Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Just Brilliant

The conservation about conservatives and information (started by Julian Sanchez after the Frum episode; here's my contribution) has been interesting, and I think reasonably important.  Lots of good contributions.  I tend not to read the most purely partisan stuff (on either side), so I don't really know how people who think of themselves as movement conservatives who disagree with the entire premise are taking it, but I've thought that comments from both liberals and conservatives have been thoughtful and constructive.

No more!  I've seen plenty of  thread hijackings over the years,* but I'm thoroughly impressed with Megan McArdle's "Look At Me" post (and there's a follow-up already).  It is, in a word, brilliant.  I mean, there's the diagnosis, which is good enough...apparently conservatives are "marginalized" because Stephen Baldwin doesn't get work, and because she knows someone who didn't get tenure didn't get an academic job couldn't put together a dissertation committee couldn't get into grad school decided not to go to grad school because everyone knows that they don't like conservatives in academia, and so therefore they're pretty much doomed to only talk to each other.  I know, it's really tempting to take this apart (wait -- weren't those things true in the 1970s and 1980s, and the whole point is that things are different now -- oops, no!), but that would take away from how...

...she clinches it by explaining that all those poor, marginalized, conservatives are just like...oh, you know you're going to love it...wait for it...negroes in the fifties.  Oh yeah.  You see,
I doubt many bank hiring committees in the fifties got together and voted not to hire any negro bank managers. Yet, somehow, they didn't hire any negro bank managers.  Why not?  Because things like social networks, subtle bias, and tacit norms...
Now, I know what you're saying: she can't possibly believe that  blacks didn't get hired in the 1950s primarily because of "social networks, subtle bias, and tacit norms," can she?  But that's what's so wonderful about this post.  There's just no way that anyone could try to think about anything other than "Megan McArdle, what the hell is wrong with you?" after reading that.  And really, the whole (very long) post is just loaded with stuff like that, although I think that I've hit the high points.  Except for the bits about Bob Jones University and Jeremiah Wright.  And liberal media bias.  And abortion.  And the Jews.  No, I know -- you think I'm kidding, don't you?  I'm not.  I swear.  I mean, there's a reason that "Look At Me" works if it's done well, and this one is really, really good.

So, I'll leave it to others to take on the substance, but I'll just sit back in awe at the brilliance of it.  Well played, Megan McArdle.

*Yeah, I really miss usenet -- in my case, and the Giants group.


  1. What's amusing about McArdle (and I've seen this with some of her other posts) is that she seems to make a mighty effort to be reasonable, even though she fails spectacularly. She is clearly embarrassed by the insane factions of the right and doesn't want anything to do with them (hence her assurance that she doesn't hold Obama's relationship with Wright against him), and you can see this in all her Tevye-like "on the other hand" hedges. But like some other non-insane conservatives, she paints herself into a corner by clinging too tightly to assumptions of left-right equivalence, which is not very realistic today.

  2. I really can't stand McMegan, she drives me batty. But I do have this nagging sense of guilt--is it because she is the one of very few women who is in the conversation?

    I remember a while back Ezra Klein defended her and hinted that some kind of machismo may be at work here. So I've tried to watch myself for it.

    But no, she really does just piss me off. And I'm glad to see JB on the same page.

  3. Whoever edits McArdle at The Atlantic deserves a medal and a raise. I read her work for the magazine and it's cogent, thoughtful, and though our basic political beliefs are quite different, I often agree with her.

    OTOH, her blog is one of the most consistently incoherent things I ever read. Spectacularly so. Sullivan often gets attacked because he's too flighty and writes too quickly in a moment's pique and then reverses himself. But at least his momentary arguments are thorough and clear. McArdle's posts invariably start with a muddled thesis (that takes 5 paragraphs to establish) and then develop into abstract expressionism. She's a cipher.

  4. I honestly think that all McArdle's writing is "Look at Me" stuff, whether it's her Atlantic columns or her blogs. Her argument against health care reform came down to "I have insurance, and if I didn't, I could get health care anyway because my family is well-connected!"

    I can't believe the Atlantic would provide a forum for someone who doesn't seem to understand that rational discussion of an issue shouldn't rest solely on one's personal experience. Or maybe she does understand that but just can't resist showing us all just how privileged she is.

    She is just SO 80s.

  5. "Megan McArdle, what the hell is wrong with you?"

    I've wondered that for years. Why does this woman have a job? Seriously, The Atlantic should do better. She's a mental midget.

  6. The various foilbles of McArdle notwithstanding, may the ghosts of live forever and ever. Amen.


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