Saturday, September 14, 2013

Much Disappoint.

Today, I sent a note to someone on Facebook essentially announcing my "unfriending".

I've literally never written anything like this before, but this was someone who I had "friended" originally because I had believed he would add to the rich intellectual tapestry that is my Facebook feed. That sounds grandiose, I know, but I mostly use Facebook as a way to connect to people on an intellectual level.

The friends I seriously interact with on Facebook are mostly economists, political theorists, journalists, and a host of really interesting artists, musicians and writers. I have a very high concentration of published authors, professors, and other influencers of public thought and opinion.

I love this about Facebook.

The unique thing about the platform - for me - is that I can connect with all of these kinds of people, and discussions aren't limited by time, distance, or character limits. If you have good people around you, you can see a range of viewpoints and discussions that you'll never, ever, see in one room anywhere else. So when I specifically "friend" someone for the purpose of increasing the quality of intellectual discourse, and after a period of months discover that they have completely failed to earn their reputation... It's really disappointing.

Originally, I was planning on redacting the name of this person. I thought maybe it'd be rude, but after reading his thoroughly childish and disrespectful responses to my letter, I've changed my mind.

Read this:

What you've just read were the responses of a major columnist who blogs at the NY Times Economix blog and whose writing has appeared in numerous publications. He's written a few books about history and - interestingly enough - worked for the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations as a policy analyst, I believe focusing on Tax Policy.

Somewhere along the way, he became convinced that conservatives were all stupid and evil.

He explains this transition in an American Conservative column published in November 2012, called "Revenge of the Reality Based Community". In the article, he describes his disillusionment with the Republican party, and the rejection he experienced from that community when he began to publish criticisms of their policies under George Bush.

Among some truly absurd praise of Paul Krugman and Keynesianism, he wrote:
"At this point, I lost every last friend I had on the right. Some have been known to pass me in silence at the supermarket or even to cross the street when they see me coming. People who were as close to me as brothers and sisters have disowned me.

I think they believe they are just disciplining me, hoping I will admit error and ask for forgiveness. They clearly don’t know me very well. My attitude is that anyone who puts politics above friendship is not someone I care to have in my life."
I get it. He got scorned by his former "lovers" and had a zealous conversion experience leading him away from previous beliefs... All the things that make someone bitter and angry toward the community that used to welcome them. So he lashes out at his former friends on Facebook and elsewhere.

After several months of interacting with Mr. Bartlett's posts, I find that they're uniformly devoid of intellectual merit. Instead of combating ideas with arguments and evidence, he takes pot-shots at strawmen, and labels everyone with whom he disagrees as one type of awful person or another. What I thought would be a person who was going to post insightful, intellectually rigorous arguments challenging many of the orthodox policy positions held by conservatives (ie. the kinds of things I often like to post to my group of friends, in order to challenge some of the conservatives I know to rethink their positions) turned out to be a person who had nothing to offer at all.

So what, right? It's just a stupid guy on Facebook.

No... That's the thing. It's not. It's a guy who has a huge platform. A guy who writes in the New York Times on matters of economic policy. A guy who ostensibly has a bunch of intellectual credibility and insider political connections and who gets to use those connections to sway the opinions of other influencers.

And this is the level of intellectual honesty he displays!?

This is someone who would rather talk about where I used to work than what I actually said. He's someone who'd rather label me "right wing" to dodge a criticism, than simply respond with the respect I showed him. Someone who, when presented with even the slightest challenge to his fallacy-ridden, hubristic, and intellectually dishonest means of communicating with other people, would rather stamp his feet like a five-year-old child than acknowledge the criticism.

No wonder he praises Krugman... He's clearly modelled his whole notion of "intellectual debate" directly from his playbook.

From where I sit, this behavior is almost certainly an enormous indictment of his more academic work.

Why should I trust the opinions of someone who cannot even bring himself to address a person's actual arguments, and who will resort to dismissive retorts built around well-poisoning and ad hominems instead of addressing his critics? If all you can see in any intellectual disagreement is an "enemy" to be squashed by any means necessary, and you're perfectly fine misrepresenting them, misquoting them, and labeling them as beneath contempt... How can I take your supposedly "academic" work seriously at all?

Bartlett complains a lot about the "Republican echo-chamber" and "epistemic closure" (which I don't even think he's wrong about, by the way).

But he seems to be tragically unaware of the irony.

At any rate, reading Bartlett's page and now having this interaction makes me wonder if the reason for his loss of friends had less to do with them wanting to avoid dealing with "reality", and more to do with simply not wanting to be around a jack-ass who actually seems to believe his own hype.

Mr. Bartlett has since blocked me on Facebook immediately following the above interaction.


Marie said...

You've embarrassed yourself posting this.

Anonymous said...

Lots of heat and no light, Mr. Malone. You throw a lot of accusations around, but you don't give a single concrete example. If you expect to be taken seriously, you need to show multiple examples to back your assertions.

Who, again, is being intellectual dishonest?

Perhaps you should look in the mirror.

(And tell me again...who are the 'serious' Republican thinkers/intellectuals, in Congress OR ANYWHERE?)

Anonymous said...

Out of all these words, you didn't site a single argument to make your case. I guess you just expect us to take your word for it? What specific policy or opinion did Bruce have that you disagreed with?

Why do you equate his facebook page with a scholarly source of information? Who EVER uses a facebook page as that?

And in this blog, you accuse Bartlett of being ad hominem, hyperbolic, etc...yet you call him a jackass, a zealot, and imply he is "gay", via your "lovers" comment...while still providing no proof to back these accusations.

You're upset with his bringing up your employment with the daily caller, yet in this same rant, you bring up Bruces entire resume as your reasoning that he is a zealous ideologue.

It sounds to me like you are more upset that you couldn't get someone as accomplished as Bartlett to slap you on your back, or give you the attention you desired, so you devolved into this emotional, substance free rant.

ryanqsimon said...


ryanqsimon said...

I'm pretty sure he blocked you because you are just painfully tedious, and have an over inflated self importance. I honestly couldn't even finish your entry.

ryanqsimon said...

Honestly, you lost me at "I mostly use Facebook as a way to connect to people on an intellectual level." What a laugh.

Sean W. Malone said...

While I'm a bit curious where the barrage of comments on this particular post are coming from, I'm less compelled to dissect them since they're pretty devoid of actual substance.

1. To Marie:

I've "embarrassed myself..."?

How? By pointing out that Bartlett's responses to me were childish, immature, and exceptionally rude? My comments to him speak for themselves, and I stand by my criticisms.

Sean W. Malone said...

2. To Anonymous post #1: "Lot's of light and no heat..."


I'm happy to give multiple, substantial, examples of basically everything that I argue on this blog - and I typically do.

In this case, the point of the blog was to vent some disappointment regarding the lack of intellectualism and immaturity of someone I had hoped (yes, based on his resume) might have something adult to contribute.

The evidence for this was the conversation itself. The whole thing is one giant concrete example.

I'm certainly not the one being "intellectual dishonest".

As for the challenge to point out "serious" Republican thinkers.... Some might include George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams to name a few higher profile ones.

There are plenty of others (I'm not a Republican, so my list is probably pretty weak compared to that of some of my more knowledgeable Republican friends), and to be fair, 3 of the 4 are more have some libertarian influences.

Now... Just to be clear, citing these people does not imply that I *agree* with them.

Take Krauthammer for instance. I've met him, I've had a conversation with him. He's definitely an intellectual, and he's definitely serious about it. And yet, I disagree with him on just about every issue. It's possible to recognize someone else's intellectual seriousness without agreeing with their positions... as it turns out. Unless you're Mr. Bartlett, apparently.

Sean W. Malone said...

3. To Anonymous post #2: "Out of all these words..."

Again... Yes, since my post was about Bartlett himself, and the evidence for my point was the conversation itself, then yeah, I did "site" (I'm assuming you actually meant "cite", but we'll breeze past that) an argument.

As far as specific policies and opinions I disagree with Bruce on, I'm sure there are many (if he thinks Krugman's neo-Keynesian economic stimulus positions are viable, we'd disagree extremely strongly in that area as one example), but those types of disagreements weren't germane to the post at all.

To your Facebook point, I'm not expecting "scholarly" in the sense of peer-review and white papers. I expected intellectual engagement, rather than exclusively fiery polemic that castigates anyone and everyone who may criticize or disagree. That's not too much to ask. Most of the professional academics who makeup my Facebook feed exhibit this kind of curiosity and engagement every day.

And NO... I did not "imply", negatively or otherwise that Bartlett was "gay". I have no clue what his sexual orientation is, and I don't care - and I certainly wouldn't suggest that as if it's some kind of negative.

I was making an analogous reference to spurned lovers.

"Hell hath no fury...."

You know?


And... Again... The "evidence" for my theory (that Bartlett's angry and emotionally-driven responses are a product of his feeling spurned by former friends in the conservative community) is in Bartlett's own description of his resume/backstory - which is the sole reason why I brought it up.

By contrast, my employment had no bearing on anything he and I were talking about, and the way Bartlett used it was as a reason to ignore and avoid my criticism, which is a classic logical fallacy known as "guilt by association" and clearly showed how even Bruce's treatment of my criticism was pure bad faith argumentation.


Lastly... No, actually, I know plenty of people more accomplished than Bartlett, many of whom I'm proud to call friends. Bartlett's "approval" of me has nothing to do with this. I rarely even commented on his generally dismissive and hateful posts. They'd just show up in my feed and eventually, I found it to be intolerable. In a rare move, I decided to voice an explanation for why I was so disappointed rather than leave quietly. It's not a common choice for me, but I think it was instructive.

And... Now that I've wasted substantially more time on this event, cheers.

Sean W. Malone said...

4. To ryanqsimon: "I'm pretty sure he blocked you because you are just painfully tedious, and have an over inflated self importance. I honestly couldn't even finish your entry."

...Good thing you took the time to leave a comment, then, huh?

Anonymous said...

Sean, Bruce linked to your blog post on his Facebook page. That’s why you’re suddenly getting a bunch of idiotic comments from his cheering squad. Everything you said about Bruce is spot on. He is, hands down, the most childish, intellectually inconsistent, hypocritical person I've ever "friended". Every single thing he posts amounts to name calling, straw man arguments, intentionally dishonest mischaracterizations of those he disagrees with, or a rehash of whatever he saw that day on Right Wing Watch or Rachel Maddow.

I seriously wonder sometimes if he's really still a right-winger pretending to have switched sides as a social experiment. The goal being to show that no matter how shallow, unfair, inconsistent or hypocritical he is in his attacks on right-wingers, his left wing followers will never even notice the inconsistency, let alone call him on it.

Bruce's quote from his 2012 column that you referenced is very telling and is actually kind of sad:

"I think they believe they are just disciplining me, hoping I will admit error and ask for forgiveness. They clearly don't know me very well. My attitude is that anyone who puts politics above friendship is not someone I care to have in my life."

He actually doesn't understand that friendship requires, at the very least, mutual respect. If you don't respect someone’s intellect – if you constantly call them racist and stupid, purposely mischaracterize their arguments, accuse them of ulterior motives, and lie about them -- you're not going to have much of a friendship. This is exactly what Bruce does to everyone he disagrees with and then he complains that it’s THEY who are "putting politics above friendship".

It's not surprising that someone who contributes nothing useful to any debate and just calls people names all day, ends up getting ignored by everyone who use to be his friend.

And after destroying all his friendships he actually believes his former friends are ignoring him in order to "discipline" him. He's so delusional and self-absorbed he really thinks that's what’s happening.

In all seriousness I think he has some very real psychological problems.