July 07, 2002
Pondering idiots

I really thought I had nothing more to say about the whole Cal Thomas/where's-the-outrage kerfuffle. I'd gotten some good feedback that showed there was some outrage, and this made me feel better.

After reading Kevin Whited and Owen Courreges, I got to wondering about my motives for all this in the first place. I have to confess, a certain part of it was the defensiveness that I, as a left-leaning blogger, have when it comes to right-wing attacks on stupid things that are said and done by leftists. What I see in these attacks is a sometimes implicit, sometimes totally blatant attempt to link outrageous radical left behavior (think "Terror Widows", or that Canadian feminist who claimed that Afghan women were better off under the Taliban than they'd be in America) with, well, me.

(By the way, if you're wondering what I'm talking about, here's an odious little example. What do you say to someone like this? I don't know what blogs this guy does or doesn't read, but either he isn't reading the liberals that I read or he's in serious need of some remedial education. I suppose this guy is barely worth my contempt, let alone any defensiveness, but there's no shortage of this kind of thing out there. Link via Alex Frantz.)

What do you do when you identify as a liberal and you come across people saying that all liberals must be idiots because Ted Rall (a known idiot) is a liberal? I can't speak for anyone else, but I feel like I have to do what I can to demonstrate that I'm a liberal who isn't anything like that idiot. The easiest and most effective way to do that is to join in the attack on the idiot in question.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you - most often, the objects of derision are indeed idiots who should be attacked by anyone who's capable of critical thinking. Some people in the blogosphere, notably Charles Johnson, realized that critical thinkers on both sides of the left/right split had way more in common with each other than they did with the radical fringes of their own sides, and attempted to bridge the gap by dividing the world into idiotarians and anti-idiotarians.

But still I'd feel like I was under attack. Again, I can't speak for anyone else, but I'd be rather surprised if no one else felt this way. And so, when an obvious opportunity came to put the shoe on the other foot, I took it. Cal Thomas is an idiot and a conservative. You conservatives - prove to me you're not idiots! Fair is fair, sauce for the goose, blah blah blah.

It's a pretty lousy reason, I suppose. After all, if what I thought was being done to me was wrong, then what I was doing was also wrong, and if what was being done to me was right, well, what am I bitching about? I'm not sure which contradiction I'd rather choose, but for what it's worth, that's how I felt.

So, I apologize for doing unto others as I don't want done unto me. As it happens, I believe it was ultimately worthwhile, if for no better reason than this little bit of blog synergy that I encountered. In his response to me, Kevin Whited gives a perfectly good reason why he considers slapping Cal Thomas to be beneath him:

I generally don't find him very interesting at all (just went poking through Reductio to see how often he shows up, and the answer is -- not very). I don't really consider him to be one of the columnists that I just can't miss while doing my daily reading. And isn't that a more damning critique than any denunciation TAPped might want from conservative bloggers: I just don't read the guy because, frankly, columns like this aren't all that surprising!

And then I see this in that same Alez Frantz post from above:

So what's a flag-waving leftist to do? Well, there's always bashing the right, which the Nuisance does with zeal and pleasure. I don't spend equivalent energy going after the American far left simply because at this time they don't matter very much, although I always enjoy a shot at Ralph Nader.

So rational conservatives generally consider it a waste of time to respond to their radical fringe, and rational liberals feel the same way about theirs. I wouldn't go quite that far myself, but I appreciate the perspective. I suppose there are better things to do than to bash each other over who is or isn't responding to a given idiot. As long as we're all playing by those same rules.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 07, 2002 to Blog stuff