Michael Kinsley: Troll

Well, we now know why Michael Kinsley wrote those pieces he did last week: he was trolling. He reveals himself rather quickly:

One [article I wrote last week] was a defense of people’s right to oppose gay marriage. It charged that dissident voices on this subject were being suppressed (although I myself am very much in favor). I was expecting a hailstorm, but the reaction was almost disappointingly calm and reasonable.

There was actually quite a bit of criticism. Given he goes on to cite Scott Lemieux of Lawyers, Guns and Money later in the article, I have a hard time believing he didn’t read this. Or he didn’t see this article that is prominently displayed on Gawker right now. However, what is clear is he this month’s troll of Paul Krugman.

None of the arguments he makes are new. We have a “where is your plan,” “I’m the real liberal trying to save social programs,” “look, he contradicts himself,” and all the logical fallacies we are accustomed to. Joe Scarborough was beating this drum last month and Mary Matalin and George Will have made it their mission in life to stump Krugman on This Week, so no treading on new ground here. We do get a photo of Krugman in a white tie at some fancy setting with what I assume is a European monarch just to prove Krugman is an out of touch elitist (unlike man of the people Michael Kinsley).

I never understand this fascination people have with trying to prove Krugman wrong. Yes, he can be a bit prickly (I had some hard feelings towards him during the 2008 Democratic Primary) but he is sincere and makes sure all his facts are straight before talking. The fact this is an exception and not a rule tells less about Krugman and more about other pundits.

Krugman trolling isn’t anything new and after Kinsley is done, there will be someone else to do it next month. Why Chris Hughes fired Timothy Noah (who wrote a book on income inequality, one of the biggest issues of our time) and keeps giving space to some 90s wash-out doesn’t reflect well on the New Republic.

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The Great Denial

Michael Kinsley has two pieces out defending conservatives. The first attacks Paul Krugman and his columns against austerity and the second goes after those who got Ben Carson removed from speaking at Johns Hopkins Medical School because of homophobic remarks he made. In both columns he defends conservatives from what he considers unfair attacks. Putting aside how wrong he is, Kinsley is just another symptom of what is the greatest problem with journalism-The Great Denial.

The Great Denial is the refusal to accept the Republican Party and the conservative movement are as radical as they really are. If you believe this, as Kinsley does, then guys like Krugman and those Hopkins activists are just as much a problem as the Tea Party. Problem is, they’re not.

Do austerity supporters just disagree on what is “premature” austerity? Nope. Ever since The Great Depression, conservative economists have argued for using bad economic times to push their tough policies on the general public. Is Ben Carson calling for raising taxes on the rich, increasing support for the poor, nurturing the planet, and repealing Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act? Nope. Carson first got noticed for calling for a flat tax at the National Prayer Breakfast and believes evolution is a hoax. These are not reasonable people trying to have a serious discussion only to be insulted by mean liberals. These are radicals who want to undue the economic and social gains of the 20th Century.

Because of The Great Denial, you cannot say these this. If you do, you’re out of the club and just another mean-spirited liberal (look at the careers of Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein). So you make up liberal straw men to burn.

What’s amazing with Kinsley’s second column is gay rights are on the ascendent. Most Americans support gay marriage and that number keeps going up. Maybe in 2006 or 2008 you had to hide your support for gay marriage to be elected in Ohio or Florida but in the last election we had statewide candidates in both states win on a pro-marriage platform. There is little need to compromise with anyone who doesn’t support full marriage equality.

Also, Kinsley doesn’t address how marriage equally has gotten more powerful-by calling conservatives out. After all the attention the Mormon Church got from backing Prop 8 in California, they have pulled out of funding anti-gay marriage campaigns, virtually insuring victory for equality backers. Image matters, and by calling prominent marriage opponents bigots, gay rights activists have seen major victories.

If we could get full employment in a year by shaving off Paul Krugman’s beard with broken glass to appease the austerity freaks, I’d break a few bottles myself. However, if the Obama Administration has proved anything, it’s those chanting for more austerity don’t care about the economy or jobs-they are just rich folks trying to horde money. If their vision of how America should be is unappealing to most Americans, that’s their problem. Denying this wouldn’t make them any nicer.

Who’s Right? Who Cares-Hypocrisy, Gay Rights, and the Wheels Of Inevitability

Lest I be accused of being a hypocrite, I’ve always held one belief-I don’t care what a politicians motives are, I care what they do. So, with Republican Senator Rob Portman supporting gay marriage, I’ll chalk that up as a victory. I have many family and friends who are gay and I see what not having the same legal rights as straight couples does. One more vote for gay marriage is a good thing.

That being said, I hardly consider Portman a profile in courage. His support has to do with his son being gay. Before then, he had no problem supporting gay marriage bans as recently as 2010. Only after his son came out did he decide to support his marriage equality-and even this took two years. Last year, he was a possible Vice Presidential nominee and, given Romney’s campaign was more anti-gay rights than Bush’s 2004 campaign, he couldn’t possibly expect to be on the bottom of the ticket with a position drastically different than the guy at the top. Once again, I’m glad there’s another vote for marriage equality in the Senate. I just don’t want to praise the guy.

With this in mind, the false equivalency of Obama and Portman Glenn Greenwald has made really does piss me off. In one tweet, Greenwald brings up the two flaws his arguments constantly have. The first is the obsession with Obama and ignoring all the other factors at play. It’s true, as mistermix said in the article I just linked to, Obama’s decision was largely based on political calculations. However, how did it get to the point of Obama endorsing gay marriage and bringing his party with him? It took decades of campaigning from gay rights activists. They weren’t just let into the party-they had to kick down the damn door. It wasn’t that long ago when Democrats just wanted any issue involving gay rights to just go away. It took relentless campaigning and lobbying and organizing to get their message across. The Wheels of of Inevitability didn’t just roll in on gay rights-there were plenty of set backs along the way (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a direct violation of Clinton’s campaign promises, Proposition 8 succeed when 6 months before the vote it was going to go down in flames). Yet those activists who campaigned for gay rights didn’t give up the struggle-they kept on slogging away till one political party lived up to its legacy when it came to civil rights. Obama has always claimed to be a supporter of gay rights-his supporters forced him to live up to that. Portman’s only concern is about the well-being of his family. Beyond that, he could care less.

The second mistake Greenwald consistently makes is his obsession with hypocrisy. In his tweet, he’s trying to make it sound writers like Markos Moulitsas, Scott Lemieux, Charlie Pierce, Paul Krugman and others sound like hypocrites applying one standard to Portman and another to Obama. The answer to that is…so? Hypocrisy doesn’t prove your opponent is wrong-just inconsistent.

The fact is this-we have one political party that support gay rights and another one that doesn’t. Sure, you’ll get a handful of people who will endorse gay rights but never anything that will bring about change-just today, Speaker Boehner announced his position won’t change on gay marriage. Gay rights was hard fought with the Democrats. The question is-do you want to fight for change or just sit on the sidelines and heckle at those that do?