Saturday, January 3, 2015

"You're always using tu quoque arguments, Jonah!" "No, YOU are!"

Update:Thanks for the shout-out, Blogenfreude, and welcome Mike's readers!

Image via Buzzfeed.
Jonah doesn't know what old Steve Scalise was up to in 2002:
As I write this, GOP House whip Steve Scalise is in hot water over reports that he spoke to a group of racist poltroons in Louisiana twelve years ago. Whether it was an honest mistake, as Scalise plausibly claims, or a sign of something more nefarious, as his detractors hope, remains to be seen.
But one thing he knows for sure, whatever it was, some Democrat has done exactly the same thing and gotten away with it scot-free. Or at least that's what he hears on the Twitter:
one common response on social media is instructive. Countless conservatives want to know: Why the double standard?
It's the tu quoque ("Well, you are too") argument that's Jonah's specialty. For example, the president, of course:
Barack Obama was friends with a domestic terrorist, Bill Ayers.
Ayers, whose acts between 1970 and 1972 of what he himself has called "extreme vandalism" were always carefully planned to make sure that nobody would get hurt, and against whom all charges were dropped in 1973 at the request of government prosecutors (because the case was not that significant and FBI misconduct had made made it too hard to try), and whose past did not prevent him from earning an EdD degree at Teachers College, Columbia, in 1987, or going on to a distinguished teaching career at the University of Illinois, Chicago, has been found in investigations by the New York Times and CNN, among others, to have no personal relationship with the president, and no communication of any kind since 2005. If they had been friends, I wouldn't have cared either, because I do not accept that being friends with a neighbor with radical political opinions is in any way like soliciting votes from an organized body of white nationalists. Much more parallel is the fact that Obama accepted a $200 contribution from Ayers in the Senate campaign, although we know for a fact that Ayers didn't get what he wanted, which is why he's called for Obama's indictment as a war criminal. Whereas David Duke is still strongly pro-Scalise, having called for Republicans to back the congressman in the current contretemps (or he'll expose their Klan connections if they don't—since they're virtually all backing him, judge for yourself).
His spiritual mentor was a vitriolic racist, Jeremiah Wright.
As Christopher Hitchens wrote at the time,
Barack Obama told a reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times that he had three spiritual mentors or counselors: Jeremiah Wright, James Meeks, and Father Michael Pfleger..., a white Catholic preacher who has a close personal feeling for the man he calls (as does Obama) Minister Farrakhan. This crossover stuff is not as "inclusive" as it might be made to seem: Meeks' main political connections in the white community are with the hysterically anti-homosexual wing of the Christian right. If Obama were to be read a list of the positions that his clerical supporters take on everything from Judaism to sodomy, he would be in the smooth and silky business of "distancing" from now until November. 
I'm a little bit with Hitch here, somewhat regretfully; I think this is a hole Obama has dug himself by bulk shopping for spiritual mentors intended less for his personal use than for public consumption, and then not checking out the product more carefully. I expect that like a large majority of Americans, he's a lot less churchy than he'd like to think or be thought; and that he and his spiritual mentors don't really get around to much menting and he doesn't tend to have a clear idea of what they preach at all.

On the other hand, Wright's "vitriolic racism"—actually anti-Zionism that sadly kept tumbling over the edge into anti-Semitism—wasn't part of his shtik as minister at Trinity UCC at all, and if Obama didn't know about it neither did anybody else; it arrived quite unexpected by anybody in June 2009, after the president dumped him; as Ta-Nehisi Coates blogged it,
I just didn't see that sort of crude conspiratorial antisemitism coming.... Not to excuse anything, but I wonder if the blitz, from last year, hardened him. I say that because the worse stuff I've heard from Wright, actually aren't in his initial sermons. With the exception of the government creating AIDS bit, I never found his sermons to be particularly egregious.
So I'll complain a bit about the president's traditional American hypocrisy in pretending to be more religious than he is, like Ronald Reagan—I wish he'd be more open, like Jefferson and Lincoln, but that's life; I won't allow that the role of Reverend Wright in his life is in any way comparable to the role of white nationalists in Steve Scalise's career. What else you got?

Rev. Sharpton with mentor James Brown, 1998, via Georgia Soul. Some people will look on this picture with disgust and contempt, others will be infected by its silly joy. I'm sorry for the former group, who undoubtedly lead hopeless, sour lives, but it's not something you can argue about.
One of his administration’s closest advisers and allies is Al Sharpton, a man who has inspired enough racial violence to make a grand dragon’s white sheets turn green with envy.
No, do tell. How much racial violence has Sharpton inspired, exactly? As the Big Bad Bald Bastard pointed out in comments chez Tengrain, there was the one drunk white guy who tried to stab him to death in 1991, but I don't think that's what you had in mind. Maybe you're relying on sources like the Instagram account of Gilbert Arenas, late of the Shanghai Sharks? I'm afraid he's just not that reliable.

I have to admit to a blind spot on Sharpton. The indecorous fat man in the track suit in the 1980s hovering around neighborhood tragedies did seem like a bit of a carrion creature, but harmless; why should he be any more reluctant to court publicity than Chuck Schumer? And I keep hearing real wisdom from the slender smoothie in pinstripes of today, when he shows up on MSNBC. I don't know why he doesn't boast about his work as an FBI informant (bringing a wire to meetings with the Gambino family) instead of being shy about it and allowing enemies to smear him, but to me the thing sounds pretty brave, and redemptive (it's clearly bad behavior that got him into the situation, but I admire the way he got out of it). It's hilarious that nominally law-and-order Republicans attack him as a snitch (because the Mafia stands for small government and tax protest?).
Meanwhile, the Democratic party venerated the late senator Robert Byrd, a former Klansman himself. He was one of 19 senators (all Democrats) to sign the Southern Manifesto opposing integration.
Sadly, no. Robert Byrd wasn't a senator in 1956, and did not sign as a House member either.
Robert Byrd expressed his regret for his Ku Klux Klan activities of the early 1940s on many occasions, as well as for his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights and 1965 Voting Rights Acts; he voted for the 1968 Civil Rights Act, and black voters accepted the apologies: in his last five elections (from 1982 to 2006) he regularly received more than 98% of the black vote. I don't think it's up to Jonah to tell them they were wrong.

The late Senator Robert Byrd, via Gilmer Free Press.
One of his co-signers was William Fulbright, Bill Clinton’s mentor.
Yes indeed, and two others were Virginia's Harry Byrd, who left the Democratic party in 1970, and Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who joined the Republicans in 1964. That pretty much sums up the history of southern Democrats in the 60s and 70s: you either learned to be comfortable with the Civil Rights platform of the Democrats, as Robert Byrd did, or left the party like Thurmond and Harry Byrd. By 1980 the only ones left in the Senate of the 19 were Thurmond and Robert Byrd, Mississippi's John Stennis, who was turning to favor civil rights legislation by 1982,  and Russell Long of Louisiana, who stuck with segregation and was re-elected in 1980 in a nonpartisan contest, with an endorsement from Republican Bob Dole.

Fulbright was one of the conservative holdouts, I'm sorry to say, and I'm glad (in spite of his opposition to the Vietnam War, which made him a hero to Clinton and to me) that he lost his seat to a pro–civil rights Democrat, Dale Bumpers, in 1974. I'm pretty sure his mentoring of Bill Clinton didn't make Clinton a segregationist either, as Jonah wants to suggest there with his smeary syntax. If Clinton were a civil rights opponent we definitely would have heard of that by now.
When Republicans are in power, “dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” When Democrats are in power, dissent is the racist fuming of “angry white men.”
Hardly anybody says "dissent is the highest form of patriotism", although Howard Zinn and (ex-Republican) John V. Lindsay apparently used it. Thomas Jefferson definitely did not. It's stupid, in any case. It should be obvious that it isn't good or bad in and of itself; it depends what you're dissenting from. Dissenting from the Iraq War was a good thing to do, and the racist farting, sorry, fuming of angry white men is not.
Peaceful, law-abiding tea-party groups who cleaned up after their protests — and got legal permits for them — were signs of nascent fascism lurking in the American soul. Violent, anarchic, and illegal protests by Occupy Wall Street a few years ago or, more recently, in Ferguson, Mo., were proof that a new idealistic generation was renewing its commitment to idealism.
Exactly, except I have no idea what you're talking about. If you are following Gandhi and King in the path of civil disobedience you will be doing something illegal. If you are following a Koch Brothers Astroturf project you probably won't be. I think the Tea Party rank and file was more anarchist than fascist, with their desire to eliminate most of government; the OWS protesters were anarchists too, but better educated. I'm glad the Tea Party people were polite enough to clean up after themselves. So were the Occupy folks in Zuccotti Park in October 2011 and they had a much bigger mess to take care of. They would have done it again in November if the police and sanitation workers had allowed them to; any violence in the original OWS was perpetrated by police, too. The Ferguson residents who came out to clean up on Friday November 28th after the looting and burning (violence to property, not to persons, and absolutely against the wishes of the organizers) certainly included protesters. It's true that the Tea Party was elderly and authoritarian in spite of their anarchist leanings and that the protesters of Zuccotti Park and Ferguson were young and showing signs of idealism. Your point was exactly what? That people approve of demonstrators when they're on their side and disapprove when they're not? I don't complain of Republicans doing that. I just don't like their telling lies about it.

Zuccotti Park, October 2011, via Animal New York.
When rich conservatives give money to Republicans, it is a sign that the whole system has been corrupted by fat cats. When it is revealed that liberal billionaires and left-wing super PACs outspent conservative groups in 2014: crickets.
No crickets from me; I worked out how that is an absurd lie, made by pretending that all the secret money contributed by Republicans, especially by the Kochs, thanks to the Citizens United ruling, simply didn't exist. A much better case would be that of Obama single-handedly destroying the public presidential campaign funding system in 2008 simply because he knew he could raise more private money than McCain could, which I am still pretty pissed off about six years later; but Republicans never do complain about that, largely I assume because it's to their long-term advantage.
When Republicans invoke God or religious faith as an inspiration for their political views, it’s threatening and creepy. When Democrats do it, it’s a sign they believe in social justice. 
No, when you invoke religion to threaten people, it's threatening; when you invoke it in the name of social justice it's not. It's just a coincidence that one party specializes in the one and the other in the other.
I don’t know who first said, “Behind every apparent double standard lies an unconfessed single standard” (and as far as I can tell, neither does the Internet), but whoever did was onto something.
Jonah, you made it up yourself, just a couple of days ago. Only you were drunk-tweeting and screwed it up a bit, that's why you couldn't find it.
But seriously, you probably misremembered it from Stanley Fish in 2012, complaining with some justice that those of us who condemned Rush Limbaugh for his slut-shaming of Sandra Fluke should also have called out Ed Schultz and Bill Maher for misogynous language:
Condemn Limbaugh and say that Schultz and Maher may have gone a bit too far but that they’re basically O.K. If you do that you will not be displaying a double standard; you will be affirming a single standard, and moreover it will be a moral one because you will be going with what you think is good rather than what you think is fair. 
See, the often revoltingly bothsiderist Fish makes sense here. A "double standard" is when you judge people by two different standards, depending on whether they belong to the group you favor or not. A single standard, judging them all the same, would be good; for instance Limbaugh was harshly criticized for insulting Fluke as a "slut" and "prostitute" 46 times in a three-day period but when Ed Schultz called Laura Ingraham a "right-wing slut" once he was only "mildly criticized (and suspended for a week)" because, um, that's so unfair to Rush.

Incidentally, is there any reason why I know more about Laura Ingraham's sex life than I do about Fluke's, including the story that she once pulled a gun on a departing lover who may or may not have been her ex-fiancé, then Dartmouth undergrad and later pro-colonialist hero Gunga Dinesh D'Souza? I'm not saying she's a right-wing slut, just wondering. I do not know any such stories about Jonah either (presumably his mom wouldn't have let him go to Dartmouth).

So anyway, if you had a "single standard" behind a double standard it would be effectively no judgment and hence no standard at all, just everything my guys do is good and everything your guys do is bad, like IOKIYAR.

And Bingo!
If you work from the dogmatic assumption that liberalism is morally infallible and that liberals are, by definition, pitted against sinister and — more importantly — powerful forces, then it’s easy to explain away what seem like double standards. Any lapse, error, or transgression by conservatives is evidence of their real nature, while similar lapses, errors, and transgressions by liberals are trivial when balanced against the fact that their hearts are in the right place.
He's jealous of the IOKIYAR argument and trying to drag it over to his side.

That's all Jonah's up to, his usual trick of finding things to accuse liberals of by running through the things conservatives have been accused of and tu quoque-ing it in the other direction. As in liberals are the real fascists—or, as Alex Pareene called it,
the appalling pandemic of left-wingers brutally criticizing people
Or, liberals claim moral infallibility, or liberals are paranoids beset by imaginary conspiracies, or what have you. Here, because conservatives are always being charged with refusing to acknowledge their mistakes, he is trying to say that liberals never acknowledge their mistakes, and are constantly lining up instances mapping their "lapses, errors, and transgressions" against those of the other side to show how innocent they are—doing, in other words, what he has just spent several hundred words doing.

That Fish article must have really stuck in his craw over the past two years, festering, with its neat description of what actually happens: that liberals criticize themselves and one another freely, while always noting that they're not as bad as conservatives, because that is in fact the case—as for instance when you ask our two most recent presidents what are their worst mistakes and one of them embarks on an elaborate if no doubt self-serving discussion of his mistakes while the other one is just baffled:

You know, I just -- I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer...
Jonah's been thinking and thinking about this for months, and trying to come up with an answer, and here it is popping into his head and onto his Twitter timeline, a kind of metaquoque: you liberals are the real quoquists!

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