Goodbye To All That

I had already begun to tire of politics and activism in 2012 when a series of incidents convinced me that social media would not enable a renaissance of liberalism after its decades of malaise. I became even more disgusted with the reactive online left in 2013, when a server technician named Edward Snowden managed to pass himself off as Jason Bourne and impress his warped, Alex Jones-inflected, “libertarian” worldview on a still-ignorant media, successfully enabling paranoids everywhere. Then I felt my give-a-damn break with progressive denialism of Bashar Assad’s sarin gas attacks. Watching President Obama navigate the extreme dangers of ISIS, a revanchist Vladimir Putin, and a belligerent Israel today, I am struck by how willingly “the left” (or what passes for a left these days) seems to be marching into a political meat grinder of “principled,” sanctimonious self-destruction. A simple knowledge of civics, or an appreciation for the historical context of an issue, is often too much to ask of them.

I fear that in my lifetime, kids who are dumber than their phones will put Rand Paul in the White House (“because drones, dude!”) so he can appoint a whole Supreme Court bench to uphold Citizens United. My nightmare is a world where the NSA and CIA have been replaced by private contractors that don’t give two shits about our privacy; thanks to someone who ought to be a poster child for bloated corporate NATSEC contracting, I sense this dystopia is closer than ever now. Frankly, too many of today’s radicals don’t see the underlying danger in adopting the hyper-individualistic narcissism of the libertarians, or the lunatic conspiracy fringe talk of the antiwar movement. This has perverse effects going forward and backwards: when Robert Parry pushes denialist fantasies about MH17, it devalues everything he ever said about Iran-Contra. When Seymour Hersh writes unsourced stories about non-existent al-Nusra sarin factories, he isn’t winning some final victory over the false WMD stories of 2002 — he’s mirroring those lies with lies of his own. None of it is journalism, nor is it good for democracy.

My complaints with the progressive movement are manifold. Liberalism suffers from a series of delusions born of contempt: the unscientific notion that facts matter; a disabling sense of demographic destiny, as if the conservative movement was a temporary derangement instead of a permanent American political reality; a pervasive and myopic focus on leadership figures rather than movement-building. Sure, tea parties were just a thing the Koch brothers created to push their agenda, but those people with the Gadsden flags and racist signs are real people, and they do vote. You don’t beat those people at the ballot box by threatening to stay home because you didn’t get all the cookies. You don’t win elections in our winner-take-all system by starting a third party to elect Ralph Nader. As the lady says, that’s not how this works.

Backstabbing and infighting are constant features of the left. Splits over crazy disputes emerge in otherwise perfectly-rational movements. Some issue advocates become attached to the dragons they slay, perversely prolonging the injustices they purport to be stopping. More importantly, volunteers do everything important on the new left. Infrastructure remains undeveloped because organizations refuse to pay for construction or maintenance, or to reward the people who carry their water. The right has no such problems; they have aggressively moved to fund and nurture their online presence. To make a living as a conservative pundit, one need only write coherently from an empty, meaningless catechism. A well-funded and highly-engaged industry exists to game the New York Times bestseller list into pushing your ghostwritten “research.” The first blogs to achieve mainstream notice were not conservative because of a sinister conspiracy, but because the right had built the means to promote them.

Blogging has been sporadic here for a while now, and these are some of the reasons why. Another reason is that I have been writing at since March of last year. My association with that site grew out of the trolling wars of 2012, when a right wing hate group came into my Twitter timeline for several months trying to work out their issues over the death of Andrew Breitbart. Two months ago I unmasked myself to assume the editor’s duties and lead a fantastic team of people who’ve done great work (see here, here, here, and here). I’ve also got a new pet project at, where I am trying to report every day on the First World War one hundred years ago. Obviously, I no longer have the time or interest to maintain Osborne Ink as a regular political blog. This website will therefore remain on indefinite hiatus.

August 10, 2014