Violent Rhetoric, Then and Now

Henry Farrell writes:


Megan McArdle 2010 vintage

I thought it was pretty creepy when Jon Chait described another liberal journalist, Michael Kinsley, another journalist, as "curb stomping" economist Greg Mankiw for, yes, daring to suggest that higher marginal tax rates might have incentive effects. Woo-hoo! But why stop with curb-stomping? Wouldn't it be fun to pile ten-thousand gleaming skulls of supply-siders outside the Heritage Offices? We could mount Art Laffer's head on a rotating musical pike that plays The Stars and Stripes Forever! Then, in the most hilarious surprise ending of all, the mob could turn on Jon Chait, douse him with gasoline and set him on fire, and then sack the offices of the New Republic!

Megan McArdle 2003 vintage

So I was chatting about this with a friend of mine, a propos of the fact that everyone I know in New York is a) more frightened than they've been since mid-September 2001 and b) madly working on keeping up the who-the-hell-caresif -Iget-hit-by-a-truck? insouciance that New Yorkers feel is their sole civic obligation. Said friend was, two short years ago, an avowed pacifist and also a little bit to the left of Ho Chi Minh. And do you know what he said? "Bring it on."
I can't be mad at these little dweebs. I'm too busy laughing. And I think some in New York are going to laugh even harder when they try to unleash some civil disobedience, Lenin style, and some New Yorker who understands the horrors of war all too well picks up a two-by-four and teaches them how very effective violence can be when it's applied in a firm, pre-emptive manner.

I'm afraid I'm not quite bright enough to understand why kerb-stomping-as-a-metaphor for-argumentative-victory is creepy and unfunny, while actually beating up war-protesters with bits of lumber is hee-LAIRIUS. Perhaps someone can tease out the nuances for me in comments.

One of his commenters notes: "Looks like McArdle used her time machine to respond to this post a couple of years ago."  Like so many of his students, Henry's problem isn't that he isn't bright; it's that he doesn't do his homework thoroughly.

Indeed, Henry Farrell's response is exactly what I was talking about; maybe that's why it rubbed him the wrong way.  Did it engage with an argument?  No it did not.  It was the opposite of charitable, because its point wasn't to investigate the question; it was to make me look foolish.  Naturally, therefore, Henry gathered only information that made me look bad, rather than checking to see whether there was any disconfirming evidence out there.

Below the fold, the entirety of that post from several years ago; you can decide for yourself which one of us has been selective in their reading of the other side.


____________________________________________________________________


I suspect that I shall spend the rest of my life being pursued by lefty bloggers who think that linking this six year old post is a substitute for argument. Nonetheless, it occurs to me that while I have repeatedly dealt with it in various places, I probably haven't here. So here's the deal. I'm going to talk about it now, because it was, frankly, a pretty stupid thing to write, and mea culpas are good for the soul. Then I'm never going to talk about it again. I have yet to see anyone deploy it against me who could even vaguely be accused of acting in good faith. On the other hand, there are readers in good faith who are surprised by it, and I think I owe them an explanation.

I first reproduce the entire thing, so that there will be absolutely no question about its contents. This is not difficult, because the entire thing is only about 100 words long, but I do understand that space may be limited on other minds blogs.

Diane E. has a link seeming to indicate that the scruffier element of Saturday's peace rally is planning on demonstrating for peace by, er, wreaking mayhem. Nothing says "Stop the Madness of Western Imperialism" like a white college student from Winnetka opening a can of whup-ass on some Korean vegetable stand! 

So I was chatting about this with a friend of mine, a propos of the fact that everyone I know in New York is a) more frightened than they've been since mid-September 2001 and b) madly working on keeping up the who-the-hell-cares-if-I-get-hit-by-a-truck? insouciance that New Yorkers feel is their sole civic obligation. Said friend was, two short years ago, an avowed pacifist and also a little bit to the left of Ho Chi Minh. And do you know what he said? "Bring it on."

I can't be mad at these little dweebs. I'm too busy laughing. And I think some in New York are going to laugh even harder when they try to unleash some civil disobedience, Lenin style, and some New Yorker who understands the horrors of war all too well picks up a two-by-four and teaches them how very effective violence can be when it's applied in a firm, pre-emptive manner.


Starting with a little bit of context: Diane E. wrote the sadly now defunct Letter from Gotham blog. Though her politics--indeed, like mine--changed in those first few post 9/11 years, I think it's safe to say that she would have a very pungent reaction to anyone calling her a neo-con loving warblogger. The post is now gone, but any of the libertarian antiwar bloggers should be happy to confirm that Diane E. was not a rumormongering warhorse who hated peace. The post was written in response to a credible belief that there were antiwar protesters who thought it would be fun to get a little WTO on New York.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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