A Thread, Liberal Self-Parody

A couple decades ago a small and relatively tight-knit progressive community formed a listserv-- The TownHouse-- so we could exchange ideas and work together. The storied listserv has gone through years and years of changes-- even a name change-- and almost none of the original activists are still part of it. I resigned from the it this morning. Today, one of the old timers, someone I admire and respect, sent out a notice urging everyone to do whatever they could to stop Rahm Emanuel from being confirmed as ambassador to Japan by the Senate. She addressed it specifically to me and a few other people as well as to the whole list. The irony of that is that in 2005 or 2006 I denounced Rahm Emanuel on Townhouse and nearly got kicked off as an enemy agent, since back then left activists hadn't woken up to what Rahm Emanuel was. It took me years to get that across to some people. Now, of course, no one has to explain Rahm Emanuel; it's common wisdom, thank God!

Anyway, this is the simple message I sent when I responded, hoping people with contact with any of the senators who would be working on confirming him would move this along:

remind anyone who identifies as a progressive that he famously said progressives are "retards." Someone should ask him at the hearing what he meant

It wasn't posted. I didn't realize that there's a censorship layer where someone or a committee decides what gets posted and what doesn't. And I thought we were all "we." To be honest, I never thought about it before and there was probably a notification of this that I never got around to reading. Anyway, instead of seeing my message posted, I got this direct e-mail, just to myself, not copied to anyone else. It kind of reads like a form letter, which happens to be something that triggers me:

My name is [someone I don't think I've ever encountered] and I'm one of the moderators on the moderation team.

We appreciate your participation on the listserv and on this specific thread. We would like to approve your post but we must ask for you to add a Trigger warning (TW)alert to your message before we can approve it due to its use of ableist language. For your convenience we have copied your message with the TW as it should read below. If you are able to accommodate this request please resubmit the post as presented and we will approve it.

TW- ableism: remind anyone who identifies as a progressive that he famously said progressives are "retards." Someone should ask him at the hearing what he meant

I thought it might be someone kidding around with me, laughing at the way Republicans mock liberals. So I wrote back:

is this real or a joke?

I got my answer pretty quickly:


We look to provide an incisive space for all and sincerely hope that our ask of submitting your post with a trigger warning does not come across as a joke. We are aware that these aren't your direct words, you are just reiterating Rahm Emanuel words. However, we have contributors, participators, and other individuals involved on the listserv who may be impacted by such language and we would like to safeguard on our end as much as possible. Please let me know if you have any further questions, concerns, or comments.

I can see her point of view; really I can. I understand it; and I'm even sympathetic with what she's trying to accomplish. But... this was my smart-ass response:

lol-- I've been with this listserv since it started and for years before on the listserv it grew out of. Your comments are offensive to an adult and should have come with a TW. Please remove me from the list. I'm done

She had a totally cool response to me too:

We respect and appreciate your boundaries and position. Please be patient with us as we will remove you in 24-48 hours and I hope your day ends well!

I asked a few of the original members what they thought and they all told me that they had quit long ago. One said she quit because the listserv had become "noisy with almost no utility last year and I just cut them off entirely. Couldn't abide their stupid rules... This is the shit that drives me mad. Language policing a quote."

Another founder, a profound thinker and admired strategist who resigned a few years ago, took it a lot more seriously than I did:

"Ridiculous. This shit is going to kill the left's chance at actually doing something good.

"It's offensive to people on all sides of the political divide and while it would be nothing more than an annoyance in normal circumstances (as with these stupid leftwing gathering spaces) the ability to get people fired or otherwise destroy their lives through social media pile-ons is creating widespread fear and anger. It is a witch hunt atmosphere that is spreading through society and it's not going to end well for the left."

Another prominent early member who also left years ago, also saw it as part of a sickness haunting liberal circles:

"I think that that’s really interesting, and I don’t think that she’s joking. You could offer her the lead story spot on tonight’s Tucker Carlson show."

All the other responses had too much foul language for me to publish. I guess we all have our standards. Wait 'til you see Noah's Midnight Meme on Tucker tomorrow night!