Tuesday Reads: Odds and Ends

Laurette with a cop of coffee, Henri Matisse

Laurette With a Cup of Coffee, Henri Matisse

Good Morning!!

Over the weekend, Todd Gitlin, one of the most well-known leaders of the 1960s New Left died, possibly from Covid-19. The Washington Post: Todd Gitlin, activist and scholar who shaped and chronicled the New Left, dies at 79.

Todd Gitlin, who organized rallies against South African apartheid, racial segregation and the Vietnam War before turning to writing as a vehicle for social change, emerging as an incisive media scholar, sociologist and sometime critic of his colleagues on the left, died Feb. 5 at a hospital in Pittsfield, Mass. He was 79.

His stepdaughter, Shoshana Haulley, confirmed his death but did not know the cause. She said he had suffered cardiac arrest on New Year’s Eve and was diagnosed with covid-19 after being hospitalized near his home in Hillsdale, N.Y. Dr. Gitlin also had an apartment in Manhattan, where he taught at Columbia University.

Drawing on his immersion in the tumultuous student protest movement of the 1960s, Dr. Gitlin was a voice of the American left for more than half a century, writing cultural and political commentary, appearing as a talking head in documentaries and championing pro-democracy and antiwar causes at picket lines and teach-ins.


Todd Gitlin by David Shankbone

“He didn’t just watch from the sidelines,” said his friend Peter Dreier, a professor of politics and urban and environmental policy at Occidental College in Los Angeles. “From his college days onward, he was deeply involved in the major movements of his time,” including an effort to organize working-class Whites in Chicago, which he chronicled in his first book, “Uptown” (1970), and the Occupy Wall Street movement, which he examined in “Occupy Nation” (2012).

A self-described “not very private intellectual,” Dr. Gitlin wrote nearly 20 books and contributed to publications including The Washington Post, the New York Times, the San Francisco Examiner, USA Today and the Jewish online magazine Tablet. Philadelphia Inquirer journalist Carlin Romano once described him as “one of our shrewdest culture critics, a bracing mix of jazzy, colloquial rhythms and internally-footnoted academic erudition.”

As a scholar, Dr. Gitlin investigated the inner workings of the television industry and examined the role that journalism plays in shaping social movements — an issue he had firsthand experience with as a leader of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which extolled “participatory democracy” and came to define the New Left before disintegrating into factionalism at the end of the 1960s.

At The New York Times, Michelle Goldberg has an excellent piece about Gitlin’s evolution from student radical dismissing the old guard leftists to a member of the old guard himself: Requiem for a Liberal Giant.

There’s an indelible scene in Todd Gitlin’s 1987 book “The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage,” in which he and other leaders of Students for a Democratic Society — the leading organization of what was called the New Left — meet with old guard democratic socialists from the journal Dissent. The encounter is worthy of a play; it’s pregnant with both unfulfilled longing for connection and exasperated contempt. “We were scarred, they untouched,” wrote Dissent’s founding editor, Irving Howe. “We bore marks of ‘corrosion and distrust,’ they looked forward to clusterings of fraternity.”

Todd Gitlin, fifth from right in sports jacket, with members of Students for a Democratic Society in 1963.Credit...C. Clark Kissinger

Todd Gitlin, fifth from right in sports jacket, with members of Students for a Democratic Society in 1963.Credit…C. Clark Kissinger

It was the early 1960s (1963, according to Gitlin, 1962, according to Howe). The young activists, with their romantic enthusiasm for revolutions in the developing world, strike the older socialists as feckless and naïve. The socialists seem, to young men who feel themselves on the brink of a radical breakthrough, resigned to their own irrelevance. Gitlin and his comrades even feel a slight disdain for Joseph Buttinger, a Dissent patron and editor who had been a leader of the Austrian Socialist Party and part of the underground anti-Nazi resistance. Through “no fault of his own, history had condemned him to be a loser,” wrote Gitlin. “Not for us elegies to the twilight; for us the celebration of sunrises!”

But there would be no revolution in the U.S., unless you count the right-wing one that would sweep much of the New Deal away. By the end of the 1960s S.D.S. would implode; the giddily nihilistic Weathermen spun off and became terrorists, albeit mostly ineffectual ones. As a 42-year-old — the same age Howe was in 1963 — Gitlin wrote, “I know what it is like, now, to be attacked from my left — how galling when the attacker is 20 years younger, how hard to forge the link between innocence and experience.”

A remarkable thing about Gitlin, who died this weekend at 79, was that he never stopped trying to forge that link. The president of S.D.S. in 1963 and 1964, Gitlin eventually became a renowned professor of sociology. He was also a critic, a novelist and a poet — and, to the end, an activist.

Read the rest at the NYT.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the latest Trump documents outrage, but I’m still amazed by what this horrible man has gotten away with after the way Hillary Clinton was treated for using a private email server as Secretary of State. The Washington Post: National Archives had to retrieve Trump White House records from Mar-a-Lago.

The National Archives and Records Administration last month retrieved 15 boxes of documents and other items from former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence because the material should have been turned over to the agency when he left the White House, Archives officials said Monday.

The recovery of the boxes from Trump’s Florida resort raises new concerns about his adherence to the Presidential Records Act, which requires the preservation of memos, letters, notes, emails, faxes and other written communications related to a president’s official duties.

Trump advisers deny any nefarious intent and said the boxes contained mementos, gifts, letters from world leaders and other correspondence. The items included correspondence with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which Trump once described as “love letters,” as well as a letter left for Trump by President Barack Obama, according to two people familiar with the contents.

Two former advisers described a frenzied packing process in the final days of the administration because Trump did not want to pack or accept defeat for much of the transition.

Archives officials confirmed the transfer, which occurred in mid-January, following publication of a version of this story by The Washington Post earlier Monday. 

From The Boston Globe, Canadian and U.S. anti-vax truck drivers have taken over the city of Ottowa and created a nightmare for residents and law enforcement: Ottawa declares emergency after protests spin ‘out of control.’

Canada’s capital city declared a state of emergency Sunday as police struggled to rein in protests against vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, who declared the emergency, said that increasingly rowdy demonstrations posed a “serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents.” Hundreds of trucks continue to occupy the downtown area near Canada’s parliament with no sign that the protesters plan to leave.

Truckers and their supporters have been stockpiling jerry cans of diesel and other necessities. They built a wood shed as a kitchen and set up logistics centers in a downtown park and the parking lot of a baseball stadium.

But on Sunday, police fenced off the park and showed up at the stadium location to seize fuel cans, propane cannisters and vehicles. A total of seven people were arrested as part of investigations related to the protests, according to a statement from the Ottawa Police Service. It said there are more the 60 active criminal investigations, primarily for mischief, thefts, hate crimes and property damage.

Protesters gathered near Parliament Hill during the Freedom Convoy demonstration in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022. David Kawai, Bloomberg

Protesters gathered near Parliament Hill during the Freedom Convoy demonstration in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022. David Kawai, Bloomberg

The protests started in reaction to Canadian and Us laws that went into effect in January, requiring truckers crossing the border to be fully vaccinated. They’ve since morphed into a rally against COVID restrictions more broadly. Demonstrators have been camped out in the capital since Jan. 28.

The Canadian protest, which expanded to cities across the country this weekend, was championed by the likes of Fox News and by podcaster Joe Rogan, Tesla billionaire Elon Musk and former US President Donald Trump.

In Ottawa, the truckers’ blockade of streets and use of air horns for days — sometimes deep into the night — has angered residents. The city’s police force warned people that they could be arrested for bringing “material supports,” including fuel, to the protest zone.

So far, the Canadian federal government has refused to get involved. I think they may have to do that. This story is behind a paywall, but I’ve given you the gist.

Will Saletan has moved from Slate Magazine to The Bulwark, and yesterday he published an outstanding article on Trump’s anti-democracy movment: Lies Are the Building Blocks of Trumpian Authoritarianism.

Americans like to think our country is immune to authoritarianism. We have a culture of freedom, a tradition of elected government, and a Bill of Rights. We’re not like those European countries that fell into fascism. We’d never willingly abandon democracy, liberty, or the rule of law.

But that’s not how authoritarianism would come to America. In fact, it’s not how authoritarianism has come to America. The movement to dismantle our democracy is thriving and growing, even after the failure of the Jan. 6th coup attempt, because it isn’t spreading through overt rejection of our system of government. It’s spreading through lies.

It turns out that you don’t have to renounce any of our nation’s founding principles to betray them. All you have to do is believe lies: that real ballots are fake, that prosecutors are criminals, and that insurrectionists are political prisoners. Once you believe these things, you’re ready to disenfranchise your fellow citizens in the name of democracy. You’re ready to cover up crimes in the name of fighting corruption. You’re ready to liberate coup plotters in the name of justice.

And that’s where we are. Donald Trump and his party have sold these lies to more than 100 million Americans. He has built an army of authoritarian followers who think they’re saving the republic….

At a rally in Arizona this past Jan. 15, Trump repeated his standard lie that “the real insurrection took place on Election Day,” through voter fraud. From that standpoint, he noted, the Jan. 6th uprising was an attempt to restore democracy, and the people arrested in the uprising were “political prisoners.” The House Jan. 6th Committee is, in Trump’s words, a partisan cabal that trampled innocent people “like this is . . . a communist country.” So are the federal and state prosecutors looking into Trump’s possible financial and political crimes. In the name of law and order, he urged his supporters to rise up against these agents of the state: “We must protect our nation from these monsters that are using law enforcement for political retribution.”

d658cc96dbf2185587450bc59e04195832dc151cdd91c94a1e1664fd1b567302_1Trump continued his Orwellian themes at a Jan. 29 rally in Texas. He argued that President Joe Biden had been installed by fake ballots, not real voters, and that legislation to make voting easier would just lead to more fake ballots. Democrats “don’t have a voting rights bill,” Trump scoffed. “They have a voting fraud bill.”

This strategy—inserting lies into conventional moral appeals, so that his listeners think they’re doing the right thing when they’re actually doing the opposite—is central to Trump’s propaganda. Without the lies, the evil would That’s what happened a week ago, when Trump forgot to lie. In a statement, he complained that when Congress counted electoral votes on Jan. 6th, Vice President Mike Pence could have, and should have, “change[d] the results” and “overturned the Election.” The words “change” and “overturn” revealed Trump’s despotic intent. So, in a follow-up statement two days later, he replaced them. His true purpose, he insisted, was to “ensure the true outcome” and “ensure the honest results.”

I hope you can find the time to read the whole thing.

More stories to check out today

Politico: Senate GOP backlash smacks RNC after Cheney-Kinzinger censure.

CNN: Republicans are frustrated by RNC move reopening party’s January 6 divide ahead of midterms.

The Daily Beast: ‘Stop the Steal’ Organizer Scored Big Payout at Curious Time. Ali Alexander received a major payout to his old consulting firm right when he was subpoenaed.

The New York Times: Supreme Court Restores Alabama Voting Map That a Court Said Hurt Black Voters.

Gawker: We Have Kyrsten Sinema’s Social Security Number.

Politico: Biden’s top science adviser, Eric Lander, resigns amid reports of bullying.

The New York Times: Putin Warns the West and Ukraine, but Keeps His Intentions a Mystery.

Financial Times: France says Vladimir Putin is moving towards de-escalating Ukraine crisis.

The Washington Post: Documents reveal U.S. military’s frustration with White House, diplomats over Afghanistan evacuation.

Have a nice Tuesday, Sky Dancers!!

18 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Odds and Ends”

  1. bostonboomer says:
  2. bostonboomer says:

  3. bostonboomer says:

    • bostonboomer says:

      • quixote says:

        Oh my God, indeed. “Honest” mistake. Jeeeeeezus. I’ll grant the “mistake” part. The Big Dump is a mass of bad mistakes. But there’s not one molecule of honesty anywhere in that mass of flab. He wouldn’t know where to begin.

        • Enheduanna says:

          Bingo. He seriously hasn’t ever grasped the concepts of fairness and honesty in his entire life. Every move he makes is underhanded. It’s in his DNA, which he thinks is superior to everyone else’s. I don’t know why anyone reads that rag of a newspaper.

      • djmm says:

        Not surprising. The NYT whitewashed Trump’s record in 2016 (remember the headline that said he had no Russian connections — a statement not borne out by the article itself?) and gave Hillary the scorched Earth treatment for 30+ years.

        I don’t know why they feared and hated her so, but their envy and malice were daily in evidence.

        I do not forget.

    • dakinikat says:

      But her emails! Benghazi Her health! Trump just needs to be locked up! No wonder his AG bolted!

  4. quixote says:

    Footnote to the “private server” Hillary used: (I know I keep saying this, but it’s worth repeating!) That private server was the one secured by whichever three-letter agency does that sort of thing for a former President. She used it because it was no less secure than the government servers. A lot more secure than AOL as used by Colin Powell. And a lot more secure than all too many government servers which did get hacked during that time. Her server did not.

    (I know everyone here knows this. I just get :angry: every time I see this old framing in a news report.)

    • bostonboomer says:

      It’s so incredibly annoying that I just want to scream!

    • djmm says:

      Well said! And there was nothing wrong with her using it, just as other Secretaries of State used other non-governmental servers for the same purposes.

      • NW Luna says:

        I’m screaming with you. Plus what about the private phones used by Trump and his offspring, and their use of private email accounts during his admin? It’s so biased!

  5. dakinikat says:

  6. dakinikat says:

    • djmm says:

      I think she should have swatted his ass with a flyswatter. Rep. Rogers should be ashamed of himself. The masks were likely required on the train. I wonder if she can get him barred from using it.

      • NW Luna says:

        I would have wanted to swat his face! Damn infector wants to blast everyone else.

        Bet he gropes women, too.