Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Defund Thomas Frank

Over the years most of the staff here at Fraters Libertas have developed chronic cases of "Coleman Fatigue" often leading to full-blown outbreaks of "Coleman Affective Disorder" or CAD. These ailments are not treatable through any known medical means and the only way to avoid symptoms is to maintain a strict quarantine by not reading any of Nick Coleman's Star Tribune columns. Sometimes merely hearing about the content of a particularly egregious Coleman column is enough to lead to a temporary relapse.

But there's something to be said for having a regular target like Coleman to take shots at. A man making a strong bid to become such a target is the Wall Street Journal's Thomas Frank, who is probably best known as the author of "What's The Deal With Those Ignorant Gun-Totting Rubes In Kansas Anyway?" Frank writes a weekly column for the Journal called "The Tilting Yard."

I've already had one post comparing the work of Frank and Coleman and laid out some of the ground rules they both follow:

1. Distort and remove all context from your opponent's position until it's nothing more than a flimsy straw man

2. Interview one person who agrees with your position and present them as holding the consensus opinion

3. Throw out baseless assertions in a smug manner with the attitude that every rational American has to come the same conclusion as you and that those who don't are either idiots or part of the neo-con conspiracy.

Since then I've had a couple of additional posts on Mr. Frank and I'm now prepared to amend my Coleman-Frank rules. Consider these to be subsets to the original:

1b. Demagogue your opponents by casting aspersions on their methods and motivation.

2b. Include a quote that supports your view from an "expert" source while downplaying or not acknowledging their bias.

3b. Throw out assertion after assertion not backed up by any evidence, but presented in a manner that assumes their veracity and validity.

The latest and greatest example of the zest and best of Franks came in last Wednesday's WSJ. Frank wrote a column called Health-Care Reform Could Kill the GOP and in it he spun a tale of noble liberals whose only interest was in helping their fellow man with no regard for the political consequences, while Machiavellian conservatives operate without principals in a heartless quest for absolute power. He also included this observation:

For decades Republicans have made policy with a higher purpose in mind: to solidify the GOP base or to damage the institutions and movements aligned with the other side. One of their fondest slogans is "Defund the Left," and under that banner they have attacked labor unions and trial lawyers and tried to sever the links between the lobbying industry and the Democratic Party. Consider as well their long-cherished dreams of privatizing Social Security, which would make Wall Street, instead of Washington, the protector of our beloved seniors. Or their larger effort to demonstrate, by means of egregious misrule, that government is incapable of delivering the most basic services.

Now, as a conservative Republican I should instantly have recognized one of our "fondest slogans," shouldn't I? Why the way Frank makes it sound "Defund the Left" is one of our key rallying cries. Evidence of its use by conservatives must be everywhere.

Let's start with a Google Search for defund the left.

77,900 results. Which sounds impressive until you consider that the worlds "Al Franken genius" give you 84,700. Most of the top ten results for "defund the left" are from left wing sites writing about how this is part of the nefarious conservative plan. There is one link to National Review Online for a post about getting free Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Sinister.

There are also links to Thomas Frank's latest book The Wrecking Crew:

Despite all the badges and bumper stickers it has adorned, I doubt that " defund the left" ever had much popular appeal.

"All the badges and bumper stickers it has adorned" eh? Let's do a Google Image Search with the words "defund the left." Again, lots of left wing sites pop up, but not one badge or bumper sticker in sight. Add badge after the phrase and you get a bunch of left-wing agit prop. Add bumper sticker and you get more of the same, although the number one result may surprise you.

Further research on the phrase "defund the left" reveals that according to the left wing SourceWatch, the latest example of conservatives using this term is from February 2001. Considering that Frank claims that this is (not was) one of our "fondest slogans" it doesn't seem like we've been using it much lately.

Finally, in the six-plus year history of Fraters Libertas (six-thousand seven-hundred and forty-five posts at last count--at least until the sleeping Atomizer giant awakens), the phrase has appeared exactly one time and that was four years ago. I'm going to have to get on the staff to start using that slogan more often. After all, it is one of our favorites.

UPDATE: Frank not Franks. I regret the error.

UPDATE II: At NRO, Jonah Goldberg captures the essence of some of the problems with Frank in comments on his most recent column about surrogate motherhood (which actually wasn't nearly as bad as usual):

Thomas Frank has an almost-interesting column today. It would have been really interesting if he could have gotten past square one and not spent almost the entire column bitching and moaning about the cultural obsession with the hyper-rich. I think there's some merit to his complaints. But they are so unbelievably familiar and trite at this point that if I knew he was never really going to get past that stuff I probably wouldn't have read it.

For Frank and much of his left wing ilk, it's all about class (or race or sexuality) all the time. That obsession clouds their thinking and distracts them from being able to make what otherwise could have been legitimate arguments.

No comments:

Post a Comment