Thursday, March 08, 2012


Kevin Drum quotes Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler:

Bob Somerby points out today that Rush Limbaugh has been spewing bile for years. And yet, he says, "We liberals have been too lazy, too feckless, too ditto-headed to insist that big news orgs challenge Limbaugh." So Limbaugh has mostly gotten away with it.

Well, this is why I stopped reading Somerby, even though I'm still in awe of what he did in his early years, and even though I believe most of us online lefties wouldn't be doing what we're doing without his example.

From the very beginning, Somerby understood that the so-called liberal media cooperates with the right by selling "lite" (and often not-so-lite) versions of right-wing talking points. The right has always known how to craft these talking points in a way that will get them effectively retransmitted by centrist and seemingly liberal mainstream journalists. And if that doesn't happen naturally, browbeating invariably works. That's a process I think most of us just didn't see until it was pointed out to us by Somerby, or by people who were inspired by Somerby.

He fought this when no one else would. But now he's turned into a crank, grumbling about people who are fighting the same fight not exactly in a way of which he approves -- why does he despise Rachel Maddow? -- and accusing lefties of being "lazy" and "feckless."

You know what? We're not lazy or feckless. We've been doing the work. It just takes a long time to turn a freaking battleship.

This reminds me of the argument made in recent years about the value of traditional protest: Well, we tried that with Iraq, and it didn't do any good. Sorry, but it did do good. It didn't do enough good, and it didn't do it fast enough, but the result was better than the alternative. We didn't prevent the war, and lives and money were squandered on a horrifying scale, but by 2004 being disillusioned with the war was a mainstream idea. By 2006 anti-war sentiment changed the composition of Congress, and in 2008 it elected a president. And, no, I'm not going to reject that partial victory because of Democratic haplessness, or because of drone attacks and ongoing war -- the alternative, under President McCain after eight years of an un-"thumped" President Bush, or possibly even under a still-hawkish President Hillary Clinton, was that we'd still have 100,000 troops in Iraq and we might have already bombed Iran and ... well, I'm sorry, but what we have now is less appalling.

And yes, it's taking even longer to undermine the right-wing noise machine, but that's not the result of liberal "fecklessness," it's because it's a massive, staggeringly well-funded machine. Media Matters and Think Progress and, yes, Rachel Maddow and the rest of MSNBC and ten thousand blogs and a few newspaper columnists who get it are making some progress. Limbaugh is on the defensive. Team Breitbart is humiliated. Fox News has overreached by undermining the GOP's one electable presidential candidate and promoting one lunatic we can easily mock after another, and now that electable guy feels compelled to talk like the lunatics and we can mock him for that, too. We may -- may -- be at a watershed moment.

We haven't won a lot, but we're getting somewhere. It's just taking a while, and we may not get much more than a stalemate. But that's a hell of a lot better than we'd have gotten if we'd really been as passive as Somerby thinks we've been.

(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)


Raenelle said...

On every issue you mentioned, we ARE getting somewhere. And you missed civil rights. But there's just one little tiny itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny issue where democracy and its tools seem impotent--the funneling of money and power to the top. I gotta admit I'm pretty discouraged about that one. Bob Somerby-level cynical. My hopes were so crushed that I wasn't even going to vote this time around.

I'm going to vote, and this is how fucking easy I am--Obama singing won me back. Crumbs. Trickles and crumbs.

Tom Hilton said...

This is exactly how I feel about Somerby. In his day, he was an amazing resource, and he did show a lot of us how to do it. Now...well, in his day he was great.

Chris Andersen said...

It takes a long time for water to wear down a mountain, but in the end, water always wins.

Brian Doan said...

Thank you. Thank you for this. I thought I was the only person who felt this way about Somerby (who I, like you, admired and learned a lot from back in the day). You articulate this all beautifully.

Roger said...

The entire staff here at The Howler lets out low, mordant chuckles when Bob tells the left blogosphere how much we (read: they) blow.

Tomorrow: We're off to clear the pasture spring.