A few weeks ago, in one of Jonah Goldberg’s new emailed G-Files (which means needless to say, a free subscription is required to read, and sadly archives aren’t online), Jonah wrote about the endlesss appearances of tu quoque-isms in politics:
Our political discourse is rife with what you might call tu quoque-ism. Okay, you might not call it that. Tu quoque-ism actually sounds like an unpleasant discharge produced by an intestinal infection of some kind. In fact, odds are you’ll never call it that. But what the hell.
Tu quoque is a Latin term for a certain kind of fallacious argument whereby you dismiss a criticism by saying that the person offering it is guilty of the same charge. Here’s how Wikipedia defines it: “A tu quoque argument attempts to discredit the opponent’s position by asserting his failure to act consistently in accordance with that position; it attempts to show that a criticism or objection applies equally to the person making it. It is considered an ad hominem argument, since it focuses on the party itself, rather than its positions
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We see this sort of thing all the time. Democrats say Republicans can’t complain about Obama’s deficits because Republicans didn’t complain about Bush’s deficits. Never mind that Obama’s deficits are worse. Meanwhile, Democrats complained about Bush’s deficits but think there’s nothing wrong with Democratic deficits because it’s the Democrats’ turn. And so bad behavior becomes democratized.
The most glaring example in recent years has been the Left’s obsession with Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, and all the other monsters Keith Olbermann has his interns look for under his bed before he lays his head down on his enormous pillow and goes to sleep. For years, Democrats — particularly the nutroots moonbats — insisted that everything conservatives did was illegitimate and evil. Pick your own examples. Rove running a political operation from inside the White House (cue When a Stranger Calls — “Mr. President we’ve traced the call; that political advice is coming from inside the White House!“), Fox blending opinion and news, the unfairness of talk radio . . . whatever. In each of these instances, the Left’s reaction was to copy what the Right was doing, even as they continued to say that what the Right was doing is evil.
One problem with this is that, when the Left aped a paranoid caricature of what the other side was actually doing, the practice actually became worse the second time around. Democrats concoct the most cynical and dastardly interpretation of Republican actions possible and then adopt the same practices. But any criticism of the Democrats’ behavior is dismissed as “hypocritical” in a bonfire of tu quoque-ism. Yes, yes, Republicans are guilty of this stuff, too. But it really does seem like the Democrats have become unhinged in this regard.
Regardless, the upshot is that partisans on both sides feel justified in doing the very worst things they accused their opponents of doing, even though the accusations weren’t accurate. It’s not merely tit-for-tat-ism, another highly technical term, but that’s part of it. It leads to things like Robert Kennedy Jr. (admittedly a dim bulb even for a Kennedy) seeing nothing wrong with defending himself on the grounds that all the idiots are doing it. Never mind that his facts and his interpretations are wrong. The only thing he gets right is that he is, in fact, an idiot.
The left really went to town with this practice during the Bush administration, and much like the cloning machine in Michael Keaton’s Multiplicity, the copy of a copy of a copy tended to lose more than a little crispness once it had been cloned. Here’s a brief, and very likely incomplete recap:
- Fox News, which Jonah already mentioned, was processed by GE via the Multiplicity cloning machine and emerged as MSNBC, complete with Keith Olbermann doing an infinitely worse impersonation of Bill O’Reilly than Stephen Colbert.
- Similarly, since the late-1980s, Rush Limbaugh was the left’s Public Enemy Number One, whose tones were far beyond the realm of civil discourse at roccco wine and brie tasting parties. So let’s replicate that style at Air America!
- Can you believe those crazy conservative bloggers? It’s a good thing we’re newspapers, not bloggers, and keep our bias to ourselves.
- I can’t believe there are organizations called Accuracy In Media, and the Media Research Center that monitor the news for perceived slights. Don’t these conservatives have anything better to do? Let’s build our own, stock it with plenty of lotion, and call it Media Matters!
- The Washington Times is a paper whose bias is right out in the open, complete with owners whose fringe beliefs are beyond the pale. So let’s create our own newspaper and admit our biases and find an owner with some strange beliefs of his own. I’m sure we can find a decent building for it somewhere at the other end of the Northeast Corridor.
(Admittedly, I may have reversed the order on that last item.)
And of course, last year, the left railed endlessly about the evils of “Tea Baggers”, their sexually derisive term (known by everyone except for current and former employees of CNN, it seems) for those protesting for leaner, smarter government. Nobody in his right mind would get involved with something like that. Those nutters!
Break out the Multiplicity machine once again.
Behold, the Coffee Party! As Allahpundit writes:
I’ve read the WaPo profile, looked at their website, watched the two videos below, and I still don’t quite get it. They’re claiming, essentially, to be nonpartisan and less interested in pushing particular policies than in “dialogue” and “cooperation” for their own sake. Which, given the realities in the Senate, is a very thinly veiled way of calling for fewer filibusters and more Democratic — sorry, I mean bipartisan — legislation. Here’s their statement of principles, for what it’s worth; assuming they stick around, it’ll be fun to watch how this changes once the GOP has a majority in both chambers again.
We want the political process broken down into three steps:
1) open and respectful dialogue
2) thoughtful and informed deliberation
3) competent and decisive execution.
The process is so broken, we can’t get past step 1 right now. We demand cooperation, productivity and accountability in government in the same way we would demand it of an employee we might hire for a job.
We want local chapters to have the autonomy to figure out their own legislative and electoral priorities. At the national level, we’ll make recommendations for direct action on legislation. But they will only be suggestions. We value and celebrate diverse opinions just as we value and celebrate diverse backgrounds. All that is required to be part of this movement is a sincere commitment to participating in, and protecting the democratic process.
A friendly reminder from George Will: The American democratic process, especially in the Senate, includes the right to obstruct. Right, Mr. President? Exit quotation from the WaPo piece: “I don’t really understand what they’re about other than ‘we don’t like the Tea Party’ and ‘we’re for a better process.’”
To bring things full circle, this begs noting (and I think some on the right on Twitter have made this joke already) that I’m reminded that the term Coffee Bagger is likely pornographic. Didn’t know that until Ebert told me. Let’s face it. The Coffee Baggers own it now.