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.
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 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.
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."
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.