1. Most people I know use social media to keep in touch with friends and sometimes to establish and cement new friendships.
My Facebook account is somewhat unusual in that, with some exceptions-and they know who they are-my real life friends are pretty much absent from it. This is a consequence of a conscious decision on my part a couple of years back to use Facebook primarily as a political organizing tool, to find out about political allies, familiarize myself with their perspectives and activities and possibly use it to work with them on areas of shared concern.
It follows that insofar as there is a lack of fundamental agreement on how we view politics, there is no grounds for Facebook “friendship” for my purposes. This is the logic behind the action which I’m about to take, which is to defriend and block many of my previous “friends”.
2. That some of my “friends” are in no way allies has become apparent in their relation to what has become the most consequential political issue of my lifetime: the first significant political challenge to neoliberal hegemony since it began to be asserted during the Carter administration initiated by the Sanders campaign.
Support for Sanders’s insurgent candidacy is a fundamental litmus test for a variety of reasons. Foremost among these is that it serves as a gauge of an individual’s relationship to the kind of mass movement which is required to realize concrete political gains. A leading obstacle to this materializing are those deeply invested in the left’s continuing irrelevance and insignificance, something I first became aware of in working on the 2000 Nader campaign. Based on my experience then, those opposing Sanders now are all too familiar to me in displaying their enthusiastic embrace of losing politics and their resistance to the left moving beyond it. Whether these attitudes have their roots in the fulfillment of the need to belong to a marginal cult, a sociopathic incapacity to relate to others outside of self-selected confines, or simple crankiness, I’ll leave to social psychologists.
Whatever the reasons for their position, the left has long understood that which side are you on matters. The Sanders campaign is one of these moments when it is clear that it does: if you are on the wrong side you are not an ally-and will almost certainly never be able to function as one in the future. Those embracing the politics of sectarian loserdom are as much an obstacle to the left’s progress as a Clintonite neoliberal or a Ayn Rand libertarian, and their objective function-to prevent the left from moving forward- is no different.
3. Furthermore, a few have shown themselves not only not friends but distinct enemies, actively undermining the Sanders mobilization by circulating Clinton administration smears (e.g. that Sanders’ supporters are “white supremacists” or “Berniebro” misognynists ), Clinton talking points (“Clinton’s victory is inevitable”, “Sanders has no chance to win””), or ultra left sectarian idiocies (“Bernie is not a real socialist.”)
While it has been easy to ignore them, on a few occasions I will admit they have made me furious. The most notable of these was a piece from some months back where one relatively high profile left journalist gaseously implored his readers not to “become a campaign volunteer, do phone banking, door knocking, get the vote (sic.), and certainly don’t send him a dime of your money.”
Needless to say, many of us have entirely ignored his diktat while often making considerable sacrifices to do the exact opposite. That our investment is paying substantial dividends-precisely the opposite of what he was then predicting- is by now painfully obvious to anyone with a minimal capacity for objectivity. But, as is typical of journalists of all ideological persuasions, his reputation depends on the illusion that his opinions have more authority than those of us who support ourselves in other lines of work. Admitting error would undermine his authority to issue pronouncements such as the one above to dispense a steady stream of attacks on the Sanders campaign and those of us investing in it.
My criticizing his remarks and attitudes as misguided and offensive precipitated a back and forth in which I misquoted him-though, as those who are interested in the exchange will discover, I did not significantly misrepresent his position on the point under discussion-indeed it more accurately represented it which was my point in doing so. (I mistakenly left out parentheses around the name in question).
Even so, that was wrong on my part; I shouldn’t have misquoted him.
4. Doing the wrong thing usually requires an apology, but in this case I’m not going to offer one. The reason is that one doesn’t apologize to enemies and a high profile mouthpiece for dishonest attacks on Sanders and his supporters is just that. The constituency he reaches is, fortunately, marginal. But in a close election it’s not impossible that his consistent efforts to ridicule and undermine the morale of Sanders supporters could turn out to be consequential.
I will, however, extend an apology to those who will remain my friends, those who read what I write and take it seriously. They should be assured that this is the only time in 20 years of writing that I have misquoted a source. I did it out of annoyance and frustration. And while it was buried deep in the comment section of a thread which probably very few read, Facebook is a public forum, and basic standards of rhetorical discourse apply there as they do anywhere else.
I believe my writing speaks for itself and clearly attests that what I did was a one time lapse.
It will not happen again.