I Know You Are But What Am I?

In "The Irony's Getting a Bit Thick in Here, Department.," Brendan Nyhan woke up the other morning and apparently decided it would be a good idea to join in Rush Limbaugh's campaign of vilification against Media Matters. Thing is, he didn't have evidence on hand, or at least didn't want to bother to try to find any. So he went through his files and found an item he calls "Eric Alterman: My Enemies Are Evil," here.

Unfortunately, this gets a little funny in the "Get this man some help" category, he picked an example of my work that proves only that Nyhan can be a bit clueless at times and appears to be proud of it. What's more, he denies his readers the opportunity to see the items in context and appraise that cluelessness for themselves.

Assuming he is in fact sincere, Nyhan fails, in both of the cases he mentions, to understand the difference between my alleged imputation of intentions to Bush, Cheney, etc, and my description of the results of their actions. His only link is to a throwaway phrase I used late last week regarding Bush's veto of the SCHIP bill, rather than to the earlier item two days earlier, in which I quote not only from Bush's own justification for his veto, but also from the conservative movement's ideological and historical justification for such positions, in the form of arguments by George F. Will and Milton Friedman. (And Friedman, being more honest than Bush, would have pronounced this position proudly, rather than as Nyhan insists, with some imputation of "evil." He told me once he thought it fine if poor kids never went to school.) Judge it for yourself here. As for Nyhan's accusation that I do this "on a near daily basis," well, the one additional example he does provide, and for which he provides no link, context, or date, proves again that he cannot distinguish between intentions and results. Here, too, he adheres to Limbaugh-like standards of argument and evidence (Really, if I were going to invent an adversary as a plant, I could hardly do much better than Mr. Nyhan....)

Normally I prefer to ignore such accusations because I find all this catfight crap is a diversion from the work I try to do here and elsewhere. It cannot help but appear a bit defensive and the substance is often lost in the focus on personality. What's more I literally cannot imagine a single individual of semi-average intelligence or good will reading it in context and finding it convincing. But in the real world, Nyhan's cluelessness is aiding and abetting a campaign led by Limbaugh and others to delegitimize Media Matters and the careful work it does. See for instance here. One cannot depend on either the intelligence or the good will of those in the MSM and conservative media not to use Nyhan's nonsense for the purposes of further manipulation and misrepresentation. There is a campaign by GOP Bloggers and others flooding the internet with an argument that the group's work is somehow "illegal" and should be prosecuted. See here. Nyhan's evidenceless character assassination, to which Glenn Reynolds has already linked, must be viewed within this context. And regardless of what one thinks of my work, I find that extremely disturbing.

And for the record, I take great pains to try to never to do what Mr. Nyhan says I do "all the time." I don't know how many examples of his inability to understand irony, results, blogosophere short-hand etc, he thinks he has--again, he listed none--but the fact is, I often argue strenuously against this kind of thing because I think intent is impossible to know. For instance I never insist that any individual American Jew or non-Jewish neocon is acting on behalf of hawkish Israeli interests rather than American ones. Personally, I believe this to be true in more than one case, but I never say so in public about any one individual because how can I know for sure what's in a person's mind? I prefer to let the evidence speak for itself.

Given that I've published six books so far and written many thousands of articles, columns and blog posts over the past twenty-five years, I'd not be surprised if Nyhan could find a a few examples where I've failed to live up to my own ambitions in this regard, should he bother to do the work he should have done in the first place. But he hasn't and whatever the reason, he's decided instead to join in support of Limbaugh's, the GOP, and others's anti-Media Matters jihad, going so far as to ape their tactics. Why he wishes to dishonor himself by lending support to so nefarious an enterprise... well, I don't like to speculate...