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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

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they're not exactly equally prevalent

Really? I mean, both are caricatures - I think you'd have to go a long way to find somebody who "reflexively and blindly" does anything all the time. My knee jerks when I hear about how great Obama is, and there are an ass-ton of people like me. A click on Kos (so I hear) will show you plenty of examples of the opposite.

I'm not sure what's so objectionable here.

It's because it's a caricature, Paul. The trouble is that Greenwald is saying that Obama's critics on the left (aside from him, I guess) just reflexively and blindly criticize everything he does because they hate him. This is an easy way to avoid addressing the specifics of their criticisms, and as John says, the intent seems to be to try to establish Greenwald's bona fides: he's not a dirty fucking hippie and communist who hates America. The trouble is, that never works: Greenwald still gets angry comments from people who see him as an America-hating, Israel-hating, dirty fucking hippie.

Look. Obama is lying on numerous points, not least among them the claim recycled from Bush that Iran has a nuclear program. Whether I love Obama or hate him, that's a lie. What I want from Obama, quixotically, is that he should stop lying. But that, apparently, marks me out as an Obama-hating extremist who thinks the God-king is Intrinsically Evil.

On the other hand, as John indicates, I do see right-wingers who can only criticize Obama by lying about him, and Obama fans who can only praise him by lying about him (he wants to end the war in Iraq!). What both sides have in common is that they clearly haven't paid attention to what Obama actually said.

Greenwald is saying that Obama's critics on the left (aside from him, I guess) just reflexively and blindly criticize everything

Did you read the piece? I didn't see anywhere where he said that.

Those who reflexively and blindly criticize whatever Obama does (based on the immovable, all-consuming conviction that he is intrinsically Evil) are nothing more than the opposite side of the same mindless coin as those who reflexively and blindly praise whatever Obama does (based on the immovable, all-consuming conviction that he is intrinsically Good).<

This seems like equal-opportunity offensiveness to me. Maybe there's a post on Daily Kos attacking Greenwald for caricaturing Obama supporters as people who "reflexively and blindly" praise what Obama does?

I didn't see anywhere where he said that.

"Those who reflexively and blindly criticize whatever Obama does...."

I mean, both are caricatures...

That's somewhat true in the second example, though those types of pro-Obama people actually do exist. But even so, this isn't Greenwald's usual presentation of this caricature; he typically pairs his straw man leftists with right wingers who actually exist, as in the first example, or with less exaggerated descriptions of Obama fans.

So John, are you saying that there are lterally no people on the left that reflexively criticise Obama, or just that they're so marginal and few in number that to pair them with reflexive Obama supporters is unreasonable?

I wouldn't be surprised if there are some somewhere, though I haven't come across any—everyone I've read or heard had reasons for criticizing Obama, and good ones at that.

But you're seriously underselling Greenwald's straw man. He's describing unicorn leftists who "reflexively and blindly criticize" Obama because they think he's a "bloodthirsty and war-craving" "intrinsically Evil" emperor...oh, and they only do it because they "predicted long ago that he would be the same as Bush and want that prediction to be vindicated". If those people exist, they're walking the streets of New York City with a sandwich board screaming that the end is near.

And as for pairing them, as I said, he usually pairs his straw man leftists with right wingers, not Obama fans, as in the first example...and nonetheless, those Obama fans actually do exist, as opposed to their spittle-flecked, raving leftist counterparts.

You haven't come across any? That's exceedingly difficult to believe, but the Internet is a big place, I suppose.

Anyway, that helps me understand your objection. It's a little unfair to call someone's argument a "straw man," though, if you're just coming from your own experience and nothing else. It might be fairer to ask "where are these critics Greenwald refers to?" It properly puts the onus on Greenwald to produce them, rather than assuming he's pulling them out of his ass.

By the way, Duncan, totally agreed. Particularly this: "The trouble is, that never works. Greenwald still gets angry comments from people who see him as an America-hating, Israel-hating, dirty fucking hippie."

Exactly. That's why he's tossing the straw so often now. And that's also why this tactic on the part of his liberal critics works...because the need to constantly reaffirm his distance from the dirty fucking hippies keeps Greenwald from drifting any farther in that direction, as he has been for some time now (just as the ludicrous cries of "socialism" are meant to keep Obama from going beyond even the tepid steps he's taken so far).

It's a little unfair to call someone's argument a "straw man," though, if you're just coming from your own experience and nothing else.

The notion Greenwald is advancing is inherently unprovable in either direction, but I think it's more than absurd enough on its face to merit the phrase.

You've also been implying that a single example to the contrary would disprove the notion that it's a straw man, though, and that's not the case. I can show you literally thousands of reasoned left critiques of Obama, but I doubt we're going to find anywhere near that number of examples of leftists "reflexively and blindly" criticizing Obama because they think he's a "bloodthirsty and war-craving" "intrinsically Evil" "two-headed demon goat from the depths of Sheol", etc. Yet Greenwald acts as if these straw folk are the rule rather than the (vanishingly tiny and potentially nonexistent) exception. And as Duncan says, this is just is an easy way to avoid addressing the specifics of their criticisms.

Then you're arguing "that they're so marginal and few in number that to pair them with reflexive Obama supporters is unreasonable," as I asked before.

I haven't yet seen Greenwald dismiss a substantive Obama critique as "reflexive." I wouldn't read him if he did. Now, I can't say what Greenwald was thinking when he wrote what he wrote... but my own guess is that he was addressing people like some of the mindless critics in his comments, who simply take a faux-radical line in saying Obama is always wrong because he's a member of one branch of the War Party, and stop there. Those voices are not "marginal or few" in his comments section.

I think you're projecting things onto his statement that weren't there. But, we're both guessing/mind-reading to some extent. I'm just putting the remark in the context in which I understood it.

I didn't object too much to Greenwald's phrasing this time, though I agree with you about what he's doing and why he's doing it and of course it is the standard technique lefties use to make themselves look respectable, compared to, you know, all those Really Crazed Characters To My Left.

The reason I cut him a bit more slack when this sort of thing usually drives me nuts coming from other people is that, IMO, Greenwald has moved significantly leftward and is often almost Chomsky-like in his posts. He even references Chris Floyd and IOZ on occasion (I think he linked to IOZ in that column). So if he wants to distinguish himself from unnamed crazy people who are blindly opposed to Obama, I won't get too mad unless he starts naming names and he names people who clearly don't deserve the label he puts on them.

Paul: Then you're arguing "that they're so marginal and few in number that to pair them with reflexive Obama supporters is unreasonable," as I asked before.

Yes, somewhat. I'm not focusing on the pairing with reflexive Obama supporters, though (in fact I keep saying that that's not Greenwald's usual M.O.), just his straw man version of left critics.

Maybe this will help clarify what I'm getting at: in praising Obama's message to Iran, the only left critics Greenwald mentions are those who'll be "mocking it as an empty gesture from America's bloodthirsty and war-craving emperor"—ignoring the possibility of a reasoned left critique of Obama's message. As I said, he's basically defining his position as the correct response of a "rational citizen" (his words).

But, we're both guessing/mind-reading to some extent. I'm just putting the remark in the context in which I understood it.

Fair enough, and it's certainly open to interpretation. Based on previous comments of his like this that I've seen, I don't think he's targeting this at a small or marginal group, but rather deploying it blanket-style at those who exceed his own criticisms of U.S. behavior. Maybe he really does just mean a few cranks in his comment section, though (I can't say since I rarely read his comments).

Also, to be clear, I think he writes some tremendously useful and worthwhile stuff. But this is one of the reasons I don't make a point of seeking him out. Still, he gets referenced in enough places that I end up reading a good bit of it anyway.

Donald: Good points. I think that the constant need to reaffirm his non-craziness may prevent him from continuing that positive leftward drift, though, and that's only going to get worse with Obama as president. We'll see.

in praising Obama's message to Iran, the only left critics Greenwald mentions are those who'll be "mocking it as an empty gesture from America's bloodthirsty and war-craving emperor"—ignoring the possibility of a reasoned left critique of Obama's message.

He said "there will be no shortage" of people who go to an extreme. There's nowhere that he writes that there can be three and only three positions: praising, demonizing, and Glenn. That's an interpretation that you created.

Likewise, for him to write that people should not "reflexively" criticize or praise Obama is not the same thing as him saying any criticism other than Glenn's is merely "reflexive." That's - again - a conclusion you drew.

Isn't that the very definition of a "straw man?" To present someone's argument as being something other than what they wrote, and to then attack your own creation?

There's nowhere that he writes that there can be three and only three positions: praising, demonizing, and Glenn. That's an interpretation that you created.

No, I said those are "the only left critics Greenwald mentions" and that he "ignored the possibility" of the reasoned critics, both of which are true statements.

Isn't that the very definition of a "straw man?" To present someone's argument as being something other than what they wrote, and to then attack your own creation?

Yes, as you just did with my argument. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume it's unintentional, but you keep putting an absolute spin on my statements that isn't there.

Look, we've been having a civil disagreement up until now, and I'm sorry to see you going the route of implying that I'm a hypocrite (as you implied earlier that I'm being dishonest when you said you find it "exceedingly difficult to believe" what I told you). I don't think that's necessary and I'd appreciate it if you'd stop, but it's up to you.

OK, that's a fair cop. I took your statements and drew my own conclusion of what you "really" meant, which is exactly what I called you to task for doing. I don't think you're being hypocritical or dishonest, but I think you jumped to conclusions.

However, as I just showed, that's easy to do.

oh lord, the struggles Glenn Greenwald has with reality... forever finding it difficult to remove his DonkeyVision (TM) blinders, forever failing to see that capitalism is its own problem no matter who implements it.

"but he's got two books published!" say the Donklebots!

"but he's a columnist at Salon!" say the stylish effetes!

"but he's a lawyer!" say the fans of LA Law and Boston Legal!

let's remember that Ann Coulter has many books published, is a columnist at many places, and is a lawyer.

and most people who have a functioning noggin, especially those whose function is dulled by pro-Donkey partisanship, will agree that being published, being a columnist, and being a lawyer hasn't done anything to improve the value of Ann Coulter's lying spin.

Greenwald does a fine job of telling people what they want to hear. I just wonder how it is that being a sycophant now is a valid replacement for telling the truth.

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