You know, generally I’m a fan of Matt Taibbi, but his piece The American Left’s Silly Victim Complex has really and truly pissed me off. From top to bottom, I hated just about every word of it and its infuriating insistence on treating the nastiest stereotypes of “the Left” as what “the Left” actually is. I hated that fatness and femininity were used to show how despicably irrelevant, weak, and silly “the Left” is, that the images accompanying the story (which were probably not Taibbi’s choice, but I can assure you I would sooner rip my piece from the page that let images stand I felt misrepresented me) were of a weeping little girl, an antiwar demonstrator surrounded by pink signage, and a modern tie-dye clad hippy holding a gay pride flag. And most of all I hated the patronized, paternal tone that cast women and gays and the working class as people who should be represented by “the Left,” instead of part of “the Left.” Interesting that we are not a part of “the Left,” and simultaneously we are the symbols of everything’s that wrong with it.
It would take me hours, and cause me more aggravation that I am willing to dedicate, to fully respond to everything that’s wrong with this article and its repulsive arrogance, so I shall just pull two sections.
We all know where this stuff comes from. Anyone who’s ever been to a lefty political meeting knows the deal – the problem is the “spirit of inclusiveness” stretched to the limits of absurdity. The post-sixties dogma that everyone’s viewpoint is legitimate, everyone‘s choice about anything (lifestyle, gender, ethnicity, even class) is valid, that’s now so totally ingrained that at every single meeting, every time some yutz gets up and starts rambling about anything, no matter how ridiculous, no one ever tells him to shut the fuck up. Next thing you know, you’ve got guys on stilts wearing mime makeup and Cat-in-the-Hat striped top-hats leading a half-million people at an anti-war rally. Why is that guy there? Because no one told him that war is a matter of life and death and that he should leave his fucking stilts at home.
Oh, yeah. Too much inclusiveness has always been my complaint about any congregation of liberals, like the fucking blogosphere. Since I started blogging, all I can do is lament the absence of the glass ceiling I’ve experienced elsewhere, because all this stratospheric equality and respect makes my silly little head dizzy. So dizzy, in fact, that sometimes I have delusions that I’ve spent hundreds of hours fighting over things like not blaming women for rape with men who insist that they’re liberals but, hey bitch, your attitude is exactly why I can’t “get on board” with the feminism thing. Sometimes I even have delusions that male liberals have written things about me like “She’s why the Democrats can’t win,” because I’ve insisted on things like caring about reproductive rights. And sometimes I even have delusions that straight male liberals have told women and gays to just sit tight and quiet down and we swear that we’ll get to your issues eventually, just after we win the next election, that promises from “liberal leadership” are measured in Friedman Units and often we’re neither included nor our viewpoints treated as remotely legitimate at all, that we are told to shut the fuck up.
Crazy, I know—but, like I said, all the equality and respect goes straight to my head.
In a few years it will be half a century since the 1960s began. The Baby-Boomer generation that shaped modern liberalism will soon be moving on to the nursing home, many of its battles – for civil, gay, immigrant and women’s rights, for workplace protections, and against the Vietnam war and Richard Nixon – already won. They did a lot of good things, but their fight doesn’t always make sense anymore.
Wow. So we’re going to eradicate racism, homophobia, and sexism within “a few years”? I had no idea! That’s quite good news.
Well, I don’t want to go around accusing Matt Taibbi of privilege or anything, but maybe—just maybe—he’s one of those guys who sees the end-all be-all of the civil rights struggle, or the LGBT rights struggle, or the women’s rights struggle, to be the writing of a law that says: “You’re equal now.” Maybe—just maybe—he’s one of those guys who likes to roll his eyes at a black person who objects to Tony Snow using the term “tar baby,” or at a gay person who gets bent out of shape when someone uses “gay” and “stupid” interchangeably, or at a woman who gets angry when a guy disparagingly describes the American Left as “a skittish, hysterical old lady” and “cowering, ineffectual ninnies,” even as he begrudgingly admits “it’s true that … there’s unfinished business on the fronts of women’s rights.” Gee, ya think?
In the course of an article where Taibbi does make good points about much of the disconnect between for whom the American Left is meant to be fighting and who’s funding that fight, he nonetheless fails utterly to reach out to a single American Lefty who is one of the non-leaders, one of us with activism in our veins but not a hell of a lot of access. He does, however, manage to imagine the “Midwestern union member who was laid off in the wake of Democrat-passed NAFTA can’t even declare bankruptcy to get out from the credit card debt he incurred in his unemployment. He will now probably suck eggs for the rest of his life, paying off credit card debt year after year at a snail’s pace while working as a non-union butcher in a Wal-Mart in Butte. Royally screwed twice by the Democratic Party he voted for, he will almost certainly decide to vote Republican the first time he opens up the door to find four pimply college students wearing I READ BANNED BOOKS t-shirts taking up a collection to agitate for dolphin-safe tuna.”
Too clever by half. You see, I live among Midwestern union members, many of whom were first laid off long before NAFTA when our mills closed under Reaganomics. And a lot of them, well, they’re not just active liberals—they’re proud liberals. Which is more than Taibbi can say.
But they don’t make it into Taibbi’s article about what’s wrong with the American Left. Nor do any working class feminists (hello from Red Country, that place you fly over all the time!), or black community organizers, or gay tradesmen who are working with unions to secure partner benefits, or lots of other American Lefties who maybe don’t look like him. Instead, he quotes only Senator Bernie Sanders, author and activist David Sirota, and investigative journalist and author Christian Parenti—three well-educated, well-off white men with access—thereby suggesting that what’s really wrong with the American Left just might be him.