The very names, when you look into their Greek roots, speak of an important difference between the two parties that dominate the US at this time. One name posits representatives to speak on behalf of the people...leave government to the pros. The other name puts the power, and therefore the responsibility to govern, directly on the people governed. They are just names of course but which kind of government do we have these days? We can't get the power of the vote liberated from "winner take all" electoral mechanics and we are not even talking about direct democracy though we have more than enough technology to pull it off. We are still a nation of people who expect to be governed, and none of us more so than those who speak of shrinking or drowning government. It is only the part of government that costs money [their money!] which they magically think can be abolished. Which part doesn't cost money? Under Bush, Departments have appeared, services to individuals have been reduced yet the federal payout to cronies in business and to a lesser extent, payroll, has grown...and that is not counting the growth of military expenditures. Debt has exploded. Is that a "smaller" government?
A crowd with principles. That is not the vision some of us have. A market is a more favored view or model of society on the part of the neocons who do most of the theorizing for the Republicans these days. I wonder what they mean in characterizing market forces as benign and fair. A market is a crowd that has forgiven itself in advance for its avarice, saying greed, gain and advantage, its principal principles, are the natural norm. I have no quarrel with capitalism as it has harnessed human nature for our material benefit far more effectively than pure socialism but it is NOT to be mistaken or substituted for democracy.
Its not the best fitting example but I wanted to make my little point here by an anecdote concerning the operation of a group who pioneers what may be the near future of democracy. MoveOn.org is going to get a few more evenings of my time for making phone calls, and unfortunately leave me less time for blogging. For all I know, it may look like the bottom tiers of Rove's GOP GOTV machine, but Rove's machine has a top tier of indu$try and religiou$ reactionaries and set-piece messaging you would find missing if you strayed into a MoveOn office. Obviously, I cannot claim complete impartiality. The operation of MoveOn, how it decides what issues to tackle, is based as far as I can tell, on constantly canvassing its members via email and online polls. But that is more of a view from the outside. I have spent one evening a week at a call center, working with organizers and making calls and so I think I can say a little, a very little, about the inside.
It looks chaotic. Visually, the office is not Martha-Stuart-neat and looks a lot more like nerd-messy. The phones work. The computers work. The sign-up sheets and call tally sheets do get filled in, collected and processed. But what do the people say and think as they handle the gazillion little issues that come up?
My illustration of this concerns a troll who commented the last time I mentioned MoveOn. The commenting went thus:
Bill Levinson said...
Before you make any more phone calls on behalf of MoveOn.org, I suggest that you Google on "MoveOn.org" and "anti-Semitism," "racism," and/or "hate speech." I don't think you will like what you see....
Bush may not be the brightest bulb in the chandelier but, as soon as an organization welcomes hate speech directed at Jews and Catholics (as well as put-downs of African Americans), it pretty much closes the door to intelligent and rational discourse.
I googled as you suggested. That was a surprise.
The Anti-Defamation League was satisfied with MoveOn's official response but of course we want to know if leaders of MoveOn, loose cannons within MoveOn, or really who posts odious crap like that.
If you read the correspondence between ADL and MoveOn officials you would be led to believe that persons intent on harming the reputation of MoveOn took advantage of the openness of the forum on which the offensive remarks were posted.
Numerically, the lion's share of the google hits that derive from what appear to be no more than two spates of foul material from as yet unidentified submitters, were hits on all the posts and pages of persons and organizations that are only too happy to repeat that MoveOn is a hatemongering organization. MoveON has a lot of us refugees from politics-as-usual who retreat from the vile and corrosive process that was introduced largely by Republicans [swiftboating takes $] to replace what used to be campaigning and debating. I see that the spiteful rabidity will hound us wherever we go. So I am standing my ground here and facing you.
Your facts please? Here's all we've got: There is the fact that hateful words and "ads" were put up on the MoveOn web site or forum. Is there more than that? Were the offensive things removed and repudiated? Would you like an apology? The ADL could certainly be identified as an aggrieved party in this and they were satisfied with the apology they got. Do you know who put the posts up? I agree you really did point to a question that needs answering.
I am not a lawyer but I always ask: "who benefits?"...
Leadership of the Democratic party,another organization that fears MoveOn, also tries to make a conflagration out of a spark that has yet to be associated with anyone on staff at MoveOn. Kinda unsurprising to find MoveOn is on Lieberman's enemies list.
Some of the links I find from google are to articles in Israpundit playing up the idea that Moveon is a hatemongering organization, articles written by someone named Bill Levinson. I congratulate you on rising to the top page rank for "hate speech" searches. Its a kind of honesty, I suppose. Since you basically told me where to look, I am wondering if you thought the mere sight of your page would make me toss out experience in favor of assertion. Where is it considered true that MoveOn is, as you put it, "best known for vicious anti-Semitic hate speech? What kind of honesty is that? If I remove the term "hate speech" from the search terms the page match count goes from 50 thousand to 2 and half million. Where ever this place is that knows your special truth about MoveOn, they don't have no internets.
I judge by results, not reputations, especially when the adversaries are desperate and the disrepute is so easily manufactured and so eagerly picked up. Not one communication to me from MoveOn, not one word to me from the organizers I have worked with...not one word that reflects any such bigotry can I recall. I'd be out of there like a shot on as little as one such word. I write about an organization I have experience with, not just some outfit whose write-up on the internets agrees with me. MoveOn has no guards at the portals, no message control police...it has to be the most loosely put together project I have worked with. They actually look like a democracy to me. They are still trying to find out who their real friends are. They are trivial to penetrate but that does not change their values. You will find them much harder to embarrass. And yes, some of the MoveOn members are angry people, angry about stupid priorities of an administration that runs wars and relief efforts corruptly, angry about the removal of the wall between church and state...plenty of things to resent and that was before you signed on to help with their public relations. They will from time to time be the victims of their own openness and lack of control, something that will never happen in the disciplined media of the right.
The google chase you sent me on turned up a lot of things I didn't know about,for instance, funding. The GoP like rumors of foreign financing as well as disclosing MoveOn takes money from the nefarious Mr. Soros. I caught an interview he did with Charlie Rose the other day. I was very surprised to see that he does not have horns. I kinda like the guy actually. I also give money to MoveOn but the GoP did not report this.
Has Rush played this hit on his show yet?
So, you warned me I might not like what I see. I am not terribly different from anyone else out here on this foggy little playground: I tend to see what I expected to see. The class and quality and count of my enemy reassure me. I am dismayed at human nature today Bill, but not by any facts I found.
Since I just winged that, I thought I ought to mention it to one of the MoveOn staffers next time I was at their office. The response was more or less that what I said was fine and they don't have a hand-out of talking points to give me. They all wing it. The scared sockpuppetry and the attempts to break the reputation of an organization by smearing it with ridiculous claims will probably melt away when its clear that the vigor and effectiveness of the organization have much less to do with leaders and agendas and more to do with the volunteers and their wish to speak up for change.
Was this Levinson person spreading the lie because he didn't know better? Even that would be a poor reflection on his enterprise. If his research stops at counting pages and does not proceed to reading them then maybe he didn't know. If he did know, well then I don't think he would be too interested in democracy: he has an issue that trumps honesty. Either way, he was dealing in rumors. Since the writing of the Talmud, the traditional moral teachings forbid gossip [loshon harah] and consider character assasination, even casually or through negligence, on a par with physical and financial damages [ona'ah] but worse in that the damage from verbal ona'ah is harder to repair. Of the many who claim to support Israel, those ignorant of Jewish teachings are often the least helpful.
A real democracy can't look like anything but its citizens. The only way you can hurt a real democracy is by not getting involved.