by RIP RENSE
Who says the left can't be just as despicable and
brutish as the right? Who says lefties are wimps? Who says they all wear pink ties and
speak as daintily as Tom Dashle?
Wait'll you run into Jeffrey "Hey
A--hole" St. Clair.
I had a little exchange with
St. Clair, the "environmental journalist/activist" and co-editor of what is
certainly the premiere left-wing website in the country, Counterpunch.org, and let me tell you, he did Dick
"Go F--- Yourself" Cheney proud.
Hide the kids, folks, I'm going to tell you
exactly what happened. (It's pretty good!)
It all started with my old friend---let's call
him "Ralph"---a well-known journalist, author, and commentator whose point of
view, it is safe to say, emanates from the left. Ralph is a very courageous fellow,
an unflagging humanitarian, and fine writer. Our opinions diverge here and there, but I
always respect his rational thinking. He writes almost weekly for Counterpunch.
Last Saturday I posted a Riposte
Extra column entitled "Monumental Lies" (see below), which concerned the
U.S. Army admitting to having staged the toppling of Saddam's statue in Baghdad. I wrote
that although some prominent journalists reported this almost from the get-go, it was
widely dismissed as lefty raving until the Army 'fessed up.
Ralph loved it!
He kindly wrote to me that the
column should get wider exposure, and suggested I should send it straight to Counterpunch
co-editor St. Clair. "Tell him I
thought they should run it on the site," wrote Ralph, and as he is one of
Counterpunch's big guns (pardon the expression), this seemed a potent recommendation. So I
sent the column with "Ralph Sent Me" shouting in the subject line. (I added a
second note indicating that I would be out for the day, but that if St. Clair liked the
piece, he had permission to run it.)
This was July 3, and although Ralph
indicated that St. Clair would be on duty, I didn't figure on hearing back promptly. I was
surprised, though, to hear nothing after three full days, especially after a Ralph
seal-of-approval---and doubly especially because Counterpunch is a daily, heavily
Then it hit me: I had been down this same
road before in the past couple years: a Ralph endorsement, an e-mailed column, and. .
.no Counterpunch response!
So I sent the following note to St. Clair,
whose interesting e-mail handle is "Sitka," on July 6:
"Gee whiz. . .Don't I even merit a 'no
thank you' note? Wow. Guess Ralph's recommendation doesn't count for much with you folks.
What can I say? This is what I actually
thought. To his great credit, St. Clair responded almost immediately! He wrote:
"what the hell are you talking
(The punctuation is his; I guess he's one of
those busy people who doesn't type caps in e-mail.)
Yes, I grant that my inquiry had been
provocative, but I did not swear or insult. I think my observation about Ralph was fair.
And, well, I just really don't think that "gee whiz" merits a
"hell"---let alone a complete lack of introduction, decorum, or offer of a nice
lollipop. So I sent this admittedly playful response:
"The hell I am talking about is
I sent you the hell an article over the weekend, with Ralph's recom- mendation, and didn't
get the hell a response. Which has the hell happened every time I've the hell sent
something to Counterpunch in the past couple the hell years. Don't you know who your the
hell friends are?"
Now I had gone too far. Not only
had I dared to send a column with the endorsement of one of Counterpunch's first-tier
writers, but I had dared to needle St. Clair about not getting back to me after only three
tiny the hell days. . .and then dared to poke fun at his use of profane language.
What can I say? Hit me with a right cross, I come back with a left jab.
Or is it the other way around?
Plug your ears, boys and girls. Here is what I
received in response from St. Clair, the full-grown adult editor of a daily web
publication, a contributing editor of In These Times, and author of two books. It
is reprinted here verbatim, without censorship, in a rare departure from Rip Post standards:
"hey, asshole, i get 2000 emails a day.
i'm finishing writing a book. we're putting out the print edition of the newsletter this
weekend. & i'm the only one running the website, so excuse me if i overlooked
yourfucking email, coming from unknown quadrant of cyberspace. & didn't
respond to you w/in 2 friggin days. send your crap to The Nation. See
how long it takes them to respond."
(Please accept my apologies for his capricious
use of capital letters and poor punctuation.)
See? Cheney's got nothing on Jeffrey
St. Clair! He put me right in my f---ing place! He could write the book on angry
authoritarianism! Who was I to impose on him from my "unknown quadrant of
cyberspace?" How dare I send my "crap" to him for consideration! He's
writing a book! And he gets too much e-mail (I do, too, but most of it says "Buy
Xanax Now!" and "Grow Your Penis!") Besides, he's named after a saint, and
well, according toWebster's, I'm a "libertine," a "dissolute
Besides, he's credited as the co-author, with
Counterpunch co-editor Alexander Cockburn, of "Whiteout," a book that is said to
be very good at exposing the CIA's covert campaign to discredit the San Jose
Mercury News' expose of CIA crack-dealing in the black community, and to destroy
investigative reporter Gary Webb's career in the process. Pretty laudable stuff!
The only book I've ever written is a
self-published novel. (Buy it! It's
really good if you're drunk, or in the bathroom---or both!)
Oh, how deluded I am---laboring under the
fantasy that my writing is okay, and that this particular column---which contained a time
element, really, and which would certainly have fit Counterpunch's agenda---merited St.
Clair's weighty consideration! So what if Ralph recommended me! Pffft.
Of course, I sometimes find Counterpunch so
wildly---even insanely---to the left that it makes me uneasy, so I wasn't sure I wanted to
be officially associated with it anyhow. . .
Still, my prancing ego and self-importance
would not allow me to take such abuse. I fired back at "Sitka." (The website is
called "Counterpunch," isn't it?)
"How interesting. How very interesting. So
the total lack of courtesy---the sheer ugliness of American discourse---is hardly reserved
for the right wing. I am very, very surprised. Incidentally, are you related to Emil Sitka, the great co-star of Three Stooges
Then, darn me, I just had to pile it on. (No
wonder I never get invited to parties anymore.)
"It's interesting, the lack of empathy in
the world, Jeff. I, too, am a very busy fellow. I, too, am writing a book, and editing a
daily website, and maintaining a writing career on top of those things. I have health
problems that further complicate these pressures. There is zero excuse for the filth you
sent to me, Jeff. Zero. What an arrogant, vicious person apparently lies beneath your
'liberal' exterior. I will see to it that this matter is made known to columnists and
journalists. Meanwhile, I would extend to you my lifetime invitation to kiss my ass, but
instead, I'd best invoke the words of Frank Zappa: 'You can kiss my ass, but because it's
so grand, you'd best just stay away.'"
What can I say? Hit me with a
right cross, I come back with a left jab. (Or is it the other way around?)
I know what you're thinking, faithful readers:
Wee Jeffie sent a note of contrition, apologizing for being a bit stressed lately,
explaining that he was cracking under the heavy pressure of battling the Bush
Administration, and that he'd be glad to take a look at anything that Ralph
recommended. Well, you're almost right. He was just a bit less agreeable:
"hey, dude, i'm not a fucking LIBERAL.
feel free to share this message w/all the columnists on yr rolodex, from William Safire to
Gosh, I wish my Rolex had the likes of Safire and
Ivins in it, but uh. . .I don't even have a Rolodex. St. Clair's disclosure that he was
not a liberal alarmed me, though, and I was also a bit puzzled by his need to mention his
sex life. I wrote back:
"Your copulatory habits are not germane.
Your website certainly is liberal, though. Perhaps you haven't noticed! Gee whiz, you
might want another job! You're handling the premiere left-wing website in the country! And
incidentally, I'm not a 'dude.' I dress modestly."
Then it hit me: real lefties don't do liberal.
To St. Clair, liberals are just ever-so-slightly to the left of, say, Tom Delay,
and I'm just a "Rolodex journalist," an inconsequential corporate sellout
like Ivins. Wow. No wonder the right-wing can't stand the left.
So there you have it. I hereby declare
the death of civility to be absolutely official. Bill O' Reilly, Michael Savage, Dick
Cheney, and now, Jeffrey St. Clair---the king brutes of contemporary American discourse!
Just something you might want to bear in mind
the next time you dial up Counterpunch.org.
On the other hand, you'd have to expect a lefty
outfit to hire the handicapped.
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