Wednesday, December 10, 2008

MoveOn.matrix

How they acquired my email in the first place isn't hard to imagine; sign an online petition against the war in Iraq, or any of the Bush administration's associated constitutional transgressions, and voila,you're one more iota in a vast database of email addresses that is the centerpiece of Barack Obama's vaunted Internet armada. You think you're doing your modest patriotic part, and before you know it you're swept up into the seedy vastness of--check disgust--political organization.

I've had a similar experience once before: feeling flush and generous, I handed what I thought was a soliciting beggar what I thought was a dollar (it was a ten), and he pressed into my palm a piece of crack cocaine. Reflecting on this later, I was impressed with the speed and ease of this unintentional transaction (a crack dealer of crack); McDonald's has nothing on our neighborhood cocaine derivative vendors--and they would never have accepted my explanation of misunderstanding with a prompt refund. Localism proves out again!

I am tempted to embellish this history with its logical comedic-dramatic progression, my arrest and detention for possession; now that would be a story. If you witness me doing this at some point in the future, please keep it under your hat. If one can "print the legend" sometimes to keep the ennui of everyday life bearable, an occasional fabricated farce, provided it's consistent with the general absurdity of our existence, seems almost mandatory.

But to return from the crack trade to the more distasteful subject of political action: Being naive and always a bit behind the curve I assumed that the only decent thing would be that the emails on behalf of Candidate Obama would end with the ascension of President-elect Obama. The campaign would demobilize, like a victorious army; the activist organizations would resume activism on behalf of goals, not on behalf of an administration, or a personality. Yeah, I'm a little slow that way.

I still hold out hope for the media. Sure, Chris Matthews embodied the MSM's posture perfectly, if a little too frankly for his more subtle peers, by immediately renouncing his journalistic obligations to declare his commitment to the "success of this administration" in these desperate times--but that was no change in policy, just a shift in loyalty. This same "lead, follow or get out of the way" orientation is how he and others, flush with post-9/11 patriotic hysteria, shepherded the public along from paranoia to the present occupation of Iraq. First terrorism, now the economy: it's one crisis after another prompting our powdered and rouged television class to repeatedly desert their journalistic posts, and surprisingly few still have made the connection between the crises and their widespread lack of professional integrity.

But no; even as Barack Obama assembles the Clinton Cabinet, the emails not only keep coming they keep praising the arrival of Change. So far, this change in government is beginning to resemble that bad old joke: An army unit has been in the field for months without hot water. The CO calls the men together and declares: "Men, our hygiene has become appalling. I hereby order each one of you to change his underwear. Jones, you change with Smith. Jackson, you change with Kowalski..." etc.

MoveOn, one of my new imaginary friends, had always existed for me as a sort of punchline. In appropriating an expression of impatience, they took for a name an appeal to expedience over the difficulties of constitutionalism, debate, compromise, thought. Surely, no one could take an organization so named seriously. It's like calling yourself "TalkToTheHand.org". But the joke's on me, as usual. MoveOn moves, and emails me, on, and on.

But they have brilliantly, if inadvertently, captured the inherent corruption of the activist movement with their moniker. Things need to get done, or so a group, often standing to reap wealth or power thereby, determines, and reflection is the enemy of action (see Iraq War debate, 2003). Truth is not the point. Haste is. One cannot act on behalf of "progress" and not thereby act against popular will, legality, moderation, democratic process. These things cannot be allowed to impede "progress", whatever it may be (and tomorrow it will be something unrecognizable as such today), in the minds of some. Curious how quickly the liberal forgets his mistress subjectivity, she who magically trumps morality as an idea or any comparative value between cultures, to shower absolute objective value upon that obscure object of desire, Progress.

None of this is to deny the legal--and cultural--degradation inflicted on us by the self-styled "conservative" still sulking about the White House as of this writing. Look to those who promoted this walking, talking absurdity if and when Barack's legions set about dismantling that inconvenient impediment to Progress, the Constitution. There are no heroes in this piece that is the present.

The ACLU, on the other hand, seems to get it--in their emails they propose how they will hold the incoming administration to its promises to reverse constitutional degradations. The success or failure of Barack Obama's administration, as any, is incidental to the rule of law and standards of decency; movementarians, of any stripe, will always invert this order, and always on the slim promise of small change for the better somewhere down the line (witness conservatives who've thrown their lot in with Bush/Rove).
Principle should trump Personality, for a change. But for the MoveOn.cyborgs and the Perpetual Campaign, it's all about promoting the administration and the ambitious non-entity at its center onto which they project their flattering illusions and petty bigotry. Neo has penetrated the Matrix, and now come the pointless and pretentious sequels. We're in another Matrix! All is a Matrix! Cue Rage Against the Machine, ad nauseum.