Tuesday, August 31, 2010

@reihansalam Regarding your Glenn BX piece

(A response to this ...

reihansalam @bjkeefe I recommend the take offered by @MattZeitlin -- he's on to something.

... which came in response to these two ...

bjkeefe @mattyglesias (1/2)Thoroughly disagree. Agree with @TKOEd -- that article is a joke, and never mind the Malcom X part. Beck is all about ...

bjkeefe @mattyglesias (2/2)...making $$ off of playing politics. I think ur being too loyal to a friend here. Reihan says wacky shit from time2time.

... which is too long to tweet, especially with the flurry of "over capacity" screens now showing.)


So, @reihansalam, i.e., my response to your above tweet, Reihan Salam:

If you mean something other than Matt Zeitlin's "willfull [sic] misreading" tweet, please link to it. I don't see anything else relevant in his twitter stream. If you did mean that tweet, feh. It's an empty assertion, shallow even by the standards of a 140-character limit. I'm surprised that's the best you can reach for.

Believe me, I've read a lot of your stuff and I've listened to almost every one of your Bh.tv diavlogs. I do not always agree with you, but I have deep respect for your perspectives (especially when they're orthogonal to the CW) and your intelligence. Thus, I really tried to give your Glenn BX piece some consideration, far more so than I would have given the same piece from pretty much anyone else. At some point, though, I think you have to accept that either you didn't make your case clearly enough (and stop blaming others for "misreading") or admit that you had a dumb-ass thesis to start. I'm gonna go with the latter, and here's what I'll say to that.

Beck may not be a pure politician, but he is at minimum -- like Limbaugh and Palin and too many others -- dining out in the political arena, and in the most piggish manner at that. He is stirring up people who have no legitimate grievances -- at least, that aren't at least as well due to the party they keep voting for and the leaders they keep revering. He is preying on their fears, he is stroking their bigotry, he is stoking their hatreds, and he is making an enormous amount of money while doing it. Not to mention lying all the while to his own fucking core audience. He is an amoral huckster, willing to say whatever it takes to maintain his ratings and his stream of benjamins, and that's the end of it. He does not merit serious discussion. He's not worth more than a moment's thought. He deserves no respect. He hasn't earned any.

Especially as far as someone of your chops and position goes.

You're supposed to be one of the thoughtful conservatives. So act like it. There is no reason in the world for you to try to show us how out-of-the-box-y you can be by trying to portray Glenn Beck as anything other than the boil on the buttocks of humanity that he is. Jesus. I'm reminded of otherwise smart drama critics trying to inflate the significance of reality teevee. Or that Paglia creature back in 2008 trying to tell us how Wasilla Word Salad was actually Just Like™ jazz. Find something else to write about. There are a zillion things more important and worthy of consideration that we'd like your take on. This country is in a very serious place, and you're wasting your time and mine fluffing someone who is nothing more than a symptom of our shared illness. Well, maybe an opportunistic infection.

Look, you went for provocative (in the Slate sense, at least), and you provoked. Congratulations. I'm sure your hit count is through the roof. But you are forgetting the wise words of Daniel Davies:

The whole idea of contrarianism is that you’re “attacking the conventional wisdom”, you’re “telling people that their most cherished beliefs are wrong”, you’re “turning the world upside down”. In other words, you’re setting out to annoy people. Now opinions may differ on whether this is a laudable thing to do – I think it’s fantastic – but if annoying people is what you’re trying to do, then you can hardly complain when annoying people is what you actually do. If you start a fight, you can hardly be surprised that you’re in a fight. It’s the definition of passive-aggression and really quite unseemly, to set out to provoke people, and then when they react passionately and defensively, to criticise them for not holding to your standards of a calm and rational debate.

As I tweeted to Matt Yglesias, you say some wacky shit sometimes. Often I enjoy it, sometimes I can admire it, occasionally it's even valuable. Not this time. Not any of these. Not even close.


[Added] For those of you who read the above via RSS or Facebook or something, be advised that Reihan has replied in the Comments.


Reihan said...

Thanks for your thoughts. You write:

bq. At some point, though, I think you have to accept that either you didn't make your case clearly enough (and stop blaming others for "misreading") or admit that you had a dumb-ass thesis to start. I'm gonna go with the latter, and here's what I'll say to that.

I'm not actually blaming anyone. Rather, I narrowcast to what I accept is a small audience of people who are on my wavelength. I'm pretty comfortable with that. I guess I could have made my case more clearly, I suppose, but that would have taken more words. And my sense is that most of the people who reacted very negatively to the piece -- not you, of course -- didn't actually read it to the end. That is, making the piece longer wouldn't have helped matters.

When you write lots of words, one thing that inevitably happens is that some people think at least some of those words are "dumb-assish." We all make trade-offs.

Regardless, I appreciate your time.

bjkeefe said...

Thanks for checking in, Reihan.

I'm going to howl in protest at this:

Rather, I narrowcast to what I accept is a small audience of people who are on my wavelength. I'm pretty comfortable with that.

Good lord, man, no. Stop thinking that at once. You are a rare bird indeed, and you should run as fast as you can from any notion that you would be better off preaching to the choir. Whether you want to call it a gift or luck, you've got something, and while calling it a responsibility or a duty may be a bit much, let's just say that I think our country, world, and species would be far better off if you and the too-few others like you made it your business to talk to people not immediately inclined to agree with you.

I am slightly encouraged that you have a gig at NRO, although I have my doubts about how many of their readers you'll be able to nudge out of the comfort of their cherished beliefs. I am delighted, however, every time I hear you rattle off a list of other places you publish.

Believe it or not, there is a whole mess of libtards who are just dying to hear from people they don't agree with, who are also worth listening to, who have something to say beyond the RWNM talking points. People like that, like you, are in short supply lately, and that's to everyone's detriment. I have thought you were one of those rare others from the first time I saw you on Bh.tv, and I really want you not to succumb to the temptation of -- as you say -- narrowcasting.

As far as this particular Beck article of yours goes, let's leave it lay. You wrote something you believed, I (and others) strongly disagreed, we move on.

Well, one parting thought: I remind you that you were for far too long a holdout in the "no, really, you guys, Sarah Palin is someone you should respect" camp. I cannot help but think of that when I read you trying to make Glenn Beck into something he isn't.

So, in conclusion, and for future reference, my recommendations for what they're worth: keep writing early and often, look for audiences whom you can challenge and who will challenge you, and the net result will be good. For all of us. A lot better than writing listicles or pumping out the Daily Fauxtrage for the echo chamber, at the very least.