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Among the Kosniks (conclusion)

By Michael J. Smith on Monday February 20, 2006 10:53 PM

Concludes a series. Previous installments

VII. Kosniks fear enemies in their midst

Most Internet mailing lists, newsgroups, chat rooms and so on get a certain number of insincere participants -- people who don't share the virtual community's values and are there just to make trouble. Most groups accept these "trolls" with a weary resignation -- the way picnickers think about ants. Experienced participants ignore them.

Not the Kosniks. The Kosniks are hypervigilant about intruders, wreckers, saboteurs, spies, provocateurs -- it's like the old days, back in some really paranoid ultra-Left cell worried about the FBI. Except this is the Democratic Party, for heaven's sake. Not exactly a subversive organization (not even an opposition, in fact; but that's another essay).

The Kosniks are really good at sussing trolls out -- as efficient and obsessive as Inspector Javert. If somebody makes 'em suspicious, they'll check the guy's IP address, his email address, his posting and comment history. They'll scrutinize his choice of words. (I wanted to quote here some of the very astute comments that unmasked one recent troll, within seconds of its appearance, but I find it has been removed without a trace from the site, like Bukharin from a Soviet Encyclopedia photograph.)

It's impressive, in one way, and sad in another. Impressive because it shows some very valuable talents -- a quick and accurate ear for the false note, a considerable technical sophistication, an eagle-eyed attentiveness. Some of these Kosniks would have made good textual critics.

The reason it's sad is that it's so pointless. They're manning the walls of a fort that already fell to the enemy. They're like one of those fabled Japanese soldiers on a South Pacific island, thirty years after 1945. He's lurking in a carefully camouflaged foxhole, eyeing jet airliners through ancient binoculars, wishing one of them would fly low enough for him to take a shot at it. He's set up booby-traps and punji-stick pits on the beach. They won't take him without a fight.

But of course no one wants to take him. He's defending an illusion. He's living in a carefully preserved dream about a war that was over a long time ago -- and his side lost.

This is why the trolls have to be exorcised so relentlessly. The Kosniks fight ferociously among themselves, but on a deeper level, they are collaborators in maintaining a necessary illusion. My Japanese soldier analogy wasn't quite right. The Japanese soldier is alone, but he is still free, and could put up some kind of fight if anybody ever noticed him. The Kosniks, by contrast, have lots of company, but they've already been rounded up and put in Stalag 13 – or rather, they've put themselves there. They tell each other they're still fighting the war, but they're just going through the motions, drilling ragged, weaponless troops in the prison yard, while their captors look on, laughing, from the guard towers.

Comments (8)

J. Alva Scruggs:

I didn't pity them until this one. It's easy to be angry at people who go on about shedding the "baggage of the left", and actually do that no matter how often that costs them what they claim to hold dear. But the fuddled desperation does evoke some sympathy, especially when the same troll hunting skills could so easily make them formidable against the people exploiting them.


Perhaps the most ironic thing about the Kosniks (or maybe the saddest?) is that they believe that the Democratic Party actually IS a subversive organization. That is, by calling their Senators, voting for John Kerry, and writing in their diary about how much Republicans stink, they're actually making if not radical, but at least progressive change.

But they're hardly alone in that. I remember seeing music magazine articles calling certain groups and people "musical revolutionaries" for...get this...supporting John Kerry.

Is this because the Republicans are so dominant, or because "progressive Democrats" are just that deluded?

Summing up, then - the Kosniks are 'The Democrat Cult About Nothing.' How very Seinfeldian!


[snort.] They're still mad at Nader, too. Some genius was whining (oh, sorry-- "Jeering") over there about "The Great Spoiler" yesterday.

Dear Democrat,
Please put on your reading glasses and re-examine the infinitive "to spoil." One of the definitions you always conveniently overlook is that of "spoiling" a child or political party through mindless self-indulgence. When a parent does not establish limits on his/her child's behavior, the child spends a lot of time pushing to see what the parent will allow-- often with destructive results.

"Spoiling" = Overindulgence. Judging from the condition of the Democratic Party and your utter inability to control its actions or discipline it, I think it high time that you examined using the label "Spoiler" for yourself. Perhaps you should consider disowning the fucker and leaving it to fend for itself. Haven't you made excuses long enough ? I'm afraid that continually whaling on Nader just isn't that impressive to anyone but you and a few other hardcore party clowns.


P.S.-- Don't forget to "Cheer" Ross Perot for "spoiling" Bush's chances against Clinton in 1992. Fair is fair, Demo-drone. Selective memory is only for idiots and NYT "journalists."

So here's my question, as much as I agree with everything you've written so far:

How would you respond to the rejoinder: "At least we're doing something"? Really, this is one of those central questions that I think inhibits a lot of people from rejecting the Democrats.

I've personally heard that a lot from their and their ideological analogues elsewhere. In fact, it's a battle I've often had with members of my own family because they are also diehard Democrats after the civil rights movement of the 60s while I abandoned the Democrats due to the Gore/Lieberman campaign and voted for Nader instead.


DoubleH -- My flippant response would be, So do something else. No point in doing "something" if it's something stupid.

A more thoughtful response would require constructive suggestions. Being asked for constructive suggestions always irritates me. I mutter, sotto voce, Do I have to do all these people's thinking for them? (I don't mean you, DH, but these "diehard" Democrats who think they're doing "something.")

Seriously, though, I don't have a master plan, a roadmap to the Great Good Place. I do believe in people's creativity and inventiveness, though -- once they stop barking up the wrong tree lots of ideas about other "somethings" to do will come to the fore, and some of those will bear fruit. I guess I need to work some of these thoughts out at greater length.


MJS wrote:

"DoubleH -- My flippant response would be, So do something else. No point in doing 'something' if it's something stupid."

Yeah. Either that or ask them why movement in an entirely wrong direction is better than no movement at all ?

Here and there in liberal blog-land, there are mutterings from the "special interests" (ie-- anyone Kos wants to shut up) that sitting out the '06 farce is the answer. If those folks are serious (the DP is banking on them not being so, of course), they may well have answered my question already.

Speaking of doing nothing, I just got back from skimming an Alternet article about big-money investors in Prog causes. The article was truly remarkable for appearing to go on ad nauseum about conventional wisdom that every Prog already knows while once again studiously avoiding any mention of non-voters. It's as if it went without saying that the only thing in question is how to shave off just enough swing voters from the Republicans to get your guys back in power. Yet this strategy didn't help the folks who backed Clinton in hopes of bringing on some great liberal renaissance, though of course it did plenty to help Clinton himself.

Like DH, I am a bolter. A one-time DP loyalist from a strong liberal background. I'd like to think that anyone could make the change if they just heard the right words at the right moment. That may be a foolish hope, however. DH, we may not be in the vanguard. We may just be the exception that proves the rule.

J. Alva Scruggs:

I have some suggestions, DoubleHelix. The return on energy expended might make them unreasonable, depending on where you live and how much time you're obliged to spend keeping body and soul together. Local exchange trading systems and community currencies appeal to me most. They reach across some of the imposed divides between right and left oriented people. No one, well almost, likes to be under the business end of the rent-collecting stick.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on Monday February 20, 2006 10:53 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Beware the Ay-rabs.

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