Friday, September 17, 2004

projection as political position

The leftwing reaction to the CBS memos underscores a point that I and others have often made about the left: many of their attacks against the right are actually projections of their own faults onto us. How often have you heard leftists criticize George Bush or other conservatives for being too "certain", too unwilling to "examine their beliefs", too "close-minded"?

Never has any of these critics made even the slightest effort to show how they are less certain, more willing to examine their beliefs or more open-minded than their opponents. Is Ted Kennedy more likely to change his mind on an issue than George Bush?

When the Swift Boat Vets came out with their story, the left immediately declared them liars. This was before any investigation (and even before getting Kerry's reaction). They didn't need any evidence because their ideology defined the truth. Evidence was irrelevant. Meanwhile the right tended to believe the Swift Boat Vets, but they did so on the grounds that the Vets are a credible source. The Vets had no reason to lie about it (and good reason to keep their mouths shut).

The left tried to damage the credibility of the Vets by implicating them with the Bush campaign. The theory evidently was that you can't trust a political partisan not to lie for his side. (Actually it turns out that wasn't the theory, more on this later.) The left came up with some pretty lame connections and some Navy documents that contradicted the Vets and they declared the issue settled --in the direction they had already settled it before any investigation started. Oddly enough.

Meanwhile the right points out that we don't even know who wrote those Navy documents or provided the information in them (most likely it was Kerry himself) so we don't know if they are trustworthy. Meanwhile we have several men who have come forward by name as eye witnesses to dispute the documents. Which is inherently more credible? The answer to this question shouldn't depend on party affiliation.

Contrast the reactions to CBS's airing of the TANG memos. I saw no one on the right who --with no investigation-- said CBS was lying. No one. Several conservative bloggers impeached the testimony of Ben Barnes, a long-time Democrat and a major fundraiser for Kerry who has changed his story several times. Then the stuff about the forged memos came out. Throughout all this, the right has naively expected CBS to see the obvious error of their ways and to admit it. They expect it because that's what they would do if they were wrong.

By contrast, the leftist bloggers jumped all over the memo story and Barnes's latest testimony, completely disregarding his earlier testimony and the problems with the memos. They were certain the story was true. They clarified their theory of partisan credibility for us: it turns out that simple partisanship isn't any reason to doubt someone's testimony; the credibility gap only comes with Republican partisanship. A lifetime of political activism for the Democrat party, that's just a sign of good character.

As the memos become less and less credible, the leftists became no less certain of the truth of their contents (and revealingly, the same is true of Dan Rather). When leftist blogger Kevin Drum was willing to look at the evidence and take the path of least miracle he was savaged for it. Rule Number 1: No truth that helps Republicans shall be admitted, no matter how obvious.

Atrios defended the memo by picking at minor terminology mistakes by some of the non-experts who were examining the document. He also points to a document from the previous decade that looks partly typewritten and partly typeset. How this is relevant, he doesn't explain.

Of course there never was a question of whether it was possible to have produced those documents in the early '70s. Typesetting has been around for centuries. The question was whether it was plausible that someone had used such expensive and clumsy technology to write memos to himself, and whether it was plausible that the result would match exactly what Microsoft Word does by default. The answer to both questions is "no".

Yes, there is always the faint possibility that by some quirk of fortune, Killian had access to a rare, expensive type-setting typewriter and used it for no other purpose than to type his personal memos to himself. And that he took a lot of extra time to get the centering right on a document he never intended anyone to see. And that the typewriter used exactly the same point size as TrueType fonts. And that he used non-standard and incorrect terminology. And that he was feeling pressured by a retired former superior officer who had no authority any more. And that he thought it was a good idea to document the fact that he was falsifying official records for political reasons.

All of that is not strictly impossible, no. But implausible? Certainly. So implausible that any unbiased observer would discount it. But the left, as the evidence became overwhelming, dug in their heels, resorting to more and more outlandish theories to back up a belief that they wanted to be true.

You see, the memos never were a foundation for their beliefs; when the foundation is destroyed, the entire building collapses. No, the memos were merely the impetus of the beliefs, like the hot gases escaping from the tail of a rocket are the impetus of the rocket's motion. When the gases are gone, the rocket keeps moving forward happily without them.

What does all this say about the ability of these leftists to be open minded and question their own beliefs as they are always urging conservatives to do?

No comments: