Wednesday, February 13, 2008

When Critics Attack

Sorry loyal readers, but I've been two-timing you and using my vast brainage to fight battles and whatnot at other blogs. And some of this stuff has been top notch and I shouldn't have denied it to you. In fact, the original purpose of this blog was to be a storage place for all the great comments I made elsewhere (hence the title of the blog), and so that's just what I'll do here. But as a warning, these aren't quite up to my normal high standards, as I really don't have the time it takes to rewrite these. These were written in the heat of discussion and might even contain (gasp!) typos. Enjoy!

This is in response to a Carpetbagger post regarding Paul Krugman's war with Obamaniacs.

There needs to be a name for this phenomenom, and perhaps there is, but I think a big part of Krugman’s problem is that when you criticize people like this, you get them mad and they come out in numbers, and as with any group, a certain percentage of them believe they can only be convincing through rudeness. And this reinforces the critic’s negative attitude about that group of people and when they criticize the group further, it reinforces the attitude of the group and they’ll complain in even larger droves. And somehow, the critic never realizes that the reason why this group is so mad at them is because of the criticism.

Similarly, they never receive this kind of hate from the people who agree with them, so they imagine that this group must be civil and sane. And the more these like-minded people defend the critic, the more sane and kind they appear. They’ll send encouraging words of praise and all that, so it appears that one side is insane and the other side is rational.

And maybe that’s the case and maybe not. But you can’t base a group’s sanity on whether or not they’re attacking you, but on what they’re saying. And you can’t base that attitude on the craziest attackers (which is almost always what they do) but on the group as a whole. In fact, it’s generally best to discard the craziest of the attackers, as there are crazies in EVERY group and you can’t fault the group for that. And sometimes, the crazies are just trolls looking for attention and sometimes they’re even people on the other team trying to embarrass their opponents by making them look bad. But instead, the people who stick in the critic’s head are the worst of the worst, and so the entire group is tainted by the actions of these.

But I’ve noticed this phenomenom for years. I think I first noticed it from uber-creepy Ann Althouse, who used this reasoning to determine that conservatives are kind and rational and that liberals are the only rude ones on the net; based entirely on the fact that only liberals attacked her. Joe Klein definitely suffers from it. Most media people are that way, in fact. But again, if you say something that angers a group of people and pleases another group, it’s really not a big mystery as to why you might get attacked by the one group or praised by the other. That’s just to be expected. Perhaps a good name would be The Self-Fulfilling Critic, though I’m not entirely pleased with that phrase. Perhaps someone else already has a better name for it.

But whatever it is, that’s what Krugman is experiencing. The more he attacks Obama, the more these people will attack him; but this isn’t necessarily indicitive of the Obama supporters. Krugman should try writing a bad column about Hillary to see if his theory holds up.

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