Encouraging the Liberal Stereotype

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Chez Pazienza
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A couple of days ago it dawned on me how many columns and assorted quickie pieces of mine have been pegged off of Salon.com articles. For years I've had a love/hate relationship with Salon: On the one hand it's been a home to people like Steve Kornacki, Joan Walsh, Alex Pareene and Mary Elizabeth Williams, all of whom I like quite a bit. (I don't always agree with Mary Beth but she's a personal friend and is sincerely one of the best people I know.) On the other, it slavishly played host to the insufferable Glenn Greenwald and inexplicably gave a forum to hack writers like Heather Havrilesky and Stephanie Zacharek while continuing to roll out the red carpet for the serially comical David Sirota. I suppose I shouldn't be too harsh on the site, since there's a lot of great material regularly published there and when it comes to progressive politics it runs the gamut between the center-left and far-left viewpoint, but maybe the fact that it's willing to give any kind of outsize voice to the petulance of the far-left proves how intolerable I think the far-left is.

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Case in point, not one but two pieces currently running over at Salon that act as perfect examples of why so many who consider themselves liberal True Believers don't deserve to be taken the least bit seriously.

Late last week, Daniel D'Addario, one of Salon's entertainment writers, penned a column for the site with the admittedly designed-to-troll headline "Is Jon Stewart Turning Off His Fan Base." The piece isn't opinion -- it's basically just a straightforward report that wonders aloud through the voices of critics whether Jon Stewart's effusive praise for Zero Dark Thirty and mockery of the platinum coin as a potential end run around Republican obstruction in the debt ceiling fight will infuriate his liberal fans. The thing is, while I tend to agree with at least slightly more of its politics than I do the other extreme, the far-left is as pissy and humorless as its counterparts on the far-right and therefore deserving of almost as much derision. As I read the Stewart piece, I kept thinking to myself, "If you're willing to turn on a guy who for the most part not only represents your ideals but communicates them to a national audience in a way that's startlingly effective just because he says one or two things you don't like, you don't deserve a seat at the big kids' table."

I know that Zero Dark Thirty has become not just a punching bag for the left but a kind of litmus test for one's liberal bona fides, but to me it's exactly the opposite; not only do I think it's a terrific film, I immediately know when I read a piece on it self-righteously claiming that it should be shunned by all for endorsing torture that whoever wrote it generally isn't somebody whose opinions I give a crap about. As for the platinum coin, I never thought it was a terrible idea and I can certainly understand why liberal stalwarts like Paul Krugman -- a very smart guy by any account -- would endorse it. But there's simply no denying that at first blush, the notion of a trillion dollar coin parlor trick to solve what's sure to be the upcoming debt ceiling debacle is damn ridiculous. I get that Stewart's critics love to rake him over the coals for his willingness to fall back on the fact that in the end he's just a comedian -- they consider it a lame cop-out -- but if we need to mint one magic coin to bypass our government's inability to get anything done, thanks almost entirely to House Republicans, we've set ourselves up to be a laughingstock. That's worth making fun of.

Meanwhile, today, there's another piece written by the aforementioned David Sirota -- a guy who's almost never worth reading -- that warns liberals against succumbing to the lofty rhetoric and apparent progressive designs on display in Barack Obama's second inaugural speech. Sirota trots out a couple of the usual liberal cause célèbres, drones and such. But for the most part he seems to still be smarting over the fact that the Obama administration and those associated with it have at times dismissed hardcore liberal "firebaggers" for being the whiny children they are. There's never been anything wrong with voicing an extreme left opinion; that viewpoint has as much right to be heard as any other. But more so than any president I can remember, Obama has reaped the wrath of the far-left as much as he has the far-right, with liberal activists apparently ignoring political reality in favor of some utopian progressive ideal that Obama was never going to be able to deliver but which the left demanded. The left has relentlessly hectored the Obama administration at every turn, despite this president having enacted some of the most progressively minded legislation of the last 50 years. Sure, he wasn't able to do everything the left wanted, but he was always the best it was ever going to get in a country with the political demography of the United States. Considering the venom Obama's been subjected to on the left -- by those who are pretty much his own team -- it's no wonder his people lashed out at it on occasion.

On the plus side, at least this time around Sirota didn't try to shoehorn in some shitty 80s pop culture reference in a clumsy effort to sell more copies of his most recent book, which laughably attempts to tie movies like Ghostbusters and Die Hard to our current political climate.

Still, it bothers me that Salon continues to allow liberals to paint themselves, without any help from outside detractors, as unbearably humorless pains-in-the-ass who lecture from on-high and who apparently suffer from the same persecution fantasies as those on the far-right edge of the political spectrum. Yes, everyone deserves a voice, but dear God is that voice one I really can't abide listening to.

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