Monday, October 01, 2012


A blogger named Freddie has started a discussion with a post that denounces a number of bloggers I respect (TBogg, DougJ, and others) for saying something with which I wholeheartedly agree: that it's vitally important to vote for Obama this year and that it's naive to expect Obama, or any politician, to be the absolutely embodiment of your own views in every particular. Freddie is having none of it; he feels persecuted and repressed, particularly by fellow bloggers and blog commenters, because many people tell him they don't want to hear his agonized complaints about drone attacks.

Here's Freddie's lament:
I want my country to stop killing innocent people. I want it so bad I don't know how to act or what to do. I want it so bad I can't sit still or sleep at night. I want it with everything I have that's capable of want. And I know that this is the kind of talk that invites pure contempt from those like Tbogg, who have only the idiom of sarcasm and derision and cannot imagine straightforward moral sentiment. But that's the truth. I want my country to stop killing innocent people. And the innocent people we kill the most, these days, are Muslim.... Obama is directly responsible for the expansion of hostilities against Muslims targets which result in the death of people who have taken no violent action against the United States. Voting for him cannot, does not, and will not challenge that reality.

... there is no internal pressure for Democrats to reform, precisely because of people like Tbogg and the crew at LGM. Defenders of Obama lay down lines you can't cross in every direction.... What would Tbogg tell me to do, if he actually stopped building a monument to his own sarcasm and cleverness, if he stepped outside of his meticulously curated temple of snark and flippancy, and if he actually considered the question of what to do if you want America to stop killing children? He'd say to grow up. He has no other arrow in his quiver.
You know what I'd tell you to do, Freddie, if you asked me? You know what I'd tell Glenn Greenwald to do? I'd tell the two of you, and all the people who think like you, that if you oppose drone strikes or other aspects of our foreign policy, then for crissake protest the policies you oppose -- protest them as policies, not as litmus tests for how we should vote in a presidential election. These are ongoing problems, so get off the Internet, get organized, get out in the street, and protest on an ongoing basis.

Number one, get out of your room. And number two, don't treat this issue the way every other drone-obsessed lefty treats it: as a problem whose only solution is a withheld vote in a quadrennial election.

Look back to the civil rights era. In the early 1960s, the people who fought for voting rights didn't focus their efforts on spreading the message "Vote Democrat" or "Don't vote Democrat." It wasn't about candidates or parties. It was purely about the goals of the movement. The people in the civil rights movement weren't obsessed with electing particular candidates or denying election to particular candidates. The point was to move the thinking of the country, including its politicians, in a more progressive direction. The protests were acts of politics that took place between elections, and largely without reference to elections. That's what you have to do when neither party will do the right thing. (On this issue as on so many others, I hope Freddie understands that a President Romney will absolutely not do the right thing.)

And I shouldn't need to point out that the people who fought to end Jim Crow in the South faced a level of repression that was a hell of a lot worse than just being mocked in blog comments sections.

By contrast, the anti-war movement very pointedly targeted the Democratic Party in Chicago in 1968. How'd that work out for innocent Indochinese civilians over the next few years?

Many of us have no doubt that Obama is vastly better on balance, taking all issues into account -- the Supreme Court, the social safety net, tax policy, even bellicosity -- than Mitt Romney. And yet a lot of supposed Obamabots would absolutely march for an end to the drone policy, or for a faster withdrawal from Afghanistan, or for changes to Obama detention policies. Elections are choices between the lesser of two evils, but politics is more than elections. You can fight for the policies you want anytime you want.

Occupy Wall Street squandered its promise by failing to articulate goals, and by getting fixated on the right to protest rather than on the changes the protests were organized to demand, but Occupy did show us a year ago that a progressive movement can potentially draw the attention of the mainstream public and change the political discussion in America. I don't know why there hasn't been an anti-war movement in America in the last few years -- especially given the fact that the public very much wants us to get the hell out of Afghanistan.

So make some noise about the war and the drones and the detentions -- but don't make utter rejection of Obama a precondition of rejection of the policies. And don't fixate on elections. At this moment there are no electable politicians who'll change what you want changed. That fact is what you have to work on.

Maybe it's unlikely that you'll stop the killing of innocent civilians by protesting. But you damn well won't stop the killing of innocent civilians by helping to elect Mitt Romney.


Victor said...

Yes, vote for Mitt, Freddie, because with advisors like Bolton, Senor, and the rest of the neocon jackasses, they'll be sure to stop the drone bombing!
And then go back to droning, on and on.

Feckin' Idjit!

Here, Freddie, is a knife.
There's the mirror.

But focus on cutting off YOUR nose to spite your face.
Mine may not be the handsomest face, but I like my nose as is, and where it is, and not on the floor, like a prop in "Sleeper" by Woody Allen.

I think if Jesus came back, some of the idjit's on the left would bitch because he didn't stink of petchouli oil enough, and was hurting the fishies when he was feeding the masses - oh, and are those loaves whole grain, because if not, don't feed the people with them?


Raenelle said...

"Politics happens every day." And then you go on to write that Occupy failed. Occupy changed my life. Before Occupy I was all wrapped up in watching and protesting and cringing in horror at the policies of the government and the sociopathic economic system it serves. Occupy returned me to Gandhi's principle of "non-violent non-cooperation with evil." My life, and I consider it very political, is involved as much as it can be in withdrawing my dollars from the market. To the extent that I can, I'm dropping out, as we used to call it in the 60s. That's what Occupy did for me. Positioning myself so that I could ever increasingly drop out became the focus of my life--spiritual, economic, political, philosophical, ethical--all combined now into a way of life that I learned from Occupy.

Yeah, I'll vote. For Obama. But I am now, since Occupy, focused on how I can free myself from the corporate borg rather than seeing politics as something that happens outside me, affecting me, yes, but essentially at a remove from my daily life.

Anonymous said...

What I find interesting is that the wider political fight, becomes a personal psychological struggle. Freddie is telling us of his personal pain to get us to understand his point. Freddie is concerned about his pain.

I am sure that he is feeling this suffering, but he wants to find a way to avert the pain from his side of the equation. It's not as if Romney wins the drones will stop, in fact they will increase. But, Freddie will not have to cope with the reality, that America by it's nature will always be killing innocent people. Because American foreign policy is about American interests and it always was, it is not about justice.

You see, Freddie imagined that Obama was going to make that pain better. Take it away. This is where Freddie and all the other Freddies need to take their pain out of the private realm and make it public. First it is not about you.

Deal with the military industrial complex and the central point of American foreign policy: American interests. As we can see turning the ship of American foreign policy is a muddle and will be one for decades. Handing over the keys to the likes of Romney right now, will turn back the clock instead of the slow, very slow change.

Philo Vaihinger said...

BooMan claims this morning the whole drone thing is baloney, anyway.

cal1942 said...

Absolutely agree that politics is every day. I'm old enough to remember the civil rights movement (the advance of an idea not aimed at any party) and the anti-war movement's blunder that helped elect a candidate whose intention was to keep us in Vietnam until "victory" was achieved. We'd have been better off with Humphrey and not just on the war.

Like the 60s anti-war group I don't suppose Freddie and those like minded have stopped to consider Romney's foreign policy team which consists of neo-cons who'd love to make war on Iran.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Tom Tomorrow at KOS takes the "drones are slaughtering babies" line.

BH said...

I have some "straightforward moral sentiment" for Freddie et al.: your voting choice in a month will, realistically, be between (a) a candidate who, if re-elected, may well continue the drone strikes to which you object, and (b) a candidate who, if elected, will almost certainly continue those strikes and add more (quite possibly in other locations, e.g., Iran); scupper such economic recovery as there is by further skewing the tax code and budget allocations in favor of the well-off; appoint as many right-wing nominees as opportunity presents to the federal bench, including quite possibly the Supreme Court; and, negate any form of universal health care, for openers. Abstention from voting, or voting symbolically for a 3rd candidate, will (depending on your state of residence) increase candidate (b)'s chances of election. Factoring in these assumptions, which is the straightforwardly moral choice as between (a) and (b)?

DrBB said...

A wise person once pointed out that the difference between bad and worse is worlds sharper than that between good and better. If that's not exactly an inspiring answer, the best one I've found for a number of friends who are taking Freddy's line is three little words: "supreme court appointments."

patior pati passus said...

I know that this event is well past its Internet sell-by date, but posts in this tone by one FdB always remind me of the time he wrote to the scathingly funny and righteously angry Sady (at the time mostly of the blog Tiger Beatdown, since more widely available)to mansplain to her about how she was doing feminism wrong, especially with the jokes and the "emotionalism."

I fear that FdB is still very disappointed in the rest of us--and with such good reason!

Jack said...

The thing that Freddie might not realize is that he actually drives people *away* from the positions he wants them to hold when he demonstrates such dangerous single-mindedness.

Most people -- not Freddie, but most people -- realize that *all issues* are, by definition, more important that *one* issue. Drones is *one* issue. Who we elect president will affect *all* issues -- or at least a vastly wider array of issues than drones.

I have a good friend who has more or less gone insane over the last four years, in a Freddie-like way. He calls Obama a "war criminal" and implies he should be locked away in federal prison for his crimes. (But only after Bush/Cheney are convicted first, he says, to show us how moderate and reasonable he is.) This friend was outraged by the killing of Osama bin Laden, and his head exploded repeatedly during the 2012 Democratic National Convention because so many Democrats were celebrating Osama's demise.

But here's the thing that my friend, and Freddie, don't seem to get: their irresponsible purity actually makes people *less receptive* to the things they say. Instead of caring about what they think, like we used to, we now just write them off as lunatics willing to risk complete Republican control of government over drones (and other assorted issues).

Jack said...

Oh, and speaking of Conor Friedersdorf, he's a Ron Paul follower. He has said in at least a couple Bloggingheads appearances that it's Paul who he really wishes were president.

You know what that makes Friedersdorf? It makes him a right wing extremist. I'm sorry, but if you want to restore the legal framework of Jim Crow (by repealing the VRA of 1965 and the CRA of 1964, as Ron Paul wants to do), you're a right wing extremist. If you want to ban all entitlements, regardless of how many people die, you're a right wing extremist. If you support what effectively amounts to the abolition of representative government (the real consequence of Paul-like libertarianism), then you're both an extremist and a nut.

So why are people on the left so surprised that Friedersdorf doesn't like Obama?

dgrb said...

When did Glenn Greenwald suggest voting for Romney?

Yes, indeed, politics is every day. And every day the US administration creates more and more enemies in the rest of the world by its illegal behaviour.

Voting for Obama is voting for the lesser - and I agree, he is, on the whole, the lesser - of two evils.

Freddie said...

I do exactly what your post recommends and have since I reached legal majority. When I was younger, I put in countless hours in the anti-Iraq movement; I've joined and organized groups on my college campus; I've gotten involved in local Democratic politics; I've tried to present what I feel is the best arguments for the best policies in all possible forums; and I've written my blog for going on five years. That is my protest. But, of course, that doesn't count, because not only do you ritually exclude protest which you think expresses unpopular argument, and exclude forums that are beneath your establishmentarian cred.

Seriously: I have been talking about this fucking drone issue since it became an issue, and very often with no reference to Obama or Election '12 at all. Check my archive! I am doing what you are telling me to do! I have done it literally my entire adult life!

I have tried to make those points in places like Balloon Juice. Many have. And many have done it in exactly the low-key way in which you suggest. The dismissal in those forums is angry, immediate, and hostile, filled with profanity and rage. Just like... well, these comments. Look at your own site, here, man: do you think that these comments are indicative of people who are willing to listen to a protest?

These comments-- totally dismissive, totally angry, and universally refusing to consider the moral reality that I am asking them to consider-- are precisely my point. You say that I should protest while running a site where the commenters systematically enforce incredibly narrow boundaries about what arguments can be expressed. I far prefer people who tell me to just shut the fuck up, because this disingenuous display suggests solutions that aren't. It just gives your commenters the opportunity to foam at the mouth and dismiss the actual most important fact of the matter: there are actual innocent people who are actually dead, and you have nothing to say to me about that but outright dismissal and contempt

Steve M. said...

Freddie, I'm sorry people are very, very mean to you on the Internet. I wish you could go back in time and tell some of these people how profoundly you're suffering.

Freddie said...

That's completely nonresponsive: I'm telling you that I have done exactly what you are telling me to do, for the entirety of my adult life.

You don't really think that comment is a response to what I said, do you?

Steve M. said...

Is this about drones? Or is this now about proving that you're right? Is that your real cause now? If so, that's not going to save any lives.

Freddie said...

Again, that's a bald evasion. You've told me that what I need to do is to get out of the basement and live politics every day. I am replying to you that I have done as you suggested for literally my entire adult life. I can scan some permits for antiwar marches and such and send them to you if you'd like. So what do you want? You responded to my point by giving me advice. I am replying by saying that I have already followed your advice, for over a decade. What is your take on that?

Unknown said...

Freddie, you're embarrassing yourself.

What Steve and others are trying to point out to you is that effecting real change takes a lot of dedicated work. Yes, even years and years of dedicated work. Perhaps even generations. Progressive social change is a marathon and we have to fight-- and I mean FIGHT-- for every inch.

You seem to want a quick easy fix though-- a vote to cast, some high-fives from blog commenters on your awesome post, etc. Unfortunately it doesn't work that way. Sorry.

Freddie said...

Again: that's not responsive. Steve M. has dismissed my post, and said that what I need to do instead is to get out of the basement and do political organizing. And I am replying by saying that I already do that. Yes, there is more at stake here. But I am trying to get a response to a very simple reply. It is perfectly fair and relevant to reply to "you should do X" by pointing out that I already do X.

But then, I have a feeling that nobody here would be willing to see anything I say at all as relevant or fair. Which is entirely the point.

Unknown said...

You're being obtuse. He did not dismiss your post, HE ADDRESSED IT DIRECTLY. He's providing constructive suggestions as to how you can more effectively work toward the goal that you claim is so vitally important to you.

Seems to me that it's YOU dismissing HIM via some claim that you tried his suggestion but didn't like the response you got from blog commenters...or somesuch.

Look, I do care about what you're saying because I agree with your substantive position on drone strikes. I want very much to support you and others who agree with us on this. But if we're going to be successful, we've got to be smart about it. Good intentions and warm fuzzies aren't enough. Sack up and keep up the fight.

bobbyp said...

sack, sack, sack for democracy state
win a vic-tor-ee
you can always go along to get along
who'll know the difference
when you are the winner?

morals, morals, morals they are for wimps
you can count on that
'cause you know in the long run we are all dead.