None so blind

by Ted on January 29, 2004

Lifted from Jack O’Toole:

Here’s Andrew Sullivan on Josh Marshall’s New Yorker article:

Josh Marshall has written an engaging and artful essay about the notion of an American empire for the liberal New Yorker magazine. I read it yesterday and then re-read it. Josh manages to write about the Clinton era “soft-imperialism” and the Bush era “hard imperialism” with nary a mention of a certain even that occurred on September 11, 2001.

Emphasis added. Here’s the Josh Marshall article in question, fifth paragraph:

After September 11th, a left-wing accusation became a right-wing aspiration: conservatives increasingly began to espouse a world view that was unapologetically imperialist.

If this is the kind of attention to detail we get when Sullivan reads something and re-reads it, what happens when he reads something only once?

UPDATE: I emailed Andrew about this, and he emailed back:

he has a one sentence aside in a 4000 word piece.
my point entirely

I honestly don’t know how to respond to that.



Barry 01.29.04 at 6:53 pm

Perhaps Andrew Sullivan should only link to items recommended to him by fans, without reading them (like a certain law professor). That way, he can avoid things which are ‘too compllicated’ (again, quoting a certain law professor).


crockmeister 01.29.04 at 7:51 pm

Hey, at least Sullivan is consistently inconsistent. Check out this link over at CalPundit about another recent Sullivan attempt at criticism that went awry due to careless reading.


brayden 01.29.04 at 7:58 pm

This is par for Sullivan’s course. His interpretation of events, articles, posts, etc. is somehow always a bit awry.


Andrew Boucher 01.29.04 at 8:19 pm

“With nary a mention” implies the existence of at least one mention, which has been duly quoted. If there was a second mention, I’d still give Sulllivan the benefit of the doubt. Three mentions or up, the criticism would appear to hold.


Jeremy Osner 01.29.04 at 8:24 pm

Andrew — “with nary a mention” does not “imply the existence of at least one mention”; “with nary a” is idiom for “without any”. It is not used very frequently nowadays but I do not think Sullivan is confused about its meaning.


Ted Barlow 01.29.04 at 8:46 pm


Moniker 01.29.04 at 9:14 pm

I’m still baffled why anybody reads this guy.

It’s not like he’s in the “in” crowd in the right wing. He more of a fellow traveler … along for the ride, tolerated, but not trusted.

And given his track record of inaccuracy, wouldn’t it be better to just ignore him?


Quiddity 01.29.04 at 9:32 pm

Great catch. What’s strange is that weblogging is Sullivan’s job (more or less). It’s one thing for us amateurs to be careless – though we try not to. It’s another when a “pro” like Sullivan (don’t laugh) screws up.


Anthony 01.29.04 at 9:51 pm

Perhaps he meant ‘barely’ a mention.
But it’s hard to be careful about language, especially when you’re a professional writer.


Kieran Healy 01.29.04 at 9:54 pm

Pronunciation: ‘nar-E, ‘ner-
Function: adjective
Etymology: alteration of ne’er a
: not any

As in “nary a pause to consider his descent into bitter hackery.”


Rich Puchalsky 01.29.04 at 10:27 pm

Sully is a typical Republican, which in Orwellian terms means that he is an accomplished duckspeaker. Words for him don’t really have any meaning as he’s babbling the approved line. That’s why he can say that Marshall makes no mention of 9/11, and when confronted with the quote, just shrug it off. There is no such thing as a logical contradiction in his world.


Phil 01.29.04 at 11:23 pm

Can’t anybody see that is brilliantly realized satire?


Maccabee 01.29.04 at 11:40 pm

I have tried and tried to understand why a Gay man would knowingly join an organization that wants to deny him rights, or where some of its members feel he is an abomination.

It’s like Jews for Nazis or Anarchists for Big Government.


Randy Paul 01.29.04 at 11:50 pm


Well, there were all the Jews who “voted” for Pat Buchanan in November 2000 . . .


norbizness 01.30.04 at 12:52 am

Regarding the update:

Sure you know how to respond, Ted. The challenge is doing it with using nary a four-letter word.


Ayjay 01.30.04 at 1:34 am

Now that the sharp-eyed readers of CT have exposed Sully’s shocking ignorance of the word “nary,” perhaps they could begin to address his point. He thinks an article which purports to distinguish between the “soft imperialism” of Clinton and the “hard imperialism” of Bush needs, in order to be credible, more than a passing reference to the events of September 11th. That seems like a reasonable point — 9/11 was a fairly significant event, was it not?

(BTW, are we all so sure that Sully is a Republican? It was just last week that he commented on his blog, “Neither party provides a comfortable home for people like me.”)


Anno-nymous 01.30.04 at 1:46 am

For the record, Josh Marshall replied to Sullivan’s post on his own blog:

And in case there’s any unclarity, when I referred to September 11th, I was referring to the terrorist attacks that happened on that day. And in the previous sentence when I referred to ‘terrorist attacks’ I was referring to the hijacked airliners that were flown into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and the field in central Pennsylvania.

Andrew is of course right that I don’t see Bush administration foreign policy as simply a logical and unavoidable response to 9/11. I see it as both a pretext for and a catalyst of the implementation of an approach which the architects of the administration’s foreign policy had supported long before they even considered al Qaida type terrorism much of a threat.


Anno-nymous 01.30.04 at 1:48 am

Uh… Yeah, that last paragraph is also Josh’s. Andrew, to my knowledge, has not commented about my view on Bush administration foreign policy.


Sparta 01.30.04 at 2:07 am

Isn’t it somewhat strange the way that every right wing journalist feels that they have to go in for this type of deliberate misrepresentation?

Come to that isn’t it rather strange the way that there is no real right wing commentary? the whole pack from Sullivan right the way through to Limbaugh define themselves entirely through their relationship to a caricature version of the left that they have created.

What is more, their caricature of the left frequently appears to be a projection of their own intentions. They steal the 2000 election by bringing a court case to stop the count, they accuse Gore of trying to drag the election into the courts. They blow the budget, going from a projected $250 billion surplus to $500 billion deficit and accuse the Democrats of ‘tax and spend’.


Sebastian Holsclaw 01.30.04 at 2:23 am

The problem is that Marshall doesn’t acknowledge that 9-11 might naturally suggest a change. He suggests that it was purely used as a prop.


Barry 01.30.04 at 3:10 am

No, Sebastian. The problem is that Andrew Sullivan lied through his teeth.


JP 01.30.04 at 3:15 am

The problem is that Marshall doesn’t acknowledge that 9-11 might naturally suggest a change. He suggests that it was purely used as a prop.

Yeah. And?


Jeremy Osner 01.30.04 at 3:19 am

Sebastian — if Sullivan’s point were what you say it is, then it would be appropriate for him to say:

I have read Marshall’s piece and disagree with it. He claims that 9/11 was used as a pretext to implement already-existing expansionist aims on the part of conservative American actors. But 9/11 is actually a valid reason to become more aggressive in our foreign policy.

Instead, Sullivan says, Look at this dumb article! Marshall talks about the new imperialist sentiment in American foreign policy and totally ignores 9/11, the motivating principle behind such sentiment! In so doing, he misrepresents Marshall and converts his article into a straw man.


Geoff 01.30.04 at 4:09 am

Look, Andrew Sullivan’s politics are flawed and his arguments are generally weak, but this is all awfully self-indulgent. “Nary a mention” should have been “hardly mentioning”. It’s a far cry from lying through one’s teeth or a “logical contradiction” (?) or being a Nazi-loving Jew or whatever else some of you think it is. It’s sort of bizarre to see such a murderous frenzy over something so inconsequential.


Tom T. 01.30.04 at 5:24 am

Really now. You might well have a cracking good argument against Sullivan, but you would be on stronger ground if you addressed his substantive point rather than niggled his syntax.

To be clearer: I agree with you; Sullivan made his point quite inartfully. And I’m willing to believe that he may be wrong about his attack on Marshall’s piece. But his point is easily enough discerned, and your criticism just goes to his writing, not his thinking.


Jeffrey Kramer 01.30.04 at 8:17 am

Saying that Sullivan’s failing here is merely one of “syntax” is like saying Joe McCarthy had some “footnoting” problems. I suspect you would see the point if an anti-war spokesman declared there was “no mention” of Saddam Hussein’s human rights record in the Congressional resolution authorizing force, then — shown the passages which explicitly mentioned that human rights record — retorted “that’s exactly my point: it isn’t mentioned enough to be taken seriously.” It’s simply a lie in both cases to say “that was my point entirely.”


Andrew 01.30.04 at 11:27 am

George Bush said:

a) Saddam has WMD so we must invade
b) Saddam has no WMD so we must invade

Only niggling syntax separates them…


Andrew BOucher 01.30.04 at 11:36 am

Apologies, I really did think that “with nary a” meant “with hardly any” So Sully is wrong. Me too.


raj 01.30.04 at 12:14 pm

“BTW, are we all so sure that Sully is a Republican? It was just last week that he commented on his blog, “Neither party provides a comfortable home for people like me.””

Sully has, for whatever reason (marketing purposes?) made himself into an apologist for the current administration. Notwithstanding the fact that the current administration has embarked on various courses that has aligned itself (actually more than aligned itself) with forces that rhetorically bash gay people.


marky 01.30.04 at 3:38 pm

Remember Ann Coulter? No.. well neither do I.
No one talks about Coulter anymore, and in 6 months to a year no one will talk about Sully either.


Jeff Cooper 01.30.04 at 4:38 pm

Regrettably, Coulter hasn’t disappeared. Why, just this week (as John Emerson notes), she made the shocking allegation that John Kerry (gasp!) marries other men’s daughters!


Ted Barlow 01.30.04 at 4:44 pm

My next post (probably) will look at the question “If Sully had said ‘barely a mention’ instead of ‘nary a mention’, would it be a fair critique of Marshall’s article?” You may not be surprised to hear that I think that the answer is “no”.

Or, I’ll finish the review of the Mr. T Experience album. One or the other.

By the way, it’s awfully nice to see you, Jeff!


Rajeev Advani 01.30.04 at 5:38 pm

I agree with Geoff that this “murderous frenzy” over a silly mistake is a bit disturbing. You’re showing yourselves to be quite more partisan than Sullivan is. In fact, I think a good number of you would actually agree with a basket of Sullivan’s views: he’s culurally liberal, fiscally conservative, and a foreign policy hawk. He doesn’t pull punches with the Bush administration. In my opinion he should be appreciated as a decent right-wing interlocuter; he’s sophisticated enough to question his own principles and does a fairly good job of rationally defending himself. You also seem to have a problem with his tendency to cull quotes from the leftist underground and flash them on his site to caricature the whole movement. True, he does do this, but he has in the past indicated that these views ONLY represent the leftist underground (a movement that defies the need for caricature) and not the mainstream left. And for those of you who questioned the existence (!) of rational right-wing commentary: you have fallen victim to dangerous reductive views of your opposition, and your aversion to critical thinking is transparent.


Abiola Lapite 01.30.04 at 7:33 pm

“I agree with Geoff that this “murderous frenzy” over a silly mistake is a bit disturbing. You’re showing yourselves to be quite more partisan than Sullivan is.”

Tsk, tsk. Just like you to introduce a tone of reasonableness into what was shaping up to be a Sullivan-bashing bonanza. Shame on you!


Jeffrey Kramer 01.31.04 at 4:34 am

It isn’t just the silly mistake, it’s the mendacious insistence — when the silly mistake is pointed out — that there was no mistake at all, that indeed he has been fully vindicated. Why is anybody who pulls this kind of crap entitled to respectful attention, even if you agree with some of his positions?


Rajeev Advani 01.31.04 at 6:55 am

Point taken Jeffrey, but I don’t think Sullivan has a huge record of acting mendaciously. His Letters page is often full of brutal criticism, so he’s not out there trying to prove infallibility. He does however exaggerate, as was the case with the entry cited by Ted. As for his email, I do think its message was genuine: to the Bush people 9/11 was pivotal, and frankly any discussion of a shift to hard Wilsonianism deserves more than a sentence’s reference to that event.

I sympathize with your view Jeffrey becuase I feel the same way about Noam Chomsky. People accord him fair and balanced reviews despite a systematic record of mendacity, just because they agree with him on a thing or two. I do not think that Andrew Sullivan shares that level of dishonesty. Nor do I think Paul Krugman, for that matter, shares that level of dishonesty. I think Sullivan has remained within “acceptable” levels of exaggeration, and his record of introspection makes evident the fact that he’s more a thinker than an ideologically imprisoned liar. So I’ll keep reading him, and I hope others do as well – if anything his right-wing commentary is far more thoughtful than that of most conservative talk show hosts.


libertas 01.31.04 at 5:34 pm

The topic of discussion may be Sullivan, but the fact is that this is just another example of the rights use of 9/11 to duck any serious discussion. I’ve lost track of how many times when backed into a corner by their own mis-statements and lack of logic, BushCo and their lackie will pause and trot out, “Look, 9-11 changed everything,” and proceed to leap directly out of the rhetorical hole they dug for themselves.

As subtantiation, try this.


Rajeev Advani 01.31.04 at 6:58 pm

I’m sure you all noticed, Sullivan apologized on his website.


Randy Paul 01.31.04 at 7:52 pm

In a post full of equivocation and weasel words.

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