Kleinâ€™s argument was astonishingâ€”he conceded that the law was flawed, even badly flawed, but celebrated the flaws as a virtue. The law will mean that â€œtoo much counts as sexual assaultâ€ and that innocent students will be branded rapists (though such cases, Klein suggests in a fact-free claim, â€œvery, very rarelyâ€ occur). But Klein considered it â€œnecessaryâ€ to get more students deemed guilty of rape in â€œmorally ambiguousâ€ situations to convince men in college (but, it seems, not anywhere else) that â€œthey better Be Pretty Damn Sure.â€
Kleinâ€™s column has triggered a torrent of criticism. The highest-profile came from New Yorkâ€™s Jon Chait, who expressed amazement that Klein was â€œarguing for false convictions as a conscious strategy in order to strike fear into the innocent,â€ a â€œconception of justice totally removed from the liberal tradition.â€
Johnson also reports on sharp criticism of new Harvard disciplinary policies (adopted by Harvard along with a great many other universities in response to Federal Department of Education threats and prodding) by 28 Harvard Law professors.
The Ezra Klein column was widely criticized because Klein expressed enthusiastic support for injustice when he perceived the injustice as forwarding the leftist process of making Society more just.
All sorts of people dropped their jaws and did a double take at the spectacle of one of the Left’s noisiest moralists foaming at the mouth and demanding that the innocent should be loaded onto the tumbril and carried to a meeting with the guillotine in the Place de la Concorde. But why should anyone be surprised?
The very essence of leftism is its exaggerated claims of victimization and its one-sided perspective. Leftism was never about being fair, and leftist “justice” was never about being just. Leftism is entirely about Revolution, about the triumph of the victim groups by forced political change achieved through perpetual agitation. No one ever said that the left’s agitprop would be balanced and fair. And no one ever said the Revolution was going to practice due process.
Ezra Klein simply dropped the veil a bit too abruptly, being flushed with insolence over his side’s victory in California, and allowed everyone to see him for the tricoteuse he really is.
Little Ezra Klein published on Sunday, in Vox, a must-read article making the intelligent point that political arguments are commonly not decided on the basis of facts and evidence, and that even intelligent people, when faced with information contrary to their preferred beliefs, tend to use their intellectual skills to manipulate or evade in favor of preserving their positions, rather than revising their own opinions on the basis of better arguments or the facts.
[T]here are some kinds of debates where people donâ€™t want to find the right answer so much as they want to win the argument. Perhaps humans reason for purposes other than finding the truth â€” purposes like increasing their standing in their community, or ensuring they donâ€™t piss off the leaders of their tribe. If this hypothesis proved true, then a smarter, better-educated citizenry wouldnâ€™t put an end to these disagreements. It would just mean the participants are better equipped to argue for their own side.
Quite amusingly, Ezra then proceeds, quite unconsciously, to demonstrate the truth of all of this in the real world by selecting as examples of “identity-protective cognition” classic current left-right controversies like “climate change.” Ezra then proceeds to treat the left’s side of the argument as factual and decisive, diagnosing people on the other side, like Justice Antonin Scalia, as afflicted with delusional infatuation with identity precluding perception of the force and authority of the other side’s arguments.
Poor Ezra is hilariously oblivious to his own delusion-inducing investment in his identity as an elite member of the enlightened community of fashion, which his own belief system supposes inevitably knows the truth about matters of fact like Anthropogenic Climate Change and every issue of public policy.
Ezra Klein offers the left’s intellectually bankrupt and futile response. Young Ezra has nothing to offer but emotionally manipulative appeals to sentimentality. The Obama budget must be supported, regardless of consequences or affordability because it spends lots of money on the poor. “The poor” are a species of Brahmanic sacred cattle whose interests trump reality.
It doesn’t matter if you bankrupt the country and strangle economic growth affecting everyone. If you fail to immolate the American economy on the altar of bleeding heart social consciousness, you are just mean!
Ezra is a member of the economic school that wants to raise taxes (and stifle economic activity) now. After all, as unidentified “experts” cited by the Associated Press announced today, no study accepted by the left proves that drilling (and thereby increasing petroleum supply) reduces gas prices.
If you are simply an irrational emotionalist, economics is whatever left-wing studies say it is, and the proper operation of any economy really consists of transfers of wealth from the more affluent to the less affluent members of society.
Ezra Klein spoke for progressives throughout the land when he expressed a certain personal irritation with the “America No.1” cheerleading portions of Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.
One of the first big applause lines of the speech came when Barack Obama said, “For all the hits weâ€™ve taken these last few years, for all the naysayers predicting our decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world.” But as Matt Yglesias notes, soon, we won’t. China will. And that’s okay.
A decent future includes China’s GDP passing ours. They have many, many more people than we do. It’s bad for both us and them if the country stays poor. …
In the best global economy we can imagine, the countries with the largest GDP are the countries with the most people. That’s not America. And that’s okay.
Klein proceeds to assure us that his preferred vision of the future is not all that bad for America. We have not declined into a state of want or hardship or oblivion. We’re just going to be No. 2, and content with it, since prosperous and successful China will be innovating for us.
What’s wrong with decline and fall? Klein argues. Britain declined. Why not us?
A world in which China becomes rich enough to buy from us and educated enough to invent things that improve our lives is a better world than one in which they merely become competitive enough to take low-wage jobs from us — and that’s to say nothing of the welfare of the Chinese themselves.
But perhaps it’s better to think of it in terms of Britain rather than China. Was the economic rise of the United States, in the end, bad for Britain? Or France? I don’t think so. We’ve invented a host of products, medicines and technologies that have made their lives immeasurably better, not to mention measurably longer. We’re a huge and important trading partner for all of those countries. They’re no longer even arguably No. 1, it’s true. But they’re better off for it.
Of course, Ezra Klein’s sunny picture of a modest swoon to position 2, purely on the basis of comparative demographics, old boy, is a puerile, historically illiterate assessment of how things work.
Loss of stature and decline typically does not cease when you hit number 2. If we look at Britain’s decline, we see not only loss of economic preeminence. We see a fundamental loss of national self-confidence, the abandonment of Britain’s civilizing mission abroad, diminishing military strength leading to dependency on the United States, surrender of the country’s domestic economy to the domination of trade unions and socialism, industrial collapse, decades of economic decline, mass emigration of the ambitious and enterprizing, and ultimately even the calculated remodeling of the ethnic character of the nation through Third World emigration policies covertly imposed by Labour leaders. Britain did not just sink to Number 2. Britain lost just about everything, including its national character.
Matt Yglesias echoes Klein, without bothering to sugarcoat the message.
[S]omething I thought was really striking about Barack Obamaâ€™s speech last night was how utterly unprepared American political culture is for the idea of a world in which weâ€™re not Top Nation. And yet the reality is that while weâ€™re the worldâ€™s largest economy today, and will continue to be so tomorrow, we really just wonâ€™t be forever. The Economist predicts that China will pass us in 2019. Maybe itâ€™ll be 2018 or maybe itâ€™ll be 2022.
But it will happen. And fairly soon. And itâ€™ll happen whether or not we reform education or invest in high speed rail or whatever. And the country doesnâ€™t seem prepared to deal with it.
We had a similar discussion, a few months ago, on my Yale class’s email list. Some liberal classmates had condemned the US Constitution and argued that, since it allowed slavery, Constitutional Originalism was obviously undesirable. The US Constitution had always been defective.
They went on to cite demographic prediction of larger Hispanic birth-rates, and gleefully predicted that in a few more decades, the United States would be a nation in which current minorities would be a majority.
I pointed out that the ongoing line of argument demonstrated only too clearly that the perspective of the left was, in fact, hostile to the political system of the United States as founded, and to the Constitution. That the same perspective, moreover, also did not like the majority of European-descended Americans, and took pleasure in imagining this country’s people and culture swept away and replaced by a different people.
Why, I wondered epistolarily, should anyone who actually supports the Constitution, loves America, or feels affirmative ties to the America people even think of listening to leftists?
As we see, in the cases of Messrs. Yglesias and Klein, in their heart of hearts, they are not on our side. They are our adversaries and opponents.
Liberals love playing Gotcha! They are always pouncing and then piling onto anyone of prominence who lets slip a statement capable of being interpreted as an expression of politically incorrect opinions.
Haley Barbour was recently targeted, and nearly obliterated by the incoming liberal barrage, after he was so indiscreet as to speak positively of white citizens’ councils in segregation-era Mississippi (for resisting the Ku Klux Klan) and for remembering life in his hometown, when he was young, as “not so bad.”
Amusingly, yesterday, liberal WaPo pundit Ezra Klein came similarly a-cropper and, I’d say, rather more deservingly.
This commentator, who is considered so intellectual that his fellow journalists refer to him as a “wonk,” informs MSNBC that he believes “it (The US Constitution) has no binding power on anything.” Its “text is confusing because it was written more than a hundred years ago.” Besides which, “What people believe it says differs from person to person, and differs depending on what they want to get done.”
If we are to believe Ezra Klein, the Constitution is first of all impotent and irrelevant, and secondly indeterminate and meaningless.
I think Mr. Klein demonstrates perfectly the end product of contemporary elite education, as practiced at his own UC Santa Cruz and UCLA just as it is practiced at Yale and Harvard. There are no facts, merely differing opinions. Even the US Constitution, a readily available document written in the same language spoken today, capable of being read without resort to a dictionary, the well-known product of an abundantly-documented tradition of political philosophy, and with respect to which same the design and drafting and compromises and debate are all well recorded, has for Mr. Klein no fixed or determinative meaning whatever.
Ezra Klein obviously was saying exactly what he really thinks. The inadvertence of his statement consisted of the fact that a majority of Americans really do think the Constitution is both binding and scrutable entirely slipped his mind. That was perfectly understandable. It was clearly one of those moments of liberal fugue, resembling Pauline Kael’s expression of astonishment that Richard Nixon has actually won the 1972 election when she knew personally no one who had voted for him. Like Ms. Kael, Ezra Klein probably knows no one who considers the US Constitution actually binding or immune to interpretation into anything the liberal heart desires.
In Ezra Klein’s community, there are no fixed meanings to texts, meaning is conferred by the reader. There is also no Constitutional right answer, politics is a contest decided by numbers achieved by the glibbest arguments and the most noise.
To absurd reactionaries like myself, the US Constitution and the principles of the Liberal political philosophy of the framers are a fixed political compass. To Mr. Klein and his ilk, there is really also a determinative political compass and fixed truth. But in his case, the established text is not to be found in a 100+ year old document like the Constitution. It can be read daily in the opinion columns and between the lines of news stories in the establishment media. It is the consensus of the bien pensant elite that is the unmoving Pole Star of liberal politics. You will no more ever find Ezra Klein opposing that consensus than you would have ever found Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan proposing that the US Constitution simply be ignored.
Stung by widespread mockery, Klein replied, contending that he meant that the reading of the Constitution was not binding, but reiterating his view that no particular interpretation need necessarily pertain.
It’s also, I noted, a completely nonbinding act: It doesn’t impose a particular interpretation of the Constitution on legislators, and will have no practical impact on how they legislate.
The rather toxic implication of this proposal is that one side respects the Constitution and the other doesn’t. That’s bunk, of course: Itâ€™s arguments over how the Constitution should be understood, not arguments over whether it should be followed, that cleave American politics. The Constitution was written more than 223 years ago, and despite the confidence various people have in their interpretation of the text, smart scholars of good faith continue to disagree about it.
Young Ezra was, in return, well and truly mocked by Iowahawk.
Dave Weigel, the Washington Post’s blogger in charge of covering Conservatism, resigned this week after Matt Drudge and Daily Caller leaked some of his emails from JournoList, a private listserv founded by Ezra Klein on which the left’s punditocracy compared noted and coordinated coverage.
Doctor Zero, at Hot Air, looked on with interest on the comedy following the Weigel resignation. The leftwing commentariat lamented how unfair Weigel’s ouster really was, remarked enviously what a great job he used to have, and its founder closed down Journolist.
There is little room left for neutrality in American politics these days, Doctor Zero reflects.
Weigel has spent the last few months working as an observer of the conservative movement for the Washington Post, whose readers must wonder about the identity of the vast Tea Party crowds occasionally blocking their view of the IRS building. As it turns out, Weigel really hates the people heâ€™s been covering, and sees himself precisely the way conservatives see most dinosaur-media reporters: as a partisan operative of the Democrat Party. He expressed his hatred, and loyalties, in a series of communications posted to JournoList. These emails became an embarrassing burst of digital flatulence when they were made public. Weigel is out of a job at the Washington Post, and JournoList is gone.
Blogger Ace of Spades wonders why the Post couldnâ€™t find a sympathetic correspondent to cover the â€œconservative beat,â€ and answers his own question by pointing out the Post has no interest in publishing material that might lead its readers to begin grooving to that conservative beat. The last thing they want is for their right-wing avatar to come back with a horde of angry natives behind him and lead a successful insurrection.
Here we cross the line between editorial decisions and bias. Why would an unbiased newspaper be afraid to honestly report news that makes one side of a political debate look appealing, instead assigning a reporter to highlight fringe material to cast them in the most negative light possible? Of course, they are biased, but itâ€™s even worse than that. Theyâ€™re subjective. They pretend to be commentators, but theyâ€™re actually players in the gameâ€¦ just like everyone else. Our fates are all controlled by the immense central government worshipped by the Post. They have a vested interest in ensuring its sustained growth, so they can make their fortune writing epic tales of its heroic deeds.
Big Government makes for bad journalism. As I like to point out whenever someone like David Frum gushes over â€œmoderates,â€ there is no meaningful way to be moderate when a carnivorous super-State is chowing down on huge portions of the private sector, while dismissing bedrock Constitutional rights with an irritated wave of its hand. You either resist the onslaught of the State with all your might, or bear passive witness to its expansion.
At this moment in American history, there is no functional difference between a genuine â€œcentristâ€ and Dave Weigelâ€™s right-wing â€œratf**kers.â€ If you think you should be allowed to keep your own medical insurance, and see your own doctor, youâ€™re taking an extreme partisan stance. If you donâ€™t think the government should be able to revoke the First Amendment or due process rights of private corporations at its convenience, you are a declared enemy of the State.
24-year-old Liberal blogger Ezra Klein founded the Journolist email listserver in February 2007 to provide a forum for leftwing bloggers, journalists, academics, and policy professional to coordinate strategy and compare notes.
About a week and a half ago (March 17th), Michael Calderone began shining an investigative light on Jlist.
â€œItâ€™s sort of a chance to float ideas and kind of toss them around, back and forth, and determine if they have any value,â€ said New Republic associate editor Eve Fairbanks, â€œand get peopleâ€™s input on them before you put them on a blog.â€
Indeed, the advantage of JList, members say, is that it provides a unique forum for getting in touch with historians and policy people who provide journalists with a knowledge base for articles and blog posts. …
Said another JLister: â€œI donâ€™t know any other place where working journalists, policy wonks and academics who write about current politics and political history routinely communicate with one another.â€
But, as Calderone reports, Jlist’s key feature has been its limited access and secrecy.
Timeâ€™s Joe Klein, who acknowledged being on JList and several other listservs, said in an e-mail that â€œtheyâ€™re valuable in the way that candid conversations with colleagues and experts always are.â€ Defending the off-the-record rule, Klein said that â€œcandor is essential and can only be guaranteed by keeping these conversations private.â€
[O]ne of the most valuable currencies in Washington is access to the press. The article notes that many stories have started on or been shaped by JournoList. If you’re a liberal blogger or activist, you can now push your story on the highest echelons of journalism with a quick email. If you’re a mainstream journalist, is it really ethical that you don’t give the opposing view equal access?
Finally, ripping away the veil completely, Mickey Kaus broke all the rules and served up a real, though bowdlerized, sample exchange of foul-mouthed, twittering lefties “discussing” the New Republic and its editor Martin Peretz, whose lack of enthusiasm for the Palestinian cause has left him vulnerable to accusations of racism and dark hints about his sex life.