Over the course of last week, while I was simultaneously recovering from having a Bubble Yum-sized chunk of flesh cut out of my left ass cheek in a surgical clinic down the street from David Bowie’s old apartment in Berlin and mentally and physically preparing to have a six-foot long camera-equipped probe shoved up my rectum and into my large intestine by an all-female team of cheerful German gastroenterologists (neither of which unpleasant procedures had anything etiological to do with the other), a limited exchange of tactical nuclear opinion pieces took place among the American Left.
I discovered this early Friday morning, having staggered back home from the aforementioned probing, and having spent the entire preceding night ingesting some type of industrial-strength laxative and eight liters of water on an empty stomach in order to prompt my digestive system to violently evacuate my large intestine (which, by that time, had already been thoroughly evacuated by an initial round of laxative guzzling), when I pulled up CounterPunch and found this piece by Jeffrey St. Clair on the brouhaha in question.
It started with this piece by Yoav Litvin accusing the self-proclaimed “rogue journalist” Caitlin Johnstone of “promoting racists” and “calling for cooperation with fascists,” which, whatever your opinion of Johnstone’s writing, and giving Litvin the benefit of the doubt, is a sloppy misreading of her work at best. Johnstone, who is essentially a provocateur, has built a considerable Internet following by publishing humorous, sensationalist pieces attacking mainstream media propaganda, neoliberals, neoconservatives, and generally being “an angry prophet denouncing the hypocrisies of our age,” which, good for her, as far as that goes. I often find her rants pretty funny, but then I don’t regard them as any kind of serious political philosophy or anything.
As St. Clair noted in his piece, Johnstone tends to frame her polemics in a “We’re All Going to Die in a Nuclear Holocaust Unless We Unite Against the Deep State Now!” narrative, which generally makes for solid entertainment (it’s the plotline of Game of Thrones, for example), and is good for amassing an Internet following, but is not that useful when it comes to actually understanding what the American Left, such as it is, is up against. Personally, I enjoyed her earlier pieces attacking mainstream media propaganda more than the Call-to-Battle-Against-the-Deep-State pieces she’s been publishing recently … but if you’re going to be “an angry prophet denouncing the hypocrisies of our age,” you need to get folks off their sofas and shouting out of their windows somehow, and she seems to be doing pretty well at that.
In any event, Litvin’s piece, and this one by Joshua Frank that followed (both of which pieces, incidentally, were primarily criticizing David Cobb and the Greens for promoting Johnstone’s work), and this response from Johnstone and Cobb, set off the predictable Twitter storm, and exchange of third-party Medium posts, and presumably more of the same on Facebook, and probably other virtual quarters of LeftistWorld that I’m unaware of. By Monday morning (CET), Johnstone fans and members of the Progressive Army (and before you google it, yes, this is their actual name) were furiously debating the meaning of words like “collaborate,” “alignment,” and “white supremacy,” and whether Mike Cernovich is “alt-right” or “alt-light,” or some other brand of fascist idiot. In case you’re unfamiliar with Cernovich, he’s a pathetic, slimy Internet huckster in the mold of the repulsive character Tom Cruise played in the film “Magnolia,” except without a shred of charisma. It was Johnstone naming Cernovich as an example of someone on the so-called “Right” she could work with to overthrow the Deep State in time to save the entire world from imminent nuclear holocaust that started all this nonsense in the first place. (If you have a few minutes of your life to waste, have a look at this YouTube video, after which I think you’ll decide you’d probably rather collaborate with the polyp I just had removed from my colon than Cernovich, or anyone of his ilk.)
Why, you’re probably asking at this point, should you give a damn about some kind of internecine squabble among a marginal group of journalists most folks have never heard of and who have very little influence on anything? Well, mostly because the underlying issue (i.e., the one that Johnstone was trying to raise, which has now, of course, been completely eclipsed by the question of exactly what kind of asshole everyone who disagrees with someone who favorited someone’s retweet is) is actually an issue that needs to be discussed, which I fully intend to do … eventually.
First, I want to return to where I started, to that all-night industrial laxative ritual, and that team of cheerful gastroenterologists, and Dr. Drechsler, the surgeon who chopped a cyst out of my ass the week before. See, here in Germany, even an impoverished immigrant writer like myself can, in the space of one week (which time-line I don’t recommend, by the way), visit a GP several times, undergo surgery, and get a colonoscopy without wiping out his paltry savings to satisfy an Obamacare deductible or loading up his credit card with debt. I’m talking about universal healthcare, of course … and I’m not even talking single-payer. In Germany, the government funds approximately seventy-seven percent of the healthcare system. Most folks have state-subsidized insurance. Premiums and doctors fees are regulated. Prescriptions are cheap. You get the picture. The point is, everyone can access healthcare, as much as they need, without going bankrupt. See, providing affordable healthcare to everyone really isn’t that hard to accomplish. It could be easily achieved in the USA, given enough concerted pressure from people on, you guessed it, both the Left and Right, if they could hold off demonizing each other for two seconds.
Imagine a national political movement dedicated to bringing that about … a movement comprising folks from every corner of the political spectrum, narrowly focused on that one objective. This movement would include a number of people you completely disagree with on a range of issues. Some of these people would certainly be racists. Others of them might be anti-semites, or believe that gender is something you’re born with, or that Jesus of Nazareth was the son of God. Could you even consider working with them anyway, in order to force the government (and the corporations that currently control it) to provide affordable healthcare to its citizens like every other developed country?
Now, I want to be as clear as possible about this (but I’m not going to put a period after every word, because I think that’s silly). I’m not talking about blowing Mike Cernovich or working with any idiots wearing swastika tattoos on their foreheads or anything. I’m talking about cooperating with other members of the working class (who you probably wouldn’t want to have a smoothie with) on a single issue that would definitely necessitate confrontation with the corporatist plutocracy, but that would also require you to temporarily overlook certain intersectional issues (like a lot of people have to do at Thanksgiving), that is, assuming the racists would also keep their racism to themselves for a while.
Who knows, maybe taking on the corporate power structure together to achieve one important common goal might lead to things we can’t even imagine, like, well, some weird sort of solidarity that isn’t based solely on race or gender, and that allows some leeway for humans to be the horrible, beautiful, contradictory, screwed-up works-in-progress that we are. If memory serves, there used to be a term for this type of solidarity, “class consciousness,” I think, or something vulgar like that.
Or, I don’t know, maybe I’m out of my mind. I did have a rather stressful week, and I’m taking a number of medications. Maybe this Intersectionality thing, and this calling-folks-fascists-on-Twitter thing, is working. We probably just need to give it more time, and hope the Deep State doesn’t nuke us all to death before we attain whatever state of emotional and ideological perfection the Intersectionalists deem sufficient.
Which reminds me, I should probably go check my timeline before this essay goes to press to make sure I haven’t accidentally liked or retweeted anything inappropriate, or that could possibly be misinterpreted by anyone. Given my current convalescent condition, I doubt I could withstand the verbal thrashing that such transgression would certainly deserve … on the other hand, it should boost my Twitter following, which is what it’s really all about, after all.