Monday, December 20, 2010

Why I don't blog, part 3:

Here's a fascinating description of the debating style of a political writer named Jonathan Chait. I doubt that anyone here cares about the substance of the arguments, but the arrogance and effrontery of Chait, as described here by Nick Gillespie sounds way too familiar. Until I can control myself better......

If you're interested in catching up on the cyber-brouhaha, start with Chait's latest bit, in which he accuses me of innumeracy, "tonal posturing," and certifiable delusions. To be fair to Chait, he pretty much talks this way about everyone.

Indeed, he is given to characterizing differences of opinions not in terms of disagreements but in terms of psychological dysfunctions and moral failings. For him, to believe in balancing budgets with revenues equal to 19 percent of GDP is evidence of "debilitating pathologies" and to write expansively (and I hope, somewhat entertainingly) in reply to Chait produces "word salad," a condition common to various mental illnesses. This is a reflexive debating tactic for Chait, who has recently insisted that opposition to the individual mandate in Obama's health care plan is "a sign of right-wing hysteria." If people who disagree with him are not in need of electroshock or a spray of seltzer to the face, then it is only because they are "total hacks," as he grossly mischaracterizies my coauthor Veronique de Rugy (who, he says, practices "voodoo economics" and "goes all Laffer Curve" at the drop of a hat). He winds up his critique with sage career advice for yours truly:

I really advise Gillespie to confine himself to subjects he understands (motorcycles? picking up chicks with a snap of the fingers?) and find a fiscal writer who is able to make the libertarian case from factual premises.

This isn't "tonal posturing," it's ideological scoliosis and he's welcome to embrace its disfiguring effects on the mind as much as he wants.


David Chute said...

Or: Chait has adopted the sarcastic humorous/satirical smartypants style we love when it's shipped over from England, and Gillespie is scoring faux naif points by taking it literally and making him out to be a bully. Chait comes out best, here, if you ask me.

Tulkinghorn said...

I think you're probably right, but it takes a long time to get that style right, and when writing about friends and the friends of friends offense is possible...

Still, Chait gets in some good ones: editor Nick Gillespie has a response to my item gently pointing out his mathematical illiteracy and that of his co-author Veronique de Rugy. A good chunk of it seems to be tonal posturing whose purpose is to show that Gillespie is cooler than me. I'll stipulate the point, because:

1. Everybody is cooler than me, and

2. Gillespie wears a black shirt and black leather jacket in virtually all his public appearances, and obviously you can't get cooler than that.


Gillespie wants this to be a debate between freedom-lovin' rebel Nick Gillespie and Big Government-coddlin', irrational rich people-hatin' Jonathan Chait. It's not. It's a debate between Nick Gillespie and the laws of arithmetic.