[email protected] has comments on 12 sites

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Slate Star Codex / slatestarcodex.com


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I’ve been trying to do this at The Atlantic. I’m fairly certain the ensuing debates meet all of the rules presented.

This 22-year-old Trump supporter I corresponded with later told me he voted for Hillary Clinton: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/05/a-dialogue-with-a-22-year-old-donald-trump-supporter/484232/

Here I am debating a Yale student protester about race and free speech there: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/03/yale-silliman-race/475152/

Here’s a conversation with a Black Lives Matter supporter about a controversial protest: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/08/a-dialogue-about-black-lives-matter-and-bernie-sanders/401960/

And here’s David Frum and I arguing about immigration: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/03/debating-immigration-policy-at-a-populist-moment/518916/

I’ve found these exchanges very useful, and readers seem to like them, based on both feedback and traffic. At the same time, they are very time consuming, partly because going back and forth takes longer than writing an article, but mostly because it’s really hard to find good conversation partners, especially when the threshold isn’t just *someone I want to persuade,* but *someone I want to persuade who isn’t just a straw man, and can write engagingly enough that lots of people will read them.*

2017-03-24 09:32:37 conorfriedersdorf

It always seems to me that the class hierarchy in different U.S. regions are very different from one another. Example: I grew up in Orange County, California. My wife grew up in New York’s Hudson Valley. We come from the same class. Yet whenever we spend time in New York City, or a couple years back when we drove to Maine, I always ask questions like, “Wait, can you explain Old Money again?” And I’m mostly serious. “Okay. I get why the Sopranos aren’t. But the Kennedy family isn’t?” In some circles, but only in the east, the question, “Where did you go to school?” will cause someone to tell me what high school they attended, AND they’ll expect me to have heard of it. It always makes me feel like pre-move Joan Didion in Goodbye to All That.

2016-01-30 12:31:08 Conor Friedersdorf
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The Wesleyan Argus / wesleyanargus.com

Wesleyan University's twice-weekly student newspaper since 1868.

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It’s hard to see how this won’t sent the following signal to editors of all campus publications: publish an opinion that departs from progressive orthodoxy at the peril of your funding.

2015-10-18 10:33:00
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MintPress News / mintpressnews.com

Independent, non-partisan journalism

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I’d like to see an article like this about liberals who support Stop and Frisk.

2014-08-28 21:29:00 Conor_Friedersdorf
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Abortion Gang / abortiongang.wordpress.com

unapologetic reproductive justice advocates.

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A few points in response:

1) There are not mutually exclusive categories called "journalist" and "opinion giver." Some journalists inject their opinions into their work. Others don't.

2) You write as if opponents of abortion are all alike, all share the same motivations, and all think in the same way. I insist that at least some folks are actually more interested in reducing the number of abortions than making the practice illegal.

3) You're dead wrong about there having been no stigma about special needs kids for the past 30 years, and I can't help thinking that you've just asserted your opinion on the matter without any basis in fact. I've spent a fair amount of time around families with special needs kids at a non-profit where I volunteered for a few years, and a member of my family works full time at a camp for kids with various medical conditions, including autism. In talking with parents of those kids -- that is to say, people who decided to carry those pregnancies to term -- there is widespread believe that there is still a stigma.
2011-08-05T15:29:38-04:00 Conor Friedersdorf
This piece doesn't do a very good job characterizing what I actually wrote in my piece. The argument wasn't that women, when pondering whether to have an abortion, should consume popular culture and decide accordingly. What I asserted is that in a future where access to abortion gets better and better, it is pointless for pro-lifers to try to overturn Roe and make it illegal in some states -- their only chance of bringing about the outcome they want (fewer abortions) is to persuade women to choose for themselves against having them.

Also, if you were at all familiar with my writing, you'd know that I am an opinion journalism who has no problem coming down publicly on one or the other side of an issue. It just so happens that I am genuinely conflicted on abortion -- unwilling to vote to make it illegal, but personally uncomfortable with it in some of the cases that it is legal. I don't know why that seems implausible to you. I am hardly alone in being conflicted on the subject.
2011-08-05T14:59:01-04:00 Conor Friedersdorf
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Chamblee54 / chamblee54.wordpress.com

Pretty Pictures and Ugly Opinions

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This account made me laugh. It definitely captures the annoying nature of the commercial interruptions. In fairness, however, I was able to read damning passages by both Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh – and I think that's a victory, because talk radio listeners are seldom forced to confront the odiousness of what those men say. I still hope to persuade Mr. Prager about that. Also, he is far better about letting guests speak than most radio hosts, political or not. 2011-02-17T18:42:44-05:00 Conor Friedersdorf
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Ordinary Times / ordinary-times.com

A Place of Culture, Politics, & Discourse

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You’re absolutely right – I was wrong to assert that “the gap between the number of claimants and the total number of black farmers in America” suggests “widespread fraud.” After reading emails from Dish readers, which I posted as followups, I feel silly for not seeing the problem with the claimants metric at the time. All I can say is that it was an honest mistake, and while I wish I would’ve raised it in my initial post, I am at least glad that I blogged about this issue because a lot of folks who were wrong in the same way I was now have the benefit of understanding this controversy better. I’ll certainly deploy your arguments as this case gets covered elsewhere.


Usually I don’t take time to respond to your irrationally hostile brand of quasi-trollery, but for Christ’s sake. You wrote, “Conor Friedersdorf is an idiot, and a useful one for the conservative movement.” God knows there are a lot of things for which one could criticize me, but it’s appropriate to your lack of thoughtfulness that you’ve found the single criticism that has the least basis in fact imaginable.Report

2011-02-15T06:28:05 Conor Friedersdorf

If your beliefs are mostly grounded in one or another philosophical tradition, there isn’t anything wrong with claiming that tradition of thought as part of your grounding, and also saying that when it comes to today’s politics, you’re part of Team Unaligned.Report

2010-05-04T03:29:05 Conor Friedersdorf


Thanks for taking note of our debate.

I disagree with a couple of your points — I address your post here: http://theamericanscene.com/2009/11/11/ringside-interview-taking-aim-at-the-judge-s-scoring



2009-11-12T07:26:24 Conor Friedersdorf

“Is this your project – going after the pundits on the right – or is there more to it? It’s one thing to take the occasional shot at Limbaugh, or decry the occasional bout of lunacy exhibited by Beck – but when it becomes overwhelmingly the subject of somebody’s work it starts to lose its poignancy, and leads quite quickly to the sort of unproductive alienation I’m speaking of here.”

Agreed, with two qualifications:

1) The right approach isn’t taking “occasional pot shots” at the talk radio hosts, it is substantively criticizing them for specific flaws in their ideas. I’m relatively new to writing about these guys. Going forward, I tend to do it less often, and when there is a larger point to be made.

2) Though it is somehow the perception that attacking talk radio hosts is the overwhelming subject of my work, that isn’t actually even close to true. I’d say that it is at most twenty percent of my output as a writer even during the few months when I’ve written about that subject most frequently. That it generates the most attention, criticism, hits, etc. is true.Report

2009-10-28T21:58:07 Conor Friedersdorf

There is a plausible argument to be made that Robert Stacy McCain is best ignored. I make no comment here on the validity of that case — I say only that one might argue, “He isn’t worth engaging, because he won’t do so in good faith — giving his outrageous remarks attention merely spreads them farther than they’d otherwise go, and creates an incentive for his bad behavior by sending him traffic when he behaves badly.” Like I said, it’s a plausible argument.

But Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Mark Levin? They are past the point where ignoring them makes sense. They’re wildly influential people on the right — the least influential among them, Mr. Levin, had the bestselling book on the New York Times bestseller list for weeks on end. These people aren’t validated or incentivized by dissident conservatives writing relatively obscure arguments making substantive criticism of their approach — they’re validated and subsidized by book sales, ratings, and perhaps even outraging liberals from Barack Obama to Jesse Jackson to Keith Olbermann.

On re-reading the stuff I’ve written about these men, I find it difficult to imagine that they’d feel validated by any of it, or that it would increase their influence, or their ratings, or their book sales. Then again, I think I’ve made well-reasoned, persuasive arguments that Rush Limbaugh is a race-baiter who irresponsibly exacerbates black-white racial tensions and that Mark Levin’s influential book is wrongheaded insofar as it uses “Statists” as an obscuring straw man when an argument more helpful to the right would focus on the motivations of actual liberals and Democrats.

It is perfectly fair to argue that in fact the cases I’ve made are wrong, or poorly argued, but I haven’t seen anyone criticize them on those grounds. The argument seems to be that regardless of their content, it is counterproductive to criticize talk radio hosts, and that it convinces no one. My e-mail In-box alone persuades me that at least some people are in fact persuaded by what I write, though God only knows how many. Probably not very many! But I see no evidence for the proposition that writing against ideas these folks propagate is counterproductive, nor that the exercise doesn’t have any impact on my audience, or their audiences, on down the line.Report

2009-10-28T21:31:59 Conor Friedersdorf

I make all sorts of points without criticizing talk radio hosts. But when my point is that an influential NY Times bestseller by Mark Levin is straw-manning, or that Rush Limbaugh is inciting racial animus, or that Glenn Beck is unfairly targeting Cass Sunstein, or that the style adopted by these folks does damage to public discourse — well no, I don’t think that I can make those points without criticizing them. And I think those points are all worthy of being made.Report

2009-10-28T20:32:49 Conor Friedersdorf

“This is not about loyalty. And I’ve never once said that public officials should be immunized against attacks from their constituency.”

Well, it’s sort of about loyalty, isn’t it? The whole idea is that I am writing things that anger “the base” and lead them to regard me as disloyal, therefore dismissing everything that I say. And that I should refrain from writing some of those things so that doesn’t happen. Right?

I don’t know, maybe I am still misunderstanding exactly what it that you are saying. I take you at your word that you didn’t intend what the Trojan horse metaphor implied. Accordingly, however, I am all the more confused by the quote you chose to begin this post. “Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”

I won’t guess exactly what you mean by including that, lest I be accused of deliberately misrepresenting you, but it sure doesn’t sound like the forthright, straightforward manner that I regard as the appropriate way for a writer and journalist to conduct him or herself.Report

2009-10-28T20:15:00 Conor Friedersdorf

“ED is taking a pragmatic approach which may bear fruit, but bears the risk of long term cynicism. There is a price to be paid for keeping one’s mouth shut and not speaking up when you see wrong being done.”

Indeed there is ample evidence that a price has been paid due to conservative pundits keeping their mouths shut so that they are perceived as being loyal — and very little if any evidence that dissident conservatives have caused any harm.Report

2009-10-28T19:58:38 Conor Friedersdorf

“Of course it’s personality politics. Why are you attacking radio hosts to begin with?”

As I’ve noted repeatedly, I attack talk radio hosts because 1) I care about the health of the public discourse that they are helping to corrode; and 2) they are influential peddlers of wrongheaded ideas. And again, your assertion that “of course it is personality politics” — a term you’ve yet to define — doesn’t make it so.

“Do you see Ezra Klein attacking Michael Moore or other far-left types? Would it do any good if he did?”

Michael Moore is nowhere near as influential among Democratic politicians and voters as Rush Limbaugh is on the right. Were Ezra to critique wrongheaded ideas spread by Michael Moore, and accepted by a bunch of people on the left, it would do good.

“What it amounts to is stating the obvious – preaching to the choir. Race-baiting is bad. Generic terminology used to describe the left is bad. Anyone who is going to be convinced by your arguments is likely already on board, likely doesn’t listen to Rush or Levin.”

I disagree. There are plenty of people whose opinions about people change over time due to accurate, persuasive criticism of their behavior. See Ann Coulter. Your whole argument seems predicated on the notion that everyone to my left already agrees with my critiques, and everyone to my right is unpersuadable. You haven’t got evidence for either assumption.

“But how are you against them?”

I refrain from voting for them. I write against what I regard as their wrongheaded actions. I try to persuade others that they’re in the wrong. I try to bring about a better public discourse that functions as a crucible for ideas.

“If you have no investment in changing the course of events because you aren’t interested in the movement but only in the philosophical insights of conservative thinkers, then where on earth does that lead to?”

Being conditionally loyal to “the conservative movement,” and interested in projects beside its reform along lines you’ve delineated, doesn’t mean that I am not interested in the movement. I find it very interesting. I’ve spent a great deal of time writing about where it went wrong, and how it might write itself. You act as though everyone must either be an activist inside the movement or else a worthless bystander. That isn’t true. Politics has a place for activists, a place for loyalists, a place for wonks, a place for intellectuals, a place for dissidents, etc. etc.

“At some point abstractions have to become actions, and that requires an organization, and that leads to the “movement” and that leads to choices and compromises and roadmaps and all those ugly, tangible things.”

The fact that politics requires organizations and coalitions hardly implies that everyone interested in politics, or even influencing politics, need be members of the organization, or organizers themselves. Example: people who write about politics!Report

2009-10-28T18:32:52 Conor Friedersdorf

“…yes, the continual attack on Limbaugh and Levin (et al) has begun to look very much like personality politics.”

What do you mean, it has begun to look like them? Either I am attacking substantive ideas or I’m not. I’ve told you what the substantive critiques are — Mark Levin’s straw-manning of the left as statists, Limbaugh’s race-baiting. These aren’t mere attacks on their personalities. They are arguments taking issue with some of the right’s most influential voices. That you perceive them to be “personality politics” doesn’t make it so.Report

2009-10-28T17:56:59 Conor Friedersdorf

“I think you need to get out of the comfort zone of simply saying ‘I’m for conservatism, not the conservative movement.’ What does that even mean?”

It means that I think the political philosophy of conservatism, as articulated by sundry thinkers over the centuries, is chalk full of valuable insights that should inform the way we live our lives, organize society, and govern ourselves — and that insofar as a political coalition that calls itself “the conservative movement” actually stands for those insights, I am with it.

And insofar as they claim to be for conservatism, but say that in reference to things like the Iraq War, or torture, or race-baiting, then I am against them.Report

2009-10-28T17:54:08 Conor Friedersdorf


You write: “First – where on earth have I asked that dissidents not argue their ‘true beliefs’? Seriously. Quote me.”

Shortly thereafter, you write: “I said, quite simply, don’t attack the pundits because it will backfire.”

Maybe I am misunderstanding you. I’m certainly not trying to misrepresent you. But it still seems to me that you’re asking that I calculate the substance of my writing based on its ability to persuade — and avoid offending — the small subset of the American people who are hunkered down within what remains of “the conservative movement.”

You also continue to mislabel my critiques of conservative talk radio hosts as “personality politics,” when in fact my critiques are almost always taking aim at the wrongheaded ideas that they propagate.

Finally, “movement conservatism” is not my chosen philosophy. I am not actually sure it is a philosophy at all. My chosen philosophy is conservatism. It is a distinct thing. Consider the matter from my perspective. I believe in some Burkean ideas, and some Hayekian ideas, and some Oakshottian ideas, etc. How shall I describe myself? Should I abandon the word conservative because the Bush Administration did lots of awful stuff while flying under that banner?

“…that’s why this project Conor is engaged in – of being aloof and distant from the actual political trenches – strikes me as not only futile, but as the easy way out.”

The fact that my foremost goal in life isn’t doing whatever it is you think I should do to change the conservative movement hardly makes me aloof and distant from the actual political trenches. For heaven’s sake, if arguing in the comments section of Dan Riehl’s blog isn’t trench warfare I don’t know what is. Nor are Rod or other dissident conservatives aloof. They are more politically engaged than 99 percent of the population.Report

2009-10-28T17:01:14 Conor Friedersdorf

“The problem does not rest within any one of these sub-ideologies, and yet it rests in all of them at once; it’s the belief that all of these sub-ideologies can be fused together into a permanent coalition capable of competent government under a broad banner of “conservatism” that causes the problem.”

It is foolhardy to think that the various sub-ideologies of the right can fuse together into a “permanent coalition” — and as foolhardy to imagine that they are permanently incapable of doing so. Broadly speaking, America is a country where our two governing ideologies and the parties with which they overlap more or less uneasily are constantly ebbing and flowing.

Just as it was shortsighted and historical to say in 2003 that the GOP was set for a permanent majority, and liberalism was a broken opposition, it is today shortsighted and ahistorical to say the same thing of conservatism.

Freddie, you write: “I would just like it if we could all admit that out of a dedication to neutrality and equal time, we have essentially abandoned any notion of equitable judgment between Democrats and Republicans, and between liberals and conservatives. We simply are not judging the two groups, of either divide, with equal discrimination, because conservatism is in such a sad place now that people feel like holding it to adult standards is somehow biased against it.”

I’d argue that part of the problem is that by criticizing dissident conservatives for failing to successfully reform the political right, you’re doing the same thing: judging us by the high standards of reasonable people who can be persuaded, reasoned with, shamed, etc., and judging “the base” as though they aren’t worthy of being criticized, because they are impervious to reason or persuasion.

I’d prefer that we were all judged by the same high standards.Report

2009-10-28T15:58:43 Conor Friedersdorf


We can agree that “the conservative movement” has rendered itself incapable of governing well — and maybe that is even a result partly of ideological incoherence — but I must insist again that there is a distinction between the conservative movement, a political coalition that is in a bad way, and the political philosophy of conservatism.

I tried to address this by arguing the following: “Let’s travel back for a moment to the Civil Rights era, when many conservatives were saying, ‘Slow down, desegregation is happening too fast,’ while many liberals were saying, ‘The time for justice is now.’ Were I alive during that era I’d like to think that I’d have sided with the liberals. It certainly would’ve been the right choice, as even folks like Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley ultimately acknowledged. That is an example of how the political philosophy conservatism was inadequate to the circumstances of the country. It is a perfectly conservative impulse to resist rapid social change. In that case, it was also a perfectly wrongheaded stance.”

“The present moment is different.”

Luckily, political coalitions and the principles they organize themselves around, or pretend to organize themselves around, can change very quickly. Most often in American politics they change due to the influence of a charismatic presidential candidate — see Ronald Reagan — or a particularly talented coalition builder in Congress (see Newt Gingrich).Report

2009-10-28T15:16:18 Conor Friedersdorf

“This incoherence creates the conditions where conservatives can elect an incompetent President and talk show hosts can come to dominate the discourse.”

What evidence or chain of reasoning leads you to believe that incoherence in the definition of conservatism created those conditions?Report

2009-10-28T13:43:53 Conor Friedersdorf

I’d rather shoot a squirrel than chop down a 3,000 year old giant sequoia.Report

2009-10-22T05:55:55 Conor Friedersdorf

I guess I’d say that while I can’t think of any political agenda that is more innocuous and less controversial than National Day of Service, I do still think it is a matter of using art for politics, and I don’t think it’s innocuous for the NEA to be involved in that.Report

2009-09-28T15:28:14 Conor Friedersdorf


Two things:

1) We’re aware that comments at TAS have declined in quality, and we’re working on a solution.

2) Isn’t your position that there isn’t anything wrong with the NEA advancing a president’s political agenda, so long as that agenda isn’t controversial or partisan?Report

2009-09-28T02:36:25 Conor Friedersdorf

Being right about some things, or “moving in the right direction,” doesn’t change the fact that Glenn Beck deliberately misleads his audience on a nightly basis. Are we really at the point where rather than attacking pundits for 1 minute of indefensible monologue, we are defending pundits based having on 1 minute of defensible monologue?Report

2009-09-18T02:35:56 Conor Friedersdorf


You of all people should know that a Slate headline and subhead can hardly be counted upon to reliably state the view of a piece’s author! Katie doesn’t actually claim that feminism claim that feminism “won’t admit the pleasure of infants.” That phrase appears in the subhead — and is pretty clearly based on a distinct part of Katie’s piece:

“One of the minor dishonesties of the feminist movement has been to underestimate the passion of this time, to try for a rational, politically expedient assessment. Historically, feminists have emphasized the difficulty, the drudgery of new motherhood. They have tried to analogize childcare to the work of men; and so for a long time, women have called motherhood a ‘vocation.’ The act of caring for a baby is demanding, and arduous, of course, but it is wilder and more narcotic than any kind of work I have ever done.”Report

2009-08-26T09:22:59 Conor Friedersdorf

I’ve written a response to this post here: http://ideas.theatlantic.com/2009/07/public_employee_unions_cont.phpReport

2009-07-09T18:30:49 Conor Friedersdorf


Would you mind adding the next couple lines to that transcript so that it includes my view that Iraq and Afghanistan do not make an empire at the moment?Report

2009-06-19T19:24:35 Conor Friedersdorf

Unlike David Frum, I don’t think the primary drawback of Rush Limbaugh is that he turns off independents (though I do think he turns off independents).

For me, the primary drawback is that he causes his audience to adopt flawed ways of thinking. For example, the Rush Limbaugh meme that liberals aren’t just mistaken, but mendacious, is adopted by many of his listeners, and it makes these legion conservatives less able to grasp where liberals are coming from, and therefore less able to refute their actual arguments and convert those who are convertible.

I take Matthew’s point, but I see no way to fight this tendency except by criticizing talk radio hosts when I find things they say to be mistaken.Report

2009-05-28T04:18:12 Conor Friedersdorf

I am sure that GM, Haliburton, Bear Stearns, GE, every ethanol corporation, and many others would be quite upset if libertarians got their way.Report

2009-05-12T10:30:00 Conor Friedersdorf

I thought I said that Kaus can be a liberal. I just don’t see what possible good he does for the liberal cause.

Okay. Well, his kind of neoliberalism is one reason why Democrats are today seen as a fiscally responsible alternative to the GOP. His advocacy for a larger federal role in health care is a dear liberal cause, and one he is uniquely positioned to advance before conservative causes. His championing of social equality, and his book on that topic, advance the cause of egalitarianism in the United States, and in a way that genuinely advances that debate by suggesting a new approach that accomplishes liberal ends. And his criticism of other Democrats and liberals provides a critique from someone who often shares the same ends, which is sometimes useful.Report

2009-02-16T21:58:14 Conor Friedersdorf

John McCain is actually a useful example of someone who is obviously conservative in many ways, is widely considered by fellow conservatives not to be on their side, and who takes pleasure in dinging conservatives.

Also, Kaus’ “they called me liberal” remark merely reflects that he is well aware of his own reputation.

But again, the root of the issue here is that Mickey Kaus’ actual beliefs are liberal. Who he likes to annoy, the flaws he focuses on, what others consider him to be, etc. do not change the fact that he wants to increase social equality even if it means decreasing freedom, that he votes for Democrats for the presidency, and that he wants to massively expand the federal role in health care and child care — a collection of positions that are pretty damned hard to explain if he isn’t a liberal!Report

2009-02-16T21:54:13 Conor Friedersdorf

Okay, to cite the first example I came to:

the reference to liberalism isn’t irrelevant, because the now-undermined welfare reform was the key to rebuilding confidence in (liberal) affirmative government. As Bill Clinton recognized, voters may well have been willing to let government spend, but they didn’t trust old style liberals not to spend in actively destructive ways, like subsidizing an isolated underclass of non-working single mothers with a no-strings cash dole. It’s a 75-25 values issue. Work yes. Welfare no. Even if welfare spending was only a tiny portion of the liberals’ spending agenda, it poisoned the rest of it. Only when Clinton’s New Democrats put an ostentatious “time limit” on welfare and required work did they regain the public confidence necessary to increase other kinds of spending (on work-related poverty-fighting benefits like the Earned Income Tax Credit, day care and Social Security, for example.)

If Mickey Kaus isn’t a liberal, why does he care about a foolish liberal stance on welfare poisoning the ability of the federal government to increase other kinds of social spending? Why would he care about rebuilding confidence in liberal affirmative government?

That is the core of the issue. Mickey Kaus believes in liberal affirmative government. Are conservatives hoping that Democrats earn and maintain the trust and political capital to expand the federal entitlement state to include child care and health care?

Almost everything you excerpt is about this one issue. One additional note: scroll down through Kaus’ post and you’ll see that he thinks the Welfare provisions in the bill will be a huge electoral liability for Democrats — that the ads will write themselves. Would a conservative be concerned about that? Is it an argument you’d ever hear used on The Corner?Report

2009-02-16T21:46:52 Conor Friedersdorf

But always, always, always to annoy and degrade liberals, Conor. That’s simply the case.

This is demonstrably false, and the demonstration is an easy one: immigration reform! Did Mickey Kaus depart from the pundit consensus and ding Bush and McCain to annoy and degrade liberals? Obviously not. So I guess that isn’t “always always always” his motivation.

This isn’t to say that Kaus doesn’t take some pleasure in annoying liberals who disagree with him on the issues that he obsesses about — he does, or at least he seems to.

But one can take pleasure in annoying those whose political philosophy you share. Go read Secular Right, and tell me that Heather MacDonald doesn’t take some pleasure in annoying the subset of conservatives who adopt what she regards as irrational religious stances. Does that mean she is not a conservative? Tell me that David Frum didn’t enjoy publishing a piece on his site about how the RNC had Sarah Palin’s wardrobe in trash bags, or that Andrew Sullivan doesn’t enjoy tweaking Hugh Hewitt or driving them mad at The Corner, or that Kathleen Parker didn’t take some pleasure at annoying Palinites, or that Chris Buckley didn’t take some pleasure annoying fellow conservatives.Report

2009-02-16T21:35:05 Conor Friedersdorf

What Conor does not understand, and can’t understand, is what it is like to come of age into a movement that is filled with people telling you that you are wrong to be one of them, that there is something dirty about your beliefs, that the appropriate state of mind for your ideology is shame and the appropriate political stance, capitulation or retreat.

Where in the post that you excerpt does Mickey Kaus say that it is wrong to be a liberal, or that anyone who is should be ashamed, or that liberals should capitulate?

Let’s look at the Kaus quote piece by piece.

Welfare is a liberal sore spot that, if Republicans play it right, could become a bleeding open wound for the administration. Voters probably thought they’d settled the dole-vs.-work issue back in 1996.

Here Kaus is saying that this issue could damage a liberal administration. It’s an observation about politics that doesn’t assert anything about the objective goodness or badness of the policy at hand.

Obama will be fulfilling the crude GOP stereotype of his party if he even waffles on reopening it.

Here Kaus is explicitly saying that going back on 1996 reforms would be foolish, and that it would fulfill the worst stereotypes of Democrats. Implicit in this is that he doesn’t want liberals to fulfill the worst stereotypes held by the other side. It’s also worth keeping in mind that Kaus believes — and has argued at length — that welfare reform was good politically for Democrats and liberals, good for the country, and good for former welfare recipients who are now working. He still hasn’t said it’s wrong or shameful to be a liberal — only that it is wrong or shameful if liberals return to what he regards as a bankrupt position, abandoning an alternative that liberals embraced with great results.

And there’s something fallacious (i.e. circular) about a liberal Dem citing MSM coverage as if the New York Times was an infallible oracle of the people, as opposed to an infallible oracle of liberal Dems. This is what you see when you look up “cocooning” in the dictionary! …

Okay. So Kaus thinks that the NY Times is a liberal leaning paper, and that it’s silly for a liberal Democrat to cite it as a neutral arbiter on an issue like welfare reform — on which it has long taken the opposite position as Kaus, and been proven wrong on many specifics — is tone deaf and disingenuous.

Again, how is this a statement that it is shameful to be a liberal, or that liberals should capitulate?

Imagine that four years from now Bobby Jindhal is elected president, and turns to a restrictive trade policy. Imagine that I wrote the following (this is a flawed example, but not in any way that impacts my point):

Trade is a conservative sore spot that, if Democrats play it right, could be a bleeding open wound for the Administration. Voters probably thought they’d settled the free trade issue back with NAFTA. Jindhal will be fulfilling the liberal stereotype of the right if he even waffles on reopening the debate.

And there’s something fallacious (i.e. circular) about a conservative Republican citing cable news coverage as if Lou Dobbs was an infallible oracle of the people, as opposed to an infallible oracle of the populist right. This is what you see when you look up “cocooning” in the dictionary!

Again, I know that example is flawed in certain ways, but imagine that the underlying political realities squared. If I wrote that, would you conclude that I was ashamed of conservatism? That I thought the correct legislative posture for the right was perpetual retreat?

I don’t think the excerpt you’ve provided is evidence for the point you purportedly made at all.Report

2009-02-16T21:27:16 Conor Friedersdorf

FYI, and old Kaus profile here: http://www.newsthinking.com/story.cfm?SID=185

And one additional thought: Mickey Kaus is a liberal, but he is also someone who isn’t primarily interested in advancing the causes of a political movement. His is the journalistic project. Air arguments. Advance conversations. Adhere to logic. Be contrarian for the sake of stirring things up and aiding the ferment of ideas.Report

2009-02-16T20:36:55 Conor Friedersdorf

Kaus has written in such a way as to suggest that the rivals shouldn’t even be seriously considered in the first place.

This is not so. Kaus doesn’t point to people who want to, for example, undermine the 1996 welfare reform law and say, “You’re idiots, nah nah nah.” His style is to offer a series of concise, specific arguments that what they’re going is wrong, and why it is wrong. The tone is sometimes contemptuous, yes, but he always offers substantive, specific reasons to back up his stances.Report

2009-02-16T20:08:01 Conor Friedersdorf

Kaus is contemptuous– contemptuous, utterly and completely, and I choose that word with care– of liberalism. Not of what has become of liberalism, not of where liberalism is headed, but of liberalism himself.

I’d like to see a Kaus quote asserting as much. What core tenets of liberalism does Mickey Kaus have contempt for? You disagree with the means that he emphasizes, and sometimes that means that he argues for, but I see little evidence that his ends and the ends of liberals are fundamentally at odds.Report

2009-02-16T19:55:19 Conor Friedersdorf

The stance that liberalism is always the problem,

But Kaus neither thinks liberalism is always the problem, nor asserts that it is. The fact that he emphasizes problems with the left does not mean he thinks it is always the problem.

the stance that the best way forward for any liberal in any situation is to tack to the right,

Health care is a clear counterexample. Kaus argues that a vastly increased federal role in health care is desirable, and for decidedly liberal reasons: he thinks social equality demands and is furthered by everyone being in the same boat, sitting in doctor’s office waiting rooms together in the same way that they wait in line at the DMV.

the stance that the greatest danger to this country is always from the left and not from the right.

He neither thinks nor has asserted that as a general proposition. On immigration, he argued that the greatest danger to the country was from Bush and McCain. He voted for Obama, so he presumably thought that a President McCain was a greater danger to American flourishing.Report

2009-02-16T19:50:06 Conor Friedersdorf


Perhaps I am unfamiliar with the history you’re invoking, but I don’t see what you’re talking about. The most damaging thing that Democrats and liberals did to themselves during the Bush era is to go along with the Iraq War, and neo-liberals were certainly among prominent liberal hawks, but Mickey Kaus opposed the Iraq War.

On immigration, Kaus opposed Bush as vocally as any liberal. The other Kaus obsessions — welfare reform, teachers unions, cars — seem peripheral to the major issues that went wrong over the last 8 years.

What are the most damaging legacies of the Bush Administration? Foreign meddling? Budget deficits and profligate spending? Torture? Incompetence at high levels of government? I find it hard to see how Mickey Kaus enabled any of these things.

Are you telling me that strident support of welfare reform and opposition to teacher’s unions are meaningful things that damaged Democrats and helped empower Bush?

What specific stance did Mickey Kaus take that damaged liberals or empowered Bush?Report

2009-02-16T19:22:18 Conor Friedersdorf

I’m curious to know how Mickey Kaus has hurt the liberal cause.Report

2009-02-16T19:07:20 Conor Friedersdorf
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The Monster's Ink / alysonmiers.com

Never Hide Your Light

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For bottle service girls, the biggest source of income isn't tips, it's commission. They're paid to bring in people who pay for tables and buy lots of expensive champagne or vodka.

They're just not comparable to typical wait staff or bartenders.


2011-02-13T04:37:01-05:00 Conor Friedersdorf
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Smash Mouth Politics / maaadddog.wordpress.com

ALL the news you need to know to be informed. And no holds barred political discussion.

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Metro-sexual? Really? I think you overestimate my grooming and dressing habits! But otherwise, thanks for grappling with my piece. 2010-05-26T22:05:41-05:00 Conor Friedersdorf
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Unlike David Frum, I don't think the primary drawback of Rush Limbaugh is that he turns off independents (though I do think he turns off independents).

For me, the primary drawback is that he causes his audience to adopt flawed ways of thinking. For example, the Rush Limbaugh meme that liberals aren't just mistaken, but mendacious, is adopted by many of his listeners, and it makes these legion conservatives less able to grasp where liberals are coming from, and therefore less able to refute their actual arguments and convert those who are convertible.

I take your point, but I see no way to fight this tendency except by criticizing talk radio hosts when I find things they say to be mistaken.
2009-05-27T22:08:38-04:00 Conor Friedersdorf
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Will Wilkinson / willwilkinson.net

A discussion of intersectionality for people who don't like intersectionality.

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Thanks Will, that is helpful. I wonder if anyone has ever done work on how marginal tax rates and other things that impact returns to entrepreneurship affects the proportion of meritocratic elites who pursue professions versus proprietorship. 2009-03-07T21:06:30-06:00 Conor Friedersdorf
I always thought it sounded a lot more fun to be Francisco d'Anconia than John Galt. 2009-03-06T20:42:00+00:00 Conor Friedersdorf
I always thought it sounded a lot more fun to be Francisco d'Anconia than John Galt. 2009-03-06T12:42:19-05:00 Conor Friedersdorf
I'd love to commission that piece.
Conor Friedersdorf
Features Editor
2008-09-25T00:42:00+00:00 Conor Friedersdorf
I'd love to commission that piece.Cheers,Conor FriedersdorfFeatures Editorwww.culture11.com 2008-09-24T17:42:06-05:00 Conor Friedersdorf
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The Inverse Square Blog / inversesquare.wordpress.com

science and the public square -- by thomas levenson

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The author of the comment and the proprietor of this blog seem to be under the mistaken impression that there is a monolithic "right-wing" that is of a single mind about science. In fact, those on the right are of many different minds about science -- a Goldwater voter who earns his living as a mechanical engineer and a Huckabee voter whose children are home-schooled in creationism, for example, are both on the right, but their attitudes toward science are quite different from one another.

It is also worth pointing out -- contra the implicit implication of the commenter -- that being a conservative and being a Republican are not the same thing. The GOP has an embarrassing record on science indeed.

What is equally embarrassing is that an MIT professor, and the readers of his blog, would assume that an editor at a right of center Web magazine favors the Bush Administration approach to science, not because he has ever written anything suggesting as much, or because he has commissioned articles arguing as much, but because this particular MIT professor has such a caricatured view of those who don't share his political beliefs that he assumes them guilty of the worst intellectual follies absent any evidence whatever.

So far in this exchange, a professor of science writing criticized a Web magazine that is TWO DAYS OLD for not publishing enough stories on science. The features editor replied stating that he'd love to publish worthwhile science stories. The professor, who imagines "worthwhile" to be a "loaded" word, replied that the editor shouldn't expect others to do his job for him.

Well this editor has worked at a few newspapers, and The Atlantic, which happens to be his favorite magazine and a magazine where the professor has published, and he is asserting here and now that part of the job of a features editor is precisely to pick the minds of science writing professors at MIT on ideas for good science features. Unless the professor imagines that editors spin their story ideas out of thin air, I cannot imagine how this could seem unusual.

Finally, I must say it is bizarre that the professor and his commenter, who are accusing a two day old publication of viewing science through the lens of ideology rather than reality, are themselves the ones who are making inaccurate presumptions based on ideology... and more tellingly, when asked for suggestions about good science stories to cover, their reply is to cite a book on the politics of science.

Gentlemen, please, I am not interested in stories on the politics of science. For God's sake, my favorite science writers, off the top of my head, are Carl Sagan, Gregg Easterbrook and Michael Pollan. I am interested in publishing good science journalism, not engaging in a proxy war on the politics of science for either political party.
2008-08-29T01:38:05-05:00 Conor Friedersdorf

I'd never say that our magazine is going to cover everything an informed citizen should know something about. It made sense to aim for that kind of generality when people only had a few newspapers and magazines available to them. A Web magazine, in contrast, is part of a bigger conversation, and ought to pick its spots, not imagine that it can print all the news that's fit to print. Our editorial staff, at present, is quite small. We aim to do lots of things well, and to do everything with an open mind an intellectual honesty, but we do not aim to do everything.

My spot, in particular, is trying to commission really interesting narratives that entertain while saying something important. If you consult the piece on the FBI agent who left the agency due to its illegal behavior and joined the ACLU, you'll find the first success I am claiming. Certainly I think science is an important topic -- I've already commissioned a piece that fits under that heading. In fact, I'd commission more science pieces if the pool of writers capable of writing good science and good narrative weren't so small.

I'm not sure what "conservative friendly" science is, and I certainly don't think that emergency medical care is equivalent to adequate medical insurance, though neither do I think that a piece on the topic is a science story as much as a public policy/politics story. Anyway I'm not particularly interested in commissioning stories for the sake of advancing the political interests of anyone. I am interested in doing good journalism.

In fact, the piece you dismiss above as being about "blind dates with smart women" is actually about nothing of the sort. That hypothetical lead is a mere introduction to a piece that asserts two things: 1) the flaws of liberalism are very hard to capture in the kind of narrative journalism practiced in America. 2) Conservatives should stop being intellectually dishonest advocates in their journalism, and start being interested in the truth, whether or not it undermines their ideological pieties. Presumably you disagree with the first point, but I am surprised that you are so quick to gloss over a piece that argued the latter rather powerfully.

I thank you for wishing me well on the startup, but I am a bit unclear about which larger claims and ambitions you feel hostile toward. What claims have I made? What ambitions have I stated with which you disagree? Finally, a correction: you say that the GOP today adopted platform language that called for a complete ban on stem cell research, and that it ought to be worth a comment. As it happens, two of our editors engaged in a reasoned, public and almost immediate debate about that very thing on our staff blog.

Anyway, to return to your basic premise - you say that "the entire site is designed, at least for now, to suggest that questions with a scientific or technical core don’t rise to the level of significance worthy of a conservative intelligentsia’s attention." But that just isn't so, not because we've emphasized science, but because there are all sorts of things that we think intelligent people should pay attention to that we aren't writing about at all. We aren't denying the importance of science any more than the New England Journal of Medicine is denying the importance of art.

In any case, I think this has been a useful exchange, and I wish you the best.
2008-08-29T00:22:00-05:00 Conor Friedersdorf
Hmm. I find this post puzzling -- I'm not sure you understand our publication very well, but if you're up for intellectual engagement rather than snark I'll happily join the conversation. And if you have any worthwhile ideas for science stories I'd gladly commission and publish them.

Conor Friedersdorf
Features Editor
2008-08-28T16:44:34-05:00 Conor Friedersdorf
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ACCUMULATING PERIPHERALS / mattsteinglass.wordpress.com

offhand commentary on E. Asia, the US, and the 12,000 miles in between

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As an editor at Culture11, perhaps I am not in the best position to evaluate the merits of any piece that we publish. I can assure you, however, that Joe Carter, our managing editor, is deeply committed to intellectual honesty and engaging the arguments posed by those with whom he disagrees.

Perhaps it would be a better conversation if you showed the same courtesy. After all, the article makes the demonstrably true points that the gender imbalance wrought by selectively aborting baby girls is unprecedented and dramatic, and asserts the plausible argument that this could be a big problem in the future.

Do you disagree? Because rather than address those points, you've implied that Joe might want to bomb China or is so foolish as to think we could pass legislation there -- in other words, you've been very uncharitable toward someone making a good faith effort to discuss an important topic. For those who haven't read Joe's piece, there is no suggestion whatsoever that we ought to invade China, or that we have the ability to ban abortion there.

Perusing your site, it's obvious that your an intelligent fellow with writerly talent. Whether Joe's piece is entirely right or utterly wrongheaded, you'd advance the conversation by engaging him charitably and substantively rather than distorting what he said for the sake of snark.

I hope you'll offer a more considered take on the topic soon. I'd gladly read it with interest and an open mind.


Conor Friedersdorf
Features Editor
2008-08-28T11:21:09+07:00 Conor Friedersdorf