Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Sharon Smith Roundtable

Jim: This is our reading roundtable because reading is fundamental, unless you're Sharon Smith. Our e-mail address is and, should you forget it, Sharon Smith will happily provide it to you. Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ava, and me, Jim; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; and Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz). As always with roundtables, this is a rush transcript. Others wanted to participate as well; however, Sharon Smith, in all her infinite lack of wisdom, launched an attack on Third and specifically on Ava, C.I. and Elaine. Ty?


Ty: We've done parodies since our first year online. We did several parodies of CJR, for example. And the reaction? One CJR-er was a little miffed and puzzled, three wrote to say how much they loved it. We did a parody of The Nation and The Progressive in which we heard nothing from anyone working for The Progressive but we heard a ton from people working for The Nation. All of whom thought it was funny. This should not be confused with our parody of a Nation cruise, by the way. But we've done numerous parodies since we started and never once has anyone written to 'inform us' that parody is a crime. One time, Ava and C.I. parodied a name journalist who e-mailed to say they found it "wickedly funny." Last week, we did another parody, "US (SR) Socialist Worker (Parody)." Along with those of us participating in this roundtable, the following also helped write that parody: Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Trina of Trina's Kitchen; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; Ann of Ann's Mega Dub, and Dallas. This parody appears to have bothered Sharon Smith but what really ticked her off was "Excerpt: A People's History of Children's Stories." That was part of the parody, written by Ava, C.I. and Elaine and written to pitch the parody.

Jim: I was the one who nixed a parody of US Socialist Worker. I nixed it because we'd done some really strong parodies in the past and I wasn't sure we could pull off one equal to the previous ones. For a number of reasons including that we have so many people working on the writing now. Elaine has been pitching a parody for at least two months now. And I have encouraged her to do it at her site. But I just didn't think we could pull it off here. Normally, as one vote, I could easily be outvoted; however, I was a very strong no. During the last two or so months when Elaine pitched it, there was one week where C.I. said forget it. She said that because she was exhausted and sick -- that's the edition where she and Ava had some bug and were throwing up throughout -- as noted in that week's "A note to the readers." Otherwise, they were for it and others were willing to give it a try. I was the holding block. I said no until last week when, as part of the deal, Ava and C.I. agreed they'd write a bonus feature taking on some of the hypocrites and, in passing, Elaine began to read out loud "Excerpt: A People's History of Children's Stories" -- when I heard that, I knew we could do it. That's the background here. I need to toss to Elaine.

Elaine: Briefly, US Socialist Worker -- and we highlight Great Britian's Socialist Worker in this community, for those confused as to the "US Socialist Worker" designation -- has been a joke for some time. It exists mainly to tear women down. Especially women in the arts. It exists to justify and apologize for Barack Obama. It failed, in 2008, to take a principaled stand and endorse either Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney. FYI, this community endorsed Ralph. Socialist Worker covered for War Hawk Barry Bomber. I think Cindy Sheehan calls him "Barry Obomber." There was never any reason for Socialist Worker to sing Barack's praises.

Ty: But they did and did so because they consider him Black. Let me be the one to put that on the record. You don't get Whiter than the US Socialist Worker. It's Jew, Jew, Anglo, Jew, Jew, Anglo. You notice if you're African-American. It's probably the first thing I ever noticed about it. How very White it was. And like many knee-jerk 'radicals' they see African-Americans as simpletons. So we must be praised and stroked. Which was what the refusal to call out the African-American community that voted for Prop 8 in our state was. Instead, Socialist Worker offered excuses including that there was no 'outreach' to the African-American community. What a load of crap. I'm so sick of The Honky News from Socialist Worker. I know Anglo Sharon thinks she's some sort of martyr for marrying outside her 'sect' -- I use that term intentionally. But they're too chicken s**t to criticize a mixed man they see as Black. Lee Sustar has probably been the strongest critic the magazine's had -- other than John Pilger but they just repost Pilger's writing. But all this time later, their weak criticism is a joke.

Dona: So Sharon Smith wrote us a letter and everyone who's seen it has laughed. Jim wrote a reply to her informing her that this would be roundtabled. I wrote her and I believe Jess wrote her. Ty was busy with work and Ava and C.I.'s attitude was, "We have better things to do than worry about Sharon Smith and her curious ideas." As Jim noted, the e-mail smeared all of us participating but it was especially aimed at Ava, C.I. and Elaine. Jim forwarded the e-mail to Elaine who wrote "Sharon Smith is such a s**t" last week in response.

Jim: So let's move to Sharon Smith. Wait, actually, Jess, in your e-mail to Smith, you made a point that I want to get on the record. Re: Smith and Naomi Klein.

Jess: Oh, right. I pointed out that when everyone online was either ignoring or attacking Sharon Smith in March 2005 for her critique of and calling out of Naomi Klein, C.I. publicly defended Smith at The Common Ills. Sharon didn't feel the need to write then, now did she? And no one, no one was defending her online except C.I. when Smith wrote that piece.

Jim: True that. Sharon's e-mail opens, "I have been avoiding your cynical site without comment for a couple of years" -- dissect.

Dona: The first thing to point out is "cynical site." Are we cynical? Maybe to some we are, maybe to others we aren't. But she clearly finds us to be cynical and she grades that as a bad thing. Indicating Sharon Smith is both an ass and an idiot. I.F. Stone spoke and wrote of the need for skepticism. Sharon would rather smoke her Hopium apparently.

Jim: Continuing, "(because it is not worth the time and effort),"

Ava: That Sharon Smith's lazy should not come as news to anyone who's read her writing which always indicates she's 'labored' for approximately 10 seconds before serving up her instant opinions -- just add water -- and dashing off another column passed off as reporting.

Jim: Continuing, "but I find myself compelled to respond to your recent parody noted above."

Ava: Poor dear, she's hearing voices.

Jim: And she's referring to "Howard Zinn in parody." She continues "How could you possibly make fun of Howard Zinn, who devoted his life to educating people about the actual history of the U.S."

Jess: And who the hell is she to decide what qualifies as parody and doesn't? Who the hell is this whore to decide Howard Zinn is off limits in a parody. Kiss my f**king ass.

C.I.: It needs to be noted that Howard Zinn has a complicated life. Elaine and I have been very kind, we may not be in this piece. Depending on how angry we get, we may be outing a few things about Zinn or not. Let's put it this way, the safety's off the gun.

Elaine: And it needs to be noted that Zinn isn't considered the wonderful historian by everyone. While we praised him repeatedly -- July 2008 is when we walked away from Zinn, that's when he began whoring -- his history is subjective and there are people who disagree with many of his findings. Sharon Smith should get out more and try reading.

Jim: She continues: "-- simply because he had a relationship with the ISO? Your sectarianism is beyond belief."

Ty: And that's where I really had to ask: What the f**k? What would the International Organization for Standardization have to do with any of us? So I called Elaine and she explained it was the International Socialist Organization. I couldn't stop laughing at what a stupid piece of work Sharon Smith was. What an idiot and ass.

Jess: Exactly, the toy poodle radical wants to lecture others and doesn't know what the hell she's talking about -- AS USUAL. And as usual, she's the poor little victim. We must hate ISO to do a parody, in her mind. It's the whole world against Sharon Smith.

Dona: To clarify, we do not belong to any "sect," Sharon. The "sectarianism" you think you see is nothing but the ugly chip on your shoulder. We're of the left and your ignorance is astounding. Howard Zinn was an open Socialist. We have no problems with any Socialist or Communists who don't hide in political closests.

Jim: It was a parody. It was an attack on your trivialization of real issues, to be sure, but we did not attack your politics in the parody. C.I., for example, was very clear before a word was written that the Lee Sustar parody would focus on food and TV and not on Lee's politics. We parodied his ability to attend an End the Wars seminar and reduce it to nearly nothing in a lengthy article. But we notice that Iraq's been forgotten by Socialist Worker US for some time. We could have attacked the politics very easily because, Sharon Smith, you have your own sect going. You're ripe for parody.

Elaine: The only exception to that was Dave Zirin whom I loathe. Hairyback can f**k off and die. Mike's my lover and I don't appreciate the way Dave Zirin has repeatedly attempted to dick Mike around. Dave's 'politics'? Scream "Racism!" over and over. His politics were parodied.

C.I.: I want to jump in for a moment and just ask Sharon Smith where she stands on 9-11? This community, at all sites, has been very clear that our take on the 9-11 Truth Movement is, "More power to you. We're focused on other things, but we're not going to attack you. Those who studied JFK's assassination dug up and brought to light many important historical facts that otherwise would not be known. At a bare minimum, we're sure the 9-11 Truth Movement will do the same." That's our position. What's your position, Sharon? And more importantly, since Elaine and I knew Howard very well and for many decades, should we, Elaine and I, go public with Howard Zinn's thoughts re: 9/11? If we are attempting to attack him and destroy his reputation, we could certainly quote from any number of letters, we could scan them and post them here as PDF files. Translation, you're sitting on a powder keg, little girl, don't light a match.

Jim: Back to the screeching Sharon, "You might want to rethink your entire approach to US politics, which seems to be based on degrading those who take action to change the world, while you sit by as passive (and cynical) bystanders." Jess?

Jess: What the hell was that? Stupid ass writing us? F**k her. F**k her. What the hell does she do? I e-mailed the dumb ass to inform her that Ava and C.I. are out there forty-six weeks of the year on the road speaking out against the illegal war. They're doing that on their own dime, on their own time, they're not writing a book about it, making a movie about it or trying to become famous off of it. They charge no speaking fee, they charge no lodging fee. They accept no money at all. So who the hell is the Sharon Smith ass to question them?

Jim: And --

Jess: Hold on, Jim. That's what I stressed in my e-mail. I need to add on Elaine. F**k you, Sharon Smith. Since 2004, Elaine has been treating veterans. Exclusively veterans. Since 2005, she's tossed aside payment and done it all pro bono. Yes, Elaine has money and was born into it. But she's been to the office at least forty-eight weeks a year, donating her time to veterans, paying for her offices, paying her assistant Sunny and taking no money in. So f**k you, Sharon Smith. F**k you and your idiot ass.

Jim: I would agree with that. And I'm sure Elaine's uncomfortable that we're noting it here but it needs to be noted. Usually C.I.'s the only one who can get away with noting it. But Elaine's entire practice now is pro bono. She's not made a cent off it since 2005. The idea that you're going to question someone's priorities and not know what they do? Sharon Smith's a damn fool. Now in terms of journalism, it's already been noted that Sharon writes e-z-bake columns. I believe C.I. reported on three Congressional hearings she attended last week at TCI [see "Iraq snapshot," "Iraq snapshot" and "Iraq snapshot"] and on the first day of Elena Kagan's confirmation hearing for Hilda's Mix. What the hell does Sharon Smith do?

Ty: And that's really a question that people kept asking us as we circulated Sharon Smith's e-mail. What do they do? They don't report. They take a topic and write a column. Okay. Fine. But shouldn't Socialist Worker include a little work? Great Britian's Socialist Worker features actual reporting.

Jim: Sharon Smith continued, "Congratulations if this is all you wish to achieve (which, in my opinion, is not very much)." Sharon, you've achieved nothing. When you attacked Amy Goodman for not covering your husband's problems, people could have taken offense, the way you did over a parody of Howard Zinn. We didn't take offense. We don't play sacred cows. You obviously feel you live among them. Moooo, Sharon, Moooo. "Hope you all sleep well at night." We sleep just fine. We're sorry if your sex life is so unsatisfactory that you don't. We're sorry, but we're not surprised. Dona?

Dona: We will parody anyone we want at anytime we want and it will be free speech and you can kiss our damn asses. Sharon Smith emerges from the Cult of St. Barack just long enough to dash off an embarrassing e-mail. She should have stayed with her cult.

Elaine: And our parody of Howard Zinn was kind. Certainly we could never destroy his reputation the way he did as he rushed to endorse Barack Obama. When he found out how many people he'd outraged, he immediately 'retracted' his endorsement. Sort of. Within months, he was acting as if the retraction never took place. He also foolishly allowed his name to be used for a Barack 'ball' in January 2009. Do not give us the whiny b.s. Yes, we know, he had the sense not to attend. But he allowed them to use his name. He could have pulled his name. He refused to do so. Skin color did not make Barack less of War Hawk. It did not make him less of a Corporatist. While Socialist Worker -- US -- stayed silent about Barack's opting out of public funding for the general election, this community did not. At all of our sites, we called the move out. At all of our sites, we recognized it as a serious threat to clean and fair elections.

Ava: And Socialist Worker could have and should have led the way with a critique of Barack from the left. Instead, they got caught up in the game that so many on the left claimed Hillary would force them to play -- where they'd be defending her just because she was under attack from the right. That's all Socialist Worker did: Defend Barack from the right. And what do we have to show for that?

C.I.: Every American is forced to buy insurance -- a win for the corporations. We don't have single-payer, universal health care. But damned if Socialist Worker didn't run interference for Barack for months. Why was that? Why is Socialist Worker so damned consumed with defending a Democrat? That's a question its readers have long asked and its writers and editors have avoided answering. We didn't get the end to either the Iraq or Afghanistan Wars. We got a new, drone war on Pakistan. When the hell has Socialist Worker provided leadership in the last two years? It hasn't. It's run one article after another swearing that this state was racist, or America was racist or some other bulls**t.

Elaine: Because it's a bulls**t publication by bulls**t artists. You claim to be the friend of the working class but you can't stop hurling insults at them. How do you ever expect to reach anyone -- and I believe your theoretical gods demand that you reach beyond your inner circle -- when all you do is hurl insults at people, charges you can't even prove. But don't they make you feel good.

Ava, C.I. and Elaine [singing together from Joni Mitchell's "Help Me"]: You danced with the lady with the hole in her stocking, didn't it feel good, didn't it feel good, didn't it feel good?

C.I.: There were plenty of reasons for working class voters not to buy into Barack's hopium. They, unlike the 'creative class,' don't have the luxury of pie-in-the-sky. They've got to put food on the table, they're a pay check away from being homeless or carless at any moment. They need someone with a track record. Barack had none. And his insulting comments about working class people were appalling -- whether he was going off on working class, African-American fathers or working class people who owned guns or working class people opposed to so-called 'free trade'. Everything we're seeing now -- from his inability to act to his going down on corporations and swallowing -- was all evident before Nancy Pelosi gifted him with the nomination by refusing to allow a vote at the DNC convention -- something Socialist Worker never reported on. Nancy stopped the vote. I can't remember a time in my life when the delegates at the convention were not allowed to vote. Sharon Smith, our writing track record stands, your own is in serious question.

Jim: If we wanted a war with Socialist Worker, we'd have a war with you. We'd mock your politics and whatever it is right now that you're pretending to stand for, we'd fact check you week after week catching you in one lie after another. Instead, we've largely ignored you. We have repeatedly praised ISR and we've also criticized it a few times. A fact Sharon Smith is unfamiliar with but then Sharon has a distant relationship with most facts. Thanks for writing, you provided us with more laughs than you could ever imagine.
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