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When Commitment To Jane Hamsher Supersedes Critical Thinking

Outrage gets page loads. I settled for obscurity long ago because I had no wish to become an outrage-blog. Nevertheless, yesterday’s post on Jane Hamsher brought plenty of reaction; over at FDL, Kevin Gosztola answered me directly. (Full disclosure: Kevin’s got posting privileges here. He’s also at Op Ed News. He’s everywhere.)

[Osborne] goes after Hamsher for using a web ad company that took money from BP.


His commitment to taking down Hamsher supersedes critical thinking. He just jumps to conclusions without reading between the lines.

Actually, Kevin hasn’t clicked through to my previous post on Hamsher and BP, so he doesn’t realize my complaint is that Jane Hamsher WAS the web ad company. She took BP’s money while criticizing the Sierra Club for taking BP’s money. That’s a rank hypocrisy I refuse to rationalize away.

But “critical thinking” is where I draw the line here, because critical thinking is too often absent at the Fire of the Dog and the Lake. Many of Jane’s cool kids “read between lines” and discover exactly what they imagine is there. There is no party of no in their universe, no obstruction, no powerful interests, no adoption of any position that puts blame anywhere except the White House. Only Democrats are to be shamed, and perhaps primaried. Jane Hamsher’s fire all goes in one direction — and it’s not a helpful one.

But this hostility toward the administration is strangely absent when dealing with the opposition. Kevin continues:

Criticism of this nature toward Hamsher is purist and sanctimonious. It appears activists are not to make common cause with people they often disagree with when their views are in sync with one another. It seems forming a broad-based coalition that might frighten those in power because they aren’t facing opposition from the left or right but from the entire American population is to be frowned upon. Bipartisanship between activists is not okay, but the American people should swallow bipartisan health reform bills that force people to buy a defective product from private insurance companies and bipartisan tax cut compromises that raise taxes on those at the bottom while cutting taxes for the top 2%.

See, bipartisanship is only for purist, sanctimonious Republicans and Jane Hamsher. It’s not for Democrats who want to reach a consensus on a bill and pass it. Hamsher’s purity demands and sanctimony toward Democrats are not the problem; the problem is that I want Hamsher to stop being a sanctimonious puritan. See how that works?

But wait, there’s more. According to Kevin, Jane Hamsher pushing the public option on her website is a progressive credential. Prior to the passage of health care reform, this blog featured more than seventy posts related to the topic of the public option; so by those lights, I’ve done at least as much as Jane Hamsher. Where is my PAC to milk?

The reality is that eighty-three senators voted for unemployment extension and oligarch tax cuts last night. Eighty-three. Meanwhile, DADT and START sit waiting while the clock runs out. Expiry for the oligarch tax cuts is a winning issue for Democrats in 2012, so the real question is what FireDogLake will do to help. (Answer: shout at Obama some more.)

As for the charge I made yesterday that Hamsher serves another agenda, I would say the net effect of all the bill-killing hoopla is exactly what Republicans just happen to want to do: slow things down and prevent change. Whether by malice or mindlessness, the effect is the same. So I challenge Hamsher not for her style, but her substance — or the lack thereof.

Kevin asks me:

1)   Why are you and those who follow your blog so repulsed by criticism of Obama, criticism that can often be substantiated with facts or reason?

I’m not repulsed by criticism. I’m repulsed by whining radicals who come without any real interest in governing, but plenty of conviction that facts have innate power to overcome resistance. I have this in common with Saul Alinsky, whose book Rules For Radicals holds our problem in its title. The question also presumes that firebaggers have facts and reason, when what they usually have is a poor knowledge of civics (for which I blame the GOP, by the way).

Worse, most of that progressive faction has no idea how bad things really are among the proletariat. Four million people suddenly added to the 99ers would be nothing less than a disaster. What is FDL or Commonsense Media or Jane Hamsher going to do about the ensuing spiral — type in all caps?


2)   What do you think Democrats should stand for and, if they fail to stand for those agenda items, values or principles should there be consequences?

The problem with this question is that it presumes Democrats would stand. That is especially unlikely now after a midterm election debacle. Toward that end, however, I’ve been advising red-state Dems to stop describing themselves as “pro-life” and instead talk about a right to life that does not end at birth. So if Kevin is complaining that Democrats don’t have their own talking points factory, I am entirely on his side; but 2009-2010 was a failure of movement as well, which brings me to his next question:

3)   How should Democrats counteract the Tea Party? If liberals or progressives shouldn’t pull the Democrats in the opposite direction through primary challenges or third party candidates, what should be done to halt the influence of the Tea Party on the Democratic Party and the Obama Administration?

I’m not sure where Kevin is coming from, because I’m fine with primaries. As far as third parties go, I’d argue the best model is the Working Families Party and the fusion ballot, as these have actually helped bring New York Democrats left by turning out GOTV for Democrats who adopt their platform.

In the sense that tea parties have “influenced” Washington, they have done so because the activist left took a two-year lunch break to bitch and moan about a man who wasn’t on the bloody ballot this midterm. So Democrats shouldn’t counter the tea party — the movement should do that, as I’ve been arguing almost since the inauguration.

4)   What about the prospect of making common cause with those whom liberals are often opposed to in single-issue campaigns? What’s wrong with that?

I have no problem working around differences on things unrelated to the task at hand. I’m a team player by nature and training. That said, I don’t make common cause with the enemy in time of war, and that is precisely what is going on in America: culture war. We see it all the time in the rhetoric of movement conservatives and the Republican strategy of no. They mean to destroy us; I take them at their word.

5)   What do you think the liberal or progressive blogosphere’s value is to Americans? Is it supposed to be an arena that produces reporting on subjects? Is it to combat the failure of corporate media? Or is it supposed to be an environment that upholds glib and snarky posts and rarely produces reporting or interviews, which might inform and provide insight on key issues?

So I use snark; most blogs use snark. There’s even a little bit of snark in Kevin’s ‘graff there. It’s a great question, though, because I’m starting to doubt the blogosphere’s value altogether. I do actual reporting here; I even commit acts of journalism. I deconstruct media and also do video. If you want information, I try to provide it. But so far, no blog or tweet has managed to GOTV like phone banks and volunteers do. Kevin will have to wait for his answer because my jury’s still out.

Under the FDL post, Kevin left a comment in response to a purist (see?) who challenged him on the inclusion of and other organizations as “liberal” because (see?) they aren’t liberal enough:

I found it interesting how a liberal establishment person who likes Obama could be critical of a PAC that he said was Jane’s when it had wide liberal backing.

Liberal establishment person? What?! As far as blogging goes, Jane Hamsher is “the establishment,” not Matt Osborne. I live in a small Alabama town, the heart of Arianna’s Third World America, where I operate this blog on a WordPress shoestring. Jane has people to handle the template for her. I coded this template myself in Notepad. Establishment?!

Perhaps Kevin means that I’m defending the ‘establishment.’ If so, then I’m doing a strange job of it. My half-hour documentaries on Appalachia Rising and School of the Americas Watch featured plenty of anti-establishment buzz. I recorded 114 people getting arrested in front of the White House. What part of that served the ‘establishment’?

Nor am I critical of the PAC’s liberal donors, but Hamsher’s apparent abuse of their trust. So far, I have found one progressive candidate who received $5000 in PAC funds and went on to lose his primary by a Texas mile. That is out of some $285,000 dollars raised and spent in two years, much of it on FDL and Jane Hamsher.

My caution to Kevin — as well as to other bloggers still doing good work at FDL — is that when the big liberals figure her out, the fall may be tremendous. You do not want to be underneath her.

Read Gosztola’s piece here.

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