The Rip Post                         Riposte Archive



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       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,, 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 topical site.
        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 about?"
        (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.
        I'm incorrigible!
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 person."
        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 comedies?"
        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 Molly Ivins."
       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
        On the other hand, you'd have to expect a lefty outfit to hire the handicapped.

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