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February 13, 2007

In Which I Kiss Off Any Remaining Chance Of Ever Being A Kool Kid of the “Netroots”
Posted by Patrick at 12:04 AM * 70 comments

Chris Bowers of MyDD:

[N]o matter how many presidential candidates, members of congress, Democratic Party leaders, or other national figures I meet and talk with, my favorite moments in political campaigns are always large rallies (preferably those organized by volunteers, or those convened to celebrate an electoral victory). I want to be there at the moment when history happens, when the world changes, when consciousness shifts, and when the people rise up and throw off the shackles of the elite, the status quo, and the comfortable. I have wanted that for a long time. Before that happens, I want to be an active member of the small clique, coterie or circle that identified the possibility for massive change and precipitated its manifestation.
Ew.

Okay, he’s young.

Nonetheless: ew.

Comments on In Which I Kiss Off Any Remaining Chance Of Ever Being A Kool Kid of the "Netroots":
#1 ::: Ragnell ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 12:36 AM:

There are "Kool Kids" online? That's crushing. I thought this was Nerdland, dammit!

I'm going back to the comics community. All geek, all the time.

#2 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 12:50 AM:

Bowers wasn't even born when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, I'll bet. Nonetheless, it seems like he's wishing that Spring 1968 would happen again.

#3 ::: Lawrence Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 01:14 AM:

Wow. I didn't know anyone thought like that anymore. Hadn't seen it myself since, oh, 1974 or thereabouts, and it seemed quaint then.

#4 ::: Writerious ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 01:16 AM:

I want to be there at the moment when history happens, when the world changes, when consciousness shifts, and when the people rise up and throw off the shackles of the elite, the status quo, and the comfortable

Strange... strains of "Share the Land" are running through my head and I can't stop them. Ow.

What ever happened to those glorious, naive 60's dreams of throwing off the shackles of the status quo, etc.? Were they totally crushed by 80's Reaganomics? Or are we seeing them rise again in the Entitlement generation? And if so, are they just as naive? As in, "I want enlightenment and I want it NOW, not three nanoseconds ago, and you don't expect me to put any actual work into this, do you?" kind of thing?

Lord knows I have enough college students who think that simply paying their tuition and occupying space entitles them to a good grade. Does showing up to the victory party for some candidate now entitle you to a place in the New World Order?

Somebody still has to do the work.

#5 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 01:35 AM:

I'm confused. Are we talking Be-In, March on the Pentagon, or Nuremberg Rally? Or does it not matter as long as it's exciting and there's a revolutionary vanguard?

(But hey, I've got no right to snark. To quote MDC, "I was a dupe for the RCP".)

#6 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 01:41 AM:

He wants to see "the people" rise up.

But HE wants to be part of the "clique" that precipitates the uprising.

*sigh*

Sounds like he's a believer in the Great Man theory of history, and wants to be one.

Dude, if you're not part of "the people", you're part of the problem.

#7 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 02:08 AM:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can be really damned annoying. Indeed, it is the only thing most ever do.

#8 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 02:12 AM:

We've all wanted to be that particular flavour of somebody.

My switch-off comes when the goal stops being "truth, justice and equality" and becomes "member of Cell B, just below Mike".

#9 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 02:12 AM:

With one foot on the staircase: am I the only one who thinks Bowers couldn't write a mellifluous sentence to save his life?

#10 ::: Joy ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 02:30 AM:

I was at Bill Clinton's first inauguration.

God, it was cold and boring.

#11 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 03:04 AM:

Hey, I enjoyed the poetry. But yes, it was cold.

#12 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 03:25 AM:

With a little bit of foreknowledge, I could have been closer to the front of the line waiting to see Star Wars at the theater for the first time. Ah, well.

#13 ::: Medley ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 06:07 AM:

Chris Bowers, Markos, Steve Clemons and others are the very reason why I have a tag in my delicious feed called "AnnoyingBloggers" --

(Chris Clarke #7 - heheheee )

#14 ::: sdn ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 06:51 AM:

the lyrics to ben folds five's "underground" are resounding in my head.

#15 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 07:19 AM:

Ah, the eternal romance of the vanguard party ...

(It'd almost be worth it, if not for the dreadful hangover.)

#16 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 07:57 AM:

So, he's saying he wants to be a SMOP?

#17 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 08:23 AM:

"...the moment when history happens..."

In the brain, we now know, the perceived moment of decision occurs after physical signs show that the decision has been made; it is, I think, the same in politics, and if you are at the rally you are after the fact. "identif[ying] the possibility for massive change" takes place before the fact, and--except in the case of specific ruling people or groups--"precipitat[ing] its manifestation" is not something that any single person or small group does.

The desire will put one there before or after the moment, but never in the moment. (And I am up either too early or too late.)

#18 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 09:13 AM:

Well, there's always Man Moment Machine on the History Channel. I don't think a Poseur Timestamp Blog show would get very good ratings.

#19 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 09:45 AM:

Leninism is so cute!

#20 ::: Chryss ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 10:00 AM:

I would tease him, but I confess to having similar thoughts at around 18.

On the other hand, I had enough fun for three lifetimes, so there you go. I hope Chris Bowers is having a good time too.

Damn, this is low on snark...sorry!

#21 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 10:27 AM:

Chryss: Low snark content is good. We're deploring the viewpoint, not the person. Mostly.

I think abi is right, and that we've all wanted to be that particular flavour of somebody. Everything Chris Bowers is talking about is on the list of underrated desires and temptations: the desire to be part of an ensemble cast that's in on secrets, knows how the world really works, undertakes daring and morally significant action, and succeeds. It's also the desire to be part of a genuinely meritocratic aristocracy.

That moment is not altogether corrupt, though it can become so in nothing flat. One of its sources is the natural joy of first mastery, when you realize that you're out and about in the world, not a kid anymore, and that you're functioning as an adult. That's a well-earned pleasure. And since it feels so good, we want it to happen again. That's where the corruption comes in.

Randolph, thank you for "The desire will put one there before or after the moment, but never in the moment."

#22 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 10:30 AM:

There's always this. I think the ISO is keeping Leninism alive, although I've no idea whether this fellow is involved with them. (I'm still angry at the ISO for choking off the peace movement on my college campus. They were the most organized faction, to be sure, but I still don't believe that entitled them to take over and push everyone out who wasn't on board with their agenda. Also they all really did wear glasses with thick black rims. It was a bit bizarre.)

I wanted a revolution at 18 too, but I specifically remember there not being an elite in what I wanted.

#23 ::: Thomas Nephew ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 10:51 AM:

Does showing up to the victory party for some candidate now entitle you to a place in the New World Order?

Somebody still has to do the work.(#4, writerious)

It seems to me the above is actually similar to the last part of Bowers' comments, about being part of the small group that kicks things off or takes responsibility for keeping it going. My guess is that the Draft Webb group and Webb's win are more likely Bowers' model than the Bolsheviks and the October Revolution.

So I think Bowers' comments are clunky, but not "ew"-worthy. I do disagree with his assessment of the role of 'large rallies'; I think they're usually not where history is made so much as where history is recognized to have happened -- the exclamation point of the sentence rather than the subject and verb. (Yes there are exceptions.) Where history happens is somewhere in between the necessary small beginning Bowers likes to be in on and the celebrations he enjoys.

#24 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 11:09 AM:

Caroline @ 22 - I always knew that the International Standards Organization was a Communist Plotâ„¢.

***

I think Bowers' wording is clunky, but the desire to be at the start of change is understandable. It's a form of ambition, and ambition (for better or worse) is a necessary condition for making change.

Still, it does kind of sound like he's running for the Politburo, but only after someone else wins the revolution.

#25 ::: Thomas Nephew ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 11:12 AM:

Well, having clicked through after instead of before posting my comment, it seems Dean's campaign (or "movement") is the lightning Bowers wants to catch in a bottle again. Not the worst ambition, but he does exalt "movement" per se. An "ew" for that, movements are no guarantee of good movement.

#26 ::: Thomas Nephew ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 11:21 AM:

One more thing: I think Bowers is right to point out Obama's bemusement about the crowds he gathers, and that that's a concern. At this point, I get a diffident feeling from Obama, one that resists a sense of responsibility towards a actual group of people wanting an actual agenda rather to his own destiny or some such thing. That's understandable -- "who are these people and how do they think they know me?" But it's a fragile basis for then going ahead with a presidential bid. Obama's an interesting, smart, good guy, I'm not ruling him out at all, but I'd like a higher movement-to-charisma ratio there too.

#27 ::: JonathanMoeller ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 11:26 AM:

The pigs always become the new farmers, in the end, and Dark Lords are never destroyed, only replaced.

#28 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 11:38 AM:

Actually, Bruce Arthurs nailed it in #6. What made my eyes cross about Bowers' post was the completely unselfconscious modulation from "we must throw off the shackles of the elite" to "oh boy, I wanna be part of the elite vanguard."

Teresa is certainly right that "the desire to be part of an ensemble cast that's in on secrets, knows how the world really works, undertakes daring and morally significant action, and succeeds" isn't all bad, and that sometimes these desires (which, God know, most of us have) lead to real good getting done.

I didn't mean to mock Chris Bowers for being an idealist, or for wanting to accomplish significant things.

#29 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 11:43 AM:

Thomas Nephew, #26: Wow, to my mind, Obama's evident bemusement about his celebrity is one of his most appealing characteristics. You can see it in his announcement speech: the Alinskyite community organizer saying to the crowd, "Look, I'm glad you're here, but this is about you, not me, and you all have to step up to the plate with me."

Of course, it's possible that it's all feigned. Certainly if I were ever to be seduced by a dark and evil political movement, it would be one fronted by someone likeably articulate with a lively sense of irony.

#30 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 11:55 AM:

This relates somewhat to the violence thread below-- we are drawn to extralegal violence for when the laws don't work, and we're drawn to the elite cabal of secret politics for when the sheep don't know what's good for them. People want to be part of that.
And both of them show up in a fair amount of SFF, too.

#31 ::: Darkhawk ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 11:59 AM:

Joy, #10: The friend of mine I went with and I put the appropriate splat noises in the Liberty Bell March in the mud on the Mall.

"And now ... for something completely different."

#32 ::: Katherine ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 12:11 PM:

I definitely have a wide streak of this but in Bowers' case it's so contentless. Movement where? To do what?

#33 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 12:51 PM:

I've never been present at the creation for a political movement or revolution or whatever, but I've been there for a few technical things that I can still sometimes dine out on.

The thing is, you only know after the fact that you were there when it happened. If your goal is to be there for the next Internet or Google or Microsoft, you are more likely to be creating the new PetFood.com instead.

I think similar rules apply to political movements.

#34 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 12:55 PM:

Patrick at #28: Teresa is certainly right

You are a wise man.

To be fair (or, honestly, maybe just to rationalize my political-junkie reading habits), Markos has always been more modest and realistic about the limited part that blog organizing can play in politics. Bowers is more romantic, Whitmanesque, naive, and subject to self-contradictory silliness of the kind under review.

And here I was thinking that blog organizing was all about non-elite grassroots conversation, and an alternative to the excesses and stupidities of public "demonstration." Now the new boss is the same as . . . won't get fooled . . . takin' it to the streets!

#35 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 01:19 PM:

What made my eyes cross about Bowers' post was the completely unselfconscious modulation from "we must throw off the shackles of the elite" to "oh boy, I wanna be part of the elite vanguard."

I think that's part of that whole wave-particle duality thing. He is both simultaneously and without contradiction until he is measured by the impact of the real world and then he'll become one or the other exclusively.

#36 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 01:25 PM:

Personally, I always thought that a much better goal would be to join the ranks of the comfortable, even if that meant having to be part of the elite. But then I was usually a Burkean rather than a Marxist -- build on what you have, guys; don't tear it all down and then try to build a new world on the ashes, because you have to live in the ashes while you're building, and this gets darn uncomfortable.

Ew is right.

#37 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 01:47 PM:

I wouldn't want to sign my name to exactly what he wrote, but I get where he's coming from and it beats the hell out of political apathy. He's generally been pretty sound in the time I've been reading him (mostly, admittedly, from links from other places).

I think #23 is probably about right.

I think also that it's about accomplishing something. We live in a democratic society and that means, by necessity, that any significant change requires a mass movement in support. Technocratic wonkery with an indifferent voting public can file off some sharp edges but it's not going to give you the Civil & Voting Rights Acts that the Civil Rights Movement did, for example.

So yeah I find his rhetoric off-putting, but at the same time, when you look at the problems of this country - inequality in all its many forms, civil liberties, militarism, world poverty, corruption, even such seemingly simple problems as healthcare - and you see that even such effective leaders as Bill Clinton got little traction on those issues, saying that what's required is a mass movement isn't so unreasonable.

Mass movements don't have to be Nuremberg. They can be the Quit India movement, or the Civil Rights Movement, or the New Deal. Who wouldn't be proud to be part of those today? And who doesn't feel a little saddened by the lack of such a overarching progressive movement today to right some of the wrongs in the world?

When he says he'd rather work with a candidate with less progressive ideals but a movement of support, I think he's saying: he just wants some things to get done, and that doesn't happen by supporting losing-but-super-progressive candidates. He's saying he'd support reasonably progressive (or hey, just sane) Democrats who come into office with a mandate for change. He's not talking about supporting Hitler just so long as he has plenty of supporters and he gets to be in the elite.

Speaking of, if I ever say I want to be a member of a clique, coterie, or circle, please shoot me immediately. But there too I get where he's coming from, and in fact it's something I would think many people here think about: wanting to be ahead of popular opinion on progressive issues. What's wrong with admiring the work of early activists for civil rights, those who worked when their opinions were deeply unpopular?

Of course, the same kind of language and appeal has been used by fascists and communists too, and we see how well that turned out. But that's like saying that voting is dangerous and ought to be avoided because, well, you could vote for the wrong guy.

So, sure, give me the indifferent status quo over Nuremberg, no question, but I don't think that's what he's getting at.

#38 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 01:57 PM:

What made my eyes cross about Bowers' post was the completely unselfconscious modulation from "we must throw off the shackles of the elite" to "oh boy, I wanna be part of the elite vanguard."

Brings to mind the C.S. Lewis essay "The Inner Ring" (in _The Weight of Glory_). You can lose track of the purpose of what you are doing: "To belong, to be inside, to be in the know, to be snugly together against the outsiders--that is what really matters." Lewis calls the "spirit" of the inner ring "morally neutral" because it can tip over so easily to evil if the exclusivity becomes all that matters. And the thing to keep in mind is that there's always an ever more exclusive inner inner ring...

(Giving credit where due -- I learned about this essay in an article in Mythlore 25:1/2 by Teresa Hooper on Lewis and Kipling. Good stuff.)

#39 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 02:41 PM:

This is one of those times when young people ("Young people," said Magneto, his voice dripping with world-weariness) are a) funniest and b) not to be laughed at. To their faces, anyway. When the young man says to the older man "But Lysis, her husband is long past it, and only wants a housekeeper; she told me so," laughing at him won't help him or you.

I don't go "ew" at this, personally. I smile and try not to laugh. If they ASK my opinion, I tell them I see a contradiction in their point of view, and try like hell not to tell them what it is unless they ask and until they've tried to find it themselves.

I think his use of the word 'precipitate' might be the key to why he doesn't see a contradiction. If society is a super-saturated solution, ready for change in a particular direction, a person with specific ideas and great energy about that change can act as the one crystal that makes all the solute precipitate out, and the entire society crystallizes in a new form.

You can be proud of being part of the tiny crystal at the center, as long as you don't actually want credit or power in the new system. The fact that almost everyone does want those things, or discovers that they feel entitled to them after the revolution, is a tragic lesson that only experience, apparently, can teach.

It seems to me that young, idealistic people undervalue experience and overvalue enthusiasm. Old, cynical people undervalue enthusiasm and overvalue experience. That's why we old pharts tend to be exasperated by young people crowing about how they're going to change the whole world and make it right this time, and why younger people are often exasperated by "we tried that and it didn't work" and other cynical adages uttered by the old and tired in old, tired tones.

Myself I'm old but deeply immature, and cynical and idealistic by turns—turns so rapid they become a blur, and so my mind is ice while heart's-fire burns.

Or, unfortunately, the other way around.

OK, getting serious: I understand PNH's 'ew', even though I'm more likely to laugh myself. But let's not laugh at them: the carriage needs the horses to get anywhere, and the horses need the carriage if they're going to do anything except run around randomly.

#40 ::: Misanthrope ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 02:49 PM:

I don't know why, exactly, but my immediate thought upon first reading: This is the guy with the big astrology history, right? But no, that was Jerome Armstrong. For whatever reason, my subconsicious associated uncritical belief in "other ways of knowing" with Chris' movement-elite fantasies. Er, I have no relevant information or insight here.

#41 ::: Christopher Turkel ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 03:25 PM:

Ah, the delusions of the young!

#42 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 05:07 PM:

How young is Chris Bowers anyway? [1]

Interesting that so many here find it amusing and/or leninist; I rather found it a bit cryptofascist: the desire to have a revolution but to be part of the secret elite creating that revolution without a clear goal other than change. Also the torchlit parades.

[1] and don't I remember a certain somebody with the initials PNH berating others for emphasising Ezra Klein's youth?

#43 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 05:13 PM:

In fairness, Martin, people are bringing up Chris Bower's youth as a mitigating and perhaps exculpatory factor, not as a fault.

Not that I know who the alleged Chris Bowers actually is, allegedly, but I was once young.

#44 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 05:39 PM:

I still like the idea of being there when history is happening. And, ya know, I have. Maybe not the history that makes it into the books....

I think it was Ed Buchman in LASFS who said that "History is just folks doing stuff". We're all part of history, I fear. And we can't escape that.

#45 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 05:43 PM:

Tom @44
The alternative to being there when history is happening is being dead. I know which one I choose.

But then, I was there when history happened before I was born (I'm the youngest People's Park rioter, being very recently conceived at that point). It's all been a rapid spiral into obscurity from there.

#46 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 05:51 PM:

abi... Meanwhile, my wife's middle-sister was being born right during John Glenn's historical flight. That didn't happen anywhere near Friendship Seven, but she did get a letter from Glenn about it a few years ago.

#47 ::: Jose Marquez ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 06:14 PM:

Are you guys suggesting that Bowers' movement, even if irregular, could be easily corrupted into something more dangerous, by dint of his youthful ambition?

Apologies. I could not help myself. Blame it on my youth... *grin*

#48 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 06:23 PM:

You deserve to be washed down with a hose, eh?

#49 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 07:12 PM:
It seems to me that young, idealistic people undervalue experience and overvalue enthusiasm. Old, cynical people undervalue enthusiasm and overvalue experience.

To complete the taxonomy, young, cynical people undervalue everything, conclude that Nothing Can Be Done, and lapse into angst.

Old, enthusiastic people start wars for fun, because they're convinced nothing can stop them. They have the experience *and* the enthusiasm, what can possibly go wrong?

#50 ::: Richard ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 07:28 PM:

Chris Bowers - fool.

#51 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 07:55 PM:

I feel comfortable saying with a straight face that the country is better off than it would be without Chris Bowers doing his thing. He's put a lot of hard work in recent years into wrangling netroots political passion toward useful ends; he's one of many who helped get folks paying attention and working together for the victories we got in the 2006 elections. He's also a voice in the young adult activist community for practical concerns like the worthiness of paying the people doing the work so that you aren't depending entirely on volunteers' willingness to burn themselves out for the cause.

All of that's compatible with some muddled ideas, prose much in need of streamlining, and the other things folks are talking about. Perfection we don't get, despite good deeds.

#52 ::: Jose Marquez ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 08:17 PM:

It's worked for me so far
Working off a New England sofa

So f'r an instant,
were I to go f'r the distance...

(I know, it's a stretch)

#53 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 08:55 PM:

Ah. Ouch. Google cache will make us all wince in years to come.

We've all wanted to be there, on the inside, making the great good things happen. In my case, I wanted to be one of the protectors: the people who stood up, spoke out, and took the hits when someone was needed to draw fire, in order to make safe space for other people. It seemed to be what I was good at; the hits didn't seem to hurt me as much as they hurt most people, and I wanted to do for someone else what I had needed someone to do for me but didn't get.

The problem, as several here have pointed out already, is that the groups that embrace you in those roles so often become toxic when the focus becomes loyalty to the group and protection of status instead of loyalty to the principles.

I'm not so sure Bowers' contradictory attitudes have all that much to do with his youth. "I believe in equality for everyone, but my buddies and I are entitled to special perqs" is hardly an uncommon attitude, and certain people won't understand what's broken about that even if you explain it to them.

#54 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 10:02 PM:

"Change management" (mildly right-wing) and "progressive leadership" (mildly left-wing) brochures all give me this same whiff: some animals are more equal than others.

Who Moved my Cheese to the Finland Station?

#55 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2007, 10:18 PM:

Chris 49: Excellent!

Jose 52: I think it snapped.

#56 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2007, 05:27 AM:

Some of you are being jackasses and ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

There is a lot of difference between the occasional unfortunate tangle of thoughts and words from someone who's doing good work on serious problems and the armchair ventings of twits. I know that our hosts know this. I know that most of you would claim to acknowledge it as a matter of principle. But some of you are carrying on in ways that make it clear you haven't bothered to find out which sort of person Bowers is. If you're going to denounce someone for a single quote as part of the next generation of dilettante Lenins, don't you think you might want to know any damn thing at all about the target first?

Yes, I'm pissed off about this. Like our hosts, I would like to see the restoration of normal politics in the US. And the fact is that Bowers' work at MyDD and elsewhere is part of that effort. If, for instance, you think that blogdom needs to be a lot more aware of labor issues and that Democratic candidates should be campaigning for the working as well as middle classes, then perhaps you'd like to know that Bowers is one of the people who works to get union leaders and campaign staffs together and talking to each other, and that he's been doing as much of that as he can arrange for the last few years. Likewise, if you approved of the occasions in the 2006 campaign where candidates in relatively safe races shared money with those needing more for close contests...one of the guys who actually sweated out analyzing the campaign donation data and persuading the candidates with much dough and little risk to pony up was, yes, Bowers.

Some of you poo-pooing the guy accomplished as much for sane, moral politics in your 20s and 30s, and you've got some standing for it. A lot of you haven't. I sure didn't. If you haven't, maybe you'd like to back the fuck off for a second and think about whether you're doing your little bit to make it that much less worthwhile for him and people like him to bother trying this time around. There are ways of commenting on thoughts and phrases that need improvement that carry less reek of a subtext along the lines of "Thanks, boy, now run along and let us middle-aged fanboys handle things from here."

#57 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2007, 05:55 AM:

I don't get this at all. Chris Bowers says he wants to be there when some shift in majority consciousness becomes manifest, and in the meantime wants to be part of the organized minority that prepares the way for it. What's sinister or contradictory about that? These two very different kicks are familiar to anyone who's taken part in an election campaign, or a single-issue campaign, or more or less any kind of politics (actual politics as distinct from, say, intrigue on the one hand, or witnessing on the other). The political objective can have any kind of content, good or bad. The desires in themselves don't point to a bad content, or to a wish to be part of an elite after the political objective, whatever it is, is achieved.

Of course it's not always easy to tell in advance if your little cabal is involved in real politics as distinct from intriguing or witnessing, but them's the breaks. I've been part of ahead-of-the-curve cabals on apartheid, Ireland, gay lib, the Iraq war, Eastern Europe, one or two other things. On certain other issues ... not so much.

ObSF: the election night in Double Star. Or for the real world, In Defence of Politics, by Bernard Crick.


#58 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2007, 06:00 AM:

Thanks, Ken, I was hoping that someone with more relevant experience than me would show up. :)

#59 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2007, 06:54 AM:

Bruce, I shouldn't have said what I did, because it was very tangential commentary not actually related to Chris Bowers at all, so I shouldn't have mentioned him in it.

I've just never dug the "elite vanguard" idea, instead preferring to dream about everyone suddenly being inspired at once to create a just and peaceful world, in a purely collaborative, non-hierarchal way. I realize that this is wholly unrealistic.

#60 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2007, 09:47 AM:

Caroline, it's a worthy dream, one I share. But the thing is, the work that folks like Bowers are doing now actually does - to my mind, at least - get us closer there. Someone has to be out there paving the road, pointing the way, and sometimes dragging along politicians and the public away from the Republican machine toward someplace where better choices are possible and seem desirable.

#61 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2007, 12:19 PM:

I want to be there at the moment when history happens, when the world changes, when consciousness shifts, and when the people rise up and throw off the shackles of the elite, the status quo, and the comfortable.

He--and the rest of us--are already there. The problem is that there are many competing fragile utopias in play: This is also the moment when the elite rises up and throws off the shackles of the people.

#62 ::: The Editors ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2007, 02:27 PM:

Bruce Baugh is correct. Chris Bowers is not eHitler.

Our hosts are kewl kidz regardless.

#63 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2007, 03:45 PM:

I'm very taken with the idea of Nielsen Hayden Babies and their adventures, though Jon Singer Baby might be too much.

#64 ::: skippy ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2007, 02:22 AM:

i don't fault chris for having those feelings.

i fault him for sharing them.

#65 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2007, 05:46 AM:

Earl Cooley@12 "I could have been closer to the front of the line waiting to see Star Wars at the theater for the first time." I was there before the lines; read Baird Searles early notice on the film. Nyah. (And I couldn't persuade any of my friends of the time to go with me. The real vanguard is bleeding lonely.)

Teresa@21: Thank you.

Bruce@56: Yay!

Ken@57: because the desire for the kick too often takes over from the work itself. Still, hard to imagine anyone doing the grunt work of politics without feeling the kick.

Skippy@61: um, you mean, "Shut up and dance?"

#66 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2007, 07:42 PM:

For some reason, reading Patrick's post and all the comments that follow, I am reminded of the balloting in Kansas City in 1976 to select the site of the 1978 World Science Fiction Convention and the outcome of that vote.

#67 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2007, 09:05 PM:

We took the time off from putting up lights in the original version of The Other Change of Hobbit to take in the second showing of STAR WARS to a paying audience (a benefit for Pacific Film Archive in San Francisco, and the first audience had just left the theater). Seeing that film with a totally naive audience was an amazing experience.

Alan, Kevin Standlee has been working for a while on a fannish version of the musical 1776.

#68 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2007, 08:22 AM:

Maybe it's already happened.

It's called Global Warming. A small movement of vocal activists and scientists, suddenly turning into a mass movement.

We might have passed the tipping point. I don't believe it, yet, but when America's evangelicals start talking about global warming, you know that your ice pack has just shifted.

#69 ::: Jack Ruttan ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2007, 06:34 AM:

I always thought that non-neurotic writers, and smart people who had their life in order without too many crises or scenes, was a club I wanted to belong to. It might be fictional, and anyhow, it certainly wouldn't have me as a member.

Still, as I was telling a friend last night, I almost never refuse an invitation or chance to observe a subculture. It's the journalist in me, but I'd feel pretty uncomfortable at a KKK or extreme nationalist meeting. Maybe a Republican convention, too (though I'm not really trying to equate them).

#70 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2007, 10:29 AM:

Bruce Baugh's #56 and Ken MacLeod's #57 are very sensible. I'm sorry I didn't get back here earlier to say so.

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