Hey Centrists — The Left Was Right
On Palestine, Inflation, American Militarism, and a lot more.
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There’s a bizarre bias held by centrist pundits and politicians that anything the political left claims must be false. From legacy outlets like The New York Times and CNN to independent commentators here on Substack, centrists operate under the belief that leftists are unserious, looney people whose politics can be dismissed without consideration. As their thought goes: “The left is just a bunch of woke-obsessed DSA kids and aging hippies who never grew up. Why should we, the Very Serious People who write for The Washington Post and Bloomberg, listen to them?”
Well, as recent events have shown, the left has a strong record of being right.
Last week, President Biden vindicated the long-held leftist critique that the United States is overly and needlessly militaristic. When asked by a reporter, “Are the airstrikes in Yemen working?” the President responded with a soundbite that will live in infamy:
“When you say, ‘working’ - are they stopping the Houthis? No. Are they going to continue? Yes.”
I could not have indicted American imperialism any better. Biden clearly stated that despite knowing his unconstitutional attacks on Yemen are not stopping the Houthis from blocking trade routes, they will continue.
Ever since the American military began venturing abroad under the guise of national security, leftists have criticized it as deceitful. In our eyes, the true goal of militarism is to crush threats to capital and American hegemony. Along the way, the egos of generals and politicians become attached to the campaign, ensuring the violence will continue until the architects can find a way to save face (see Afghanistan and Vietnam).
“But they themselves (capitalists) did not go to war any more than the modern feudal lords, the barons of Wall Street, go to war. The feudal barons of the Middle Ages, the economic predecessors of the capitalists of our day, declared all wars. And their miserable serfs fought all the battles.” — Eugene V. Debs, speaking against American entry into WWI in 1918
While this view is often derided as unserious by established media, which claims the true goal of American militarism is “enforcing international order,” the Yemen campaign vindicates the left’s criticism. The White House flatly stated Biden’s motivation for attacking Yemen was “the free flow of international commerce.” Now that he has admitted the strikes have failed in this regard, the only logical conclusion for why they are continuing is the President’s concern for either his own image or American jingoism.
There hasn’t been a more transparent admission since Thomas Friedman, one of the many centrist pundits who refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of any position to his left, stated the Iraq War was conducted to punish the Muslim world for 9/11.
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We’ve seen this same stubbornness play out in recent coverage of Israel’s assault on Gaza. When Israel accelerated its bombings far beyond proportion to the October 7th attack by Hamas, the left warned Israel was attempting genocide and regional escalation. Immediately, the Very Serious centrists began their scolding, claiming such criticism was lunacy and antisemitic. Leading Substackerderided Jacobin for calling Israel’s assault a genocide.
But as any doubt of Israel’s genocidal intent has been erased by the staggering Gazan body count, Yglesias has quietly pivoted to soften his stance., never missing an opportunity to punch left, wrote a bizarre article days after October 7th inaccurately calling pro-Palestine DSA rallies “bloody thirsty” and “in support of ethnically cleansing” Jews from the Middle East. While his evidence of leftists’ desire for a pogrom was laughably weak, Noah has entirely ignored the statements from the Israeli government and military spokesmen that it intends to occupy and ethnically cleanse all of Palestine.
“For us (Israel) there is only one objective: Destroy Gaza! Destroy this absolute evil!”” - Dror Eydar, Former Israeli Ambassador to Italy
“The war is not just with Hamas, but with all the civilians (of Gaza).” - Betzalel Talijah, IDF soldier
“Israel’s prime minister (Netanyahu) has told the Biden White House that he rejects any moves to establish a Palestinian state when Israel ends its offensive against Gaza, and that all territory west of the Jordan River would be under Israeli security control.” - The Guardian
Rather than admit that they were wrong and the leftists they’ve made so much money chastising were right, Yglesias and Smith have simply decided to ignore the issue. After all, why harm your ego and subscriber count for something as vain as journalistic integrity?
But the self-aggrandizing isn’t limited to foreign policy. As prices began to rise in 2022, many leftists pointed the finger at capitalist companies, which, by definition, only exist to maximize profit. But the Very Serious People who like to remind us they got an A+ on their economics final loudly protested that the left didn’t know what it was talking about. Catherine Rampell, a Washington Post economist reporter, wrote an opinion calling the “greedflation” theory a conspiracy theory on par with the idea horse dewormer cures COVID.
Rampell pointed the finger at the “online left,” claiming Democrats’ openness to the greedflation theory was to “get retweets.”
But here’s the thing: Rampell was 100% wrong. Numerous studies have been done on the causes of inflation, and there’s broad consensus profiteering companies drove up prices. Just last month, the Institute for Public Policy and Common Wealth published a joint study that found profits outpaced inflation.
“Many large international companies were able to comfortably increase prices during the global inflation period, protecting or even driving up their profit margins, while ordinary families saw their real incomes wither away” — Revealed: How powerful companies are amplifying inflation through their profit margins
Even as the greedflation theory was validated back in 2023 by the former vice chair of the Federal Reserve, board members of the European Central Bank, and The Wall Street Journal — three institutions about as far from the left as you can get — Rampbell kept digging.
This is the last reference to “greedflation” on Rampell’s very active Twitter account. Like Yglesias and Smith on Palestine, she appears to have just stopped talking about the issue once it became impossible to continue punching left.
While discussion of airstrikes in Yemen, the colonization of Palestine, and the cause of inflation might seem far departed from one another, they are not. As the United States is the global superpower, the politics and beliefs of its citizenry hold extra weight in shaping world events. That means the media we consume is direly important. Unfortunately, leading established media figures, both those who work for legacy outlets and those who have gone independent, have shown they are willfully unable to even consider political explanations that challenge their worldview. They’re happy to borrow economic and foreign policy from the extreme right, but for reasons that are likely as personal as they are professional, they will never acknowledge the valid arguments coming from their left. In a time of growing discontent with the political status quo, these centrists have discovered there’s a financial and professional gain to be had by telling their audience that everything is fine, American imperialism is good, and anyone who questions capitalist doctrine needs to cut back on the avocado toast.
But as we have seen, as small as we are, the American left has been right about a lot over the past few years. If the most prominent media figures continue to let their egos and dogmas blind their work, their American audience will remain dangerously naive to the world around them.
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