The Heavy Burden of Level-Headedness

by Henry Farrell on July 9, 2007


Christopher Caldwell on Michael Moore:

Mr Moore’s enemy … is the complexity of it. He rejects subtleties. His goal is not to break through to those who do not agree with him but to drown out the doubts of those who do. Those who sit down to watch Sicko without a broad knowledge of the US healthcare system will leave the theatre with a shallower understanding of the crisis than the one they arrived with. One should face up to the fact that this is the way Americans increasingly choose to get their information on all sorts of issues, not just healthcare policy. The appetite for slanted ideological dramas grows. Mr Moore is not alone in satisfying it. His anti-Bush documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, was met with the anti-Kerry adverts of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Perhaps the internet has made this kind of journalism easier. Mr Moore has been described as a “tireless researcher”, but you do not have to be, nowadays. He notes in his film that an online appeal for healthcare horror stories yielded 25,000 of them within a week. In a country of 300m people, any such appeal will provide enough anecdotal evidence to edit into a plausible and even rollicking case for pretty much anything – and to liberate a grateful populace from the heavy burden of level-headedness.

Doesn’t this prissiness about simple-minded propagandistic cherrypickers sit a little oddly when it comes from one of two senior editors at the _Weekly Standard_, the gutter-trawling publication that perhaps did more than any of the others of its ilk to “propagandize”: for the “Iraq war”:, to relentlessly “simplify”: and “smooth away “: the reasons why the occupation would fail, and to “demonize”: those who argued against it? And so it continues. Kieran has already “mentioned”: last week’s “everything’s dandy with the surge”: number from the Kagans, who, as he says, “get to author policy and neutrally report on it at the same time.” This week’s “The soldiers think they can win. Some Senators lose their nerve” “version”: of the same theme from Caldwell’s boss, William Kristol isn’t exactly what you’d call a level-headed assessment of the facts either. And that’s not even getting into the Weekly Standard‘s list of associate editors, which includes such notable flinty-eyed pursuers of truth as Charles Krauthammer, Tucker Carlson and John Podhoretz. Slanted ideological dramas, how are ya.


by Kieran Healy on July 9, 2007

I had to stop at the local Wild Oats this morning to pick up my monthly supply of liberal condescension. Some of the fruit was labeled “Organic.” The non-organic stuff was labeled “Conventional.” I found this a little odd, because when I see “Conventional” used as a label, I expect its opposite to be “Nuclear.”