Saturday, July 07, 2007

Mystery quote

Bet you can't figure out who wrote this:
Basically, an enormous amount of intellectual energy has been expended since 9/11 on the proposition that we can effectively outline policies for coping with problems emerging from the Muslim world without availing ourselves of rigorous empirical knowledge of the countries or people in question.
Translation: We think it doesn't matter that we know squat about the Muslim world.
This makes sense because the broad American elite basically had no knowledge of these issues.
Translation: When the broad American elite doesn't know squat about something, naturally we make policy as if ignorance doesn't matter.
Even worse, the community of regional specialists on the Middle East and Persian Gulf regions tend to hold politically unacceptable opinions about the US-Israel relationship and, indeed, the general thrust of US policy in the area.
Actually some people do know something, but as luck would have it, these same people tend to hold politically unacceptable opinions first about the US-Israel relationship, and also about US policy in the region generally.

So: We (the US) make policy as if facts don't matter. That's because the broad American elite doesn't have any facts and doesn't think that matters. And the people who do actually know something have politically unacceptable opinions. If follows that "better reasoning about values" isn't very useful. It can't bridge the gap between ignorance-based policy on the one side, and the politically-unacceptable expertise on the other.

Who's the author?

His concluding comment includes a hint.
I do think it's important for progressives to develop more effective public articulations of what it is we're trying to say about US foreign policy...
Notice the we.


Blogger D. Ghirlandaio said...

Fat Matty.

3:10 PM  
Blogger badger said...

I made that too easy.

4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to be an ignorant fool, but who's fat matty?

5:34 PM  
Blogger badger said...

sorry for the obscurity lysander, here's the link

5:50 PM  
Blogger D. Ghirlandaio said...

If you want to feel a bit less depressed, follow this thread at Starbucks.
The amateurs are so much better than the professionals there -down the line- it gives you hope.

6:32 PM  
Blogger badger said...

I just wanted to highlight this: That Matt's program is that you can be (1) a progressive on domestic issues, and at the same time (2) be know-nothing, AIPAC-compliant ("politically acceptable", in his formulation) on the Mideast. This is one of the things that rots the progressive movement from within.

4:24 AM  
Blogger D. Ghirlandaio said...

Yglesias is a social climber, and he's slick. He uses "we" to refer to the elite and then again when talking about progressives, and he ends up with a paean to the wisdom of Anne-Marie Slaughter, one of the more important and most air-headed figures at TPM Cafe, whose posts come in for withering assault from almost every commenter for whom ass-kissing isn't a professional necessity.

M.Y. would no doubt say as his defenders have, that he's doing no more then offering a realist's assessment of the american political/intellectual scene vis-a-vis the mideast. But social climbers are realists too. That's his game, and it's not one I have even an ounce of respect for. But he's not stupid.

8:30 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Interesting. I wonder how many of those Matt-types there are infesting the so-called progressive blogosphere. I notice there hasn't been anything about the Gaza collective-starvation policy at firedoglake, americanfootprints, or any of those high-toned places...

9:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right on that badger. I started obsessive hanging-out on the lib/left blogs but then I branched out and ended up with a huge ME bookmark section. It's like living in two different worlds. (then add Talk Radio, MSM, and actual people in life, and that's five worlds right there. It makes me dizzy)

I feel bad that I have not done much to improve on the situation but although I keep collecting the material, I feel like I'd have to write some genius opus to make a dent. Very sad.

10:11 AM  
Blogger badger said...

I know how you feel. Maybe you should think about giving up Talk Radio most of the MSM and spend the time with some nice Beginning Arabic materials. You might find it comparatively relaxing. I'm serious.

12:53 PM  
Blogger D. Ghirlandaio said...

check this out.
I'm really amazed to find out how this works. I really had no idea.

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmmm - well, I have taken strong issue with Matty before in matters concerning Iraq. In this case he is partially, maybe even mostly right, but not entirely. I think it is not always that the "broad American elite" doesn't have any facts, and therefore they decide that facts do not matter. I think at times their ignorance is downright willful because ignorance allows them to believe what they WANT to believe or what is least uncomfortable to believe.

That has absolutely been the case when it comes to Iraq. It is more that they do not believe facts matter because the facts militate against everything they want to believe to be true. Certainly that has been the case from beginning to end with the neocon Bushites and their fans. In the very beginning they rid themselves of anyone who had a scintilla of knowledge about Iraq, and fired anyone who knew what it would really take militarily (I maintain that even Shinseki's half million would not have quelled Iraq - it just would have taken them longer to lose). I think in their case it is deliberate AVOIDANCE of facts that is going on.

Yglesias is certainly 100% right when he says the problem with the people who DO have the facts is that they have politically unacceptable opinions.

And that reminds me of a study that took place in 2002 or 2003 during the "preparation-and-marketing" phase of the Iraq debacle. The study found that the better informed a person was about the Middle East, Iraq, and the issues involved, the more likely they were to oppose attacking Iraq.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You don't have to write a genius opus to make a dent. In fact, I think you might have a better chance at making a dent with far less grand activities because how many will really actually READ your genius opus? You might actually reach far more people in simpler, more everyday ways.

Here are some of the things I have been doing - for longer than I care to admit:

- Started an e-mail distribution list to which I send articles, commentary and analysis (mine as well as others'), and information that tells the story of what is happening in Iraq a way people will not pick up from the generally available U.S. sources. My list consists mostly of liberal Americans, but includes all kinds of people, including some of my Iraqi friends and family members, some of whom are still in Iraq, and even two Israeli Jews in Israel. People who receive my mailings often send them on to others, so it has a wider reach than just my list of contacts.

- Talk to people one-on-one, or one-on-two or three - or however many, and don't be afraid of boring them to death. If I can get through to one in ten I have made a difference. (OK, I don't just go up to strangers and introduce the subject, but I grab openings that are offered, correct misinformation when I hear it, and talk to friends and colleagues who show even a slight interest.)

- Find ways to share your information with community groups. I have been asked to speak to groups now and then, and I never turn it down. I have also become a fairly regular guest on a small local radio station.

- Post in the comment section of blogs whenever you have something relevant to say. Don't waste a lot of time on the right wingnut blogs - most of those people are 26 per centers, therefore not too bright, and are a lost cause. I think it's good to become a regular on a few fairly high profile blogs where you have an open-minded audience but are not necessarily preaching exclusively to the choir (although preaching to the choir is important if you have something substantive to offer that may not be widely available - strengthening the knowledge and effectiveness of the choir should not be underestimated!). Also bear in mind that for every person who comments on a blog there are tens or even hundreds or thousands who read the comments with out ever contributing, so you are reaching a lot more people than you think.

If you stay rational, and present your case in a factual, and logical manner, a lot of people will listen, especially if you can back up what you present.

Trolls and other idiots give you the best opportunities of all to counter their idiocy and lies with facts, logic, and reason. When you encounter one of them it is not about convincing them to see what you know, it is about using them as a foil, so do not let them frustrate you. As tiresome as they are, we should be glad to see them.

If each of us who actually is a thinking person who knows something did just one small thing every day to counter the bull**** out there it would make more difference than all the genius opuses put together!

11:57 PM  
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