Sunday, May 27, 2007

Chrissy Explains It All (finally)


"Daddy Wasn't There" Mike Myers (as Austin Powers) sang to comic effect in Goldmember. Christoper Phelps offers his own pathetic version on page 28 of The Nation's June 4, 2007 issue (no link, we don't link to trash). Phelps is responding to comments on his April 16th article "The New SDS" (ibid). In what was no doubt intended to be an 'end of story' moment, that would shut down his many critics, Phelps declares:

I am, at 41, much younger than those SDS veterans who still chafe at Weather's arrogance and adventurism, but they have my empathy. The implosion of the 1960s left, its failure to build durable institutions, was a tragedy felt acutely by those of who came of age on the left during the barren Reagan years. Perhaps a new generation's choice of the name SDS, for all its many upsides, inevitably invited Weather questions, given the way the first SDS was wrecked.

Oh the drama! Oh the melodrama!

Bernardine Dohrn done wrecked the family Dodge and spoiled the outings for all the young 'uns to come! Who knew?

Phelps is the misogynist of melodrama and demonstrates this with his need to blame Dohrn (see his original article as well as his reply to critiques of it) and his use of such terms as "barren."

Let's walk through slowly because the likes of Toad have allowed a lot of lies to enter the left's dialogue. SDS as a starting point is historically blind but let's grab it because 41-year-old Phelps is so confused about the "60s" that we fear going back further would cause his half-baked mind to burn out completely. (Penelope Rosemont wrote in to The Nation to note the roots in SLID though no one, including Phelps, explored SNCC.)

SDS did end. It's a nice little excuse to pin that on Dohrn (as Phelps does), it's just not reality. Toad needs to step up to the plate (along with a lot of others) and take responsibility for the destruction as well. Three participating in the writing of this feature know (and despise) Toad. They remember those days, those days when SDS was fighting that struggle for 'equality' and truth and justice. They remember Toad and his many brethren expecting the women in SDS to fetch the coffee, type the memos and, let's be honest, put out because what could be as impressive as the likes of Toad nude?

SDS (which we support in its original form and in today's version) was not the utopia that males like Toad like to remember. In fact, women in SDS were generally at the forefront of the feminist movement that followed and one reason for that was the rampant sexism on the part of many (though not all) men in SDS. Not knowing that reality (or ignoring it) doesn't make it go away.

SDS, as its enshrined in nostalgia, is a curious yellowed photograph which, on a good day, might include a Sandra (Casey) Cason or an Andrea Cousins among the men but, on most days, was all male.

Toad likes to lie that Weather Underground destroyed SDS and, like Phelps, he loves to pin the blame on a woman -- Bernardine Dohrn. Now let's not take anything away from Dohrn who is, and was, a powerful thinker and a strong speaker.

But at some point, as all this Blame Bernardine nonsense continues to perculate, might some hearing it (who didn't live through it) start to marvel over the all powerful Dohrn?

That's what the lie really calls for. You have to believe that SDS was utopia (however you define it) and all was well and good until, like Athena, springing to life fully formed, Bernardine showed up and tempted someone (Bill Ayers?) with an apple leading to SDS being forced out of the garden.

Now let's note, The Nation wasn't overly interested in the student left in the '60s' -- more interested than they are today, but not overly. Among political weeklies, The New Republic did a much better job charting and covering the student left back then. So it's not surprising that the lies would spring up in The Nation today when it's run by someone who really doesn't know 'the 60s' and, due to her tendency to print one woman for approximately every four males, probably is not overly bothered by the sexism involved in Blame Bernardine.

Whatever the reason, this nonsense is what would have been called a "cop out" in 'the 60s.' It's not reality. And in all of Toad's nonsense letters to young activists, he never cops to his own sexism or that of SDS. How nice for him (and his stated beliefs opposed to 'special interests' -- translates as any issue that goes beyond White male) that Bernadine exists to push his own blame off on.

But women of a certain age can tell you all about it and so can some men.

The lie? It tells you that SDS was chug-chugging along, making radical strides, and then along came Bernardine.

Now just think about that for a moment. One woman did all of that? Even Eve required the serpent! So maybe we should see this immense fear of the female as some sort of progress?

But here's reality, SDS was in shambles for a number of reasons. When Dohrn and others formed Weather (we always refer to it as Weather Underground and think the earlier name was as sexist as anything coming out of SDS -- and a tip off that a woman was not, from the start, steering every turn), they were in Weather.

At that moment, there was nothing to prevent the supposedly strong and solid SDS from picking up the pieces and carrying on. It's as though Disney Land shut down tomorrow and was then blamed for Magic Mountain also shutting down a week later. SDS had too many internal problems including the refusal of some 'leaders' to address the very real issue of sexism which they bristled at even more than when racism was brought up. The refusal killed SDS.

Dohrn was, and is, an exciting figure, a powerful thinker and speaker, but one person (or, and this does matter, one woman) can't destroy an entire organization. Only an organization can destroy itself (the destruction was aided by the government, a factor Phelps either ignores or is ignorant of). SDS was historical but it allowed its history to tie it to the past and that's what destroyed it in 'the 60s.'

Toad can rewrite it anyway he wants and, not surprisingly, many provide him an outlet to do so.

Bash the Bitch is a national past time so it's no surprise that late to the party Chris Phelps wants to partake as well.

For Phelps, the biggest crime Dohrn and others committed in 'the 60s' was the "the barren Reagan years" he had to live through. Damn you, Bernardine, for all those installments of "America held hostage Day" whatever that you hosted on Nightline! Damn you, Bernardine, for seizing control of all those daily newspapers and penning those endorsements of Ronnie Ray-gun! Damn you, Bernardine, for the death of investigative reporting and the enshrinement of stenography! But most of all, damn you, Bernadine, for the fact that Young Phelps couldn't get off his lazy ass and do anything but instead had to live through a "barren" time!

We have no idea where Phelps went to college (we do wonder if he wore a rubber red nose on his campus), but we do know, in the 80s, one of the biggest issues was South Africa and we do know many student activists actively fought college administrations and the White House over their backing of a racist regime. There were other movements as well but that's the one that stands out most and we don't find it "barren" but possibly Phelps is White?

That would, after all, explain a great deal.

We also know that as tough as it may be in any era to get active and out in the streets, each generation ultimately bears the responsibility for its own actions or inactions. So if Phelps feels he spent the 80s missing his period, we'd suggest he examine what he was or wasn't doing during his monthly cycles as opposed to fretting over what happened in 'the 60s.'

We'd further suggest that his ignorance is aided by a magazine that refused to offer historical examples of wire tapping and spying on American citizens when The New York Times revealed that the Bully Boy was doing just that. Alone among big indy media was Democracy Now! which probed, and gave context to, an earlier time when that was the norm. A lot is expected of Amy Goodman and that may be because of the fact that, time and again, she has delivered.

The Nation not only elected to sit it out they elected to praise Mark Felt when Bob Woodward identified him as the sole source known as Deep Throat (remember that when Woody needs to sell more books and suddenly 'remembers' other sources). William Greider's "Lies, Guts & Deep Throat" was such a valentine ("heroic") to the man that Greider couldn't even note that the abuses Felt allegedly informed Woodward of were the sort of abuses Felt regularly oversaw (when not attempting to swipe the panties of Jennifer Dohrn). Only after the love-in for Felt had been repeatedly staged could Dan Berger be allowed to tell the truth about Felt (and, strangely, only online -- no one at The Nation thought it was worth sharing with print subscribers or purchasers of the magazine). Though Juan Gonzalez lived through that time period (and had no desire to 'celebrate' Mark Felt), Amy Goodman is too young to make the same claim and, like many who know the realities of that time period, she didn't learn of it from the pages of The Nation.

That may be the most amazing thing about Phelps nonsense. The same magazine that elected to toss roses in Felt's path, elects to demonize Dohrn and can't even stop for one moment to speak of the many laws the government broke in their efforts to break up SDS (and other movements) and to persecute Dorhn. If Dorhn were the criminal the government tarred her as, don't you think she'd be behind bars right now?

The reality is Dohrn was a movement leader and that's her real 'crime.' It was her crime in the eyes of an out of control US government (which included Felt) and it's her 'crime' in the eyes of Little Phelps who just knows he would have had his menses if only Dohrn hadn't screwed the entire movement up. (When Dohrn and others broke off in 1969, nothing prevented SDS from reforming but SDS' own internal problems.)

Joni Mitchell rightly noted (in "Dog Eat Dog") that "you get witch hunts and wars when church and state hold hands." What do you get when a supposed independent magazine holds hands with the Council of Foreign Relations? You get Christopher Phelps. You get valentines for Felt and raspberries for Dohrn. What you should be getting are some serious questions about the directions of The Nation because that magazine is a mess and an embarrassment. From the failure to feature female writers in an equal ratio to male writers, to the idea that they've worked so hard that they can 'take it easy' and forget about Iraq, through their nonstop promotion of the publisher's friends and organizations, it's not being run like a political weekly for the left. It is being run like The Palm Beach Social Pictorial and, for any unfamiliar with the publication, that is not a compliment.

[Those needing some reality in their print periodical diet would be urged to read Doug Viehmeyer's "Steppin’ It Up: The New SDS" which LeftTurn published before The Nation -- some see Phelps' lousy article as a response to Viehmeyer's piece which wouldn't be surprising since The Nation can give shout outs to 'sister publications' but not only avoids doing so to LeftTurn, also avoided doing so to Clamor. The Nation really feels the need to play big bully on the block.]
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