Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Monday, September 13, 2010

Self-Destruction

We all lie at times, to save our own feeling or those of other people, to make our lives a little easier, or even to evade repercussions for small lapses of judgement or character. But some of us lie so we can be something we're not--smarter, kinder, better. When you tell the truth, to yourself and others, you are forced to face your faults and overcome them. So when denial is too strong, some people lie.

They lie about big things and little things. They lie to indulge their weaknesses, such as pride or vanity. In the most extreme situations these liars are trying to avoid pain or confusion that would overwhelm them and so they lie to protect themselves.

But others lie for money. They lie out of greed, and to advance their career. They lie for small professional triumphs over other people that will advance their standing, a permanent game of one-upmanship which they will always win because all they have to do is lie. To fight them we need to keep telling the truth to the best of our ability and refuse to accept the lies that are designed to harm us.

From a Bloggingheads video, May 12, 2008:

Megan McArdle: First of all, I hesitate to get around and start grotting around in markets unless I'm really really sure what I'm doing. I don't really see a way to fix this problem with some kind of government intervention. And second part problem is I'm leery how paternalistic it is for me to say, like, look, I'm obsessed with, you know, having a healthy green-filled diet and you must share that obsession and if you don't choose to share that obsession, if you choose fast food, I'm going to take it away from you because I know what's best.

Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved: How do you feel about a tobacco tax?

McArdle: I'm against it for the same reason. People know that smoking is a cancer and if they choose to smoke anyway it's not my job to tell them not to do that.

Patel: Okay. Despite the fact that tobacco is addictive--or nicotine is.

McArdle: Well, yeah, I smoked and, like, quitting wasn't that-I mean, like, I smoked a lot, like a pack and a half a day for eight years, and quitting wasn't pleasant but it also wasn't impossible. You know, it's not something that you can't choose to do.

Patel: Oh sure, I went through similar pain and I had a hell of a time quitting, and in fact there are days when I still am dying for a cigarette even though I haven't had one in years. I'm sympathetic about it.

McArdle: I actually think that tobacco is kind of different than food in that going cold turkey is a lot easier than (unintelligible).

Patel: [laughs] I think so but the reason I raise the example of tobacco is because of a finding that just came out of (unintellligible) Medicine that draws on some of what you're saying--and by the way I agree with a great deal of what you're saying but there is a public health issue here. [re: obesity] Particularly in the United States. You're right in that you're not seeing people whose bellies are distended from hunger in the United States but you are seeing people whose bellies are distended, and that's because of over-nutrition and over-consumption and it's already started to catch up with us.



Megan McArdle smoking at the beach, May 29, 2009.




They have no idea how tired we all are of lies. We've begged them to stop but they're making too much money. They'll keep lying even when their lies become common knowledge. They'll keep lying until it destroys them. It's almost painful to watch.

Almost.

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

if she claimed to have stopped smoking in 2008, and then was seen smoking more than a year later, how is that lying? Isn't it possible that she had stopped smoking in 2008, but then relapsed?

I don't get it.

Susan of Texas said...

Sure. And that would mean that she greatly downplayed the difficulty she had quitting smoking. She called quitting a choice one makes, which also downplays the difficulty.

To prevent government regulation of food and tobacco she says that smoking and overeating are personal life choices that the government shouldn't try to control. She said it was relatively easy to quite smoking so the government shouldn't interfere. Obviously it wasn't relatively easy, because one year later she's smoking. (And it's much harder to not smoke right after you quit than it is later.)

None of this jibes with her purported obsession with healthy eating, by the way. Which is another way in which she lied to herself.

Clever Pseudonym said...

Let's not forget about the time she smugly went vegan for a few months, reminding us all of her superior vegan-ness in every third post*, only to claim after a short period that her doctor had ordered her off the diet because it was bad for her thyroid or some lame excuse like that. I'm pretty sure she was lying about that, too. It's probably more like she found it too difficult to maintain, but had been so self-righteous about it, she had to pretend health reasons were why she had to quit.

*I can vaguely recall someone asking her to knock it off with the constant posts about being vegan and her response to the person was something like "just because my superior lifestyle choices make you feel bad about yourself doesn't mean I should stop reminding you of my superiority." That one actually shocked me. She literally believes that people get inferiority complexes reading her blog because she is just so many kinds of awesome, they can barely stand themselves in comparison.

Susan of Texas said...

Yes, I remember her commenters explaining to her that she could still be vegan without soy, but she wasn't persuaded.

KWillow said...

There's a lot of evidence that Megan believes she is Special and Superior, that she is brilliant and far more intuitive/perceptive than most human beings; therefore, even Nobel Prize winners such as Krugman haven't the right to criticize Her, let alone Ordinary (unpaid!) Bloggers or Lowly commenters.

Being brilliant means that everything she writes –even though it is a lie she was ordered to write by her employers– must be accurate and true. Her labored and convoluted rationalizations supporting Free Market-conservative notions are just as valid and authoritative as other's writings based on real knowledge, research, and brainpower.

She appears to carry her overinflated sense of self-worth into all aspects of her life. Everything she does and says is evidence of her superiority; and when it actually isn't, she lies.

Anonymous said...

Megan has to assert that she, and everyone else, can simply choose to be rich, or choose to be a non smoker, or choose not to be fat, or choose not to have asthma. Because if they can't simply choose their path then the whole "I am who I am because I'm virtuous/you are who you are because you are morally weak" is shown to be false. Despite everything we know about addiction Megan *has* to insist that it doesn't exist and that she, personally, is not addicted. Just as she will have to insist (as Susan linked in the post below) that old people choose to get ill because of activities they freely engage in, like being exposed to environmental carcinogens, or living on earth after early cell division ceases to be a good thing. Because they freely choose to get old, and to have their house assets skyrocket (although not, apprently, to end up homeless and penniless) they don't "deserve" medicare and social security.

For Megan there are not social structures or economic oppressions or addictive behaviors --its all always free choice.

aimai

Lurking Canadian said...

That is the thing about her that I find strangest. She and I come from not dissimilar family backgrounds: aspirant upper-middle/lower-upper class families. My mother actually comes from Money, although it was mostly squandered or swindled before my grandmother reached adulthood and totally gone before I was born.

But despite the similarity in our backgrounds, I was taught that you NEVER brag the way Megan brags. You never talk about your own wealth, you never talk about your own salary, or your own success, or how big your house is, or your own wisdom, or... I just don't understand how anybody can devote so much time to praising herself, in public, for money. It is literally astounding to me.

Susan of Texas said...

I was taught that too and we were nowhere near upper class. You don't discuss how much money the family has or does not have, you don't complain if others have more, and you don't brag if others have less.

But McArdls sees everything through her own experience. It might actually make her sound worse than she is?

Smut Clyde said...

smoking and overeating are personal life choices that the government shouldn't try to control.

Also heroin. Easier to give up than smoking, too. Or so I hear from a friend.

RodeoBob said...

Totally off-topic:
How do you feel about a tobacco tax?

McArdle: I'm against it for the same reason. People know that smoking is a cancer and if they choose to smoke anyway it's not my job to tell them not to do that.


Wait, what?

In McMegan's mind, "tax" = "telling them not to smoke"?
If smokers have higher health costs, (which they do) are less likely to have private insurance coverage (which they are) and more likely to use public health services (which they do), how is a government tobacco tax different from the "invisible hand of the market" causing insurance companies to charge smokers higher rates than non-smokers?

I know, I know, standard Glibretarian programming: "How do you feel about X tax?" "I'm opposed to it!"

Clever Pseudonym said...

Further to the point made by Susan and Lurking Canadian - that's exactly why Megan's such a contradiction. She's constantly trying to put on airs about being classy, intelligent, educated, etc. But bragging about these things completely invalidates every one of them. It's, as my snobbish step-mother used to say, gauche. It kind of reminds me of a quote by Stephen Hawking after someone asked him what his IQ was. He answered something along the lines of "I have no idea. People who brag about their IQs are losers."

Daniel Harper said...

Just curious, Susan, where the photo came from. Doesn't seem like something she'd voluntarily post.

Excellent analysis in the OP and in the comments, guys. I have nothing intelligent to add.

Syz said...

Megan knows that second hand smoke is a negative externality. She also knows that unless negative externalities are priced (ie. taxed), people will generate too much of them.

But Megan likes to smoke. And she hates paying taxes. Therefore, cigarette taxes are evil.

That really is Megan's entire thought process. Megan like/Megan not like. Flower pretty/fire bad. She reasons like a petulant child, and I think we make too much of her when we expect more than that.

Susan of Texas said...

Peter Suderman's flicker page. I ran across it while looking for something totally different.

Substance McGravitas said...

Ha! Burn.

Megan's inability to understand how humans work is demonstrated with herself as the example.

Spy Hill said...

I thought Susan was being mean by using the most unflattering picture of Megan she could find.

The link to Suderman's Flickr thread proves me wrong.

Damn, that woman has frumpy down to a science.

Daniel Harper said...

Damn, that woman has frumpy down to a science.

That's unfair. Megan's hanging out with friends making dinner and having a cigarette. I generally look pretty "frumpy" in those circumstances, too.

There are plenty of reasons to dislike Megan. Using specious arguments based on her looks isn't only at least vaguely sexist and entirely beside the point, but it makes us look like dicks.

Let's focus on what matters: the weakness of Megan's arguments and evidence.

Susan of Texas said...

The only reason I put up that picture was to support my claim. I do not want to mock her looks or be too personal. I would have ignored the lie about smoking, which I've heard before as gossip, if I had not found the bloggingheads video using her lie to further her agenda.

McArdle is just one of hundreds of think tank and media propagandists. It's not that she's so awful--it's not about her. It's that she and her fellow wannabes think it's acceptable to take money and pretend to be honest journalists because they think the rules don't apply to them.

Spy Hill said...

I wasn't saying McArdle is ugly, I'm saying she is a slob.

Which has nothing to do with anything I suppose, unless you are in the habit of writing sob stories about how humiliating it is to be broke and have no choice but to wear shabby old clothes.

If that makes me a sexist dick, so be it. McArdle brings out the worst in me.

Anonymous said...

And it wasn't a casual smoke either: the picture is titled 'puff puff, talk, talk' and just look at that ashtray.

There is also an earlier photo in the same set that is a closeup, obviously taken on a different day with Megan and her smoldering cigarette.

This is not a woman who quit smoking cold turkey in 2008.

This is a woman who fantasizes about how easy it is to quit cold turkey - I guess she imagines herself to be Francisco D'Antonia showing Jim Taggart how ridiculously easy it is to drive a boat or 'shoot marbles across the hall with unerring accuracy' - while making small talk about how he 'made a mistake'.

In Megan's mind, Megan doesn't make mistakes. Ever.

She clearly lives in Galt's Gulch - in her real life.

Shit, I can quote from Atlas Shrugged practically in my sleep and I consider myself extremely lucky I didn't turnout to be a soulless shithead like she seems to be.

Anonymous said...

.. I meant D'Anconia, not D'Antonia...

Susan of Texas said...

Spy Hill, I worry about being unfair and just cruel--I don't want to do that.

Okay, I do want to do just a little of that, but not too much.

The more I think about her lie the stranger it seems. Like anon says, it's a fantasy that McArdle seems to be living, where she is always right and better than everyone else. I have joked that libertarianism is the last refuge of the incompetent, and it seems to be filled with people who think they're Ezra Klein when they're really Jonah Goldberg. They grew up around smart or at least successful people and assume they are the same even if they're kind of stupid and lazy and greedy.

Anonymous said...

Bourdieu, the french sociologist, wrote a book "Distinction" exploring the ways in which class status is passed from parent to child in a variety of cultural ways. Its a fantastic book. One of the points that he makes is that a certain ambient and tacit knowledge of things is as much, or more, part of class status than, say, education. The elites get a good education--they go to Harvard or the top French schools or wherever--but ever since the lower classes have been able to jump up through meritocracy or scholarship the characteristics of an elite cultural being have shifted from learning stuff anyone can learn to simply "knowing" stuff in a way that can be displayed, or not conspiciously not displayed, in a socially competitive way.

Bourdieu draws attention to the ways in which too much book learning/artificial knowledge of a topic, like, say, the Opera or Classical Music marks out the "nouveau riche" or the "poseur" from another class, while a casual familiarity with such things is the attribute of the upper class. They don't have to rmember the details of any given musical piece. They have to have absorbed it almost unconciously.

Megan's whole shtick is a combinaton of these things. She is upper class, in a way--at least in terms of money and associations and educational connections. But she can't decide whether she must display her elitism by claiming esoteric knowledge, or by displaying conspicous contempt for detailed academic knowledge. We've talked about that before: sometimes she tells her readers flat out that she knows more than they do because she's a member of the elite. Sometimes she casts doubt on other members of the elite because, as an insider (she tells us) she slept through her classes and still got A's.

From a sociological standpoint, a Bourdieu'ean standpoint, I see Megan as someone who is very much between class statuses. Not in a Marxist sense but a specifically Bourdieu'ean and American sense. Her family are jumped up middle class arrivistes who were able to pay for her to associate with much richer and more secure elites. She absorbed their contempt for mere hard work/knowledge and also their facile familiarity with certain upper class tropes and gestures. And that's what she markets to her readership.

But its all fake. She's not really part of the elite. If she were, she wouldn't have to work for a living. Or, she'd have a real job which required real knowledge. And therein lies some of her status anxiety and the overblown rhetoric and writing and the outright lies that she must tell to support her fantasy version of herself.

aimai

Anonymous said...

Bourdieu, the french sociologist, wrote a book "Distinction" exploring the ways in which class status is passed from parent to child in a variety of cultural ways. Its a fantastic book. One of the points that he makes is that a certain ambient and tacit knowledge of things is as much, or more, part of class status than, say, education. The elites get a good education--they go to Harvard or the top French schools or wherever--but ever since the lower classes have been able to jump up through meritocracy or scholarship the characteristics of an elite cultural being have shifted from learning stuff anyone can learn to simply "knowing" stuff in a way that can be displayed, or not conspiciously not displayed, in a socially competitive way.

Bourdieu draws attention to the ways in which too much book learning/artificial knowledge of a topic, like, say, the Opera or Classical Music marks out the "nouveau riche" or the "poseur" from another class, while a casual familiarity with such things is the attribute of the upper class. They don't have to rmember the details of any given musical piece. They have to have absorbed it almost unconciously.

Anonymous said...

Megan's whole shtick is a combinaton of these things. She is upper class, in a way--at least in terms of money and associations and educational connections. But she can't decide whether she must display her elitism by claiming esoteric knowledge, or by displaying conspicous contempt for detailed academic knowledge. We've talked about that before: sometimes she tells her readers flat out that she knows more than they do because she's a member of the elite. Sometimes she casts doubt on other members of the elite because, as an insider (she tells us) she slept through her classes and still got A's.

From a sociological standpoint, a Bourdieu'ean standpoint, I see Megan as someone who is very much between class statuses. Not in a Marxist sense but a specifically Bourdieu'ean and American sense. Her family are jumped up middle class arrivistes who were able to pay for her to associate with much richer and more secure elites. She absorbed their contempt for mere hard work/knowledge and also their facile familiarity with certain upper class tropes and gestures. And that's what she markets to her readership.

But its all fake. She's not really part of the elite. If she were, she wouldn't have to work for a living. Or, she'd have a real job which required real knowledge. And therein lies some of her status anxiety and the overblown rhetoric and writing and the outright lies that she must tell to support her fantasy version of herself.

aimai

Anonymous said...

Oh for *&^% I swear the thing tells me it won't publish unless I cut my long winded screeds. I cut it and then it goes ahead and publishes multiple times. I apologize to everyone. Also, for not being able to get my google account to recognize me.

aimai

Anonymous said...

Great beach party in those flickr shots, btw. Everyone's there -- Dave Wiegel, Ezra Klein. How can you publicly call out someone whose pool you swam in?

Susan of Texas said...

It occurs to me that eliminating the middle class is one way to make sure the upper classes' view of themselves as superior is never challenged.

Aimai, don't worry about double posts; I'll just erase anything that needs to be erased.

I was amazed that Klein said Suderman's post about health insurance reform was full of lies. Some people can agree to disagree but I have the feeling the McSudermans are not those people.

Anonymous said...

It's funny because she seems to be a cartoon character version of what Nietzche despises in Beyond Good and Evil.
Oddly, this also reminds me of hipsters.

Susan of Texas said...

Oh, that reminds me.

Anonymous said...

*head desk* Dammit, Suderman is about my age.
Most people I knew growing up grew out of writing pretentious crap like that late in high school. Why? They got called out on it by good teachers. Lots of bloviating without generating any meaning is pointless.
Precisely why we hate Megan's writing anyway.

Excerpt from Beyond Good and Evil:

"People have always to be born to a high station, or, more definitely, they have to be BRED
for it: a person has only a right to philosophy--taking the word in its higher significance--in virtue of his descent; the ancestors, the "blood," decide here also. Many generations must have prepared the way for the coming of the philosopher; each of his virtues must have been separately acquired, nurtured, transmitted, and embodied; not only the
bold, easy, delicate course and current of his thoughts, but above all the readiness for great responsibilities, the majesty of ruling glance and contemning look, the feeling of separation from the multitude with their duties and virtues, the kindly patronage and defense of whatever is misunderstood and calumniated, be it God or devil, the delight and practice of supreme justice, the art of commanding, the amplitude of will, the lingering eye which rarely admires, rarely looks up, rarely loves...."

Anonymous said...

It occurs to me that eliminating the middle class is one way to make sure the upper classes' view of themselves as superior is never challenged.

Well, if you're an idiot aristocrat who hasn't studied history then yeah, it might be one way.

But when you study history you realize that eliminating the middle class is a guarantee of an eventual challenge to your superiority. And not in the touchy-feely "oh my goodness - am I really better than everyone, or was I just lucky" sort of challenge to your superiority. But rather a challenge where the lower class decides that their options are suffering or storming the palace gates and chopping off some heads.

With a historical perspective, spending some money on a good therapist to deal with your inferiority complex might be a better approach...

Susan of Texas said...

I have learned that just because the aristocracy took history at Harvard doesn't mean they learned anything, or that they would that any rules or consequences applied to them. One of the more entertaining aspects of following McArdle's career is watching her get bit in the ass by policies she advocated.

Susan of Texas said...

"or that they would think any rules applied to them"

Anonymous said...

Anyone catch that appeal to authority earlier?

i.e. I WAS TAUGHT BY THE BRILLIANT AUSTAN GOOLSBEE IN CHICAGO!

who obviously didn't turn her conceptions of the world upside-down enough, given that she said he constantly made her rethink things.

Downpuppy said...

Maybe the simplest explanation : A tobacco tax would affect Mememememememegan, and thus is evil.

So she babbled some shit & lied about quitting.

Susan of Texas said...

I thought something she said later in the vlog was strange--she said that it was unfair to make poor people pay more for cigarettes because they'll still buy cigarettes. (maybe she just implied it; I can't remember). Patel told her that studies show people did quit when prices go up. Whenever she came up with a new excuse Patel used facts to refute her. McArdle did not do well against him at all.

Your reason would explain that. She doesn't care what studies say; she doesn't want to pay more.

brad said...

Heh, I actually did quit cold turkey, 3 and a half+ years ago. And I did it the way Megan pretended to; I made a decision and stuck by it. I was even spared any permanent weight gain, probably because of my genes. I miss the help when writing, but I'll trade it for an extended lifespan. Brains can rewire.
But I had a friend who would have nervous breakdowns when she tried to quit, even with a patch and gum and etc. And I have plenty of friends who try to quit but can't handle withdrawal and/or the loss of the cognitive benefits and/or the stress relief and/or the weight gain from quitting and/or the absence of little breaks in their workday.
Megan is a person who decided she couldn't handle mornings without Ambien, and by her own admission browbeat her doctor into prescribing a habit forming somewhat narcotic, I believe, drug, and who fooled herself about the long term negative effects of her pills by noting they didn't show up in the first week of usage. There are times I'd suspect she was on coke if she didn't strike me as the type who lacks the... stones to do anything so hardcore. (not an endorsement of coke)
My point is that for all her talk about individual choices and false bravado about it being up to us (her), if you took away any one plank of her personalized chemical cocktail, which almost certainly includes megadoses of caffeine and some form of sugar and, knowing Megan, Slim Jims or some other form of hyperprocessed animal fat on the sly, she'd collapse like a house of cards.
And she knows it, which is why she lies about it.

Morbo said...

My uncle had everyone convinced for years, probably decades, that he was a non-smoker. He'd even lord that over my dad who smoked since his teens (and quit this year). Of course by now all the kids (i.e. me and my cousins) know he smokes all the time but simply borrows from friends and family, especially subsequent wives. Since he doesn't actually buy the cigarettes though he's not an actual smoker, right?

I'll bet this is the exact logic on display here. Megan's not smoking, she's just bumming off of Peter.

Anonymous said...

Well, not that she'd care about the science behind nicotine addiction, but it appears to have a large genetic component in that some people will never get addicted, some never smoke enough to get addicted, and others get impossibly addicted.

Another analogy.
She's Salieri from the movie Amadeus. She knows she's not a genius, so she'll attack people who are, while secretly longing to be as smart as them. So she'll plod along as a court composer to the King and privately rage that she doesn't have such inborn gifts.

Susan of Texas said...

So let's see--she has a thyroid disease, which she says causes fatigue. Her thyroid replacement medication can cause insomnia. She has said she also takes diphenhydramine for vertigo, which she says disrupts deep sleep. She also has restless leg syndrome, which can be an indication of fatigue but evidently isn't commenly medicated. So she takes Ambien occassionally as well. And uses an asthma inhaler. Plus nicotine and alcohol and caffeine.

Is she against national health care becasue she wants all the doctors for herself?

Downpuppy said...

I suggested in her comments that she was afraid that any kind of organized system would flag her as a pillseeker.

Anonymous said...

Today's posts brought to you by a random sideswiping of tenured professors, false equivalencies, and random assertions.