Posted on | September 22, 2012 | 33 Comments
Friedersdorf is normally Dan Riehl’s favorite target of derision, but one of our readers emailed a URL to article #74,325 in the “Until Republicans Fix [The Signal-To-Noise-Ratio], They Can’t Fix Any Problems” series.
The inability to judge arguments on their merits and separate fact from fantasy is what ails the conservative movement.
The right needs to value robust argument more highly. And to denigrate those who subvert it more forcefully. For public discourse is all it has to test ideas and formulate an evolving agenda.
- This is not a ‘fixable’ situation, Conor. The list of people involving themselves in the public discourse vary continuously. Also, the people themselves vary continuously, growing, learning, and retiring in various ways. It is abject foolishness to bemoan the unfixability of the situation. If you follow that foppish line of reasoning long enough, you’ll decide that it is ‘unfair’ that the situation cannot be ‘fixed’, and appeal to some authority to redistribute the attentino paid to speakers more ‘equitably’.
- This is a capitalism of ideas, Conor. You can produce sentences with flower prose, e.g.:
But respect for empiricism and reasoned, intellectually honest debate could ensure that the best critiques would be aired; the best ideas attempted; and the very worst rejected, whatever their provenance. At minimum, it’s possible to imagine a coalition where sound argument was valued enough to render the most vile ad hominem and the most hair-trigger heretic-shaming beyond the pale. Instead Rush Limbaugh and Erick Erickson remain among the right’s most influential voices.
However, if no one buys what you’re selling, you have to admit that maybe your product is inferior. Rush Limbaugh is not immortal. How are you sharpening your rhetoric, even now, to rescue Rush’s beleaguered audience, sadly led astray these decades, mistaking bombast for basis, passion for principle, volume for veracity? Do you brush aside riff-raff like Mark Steyn* and start out as a sub for Rush when he’s away? Or do you take baby steps, and out-Erickson Erick, and build a redder Red State?
- We are watching the traditional media crater in the marketplace because they do suck, Conor. They know that they are on the RMS Progressive Titanic, and striking that iceberg called ‘math’ has us all taking on far too much water. And to read you whinging on about reasoned argument, and then see you collide with this drivel:
National Review’s readers have been exposed to the argument that President Obama is allied with our Islamist enemy in a “Grand Jihad” against America; in Forbes, Dinesh D’Souza set forth the thesis that Obama’s every action is explained by a Kenyan anti-colonial ideology that overwhelms all else. I mention those magazines not because they’re worthless, but because both publish good stuff, and employ a lot of talented people who are more than smart enough to see through this nonsense. An ideological movement that prided itself on openness to all ideas could be forgiven for the most laughable that made it onto the pages of marquee magazines, but on the right, this madness gets published in venues where David Frum is deemed beyond the pale.
A bit farther toward the fringes you’ve got the birthers.
Just now, the GOP nominee was exposed as believing, or pandering to donors who believe, that the 47 percent of Americans who vote Democratic are the same 47 percent of Americans who pay no income taxes. That is demonstrably false, but many on the right have lined up behind his remarks, and started to shame co-ideologues who dared to criticize the Republican standard-bearer.
One sees what you did there, Conor. You’ve juxtaposed some serious theories about what’s going on in the mind of BHO with birtherism. Nice discrediting by proximity. But don’t you think, even if wrong, the ideas of Andrew McCarthy and D’Souza are theories that have substantial explanatory power? Doesn’t the resonance of 2016 with Americans mean something? (Catch a great D’Sousa interview here.)
And then the whole 47% ‘controversy’. Could you at least, speaking of intellectual honesty, balance a (perhaps cleverly) edited excerpt of Romney’s remarks against the corpus of what the man’s said?
Sporting fellow that I am, Conor, let me buy you a cup of coffee at CPAC next year. It would be instructive to figure out if you’re playing the mercenary Dave Weigel game, where you’re writing for a paycheck and serving an editorial overlord, while not necessarily being evil, the Rick Moran game, where you’re quietly statist, bookish, and keen on making theoretical arguments, or merely an oaf.
*Steyn deletes better prose than I write. Take that remark in context, please.