Sunday Sermon: The Arrogance of the Thin-Skinned Pundit

Glenn Greenwald describes how a noxious combo of thin skin and blogger criticism can send smart reporters and pundits down the path of obstinancy:

Everything changed when he turned himself into the chief defender of the original Paulson plan and thus became the target of substantial criticism from bloggers and their readers. Once that happened, the comment sections to his columns and his weekly chats became filled with negative feedback -- most of it substantive, some of it pure invective -- while Google searches of his name now produce conspicuous and aggressive critiques of his work. After that, Pearlstein became single-mindedly fixated on railing against bloggers and proving them to be ill-informed cretins, even at the expense of minimal coherence and consistency.

That happens quite frequently. People like Pearlstein are entirely unaccustomed to hearing widespread criticisms of their work, especially from the lowly masses (also known as his "readers" or, more distasteful still, from prize-less "bloggers"). When thin-skinned establishment mavens encounter such criticisms for the first time, they often develop resentment over their treatment and devote themselves to a crusade against those whom they blame for their terrible plight (nasty, disrespectful "bloggers"). Behind virtually every vocal establishment critic of "blogs" is some episode in the past where they were widely criticized by bloggers and their readers, and their lashing out -- though masquerading as devotion to high-minded, well-informed and civil discourse -- is, in reality, nothing more than self-absorbed and inextinguishable fury over being mistreated (i.e., criticized or opposed).

As these recent Pearlstein columns illustrate, those crusades almost always reflect far worse on the crusader than on anything or anyone else. People like Pearlstein have influential platforms. Criticisms of their arguments and behaviors are part of the price for that influence, and those criticisms ought to be engaged, not resented as improper disruptions of the proper social order.

I realize that in the idea business the customer can't, by definition, always be right, but I would think good manners would be part of the business model.

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Behind virtually every vocal establishment critic of "blogs" is some episode in the past where they were widely criticized by bloggers and their readers,

In other words, a blogger drove over their cat!!

Unfortunately, Glenn Greenwald also displays this same tendancy.

Don't get me wrong, I think he's an excellent writer and I agree strongly with the vast majority of his opinions. Once in a while though, when he does get challenged on his views, he gets his back up quickly, and will focus on the occasional insult rather than the substance of the criticism; The recent spat with Robert Farley of Lawyers, Guns and Money over domestic military deployment comes instantly to mind.

It's something I think we need to pull back from. We on the left have been so used to dealing with bad-faith arguments, insults and repudiated policy from the political right for so long, that it's become customary to respond with arguments embedded in snark and mockery, in the hopes of persuading the spectators, rather than the target. I think that sort of scorched-earth flaming is counterproductive when dealing with allies who MIGHT be convinced.

Glenn Greenwald is a fucking moron. Just witness the molestation he received at the hands of Orin Kerr and then how he had to resort to ad homs.