Kos, darling of the intellectuals

By Michael J. Smith on Monday April 10, 2006 03:32 PM

The sclerotic Old Modernists at the New York Review are really kicking up their heels these days. From the normally graceful pen of Bill McKibben, they ran a review of Sub-sub-subcomandante Kos' book Crashing The Gates (which should, of course, have been titled Hearing The Gates Slam Shut Behind You).

The review is adorned by a very odd cartoon of Kos himself as a whey-faced, snaggle-toothed mini-ogre, riding a creature with donkey's ears and an elephant's trunk. Apparently David Levine thinks politics ought to be about something more than heads or tails (or, for us Lefties, heads they win, tails you lose).

McKibben, however, treats Kos with great respect. Of Kos' sleepytime site, he remarks:

In my view, nothing more interesting has happened in American politics for many years.
... but unfortunately, he does not go on to add, as he should, that this undoubtedly true fact is the saddest possible reflection on the state of American politics.

I haven't read Kos' book, and won't until I see it on a remainder table, but McKibben quotes from it a bit. There's a little lame stab at oratory-porn in an account of a Howard Dean speech to a gathering of Party cultists:

The crowd, a few thousand of the party diehards, was getting a close look at the men seeking the Democratic nod, and not liking what it saw.

And then Howard Dean walked on stage.

"What I want to know is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting the President's unilateral intervention in Iraq?"

That brought loud cheers from the delegates.

"What I want to know is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting tax cuts which have bankrupted this country and given us the largest deficit in the history of the United States?"

Soon the crowd was chanting "Dean, Dean," and that was before he unleashed his signature line: "I want my country back! We want our country back! I'm tired of being divided! I don't want to listen to the fundamentalist preachers anymore! I want America to look like America, where we are all included....We have a dream. We can only reach the dream if we are all together— black and white, gay and straight, man and woman. America! The Democratic Party!"

I must say I like the line "I'm tired of being divided." I'd've thought that a person who was divided wouldn't have much time to get tired of it -- one thinks of drawing and quartering, a fate which, now that I reflect on it, doesn't seem completely inappropriate for a lot of Democrats, Dean very much included. But I digress.

Kos continues, per McKibben:

The crowd, they write, "was on its feet, the convention hall shaking from audience pandemonium, the speech serving as a liberation of sorts." Party activists "weren't alone in the fight. Not anymore. They had a champion and his name was Howard Dean. The call to arms by Dean was ideologically agnostic, purely partisan."
A liberation "of sorts," indeed -- a liberation into renewed servitude; Mckibben continues,
... most of [Dean's]supporters didn't desert the Democratic Party after his defeat. Instead, when the Dean campaign Web site went dark a great many shifted over to Daily Kos and they started to volunteer for John Kerry— not with the same affection they'd felt for Dean, but with much dedication. I spent the week before the general election in Columbus, Ohio, and virtually everyone I talked to who was out knocking on doors for Kerry had begun the year supporting either Dean or the other Internet favorite, General Wesley Clark.

And many of them didn't drop out when Kerry lost the election, either. Instead, they concentrated on Dean's race for chairman of the Democratic Party...

So let me get this straight: all these orgasmic peace-loving Deanites found themselves, as soon as the post-coital glow faded, led right back into the fold, working their ass off for a war president wannabe and a fanatically dedicated war party.

I'm sort of surprised that McKibben takes all this silliness so seriously. I have a feeling that maybe it's the techno-dazzle that's charmed him -- he's probably spent more time on the trail than surfing the Web. Otherwise, he would surely have noticed that Markos Moulitsas Zuniga is just Hubert Humphrey without the necktie.

Comments (8)

J. Alva Scruggs:

I was stunned to see McKibben, an otherwise canny writer, tripping over his own feet in a rush to praise, of all things, a well-executed coopting and an expanded defanging of the demos.

He does harp quite a bit on the software (Scoop, originally written for and used by Kuro5hin, a far more remarkable community). You're most likely right about the techno-dazzle.

J. Alva Scruggs:

About the caricature, I don't know what was on Levine's mind, but Kos is himself a caricature of the triangulating, flexible conviction school that's often derided by donk malcontents as Republican-lite. He may grow to embody the worst features of both parties in time. Perhaps Levine is prescient?

Aside from the fact that Joshua Frank has documented pretty clearly in his book Left Out! and elsewhere that Dean was anything but a peacenik, the bigger question is what the basis is of the following that Kos-the-shill-for-the-Democrats has.

Tim D:

Well in Kos' defense he actually only opposes the Iraq War. He's actually a self-identified hawk. Permit me to quote at length from a Justin Raimondo piece from August:

It's true that the Democratic base is against the war, but how much of this is due to Bush-hating and how much to principled opposition to a conflict that adheres to none of the necessities attached to a just war? The pure partisanship of some war opponents is indicated by this post by one of the founders and "leaders" of DailyKos.com, the "netroots" of the Democratic party machine:

"I'm not anti-war. As I've said before, I'm a military hawk. I supported the Afghanistan War and I supported the Bosnia and Kosovo interventions. I'm not one of these touchy-feely hippy types that thinks war is inherently bad. I laugh at people who think they can 'visualize peace.'

"Unlike most people reading this, I grew up in a country at war. I've seen the effects first-hand. I also served in the Army. To me war isn't a video game or an abstract concept. It's real. Yet sometimes, many times, military force is a force for good. There are evil people in the world, doing evil things. And all the sanctions in the world, all the strongly worded denunciations, will never have the effect of a 1,000 pound bomb.

"I oppose the Iraq War. But I refuse to be labeled 'anti-war.' I'm not. I'm anti this war. Why? Because I'm a war pragmatist. I understand the costs of war, but I also understand the potential benefits."

So Markos Moulitsas Zúniga grew up in a country at war – so what? If he liked it so much, why doesn't he go back there?

Yeah, he served in the Army – the same Army that trained and equipped the death squads that tortured his own people, in an illegal war that was run by some of the same neocons who are now turning Iraq into a pile of bloodstained rubble. Is it really necessary to point this out?

There you have it folks. Kos is a "military hawk".

Well, that's why he worships at Dean's shrine. After all, on the campaign trail, Dean said that if HE were prez, by golly, he'd get the UN's permission before he'd bomb a bunch of brown-skinned civilians into tiny bits.

I have no idea why that qualifies one as anti-war. I also don't know why people find Dean such a stirring speaker. I saw him on the campaign trail and his speech was a phoned-in mass of non-committal platitudes that meant less than nothing. The above example being only the most egregiuos moment I can remember.

What Dean's following has proved to me is that all along, liberals have hungered desperately for their own version of The Great Communicator. As long as his macho-yet-kindly-big-Daddy pitch stirs one's soul, there is no reason to give a shit about anything he's actually done.

js paine:

tim d
nice follow up piece

we need the back up

to show how
out of
"the blog scene "
i am

i thought raimondo
was a famous
mexican juggler

Re: Tim D. (not Tim Du.., by any chance?)

As someone who has seen war in El Salvador close up, I find it beyond belief that a Salvadoran with the slightest shred of decency would call himself a military hawk.

Blood drenched patriotic posturing. Beyond disgusting.

Outstanding story there. What happened after?
Good luck!

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