Can anti-idiotarianism be kept alive?

Considering some of the nastiness that has been going on in the blogosphere since the election of Barack Obama, "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" is probably good advice right now.

Last night, I was a bit taken aback at the level of vitriol directed towards Stephen Green -- for his crimes in linking one blogger and for apparently not delinking another. It's so nasty and contentious that I don't feel like sharing my thoughts about either of the bloggers in question right now. (Sorry, I won't even quote the comments, but trust me. If you don't trust me, then just go for a Sunday scroll.)

I'd just like to remember the good old days of a more pleasant world. A world where there was more or less unity against what was called idiotarianism. The term had its origins in an observation Glenn Reynolds made back in 2002:

"What bloggers are more than anything, I think, is anti-idiot. That makes life tough for Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, and the Revs. Falwell, Robertson, Jackson, & Sharpton, for reasons that transcend traditional partisanship and ideology."
This eventually evolved into a sort of common sense manifesto articulated by Eric S. Raymond:
"WE DEFINE IDIOTARIANISM as the species of delusion within the moral community of mankind that gives aid and comfort to terrorists and tyrants operating outside it.

WE REJECT the idiotarianism of the Left - the moral blindness that refuses to recognize that free markets, individual liberty, and experimental science have made the West a fundamentally better place than any culture in which jihad, 'honor killings', and female genital mutilation are daily practices approved by a stultifying religion.

WE REJECT the idiotarianism of the Right - whether it manifests as head-in-the-sand isolationism or as a a Christian-chauvinist political agenda that echoes the religious absolutism of our enemies.

WE ARE MEMBERS OF A CIVILIZATION, and we hold that civilization to be worth defending. We have not sought war, but we will fight it to the end. We will fight for our civilization in our thoughts, in our words, and in our deeds."

Perhaps that was too utopian an idea to withstand the pressures of change.

So many people's definitions of what is idiotic have changed that it sometimes seems to me that almost everyone thinks almost everyone else is an idiot on some level.

Still, even now, I think the anti-idiotarian cause is a good one. Incurable romantic that I may be, I'm as much against idiots as I ever was. The devil is in the details, though.

However, I'd be less than candid if I did not observe that much of what I said over the years (and perhaps the basic philosophy of this blog) would no longer be seen as rightish small l-libertarianism, but as left wing. Criticisms of guys like Falwell are now seen as "attacking Christianity." Even defending Bush (for which I used to get reams of excrement) now looks suspiciously liberal.

I often feel as if I can't say anything. Everyone is offended by something now, including me.

I'd say I agreed with Pat Buchanan that we are more divided than ever, except I think he's too divisive. Besides, agreeing with Pat Buchanan is almost as disagreeable as linking to WorldNetDaily.

Geez, this is looking pretty bleak. I should point out that I like the Tea Party Movement, which I find new and refreshing. Sure, there are a few idiots with idiotic signs, but as Matt Welch notes, they're far outnumbered by the good ones. The movement strikes me as inherently anti-idiotarian in nature.

But what about the idiots? Should they just be ignored?

posted by Eric on 09.13.09 at 11:59 AM


You can't legitimately agree with Buchanan, even if you actually do in any particular instance. That's a gross violation of anti-idiotarian principles.

Buchanan has put himself beyond the pale. It can be debated if he's really an anti-Semite or only "functionally" anti-Semitic. It can't be debated that he's an apologist for Hitler, an isolationist, and a trade protectionist.

So even if you find something he says to have merit, better not mention it publicly. He's toxic.

Steve Skubinna   ·  September 13, 2009 2:24 PM

So, you had to go and open yer piehole ;-)

Interesting that I'm thinking of talking again after a three year break.

Seriously Eric, don't stop talking.

Ken "nopundit" Greenlee

Kenneth Greenlee   ·  September 13, 2009 2:36 PM

Steve I agree wholeheartedly! I only agreed with him to demonstrate the complex nature of the predicament.

Kenneth, your link didn't work, so I fixed it. (Hope that's OK.)

Eric Scheie   ·  September 13, 2009 3:22 PM

Hmmm, I always look at it this way.

There's a line about, "Sure I can stand your bad opinion, but can I stand your good opinion?"
The context was, "What do you do when someone you don't like agrees with you?"

I first really make sure I'm thinking correctly, but then I go with it. I will never use Buchanan to prove a point, but just because he agrees with me doesn't mean I have to change my mind.
I like having the trains run on time, that doesn't mean I want to invade Ethiopia.

I won't link World Net Daily if they're the only ones to break a story. I will be more likely to say, "I need some proof if someone else links it."

I used to read them all the time, they had a bunch of good columnists back in the day. They were the only non-NRO website with any decent columnists.
But... then they went too far. They got too religious and there was too much shading of the truth to get to a desired result.

Homey don't play that.
If you trust them you'll get burned an awful lot.

I look stupid often enough on my own, I don't need WND to help me.

But again, just because I generally agree with them, doesn't mean I have to change my mind, it just means... uhhh..... I don't know what it means.
Maybe it doesn't mean anything.

As for this
Perhaps that was too utopian an idea to withstand the pressures of change.

People are involved. There are always people who will ruin it for everbody else.

There are always going to be dishonest people who will try to pervert and/or take over anything to fit their ends.
Go to the Tea Parties, there are plenty of groups who are trying to take control of this movement, but these aren't "joiners", unless it's a chruch. They just don't want to have the gov't take over the whole country. It's scary.

Other people get angry for some reason and then the object of their anger can never be "right" again. Like Andrew Sullivan, John Cole of Balloon Juice and, just lately, Charles Johnson.

That's why revolutions so rarely result in anything good.
People are involved. America got lucky that we had some of the smartest, bravest, most idealistic and honest men in history working for us.
Usually, really dishonest people take over, lying like crazy to the honest, idealistic ones and everybody gets screwed.

Veeshir   ·  September 13, 2009 3:43 PM

What I think we are seeing is a Major sea change in politics. I often wonder how the Republicans came into being so successfully when it used to be the Democrats & the Whigs just prior to the Civil War....

Anyway, I think we are at those same crossroads again. The thought paradigm (Left/Right-Denm/Repub)for the last 150 years is (seemingly) suddenly not descriptive of how we are now thinking. The divisions in our country will be different from now on.

I look at the TEA parties and see Dems & Repubs both. I don't know how to prognosticate the future, but to be confused about which "side" certain people are on is a sign of the coming change... I sure hope it doesn't take another 1861-1865 to get over it.

Susan Lee

Susan Lee   ·  September 13, 2009 5:58 PM

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