Losing the Argument? Then Follow the Money!

Eric Alterman's series on the devious, conspiratorial funding of “right wing” organizations is a great example of the left's misguided retardo-Marxist cui bono obsession. It absolutely mystifies me why the left spends so much energy tracking down funding sources of the right. I always detect in these things a ostrich-like refusal to seriously engage the fact that the left has for the last 20 years been getting its ass handed to it intellectually.
This is so noxious to the left's self-image that they can do nothing but go deep into denial, and complain incessantly about, what? . . . Just how smart those the right-wing plutocrats are? Concede relative strategic incompetence in order to preserve the illusion of the moral/intellectual high ground? I really don't get it. What, really, is the point of this stuff?
(I mean, think about it this way: if I was paid to kick Eric Alterman's ass, but I had very much wanted to kick Alterman's ass anyway, and I proceeded to kick Alterman's ass, Alterman's pointing out that I was paid to kick his ass neither shows that I wouldn't have kicked his ass if I hadn't been paid, nor that his ass wasn't, in fact, kicked, nor that Alterman could have kicked my ass if only he had been paid. So why bring it up? Does it make him feel better? [By the way, I do not, in fact, have any desire to kick Alterman's ass.])
The best I can do for Alterman is to see him indirectly prodding left-wing plutocrats to give more money to people like Eric Alterman. Alterman seems fairly non-plussed that Charles Murray gets so much money from the Bradley Foundation. If only Eric Alterman could be paid so well!
But, of course, one Charles Murray is worth a dozen Altermans in intellectual terms, no matter how much you pay him. The fascinating thing about a guy like Murray is just how independent a mind he is. He's very much his own man. He's too libertarian for conservatives; he's too conservative for libertarians. His concern for the poor and the conditions necessary for a meaningful life are deep, genuine, remarkably sensitive and, yes, relatively non-ideological. By comparison, a guy like Alterman is an ideologue you can set your watch by. The point being, that you can't explain much about Charles Murray by looking at the signatures on his paychecks. The signatures tell you rather more about the tastes of the folks who sign them.
I'm reminded of Michael Novak's characterization of the left's reaction to The Bell Curve:

the message cannot be true, because much more is at stake than a particular set of arguments from psychological science. A this-worldly eschatological hope is at stake. The sin attributed to Herrnstein and Murray is theological: they destroy hope.

The thing to remember is that there is more than one faith-based community. Alterman's assumption is that he who has the funding, he who controls the media, controls political reality. The “right-wing” foundations and tanks have been using their power to replace our theology for theirs. So we've got to understand how they do this, how the right constructs reality, so we can beat them at their game. Because we know in advance that it can't be the arguments. Charles Murray couldn't possibly be right.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center

16 thoughts

  1. It still might be possible to appeal to the Canadian government on a personal basis, stating that your father losing his citizenship was unjust. After the government did state that “anyone born to a Canadian citizen abroad — mother or father, in or out-of-wedlock — on or after January 1, 1947, is a Canadian citizen and will have their citizenship confirmed if they are the first generation born abroad. But no further.” You just need them to recognize that taking away citizenship from people who became citizens of another country is unjust considering that dual citizenship is now allowed and common.
    As a dual citizen of the Canada and the United States I have the best of both worlds (my mother is a US citizen/Canadian permament resident). What I find interesting is that even though I’m a US citizen who’s never lived in the US I’m eligable to vote in the presidential election through my mom’s residency.

  2. Where does the idea that citizenship is something that ought to be pursued when lacking or pined over when lost come from? Subtracting out the benefits of visa-free travel, itself a perverse and oppressive invention only a hundred years old, what remains of vaunted citizenship but subjection?

  3. Robert, I’d probably have a better case if I actually intended to live in Canada at some point. Maybe someday I will!
    Mike: It’s easier (or not impossible) to travel some places with a Canadian passport, and that matters to me. If I could, I’d have 10 citizenships and bounce around the world with a frictionlessness only diplomats and lords of poverty enjoy.

  4. I agree with Will on the passport. When I travel I use my Canadian passport because it just goes smoother. However, if I ran into trouble I’d go to the American embassy, since it holds more sway. Like I said, the best of both worlds.

  5. Robert, Exactly.
    And, Mike, if you don’t like being a subject, you can renounce your citizenship. But, in the actual scheme of things, I’d rather be taxed than stateless. If you’re a first-world citizen, that citizenship is probably your most lucrative asset by far. Too bad there’s not a market in citizenships.

  6. I always thought your head was a bit floppy Will; now I know why:) But, yes, a plethora of passports a la Jason Bourne under current conditions would be the best of all worlds, for folks who like to travel at least.

  7. Will: “And, Mike, if you don’t like being a subject, you can renounce your citizenship.”
    That’s the plan, actually. We’ll see how it goes. With the Schengen area as my cage, I think I’ll get by.

  8. And, Mike, if you don’t like being a subject, you can renounce your citizenship.
    Note that getting US citizenship involves a pro forma renunciation of others, but other countries in general ignore that.
    There are a few citizenships that one would not necessarily want, particularly the ones that come with military obligations. I know of people who have run into issues in South Korea, Jordan, and even France back before they suspended mandatory conscription– including some cases where they didn’t have a passport, didn’t know that they were a citizen, and hadn’t visited the country previously but had been put on the Family Register by a grandparent or such.

  9. There are a few citizenships that one would not necessarily want, particularly the ones that come with military obligations.
    Yes. My mother renounced her Israeli citizenship so that I wouldn’t have to serve in the army. Some of my friends, born of Israeli parents, were not so lucky when they spent a year living in Israel post-high school, and either had to serve or leave the country every 3-4 months.
    My mother, incidentally, was held in prison for a half a day while pregnant with me, because she never served in the Israeli army and was trying to leave the country.

  10. It is actually pretty easy to cross over from the States to live and work in Canada.
    Perhaps, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
    Some folks have multiple citizenships and the actual benefit doesn’t seem too clear to me.

  11. I am an American and my husband is a Canadian. Would it be possible for me to have dual citizenship? I just love Canada but I’m not about to give up my American citizenship. Any ideas?

  12. @barbie – If you have one parents who is a Canadian citizen according to the new law (April 2009) you can have dual citizenship. I’m not sure if your grandmother or parents being a citizen it will make it easier for you to apply for dual citizenship. You can Google the website and check them out..
    -Miyaka Yusheto

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