Monday, March 28, 2005

Gannon and Horowitz

In her dKos post today on Jeff Gannon/James Guckert, SusanG writes “We are a country that's been stretched to the breaking point with lies.”

Recently, I have been exploring David Horowitz’s sites for his Front Page Magazine and Moonbat Central: Hunting the Radical Snark. It has been a perplexing and disturbing experience.

It’s not just the lies that bother me, but their artfulness. There’s always just enough truth in them (these people are much more skillful than JG) to ultimately distract discussion from the real issues, allowing the liars to move the debate to a “gotcha” form that does no one any good—except the liars, who can then crow that they’ve been vindicated because they’ve found errors in the statements of others.

In fact, I am pretty sure that the Horowitz crowd deliberately sets out to trap their opponents by making claims that seem outrageous but have just enough truth to allow them to weasel out. Horowitz’s incredible claim that professors make $150,000 for only 6 to 9 hours of work, for example, does have an element of truth—and sets up a “gotcha.” There are stars in academia (as there are in every field) who bring in high salaries (some even beyond Horowitz’s figure), and many professors at research institutions teach only two or three classes per semester (6 or 9 classroom hours). So, no matter how you argue with Horowitz, he can claim he was telling the truth—and will leave the impression that all professors have this kind of life. Few do, of course, and even those work more than 6 to 9 hours a week. That’s only classroom time. It doesn’t include prep time, advising, grading, committee work, or research—all of which are part of a professor’s job. The other extreme is closer to the truth: I have met few professors who work less than 40 hours a week. Many work as many as 60 or more. Horowitz’s lie isn’t in the details that he knows he can defend, but in the larger realm.

Horowitz can get away with this because he lacks the one element that keeps most of the rest of us from lying (even if we were tempted to): accountability. He is accountable to no one. All he has to do is fool enough people to insure that his profile remains high (and I, too, have obviously fallen into that trap—in a certain way, I am helping him even by this small post). That keeps the money flowing in from speaking dates and right-wing foundations.

Here is where Horowitz and Gannon come together: neither has to be responsible for the truth of their words. There is no independent editorial apparatus telling them no, you have to be a little more straight-forward. There is no peer review process saying this isn’t exploration, it is propaganda. They both have taken advantage of this; by doing so, they are both tearing at the fabric of America; with their lies, they both stand apart from the traditions of honest debate that created this country.

With their lies, they become inherently un-American.

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