Thursday, November 09, 2006
DISSENT. There's a curious thing about reason. It almost always seems reasonable, especially to its most ardent practitioners, but when it's unhooked from common sense, it tends to float off into detached self-absorption, which provides its own immunity against criticism of any kind, practical verities, and, yes, common sense. In the process, it somehow turns reason into its opposite -- from a logical progression toward the right answer to a mere mechanism of rhetorical condescension.
Glenn Reynolds has abundantly documented the pilgrimage of Andrew Sullivan along this path, heh-ing, for example, over the fact that Sullivan's sense of his intellectual gravitas entitles him to review his own book in the most glowing terms while scorning all so-called conservatives who dare to challenge his intellectual and educational superiority. Never mind that even the most casual observer can chart Sullivan's course to Bush hatred from the first instance of the administration's opposition to gay marriage.
I have long believed it one of the saddest aspects of American life that lawyers have so dominated our political life, because legal education is expressly designed to separate reason from common sense, to camouflage ordinary, obvious reality via the pyrotechnics of semantically acrobatic somersaults until the plain facts are rendered bizarre, stood on their heads in a disorienting contortionist's pose. Then it is that the oh-so-rational attorney drily informs us that there are no plain facts except for the ones he chooses to present in his summation. In fact, his real triumph is to substitute himself and his appearance of rationality for common sense.
This is the means by which we journeyed from Martin Luther King's color-blind dream to a Kafka-esque oxymoron of equality achieved by dizzying amounts and degrees of racial discrimination peddled under the rational sobriquet 'affirmative action.' It's how we progressed from the basic moral requirement to be fair to others even if they're different to the latest incarnation of 'poliical correctness' -- blaming ourselves for all the ways we are different from those who view those differences as a reason to annihilate us. It is this exquisite brand of reason that transmutes tolerance to a self-hating death wish. Interestingly, the mechanism by which this sleight of hand is accomplished is not actually reason, but the air of detached objectivity and farsightedness affected by those who presume to know.
And now I am about to commit an unpardonable, irrational sin of the contemporary Internet. I'm going to criticize the Blogfather. In the week before the election, Glenn Reynolds offered up his pre-mortem, explaining why and how Republicans were sure to lose, and mused that a Republican loss was well deserved. He linked to multiple sites in which conservatives and pseudo-conservatives announced they were planning to vote Democrat. I read what they, and he, had to say and sent Glenn the following email:
I read this today at your website:
Reading the comments lambasting Bill doesn't make me feel better about the GOP's current situation. I think that the decision whether to vote for the GOP or not is one that reasonable people, even reasonable pro-war people, can differ on, and Bill is definitely on the right side where the war is concerned. And I'll ask a question that I often ask of the lefties -- do you really think this stuff will win people over?
I didn't read the comments to Bill Quick, but I read some at Brendan Loy's site and added one myself, not profane, but not respectful either. Permit me to point out that as an academic, you are more susceptible than many of us to adopt a perspective that's too, er, academic. I specifically object to your repeated use of the term "reasonable." This is not a reasonable situation, and it is not reasonable to prefer deliberate, premeditated sabotage of the war on terror to garden variety poilitical bumbling. It is not reasonable to hand the country's affairs over to the likes of Pelosi, Conyers, Rangel, et al. And it is not reasonable to expect that people unprotected by tenure and other academic perks will respond to the schoolteacherish disciplining of "the whole class" by tossing off a proper Brit "Cheerio, old top. Can't say I see it your way, but that's the way the cricket ball bounces. Pip pip." The way they see it, their taxes will go up, their President will be hounded into paralysis, and the national security of their country will be seriously if not irreparably damaged. Why? Because congress spends too much money, Harriet Miers got nominated to the Supreme Court, and various politicians got caught in the wrong cookie jars!!?? Which part of this nonsensical logic do you wish us to take reasonably?
I also commented on your pre-mortem last week, not waspishly and without kneejerk defense of Republicans, as you can see for yourself.
Something about the tone of your latest comment rubbed me the wrong way, however.
Regards, as always,
He didn't bother to answer, which is his prerogative, of course. But since the election, he has more than once referenced his own pre-mortem in a self-congratulatory way, as if the election were some kind of academic exercise in which he had acquitted himself well. I suspect that's all it really is to the paper tigers of the war on terror. Actually winning it isn't as important as being the smartest one in the room about it.
Today, he has already begun the process of being superior to the political anarchy that has been unleashed by the Democratic win he sort of kind of hoped for. His response? Two of his patented "Hehs" in a single screen. (Scroll to the entry after Dean Demands Recount.) Is that what we have to look forward to from InstaPundit for the next two nighmare years? An endless succession of "Hehs"? Sorry, but this stuff was predictable months ago, and it's just not that funny.
I continue to have great respect for Glenn Reynolds. However, I have begun to doubt the accuracy of the title of his book, An Army of Davids. True Davids are more focused on winning than being the most brilliant doyenne at the party. What Davids do is go to war for the purpose of winning when everyone else is trying too damn hard to be reasonable.
Like my father used to say when he disciplined me, "This hurts me more than it does you." I mean it and I'm sure I will pay for it. But what's the point of being a little guy if you can't load up your sling and take a shot?