Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Process of Denial

We on the left often ask how conservatives could possible manage to lie to themselves so often, so easily, and so completely. They utterly ignore facts and logic to assert, over and over, that they are right and everyone else is wrong. It's baffling and maddening, and despite all the theories that help explain the phenomenon, it's still hard to recognize and counteract. However I ran across a few instance in the writings of our favorite example of conservative dysfunction, Megan McArdle.

Here's one example, coincidentally from an earlier post attacking Matt Taibbi, whom she insultingly calls one of the peanut gallery:
This brings me to a pet peeve that has been increasingly irritating me as the crisis wears on: people with little or no understanding of markets confidently opining on the causes of the crisis.

Here we can see the mechanics of the denial of reality at work. She assumes her knowledge of the financial system is better than that of anyone who is not a member of her elite group. From McArdle's latest Taibbi attack:

He seems to deliberately eschew understanding his subjects, because only corrupt, pointy-headed financial journalists who have been co-opted by the system do that. And Matt Taibbi is here to save you from those pointy headed elites.

The authoritarian McArdle, unsurprisingly, believes what the elites tell her. Because of her elite education she considers herself one of the elites, even though she was only worked in the financial system for a relatively brief time. But her heart most certainly is allied with them, and during the bank bailout she supported her heroes unstintingly. Another interesting thing here is that by most standards Taibbi (the son of a television reporter) is elite, infinitely more so than McArdle. But McArdle has drawn a line that lets in her friends and keeps everyone else out, the better to have enemies to attack. Emotionally still in high school, McArdle resents that Taibbi is considered cool and her own deep, edumacated elite thoughts turned out to be wrong. Back to McArdle's earlier Taibbi attack.
What is most infuriating is that the people who know the least are the most confident about their appraisals. Anyone with any sort of expertise in the field knows that no one understands this crisis very well.

Economists all over the ideological spectrum are rethinking the lessons we thought we had learned from the Great Depression and the Japanese experience. As it unfolds, we will no doubt be seriously rethinking our model of the relationship between the financial markets and the real economy.

Here is another of her excuses, another method she uses to convince herself that she is right and everyone else is wrong. It's the famous Whocouldaknown? excuse, as if actors don't exist in a situation. Things just happen, for structural reasons, and we better sit us down for a long, long spell and think about those structures. Ignore the newly ultra-rich and newly poor, they have nothing to do with it. It's an impersonal, theoretical level, not a level that makes you acknowledge that you are actually talking about real people.
The problem is, ignorant people who have somehow gotten hold of one or two precious facts, and brandish those facts like a mighty Sword of Truth, are superficially convincing. They are convincing because they misunderstand the situation in, well, the way that ignorant people misunderstand it. The stories they concoct are therefore very convincing to the ignorant, except those who have an ideological predisposition to doubt their story. Those ignorant people are busy listening to some other huckster peddling financial snake oil.

This passage also shows the ever-present comedy in McArdle's work. She has no idea how often she describes herself while talking about others. She projects her own actions on others constantly and I can't help but laugh at her cluelessness. It's one of the few amusing things about this whole disaster and in bad times we have to get our fun where we can find it. McArdle has very poor reading comprehension (how on earth did she manage to get an English degree?) and frequently leads her readers astray, who then proceed to merrily follow her down the path of misunderstanding and error.

Here is another example: McArdle picks at a WHO study that shows America might just not have the best healthcare in the world. She can't accept the study for personal reasons, which she disguises as professional reasons. Her libertarian beliefs against national health care are merely part of her longing to be special, to feel good about herself. Unfortunately she wants to do this by excluding others, to feel like she is one of a special elite. She was obviously developed this need in childhood and now is sentenced to seek constant reassurance for the rest of her life, or until she wakes up and realizes that she doesn't have to prove herself to anyone but herself.

Back to the WHO study--first, she says the study's old. Then she states the liberal solution won't work like magic (as if anyone thought it would) and indicators are cherry-picked. Next she pulls one of her favorite tricks, trying to blame the study for not concentrating on some other factor McArdle claims is more importnat the actual, damaging, study, thereby hopelessly confusing the reader with straw men.

These machinations lead her to the other source of funny in McArdle's output: her ability to tie herself into rhetorical knots while attempting to defend the indefensible. It's where the true McArdle essence shines.
But one would hope that the WHO rankings would reflect, to a first approximation, where you'd rather get sick. Does anyone really think that they'd rather be the average consumer of health care in Colombia, than in Columbus, Ohio?

But what about the worst off, you might say? What about them? The WHO table isn't even a good ranking of where I'd prefer to be poor. I'd far rather be an uninsured day laborer in San Francisco, than in the Dominican Republic. For that matter, I'd rather be uninsured anywhere in the United States than an average citizen in Costa Rica.

Stupid, callous and wrong. It's the inevitable consequence of stupid, callous and wrong values, and stupid, callous and wrong decisions based on those values. It's why we laugh at McArdle, and why we fight McArdle.


Dillon said...

"She has no idea how often she describes herself while talking about others. She projects her own actions on others constantly and I can't help but laugh at her cluelessness."

One of my favorites is from this post:

"This is a first class example of what I like to call "Supertwaddle": thoroughgoing nonsense wrapped up in just enough technical knowledge to be more thoroughly, amusingly wrong than the ordinary twaddle you buy at your local drugstore or neighborhood bar. Sadly, it often sounds very convincing to people who a) have no idea what any of the jargon means and b) badly wish to believe the twaddler."

Supertwaddle is as good a description of McArdle's schtick as I've heard, and it comes directly from the woman herself.

Susan of Texas said...

It's just amazing to see. If reality doesn't convince them, what will? Just personal experience?

clever pseudonym said...

You know what's a really fun game? Prop Matt Taibbi's resume and experience up against Megan's and compare. The contrast is laughable, moreso when you consider it is her taking him to task. It's like a rookie draftee telling a decorated, veteran sportsman that his game is all wrong.

Susan of Texas said...

It drives conservatives into a fury to see liberals treated as hip and cool. The whole situation is ridiculous, but Taibbi has the edge that hopelessly conservative McArdle can never achieve.

Downpuppy said...

Plus, she can't do math. Being a real economist is to practice in a branch of applied math that is hopelessly beyond her, so she's left to constantly fake it, to always talk about her analysis but never have anything to show.

The Taibbi piece touched all 3 legs of her stool: Pretension to an impossible standard, failure to meet even a basic standard, and a huge cloud of complex mangled language to cover her tracks.

Enlessly crying Look at ME! will finally get somebody serious to look in detail, & they will be left with only :Oh no she DINT!

clever pseudonym said...

"I'd rather be uninsured anywhere in the United States than an average citizen in Costa Rica."

Just for the fun of it, I did a Google search about the quality of life in Costa Rica, which Megan is certain is so bad, she'd rather be uninsured and mow lawns in San Francisco than live in that horrible place with all those brown people. This is the first link that came up.

I found that in four seconds.
That's how lazy and stupid Megan's rhetoric is.

Kathy said...

When conservatives see their reflection in the (metaphorical) mirrors that abound in our society, that cannot always be looked-away from, they see something truly ugly.

"That can't be MY reflection!" they scream, "it must be...the Other! The Other is ugly, stupid, malicious, venal, The Other is overflowing with supertwaddle (aka: bullshit) not ME!"

Reflection, Projection, Denial, whatever One calls it, in every column McAddled writes she is describing herself and her precious "elites" with amazing precision.

Susan of Texas said...

She sure does.