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Why are Liberals Building the Right?

After she read the “Sunday Styles” section on the hater-for-hire, Ann Coulter, while I pored over the “Metropolitan” section’s top-of-the fold fluffery on bigot Pam Geller, my girlfriend said, “It’s like Obamamania in reverse.” The same breathless yet often uninsightful coverage that characterized the liberal wing of the media in the months leading up to the 2008 election is now being showered on the Tea Party and other flotsam of the right.

Yesterday’s “Book Review” section does a round-up of no fewer than three current oeuvres on the Tea Party phenom and last week’s NYT Magazine cover story revealed that the ringleader of this gaggle, Glenn Beck, is creating a far right following through a 12-step alcoholism recovery regimen.

MSNBC and CNN—though I’m not sure if even CNN knows where it’s positioned on the political spectrum these days—provided days’ worth of free publicity to the Beck-Palin highjacking of Martin Luther King’s March on Washington a few weeks back and have interviewed practically everyone who’s so much as tweeted Sarah Palin.

At least the frenzy around Obama was connected to the real mass anger among workers, poor people and social progressives of every background who were done with the racist, warmongering stupidity of the previous eight years. It also reflected the fact that even Corporate America was firing the neoliberals of the right who had crashed the economy, which is why Wall Street poured hundreds of millions into Obama’s campaign.

It’s not that there isn’t a real growth of the right today worth exploring and exposing, but the obsessive and exclusive focus on the political doings of the right both falsely portrays this country as goose-stepping away from progressive ideals and ignores a countervailing phenomenon.

Today, there is simultaneously a growth of the right and greater appeal of socialist and other progressive politics among a broader swath of the population than in decades. In other words, there is a political polarization on the ground, but the mass media, including its liberal wing, only focus on one end of it—the right.

For example, a multiracial gathering of 15,000 people showed up in Detroit this summer for the US Social Forum (USSF). Thousands of students, workers and unemployed people attended days of workshops, rallies and a mass book fair to better understand the world and how to change it. No network or newspaper gave it the kind of attention one would assume a mass gathering of radicals might warrant.

The USSF was sandwiched in between the two largest weekend socialist gatherings in years in this country, Socialism 2010, that drew nearly 1,700 people to dozens of workshops and meetings on everything from the ABCs of Marxism to Breaking the Siege of Gaza. The fact that a Tea Party conference of 600 received coverage from every network and cable news station says a great deal about the indifference toward the the politics of many Black, Brown and working-class white people in this country.

The One Nation rally called by the NAACP and the labor movement on October 2 drew more than 100,000 people and probably more given the bumper-to-bumper bus traffic coming in from NYC that prevented most attendees, including myself, from gathering all at once. Yet, with few exceptions, the news outlets were busy dashing off to cover the latest ravings of the right.

Naturally, a lot of this just reminds us that all major media are owned by big corporations that have a stake in downplaying the happenings of ordinary people while focusing on the the big-money politics of the right. But what’s so insidious here is that we are faced with a horrendous crisis of life-altering proportions and many of the best spokespeople of the liberal wing talk as if most of us don’t exist or matter when we actually organize and mobilize, thus helping to create the dystopia that they so fear.

In the face of the Democrats’ inability to resolve any of the crises facing most Americans, the liberal media’s fixation on them as they only potential competitor to the right leaves liberals stranded in a an echo chamber.

In every period of economic dislocation there are opportunities not only for a right to grow, but a genuine left—one that is independent of the Democratic Party and its inability to break from the priorities of capital.

It’s worth noting that while practically every news station in the world went on about the opposition to the “Ground Zero” mosque and the September 11 rally that Pam Geller built with Dutch fascist Geert Wilders, thousands of regular people attended a counterprotest to that festival of hate just blocks away. In fact a greater number than the right turned out in solidarity with Muslims and Arabs.

Many progressives are anxiety-ridden these days, and rightfully so. But perhaps it’s worth reminding ourselves that our reality is being misinterpreted, once again, by the corporate media. There is a growing right, but they are not the only ones who can grow.

SHERRY WOLF is the author of Sexuality and Socialism. She blogs at Sherry Talks Back.

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