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June 03, 2010


As I pointed out in a comment a year ago, Vladimir Lenin was an early proponent of naming and shaming. He said, "Why should we bother to reply to Kautsky? He would reply to us, and we would have to reply to his reply. There's no end to that. It would be quite enough for us to announce that Kautsky is a traitor to the working class, and everyone will understand everything."

Naming and shaming may be a good idea, but who's to say what's false? Contrary to Ambinder's statement, Gaffney didn't say that Obama is a Muslim. He actually wrote, "Applying the standard of identity politics and pandering to a special interest that earned Mr. Clinton that distinction [of being black], Barack Hussein Obama would have to be considered America's first Muslim president.

This is not to say, necessarily, that Mr. Obama actually is a Muslim any more than Mr. Clinton actually is black.".

I suspect that Brendan would hold that it's a falsehood to write that Obama might actually be a Muslim. I don't agree. The word "might" makes just about any statement arguably true.

Ambinder was also wrong when he wrote, "...the scientific consensus, which grows more solid by the day (and not less solid), holds that humans are responsible for much of this change. We can validly debate the solutions, but it is simply stupid to pretend, for the sake of appearing to be fair, as if there is a fundamental scientific debate that has yet to be solved."

In reality, the scientific consensus has surely been weakened by the lack of warming during the last decade, the released incriminating e-mails, and the flaws in the 2007 IPCC Report. IMHO the phrase "scientific consensus" is inappropriate. Many experts in the field do not agree that the AGW theory has been proved.

David makes a great point, and it's illustrative of how short a trip it is from saying media should suppress incorrect statements of fact to saying media should suppress theories with which they disagree to saying media should suppress any form of expression that they believe might be taken the wrong way (e.g., that Obama is the first Muslim president in the same respect that Clinton is the first black president, or that Obama wouldn't know the difference between an RPG and a bong).

It's worth remembering some of the matters on which there's previously been scientific consensus: the Earth as the center of the solar system, spontaneous generation of life, alchemy, phrenology, mental inferiority of certain races. Sometimes scientific consensus isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Previously I've made the philosophical argument against suppression of unpopular views--i.e., the value of the marketplace of ideas. There's also a simple practical reason that suppression is ill-advised. We live in an age of the Internet, with fewer gatekeepers for information than ever in the last several hundred years. There's no way dissenting opinions can successfully be suppressed. They can be diverted from those "elite" media that choose to go along with Brendan's boycott, but they'll still reach an audience. Not airing those discussions in elite media will only diminish the opportunity to address and out-argue dissenters. And suppression in elite media of certain points of view will encourage many in society to believe there's a conspiracy of silence--and they'll be right, because Brendan's call for elite media to come together to deny a platform does in fact amount to a conspiratorial effort. It's a strategy that's likely to do more harm than good and for that reason alone ought to be rejected.

I think Armbinder should be named and shamed for falsely implying that Frank Gaffney implied that President Obama is a Muslim and indeed should be banned from being quoted in any elite publication like ... uh... well, I would say The Atlantic but that's so 90's.

This is fun... I've always wanted to prove imperfect analogies false by simply declaring them so.

We should always stifle dissent that is stifling dissent.

Round and round we go.....


Naming and shaming is a great idea, but I don't know if we want to go so far as to totally repudiate people or take away their platforms. Everyone gets a bee in their bonnet at some point and loses all sense of proportion or rationality. You just consider it a bad episode and move on. Plus there are many people who have some pretty great insights, but who also occasionally drift off into pure nuttery. That tends to be the nature of some of the more brilliant people. Chistopher Hitchens comes to mind as one of those types.

So yeah, you call people out for lying or being wrong, but I don't know about "shunning" or stopping listening to people unless it's a long pattern of behavior and they don't produce much of value in their best moments.

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