But Doug, you don't waste time fisking someone whose chief error is impudence. Smack the punk and be done with it.
The merits of the punk's argument are irrelevant to the key point: Friedersdorf lacks standing to criticize Levin, whose years of honest and useful service to the conservative cause -- remember, Levin worked for Meese in the Reagan administration -- should put him beyond reach of the arrogant scribblings of such a parvenu.
What are Friedersdorf's accomplishments? What has he ever done, as a conservative, that might cause any intelligent person sincerely to give a damn about his critical opinions of Mark Levin's best-selling book?
Friedersdorf's most notable journalistic achievement was as a Culture 11 crew member helping David Kuo squander a million dollars or more on that notorious disaster:
"I never even heard of this Culture11 site until I read that it was gone," said veteran conservative blogger Dan Riehl. "If someone wants to know why it failed, extrapolate that out to other bloggers and web surfers, that was it. Having never seen it, all I can conclude is that it really must have sucked."Friedersdorf wrote a classic example (alas, now evidently departed from the Internet) of a useless though surprisingly persistent literary genre, "The Conservative Case for [Insert Pet Liberal Cause Here]." In Friedersdorf's version, the pet liberal cause was gay marriage, which I gave the only response it deserved:
We are barely five years past Lawrence v. Texas, but Conor Friedersdorf apparently can think of no legitimate argument against gay marriage and certainly will cede nothing to Mona Charen.Well, you can read the whole thing, but you see the point. When smacking a punk, it is important to be as high-handed as possible, to expose him to ridicule, for unless he can be made to realize what a laughingstock he's making of himself, there will be no hope for his redemption.
Is there anyone under 30 who opposes gay marriage? Is the passage of five years sufficient to deprive Justice Scalia's dissent of intellectual respectability?
I'm still thinking about Roy Moore's ruling in Ex Parte H.H. . . .
In a follow-up, Friedersdorf says, "my support for gay marriage is so inextricably tied to my conservatism." And the only wonder is that Willmoore Kendall, Russell Kirk and Richard Weaver didn't beat him to it.
Therefore, do not engage his argument, dismiss it.
This is efficient, since you neither waste your time, nor that of the casual reader -- who needs merely know that the punk is not to be taken seriously. Skim the punk's article, locate your target and attack. Friedersdorf:
But let us be charitable. Perhaps Mr. Levin, writing with an eye toward current events, began the conflict between liberty and tyranny in FDR’s America because he regards it as when the particular threat to liberty that the United States today faces began.Ah, so Friedersdorf views Mr. Levin as being in need of intellectual charity, does he? Let the conservative reader, familiar with Mr. Levin and the history of the 20th century, ask merely if Friedersdorf's insulting tone is more important than any specific criticism this insufferable whelp might make. Again, skipping past a few hundred words of nonsense, here is Friedersdorf's conclusion:
Liberty and Tyranny at its best is a Cliffs Notes refresher on conservatism for the reader too busy to read the Federalist Papers and Edmund Burke. At its worst, it is a counterproductive tome that misleads conservatives about the nature of their fellow Americans, distracts from the actual disagreements and differing priorities that separate us, and in so doing exacerbates the hard right’s present tendency to cede all reality based arguments about governance by never engaging them at all.Exactly two questions now require an answer:
- Is the Atlantic Monthly actually paying Friedersdorf to write this stuff?
- Does Mr. Levin really need any help defending himself here?
Levin wrote a book intended for a general readership, the title of which is Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto. Having not read it myself -- no one bothers to send a mere blogger review copies of books, it seems, nor have my friends at Levin's P.R. firm thought to call and ask me if I'd like to interview The Great One -- I'd hate to judge a book by its cover.
That Liberty and Tyranny is a far better book than Friedersdorf (or Rod Dreher) is willing to recognize is evidenced by this paragraph from Richard Spencer, a brilliant young radical who dissents decidedly rightward of mainstream "Movement" conservatism:
As for Levin and his new book Liberty and Tyranny: I was given a copy as a gift and have crashed through it. There is, as you might guess, a whole lot of material in his “On Self-Preservation” chapter with which I disagree. . . . This being said, the brunt of the rest of the book I endorse. Republicans have a tendency to sound like Ron Paul when they’re out of office, and then act like LBJ once they get elected. Sure. But Levin has laid down some explicit constitutional, pro-liberty principles with real, concrete consequences.Alas, young Spencer went to Duke University and has read too much Nietzsche, so considering that you'll rarely hear him say a nice word about any "Movement" conservative, his measured praise is practically a "two thumbs up!"
Even if Liberty and Tyranny were merely, as Friedersdorf says, a "Cliff Notes" of conservative basics -- well, what's wrong with that? Not everyone majors in political science in college or aspires to be considered an intellectual. And thank God for that!
Most normal young people are apathetic about politics and are decidely uninterested in a philosophical or historical approach to the subject. They'll sit through lectures in required courses and study those dull college textbooks just well enough to get a "B." They'll get their diplomas, get a job, get married, have kids, pay taxes and probably not really think much about politics as they pursue their own slice of The American Dream.
God Bless America! Who wants to live in a nation of philosophes, where nobody ever talks about or pays attention to anything but political theory? The beauty of limited government is that we can safely ignore it, which is why men who love liberty take alarm when power falls into the hands of men with boundless ambitions for the expansion of government.
Levin has taken alarm and, for those lovers of liberty who spent their college years in the grand American tradition -- frat parties, football games and avid heterosexuality -- rather than earnestly studying amorphous philosophical abstractions like some kind of neurasthenic geek, Liberty and Tyranny may be just the sort of common-sense book they need.
And it's a New York Times bestseller. Leave the gnat alone. The elephant notices perhaps only a minor itch. And more important annoyances require my diligent attention.
Of course, I don't know what's on Page 291 of Liberty and Tyranny, so I can't pronounce it the Best. Book. Evah! However, I'm sure that's an innocent oversight that Levin will remedy in his forthcoming book, Shut Your Stupid Piehole, You Miserable Twerp: Rod Dreher, David Brooks and Other Bozo Losers Who Should Be Ignored.
(UNNECESSARY LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Any resemblance between the "order page" for Shut Your Stupid Piehole, You Miserable Twerp and a so-called "tip jar" PayPal site is probably not accidental, and people contributing to that fund should not expect to receive an actual book. But keep in mind that Conor Friedersdorf actually gets paid to trash Mark Levin, while my services as a punk-smacker are entirely uncompensated unless readers want to send a message of support to me by hitting the tip jar.)