The Blogosphere, and social media are to be celebrated for giving as many people as possible a microphone and a platform with which to express their opinions, but while the lack of barriers to entry means that punditry power is not concentrated in the hands of a select few, it also means that consumers of information had better proceed with special caution when it comes to deciding which particular sources of information to pay attention to, and which to ignore.
I am here to try to make it easy on those navigating their way through the thickets of the Internet. Here is an easy rule to live by: Matt Yglesias is not worth your time.
A compendium of Yglesias’s Internet-recorded blunders will make for lengthy reading, but background is necessary. Consider first his belief that a 95% tax rate ought to be imposed on people making over $10 million. Yglesias’s sole concern regarding this new punitive rate was that we may see a lot of baseball players go to Japan, but that gets balanced out by his belief that “most of the super-rich would ultimately find it a relief to get off the treadmill of status-competition and the not-quite-so-rich would be thrilled to see their betters cut down to size.” As I wrote in my post, beyond these statements, Yglesias has given his tax proposal no thought whatsoever. He properly got skewered for his silliness.
In the past, Yglesias has seen fit not only to call Joe Lieberman a dumb politician, but to also call him a dumb Jewish politician, because apparently, Lieberman’s religion is pertinent in discussing his intelligence. Why Yglesias believes that he has any authority whatsoever to dismiss the intelligence of others is a mystery; this is a man who famously botched a discussion of telecommunications policy, went on record as stating that Hugo Chavez was forced to praise Idi Amin, because the Obama Administration supposedly “defanged” Chavez (to this date, I don’t think that anyone understands what Yglesias meant when he wrote that), can’t handle counterfactuals to save his life, doesn’t understand the Senate, doesn’t know how to use Google to research the black conservative movement before writing a post that gets rightfully mocked for the misinformation contained within it, and shows that he doesn’t understand that governors and Senate Republican leaders are not similarly situated, which makes a comparison between Mitch Daniels and Mitch McConnell a ridiculous one (Glenn Reynolds and Ed Morrissey both trained their fire on Yglesias regarding this issue, and both hit their targets; see also Yuval Levin, who takes down the arguments of Steve Pearlstein, on whom Yglesias relied to make his comparison between Daniels and McConnell).
Quite famously, there is this. Read the comments, which are hysterically funny. (UPDATE: Alas, I am alerted that the comments are gone! Well, read this for commentary on Yglesias’s musings regarding Florida real estate trends.)
Responding to a spending freeze decision by the Obama Administration, Yglesias sought desperately to rationalize the move by telling us the following:
. . . Suffice it to say that I’m very skeptical of this approach. I’m attempting not to freak out because (a) I don’t have details and (b) I suspect this initiative was deliberately leaked to progressive bloggers in an effort to get denounced by the left and I don’t want to give them the satisfaction.
I’ll quote myself in reply:
Given the fact that everyone else has freaked out, Yglesias may commence panicking, but one has to marvel at the narcissism of his post. I recognize that the Blogosphere has come a long way, baby, but does anyone really believe that the Obama Administration’s master plan to appeal anew to independents and moderates involves getting liberal bloggers to lose their minds in pixels? Middle class families in Ohio are not going to rally to the President simply because Matt Yglesias might start chewing his fingernails to the quick.
We’re not done. Seeking to discount the idea that former Indiana Senator Evan Bayh might challenge President Obama for the 2012 Democratic Presidential nomination, Yglesias opines thusly:
. . . No incumbent president has ever been defeated in a primary. And the only “close calls” came in a tightly bunched historical period (1968, 1976, 1980) characterized by substantial transformation of the regional bases of the major political parties.
(Emphasis mine.) This is just spectacularly untrue. As I noted in response, in the race between Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy, and Jerry Brown for the 1980 Democratic Presidential nomination, Kennedy “won in Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Dakota. As for Brown, he won Michigan.” I might have included the 1976 contest for the Republican Presidential nomination between Ronald Reagan and Jerry Ford, which had Reagan defeating the incumbent President in North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, Indiana, Nebraska, Arkansas, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, South Dakota, and California.
Yglesias is perfectly willing to wave the bloody shirt while being completely in the wrong. Neither he, nor Paul Krugman appear to know the difference between studying tort reform, and actually implementing it. Yglesias and Duncan Black both famously had more faith in John Edwards than Edwards deserved. The degree to which Yglesias is ensconced in an intellectual cocoon is nothing short of astonishing. Yglesias’s analysis of Hayek famously ended up being a laugh and a half. When it comes to discussing Social Security, Yglesias is famously confused. It doesn’t take being in the opposition for Yglesias to add a streak of paranoia to posts filled to the gills with misinformation, bad judgments, hasty conclusions, and flat-out failures in cogitation. When Yglesias goes on the attack against a politician he doesn’t like, the politician in question thanks his/her lucky stars; being attacked by Matt Yglesias makes one look very, very, very good.
Genuinely smart people see through Yglesias, and recognize him as a blowhard. Add to his many defects as a pundit and a thinker his particularly fervent advocacy of dishonesty, and his resort to obscenities when challenged (more on this later), and you have a blogger thoroughly and completely out of his depth, and exposed as a fraud.
Now, to discuss Yglesias’s latest (though not by any means last) Internet-recorded blunder. Seeking yesterday to make some sort of contribution to the debate over Egypt, Yglesias asked “[s]houldn’t Egypt consider switching to a parliamentary system? Would remove high-stakes ‘who will replace Mubarak?’ issue.” Responding, Dan McLaughlin made the exceedingly common-sense point that Mubarak–not Egypt–would be deciding whether Egypt had a parliamentary system, and that Vladimir Putin–no democrat he!–is a prime minister, which means that a parliamentary system would do nothing whatsoever to alleviate concerns regarding Egyptian democracy. Responding further, Joshua Treviño did what any sane, rational person familiar with Yglesias’s inadvertently comic online oeuvre would do; he taunted Yglesias by reminding him that Egypt already has a parliamentary system, seeing as how the country has, well, a parliament. One might note that the country has a prime minister as well. Josh also noted that an intern would have to start keeping track of all of the things Yglesias does not know, which I guess this post will help out with.
Yglesias might have been gracious at this point. He might have admitted error and ignorance, and moved on. But unaware of the First Rule of Holes, and falling back on his time-honored practice of insulting people who call him out on errors (I told you we would get back to this), he decided to make a crack about how Josh was campaigning to be–oh, how shall I phrase this in such a way as to keep this a family blog?–the primus inter pares of Terran rectal openings. Bear in mind that Josh was entirely accurate in critiquing Yglesias. Bear in mind that Yglesias showed himself to have been utterly and completely ignorant when it came to the political structure of Egypt. But that doesn’t matter; make Matt Yglesias look bad on the Internet by pointing out that he made yet another mental boo-boo, and you get kindergarten insults in response. (In an e-mail, Thomas Crown wrote that “[w]hen you’re the bug, the whole world is a flyswatter.” Quite so.)
Doubling down on his goofiness, Yglesias then alerted Josh and his “lackeys” that “having a parliament and having a parliamentary system are the same.” One presumes that he meant “not the same,” but in any event, Dan McLaughlin took up the mantle of Sisyphus by trying to set Yglesias straight. Some final shots ensued without any indication whatsoever that Yglesias absorbed just how much he was in the wrong.
You know, no one is perfect in the Blogosphere, or on Facebook or Twitter. We all make mistakes, and from time to time, others point those mistakes out. It’s not a big deal, as long as we are honest in admitting when we have made errors, correcting those errors, learning from them, and moving on. But few Internet pundits make as many errors as Matt Yglesias, who gets celebrated in certain portions of the Blogosphere as some kind of wunderkind, and who apparently believes his more favorable press clippings. Maybe it is high time that Yglesias’s fans reconsider their opinion of him. Every time he gets near a keyboard, he runs the risk of making himself look absurd, and ensuring that Google captures the moment.
UPDATE: I didn’t know about this: Via Joshua Treviño, Matt Yglesias’s “Team America, World Police” moment. Alas, no cogent explanation from Yglesias on how the world really works that is worthy of this masterpiece (Warning: definitely not safe for work).
ANOTHER UPDATE: Yet more evidence that Matt Yglesias resorts to insults when he has run out of arguments to offer.