Letter (excerpt) from Thomas from Virginia:
I have a question! On Wikipedia, your show is characterized as having a "radical far left-wing point of view", but..... I don't understand this. Your views are based on logic and research, and you support all of your arguments with real life material, or experts' input! Although this process may not be perfect, wouldn't this nevertheless be closer to the "middle" or "truth" than some "fringe" view? Do you see yourself as being "radical left"? I'm a little perplexed.....Reply:
Hi Thomas. This is my first e-mail of the new year.
Thomas, I like your question. The truth is we don't care much for the labels. Left / Center / Right are categories that are widely used in newspapers, books, tv news, and so on, so people do have a vague shared understanding of them, which I suppose gives them a small degree of utility. Unfortunately, these labels are also so fluid and are used so arbitrarily that they often create more confusion than clarity.
When we say "left", we're using the term historically, to place ourselves more or less in alignment with so-called "progressive-left" politics, as opposed to its 'opposite', which I suppose would be the "reactionary right". In general, "Left" references the desire to move towards more social and economic egalitarianism, democracy for EVERYBODY (instead of just maximizing freedoms, privileges, and power for the elites), etc, etc. We (lefty cats) don't always fit all the criteria (Is there such a thing as a Leftist Orthodoxy?) but that's the way it goes. And, in a society built on the logic of violence and now dominated by punitive, socially reactionary policies, we've come to expect that the suggestive labeling (the Pinky Show is "radical far-left wing", etc.) is going to be done to us whether we object to it or not. So basically it's a good idea to be suspicious of labels. And also many adjectives.
As for the word "radical", we like Angela Davis' definition: "Radical simply means grasping a problem by its root." For example, when we say "radical education", we usually just mean we favor a critical re-examination of education's foundational assumptions, histories, and practices, with an eye to making big, structural changes. This is contrary to "reformist" approaches in which you just tinker with the details (they might be significant details, but they are not fundamental, structural elements), leaving the basic structure (with all of it's problems) intact. Here in the U.S. the term "radical" has so many negative connotations that it's often simply used as a slur. We're aware of this but since we think about the meaning differently we still use it to self-identify sometimes.
Regarding the Pinky Show entry at Wikipedia, I don't pay much attention to what's written there because 1) most people don't have a basic understanding of what our project is about; and 2) Wikipedia pages are easy to "vandalize" with stupid and incorrect information. In the past we've been labeled as communists or socialists or Maoists or terrorists or [insert scary adjective here]. It's ridiculous, we're none of those things. On the internet, when someone disagrees with you, you're almost guaranteed to be attacked on Wikipedia or any one of those other anyone-can-post/edit websites. That's why I think stuff like Wikipedia is better for describing the life cycle of ants, rather than trying to describe contested social phenomena or explore counter-hegemonic ideas.
Sorry for the long reply. I hope I did not bore you too much. I wish you a happy new year.