RESISTANCE TO SOUND IDEAS! One baggers resistance to sound ideas apparently came from Tom Sowell: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 3, 2010
The center refuses to hold, vicious beating edition: At the top of this mornings front page, the New York Times John Broder (no relation) continues his work on the war against climate sciencea war hes afraid to describe.
Broders work is highly instructive, but gruesome. A dog just keeps refusing to bark as Broder cowers, quivers and quails. And make no mistakethe story he tells is dramatic, and quite important. In these, his opening paragraphs, he describes a vicious beating, a vicious beating which is being dished to science itself:
Good lord! Thats dramatic stuff! Climate scientists have been taking a vicious beating, Broder says. This vicious beating has been going on for months. The volume of criticism has only grown, and it seems to be bearing fruit. Many scientists now realize they are facing a crisis of public confidence, Broder reports.
Broder is talking about serious stuff. But as he continues, a familiar logical puzzle emerges. Beyond that, do you notice something missing from Broders report? A dog that perhaps fails to bark?
Theres that logical puzzle again! Its strange to think that a handful of errors in a voluminous report could produce such a vicious reaction. On the other hand, Broder says, in his own voice, that the e-mails to which he refers revealed arrogance among some scientistsa claim he doesnt attempt to explain or support. That said: Even if some such arrogance has been revealed, its strange to think that this revelation could have triggered such vicious attacks.
Meanwhile, Broder says that the e-mail correspondence only appears to show efforts to limit publication of contrary opinion and to evade Freedom of Information Act requests (our emphasis). But have these appearances been confirmed? If so, were these efforts a serious matter? As he continues, Broder says this about the e-mails:
How weird! Some of the most serious allegations have been debunked. Presumably, none of them have been upheld, or Broder would have said so.
Were now six paragraphs into Broders report, which appears at the top of the Times front page in our hard-copy edition. In fact, weve already left the front page at this point; the rest of this gruesome report appears inside the newspaper. And have you noticed something odd? To this point, Broder has failed to name the names of the people who are dishing the vicious beating which forms the basis of his report. In his opening paragraph, Broder says the vicious beating has been administered in the media and on the Internet.
What a hack. He might as well say that the vicious beating has occurred right here on Earth.
Who is dishing this vicious beating? Broder keeps forgetting to say. And uh-oh! [S]erious damage has already been done, he says as he continues. A survey conducted in late December by Yale University and George Mason University found that the number of Americans who believed that climate change was a hoax or scientific conspiracy had more than doubled since 2008, to 16 percent of the population from 7 percent. And not only that! An additional 13 percent of Americans said they thought that even if the planet was warming, it was a result solely of natural factors and was not a significant concern.
A vicious beating has been handed out. Serious damage has been done in the process. And finally, deep inside his piece, Broder names the name of one lone person who has been dishing this serious beating. In paragraph 13, deep in his piece, the name of one lone critic appears. Forgive us if were underwhelmed by this part of Broders report, a gruesome report for which the Times ought to apologize loudly:
Forgive us if were underwhelmed, except at the depth of Broders cowardice. (And/or that of his editors.) When Broder finally names the name of one critic, the name belongs to an engineer an engineer and climate contrarian who posts frequently on climate skeptic blogs. Question: Is there any reason to think that this engineer has the slightest idea what hes talking about? Second question: Does it make sense to think that someone this obscure, posting on obscure climate skeptic blogs, could really be driving the serious changes in attitude Broder has cited?
Do you note that this makes little sense, except as a flight from the truth?
Things fall apart, Eliot wrote. The center cannot hold. In this case, the center just keeps refusing to hold. Broder refuses to name the names of those who are dishing the vicious beatings. He refuses to name the name Fox News. He refuses to name the names of radio hosts. He refuses to name the names of the three Republican senators who recently clowned and played the fool about those Washington snowstorms. Of course, when Broder wrote about that very topic, he made it sound like some real debate existed about what those snowstorms meant. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/15/10 for Broders first flight from the truth.
Its truea handful of errors do appear in that UN report. And some climate scientists may be arrogant (or not). But in this deeply cowardly piece, Broder refuses to come to terms with the activity swirling around him. He refuses to name the names of the people dishing those vicious beatings. He refuses to come to terms with the fact that many of them are just screaming frauds, engaged in a loud and deeply stupid bit of political warfare.
The center just keeps refusing to hold, as it so strongly refused in the 90s. As Eliot predicted, Broder and his craven editors have reached the point where they lack all conviction. They may believe in climate sciencebut they no longer believe in their craft. A vicious beating gets dished out hereto journalism itself.
RESISTANCE TO SOUND IDEAS (permalink): On Monday, we highlighted a post by Steve Benen about opposition to health care reform (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/1/10). Steve cited a report in Sundays New York Times, a report describing the problems we face if reform is defeated. As Steve closed, he voiced his frustration with opposition to reformopposition from the right:
We were very struck by that part of Steves post. The resistance to sound ideas is fairly intense, he said. The efficacy of the right-wing noise machine is really a sight to behold.
Question: Where does that resistance, that public opposition, come from? What is the human face of that right-wing machine? Eureka! In that same days New York Times, Kate Zernike penned a front-page profile of Keli Carender, someone who opposes the proposed health reform plan from the right.
Needless to say, Carender is just one person out of the many who oppose proposed reform from the right. She is a different person from Pam Stout, the 66-year-old Idaho woman who was featured in David Barstows recent profile of the Tea Party movement. But if Zernike is right, Carender played a key role in the rise of the Tea Party movement.
And good news! Zernike includes a brief passage about where Carender gets her resistance to sound ideas.
Who the heck is Keli Carender? In part, shes the classic fish out of water, the kind of person journalists love to profile. She doesnt seem like a Tea Party type; for Zernike, this was part of her appeal. But Carender does oppose the proposed health reform. This was Zernikes opening snapshot:
Say what? Carenders just one person of many, of course. But she has a ring in her noseand she lives near Mexican grocers! Despite these factors, shes strongly opposed to the health reform plan, just as she was opposed to the stimulus. And leaders of the Tea Party movement credit here with being the first to kick-start the movement! As she continued, Zernike thumb-nailed the background to Carenders current involvement:
That wasnt our reaction to the stimulus billthough we dont recall ever seeing a news report which deeply examined its strengths and its weaknesses. But sure enough! After Carenders fiancé refused to put his foot down and stop her wayward behavior, Carender organized a rallya rally which drew only 120 people, Zernike reports. The Tea Party movement pretty much spiraled from there, according to Zernike.
At one point, Zernike cites Tea Party honcho Jenny Beth Martin, who calls [Carender] an unlikely avatar of the movement but an ideal one. She puts a fresh, idealistic face on a movement often dismissed as a bunch of angry extremists.
Is the Tea Party movement a bunch of angry extremists? When we look at current polling data, we cant help thinking it might not be a bad idea to find out. In national polling on health reform, Democrats are currently getting squashed, with 38 percent strongly opposed versus 22 percent strongly in favor. Some of those who are strongly opposed may be strongly opposed from the leftbut most opposition has come from the right. Lets quote Benen again: The resistance to sound ideas is fairly intense. The efficacy of the right-wing noise machine is really a sight to behold.
In his post, Benen assumed that his ideas about reform were in fact the sound ones. We share his overall view on reform, though we dont perhaps share his hard certainty. But where does all that resistance come from? What is the source of those faulty ideas? In her profile, Zernike provides a fleeting look at Carenders sources of error:
It didnt make any sense to me to be spending all this money when we dont have it, Carender said. That wasnt our view of the stimulus spending. But in fairness, Carenders reaction does make a type of sense, unless you understand and accept the theory of counter-cyclical (Keynesian) spending.
In all likelihood, Carender wasnt exposed to a lot of Keynesianism when she read Sowell or the Review. For ourselves, we dont read Sowell very often, though we used to read his columns in the Washington Times. We were often struck by how poorly reasoned his work seemed to be; we sometimes marveled at the thought that Sowell was a Stanford professor. (Today, we realize that hes actually a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.)
On the other hand, one of our long-time readers e-mailed us once, strongly recommending Sowells work. Just a guess: You dont have to be a redneck racist whose limbic brain doesnt work to think that Sowells work makes sense. Indeed, we recall the days when we didnt know that the logic of the Concord Coalition was a bit skewed with regard to Social Security. None of us know much of anything until we somehow learn.
Bottom line: According to Zernikes profile, Carender got her resistance to sound ideas in part through Sowell and the Review. For ourselves, wed like to know more about her view of the world.
Carender is just one person. In some ways, she was an appealing subject because she doesnt fit the stereotype of the angry Tea Partier. (You know? Of the brain-damaged tea-bagger?) But what is Carenders view of the world? More important, what can she tell us about other Tea Partiers? For ourselves, we would have liked to see Carender interviewed on TV this week.
But then, we also wanted to see Pam Stout interviewed after Barstow profiled her in the New York Times. (Stout seems to get her own resistance to sound ideas from Glenn Beck, who Carender seems to semi-dismiss.) What exactly is Pam Stout like? What is Pam Stouts view of the world? The movement which includes Carender and Stout has been kicking liberal keister this year. But it rarely seems to occur to us liberals to ask them what they think.
Can we name someone else wed like to see on TV? That would be David Barstow. Barstow seems to be a pretty good journalist; he spent months researching his long piece on the Tea Party movement. For some reason, he selected Stout as his face of the movement. But surely, he could tell the world a great deal about the attitudes and outlooks of other people in this movementthe people who have been kicking the ass of our various sound ideas.
According to Nexis, Barstow never appeared on the TV machine thingy after his long report appeared. Do you think anyone asked?
Benen marveled at the resistance to sound ideas being driven by the right-wing machine. In many ways, we marvel too; in other ways, we see that as a deeply unintelligent framework. In a rational world, we think liberals would want to know more about the way Tea Partiers think, so we might be able to fashion our own political proposals more effectively. Health reform may still pass this year, but weve been getting our keisters kicked again. It still doesnt seem to cross our minds that the problem may lie with us.
What drives the resistance to sound ideas? In many ways, resistance is presumably driven by time-honored narratives. Tomorrow, well look at narratives from the left and the right. And well examine the soul of a type of bigotthe kind who knows how to lose.
Tomorrow: Is Packer a bigot?