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Who Is Your Ally?

July 11, 2010

This Knepper thing got weird — David Swindle, his former editor as NewsRealBlog, posted a response to his “Why I Got Dumped” post that goes into details about sex and deadlines and Miley Cyrus that I don’t care about a’tall, but it does contain some ideas that make you scratch your head.  Knepper has already posted a response, so I won’t go into all of that, but I will address this one paragraph from Swindle’s piece that reveals a lot about what you can and can’t say:

Alex knows that I agree that the Right needs to be kept on the proper foreign policy path. And that’s why we fight the Paulastinians and Pat Buchanan pseudo-conservatives (and why we use the same language with them as with leftists — they’re not allies.) And it’s why I was hoping to run a more toned-down version of Alex’s critique of Coulter. But you don’t keep people on the Right path by attacking them as traitors. Slamming the Left for their anti-Americanism should be done in a fundamentally different fashion than correcting Coulter for losing faith in the war in Afghanistan. (The Left and the Ron Paul pseudo-Right oppose the war for different reasons than she does.)  This is a BASIC concept. And Knepper — and Frum — simply do not get it. Or rather, they choose not to get it.

Well, first of all, as Knepper points out, that’s not true: Coulter opposes escalation in Afghanistan for the exact same reasons that Ron Paul and vast swathes of liberals do —she “slams ‘neoconservatives’ for their apparent penchant for ‘endless war,’ brings up the idiotic Chalmers Johnson-approved bromide about Afghanistan being the ‘graveyard of empires,’ and decries ‘nation-building.’”  In that regard, she sounds exactly like Andrew Sullivan, whom Swindle derides for his “turn Left”.

The question then becomes why “we use the same language with them as leftists”.  Seriously: why?  Knepper says the tone of the piece was harsh because it was intended as a “tongue-in-cheek jab at her preferred style”, but really, considering Coulter’s apparent alignment with those who aren’t “allies”, shouldn’t he use the same language with her as he supposedly should with leftists?  If she’s going to proffer the same arguments as Pat Buchanan and Andrew Sullivan, then, going by Swindle’s logic, shouldn’t she be “slam[ed] for [her] anti-Americanism?”

My answer to that question would be, “No”, but obviously for different reasons than Swindle.  I don’t know exactly why Swindle prefers “correct[ing]” Coulter to “slamming” her, but from what he’s written I gather that’s because he perceives her as an “ally”.  Well, what makes her an ally?  Is it because she happens to fall in the same quadrant of the political spectrum as Swindle, or is it because she spends a whole lot of time criticizing liberals?  If it’s the former, then I’d say it’s really weird to pursue a strategy that involves being a jerk to everybody who’s not in your particular quadrant as a means to advance the merits of governmental policies that you like.  As I’ve noted before, conservatives don’t consist of a majority in this country.  On the other hand, if it’s the latter, then Ron Paul and the libertarians are indeed your allies — just because they don’t spend all their time giving it to the Left doesn’t mean they don’t actually criticize them a’tall.

Nay, I would oppose chastising Coulter because I think it would be a really ineffective way of persuading her.  If I truly felt that her arguments against the war in Afghanistan were incorrect (which I probably wouldn’t in this case — I’d probably just dismiss them as “Pavlovian”, as Knepper put it), then I’d try in my response to present my arguments in a manner in which I figured I’d have the best chance to persuade her — and my readers — that she was wrong.  I think neither being extremely gentle nor being a jerk would give me the best odds of accomplishing that.  I’ve often wondered why anybody would want, as a writer, to be hated by those who aren’t your political “allies” — it’s always seemed like that’s an extremely bad way to get new allies.  Shouldn’t I, as a writer, be trying to convince people who are already disinclined to agree with me to… agree with me?  Isn’t the point of persuasive writing to, you know, persuade?

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