August 26, 2008

Let Us Praise the Trivial Stupidity of the Piddleroots!

I hereby bestow upon the collection of cranially impaired, characterologically deformed, and intellectually stunted protoplasmic blobs heretofore known as the "netroots" a new designation: the piddleroots. That is far more accurate and appropriate. I had been approaching this decision in recent months, but this post from Matt Stoller confirmed that piddleroots, and nothing but piddleroots, it must be: "The Netroots [sic] Created the Housing Gaffe."

I have had a very low and extremely negative view of Stoller and his compatriots for some time. In May of last year, writing about another of Stoller's piddle puddles that pass for cutting-edge, piddlerootsian analysis, I wrote:
[L]et us be fair: let no one accuse certain progressive operatives of intellectual brilliance or original insight.

True, Stoller acknowledges that, "There's a small group of people who make policy in politics," but his overall argument (and his writing more generally) makes clear that the full reality of the complex mechanisms through which power is achieved, maintained, expanded and directed is entirely beyond his grasp. (It is possible that Stoller understands all of this, and also knows the vacuous phrases that he needs to throw up and out periodically, to assuage certain of his less than bright followers. If he does understand it, that, of course, would be unspeakably worse. But I seriously doubt he's that smart.) And then, of course, there is the unstated but clearly implied self-congratulation at the end: "There are big opportunities here. Seize them. No one is stopping you but you." You can be assured that Stoller is not stopping Stoller. His post is entirely appropriately titled, "Building Power." I note, without further explication, that you should read Stoller's post in conjunction with a genuinely awful entry from Chris Bowers, and you will then understand why I now think of them as the Evil Twins of Progressive Politics. The lust for power consumes them -- and I implore you to remember that power always must mean power over other people. As those who seek power always do, they regularly camouflage their lust with sentimental tripe about "transparency, honesty and civic democracy." If people studied and remembered history, they would realize that every leader, including the most brutally vicious and murderous, has always appealed to "the will of the people." It is on the basis of such platitudinous, vapid twaddle that crimes of immense scale and horror are committed.
When people are driven in significant part by the desire for the acquisition and use of power, their nature becomes clearer as they approach closer to their goal. As the progressives see victory approaching with the 2008 elections, a victory which they hope will give them complete, unanswerable power over the legislative and executive branches of government -- undoubtedly with many delightful perks, to say nothing of jobs, for those piddlerooters who have been so loyal along the way -- dishonesty, ignorance, and cruelty become more and more common. You can see this deterioration, or unmasking if you prefer, across many progressive blogs, from Open Left, to Eschaton, to Talking Points Memo and a number of others.

All of that is very bad, and it is certainly bad enough. But one quality tends to overwhelm everything else, and that is the unrelieved trivial stupidity of the writing and "thought" (I use the term with remarkable vagueness here) regularly regurgitated on these sites. To view the Obama campaign's use of the "McCain's Mansions" story as a triumph of strategy speaks only to the void that exists where a concern for actual political issues should be. That the piddleroots should congratulate themselves for their role in promoting this story reveals how pathetically small and stupendously dumb their approach and their aspirations are. The piddleroots will undoubtedly defend their views and their actions by insisting that this is "the way things are," that this is "how the game is played." That may be, but here's a thought that would occur to any honest ten-year-old. The emphasis is on "honest," and the thought is this: if you deplore "the way things are," you will never begin to change them by playing the game in the identical manner. That serves only to confirm and strengthen the behavior you pretend to criticize, and it does nothing to chart a new direction. In fact, it accomplishes something worse than nothing, because it embeds these patterns in our political culture still more deeply and makes them that much more difficult to dislodge. Well done, piddleroots!

Beyond this, there is a much deeper failure with regard to this particular story. I have discussed the numerous ways in which the ruling class enjoys lives of comfort, privilege and influence unknown to the great majority of Americans. See my essay from yesterday, "Psst -- While You Were Gibbering, the Ruling Class Rigged the Game and Won Everything" and "The Elites Who Rule Us," and follow the links for much more. Anyone who reaches the national level in politics -- and certainly anyone running for the office of president -- is necessarily a member of the ruling class, in fact one of the leading members. Yes, McCain enjoys a life of affluence which 99% of Americans will never know; in recent years and now, so does Obama. To the extent "ordinary" Americans know the details of the comforts and perquisites enjoyed by men like these, they are well aware that their own lives resemble those of the ruling class in no significant ways at all. This is in addition to the narrower problems with this particular attack: the fact that raising questions related to the houses the candidates own opens the Rezko questions again, and related kinds of issues. And beyond all this, there is a further fact noted by some commentators. While many Americans realize that the ruling class enjoys lives unknown to most of us, they still hope to be rich themselves someday. (I am not evaluating this desire as good or bad; I'm simply acknowledging the existence of the ambition.) Most Americans would be thrilled to be unable to state with certainty how many houses they own. It is surely a dilemma vastly preferable to being unable to sleep for nights on end because of ceaseless anxiety about paying for Susie's operation, or Bill's college fees, or next month's basic bills.

And there is still one more level of failure. It is criminally irresponsible to be speaking of stories on the order of "McCain's Mansions" while these same operatives do everything in their power to make it impossible for Americans to understand that there is no appreciable difference with regard to any issue of fundamental importance between the two candidates for president -- not with regard to foreign policy (see here and here, and follow the links), or domestic policy, where they both represent the complete triumph of the entrenched interests of the ruling class. But of course, our elections do not concern political issues of any seriousness, since the ruling class has had a lock on the system and its fruits for many decades now. Instead, we are concerned only with "branding" and with "marketing," as discussed in the middle section of this essay. If the total of your concern is the wrapper on the McBurger and that your sauce is just that teensy bit tangier than the competitor's, well, then, "McCain's Mansions" is made to order.

Trivial stupidity: it's what for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and every snack during the day. And now it's the specialty of the piddleroots, who once ceaselessly and bitterly complained about that fact with regard to Republicans. But now that power is almost within their own grasp...ah, well.

I think I can safely set Stoller's mind (again, a term used with remarkable vagueness in this context) at ease on one point. "[C]ertain bloggers want to stay anonymous." Oooohhhh, who can the mysterious X and Y be? Relax, Stoller. No one who has five functioning brain cells and can think at all gives a shit.