AH, CIVILITY. When I started reading blogs I was immediately struck by the relentless campaign of demonization of all things liberal and left that could be observed on many sites. The blogs were just following the lead of assorted right-wing media, typified by the babbling fools of Fox. Is it just a fringe thing? I don't think so. In the bookstore the other day I noticed a new book by Mona Charen entitled "Useful Idiots: How Liberals Got it Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First." The back features blurbs from William Bennett, William F. Buckley, Robert Bork, William Kristol, and Jeanne Kirkpatrick. These may be extremist by 1970 political standards, but they are not peripheral figures. They are pillars of the Right. So where is civility when this sort of rhetoric is endorsed enthusiastically? One can hardly blame jingoist bloggers like Glenn Reynolds, Andrew "I should have a NY Times column not that guy Krugman" Sullivan, and lesser lights for following their leaders.Not quite sure who Steve G. is, but it nicely encapsulates both why the "left is dead" argument is wrong (as who better exemplifies both leftism and intelligence than Max?) and why this whole thing is fundamentally pointless (which is, apparently, because the nasty comments should be reserved for these four horsemen. Which I can get behind.)
Believe it or not, I long for civility, but I have an ulterior motive. I think my arguments are so good that they will prosper in a rational debate. It also makes life more interesting. I would rather test my views against somebody sharp like Eugene Volokh than throw verbal mudballs at silly people. What the hell, I could be convinced I'm wrong. It's happened. I actually appreciate it, though I can't say it doesn't ache a little.
When I started blogging I resolved to foster civility by identifying and linking to those with differing political views who eschewed demonization. Another consideration is my collaborative anti-war project with libertarians who have a view of the welfare state which is perfectly opposite to my own. I also have a comments section in which debate is fairly polite, if heated at times. All things considered, I try and check myself when I'm at the point of issuing some blanket denunciation of "the Right" or somesuch.
One of my right-wing linkees was Megan McArdle, a.k.a. Jane Galt. Ordinarily her commentary and reader comments have been, in my experience, inside what I would call a zone of rationality. Then she said some things in connection with the upcoming demonstrations in New York that provoked me. I am not retracting what I said, which wasn't all that much, nor am I apologizing. If I had it to do again I wouldn't do anything different. For all I know she never even noticed my post, since she doesn't link to me. I was a little surprised at the intensity of comments here, and Ms. McArdle says she experienced much worse in private email. Other ripples have involved other blogs.
There is very little in politics where MM and I agree, but I do think this whole brouhaha has exceeded its justified limits. I have not read MM devotedly but most every time I have visited the commentary seemed relatively free of rancor. Others have disagreed but I am not convinced. The two-by-four post was an exception. Even so, it did not justify nasty emails. They are really an invasion of privacy, no better than an obscene phone call.
My endorsement isn't worth much, but as right-wing blogs go, Asymmetrical Information is one of the better ones. By contrast, InstaPundit, Sullivan, and others seem compulsively dedicated to a stream of potted generalizations and cheap shots. I read (skim, usually) them because lots of other people read them. InstaPundit is useful because he dredges up the worst of what passes for conservative thought from right-wing blogs. Find a nutty person with a sign in a crowd of 100,000 and label it "the face of the left." Erect silly arguments in order to shoot them down. Do the literary equivalent of arguing with an empty chair. That sort of thing.
MM is embarrassed because she said something dumb and compounded it by saying even stupider things in her own defense. But I would like to invoke my scintilla of influence and urge that she be cut some slack. She ain't that bad. She's wrong about most everything, but she's thoughtful and usually she's nice. Maybe steer clear of her before large demonstrations in Manhattan. Save your bile for the Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse: Reynolds, Sullivan, Johnson, & den Beste. (Sorry, Steve G., you didn't make the cut. You're not awful enough. In fact, you're kinda cute, like a frisky little terrier.)
Thursday, February 20, 2003
Great piece by Max Sawicky about the Galt mess. Heavy quotation follows, but what the hell:
Posted by Demosthenes at 2:02 AM