Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Monday, August 24, 2009

On Being Wrong

It is very inconvenient when the person whose work you are critiquing doesn't manage to haul her butt to the computer before 11 am. I like to get my writing done by ten so I can do my real work, but it's impossible with McArdle's poor work ethic.

Let's start with something Glenn Greenwald said recently. It's very difficult to understand why the reporters and pundits who have been wrong about almost everything insist that they should be taken seriously and that their advice is valid. They will admit they were wrong, will admit that they failed, but insist that everyone should still listen to them (get more things wrong). Glenn Greenwald reports:
According to[Jeremy] Scahill (via email), [Chuck]Todd approached him after the [Bill]Maher show and the following occurred:

Right as we walked off stage, he said to me "that was a cheap shot." I said "what are you talking about?" and he said "you know it." I then said that I monitor msm coverage very closely and asked him what was not true that I said on the show. He then replied: "that's not the point. You sullied my reputation on TV."

Media stars are so unaccustomed to being held accountable for the impact of their behavior -- especially when they're on television -- that they consider it a grievous assault on their entitlement when it happens.

They admit they were wrong, that their thought processes are flawed, their information was bad, they trusted the wrong people, and their conclusions were wrong, but you must still listen to them--why? Just because. Because they say so, because they demand it. Because they want it. There's no other reason for their behavior than their sense of entitlement. Any criticism interferes with that lovely feeling of specialness that they believe they were born or imbued with, and since that entitlement is all they have, it drives them into a fury to be told that they don't deserve what they have. Megan McArdle, after being wrong on almost everything that ever wafted through her Swiss cheese skull, pouted that someone actually held her to account for her support of Bush during his illegal invasion of Iraq and trashing of the country, and ours:
You, and most of the other people on these boards, seem to be conducting an argument with some monstrous amalgam of every war supporter you ever tangled with, not with me. I understand your rage. But the fact that you were provoked does not give you a right to provoke me. At least I am confining my comments to the people who are actually behaving like . . . well, you know . . . not unleashing it on every person who opposed the war.

I will not now, nor ever, "admit" that having supported the war makes me an immoral moron, and frankly I'm astonished that the war opponents think that there is any possibility that they will wring such a concession from anyone. Do you behave when you are wrong in the way that you are demanding I do? Would you apologize to a girlfriend who has said the sort of things to you that the commenters on other threads have said to me?

What's even more astonishing is that the people who opposed the war wonder why they have been shut out of the discussion. This is why. Many of the people complaining seem to think that a discussion consists of screaming invective.

McArdle knows she doesn't have a leg to stand on here. She wasn't smart enough to listen to dissenting voices and in her arrogance assumed that whatever she thought would be correct. She can't tell liberals to go away and stop criticizing her because they were right and she was wrong. But she'll never admit she doesn't know what she is doing, so she goes on the attack. Yeah, the left was right but they were mean, so nobody has to listen to them and McArdle can continue to be wrong without interruption. It's just about the most feeble excuse for ignoring reality that one can imagine, but that's Our Megan.

McArdle is grossly wrong on health care as well, of course. National health care or some variation of it is successful in many countries, but McArdle's reasoning is based on emotion, not facts. If we go back far enough we can see the real reason McArdle is against national health care: She doesn't want to help anyone else. It is truly that simple.

Assuming, arguendo, that we believe in making social-justice-enhancing forced transfers, I'm not sure that this particular transfer meets the needs of social justice. One might argue that the transfer should flow to those whose need is greater, but as a class, the old and sick are wealthier than the young and healthy. They have more assets, many have a guaranteed income, and few have children to support. Moreover, a need-based transfer would argue for some sort of means-tested programme, not an indiscriminate giveaway to anyone who happens to be sick.

Moreover, as a class, the old and sick have some culpability in their ill health. They didn't eat right or excercise; they smoked; they didn't go to the doctor as often as they ought; they drank to much, or took drugs, or sped, or engaged in dangerous sports. Again, in individual cases this will not be true; but as a class, the old and sick bear some of the responsibility for their own ill health, while younger, healthier people have almost no causal role in the ill-health of others.

Perhaps they deserve it by virtue of suffering? But again, most of them are suffering because they have gotten old, often in high style. The young of today have two possible outcomes:

1) They will be old and sick too, in which case they are no less deserving of our concern than today's old and sick

2) They won't ever get to be old and sick, which is even worse than being old and sick.

As a class, the old and sick are already luckier than the young and healthy. Again, for individuals within that class--those with desperate congenital conditions, for example--this is not the case. But I'm not sure it's terribly compelling to argue that we should massively disadvantage a large group of people in order to massively advantage another, equally large group of people, all to help out the few who are needy, or deserving, or unlucky.

If you're sick it's your own fault, see? Which means that forcing employers to pay for your health care is a case of massively advantaging yourself over your poor employer, who is just trying to run a business and shouldn't have to pay for his employee's unhealthy life style. Which is why McArdle pays for her own health insurance. Oh, wait--she doesn't. She lets her employer foot the bill.


clever pseudonym said...

"Programme." Ah, the precious days when Megan wrote in British. Those were funny. I kind of miss it.

"...drank to much." Ugh.

Her reasoning in dismissing the entire anti-war crowd on the grounds that a few of them acted like jerks is pretty special. Nobody needs to be reminded of her 2 x 4 remark, but considering her non-apology when she finally addressed it a while back, framing it in the context of being emotionally upset following 9/11, makes her a complete hypocrite. Again.

Unknown said...

Single payer advocates are looking for the most politically palatable way to tax the young and healthy in order to pay for the health care of the old and sick*.

Has Megan ever heard of Medicare? At least under single payer the young and healthy would get something out of the system.

Also, in all of her economic training (she has like 3 PhD's in the subject, right?) did she ever come across the idea that not all transactions are zero-sum? It is NOT "trivially obvious to state that any change that benefits the young and healthy will disadvantage the old and sick."

satch said...

Welp...I guess that's the end of Jeremy Scahill's teevee career. And I'm starting a pool: who will be the first to invite Chuck Todd back on the air to drop pearls of wisdom on us... "Meet the Press", "This Week", or NPR?

And Megan... Hooo Whee...where to start? Megan sez: "Moreover, as a class, the old and sick have some culpability in their ill health. They didn't eat right or exercise; they smoked; they didn't go to the doctor as often as they ought; they drank too much or took drugs, or sped or engaged in dangerous sports." Meggie needs to watch her step...she's coming dangerously close to making the case for those "Death Panels".

riffle said...

Similarly, all those soldiers and Iraqis who are dead and maimed are not "sullied on TV."

But if we call to account the journalists who were supposed to be informing the public -- a public that came to believe overwhelmingly that Saddam was behind 9/11 -- they would get "sullied on TV."

How can a nation govern itself if the press doesn't take its job seriously?

From the past decade, it seems that we can't govern responsibly. McArdle being allowed to babble is fine, but given a "legit" platform is a symptom of this problem.

Thanks to this blog, there's at least a little pushback against her narcissism passing for analysis.

Substance McGravitas said...

Do you behave when you are wrong in the way that you are demanding I do? Would you apologize to a girlfriend who has said the sort of things to you that the commenters on other threads have said to me?

It is totally like a girlfriend argument when one person advocates killing people on the basis of lies and the other does not.

Euripides said...

Old people eh? Stupid old codgers.

My Grandad engaged in reckless sports such as guarding a river from German U-Boats with a kitchen knife attached to a broom handle. Any responsible teenager should've stayed at home, only there was a not so slight problem of your home being hit by a bomb. (My other Grandfather is younger than him was sent away from home to the countryside to escape all of this.)

Of course at the time he was too young to join the army so he joined 'Dad's Army' where other reckless pensioners and pubescent boys could engage in at least some form of eXtreme sports.

Luckily for him he came of age just in time for a holiday in Normandy where most of his friends were killed. (Rumour has it that the reckless on return from their sporting holiday took to drinking too much for some reason.)

Yet somehow, all of this reckless behaviour persuaded society that he should be rewarded with universal health care.

In the propertarian world, I suppose you could argue that a lot of the old people in the USA should've been dead by now, but the state interfered with their Freedom(tm) to die by enacting regulation on dangerous occupations. Therefore, old people deserve to die a horrific death now because they meekly surrendered their Freedom(tm).

Really, Susan, I hope you're not encouraging us future old people to misbehave, we should accept that the Randian Supermen were right all along and do what we're told.

Kathy said...

It's highly ironic for a Righty to excuse him-or-herself of attending to the arguments put forth by her opponents in a dispute because said opponent WAS RUDE!

For Admirers and eager Followers of the Party of (FU on the Senate floor) Cheney, Rush, O'Riley, Beck, J. Klien, Krauthammer, and so on, to complain about "rudeness" - well hypocritical simply doesn't describe their philosophy.

Seeing as TV programming consists of Lying commercials sponsoring idiotic and lie-filled entertainment, I suppose its not surprising that the actors on "Information" shows should think its CORRECT to lie their teeny tiny pointed heads off.

Mr. Wonderful said...

That MM quote is old, and I haven't recently (or at all, maybe) read the entire original, but: if it's representative of her argument, it looks like she in no way takes note of the fact that THE OLDER YOU GET, THE MORE PRONE YOU ARE TO GET SICK OR INJURED.

Regardless of whether or not you lived irresponsibly. THE YOUNGER YOU ARE, THE HEALTHIER YOU ARE LIKELY TO BE.

Her argument against funding health care, then, is ENTIRELY based on who has what wealth, and who is morally deserving of being cared for.

This is the "libertarian" view. To Megan, the social contract is an option. She'll honor it only insofar as it's congenial and suits her "needs." And she thinks everyone should feel this way. From this, she imagines, an ideal (or at least improved) society will arise.

The blinkers required to view the world that way must cost a fortune. They must be custom-fitted, like first-rate hearing aids.

Oh, and her comment that left has been left out of the discussion: that comes from outer space. She's makin' it up. Period.

Kathy said...

And when she elderly and has been dumped from her health plan, and Medicare will have been eviscerated long ago, she will scream:

"Don't you see?
It isn't fair, it isn't right!"

(Shirley Jackson)

Susan of Texas said...

I suspect that nothing short of being confronted on tv will change any of these people. That seems to be the only thing they fear. There are discussions about how to "handle" Colbert and Stewert, which is nuts. The right goes on these shows for the exposure and hip factor, but then they have to figure out how to wiggle out from under their lies and stupidity.

McArdle's critics have no effect for the obvious reasons--she's not paid to tell the truth, and she doesn't care if she's wrong, she just cares if she's accepted socially, like the rest of the Village. Aimai's one post on Joe Klein will have far more effect on the national dialogue than my hundreds of my posts because she hit him where he lives--the cocktail circuit.

Batocchio said...

They will admit they were wrong, will admit that they failed...

I'm still waiting for this from most war hawks, and the entire conservative movement.

McArdle was both dumb and mean in the run up to the war. She has no credibility complaining about anyone else's civility. She was an immoral moron, but also a nasty one. I don't expect her to apologize using those terms, but others would serve. Actually, I don't expect her to apologize at all, because she lacks the intellectual or personal integrity to do so, let alone the basic human decency. It's interesting to read her critics in those threads, though, as well as her suck-up defenders.

Susan, you're right about the cocktail circuit. The Villagers determine truth socially, not empirically, and being called out on TV or at a party hits them where it really hurts.

Susan of Texas said...

Heh--maybe the far right was correct and shaming is the only way to change people.

Dr Zen said...

I think that if my girlfriend supported the war in Iraq I'd need a new girlfriend though.