Hi Kent (& Mike,

read Mike’s take on Linh Dinh. Of course excellent and accurate in the main, though I wonder about one paragraph:
Linh Dinh is able to create space for his particular brand of claptrap because he has the perfect foil – a so-called “left” movement in the US that has taken to totalitarianism as a political strategy. The desire to silence those who disagree with it drives it. Rather than organizing resistance by uniting people around their common experience of the disaster of the current imagination of economic and political probity, the left issues inane slogans promoting the violent repression of ideas it opposes, as if clearing the field of all ideological competition by force was a victory for . . . the catch all words are equality and justice. Behind them is a reactionary nostalgia for identity (even as non-identity or antiidentity) undisturbed by the profound suspension of sense we are caught up in, the disintegration of the social imaginary significations that have been at the wheel of western civ for the last 500 years.  
Mike, who is usually so excellent on particulars — he is such a good Olsonian! — goes vague for me here: this is too much of a generalization, I see more or less where he goes (& agree to a major, major extent with the final sentence of that paragraph): “identity politics” in academe & how some of that plays out in a wider world of the po’s, poetry & politics, but to call the US “left” sweepingly totalitarian etc. is over the top & does not help  — it would take a whole essay or even book to lay out the particulars of that case in such a way as to separate the chaff from the grain. I understand the polemic intent, but on the other hand, the essay is for 99% a fine & detailed analysis of exactly how a fascistic rightwing rhetoric operates via obnubilations & generalizations taken out of context. So, voilà, my quick response to a first reading.
onwards unchristian sailors!

Dear Pierre –

Thanks for your letter and for holding my feet to the fire. Sort of. I have to say right off that you’re right. My rhetorical gesture leaked over into the realm of sensational, unsubstantiated generalization, and you’re right to call me on it. I should have been less dramatic and more specific. I was moving from Badiou’s argument that the collapse of revolutionary Marxism deprived the left of a sense of the meaning of history. That, as you know, along with the disappearance of most organized labour in North America, has meant that the language of meaningful historic change has disappeared. No better world’s to come, pal. Sorry. Get on with it. That language has been replaced by the language of making capitalism nice by policing “rights” and speech acts, and prohibiting the “hateful” speech of perceived opponents. That’s where my notion of totalitarian comes from.

I agree with you that I was wrong to characterize the entire US left this way. It is far more diverse than that. Mostly, the tendency I refer to emanates from university campuses, and even there, the numbers are not large. But the noise is loud and the influence is wide. And it does seem to me it has far outpunched its weight class in the amount of damage it’s done in terms of providing cover for reactionaries and undermining people’s trust in the left.

Here’s to new foundations . . .