How is our Blessed Blogfather like Osama
Been Forgotten bin Laden and Abu Masab al-Zarqawi?
Is it his hatred for our freedom? His devilish plotting to overthrow Mom, Apple Pie, and The American Way? His boundless charisma that transforms the muddled masses into thousands of foamy-lipped, slavishly-devoted attack sheep?
Follow me me inside, Gentle Reader, for the shocking answers rendered in breathless, vivid detail...
What makes Kos like OBL and al-Zarqawi?
Well, apart from possessing the standard-issue four limbs and a head, absolutely nothing. In terms of goals, beliefs, and actions, the three could not be more different. However, their presence in the news underscores the stunning ability of the morons who dominate the elite political discourse in this country to miss the story that's right in front of their faces in their mad dash to tell a story they already know.
It simply does not register with those who cling to comforting fictions about their role as high-priest and gatekeeper of public opinion (I'm looking at you, Brooks and Broder) that the great unwashed masses who generally have to eat the consequences of the bad choices made by their "betters" might act in a co-ordinated way by independent choice. In their view we're just not smart or motivated to band together out of self-interest-- there simply has to be a Spartacus leading us deluded slaves down the path to insurrection.
Pundettes like Brooks and Broder-- and to a greater degree the political elites whom they cover-- exist in an intellectual bubble where all of human history can be understood in the context of a series Great Figures. Men and women (OK, usually men) who shaped the course of human events through some extraordinary personal trait (intellect, will, charisma, etc.) and the rest of humanity are non-player characters-- walk-on extras in the movie of civilization. This is not too surprising. The Great Figures view of history is convenient conceptual model, it puts an easy-to-recognize human face on the complexities of the past and compresses them down to human scale.
There's only one problem with the Great Figures view of human events: its not true. Like all mental models. it is a convenient fiction that we use to make it easier to talk about things. To believe that real history-- with all its messy complications, counterfactuals, twists of fortune, and myriad of diverse peoples-- can be understood solely as the consequence of the actions of a relative few famous and infamous faces is a fallacy of the highest order.
Whereas most historians and many hard-news reporters understand that they are applying a convenient but reductive filter to the complexities of the real world in order to present a compelling story, some forget that they are spinning a yarn and start to believe their own reductive bullshit. Political pundits seem especially at-risk for falling into the trap of mistaking the story for the facts. In more acute cases, these wayward political pundits become Star Fuckers, obsessed with the personae of politicians they cover and willfully ignorant of the fact that what those politicians do have real consequences. "Public opinion" is not the voice of the millions of governed citizens-- people like themselves-- it is an abstract commodity that is only relevant as it relates to the political fortunes of this or that member of today's Who's Who.
Take the case of Abu Masab al-Zarqawi. By all detailed accounts of his actual role in various terror plots, he was essentially a nobody, a petty criminal with delusions of his own importance. But, by moving into one of the largely ungoverned areas of Iraq and changing the name of his tiny band of thugs and losers to "al Qaeda in Mesopotamia", he suddenly scored a starring role in the Bush Executive's War On Terror. Overnight, he was transformed from garden variety thug into Evil Islamofascist Mastermind.
This is Star Fucker mentality at work. Zarqawi became the face of terror in Iraq because he gave the lazy, Napoleonic thinkers in the Bush Administration (and the lazier personality-obsessed press corps) an easy story to believe and tell. Its much easier and comforting to frame the daily attacks in post-Saddam Iraq as the work of one al-powerful mastermind than it is to accept the complex reality that the violence there is perpetrated by many independent groups with conflicting motives. No single coherent narrative explains the sectarian strife, homegrown anti-occupation insurgency, and opportunistic criminality behind the violence in Iraq, yet the the elites' belief in the Great Figure fallacy drives them to parade al-Zarqawi's mangled corpse across the airwaves like some kind of hunting trophy. "See?", they say, "we got 'em! Now the violence there must naturally end! We struck the shepherd and the sheep must naturally scatter!" (I'm sure the families of the 15+ US servicepeople and scores of Iraqi civilians killed since his death have another opinion.)
The same mindset is at the root of the recent personal attacks on Markos. For those who conceive the world through the Great Figure fallacy, it simply does not compute that he has only given the rest of us a forum for collective discussion and action. Indeed it cannot compute, since, in that model of history we, you and I, Gentle Reader, simply do not exist. We are are ignorable details that get filtered out when their top-down conceptual model is applied. The actual evidence-- the frequent disagreements, the sheer variety of opinions expressed, the pie fights, the people-powered actions, the mind-expanding contributions by men and women from all walks of life-- none of that enters the equation. They attack Makos because it is simply incomprehensible to them that the rest of us matter. Through their lens, if we appear at all it is only as faceless bit-players who walk by fuzzily in the background during the Hero's dramatic close-up. Absent a Great Figure to focus on to make their story easy to tell, they transform Markos into the fiendish overload of the liberal online world and us into his slavish minions.
For the Star Fuckers like Brooks and Broder to understand Daily Kos and the larger blogoshere, they would first have admit to themselves that The Great Unwashed may actually have something to say about their fate. They would have to accept that we poor dumb schlubs out here in the sticks can think for ourselves. That we can be just as astute and informed as they are. And, consequently. they would have to get used to the idea that that their monopoly on the national discourse is a vestige of a bygone era when it was much harder for those in power to keep like-minded people away from one another.
They attack Markos because they cannot imagine a world where regular people matter-- where we can be smart and capable and band together to achieve common goals without some Great Figure to act as charismatic mastermind. They imagine that by taking Markos down, the pressure they feel from below will just go away and that without him, or someone like him, we would all go back to being good little plebes who "know their place."
Gosh aren't they going to be surprised.