Thursday, March 6, 2008

Where have all the leftists gone?

My cyber friend Rodak, in response to my post regarding the Buckley – Vidal commentaries during 1968 wonders (and I am paraphrasing here) where have all the leftists gone? At least, why aren't any of them appearing on TV these days?

Let it be noted that despite the supposed "liberal bias" of the MainStreamMedia, figures on the true left are never seen on mainstream television. If not for C-SPAN, figures like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn would never be on TV at all. All of the neocons, and the rest of Wm. F. Buckley's spawn, by contrast, are on constantly. There are still left-wingers alive in the wild, but you have to seek them out for yourself; they are not brought to you free of charge by the MSM, as are the generations of Kristols and Podhoretzes.

And I have to agree with him, though I believe for slightly a different reason than he probably does. I believe a big part of it is how you view politics in America – is it left v. right or Democrats v. GOP? While the Democrats are the left and the GOP the right, those two possibilities are not really the same thing.

The conservative movement has been connected with the GOP since 1964. While there are dissenters (Pat Buchanan being the most prominent), most professional conservatives are seen as somehow surrogates for the GOP. This is not the case with the professional leftists, such as Chomsky and Zinn. Neither of those two could ever be considered surrogates for the Democratic Party. So considering the realities of our two-party system, in order to appear relevant, the media wants to have is a Democrat debating a Republican. They cannot fit into this dichotomy a debate between, say the left wing Chomsky and a libertarian such as Justin Raimondo.

A second problem is the decline of the "public intellectual." And by that, I mean someone who has a wide range of interests and knowledge and is not simply a specialist trying to discuss a narrow field or a political hack trying to score points. No matter what your thoughts on Buckley's or Vidal's politics, they both were polished intellectuals who could make an argument by reference to history and were well versed in high culture. Is there really anyone who can fit that mold today?

Looking at CNN's coverage of mini Tuesday, it seemed to me that the panelists were either political types or journalists. Bill Kristol was also there to be sure. But the debate was being framed as GOP v. Obama supporters v. Clinton supporters. In the general election it will be framed as GOP v. Democrat. So you will find a few GOP pundits and political types and have them face off against a few Democratic pundits and politics types. And the discussion will unfortunately be somewhat superficial and center around scoring points, rather than debating ideas.

5 comments:

Rodak said...

So considering the realities of our two-party system, in order to appear relevant, the media wants to have is a Democrat debating a Republican.

That's the way it looks now only because dissent from either extreme of the political spectrum has been quashed, silenced, and literally beaten to death. It is not true that the far left was irrelevant in the 1960s. But the mainstream right, which was in power (with the passive complicity of the mainstream left) suppressed it, sometimes violently (as I've been writing about on my blog).
What we are left with is nothing but two parties who will not credential those on the extremes. We have today, in effect, a one-party state.

William R. Barker said...

"...considering the realities of our two-party system, in order to appear relevant, the media wants to have is a Democrat debating a Republican. They cannot fit into this dichotomy a debate between, say the left wing Chomsky and a libertarian such as Justin Raimondo."

Agreed. Very good point.

BILL

Rodak said...

in order to appear relevant, the media wants to have is a Democrat debating a Republican.

Wrong. So very wrong. The "free" press is free only so long as it is NOT influenced and guided by conventional relevancy. This country will be stuck with a one-party government exactly as long as the press plays along with that political paradigm. Only the press can inform the people that there are alternate ways of thinking out there. That is how and why an independent press sprung up and briefly thrived in the 1960s--Rolling Stone magazine being one of the few survivors known to the bleating merinos of Generation-X and beyong.

William R. Barker said...

Rob,

Are you sitting down? Prepare yourself for a relevation:

The SWORD is actually mightier than the pen.

I was discussing the state of the nation (yeah... shocking, huh) last night and while going off on one of my pessimistic rants realized... my pessimism is TOTALLY JUSTIFIED.

There's NO ONE on the horizon, Rob. No one. And as you infer - and I agree - the game is rigged for all meaningful intents and purposes. So... where does that leave us?

Well... I can fantasize about a military coup. (No... not the "end" of democracy... just a "time out.") Not gonna happen though. (*SHRUG*)

(And hey... for those who think I've slipped my tether... my fantasy really isn't that far removed from the fantasy of Ralph Nader or Ron Paul supporters or indeed the fantasy of anyone believing that HRC, Obama, or McCain offers any true hope for reversing the downward slide of America.)

Anthony... I've probably mentioned this before, but I'll reiterate:

You have young children. I assume you and your wife are upper-middle class give or take. Build a nest egg. Explore with your children as they grow other opportunities for starting a new life abroad. I don't know where the future lies for your children or mine or our grandchildren, but as I tell my own daughter as she approaches college graduation, think about the possibilities of new frontiers.

Anthony... can you imagine what this country is gonna be like in 20...30...40 years? If you're imagining a brighter tommorrow all I can say is "cheers!"

BILL

* Hmm... I wonder if my EXTREMELY pessimistic rambling are being influenced by my present reading - a novel of Roman history...??? (*SMILE*)

Rodak said...

Bill--
There is someone on the horizon. I don't know what his name is--but he's Chinese.