Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Pounding In Irritation

No, not Boh, but my keyboard. Yesterday I read on the Franken Show Blog that they were going to have Sullivan on. Stupidly I went and visited his site for the first time since the last time I said I was never going there. After gagging at the usual fare I noticed he had a link(subscription required) to an article on the supposed conflicts within the conservative movement. I know, foolish of me to even click it, but I thought it'd be somewhat enlightening since this appears to be Sullivan's major post-election area of concern. A few paragraphs in and I stopped gagging and started wretching;then the pounding began. Sullywatch didn't really comment on the article. I don't blame them;it was probably more than they could stomach and too long(I had time on my hands yesterday). But The Moose makes the excellent, though far too civil, observation that the article is over-thought. I would say it provides perfect examples of Sullivan's worst tendencies as a writer combined with David Brooks' most irritating stylistic quirk: the non-existent dichotomy. That is to say that it is nothing but an exercise in intellectual masturbation with a few tired jabs at Sully's ill-conceived notion of "the left".

Those jabs are tired, but worth comment. The best example is this one:

One reason for conservatism's endurance in the face of such contradiction, of course, is the extreme weakness--intellectual and organizational--of the opposition ... The left never recovered from the collapse of communism, the dismal failure of social democracy across Western Europe, and the demise of Japan's command economy in the 1980's.

ARE YOU EFFIN' KIDDING ME? Yes, I know it's Sullivan. We're supposed to expect this type of nonsense from him. But I cannot stand it that he gets flattery from the left for supposedly being an independent thinker. Yet whenever he addresses the left he trades in the lowest talking-point-style non-sequiturs. Sure, he presents them as reasonable common knowledge, but that doesn't mean they're true or make any sense. How is the fall of communism related to liberalism in America? What the hell does the collapse of Japan's economy have to do with liberalism at all? And did social democracy really dismally fail across Western Europe? And what, if anything do these events have in common besides being things the left "never got over"?

The answer to the first question is "not at all". There's been a small but vocal communist left in the US for generations, but the mainstream left in America has been anti-communist since at least the 1950's. Even far leftists such as Sully's punching bag Noam Chomsky referred to both Cuba and the USSR as tyrannies. The only difference between how the left and right viewed the fall of communism is this: the left cheered the triumph of human freedom, applauded the power of a mass population to liberate itself from tyranny and were proud our country had lent a hand;the right viewed it as a victory for Ronald Reagan, Capitalism, and God(in that order). The answer to the second questions is, of course, "nothing". The left had no stake in Japan's economic success or failure except as it pertained to the interest of US citizens and perhaps the economic health of the rest of the world. On to the third question. Last I checked, social democracy is working fine in Western Europe. The only "failure" is its failure to go away like Sully would like it to. The fourth question is also easy - they are unrelated except in Sully's mind.

So why did he bring these things up as "things the left never got over"? Because he's engaging in good old fashioned red-baiting. It's never enough to admit that the reason the left isn't as powerful as the right is the right, these days, is better at attaining and retaining power. No, he has to paint the left as a bunch of closet commie sympathizers who's very ideological core and purpose were destroyed when communism or - in Sully's mind - its cousins failed. Never mind that his description of "conservatives of doubt" actually applies to modern liberals(or moderates like Krugman who Sully can't help but smear since they actually have skills and understand complicated structures like economies). This is just bald pretension covering up for a lack of insight or honesty. This is just Horowitz with a jolly-ol' English accent and a Harvard degree. It stinks just as bad and is just as dishonest. And it makes me pound my keyboard in irritation.
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