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Lazy Punditry is An Endless Race to the Bottom


For some reason, the New York Times allowed Bret Stephens to spend a whole column yelling at millennial clouds. Needless to say, this first of all entails recycling a small number of cherry-picked campus p.c. panic anecdotes:

It also means all those who recklessly participate in the search-and-destroy missions of the call-out culture. These are the Harvard students who demanded, and last week obtained, the dismissal of law professor Ronald Sullivan and his wife Stephanie Robinson as faculty deans at an undergrad dorm because Sullivan had the temerity to join Harvey Weinstein’s defense team. They are the Middlebury students who in 2017 violently assaulted professor Allison Stanger for the crime of moderating a talk with Charles Murray. They are the Yale students who in 2015 surrounded and hounded professor Nicholas Christakis because he would not agree to their demands that he denounce his wife for believing in free speech.

So this generalization of “call-out culture” is based on three well-worn random anecdotes. The Middlebury one involved legitimately bad conduct by a tiny handful of what might have been students at one campus. 66.7% of the cases in involved the extremely marginal question of tenured faculty an ultra-elite institutions getting side gigs as dorm RAs (and in the latter case the faculty member — who now has Yale’s highest faculty title — didn’t even lose his job but resigned.) Saying that his wife was criticized merely for “believing in free speech” is an incredibly tendentious way of putting the issue. (As with so many of these arguments about “free speech,” the actual argument is that the more powerful party should be able to exercise their right to free speech without consequences and less powerful parties the speech is directed at should shut up.)

Anyway, even if you think that which faculty members at a tiny number of elite institutions get ceremonial RA gigs is an issue much more importance than I do, basing generalizations about “millennials” based on these stories is deeply silly. But this isn’t even the worst part:

Earlier this month, a video of Joe Biden saying he had “no empathy” for “the younger generation” that “tells me how tough things are” resurfaced on social media. The video was over a year old, but it elicited predictable howls from members of the dissed demographic. “Nothing says ‘perfect candidate to lead the most powerful nation in the world’ like ‘I have no empathy,’” wrote someone with the Twitter handle @anarchopriapism.

Never heard of this thought leader who defines this generation of Americans? There may be a reason for that:

Well, a voice of a generation anyway.

But at least Stephens had the energy to come up with a few examples to massively over-generalize about. The real champion here is Matt Taibbi, an ongoing illustration of how anti-anti Trumpism turns your mind into mush. His latest entry is about “the Liberal Embrace of War.” He argues that in the American media support for a “humanitarian” intervention by the United States in Venezuela overwhelming. Indeed, there is “no other option.” Here is a comprehensive list of the liberals cited by the piece that support American intervention in Venezuela:

Even funnier is the evidence he does indirectly try to pass off as evidence that since the beginning of the Trump administration all liberals have yearned to invade Venezuela:

AIR complains, “Not a single commentator on the big three Sunday morning talkshows or PBS NewsHour came out against President Nicolás Maduro stepping down from the Venezuelan government.” And so, by this absurdly lax standard, examples of commentary that FAIR includes as supporting regime change include Representative Ro Khanna’s op-ed, headlined, “Why I strongly oppose U.S. military intervention in Venezuela.”

Khanna’s op-ed attacks American jingoism, warns of an invasion, and even criticizes the U.S. for merely recognizing the opposition. But since it contains a “to be sure” sentence criticizing the regime — “To be sure, Maduro is an authoritarian leader who has presided over unfair elections, failed economic policies, extrajudicial killings by police, food shortages and cronyism with military leaders” — it falls into FAIR’s “pro-regime change” bin. And so Taibbi, through the game of telephone, turns an op-ed devoted to denouncing war into another example of “The Liberal Embrace of War.”

Khanna’s piece is some truly fanatical warmongering. The only way an op-ed could get more bloodthirsty would be for someone to denounce war with Venezuela as the worst idea they’ve ever heard, but to say that they would marginally prefer Elizabeth Warren to Maduro despite the fact that the former refuses to embrace MASS POLITICS by doing a podcast with the editor-in-chief of Stormfront.

I blame this all on all liberals believing that Harry Potter is the greatest work of political theory ever written.

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