Monday, June 04, 2007

So Long, Steve

As everyone by now knows, Steve Gilliard passed away. Some of the better tributes are by Jane, Sarah Robinson, Roy, Markos, and Rick Perlstein. Even the New York Times's blog was forced to notice, though of course it was quick, in its bullshit-evenhandedness way, to seize on Sarah Robinson's throw-away line about Steve being not so prescient. On the other side, there are jackasses. But then there are class acts like Dean Barnett.

I myself never met Steve, but we exchanged a couple of e-mails over the years. He was especially helpful with counter-intelligence when I had a stalker problem.

Steve's blogging ...well, he had guts, a backbone, took no bullshit and called it as it saw it. In a just world he would have had a platform in one of the supposedly liberal newsmagazines, but of course the world is not just, and instead those jobs go to mealy-mouthed accomodationists -- precisely the sort of careerist, wrong-headed, suck-ups he would regularly and righteously thrash in his blog:

[Y]ou people, always ceding ground to the GOP make me sick. Either lead, fight or get the hell out the way. And given that the DNC is looking hard at Howard Dean as their next chief, you might want to sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up, as the SEALS say.

And here's a message to Kevin Drum, Big Media Matt and the rest of the Vichy Left:

Stop sucking up to your enemies.

Kevin, we knew you were gutless when you turned on Kos. You ran to jump on his back without pause. Now it's Atrios. I'm sorry they're more successful than you, but you keep running to the right be respectable whenever it serves your purposes. Michael Moore has real guts. You may not like what he says, but he doesn't run from his words. Do you think we're impressed with your straw man support for the Afghan War?
Moore took a stand and didn't flinch. You might learn from his example. Character can be catching.

Besides, you're going after the wrong person. You need to come after me and Kos, who oddly enough, have opposed the folly of Iraq from day one. I'm no scholar, but I can tell the difference between bullshit and fact. I've got two years of posts ridiculing you guys for your folly of supporting our colonial venture in Iraq. So if you want to jump on anyone, this is a good place to start. But since calling either one of us a pacifist would make even Glenn Reynolds laugh, you might want to go after my spelling or my prediction of a Kerry victory. Or the fact that Kos looks like he needs to be carded.

But going after Atrios for calling you on your bullshit is silly. He's not the man making the argument you guys fucked up. Get it right.

One day, you might actually admit that our colonial war in Iraq was futile and a waste of human lives, like most colonial ventures were. Until then, why should we take you seriously?

Matt, associating with Kevin Drum and Peter Beinhart is about as smart as wearing a Yankees cap in Fenway Park. You're a bright guy, but sucking up to the powers that be, or the Beltway Bandits will not get you a career. Drum couldn't wait to turn on Kos when he could make a contrarian point, and he'll jump on you when it suits him.

He certainly had their number. And in taking such a position, Steve Gilliard actually earned the right to say at the same time that Greens were 'ineffectual' and Counterpunchers were 'dilletante elitists'. Such criticisms of the Left were fair from Steve, because he was so damn right about the shit that mattered.

Steve Gillard hated the Yankees. This is more evidence of a moral individual. Of course he also loved the Mets, and while this is usually a moral demerit of serious proportion, for Steve it was all right because he was, like Roy Edroso, so New York that he had to root for a home team. And if you have to, you take the Mets.

He was a gourmand, and I'd frequently catch myself reading his posts on food and drink, charmed and informed from the effort. The Memphian in me would sometimes scoff at his claims that decent barbeque could be found in New York City, but the curious yokel in me would also be enthralled at his descriptions of NYC's ethnic foods and incredible variety of cuisine.

When I strongly disagreed with Steve was when he'd be a bit too apologetic, in my opinion, for the military. Like Billmon, Steve was interested in military history. I suppose the difference between us is that though Steve's family, like mine, contained several veterans, he embraced that heritage while I rebelled against it. I don't know what Steve's homelife was like, but the vets in my family were shattered by war. The man who raised me swore several times that "the only goddamned way the army will get me back is by dragging me by my boots." The same man also spoke contemptuously of his own side's war criminals -- no excuses of fatigue or desperation for him. I absorbed all that, and so never feel pity for soldiers who don't follow the rules. Steve was different, but I think he took his position out of an honest sympathy.

Military history is the province of reactionaries. Yet you never saw in Steve's work the bloodlust and frankly fascist worship of famous butchers that you do in other dabblers' works. Steve never let you forget that he thought war was hell, sometimes necessary but serious serious shit. War is not fun. And so he was among the first and the loudest to point at the many chickenhawk wingnuts whose vicarious thrill at gore and destruction on the filthy wogs was palpable.

If he thought you were wrong, he busted you for it -- liberal or wingnut, it didn't matter.

Steve was a good guy and, as so many have said, a unique voice in the blogosphere. He had his own style, was ten times the moralist and thinker of those who got far more traffic and attention, had the courage and wherewithal to attack not just wingnuts but wingnut-enablers.

It sucks that he's gone and we will be poorer for his absence.

Update: See also this excellent post by the black kittycat over at Thers's place. Steve always knew the 'civility, please' argument was bullshit.