You might be a Republican or a “libertarian”.
Item: Sarah Palin, apparently trying to help out discredited right-wing propagandist Andrew Breitbart, gets all huffy about this set of private JournoList e-mails that Breitbart and Tucker Carlson saw fit to spam all over the internet. Except that there’s nothing for even Sarah Palin to spin into outrage material. For example, how could anyone be offended by the following bit of advice:
A note to journolisters who may not be aware of this: “Downs child” is NOT an appropriate or sensitive way to refer to Palin’s son, who has Down Syndrome. Please use “people-first” language here. I’m not at all a fan of Palin, either, but as liberals and decent human beings, we should be respectful in how we refer to people with disabilities.
Now remember, Carlson’s trying to cherry-pick these private e-mails to find something with which to attack non-conservatives. If this is the worst he can do, no wonder Palin feels the need to feign outrage.
Item: TNR’s Megan McArdle, who is known for her crimes against journalism, recently tried to do a takedown of Elizabeth Warren — and failed. How badly did she fail? Let Tom Levensen explain:
To be fair Zhu concludes that overconsumption — spending too much on housing, cars and credit cards account for more of the total burden of bankruptcy than medical events, divorce or unemployment, as McArdle wrote.
But as McArdle completely failed to acknowledge, Zhu does so while using somewhat more stringent standard for counting medical expenses as a factor in bankruptcy than other scholars employed — as he explicitly acknowledges. He concedes the continuing significance of medically -induced bankruptcy. He acknowledges what he believes to be a weak underweighting of that factor (because some people pay for medical expenses on credit cards). And he notes that a number of other studies, not limited to those co-authored by Warren, come to different conclusions.
In other words: McArdle correctly describes one conclusion of this paper in a way that yields for its readers a false conclusion about what the paper itself actually says. And look what that false impression implies: if medical bankruptcy is a trivial problem, society-wide, then Warren can be shown to be both a sloppy scholar and, as McArdle more or less explicitly says, a dishonest one as well.
And that leads me back to the thought that got me going on this post. It seems to me that what we read in McArdle here is a genteel excursion into Andrew Breitbart territory. Like the Big Hollywood thug, she misleads by contraction, by the omission of necessary context, by simply making stuff up when she thinks no one will check (again, see the footnotes for examples). And like Breitbart, she does so here to achieve more than one goal. The first is simply to damage Elizabeth Warren as an individual, to harm her career prospects.
So why does TNR have her on staff? Simply put, she says things that make rich and powerful people feel all warm and gooey inside. Or as Levensen states:
Perhaps lying is too harsh a word — but the serial errors that all fall on the side that supports her initial claims and that recur again and again in her work suggest to me that something other than mere intellectual sloth and sloppiness is the driver.
Ordinarily, such a record wouldn’t matter much, especially in journalism. In theory, a series of clips as riddled with error as McArdle’s would end most careers in high prestige journalism. Hot Air might still find a use for you, but The Atlantic?
But the problem is that McArdle is useful: she advances an agenda — that which comforts the comfortable — and she does so with what I think is truly her original talent, the capacity not to notice the ridicule and ferociously dismissive debunking that she so often attracts.
Being able to be wrong in a form and fashion that aids the powerful, and possessing the ability not to mind a life that must be thus lived in willing embrace of error…now that’s a trick.
Which is why no one who cites Megan McArdle as an example of anything except wrongness put in the service of corporatism should ever be taken seriously.