Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Voice on the Right Wonders About a Coup

Don’t Get Weak: Random thoughts on the passing scene.
By Thomas Sowell

Sometimes it seems as if everybody is trying to rip off his own little piece of America, until we are all torn apart.

A reader writes: “Liberals hold us individually responsible for nothing but collectively responsible for everything.”

The last time I saw a Republican express outrage was 1991, when Clarence Thomas told the Senators what he thought of the smear tactics used against him. Before that, it was Ronald Reagan saying, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Before that, it was probably Teddy Roosevelt.

Too many people in positions of responsibility act as if these are just positions of opportunity — for themselves. The ones who simply steal money probably do less harm than teachers who propagandize their students, media who slant the news, or politicians who sell out their country’s interests in order to get reelected.

A reader wrote: “Have you ever noticed that opinion polls ask the opinions of people who have no expertise in the subject on which they are being polled and publish these opinions as if they were gospel truth instead of group ignorance?”

Judging by the polls, Republican voters’ memories do not seem to be as short as Senator John McCain may have thought. Judging by press coverage, the media’s memory does not seem to have been as long as he may have thought when he played to that gallery.

A sign of the times: A full-page ad for an Alaska cruise in the left-wing New York Review of Books says, “See Alaska’s Glaciers Before They’re Gone!” Shipmates listed include Ralph Nader and the editor of The Nation magazine.

The people who are scariest to me are the people who don’t even know enough to realize how little they know.A reader sent the following message, quoting his nephew: “Calling an illegal alien an ‘undocumented worker’ is like calling a drug dealer an ‘unlicensed pharmacist.’“Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God.

Our education system, our media, and our intelligentsia have all been unrelentingly undermining the values, the traditions, and the unity of this country for generations and, at the same time, portraying as “understandable” all kinds of deviance, from prostitution to drugs to riots.

The home run records that made Babe Ruth famous have been broken but one of his records will probably never be broken — pitching the longest shutout in World Series history, 14 innings. Few pitchers go even nine innings these days.

“Global warming” seems to be joining “diversity,” “gun control,” “open space,” and a growing list of other subjects where rational discussion has become impossible — and where you are considered a bad person even for wanting to discuss it rationally.

Is your employer poorer by the amount of money he pays you? Probably not, or you would never have been hired. Why then should we assume that a corporation or its customers are poorer by the amount paid to its chief-executive officer?

A review of one of the many environmentalist books says that even if you can’t do all you would like toward “living green,” you can at least “congratulate yourself on taking small steps to improve the planet.” That is what environmentalism — and much else on the political Left’s agenda — is really all about, self congratulation.

Just watching Suze Orman for a few moments while channel surfing is enough to make me feel exhausted.

When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our intelligentsia, I can’t help wondering if the day may yet come when the only thing that can save this country is a military coup.

In his book Income and Wealth, economist Alan Reynolds says that people often form “strong opinions” based on “weak statistics.” Unfortunately, that is also true of a wide range of other issues, from “global warming” to “gender bias.” I am so old that I can remember a Democrat, at his inauguration as president, say of our enemies: “We dare not tempt them with weakness.”


gorefan said...

It seems to me as if Thomas Sowell suffers from what I call a right-wing persecution complex. A right-wing persecution complex is where several conservative pundits believe various parts of our society (the "liberal" media, the public school teachers, college professors, the "imperial" judiciary, etc.) are out to get them. I find that this persecution complex can often be less rational than the "strong opinions based on weak statistics" that Sowell babbles about. Take, for example, the rants about how the media is liberal, which several studies have proven wrong. One study for the Pew Charitable Trusts Project for Excellence Journalism found that during 2000 the media actually did more positive mentions of BUSH than of Al Gore (24% of the Bush mentions were positive while only 13% of the Gore mentions were positive). Another study, done at Virginia Commonwealth University, found journalists to actually by more conservative than the rest of America on several issues. For example, while only 35% of the American people said that slowing Social Security spending should be a top priority, a strong majority (56%) of journalists supported making slowing of Social Security spending a top priority and while 64% of the American people supported universal healthcare, only 43% of journalists supported universal healthcare. Two more studies disprove Sowell's suggestion that the media is hyping global warming to make it seem more serious than the scientific community says it is. One study, done at the University of California at San Diego, looked at more than 900 peer-reviewed scientific journals while the other study looked at more than 600 articles in "liberal" newspapers like the LA Times and the Washington Post. Suprisingly, a significant majority (53%) of the "liberal" papers were in doubt about mankind causing global warming while absolutely ZERO of the peer-reviewed scientific articles were in doubt that mankind was causing global warming.

God.Reagan.Rush said...


Your paranoia theory, aka the “right-wing persecution complex” is comparable to left-wing paranoia of a vast right-wing conspiracy. What else is Sowell to think but what is seen in our everyday culture? The media has been historically liberal. In 1972, a poll showed that 70% of reporters supported McGovern, the most liberal candidate in our history, while 25% voted for Nixon. A 1985 LA Times survey found that 82% of journalists were pro-choice, and 78% favored stricter gun control laws. In 1992, 89% of journalists voted for Bill Clinton, while 7% voted for HW Bush. Even your precious Peter Jennings admitted a liberal media bias.

And that’s after the first two sentences of your comment. Apparently, conservatives are imagining liberal indoctrination on college campuses as well. In 2000, more than 70% of Ivy League professors polled named a Democrat as their pick for best 20th Century president. 14% supported missile defense. 40% favored “reparations” for slavery provided by taxpayers. A New York Times survey stated that Democratic professors outnumbered Republicans 7-1. Look at our own GGH department. Professors are being fired because they aren’t “liberal enough” to satisfy the standards of the department. When a conservative professor criticizes a student’s use of the f-word in a scholarly paper more times than an episode of South Park, it is regarded as a “lynching.” When handing out awards to conservative professors on campus, the College Republicans were hard-pressed to find candidates.

Let us have our Fox News and our talk radio.

As for Sowell, I completely agree with his idea that, “people often form ‘strong opinions’ based on ‘weak statistics.’ Unfortunately, that is also true of a wide range of other issues, from ‘global warming’ to ‘gender bias.’” I could create a theory myself and call it the left-wing special-interest passion complex. Liberals with this complex tend to become impassioned for issues about which they can do nothing on a large scale. Look at Al Gore’s global warming rant, PETA, etc. Liberals work toward minor gains on these fronts while they ignore civil rights violations by world leaders like Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro, as well as the enslavement of the Chinese. According to Gregg Jackson, “Democrats are only interested in human rights within the context of their multicultural-secular ideology.” Much like the activists on this campus, mainstream leftists choose to advocate for erroneous issues that have far-reaching solutions, so they don’t actually have to make any strides for a change.

spiegelglanz said...

... And the conservative concept of change? As opposed to global warming awareness and animal rights, I hear mention of oppressive leaders (and regime change?). I could take this opportunity to enforce some stereotypes, but I think we're beyond that.

Sowell raises points beyond his own personal conservative tendency. The uselessness of most statistics and polls, the effectiveness of a coup, how worthless Suze Orman is. All good points.

On the counter, I'd like to point out that he chalks up "global warming" into the same pile as "'gun control,' 'open space,' and a growing list of other subjects where rational discussion has become impossible — and where you are considered a bad person even for wanting to discuss it rationally." Yet, the remainder of his paper is toned to sound certain-minded and open to no debate, like saying that the media's coverage of prostitution, drugs, and riots are unforgiveable acts of "deviance" which can not but "understandable." Those points are up for debate.

And other points, like the overpaying of corporate CEOs and the self-congratulation involved in environmentalism--are just shots in the dark. Lots of CEOs make too much money. It's sickening, and very simple. And since when is self-congratulation such a horrible thing, especially when the situation calls for it?

So if I'm making up a complex, too? Sowell gets diagnosed with living-in-the-past syndrome, wherein he has little sympathy for progressive counterpoints to archaic conservatism; gorefan has an obvious case of strong-opinions-based-on-weak-statistics-ism; and god.reagan.rush has simple short-sightedness--I don't know of any sound liberal case defending Saddam Hussein's crimes against humanity, but in the same breath, I'll mention my personal distaste for Al Gore and PETA, and surprise, I'm liberal. Too much stereotyping these days.

rashardtae said...

I think that the media is far from liberal. Most media outlets are owned and run by conservatives. To much of what I see on TV is propaganda from conservative sources. I do think that people make there strongest opinions on little information. That’s of course can be made an example by commercials. When people see commercials about products the end up buying the get an opinion about that product. They form strong opinions based on what has happened on how cool people look but they form these opinions without expert opinion. I think spielgelglanz is crazy and just wants to pick fights with people your opinion makes no sense. The author of the piece is terrible how can he tie in the babe ruth thing in with his piece that’s an terrible example. I do agree with god.regan.rush when they talk about how liberals try to gain on unbeatable battles. This is true I think because how as an modernized industrial society can we go on without using what we use. And scientist argue about how serious global warming is all the time so who is to be true how serious it is for real. But, they do try to extract change among people all the time its just that republican’s hold them back.

Mr. Moneybags said...

You think the media is far from liberal? You do not watch T.V. Let me educate you, journalist vote for liberals. Between 1964 and 2004, Republicans won the Presidential election seven times, Democrats four times. If it was solely up to the media's ballots democrats would have one seven times. According to a survey by Fifty-four percent of the media stated they where to the left while only 19 percent said they where on the right. I could keep listing numbers, but I think I've made my point.

Sowell makes good points about the left being self congratulatory. They go to the ends of the earth to find something so troubling, say they found it, and then do nothing about it. Then they celebrate like they achieved something. The achievement they received was one of a stereotype. The stereotype being that they really care, but get anything accomplished in the long run. Once a stereotype is in place it is hard to remove. I agree with Alan Reynolds claim that people make "strong opinions" on "weak statistics", but if they are taught no different through education then this will never change. We have to educate our children in an un-slanted manner and allow them to make up their own minds.

Republicans do not hold back Democrats from change. They just see change in a different direction. Both parties know they are going to have to compromise with the other to a certain extent, but labeling one party as "the man" holding the other down is unfounded.

God.Reagan.Rush said...


The reason Sowell sees no room for debate on certain beaten-down social issues is because liberals have given no evidence of a logical discussion. I have recently entered into a popular discussion about gay marriage. (To those of you under a rock, Justin May’s facebook note, “My Thoughts on Being Conservative and Gay Marriage” has remained the number one note in the Morehead State network, amassing more than 270 comments in 4 days) Both sides have engaged in civil discussion for the most part, however, liberals have provided an argument based solely on pathos. I could find the same points spewing from the mouths of Rosie O’Donnell, college professors, and Episcopalians everywhere: all wannabe pundits. Conservatives, however, have looked at the issue from economic, social, medical, biological, statistical, historical, and yes, religious, standpoints. Liberals sound like a broken record, while each conservative has something different to say about the subject. We continue to be attacked as bigots, over-zealous Christians, and just general tyrants. The ad hominem logic and regurgitated outcries prevent any real discussion. The same exists for any major issue. If liberals want to debate gun control, global warming, or any of Sowell’s “impossible” issues, conservatives roll our eyes. We are tired of fighting liberal fluff with conservative fire; it is ridiculous to expect a logical debate when conservatives can predict our opposition’s argument. This makes the debate of social issues very difficult.

I also agree with Sowell’s reader: “Have you ever noticed that opinion polls ask the opinions of people who have no expertise in the subject on which they are being polled and publish these opinions as if they were gospel truth instead of group ignorance?” The same goes for voters today. I would rather keep the same educated 30% of the public who votes instead of rallying for higher numbers of uneducated apathetic people, liberals and conservatives alike. Who knows what will happen if even 85% of eligible Americans voted.

The court of public opinion is not necessarily an educated one.

Anonymous said...

I agree with many above me who are saying that public opinion often times is not founded on informed decisions. The author does make a good point about the spin our media definately has when delivering us our news to us. This was a key selling point to me. It becomes more apparent to me that if just view the facet of News alone, that is a game based more about selling itself to the public as compared to informing the public. Whoever believes that any news show offer no spin but is truely objective is extremely dillusional. Its apparent fox is aimed at conservatives, while cnn at a liberals. Now as for informed decision making, i really believe their are actually few truely informed on the topics that they choice one side or another on. Many dont ever try to research the issues/topics for themselves are only see on side's spin on this topic which they understand to be the truth. Thats ultimately where the problems lies, is just assuming everything you hear is truth without doing research. The only way to truly make an informed decision is to do alot of background research. And with that it kind of points to the fact that most of the American populace is making uninformed decision making. Its kind of hard to disagree with many of his points.


liberal for life said...

In this article I found that this was an extreme case of making liberals seem as if they had no idea what they were doing yet we shouting blame and claims all around. A lot of the article made some sense when it wasn’t directed at liberals. I found this article somewhat disturbing because many people do take advantage of their power and I don’t just mean politically. I think this author made a good point when he discussed what teachers do to students. I feel that most teachers impose their beliefs on their students and be little the way they feel or think. I do believe that many people do feel as if they have God-like powers and this alone can create a lot of trouble. I do not feel that liberals are not tackling the problems we face but I feel that with liberal self congratulations we boost the moral of others and we get people to do more at a collective level and at an individual level. This author makes liberals out to be people who do nothing but sit around and pat each other on the back and this is very far from the truth. The scariest part of this article is that someone is actually entertaining the idea of a military coup. That would not save this nation that would do nothing but destroy us. This idea shows the weakness of those on the right and in my opinion makes liberals seem stronger.

spiegelglanz said...

Fluff versus fire? Eye-rolling disdain? We're a broken record and you're the innovator? That all seems pretty self-congratulatory.

And if conservatism is the voice of change, why is there so much scorn against crusading the "unbeatable battles." Civil rights was an unbeatable battle, and it was achieved--despite conservative opinion at the time. You want an unbeatable battle? Iraq.

And while I'm talking about things beside the point: Gay marriage from "economic, social, medical, biological, statistical, historical, and yes, religious standpoints"? Insurance rights, a new demographic of families, a personal issue, and four irrelevant categories, in that order (statistics may be relevant, depending on what you can dig up and how much you can slant it).

You have every right to be closed-minded. You do not, however, get the right to admit that conservatives--Sowell, in this case--are ignoring the case against, while at the same time saying that it's the conservative standpoint to be more open-minded.

Progressiveness is a liberal quality. You're right, conservatives do have a different direction, but it's headed back to the stone age instead.

retro_liberal said...

Here are a couple of my problems:

Problem A: Sowell’s argument about opinion polls is just plain fascist. Are these people fully informed on the issues they’re being polled on? No. But why is that? Simple, it’s because their access to the information is limited to corporate (and largely conservative) media. The media never truly goes in depth on an issue, take gay marriage. It’s only covered when there’s a ballot initiative or when the legislature of a blue state attempts to pass a law allowing same sex civil unions. This is a problem because the media only portrays it as a social issue when it behooves them from a ratings and profitability stand point. Most people don’t even know that homosexuals only want the same legal rights extended to themselves and their life partners as a married man and woman legally have. It’s not really a matter of people being stupid; it’s more of a matter of people being spoon fed highlights of the issues and brief nonsensical pundit opinion.

Problem B: Perhaps everyone else missed it, but Sowell clearly promotes the idea of a military coup to “save this country.” Am I reading that correctly, does he say that he believes there might be a time when the right wing should stage a military coup to save the country? Save it from what exactly? Conflicting ideologies and differences of opinion? That’s pure Hilter-esque fascism right there. The implications of that statement clearly show he neither supports the freedom of the press or the right to free speech. Conservatives often argue that our constitutional rights are more privileges than actual rights. However, that is not what it says in the Bill of Rights. Sowell completely loses any credibility he had by making a fascist argument.

gorefan said...

Response to god.reagan.rush: Journalists may tend to be socially liberal, but they are not the people who have the final say in what gets said on the media and what gets left out. That job goes to editors and publishers, who are not liberal. According to Editor and Publisher magazine, there were more than twice as many newspapers that endorsed Bush as those that endorsed Al Gore. The Bush-endorsing newspapers accounted for fifty-eight percent, almost three-fifths, of all newspaper circulation.

Another issue is the question of what exactly makes a statistic a "weak statistic". Neither you nor Thomas Sowell have specified any flaw in liberals' statistics in the columnn or your two blogs.

Contrary to your second blog, liberals can do logical discussions based on fact and not just pathos. For example, in my argument against the belief in a liberal media, I have brought out five different statistics which prove the media is not liberal. Another target of yours, my hero Al Gore, also uses plenty of hard evidence when arguing that global warming is a real threat. He provides statistics from Science magazine showing an almost perfect correlation between carbon dioxide and temperatures over six-thousand years. He presents a graph from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showing that current warming is far higher than that of the Medieval Warm Period (skeptics often use the Medieval Warm Period to argue that global warming is natural).

Anonymous said...

I strongly disagree with god_reagan_rush's statement that we can do nothing on a large scale about global warming. If we raised the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards of our vehicles to 35 miles per gallon, we would improve the mileage of our cars by 40%. I very strongly doubt that a forty percent improvement in fuel economy would be considered small-scale. The auto fleet in China (a Third World country!) already achieves this 35 mpg standard, so one cannot call this unrealistic. Another thing Americans can do is buy energy-saving compact-fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL's). If every household in America replaced a standard lightbulb with a CFL, it would be like taking one million cars off the road. CFL's last five years (meaning you have to buy far fewer replacement bulbs) and can reduce utility costs related to lighting by one-third. Therefore, not only will CFL's save some green on the Earth, they'll save plenty of green in your wallet!

i.c. toowell said...

Sowell’s random thoughts appear to be that! He rails at liberals but isn’t he a liberal in its most classic sense? This article brings in to focus to some degree an element of confusion in many of the articles…liberalism vs. conservatism or is it republican vs. democrat or even left vs. right…none of these labels seem to fit. We might better understand Sowell and others if we look at the philosophy from a libertarian vs. authoritarian perspective. Left liberals (democrats..sort of) want government to control the boardroom but leave the bedroom alone. Right conservatives (republicans…sort of) want to control the bedroom but leave the boardroom alone. Sowell would probably best fit the libertarian mode…having government stay out of both rooms. I think the rational discussion he mentions might better take place in an environment in which the two “sides” were more along the lines of libertarian vs. authoritarian. His comment about a coup borders on anarchy (ultimate libertarianism) and would make America’s founding libertarian, Thomas Jefferson, happy. Jefferson writing to James Madison in 1787 said that “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing”. Certainly, Sowell is most likely not really suggesting such a coup, but probably just taking a extreme position to promote open discussion.