October 11, 2002

Ron Rosenbaum: Goodbye, All That: How Left Idiocies Drove Me to Flee

Another ex-lefty gets credit (page 1 of the NY Observer) for being critical of what no one dares criticize: the left. Edgy. Incisive! Gimme a break. But lot of people don't share my take. In fact, this screed seems to have struck a chord with some folks who I generally regarded as rational.

So I'm responding.

After an unecessarily long, masturbatory introduction, Rosenbaum gets around to making two arguments: 1) people on the left have discounted the horrible loss of 9-11 in favour of directing attention to US crimes; 2) some (sort of most) of the left has not acknowledged the genocide committed in the name of Marxism (e.g. Stalin). He then draws an analogy between Heidegger's post-war ambivalence to the holocaust and the people on the left who discount the human tragedy of 9-11.

There's nothing wrong with making these arguments. But usually when arguments are made, there is an expectation that they will be backed up by relevant evidence. That the evidence that Rosenbaum cites has a lot to do with anecdotes and heavy paraphrasing, and onerous repetition of the phrase "lockstep", I must admit, leaves me a bit nonplussed.

But what is more telling is the alternative which he mentions in passing on the way to more left-bashing:

The point is, all empires commit crimes; in the past century, ours were by far the lesser of evils. But this sedulous denial of even the possibility of misjudgment in the hierarchy of evils protects and insulates this wing of the Left from an inconvenient reconsideration of whether America actually is the worst force on the planet.

Hmm. So, since the evils of 20th century US foreign policy were not as bad as the holocaust... we get to continue to ignore them completely, while bashing the people that would attempt to bring them to our collective attention because... why? Because they want to use 9-11 as an occasion to reflect on the horrors commited our Empire? Because Rosenbaum is able to interpret these people as discounting the value of the 3000 lives lost by simply stating what he thinks they mean?

Is it really just totally outside the range of possible moral thought to ask questions like: "why weren't we this upset about 500,000 Iraqi kids who died for our foreign policy?" and "hmm, maybe sponsoring Pinochet wasn't quite such a good idea, seeing as he slaughtered all those people while we supported him... was it?" Better not to ask at all, because by asking, you're automatically wrong, since you just don't realize that America isn't as bad as some others.

What a revelation.

But that's the beauty of being an self-exiled leftist like Hitchens or Rosenbaum. Since you've heard all the arguments, facts, etc. from the left, you get away with ignoring them completely (oh wait, everyone else already does that too.. oh well.). And meanwhile, you can get all kinds of kudos from the mainstream by pointing out just how wrong those silly leftists are. But gosh, didn't we know that all along? Sure, but another confirmation can't hurt, can it?

So yeah, people on the left say some stupid or silly things. But as Rosenbaum has unwittingly demonstrated, cynical libertarian centrists are at least as capable of that.

posted by dru in us