Monday, March 6, 2017

The Aspirational Paranoia Of The Loony Left And The Supposedly Serious Lefties Who Are Suckers For It

I am still getting whiny, angry flack from the commies for my apostasy, only I never was a commie so I can't be an apostate to it.  I can, though, be an apostate if what I've abandoned is being a lefty sucker for the commies.

This old piece by Mark Oppenheimer in which he tries to pursue an interview with total nut-job, paranoid, narcissistic, self-appointed leader of world revolution Bob Avakian is amusing in his futile pursuit to get a meeting through the nut cases that are in his  Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. But its origin in an ad they got in to the New York Review of Books with the typical signatories of "free speech" petitions made some important points.

Many of the men and women who signed the ad are respectable scholars - the list also includes Harvard's Brad Epps and Timothy Patrick McCarthy - and I knew it was not possible that they were all actually devoted to Avakian. In fact the ad is lukewarm, at best, on the man's actual politics: "While those of us signing this statement do not necessarily agree with all of [Avakian's] views," the ad says, "we have come away from encounters with Avakian provoked and enriched in our own thinking."

Curious, I began to call around. The first few signatories I tried to reach, including [Cornel] West and Michael Eric Dyson, a prominent African-American studies scholar at Georgetown, did not return my calls or e-mails. Rickie Lee Jones's management company promised to pass along my number, but I never heard from her.

But as I reached others, it became clear that what Avakian represents to them, more than his role as one of the last true believers in revolutionary Maoism, is the ideal of truly free speech...

... Epps, a Spanish professor, sent an e-mail confirming that this is why he lent his name to the ad. "My support has more to do with freedom of speech than any substantive ideological adherence," he wrote. McCarthy, a historian, said that he signed the ad to show his support for free speech, adding, "If my signing the statement is in any way taken as supporting the views of Bob Avakian, I would reject that."

In the age of the Patriot Act, in the aftermath of a war caused partly by the quiescent media's fear of asking hard questions, liberal and left-thinkers have naturally been quick to defend anybody's free speech. As well they should.

And if this is the person whom so many have chosen to rally around - even though nobody seemed ready to defend Avakian's actual views - then, I figured, he must be quite a remarkable figure.

After a lot of build-up, worth the time to read it,  including some really funny details about the weird aspirational paranoia of his true believers that their god-replacement is as dangerous and so imperiled as they hope, Oppenheimer makes his point about how pathetic it is that allegedly major figures on the left have hitched their wagon to such a tin-foil star.

The followers of Bob Avakian want to believe that their chairman is important enough to be hunted. Because if the only people looking for Bob Avakian are Scott McLemee and me, then he hasn't had much of an impact on the world. Which means, too, that if the mainstream left is hitching its free-speech cart to a mule like Bob Avakian, it has even bigger problems.

"It does make you wonder about the acumen, shall we say, of those who sign on," said Todd Gitlin, the sociologist and former president of Students for a Democratic Society, who knew Avakian slightly in the late '60s. "This is a marker of the ludicrous feebleness of the unreconstructed left."

Those who don't agree with Avakian but signed the ad anyway think that voices like his are being suppressed. And some surely are. "Quite frankly," Slate, the LA radio host told me, "we live in an era of Norman Finkelstein, we live in an era of Ward Churchill, we live in an era of Joseph Massad" - academics whose careers have been threatened in part because of their controversial views.

But perhaps such real cases are insufficient rallying cries, even for the oppressed themselves. No one was more certain of Avakian's silencing than Churchill, the former University of Colorado professor who was much attacked for writing in 2001 that "the little Eichmanns" in the World Trade Center were not innocent in their own deaths. I wrote an e-mail to Churchill, who signed the Avakian ad, suggesting that nobody was conspiring to deprive Avakian of the right to speak. He replied, in part, "I mean, you can't possibly be that naive, can you?"

The petition-signing left has many reasons for enabling Bob Avakian's personal mythology. He's a living link to the '60s, an era when American campus radicalism reached its apogee of influence. And he was an outspoken atheist back in the day, too, before Christopher Hitchens and others found bestsellerdom in unbelief; one professor told me he admired Avakian's stand against religious fundamentalism. But above all the Avakian narrative allows civil libertarians to register a vote for free speech, even if they have to ignore the fact that Avakian's speech is in no danger of being suppressed. Rightly concerned about Guantanamo and the Patriot Act, they figure that Avakian is a good proxy fight, or good enough.

You do have to wonder about a figure who is so silenced that his "party" is mostly in the business of maintaining bookstores in several cities, dedicated mostly to the works of Bob Avakian and many others who no one in their right mind would bother reading, a newspaper, other publications, websites... The last time I heard that level of clueless whining about being silenced was Steve Roberts whining about it on the old Diane Rehm show on national radio.

But you have to wonder, even more, about the clear emotional need of lefties to pretend that such a pathological nut case who is not being silenced or pursued is being silenced or endangered when he obviously isn't.  What deep habits of emotion lead to people to pretend this in the American left?   And, in line with some of my recent posts, you have to wonder why they'd champion such a cartoon martyr of free-speech when he champions a political ideology and, specifically, such dictators as Mao and, to some extent, Stalin who were probably the world's most ruthless and effective silencers of free speech.   Pretending they can't tell the difference between an advocate of such Hilter level murderers and oppressors and The Reverend Martin Luther King jr and Malcolm X is totally loony and should discredit them as serious people.

Is the left so bereft of rational leadership that it can't find people who have the sense to not sign a petition for the Bob Avakian cult?

I wrote about Avakian and his devoted lunatics before.

Update:  Well, I can think of one good reason for a lot of lefties to pretend that if only they could speak (which they can) "the masses" would buy their product of Marxist (or something) revolution. As long as they can pretend that's all that stands between them and "the masses" embracing their vision of the atheist-materialist future then they can pretend that "the masses" aren't already aware of that and sensibly see nothing in it for them as well as the moral atrocity such lefties are really selling.

And also, well, I remember one night on a blog when a lawyer who had looked at the case was so careless as to express a belief that Mumia did it.  Needless to say, those who knew exactly as much as they had read on a tee shirt about it were hardly open to hearing his arguments.  He got banned.  Such is the dedication of such a tee-shirt slogan left to such "free speech".

Update 2:  Oh, for crying out loud.  I DIDN'T EXPRESS ANY CONCLUSION THAT MUMIA DID IT.  I have no idea if he was guilty of the murder he was convicted on and didn't express a view on that today or the evening of the blog brawl I mentioned.  My point is that such champions of "free-speech" as infest the alleged left aren't any more open to free speech when they don't like it than Mao or Mussolini or Hitler or Hoxha.  Believe it or not I found an actual American communist party (or, more honestly, cult) that is dedicated to the political thinking of the Albanian dictator, Enver Hoxha.

Update 3:  Well, I can speculate that some such people as might sign such petitions might do it if asked because it makes them feel more important than they realistically fear they are.  The shame is that it only makes them look foolish to most people who are aware of what it is they're signing.  I mean, has anyone got any reason to pay any attention to Ward Churchill?

2 comments:

  1. "Mumia did it."
    I got into a minor quarrel with an idiot on comments the other day (I know better, but I never stop until it's too late). It ended with the idiot accusing me of supporting a return of HUAC because reasons.

    Oddly enough, I remember HUAC. I'm quite sure my opponent did not. But jumping to conclusions is the favorite practice of the internet. I don't think it's even caused by the internet, but simply by the inability of some people to reason. They prefer to put one foot in front of the other and then leap as far as they can, because they are quite sure the tedious practice of walking step-by-step is for the slow-witted and they should soar with eagles, they are so insightful and wise.

    The internet hasn't changed people, it's just made them more accessible; and it turns out that isn't a good thing......

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    1. I strongly suspect that most of those who cry HUAC know everything they know about that from watching the recent movie, Trumbo.

      A smattering of ignorance seems to be a high aspiration for a lot of people educated by TV and Hollywood.

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