August 10th, 2008


Snark Schmark

Matt Taibbi follows the money in a Rolling Stone article about big money and the Presidential campaign.

After I read this in the Rolling Stone, I gave it to my son who is an Obama campaign staffer in Iowa. His first reaction was "there's a factual error in the second paragraph: Tom Delay was the House Majority Leader not the Speaker." That's beside the point of the article, but good fact checking is the hallmark of publications that mean to be taken seriously.

I found this article disturbing, but I don't know as how it's really news. Barack Obama is a politician, and was always a politician. Which is worse -- that he sells himself as something different, or that so many people buy it? I don't think we're going to get anywhere as a democracy until voters realize that they're making choices amongst people who compromise for a living. Thinking that someone running for president is a paradigm of any particular virtue is how we got stuck with George Bush.

That being said, I still think Obama's the best choice for President, but I have no illusions about who actually runs the country. I think every form of human society has the same structure, and though we should be proud that the rule of law is as strongly embedded in the society here in the US, there always has, and probably always will be a rich, powerful elite running things. The differences between systems are in how naked the exercise of power is, and how brutally the hierarchy is enforced.

I do believe Obama genuinely wants to change things for the better, but to have any effect, he has to be subtle and pragmatic in how he tries to implement that change. Those are the sort of good intentions of which the road to hell is paved, but hey, maybe we'll get lucky this time. Having illusions about what's possible in the real world just sets you up for disappointment.

The alternative -- the absolutist, idealist, bull in the china shop approach -- is Ralph Nader, who himmself bears no small responsibility for the clusterfuck* we're currently enduring. I have all sorts of respect for the work he's done in the past, but the idea of putting him, or anyone like him, in charge of anything other than a personal checking account is dangerous and absurd. Putting the insurgents in charge and what you end up is Cuba.

I wish Matt Taibbi would turn his not inconsiderable talents to write pieces that would encourage and motivate readers, and provide some idea of how things might be made better. That would go a long way to convince me that the only tricks in his bag are cynicism and snark. Not so easy to do, eh? Not his job? Fair enough, but he shouldn't pretend he's anything other than a sniper.

I've kinda wanted to sock Matt Taibbi one in the kisser ever since he wrote that there is 'fuck all to do in Iowa' in an article about the campaign for the Iowa Caucus. The fact is that bored is as bored does, and there's plenty to do here. Maybe not the same things or as many things to do as in e.g. New York City, but maybe it's time Taibbi wipes the smirk off his face and investigate whether it's true, as his writing conveys, that everyone besides him is a mark or a loser.

*the Firefox spelling dictionary doesn't think 'clusterfuck' is a word and suggests 'knuckleduster' instead. And it still doesn't have 'Barack' or 'Obama' in its dictionary. And it's not smart enough to leave capitalized words alone. Oh well.