Sunday, June 21, 2009

American Power, and the Art of Avoidance, Obfuscation, Prevarication: The Attack on Conor Friedersdorf

Cross-posted from American Nihilist

Let me state at the outset that I really have little to no idea who Conor Friedersdorf is, having read very little that he's written up to now (though from the context of Donald's hit pieces, and the tiny bit of googling and reading elsewhere I did this morning, it appears that Conor is one of those conservatives that chose the red pill, and thus can see those aspects of the right wing matrix that are the most harmful to the conservative cause. This, of course, makes him the target of every Agent Smith in Right Wingnuttia--including of course, our hero, Donald K. Douglas, Ph.D..)

Thus, it isn't my intention to defend Mr. Friedersdorf on the merits of his arguments--indeed, I don't intend to address them much at all--but instead to discuss professor Douglas' tactics in this fight; the same ones he uses in any fight, with any perceived enemy. My text is Donald's most recent screed, American Power: Conor Friedersdorf: Avoidance, Obfuscation, Prevarication, one of four posts since Wednesday--and the last of three in a row (almost... there was one about Obama & Iran, sandwiched in)--attacking Mr. Friedersdorf. (And check those titles... In addition to the one I'm writing about, we have "American Power: Conor Friedersdorf: Small-Minded Narcissist, and American Power: Conor Friedersdorf: Hammered on Multiple Fronts, Threatens Dan Riehl -- No... he didn't.)

Unless I see some serious engagement on some of the points I've raised, this should be may last post in the current debate over Conor Friedersdorf. I will keep my eye open for some of the more egregious claims Mr. Friederdorf is wont to make in his future blogging; but there will be no further iterations in the current controversy in the absence of new information or responses.

Four posts generally is more than enough, Dr. Douglas... ...especially when your target has not responded in kind, but has instead tried to discuss your specific concerns in the comment sections of your previous three posts, to no avail. [here, here, here, and here.] And, while there may be some egregious claims somewhere, the ones that Donald highlights are based on his interpretation of what Conor said, rather than what Conor actually said. (It's all "It's obvious what he means is..." when professor Douglas' interpretation is not obvious at all, and in some cases, requires a pretty good twisting and willful misunderstanding to make such a meaning even plausible.)
Mostly, it's simply not worth my time.

Funny... That's what I said to Conor, about Donald and his clan.
Why engage if folks are too lazy or too self-absorbed to even attempt a rebuttal to the points I've raised? There's some current roiling on the right, and this is good, but some of those engaged in it are not acting in good faith, and that really defeats the purpose of it all.

Funny... That's what Conor said about Donald.

Frankly, I'm not particularly invested in Mr. Friedersdorf. He's not a class intellect, and his writing is both arrogant and pedantic.

Methinks you doth protest too much... The number and nature of the posts Dr. Douglas has written about the man speaks to his investment in Mr. Friedersdorf far more clearly than do his words of denial...
I'm interested in ideas. As I've noted, Mr. Friedersdorf has made some generally off-the-wall arguments on some key public policy issues. He's also embarked on a personal jihad against Mark Levin, who is currently the #1 bestselling conservative author in the country. That kind of personalization of political difference is itself worthy of rebuttal. And as a number of my good friends have joined the exchange, I thought I might behoove myself to throw them some support.

Given the number of posts Dr Douglas has devoted to "taking down" Andrew Sullivan, I'm not sure he should be suggesting anyone else is on a personal jihad against a political foe. (In fact, it appears that Friedersdorf only did two Levin posts, meaning Donald is already on more of a personal jihad than the person he's accusing...) Add to that the bandwagon mentality to which the professor freely admits, and a different picture starts to emerge. (Classy how Donald's "good friend," Dan "real man" Riehl, takes Conor down by calling him a girl. The macho man's fear of being feminized--implying that the female sex is weaker, and less worthy of serious consideration & respect, I guess--strikes again.)

I've responded to Mr. Friedersdorf with a number of detailed posts (here, here, here, and here.

(For the record, those posts--in order--are 1) "Is Waterboarding Worse Than Abortion?," a post from June 3rd in which Donald argues that Conor was suggesting that abortion clinic bombers should be waterboarded--something that is not at all apparent by the actual text (first mention in this post); 2) "Neoclassicons" from June 17th (I linked to one of Conor's comments from this post, above); and then 3) June 18th's "Conor Friedersdorf: Small-Minded Narcissist"; and 4) June 19th's "Conor Friedersdorf: Hammered on Multiple Fronts, Threatens Dan Riehl" posts, both of which I linked to above.) As to whether one believes these posts are detailed and substantive, ad hominem-laden smearfests, or some mix of both, I leave for each reader to decide.
Mr. Friedersdorf's silence in engaging them goes beyond disrespect.

One can intelligently speculate or flat out wildly guess as to the reasons why a person chooses not to reply to another's posts or comments--and Dr Douglas does a good deal of one of those things, just below--but unless a person actually asked you to write the posts, or in any way suggested that they would read and reply to whatever you put forth, there is no disrespect in his/her ignoring your words. And when your post(s) are largely disrespectful to the person from whom you're demanding the response(s), there is no earthly reason why they should respond. Claiming that s/he is disrespecting you by not engaging your posts--whatever their content, but especially when their content is largely an attack on them--at the very least, doesn't hold water, and may be evidence of an ego problem, as well. (Who thinks themselves so important that their words demand reply, and that one's failure to do so is a sign of disrespect?)

Frankly, as is the case with Mark Thompson and E.D. Kain, it's most likely that Mr. Friedersdorf is simply overwhelmed by superior firepower; and rather than further expose the superficiality of his intellect, he adopts a variety of coping techniques: avoidance, obfuscation, and prevarication are the first tactics that come to mind.

Someone say something about ego? (Oh, wait... Apparently it holds more meaning if I say "ego." God love the dictionary... I guess Doctor Biobrain and I finally got to Mr. Douglas, and he's actually citing the words he uses, occasionally. The next step, which has been years in the coming, would be to get him to provide examples of how the words he uses to tar people actually apply to the people he's tarring with them. According to him, we've all been nihilists for years though--while he has whipped out a dictionary once or twice, he's never shown how the definition applies... Think he'll do so as regards Conor?) Donald's superior intellect is largely a product of his own imagination. I'm not saying Dr. Douglas isn't smart; but smart ain't worth a damn, if you cannot or will not apply it to real situations.

Readers can check Mr. Friederdorf's comments to the links above. Let me first note the most recent for some flavor:
Conor: Look man, if you want me to address your arguments, just state one clearly enough for me to respond!

This response fits with any of the tactics I mentioned above, although I'd add the noun "dishonest" as well. Readers might check my search of "Conor Friedersdorf" posts. All the argument I've made are "clear" and compelling. That Mr. Friedersdorf chooses not to engage them simply confirms his penchant toward avoidance and more.

One only has to backtrack from the comment link Donald offers to see exactly what piece of Donald's writing Mr. Friedersdorf was replying to in that comment. It was the second time in that thread that Mr. Friedersdorf asked Dr. Douglas to offer one, clear concise argument, rather than a laundry list of complaints. Donald refused to comply. (As to whether that exchange provides evidence of anyone engaging in avoidance, obfuscation, prevarication, or dishonesty--and if so, who--I again leave it to the reader to determine.)

I actually wrote on Mr. Friedersdorf's essay attacking "war on terror hawks." As I said at the time, Mr. Friederdorf "equates the actions of one lone wacko with those of an international terrorist network that's responsible for the 9/11 attacks, as well as a number of other terrorist atrocities around the world in recent decades." (From: "Is Waterboarding Worse Than Abortion?")

Here's the thing, professor. Saying a thing--particularly without offering anything in the way of evidentiary support--does not make it so.

Mr. Friederdorf has never responded to this substantive, AND APPARENTLY CLEAR, point.

(Note here that Dr. Douglas makes this claim, and then spends the rest of this paragraph, along with the following three, arguing against the response that Mr. Friedersdorf "never" gave. In fact, Donald even links to one of those responses that seemingly are not there, right there in the statement he makes. Crazy.)

He did retreat to denial, of course.

If Dr Douglas can resort to assertion, I see no reason that My Friedersdorf cannot respond with denial. As I've said to the professor several times, "quod gratis affirmatur, gratis negatur; "what is affirmed free of proof, may be denied free of proof."

But he has not systematically defended his argument that conservatives should treat suspected abortion killers just like captured Islamofascist jihadis - that is, he suggests conservatives should support waterboarding for both. It's not possible to pose a hypothetical like this a priori if the proponent of the scenario doesn't in fact see the two categories of antagonists ("combatants") in equivalent terms.

Not only hasn't Conor defended that argument, he denies even making it (The denial is right there at the "Mr. Friedersdorf has never responded" link, above.). What we have here instead, is Donald's straw man, which he doesn't even have the decency to knock down, himself.

Nowhere in the piece to which Donald is ostensibly replying does Conor make or defend the argument that "conservatives should treat suspected abortion killers just like captured islamofascist jihadis" or suggest that "conservatives should support waterboarding for both" (or in fact, "either").

Instead, Conor asks whether, in the event of an ongoing terrorist campaign run by fringe pro-lifers to shut down abortion clinics, [w]ould these predominantly conservative officials, commentators and writers [who believe the executive branch possesses broad unchecked powers to combat terrorism, including the designation of American citizens as enemy combatants, the indefinite detention of terror suspects, wiretapping phones without warrants, “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and other powers initially claimed by the Bush Administration and its defenders] be comfortable if President Obama declared two or three extremist pro-lifers as “enemy combatants”? Should Pres. Obama have the prerogative to order the waterboarding of these uncharged, untried detainees? Should he be able to listen in on phone conversations originating from evangelical churches where suspected abortion extremists hang out?" It isn't about terrorists (domestic or otherwise) at all, but about Presidential power, and what the limits of his power are... ...or should be.

In fact, Mr. Friedersdorf claimed that he "did not equate" the actions of the abortion murder suspect to global terrorist barbarians.

Umm... Are we now talking about Roeder (and if not, who the heck is "the abortion murder suspect"?) and , when (& more importantly, why) did we change from discussing a hypothetical situation where "an ongoing terrorist campaign [is being] run by fringe pro-lifers to shut down abortion clinics," to the very specific legal case of Roeder?
He then demanded that I explain what "leads you to believe otherwise."

Another change. In point of fact, rather than asking Dr. Douglas to "explain" what lead him to believe otherwise, Mr Friedersdorf says, "If you disagree, please excerpt the portion of my post that leads you to believe otherwise." I leave it to the reader to "explain" to themselves why Donald changed the wording of Conor's request, noting how conveniently it allows Donald to continue:

And so I did,"explain, in Donald's words" rather than "excerpt, from Conor's" here. (Keep in mind that professor Douglas is about to explain why he believes Conor is equating actions of the abortion murder suspect to global terrorist barbarians):

At your original post I cited weeks ago, "A Question for War on Terror Hawks," you assert moral equivalencies between a lone U.S. murder suspect and the untold number of violent jihadists within the global terrorist network - including many, of course, who were captured on the battlefield and held as enemy combatants in a real war on terrorism. Your post, as it proposes partisan payback for the robust anti-terror policies of the Bush years, basically endorses an Obama administration policy of declaring domestic anti-abortion terrorists as identical enemy combatants; you also deploy taunting language in saying, "I wonder how 'War on Terror Hawks' would react" if President Obama had the "prerogative to order the waterboarding of the uncharged, untried detainees." The scenario is not simply a hypothetical. It's transparent advocacy in furtherance of ideological retribution. Most of all, your post is dishonest hackery, and your defense of it is peurile idiocy.

Leaving alone the fact that there was nothing in Mr Friedersdorf's actual words that Donald could excerpt to make his case--and thus he changed the request Conor made from "excerpt" to "explain"--how did he do with the explanation? Did Donald provide anything in the way of physical or personal evidence, or did he simply repeat his initial claim, saying that "you assert moral equivalencies between a lone U.S. murder suspect and the untold number of violent jihadists within the global terrorist network," still without showing any physical, personal, or circumstantial evidence. I say the latter.

Also, there was nothing in Mr Friedersdorf's post that "proposes partisan payback for the robust anti-terror policies of the Bush years, [or] basically endorses an Obama administration policy of declaring domestic anti-abortion terrorists as identical enemy combatants." Just as with Donald's previous assertion. there is no citation that Donald can make. To many--myself included--it appears that Conor is arguing against treating domestic terrorists the same as international terrorists, or giving the executive branch unfettered power to mistreat either.* And, since Obama has no such policy, it is impossible for Conor to endorse it. (*This sentence edited to add missing words that were intended to be in the original text, thus improving clarity, @ 8:43 AM, AmNi blog time--about 6 hours after initial posting.)

To this, Mr. Friederdorf DID NOT ALLEGE vagueness on my part. Indeed, he asserted that my argument - offered in good faith at his request - was "a paranoid theory."

Not to be too picky, but Conor's reply, which in full reads: Donald, It's quite a paranoid theory you've developed. But it is unsupported by any evidence. Should you take the time to converse with me like a gentleman, I'll happily engage your substantive arguments, and I think you'll find that your wrongheaded assumptions about me will change. Or you could keep engaging in juvenile ad hominem attacks. But what's the point of that?, and is in reply to an entire post--titled Conor Friedersdorf: Small-Minded Narcissist)--rather than just the part the professor excerpted. Conor's reply could well be about any part of that post, or all of it, taken together. At the very least, there is nothing to make one assume that it was only or at all in response the part Donald chose to highlight.
I'm not prone to paranoia, actually, so there's little to make of Mr. Friedersdorf's comment other than a one-off bit of snark. It is a good example, however, of my point above, which is that Mr. Friedersdorf resorts to avoidance, obfuscation, and prevarication when confronted with superior argumenation.

Rather than guessing, one might ask Mr. Friedersdorf what he meant by his "paraniod theory" comment, and challenge him to back his words with the same kinda proof he's requesting from Donald... On the other hand, there is nothing so far to suggest that Mr. Friedersdorf was in any way resorting to avoidance, obfuscation, or prevarication. Maybe next time.

And that's actually kind of sad for him. The man clearly hopes to make an intellectual contribution of some sort. But as we see here, he's flummoxed with a case that deploys inferential logic as a matter of straightforward argumentation. It's simply not that complicated, much less unclear. So why no response from Mr. Friedersdorf? He rebuked me for not defending my original post, and then he turns and panics when I stand up to him. Readers can see why I question this man's capabilities.

While Dr. Douglas' take on the matter is interesting, I wonder about a man who so often needs to declare victory over another. Surely if it was so decisive, everyone would see it for themselves. Conor isn't flumoxed by Donald's response to him; if anything, he's flumoxed by Donald's inventive ways of seeing the world, and his refusal to accept Conor's more reasonable explanation of his own words. (Has the professor never heard that the least complex answers are usually the right ones? Why assume that when Conor says "A," he really, secretly means "B"--particularly when he tells you flat out that "A" means "A", and not "B"?) And how can Donald rail on about how wrong Conor's response is, and then deny Conor responded, at all? Readers can see why I question the professor's abilities, too.

But that's not all. I offered a detailed and highly reasoned argument in my essay, "Neoclassicons." Mr. Friedersdorf appears to be among a number of bloggers seeking to claim the mantle of today's "genuine conservatives." As I noted at the post, "From Conor Friederdorf to David Frum, to Daniel Larison to Andrew Sullivan, and then E.D. Kain, there's a movement afoot that wants desperately to be "conservative," but one that is failing miserably."

Once again, Mr. Friedersdorf refused to respond. He did make some lame, and completely irrelevant, points about how he'd been "defending Rod Dreher," as if dropping some names of people not even tangentially related to the discussion might possibly be considered a rebuttal. Mr. Friedersdorf apparently does that thing quite a bit, so we shouldn't be surprised.

No, as with the last post, Conor Friedersdorf did respond (see the link our man Donald offers right there in the same paragraph where he says Conor refused to respond.)... He just didn't respond to whatever it was Donald Douglas deemed he should have, hence the professor's claim that Mr. Friedersdorf "refused to respond." His mention of Rod Dreher had nothing to do with namedropping, but was clearly in response to Donald saying: "So, I might as well comment on Dan's remark earlier on the conservatives schism (David Frum vs. Rush Limbaugh, etc.), when he noted that "To be honest, I wonder if this whole moderation movement isn't simply about purging the social conservatives."' and the professor's subsequent discussion of "theoconservatism," where he says (of the neoclassicons, including Conor) "These folks, let's loosely call them neoclassical conservatives, or neoclassicons, are driven by an essentially leftist-libertarian domestic policy orientation that is primarily animated by an intense hatred of "theoconservatism."

In reply, Mr. Friedersdorf says "I haven't any desire to purge social conservatives. I spent 14 years attending a religious private school, I've spent the last two weeks defending Rod Dreher, a religious and social conservative, against those who want to purge him..." How Donald could misinterpret that as "name-dropping," rather than the response it so obviously was, makes one wonder about Donald's ability to understand simple english (or was it more of a "willful misunderstanding?")

My main thesis at "Neoclassicons," in any case, is that these folks are not "conservative." I especially indicated that Andrew Sullivan - who is the ideological lodestar for these people - is not a conservative. Hardly anyone would situate Sullivan on the right of the ideological spectrum nowadays. Andrew's colleague at The Atlantic places him at "the center right." And even liberals now think of Sullivan as one of their own.

Except for the fact that the line about the Atlantic should probably read "center-left," rather than "center-right," I accept that this is Donald's thesis. That neither makes his thesis true, or has anything to do with this Conor guy that this piece is supposed to be about. Let's move the story forward, Don...

And this is the key thing in all of this: Mr. Friedersdorf seems to think that the most important intellectual developments today are taking place on the left of the political spectrum

Sadly, no, Dr. Douglas... At least not based on the article at the other end of that link, anyway, which was titled "Lefty Blogs Chart Course for Future," and discussed the fact that--at least according to Conor, anyway-- liberal blogs use more graphics (pictures, charts, maps) than conservative blogs. Hardly proof that Mr. Friedersdorf thinks that the most important intellectual developments today are taking place on the left of the political spectrum... I mean, in the same post, Conor gives cons credit for their focus and use of twitter. What does that say, hmmm?
This fact helps explain Mr. Friedsdorf's jihad against Mark Levin. The latter, as I noted, is the hottest thinker in conservative politics today. Levin's Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto is essential reading for anyone who's seriously thinking about the future direction of the American right. And Mr. Friedersdorf is attacking him?

It takes no great leap of imagination to see that not only is Mark Levin threatening to Conor Friedersdorf, but also that Mr. Friedersdorf's attack on him are less about ideology and more about self-promotion. "Hey, if I attack Mark Levin I can score some points with the Andrew Sullivan and the left-libertarians."

Jihad, schmihad... It was two or three posts, out of a whole lot, from what I've (now) seen... And Mr Friedersdorf was primarily discussing Levin's behavior, rather than his politics, perhaps to say that acting like an asshole doesn't make one any more (or less) right, but it may make fewer people listen who aren't already on your side which to me, says alot... A real liberal would just let you continue to act like assholes, and sing to that same old 20-something % choir. Believe it or not, it's true... Only your best friends will tell you, and politically, that ain't the likes of me...)

That's really all there is to it. As I've shown at this post, which is now a lot longer and more detailed that I'd anticipaed, Conor Friedersdorf is an essentially dishonest man with an inflated sense of self-importance. I can hardly be more clear in saying this, but being that as it may, I'm not expecting a response to the arguments I've made in any case. Mr. Friedersdorf doesn't have it in him, and in all of his recent slurs, he's mostly out to gain attention for himself rather debate those who really do care about the movement.

Professor Douglas, you say some very unintentionally funny things... I'm not sure what you've actually shown, but it don't appear to me, anyway that you've made your case...

I've enabled comment moderation. I won't be publishing Mr. Friedersdorf's drive-by snarks here. If he responds with a post at either of his blogs, I'll reply in kind if they are substantive - and if in fact they move the debate forward.

That also, says alot...

Otherwise, I'm moving on ...

One doubts it...But one can only hope.

1 comment:

Qoheleth said...

Have you ever read Newman, Mr. Casper? Because this post sounded eerily like a 21st-Century, political version of Part I of the Apologia. It was actually rather refreshing.