Why? Oh, just because!

Glenn Reynolds asks a good question about Andrew Sullivan's inability to disagree with Glenn without misrepresenting what he says:

it's telling that he can't seem to criticize me without misrepresenting what I've said. In this post he links to a truncated version of my views on the torture debate on another blog. Why?
What I find even more curious is that Sullivan not only asserts that Glenn Reynolds is not a "real" libertarian, but that the other blog -- Instaputz -- is:
Glenn Reynolds vs a real libertarian on torture.
Whatever anyone might think of the Instaputz blog, to call it "libertarian" (whether of the large or small "l" variety) is ridiculous. Not only does the anonymously written site not promote libertarianism; its express purpose is to excoriate Glenn Reynolds on a daily basis. Moreover, there is not one libertarian website or blog listed on the blogroll. Aside from Jonathan Swift (a self-described conservative blog with a "liberal blogrolling policy") and Andrew Sullivan (a self-described anti-war and anti-gun conservative) the blogroll is standard left wing fare.

Glenn (Reynolds) has repeatedly stated that he is not a conservative (a proposition with which many anti-abortion, anti-gay, and pro-drug-war conservatives would agree) and he describes himself quite accurately as a small "l" libertarian. I don't know why Sullivan seems incapable of understanding that; perhaps it is because he wants to reduce everything to a new litmus test along his own lines. But then, what is the Sullivan litmus test for determining small "l" libertarianism?

Surely it can't mean agreement with "Blue Texan" of Instaputz, for if is to be considered a small "l" libertarian, then 99% of the people who consider themselves small "l" libertarians (myself included) are not small "l" libertarians. But on the other hand, neither can they meet the Sullivan litmus test for conservatives, because his own brand of conservatism means opposition to the war and support for gun control.

James Joyner looked at Sullivan's critique, and also found himself scratching his head:

Sully's critique of Reynolds is for supporting "the permanent suspension of habeas corpus, the transformation of the executive branch into a de facto extra-legal protectorate, the breaking of laws by the president, the authorization of torture, warrantless wiretapping, a war based on intelligence that simply wasn't there, and a ramping up of the drug war." My guess is that Reynolds would oppose most if not all of those things, at least if characterized that way, but I'll let him defend himself. As for me, I've opposed all of those generally but been willing to give the benefit of the doubt on electronic surveillance, provided all that's entailed is quasi-anonymous data mining and that the results are used only for intelligence purposes but kept out of criminal court via the Exclusionary Rule.
I read Glenn every day, and while I can't say that I catch every last word or nuance, I can't believe I missed Glenn's support for the "permanent suspension of habeas corpus, the transformation of the executive branch into a de facto extra-legal protectorate, the breaking of laws by the president, the authorization of torture, warrantless wiretapping, a war based on intelligence that simply wasn't there, and a ramping up of the drug war." (Is Sullivan joking? Or did he leave someone else with the keys to his blog?)

Support for the war, yes. But like countless war supporters, Glenn's support was never conditioned on the presence of WMDs.

What I think is going on is a massive attempt to discredit pro-war libertarians by any means necessary. And it is not enough merely to label them "conservative"; the idea is that they are to be painted as far right maniacs with some sort of insane agenda.

But I guess once you posit Instaputz's Blue Texan as a small "l" libertarian, then almost anything becomes possible. After all, he is the antithesis of Glenn Reynolds, and by simple mathematics, if he is a libertarian, that means Glenn cannot be.

My concern is that Sullivan (whether you like him or not) may be giving up all pretenses of being fair. Instaputz is one of those anonymous blogs with no other purpose than to attack another blog. To give an idea of how singleminded and obsessively devoted he is to this task, in addition to his blog he spends time visiting Instapundit-friendly blogs to hurl anti-Reynolds invective. When he did this recently at Samizdata, he became so shrill and redundant that he was finally banned. It's worth noting that while he is an anonymous blogger, "Blue Texan" of Instaputz is obviously a close associate of Glenn Greenwald (who has accused Glenn Reynolds of murderous sociopathic, bloodthirsty, downright frightening right-wing authoritarianism), for he had blogging privileges at Glenn Greenwald's pre-Salon blog.

Parenthetically, I don't spend much time reading comments, because I barely have time to write my posts here, and I can't keep up with blog posts elsewhere, so comments are a low priority. Plus they tend to be argumentative and emotional, which wastes time. But a Samizdata commenter named "Charles Giacometti" rang a bell, because he's left comments here and I notice he's a loud and angry follower of Blue Texan and Glenn Greenwald, who claims (among many other things) that Glenn is an anti-Semite. (And indistinguishable from Rush Limbaugh.) At Dan Riehl's blog Giacometti devoted an extraordinary amount of time to calling people "wingnut pussies" (and "little puke," "fucking dolt," and other terms), and for some reason he has decided that people who disagree with him are fond of Cheetos. Another Giacometti Cheeto allegation here, and there are voluminous comments here, if you have the patience to read through them. (I don't.) He's another tireless promoter of the absurd meme that Glenn Reynolds has a radical-right-wing agenda of genocide, murder and hate.....

Basically, I don't like to argue with people, because I don't think arguments persuade anyone. However, I often disagree with points of view other than my own, and while it is not always possible to keep disagreements civil and logical, misrepresenting what someone else says by putting words in his mouth is even worse than being rude and emotional. At that point, the argument ceases to be an argument. If someone says, for example, that I called someone a traitor when I did not do that, what's to discuss? Instaputz's Blue Texan said just that about me (although he is of course best known for his attacks on Glenn Reynolds).

Richard Miniter also complains about misrepresentations by Instaputz:

Instaputz twists my words to make some cheap shots. And, notice the anger and the bitterness in his voice? Instaputz could be a partisan of the left or the right, it doesn't matter. They both do this. Poor reading skills, mixed with anger and cheap shots. It doesn't portend well for the future of the country.
Instaputz claimed that "Miniter has now set the standard that only those who've been to Iraq can have an opinion about it"

But Miniter said no such thing:

Each one said that they were "frightened" by President Bush and that the war was "ugly." These are literally childish complaints.

I couldn't resist, so I asked: "When was the last time that you were in Iraq?"

Oh, they said, they would never go. It was too dangerous and so on.

But, I asked, how can you be sure if your views are correct if you haven't seen the war first-hand?

They seemed puzzled by the question.

So, posing the question "how can you be sure if your views are correct?" becomes "only those who've been to Iraq can have an opinion."

One of the things I've learned in blogging is that it's a waste of time to argue with people who don't even have the decency to argue with what you said. So (other than thanking him for the link) I didn't waste my time with Instaputz when he put words in my mouth:

....because Greenwald thinks the right wing hysteria over The Next Hitler speaking at Columbia was misplaced, Eric at Classical Values says that makes him a traitor.
Of course, I never said that at all. My complaint was that Greenwald couldn't "seem to find the space to utter a single word about the savage executions of gays in Iran (much less their overall plight.)" Sorry, but criticizing someone for not mentioning something in a blog is not an accusation of treason.

Nor was my PhotoShop an accusation of treason. Here's the PhotoShop along with what I said:

And while it never managed to find its way into the government video, what about this?


Just kidding, folks. I'm sure there are no gay ties.

(Some things really aren't funny. I guess that's the whole point of gallows humor...)

Not only did I not say the word "traitor," I didn't imply it. Furthermore, had "Blue Texan" bothered to click on the picture's link, he'd have seen that it originated as satire -- as a heartfelt plea to get Ahmadinejad to wear a necktie in the interest of peace. Removing a necktie from Greenwald and putting one on Ahmadinejad, was surrealist sartorial satire -- intended to make fun of both of them. But as I stated at the time, I still held out hope that Greenwald might be willing to take off his tie and send it to Ahmadinejad:
As to the man on the left, I can't be sure why he isn't wearing a tie. Maybe he took his off, and gave it to President Ahmadinejad in the interest of improved cultural ties.

Whatever the case, it seems like a laudable, maybe even non-partisan effort.

Maybe we should all send a tie to Ahmadinejad.

I think Ahmadinejad is a malevolent clown, and I think Greenwald is sorely lacking in the sense of humor department. Both, in my view merit ridicule, but for very different reasons.

Calling such ridicule an accusation of treason only demonstrates bad faith, and not only isn't it necessary to refute things like that, it's counterproductive, because people who put words in your mouth will just keep right on doing it. That's because they're not arguing with your words; they're arguing with their words. (Of course, I guess if Instaputz can find sexual innuendo in a picture of Ann Althouse doing nothing more than opening her mouth, I shouldn't be surprised that he insinuates the word "traitor" into my Photoshop.)

I normally would not have gone to the trouble of an elaborate explanation, for what is there to "explain"? That I did not say what I did not say? The whole thing is silly; the only reason I am bothering now is because I see that it's a recurrent pattern for others.

It is not new that Instaputz does what he does. What I can't figure out is why Sullivan takes him at his word. Unfortunately, the only answer I can come up with to Glenn's "Why?" is "I don't know."

I'm puzzled.

But what puzzles me the most is Sullivan's idea that Glenn is not a libertarian, but Blue Texan is.

Seriously, what's up with that? Is Andrew trying to persuade other small "l" libertarians to turn in their invisible cards lest they be tainted by association? Is there really any "why"? Might it just be "because"?

Perhaps I should just say "why bother"? I mean, these are other people's labels. I've long considered myself to be politically homeless. I can just as easily go back to being a Democrat in name only as I can being a small "l" libertarian or whatever you want to call it. The world does not rise or fall depending on how Andrew Sullivan and Blue Texan define "libertarian."

So why should I care?

If the only people saying this stuff were bloggers like Blue Texan, Glenn Greenwald, and their assorted followers, I would not care enough to write this post. I care only because Andrew Sullivan seems to be going along with it. While I don't always agree with Andrew, I've been reading him for years and consider him to be at least capable of being intellectually fair. Maybe he's annoyed by something else right now, but taking a long view of him and his blog, I expected more from him than this.

I realize that Sullivan haters will say that I'm being naive. I hope they're not right.

UPDATE: Charles Giacometti has left lots of comments below, and I'm so excited and thrilled that I'm just speechless. (I'm leaving them all there as reminders of his love.)

UPDATE: Via Justin, Instaputz accuses me of being a reading-disabled tool of Glenn Reynolds.

Well, assuming I can't read, why shouldn't I be allowed to have Glenn do my reading for me?

Nah, because that would make Glenn my reading "tool"! And that wouldn't be, you know, fair.

MORE (11/07/07): Here goes the shameless Glenn Reynolds for the umpteenth time, minimizing torture by glibly downplaying its significance -- this time by accusing Congress of a lack of courage for not outlawing waterboarding.

Another clear case of Glenn "arguing with a straw man by making the same claim that he's anti-torture."

I'm telling you, the deception involved in Glenn's radical right wing agenda is downright frightening.

But really, isn't this just a new twist on an elaborate game of deception that has gone on for some time? I mean, what did we expect from someone who demonizes gay people to strengthen his cultural tribalism? And who says people are not gay as a way of saying that they are?

Glenn's double reverse denial must be watched closely.

Why, just today Glenn said "I don't like Pat Robertson."

If you know how to read Glenn Reynolds -- and I mean really read, in the proper context -- you know exactly what that statement means!

posted by Eric on 11.05.07 at 11:34 AM


Andrew doesn't say Instaputz is a real libertarian generally, just that he is a real libertarian on the issue of torture. Basically, that real libertarians oppose torture. Of course, that would have to be small "o" small "t" oppose torture because what he means is "torture" as Andrew Sullivan defines it and "oppose" as Andrew Sullivan opposes it.

Here and elsewhere, there is a lot of handwringing among Andrew's former fans about when he changed, what exactly about him changed, and what caused the change. I have my own ideas about when but haven't a clue as to why.

Whatever the reason, for several years now Sullivan has been perfectly willing to be dishonest and unfair in his arguments against those he disagrees with. That's just the way it is with him these days.

tim maguire   ·  November 5, 2007 12:25 PM

It was clear that Sullivan was referencing Cato, not the Instaputz blog itself.

Charles Giacometti   ·  November 5, 2007 12:53 PM

Then I suppose we should all include a [sic] at the end of the quote when referring to it, because it either refers to Instaputz or it is grammatically incorrect.

If Sullivan was referring to the Cato Institute, then he could have headed off much of this simply by writing more carefully.

tim maguire   ·  November 5, 2007 2:43 PM

Forgive me for being so blunt, Tim, but you have to be mentally retarded to not understand the intent of Sullivan's post, or of Instaputz's.

You and the blogger here are having Emily Litella moments, but you are too dense to realize it.

Charles Giacometti   ·  November 5, 2007 2:49 PM

And what is the "much of this" he could have headed off? The illiterate ramblings of this blogger? Who could anticipate that anyone could be dumb enough to consider Instaputz a libertarian blog?

You want some sort of blogger nanny state where the literate (Sullivan, Blue Texan) look out for the illiterate (you, this blogger)? Sorry, the federal government is already overtaxed with the prescription drug plan. You are on your own, sonny!

Charles Giacometti   ·  November 5, 2007 2:52 PM

I would happily pay more taxes so that the federal government could force Blue Texan to look out for me. It's been a dream of mine since long before I even knew where Texas was (is? yes, is).

How do we arrange this?

tim maguire   ·  November 5, 2007 5:23 PM

I must agree with Tim.

I haven't been able to force myself to care what Sullivan's said for... must be four years or so now?

Charles: That Sullivan did not link to Cato and "Hat tip: InstaPutz" with a link to the latter's post, is part of Sullivan's general sloppiness.

(Further, InstaPutz's argument is daft; Reynolds wasn't talking about anything but the condemnation of torture as political theatre, and he's correct. There is nothing libertarian or anti-libertarian about pointing that out.

That the debate as it's presented by Congerss is theatre says nothing about Reynolds' beliefs or whether or not they're "libertarian".

I must conclude, thus, that Putz is either bad at English comprehension or trying to mislead. And Sullivan's a wanker for falling for it and linking.)


Philosophical Note:

On a purely philosophical level, it's difficult to say that "libertarianism" has any strict position on torture as such; once someone has put themselves in a position such as they've initiated the use of force and the State can respond with military or police action, libertarian theory as such makes no claims about what sorts of reaction are permissible or not.

If we allow the State to use force at all against such people, to jail them or execute them or shoot them in combat, there's no obvious pure libertarian theoretical grounds for prohibiting torture (or even more-so, what is called torture by Sullivan and Congressmen aiming for theatre, but that might not be called torture at all by other standards. But that also goes back to Sullivan's comment about the un-seriousness of the public debate.).

The US Constitution does have such claims and limits (quite rightly, I think, even though I disagree with Sullivan about what constitutes torture), but it's not strictly a libertarian document.

None of the libertarian first principles I'm aware of prohibit torture as such against someone who has initiated the use of force; especially someone who's done so in a big way (thus removing proportionality objections, which are at best implicit in all the theory I've read).

The only basis I can see in normal libertarian first principles, to oppose eg. waterboarding (if we grant, arguendo Sullivan, that it's torture-enough-to-count), is that the target had not initiated the use of force and thus was being unjustifiably coerced/harmed for no basis.

(Someone should write a book! The libertarian/ish theorists haven't covered the topic academically, as far as I know, probably because it's never come up - there haven't been any libertarian states to worry about doing such things, and it's not a topic of enduring interest.

I don't recall anything about the constraints of state action once it's been justified by the actions of the target, in anything I've read. Maybe one of the anarchist types has a position, but why should anyone else be contstrained to the opinions of an anarcho-libertarian like Rothbard, rather than Hayek or even Nozick?)

Sigivald   ·  November 5, 2007 5:46 PM

I'm impressed that Charlie G can make a diagnosis of mental retardation based on a single symptom. He is certainly credible.

Phelps   ·  November 5, 2007 6:09 PM

Oh, it's not surprising at all, Phelps. It's called "projection."

Uncle Fester   ·  November 5, 2007 8:23 PM

Nice try, Uncle Fester, but no projection here, though you get a gold star for trying out something you learned in Psych 101 at Bugtussle Community College. A for Effort!

I realize this is a tough time for the neocons. Your hero W is down to, what, 26% in the approval ratings? I mean, take away the noise, the margin of error, and the mentally incapacitated and insane, and there are probably 12 people outside of the Bush family who like this guy.

So, yeah, I would be all pissy too if I were you or the rube who writes this blog.

I do note you posting anonymously though--how brave of you to stand behind your opinions!

Charles Giacometti   ·  November 5, 2007 9:04 PM

"Charles", go away.

jason   ·  November 5, 2007 10:55 PM

Poor "Jason." I hurt his little feelings.

Note again the anonymous reply, and his projection (used correctly here, Uncle Fester!) that I am using a pseudonym.

Make a point, little man, or be gone.

Charles Giacometti   ·  November 6, 2007 9:15 AM

Oh, and Jason? The comma goes inside the quotation marks, so your little passive-aggressive comment would be more correctly:

"Charles," go away.

Tell that to the other greeters at Walmart. It will impress the hell out of them!

Charles Giacometti   ·  November 6, 2007 9:24 AM

Do we know with absolute certainty that "Charles Giacommetti" is not yet another Greenwald sock puppet?

Glenn   ·  November 6, 2007 4:03 PM

...because it's not like this post isn't Reynolds sockpuppetry.

What long winded drivel, signfying nothing.

bleh   ·  November 6, 2007 4:20 PM

I think that Sullivan was writing for a generally intelligent audience (apparently a category that does not include you) who could understand that the "libertarians" at issue were those at Cato -- the most prominent and respected libertarian think-tank in the country.

For the record, the Cato fellows' take on Glenn Reynold's sudden renunciation of libertarianism is basically: "Good riddance to bad rubbish."

dcuser   ·  November 6, 2007 5:58 PM

Some coward posting anonymously as "Glenn" asks if I am a Greenwald sockpuppet. Nope, though I am a fan, mainly because he enrages morons.

Ask the simpleton who runs this blog to check my IP address. It originates from greater Boston, where I am from. This is a fact I do not hide.

Now "Glenn," post with your real name and I will respond in the future. I am not holding my breath, so I will just dismiss you as another sniveling, cowardly fool.

Charles Giacometti   ·  November 6, 2007 8:35 PM

For the record, the Cato fellows' take on Glenn Reynold's sudden renunciation of libertarianism is basically: "Good riddance to bad rubbish."

And for the record, Cato thinks highly of Greenwald.

Blue Texan   ·  November 7, 2007 10:27 AM

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