The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Conor, You Lost Me At ‘Fix’

Posted on | September 22, 2012 | 33 Comments

by Smitty

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.

Three replies:

  1. 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’.
  2. 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?

  3. 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.


33 Responses to “Conor, You Lost Me At ‘Fix’”

  1. richard mcenroe
    September 22nd, 2012 @ 5:10 pm

    I vote for mercenary oaf.

  2. SDN
    September 22nd, 2012 @ 5:24 pm

    “The right needs to value robust argument more highly.”

    The problem, Conor, is that what we are getting is neither robust nor an argument. We are getting assertions by clueless hacks like yourself about how we can come to some sort of modus vivendi (yes, I can trot out $5 words at least as well as you can) with the Left because they are reasonable and reasonably honest.

    But only someone who has not watched these people lie with more and more boldness over the last 80 years could possibly buy this. The difference between now and 1930 isn’t in the amount of lying, it’s the brazenness…. and that we don’t have the time left to put up with it.

    In the last 48 hours we have watched the Left go from a conniption about Romney not paying taxes to a conniption about his paying more than he had to. There is not a shred of coherent principle in it. They hate us, and the quicker we realize that and stop treating them as the fellow countrymen they aren’t, the better.

  3. Adjoran
    September 22nd, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

    Conor needs to understand that people don’t pay him more attention because the system is somehow broken. It’s because he is a pompous little twit who isn’t 10% as bright as he believes himself to be.

    Sort of a Barrett Brown without the crazy.

  4. Bob Belvedere
    September 22nd, 2012 @ 5:47 pm

    Sort of a Barrett Brown without the crazy.
    As far as we know.

  5. Conor Friedersdorf
    September 22nd, 2012 @ 5:58 pm


    I agree that Andy McCarthy is much smarter than your average birther, but on this theory of his in particular — that Obama is allied with our Islamist enemies in a ‘Grand Jihad’ against America — I’d love to know what substantial explanatory powers it has. I happen to think Obama has a lousy foreign policy record (probably for reasons different than you) but we should all be able to agree that he’s killed a bunch of Al Qaeda members, and we know he gave the okay for Stuxnet too. Seems strange for a guy in a Grand Jihad against America to keep killing the people he’s ostensibly allied with, doesn’t it?

  6. darleenclick
    September 22nd, 2012 @ 6:04 pm

    with all due respect to Erick Erickson, how is he more influential than Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager or Michael Medved?

  7. Garym
    September 22nd, 2012 @ 6:06 pm

    I always find it hilarious that we get lectured by someone who obviously didn’t vote for McCain in 2008. In other words, he voted for the most radical leftist president since FDR. And that side of the isle is pretty much in lock step with each other with almost no “vigorous debate”, while our side has all kinds of factions with all kinds of disagreement. Idiot!

  8. darleenclick
    September 22nd, 2012 @ 6:06 pm

    It’s a matter of degree, not intent. Integral to Obama’s “fundamental transformation” is making America just another nation of the world, no more special than any other.

  9. smitty
    September 22nd, 2012 @ 6:08 pm

    I speculate that Erickson may have taken Friedersdorf’s milk money a time or two.

  10. smitty
    September 22nd, 2012 @ 6:11 pm

    The Postmodern Left, in my opinion, is using radical Islam as a sort of wrecking ball against Western civilization.

  11. richard mcenroe
    September 22nd, 2012 @ 6:15 pm

    I have a feeling Michelle Malkin could take his milk money…today.

  12. Uncle Crumpty
    September 22nd, 2012 @ 6:27 pm

    Here comes another Smartest Guy in the Room to tell us plebes how ignorant we are. Here’s a quarter, Conor. Buy yourself another ‘n’

  13. darleenclick
    September 22nd, 2012 @ 6:29 pm

    I don’t know that they as much use Islam itself, but crib a few notes while secretly admiring their results.

  14. smitty
    September 22nd, 2012 @ 6:47 pm

    LatmaTV suggestion: parody of The Knack “My Sharia”

  15. smitty
    September 22nd, 2012 @ 6:51 pm

    Wait. I guess “My Sharia” has been done.

  16. Wombat_socho
    September 22nd, 2012 @ 7:03 pm

    With both hands and her entire brain tied behind her back. Just to make it fair.

  17. Quartermaster
    September 22nd, 2012 @ 7:11 pm

    I would say he hides the crazy better, but it’s still there.

  18. Wingy McWingerton
    September 22nd, 2012 @ 7:38 pm

    it’s one thing to dislike the tone/particular points of argument taken by the Right at this point in time. but has Friedersdorf EVER advocated anything substantively conservative, other than the “conservative case” for X liberal cause? no, he’s just a libertarian who maybe thinks Bammer’s spent a little too much and places Generic Freedom ™ as the end-all-be-all. so fuck him.

  19. Adjoran
    September 22nd, 2012 @ 10:40 pm

    Andy McCarthy is an attorney who has actually prosecuted jihadists, so he has earned his bona fides. Is there any particular qualification you have to give your opinions any credence?

  20. Reynolds88
    September 22nd, 2012 @ 11:58 pm

    Smitty, one day someone with cotton in their jowles may ask you for a favor and you can say yes, I have already sliced and diced a ripe tomato; give me your hardest yellow turnip and just tell me the size of the outcome you desire?

    Bravo my friend. Now only the Davids (Brooks and Frum) are waiting for your well honed insights!

  21. K-Bob
    September 23rd, 2012 @ 12:41 am

    When I saw CF’s name show up on the memeor and um last night, I was sure a metaphorical beat down was heading his way.

    I was right!

  22. Bob Belvedere
    September 23rd, 2012 @ 12:43 am

    Right-on, Adj.

  23. K-Bob
    September 23rd, 2012 @ 12:44 am

    Yes. A wrecking ball that will turn on them just as soon as it’s own designs are met.

    The left is far safer behind conservatives with guns than it could ever be where sharia holds the least sway.

  24. K-Bob
    September 23rd, 2012 @ 12:46 am

    Well wroten!

  25. Bob Belvedere
    September 23rd, 2012 @ 12:46 am

    The Puppet Masters of the Left are smart enough to know that they can’t control the whole world, so they encourage Islam, Fascist Russia, and Red China in their schemes – Totalitarians all.

    See: Oceania, Eastasia, Eurasia.

  26. JohnInMA
    September 23rd, 2012 @ 12:57 am

    What I find with most progressives (not necessarily classical liberals) that makes ‘robust argument’ moot if not impossible, is their inability to argue. The position taken by Conor whoever, seems almost more a projection than an honest observation or analysis. Most progressives have a single trick in any discussion – to define anyone else as ‘wrong’ and perhaps to add personal invective as a some kind of support, oddly. So, you aren’t just ‘wrong’, you are deceitful, or a liar, or stupid, or inarticulate. The fact that he makes D’Souza’s work analogous to birtherism is proof that he has either no interest or no intellectual basis to discuss the merits. Even though I am mostly unfamiliar with his work, I would still bet a week’s pay that it wouldn’t take much research to find he has taken a similar position – either through his own ‘analysis’ or acceptance of another’s – in an attempt to describe a Palin or a GWB.

    Someone from my distant past used to say, “Never argue with an idiot. He will force you down to his level and beat you senseless with experience.” With progressives, most I know (academia and working professionals) will never engage in true, analytical debate. So, you must stoop to their level in order to engage, and………

  27. Jimmie
    September 23rd, 2012 @ 1:42 am

    Yes, Conor. Barack Obama has killed a few random Islamists, Osama bin Laden, and he gave Stuxnet a thumbs-up.

    Now let’s consider what sort of damage that’s done. First, the random Islamists are footsoldiers in a far larger army and I’m sure you would agree that you don’t defeat an army by assigning a missile to each of its soldiers and killing them once every few days. At that rate, we’d still be fighting World War II. Second, Osama bin Laden. Not much to say. He made the right call. Hard to imagine a circumstance, even if McCarthy is right, whereby he would not have given that order and still kept his Presidency once the news got out. Third, Stuxnet was a delaying action. It wrecked some equipment that Iran has mostly replaced. It slowed down their nuclear weapons program, which has not ever stopped. Stuxnet was fine, but not much of a deal by itself.

    On the other hand, we all should be able to agree that the President put Egypt squarely in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group hostile to the United States in every conceivable way. He put Libya in the hands of people whose names and affiliations our own State Department admitted they did not know even as the “revolution” was under way. His administration’s actions this week not only confirmed the worst lies of the Islamists (i.e. that an exercise of free speech was the proximate cause of the murder of three Americans) but also severely undercut the Constitution in America and across the Middle East.

    Those “other hand” events have all happened, I believe, in one calendar year — roughly a third of the time Barack Obama has held office. Now, I can’t say Andrew McCarthy is right but the President’s actions, at the very least, make his theory plausible, wouldn’t you say?

  28. jwallin
    September 23rd, 2012 @ 7:16 am

    Conor lost me at the n.

  29. Bob Belvedere
    September 23rd, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

    Well said, Jimmie.

    SIDENOTE: Too many people are unaware that there are many factions in Islam and that all of them are vying to be top dog. Some are bitter enemies. There is a lot of animosity between Al-Qaeda and various other Mohammedin groups.

    An example: the Saudis and their allies want Israel to bom the nuclear facilities in Iran. Sunni vs. Shia.

  30. Wingy McWingerton
    September 23rd, 2012 @ 7:33 pm

    lemme guess — ya think Ron Paul kneejerkism is the ideal foreign policy. correct me if i’m wrong. i’ll admit it’s sorta understandable in reaction to the Iraq War but he doesn’t present a cohesive alternative. it’s more reactive than anything.

    if there’s one thing i might criticize the GOP on, it’s that they’re taking shots at Obama’s foreign policy without presenting an alternative to the old neocon ideas. someone needs to ask, for example: where is it written that we have to support any democratic revolution in the M.E. (except Iran cuz that’d be “meddling?”) is blowback from supporting dictators who (for good reason) forcibly keep orthodox Muslim parties out of power as big a deal as people like Condoleeza Rice’ve argued? is Obama being naive in thinking any non-al Qaeda Islamist parties will “moderate” just cuz we’re engaging them?

    i’m sure Obama’d argue that Kissingerian thinking regarding this is too short term. i’m not so sure about that.

  31. alanhenderson
    September 23rd, 2012 @ 10:53 pm

    “So broken are the information outlets Tea Partiers in particular use to assess reality that for months they took Sarah Palin, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich seriously as potential or actual presidential contenders.”

    Uh, I thought Newt’s Scozzafava endorsement forever killed his pull with the Tea Party.

  32. So, Other Than All That, Mr. Levin, What Did You Think Of Conor’s Article? : The Other McCain
    September 24th, 2012 @ 7:09 am

    […] on | September 24, 2012 | No Commentsby SmittyA friend of the blog points to a carpet bombing of Wee Conor’s article the other day. Levin on FaceBook:A mind is a terrible thing to twist This puny stalker writes and […]

  33. Paul Joslin
    September 24th, 2012 @ 8:24 am

    “Steyn deletes better prose than I write.”
    Gems like this remind me I’ve been away too long. Time to move your RSS feed to the top of the list.