Interesting thread. On selling out generally, I think the key is quite clearly
not whether we disagree on diverse issues and their relative importance (if
forced to associate only with those who agree, we will always be a tiny,
marginalized to the point of irrelevance minority). I think back to the old saw,
"If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem," which of course
doesn't by itself resolve the issue since people disagree profoundly on where one
draws the line on being 'part of the problem.' Still, if one endorses a
presidential candidate who has been a crucial catalyst for rapid globalization of
capitalism, the increasing gap between rich & poor/ North & South, and who has
essentially genuflected before the anti-government ravings of the Right, well, I
think one's political acuity is pretty suspect.
I can understand how people got caught up in support of the NATO attack in Kosovo
--there were quite clearly "Reasons" for intervention against Milosevic & his
stormtroopers. My big problem with Gitlin's analysis is his easy labeling of
those who opposed the NATO attack --e.g., Zinn, Chomsky, Ehrenreich, etc.-- as
"rejectionists" who somehow "reflexively" or automatically (by implication,
mindlessly) oppose all military intervention, use of force, etc. by a U.S.
administration. This viewpoint simply distorts the arguments of the left on that
intervention (check the many articles in Z Magazine, for example, on the war and
its aftermath --e.g. the "ethnic cleansing" by Kosovars-- as well as the basic
fact that Serbian violence against Kosovars greatly escalated in the AFTERMATH
of, not prior to, the NATO attack, and the rising democratic opposition to
Milosevic was quickly eroded by the NATO attack, etc.).
[I also note that, on the Gulf 'War', Gitlin takes account of "unimpeachable UN"
claims of Saddam's having anthrax, but ignores the resignation of two UN officers
(Halliday & his successor) overseeing the oil for food program because they saw
the West's policies as not being really concerned with 'weapons of mass
destruction,' etc. and he somehow ignores the fact that the existing US-backed
sanctions are themselves weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, at least if
40-45,000 dead children a month is an indicator of 'mass destruction.']
So, the problem for me really emerges not in debating different positions, on
saying, for example, 'I think NATO should intervene here for these reasons,' but,
in effect, in doing the mainstream's business of marginalizing truly left
criticism of US foreign policy/ globalization, etc. while simultaneously filling
the mainstream media's required role of "leftist." That's very damaging. In
some ways, as politically damaging as the volatile Horowitz.
On the other hand, I will say (again), that the media culture tends to push
people into polarizing positions and we have to escape that trap if we on the
left are ever to reach a broader audience. We need to know how to pull together
behind worthwhile political actions & objectives, even with people we profoundly
disagree with on other issues, or whose analysis doesn't match our own.
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