So What if Derrick Bell Visited the White House?

I’ve just had a testy little exchange of tweets with Jake Tapper, White House Correspondent for ABC news. Tapper tweeted  this question this afternoon: “Did Professor Derrick Bell Visit the White House? http://abcn.ws/vZLFsU” To which I replied: “So what if he did?”

The occasion of these tweets was the late Andrew Breitbart’s last gasp attempt to smear Obama as a black separatist radical with a tiny snippet of video from a protest at Harvard Law School in 1990 for more diversity on the faculty. Taken from a WGBH news story that was quoted in a  Frontline episode that ran in 2008, Breitbart’s clip shows Obama introducing and then embracing the late Derrick Bell, Harvard’s first tenured African American law professor and one of the intellects behind “critical race theory.” (More about that in a bit.) Continue reading

Fractured Democrats, Part 2: Resisting the Right

The right's use of sex to take down Bill Clinton roused some of those most disappointed in his presidency to his defense in the internet trenches.

When Democratic Underground  was first formed (for background, see Part 1 of this series here), it was an ideal refuge for Gore voters from the indifference of the news media and the outright hostility of Bush voters in non- or bipartisan forums, such as Usenet‘s political groups (alt.politics, talk.politics.misc, my own hangout during the late Clinton years alt.current-events.clinton.whitewater, etc.) . I was attracted by the subtle aptness of the new site’s name. It did, indeed, seem as though Democrats who believed Bush had been illegitimately installed as “president” had been driven out of the public discourse. We felt, without too much exaggeration,  like a resistance army gearing for rebellion against a tyrannical regime.

DU became well known in certain circles for its weekly contribution to the national discussion, Top Ten Conservative Idiots, a satirical summary of ten of the previous week’s most stomach-churning (from a liberal point of view) acts or statements from right-wingers in politics and the media. Bush, Cheney, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh usually topped the list, which was often linked to on other boards around the net. Other DU staples were the Hate Mailbag, featuring actual letters from the enemy with all their misspellings and SHOUTING IN CAPITALS left intact; Questions for Auntie Pinko (I remember the name better than the content); and satirical ragings from an invented right-winger named Bob Boudelang. The front page often also carried an essay by someone on staff or a contributor. I had a couple of essays published there (including one just after 9/11) before I became a regular on its forums.

But DU wasn’t the only game on the left side of cybertown. It was just one of a thriving subculture of dissident websites that had actually grown up around reaction to the successful right-wing grassroots campaign to impeach Bill Clinton at the dawn of the world wide web.  The left watched in mixed horror and admiration for the way their counterparts on the right used the fledgling internet to spread like wildfire every smear that had ever been formulated about the Clintons (many of which, it’s true, came from the hot medium of talk radio) to build a groundswell in the Republican party for getting rid of the Clintons by any means necessary. Truth didn’t matter, just effectiveness as a meme, to use a word that was just acquiring its imprecise shade of meaning as a viral idea that can literally be copied, cut, pasted and clicked on to move from one contaminated mind to the next. It was a sickening spectacle and a clear, disturbing sign of where the Republican base was moving in the post-Reagan era. It wasn’t toward reason or, least of all, reasonableness. Continue reading

#OWS and #TeaParty: Is a Meeting of Minds Possible?

Mid-South Tea Party member Jan Allen stands in front of the sign-in desk at a meeting where two Occupy Memphis members were speaking, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011, in Bartlett, Tenn. (AP Photo/Adrian Sainz)

Van Jones tweeted a link to this blog post, which links to a news item about a meeting between #occupyMemphis and Mid-South Tea Party members,  which he apparently took to be a good sign. I share Jones’s optimism about the enormous potential for positive change in the search for common ground between these two movements. From the quotes in the news item, it’s clear that Jones and I are not alone Continue reading

#OWS: The Status Quo Strikes Back

I went with my wife and daughter to Times Square on Saturday evening, October 15, to add our numbers to the #occupationWallStreet demonstration that ended up there, climaxing a day of global protest. It was invigorating to know people were there, like us,  specifically for the shared purpose of declaring to the world that this is a movement–or a revolution, I like to think– only just beginning. And on top of that, to witness the tourists and ordinary denizens of the shops, hotels, restaurants and street corners near America’s Crossroads seeming to get that they were observing history being made around them, like the diners pressed against the windows on the second story of  T.G.I.Friday’s staring down at the throng-choked sidewalk below.  It was difficult to tell how many in the crowd were existing in the gray area between tourist just happening to be on the spot and protester in the making. (Truth be told, probably not many. But among the workers, that’s another matter.)

When we got home, my wife read aloud a report from Reuters called “Wall Street protests go global, riots in Rome,” that stunned me–actually depressed me, to be more precise. The story, by Philip Pullella from Rome with additional reporting by Ray Sanchez and Ed McAllister in New York (among others elsewhere), gave the distinct impression that, besides the Roman riots, the news service’s reporters were unimpressed with the subject. Continue reading

Liberals Are Terrified of #OccupyWallStreet

TNR: Liberals should be nervous

Picking up where we left off yesterday, The New Republic has now offered its official two cents on the protests on Wall Street and, as one would expect of the stuffy self-appointed organ of the liberal power elite inside the Beltway, it disapproves.

[T]o draw on the old cliché, the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. Just because liberals are frustrated with Wall Street does not mean that we should automatically find common cause with a group of people who are protesting Wall Street. Indeed, one of the first obligations of liberalism is skepticism—of governments, of arguments, and of movements. And so it is important to look at what Occupy Wall Street actually believes and then to ask two, related questions: Is their rhetoric liberal, or at least a close cousin of liberalism? And is this movement helpful to the achievement of liberal aims?

This task is made especially difficult by the fact that there is no single leader who is speaking for the crowds, no book of demands that has been put forward by the movement. Like all such gatherings, it undoubtedly includes a broad range of views. But the volume of interviews, speeches, and online declarations associated with the protests does make it possible to arrive at some broad generalizations about what Occupy Wall Street stands for. And these, in turn, suggest a few reasons for liberals to be nervous about the movement.

The Editors responsible for the unsigned editorial then go on to outline the differences between #ows’s radicalism and TNR’s proper liberalism (the former is dreamy, “group-thinky” and utopian, the latter skeptical, pragmatic and pro-capitalist) , before urging liberals to stay the hell away. Continue reading

Jeffrey Sachs Supports #OccupyWallStreet

This is what democracy looks like when it works: media dialoguing with a rational person telling the truth about what’s wrong and what needs to change:

This is just over 22 minutes, but it’s 22 minutes well spent.

Info from the YouTube video on Sachs:

Watch Jeffrey Sachs, leading environmentalist and economist, and a respected Professor at Columbia University, speak out at the growing, inspiring Occupy Wall Street movement. Sachs is one of many professors, celebrities, community leaders, spiritual leaders and public figures who are speaking out in support of the OWS movement and what it stands for.

The Burnett Rule: If You Buy Something, Don’t Say Something

Erin Burnett’s snide putdown of #OccupationWallStreet on her new CNN platform OutFront included some sniffing over the fact that the protesters (like other Americans) drink bottled water, eat “catered lunch,” (actually slices of pizza from a local pizzeria, probably courtesy of anonymous online supporters), wear designer clothes, use Apple computers and Blackberries. The implicit “argument” in Burnett’s patrician sniffs, which we’ll no doubt be hearing over and over from the protest’s sideline critics in the days to come, is rendered explicit in this ironic photo art found on Twitter:

http://twitpic.com/6wh19u via @ForceMajeure_

So on this account, if you consume any of the products of corporate capitalism, it’s hypocritical to protest against corporate capitalism. What, then, do the Burnettists think is the correct attitude of consumers toward corporate capitalism? Obedience? Submission? Worship?

We are not only consumers–not only economic animals, but also political animals. The fact that we consume the products of the predominant economic  system doesn’t disqualify us from criticizing the political system that serves the interests of the “captains” of the system at the rest of our expense, does it? The protest is not about the economic behavior of corporations–not about capitalism per se, in other words–but about their social, political and moral behavior.

Burnett pretends to be a journalist, which of course she is not. (Seriously, Erin, a journalist?!) She is an apologist for the 1%. But anyone who is not in the role Burnett has chosen to play ought to pay closer attention to what the occupation is about, ought to use their minds to examine what the occupiers are actually saying.  I think most Americans will tend to get it if they give it a little thought, because I think most Americans can see that the system does not favor their own interests any more than it favors the protesters.