Monday, November 16, 2015

The intellectual dishonesty of the media: Beinart and Chait on Rubio

During the Democratic Debate on Saturday night, John Dickerson had the following exchange with Hillary Clinton:
Dickerson: Marco Rubio, also running for president, said that this attack showed-- in-- the attack in Paris showed that we are at war with radical Islam. Do you agree with that characterization, radical Islam?

Clinton: I don't think we're at war with Islam. I don't think we at war with all Muslims. I think we're at war with jihadists who have--

Dickerson: Just to interrupt, he-- he didn't say all Muslims. He just said radical Islam. Is that a phrase you don't--

Clinton: I-- I think that you can-- you can talk about Islamists who-- clearly are also jihadists. But I think it's-- it-- it's not particularly helpful to make the case that-- Senator Sanders was just making that I agree with that we've gotta reach out to Muslim countries. We've gotta have them be part of our coalition.

If they hear people running for-- president who basically shortcut it to say we are somehow against Islam-- that was one of the real contributions-- despite all the other problems that George W. Bush made after 9/11 when he basically said after going to a mosque in Washington, "We are not at war with Islam or Muslims. We are at war with violent extremism. We are at war with people who use their religion for purposes of power and oppression." And yes, we are at war with those people that I don't want us to be painting with too brand a brush.
This is some ridiculous parsing of word choice by Clinton. Talking about "jihadists" is okay, talking about "Islamists" is okay. So is "violent extremism." But "radical Islam" (which everyone with a clue understands to mean the ideology justifying terrorism), somehow that's not okay, it's "painting with too broad a brush." I'd bet money that if Rubio had said "jihadists" instead, Cinton would still have said pretty much the same thing as above, tried to characterize the term as too broad, and likely have allowed that "radical Islam" would have been better, along with Islamists and violent extremism. Because this is a game for her: whatever terminology is employed by people on the Right is what she will take issue with, what she will criticize. And why? To paint the Right with too broad a brush, to imply that it is—as a whole—populated by xenophobes and bigots who cannot separate the wheat from the chaff, who think all Muslims are terrorists as a matter of course.

Such a tactic plays well with the far Left of course; this argument in one form or another has been a primary feature of its ideology for decades now, as it allows adherents to clap themselves on the back for not being the card-carrying racists/bigots/xenophobes that they portray their opponents to be. And it is hardly limited to politicos, as members of the media like Peter Beinart and Jonathan Chait happily play the same game. Writing about Rubio's recent comments in a Facebook video, both Beinart and Chait take Rubio to task for he said therein. Here is Beinhart:
The linguistic weirdness continues a couple of lines later. “This is not a geopolitical issue where they want to conquer territory and it’s two countries fighting against each other,” Rubio declared. “They literally want to overthrow our society and replace it with their radical, Sunni Islamic view of the future. This is not a grievance-based conflict. This is a clash of civilizations.” Notice that Rubio never explicitly defines who “they” are. According to the French government, the Islamic State perpetrated Friday’s attacks. Rubio, however, said what occurred in Paris is a “clash of civilizations"... 
The most straightforward way to interpret Rubio’s statement, therefore, is that the civilizational “they” that attacked Paris is Islam.
Beinart is arguing that Rubio doesn't define the "they" about whom he is speaking and that therefore Rubio must be speaking about Islam in general. Chait plays the exact same game in his article when he writes the following:
And Rubio has rushed out a new video in which he vaguely demands a “clash of civilizations.” Rubio plays it a bit coy, repeatedly describing the conflict as “them” and “us,” without specifying who is them and who is us.
See? The exact same argument about the exact same statement from Rubio (one has to wonder of Chait and Beinart hashed this all out together over drinks).

But here is the statement from Rubio in full that Beinart aind Chait are using as the basis of their argument (my boldface):
The attacks in Paris are a wake-up call. A wake-up call to the fact that what we're involved in now is a civilizational conflict with radical Islam. This is not a geopolitical conflict where they want to conquer territory and it's two countries fighting against each other. They literally want to overthrow our society and replace it with their radical Sunni Islamic view of the future.

This is not a grievance-based conflict. This is a clash of civilizations. For they do not hate us because we have military assets in the Middle East. They hate us because of our values. They hate us because young girls here go to school. They hate us because women drive. They hate us because we have freedom of speech, because we have diversity in our religious beliefs. They hate us because we’re a tolerant society.
So what the fuck are Beinart and Chait smoking? Their overt dishonesty here is as transparent as Clinton's. They both claim Rubio never defines the "they," yet Rubio clearly does exactly that, in the second sentence of his statement. The "they" is "radical Islam." It is defined from the beginning, yet neither Beinart nor Chait note this. Beinart, for his part, quotes the entirety of Rubio's statement—in snippets—in the course of his article, except for the second sentence. He never mentions it, obviously because any literate person would immediately see that Beinart's entire argument is built on a lie. Chait doesn't even bother to quote any of the statement. He just declares that Rubio never specifies a "them," no doubt trusting that his (Chait's) spoon-fed readership will just accept the claim as accurate.

And these two clowns are supposed to be the cream of the crop in media-land. They're supposed to be savvy and intelligent. Well, I guess maybe they are. But what they're not is honest...