Friday, September 21, 2007

Why is the Progressive Blogosphere MIA on Jena?

Pam Spaulding points out what I alluded to below, that the progressive blogosphere has not had the case of the Jena 6 on its radar, although it was highlighted by Democracy Now's Amy Goodman over two months ago.

Reading Pam's post, and surfing through the leading progressive blogs is a trip of cognitive dissonance, particularly as Pam notes, many of these same blogs are only to eager to capitalize on the Republican candidates' dissing of minority-moderated debates and events.

Why such a blindspot among us?

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I started this post yesterday (September 20) and briefly let it publish before returning to it to make some revisions and ultimately to send it back to draft status when I couldn't get it together in a way that suited me.

In the interim, the peaceful marching and demonstration in Jena of "tens of thousands" of mostly African Americans from around the country has taken place.

And still. No commentary from the blogosphere (except for Pandagon's Pam Spaulding). (cue the sound of crickets chirping)

This is really shocking to this white senator.

How to explain it?

The answer I was trying to put together yesterday had to do with the fact that we white bloggers are mostly consumed with the Great Partisan Debate. This preoccupation lends itself to a focus on national issues, like war and the economy, and to national figures, like party officials and media elites. That is to say, if an issue, development or situation can be immediately and directly plugged into the Great Partisan Debate, than it is fodder for the blogger mill. But if the issue is perceived as parachial (i.e. local or limited in application) or ambigious, and most of all, if it is not easy to see its connection to the Great Partisan Debate, than that issue will whither on the vine.


And I still think this explains a lot of it. But to not have any of the A-list blogs commenting on yesterday's demonstration and the situation in Jena TODAY, after the demonstration and the national media coverage paid to it has me completely baffled.

A secondary but related feature of the Jena case that gives it the blogosphere kiss of death is its criminal justice component. Criminal justice issues, inequality in sentencing, the Drug War, prison conditions, AIDS in prison, prison rape and violence, gangs in prison, rehabilitation and especially, the racial intercept of all these issues, are the political black hole (no pun intended but it may apply anyway) of national politics. Hence, the A-list of white bloggers consumed with national issues, national personalities, and the Great Partisan Debate, shy away from criminal justice issues in the states and localities (unless the criminal case is in Washington, DC and involves administration officials).

For all our talk about how myopic and self indulgent the Washington Beltway class is, most of us bloggers are not much better or different in regards to things taking place in the lives of regular people outside of major metropolitan areas and to the culture and vibes of truly alternative media and community fronts (i.e black radio).

All I can say today is that the White Out regarding Jena is simply astounding. I'm embarassed.

Post Script

I have to say that Al Sharpton had a good one at yesterday's demonstration. He said (I'm paraphrasing from what I heard him say from this morning's Democracy Now broadcast).

"The first Civil Rights struggle was against Jim Crow. Today's Civil Right's struggle is against James Crow, Jr. Esq. The first Civil Right's struggle was about a seat on the bus. Today's Civil Right's struggle is about our seat in the courtroom."

Post Script II

Those A-listers who have briefly raised the subject of the Jena 6 have done so in the context of--wait for it--the statements about the Jena released by the Democratic presidential candidates. This is that What Are You Doing For The Great Partisan Debate? angle I discussed above. See the 7th bulleted item in this Daily Kos post for an example of the same.

Post Script III

I think the left blogosphere has been silent on this matter due in no small part to the fact we are without the late, great Steve Gilliard. It's times like these when his presence is most missed. Steve brought more of a real world connection to the reality based blogosphere.

Post Script IV

The Daily Kos and FireDogLake (in an ambigously worded post-title) now have frontpage posts up about Jena.

1 comment:

michelle said...

But if the issue is perceived as parachial (i.e. local or limited in application) or ambigious, and most of all, if it is not easy to see its connection to the Great Partisan Debate, than that issue will whither on the vine.

Hmm, I see a version of this too but not only about the political parties. I have seen this pattern in geographically local and regional contexts as well.

The key, it seems to me, is this: White progressives (on and offline) perceive issues as broad, universal when the issues implicitly place white people's concerns at the center of analysis, attention and action.

And in fact if you check out the unspoken parts of some of the white progressive rhetoric, you may notice that "ordinary" and "average" people (or worse, "citizens") are generally but implicitly code words for white people at the center.

On the flip side, white progressives generally perceive issues that place people of color's concerns at the center of analysis and actions as narrow, divisive, limited .. as you said, parochial.

I have seriously seen this in a local-regional offline context, too. It's a major pattern.

In fact, challenging systemic racism is sometimes rhetorically placed as a "local" issue by white progressives even though it is a national/international system and those issues have huge contexts and scope.

I see this pattern as the operation of a system of white supremacy more than just is it about partisan politics or not. It is about the assumption that white concerns are "universal" because white people are plaed as most human, most real, most important. It is about the assumption that people of color should either follow the white people (be "developed" by white progressive orgs, for example, be educated to see things the "right" way with the correct understanding of what is important) ... or shut up.