They Have to Be Wrong, Even When I Agree With Them

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I realize the "Two-Minute Townhall" feature at Sadly, No!, which offers one-sentence parodies of columns from the conservative Web site, is not meant to be strictly accurate. The glosses, based on the premise that every columnist carried by Townhall is a predictable Neanderthal, are often funny without necessarily being fair. The last few summaries of my columns are neither, for the simple reason that the author, Travis G., can't bring himself to admit that he agrees with someone he has pegged as a right-wing moron.

Sadly, No! summed up my May 17 column criticizing the NSA phone call database this way: "I feel bad even saying this, but I think the NSA may have overstepped some legal bounds, insomuch as these things matter." My May 24 column, in which I condemned the Justice Department's threats to prosecute the New York Times reporters who revealed the NSA's illegal wiretapping program, became: "I'm not so sure that the president's approval rating is the same thing as national security." And this week's column, which faults Congress for not standing up to the president's absurdly broad assertions of executive power, was rendered as: "As much as it pains me to say it, I think Congress should be concerned about the president violating the Constitution in the name of national security."

As anyone who reads the columns (or a random sampling of my other work) can see, the bad feelings, uncertainty, and pain allegedly associated with my criticism of the Bush administration exist only in Travis G.'s imagination, where I am a GOP flack notwithstanding all the evidence to the contrary. If I'm going to be mocked, can't I be mocked as a crazy libertarian, rather than a blindly loyal Republican?

NEXT: And Usually These Two-Years-After-the-Fact Lawsuits Are So Honest...

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  1. What? You expect liberals to be honest when they’re attacking those who dare stray from the Truth?

  2. “I sure wish drugs were legal so we could undermine social security and make old ladies freeze in the street.”

    Is that better?

  3. In a binary world, all those who do not fit our preconceptions will be ruthlessly stereotyped…

  4. If I’m going to be mocked, can’t I be mocked as a crazy libertarian, rather than a blindly loyal Republican?

    write an article about your ferrets…that will fix it.

  5. You voted for me, the worst Republican in the entire history of the universe, over Kerry, who admittedly would have been worse. You made your bed. Now go talk about how both sides ‘r’ bad so we keep distracting people about _how_ bad my side really is.

  6. Jacob, you crazy libertarian. You should be grateful someone bothered to distort and disparage you. You’re request to be demonized be for what you actually write sounds reasonable, but only in our fuchsia sky world.

  7. You’re either with them or you’re against them.

  8. Dude, you’re hanging out at Townhall with Anne Coulter and William Bennett and Jonah Goldberg and Michelle Malkin. What are we supposed to think?

  9. If you disparage people even when they agree with you, how can you expect to convince people who DON’T already agree with you?

    It’s almost like blogging is about establishing some kind of us-vs-them situation where the other side must be insulted and demonized even when they agree, rather than some forum for rational debate.

  10. It’s funny – folks on this board have changed my mind more than once (and I try to acknowledge it when that happens). I’m a relatively radical person by mainstream standards, though I believe myself to be mostly free of strictly partisan positions — I think that Dems, Libs and the GOP get a lot wrong, and I say so.

    But I’ve noticed that a lot of the screaming in politics of late comes down to a blind belief in the rightness of a party, rather than positions. Wasn’t it Adams who warned against reliance on “faction?”

  11. Buck up, Mr. Sullum. We still like you.

  12. It’s almost like blogging is about establishing some kind of us-vs-them situation where the other side must be insulted and demonized even when they agree, rather than some forum for rational debate.

    Yeah, it’s almost like that. Weird.

  13. Ditto. You frequent townhall along with some detestable slimeballs, you’re probably going to get lumped in with the rest of the crows. At least you don’t write for worldnetdaily.

  14. Wait, wait, wait…Jacob Sullum gets facetime @ Townhall? Say it ain’t so…say it ain’t so!

  15. Clean Hands,

    Here’s a good piece on factions (pardon the length):

    I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

    This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

    The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

    Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

    It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

    There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

    George Washington’s Farewell Address 1796.

  16. Just to clarify my relationship with Townhall: They subscribe to my syndicated column, as do a few other Web sites and various newspapers. So I don’t exactly “frequent” the site or “hang out” there. Still, I’m glad they run my columns (along with those of a few other libertarians, such as Walter Williams and John Stossel). Like The Washington Times, it’s a good forum for pointing out how Bush and other Republicans have betrayed small-government conservatism.

  17. Jacob:

    I’ll bet the last time you were center stage was at your Bar Mitzva. Whining about being mocked makes you sound like an idiot. You obviously love the attention but hate to think you’re not being taken seriously. Few nutsoid ideologues are taken seriously outside their own narrow circles, so buck up and just enjoy being noticed. Oh, and thanks for telling us about it, nitwit.

  18. Clean Hands,

    Didn’t you also write this: You expect liberals to be honest when they’re attacking those who dare stray from the Truth?

    Isn’t that demonizing one “side?” As near as I can tell, dogmatists of all stripes make dishonest attacks on those who “stray.” There are also intelligent people with important things to day on all sides. So why single out “liberals”?

  19. Jacob,

    Alright, that’s acceptable, I suppose…you’re right about it being a good forum to point out the problems with the Bush administration & GOP. But let’s be honest, did you really not expect any blowback from the ol’ guilt-by-association deal? Yes, it’s irresponsible to stereotype you as a die-hard rightwinger just because you’re syndicated @ a certain site, but, come on, it is “Sadly, No!”. You can expect as much journalistic responsibility there as you can from, say, Whitehouse.org.

    It’s a parody. Not very many people reading “Sadly, No!” are going to really be knowledgeable re: the nuances of the individual townhall syndicated columnists, all they care about is the simple fact that townhall.com is populated mostly by rightwing cheerleaders.

  20. You’re right, of course, Brian24. I should have noted that partisans on both sides are frequently goatfuckers. I could try to weasel out and point out that I didn’t say “Democrats,” but that would be nit-picking.

    I must admit, though that “liberals” seem in general more corrosive to liberty than do “conservatives.”

  21. Brian24,

    Washington’s comment was in regard to party (faction) affiliation, not different positions on an idealogic spectrum, i.e. Lib. or Con.

  22. Well, Jacob, I pointed out your lack of loyalist credentials and it now appears that some of them have googled your articles and see you as the freakish libertarian we all know and love.

    I must admit, though that “liberals” seem in general more corrosive to liberty than do “conservatives.”

    Pish-posh, I say! For every liberal who wants to take away guns or throw more tax money down the education hole, there’s a conservative who wants to put you in prison for growing pot or throw more tax money down the farm subsidy hole. Reflexive conservatives are just as corrosive to liberty as reflexive liberals.

  23. Last time I checked, Les, liberals like farm subsidies and the drug war just fine; conservatives at least resist gun laws and the education rathole, no?

  24. This thread and the subsequent trashing of Townhall and conservatives in general confirms 2 things:

    1) The Libertarian Party will never ever win an election.

    2) Sadly, many of my fellow libertarians simply do not understand politics.

    The object of elections is to win and then advance your ideas. The idea is to vote for the candidate who BEST represents your ideas. Not PERFECTLY, but BEST.

    Now Townhall is a mainstream Con. site. Go to a mainstream Lib site such as Working for Change. How can you be a serious Libertarian if you cannot see that Townhall and Conservatism have a fair amount in common with Libertarianism, while Working for Change etc. resembles ZERO AMOUNT of Libertarianism.

  25. I must admit, though that “liberals” seem in general more corrosive to liberty than do “conservatives.”

    You know, I thought this when Clinton was trying to Nixonize all his enemies via the FBI, and his administration took a few swipes at the first amendment. After a few years of W’s PATRIOTism, NSA wiretaps, etc., etc., however, I think they’re all a bunch of constitution shredding asshats.

  26. Here’s my pithy self-generated proverb about politics. Feel free to use it, even it somebody else said it and I’m just unconsciously chanelling it.

    ‘Ninety percent of politics is just name-calling.’

    Thank you, thank you…

  27. The idea is to vote for the candidate who BEST represents your ideas … How can you be a serious Libertarian if you cannot see that Townhall and Conservatism have a fair amount in common with Libertarianism, …

    Yeah, okay. So, let’s see … we have a Conservative government. We’ve had a Conservative government for the last several years. Now, how well is this working out for Libertarian ideals again … ?

  28. JD,

    True, I realize Clean Hands was specifically talking about party labels, but I fail to see how it’s any more productive to tar people who are grouped under other labels with the same brush.

    Carry On,

    Maybe I am dense, but I fail to see what the Republican side has to offer.

  29. Really, I don’t think either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party has any interest in “libertarianism.” It’s just one more rhetorical flourish to use against the other side. The goal is power.

    On the other hand, I know many people who call themselves both conservative and liberal who have basically a libertarian attitude. Talk about not understanding politics–if libertarians want to ever win anything, they need to stop using the words “liberal” and “authoritarian” as synonyms.

  30. Last time I checked, Les, liberals like farm subsidies and the drug war just fine…

    I agree about subsidies, but the “liberals” who like the drug war aren’t liberals, they’re Democrats.

    Conservatives also want to limit what kind of sexual entertainment you can enjoy, where you can travel or trade (China: sure! Cuba: no way!). Conservatives tend to be in favor of government control as much as leftists, just for different reasons.

  31. But really, I agree with the posters who are implying that the labels aren’t useful.

    Carry On, another implication of the supporters of the Bush administration at Town Hall is that they are disingenuous in their claims to be for less government. At least the folks at Working For Change mean it when they say they want more government. Personally, I prefer to work with honest people I disagree with than dishonest people who pretend to support a position for the sake of power.

  32. At my family gatherings, I probably agree with the Republican half about fewer things than the Democrat half. Yet the Republican half considers me to be in their camp, and the Democrat half seems to despise me. (This is, of course, exacerbated by the fact that the Democrat half REALLY despises the Republicans who claim me as one of them.)

    The problem is that the Republicans feel pretty strongly about free enterprise and such issues where libertarians and Republicans tend to overlap, but the Democrats really are mixed about things like gay marriage, the drug war, and big brother.

    I think Stossel recently had a quote about how lots of conservative groups will give him big money, but liberal groups absolutely despise him. All the South Park controversies this year also highlighted this behavior — all kinds of conservative groups were strongly backing South Park while the liberal groups were either unconcerned or hostile.

  33. I’ve been pondering Washington’s Farewell Address. He’s right. And I have an idea for dealing with these “factions”. Ban the political parties. Okay, okay, I don’t mean ban the right of people to associate in politically aligned groupings. No. My point is that we could take away the legal recognition of political parties within government. All campaign contributions have to be to individuals, no divvying up of committees by party line, no special treatment of parties in the elections, etc., etc., etc.

    I have no idea how many bizarro laws are out there (at all levels of government) enabling and preserving these danged “factions”, but I’m sure taking them off the books has got to improve things.

  34. Aw, Bob, does baby need his poopy diaper changed? Let me get your binky…

  35. The problem is that the Republicans feel pretty strongly about free enterprise and such issues where libertarians and Republicans tend to overlap, but the Democrats really are mixed about things like gay marriage, the drug war, and big brother.

    This is an interesting point, Ammonium, and I think it’s related to people’s general feeling that the Democrats “don’t stand for anything.” I personally feel that a party of the left that really got behind a message of smaller government (and there’s plenty of room for that in the general anti-authority feelings many lefties harbor) could win a lot of votes.

  36. The problem, Brian24, is that with all too many of the priorities of the left – welfare, environment, health care – there seems to be a complete lack of imagination as to how to solve the problem without resorting to big gov’t.

    If a group of left-leaning folks came out focused on ending the war on drug(user)s, reducing corporate welfare, and returning civil liberties (without pretending that the Big Bad World ain’t out to get us), I might be intrigued — but now we’re smokin’ crack.

  37. The trap clean hands is falling into is the bipolar political spectrum trap… there are more dimensions to political thought than liberal/conservative.

    At least go as far as a two dimensional political plane…

    http://www.politicalcompass.org/

    Although I am often branded as a lefty=statist on these boards… according to the political compass’s simplistic metric I am actually pretty centrist although a tad left of center on economic issues and a little bit more towards the anti-authoriatian end on social issues (they label this libertarian). This means that I see benefits in pooling resources, but don’t think the government needs to micro-manage my life. Not sure if that makes me a threat to clean hands’ liberty or not… but I am sure that it is the people who fall on the edges of the plane, along either parameter, that have a harder time communicating with each other.

  38. Like Sollum being published in Townhall, Radley Balko gets articles in NRO and Fox.

    I have Republican friends who would never pay attention to my libertarian arguments. I simply hope they might pay more attention to crossover writers in Republican publications.

  39. Ultimately, the sad thing is that people like the Sadly, No folks (and their conservative clones) are the ones driving politics in this country.

  40. Mainstream — I took the political compass quiz and was not very impressed, for a number of reasons. I would recommend this one: http://www.self-gov.org/quiz.html. It does have the disadvantage of being US-centric; that is, it will only tell you where your beliefs fall within the range of major US issues.

  41. If any of you are looking for further mischaracterization to be indignant/amused/bewildered at, try checking out this page I wandered to after looking at the Sadly, No! page under consideration: http://www.thepoorman.net/2006/05/23/take-a-walk-on-the-genocide/.

    Somehow, Ronald Bailey ranks above a guy who the website claims endorses rape and anti-Semiticism, and who also considers it sound policy to emulate Nazi Germany in solving our immigration issues (not by extermination, just be deportation, but of course even accomplishing such deportation could never occur except in a police state, a detail which the website intentionally ignores in order to make it look like the guy just wants to gas 12 million people). Exactly what is being ranked is unclear, to boot.

    The best part is where “Reason?s readership” is summarized by bizarre posts from H&R such as It is absolutely false that there is any warming, I don?t believe it. Also, I cannot see how we could ever run out of oil. It is accepted truth tah as long as we keep looking for it we will always find it.

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