Our Incompetent Pundits
This week Peggy Noonan decided based on her math skills that there are sixteen million jihadist sympathizers and 1.6 million actual jihadists out there stalking us. A reader who took this stuff seriously could be excused if that locked themselves in an interior room and refused to come out. Fortunately for all of us, the actual number of terrorists depending on which estimate you use range from less than a hundred thousand to almost two hundred thousand.
So, it seems to me that those recalcitrant students of mine who refuse to do Internet searches to verify their data have a future writing for the Wall Street Journal.
This wouldn’t be so bad if this kind of nonsense didn’t have legs. I promise I’m going to run into someone blogging or commenting on Facebook who are going to be talking about these bogus numbers. It’ll run something like this –
“How dare you talk about good and kind followers of Islam in your blogs? There are one point six million jihadists out to kill us – KILL US – Don’t you get it! We are in a war for survival here. A terrorism expert writing for the Wall Street Journal said that as many as 160,000,000 Muslims want us dead.”
Peggy Noonan gets paid a lot of money to write this nonsense, and it is an excellent example of the intellectual bankruptcy of our pundit class.
But why stop there! Let’s quote another famous pundit saying something bizarre –
This is a wonderful moment to be a conservative. For decades now the Republican Party has been groaning under the Reagan orthodoxy, which was right for the 1980s but has become increasingly obsolete. The Reagan worldview was based on the idea that a rising economic tide would lift all boats. But that’s clearly no longer true.
A wonderful time! That’s right. Donald Trump is highly likely to be the nominee of the Republican Party for President of the United States and could very well win. But these are wonderful times.
You might ask where David Brooks is going with this. Oh, please ask. You see, our friend, Mr. Brooks, has been reading Thomas Kuhn’s book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. (I’ve read the book myself and still own a copy.) Brooks believes based on his understanding of the book that conservatives are on the verge of a new paradigm generated by their failure to deal successfully with Donald Trump and the issues he has raised.
I suppose you could argue that something positive will come out of the Trump candidacy and its collision with Republican orthodoxy but the idea that a sunny new paradigm will result is Pollyanna on massive steroids.
Brooks would likely be right if the Republican Party and conservatism were some kind of intellectual community but that hardly defines what we have right now. If I may remind you, modern conservatism is a product of Republican politicians, a vast network of think tanks, campaign consultants, and political action committees, a network of rabid talk radio shows, Fox Television, and a vast number of madder than hell voters. Thomas Kuhn would have never considered this bizarre grouping a community of scholars like he was describing in his book. I don’t either.
And what happens now to conservatism and the Republican Party is certainly not predictable. Political parties can become more expansive, more insular or just die. I don’t know what is going to happen but I can’t see this as a sunny time to be a conservative.
This appears to me to be a blatant misapplication of a Kuhn’s ideas to an irrelevant situation. So, here we have once again a pundit in over his head
He might do better to remember the example of revolutionary France. In 1789, members of the new republican government believed they were on the verge of a new world of human reason and justice. In 1804, Napoleon is the Emperor of France. Politics is more than just ideas.
Noonan and Brooks are supposed to be the great intellectual arbiters of our age based on their status and placement.
Right now we need real intellectual depth, not made up fearmongering statistics and half read books.
There are several hundred million Americans. A lot of them write. Many have written for years. Can’t the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal find some or is this just the kind of nonsense they want to see propagated?