July 21, 2006
Discredited is victory, but victory is discredited
I can't believe the really intelligent, well-thought-out, and downright encouraging comments and emails this blog has received in response to the "George Harleigh"/"Doug Thompson"/CHB affair. My thanks to all, and again, especially to Glenn Reynolds for linking the post. Discrediting web sites is not what I normally do here. Most of the time, I write long philosophical essays about whatever strikes my fancy, and the only reason for the extended posts about "George Harleigh" and his sock puppet compatriots is that I was embarrassed to see quotations from a "famous" man I'd never heard of who'd worked for both Nixon and Reagan.
While I may be wrong, I think I've gone about as far as I can go with this, this thing. As John Hawkins's February post reminded me, this "Doug Thompson" and his minions (both real and imaginary) were discredited long ago. (At least they should have been.)
And (as people have told me) he's now even more discredited. Which means I can just stop, right?
In a way, yes. (But not for the reasons I might like to assume.)
The normal meaning of the word "discredited" is -- no longer being worthy of being given credit. Not believable. No more credibility. Based on the comments here, based on John Hawkins' post (and plenty of others by less-known bloggers) based on what people have told me, Doug Thompson and CHB have zero credibility, and are discredited.
But what does that mean? Many of Ted Rall's crackpot remarks have been discredited. Many people would say that Michael Moore has been discredited. John Dean discredited his own book ("Blind Ambition" -- long considered a sort of Bible of Watergate). Yet all of these people and more just keep cranking stuff out willy-nilly, and there are always people to buy it. (Another day, another Rall cartoon. Another Moore film. Another Dean book.)
Doesn't this mean that (at least in the eyes of their followers) they are not discredited?
Glenn Reynolds earlier linked to David Bernstein's post which seriously discredits Hezbollah. I think it's fair to conclude that Hezbollah has been discredited. But Hezbollah's followers won't reach any such conclusion.
My question is, considering the nearly unlimited audience capacity of the Internet, can anything ever be said to be truly, finally, completely, discredited?
I doubt it. Rather, I think there will be an ever growing number of people who will be always discredited in the minds of some, and never discredited in the eyes of others. I think that as the online community grows ever-larger, audience growth virtually guarantees a new Warholistic phenomenon -- not so much that everyone gets his 15 minutes of fame, but that everyone gets to be discredited.
And, of course, vindicated!
I do not doubt that Mr. Thompson (or whoever he is) will claim vindication, and his loyal readers will keep right on reading him. That's because of the vastness of the audience. Crackpot conspiracy sites don't wither and die because conspiracies are disproved. To the contrary, they thrive because people don't want them disproved. (The Apollo moon landing was fake! What? Didn't you know?)
This probably sounds like relativism. By definition it may well be relativism in the true, mathematical sense of the word.
Truth, unfortunately, has very little to do with it.
But in truth, aren't some things really discredited?
(I'm tempted to regard discrediting Doug Thompson as approaching a sort of victory for the truth. . . But what about the people whose job it is to discredit the discreditors?)
posted by Eric on 07.21.06 at 02:13 PM
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