This wreck of a column has to be the most stunningly incompetent thing ever written in the Wall Street Journal. I realize that is a very high bar, and I realize that as someone with a bit of tech savvy I am perhaps more aware of the multiple botched declarations involved, whereas the usual Journal economic pronouncements are perhaps ever-so-slightly more subtle in their incompetence, but the dishonesty of the thing is very nearly awe-inspiring. Conservatives have now decided that any mention of government assisting in any industry—yes, even the defense industry, for Christ’s sake— is so contemptible that it must be immediately attacked and, if necessary, the history books rewritten in order to comport with the new establishment’s own personal ideologies.
The original sin of the column seems to be that Mr. Crovitz does not know the difference between ethernet and the Internet, which is probably one of the first fucking things you should learn when positing your new, ideologically-approved thoughts on either of them. The rest of the column was mercilessly picked apart by some of the very people Crovitz authoritatively cited, as well as many, many others, thus putting a black mark on the resume of the former Wall Street Journal publisher and “media and information industry advisor” that would, if actual merit played any part whatsoever in any of those roles, permanently exile our columnist into whatever Siberia might exist for discredited figures of power. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a Siberia for columnists, as being irrevocably incompetent at the job is taken as a bit of a plus, so long as your conclusions please the right people. The only way to be discredited in war, in politics, or in punditry is to be caught doing something untoward involving a penis, and even that does not have the impact it might have had a few decades ago.
All right then, the Wall Street Journal printed a faux-tech-history piece so factually botched as to be humiliating to all involved. Surely the outcome would be a red-faced apology and a promise to get to the bottom of what might cause a large and influential newspaper to print revisionist bunk. Or, barring that, the story would be left to die a quiet, sheepish death. Or, barring that—oh, never mind. You, I, and Internet Jesus all already know where this is going. As Alex Pareene put it:
People familiar with the history of the Internet will, obviously, barely notice this attempt at partisan revisionism. But I am very confident that “The Government Had Nothing To Do With Inventing The Internet That Is a Liberal Lie” will become one of those wonderful myths that all true-believer conservatives subscribe to, like “FDR and the New Deal made the Depression worse” and “Reagan Was a Good President.” You’ll be seeing this one pop up — as common knowledge, probably — in Corner posts and Fox News hits for years to come.
Yep. Discredited, humiliating bunk or not, Fox and Rush Limbaugh jumped on it. Why wouldn’t they? It’s at least as credible as “terrorist fist bump.” Modern feudalist John Stossel gushed “Crovitz correctly points out that the internet flourished in spite of government, not because of it”, a statement that dooms itself as soon as the word correctly appears. The argument that government ought not get credit for anything government does feels good, so it must obviously be correct, after all. We spent last week mocking the notion that public roads and bridges had a damn thing to do with private economic success, and quickly escalated this week to the notion that government never actually did the things it quite clearly actually did. The rank dishonesty of the thing is all but ignored.
So will it become the new talking point? I have to believe so. From a purely cynical standpoint, it seems that at no point during the last twenty years has politics found itself at a crossroads and not taken the more dishonest path, and certainly at no point during the last decade has a powerful politician or publication been caught in a flagrant lie and been actually, substantively punished for it. Our entire pundit class is filled with dishonest crooks, enabled by other dishonest crooks, praised by other dishonest crooks and charitably ignored, under the rules of media etiquette, by any participant who might by some chance not be a dishonest crook. The two sides of any media conversation are the people who lie outright, and the people who do not lie outright but still respect the right of the liars to lie outright.
Could we reach the point, as Americans, where we happily start editing disfavored people out of historic photographs, or start sending new pages for school textbooks when the past needs to be modified in order to teach the “right” lessons to the present? I don’t think there’s any question that we could, if we were so inclined, and that there are people in this country who would do it just as happily and with just a sense of patriotism as any midlevel Soviet hack. We are already at the point where political discourse is a fact-free zone, and where calling out a liar as a liar is a far worse crime against civility than actual lying, and where, therefore, no penalty exists for botching statistics, or revising history, or simply calling the sky green because you goddamn feel like it ought to be. We have already crossed that threshold, and with barely a flinch. I don’t see why we should be so confident that we would never cross any of the others.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2005:
There has been a bit of a dustup about Judge John Roberts’ Wife’s Anti-Choice Views:
Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said Jane Roberts’ work for Feminists for Life is irrelevant to the process and to how her husband might decide cases if seated on the high court. . . . With those words, Santorum found himself agreeing with Kennedy, D-Mass., the liberal stalwart with whom he recently exchanged heated words on an unrelated topic. On Friday, in response to a question during a breakfast meeting with reporters, Kennedy said Jane Roberts’ work “ought to be out of bounds.”
But I tell you what else is out of bounds – Judge Roberts thinking that he can become a Supreme Court Justice when we know more about his wife’s beliefs than his own.
No stealth candidates for the Supreme Court. No stonewall for the Supreme Court.
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