Sunday, August 07, 2005

We Are (Are We?) Better Than This

I remember once reading Andrew Sullivan on Michelle Malkin. Now, Sullivan is not a fan of Malkin (nor, for that matter, am I). But I distinctly recall him saying that regardless of our disagreements with her, Malkin endures far more than her fair share of racial and sexual epithets thrown at her--and that it is shameful for so-called liberals to indulge in this sort of crude personal assault.

Why bring it up now? Because David Bernstein points me to a "Taxonomy" of Conservative Blogs that engages in yet another one of these smears ("If she didn't have tits, she'd be stuck writing at"). Which, as Bernstein notes, wouldn't be so bad, if the entire left blogosphere didn't appear to be endorsing the post (to be fair, there are exceptions).

Honestly. I don't like the bloggers on this list either (except Volokh. They're cool. And jury's out on Dean's World and Buzzmachine). But the smear style attacks should not be tolerated--and I don't care that "they do it too." In my post on how the far left/right treats centrists, one commentator argued that leftists are more likely than righties to attack their opponents based on sex, race, or sexuality. I noted my skepticism then, and I'm skeptical now, but damn, we're not making a good showing of ourselves here.

We're better than this.

PS: There is a reasonable way to make the case that a conservative blogger's status as a woman or minority does effect her popularity amongst her peers. Blogcritics, for example, talks about Derrick Bell's "Rules of Racial Standing" here. The pertinent rule is:
Few blacks avoid diminishment of racial standing, most of their statements about racial conditions being diluted and their recommendations of other blacks taken with a grain of salt. The usual exception to this rule is the black person who publicly disparages or criticizes other blacks who are speaking or acting in ways that upset whites. Instantly, such statements are granted 'enhanced standing' even when the speaker has no special expertise or experience in the subject he or she is criticizing. [emphasis added]

In law, this might be seen as an admission against interest. That is, a woman who speaks against "feminism" is presumed to be speaking against her "own interests" and thus receives additional weight ("enhanced standing"). Under this view, Malkin's popularity is partially premised on her position as someone conservatives can point to and say: "Look! We're not racist--some minorities agree with us!"--a status that is interwoven with her status as a woman and minority. And one could then extrapolate that if Malkin didn't provide that particular service to conservatives (IE, being a conservative minority woman), she'd be a non-entity.

That argument is sophisticated, controversial, and debatable (I make no comment on whether or not it is correct as applied to Malkin). It is not, however, conveyed in a crude posting that marks Malkin's success as solely attributable to her "tits." Make the latter argument, but the former should be an anathema to true liberals.

UPDATE: Alas, a Blog joins the "Malkin-bashers defending Malkin" group. We should start a club.

UPDATE 2x: With regard to how we ought view minority conservatives, I have just posted what originally was to be an update to this post but, due to length, became a post of its own. It is entitled "Standpoint Theory, The Voice of Color, and "Uncle Toms": Positioning Conservative Minorities" and I highly encourage you to take a look.


Anonymous said...

As a "rightie" that likes many of the sites on that taxonomy, just a note to say good for you.

I'd also say that aside from the sexism, some of the other criticisms seem oddly meanspirited and off the mark. Glenn Reynolds, "Intellectually lazy?" Say what you will, but just because he's a "linker" in his most popular incarnation doesn't speak for all of his intellectual pursuits.

Captain Ed a delusional writer with (implied) mental illness? Agree or totally disagree, Morrissey's writing is pretty lucid.

And the critique of Hewitt is specifically interesting, considering his recent total castigation of rightwing politicians and writers for the mere suggestion that a retaliation against a Muslim religious symbol was ok.

Just a terrible critique all around.

But anyway, props for your consistency.

Bill from INDC

PG said...

I don't think we should start criticizing the taxonomy based on what people do outside blogging. If Posner's blog didn't reflect a high level of thought, it would deserve criticism as well despite the author's brilliance in the legal field. I agree that Reynolds is intellectually formidable as a law professor, but unfortunately that rarely shows up on InstaPundit.

David Schraub said...

I could do without these sort of ad hominem attacks in general--regardless of whether I agree with the authors or not (I mean, I bash my fair share of conservatives, but I like to think I'm not RUDE about it :) ).

However, what made the Malkin comment worthy of special focus is the sexism inherent in it. Liberals calling conservatives brain-dead, frankly, is old news (and non-unique, conservatives do this same thing all the time). I don't like it, but political polarization is out of my hands. I'd like to think, though, that we can draw a line in the sand on racism, sexism, heterosexism, anti-Semitism, etc etc..

Jim Parrett said...

I think it's disgusting that anyone coddles this nasty person. Malkin is a racist no matter how you look at it. She is vicious and sociopathic in her views. That people have so little respect for her, including those on the right, is an indication of just how low and repulsive her motives and values are. We are better than this. But she is not. Would The Debate Link have even mentioned this whole thing if Malkin was male and white?

David Schraub said...

Would I have mentioned that she is being attacked for having "tits" if she was male and white? In fairness, probably not :-).

What an innane question.

Anonymous said...

"I don't care that 'they do it too.'"

That's not very honest, is it, considering that they generally don't?

By the way, I'm not a regular Malkin reader, so I'm wondering why everybody's calling her a "racist". Is it simply because people on the left call everybody who disagrees with them a "racist", or is it some specialized left-wing definition of "racism" which applies only to people who aren't actually bigots? Or have there been racist posts that I missed? I ask only because when I have read her, I've never noticed any racism at all.

Let's not forget that if she were on the left, the rest of the left would consider her ethnicity to be absolute and unanswerable proof that she isn't, and "logically" can't be, a racist.

We're better than this.

"We" who? You personally may be better than that. That's one. Where's number two?

The problem is that many lefties (enough to drown out the reasonable ones) consider themselves immune to bigotry, so they just go on with the primal-scream rhetoric and assume that whatever comes out must necessarily be virtuous, simply because the mouth it came out of is a left-wing mouth. They often seem to consider themselves above criticism of any kind, and criticism starts at home. Notice their "how dare you!" mentality whenever anybody declines to take them at their own estimation of themselves. Like Ted Rall threatening to punch James Taranto for saying that Rall hates the US. They don't try to prove you wrong; they just shrilly insist that you take their perfection as an axiom.

They simply won't talk to you unless you agree at the outset to pretend that they're in a privileged position. Most of us end up treating them like ranting homeless people: Nod and smile and keep walking. There's not much else you can do with somebody like that.

So let's perform a thought experiment: It's a logical impossibility, I know, but just for the sake of argument try to imagine a universe which could contain an imperfect lefty. A lefty who had a flaw, just one single flaw. Relax! It's only a thought experiment! Nobody's suggesting that it could actually happen in real life, so try to control the Tourette's, and consider: Could such a lefty ever fix that flaw, if the great fundamental axiom of his belief system is that he can't possibly have any flaws?

Jim Parrett said...

Not a racist? Have you read her book?

Anonymous said...

PS - the "I don't care if 'they do it too'" point is still valid, whether or not it applies in this case; "they do it too" is a non sequitur.

David Schraub said...

The racism charge refers to Malkin's defense of Japanese internment. While I am not a fan of the way racism is casually thrown out by some commentators, it seems appropriate when the subject is suspicion-less detention of an entire class of persons precisely on account of their nationality. For an informed takedown of Malkin's work, see UNC Law Prof and Internment expert Eric Muller.

As for the other liberals joining me in condemnation, see, e.g., Half the Sins of Mankind, Alas, a Blog, and TalkLeft.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I tried to see the article by UNC Law Prof and all round good guy, but I got:

Not Found
The requested URL /Muller_and_Robinson_on_Malkin.html was not found on this server.

Additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.

David Schraub said...

That's're right. The link appears to be broken. I don't know how else to find the material--I copied the link directly from Muller's website.


Anonymous said...

You may agree or disagree with Malkin's position on the internment of Japanese during WWII but it doen't make it 'racist'. This was not the usual peaceful times that they were going through, it was a WORLD WAR... We were experiencing 'home grown sabatage' by Americans with Japanese descent. Sometimes drastic times calls for drastic measures, the fact that they were released after the war and not continued to be held should show that it wasn't just 'the fact that they we hated Asian people'.... there was a real reason for it.

I disagree with it being called 'racist', if we hadn't had any sabatage, spies, etc here it probably wouldn't have been done.

David Schraub said...

...except a) there was virtually no sabotage b) there was no similar action taken against German- or Italian-Americans and c) there is ample evidence to show that folks in California and the American West did harbor virulently racist feelings toward the Japanese--feelings that predated WWII hostilities.

Anonymous said...

Right, the internment thing. I'd forgotten that one. I'll have to look into Malkin's reasoning there; it doesn't sound too promising. I can't think offhand of any non-ridiculous reasons to take that position (from a left-wing standpoint, you'd just point out that she's got Filipino heritage, and Filipinos are justified in irrational dislike of the Japanese for the same reason that African-Americans or Native Americans are justified in irrationally disliking euro-Americans. But that's hardly "non-ridiculous"; in fact, it's the reason why so many of us laugh out loud when lefties call somebody else a racist).

The German-American Bund was gung-ho in favor of Hitler, but that doesn't make all German-Americans of that time disloyal. Was there any analagous organization of Japanese-Americans?

The Bund was outlawed after we entered the war, of course, because we were at war and they were on the other side. Seems quaint, doesn't it? Now, of course, all they'd get is tenure.

David Schraub said...

Somebody loves his caricatures...

Anonymous said...

We're better than this.

Oddly, I've observed and experienced that identity politics is the core of most (not all, but most) so-called liberal communication.

What's wrong with Rush Limbaugh? He's fat. Clearly this invalidates anything he might possibly say. But don't mention that Roseanne Barr is fat, or Andrea Dworkin is (err, was, is?) fat, that's hatred of women, or fear, depending on which armchair liberal psychologist you're corresponding with.

Although many conservatives do this as well, it's not common, to be extected, or usually done with such vitriolic glee as when done by the liberals.

When I started posting to the net years ago, I was immediately smeared by feminist identity politics, and such smearing continued for my entire posting stay in the newsgroups.

So remember, it's not only who you are (white male bad, anybody else good), but what you post. Even women who post against feminist hate become targets for feminist identity politics. One poster called one of these rare women a "penis licker" (also a parody of 'promise keeper'). Can't have that, can we.

So IMHO, no, you ain't better than that and you ain't ever been better than that. You lot revel in personal attack, and that's 95% of what you do, and 95% of all you've ever done.

Feel free to attack me now. I'm used to it, I expect it.