Ironically, it used to be the crazy fringe on the Right that were the breeding grounds for conspiracy theories (“birthers”, “Clinton death list”). Now mass hysteria and conspirology are sweeping the crazy … Liberal mainstream?
Earlier this month Glenn Greenwald wrote a very important article, Leading Putin Critic Warns of Xenophobic Conspiracy Theories Drowning U.S. Discourse and Helping Trump. Greenwald’s starting point is an article by Masha Gessen, which is also well worth reading. He writes:
The crux of her article is the point that has been driving everything I’ve been writing and saying about this topic for months: that this obsession with Russia conspiracy tales is poisoning all aspects of U.S. political discourse and weakening any chance for resisting Trump’s actual abuses and excesses. Those who wake up every day to hype the latest episode of this Russia/Trump spy drama tell themselves that they’re bravely undermining and subverting Trump, but they’re doing exactly the opposite.
Greenwald pulls no punches. The Progressive Fake News sites that have been hyping up the Russia/Trump conspiracy are
no better – no different – than what Macedonian teenagers or Clinton Body Count sites are churning out. But it’s being mainstreamed by prominent, establishment Democrats who have completely taken leave of their senses in the wake of Trump’s victory and show no signs of returning to anything resembling sober, grounded reasoning any time soon.
Why are they doing it? Clearly, the Democrats are still in massive denial about why they really lost the presidential elections of 2016. They are looking everywhere except at themselves. But by buying into the Russia conspiracy theory they are setting themselves up for much worse. When this conspiracy collapses (I personally give less than 10% chance that there is any substance behind it), it would be a colossal reputational hit, from which they might not recover before the next round of presidential elections.
The Democrats should stop obsessing about the mythical “Siberian Candidate” conspiracy. Instead, they should read the remarkable book by Tom Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?
Listen, Liberal is a devastating critique of the mainstream Democracy, the Clintons-Obama Democrats, from “a person of vivid pink sentiments” as Frank describes himself. The true left in the United States are so microscopic that it’s worth reminding my readers that the Democratic Party of 2016, when placed on the Right-Left spectrum of the last century or so, would occupy the right of the center position. In fact, although Frank’s book is primarily addressed at the Democrats, it’s worth noting that much of his critique aimed at “Liberals” applies to both mainstream Democrats and mainstream Republicans (but certainly not to Trump’s supporters or, for that matter, Sanders’ supporters).
What unifies mainstream American politicians of both parties is neo-Liberalism, as it is defined, for example, by George Monbiot:
Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.
Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.
According to Frank, one can boil down the difference between Liberals and Socialists (the true left) to two words: competition versus solidarity. By the way, the tension between competition and cooperation is a big topic that I explore at length in my book Ultrasociety).