OK

Every once in awhile one can read diaries here at DailyKos.com claiming some kind of equivalence between "Obama rox" and "Obama sux" positions.  This serves as a sort of rhetorical device: if the two positions can be declared equivalent, then the writer or speaker can say "cut it out, both of you," as if she or he were a teacher breaking up a fight on the athletic field.  So, for instance, this diary, with its teacherly admonition re: recent discussions of the NSA:

What I have learned is that some enemies aren't, that we have common ground, and now is the time to seek it. A time to stop fucking around and get serious.
Now, I don't mean dispute MBNYC's opinion insofar as this particular diary is concerned.  After all, his diary is just one example among many of how "Obama rox/ Obama sux" has been used as a meme from time to time here at Orange -- here's another from Colorado is the Shiznit.  And I don't mean to dispute Shiznit's opinion here either.  Peace be to the both of them.  But, contrary to the statement above, I'm not sure that we all agree, or that our disagreements about the NSA, about PRISM, about Snowden and Assange and Manning and Greenwald here at Orange, are relevant to anything.  In fact, I'm not really sure that any of our disagreements are relevant.

The first and most obvious problem with the "Obama rox/ Obama sux" meme is that the "Obama sux" side isn't real.  "Obama sux" is an epithet attached (by "Obama rox" people) to other people whose diaries do not openly endorse Obama while criticizing the things he does.  These diaries often marshal a good deal of research.  And it is quite clear that these diaries voice a good deal of resentment at having to put up with Obama's decisions.  But none of them specify any alternative to Obama, or to the Obama administration -- and by this point it's really too late, so there is no use in griping.

Moreover, I think it's easy to forecast at this point that will be no alternative in 2016 to whomever the Democratic Party neoliberal elites engineer as the alternative to Republican rule.  And once that choice is engineered, be it Hillary Clinton or whomever, there will be no "Clinton (or whomever) sux" discussion of any importance here at Orange.  And all of this electoral engineering will culminate in a Presidential election which will be rather similar to those which have been held in this country since 1988, with a Democratic Party neoliberal going up against a Republican Party neoliberal.  The whole process will be rhetorically justified with nostrums of "pragmatism," "realism," and other nostrums of progressive ideology.

"Obama rox," however, is real.  I suppose the purest expression of "Obama rox" was in the diaries of Blackwaterdog, although there are plenty of diaries here at Orange written from the perspective of "I criticize Obama, though I support him."  "Obama rox" often comes in impure form.  The people who support the "Obama rox" position are genuinely carrying out the site's mission, which is to say, electing "more and better Democrats," with as much effectiveness as the Democrats in power will let them have.  To the "Obama rox" people, then, Obama is one of the "better Democrats."

Thus the idea of "Obama rox versus Obama sux" casts its audience, the participants in Obama-debate, as a passive audience relegated to booing or cheering, but definitely not an audience capable of controlling its political future.  We are here to evaluate Obama, not to control him.  Our main decision is to cheer or to boo.  The contest between "Obama rox" and "Obama sux" is no contest at all -- the winners are, and will continue to be, the neoliberals who control the Democratic Party.  So choose a side, Obama rox or Obama sux, and here's reality either way:

But, as I've suggested above, the "Obama rox versus Obama sux" pseudo-opposition is not really an opposition at all.  On one "side" you have the continuous and successful engineering of "progressive" and "liberal" votes in support of neoliberal candidates over the past twenty-five years of Presidential elections, and on the other "side" you have a generalized complaint that, although it marshals persuasive evidence toward valid arguments now and then, registers as audience reaction and is of no consequence.

From this it's also easy to figure out why "Obama rox versus Obama sux" has to be a false opposition.  The "Obama sux" people can't be allowed to organize a genuine opposition to neoliberalism, or neoliberal policy.  Their arguments must be continually cast in negative terms, as an anti-something.  Otherwise, when push came to shove, the empowered "Obama sux" forces might end up endorsing third party candidates or something Kos doesn't want in his blog.  (I'm not saying it HAS to go that way -- it could just as well go the way of the Eric Stetson approach, though I regard it as inflexible to insist that the fight be carried to loyal Democrats and only to loyal Democrats.)

The "Obama rox/ Obama sux" conflict can stay, indefinitely here at Orange, at the level of pie fight, because that's what's intended -- a pie fight to keep us divided and arguing about nothing in particular, with no consequences attached to the outcome of the argument (if you can call it that -- the people who instructed me on how to teach debate when I was in graduate school certainly wouldn't call it an "argument.")  Lastly, it has to be about Obama, too, who happens to be cast in this decade in the lead role on the theatrical stage of neoliberal policymaking.  It can't be about neoliberalism.  "The politicians are put there to give you the illusion that you have freedom of choice..."

I'm sure many of you are avid viewers of George Carlin videos.  How many of you saw this piece in Naked Capitalism?

Fixing Old Markets With New Markets: the Origins and Practice of Neoliberalism
Philip Mirowski, whose book I've just ordered through Amazon, offers an argument with three advantages.  First off, he argues that neoliberalism is constituted by a "thought collective," and you can see from the interview that he's spent a good deal of time studying the historical contours of the neoliberal thought collective.  Secondly, he's found a collective purpose to the thought collective:
The political project of Neoliberalism is not laissez-faire; rather, it is to use state power to get the populace to prostrate themselves before the only dependable source of Truth and Wisdom in human civilization—viz., something they call “The Market”. The more discombobulated the average citizen can be rendered, the quicker they will get with the program.
Thus there's no intellectual bothering with the truth or fiction of "free markets" or "government intervention" -- the point is to create systems in which people are increasingly dependent upon markets.  In fact, Mirowski himself explains why neoliberal governance has no use for silly rules:
For the collective, the most propitious time to make such bold interventions is during a crisis, when they are mobilized to define ‘exceptions’ to previous rules. Their prescription for apparent market failures is always more new-fangled markets.
Lastly, and most importantly, Mirowski explains neoliberal social engineering in terms of a set of "full spectrum dominance" strategies, in which short-term, medium-term, and long-term contingencies are assessed and combat tactics are put into place for each.  He describes in exquisite detail how this works, for global warming and for economic crisis.  In each case the elites take care of their own, while keeping the public consistently fooled.  Mirowski concludes his interview with a hint for the "Left":
A greater comprehension of the full-spectrum politics of the neoliberal thought collective has many profound implications; the most obvious is that the Left possesses nothing even remotely approaching its sophistication, which explains why it gets so repeatedly outfoxed.

Conclusion

If we are to use the human versatility that is the basis of any legitimate optimism about the fate of the human race, we're going to have to form a thought collective of our own, and it's going to have to be about something more sophisticated than "more and better Democrats," more sophisticated than "Obama rox/ Obama sux," and more sophisticated than the neoliberal policy and neoliberal thinking that unilaterally dominates the world intellectual stage today.  And, as Mirowski has pointed out in the above piece, the neoliberals in power are WAY ahead of us in ALL respects.  

In this regard neither the attitude of "Obama rox" nor the nonexistent unity of "Obama sux" will suffice.  We might start to ditch the "Obama rox/ Obama sux" nonsense by clarifying where we in fact stand, rather than obscuring our positions with side-arguments.  I've seen a lot of diaries, recently, about "Greenwald/ Snowden/ Assange sux," which obscure the positions of where the diarists stand on PRISM, on NSA spying, and on the great likelihood that the apparatus will eventually fall into the hands of Republicans.  Who cares if Assange is a Paulbot?

And we can certainly be more stout in resisting the temptation to do battle where there's nothing meaningfully to be gained by carrying on.  Some people are just not going to be part of the thought collective -- they're not ready yet.

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