In this week's edition of the Village Voice, its executive editor, gay activist Richard Goldstein goes to extraordinary lengths to prove that he isn't a communist; he's just being picked on. In the column On Being Called a Commie: Red-Bating in a World Without Reds, he challenges recent comments by pundits Andrew Sullivan and Camille Paglia that accuse him of employing Stalinist tactics and Marxist dogma.
According to Goldstein, Communism no longer exists as a functioning ideology, only as a vicious slur employed by cowardly, red-baiting conservatives, seeking to marginalize left-wing thinkers that possess "certain concepts of social justice." In fact, Goldstein contends, that's been true for the past fifty years. Now these concepts of social justice, of course, involve class conflict, the obliteration of capitalism and sanctimonious utopian idealism. As most extremists, Goldstein can't comprehend that his perception of social justice might not exactly mesh with that of others, nor does he particularly care if it sounds a lot like Marxism.
Patent Communism is no longer a viable viewpoint in a serious political debate these days, but inarguably, "progressives" are their indistinguishable stand-ins. In his book, Attack Queers: Liberal Society and the Gay Right, Goldstein acknowledges as much when he writes that "gay liberation's founders were Communists, and its activist core is still overwhelmingly progressive." (italics mine) To him, the most vital mission of gay activism is to save the community's historic association with the progressive cause and to keep the core of activists on the left — above all, to stay away from diversification and authentic political debate.
At any rate, Goldstein felt picked on when critics pointing out his crimson hue, and in his column sets out to prove, with an assortment of bizarre euphemisms and far-fetched historical rationale, that though his opinions sound eerily similar to pull quotes from Frida Kahlo's diary, his "progressive" politics have more to do with the freedom fighters of the Prague Spring. How insulting to the Czechs, who risked their lives for political and artistic freedoms, while Goldstein, and other privileged children of the bourgeois, railed their nihilistic nonsense from loudspeakers in Chicago before heading home to the comfort of their suburban homes.
Goldstein believes that labeling someone Red is a "coward's way of contending with threatening idea" and "shuts down critical thinking." Yet, in many of his columns, he hurls personal — not to mention illogical — insults at every conservative and libertarian pundit he can think of, without ever lowering himself into a reasoned argument against a single right-wing standpoint. Does that tact propel critical thinking or is it just an act of a coward?
While all tolerant people should be threatened by "progressive" principles of social justice, it is tough to believe that Sullivan or Paglia are fretfully gnawing at their fingernails in awe of Goldstein's archaic ideas. In fact, you could argue, after reading Goldstein, who rarely writes anything without some schmaltzy rehashing of his '60's radical days, that he is the one acting threatened. Apparently, he fears that neoconservatives will inject a fresh perspective into what has become the dead end of leftist thought. This fear may also explain his spiteful, personal assaults against those whom he regards as "right-wing gay pundits" such as Paglia (a Democrat who voted for Ralph Nader), Jonathan Rauch, Sullivan and Norah Vincent.
"If only he were straight, Sullivan would fit snugly into the right-wing Weekly Standard. Like its editors, he is fiercely nationalistic, dedicated to the free market, antichoice and hostile to civil rights." So goes Goldstein's paranoid definition of the Right and equally narrow-minded ideas about what gays ought not to think. Unlike conservative, jingoists with a blasphemous dedication to free markets, Goldstein sees himself as a fierce protector of sexual privacy and crusader against the evils of "sexual McCarthyism."
…Well, unless you're on the Right.
When all else failed, Goldstein, along with the proud inventor of outing, Michelangelo Signorile, went prying into Sullivan's personal life with hysterical recklessness to produced vile tabloid-style gossip. This strategy was somehow supposed to undermine Sullivan's credibility, but inevitably it miserably backfired. Goldstein's simple explanation for this hypocritical invasion of privacy went something like this: Sullivan is Republican. Republicans are evil. They must be stopped by all means necessary. Progressives, faux environmentalists and, yes, communists, all justify all their actions with this basic formula.
The Voice editor's principal beef seems to be that gay poeple who have the gall to form their own political opinions are hostile to gay culture — or, rather, his constricted definition of gay culture — therefore, they are shilling to straights and feeding "the perpetuation of male power … that now defines the right." Or could all this be petty jealousy? After all, Sullivan and Paglia are influential writers that frequently contribute to mainstream publications. Goldstein, on the other hand, remains a voice heard primarily in shrinking "progressive" circles. Though, as kingpin at the Village Voice, the country's top alternative weekly, Goldstein must have his dream job. There, he can freely continue his authoritarian leftist editorial policies without much concern for the realties that surround him.
Classifying himself a "liberationist" who fought "bitter battle with Marxists who regarded sexism and homophobia as a distraction from the class struggle," Goldstein seems to have less of a problem with Marxism's all-encompassing tyrannical dehumanization than he does with totalitarian views on sexual persuasion. Communism's 100-million plus victims are not as damaging a crime to him as a fellow traveler's lukewarm support for the local same-sex prom.
When Goldstein attributes Sullivan's success to his being conservative and gay, characteristics one would think would to be serious handicaps in attaining mainstream acceptance, you realize something quickly: very little of what Goldstein writes or says makes much sense.