Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Feelin' Good!

Emotional releases are so cathartic!

Glenn Greenwald posts on the feigned innocence of the Iraq war cheerleaders.

Anyone who claims they didn't realize that an attack on Iraq could spawn mammoth civilian casualties, pervasive displacement, endless occupation and intense anti-American hatred is indicting themselves more powerfully than it's possible for anyone else to do. And anyone who claims, as Burns did, that they "could not know then" that these things might very well happen is simply not telling the truth. They could have known. And should have known. They chose not to.

They did not want to see anything that made them feel bad. It really is all about people's feelings. Megan McArdle's reasons for supporting the invasion of another country are ludicrous. They wouldn't convince a clever child. War supporters utterly ignored facts and reality and dissenting opinions. They did not make even the feeblest attempt to reason--it was emotion all the way: vanity, pride, anger. And it made them malicious and cruel. They didn't care what happened to the people actually fighting the war or the dubiousness of the merits of the war. "Either way," we have read over and over, murdering Iraqis was the better thing to do.

They thought about men with muscles and guns and it got them excited. They thought of the power; the foreign heathen bowing before American might, on his knees in terror, pleading for forgiveness.

They thought of bombs and explosions, of John Wayne and Bruce Willis, of "Ki-yi-yay, mother-fucker!" A war movie on tv every night, in which they are finally John Wayne, but still safe and fed and clean and surrounded by entertainment.

They thought of humiliating other nations. The French don't flatter Americans. They won't speak their language and they think that their culture is older, finer, better. That is heresy, and seeing France get "left behind in Old Europe" made them very happy.

They thought that whatever Americans do is right and good and for freedom and Mom and puppies. They thought of triumphing over Democrats, how humiliated they would be when they were proven wrong, how glorious Republicans would feel from being on the winning side. Past Republican failures at war would be forgotten and Republicans could take pride in their policies once again. And they thought no further.

No educated person is this stupid. They chose to believe what they wanted to believe, and they're still doing it. And after they make their knee-jerk decisions, their murderous mistakes, they pout and cry and tell you that you're hurting their feelings so shut up shut up shut up!

They might even throw a great big ole Pity Party.

Megan McArdle again, God help us: [From 2007]

Winning isn't everything
Julian Sanchez writes a reasonable response to my previous post on hawks and doves, at which point his commenters do their very best to demonstrate why hawks have such a hard time admitting they were wrong, even beyond the normal human instinct to deny that one ever can be mistaken.

Shorter commenters:

1. I am a lying [expletive deleted] 2. I am a total moron who deserves nothing less than utter ridicule 3. It is not enough that people should not listen to me; I should voluntarily take myself out of the national discourse.
I'm not sure they got the point of my post or the spirit in which it was offered, so let me try again: Iraq is not a game. And it is not a high school debate tournament. The object of this discussion is not to find a winner, or see who scored the most points. Thousands and thousands of people have died. This is a little more serious than that.

I freely admit that the hawks were just as bad in promoting a juvenile tone to the debate before the war. But at least a few of us have learned how ridiculous we were being, something I am afraid I have not found on the dovish side.

So if all you are interested in is the psychic joy of hearing the words "You were right, I was wrong", you've got it. I was wrong. You can take that back to your bedroom, put it on the bookshelf, and fondle the trophy whenever you feel like it. Now please go away, because for me, this is not really about which of us has the bigger intellectual genitalia.

Human beings are really terrible decisionmakers. We cannot completely overcome our biases and our poor instincts. But at least we should try. (Robin Hanson's brilliant new blog is a great place to start.) Having admitted to myself, and everyone else, that the Iraq war was clearly in hindsight a bad idea, I am trying to go back and look at the decision and see how I could make it better in the future. The object is not to prove that I am a better and smarter person than those around me; the point now is to minimise the number of future bad decisions that make a lot of people die.

Judging from the behaviour of most of the doves in public discourse, that is not the most important thing. The most important thing for them seems to be exacting revenge on the hawks and declaring that the doves are now forever their moral and intellectual superiors, even though their nasty public invective ensures that the next time around, the hawks will be exactly as unwilling to listen to them as they were last time. Julian's commenters are certainly doing their best to put me in this camp.

But since I really do believe that better future decisions are more important than my umbrage at petty interpersonal exchanges, I am fighting to supress that urge. Among other strategies for analysing my decisionmaking, I look to the ways in which the dovish decisionmaking process worked better than mine, so that I can emulate those ways. And to me, I'm sorry if this hurts your tender little feelings, but as far as I can tell, it wasn't that much better. What many, or even most, of the doves had was an instinctive antipathy to American military action that is so closely bundled with a zillion other ideological predispositions, some of which to me seem practically self-evidently wrong, that I can't find a decisionmaking process to even analyse; the grounds for opposing the war shifted even as the opposition didn't. Let me make it thoroughly clear: the same shitty decisionmaking was evident on the side of the hawks. But trading one set of questionable propositions for another is not an improvement in decisionmaking; it's playing some sort of metaphysical Monty Hall game. And playing it badly.

The arrogance, the projection, the sheer stupidity on display here is almost beyond belief. Everything is All About Her and her feelings, so she accuses her enemies of doing everything she did, to avoid criticism or punishment. It's the simplest trick in the book, the oldest lie in the world. You mother asks you who ate the cake. You stand there with chocolate cake smeared all over your face and point to the dog, and say, "He ate the cake." And then you lecture your mother on the seriousness of her accusation.

A sane person would laugh at the absurdity of the lie. A Republican would beat the dog and give the kid more cake.


Clever Pseudonym said...


I'd forgotten about that precious former affectation of hers. I still get a laugh out of it.

Anonymous said...

Wow. The last paragraphs are among the worst, almost psychotic in their disconnect. She complains that its hard to apologize for getting things wrong because people are mean to her and she puts getting her feelings hurt right up there with the Iraq war as something we should all be concerned about. Then she pats herself on the back for her honesty, her more than super human honesty, in examining her own thought processes and she even offers (gasp) to try using her brains and education like the "doves" to get to their conclusions but she finds that they, apparently, didn't reason their way to their reasoned conclusions they somehow just felt their way to them just like she felt her way to hers. And, finally, as the coup de grace, she condescends to her imaginary interlocutors and does a pseudo manly little dance on their "feelings" and reduces their righteous anger at her craven stupidity to "getting their feelings hurt" because she, Megan, doesn't respect *them.*

When it comes to Megan's feelings then feelings are an all important currency in public discourse. When it comes to "doves" who were " right about the war but mean" then feelings are used to argue that they are childish and need to be put in their place by the rational grown ups.

Megan is literally incapable of moral growth or exhibiting the basic moral skills of a toddler--which begin with shame and sorrow. She put her hand on the political switch that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, that destroyed our national honor, that sucked the treasury dry, and she actually thinks that there's some "extra credit" out there if she can just demonstrate that, after the exam, she kind of gets what her mistake was. And then, having pretended to put pencil to paper to get the extra credit, she decides that its a good idea to attack the other students for getting an A because she's too fucking stupid and dishonest to grasp that they did their homework and thus got the answers right.

That's about it. Megan is always, always, always trying to kiss up to an imaginary professor, and slag off on the other students. This one time the exam was graded publicly, and she is floundering for a way to account for her abysmal showing.


Anonymous said...

You know, Susan, on reconsidering I disagree a tiny bit with your "its the oldest trick in the book" example. Megan isn't the child who "ate the cake" and "blamed the dog." Megan is the child who, when confronted with the evidence that she ate the cake, turns around and shrieks

"All the other kids wanted to, too! And they would have, if I hadn't! So I had to eat the cake! Anyone would have. And since I ate the cake, the other kids who didn't eat the cake can't prove that they wouldn't have eaten the cake too. They are just as greedy as I am, they just didn't do it in time."

That's Megan in a very big nutshell. A virtue (knowledge, or sceptisim, or honor, or charity) isn't a virtue in anyone but herself. And a crime that she commits is just what anyone else would have done, if only they had Megan's courage. Its simply impossible for Megan to hold onto the idea that she has done wrong, and someone else has done right, for more than five seconds or the space of a single paragraph. After that she needs to find some reason why she is still better than other people, even if she started out acknowledging a fault.


Susan of Texas said...

Ha! You are absolutely right.

Kathy said...

I guess that always believing what she says and does is Right is ArgleBargle's "special talent", what makes her valuable to her Owners.

They command her to write a column bashing Social Security, AND calling the people who paid into the Program for 40+ years parasites, and she promptly produces an ill-written, un-researched insulting and completely wrong column -no better than any other paid shill- except she REALLY BELIEVES what she is saying.

Compare her writing to that flatulent moron Jonah Goldberg: stupid as he is, his shuffling excuses, his waffling and evasions indicate that at heart he knows most of what he's blarting out is wrong. If a commenter points out his errors, he hems & haws and promises to "address the point" someday.

Megan BELIEVES. She KNOWS. She knows anyone who argues with her is wrong, and therefore she can flatly deny what they say and add in gratuitous insults for good measure, smug in her superiority of Belief vs. Knowledge.

Anonymous said...


Let me make it thoroughly clear: the same shitty decisionmaking was evident on the side of the hawks


As a 'dove' I have two words for McGalt:

'Fuck' and 'You'.

We were willing to consider the possibility that we were wrong and risk our own safety in preference to almost certainly killing a lot of innocent iraqis. We understood that the data was sketchy and were willing to err on the side of not killing innocents.

Her shitty decision making took innocent lives. Ours would have saved lives.

She dares equate the two?
She is a sociopath

Batocchio said...

I remember that McMegan column. I'll have to read Greenwald's in the morning.

The thing with McMegan, and Jeffrey Goldberg, and the rest, to be blunt, is that hundreds of thousands of innocent people aren't dead because of policies we endorsed with eagerness, arrogance, and plenty of bullying. Opposing a war until someone makes a strong case that it's necessary is basic sanity. Goldberg's sneering after being called out by Greenwald - as chronicled by JayB at TBogg's - was one of the most appalling things I think I've ever seen. If I killed someone by accident, or was a politician or pundit and had advocated war, and it turned out like Iraq – that disastrous and based on lies – I'd be devastated. It would haunt me, even if I went in with the best intentions. I understand intellectually why someone would go the Full Asshole to cover, but I don't "really" understand it. Reflection, humility, begging forgiveness, working to atone and make amends, I understand those. To react like Goldberg and McArdle is just monstrous (McArdle is the more pathetic of the two, but still). It's just a game, a pissing match for them. (BTW, if you blood pressure can take it, check out the Ari Fleischer-Paul Begala interchange on the Iraq War. The ease and speed with which Fleischer lies – and adjusts his lies – is really quite extraordinary.)

Kia said...

The most important thing for them seems to be exacting revenge on the hawks and declaring that the doves are now forever their moral and intellectual superiors, even though their nasty public invective ensures that the next time around, the hawks will be exactly as unwilling to listen to them as they were last time.

Could she make her moral priorities any clearer? Could anyone write anything about Megan that is worse than what she confesses about herself here? The person who wrote this is simply incapable of any serious moral commitment, not even to her own side of an argument. The "doves" who were right did not get what they wanted. The war is still going on, Iraq is still a bloody hell. The dead will not come back to life because I was right in opposing the war. I got nothing else out of that war except laughing at people like Megan, and I must not be allowed to have even that small comfort. I would happily have traded it away for not having the war, oh, hell, for even one of those lost lives. I'd give it up to spare one unknown victim a day of suffering. All those soldiers died, all those innocents died, so Megan McArdle could feel superior to people like me--and it still didn't work. Megan can just smell it: someone out there has the nerve to feel morally and intellectually superior to her. She can smell it over the stink of corpses.

Anonymous said...

WOW, Kia, brilliant writing.


tigris said...

All those soldiers died, all those innocents died, so Megan McArdle could feel superior to people like me--and it still didn't work.

That might be the most concise character portrait of her ever. Everything she writes drips with her need to feel superior, and her failure to be able to.

Batocchio said...

I agree, aimai, but I also feel compelled to fire the internet tube wayback machine and link Kia does not want.

The comments at some blogs are stellar posts in themselves.

Justin said...

... the grounds for opposing the war shifted even as the opposition didn't.

It is a small point among many, but this is one of the most self-evidentially stupid. The grounds for justifying the war constantly shifted, and each time they did, that is why the anti-war crowd shifted. They had to strike down each newly proffered rationale.

We went from...
enforcing international law and disarming Iraq to -
Removing Saddam permanently to -
Creating a democracy in the Middle East to -
fighting terrorism there so we don't here to -
preventing the Iranians from taking control of the region and oil resources

Syz said...

Shorter Megan: In the past, I ignored what liberals had to say because they are such jerks. And I will continue to ignore what liberals have to say because I don't like their attitude.

Yes, I was wrong about the Iraq War, but so what? Unlike liberals, I learn from my mistakes.

Huh? Where do you see a contradiction, jerk-face?