Sunday, March 25, 2007

Scrutiny's a bitch

I stumbled across an unintentionally hilarious bit from Michael Medved just now, in which he addresses why liberalism has momentarily surpassed conservatism. I now offer a little of what people on the right fear most, scrutiny.
Conservatives will return to decisive victories only if we come to terms with liberalism’s visceral appeal. The best way to overcome our ideological adversaries is to understand their approach to major issues.

While conservatives obsess over distinctions of right and wrong, and insist that inevitable consequences must flow from good and bad behavior (see last week’s column), liberals focus on differences of another sort entirely.

The rhetoric of today’s left shows that they see society divided between the privileged and the powerless, the favored and the unfortunate, victors and victims.
Liberals feel an irresistible instinct to take sides with the less fortunate.

While the right wants to reward beneficial choices and discourage destructive directions, the left seeks to eliminate or reduce the impact of the disadvantages that result from bad decisions. In place of the conservative emphasis on accountability, the left proffers a gospel of indiscriminate compassion.
First of all, he draws a distinction between distinctions made by liberals and conservatives (there's a mouthful) that is no distinction at all: Liberals distinguish between victors and vitcims; conservatives between right and wrong. There is no comparison to be made here--one distinction involves people, the other values.

Leaving that aside, he offers nothing whatsoever to back up his assertions, i.e. real-world examples. The second you look at the real world, his assertions become laughable.
[C]onservatives obsess over distinctions of right and wrong, and insist that inevitable consequences must flow from good and bad behavior...the right wants to reward beneficial choices and discourage destructive directions.
These statements are true, provided you define "wrong" to exclude anything done by current and former Republican officials, and define "destructive directions" to exclude ill-conceived wars and botched disaster relief efforts.
[T]he left seeks to eliminate or reduce the impact of the disadvantages that result from bad decisions. In place of the conservative emphasis on accountability, the left proffers a gospel of indiscriminate compassion.
I guess I don't know for a fact that he is presenting this is a bad thing, but the overall context would support that interpretation (Townhall being a somewhat conservative website). I will skip over all the ways that "the conservative emphasis on accountability" cause me to laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh, and move on to "the left proffers a gospel of indiscriminate compassion." First of all, isn't compassion a key goal of the current administration? Second, what exactly is indiscriminate here? He alleges that liberals in America play against type by offering such wholehearted support for our terrorist enemies:
[T]he odd liberal sympathy for Islamo-Nazi terrorists, whose radically reactionary (indeed, medieval) ideology should make them anathema to enlightened opinion in the West. How can militant feminists applaud the anti-American rhetoric of Islamist crazies who want to keep all women in burkas as the property of their husbands, and how can gay activists identify with jihadi killers who endorse the execution of homosexuals? The widespread activism on behalf of the fanatical internees at Guantanamo remains one of the most spectacular displays of lefty lunacy in recent years.
Of course, he neglects to name a single "militant feminist" applauding burka rhetoric, nor a single "gay activist" who identifies with "jihadi killers." He offers no examples of any such arguments being made. He does not seem to consider that common cause with jihadis (pause for bemused laughter) might not be the only reason to oppose the detentions at Guantanamo--for example, some may take issue with the fact that not a single Guantanamo detainee has yet been convicted of a crime, and the administration's track record on prosecutions ain't so good. It has not even been established that many of the detainees are suspected of all that much, so his characterization of them as "fanatical internees" is not particularly honest (more bemused laughter). I don't suppose he is actually out to convince anyone of anything, though, and he only has straw man arguments left to support his points. It is an article of faith to some that liberals hate America, so therefore no proof is actually needed. Fortunately, it seems as though the utter dishonesty of all of this is becoming more and more apparent to people, thus reducing the ramblings of people like Medved to the intellectual circle jerk they deserve to be.

2 comments:

tODD said...

Aren't you confusing conservatism with the Republican party, and the Bush administration in particular, though?

I'll admit that for many of the past few years, a fan of any one of those was likely a fan of the other two. But these days, with the Bush presidency rather commonly recognized as a disaster in all the ways you mention, many conservatives have decided that Bush was actually never a conservative (this is largely true, you know), and that conservatism is still the answer, but that Bush and the Republicans have really mangled the message.

Just saying.

cryptic_philosopher said...

You're most likely right. I'm using Medved's language--in retrospect, not the best way to structure my argument. In a perfect world, a different word would be used to describe the political and ideological underpinnings of Bush's policies. I like something along the lines of "radical," although that carries quite a bit of baggage and is really more of an adverb to be applied to another political adjective. So I find myself etymologically challenged to develop a new word--how about conserfascist?