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What with the internet and all

Michael Tomasky blogs for the Guardian on American affairs. He is a fairly left wing Democrat, and is currently feeling down. He describes in this piece how a piece of internet humour cheered him up. He was sent a letter to the Red States (i.e. the ones voting Republican in the weird American convention for political colours) that reads:

Subject: Letter to the Red States:

Dear Red States.

If you manage to steal this election too, we’ve decided we’re leaving. We intend to form our own country, and we’re taking the other Blue States with us. In case you aren’t aware, that includes California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and all of the Northeast. We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to the people of the new country of New California.

To sum up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states.

We get stem cell research and the best beaches. You get faith healing and swamps.

We get the Statue of Liberty. You get Dollywood.

We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom.

There is more if you click the link.

I am not so much interested in whether the contrasts drawn in the letter are true or fair. I did not even understand many of them. I am very interested in the way that this kind of humour can no longer be kept secret from those who are the butt of the joke. Despite being in the form of a letter to the Red States the original writer of this (from the reference to stealing “this election too” it dates from before Obama’s victory and probably from just before Bush’s second term) must have known that it would be harmful to the Democrat cause to have it actually read by too many Red Staters, particularly come election time. It would arouse even more hostility from a bloc of voters the Democrats would like to reach when accompanied, as it often was, by the Jesusland map.

A couple of decades back – when this sort of thing was photocopier humour rather than internet humour – such a letter would have been seen overwhelmingly by fellow Democrats and Blue State persons. Now it can be found by anyone. It can be found by anyone years after the event. It keeps on being found years after the event.

At first I thought of this in personal terms: one can imagine this letter to the Red States appearing on the website of some minor political guy in 2010 and causing him embarrassment in 2020 when the Republicans run it as an attack ad on TV, or whatever has replaced TV, just as his plane lands at Texas as part of the last-minute tour of swing states. But, imagining harder, he could probably laugh it off. Some of these red-staters might even laugh with him. By then, a cultural change will have occurred. It will have emerged that everybody has multiple skeletons in their cupboard; you can not spend years on the internet without accumulating them.

Bigger than the effect on any one person, though, is the dispersed effect of lots of Republicans being slightly irritated and slightly more prone to think that when Democratic party politicians come courting their votes they are laughing at them behind their hands. As indeed they are. (I could but heroically will not digress into the question of whether Republicans laugh at Democrats in the same way. You are not missing much; the term “hegemonic discourse” was in there somewhere.) However possibly that dispersed irritation also will be moderated by the coming everybody’s-got-skeletons cultural change: by then we will all know more about how everybody has multiple faces that they show in different groups. (Strange how “two faced” is an insult but “multi-faceted” is praise.) Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we will all be less able to ignore our knowledge of everybody’s rotating mild disloyalty to all the groups to which they belong except the one to which they are talking at any particular minute.

Oddly enough the name of Michael Tomasky has come up in another context concerning stuff on teh interwebs being seen by eyes it was not intended for. American right wing blogs are fizzing about “JournoList”, this being a private internet forum for American left wing journalists, academics and think tankers, where they would work out this week’s media consensus. Tomasky was a member. So was David Weigel, a journalist for the Washington Post, who had to resign from covering conservative affairs for that paper after expressing his opinion of several leading conservatives on JournoList by means of a term that I at first thought referred to their alleged propensity to engage in illicit commerce with rats but I now deduce means to behave towards someone in an underhand manner. You will have deduced that JournoList is no longer private and that some people think that its members were acting towards the American public in an underhand manner.

There will be several scandals like this. Then they will stop because everyone will have adapted. The words “private internet forum” will be regarded as oxymoronic. The politically imprudent humour will continue, though. Nothing can shut a human mouth once it has started on a joke, except possibly the prospect of saving it up for a larger audience on the internet.

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33 comments to What with the internet and all

  • Vinegar Joe

    Tomasky hasn’t really thought this thru. He’s forgotten that the “Red” states also get the military bases, the nukes etc. These are the states whose citizens traditionally volunteer for the military. Does he really want to further antagonize these violent rednecks? He and his Blue-bellied brethren might get much more than they’ve bargained for.

  • Gene

    And of course there are lots of those “red staters” living in his blue states as well. He might have to settle for seceding a county or a city or two.

  • PeterB

    I’ve read a couple of discussions recently where conservatives have suggested much the same thing. I think by now the standard response to this from “the rednecks” is – “Well, f**k off then!”

    P.S. The principal concern of those secessionist red staters in the discussions I’ve read was not “How will we survive without them?” but “Would they let us go without a fight?”

  • We intend to form our own country, and we’re taking the other Blue States with us.

    To which I can only say… yes, yes, yes, YES, YES, YES!!!!

  • Laird

    I agree with PeterB. I think a large plurality of residents in the “red states” would welcome the split. Far from angering conservatives, they will agree with this proposal.

    And everyone knows that “progressives” have delusions of superiority, and look down their noses at the benighted untenmench in the red states. This is irritating, yes, but I can’t see that this Letter to the Red States will exacerbate that in any way. It’s merely what we have come to expect.

  • What Perry said, only faster please.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Wiegel used to write for Andrew Sullivan’s blog. In other words, a wanker of no use to anyone.


  • moonbat nibbler

    Two pertinent links I came across today before reading Natalie’s post:



    The Journolist saga shows how wonderfully fantastical and dumb the Democrat elite are. You’d have to be as incompetent as the GOP to lose to ’em!

  • Richard Thomas

    Dollywood’s actually pretty good as theme parks go and it’s set in some of the most beautiful natural scenery I’ve seen either side of the Atlantic and some of the best motorcycle riding roads anywhere. I’ve been to California and New York but I choose to live in Tennessee.

    That said, this letter? It’s just a joke. Don’t be so thin skinned people.

  • JadedLibertarian

    I always find the snooty smugness with which any party’s “true believers” conduct themselves when they think they are in private sickening.

    I don’t know if it is my imagination but it always seems to me as if leftists are just that little bit better at coming across as superioristic, arrogant assholes than those on the right. Might be my imagination though.

    What you can say about the American right is that a lot of the libertarians are contained in that bloc, particularly in the mid west states. That makes me more likely to move to the midwest, but not to vote Republican.

    In any case, I don’t much care for either of their causes. I just want them and their political machines to leave me alone and stop demanding money off me when they win elections. As soon as I figure out a way of doing this without being thrown in jail then I’m golden.

  • Laird

    You will, of course, share that secret with us once you find it, right Jaded?

  • RAB

    Watched this the other night…


    Very instructive and amusing about how the Blue States have sneered at and fictionalised the Reds.

    Those who can, enjoy.

  • stradageezer

    So, if I get this right, the lefties are willing to secede and take the five most bankrupt states in the nation with them? Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. We’re happy to throw in DC as a lagniappe.

  • StevenT

    The red states would just wait a couple of years until they went belly-up bankrupt, then swoop in for bargains. New Yorkers would end up selling the Empire State Building to Texas for baloney sandwiches

  • chuck

    That’s it. I’ll never buy California a burger when it’s down and out. However, they are free to camp by the stream in the park along with Illinois, Oregon, Michigan and the rest. No doubt Massachusetts and New York will be along shortly to keep them company. I hear New York has a wicked sense of humor which should make up for the dreary hypochondna of Massachusetts.

  • Endivio R

    “Strange how “two faced” is an insult but “multi-faceted” is praise.”

    My vote for Quote of the Week.

  • I have been floating a theory that the US will likely split into as many as 5 sections if things go really badly. A unified revolution is so far from likely as to be unrealistic, as is a real change back to small government through the election process. More likely, an economic collapse will come first and several sections will rise seperately from the ashes.

  • Interesting that this posting is about something the internet is supposed to be the opposite of, namely the fact that it allows us all to look over the shoulders of very different people and hear their supposedly private conversations, like nobody could before.

    The usual complaint is that, because of the www, people no longer listen to other conversations, only wallow in their own. Lots of stupid caves rather than a big, clever agora. But that’s true only if you want it to be.

    And of course, the “big clever agora” people are often really saying “we want our conversation to be the conversation”. When it no longer is, and others can start their own, they want out.

  • And what is more, the “big clever agora” conversation will be fixed beforehand, in a cave. That is what this journolist brouhaha is all about.

    Many regard this latter ruckus as evidence of how “liberals” control the media. To me it says: they no longer do.

    And that being the case, could we please now take our word back? I’m talking about “liberal”. What on earth is liberal about “liberals” other than that they like to be liberal with other people’s money and to not pay their own bills (as this thread has already explained). But, I digress.

    Maybe we should convene in another cave, attached to another posting, to decide how to contrive that potential act of verbal rescue.

  • James Waterton

    Yes. To add to your aside, Brian…

    Which book was it that posited that the word “socialism” is particularly ill-suited to describe that philosophy, and particularly well-suited to describe the small government/classically liberal philosophy?

  • Kevn B

    Natalie, I hope you’re right about the coming ‘everyone has an internet skeleton in his closet so who cares’ age and that Brian is right that the left is losing control of the media. The NBPP and NAACP/Sherrod cases tend to back up Brian’s view and perhaps the latter is a pointer towards a future in which ‘Oh, it was only an internet gaffe, everyone makes those!’ is a valid defence.

    My fear is that the governing class will learn a different lesson from those two episodes and will seek what they always seek in these situations; more power. Then, when they control the narrative again, all of us may still have embarrassing items somewhere on the net, but only those of us who upset the elite will find them publlished for all to see.

  • Good point, Kevn B. I have made the point that differential enforcement/exposure is a weapon to be feared in the hands of the ruling class myself (see the last two paragraphs here) but it wasn’t in the forefront of my mind when I wrote this post.

    I tend to think that the process of losing control has gone too far for them ever to quite get it back again. What I mean is that even if they get back the levers of power through some sort of internet registration system or “fairness” doctrine, they still won’t get back the trust.

  • Sigivald

    What Gene said. Here in Oregon, most of the state is “red” by land area and city count.

    (And closer than Tomasky would like by population; in 2004, Kerry won “reliably blue” Oregon by 80,000 votes – 4%. More strongly in 2008, of course, but that sure looks like a one-time fluke.)

    The two biggest urban areas are the only really blue areas.

    That’s why Oregon typically has one (D) and one (R) Senator – and our “blue” Governors are a lot more purple than someone like Tomasky would like.

    There’s a certain similarity on Washington as well.

    It’s not at all clear that his “we” would “get Intel and Microsoft” – and at very least he’d have to deal with a substantial fifth column of people who aren’t Progressives.

    (I’m sure he actually believes that them “red staters” aren’t capable of doing research or using them “computer” things. Facts suggest otherwise.

    Yeah, it was just a stupid rant – but what one chooses to put in a stupid rant is still telling.)

  • Great deal, Tomasky. I’ve been wanting to sell blue states to Canada for a long time. Your plan isn’t as profitable as mine, but ridding us of the blue states’ debts will still have us coming out ahead.

    We get the best economies among the states. You get the decaying union states.

    We get the Kennedy and Johnson space centers. You get the Apollo 13 movie sets.

    We get Gulf and Alaska oil, and that coal in Utah that Clinton put off limits(Link). You get windmills.

    We get to have our say over Cuban refugees. You get to have your say over stray Canadian moose in Vermont.

    You get arugula. We get affordable produce.

    You get Hillary Clinton. You also get Bill Clinton, cuz we’re deporting his sorry hide.

    Hasta la vista, baby.

  • Foggytrucker

    Hey, Wisconsin voted RED. Corruption in Swillwaukee was the difference, most of us voted Conservative.

  • Mike Lorrey

    Would that these retards would actually do this. They’ve been threatening for the past three elections that they were gonna do it (and oh, btw, New Hampshire isn’t solidly blue and won’t be joining you, we like our gun laws as they are).

    I am rather sick of whiney yellow bellied bleeding heart liberals always threaten to “leave” the union if they don’t get their way (i.e. we stole the election if they didn’t win). The one reason they hate the Arizona immigration law is they fear the rest of us will be as petty and mean as they are and will deport them on grounds that being a godless left wing liberal is de facto proof of unAmerican status and thus deserving of deportation. If they keep up this bitching the rest of us may take them at their word and hold the door open for them.

  • I forgot to add this:

    We get Chuck Norris. They get Ashton Kutcher.

  • If anyone is being thin-skinned it is because we are peeved that it a) won’t happen or b) won’t happen soon enough. I am sure that a lot of reds living in blue territory would happily move, too, thus solving that issue for everyone. We’d love to have people who believe in independence and self-reliance and it would be a good lesson in reality and unintended consequences for blues to all have to live with, and pay for themselves and each other. bring it on.

  • Paul Marks

    “The whole North East”?

    New Hampshire voted for Bush in 2000.

    And it will not vote for Obama in 2012.

  • Paul Marks

    Still if secession is now O.K. (and by this piece it seems to be). Why stop at a two way split. Why not 50 States each being independent.

    For example the Western States (such as Alaska – but also the inland Western States).

    “Because Putin would invade”.

    At least Putin (although a corrupt statist) does not really believe in Marxism – unlike the President of the United States.

  • Dan

    A blue state secession would be interesting, and true, many red-staters wouldn’t mind — not that there aren’t plenty of wonderful things to miss about much blue-state territory. Still, assuming the red-state nation had the deep south Gulf states, Texas, Oklahom, and probably Alaska — red-state America would have ample oil, and far fewer restrictions on drilling for it. Red-state America would have ample port facilities of, among others, Houston, New Orleans, Pascagoula, Mobile, Jacksonville, Brunswick, Savannah, Charleston, and Wilmington. There would be plenty of fine major-metro areas and airports such as Atlanta, Charlotte, Birmingham, Nashville, Memphis, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, etc. Methinks red-state America would somehow manage just fine, particularly so with a far less intrustive administrative state’s tentacles from the District of Columbia. (And as surprising as it may be for some to believe, there really is no interest down South in bringing back slavery or Jim Crow laws. The South isn’t stuck in the 1850s or 1950s, and more than a few Ruling Class types really should get around to noticing that.)

  • Paul Marks

    Of course we have mostly discussed what Natalie said we should not (sorry).

    Anyway – the question that Natalie Solent actually asked.

    What effect does this sort of thing becoming public have?

    Do these things really become “public”.

    Yes if something the left says gets out (via their use of computers or whatever) we will know about it.

    We will read it on our blogs – or see it on Fox News.

    But that is a MINORITY of the public.

    Most people (even now) get what little news they get from the “mainstream media” and they will only report a story if it has been a enemy disinformation job.

    For example, if part of a video has been sent to Andrew Brietbart and he broadcasts it……

    Then they can say “the lady goes on to say she turned against racism, even though her own father was killed by a white man”.

    So the msm can attack evil Andrew Brietbart and evil Glenn Beck (even though he demanded context and TOOK THE LADIES SIDE – the public “do not need to know” that) and so on.

    Remember, in spite of everything, almost half the country think that Comrade Barack Obama (a fanatical enemy of the United States, and the West in general, his whole life) is a good man trying to do his best for ordinary people.

    The power fo the MSM and the education system is still vast.