Martin Schneider writes:
A few days ago Timothy Noah of Slate and conservative writer Byron York engaged in a Bloggingheads.tv "diavlog," as they are called.
What to do when you are an "intelligent" conservative confronted with the proposition that FOX News is essentially a bunch of partisan liars whose work cannot be taken seriously? I don't know—that's not my problem. Byron York doesn't handle it a whole lot better:
Here's my little recap:
York: The New York Times is afraid of the power of FOX News and conservative talk radio, so it compensates for that power by forcing inflammatory to remain in a "freak show" zone of non-mainstream stories.
Noah: Couldn't it just be that FOX News sucks?
York: Oh, no, not at all! There are terrific stories that FOX is reporting all the time that the Times ignores. For example, some NASA official said something nice about Muslims—and Obama maybe sort of agreed with him! Why is this not a major story in the New York Times??
Noah: Uh, why is that a story? Wouldn't it be a story if a NASA official said something mean about Muslims?
York: I don't know, it seemed like a pretty smoking story to me.
What my little dramedy above cannot express is the sheer number of boring seconds York, in his slow-talking way, dedicates to this utter non-story. Anything better than actually own up to the mendacious ways of FOX News.
A few minutes later, York mentions a silly comment on JournoList by Spencer Ackerman to the effect that, in the wake of the Rev. Wright problems Obama was facing in early 2008, that liberals should just pick conservatives at random and accuse them of racism. Noah says, basically, "Well okay, but it's not like he acted on it." York's response to this is priceless, right at the 34-minute mark: "Well, people on the right believe that they have been accused of racism, on a number of occasions!" Really! Conservatives feel that they have been accused of racism.... why is that, do you think?
To this, Noah says, rather deliciously, that you've got a few things going on there, the original question was whether Ackerman did anything—he didn't—and anyway muddying the issue is that, basically, conservatives do a lot of racist things. So there's that. See for yourself:
The obtuseness on display here is fairly staggering. The coalition that makes up the Republican Party is structured around reaction to the Civil Rights Movement. That's just Politics 101. If York thinks that racism is distributed equally across the political spectrum, he's not qualified to write about politics for a living, period. So my conclusion is that he is lying.
One last thing. Towards the end they're discussing the unemployment benefits extension that the Republicans blocked last week. I think nothing can describe current conservative obtuseness with respect to important policy issues than York's insistance, with the country facing serious unemployment problems and possibly a double dip recession, that there's a serious risk in creating a "dole" and making unemployment a permanent condition for many Americans.
That's right: You can talk to conservatives all you want about the miseries of unemployment and the benefits of softening those miseries—conservatives aren't interested in that! It's much too satisfying to wag a scolding finger and imply that some minor negative externalities outweigh that positive good. That's as good as conservatives get—Byron York is probably a nice guy, and he's not dumb. He's about as good as it gets, quite seriously. And he cannot be made to care about treating unemployed people well.
Noah is terrific again in just not buying into any of York's nonsense. Noah admits that some studies have shown a small effect of the type York has mentioned. York says, Well, shouldn't that be taken into account? And Noah says, No, it shouldn't!
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