Confabulation of fabulism?
"The more ambitious fabulist is not Scott Beauchamp, however. It's Victor Davis Hanson."

By saying that, Andrew Sullivan is either exercising demagoguery, or else he has lost sight of a rather basic distinction.

Facts are not the same thing as opinions.

Sullivan calls Victor Davis Hanson a "fabulist" and argues that he was more dishonest and less accurate than Scott Beauchamp. But attacking Hanson's 2004 opinions about U.S. policy in Iraq by contrasting them with what General Petraeus is doing now is little more than Monday morning quarterbacking.

(It's worth noting parenthetically that Sullivan may have failed even as a Monday morning quarterback. Via Glenn Reynolds, Hanson maintains quite credibly that "what I wrote proves the exact opposite of [Sullivan's] allegation." If this is true, who indeed is the "fabulist?")

But the argument I'm making would be the same even if Sullivan were right in his critique of what Hanson said years ago. Offering opinions and advice about the propriety of military policy, or suggestions as to how things might be improved -- that is opinion.

Far from offering opinion or advice, what Scott Beauchamp did was to give chilling and heinous factual accounts. It has become quite clear that the accounts were false. Hence the "fabulist" title has been bestowed on Beauchamp.

To make it painfully clear, a "fabulist" is someone who makes things up! If I say that Hillary Clinton will beat Barack Obama and she does not (or offer a candidate advice that turns out to be ill-advised), I do not become a fabulist. However, if I said that during my drive to New Jersey today, I was pulled over and beaten by the police when I wasn't, then I become a fabulist.

I don't think it should be necessary to spell this out in such exquisitely obvious detail.

But hey, give me a break. I'm only trying to deconfabulate a word I think is being misused.

UPDATE: Might there be a neurological explanation of how people form associations? In a brief post about magic, Ann Althouse links a Times piece which implicates the left brain:

The left brain, as Dr. Gazzaniga put it, is the confabulator, constantly concocting stories.
I try to use blogging as a way to constantly fisk my left brain.

Except when I'm feeling creative! That's when I engage and unleash my left brain, and let it do its thing, unfisked and unchallenged.

(I try not to take it seriously, though.)

UPDATE: Describing Andrew Sullivan as someone who "inspired me to get into blogging," Lance at A Second Hand Conjecture is now disappointed and saddened:

Hanson's analysis may be a failure to many, but on this matter it is game, set, match for Hanson.

Sullivan has sadly deteriorated as his self righteousness overwhelms his talent. At his best he is inspiring, witty and deeply humane. Unfortunately he has become increasingly petty, slapdash in his judgments and accusations, sloppy in his reading and startlingly ungenerous to those he disagrees with. This is more appalling when we consider he saves his most vicious and unthinking attacks for people who hold views he once shared. As if he has a right to act as if holding to those views longer than he, means they deserve no respect, not even the minimal respect of having what they say accurately characterized. He was wrong on the war he now says, so others do not have the right to be wrong in his eyes now for the same reasons?


It's doubly sad. And I feel the same way.

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

UPDATE: My thanks to Pajamas Media for linking this post. And via PJM, Real Clear Politics asks a good question:

I don't know who's in the most pain: Sullivan, Hanson or their readers looking for a higher level of discourse?
Again, I think this is sad; the title reflects my usual dark humor.

I've been reading Andrew Sullivan for years, and I miss being able to count on his good common sense which always used to be there.

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post!

More confabulation noted by Confederate Yankee, who has a great recap of the Beauchampt affair.

And don't miss Mickey Kaus who links Dean Barnett's analysis, and Pajamas Media's roundup on TNR's latest offensive.

posted by Eric on 08.22.07 at 11:50 PM


It's been very sad to watch Andrews decline. The fact that he's still readable, even as a slim fraction of the writer he was 10 years ago, is testament to how good he was at the start.

I am not looking forward to the day that I must swear off reading him entirely. But I know that day is coming. I want to remember his as he was - robust and clean, insightful, sharp. I don't want to remember him as a raving, withered man screaming on the streetcorner.

Ripper   ·  August 23, 2007 12:34 AM

The problem comes when the Left declares its own opinions as fact.

Witness Anthropogenic Global Warming and how apostates are treated by the true believers.

Darleen   ·  August 23, 2007 1:04 AM

I think what Andrew was trying to say is that VDH is fabulous.

Jeffersonian   ·  August 23, 2007 9:14 AM

Ripper, I agree. There was a time when Andrew Sullivan was my favorite blogger. I still visit him because he sometimes puts together interesting quote collections, but I rarely read his own words--and when I do, I usually regret it.

He has completely lost his analytic faculties. He can't tell opinion from fact, and he thinks posting a quote that supports his position (no matter the source) constitutes proof that he is right.

tim maguire   ·  August 23, 2007 11:26 AM

I'm not sure why the rather exotic term "fabulist" is employed here. Beauchamp is simply a liar. Foer is simply a liar. Sullivan is a nut and a liar. These mutts are living in a fiction of their own creation wherein THEY, of course, know all the answers because they make up all the facts. Sullivan is truly depressing. It is like watching a maiden aunt develop a final tolerance to her brain meds. There is only one stop left. Is Sullivan still anti-Islamist? Or has he joined the Left/Caliphate alliance? Won't be long in any case.

megapotamus   ·  August 23, 2007 11:53 AM


I'm still cleaning the coffee off my leather couch. And out of my nose. Fabulous!

sean   ·  August 23, 2007 1:06 PM

Dr. Gazzaniga is an interesting guy. In an interview with Wm Buckley he said cocaine ought to be legalized.

BTW he is an outstanding brain scientist.

M. Simon   ·  August 23, 2007 1:38 PM

One may say what one likes about Mr. Sullivan, but the fact remains that, TTBOMK, he is one of the only two upper-list bloggers (the other being Dean Esmay) with the intestinal fortitude to take and defend a correctly objective moral and ethical stand against routine and ritual male genital amputation.

He may froth and slaver in patent irrational error on other matters, but on this one particular issue he is far more righteous than the vast overwhelming majority of not only the blogosphere but professional journalism in general.

Acksiom   ·  August 23, 2007 2:59 PM

Oh, the anti-circumcision folks are out now.

Calling something "mutilation" does not make it so--is cutting hair or fingernails "mutilation"? What about tattoos and piercing? Come on.

I remember when being against male circumcision was something that only Kramer on Seinfeld was.

Gabriel Hanna   ·  August 23, 2007 3:45 PM

Calling removal of the foreskin Genital Amputation? Please. That's silly hyperbole not befitting of anyone who wishes to be taken seriously on anything.

ThomasD   ·  August 23, 2007 4:33 PM

I think, though, that Sullivan would appreciate the sentiment. He is, above all, self-obsessed and sexually obsessed at that. If circumcision is an atrocity it is no wonder he can call water-boarding "torture". For the record, I was circumsized secularly and if it has made me miss a step neither I nor any informed persons can object.

megapotamus   ·  August 23, 2007 5:33 PM

Andrew Sullivan attacking Victor Davis Hanson is quite amusing.

Emotion vs. Logic and reason. No contest.

Andrew Sullivan lost it some time ago.

Roy E   ·  August 23, 2007 10:39 PM

Andrew appears to have jumped on the "Obama as newest fad" bandwagon. I have not read any in-depth look at what OBAMA IS from this Obama as "fresh face" cheerleader. I read a comment about this guy that said "Andrew's all about what Andrew is interested in at this time," which is somewhat of a paraphrase. I don't know why this guy is linked to David Horowitz, who's site, Front Page Magazine, has much to say and it's well-done. Andrew Sullivan appears to be nothing more than a reactionary.

mark peevey   ·  August 24, 2007 9:18 AM

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