Solidarity For A Few Minutes If Everyone’s OK With That Maybe I Guess

Just to set the mood, here’s a bit Matt Taibbi wrote about the ability of the American left get themselves organized, specifically with respect to the anti-war protests in 2007:

“The post-sixties dogma that everyone’s viewpoint is legitimate, everyone‘s choice about anything (lifestyle, gender, ethnicity, even class) is valid, that’s now so totally ingrained that at every single meeting, every time some yutz gets up and starts rambling about anything, no matter how ridiculous, no one ever tells him to shut the fuck up. Next thing you know, you’ve got guys on stilts wearing mime makeup and Cat-in-the-Hat striped top-hats leading a half-million people at an anti-war rally. Why is that guy there? Because no one told him that war is a matter of life and death and that he should leave his fucking stilts at home.”

A week ago, in response to the short-lived and possibly illegal Respect Democracy get-Rob-Ford-reelected site, I put up RespectTheLaw.ca. I publicized it with two tweets, it got a few thousand views and sort of made the rounds, at least as far as the small pond of Toronto-politics-on-Twitter is concerned.

The “Respect Democracy” site was completely obscured – it was difficult, intentionally, to figure out who is behind it or what the information is being collected for. I built Respect The Law with just one breadcrumb in it, one more than none, deliberately put my email address at the top of the source. Links to source material but no other pages, affiliations or policy statements, again deliberately.

It didn’t take long for people, via Twitter and email, to ask me to confirm it was me, which I did. But then a surprising thing happened – I got a lot, indeed quite a lot, of pushback from people asking me what my usage and data retention policies are, and accusing me in pretty stark language of being an enemy of democracy. “You either believe in accountability and transparency, or you don’t” said one poorly-nuanced commenter, they were not alone.

The most interesting thing about this is that all, not some or most but 100%, of the criticism I’ve received for the effort has come from self-described “leftists”. And these weren’t polite requests for information or gentle suggestions, my goodness no: these were repeated assertions that I wasn’t taking data integrity, transparency and accountability seriously, and was consequently a bad person.

Well then.

On the one hand, that is absolutely a legitimate concern. I did not tell anyone who I am, how I intended to use that data, or how it was stored. That’s absolutely true.

On the other hand: honestly, put a fucking sock in it.

I’m a straight-up socialist. Not a liberal or left-leaning, but an actual socialist. We live in one of the richest societies in the world; our schools and libraries should be palaces. Our hospitals should be the envy of the entire planet. Our boulevards and public buildings should be towering edifices of stone and steel that we’ll be proud to pass down to our great-grandchildren along with clean air and clean water, freely and equally accessible to all of us. And I’m increasingly convinced that the reason so many people call themselves “centrists” now is that calling yourself a “leftist” is a license for every unshaven pinhead with a Che shirt you cross paths with to explain to you, in granular, inclusive detail, how you’re doing it wrong.

I suspect I’m going to go back to that myself, if only to save myself the hours in the day. You know what’s way, way more important to me than the “progressive” label? Making some fucking progress. So next time you see somebody trying to move the world a little closer to the way you both think it should be, but you disagree with their approach? Put a lid on it and let them work. The political right by and large gets this, and consequently they can get a lot accomplished. The left, us, well. Not so much.

I’ve added a usage policy page to the site, clearly visible before user data goes in.

Thanks for your feedback.

2 Comments

  1. Mike Kozlowski
    Posted December 11, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    1. The belief that the Right is massively effective while the Left is disorganized and ineffective is taken as a given, but in a nation where gay marriage is increasingly legal, marijuana is decreasingly illegal, and universal health care is closer than ever to being real, I’m not seeing it. (I confess I do not know Canadian politics, but it’s not just Canadians who make that claim, so.)

    I think that if you are on the Right, it probably seems like your own side is split and ineffective, with half of your compatriots fussing about the rules of nomad desert gods and the rest so focused on helping out Wall Street people, so that there’s nobody there to really advance the TRUE right-wing goals of hurting minorities (or swap the positions around to fit the speaker’s proclitivities and complaints). It’s easy to see your own side as a disorganized fractious mess and the opponent as a coolly efficient monolith, but it’s rarely true.

    2. A large part of me believes that it’s through fractious disagreement that the best policy outcomes are achieved. Some people care too much about this part or some people care too much about that, and if you have to respect them all, then… fuck, man, you have to give nods to being gender-inclusive, to not destroying the environment, to providing access to the disabled, to data openness, to etc. etc. etc. A pain in the ass, and yeah it probably stops some things from being done, but it means that when things are done, they’re done better.

  2. mhoye
    Posted December 11, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    I get your grass-is-greener point, but I’m not talking about “massively well-organized”, just “not passive-aggressively nitpicky”. This isn’t fractious disagreement – I’m pro that, no question – and it’s not about giving a nod to things as much it is about some people insisting their entitled to one, regardless of whether or not it helps.