Gack: A depressing look at us the people!


The Los Angeles Times hurts our heads: The miracle lies in the fact that our nation ever made it this far.

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times performed a dual service. First, it showed us how hopelessly dumb we the people are.

Second, it showed us the hopeless intellectual standards of the modern upper-end press corps.

The Times accomplished these depressing tasks by printing a pair of op-ed columns. Kevin Drum is to blame for the fact that we saw these head-hurting efforts at all.

What hath the L. A. Times wrought? On Sunday, it printed a matched set of columns: Charlotte Allen's "Why conservatives can't talk to liberals" and Diana Wagman's "Why liberals can't talk to conservatives."

What we can’t figure is why anyone would want to talk to either writer at all.

Allen is cookie-cutter conservative flyweight—has been for a good many years. She offered the standard flyweight complaints about how horrible (all) liberals are.

Wagman is a novelist. She may even be a good one. But she has been writing silly columns in the Los Angeles Times for years. On Sunday, she seemed determined to prove that liberals really are as hopeless as Allen said.

Here’s how her column started:
WAGMAN (2/19/12): I recently played poker with a bunch of Republicans. My husband and I, both bleeding-heart liberals, are part owners of a cabin in the Sierra outside Fresno, a very conservative area. The Camp Sierra Assn. president has an annual poker game, and this year we, the newcomers, were invited.

No one mentioned politics. We talked instead about our kids and Las Vegas and the odd warm weather. There was a lot of laughter and a lot of very good Scotch. I had fun even though I lost $4.

When the game was over, we walked home with our across-the-road neighbors and invited them in for a final nightcap.

They are the best neighbors in the world. Always ready with a tool, an ingredient or a jump-start for the car. Whatever you need, if they have it, they will give it. They are a lovely family: husband, wife and four smart, funny, polite children. I was sure they were Democrats.
How did our nation ever make it this far? Consider what Wagman said:

According to Wagman, her new neighbors are friendly and helpful. Their children are smart and polite.

Apparently for these reasons, Wagman “was sure they were Democrats.”

Go ahead! Break your hearts and hurt your heads by reading those two columns. But ask yourself this: How does anyone get dumb enough to write an opening passage like Wagman’s? And how did we ever reach the point where a major newspaper would even consider printing it?

Allen played the fool on the conservative side, as she frequently does. Wagman broke our hearts even more. That said, the actual question is this:

In what sort of world do columns like these ever get near a major newspaper? Those columns let you gaze on the intellectual standards of the guild we describe as our “press corps.”

How did we ever get this way? Is there a way to attone?

Dueling banjos: No banjos can be heard in these columns. But the columns appear beneath these dueling synopses:
Synopsis on Allen's column: Debating a liberal is maddening: They think conservatives are evil, while we think they're silly.

Synopsis on Wagman's column: We are not the same. I equate Republicans' political views with thoughtlessness, intolerance and narcissism. They're neither kind nor empathetic.
Gack! Noted in passing:

Wagman’s column tends to support Allen’s claim. Wagman does think conservatives are evil.

Allen’s column tends to refute Wagman’s claim. To a depressing degree, these writers are "the same."


  1. As Bob more-or-less points out, the conservative is essentially right, while the liberal is essentially wrong. The conservative accurately says (as a generality) that liberals think conservatives are evil and that for liberals, the personal is political. The liberal says inaccurately (as a generality) that conservatives are evil.

    Note that the liberal ends her column wishing not to see her conservative neighbors. She says, "I don't want to be friends with someone who is a member of the tea party." OTOH the only evidence she offers that her neighbors might feel the same about her is "a look they gave each other." In actual fact, the neighbors were the ones who came over and apologized, initiating a reconciliation.

    The brilliant Thomas Sowell (conservative, black economist and pundit) has written extensively on this topic. He asserts that for liberals, good intentions are more important than good results. He says that good intentions validate the typical liberal's sense of self-worth. He says that the liberals' real goal (as a generality) s feeling good about themselves.

    Bob has written that even though liberals think they think they're the ones with compassion for the poor, liberals don't really care about what happens to the poor, On this topic, Bob seems to agree with with Sowell's thesis.

    1. OMG! Thomas Sowell? Why not Cal Thomas? Why not Rick Santorum?
      Why not GLENN BECK?
      David, you've let the cat out of the bag.
      You have removed the scales from our eyes.
      We now know from whence you came.

    2. Thomas Sowell is a lot of things, brilliant isn't one of them...

  2. hardlindr's argument seems to be that Sowell has written some things that hardlindr disagrees with, so Sowell isn't brilliant. I don't know what hardlindr's background and accomplishments are, but I would guess that Sowell's background and accomplishments far exceed hardlindr's, just as they exceed mine and most people's.

    Despite being raised in the ghetto of Harlem, Sowell earned a Bachelor's degree at Harvard and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in economics. This was before the days of Affirmative Action and racial preferences. He served on the faculty of Cornell and UCLA and wrote 30 books. If you read his books, you'll discover that they're well-researched and that his arguments are supported by factual evidence and examples and sound reasoning. Even thouse who disagree with his controversial conclusions would acknowledge that his arguments show an impressive intellect. Of course, they'd have to actually read his books to make that judgment.

    1. I don't care where Sowell has taught, where he went to school, or where he came from. My accomplishments in life maybe modest, but those two columns are loopy in the extreme.

    2. In what way are Sowell's two articles "loopy", other than the fact that you disagree with them? E.g., the first one says we may be "on a slippery slope To tyranny." Is Sowell right or wrong about this warning? It's impossible to know. How would you prove whether or not we're on some slippery slope? It's just a guess about one possible future. BTW the ACLU and other liberal groups often warn that we're on a slippery slope to tyranny, based on some Presidential action that they consider excessive.

      Sowell's particular example was President Obama's decision that BP pay $20 billion and that the money be dispensed as the Administration sees fit, to whomever it sees fit. Sowell calls this arbitrary. Isn't he right? No law or administrative procedure allowed the Administration to pay this money or defined that proper figure as $20 billion or said who the money should be given to. Whether or not you approve of Obama's action, you have to admit that it was a use of arbitrary power.

    3. I don't know if Sowell is brilliant or not as an economist. I do know that slippery-slope arguments are lame.

    4. So? Charles Krauthammer has even more degrees. That doesn't make his opinions right.
      Even a blind pig will uncover an acorn once in a while.

    5. Well, Sowell's first column linked to above suggests that Obama's actions with the BP fine put us on the road to tyranny. Maybe the BP fine is wrong, or a bad idea, but tyrannical? That's patently ridiculous, especially compared with the other things Obama has done (i.e. actually killing American citizens without any real judicial review).

      In the second column above, Sowell suggests that America needs to have a violent coup to set the nation on the right course. This, mind you, was when GW Bush was still president. Maybe he's joshing, but I can't tell from the column.

      In any event, take it in stride DiC, and listen to this song when you get down by the comments in the Daily Howler

  3. Ah Sowell, well I remember his fine column where her explained that while the JFK assassination was cut and dried, the Vince Foster case was fraught with suspicious signs that had to be rooted out by his friends like Rush Limbaugh. The man is a clown, Dave, try again.
    Both of these L.A. Times pieces are pretty lightweight (no great sin in a daily newspaper) but it is interesting (but not surprising) that the Howler seems to find the liberal one more objectionable. Yes, the liberal women's inability to debate in respectful tones with others is a sign of immaturity, but is she really worse that a Coulter fan with an advanced degree who has bought into the war on Christmas?
    On the other hand, the decision to not associate with people who's political views you find odious or even evil may be a perfectly sound one, though I've never been able to do it. Anyway, How was the Clinton show?

  4. I've actually thought about this a bit. I like debating politics myself and am disappointed when somebody takes a disagreement as if I'm insulting his intelligence. I think it would be a good idea as a social grace that we establish ground rules before engaging in a political disagreement -- we don't make it personal, we bend over backwards to hear the other person out, stay calm and shake hands afterward.

  5. DinC (responding to your first comment), I think an even more accurate summary of what Bob is pointing out is that having those two discussions (the two columns) in the first place is indicative of our broken discourse and the silly, meaningless points raised in both of them don't even rise to the level where they deserve discussion in the comments section of an unrelated blog. Yet, here we are, adding to the dumb.


  6. I like the columns.

    Of course neither writer is representative of all liberals or conservatives. But they represent significant subsets, and it's useful to have those viewpoints explained.

  7. I agree with Drum that, in this particular case, the liberal comes off looking worse than the conservative. Some of his commenters try to spin this as the liberal being more honestly self-critical, but I don't think that flies.

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