Joe Versus The Strawman

Joe Klein is frequently placed on television panels to show some balance, placing this supposedly liberal columnist to counter conservative pundits. Joe Klien tries to show he is not one of those “left-wing extremists” by attacking left as well as right. The question becomes who on the left he is really attacking.

Klein provides many points which he says describes a left-wing extremist. It it still isn’t clear who he is talking about. He avoids answering by saying, “It would be wildly stupid for me to get into a pissing match by naming names.” The problem is that the description he provides of a left-wing extremist doesn’t describe many real people, especially not those who matter. Some of the items on his list don’t have anything to do with ideology, such as “regularly uses harsh, vulgar, intolerant language to attack moderates or conservatives.” Some people who are moderately left of center (as well as some who are right of center) use harsh and vulgar language. Others on the far left, and right, are very polite and clean in their writing. This has nothing to do whether they are an extremist.

What is particularly disturbing of this is that resorting to strawmen arguments is so typical of the right wing. Republicans try to run entire campaigns by distorting the positions of their opponenets and running against these strawmen rather than actually discussing the true areas of disagreement. For Klein to attack unspecified liberals by attributing these characteristics to them he simply plays into their hands. Klein sounds far too much like the conservatives who claim that liberals are unpatriotic, want the terrorists to win, or are socialists.

Update: Joe Klein’s Strawmen And The Generation Gap

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