I know one can never underestimate the impregnable insularity of the American commentariat, but even so, I still find my jaw dropping slightly at the weak, wan, shoulder-shrugging response of some our leading “progressives” toward the world-shaking events in Egypt.
We’re talking about people who consider themselves to be educated, informed individuals: alert, aware, engaged with the world. And as such, they feel able to opine on a broad range of topics: economics, culture, military operations, political campaigns, legislative processes, judicial rulings, infrastructure, transportation, energy, the environment, law enforcement, health care – and, decidedly, foreign policy. Yet when it comes to Egypt, we suddenly see a remarkable reticence to offer any analysis whatsoever. Indeed, there is even a cheerfully admitted cluelessness about the little snippets being offered by our progressive beacons.
Here is Atrios -- who for years has offered us his view on the war in Afghanistan, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the political machinations behind American foreign policy and so on – writing on a day when the Egyptian uprising was reaching a new crescendo, and a 30-year dictatorship in a major U.S. ally was tottering on the brink of the abyss:
On Egypt, I got nothin’.
A shrug of the shoulders, a dopey grin, and that’s it. To be sure, he does offer an explanation for displaying the kind of willful ignorance for which he routinely and rightly flays Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. But the explanation is actually worse than his Gomer Pyle schtick:
There are some subjects I know a few things about and can at least pretend to opine adequately, and there are some subjects I don't know much about but have a reasonable sense of people who do know about that subject and can use them as my filter. On Egypt, I got nothin’.
He got nothin’ on Egypt; nothin’ in his own noggin to say about this world-historical event that could change the nature of global politics. He don’t even got no experts to “filter” events for him and tell him what to think about it. Putting aside this confession of an inability to think for oneself (which, again, seems to apply only to this issue), the Egyptian uprising has been going on for 18 days. In 18 days, an educated, professional progressive commentator could not find even one person anywhere in the world who knows something about the situation in Egypt? Not a single one "to use as a filter"? Nope; he got nothin’.
No one is required to comment on the events in Egypt, of course. But why, if you are an informed, engaged commentator on a wide array of public events, and a purveyor of progressive views aimed at widening the circle of freedom and opportunity for all, would you go out of your way to make a great show of how ignorant you are about this vast upsurge of grassroots liberation – except to imply, perhaps unwittingly, that it’s really not all that important in the grand scheme of things? For as we all know, to most of our progressive champions, the “grand scheme of things” is a painfully constricted little circle centered almost entirely on the partisan squabbles between the two corrupted factions of the corporatist-militarist power structure in Washington.
Even Digby feels compelled to tell us that “I honestly don’t know what to say about Egypt.” You know what to say about UK politics, you know what to say about North Korea, you know what to say about China, you know what to say about Iran, you know what to say about Iraq – but you don’t know what to say about Egypt? Did Egypt fall into a big black hole? Is there some kind of cloaking device over that country that prevents progressives from looking at it and thinking about it? To her credit, Digby does at least bestir herself to find someone she "can use as a filter," and points readers to an analysis of Thursday’s wrenching turn of events. But why this strange shyness about the revolution in Egypt?
I understand that most progressive bloggers see themselves as operatives of the Democratic Party (albeit the eternally disappointed, abused and exploited “left wing” of the party), and thus are absorbed in the factional machinations on the margins of the bipartisan power structure (which never changes its core agenda of elite domination, no matter which gang of gasbags and grafters is in the managerial role). That's their ultimate concern, and their main focus. But it is still shocking to see how self-proclaimed progressives – who are, after all, meant to be devotees of human advancement – have treated the Egyptian uprising as a sideshow, scarcely worth more than an occasional passing glance. Again, what would they say if some talking head on CNN asked Sarah Palin her view on the situation in Egypt, and she replied: “On Egypt, I got nothin’.” Oh, the howls of derisive laughter we would hear about the ig-nor-ray-moose from Alaska! Yet this same moosiness has characterized much of the progressive response to the revolution.
This is admittedly a very, very minor issue, on a day when the Egyptians are surging forward once again with remarkable courage. But I thought it worth noting -- in a passing glance -- the willful, cheerful ignorance and unaccountable reticence being displayed by so many “informed” opinionists when it comes to Egypt.
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- Written by Chris Floyd
- Published: 11 February 2011