Wednesday, September 19, 2012


In JK Rowling's Harry Potter series there is a demon called a Boggart. Its purpose is to frighten you. When it cannot solve the puzzle in a way to make everyone afraid, it compromises, and loses. It can only scare you by trying to appear as something it's not. To remove its power over you just give it too many goofy things to attempt to be all at once.

The most bullshit ever to come out of the left follows closely to this formula:
A. Someone made a point I'd rather not think about
B. Here's a lot of half-baked ideas that show how evil they are
C. Because I know where it's really at. I'm the authority on this subject.

When the Chicago teachers struck, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown was there on the scene to interview the teachers, he seemed like an ally -- but reading it closely he was keeping his distance.   (1)  On the 13th for example, he happily was bashing the right (for them?) for picking a fight and trying to anticipate the spin:

All week, this strike has been playing out on two different levels: locally, where most of the public has been on the teachers’ side, and nationally, where a strange cadre of union-bashing conservative cheerleaders, self-styled “education reformers” and newspaper editorial boards have been singing the mayor’s praises.
I have no idea what the latter group is going to say about the mayor’s final product. They may decide he’s won as well if he retains the right of school principals to pass over laid-off teachers when they fill job openings. I’m sure that’s what Emanuel will be saying.
Three days later he was starting his column "Some people just don’t know when to leave well enough alone." Yes, when push came to shove though, he lectured the teachers to stand down. Now as he hears Karen Lewis give a speech (that he doesn't cite a single time), he magnanimously declares "teachers need to be heard" while "traditional education" is destroyed or at least harmed. Of course, he can't help but add " those two extra days on the picket line after the deal was ripe did not help them."

Another instance of Boggart-dom is this whole controversy around a book: first popping up in Reddit with the phrase "Kindle censors Naomi Wolf's book's title" had me lulled into thinking the left was on her side. Then a Penny quote showed up on my Facebook. 

"‎"Writing about one's vagina has become shorthand for a style of feminist writing where the personal being political becomes an excuse for the political to collapse at every stage into the personal."

The formula is the same: the person offends in some way, and then the bullshit starts to flow. I checked out the article and was appalled. It was trashing Wolf in every way imaginable without a single citation. In fairness to the author, I looked up Laruie Penny's writing where she quotes approvingly of Wolf. . I was happy to post a comment there saying I recognized her betrayal of Wolf (I assumed her readers knew her work well enough, but I've added her introduction to Wolf below) (2).

Today I got the new edition of the Nation, and what did I see? Another review of Wolf's new book, filled with lots of rhetoric and very few quotes.

I just wish there were a more serious debate on what unions and Naomi Wolf actually are talking about, rather than what wins emotional points. The truth is bigger than what a "slam" piece will give you.

2.  "The formal rules of late capitalist pornography are the fulcrum of modern sexual affectlessness: an endless parade of disembodied cocks going into holes, a joyless, piston-pumping assembly line of industrial sexuality". Meat Market, Laurie Penny. p 21.

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