Friday, May 23, 2014
Michael Kinsley once again takes the plebes to task for failing to understand that they don't matter.
So His Grace, Michael the Duke of Kinsley decided to read Glenn Greenwald's book and He Is Not Amused.
The question is who decides. It seems clear, at least to me, that the private companies that own newspapers, and their employees, should not have the final say over the release of government secrets, and a free pass to make them public with no legal consequences. In a democracy (which, pace Greenwald, we still are), that decision must ultimately be made by the government. No doubt the government will usually be overprotective of its secrets, and so the process of decision-making — whatever it turns out to be — should openly tilt in favor of publication with minimal delay. But ultimately you can’t square this circle. Someone gets to decide, and that someone cannot be Glenn Greenwald.
Of course not. It obviously should be the government which decides whether it's being too secretive about its own secrets. That makes perfect sense. After all, we have a democracy with many checks and balances, right? And when you consider that they classify everything but the toilet paper, and then bind their overseers with oaths of secrecy, refuse to allow them to have staff present to explain the technical details and then lie to their faces anyway, well it's obvious they're doing a very good job and we should just leave them alone.
This is Michael Kinsley at his best, always rolling his eyes at anyone who actually believes in anything. After all, that whole constitution thing is really rather silly. Recall his opinion of the US Attorney scandal, for instance:
The trouble with this scandal, as a scandal, has been that—if you’re going to be honest (and why not?)—there is not only nothing illegal about the president firing a US attorney. There is nothing even really wrong with it. Even if it’s just to make room for a crony of Karl Rove. And I’m sorry, but I just can’t see how firing eight can be heinous but firing 93 is perfectly OK. Nor can I see — if the issue is neutral justice — how firing someone from your own party is worse than firing someone from the other party. Much of the commentary on this story has seemed disingenuous about this: breathless revelations that the White House was involved in the decision, that it may have been (gasp!) political, and so on
See, there's nothing at all wrong with a president using the Justice department for political ends. That's what power's for! Kevin Drum argued at the time:
This is beyond maddening, as if Kinsley is deliberately trying to misunderstand what's going on here. Look: the only serious argument that Purgegate is a scandal is related to the reason for the Pearl Harbor Day massacre. If seven U.S. Attorneys were fired that day for poor performance, that would be fine. If they were fired for insufficient commitment to Bush administration policies, that would be fine too. But there's considerable reason to believe that at least some of them were fired because either (a) they were too aggressive about investigating Republican corruption or (b) they weren't aggressive enough about investigating Democrats.
So? What of it? Honestly, you people and your hysterical reactions to your betters doing what they need to do is simply exhausting.
And then there was Lord Kinsley's dismissal of the Downing St memos as so much hippie folderol:
After about the 200th e-mail from a stranger demanding that I cease my personal coverup of something called the Downing Street Memo, I decided to read it. It's all over the blogosphere and Air America, the left-wing talk radio network: This is the smoking gun of the Iraq war. It is proof positive that President Bush was determined to invade Iraq the year before he did so. The whole "weapons of mass destruction" concern was phony from the start, and the drama about inspections was just kabuki: going through the motions.
He goes on to say that the Downing St Memos were meaningless because "everybody" knew the government was intent upon going to war with Iraq and it's just so boooorihng to keep harping on it.
Although it is flattering to be thought personally responsible for allowing a proven war criminal to remain in office, in the end I don't buy the fuss. Nevertheless, I am enjoying it, as an encouraging sign of the revival of the left. Developing a paranoid theory and promoting it to the very edge of national respectability takes a certain amount of ideological self-confidence. It takes a critical mass of citizens with extreme views and the time and energy to obsess about them. It takes a promotional infrastructure and the widely shared self-discipline to settle on a story line, disseminate it and stick to it.
It takes, in short, what Hillary Clinton once called a vast conspiracy. The right has enjoyed one for years. Even moderate and reasonable right-wingers have enjoyed the presence of a mass of angry people even further right. This overhang of extremists makes the moderates appear more reasonable. It pulls the center of politics, where the media try to be and where compromises on particular issues end up, in a rightward direction. Listening to extreme views on your own side is soothing even if you would never express them and may not even believe them yourself.
Here's one for liberals who think that Kinsley's got the right ideas about government and national security. It's all of a piece. This was in defense of Larry Summers for Treasury back in 2008:
Summers's main point was that life and health are worth less in poor countries than in rich ones...Of course this shouldn't be true, but it undeniably is true, and rejecting the idea of poor countries earning a little cash by "buying" pollution from rich ones will do nothing to make it less true...Every economic transaction has two sides. When you deny a rich country the opportunity to unload some toxic waste on a poor one, you are also denying that poor country the opportunity to get paid for taking the toxic waste. And by forbidding this deal, you are putting off the day when the poor country will no longer need to make deals like this.
He has an interesting worldview, don't you think? That follows in line with this one from 1996, dug up by Jonathan Schwarz
In his notorious memo, Summers was doing his job and doing it well: thinking outside the box about how to help the poor countries that are supposed to be the World Bank's constituency.
[T]here is no reason every airline should meet the same level of safety. In fact, it makes perfect sense for discount airlines to be less safe than traditional full-price carriers. This is no excuse for negligence and rule-breaking. But if the rules don't recognize that some people, quite rationally, will wish to buy less safety for less money, they are doing the flying public a disservice.
Or how about this of more recent vintage, in a piece called Paul Krugman's Misguided Moral Crusade Against Austerity:
Bad economic times are bad for your health. People get depressed and commit suicide. They drink and ruin their livers. They don’t buy their prescription drugs or see the doctor when they should in order to save money. They lose their jobs, come home, and murder their spouses. And austerians fairly explicitly favor bad times. Or at least they favor worse times in the short run than do their rivals, the anti-austerians or (why deny him the glory?) Krugmanites. So austerity does kill in this sense.
Oh and let's not forget Kinsley's view of journalism. Here's a report from Michael Wolff back in the aughts from the "Aspen ideas festival":
But only in this sense. Austerians believe, sincerely, that their path is the quicker one to prosperity in the longer run. This doesn’t mean that they have forgotten the lessons of Keynes and the Great Depression. It means that they remember the lessons of Paul Volcker and the Great Stagflation of the late 1970s. “Stimulus” is strong medicine—an addictive drug—and you don’t give the patient more than you absolutely have to.
My panel—with Kinsley and Alter and Pat Mitchell, who runs PBS, and Ann Moore, the CEO of Time Inc.—was, naturally, the media panel: “Have Journalists Sold Out?”
It's clear that Kinsley takes the attitude of a bored aristocrat who believes the rabble are always complaining for no good reason about authority abusing its power when this is simply the state of the world and there's nothing to be done about it. Sure the government may overstep its bounds a tiny bit, but what is to be done? Leave it in the hands of the people? I don't think so! And yes, sure, the plebes must suffer from time to time to right the wrongs of their betters but the good nobles (like Kinsley and his friends) will work hard to ensure they don't suffer any longer than absolutely necessary.
Ann Moore, while she openly shuddered over the AOL merger, still thought Time Inc. did pretty fine work without corporate interference. And Michael Kinsley, who was there with his new wife, Patty Stonesifer, who runs the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said sanguinely, “I don’t see the problem, frankly,” and then offered a defense of big media and Bill Gates.
Indeed, nowhere at the conference, really, was there controversy. In some sense, the theme of the conference, even, was a rejection of controversy—much talk about the erosion of civic trust that came from partisanship.
He's terribly annoyed that, in his view, Greenwald is insufficiently cynical about the way the world works and that is unforgiveable. As you can see, Michael Kinsley believes that those in power, whether it be in business or government, are in charge and that's all there is to it. The little people should just tug their forelocks and accept this in order for the world to work properly. Anyone who doesn't is a fool deserving of derision and scorn --- and, apparently, jail time.
digby 5/23/2014 12:00:00 PM