Monday, August 29, 2016

Leftists are liars until proven innocent

Last night, after an avalanche of criticism from better-informed readers, Angus Johnston finally issued a correction to his belligerent "Matt Bruenig is lying" post. Previously, Johnston had insisted 1) that Bruenig had lied about a quote by Neera Tanden, and 2) that there was no additional evidence suggesting that Tanden might have been involved in welfare reform. On this basis, Johnston concluded that Bruenig was "just lying," which is "fundamentally incompatible with either serious political debate or good-faith movement building."

Since then, with the emergence of both documentary evidence and witness testimony, point (2) has been decisively shot down. This, hilariously, leaves Johnston's entire argument dependent on point (1), which he defended in this passage:

I'm not particularly interested in litigating Johnston's tendentious reading of this exchange - here, the point I want to make is quite simple. The entire culmination of his argument is to call for "good-faith movement building" - but a basic, almost trivial prerequisite to good faith involves extending to people you disagree with the benefit of a doubt.

That is the exact opposite of what Johnston is doing here. Presented with a reading of Tanden's comments that he disagrees with, Johnston isn't content to declare Bruenig wrong; he leaps, without argument, to the accusation that Bruenig is not merely misreading Tanden, but lying. With point (2) removed, that is now the whole of his critique: Bruenig is lying because it is "absolutely clear" that Bruenig is incorrect.

This genre of baseless character attack isn't an aberration in anti-left rhetoric, not even when it comes to this specific controversy. As I noted in my previous post, Neera Tanden recently did the exact same thing:

As it turns out, not only had Jilani already named the source in question (Bruce Reed), but he had actually quoted him verbatim, as proven by Jilani's recording of the interview. Now, it could hypothetically turn out that Reed was lying, and that Tanden's skepticism was justified (LOL) - but clearly Jilani was acting in completely good faith, attributing a verifiable quote to a named source.

In these cases at least, the opponents of "serious political debate [and] good-faith movement building" are demonstrably not the leftists who are advancing claims supported with sigificant evidence; they are, here, the liberal elites who instantly leap to attacks on the integrity of their critics.