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Wednesday, August 1, 2018


Let us try to establish some ground rules.  

First, this blog is intended as a a conversation, not as an exercise in polemic or verbal mud-wrestling.  If you are so wrought up that you cannot speak civilly, then take it elsewhere until you calm down.  

Second, especially if you are going to be abusive or insulting, simple courage requires that you not hide behind "anonymous."  If you are going to address another commentator by name, then identify yourself by name.  If Google for some reason does not permit you to sign a comment with your name, you can identify yourself in the body of the comment.  The only reason for remaining anonymous is a genuine fear of retaliation.  If you have such a fear, and it is legitimate, explain it in your comment.

Third,  the besetting sin of left wing politics is the sort of factional feuding characteristic of religious sects.  Try to remember that in a country of three hundred and thirty million people, any successful political movement will necessarily involve the cooperation or collaboration of groups with many serious differences of belief and commitment.  Members of a religious sect seeking eternal salvation may believe that doctrinal purity takes precedence over all else, but political actors who think that their greatest threat comes from those close to them on the political spectrum rather than from those at the opposite end doom themselves to marginalization.

Does that mean that progressives must yield to centrists, that rebels must fall in line with party hacks?  No, it doesn't.  How do those in the left wing of the Democratic Party gain greater power?  Well, first of all, they get themselves elected to something.  Then they join with other leftists who have gotten themselves elected.  If enough of them get elected, they begin to be able to wield power in a state legislature or in the House of Representatives or even in the  Senate.  Why is American politics so awful?  One reason is that large swathes of the American public are awful.  I am sitting here in North Carolina represented in the House of Representatives by a poisonous ex-pastor.  Why?  Because large numbers of my fellow Tar Heels cannot be bothered to go to the polls and vote on election day.

Finally, I am eighty-four years old.  I have been fighting these battles for more than sixty years.  I have spoken publicly, in print and in person, more times than young people can imagine.  I have earned the right to expect those reading this blog to acknowledge that lifetime of action and to understand that it is not necessary to say everything one believes every time one speaks.  If that is too difficult for you to acknowledge, then go somewhere else.


howard b said...

So Professor Wolff:

Would a more progressive USA or more liberal, look like New York City?
Are we keeping the faith, so to speak? Are we the most liberal huge city?

RobinM said...

I hope I’m not infringing on anything in any way, but since I’ve noticed that previous topic threads tend to disappear once a new one comes up, I did want to add this to the previous discussion which, as I think Prof. Wolff correctly criticizes, had become a bit testy. I’d just add as a sort of prologue, that that testiness seems to me to connect with a point I allude to below respecting the intra-Democrat debate now unfolding. Anyway, . . .

I don’t recall ever reading on this site—if I’m unwittingly flogging a dead horse, please forgive me—the following sort of point anent Russian interference in the recent US election, though maybe it’s the sort of historical discussion that Anonymous at 2:09 PM was alluding to. (It’s almost certainly not the history, the very foreshortened history proposed by Ed B.) I’m pretty sure it’s the sort of argument that some others in the field of international relations have tendered. I’m actually surprised it hasn’t been discussed because, as Prof. Wolff has noted on several occasions, he was acquainted with Hans Morgenthau.

There is surely much argument respecting the interactions between Russia and the USA since the end of the Cold War and the break-up of the Soviet Union. But—am I wrong?—there can be little doubt that Hillary Clinton, extending a path Bill Clinton set out on two presidencies earlier, was, both in office and as a Presidential candidate, the leading proponent of a tough, aggressive orientation towards Russia in general and Putin in particular.

It is surely no surprise, then, that Putin and his government decided to use the tools they had available to them to, in typical realpolitik fashion, do what they could to diminish, even eliminate, the threat that another Clinton Presidency posed for them.

Of course, realism in international relations continues to unfold; it usually does not bring one to permanent conclusions/solutions; to every action there is an opposite but not necessarily equal reaction. What we should, perhaps, really be anxious about is that a significant part of the American response to the Putin/Russian self-defensive assault has moved in the direction of a rather mindless, or at least highly emotional hostility towards Russia/Putin. Why be anxious? Because, or so it seems to me, there is now some possibility that the approaching Presidential primary contest will be fought, among Democrats, either explicitly or implicitly in terms of who will be tougher on Russia. Worse, should a Democrat succeed in becoming President in 2020, a large part of his/her base support will be looking for an aggressive set of policies directed at Russia. Hillary Clinton on steroids, one might suggest.

And what might then follow?

Anonymous said...

Apologies for anon posts. I have been retaliated once by an employer, with no ability to defend myself, when they found some books "suspicious" in my Kindle library. It was in a sensitive commercial industry. I am not sure how they found it.

I was also accused of being ultra liberal because I had a monthly subscription to Foreign Policy magazine/email digests. Which is a bit odd because it tends to have authors across the spectrum from mainstream right/left.

Even posting here I am frightened. I tried doing so behind Tor...

I know for your generation it must be difficult to understand why people post anonymously. Neither I or my family have resources that allow me to be unemployed. I know what can be done so I try to be careful.

I also work in high tech industry, big data analytics. Everytime you look at a website, there are machine learning technologies that create a sentiment profile of the website content and classify your reading habits. This data is generated by your ISP (Comcast, Starbucks wifi) and by websites, web analytics firms, commercial web advertisers, commercial web advertising platforms. There is also another industry that purchases all this information and aggregates it together.

I usually have a computer with Tor for reading sites I would not want classified or tagged to my habits. It is just a bit difficult at the moment due to some personal issues.

In general, I try an buy things with cash as well.

I grew up at a time before Facebook and now I see what can be done so I adjust my habits accordingly in case it is used against me in the future.

I know the bill of rights exist. I have freedoms but it does not mean commercial firms are obligated to honor that framework. I am not worried about the government as much as limiting my own opportunities.

In general I like to consume a wide array of media but I am careful to signal a certain kind of behavior due to necessity.

Anonymous said...

basically I understand why Clinton had her own email server. Everyone else should as well.

Jerry Brown said...

Professor, I have a great deal of respect for you and what you do. I apologize if my comment caused any pain, although I did try to be quite specific about just which parts of the other comment which I agreed with. Sorry about that. Please keep up the good work.

Jerry Fresia said...

Very nicely said, Professor.

" is not necessary to say everything one believes every time one speaks...." Oh dear. That's me. Mea culpa!

"How do those in the left wing of the Democratic Party gain greater power? Well, first of all, they get themselves elected to something." I suppose that is one way; although I sense that Casio-Cortez is beginning to soften her critique of Israel, given the constraints of holding office - something Malcom, Martin, or Media Benjamin other activists were/are less likely to do. I am assuming that those in the left wing of the Democratic Party include non-office holders such as activists of all persuasions. So the question becomes, which is the tail and which is the dog? Social movements or elected officials? Neither? both? I just don't see electoral office holding as the only way our life chances are authored.

Anonymous said...

If you don't want anonymous comments, you should be able to change your blog settings to block them; but I think there are good reasons for wanting to post anonymously, practical reasons which you may dismiss as coming down to fear, but which can otherwise allow for a more free discussion.

Of course any comments that are just downright abusive and hostile are another story.

Écrasez L'infâme said...

Technically, I’m anonymous, since I never use my real name or anything that looks like a real name on any internet forum. It so happens I have a very unusual name, and it is common these-days for companies to search the web before employing people etc. (Christ knows what the security services are doing). I don’t regard anonymity as paranoia, just basic web safety (analogous to road safety). But really, how would any of you knowing my real name help you? It’s not a name you’d reconise, and I doubt any of you would go to the trouble of finding out more about me, no matter how controversial I got. No, what you really want to know is that I always use the same sign in name, that I stand by what I write, and that no one else can use my handle. Google accounts serve all three purposes (I suppose I could open more than one Google account, but, much though I like this board, why would I bother?) So, anonymity is ok, but using “anonymous” is, I agree, unworthy and a triffle rude to other commenters.

Howie said...

Dear Ecrasez, to misquote Groucho Marx who never said anything anonymous, would you really want to work for people like that, who seek to enforce their own, presumably corporate, opinion on you?
We all have to make compromises with the demands of the real world, but you behave the way people in totalitarian countries do.
You must admit that though perfectly understandable, it is creepy and chilling

LFC said...

@ Ecrasez,

You're not anonymous, you're pseudonymous.

The word "anonymity" should be restricted to those who post under "anonymous," not under a pseudonym or, as in my case, one's initials.

Anonymous said...

It's not of matter of wanting to work for people like that. In general, high paying industries purchase data from 3rd party data aggregation firms. They use it to assess certain employees as possible insider threats.

It gets more difficult for each generation. The last thing anyone wants is to be mislabeled an insider threat due to someone's grudge against your PRIVATE political beliefs, opinions, or activities. When it's painfully obvious there is no threat the only choice left is for some type of provocation.

I have seen it happen to others. What's worse is no one seems to care. The culture in some of these places are so tilted, everyone agrees in silence they are justified in doing whatever they did.

It's the most nascent form of discrimination.
Maybe it will be a big deal 15 years from now.

The Clinton's used a private email server with complete justification. If they had their email serviced by any firm it would be likely an employee, manager, security consultant, C-suite executives, even board members would want to glance at their contents. Do as she does. ... As for Trump, he has more privilege to say whatever without any consequence. It's a bit scary... Obama had 2-3 day news cycle about the color of his suit not being presidential... What have we become...

Écrasez L'infâme said...

@LFC. I disagree. Anonymous means your real name isn’t known; to restrict it to only people who use “anonymous” is non-standard and a waste of a good word. Pseudonymous means you use a name that isn’t your own - very different. George Elliot is pseudonymous but not anonymous while B Traven is currently both. It’s also possible to be A but not P - using the name “anonymous” is one way, not leaving any name at all is another (“an anonymous phone call”), and in my opinion using your (real) initials (as in your case) isn’t using a “name that isn’t your own”, and so you too are A but not P on this board. Not that it matters.

Écrasez L'infâme said...

@Howard. No, I wouldn’t, but the point is that you knowing my real name doesn’t help you in any way. All you need to know is that I always use the same handle, and I never use any other, and that no one else can use that handle. That, combined with the first principle of civilised debate - either I stand by what I say or I apologise - means that we can discuss important issues like adults, without trying to trip each other up. If Prof W ever blocked me, he’d do it through my ip - he wouldn’t even care about my handle. So, given that there’s no advantages to using my real name, then, even if there were no disadvantages - and, as I said, there are - I can’t see why you’d want me to.

Écrasez L'infâme said...

More @Howard. Yes, I mind it creepy. But it’s digital hygiene, and we should all start practising it. We are in for a bumpy few years, I think.

LFC said...

I'll take your word for it that that ("real name not known") is one dictionary definition of anonymous (I'll check it at my leisure), but in the internet context I prefer my "non-standard" (as you put it) usage. Can't go into this further at the moment.

Heraclitus said...

Any thoughts on the following Professor, from Glenn Greenwald regarding a recent Chomsky interview:

"One of the greatest and most accomplished left-wing intellectuals, scholars and activists of the 20th (and 21st) has spent the last week heaping scorn on all aspects of Trump/Russia orthodoxy. Should liberal cable shows & magazines mention this? Does that shed light on anything?"