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“Narcissism as Analysis”


James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal “Best of the Web” column has skewered the pomposities of liberal legal commentators who seek not only to disagree with, and misrepresent, conservatives on the subject of ObamaCare, but also would have the reader think that everyone who is the least bit smart agrees with the liberal evaluation. If they don’t agree, then, that just shows that they are not smart. A wise managing editor would not allow such impishness to see print.
Taranto’s target today is Dahlia Lithwick (Newsweek and Slate), who writes that the case before the Supreme Court is “uncontroversial” because it’s obvious that the law is constitutional. The only question is whether a majority of justices will agree, or instead will stoop to invidious politics.
“The second proposition, however, disproves Lithwick’s claim that the first proposition is uncontroversial,” Taranto points out.

Indeed, the very fact that there is a controversy before the court is sufficient to disprove the claim that the constitutionality of ObamaCare is uncontroversial. Lithwick seems to mistake the absence of doubt in her own mind for an absence of controversy. It’s narcissism as legal analysis.

Well put.
A bird of similar feather to Lithwick is Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times. She explains that it isn’t necessary to give respectful treatment to critics of ObamaCare because they are beyond the pale of sensible opinion. Yesterday, Taranto quoted Greenhouse on her standards:

Journalistic convention requires that when there are two identifiable sides to a story, each side gets its say, in neutral fashion, without the writer’s thumb on the scale. This rule presents a challenge when one side of a controversy obviously lacks merit. But mainstream journalism has learned to navigate those challenges, choosing evolution over “intelligent design,” for example, and treating climate change naysayers as cranks.

Get that? You don’t have to think about intelligent design, nor do you have to treat critics of climate change as anything other than cranks.
Indeed, there is a whole list of cranks who don’t deserve to be taken seriously. Opponents of embryonic stem cell research would be in that category. So would people who are alarmed by the increase in government sanctioned euthanasia or assisted suicide for newly born infants and seriously ill adults. Tea Party protests against runaway public spending.
Every dictator and every dictatorial mass movement attempts to demonize and degrade its opponents this way. It is why liberalism in the classic style came about in the first place. However, much of the left decided to become illiberal a generation ago (a la Herbert Marcuse). Real public dialogue can’t take place in such an environment or propagandizing. No wonder incivility and crudeness reign.

Bruce Chapman

Cofounder and Chairman of the Board of Discovery Institute
Bruce Chapman has had a long career in American politics and public policy at the city, state, national, and international levels. Elected to the Seattle City Council and as Washington State's Secretary of State, he also served in several leadership posts in the Reagan administration, including ambassador. In 1991, he founded the public policy think tank Discovery Institute, where he currently serves as Chairman of the Board and director of the Chapman Center on Citizen Leadership.



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