Fat Steve's Blatherings

Monday, April 18, 2005

Why Liberals Aren't Much Worth Bothering With

      They lie a lot.

      For instance, Michael Kinsley has a column in The Washington Post about 'neo-conservatives,' and how they've changed their mind on foreign policy.

      If you visit the article, the first thing you notice is that there are few quotes, and no links.  Thus does Kinsley prevent you from checking what he says about the subject with the original sources.

      The burden of the article is that 'neo-conservatives' have changed their minds on foreign policy, but won't admit they used to be wrong.

      First, what is a 'neo-conservative,' and who are they?  Kinsley notes:
When the word first surfaced in the 1970s, its sting was in calling people conservatives five or 10 minutes before they were prepared to admit it. The core group had famously been Trotskyists at City College in the 1930s. In the 1950s and 1960s they were anti-communist liberals and supporters of the Vietnam War. The antiwar movement and the '60s counterculture alienated them. Affirmative action was another sore point. Finally Irving Kristol, dubbed the neocon godfather, decided to take it as a compliment. He defined a neoconservative as "a liberal mugged by reality."

      The big neo-conservative idea was supposed to be 'Screw Democracy' or as Kinsley puts it:
The great neocon theme was tough-minded pragmatism in the face of liberal naivete.

To support this, Kinsley quotes a few lines from a Jeanne Kirkpatrick article of 1979, in which she:
mocked "the belief that it is possible to democratize governments anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances." Democracy, she said, depends "on complex social, cultural, and economic conditions." It takes "decades, if not centuries." . . .

And the Bush Doctrine is said to have the fingerprints of neoconservatives all over it.

      So, who are the neo-conservatives that left their fingerprints on the Bush Doctrine, but won't admit they were wrong in 1979?  As far as I can tell, they're aren't any.

      Not a single one of the old codgers from the thirties is mentioned by name as having anything to do with Bush's foreign policy.  The only person named who has contributed to W.'s policy is Robert Kagan, born sometime in the 1950s or '60s.

      So what happened is, Kinsley has applied the "neo-conservatism" label to Kagan, without offering any reason why Kagan should be so labeled; slides from labeling to implying that Kagan once shared Kirkpatrick's ideas (although he doesn't offer any evidence for this, and mentions, in passing, that Kagan publicly differed with Kirkpatrick's views in 1997.); slides from that to implying that all neo-conservatives once believed what Kirkpatrick does, but have now changed their minds and hold Kagan's pro-democracy views (again, no evidence, and no context to allow you to judge Kirkpatrick's ideas); and then asserted that neo-conservatives won't admit to having changed their minds.

      This is an old game: distort what people say, then mock the distortions.  And it's why I don't bother reading Kinsley or most other liberals.  They just won't argue honestly.

      Update, April 20th: The Corner on National Review has a nice post by Cliff May.  I especially like the point that, regardless whether "neo-conservatives" have changed their minds, liberals definitely have, because they now oppose spreading democracy.

      There's another good post by Michael Ledeen, and a third by Jonah Goldberg.



  • I don't read much liberal opinion writing. Sometimes I feel guilty that I am not exposing myself to their positions and thinking but, as you point out, there isn't much substance there.

    By Blogger Ralph, at 2:35 PM  

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