My father, a lifelong Democrat and a fervent union supporter, always maintained that even the Left had its limits.
“Go far enough to the Left in your opinions,” he’d always say, “and before long, you’ll find you’re someplace on the Right.”
Since then, and more recently, I’ve heard various people maintain that premise: that the fringes of the Right and Left were really no different in outlook and attitude, and before long, it would be inevitable that they’d find a common meeting ground. Even history is littered with famous Leftwing voices who’ve veered to the Right.
Both the Hitchins brothers – Peter in the UK and Christopher in the US – started their professional lives as virulent Marxists. David Horowitz, the student radical of the 1960s, is now an ueber Rightwing Islamophobe. The late Eldridge Cleaver went from Black Panther to the Mormon Church, voted twice for Reagan and died in the bosom of the Republican Party, a fully paid-up and much respected member of the neocon club.
Then, we have the Godfather of all political shapeshifters: the Gipper, himself. Not many people today realise that Ronald Reagan was, one time, a vociferously Leftwing Democrat. By today’s standards, he’d stand proudly amongst many self-proclaimed Progressives, if he’d remained true to the ideals he professed in the 1940s. In fact, with his film career on the wane, some California Democrats suggested running Reagan as a Congressional candidate in the 1948 election, only to have that idea shot down because the Party bosses reckoned he was too far to the Left. If you’ve any doubt about Reagan, here’s a clip of a radio broadcast he did in 1948, campaigning for both President’ Truman’s re-election and the election of the then Democratic mayor of Minneapolis, Hubert Humphrey. Hark, at Reagan, the man who busted union power in the 1980s, eloquently arguing against the Taft-Hartley act, which he, rightly, vilifies:-
Yet, in less than 20 years, Reagan, the politician, had only one other politician in the United States, more Rightwing than he – Barry Goldwater – and at some point after 1948, the man who so brilliantly defended all and more of Truman’s proposed progressive policies, actually came to make these remarks about Medicare legislation in 1963:-
The irony behind Reagan’s diatribe against socialism was that Reagan, himself, who came of age as a New Deal Democrat, had formerly been an open admirer of socialism and big government. You have to wonder what happened that made the man from 1948 bridge the yawning gap that brought him to become the ideologue of 1963 and thereafter.
Jumping the shark, crossing the Rubicon, going over to the Dark Side … whatever you want to call it. I think, this week, we might just have seen another icon of the Left dip his toes in the waters of the Right.
Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Moore has left the building.
He has left the building and is meandering dangerously close to the territory inhabited by the Tea Party.
I have always had a love-hate relationship with Moore, since the late 90s when his television programs, TV Nation and The Awful Truth aired on the BBC and Channel 4 in the UK. Lately, I have trouble believing that he’s less of a genuine spokesman for the working class and more of a token working class relic more at home amongst the affluent radical chic dedicated followers of political fashion.
He’s a multi-millionaire capitalist businessman who rails against capitalism, whilst at the same time flogging his latest book, DVD or film. He’s the working-class hero who only travels by private jet, the pro-union man who isn’t averse to using non-union labour and not paying for healthcare insurance for them, as reported by ABC News in 2009, as per this link:-
He’s Mr Anti-Corporation, but receives funding for his projects from some of the biggest corporations in the country. The man is a walking anomaly.
In the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden, Moore made headlines by expostulating frantically against the act on Twitter and later on Piers Morgan’s CNN talk show, where he declared that such an act had meant that America had lost its soul. The tweets then became increasingly more irate, calling the act, at times, an assassination and then, an execution. He also opened the envelope of comparing bin Laden’s death to the justice meted the Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg.
There are loads of arguments against all of the above – bin Laden was not the head of any state, but rather the icon of an international ideology which had hijacked a religion. The Nazi war criminals were state and military leaders who had waged war against the free world, conquered countries and openly persecuted and killed citizens thereof. These people had unconditionally surrendered, and they were dealt with accordingly as state prisoners thereafter. They did not surrender until their titular head, Adolf Hitler, had killed himself; but had anyone of the Allied Forces been able to get to Hitler anyplace and anytime before 1945, it’s almost certain he’d have been swiftly dispatched.
Arguing for the arrest and trial of bin Laden opens plenty of logistical and theoretical cans of worms, as well as revealing the extent of certain people’s short-term memory loss. First, where would bin Laden have been detained? If he were spirited off to any top-secret military fortress, more pejorative myths than not would prevail and many of Moore’s ilk would have demanded to know where the prisoner was being held in the interests of transparency, which seems to be the new word of fashion for the moment. It’s mete to remember that Congress had coniption fits and fell in them at the thought of several Guantanamo Bay detainees being imprisoned on the mainland United States.
Secondly, where would the trial be held? Once again, political leaders in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, stamped feet against trying Khaled Sheikh Mohammed in those states; and one needs to remember that, not only was bin Laden responsible for 9/11 in the United States, but he was also responsible for the Bali bombings, the Madrid train bombing and the 7/7 suicide bombings in London. It could easily be argued that a trial in The Hague would have been appropriate, but The Hague has power only to impose a life sentence and to determine where that sentence should be served. A living bin Laden, languishing in prison, would forever be an iconic beacon to his cause, and should any illness encroach, he’d suddenly be deemed a sympathy case for release.
One could argue all of the above until the cows come home, and end up conflicting oneself in a welter of confusion to the point where people usually adept in word power suddenly fail to distinguish that “justified” and “justice” come from the same root word, as Laura Flanders found, when the normally inarticulate Ed Schultz tripped her up:-
Moore then twisted his tweets to the tune that bin Laden was actually executed, going back even further in history by saying that even Jefferson Davis and Robert E Lee didn’t get “double-tapped” for their treason. True, but Moore would have to conflict himself further and lay the direct blame for that non-event at the feet of both Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S Grant, who actually determined the terms of surrender and any punishment thereafter.
It was then that his Twitter meanderings took a slightly different turn, when he tweeted a plaintive, “I just want my country back.”
Sound familiar? Well, yes, but that’s the battle cry of another political demographic altogether. It’s the rallying cry of the Tea Party, and it was last Sunday, Mother’s Day, when I had the epiphanous realisation that Moore and the Tea Party were most probably cut from the same cloth.
During Moore’s lengthy interview with Piers Morgan and afterward in the blog he wrote attempting to explain his actual concern about the events which took place, coincidentally, on May Day, he cited the fact that he was a devout, practicing Catholic, whose religion precluded support for the death penalty in any way. Catholics are also pro-life, being opponents of abortion. We’ve never heard Moore’s opinion about that in any form. It’s easy enough to surmise that he’d more than likely be pro-Choice, like those other practicing Catholics of the Left hemisphere, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi – disapproving of abortion, personally, but not denying any woman a freedom of choice. Yet there have been noticeable Democrats who’ve been virulently pro-Life. Bart Stupak, anyone?
And why was I reminded instantly of Moore when I read about Speaker John Boehner’s commencement address to the Catholic University graduates yesterday, a speech in which Boehner, another practicing Catholic, totally neglected to address the dressing-down letter he received from an activist group of nuns and Catholic clergy for endorsing a budget that ripped the heart from programs designed to work in the interests of the poor?
Perhaps it was because Boehner and Moore are actually brothers under the skin – sons of sweaty, white ethnic working men, who found solace in church, home and the social programs of the Democratic party, only to rise, like cream, to the top of their demographic, leaving their respective siblings and neighbourhoods to fester and decay. Maybe it’s too uncomfortable for both men to look back or – in either of their cases – to pay more than nostalgic lip service to a background that sometimes appears uncomfortably too close to the surface. Moore appeases this by dressing like an assembly-line worker. Boehner drinks. Neither action is enough.
A few months ago, Moore was the big name who parted the sea of protesters in Madison, Wisconsin, in order to speak out for public sector unions and their personnel, specifically for the right bargain collectively. He made his appearance after the protests had garnered headline news for several days running. It was a cause celebre for the radical chic. Ed Schultz broadcast from the venue and threatened the President with one term if he didn’t join the picket line. Joan Walsh rediscovered the fact that she’d been educated at the University of Wisconsin in order to identify with the picketers. Everyone wanted a piece of Madison, and no one more than Moore.
Yet now we are faced with the President and the newly-invigorated National Labor Relations Board standing up to Boeing for deciding to open a new plant for a new assembly line order in non-unionised Right-to-Work South Carolina, instead of maintaining the work in their unionised Washington State factory because union labour was more apt to strike; we have a President and the NLRB facing down a Tea Party Palin-cloned bitch of a governor as well as the Democratic mayor of Charleston, and where are the celebrity unionists? Walsh is nowhere to be found. Schultz hasn’t even mentioned it. No word from Maddow. And Moore’s too busy telling America that we’ve lost our soul for killing Osama bin Laden.
The “country” Michael Moore longs for was avidly described in his Mother’s Day tweets, a sort of Twitteresque version of kitsch Garrison Keillor. Moore longs for a time when his dad worked for union rates of pay at the Union Carbide battery factory, when his mother kept the kitchen warm and snug and redolent of fresh cooking, and when all she had to do to solve a childhood problem was serve up a helping of Campbell’s Condensed soup from a can which later became an Andy Warhol art piece, or a serving of pork and beans. It was an America where Mom taught Mike to read at the kitchen table, and they lived next door to the Catholic church they attended.
Just like the Teabaggers.
Michael Moore went to parochial school, just like most of us who grew up Catholic in the Fifties and Sixties. For most working class Catholics, that meant Dad working extra shifts in order to afford the tuition. Parochial school means that Mike probably sat in a class of uniformed, little white boys and girls, as segregated as the public schools of the South during that period. Mike’s neighbourhood was probably inhabited by white ethnic workers, whose household heads worked the automotive industry’s assembly lines. Their black co-workers lived elsewhere, but not amongst them.
In the world for which Mike yearns, if the girl next door got up the duff at sixteen, she married her baby’s father, and they made the best of it – either that, or she was suddenly sent out-of-town to care for the ubiquitous “Aunt Judy” who’d suddenly fallen ill. She’d finish her sophomore or junior year there, her folks would explain, distractedly. And she’d return to a community she’d think was none the wiser to the fact that she’d spent five months in a home for unwed mothers and had a child she’d given up for adoption.
And in Michael’s rose-coloured Fifties world, rape – that unspeakable crime – really was “hooey,” because anytime a rape occurred, it was invariably perceived to be the victim’s fault; and she had to suffer the consequences.
Osama bin Laden’s death achieved a lot more than a shift in whatever anyone wants to call the dynamics taking place in the Middle East. It also brought to the forefront the shallowness of some of the people who put themselves forth as spokesmen and pundits from the Left. Ed Schultz conveniently forgets that he implored Progressives not to vote in the 2010 Midterms, and now presumes to tell Moore and other handwringers on the Left that this is irrelevant, that it will cause damage and a rupture which the Republicans will use as a stick with which to beat the Democratic party in being sympathetic to a known terrorist. Bill Maher conveniently forgets that he went on national television in late November to declare the President a “pussy,” and who, until two weeks ago, was still pushing the familiar Progressive talking point about the President “caving” on tax cuts for the rich. Now, according to Bill, the President has rediscovered a blackness only Bill Maher could understand – the ghetto gangsta ninjiness that only a privileged, white, affluent Progressive could presume was part and parcel of African American psyche.
And just last week, a reasonably well-known Progressive academic from the West Coast, in a heated discussion on her Facebook page, declared that cognitive linguistics demanded that in a debate or a discussion, anytime a question or a point was raised with which the speaker found contentious or disagreeable, the speaker had the innate right to ignore totally the question or opinion, to blank it out entirely, to ignore it and move on, because to acknowledge disagreement encourages what the speaker perceives to be a negative idea. That’s not cognitive linguistics, that’s pure Tea Party philosophy – in a nutshell, the debating technique of Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin.
But as for Michael Moore, I have a pretty sneaking suspicion that a lot of his reaction to the events unfurling was purely capitalistic – for the promotion of Brand Moore, as evidenced by his tweet of May 10th:-
Wow, 30,000+ new Twitter followers in the past week. Now at 832,000! Can we kill OBL again this week? See, newbies–that’s how we roll here.
Again, like their brethren on the Right, that’s ultimately what it’s all about, isn’t it? The corporate Sermon on the Mount and the feeding of the sheeple.