"The white left in New York is moribund"

James Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Fri Feb 12 13:27:12 PST 1999

--------- Begin forwarded message ---------- From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com> To: marxism at lists.panix.com Subject: Re: "The white left in New York is moribund" Date: Fri, 12 Feb 1999 16:08:59 -0500 Message-ID: < at popserver.panix.com>

[Go ahead and crosspost this to LBO, Jim. See what they're missing...]

Salon magazine:
>The absence of white protesters was noteworthy, and yet predictable. The
>white left in New York is moribund. Aging Upper East Side intellectuals
>and Vietnam War protesters never show up at protests in this town
>anymore, and probably never will again. The political landscape of New
>York has changed entirely. The white intelligentsia isn't angry about
>anything and has little or nothing to offer the political debate. Their
>dirty little not-so-secret is that they benefit from Giuliani's
>repressive policies.

I find this more interesting as a sign of Salon's drift to the right than anything else. What makes me laugh is the notion of "Upper East Side" intellectuals. I have never heard of such a thing before in my life. The Upper East Side, my neighborhood, is filled with lawyers, stock brokers and real estate developers. The only 2 intellectuals who live there are me and Henry Liu. I think the reporter meant Upper West Side, where Doug lives, and which used to be called the Upper Left Side, but even the west side is just a pale imitation of the east side nowadays, as is the Village east and west.

I have been following the coverage of the protests quite carefully and it is wrong to paint it as discontinuous with the American black movement. Sharpton has been prominent in all the protests. At the first massive street rally in front of Diallo's building, the white attorney who was representing the dead man, was booed off the stage by the mostly African attendees. This was the report in the generally reliable NY Times.

It is too soon to tell where this protest is going. Ideally it would mesh with the Mumia protests which are gathering enormous steam and which the "white left", including all the aging Upper West Siders, plays a prominent role. There is a big rally this weekend at CCNY, which has backing from a wide range of left and Afro-American groups. The best thing would be for Diallo's parents, Sharpton and Johnny Cochrane, who they've just hired, and all the people involved with achieving justice, to attend the rally and present remarks. This orientation is obviously not going to be found in the somewhat rancid Salon magazine, which is a nice read, even though they are lily-white except for their dubious new hire, reported on in the latest Village Voice Press Clips column:

Village Voice (www.villagevoice.com) It's been less than a month since Salon editor David Talbot gave Debra Dickerson the job of National Correspondent, but the appointment has already rankled some readers. Why? Dickerson's debut, an essay defending the Gulf War as an exercise in "killing as many Iraqis as efficiently as possible," struck many as uninformed and insensitive.

Salon readers responded with a volley of letters to the editor. One corrected Dickerson's suggestion that Iraq provoked the Gulf War by "shooting at America" and noted that her essay is "a good reminder that just because something is contrarian doesn't mean it's thoughtful." Another denounced Dickerson as a "self-centered, inhuman vampire."

Meanwhile, Salon watchers in the media are wondering if Talbot considers Dickerson his replacement for Jonathan Broder, the veteran journalist whom Talbot fired last fall, after Broder publicly criticized Salon's Henry Hyde adultery exposé. Talbot's critics fear that rather than seeking a qualified news reporter for the D.C. office, he picked up a contrarian pundit just to generate buzz.

"I think it's the most cynical thing David Talbot has done," says one critic, who adds that the last thing Salon needs is an- other screed writer.

Dickerson, an African American in her late thirties, has lots of attitude but no training in journalism. A St. Louis native, she joined the air force in 1980, attended Harvard Law School 12 years later, and then moved to D.C. with an agenda. As she wrote in The New Republic in 1996, "I'm a well-educated, well-paid . . . transplant who came in pursuit of a cool job and a place in the power elite."

Her first job out of law school was with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, but in the tradition of the disaffected young lawyer, Dickerson began contributing essays and reviews to the likes of The Nation, the Voice, and The Washington Post. Her big break came in 1997, when former U.S. News & World Report editor James Fallows hired her as a senior editor, as part of his crusade for diversity. She filed cover stories and essays, but was not assigned to a particular beat.

Last summer, after Fallows was fired, Dickerson stayed busy, working on a memoir to be published by Little, Brown. In January, she was awarded a $50,000 senior fellowship by the New America Foundation, a think tank devoted to promoting liberal intellectuals. (James Fallows is a board member; David Talbot's sister, Margaret Talbot, formerly of The New Republic, was also named senior fellow. The fellowships were announced- where else?- in Salon.)

Talbot's critics feel that he needs to redeem the magazine's political reportage, which has been so biased in favor of the White House that Broder felt it hurt his ability to do his job. (See, for example, Salon's January 28 profile of Sidney Blumenthal, which made the sweeping claim that "admirers and enemies alike agree that . . . Blumenthal is brilliant." Did anyone ask Christopher Hitchens?)

"I had no idea that Salon's hires were under such intense scrutiny," Talbot jokes. "In the future, I'll have to float candidates' names in the New York Post." He says Dickerson's column, which does not kick in officially until she finishes her book, will be "reporting-driven. This is part of our renewed commitment to break news and not just comment on it." Talbot plans to add several reporters in the next year, and to hire a Washington beat reporter by next month.

Louis Proyect


--------- End forwarded message ----------

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