Outside the Asylum
I’ve decided to tackle the Great Jimmy Dore Controversy piecemeal, since when I try to analyze the entire thing, I feel like I’ve eaten tainted hamburger.
Yes, this is a bit after the fact, but, as always, what I'm most interested in is the use of media and politics to manipulate us and control the conversation. And this latest operation was both classic--in that it used two tactics we've seen many times before--and also a doozy, in that there wasn't a lot of "there" there, as Gertrude Stein once said in a different context. The objections to #ForcetheVote were almost, but not quite, as hollow at the center as the media-invented Dean Scream.
Here’s one tiny aspect of the Controversy: you can restate many of the objections to #ForcetheVote in the following way:
This objection comes in two different varieties. One smells like a middle-school gym locker. It’s meant to put you back into exactly that vulnerable state of mind you were in when you were thirteen years old and dressing out for phys. ed. (Unless you were rich or a jock, physical education in America when I went to school was little more than a platform for bullying. I’m sure I’m not alone in that experience). The point here is for you to identify Jimmy Dore as the bully, heaping abuse on poor Alexandra; you’re supposed to imagine, and then identify with, her hurt feelings. Look at them attacking that nice progressive. Dore and his friends are such meanies!
There is a slightly more sophisticated version of the Middle School Meanie objection, which claims that Dore is not so much the bully himself as he is an idiot who’s exposing AOC to bullies in Democratic leadership. However, one can’t say so outright, because that would be a criticism of Democratic leaders, and the whole point of this media shindig is to immunize Democratic politicians from criticism. (Remember that what Dore asked the Squad to do was to withhold their votes for Pelosi; his detractors can’t actually come out and say that “Mama Bear” is a bully herself). Instead, you talk about how Jimmy Dore saying things will adversely affect AOC’s career. The words coming out of Dore’s mouth somehow magically deny Ocasio-Cortez her political future, whether in specific, concrete terms (she won’t get that committee assignment!) or vague, monarchic terms (she was going to be Bernie’s heir, and now she won’t!)
By the way, what does being “Bernie’s heir” entail? The habit of traveling the country giving one good speech over and over again? A willingness to occasionally tell the truth about the super-rich? The tendency to get down on your knees and kiss the asses of the people who cheated you? I’m actually one of the people who (mostly) thinks well of Bernie; I think he was bullied and intimidated into getting down on his knees and kissing their loathsome asses, and it fills me with sadness rather than disdain. But my feelings do not change the fact that what happened to Bernie—twice—makes being his “heir” rather a dubious proposition. What can you inherit from a man who was robbed blind?
And anyway—isn’t all this talk of lines of succession a little dubious on the face of it, given that this is supposed to be a republic? I wouldn’t make much of this, except that it isn’t the first time. The entire idea of “It’s Her Turn” was monarchical. There are no “turns” in a republic. And now here we are talking about “Bernie’s heir.” But I guess we don’t have to worry about that now, because some words came out of Jimmy Dore’s mouth. Abracadabra. Alakazam! And presto, change-o, Ocasio-Cortez’ political “inheritance” disappears.
I wonder—would that work if I did it? Can I destroy Democratic politicians’ careers by saying things on YouTube? But I digress.
The second kind of objection to #ForcetheVote is basically condensed condescension. This tactic—you can’t really call it a talking point—is used frequently on the news and on political shows, when there is no rational objection to be made to a particular left-wing policy or change campaign. If you want to see how this works, have a look at the discussions of MMA (the monetary theory, not the sport). Or you could look at the corporate media responses to Anthony Weiner’s floor speech about healthcare for 9/11 first responders (yes, even an asshole like Weiner apparently has a moral limit somewhere, and leaving 9/11 first responders to be slowly poisoned from the inside out because they weren’t rich enough to buy the right kind of healthcare was it). Occupy got a lot of this kind of thing. Often this “objection” has no coherent, rational form, residing merely in the tone of voice and facial expressions of media and political figures. But if it were to be put into words, it would go something like this:
This condensed condescension usually goes by the name of political pragmatism, though it almost always explains why you can’t do things rather than explaining how to reach a goal. This must be some definition of practicality I’ve never heard of: one where you can never accomplish anything concrete. “Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good, you silly sausage!” they chirp. It’s the Otto von Bismark objection. Let’s call it the Bismark Boogie, since it’s basically just the media dancing around making faces and has no discernible relation to logic.
Now I’m gonna go back to my choo-choo trains and my dollies. I hope you all have choo-choo trains and dollies of your own, and that they’re treating you well. And a big hat tip to Dore for outing the ringers.