Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Being Markos Moulitsas

by Bernie Quigley, for The Free Market News Network, June 28, 2006

Outer Banks, NC: A week at the beach and home with kin in North Carolina, finest place on earth. We are here in these parts without interpretation. What we see in our neighbor's faces is not behind a mask. My kids have had the benefit of being born and reared here with the sweet smell of tobacco plants in nearby fields gently drifting into the hollow, then coming to adulthood in the same mountain range at the top of New England. They don't wear masks in New Hampshire either, but the sensibility is of the hand and head. Here it is of the heart, which speaks like flowering mimosa, delicate and subtle.

We still have rural areas here and regions thankfully not yet plugged into the common ways of the city. There are no cable hook ups for TV and computers in some parts. And in an old crab shack on the beach here they even sell newspapers. They sell The New York Times to visiting tourists.

I hadn't actually held one in my hands in years. Remember newspapers? Before there were yellow power ties and oat bran muffins, before there were French Deconstructionists and Soccer Moms, there were newspapers. Way back to when Uri Geller was bending spoons on The Dick Cavett Show; when Evel Knievel was breaking every bone in his body jumping motorcycles over canyons.

They used to deliver newspapers to your home every morning and milk too, in glass bottles. And in places like Washington, D.C., you could go out to tin boxes on the street and just put a few coins in and get newspapers even from L.A., New York and Philadelphia.

My kids, who can get tens of thousands of newspapers from places like Jerusalem and Beijing on-line today at a time when the milkman is still asleep, take this with a grain of scepticism, like much that comes from Dad when he waxes nostalgic on the beach about the old days. Truth is, the tin boxes didn't work all that well. You had to kick them and shake them and half the time you would lose your money anyway.

Just the same, that old tactile feeling came back when I held it in my hands. An artifact from a good and prosperous time in history, like the Zippo lighter I carried eons ago in military service. What a blast from the past.

I noticed immediately when I opened it up that the daily concerns were very different from those of typical Americans today. But they still seemed very much in keeping with what people were doing 25 years ago when I lived in New York and read the paper daily.

I'd learned, on-line, that the newspapers were coming on hard times, including The New York Times. The issue was, of course, on-line competition from the blogs and independent journals like this one. For a few years they just gave the Times away free to on-line readers like myself, but it was clear even back then that these shining lights of democracy from a time between the wars (that would be the Civil War and World War I) were heading into the sunset. Like the fast and bold Union Pacific railroad snaking through the Canadian Rockies in those first great color pictures in National Geographic.

They went to Times Select, giving daily news free to on-line customers, but charging a fee for certain columnists and featured items. On-line readership plummetted. Truth is, the new editors and writers had not the guts, the intuition, the candor or the experience of their Fathers. Or their Mothers, as the best and bravest in the old days were women - Helen Thomas, Mary McGrory, Ida Tarbell.

But what a find. And what a treat it was to hold the thing itself, actually made from trees, in my hands. Like a Davy Crockett coon skin hat, or a Dave Clark Five record. Something you might see today on Antique Road Show. And there was Paul Krugman in the Times Select crowd. I'd really missed him.

I could see that there was grave concern in the Times kingdom. David Brooks was apopleptic. But again, the issues were the same: the web, the Internet, on-line journals and the bloggers. It had long been an abstraction; a thing without a name like something coming from space in the Fifties ("They're coming! Look up in the sky! Keep looking!"). Something that would drain our energies and change us to the core of our being. Something from the Unconscious.

The Internet first brought a sense of awe at a time when we dreamed of our own magnificence. We were "the World's Only Superpower." We heard it again and again at a time when the Human Genome Project was to prove once and for all our destiny as god-kings striding this planet. Real scientists were claiming that our genes just in number alone were multiples above and beyond any other living organism. But awe began to change to dread when results started coming in and our gene pool increasingly appeared to be about the same in number as those of hens - the kind that lay eggs - and about on a par with a grain of rice.

It was a sense of dread like that which paralyzed the world in the book 1984 (gosh, that was a long time ago); a forboding without form in a world without substance. Not only did it give you the cold willies, but it threatened the Establishment of Sustainable Mediocrity. Great journalist that he was, George Orwell knew to give it a name. He knew that if it had a name, it would relieve the pervasive dread and lighten the burden. The People needed and Enemy with a Name and a Face. And so he created Him. He would be the Enemy of the People. And he had a name. His name was Emmanuel Goldstein.

Wow. I started hearing this same language last week before I went on vacation. It came from the National Review. They were finding the Face of the Internet and it was fascist. They kept using that word: fascist. This, in a news journal who's staff mainstay had recently recommended advancing uses of torture in Iraq (recommending this here, in the Land of the Free. Alors, the poor honest and decent Bill Buckley, who hoped to elevate our vast federation with the heightened sensibilities of Evelyn Waugh, finding at the end of his life's work his creation a Golem, belonging more to Kafka's Penal Colony.)

Now Brooks, one of the Weekly Standard's original Dungeons & Dragons Warriors, has also seen the Face of Dread on the Internet. And now the Face had a Name. And its name was Markos Moulitsas.

Brooks, in what reads like a parody or Orwell, called him a cultist. Markos - Kos - founder of the popular blog Daily Kos - is called a "Kossack cultist." His readers, 20 million monthly, are described as cult followers; insidious hordes. He says Tom DeLay is Markos's doppelganger, but that word implies anything nowadays to those poorly educated to their task. (I know. Brooks went to Yale. He tells you again and again in a book he wrote. He says that he is in the Upper Class now because he went to Yale. He really said something like that. I got the highest mark in the class. Can I be in the Upper Class? Dude, are you kidding? What planet, Janet?)

The blogs and the on-line world of independent journalism got its face two weeks ago at the Yearly Kos, a bloggers convention held by the Daily Kos, in Las Vegas. It was an event that determined, to misquote Ken Kesey, who would be on the bus and who would not be on the bus. That's why these reactionary nut jobs who have disgraced our Republic and caused such pain and sadness in the world and caused such misdirection and confusion at home, are freaking out. They are not on the bus.

Wes Clark is on the bus. Mark Warner is on the bus.

Hillary is not on the bus either, nor is John Kerry or Edwards.

Thrilled by my newspaper find, I went back to the crab shack the next day and got another newspaper. I read yesterday that Senator Clinton has hired a blogger because she is so not on the bus. (Earth to Hillary: you cannot hire a blogger. Bloggers grow spontaneously and organically as the flaura and fauna of a healthy Republic. A hired blogger stands out in the garden like a plastic Pink Flamingo.)

But this is what cuts deepest into Brooks' world view and future. The neocons and even the fair-minded Republicans have until now seen an easy ride ahead, even presented with the beyond-belief possibility of a Presidential Candidate like Bill Frist.

If the Democrats don't rid themselves of the Clinton Delusion, the Republicans will control the House, the Senate and Everything in the foreseeable future. And easy ride. But that, of course, presumes they run against Hillary. Now this. It could ruin everything.

Senator Clinton has a 0% approval rating in a recent Daily Kos poll.

The Daily Kos supports Democrats who actually appeal to real Americans - NASCAR Moms, not Soccer Moms; Iraq war veterans & people who go to church and people who live in places like Texas and Georgia and North Carolina, not Brooklyn Heights, Tribeca and Central Park West. The Kos crowd also heavily supported Vietnam veteran Jim Webb who is running for senator in Virginia against cowboy-boot wearing (in Virginia?) George Allen, the Bush sycophant, whose claim to fame is that his father was a football coach. Webb's recent primary victory struck terror in the hearts of the neocons. Allen has hired Mary Matalin, a long-time advisor to Dick Cheney. He's hired Chris Lacivita, the architect of the Swift Boat campaign that smeared John Kerry's war record. And he's hired Dick Wadhams, a man whose last race featured the despicable intimidation of Native American voters and campaign workers breaking the law.

The right wing of the Republican Party now has an enemy - the Daily Kos and the candidates who rank highest in its polls, like Warner, Clark and Russ Feingold.

Brooks is right to put DeLay and Moulitsas together in one regard. They are both Gatekeepers. But it is DeLay's fate to close a gate. He closes a gate which opened on a generation - Brooks' generation -- 20 years ago and descends in bitterness and acrimony today. It is Moulitsas's fate to open a new gate.

That is where the dread comes from. Markos is not the Face of Dread of an Internet abstraction made manifest. He brings in something much more terrifying. His is the face of a new generation, one which will find its way here in the Land of the Free for the next 20 or 30 years.

And if we ascend in grace and power and loving kindness in the world it will be because of his 20 million monthly readers, and millions more certain to follow. And if we yield, they too, will bear the burden.