Saturday, September 13, 2014

Never Growing Up: Still 12 After 38 Years

I was one of the early subscribers to Mother Jones magazine,  I don't remember but I think I had the first issue, which I bought on the news stand and I subscribed after that.  I was young and callow, respecting no sacred cows, and had an unbounded and, as it would turn out, unfounded faith that the kind of political change I'd seen happen in the 1960s would continue.   We knew that because, as we would come to say, the left had the facts and the facts would guarantee our ultimate success.  The Nixon administration was, we believed, an anomaly and after overcoming the political plesiosaurs, who were scheduled to to go extinct, we would recommence to win elections and Supreme Court cases. It was just a matter of time and a waiting game.  All we had to do was continue as we had been.  We had unbounded faith in the Supreme Court, based on the, as it would turn out, entirely anomalous Warren Court, which had already passed into history.  But our eventual success was a sure thing.

Only, not, as it turned out.

Beginning in 1980 it became increasingly obvious that there was something very seriously wrong with even our most basic political expectations.  The courts, staffed by Republican appointees, unsurprisingly became increasingly right wing.  Fueled by the "free speech" ruling of Buckley vs Valeo -which had widespread support from "liberal free speech advocates" and broadcast media deregulation,  Republicans made gains and used the media to make conservatism and, then, paleo-conservatism fashionable, winning a generation of younger people even to its most insane ideas.  The recently asserted shift in that, away from the extreme right,  wasn't to the left or the liberal side of things, it was to another position on the right, libertarianism.   Libertarianism is widely mistaken as liberalism, even among many liberals who haven't really understood liberalism.

Increasingly, I became dissatisfied with the line of leftist journalists and their articles which were not informed by the disasters that began, not in 1980 with the election of Reagan but in 1968, with the election of Nixon if not earlier.

I started dropping subscriptions, The Progressive, Mother Jones, even, eventually The Nation.  I retained a subscription to In These Times which seemed to be more interested in the real agenda of the left, winning elections and changing laws for the better than their better known companions. It wasn't that I was abandoning the left, it was that I was, increasingly, aware that too many of the nominal leftists, especially those who made a living by scribbling, weren't really serious about winning in politics and passing a genuinely liberal platform of laws.  Many of them were sufficiently affluent or had affluence within their grasp for the real agenda of the real left to not be the real focus of their interest.

After going online and reading more of the content of those and other magazines of the left,  again, I'm left with seeing a few sensible articles with a real goal of convincing people that the traditional American liberal agenda is right and serves the common good but also lots of writing which, largely, doesn't serve that cause. Lots and lots of writing for those magazines and websites is guaranteed to harm it, politically and culturally.  Even to negate its intellectual foundations.  

I see most of the magazines nominally of the left serving the self-deluded preening of those stuck in the same place I was in 1976, convincing themselves that there is nothing wrong with some of the worst ideas and, more so,  the practices of "the left".  It is not uncommon for them to assert, tacitly or explicitly that it is the stupid mass of humanity that are the problem and they would, somehow, take power and change things while mocking and insulting the majority of people, intentionally offending them, depending on Supreme Court rulings to enable them to do that under "free speech".

I have come to believe that there is a tendency among those who write and sell images and movies for a living that makes them quite short sighted, mistaking their professional and, um, artistic liberties as being the most important thing and the only important thing in the entire universe, certainly in politics.  In that they are merely showing that those who are self-interested are too narrowly focused to produce a realistic, successful politics of a decent society.   The libertarian, who used to be universally mistaken for a liberal, Nat Hentoff, has involuntarily volunteered to be my poster example of that, though there are hundreds who could serve as well.


Mother Jones has a bit of atheist click bait up which proves that even when there is a legitimate use of an event to make a point that you can screw it up by appealing to self-indulgence.   The story is about the possibility that a stupid 14-year-old kid could get two years in juvie for posting photos of himself getting a simulated blow job from a statue of Jesus, using live photos instead of photo-shopping.  I agree with the comments that said the kid should get some hours of community service for violating private property and being a public nuisance.  If he were permitted to do what he did then every stupid kid would be doing it and that wouldn't be tolerated.  Elections would be lost, worse judges appointed to enforce them, etc.  That is the real life alternative under the Roberts Court or, really, in reality.

Despite what the Christian bashers claim, if he used an entirely secular statue of a soldier at a war monument for something similar, I believe the reaction would be far more serious and he would find himself in a lot more hot water.   If, say, he used a statue of The Reverend Martin Luther King jr. or Malcolm X that way, even the Mother Jones kids would not see it the same way.   I can only imagine what a fundamentalist using the tacky statue that the atheist "Pagans" of New York City propose to inflict on residents of Oklahoma would elicit from the atheist clickers.

This story could have made a small article about over-sentencing for a stupid and minor violation of private property and the stupidity of offending people, needlessly. Or it could even have been used to set off a legal debate about the wisdom of laws against intentionally giving offense, on which reasonable people might legitimately disagree.   But, being primarily a political blogger, it is the politics of it that interest me the most.  

Mother Jones and the writers of stories like this know full well that they are inviting atheist clickers and other haters to click away, stupidly, offensively, ignorantly about how stupid the c. 85% + percent of the population who are Christians are, how they have a right to offend Christians and how Christians are stupid for being offended when they intentionally offend them.  And, if someone, such as yours truly, brings up the fact that offended Christians vote and that their votes are what, ultimately, determine what the laws that are passed are and how those laws are interpreted by judges appointed by elected officials - when they aren't elected, themselves - the atheist click club have a swivet about how that isn't fair and it's mean and that people are poop heads for voting in reaction to them.  

Those who can think that far ahead will prophesy that they are on the verge of winning, man, and then things will be different.  The same things we were telling ourselves back in 1976 when Mother Jones was new and Ray Mungo - a minor, former merry trickster style scribbler of the time -  held the position as its "Religion Editor" to some very juvenile results.   As I recall Mungo's act didn't make it with me to 1980, the final straw coming, as I recall, even before his self-indulgent scribbling over his irresponsible stunt bankruptcy. By 1980 I didn't find that kind of cunningly irresponsible behavior among adults funny anymore.   I certainly didn't after Reagan was elected.

Apparently the ability to get atheists to click onto stories like this one has an effect on what Mother Jones reports and how it reports it.   Which would be stupid but less stupid if it were not selling itself as a serious political magazine, allegedly advocating serious political change through elections.  It is even stupider when the effects of this in the general society are considered.

In one of the idiotic comments, the over-the-top claim is made that what is being done in this case is "akin" to issuing an assassination threat over drawing a cartoon of Muhammad, which it clearly is not.  Though that brings us to the fact that no matter how much atheists want to ignore it, the fact is that what offends people is not for them to say.  Nor is it for them to say how offended people will be by things they say and do.   And it is certainly not within their ability to prevent people from acting on that offense, by voting against the side they believe has intentionally offended them or, in the most extreme case, responding in ways that get people killed.

People on the play left had better get used to the fact that it is not going to convert The United States to atheism or even a form of dereligionized secularism in their political behavior.  

The history of mockery and derision of Christians by those on the left has been very useful but only to our political opponents and it will continue to be because after a decade of the most intense and concentrated expression of that derision and mockery, atheism has hardly increased its percentage and the left is totally and absolutely hollowed out and powerless.  Barack Obama's election is the best we have to show for things and that isn't even where we were in 1964, it is no where near that high water mark for liberals in politics.

That was about the time that the Supreme Court rulings on prayer in schools and other rather minor issues began to give the fundamentalist right something to rally round.  If that ruling, which was right and good, AND WHICH WAS BROUGHT ORIGINALLY BY JEWISH PARENTS.  had not become the hobby horse which atheists like Madelyn Murray (O'Hair) hijacked and rode to fame and fortune, perhaps it would not have been so useful to the fundamentalist revival.  Lots of religious people who were minorities in their geographic area and others approved of the ruling.  But that's not how it was used, by atheist and by the Republicans who saw the opportunity in what was, actually, a rather minor issue of rights but which was of enormous cultural significance for an enormous number of people.  People who voted in the increasingly conservative and reactionary politicians, those who, within that period, made Barry Goldwater go from on the most extreme right to a center right politician.

The importance of the tiny number of atheists nominally on the left who insist on acting like jerks in weakening and defeating the left will have to be faced because they are not growing up.  The evidence is that they will never grow up.  I think they don't grow up because they, by and large, don't really care about the agenda of the left.  They certainly don't care enough to learn anything from the disaster that the past fifty years have been for the left, for the agenda of traditional American liberalism.

1 comment:

  1. Saw that story about the kid and the statute elsewhere. It seems quite a stretch to bring up a 1872 era law against him, and given the Court rulings on the flag-burning cases a few years later (under GHWBush, if memory serves), I don't think the statute is even enforceable.

    Better to let the whole thing go and put up with more pictures until it becomes boring, as flag burning did. The group that has the statue on their grounds wants nothing to do with this prosecution. As Christians, they simply ask for prayers for the child (he is a child, behaving that way) in the picture.

    I agree it's being used to whip up outrage about "sacred" objects and "desecration," and what would they say if it was a similar abuse of a statue of MLK or Harvey Milk? And the history of efforts to turn matters religious into matters of Great Significance shows how often those efforts backfire. Karen Armstrong pointed out how much the fundamentalists got involved in politics after the Scopes trial was used to mock them and their beliefs. I'm still not sure what good that whole thing did, except to attract attention to Dayton, which was why Scopes was recruited to play defendant in that case in the first place.

    We are always looking for sweeping change which will do our work for us. Brown v. Board was supposed to solve the problem of segregated schools. 60 years later we praise Brown and barely notice it's been all but eviscerated by the courts since, and school segregation is back where it was in '54. We love our ideals; but we love the comfort of our reality even more.

    It's that disconnect, that disjunct, that really bothers me.