably cropping up in every politicalsystem, however harsh, throughout history. But the presence of honorable exceptions does notredeem an entire system.] Where did today's belief in the power structure's inherent worthiness-- if we can only get a few plucky guys and gals in there to work the gears -- come about?Somewhere along the line, the progressive left became imbued with the same worship ofpower that we are constantly, and rightly, told is a hallmark of the Right.Nothing illustrates this better than the sorry, shameful, cringing state of the progressive left inthe age of Obama.As Arthur Silber warned us a long time ago-- far in advance of the 2008election -- the acent of Obama to power has effectively neutered the entire edifice ofprogressive 'dissent' against the truly monstrous crimes of the power structure. Silber is nomystical prophet; he simply has a keen eye and sharp mind, and he simply looked at what wasin front of him, in front of us all: a candidate bankrolled by Big Money and War Profiteers, clearlystating his intent to escalate the Terror War, surrounding himself with the architects of theeconomic collapse and pledging billions, trillions to bail out the rich, refusing outright to dwellon the past (i.e., investigate and prosecute the war crimes of his predecessor), and so on.None of this was hidden from view -- for anyone who wanted to see it.Yet despite Obama's admirably frank presentation of himself as willing, eager tool of thebloodstained, brutal power structure that progressives decried so strenuously during the Bushyears, these same progressives clambered onto Obama's bandwagon, declaring his election tobe a moral imperative that all must support, or else be damned as an enemy of truth and light.They drank in his vague and vacuous rhetoric -- which in its soaring words about unity, peace, justice, equality, the future, etc., did not differ by a single iota from the disgorgings ofmeaningless gas we have always heard from the high and mighty. And when he reached thetop of the power structure, and set about replicating, defending, entrenching and expanding thecrimes of his predecessors, progressives fell silent, or carped a bit around the margins of thisissue or that, or stuck out their tongues at Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, or, in a great manycases, simply pivoted on a dime and began praising and justifying Obama's savvy continuity with policies they had considered intolerable abominations just months before.This supinity toward power is also seen, on a far less important level, in the reaction to thedeparture of some talking head from some cable TV network. This development -- whichapparently involves some vast golden handshake for the multimillionaire commentator -- hasbeen greeted in some progressive quarters as a grievous blow to the health of the Republic.Witness this outpouring posted on Eschaton: There was a time when Keith Olbermann was the only person who drew attention to the deep,deep veins of damage in our public life.The first time he came to my attention was in 2004, when he focused like a laser on the 2 / 5  Empire Burlesque electoral irregularities rife in Ohio, both on Countdown and his old blog Bloggermann, with asimple, straightforward shrug: I'm a sports guy. I look at the numbers. (I may have that quotewrong, but it was similar to that.)As he developed a clearer voice in his broadcasts, including the often hotly-awaited SpecialComments, I didn't always agree with him, but he always seemed to speak from a principledposition. He is a good American, and we need him. He will be missed.  The only person who drew attention to the deep, deep veins of damage in our public life. Really ? The only person -- in the whole country? In all the world? Across the universe? Therewas not a single other person, anywhere, drawing attention to these veins of damage? JustKeith Olbermann? And not until 2004? So there was not a no other person in the entire cosmosdrawing attention to damage in American public life until 2004, when Keith Olbermann steppedforth, alone?But of course we are being unfair. The writer is not really saying that Keith Olbermann was theonly person in the world who publicly criticized the policies of the Bush Administration and itsrightwing allies; what is actually intended by this literally nonsensical statement is that KeithOlbermann was the only guy the writer saw on the Tee-Vee speaking disparagingly of onefaction of the power structure. He was, to the writer's obviously circumscribed knowledge, theonly person with a bit of media pull -- a bit of power  -- to make some critical remarks on currentpolitics.It is also telling that what drew the writer's attention to Olbermann was not, say, fierce publicdenunciations of the mass slaughter of innocents in Iraq, but a partisan squabble to put aDemocrat at the top of the power structure. The “deep veins of damage” apparently refers to thequite obvious vote-rigging and ratfucking in Ohio, which shocked the tender sensibilities of thewriter -- who seems blissfully ignorant of the campaign histories of, say, Lyndon Johnson, JohnKennedy and Harry Truman. Of course the vote in Ohio was rigged by the Republicans; and itcould easily have been contested by John Kerry, with the full support of tens of millions ofpeople. But while the young John Kerry -- who came out of the savage, pointless imperial warnoted above and hurled the medals of the power structure in its face -- might have fought theratfucking, the John Kerry of 2004 was, well, a politician  : a third-rate sinister buffoon, in the payof the rich and powerful, too frightened, and too comfortable, to upset the golden trough wherehe now fed. Yet it was the political fortunes of this ludicrous gloryhog -- who spent the entirecampaign frantically running away from any principled position he had ever espoused in publiclife -- that alerted our Olbermann-mourning author to those deep, deep veins of damage in thegreen, green grass of home.Today it is the political fortunes of another politician happily embedded in the corrupt andmurderous power structure that exercises our progressives. Not the fact that Obama's warmachine is razing entire villages -- entire villages!Go look at the pictures-- at a single stroke inAfghanistan. Not the fact that Obama's 3 / 5  Empire Burlesque massive escalation of an entirely illegal warof murder and assassination by robot drones in Pakistanis destabilizing and destroyingone of the most volatile regions on earth. Not the fact ten percent of entire working population ofthe United States is without employment, while tens of millions more languish in underpaid jobswith little or no benefits. Not the fact that the secret government of unaccountable intelligenceand security agencies -- many of them with own secret armies and death squads -- keepsspreading like kudzu across the land. Not the fact that the nation's economic policies are firmlyin the hands of Wall Street sharks and squids. Not the fact that Obama has openly declared hehas the right to kill anyone on earth if he arbitrarily deems them a 'terrorist.' Not the fact that thetorture of Terror War detainees goes on and on under Obama -- and is now aimedmore and more at American citizens.No, none of that bothers our fightin' progressives -- or at least, not for more than a blog post ortwo. Instead, it is the political fate of the most powerful man in the world that really gets theirpulses racing with earnest, obsessive concern. It is the question of whether this third-ratemurderer of innocent villagers in Central Asia gets to spend six more years managing thebloodthirsty power structure, or just two more years. And whether the far right clique of imperialcourtiers wins the White House and then dismantles Social Security -- or whether BarackObama and his clique of courtiers dismantle Social Security first as part of their grand bargain with their fellow trough-feeders. Oh, what mighty, weighty straws these are which spur ourprogressives to the field!True, a handful of progressives lambast Obama now -- without, it must be said, ever apologizingfor their misjudgment in insisting that we vote for him in the first place. But even some of theObama's most vociferous critics on the left are making it clear that no matter what happens --no matter how many more crimes the Terror War Continuer lays at America's door -- they will, inthe end, stand squarely by his side when the battle trumpet sounds. John Caruso has just founda jaw-dropping example of this progressive-compulsive disorder,with which he makes muchantic hay: What do you do when Democrats ignore everything you want (on those rare occasions whenthey're not actively doing the exact opposite of what you want), and dismiss you as thesanctimonious purist fucking retards of the professional left for not applauding their betrayalsloudly enough? Declare that you'll support them unconditionally, of course:NORMAN SOLOMON: Obviously, on the one hand, when November comes along we want tostop right-wing Republicans, so we're going to vote Democrat.I wanted to hear more about this seemingly counterintuitive strategy, so I got in touch withSolomon and asked him a few questions:JC: Norman, you, Jeff Cohen and others have started Roots Action, a group which pledges to 4 / 5
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