Another Times Blowhard

by Bruce S. Thornton

Every so often The New York Times runs an op-ed by the appropriately named Charles M. Blow. Blow’s shtick is to dig up some statistical nugget and then draw all manner of portentous conclusions this data supposedly support. As one could expect, the conclusions invariably reinforce some stale received wisdom dear to the liberal-left, some bit of faith-based political dogma camouflaged by the pseudo-objective statistical data and the accompanying chart or graph.

Blow’s modus operandi reflects the typical liberal-leftist mindset. To liberals, they don’t have an ideology or a subjective bias, they’re just responding coolly to scientific facts. See the graph? See the numbers? Global warming, Darwinian evolution, embryonic stem-cell research — liberal positions on all these contested issues aren’t about political ideology, irrational myth, or self-interest. No, liberals merely develop policies that logically reflect the hard reality of scientifically determined facts. It’s conservatives who are in thrall to religious superstition, personal neuroses, or greed.

Recently Blow published a column that illustrates this liberal bias beautifully. The statistic that exercises Blow is that requests for background checks for gun purchases increased by 1.2 million from last November to February over the same period in 2007-2008. Now, given that the period in question has also been a period of economic stress, which usually leads to increases in crime, the common-sense explanation is that some people are just concerned with personal security.

But that’s too simple for Blow, and doesn’t allow him to indulge his bigoted two-bit psychological clichés about conservatives. Blow starts by saying conservatives these days are “apocalyptic,” “isolated, angry, betrayed and besieged.” The “angry” conservative, of course, is a cherished liberal stereotype. Remember the “angry white male” of the 90’s, that benighted dope who again and again voted against his own best interests because the Republicans exploited his religious superstitions and manipulated his irrational prejudices against blacks, women, and homosexuals?

I don’t doubt that some conservatives are angry, and these days they have a good reason to be. Zillions of dollars of projected debt, a groveling foreign policy, attempts to increase exponentially the power of the government, and creeping socialism can raise one’s blood pressure. But I haven’t seen anything yet that comes close to the apocalyptic — and juvenile — anger that issued from the left for the last eight years. What could be more angrily apocalyptic than the ridiculous doom-day scenarios spun by Al Gore and the rest of the global-warming fundamentalists? Or the shrill claims, made constantly by the ACLU and the civil-liberties fundamentalists, that our freedoms were fast disappearing, if not already gone? Or how about the incessant shrieking over the “religious right,” those repressed yahoos itching to burn witches and heretics after they tear down the mythic “wall of separation” between church and state? Or how about Bush-derangement syndrome, the vicious lies and irrational attacks on Bush’s actions, motives, and character that were a staple of not just the swamp-fever leftist blogosphere but also the mainstream media?

But Blow’s indulgence of this received wisdom is just a warm-up for his own apocalyptic paranoia. All this gun-buying stoked by all that apocalyptic anger really reflects the fact that conservative leaders “seem [the classic weasel-word loophole] to be trying to mold them [angry conservatives] into a militia.” At first, Blow didn’t take too seriously “the garbled facts, twisted logic, and veiled hate speech” being used to create these right-wing storm-troopers. Notice again the typical implication that liberals are all about “facts” that are not “garbled” and “logic” that is not “twisted.” Priceless, though, is the implication in “veiled hate speech” that all this anger is really an expression of racism — that the election of a black president has stirred up the inner Klansman that all liberals know lurks in every conservative who criticizes Obama. What else could explain such criticism, since like all liberals, Obama endorses policies that are reflections of fact and logic, and thus only someone addled by irrational beliefs and crippling neuroses would oppose them?

Soon, however, Blow began to take seriously the possibility that conservative leaders were up to more than just blowing off rhetorical steam. But Blow’s examples of such nefarious conservative leaders, however, are hardly convincing that a violent revolution is brewing. There’s action-star Chuck Norris, a “prospective Red Shirt,” as Blow calls him, indulging yet another bit of liberal false knowledge — that fascism was a conservative movement, when in fact, as Jonah Goldberg documents in Liberal Fascism, fascism’s roots lay closer to the progressive movement that has created people like Blow. All that aside, and all due respect to Chuck Norris, I don’t think he qualifies as a conservative leader. I’m happy to acknowledge a denizen of Hollywood who isn’t liberal, but taking actors seriously as political philosophers is something the left does.

Next, Blow digs up an obscure Representative from Minnesota, who advised her constituents to be “armed and dangerous.” Congressmen who can’t control their metaphors shouldn’t be taken any more seriously than Hollywood actors, and they certainly don’t qualify as a “conservative leader.” And of course, a television-radio entertainer, Glenn Beck, is quoted without any apparent recognition that Beck’s commentary is a form of political entertainment. Even Blow’s own The New York Times has quoted Beck as saying, “I say on the air all time, ‘if you take what I say as gospel, you’re an idiot.’ ” And that’s it, that’s all Blow’s evidence that conservative leaders are fomenting rebellion.

So in Blow’s presumably fact-based analysis, the increase in gun sales is driven by conservatives who are apocalyptically angry, crypto-racist neo-fascists, potential Timothy McVeighs itching for violent revolution — for after all, as Blow says after mentioning McVeigh, “Not all dangerous men are trained by al Qaeda,” thus equating conservatives with terrorist murderers. And there you have classic liberal “nuanced” and “sophisticated” thinking: stale clichés, two-bit psychologizing, and vicious smears, all tarted up with phony “science.” Such sloppy thinking is really something to get angry about.

©2009 Bruce S. Thornton

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