Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Left's Thought Police?

Since I've been "wanker of the day" on Atrios, I thought I'd post this link. I think this says a lot about what I experienced after challenging an element of the left (even a very small and by no means representative one). One need only google my name to see the response to my work. You can judge its appropriateness for yourself.

UPDATE: More of the discussion on Brendan Nyhan's new blog.

UPDATE 2: My comment on the matter, posted on Nyhan's blog:
I'm with Nyhan on this one. Writers make mistakes. Given. We correct those mistakes. Required. This doesn't change the validity of Nyhan's point unless you think an idea is invalidated if you don't think the person defending it has a right to do so (ad hominem, anyone?).

As for false equivalencies, there's a huge difference between stating that the ideologies of the left and right are equivalent and saying that the tactics of extremists on both sides are the same. To accept a tactic when used by one side but not by another is hypocrisy.

Some examples: Accepting our use of torture while condemning it when it's used by our enemies is hypocrisy. Condemning manipulation and distortion of the facts from the right while accepting it from the left is hypocrisy.

Condemning a tactic based on a principled rejection of the tactic regarless of the party making use of it is fundamental ethics. If you are to condemn those who would criticize their own side for an abhorrent tactic as promoting false equivalencies, you must condemn Mohandas Ghandi (who criticized violence on the part of those who were fighting for Indian freedom) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (who criticized extremist strains of the civil rights movement).

I, personally, am far to the left of anything that could be called centrist in this or any country. My work has been an almost steady drumbeat against the right's means, ends, and ideology. One column examining the extremists on the left (intended as part of a series that I'm reluctant to complete for obvious reasons) and I was Atrios' "wanker of the day," "cunt", "bitch", "Jew Dyke", "bigot", "right wing plant" and even an "agent of Cointelpro". I willingly accepted reasonable criticism based on a reasoned misunderstanding or disagreement. I publicly apologized for the fact that the work was not as well-written as it could have been and thus, was easily misinterpreted by well-meaning readers. I engaged and explained as best I could while being screamed down by a vicious net-mob. However, much of the vitriol against my work was based on willing misinterpretations of what I had written by PZ Meyers, Austin Cline, and others.

The cyber-lynching tactics that have become all too prevalent on the net do indeed threaten independent voices, even those who are ideologically far too the left but choose to engage in discourse with reason and principles intact. They also threaten the diversity of opinion that should be present in the best journals of opinion. The threat Nyhan discusses is not that opinion journals will disappear, but that we will have our biases catered to so narrowly that none of us will ever be challenged by differing opinions to assess our ideas clearly and consistently or to promote them in a way that can lead to consensus. If we're only "preaching to the converted," we change nothing. That supports the status quo, not the false "false equivalencies" you condemn.

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