Maybe he is, or maybe he isant

You have to pinch yourself – a Marxisant radical who all his life has been mentored by, sat at the feet of, worshipped with, befriended, endorsed the philosophy of, funded and been in turn funded, politically promoted and supported by a nexus comprising black power anti-white racists, Jew-haters, revolutionary Marxists, unrepentant former terrorists and Chicago mobsters, is on the verge of becoming President of the United States.

Even the utterly bats Melanie Phillips can’t quite bring herself to describe Obama as a Marxist. The worst columnist in the world settles for “Marxisant,” which sounds a bit French and therefore rather thoughtful. Unfortunately as a descriptor of a centrist American politician it’s still pretty fuzzy. She seems to be using it in a debased form as a general-purpose slur on anyone who’s even slightly left-of-center, meaning something like “seems a bit Communist but yeah I’d like to keep this one out of the libel courts if at all possible.”1

Slightly more helpful is this New York Times review of a book by Arthur Marwick:

[…] he labels ”Marxisant,” a catch-all term for various ideologies that share “a broad metaphysical view about history and about how society works, derived from Marxism.”

Still has the whiff of a slur about it, frankly, especially with that gratuitous “metaphysical” thrown in there, which tends to be used as a synonym for “sorta bullshit.” But really, what serious view of history or of society can possibly get away with ignoring Marx? You can say what you want about whether or not the oppressed workers ought to rise up and seize control of the means of production, but it’s thanks to Marx that we account for class interests as a motivator for social change, which is a pretty fucking big contribution to our general understanding of the world, even if it feels forehead-smackingly obvious now.2

But if that’s what “Marxisant” means then it’s not at all easy to see why it belongs in a list which also contains “racists” and “Jew-haters.” Maybe Obama’s world-view is informed by ideas about class struggle which are derived ultimately from Marx. I would sure hope so, because the alternative would make him more or less a sociological and economic flat-earther. But it’s a long way from “takes account of the historical lessons of Marx’s thought” to “bent on violating the purity of our precious bodily fluids.”

Not too far for “about 1,250,000” other commentators, though3:


1) For a more concrete definition there’s this nice little riff, which still seems to identify it more as a label for poseurish faux-Marxist academics than for insufficiently right-wing political figures.

2) Just as, to name another world-changing conceptual revolution, Newtonian physics now feels so instinctive and intuitively true that it’s almost unthinkable that there was a time when it wasn’t so.

3) Yes I know this is not exactly rigorous or anything but the point is you don’t have to look far to find someone calling this University of Chicago-educated centrist Democrat a Marxist if not a socialist, Communist, etc.


No it isn’t

It probably says something about my nature and outlook that despite the fact that I have virtually no money in the market, lately I seem to need to have CNBC on in the background all day long. And it doesn’t actually have anything much to do with Maria Bartiromo.

Anyway, at the risk of turning into Language Log Digest, I’d just like to point out that when someone, in this case Erin Burnett, tells you that the Chinese word for “crisis” is made from the words “danger” and “opportunity,” they are talking nonsense.

For the time being I am also no longer tolerating references to the equally questionable “may you live in interesting times.” Sorry, This American Life, you’re on notice, in spite of the fact that you’ve been by far the best the media has to offer as a primer on the roots of the Credit Danger Opportunity.

23 Skidoo

Hey, look what’s still on TV. I wonder how the 2009 seasons are coming along.

This half-hour reality series brings the viewer into the latest trend in “buy-sell” house renovation known as “house flipping.”

I suppose that’s kind of true, in sort of the same way in which “A Man’s Pride” is the latest episode of The Honeymooners, speakeasies are the latest trend in avoiding Prohibition, or the Treaty of Ghent is the latest development in the War of 1812.