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What You Can and Can’t Say

July 10, 2010

Alex Knepper got, as he calls it, “dumped” from David Horowitz’s NewsRealBlog for submitting an expansion of a brief post criticizing Ann Coulter for her piece defending Michael Steele’s comments on Afghanistan — comments with which I also found fault.  This was Knepper’s second “offense” with Horowitz — apparently, Coulter is a friend of Horowitz and his Freedom Center, and you can’t stick it to a friend without being extremely gentle, even if you’re denigrating a venom-spitter like Coulter.

I’m not exactly privy to the internal workings of the political punditry industry, so I can’t say exactly how kosher criticism of those on your own side is when business and professional interests are involved.  (To clarify, I’m an adamant supporter of self-criticism, but since I’m not employed by any organization that engages in political debate, I can’t speak to just how acceptable it is to rail against those people whom your organization may be linked to professionally.)  I do, however, find these comments from Knepper compelling:

I should point out that this decision was nothing personal. Horowitz and I simply have divergent approaches to politics. He and the Freedom Center see politics as essentially a sports match — that when someone on “our side” is performing poorly, we ought to give them a nice pep speech rather than a lashing. I simply do not take that approach. The primacy of ideas is foremost in my mind. Bad ideas are just as dangerous — perhaps moreso — if they’re propagated by members of the party nominally opposed to them. When Dennis Kucinich or Katha Pollitt criticizes the war effort, that’s neither here nor there. We expect this. We turn the heat up in response, of course, but still: we anticipate it. But when Ann Coulter throws in the towel with regard to Afghanistan, that portends trouble: she has given a green light to conservative activists to abandon the war effort. The only people who can keep conservatives on the right path are conservatives. We certainly can’t expect the left to do it for us.

Indeed.  As I said the other day, there’s nothing wrong with criticizing the war effort if it’s done on the right terms.  If conservatives are against the war, then they should have said so last year.  If they’re against the war now that things aren’t going well, but weren’t a year ago, then there’s no way they can blame the President for escalating it last year.  And if they’re against the whole premise of the war in Afghanistan, then they shouldn’t be blaming this President but the one who came before him.  Coulter pulled a Michael Steele — it appears that she’s just agin whatever the President is fer, and that warrants criticism.

The “sports match” analogy is slightly imperfect: there are certainly times when a coach gives a pep talk to a player who is out of line instead of giving him a nice tongue-lashing, but there are also times when the latter is more appropriate.  For most of the conservative blogosphere, the latter is almost never acceptable.  And I have no idea why.  Maybe we orta quit taking this stuff so personally — easy for me to say, right? — but then again, I’m the type of guy who doesn’t take political arguments personally.  Maybe I’m just out of the loop.

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