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THE STUPID RULES! That was then and this is now, Digby seems to be saying: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, MAY 10, 2006

THE STUPID RULES: That was then and this is now, Digby seems to say in this post. Quite correctly, The Digster feels the netroots’ growing power, and sees that it could contribute to good. (Indeed, it already has.) But uh-oh! He downplays possible harm. “It ain’t 1968,” he writes. It’s time to let silly fears go:
DIGBY (5/9/06): Liberals of a certain age are just terrified of liberal passion because they believe that 60's leftists destroyed the Democratic party. (I would argue that it was the overreaction—the pale, flaccid, politics of the Richard Cohen school that killed us.) In any case, they always failed to notice the lurking radical rightwing beast that was just as active during that radical period building a movement that was far more damaging to Democrats than anything the SDS ever dreamed up. (But then, they are nothing if not pathologically self-absorbed.)
What a fool. The all-knowing doctor is instantly IN, offering his brilliant views on pathology. And, as if so often the case in these regions, the dreary logician is quite clearly OUT. It can’t be that two things harmed Dems in the past; no, it can only be one or the other. And if you address the problem your own side can fix, that makes you “pathologically self-absorbed.”

Sorry, but no—you can’t get stupider. And actually, no—it never helps when we libs and progressives get dumb. But increasingly, stupid rules the activist web—as we saw again this week, when some of our brightest players ranted and raved because Bush told a joke. We’ve been harmed in the past when we got dumb like that—and we’re likely to be harmed again.

An angry doctor was instantly IN. But libs and progressives tend to lose when we let ourselves get stupid. For ourselves, we keep seeing stupid all over the web—as when this great doctor proclaimed.

HOW WE GOT HERE: In the same post, Digby says this, concerning Richard Cohen:

DIGBY (5/9/06): People like Cohen's only feedback for thirty years has been a letter or two from cranky old ladies in Bethesda and a good natured spirited debate about motherhood over a bottle of fine 1998 Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir at George Tenet’s house. He is out of touch. And that is the problem.
For the record, that “debate about motherhood” actually took place at Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn’s house. (We checked, in Newsweek.) But Digby is wrong about something else here—something considerably more serious. Was Cohen’s feedback restricted to cranky old ladies until the mighty Digby (et al.) got in gear? Sorry. Here at THE HOWLER, we’ve been battering Cohen for years—back when he was trashing Gore in 1999, for example, back when it might have kept Bush from the White House. But that was lonely duty back then. Our current geniuses were all sleeping sweetly, psychiatric texts collapsed by their side.

In a recent post, Digby explained his own quiet slumber in the time when we were trashing Cohen’s columns on Gore. (Here’s the original post, from this January; Digby excerpted from it just last week.) At first, we thought that this post must be tongue-in-cheek, so odd are the judgments it describes. But for the record, why did Digby leave the criticism of Cohen to those old ladies—and us? Try to believe that he thought this way, back when our history was being changed and power was being swiped from us:

DIGBY (1/4/06): When the media treated Al Gore like a circus clown and overlooked the fact that George W. Bush was a gibbering idiot (and admitted openly that they did it for fun) I held in my intemperate remarks because I thought it would harm the party in the long run if we attacked the press as the Republicans do.
What? In the rest of this post, Digby offers many more such confessions about his past silence regarding the press. We’ll only say this: The judgment expressed here strikes us as so strange that it took us years to realize that Kevin Drum—who we admire as a policy analyst—may still think something like this. But why did Digby keep quiet back then—when Gore was being treated like a circus clown? Omigod! Because he thought it might hurt our interests if he told them to stop! In fairness, we all make bad judgments at various points in our lives, but, in our view, this one is an absolute doozy. And our only point here would be this: If we had been this crazily wrong in our own recent judgments, we’d be slow to insist that our own current judgments just had to be perfectly right. We might even put our shrink textbooks away. We might acknowledge that we had been cosmically wrong—and that those we were shrinking had been right.

But historically, that is rarely the way of the excited hyper-liberal. They hurt progressive interests in the late 1960s—and some did so again in the year 2000, when they ran after Nader. (Bush and Gore? Just the same! What’s the difference?) Today, they invent mocking nicknames for major Dem solons, convinced once again of their own perfect judgments. And that’s why Richard Cohen was right in some of the things he said in this column. Mainstream Dems have much to fear from some of the geniuses now on the web—the geniuses who slept so sweetly back then, when the press corps, treating Gore like a clown, sent George Bush straight to the White House.

FOR THE RECORD: How does Digby know that the media “admitted openly that they did it [trashed Gore] for fun?” Because we went to the trouble of transcribing Margaret Carlson in October 2000, back when she explained this to Imus. Back when Digby—today so supreme—knew that our deep self-absorption was bound to take down liberal interests.

See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/16/03. Our original post on this topic was at the now-defunct SpeakOut.com, on October 12, 2000.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: For Cohen’s greatest blunder from Campaign 2000, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/7/00. Yes, we spoke up—the very next day. But you know The Doctor! He was sure that, if liberals complained, it could only hurt liberal interests. No wonder it was so god-damned quiet back in those hoary old days!