Au so Corrente: the new "left McCarthyism"

Repost – originally posted June 11, 2008

If they start to foam at the mouth about you I guess what you are saying is having some kind of impact, so the lumping of my work along with others under the title of a recent blog called “Lies, Damnable Lies, and Political Commentary,” should perhaps be viewed as a kind of praise.
But the fact that the site (something called Corrente – apparently run by Leah Appet, an affiliate at some recent date of an outfit known as MoveOn.org) refuses to register me in order to respond – after several attempts over a number of hours – is the sign of dirty pool.  And this is combined with personal remarks about me on their blog by someone hiding behind a fictitious name.  (Do the site’s web masters realize, or care, that I teach at a law school?)
So instead of continuing my frustrating attempts to respond on their site, let me point out a few things about the comments today of “Bringiton” on Corrente.  What we will discover is, in fact, a new form of McCarthyism entering today’s political discourse, only this time from the authoritarian left.
First, an irony: it takes this person more than 5,000 words to tell his no doubt hungry readers that, well, of all the things we have to worry about in this world, that one of my posts was 4,500 words long!  And, guess what?  If you accept his view of it, I didn’t say anything!  You would be wasting your life to spend a minute considering what I have written because it is nothing more than a lie or a damned lie and I am nothing more than a tool of what he charmingly calls the “VWRC” (the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy).
(Oh, by the way, Bringiton, conspiracies typically are crafted, well, conspiratorially, but everything I have said has been on the record.  We are left to guess at who or what Corrente is much less whom or what Bringiton is. Is a conspiracy afoot, right wing or otherwise on Corrente?  Inquiring minds would like to know.)
But let’s get to the heart of the matter:
Is there a political relationship between Obama and Ayers?
If so, should we care?
The answer to both question is Yes.  Ayers and Obama have known each other for at least 14 years. They have worked very closely together on a number of projects, projects which have had political goals, primarily in education policy. Ayers is surely not just some guy Obama met at a kids’ soccer match.
Ayers advocates a narrow-minded and potentially divisive concept called “repayment of 400 years of the education debt to people of color” that is now also the number one priority of Obama’s senior education advisor, an individual who has long standing close professional ties to Bill Ayers.
Obama has also indicated a willingness to consider aspects of this idea.
These are facts, ladies and gentlemen. There is a clear public record of it.
In fact, although you would never know it, this congruence of views between Obama and Ayers is not denied by Mr. Bringiton. 
Actually, far from it: although you would never know it unless you, too, had the professional and political obligation to wade through his 5,000 word screed, Bringiton SUPPORTS reparations through “repayment of the education debt to people of color.”
In fact, he brags, “Obama has suggested, as have many others including myself, that the issue of slavery “reparations” can be addressed through collective investment….”
I am sure the Senator welcomes Bringiton’s endorsement of his views.
If Obama, however, were to endorse this proposal, I think he would have to withdraw his nomination.  Whether or not one thinks reparations for slavery is a good idea (I happen to think, like perhaps the Palestinian right of return, there are credible arguments for it and huge political and cultural obstacles in its way), it is politically untenable for a U.S. presidential candidate to campaign on that idea or on any approach, like “repayment of 400 years of education debt to people of color,” that is an attempt to sneak the same idea through another door.
There is, fortunately, now a progressive alternative available at least on the education front: the Bold Approach announced this week by the Economic Policy Institute.  I presume, and hope, that debate about the candidate’s approach to education is underway inside the Party right now.
What clearly bothers Bringiton and no doubt many of his friends in the authoritarian left, then, is not that I have written about Ayers and Obama, it is that I disagree with his politics. But instead of a straightforward debate about the merits of the issue of reparations, he instead tries to dispense with my argument by lumping me in with what he thinks is a “vast right wing conspiracy.” 
And he tries to deny the actual politics that those on the authoritarian left really defend. Fidelista Carl Davidson, webmaster for Progressives for Obama, only opposes the embargo against Cuba? 
In response to an absurdly friendly interview of Cuban leader Ricardo Alarcon by fellow Obama backer Tom Hayden (who has the nerve to describe how “freely” Alarcon speaks about the “many forms of socialism” [sic!] without ever asking about dissidents languishing in Cuban prisons) Davidson reminisced as follows:
Very good, Tom.

It brought back memories of the night in 1968 when you, I and Dave Dellinger were hustled through the streets of Havana for our late-night, long, rambling talk with Fidel.

Alarcon is asking all the right questions, and I agree with him about [Brazilian President] LuLa, too. There is a ‘High Road,’ market-inclusive, solidarity economy alternative to neoliberalism and hegemonism. It needs imagination, audacity, organizing and all the friends to[we?] can find.

Cuba, by the way, is what transformed me, in my twenties, from an anarcho-syndicalist into someone who could read Che from Gr[a]msci’s eyes, or vice versa?

In any case, we need fresh thinking.

Keep On Keepin’ On…

So the same year the Russian tanks roll into Prague to crush the Czech uprising, these two Obama backers are kicking it with Fidel in Havana.  Forgive me for thinking Davidson is, indeed, something more than a simple advocate of free trade with Cuba.  
Today, of course, the hot spot for the left Obama supporters is Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, where Bill Ayers visits often and cheered the “revolutionary” nature of education in front of Chavez in November, 2006.  
Here’s a shot of the “revolutionary” education conference that Ayers attended. The banner in the background reads “Bolivarian Education and the Defeat of Capitalist School.”
And here are some fellow Obama supporters: maoist labor activist Bill Fletcher on the left and Danny Glover, on the right, on a recent revolutionary tour of the “new socialist man’s” paradise.  They were on a visit to “see the results of the peaceful revolutionary process led by President Hugo Chavez.” (Picture thanks to the Progressives for Obama website.)
 
Of course, the press is full recently of the accounts of Chavez’s attempts to turn neighbor against neighbor in an overhaul of his intelligence services. Fortunately, what vestige of democracy still exists there was used recently to defeat his attempt to solidify power through a rewriting of the Constitution.
Instead of a head on discussion of the actual politics at stake in this debate, Bringiton deals with our political disagreement by engaging in guilt by (vague and unsubstantiated) association, a tactic worthy of the McCarthy period. The fact that some on the right may agree with me on some aspects of the Ayers-Obama link (and, believe me, they disagree with far more) it is enough for this person to dispense with concrete discussion and, instead, simply toss everything in the trashbin.
Oh, but not until he has written his 5,000 words about, well, something.
I guess we can happily look forward to more of this as the facts about the Ayers-Obama relationship, those stubborn little things, upset the apple cart of so many on the authoritarian left.  
Fortunately, defamation laws protect victims of this kind of thing and so I sent the following letter to the managers of the Corrente website: 
Dear _____,

I am writing to you to request that you remove the post by an individual known as “Bringiton” entitled “Lies, Damnable Lies and Political Commentary” on the Correntewire.com website, together with the associated comment sections and the follow up posts by each of you. In addition, in conformance with California Civil Code Section 48a, I ask that you publish a correction and retraction.

I do not believe that you have exercised the due care that is expected of the owners and managers of a website.

I believe these posts to be defamatory of me and my professional work and of my reputation as a lawyer and a professor of law, which depends heavily on my widely established and long held reputation for veracity and accuracy.

As long as those posts remain on your site where they are accessible to the wider public, they damage my reputation and thus my ability to earn a living. The”Lies, Damnable Lies” post claims 1) that my blog posts on Global Labor, which state that there is a relationship between Senator Obama and Bill Ayers, are “unfounded accusations” and “bullshit”; 2) that I am a “demagogue”; and 3) that I have an undefined relationship to an entity Bringiton calls the “vast right wing conspiracy.”

As to the first claim, I have not “accused” anyone of anything. My statements about the relationship between Senator Obama and Mr. Ayers are factual. There is ample evidence of the longstanding relationship between the Senator and Mr. Ayers, particularly the fact that they worked closely together on the $110 million dollar Chicago Annenberg Challenge grant program as detailed on my blog, Global Labor from as early as 1995. On my blog I am fastidious about qualifying statements that are speculation or conjecture.

As to the second charge, there is no evidence provided by “Bringiton” that I am a demagogue. Nor is there any proof of the existence of a right wing conspiracy or that I am associated with it in any manner whatsoever. I have been on the left in a very public manner my entire adult life. To suggest otherwise is, as I stated, at the outset, damaging to my reputation.

While I will consider the matter settled if you remove the blog post by the end of today, I reserve my right to pursue any and all other claims against you or the website. If your site is represented by legal counsel, please refer this letter to them and provide me with their contact information. In addition, I request that you provide me with the name and contact information for Bringiton so that I may write to him or to his legal counsel.

Lies, Damnable Lies, and Political Commentary | Corrente