Last Man Standing? Another “Conservative Media” Outlet Bites the Dust
During the 2016 Republican primaries, most of the “conservative media,” print and radio (television is not even worth talking about), revealed itself once and for all as nothing but so many mouthpieces for the GOP establishment; in it for the money, the squishy “insider” feelings of pseudo-power, or both. For those of us observing this from the outside, it was almost dizzying to watch supposed icons of the alleged conservative movement falling like dominos. Every week seemed to bring another defection from decency and rationality, over to the dark side of Mitch McConnell’s and Karl Rove’s crush-the-Tea-Party playbook.
For me personally, few of these sell-outs caused much surprise. In fact, I could only wonder at the shock some people appeared to be experiencing at the discovery that “even Rush Limbaugh” was only in it for the popularity and cash. Who could have doubted that?
In my mind, the only real disappointments (i.e., the people I had kind of hoped might have the principle or chutzpah to hold out against the allure of the cult and its collective money and ratings) were Roger Kimball and Mark Levin.
Throughout the primaries and the general election, while my own happy path as a regular and widely-read contributor to American Thinker was gradually becoming overgrown with Trumpweed, until the machete work needed to struggle through it simply did not seem worthwhile anymore — or in any way beneficial to my own soul — I watched, along with many of you, with an increasing sense of hopelessness as all outlets for serious conservative discussion, or even just simple non-idolatry, were swallowed up by the abyss of unreason and greed.
And since the election, the outlook has, if anything, become even bleaker than it was during the campaign, as what passes for the conservative movement has simply weakened before the allure of “power” and fallen in line completely with Trump and his Washington puppet-masters. That is to say, conservatives have yet again fallen into the trap of conflating the Republican Party with conservatism. A tidy crystallization of this condition is the response a very sober and thoughtful friend received when he took issue with a pro-Trump position espoused by a so-called conservative columnist at a well-known business website: the columnist told my friend to “get a life.” In other words, no argument, no discussion, no respect for a citizen challenging your preferred position. Just personal insult and peremptory dismissal of all debate: “Get a life.”
During the primaries, one popular website that managed to keep itself above the decay-inducing mire of Trumpism was Right Scoop. Because this site is framed as primarily a discussion forum, with readers’ comments highlighted as a main feature, rather than an optional add-on, its refusal to join the mob made it a very important online gathering place for the anti-Breitbart conservatives, people who could not believe the movement to which they thought they belonged was so easily disintegrating in a wave of populist idolatry. For those happy few, Right Scoop, and particularly the comment forum, became a kind of group therapy, as people who may have felt increasingly isolated in their principled conservatism, even among their own friends and family, flocked irresistibly to an online location where their spiritual kin lived: people who, like themselves, had been hoping against hope that this would be the year of the Tea Party’s big breakthrough within the GOP, but instead were seeing all their hope dashed against “The Wall.”
After the election, as even Mark Levin, a friend of the site’s owner, completely sold out to the Trump demagoguery, one could see that it was only a matter of time — minutes, really — before Right Scoop would succumb to the financial and/or “relevancy” allure of taking the GOP establishment’s bait yet again. Hence, “binary choice,” “but Hillary,” and “Trump Derangement Syndrome” began to appear more and more often in the comments, without any criticism or backlash from the site’s proprietors and moderators.
On the contrary, the comment moderators seemed, for the most part, to be increasingly interested in quelling the harsher anti-Trump tone of previous months — the tone which had virtually defined the comment forum during the primaries — in favor of a much more conciliatory, and finally much more approving, stance on all things Trump. At first, the article writers (primarily “Right Scoop” himself, and “Soopermexican”) would allow themselves to step back and level an occasional rebuke to some of Trump’s more offensive or anti-conservative statements and decisions. But over time, these rebukes became increasingly conditional and cagey, and the articles increasingly focused on how much worse the Democrats were (the GOP’s standard “binary choice” mantra). It was clear the site’s days as a final fortress for principled constitutionalism were as over as Levin’s claims to being an independent thinker who refuses to fall for the GOP establishment’s game.
So it was that we arrived at yesterday, November 22nd here in Korean Limbo. Donald Trump, having (correctly) opted not to take any U.S. government action against Saudi Arabia for its state-sponsored murder of Jamal Khashoggi, apparently felt uncomfortable about looking constitutional for a change, and therefore fell back to true form by following up on his seemingly rational decision with a tweet praising the Saudis for supposedly lowering oil prices, and cheering them on, ally-style, to “go lower.” (I leave aside the economic illiteracy of his suggestion that the Saudis are able to determine world oil prices.)
I wrote here yesterday about Trump’s indecency in praising a murderous tyranny merely as a way of getting the goat of his political critics. Yesterday’s post here in Limbo began, however, as a shorter post at the comment forum of Right Scoop, where I was quickly attacked by one of the site’s most outrageous “moderators,” someone calling himself “K-Bob.” (Okay, to be fair to the other moderators, calling K-Bob “one of the most outrageous” suggests that one of the others might be equally bad, which is extremely unfair. So I take that back: K-Bob is the worst, hands down.)
When I defended myself against his silly attempt at clever critique, he began what turned out to be a day-long tit-for-tat war of words. Rather than simply step away, as I normally do in the face of mindless online gainsaying, I began to recognize that staying engaged in this exchange — between my class lectures and other daily tasks — would serve an interesting purpose, namely to draw this supposed moderator out into the open as the muckraking schoolyard sophist he is. In fact, over the course of the exchange, a few other commenters, whom I do not know, but who clearly feel as I do about the current trajectory of Right Scoop, joined in to defend my honor against “K-Bob’s” endless string of ad hominem attacks — to which the schoolyard sophist replied by summarily subjecting them to the same ad hominem attacks.
For the sake of exemplifying, with a simple case study, what has happened to the “conservative media,” not to mention the “conservative movement,” in the era of Trump, I reproduce the exchange between “K-Bob” and myself here. In the name of fairness and objectivity, I have edited nothing, and I include his comments, as well as mine, in the precise form and order in which they appeared at Right Scoop. I exclude the additional comments from other readers, except to note their presence when necessary for context.
As a prefatory note, I will say only that a lot of self-described conservatives these days, including hundreds on the Right Scoop discussion forum, are up in arms about the supposed “censorship” of conservative opinion or discussion on leftist-owned platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. This is quite an effective diversion, as it obscures the real problem that has beset American political discourse, which is the intimidation and shaming used by the so-called conservative forums — almost all of them at this point — to bury or stifle conservative opinion and discussion.
Trump chose this day, this moment, to “tweak” his critics by publicly THANKING Saudi Arabia for low oil prices, and cheer them on to “go lower.” Talk about going lower!
For the record, I said all day yesterday that I do not believe it is within the constitutional role of the U.S. government to play international conscience and detention hall. That said…
Seriously, look at that Trump tweet praising the Saudis today, in light of their state-sanctioned murder and dismemberment of a civilian. I’d say the “man” who would send that tweet today is from the bottom of the barrel, but wood rots too quickly to form the level of slime that is Donald Trump. How anyone could vote for this cretin, or cheer him on in anything, or criticize for one second anyone who refused or refuses to vote for him, is beyond me.
Yes, it apparently is beyond you to understand that nations are incredibly complex entities capable of many simultaneous actions by both their governments and by other factions or persons who comprise their citizenry.
Sane adults do not base international policy over a single event unless that event is massive in its direct impact on the lives of your own citizens.
You didn’t read my comment, did you? I specifically said that I spent all day yesterday arguing, including right here at Right Scoop, that the U.S. federal government has no constitutional role requiring it to respond to or punish actions taken during in-fighting between other nations. The decision not to “punish” was fine on its face.
My criticism is of Trump personally, whose mind is clearly not subtle enough to entertain two different ideas at the same time: (1) Saudis bad, (2) U.S. not involved.
No, Trump has to go on Twitter and praise the Saudis, as though it were not possible to just stay out of it altogether. He thinks refusing to punish Saudi Arabia has to mean SIDING WITH them. Because he’s an idiot.
It is not “beyond me to understand that nations are incredibly complex entities.” In fact, it is even possible for me to understand at one and the same time that the United States is in its foundations a work of genius, and yet that it is at this moment “governed” by traitors and dimwits, with the Orange One being the dimmest of all.
It’s two [sic] bad you can’t have a mind subtle enough to understand two things at once A) Allies are not perfect, and may be called out publicly on their bad choices; and B) You can praise them publicly for being a strong, strategic partner and ally without endorsing their bad choices.
Why all this personal insult stuff? When I see that — much like the ubiquitous “TDS” crap — I always suspect my interlocutor has reached the limit of his ability to argue for his position rationally. Not surprising in this case, since I see little that could be said rationally to defend the Trump tweet that appears in the article above.
You seriously think today is a good day to be praising the Saudis? For what possible purpose, by which I mean what benefit to the United States? It only benefits the Saudis in their desperate attempt to cover their tracks and save face. Why is that something America ought to be doing for them, any more than they should be “punishing” them?
Why not just stay the hell out of it and say, “Not pretty, but not our national concern”?
By praising them today, Trump is effectively taking sides, which is exactly what America should not be doing in this instance. But Trump has a history of publicly praising dictators of all kinds this way — Putin, Kim, Xi, Erdogan — and his defenders always claim this is brilliant strategy. No, he admires dictators, that’s all.
No, I’m just using your own rhetorical formulation. If you take it as personal, perhaps you’ll modify your rhetoric to focus on known facts instead of your unknowable assumptions about what people are thinking or capable of.
You’re saying it’s not politically acceptable to judge a president’s motives or capacities on the basis of his actions and statements? Or does this hands-off rule only apply to Trump? If there was ever a public figure whose actions and statements gave us a window into his intellect and moral outlook, it is Donald Trump. Pretending to turn my words around on me presumes that you have similar evidence against me, or else it’s just a moral equivalency argument.
Furthermore, criticizing the subject of the discussion, in this case the President, is part and parcel of rational political debate. Personally mocking or ridiculing the mental acuity or motives of your debate opponent is not part and parcel of rational political debate, but rather the death of such debate.
You haven’t “judged” jack. You’ve simply pretended to know what no human or beast can possibly know, and used that purported intimate knowledge to draw conclusions.
If you want to actually engage in rational political debate, I suggest you avoid mind reading, and stick to what is knowable, and waste as little time as possible on ad hominem.
To judge in the human sphere typically involves drawing inferences from what is known, in order to evaluate the subject. In this case, I’m evaluating Donald Trump — not his Saudi policy, but the man — from his own words, actions, and manner.
If that’s illegitimate judgment, or even “judging jack,” then how is one ever to form an opinion about a political leader’s character? Or are we simply to say character doesn’t matter? — which is now apparently the majority view among self-described conservatives, in defiance of a noble tradition and eons of common sense.
There is no ad hominem involved, since I am not using my assessment of his character to refute his policy. (As I have said repeatedly, I actually agree with his decision not to “punish” the Saudis.) I am using my assessment of his character to criticize him as a person.
You’re free to disagree with my assessment of his character, and even to do so without offering any kind of argument against me. But to claim that I haven’t made an argument is simply to avoid the issue. The issue, in this case, being primarily that the Republican Party’s official figurehead is a dreadful man, and secondarily that millions of previously sensible Americans seem to be fine with this.
DJ [in reply to another commenter who implied Trump dictated his own official Saudi statement, in response to Rand Paul’s idea that John Bolton wrote it]:
Did you read yesterday’s lengthy statement on the decision not to punish Saudi Arabia? You think Trump dictated that? Trump may know all the best words, but he doesn’t know sixty percent of the words in that statement.
KB [inserting himself superfluously into this exchange with another reader, presumably for no purpose other than to “stalk” me into leaving the forum]:
If you think that released statement requires a large vocabulary, I’d say that’s an admission you don’t really want to be making.
Wow, you’re really in full “personally destroy all people who don’t agree with my opinion” mode today. A strange posture for a discussion forum moderator to be taking. You are actively fostering the same disaster that made Breitbart, American Thinker, and the rest of the so-called “conservative media” unfriendly territory for actual conservatives who actually think, i.e., who find name-calling, invective-spewing, and intelligence-insulting a turn-off.
Right Scoop has been pretty much the last available forum for such rational debate. As a representative of the site, you seem determined to end that, which would effectively consign rational debate of political issues within an American context to personal websites and private living rooms. I won’t bother speculating on why you might desire that outcome.
Nor will I bother challenging you to a vocabulary contest.
P.S. I didn’t say yesterday’s statement required a large vocabulary. I said Trump has a small vocabulary. There’s a substantial difference, which you would have noticed if you were not in knee-jerk tough-guy insult mode today.
“personally destroy all people who don’t agree with my opinion”
I find it interesting that anyone who comes here to level unsound, personally-directed criticism would have trouble when that criticism is met with the force of simple reason.
Personal criticism of the person under discussion, based on evidence and inference — in this case, regarding the most powerful man on the planet — is entirely different from personal criticism of the person with whom you are arguing about that subject. Why is that so hard to understand? The first is rational debate about a subject, even if it includes lively language and somewhat elliptical arguments. The second is pure ad hominem used to curtail such debate.
I have presented several simple arguments, based on actual statements and actions of Donald Trump, to show why I think he is a poor excuse for a leader or a man. You have presented absolutely zero to refute any of that, but merely stated in umpteen ways that (a) I am stupid, and (b) criticizing Trump as a man (i.e., his character) is somehow out of bounds — in a discussion of Trump!
I’ve yet to even see any reasoning to support the idea that criticizing the President’s character is illegitimate. Since when?
Is this “Flood TRS with strawman arguments day?”
Where are you getting this nonsense about “out of bounds?”
Look, it’s really simple: the chance that you can read minds is close enough to zero to call it zero. So basing any argument on a presumed mental state is worth the same thing: zero.
This has nothing to do with you, personally, and everything to do with the form of your rhetoric and that particular flaw in your reasoning.
“So basing any argument on a presumed mental state is worth the same thing: zero.”
I’m not BASING an argument on a presumed mental state. (If I were, then you would be able to define what supposed argument that is. Which argument are you talking about, specifically?)
On the contrary, I am JUDGING a mental state itself (i.e., intellect and character) based on observable behavior and public statements, from a man who has given the world more of both of those things than almost anyone else alive.
I am not strawmanning anyone. You keep telling me that I shouldn’t judge Trump, or even that my criticisms do not rise to the level of being called judgments in the first place. I keep asking why not. You keep not answering, or completely distorting my arguments to imply that I am saying some unspecified thing that I am not saying.
I am saying “Donald Trump is an amoral and intellectually limited man.” I am using his own words and actions, along with certain fairly conservative assumptions about the nature and meaning of moral character and human intelligence, to reach this conclusion. Is that clear enough? Now tell me why that’s somehow not a genuine rational argument.
And yes it does have something to do with me personally, or in theory any commenter personally, not in an emotional sense, but in the sense that your replies to my comments, all day, have been variations on “You are not smart enough to say this,” or “You are not logical.” You haven’t offered a single coherent reason why I am wrong, and in fact have several times shown that you did not even understand clearly what I was arguing. But that didn’t stop you from trying to “shame” me into retiring from the discussion with personal attacks on my intelligence or mockery of my thought processes.
That is the very definition of ad hominem: attacking the other person’s motives or intelligence as a (fallacious) means of undermining his position.
I reiterate my earlier point: Your manner and methods today (I will assume not every day) are quite strange from a moderator of a political discussion forum, who should presumably be in the business of promoting vigorous but personally respectful exchanges between contributors, rather than using personal disrespect as his own method of engagement and taking sides against (in this case) a minority view.
This whole “debate,” unfortunately, is the predictable product of political tribalism in the era of Donald Trump. So predictable that I’ve been predicting it in print since early 2016. The establishment has won again. Mitch McConnell has “crushed” the Tea Party at last, as it were, with the help of his old buddy and donor Donald Trump. Conservatism is now redefined as “supporting the GOP’s chosen standard-bearer no matter what.” Same old same old. But it’s sad nonetheless.
“I’m not BASING an argument on a presumed mental state. (If I were, then you would be able to define what supposed argument that is. Which argument are you talking about, specifically?)”
Are you forbidden to review the subthread or something? I was clear in my replies.
“You keep telling me that I shouldn’t judge Trump, or even that my criticisms do not rise to the level of being called judgments in the first place. I keep asking why not. You keep not answering, “
Again, with the strawman. I never “told” you any such thing.
You could simply knock off the mind reading pretense, and stop trying to justify your insulting comments by claiming you feel insulted for being called out on them.
Curious that you seem interested in “vigorous but personally respectful exchanges between contributors, rather than using personal disrespect,” while defending your use of insult and accusing me of things I never wrote.
“Are you forbidden to review the subthread or something? I was clear in my replies.”
In other words, you still won’t directly specify the argument you are claiming I was “basing on” my criticism of Trump’s “mental state.” Your reply is the obvious runaround of someone who has no answer, exactly like any internet troll when challenged to support their claims directly. You will not, because you cannot.
“…and stop trying to justify your insulting comments by claiming you feel insulted for being called out on them.”
The only person I supposedly insulted in this discussion was Donald Trump, who is not a participant, but rather the subject of the discussion, and specifically the subject with regard to the very question of his character and intelligence, which is therefore inherently “in bounds.”
As for me, I don’t feel insulted. I feel bored and disappointed. But I do sense that you WANTED me to feel insulted from your very first reply, which is what I find boring and disappointing.
You win this debate by default, because you are a “moderator” (scare-quotes required) and I am just a humble visitor.
I win the bigger issue, I suspect, because I never have to see myself as an obfuscating amateur sophist and professional troll in defense of the GOP establishment.
And by the way, contrary to your deliberate misrepresentations, that last sentence is the first and only personal insult I’ve leveled in this entire “discussion” between us, and I do it only because I’ve realized beyond any shadow of a doubt that rational argument is no longer welcome at Right Scoop, which is a shame.
You don’t know who I am, and you don’t care. You know what you are supposed to do and for whom you are supposed to run interference, so you do it — not very well, I might add.
The only shame is how much of my time you wasted before admitting you did, in fact, engage in insult.
Your beef is with basic logic, not me.
There are Russian computers that troll more effectively than you do, but thanks for playing. You’ve completely exposed yourself for the dwindling number of thoughtful, principled conservatives who still visit this comment forum, as it quickly evolves into just another GOP establishment cheerleading site.
You throw around the word logic a lot, but your chief skill in this area, like most Trump apologists, is a very childish version of equivocation, roughly equivalent to saying “I know you are, but what am I?” I teach logical argument to graduate students, so I see much more sophisticated examples of bad reasoning all the time.
As for your final “told you so” lie, I never denied that I “engaged in insult,” as long as we distinguish — as I repeatedly did, without making a dent in your Trump armor — between (a) “insult” defined as criticizing, WITH argument, the character or intellect of the subject of the discussion (in this case Trump), i.e., political critique, and (b) “insult” defined as merely mocking your interlocutor’s intelligence or motives, WITHOUT argument, as a means of curtailing or evading rational debate, i.e., ad hominem.
I was engaged in Type (a) insult. You were, right to the bitter end I note, engaged in Type (b).
DJ [to another commenter who challenged K-Bob on a different point in the same comment thread, and was met with the familiar stream of accusations of not understanding “simple reason” and “logic”]:
As for Mr. K-Bob, I will advise you to remember this general rule of thumb: The more a man uses the words “logic” and “reason” as rhetorical bludgeons against his opponents, as K-Bob incessantly does, the more you know…well, you can finish the sentence for yourself, I’m sure.