Monday, June 12, 2006

Getting it Right

I'm quite glad that the blogosphere is chipping away at the reign of the Elite Pundit. For too long people with dubious expertise and track records have been opining with little accountability about the events of the day. What's weird is that despite their tenured role of making the news and its implications understandable to the rest of the great unwashed they seem to have little memory and little interest in the question of whether they ever actually do a good job at that. Greg Sargent has more:

I don't know, I kinda think being right on such matters as whether to fight a war might be important. Particularly if you're Tom Friedman, the man whom wavering liberals trusted more than anyone else in the galaxy to interpret the Middle East for them in the runup to the Iraq war. Whether you were right about that or not should tell us a thing or two about the soundness of your judgments and doctrines. Yet in Friedman's world, those who were right about Iraq couldn't possibly have been motivated by reason or sound thinking. No, they were driven by emotion: they "hated" the war.

Note how tidily this absolves Friedman from his own catastrophic failures of judgment and doctrine: It's as if those who did what people place their trust in him to do -- that is, get it right -- almost hit on the right position by accident, as if their emotions drove them to take a position that just happened to coincide with eventual reality.

Similarly, those same people who now are calling the war a failure want to "give up." Friedman is obviously saying that residual feelings over the argument about whether to invade shouldn't color our assessment of what to do right now. But his assertions are unwittingly revealing. He simply can't imagine that those who are ready to write off this horrible and costly venture are motivated by sound judgment or a clear reading of factual reality. Just as they were in the runup, they're now in the grips of another bad emotion, defeatism.

To be clear I'm not anti-expert and nor am I anti-generalist. I appreciate those who have skill at communicating their expertise to the general public and I also appreciate those who take the time and effort to educate themselves on a wide variety of subjects (I don't think you have to be a credentialed expert in a particular subject to have smart things to say about it). But Tom Friedman has decided that his opinion matters because he's Tom Friedman and his powers of analysis and prognostication are automatically superior to his critics.