“New Anger is a spectacle to be witnessed by an appreciative audience, not an attempt to win over the uncommitted….If in your anger you reduce your opponent to the status of someone unworthy or unable to engage in legitimate exchange, real politics comes to an end….Whoever embraces New Anger is bound to find that, at least in the political realm, he has traded the possibility of real influence for the momentary satisfactions of self-expression.”
These passages from Peter Wood’s book, A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now, could easily serve as an epitaph for the Edwards’ blogger affair. I quoted them in my review of Wood’s book (“Angry Talk”) barely a month before that affair broke out. Wood’s point was that angry bloggers–especially (but not exclusively) on the left–are undercutting their own influence every bit as much as they are undercutting our culture.
Now have a look at this analysis of the Edwards blogger affair by moderate Democrat, Dan Gerstein: “Liberal Bloggers Demonstrate Their Political Immaturity, Democrat Says.” Pretty much everything Gerstein says implicitly supports Wood’s analysis in A Bee in the Mouth: Few outside their echo chamber take liberal bloggers seriously, says Gerstein. The Kossacks are “angry adoloscent…impudent, impotent, unreflective and unaccountable.” In noting the new rules of “modern hardball politics,” Gerstein makes Wood’s point that we show anger more openly now than we used to. Gerstein even notes that the left blogosphere is “more venomous, boundary-less and destructive” in its “ire” than blogs on the right, thus validating another of Wood’s controversial claims. And Gerstein shows in devastating detail just how politically counterproductive liberal blogger anger truly is.
Now look at Jamie Malanowski’s review of A Bee in the Mouth in the latest issue of the liberal Washington Monthly: “America the Ornery.” (HT: Arts & Letters Daily) Malanowski’s review is a variation of those famously self-contradictory cases propounded by over-eager lawyers. “Your honor, I deny it. America is no more angry today than before. On second thought, your honor, of course we’re more angry now than we used to be. That sort of cultural change is obvious. But you see, your honor, it doesn’t matter. With the Bush administration and all, there’s a lot to be angry about. And anger is only “the sound of democracy” anyway.”
Unfortunately, Malanowski’s deny-it-all tactics leave out cases like the Edwards blogger affair, which prove that we are angrier, and that there is indeed harm in that anger. In short, Peter Wood was right. If you’re searching for a truly thoughtful and fascinating account of how we got into the angry little mess we’re in, read the book.