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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/21/18

The Pieties of the Liberal Class

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Jason Hirthler
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Reprinted from www.counterpunch.org

road narrows : mural,  san francisco (2012)
road narrows : mural, san francisco (2012)
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From the west side of the island, a pedestrian can see, high in the misty gray sky of Manhattan, the carmine lettering of The New Yorker hotel. The art-deco staple of the Jazz Age has graced the skyline of the city since 1930. It has hosted movie stars and starlets, ballplayers and boxers, heroic firefighters and geniuses of science. Barack Obama's parents were married there. It is a beacon of bourgeois New York life. City dwellers and tourists see it as a kind of marker of pedigree, its neon serifs floating like a semaphore of sophistication above the bustling metropolis below. Fittingly, it is where elitist insider and liberal icon Hillary Clinton conceded the 2016 election to Donald Trump. Pale and proud, she positioned herself as a champion of women, her flour-haired e'minence grise clapping in the background.

From that moment until today, the Democratic Party and its acolytes have lived in deep denial. It is still cobbling together its tapestry of thinly stitched storylines supposedly outing Russia for its nefarious plot to "attack our democracy". In so doing, the tribe refuses to engage in self-reflection, never acknowledging the accommodation of capital that has triggered its demise. It is still launching flaming rhetorical volleys at the president with rare fury, convinced he has compromised America behind the back of the freedom-loving naifs that so innocently trusted our great institutions. It lifts him up as the embodiment of evil against which they nobly rage. It decries his policy actions even as it hides their own like deeds. The piety of the Party is on full display.

Too Righteous for Reality

Sharing the same name and a comparable role, the city's elitist manual of manners and opinion, The New Yorker, recently published a breathless new report on election media that attributes Russian trolls with the "decisive" content in the world-historical fiasco of Donald Trump's election. The billion dollars flung into the mediasphere by the actual candidates is shoved aside, fodder for this year's midterm campaign strategists but of little consequence in 2016. The report is a feverish campaign to keep the fragile egotism of Democratic elites on life-support, to rejuvenate a party that cannot bear to face the fact that its own sellout to corporate donors has wrecked the party. This is but one of dozens of reports fastidiously produced by incalculable hordes of liberal resisters scurrying along the horizon of the web like wildebeest in flight. Subverting elections, the magazine wisely intones, "doesn't require tampering with voting machines."

Here the bar is lowered. From a multi-layered high-tech hacking job to a simple "influence campaign," the criterion for blaming Russia continues to slide toward absurdity. "Russian masterminds" are parenthetically mentioned but never named. At least until our lantern-jawed paladin, Robert

Mueller, swaggers into the press room to gravely announce the indictment of a sundry list of Russians currently residing in distant Russian climes and never likely to see the inside of an American court. Yet they shall be indicted in absentia. These faceless trolls are said to have waged "information warfare against the United States of America" (the name of our nation doubtless spelled out in full to underscore the gravity of the event). U.S. intelligence weighs in with "high confidence" on hacking allegations. No evidence is released; national security requires relentless secrecy. We would have to take their word for it, though they never examined the servers in question, though later evidence revealed it was a leak, not a hack. Yet this grave declaration issued from behind the beveled door of the National Director of Intelligence is sufficient for hyperventilating liberals to embrace.

Living in Gore Vidal's "United States of Amnesia," Democratic stalwarts have naturally forgotten the litany of lies the intelligence community has shamelessly produced at the behest of their political betters. Forget the Lusitania. Forget the missile gap. Forget the Gulf of Tonkin. Laugh off the incubator babies. Skip those lingering 9/11 questions. Shelve the torture memos. Ditch the WMD threats and trash the yellow cake expose, Libyan Viagra sprees, and Syrian chemical attacks. Surely this time we can trust our government. "Russian saboteurs" amplified Trump's vile and "divisive" rhetoric, an implicit kind of collusion that perhaps did not require an actual meeting of minds, maybe just a telepathic understanding. Again the evidentiary standards slip. The report, like most of its kind, concludes barking about "likelihood" and probabilities, but concedes that it is "hard to know" if "Russian propaganda and dirty tricks" put The Donald into the Oval Office.

Policy Warriors Man the Barricades

On a more quotidian level, it is half-amusing, half-nauseating to witness the social media myopia of former government employees as they condemn in the Trump administration what they themselves enabled in their own era.

On federal wages, David Axelrod fulminates that the president's denial of a federal wage hike because a trillion-dollar tax break created new deficits was "beyond outrageous." The clever account, "Kamala Harris is a cop" replied, "It's almost as shitty as bailing out the banks while 10 million people lost their homes." Even Eric Holder, Obama's Brooks Brothers AG, weighed in with some sanctimonious cant about Trump and his "fat cat friends". (By the way, by my count, Holder made four grammatical mistakes in that single tweet.) Sure, Trump's tax cuts are outrage-worthy public bribes to big capital. But Axelrod either forgets, or neatly hides beneath the blanket of his rectitude, that Obama froze federal workers pay using deficit fears to justify it, and made one-percent tax cuts permanent. But only Trump generates the wild fury of the liberal class at such injustices. Another instance of that most pernicious kind of fidelity: blind loyalty.

On the Middle East, Samantha Power tweets with ecclesiastical fervor about the horror of Trump's fealty to his Saudi pals at the expense of millions of Yemenis. She forgets--or is the word "compartmentalizes"?--that her boss launched America's support for the KSA's criminal war. Sold them guns to kill with, even after the war began. In other words, it's bipartisan policy. But for Sam, it's all about the optics. In public relations, perception becomes the highest value, just as in capitalist societies, profit is the singular ethic. How curious it would be to unfurl the Ariadne's Thread that leads to Power's justification for such obtuse piety. One can imagine dear Sam on a weekday morning in her tony brownstone, tapping out her tweets while her Darjeeling steeps quietly on the mahogany desk.

On war, numerous liberal outlets attacked Trump for not having a strategy on Syria when he bombed an air base last year, viewing his one-off strike related to alleged chemical weapons use with contempt. One must have a "strategy", the pundits sniffed. Yet Barack Obama began the Syrian war and provided such baffling backdoor guidance that the Pentagon and CIA were actually fighting at cross-purposes, sometimes slaughtering ISIS terrorists and sometimes arming and providing air cover for their comrades. "Well," says the Democratic foot soldier, "war is a complicated thing. Truth is the first casualty. You've seen the Burns' documentary? Like he said, bad things were done by good men. The fog of war is real."

On immigration, liberals hyperventilate over Trump's derisive treatment of immigrants. But where were they when their heroic changemaker Barack Obama did much the same? They were silent. Asleep at the switch. Doting giddily over their slim-suited feminist with his supple vocabulary and luminous smile. If there was ever an empirical instance of sheeple, this was it. This is that very loyalty that Democrats angrily demand from independents. "Come on, now!" barks the fed-up liberal, as he slams his neatly folded Timesto the table, "Come back to the real world. Only two parties can win. You want Republicans running this country? You're being insanely idealistic. Change is slow and incremental. Progress is measured in centuries, not great leaps. Don't make the perfect the enemy of the good!" And on other occasions, as the dinner party pinot loosens the tongue, "You know if you vote third party again, you're culpable if Trump wins. It's on you! You and your utopian socialist peers."

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Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry and author of The Sins of Empire and Imperial Fictions, essay collections from between 2012-2017. He lives in New York City

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