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.