Pejman Yousefzadeh, Anti-Semitism, Pejman Yousefzadeh, Conor Friedersdorf, Andrew Sullivan, the Atlantic (Neither of Which Have ANYTHING WHATSOEVER To Do With Anti-Semitism), and Philip Giraldi (Who Has a Great Deal to Do With Anti-Semitism, Actually)*

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on February 9, 2011

Let’s consider Conor Friedersdorf’s latest:

Pejman Yousefzadeh says that I misunderstood and thus mischaracterized his post – that he wasn’t at all using accusations of anti-Semitism to bully people who write about Israel and foreign aid. I’ll take him at his word, adding only that a lot of others interpreted his post as I did. Doesn’t mean we were right, though. . . .

Indeed it doesn’t. I’m glad Friedersdorf admits error on this issue. Moving on:

. . . Perhaps I’m jaded by having seen this sort of thing before. The last time Yousefzadeh appeared on the Dish, Andrew wrote, “In a response brimming with gratuitous hostility towards yours truly, Pejman Yousefzdeh nevertheless makes a few points worthy of response.” . . .

Neither the argumentum ad populum justifies Friedersdorf’s initial misreading, nor his previous interactions with other bloggers, nor Andrew Sullivan’s subjective characterization of how I supposedly “brimm[ed] with gratuitous hostility,” to which I responded here. Friedersdorf is supposed to read a text, comprehend it, and respond to it while keeping the misapprehensions to a minimum. So far as I know, there is no such thing as Post Traumatic Blogger Stress Disorder, which means that my past interactions with Andrew Sullivan, and Friedersdorf’s past interactions with other bloggers aren’t supposed to be at play here in determining how he was supposed to respond to me.

. . . That’s about how I feel. I’m baffled by the gratuitous hostility, hyperbolic accusations and poor reasoning on display in the initial post.

In the initial post, I pointed out that Friedersdorf failed to do anything resembling due diligence on Philip Giraldi, his manic hatred of Jews, and how that hatred of Jews should be found to undermine and compromise any claim that he might have hoped to have to be a credible and respectable authority on anything relating to Israel/Jews. I pointed out that Friedersdorf, and in the past, Sullivan, made themselves tools of Giraldi by linking to him which–however few times they did it–made him look more respectable than he deserves to look. And I showed how all of this could have been avoided if Friedersdorf used Rhymes-With-Shmoogle to check on a source’s credibility. You know, like real journalists, and even quite a few part-time bloggers do. All of this, Friedersdorf calls “poor reasoning.” I am smacked by gob.

One of the joys of Rhymes-With-Shmoogle is that it reminds us that when it comes to many debates, arguments, and even blogfights, there is nothing new under the sun. In my initial post, I referenced this post, in which Sullivan used Giraldi as a proxy to highlight charges that Doug Feith’s office forged a document to help support a case for war with Iraq. As referenced in my initial post, at the time Sullivan wrote that post (which was back in August of 2008), Noah Pollak took strong issue with the charge, while at the same time finding plenty of information on Giraldi via Rhymes-With-Shmoogle to convince just about any reasonable reader that Giraldi ought to be scorned, rather than be taken seriously by anyone. Joining in the contretemps was David Frum, who penned this post, and this one. The latter excerpts in full the alumni letter Giraldi co-wrote, the one that Friedersdorf implied would be so terribly unduly burdensome to find (Pollak and Frum had no problem finding it. Neither did I, even accounting for the fact that I responded to it with an alumni letter of my own in 1999). Concluding his post, Frum wrote that “Giraldi seems to have discovered a yet safer method of ventilating his animus: the circulation of wild allegations in the confidence that there is nothing too facially absurd to find some dupe somewhere.” The “dupe” in question, of course, was Sullivan.

The epithet stuck, because it fit. Sullivan was duped by Giraldi. He thought that Giraldi was a credible source, and then found out (to his chagrin, one hopes) that he relied on a crank in airing charges that Doug Feith engaged in a forgery. In the intervening two and a half years since Frum and Pollak brought Giraldi’s true colors to light (on blogs that are quite popular, and high profile, mind you), it might have been nice if the staff at the Daily Dish kept some kind of record reminding them “Don’t use Philip Giraldi as a resource for posts concerning Israel and/or Jews! He’s kind of a nutcase about this issue!” Barring that, they could have used Rhymes-With-Shmoogle to remind themselves that Giraldi is toxic on this particular subject matter. But no; taking such measures would apparently have involved acting on “poor reasoning.” The mind reels.

Finally, there is this:

. . . What [Yousefzadeh] and I still disagree about is whether bloggers have a responsibility to Google authors they stumble across, wade through their body of work, and assess their motives before linking or excerpting one of their blog posts. I don’t know any blogger who employs that standard, and while I concede that known motives can be a factor in assessing whether something is worth linking, actively launching motive investigations would be a bad idea: it puts the emphasis of discussion in the wrong place, and the extra labor involved in highlighting unfamiliar voices would disincentivize it.

There is that old argumentum ad populum again; Friedersdorf doesn’t “know any blogger” who uses Rhymes-With-Shmoogle to check on whether a source is credible, therefore, he doesn’t feel a need to use Rhymes-With-Shmoogle to check on whether a source is credible. Because the number of people who do it the Friedersdorfian way outnumber–in Friedersdorf’s mind–the number of people who do it my way, Friedersdorf seems to think that the Friedersdorfian way is the best. One of these days, Friedersdorf will free himself from the grip of these logical fallacies, but it apparently isn’t going to happen sometime this week.

Note as well Friedersdorf’s Manichean approach to the whole thing; my approach supposedly “puts the emphasis of discussion in the wrong place.” Friedersdorf made a similar argument in his first post when he said that mine is “a system where the explicit focus is on the writers and their prior work rather than ideas themselves.” Um, no. I don’t call for Friedersdorf to consider the identity of an advocate over the argument the advocate is making. One can consider both. And one can come to entirely defensible judgments in doing so. One can say something along the lines of “While Argument X is valid, Person Alpha may not be the best advocate on whom to rely, because Person Alpha has Ulterior Motives 1, 2, and 3.” Or, one can say “Person Alpha does not come to this debate with clean hands, and even if he/she did, Argument X is not valid for Reasons 1, 2, and 3.” Or, one can say “Person Alpha is a splendid advocate, thoroughly admirable, but Argument X fails for Reasons 1, 2, and 3.” Or, one can even say “Person Alpha is a splendid advocate, thoroughly admirable, and even if he/she weren’t, Argument X is valid because of Reasons 1, 2, and 3.”

See what I did there? In each of the four hypothetical instances, I showed how one can make a judgment about the trustworthiness, reliability, and admirability of the hypothetical advocate, while at the same time, making a distinct and separate judgment about the validity of the hypothetical argument that the hypothetical advocate is seeking to advance. In short, I held two thoughts in my head at the same time. I can do that. You can do that. Your friends, your neighbors, and in some instances, your pets can do that. And Conor Friedersdorf can do that as well, but he won’t, because, supposedly, if one uses Rhymes-With-Shmoogle to help make separate and distinct judgments about (a) the nature of the argument in question; and (b) the nature of the advocate making the argument, “the extra labor involved in highlighting unfamiliar voices would disincentivize it.”

In the event that Friedersdorf is still wondering why I think that the Atlantic may be going down the tubes, he should know that I suspect that the laziness of some of its writers might be a culprit in any eventual crash-and-burn scenario.

*Notice that title? If that doesn’t get Friedersdorf to denounce me for having accused myself of anti-Semitism, nothing will.

  • Michaelbn

    Brilliant! Thank you again, Pejman.

  • Joe

    You are definitely on a roll. Thanks!

  • Joe

    You are definitely on a roll. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    It seems to me that Conor Friedersdorf spends a disproportionate amount of time chastising other writers over their alleged journalistic sins, while evidently considering himself exempt from criticism. The internet is rife with examples of him pronouncing anathemas on rival bloggers, mostly of the conservative persuasion, typically dismissing them with an epithet like ‘disgusting’. Rush Limbaugh and Andrew Breitbart have certainly come in for this treatment.

    Yet when he’s caught playing footsie with a holocaust denier, he’s incapable of conceding his error, and falls back on excuses and claims that it’s not necessary to check sources—this from someone who repeatedly alludes to his journalism school background.

    The funniest part of it are his rambling tracts on the importance of hearing out both sides of an argument, and his pompous solicitations of input from readers. As if this ostentatious fair-mindedness of his was some kind of profound idea. If he really cares to have feedback, let Andrew include comments under his postings.

    The fact is, when faced with inarguable proof that he’d committed a journalistic gaffe, he proved himself to be a hypocritical, thin-skinned little brat, happy to dish out criticism to others but unwilling to take any himself.

    • Dustin

      It’s called projection. Conor knows what he’s doing. It’s not some accident, either. He means to hide his mistake in a smokescreen of dishonesty.

  • Disgruntled Reactionary

    Conor Friedersdorf is an intellectually dishonest, self-righteous, pretentious little twerp. His hero-worship of the repulsive Andrew Sullivan tells you all you need to know about his judgment and intelligence.

  • Dustin

    Keep it up.

    Wow. I wish everyone handled personalized blogger arguments like Pejman. He’s witty and direct. He just cuts right to the issue.

    Conor’s ego can’t take the reality that he has bolstered the reputation of a bigot. He’s had more than enough time to figure out what Giraldi is, and admit that it was the wrong way to express that thoughtful people have opinions about aid towards Israel.

    that he hasn’t shows Conor is tolerant of antisemitism. I know that’s harsh, but it’s quite true. I don’t he’s tolerant of it because he hates Jews, but rather because he has too much pride to admit he was a lazy jackass. He’s paying too much of a price in integrity to save face.

  • Dustin

    Keep it up.

    Wow. I wish everyone handled personalized blogger arguments like Pejman. He’s witty and direct. He just cuts right to the issue.

    Conor’s ego can’t take the reality that he has bolstered the reputation of a bigot. He’s had more than enough time to figure out what Giraldi is, and admit that it was the wrong way to express that thoughtful people have opinions about aid towards Israel.

    that he hasn’t shows Conor is tolerant of antisemitism. I know that’s harsh, but it’s quite true. I don’t he’s tolerant of it because he hates Jews, but rather because he has too much pride to admit he was a lazy jackass. He’s paying too much of a price in integrity to save face.

  • Dustin

    I love the line ‘smacked by gob” and hope to steal it.

  • PlantingaFan

    “So far as I know, there is no such thing as Post Traumatic Blogger Stress Disorder, which means that my past interactions with Andrew Sullivan, and Friedersdorf’s past interactions with other bloggers aren’t supposed to be at play here in determining how he was supposed to respond to me.”

    In the context of this debate, I’m not sure I understand this remark. You think that Conor should vet sources with Google before airing their views, and you think that if he finds something disreputable about them, he should either think twice about airing their views or should air their views, but include a caveat while doing so. But you don’t think his past interactions with you should play a role in how he’s supposed to respond to you. I think it’s most likely possible to hold both these positions, but I guess I’d just like your reasoning spelled out a bit better: are you saying that (1) when a person has shown himself to have little _credibility_ about an issue (because of scholarly misconduct or worse), then you should include caveats when you talk about him/banish him from public discourse, but (2) when a person has behaved objectionably in regards to you in the past, you shouldn’t bring this up in your responses to him?

    If that’s right, then would you mind saying a little more why you believe (2)? As I said, I’m guessing (2) and (1) are compatible, I just don’t know why one should accept (2).

    *–I’m not saying your past conduct was objectionable.

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