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stay off my side

Timothy Egan writes a guest column in the NY Times in which he whines that Joe the Plumber got published. He starts off the article saying "I don't want you writing books," and goes on to rip the plumber to shreds, rhetorically.

And yeah, I'm not going to buy the guy's book, but... who is Timothy Egan, anyway? The "about the author" section for this column just says "Maureen Dowd is off today." Hm, looks like he's written some books, or something. What were his credentials before his first book was published, anyway?

No true progressive tells someone "I don't want you writing books." Grr.


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 9th, 2008 12:39 pm (UTC)
I know, was that the whiniest column ever? I stopped after the first paragraph but I was hoping it had a point somewhere. I guess not?
Dec. 9th, 2008 02:07 pm (UTC)
Progressives don't believe in free speech?
Dec. 9th, 2008 02:10 pm (UTC)
I assert that they do, and because he told a guy not to write a book, this guy isn't.
Dec. 9th, 2008 02:16 pm (UTC)
Well, free speech includes the right to say "Shut up!", which is different than compelling someone to shut up.
Dec. 9th, 2008 03:06 pm (UTC)
I don't disagree with his right to say "Shut up!" I just think that the fact he's willing to tell someone to shut up on the basis that they lack the credentials to write a book makes him something other than a progressive.
Dec. 9th, 2008 03:12 pm (UTC)
Though on second look, the only reason I have for thinking this guy is a self-labeled "progressive" is from the site where I originally saw this linked, at tjic's blog.

So, it all depends on who this guy is. But really, I can still be annoyed at the elitism.
Dec. 9th, 2008 03:18 pm (UTC)
"But really, I can still be annoyed at the elitism."

Because honestly, it's that elitism (perceived or imagined in most cases, but startlingly real, here) to which the great middle is so vociferously opposed.
Dec. 9th, 2008 03:44 pm (UTC)
I think that we need to start using different words for elitism and elite-ism.

I want the best of the best to be doing work like guiding the financial industry, corporations, science and the government. Does that mean I'm elitist? Or perhaps I'm a meritist.

I do not want to exclude people from endeavors because they aren't the best of the best. Even from government. But I don't want them running stuff unless they are qualified. I guess that does not make me an elite-ist. In the same vein as I'm not a racist. (Or try not to be).
Dec. 9th, 2008 10:02 pm (UTC)
You're a technocrat then, not an elitist. A technocrat wants the most "competent" to perform the task, an elitist wants someone with the right "credentials" to perform the task.
Dec. 9th, 2008 10:08 pm (UTC)
How is technocracy different from meritocracy?
Dec. 9th, 2008 10:15 pm (UTC)
A technocrat wants the "best" expert to do the task; a meritocrat wants the proven expert.

So when picking a head of FEMA, a meritocrat will look to the heads of the state emergency management agencies, or to the FEMA subchiefs, and find the proven competent expert. A technocrat will look for the technical expert on emergency management and hire them.

Dec. 9th, 2008 11:59 pm (UTC)
I suppose I should define "Best" better. I would tend to believe that in some situations I'd pike the "technical expert" and in others the "proven expert".

I actually don't see a lot of different between the two situations. If your difference is "experience", then I expect you'd understand when I say "bah." There's plenty of evidence of late to show that those with "experience" aren't all that much better at their jobs than any other choice (Fannie Mae, GM, Morgan Stanley, etc's CEOs for instance).

Edited at 2008-12-09 11:59 pm (UTC)
Dec. 9th, 2008 10:20 pm (UTC)
Ah, okay. I am not sure whether Egan is a technocrat or an elitist from that particular column (which in and of itself suggests that he's not a great writer). His objection to Palin does seem to be grounded in her being an incoherent user of the English language (which sounds like an attack on competence as a writer); his objection to Joe the Plumber seems to be more that Joe is an all-around loser. The complaint about credentials was an attack on his not having a plumber's license, which might be back towards elitist again, but I've always been told to make sure that contractors who work on my house are licensed...
Dec. 9th, 2008 03:27 pm (UTC)
Well, there are a lot of writers that I think shouldn't be published. I've written a lot of book reviews. Can't I be an elitist with progressive politics? :)

(On the other hand, my reaction tends to be more "You wrote this book and I was fool enough to read it, and I will NEVER GET THOSE HOURS BACK.")
Dec. 9th, 2008 04:31 pm (UTC)
I can tell someone not to write a book. Telling them they don't have the *right* to write a book, but "I think you're a poopyhead and shouldn't write a book" is completely different.

Honestly, I think anyone can write a book...I'm just sad that people actually will *buy* it.
Dec. 9th, 2008 04:46 pm (UTC)
Are you reading my post correctly? It sounds like you're getting the opposite of my intended meaning from it, and trying to correct me.
Dec. 9th, 2008 11:46 pm (UTC)
I am.

You're saying that someone who says "you shouldn't write a book!" isn't a progressive.

I'm saying that "saying" and "doing" are 2 different things. Trying to make it so Joe the Plumber doesn't have the *right* to write a book is not progressive. Saying whatever you want, including "Joe the Plumber is a douchenozzle" or "I don't think my sister should have children" is progressive. (and completely different from "my sister shouldn't be allowed to breed").
Dec. 9th, 2008 03:16 pm (UTC)
No True Scotsman
I commend your willingness to call BS on someone who shares the same politics but pulls a BS move - we all need to be more intellectually honest like that. So: well done!

However, I must point out the no true Scotsman fallacy. In fact, there are a lot of people who meet all the criteria for being progressives and are still douches, just as there are true conservatives, libertarians, and greens who are douches.
Dec. 9th, 2008 10:06 pm (UTC)
Re: No True Scotsman
Which leads to an interesting question - is there a correlation between personal douchehood and declaration of an edge philosophy (liberal OR conservative, vs. moderates)? Anecdotally, I feel like the answer is "yes".
Dec. 10th, 2008 02:04 am (UTC)
I'll just point out that on top of your point, he's stupid. Writing about the book, regardless of what you say, gives it publicity. And there's no such thing as bad publicity. If he were smart, he'd have ignored it.

(Remember The Bell Curve? I read it precisely because of such shrill and vitriolic attacks from people who claimed to be liberals. I doubt I, or 99% of the rest of its readers, would even have heard of it otherwise.)
Dec. 10th, 2008 02:16 am (UTC)
people who claimed to be liberals

Surely a liberal who makes an ill-advised tactical choice is still a liberal?

(Or are you actually claiming that the people claiming to be liberals were conservatives in liberal disguise intentionally getting press for the book?)
Dec. 10th, 2008 02:28 am (UTC)
Some of the rhetoric was barely this side of burn this book, and much of it essentially came down to people should not discuss the issues this book raises. I consider that illiberal.
Dec. 10th, 2008 05:31 am (UTC)
Of course, there's the assumption here that Samuel J. Wurzelbacher is actually going to write the thing. I would have assumed that he will instead be providing a job for some reasonably-qualified ghost writer, which tends to weaken Egan's point.
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )