The so-called left in America demands absolute fealty
“This leads to our third trend, in some ways our hardest pill to swallow, which Paul Street dubs the Trumpenleft. Street sees so clearly the danger of fake populist people like Glenn Greenwald, Saagar Engeti,, Matt Taibi, Dave Chapelle and Joe Rogan who peddle hate as a version of “rebellious” politics that are actually philistine. These people will mobilize the masses for the return of Trump. They seek to confuse the American people. What is actually going on in their minds is that Trump represents a form of freedom for being against “cancel culture” (which is code for intersectional justice and has become a not so subtle dog whistle against minorities, women, LGBTQ+ and the poor).”
That is a slanderous lie. Paul Street has gone off the deep end with his anti-fascist screeds. I would be extremely careful citing him. I’ve seen some decent interviews with him, but his writing is long and tediously preachy and repetitive, in a way that that of Chris Hedges is not. That he calls anyone who dares to disagree with any one of the myriad points on his agenda part of the “Trumpenleft” is, and I’m being generous, unfortunate.
For example, he is a huge supporter of Russiagate, to my utter disappointment. He never wavered despite all of the evidence for it disappearing in a puff of smoke. I wonder whether the most recent revelations will cause him to waver—but I’m sure he’ll think of an explanation. Once you’re deep enough in the rabbit hole, you’re pretty good at justification.
So if you weren’t the on the Russiagate bandwagon, then you were for Trump. This “for us or against us” horseshit should be beneath well-educated leftists like Street and Pemberton, but even the best of us end up drawing a line in the sand somewhere and calling it a day. It’s just less work that way and being open-minded and fair—is exhausting. I mean, who has time to read everything? It’s just easier to take other people’s word for what people have written. You can save hours that way. And why would anyone want to mischaracterize what someone else said to make them look bad? That hardly ever happens. Ditto for people reading an essay and not understanding it—or misinterpreting it because they have no sense of irony.
Because of what he wrote above, I’ve lost a bit of respect for Pemberton as a writer now, as well—although he has a long way to fall, in my opinion; this is one data point on a record I consider to be otherwise quite good.
I do think that Paul Street has his heart in the right place, but he tends to lump everyone who doesn’t agree with his extreme formulation into a single group of enemies. He is not unique in this tendency. This is a tendency shared by many who claim to be on the left. And look at what Pemberton does, above: he does the same thing! To accuse Engeti (whom I’ve watched on The Hill, but not much since), Greenwald, Taibbi, Chappelle, or Rogan of being Trump supporters is madness. It’s completely ignoring what they’re actually saying and writing.
Matt Taibbi wrote a book recently called “Insane Clown President”. Dave Chappelle absolutely does not support Trump. Neither does Glenn Greenwald, for God’s sake. When you find yourself writing stuff like this, you should really ask yourself whether you’re sure it’s correct. These are strong allegations. Has Street or Pemberton actually read or watched anything these people have done? Or are they just cherry-picking deliberately misleading clips and tweet-quotes?
Anyone who writes or speaks in an ironic/sarcastic style these days—as both Taibbi and Greenwald are wont to do—is liable to have their statements cherry-picked and stripped of ironic intent. Chappelle, as a comedian, doesn’t even get a pass that he might be just saying things for laughs. A comedian is being paid $26M for a single show—and that show is incredibly popular and a net win for the company that paid him that much money—and people will still somehow claim that he’s “not funny”. When you find yourself on that side of the argument, you really should come up for air and check your assumptions.
For example, I only skimmed Glenn Greenwald and Iowa’s latest WTF Moments by Paul Street (CounterPunch) because I wanted to see what his take on Greenwald’s deeply sarcastic essay was, but then I stopped reading when I noticed that he was reading Greenwald’s biting sarcasm literally. Here’s Street,
“But the first part of Greenwald’s statement is idiotic, as are the portions of his essay in which he defends AOC’s gown as a brilliant statement of “revolutionary socialism.””
This is the problem when someone dips their toe into a writer’s oeuvre and tries to summarize the sum-total of it based on that. That’s why I’m so careful to be generous to Street—because I think his voice is important overall, but I wish he’d be more careful with his, at times (and in my opinion), lunatic stridency. He applies a purity test to make enemies where he could have allies instead.
A week later, he published Glenn Greenwald is Not Your Misunderstood Left Comrade by Paul Street (CounterPunch), noting that he’d “received numerous emails defending Glenn Greenwald against a recent CounterPunch essay”.
Instead of reading those mails that most likely told him that he’d misread the essay because he can’t take a joke, he dismissed the incident by writing “[d]on’t disparage Glenn Greenwald in left media unless you are ready for an inbox eruption.”, as if any critique of his articles from “those people” are a priori invalid because, if you don’t hate Greenwald, then you have nothing of value to offer Paul Street.
He then wrote a long screed doubling down on his initial point while pretzeling around to make it look like he hadn’t completely misinterpreted Greenwald’s essay in the first place. The point he was trying to make is: Greenwald bad. Whether the evidence is manufactured or real doesn’t really matter when the conclusion is known in advance.↩