by Megan McArdle Jan 24, 2013 5:24 PM EST
Don't assume it's true just because someone bothered to type it
James Lasdun has an incredible piece on what it feels like to have someone making up crazy stories about you:
What follows is a longish quote from a very long article about a writer and teacher who was stalked by a crazed student whose advances he had rejected. Naturally McArdle is moved to link to this article, as she suffers herself from constant and unjust criticisms. For example, Ezra Klein bothered to type:
McArdle never did answer that question.The argument you’d get for leaving prices in the hands of the private sector is that you get a much better product with much more innovation, much of it cost-saving. That’s clearly not happening in American health care, as America’s care is not, in general, measurably better than that of other nations. The more sophisticated argument you hear for why we need to spend so much more on health care is that by spending more, we’re subsidizing the medical innovation that makes other countries’ systems so good. That’s a more interesting (though unproven) argument, but I doubt that Americans would be happy to hear that the reason our health care costs so much, and needs to continue costing so much, is that we have a duty to subsidize the French.
Perhaps McArdle is peeved about something Noah Smith typed:
Or Jonathan Chait:Megan McArdle has committed three large mistakes when discussing health spending and the national debt. These mistakes are: 1. She does not label Medicare as "healthcare" spending. 2. She uses data on cost growth rates to try to rebut a point about cost levels. 3. She uses only current spending figures, when everyone agrees that the health care deficit problem is going to really bite starting a few years from now. Bloggers and opinion writers, please take note: If you want to make the case that America's government is spending too much on non-health items, you're going to have to make a better case than this.
But we have no way of knowing who Megan McArdle is talking about, or what they actually said. All we know is that McArdle says people are telling lies aboutUnless I am missing a very subtle parody of libertarianism, McArdle’s plan to teach children to launch banzai charges against mass murderers is the single worst solution to any problem I have ever seen offered in a major publication. Newsweek, I award this essay no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
Exactly! I have often wondered why so many people believe whatever McArdle writes, just because she typed it out. I guess this explains that phenomenon."Where there's smoke, there must be fire" is pernicious balderdash, especially in the age of the internet, when the only barrier to the number of crazy lies you can tell is the speed at which you can type. And yet, we are all seduced by the feeling that if someone bothered to write it down, it must be true. Why would they bother, otherwise?
It certainly is nice of McArdle to warn us about all the vicious people on the internet. Especially since she obviously is not a victim of this phenomenon; she does not mention one single critic of her own, does not claim that anyone is telling lies about her, and does not mention a single, solitary lie being told about her. But people tell lies on the internet, so watch out!But of course there are crazy, or merely vicious and revenge-bent, people who do stuff like this all the time. Which we should remember every time we read an indignant diatribe against someone we don't know, by someone we don't know. Yes, it would be insane to make this sort of thing up. But there are a lot of insane people on the web.
It seems that someone on the internet is concerned about someone's reputation, perhaps because someone is realizing that she might be looking for work in the near future, now that someone's employment is not quite as prestigious or secure as someone thought it would be. And certain someones have lately acquired a slightly damaged reputation, which is what happens when someone decides to tell children to rush gunmen firing semi-automatic weapon. Or lie about statistics. Or support rampant polluters. Or reject equal rights for gays. Or support the gutting of the middle class and enrichment of the obscenely wealth.