Taking on Instapundit

It’s not hard to see why Instapundit is one of the Internet’s brightest stars. Like many netizens, he has a strong libertarian streak, leans toward the left-center on social issues and toward the right on fiscal and national security issues. He’s succinct, witty, offers copious links and he never seems to sleep (though he’s out sick at the moment).

But Instapundit also brings out the worst in Republicans, stirring up storms over the inconsequential (if it can hurt Kerry) and blithely glossing over the truly significant (if those things can hurt Bush). He has consistently minimized, for instance, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the outing of Valerie Plame, while posting voluminously about the stuff that really matters — like John Kerry owning an SUV.

I stumbled onto a post today (via Atrios) that lays this argument out far more logically and thoroughly than I ever could. It is priceless, and I’m including the whole thing. Anyone interested in how “the other side” thinks and works has to read it.

Meanwhile, in the Alternate Universe …
I can’t read all the rightwing blogs out there (Oy!) so I cruise over to Instapundit on occasion to gauge the general drift of things in Wingnut World. And let me tell you …

Amid the demands for Teresa Heinz’s tax returns (This just in: She’s rich), misspellings of John Kerry’s last name (“Kerrey” is a popular variation) and nostalgic posts about the UN’s oil-for-food pseudo-scandal, they have actually taken some time to address that little problem in Abu Ghraib.

The verdict? The Instapundit gang is bored, frankly, by all this talk of torture and the steady drumbeat of voices calling for Rummy to go. It has become a distraction from the more entertaining debate over whether John Kerry threw his medals or his ribbons over the White House fence in 1971. They believe there’s a “lynch mob” forming around Rumsfeld, part of a “partisan, crass, politically-motivated campaign” on the level of the Starr investigation (Wait — now conservatives think Starr was a political hack? Finally!). And, as usual, there are dire predictions for the Democrats, who, in the minds of the Instapunditry, wouldn’t be so bad if they would just, you know, start acting more like Republicans. (Paging Senator Leiberman!)

Kerry, they argue, is walking into a minefield, once again precipitated by his misguided decision to serve in Vietnam when he could have escaped to Europe or served in the Massachusetts National Guard. Did you know that war crimes were committed in Vietnam? By U.S. soldiers? Whoa! That, says the Instapundit crew, pretty much negates anything Kerry might say about the atrocities in Iraq, a country more than 30 years and thousands of miles removed from Vietnam. Thank goodness President Bush avoided that little conflict of interest.

At Instapundit, every move Kerry makes is a potential disaster for his campaign.

At Instapundit, every member of Bush’s administration who jumps ship is a disloyal Judas in search of a book contract.

At Instapundit, every time a cabinet member is hauled before Congress to answer for the latest screwup, it’s a dignified and statesmanlike performance. (If we get much more of this “statesmanship,” we’re really going to be f–ked.

At Instapundit, every time a former ally criticizes the U.S., it’s a cold political gambit. (I’m shocked. Shocked! Did you know that some of these countries actually believe their opinions matter?)

At Instapundit, every time the U.S. botches something else in Iraq, we are reminded that Saddam killed little babies and once shared a cab with Osama bin Laden’s third wife’s fourth cousin.

At Instapundit, every time the media shows flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq, it could be running stories about that school Halliburton painted (for a mere $100,000).

They believe this because they must believe it. Once they concede the point — any point — the dam will break. They, like the president, are ardent believers in the continuum that drives the GOP strategy — 9/11=Muslim=Patriot Act=Saddam=war=orange alert — to the point that it is a mantra to be repeated ad nauseum, a quasi-religious statement of belief, an article of faith long past the need for any empirical evidence.

Instapundit is a veritable festival of equivocation, which is always the last line of defense. America’s infantile (and toxic) obsession with firearms is rationalized by the occasional (and truly unusual) gun murder in Europe. Strom Thurmond’s recalcitrant racism is negated by Robert Byrd’s youthful (and long since disavowed) association with bigotry and the Klan. The daily death toll in Iraq is likened — favorably — to the risks incurred by drivers on California’s Interstates. The Bush administration has gutted the EPA and sold out to Big Oil, but John Kerry owns an SUV.

The current crisis is no different. Iraqis are being abused, tortured and murdered in Abu Ghraib? Well, did you know that a jailer in Germany abused some inmates in his lockup? So there you go. Bad things happen everywhere, and everyone is a hypocrite. It makes one wish that Professor Reynolds would take this (inadvertantly ironic) advice offered by James Lileks, his favorite folksy-fascist blogger:

“Go away for a week. Blog not. Youโ€™re not a public utility! We won’t call our city councilman if the tap’s dry for a while.”

Yes, a nice long break. We can’t help but agree.

It was refreshing, even therapeutic to read this. Turns out I’m not the only one who gets apoplectic reading InstaPuppy’s grandiose pronouncements and maddening dismissal of stuff that really matters. If he’s proven wrong enough times — and when it comes to my earlier examples of Abu Ghraib and Valerie Plame he’s going to be proven very wrong — will his star burn any less bright, will it peter out any time sooner? Not likely, as he’s achieved cult status, but we can keep our fingers crossed.

The Discussion: 12 Comments

Well so long as both sides view each other as living in ‘wingnut world’, the nastiness will continue.

I find kernels of deep, meaningful truth all over the political/philosophical spectrum. But those kernels get polarized and covered up in ideology and extremism. False dichotomies are the rule, not the exception.

This is why I mostly ignored politics throughout much of the 90’s. To me both sides in domestic politics are ‘the enemy’: it’s the Establishment, both Democratic and Republican, that benefit from the status quo.

In their quest for ever greater power, both sides have succeeded in shifting the debate over divisive social issues onto the plane of one-solution-fits-none, uniform Federal regulation. I believe that raising the stakes, and the cost of failure, this high has caused almost all of the caustic polarity in American politics.

May 8, 2004 @ 4:34 pm | Comment

David, your points are all valid, and smart. I know when you get down to it, the diferences between the Republicans and the Democrats aren’t earthshattering. As you say, they’re both tools of the Establishment.

What gets me is the demagoguery (at least that’s how I see it) of the Instapundits and the Fox News people and Karen Hughes, who seem to be deliberately taking non-newsworthy subjects (Kerry’s SUV, did he throw medals or ribbons) and trying to destroy their opponents on the basis of subjects that should never have been raised in the first place.

This probably isn’t unique to the right, but they sure seem to do it more than the left. I’ve seen real far-lefties like Chomsky and Alexander Cockburn use the same tricks against the right, and I always ignore it as nonsense. And I don’t worry about it because they are so extreme and their audience so small. But in the age of right-wing talk radio and Fox News, it’s become acceptable, mainstream, to take an idiotic non-issue and conflate it into something it isn’t, and allow it to become a media circus. The medals/ribbon debacle was a textbook example — sow the seeds with talk radio and Fox, then have a “legitimate” spokesperson like Karen Hughes come out and say how deeply troubled she is to hear about this, and how it “says something about the man and his judgment….” And voila, you’ve made news out of nothing, and portrayed Kerry as a liar who has much to hide.

I have no illusions. Lyndon Johnson’s portrayal of Barry Goldwater as a bomb-loving psycho was just as bad. And I know politics is dirty business. I’ll call the Dems on the same stuff whenever I see it. But right now, this style of disinformation seems to belong exclusively to the right. It’s only the Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys who are making excuses for the torture at Abu Ghraib, as if what happened there was actually okay. I guess it’s the sheer hubris that bothers me so much.

I think I may have gone off on a stream-of-consciousness tangent; sorry about that. About the “divisive social issues” you refer to: I invite you to see who’s bringing them up. Abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, faith-based whatver — this, too, seems to be if not unique to the Republicans, than at least heavily tilted on their side. This recent BS about taking communion is just the latest example. The Dems may not be saints, but I’ve never seen them adopt such cold-bloodedly hypocritical mercenary tactics. Alas, maybe that’s because the Republicans are smarter than they are. After all, this below-the belt attack on the Democrats is certainly working, at least in some quarters.

May 8, 2004 @ 5:54 pm | Comment

I loathe Insty for just this reason. It’s even worse when he starts talking about Asia. The only good thing he’s done is vote Talking Points as blog of the year.

May 8, 2004 @ 8:28 pm | Comment

What really irritates me about so many right-wing bloggers is the way they like to deny being partisan. Their main function, at least until November, will be to serve as unpaid campaign propaganda for George W. Bush, yet many of them continue to insist that because they voted for Clinton in 1992, or because they’re not registered Republicans, or because they like Zell Miller, that they’re not “really” just a bunch of volunteer GOP operatives.

The idea, of course, is to create the impression that constant cheerleading for Li’l George and his extremist, corrupt administration is the stance of a reasoned, principled moderate, when it is nothing of the kind.

May 9, 2004 @ 3:09 am | Comment

Well Richard, “America’s infantile (and toxic) obsession with firearms” is a bit rich, since if you look at homicide and violent crime stats, there is an inverse relationship in the US between rates of firearms ownership and violent crime.

And exactly who almost stole Florida and the 2000 election.

Pointing out those very inconvenient statistical facts makes me a heretic in the eyes of, I’d guess, most readers of this site.

And BOTH sides of the abortion issue long ago drifted into shrill insanity.

So Kerry pulled a Frank Burns with his first purple heart to go home 8 months early, and Bush is a self-confessed sober drunk…and I trust none of them as far as I can throw the White House.

I’m pissed at the ACLU for ignoring the 2nd Amendment, and the NRA for doing the same with the 4th and 5th.

I’m pissed at Fox News for daring to call their tripe “Fair and Balanced”, and CNN daring with a straight face to say they are ‘objective’, after 10+ years of kissing Saddams ass for ‘access’ rather than running one big report with the documentation they had of his atrocities after they’d gotten all personnel out of the country. And I’m mad as hell for most of the media treating the level of casualties in Iraq as if they were on par with those in WWII, Korea or even frickin’ Nam, when they are one or more orders of magnitude lower.

I’m pissed at FDR for packing the Supreme Court and Federalizing nearly every damn thing that now divides this country, and mad at hell at the legal establishment for going along ever since then, since it gives them power.

I’m also pissed at them for denying Jury Nullification is valid, when it’s the last thing (deciding if the law itself is just, and should be applied in the context of the case at hand) standing in the way of tyranny (by the legislature, judiciary, AND executive!)

I’m mad as hell at the near total infection of the Academy by communist appologists, what, no one ever heard of the Long March Through the Institutions? Many more times over more dead than Hitler at the hands of Stalin and Mao, and it’s peachy cause ‘you can’t make an omlette without breaking some eggs’? Over 100 million dead later, and THAT’s not decried?

And public education is a mess, more money has not produced results, gee, thanks teachers unions! No bad apple firing allowed!

Halliburton is likened to Enron, when the duopoly of American oil services is them and Schlumberger, who are, uhm, French?

And why the BLOODY HELL isn’t Kofi and Co., and all the French, Russians and German politico’s (even Canadian!) who got Oil for Palaces kickbacks being dragged through the mud on the front page of the NYT? What, fraid of losing ‘access’ again? Or that the future EU dominated World Govt. won’t come about if they talk about it and bring down the UN?

Oh and NEARLY FREAKING ALL OF the Dems and Reps. won’t acknowledge that the entire War on Drugs is unConstitutional drivel (took an Amendment to ban alcohol, a man made thing. Why the fuck not for god damned freakin’ PLANTS?) And that the media won’t just point out all of the corruption and abuse, or if they do, act all skeptical, and won’t reframe the debate.

And I’m a heretic to the Greens, because I’m in favor of economic freedom, and believe that the way to save the earth is to find ways that make the Green thing the Profitable thing.

And GWB can kiss my bisexual ass (ok, no he can’t!), as can the rest of the closeted theocrats in the Republican Party.

And only the freakin Libertarians think it’s evil that self employed folks like me shouldn’t have to pay 3 whole months taxes, IN ADVANCE, on what we ‘estimate’ we’ll make. How the FUCK should I know, I barely keep my head above the poverty line. But they’re doctrinaire idiots who can’t get it through their skulls that Politics is the Art of the Possible, and they won’t EVAR compromise.

So yeah, there IS no party of the disenfranchised, disarmed (thanks, Drug War!), dope smoking bisexual capitalist pig with ZeroWork socialist tendencies.

From that (my :=) point of view, they can all go to hell.

/rant, sorry about the length! sure was cathartic, though.

May 9, 2004 @ 4:49 am | Comment

That’s a mighty loaded comment David. I’ll try to respond briefly.

First, I made a promise to myself never, ever to argue about gun issues in America. It is a more divisive topic than abortion, and arguing is futile, as there’s evidence on all sides to prove all arguments. The gun claim was made by the blogger I quoted, and it’s not a claim I would have made. His point about how InstaPuppy responds to such claims is accurate, however.

Maybe this is the key: We don’t really hate the Dems or the Repubs, what we we hate is the self-centered greed and stupidity of the American public. It is this greed and stupidity that the politicians of all parties must cater to. The “war on drugs” and nearly every other “war” (even our beloved “War on Terror”) are canards, black holes for tax dollars and guaranteed creators of ghettos and racism and misery for all involved. Mandatory sentences, greater punishment for poor man’s crack vs. rich man’s cocaine — well, you know. Marijuana illegal but cigarettes and booze legal. Why is it this way? One of the reasons, if not the key reason, is that US voters are stupid, and they have made it clear they want mandatory sentences and “tough” drug laws and marijuana illegal.

Then we have special interests and the AARP. The ones who do the voting want scandalously unfair benefits at the expense of working Americans at the point in their lives when they need every penny most. So everything on earth for seniors is discounted, no matter how much money they have, while the 25-year-old single mother trying to get by enjoys no such luxuries, and probably pays more so the retired senior at the country club can live off the fat of the land. But as you say, politicians will never touch this subject, the “third-rail” of politics.

There’s plenty of blame for both parties. But the deck is stacked by American puritanism, selfishness, closed-mindedness and plain old-fashioned ignorance. If someone does try to change things, he’ll be electrified in seconds, politically dead meat.

Yeah, the system sucks, but it’s the American way. So I like to hope that at least the media will provide some clarity and report what’s going on. But alas, most of them are in the pocket of The Establishment, or worse yet, they are The Establishment, which is why so much of my blog is about the media and their sins.

So as you say, they can all go to hell. I’ve skipped a presidential election or two, because like you I see them as basically all being in the same boat, beholden to the same special interests and cruising in the same sea of hypocrisy.

This year, however, I feel it’s different. Not that I love John Kerry so much, but I’ve never felt more strongly that things in America are getting much, much worse. Things are bad enough for uncooperative iconoclasts like us, but under Bush they became markedly worse, with more controls and restrictions at virtually every level. The thought police Orwell envisioned are here, right now, and as bad as life was in the past, it was a whole lot better in many ways. So painful as it may be, register to vote and bring a friend. At a time when people like us are increasingly marginalized and despised, it’s the one thing we can do. America’s not changing anytime soon. No sense going insane over it — I resigned myself to the stupidity and inequities a long time ago. Just do what you can, and get on with it.

May 9, 2004 @ 11:29 am | Comment

Oh yeah, I forgot about the AARP for a second! I hope they are happy with their regressive redistribution and endless perks, as that’s what they’ve now got instead of their families giving a damn about them.

Here’s the litmus test this summer to see if the US finally ‘jumps the shark’ into despotism: the Jose Padilla case, to be ruled on by the Supremes in late June.

You know, the native born citizen, arrested on US soil, under a freakin Grand Jury indictment, and then right before his arraignment declared an ‘unlawful combatant’ on the say so of one Federal official (not a judge).

Ticks me off to no end that the major media mostly lump his case in with Hamdi and the Gitmo detainees, when they are patently not the same situation. Hamdi was in open arms against the US on foreign soil, and last time I check the guys in Gitmo here not Citizens, but gray-area POW’s.

But Padilla is why Treason is defined in the Constitution. If he did do what he’s accused of, convict him in open court and hang his ass properly. Otherwise, who knows where things will go, as the Supreme Court will have sanctioned blatant military despotism.

The one glimmer of hope is that they didn’t agree to consolidate the Hamdi and Padilla cases. Let’s hope they have read the Federalist 43 and 84 recently.

The most essential bit from them, a quote from Blackstone, is as follows:
“To bereave a man of life, [says he] or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole nation; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government.

So yeah, things are bad. But seeing as how Kerry and Bush are both Yale Skull and Bones members, and are distant cousins, it all seems like the typical DemoPublican/Republicrat shell game to me. **sigh**

May 9, 2004 @ 2:05 pm | Comment

Completely agree about the Padilla case, which I’ve followed in mute amazement. This is pure Bush, the seizing of powers no other president has enjoyed, and making a joke of the Constitution and the fundamental freedoms that are sacred to America. It may not be a just and fair society, but I though we were all protected by rule of law when it comes to shit like this. We’re supposed to see it in China, not the USA.

Skull & Bones member or not, I don’t believe Kerry would tolerate abuses like this. We have an administration that believes it has been blessed by God, and everything it does is part of a “mission.” This thrust to the far right, fueld by the Bush/Ashcroft evangelical Christian mentality, is ruining our country. Awful as it may have been before, it was never, in my lifetime, ever so threatened.

For all their similarities, I see enough difference between GWB and JFK to merit voting for the latter. More than enough.

May 9, 2004 @ 3:17 pm | Comment

Blogging Slow

Blogging has become sheer drudgery lately. The American section is locked in ideological pugilism, and I suspect there will be a thinning of the ranks as the less pure drop off or fall in line. InstaPundit seems to be getting

May 9, 2004 @ 3:55 pm | Comment

Well if Padilla goes the wrong way, if whomever is in the White House doesn’t repudiate it, it’ll be ‘head for the hills/Canada/Mexico/France…fill in the blank’ time to wait out the badness.

If the Supremes Do The Right Thing come June, I’ll be far less concerned about who’s in the White House. My concern is if they go the wrong way, we’ll have to see Kerry’s reaction.

If he can bring himself to consistently (if it comes to pass) renounce a negative ruling by the Supremes, and actually take a firm stand on something, I’d support him in Nov.
But I can’t by voting in any event.

If he flip flopped and exercised such a power (if the Supremes roll over for Ashcroft), it’d be just as much ‘bail out’ time.

The next 2 months are one of those perilous times when freedom and liberty lies in the hands of 9 folks in black robes. Let’s hope they get it right.

May 9, 2004 @ 5:48 pm | Comment

Things are going to go in Padilla’s favor, I believe. If not, I agree with you — no one is safe. The injustice in his case is simply too blatant, and it’s got to be stopped. The Supremes have to get this. (Right?)

Look carefully at the charge about Kerry’s flip-flops. From what I’m reading, his record is pretty much the norm in DC. Please don’t fall for the Bush ads that bang us on the head with the “waffling” myth every few minutes. Voting against a larded bill that has a one-liner about body armor doesn’t mean, as Bush claims, that Kerry is “against body armor for our troops.” That’s such bullshit, and I can’t see how anyone but Fox News viewers could fall for it. (Then again, this is America so who knows.) And for balance, do a google search of “Bush flip flops” and see what you find. No one has flip-flopped like sporty George, and on BIG issues. Examples are abundant and rich.

May 9, 2004 @ 6:12 pm | Comment

Richard, I’m quite aware of Bush’s flip flops, and saw many of them coming (things where when I heard him say them I was all like, ‘oh, that’s baloney, he’ll ….blah’, and more than once some version of blah came to pass. Oy). Other’s that were purely event driven may or may not have gone as I’d like, some I’d justify as changing your position in a principled way when things changed (ie. Afghanistan), some things were somewhat crypto fascist.

But the dems wouldn’t let me or mine (which is, uhm, you too, in this sense, richard ๐Ÿ™‚ into the military REALLY either, and you’ll notice that outside SF and a few other places the dems don’t look like they’ll really back gay (let along polyamourous) marriage happen if they have their ‘druthers (clinton signed doma, remember!)

Had I not been disenfranchised in the drug war, there are definately dems I could have voted for. I may or may not have voted for Bill in ’92, but I wouldn’t have voted for Daddy (remember, before I was an anarcho-capitalist Republican, I was an apolitical technologist, a radical green, an atheist technocrat, and started it all as a young republican of the reaganite youth flavor. Of the byte reading, jerry pournelle worshiping variety. And we was on the out’s with Daddy. But ‘a party’ after the Cold War was inevitable, and I thank Bill dearly for NAFTA and welfare reform. The Sunni terrorist thing was gonna pop someday, and Bill just got lucky.

I couldn’t have supported gore ever in my gut in 2000, as i was a teenager in the 80’s and that bitch tipper tried to take our tunes.

fuck that flavor of fascist too! ๐Ÿ™‚

May 9, 2004 @ 11:59 pm | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.