The return of the insufferable Professional Left: how socialists are gearing up to defend white grievance in the Biden-Harris era


When Barack Obama was president, then-Press Secretary Robert Gibbs coined a term to describe people who made careers out of bashing Obama from the left: he called them the Professional Left. The term, of course, offended the delicate sensibilities of the people Gibbs was describing, who proceeded to make the term itself a central point of their grievance.

Even though the professional left never really went away - in fact, their ranks have swelled - the emergency of the Trump presidency and the absence of a Democrat as a target in the White House made them less visible and more tolerable. The predecessor of Reclaim the Fight - The People's View - was set up largely to counter the professional left and defend the progressive accomplishments of the Obama-Biden years.

Get ready for a rerun of the insufferable Professional Left, although, in the contemporary context, they're better identified as the podcast left or our own moniker, the Peacock Progressives.

One such instance took place on Friday when a two-time loser of New York statewide primaries appeared on a podcast hosted by the former national press secretary of a two-time losing presidential campaign. Zephyr Teachout, an ideologue who lost Democratic primaries for governor and attorney general in New York in 2014 and 2018 and between the two losing stints managed to run the defeated campaign of Cynthia Nixon for New York governor in 2018, came to Briahna Joy Gray's podcast seemingly to defend white supremacists and domestic terrorists who stormed the Capitol on January 6. At least, that's what she did in a clip Gray herself promoted on social media.

Teachout has always had it out for the Democratic party, and for Joe Biden in particular. A surrogate for Bernie Sanders's 2020 presidential bid, Teachout embarrassed her candidate, and Bernie Sanders ended up having to apologize to Joe Biden for her behavior. Curiously, it was the same campaign that Gray was serving as the national press secretary for at the time.

But the content of Teachout's rant is as revealing as her history of resentment against the president-elect and the Democratic party. She essentially calls President Obama a handmaiden of Google, mischaracterized a Congressional report on online competition (which was focused on commercial regulation, not speech), and goes on to suggest that social media companies ought to be treated as utilities, and as such should not be able to moderate content at all, let alone ban seditionists like Donald Trump.

At the most basic core of Teachout's argument lies a disingenuous premise: that social media companies neither block nor promote any content. That is both technologically and financially infeasible. Social media platforms operate based on artificial intelligence-based algorithms meant to promote content most relevant to their users. It is why Facebook can suggest your memories from your last anniversary to share for the upcoming one, YouTube can bring to the top videos about assembling a bookshelf when you are at a loss, and Twitter can promote tweets about your favorite sports team. Without this type of 'sorting' ability to decipher the relevance of a piece of content, social media would be useless.

This algorithmic discrimination is necessary to be able to properly operate a social media platform and to monetize it. Those same algorithms, though, tend to promote political disinformation because it's likely to get more attention. The only way to fight back is to incorporate, in those algorithms and with manual moderation, actual policies against disinformation.

Upon the dishonest premise that it is even possible for social media platforms to be content-neutral sits Teachout's dangerous proposition that civil society should be powerless to act against rogue elements. Forcing private companies to abide by the government's restrictions on free speech will defeat the purposes of both civil society and free speech. As I pointed out in a column last week, civil society is the only institution capable of rapidly responding with consequences to the Trump-incited insurrectionists who invaded the Capitol on January 6, and private companies can respond quickly precisely because they are unencumbered by the Constitution's restrictions on government.

As I said then,

The sole reason [social media companies] are able to take away the megaphones they provided to rogue actors like Donald Trump is because they are private entities rather than state (government) actors, and there is no Constitutional right to use private resources without limits to one's speech, possession, etc. To the contrary in fact, the Supreme Court held in Citizens United that corporations were entitled to their own freedom of speech, and that includes their right to use their resources however they want in terms of political speech.

I reiterate: free speech is a right, but no one is entitled to a megaphone. This is by design. America's founders knew that government was too dangerous a force to be allowed to moderate or restrict speech, and in the same breath, left civil society free to exert its moderating influence instead. That is exactly what is happening here. For once, the Constitutional system of balance between the government and civil society is working exactly as it should.

Data shows that it's working. A day before Gray's podcast aired with Teachout's rant, the Washington Post reported on a study demonstrating how incredibly effective capitalism has been at pushing back against disinformation that brought this country to the brink of an armed coup. In the week since Twitter and other social media companies banned or restricted Donald Trump and his allies, online misinformation about the election's validity dropped by 73%, according to San Francisco-based Zignal Labs.

It should not go unnoticed that Teachout, who was joined on the panel by notoriously pro-Kremlin activist and frequent Fox News guest Glenn Greenwald, is taking the side of white supremacists, insurrectionists, Donald Trump, and Josh Hawley. She and her companions in the Professional Left are arguing that the big lie about the election being stolen ought to be allowed to spread like wildfire with no ability of private platforms to stop or moderate it. The reasonable conclusion of their logic is that an armed insurrection by thousands of armed white supremacists - which could have ended in a bloody coup - is preferable to the peaceful transition of power to the rightful victors of a free and fair democratic election.

In fact, Teachout and Greenwald are going farther than the right-wing advocates for white supremacist groups, who merely wish to end certain legal liability protections for social media companies. Teachout is asserting that more than that, the government should actively muzzle private companies and restrict their speech in order to preserve and promote that of white supremacists.

Make no mistake: this arises from a feeling of sympathy towards white supremacists from the so-called socialist left. They admire among Trump's far-right goons a willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals, including the use of force against the state. After all, they have spent the past decade, just like Donald Trump, espousing the "economic anxiety" of rural whites, dousing themselves in tradephobia and isolationism, and glorifying an economic time when women were excluded from the workforce, segregation was the law of the land, and American citizens were put in internment camps because of their race. The fact that some of that "economic anxiety" showed up at the Capitol Hill insurrection on January 6 in a private jet is beside the point.

The Professional Left hasn't changed since Robert Gibbs coined the term. Just like they did during the Obama-Biden years, they are once again positioning themselves as the champions of white grievance from the left.

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