Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Back America

[posted by Callimachus]

There's something going on in Washington called the "Take Back America 2007 conference," and it seems to be validation therapy for netroots bloggers. They go, they see, they speak, they blog about going and seeing and speaking. Fulsome praise showers down on speeches given by other bloggers who mention the names of the bloggers who write and praise the speeches. No doubt there's a conservative equivalent somewhere. If the back of a book jacket could become a whole building of people, it would look like this. The major Democratic presidential contenders have made the obligatory pilgrimage.

The title is perplexing. "Taking back" something sounds like a petulant activity, undemocratic, regressive, a -- horrors -- conservative thing to do. Take America back to -- what? When was it ever the enlightened, green, peace-and-social-justice progressive paradise so many of these conferees yearn to make it? The closest I can imagine was when FDR tried to rewrite the social order and bypass the Supreme Court and Henry Wallace was a heartbeat away from the White House, but Roosevelt also was mongering for a war and I don't think the late Depression is the American Golden Age.

Or maybe it's a subtle Jack Benny joke. "Take Back America ... please!" That would seem more appropriate in this case.

The money speech, so the attendees assure us, was by a progressive/anti-war blogger named Digby. Who in it seems to name or allude to other big-name progressive/anti-war bloggers at a rate of about one per sentence, which maybe is why it's money.

But it's a good rally-speech, and one worth reading. Especially if you don't typically agree with that hemisphere of the national brain. Because she's preaching to the choir, which means there's not so much time for snark about how utterly stupid you are because you disagree with the spun narrative. That eats up about 60 percent of a lot of progressive/anti-war blog posts. Also, because of the context, her speech lacks the un-examined linking to dubious online sources, which pulls down another 20 percent.

Her speech will let you see the common commitments shared by many of us who seriously disagree with each other. There's a certain amount of faux populism and tactical and cynical co-opting of patriotic imagery and rhetoric among the "blame America first" writers (or its sub genus, "blame corporate/Republican America exclusively"), but don't let that lead you to deny the authentic forms of those qualities when they dwell there.

You'll recognize your own world, your own concerns, among hers. And you'll see some of the ways the world on that side looks different than yours.

Like this. Think about what got you started in this storefront political commentary racket. What motivated you to start reading online, and then start writing here yourself. It's not true of my co-blogger here, but I bet in many, if not most, of your cases, you can remember ... well, the exact date.

In Digby's passionate articulation of her own journey to this place, here are the milestones:

During the last decade, there have been three catalyzing events that drove people like me to the Internet, to research, investigate, and write about assaults on democracy itself. In 1998, the political media lost all perspective, and aggressively helped the Republicans pursue a partisan witch-hunt against a democratically-elected president and against the will of the people. The coverage of the presidential election of 2000 was legendary for its bias and sophomoric personality journalism. The press actually joined the Republicans in telling the majority who had voted for Al Gore to get over it. I don’t know about you, but I never got over it. And the third event (I don’t need to tell anyone in this room) was the almost gleeful support of the invasion of Iraq, a journalistic failure of epic proportions. If you had not been sufficiently aroused from your complacency by this time, you never would be.

So that one date -- which is never mentioned in the speech, and the entire topic is only alluded to briefly in one clause -- was less "catalyzing" than the press coverage of the Starr Report? I think we've begun to measure the difference between the passions.