Tuesday, December 06, 2016
Why do "libertarians" insist on being stupid?
I try to read Reason.com regularly. Reason claims to be libertarian, but I have always supposed "libertarian" to mean "consistently promoting liberty." Reason seems fairly consistent at promoting idiocy, and here's a fine example. Cato Senior Fellow for Defense and Foreign Policy and Associate Professor of Something-or-Other at George Mason University's School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs Trevor Thrall warns that Donald Trump's "war on the media" is undermining the media's ability to serve "as an effective forum for debate and deliberation." You see, Trump calls the media biased and unfair. He accuses the media of dishonesty. He refuses to talk with them, preferring to go straight to his audience with tweets and such, rather than allowing the media to serve as an intermediary. Horrors!
Dr.Thrall has a Ph.D. from MIT. He must be intelligent. He has to be informed on current events. He surely can put 2 and 2 together. So how to explain his nonsensical Reason piece? Let's analyze.
1. What would lead anyone to think that the refusal of a president, or president-elect, to meet with the media would undermine the ability of the media to do its job in reporting? Are journalists limited to repeating whatever the powers-that-be feed them? Well, yes, I know, that's what they currently do (see point 2). But an uncooperative, secretive executive doesn't actually prevent the media from doing its job. Can't an MIT grad see this?
2. One can't undermine what doesn't exist, as one commenter observes (the comments on the Reason piece are merciless and on target). The media is not an "institution" that promotes "debate and deliberation." I couldn't find the link, but back in 2012 or so New York Times revealed that before publishing stories about the Obama administration, it gave the stories to said administration to "fact check." Anyone who follows NYT, WaPo, NPR, and BBC regularly (as I do) knows they regularly promote progressivism and things farther left, and regularly attack (real) libertarianism and conservatism. Walter Russell Mead, who is nominally lefty-liberal, acknowledges this. For example, when was the last time that the MSM reported favorably, or even neutrally, on, say, private ownership of firearms? Or when did they last report on the successful defensive use of firearms by a private citizen, a very common, dramatic, and newsworthy event? Never. I don't know of a first time. That's systematic and intentional bias. We could do the same with stories on environmental regulation, voter ID laws, and other issues. Surely the MSM fairly reported on Obamacare -- and designer Jonathan Gruber's subsequent repeated statements that he intentionally designed it to be non-transparent so that he could rely on the stupidity of American voters (his words) to support it, didn't it? Well, no. It's also well established that the MSM fed debate questions to Hillary Clinton, and also regularly obtained opposition research from the DNC to use in writing stories on Cruz and Trump. The MSM often operates as a wing of the Democrat Party. What are we to say of Thrall? He must know all of this. It's hardly secret.
3. Trump's behavior is neither new nor unusual. Going straight to the public without the MSM to explain to us "what it all means" (as "All Things Considered" pledges to us they'll do) is perfectly sensible and traditional. No one ever claimed FDR's "fireside chats" or Lincoln's speeches circumvented the free press. And given the anti-Trump bias and hysteria in the MSM, this is possibly the only way we'll be able to hear what Trump is actually saying. (I do remember the MSM lying about Romney while being completely unbiased regarding Barack Obama.) But if Trump's sidestepping of the media really is a problem, as Professor Thrall suggests, then how is this new? Hillary Clinton avoided press conferences for the entirety of her campaign. Obama similarly stiffs the fawning press and is known for having a non-transparent administration.
There's nothing thoughtful about Prof. Thrall's piece. It's either stupid or deeply dishonest. Being charitable, I say he's being stupid. Why he wrote this nonsense, I don't know. I could conjecture, but I can't test them so why bother. I do note, though, that many self-described" libertarians identify with the left and seem to think it's important to do so.
But everyone outside the left hates the media. Many of us know that "journalists" lie when it suits them, that they are biased and don't care that they are, that they work with government officials to suppress truth (go look at the FOIAed records of Eric Holder coordinating with Media Matters to "spin" their story regarding "Fast and Furious"). Those of us who pay attention know how reporters Sharyl Atkisson and James Rosen were bugged by the Obama administration, apparently because they actually tried doing serious journalism that Obama and Co. disliked. The MSM didn't give a hoot. But now Thrall now thinks it's crisis that Trump correctly calls the media a pack of dishonest hacks and treats them with disdain?
Thrall is an idiot, a useful idiot for the leftist intelligentsia, perhaps, but certainly an idiot. And that this nonsense passes Reason's tests for good analysis shows how far the modern "libertarian" intellectuals have fallen.
(Happily, most of the comments are nasty. There still seem to be plenty of libertarians capable of critical thinking.)