Posted by Curt on 14 May, 2016 at 3:00 pm. Be the first to comment!


Timothy P. Carney:

Is the American Right so wrong that the elites should use their power to exclude it from debate?

The Obama White House and Facebook both seem to think so, if recent stories are accurate.

Obama’s foreign policy team spun false stories about Iran to rally support for a nuclear deal and circumvent a debate on honest terms, according to a recent New York Times Magazine piece. The reason? Top Obama officials believed that “rational discourse” with its foreign-policy critics was impossible.

Facebook employees, meanwhile, “routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential ‘trending’ news section,” a former Facebooker told Gizmodo, a tech website.

Obama folk and Facebook folk contest these charges. But both are very believable, because they reflect a trend on the Left that has taken hold in the Obama era: the dismissal of the Right and the Center-Right as fundamentally bad-faith actors. Armed with the conviction that the other guys are fools, knaves, or both, it’s reasonable to suppress their arguments, or to create an “echo chamber” that excludes their views.

“Eliminationist” might be a good word for this censorious attitude. Most liberals and progressives aren’t eliminationists, they favor debate and still believe in the competition of ideas. But in all corners of the Modern Left, you can find the imperious types who are simply done arguing, or, as the President says, “We know what works. We know what we have to do. We’ve just got to put aside the stale and outmoded debates.”

Colleges across the country have begun to roll out speech codes, and to disinvite speakers whose views are foreign to the liberal majority of the student body and the faculty. (President Obama, to his credit, warned colleges against this latter pernicious trend.) The colleges’ argument: Unpleasant views are inherently discriminatory or bigoted, and they might trigger sensitive students.

Conservative lawyers worry that the American Bar Association is taking steps to make conservative views professionally unacceptable.

This eliminationist tendency has been visible for years, including in the works of the Left’s leading lights. If you have read liberal New York Times blogger Paul Krugman with any regularity, you’re familiar with the argument: The Right is fundamentally insane or dishonest or both, and thus its arguments are unworthy of decent treatment or serious consideration.

In an article he titled “The Mendacity of Dopes,” Krugman justified treating disagreeing economists as “mendacious idiots.” The Nobel Prize winner explained: “economic policy matters. It matters for real people who suffer real consequences when we get it wrong.” Too much is stake for us to risk decent, open debate.

Krugman has been consistent here. The “cult of balance” he wrote of — the media’s tendency to consider both parties’ arguments — “has played an important role in bringing us to the edge of disaster.”

Stop treating Republican arguments as legitimate is a shrewd strategy that bears fruit for the Left.

Obama, for instance, spent the 2009 and 2010 health-care debate scolding all critics as liars or shills for industry. This demonology, together with the administration’s worries about “the stupidity of the American voter,” pushed Obamacare authors to rely on “the lack of transparency,” in their own words. They felt compelled to sell the bill with lies, such as “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

The Iran deal was the same story. Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor, told the NY Times Magazine that a “sober, reasoned public debate,” had become “impossible,” or at least a debate that would produce the desired result. And so “In the absence of rational discourse, we are going to discourse the [expletive] out of this,”

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