Saturday, August 25, 2018

Interview from the Archive: Ted Rall says "we are going to see a new left" which "never would've happened if not for this last election"

Editor's note: This article was originally published on February 24, 2017.

This is the final of three articles spanning my discussion with Ted Rall. The first and second parts of our conversation are available on-line. 
Story by Joseph Ford Cotto 
People say a lot about political correctness, yet nothing at all.
It is one of those subjects that generates passionate controversy from both sides. Surely, most of us have heard debates on the matter which ramble into pointlessness. Indeed, one can hardly make a point about the key aspects of political correctness because these are deemed unsuitable for polite conversation. 
This is the saving grace for PC proponents.  
Opposing viewpoints are called “bigoted”, “unenlightened”, “intolerant”, “outdated”, or, the mother of them all, “racist”. Those who support unorthodox ideas are viciously attacked and vilified so that others are strong-armed to a state of perennial submission.
Ted Rall is not the sort to submit -- quite the opposite, in fact.
He is a left-leaning columnist and cartoonist whose work gets international syndication; a true mark of accomplishment in age where newspapers are going to their great reward in record number. Well, bankruptcy is hardly a reward, but you get the point. For years, Rall has provided keen insight about the follies of American political life; irrespective of whether this irritates leftists, rightists, or even centrists.
I have read his work for quite awhile and developed the sinking suspicion that he really has it out for the oh-so-urbane pearl-clutchers in that last group. 
As the author of The Anti-American Manifesto and The Book of Obama: From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt, it is easy to see why Rall engenders controversy from a broad range of perspectives. While his blunt honesty repels some, others of us appreciate his wit and no-nonsense delivery -- even if we do not agree with him on most issues.
Rall recently spoke with me about many issues pertinent to the politics of today. Some of our discussion is included below.


Joseph Ford Cotto: Memes, by their very definition, are simplistic and emotional in nature. Untold millions of Americans, presumably Millennials in large part, appear more influenced by memes rather than longer, more reasonable arguments. Has the Internet dumbed down the political acumen of our country's young adults?

Ted Rall: Yes. But it's not the only thing. What has really destroyed the political wisdom of the younger generation, or perhaps more accurately has failed to develop its potential, is the collapse of print media amid the endless search for clicks. Political cowardice is rampant in an environment in which editors and publishers and producers are terrified to take any chances, to think outside the box, to hire anyone interesting ot new. As I like to tell people in order to drive home this point, there is not a single communist or socialist newspaper columnist or magazine columnist or newspaper cartoonist or magazine cartoonist employed in the United States. You call that democracy? 37% of Americans are socialist or communist according to the polls. Don't they deserve to see their ideas discussed in mainstream media? 

Meanwhile, fringe figures on the far right like William Kristol are constantly invited to mainstream outlets. He was a columnist at the New York Times! In the last election, there wasn't a single staff columnist on an opinion page in the United States who endorsed Bernie Sanders. Yet he represented 50% of Democratic voters, and more than 25% of voters overall.

Cotto: Judging from that which you have seen firsthand, what is the core animating factor of America's social justice warrior subculture? 

Rall: I don't think there is one core animating feature. I think there are two main ones. There is a mix of people who are genuinely trying to pick up the mantle of social justice where it left off at the end of the 1960s, and then there are those who are nothing more then well read, politically minded, nominally left of center, online trolls. 

Cotto: What do you anticipate the primary legacy of Trump's election will be; specifically as far as American progressivism is concerned?

Rall: I'm optimistic. I keep thinking, what if Hillary Clinton had one? It would've been business as usual. The drones, the NSA, Guantánamo Bay, more military adventurism, all of that would have gone on as it did throughout the Obama years, no protests, no street demonstrations, no discussion whatsoever. Now the left is awake. People are paying attention. They're going to fight back. When Trump does things, many of which Democrats would have done and did do, they will be deemed unacceptable – which indeed, they are. Unfortunately, we are going to have to go through a period of repression under which many people are going to suffer. That's a terrible thing. I'm sorry for that. 

However, in the long run, we are going to see a new left, a new resistance to the status quo, that never would've happened if not for this last election. Every democracy needs a left. The United States hasn't had one since the 1960s.

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