The apparent irrelevance of the fractured “left”
I talked to my biological parents on the phone tonight, and they’re a good barometer of what a particular segment of normal, mainstream people are thinking. They’re Democratic voters who get their news exclusively from corporate media, and never go near anything alternative. Their idea of what’s going on in Ukraine is so different from my own that we might as well be living on different planets. I knew to expect a contrast, but was taken aback by just how sharp it was. I didn’t say much myself — I mostly just wanted to hear what they’re absorbing. The story they’re getting is deceptively oversimplified and entirely lacking in context, and they just believe it without question because that’s what the news says. They had no idea about all the media censorship that’s been happening, and there’s really no way of explaining to them why it matters. Foreign and independent media isn’t “real” news to them, from their point of view.
The conversation was a reminder of how insignificant “the left” is in the US. My parents’ views of the invasion are sourced from legacy media like PBS and CBS. As such, they have far more in common with the views espoused on Fox News than they do with any leftist perspectives. Something like Counterpunch is mostly incomprehensible to them, and to most people in the United States for that matter, especially those 40 and up. More younger people are smarter, thank goodness, and I look to them with some hope. Still, by and large, the establishment media is in agreement on the basics of the narrative, and it’s not very truthful, but they’re successfully controlling the conversation. People like my parents don’t question it at all, and that’s typical of a lot of people.
What I’m driving at here is that, basically, nobody gives a shit about the left. Not literally “nobody,” but so few people that it’s hard to claim it makes a difference. All the fine gradiations of perspective and theory on the left that lead to so many hot-blooded arguments and strong statements — nobody really cares outside a tiny group of people. So many topics that are sooooo important, like the exact wording that you use to describe Putin’s actions in relation to the West, are of no account at all in the mainstream.
And so I think to myself, what am I doing here, “on the left”? I don’t exactly feel at home. There are definitely people on the left who I deeply respect for their intelligence, moral clarity, and perspicacity. But there’s no “movement” and things feel too fractured for that to happen. All that being said, I agree with Chris Hedges, who says, “I do not fight fascists because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists.” I get that. The point isn’t success (because that might be impossible); the point is to do the right thing. Okay. I can find my own way of doing that, whether with “the left” or without it. Maybe I’ll try to just stop thinking about it in those terms, period. It doesn’t seem like it matters much.