The Proud Duck

Thoughts on policy, history, faith, baseball when I get around to it, waterfowl, and life in general by a junior attorney who'd much rather have Jonah Goldberg's job. Or possibly Darin Erstad's.

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Friday, May 16, 2003
Two days ago, my self-described radical legal secretary decided to subject me to an hour's worth of Gore Vidal sounding off on NPR about the DANGER, DANGER of the "fundamentalist" Bush Administration's alleged intention to make America into a police state. Or at least I think it was NPR. I admit to being not particularly familiar with NPR, but from what I heard (smooth, smug tones with no challenge by the host to even the most unsupportable statements by the guest, accompanied by mellowly hip modern jazz), I assumed NPR was the station.

I suppose I could have closed my door and let her marinate in the wingnut leftism she seems to like, but I do like the partners in this firm to know that I'm actually here and working.

Anyway, it got me thinking. It's amazing how many hard leftists, who one assumes believe Joseph McCarthy was the devil incarnate (as opposed to a mean blowhard drunk who callously ruined people's livelihoods, many of whom didn't have it coming) so blithely adopt his conduct, consciously or unconsciously.

Think about it. What would one consider McCarthy's greatest sins? I would say, in no particular order, his making of unfounded accusations, his conflation of ordinary garden-variety liberals with totalitarian communists, and his lying (as in, "I have in my hand a list of Communists in the State Department" when he didn't have anything of the kind).

Listening to Gore Vidal the other day, I heard all three.

The USA Patriot Act may have been carelessly drafted and enacted, but it simply doesn't contain the liberty-murdering pitfalls Vidal and his sort say it does. Now, it's a long piece of legislation, and I've only read the extensive summary from the Congressional Research Service, but I couldn't find the awful things Vidal was talking about -- i.e. that citizens could be stripped of their citizenship if accused of terrorism.

As for the second McCarthy-style fault, comparing conservatives to fascists or eager police-state architects is no more accurate than declaring New Deal liberals to communists during the forties. Probably much less so, in fact, given the naive love affair many had developed with the Soviets during those decades. (Thanks in part to dishonest reporting -- Walter Duranty's Pulitzer Prize for whitewashing Stalin's terror still stands, even as the New York Time hangs Jayson Blair's head on a pike for less dishonesty.) If increasing the penalty for hacking and damaging federally-protected computers from five years to ten qualifies one as a Nazi, what do you call men in black uniforms who put children into ovens?

As for the third -- the lying -- that may be a harder comparison. Vidal et al. may not consider themselves consciously to be lying. Their practice is to repeat the general accusations of tyranny that they pick up in their cloistered milieu, without taking the time to determine whether the things they hear are true or not.

Under the law of fraud, a person who makes a misrepresentation without reasonable grounds for believing it to be true is considered to be lying just as is a person who states something he knows to be untrue. It would be fair to say that the more serious the accusation one is bringing, the greater is one's responsibility to determine its truth before bringing it. The Left's reckless repetition of received falsehood is so severe and so sustained that it must be considered to be as dishonest as conscious lying.

That brings me back to the hour-long Vidal NPR torture-session my karma-conscious secretary decided to blast through the office. Vidal was making error after error (or misrepresentation after misrepresentation -- pick 'em) in that wonderful smooth, sophisticated, smug, earnest tone he's perfected. (See Chemerinsky, Erwin.) It's a wonderful talent -- the ability to say the most ridiculous things in a tone that literally reeks of obviousness, and that radiates the idea that nobody could possibly disagree with what's being said.

It's a talent that could only be developed in a hothouse, which is what NPR, and much of liberalism in general, has become. There's no opposition; no aggressive challengers, no rocking of the boat. Vidal wouldn't last five minutes on a talk radio show; some cab driver with a cell phone would hand him his head the first time he tried passing off a falsehood in that smooth tone.

This is why the Left is perennially "shocked and appalled," "chilled" (as in "chilling effect") and finds its "dissent" being "squashed" (translation: people tell them they're wrong). They're used to an environment where people share their assumptions, and challenge is impolite.


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