In response to Abe Rosenthal's defense of the NY Times's providing neocon propagandist Bill Kristol a column on "free-speech" grounds, Mark Crispin Miller responds:
Showcasing Kristol's "views" might be acceptable if they had not been
catastrophically discredited by (what one might dare call) reality. His
lousy record as a pundit should be quite sufficient to disqualify him for
this job. But that's not all that weighs against him here. There's his blunt
"view" that the Times should have been prosecuted for reporting news
unpleasant to the Bush administration. That's no mere innocuous opinion,
but a chirp of fascism; and fascism is, or certainly should be, beyond the
realm of tolerable opinion.
Or is it just a matter of conflicting "views," all equally acceptable on the
op-ed page of The New York Times? If so, the truth is quite irrelevant;
and so the Times should also offer columns to some prominent creationist
(why not Pat Robertson?), and some professed racist (why not David Duke?),and also an established Holocaust denier (how about David Irving?). They too have the right to air their "views"; and, if anyone objects, that too can be dismissed as mere intolerance.
It's not a question of different angles on the truth or of reasonable people agreeing or disagreeing; it's a question of why some people are considered legitimate and others are not. It has often been pointed out how the people who were wrong about the Iraq War have not been discredited or delegitimized in any way, and that our mainstream media institutions have not turned instead to those who were right. Why do you think that might be? What is it that legitimizes or delegitimizes certain people and delegitimizes others?
It's not a question of of the Times providing a platform for conservatives to balance the platform it gives Liberals like Krugman. There are responsible, principled, reasonable conservative voices out there, but Kristol's is not one of them. Neoconservatism in general has proved bankrupt. Kristol is a propagandist to be distinguished from Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter only by his slick, erudite style and lack of a sense of humor. Limbaugh and Coulter, at least, are over-the-top entertainers and good for, if nothing else, a laugh.
So why is Kristol considered legitimate? Or to ask the question from the other side: What opinions or views can you hold that put you across the line into illegitimate territory? Why are Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul on the other side of that line? Why is Thompson permitted to debate in New Hampshire, but not Paul, for instance? Why is is it ok for almost everyone to tee off on Mike Huckabee? Again, it's not a question of agreeing or disagreeing; it's a question of why the media legitimizes some people by giving them a platform and denies it to others--or if it can't deny the platform, it does what it can to delegitimate them by mockery.
Who is it that draws the lines that defines everyone on this side as serious, but everyone on the other side as unserious? Why does Kristol get to stand on the side of the line considered "serious"? Why is it that he can say the things he has said and not be mocked for his idiocy? Why was George Bush, certainly one of the more mockable politicians in our history, was never mocked in the 2000 election, while Al Gore was mocked mercilessly. Is it possible to believe that was no media agenda here? It was just that a substantive person like Gore was inherently mockable and a buffoon like George Bush was not?
So with regard to Kristol, it's not a question of whether he is right or wrong on the merits of his arguments and I doubt that he cares. It doesn't matter whether he proves right or wrong in the long run; it only matters that at the time a decision is made that benefits the interests he represents that decision appear to be a legitimate one.The lawyer defending the guilty client doesn't care about being right or wrong on the merits; he only cares about winning the case. And so for a guy like Kristol, it only matters that his advocate role give an air of legitimacy to whatever the militarist bloc within the U.S. establishment finds congenial.
It's not a matter of what is in the public's interest or what's right or wrong. It only matters that this power bloc have well-positioned propagandists to provide the appearance of legitimacy to its agenda, regardless whether it's in the broader public interest. In order for the agenda to appear legitimate, it's important to insure its spokespersons retain the image of legitimacy. Giving Kristol this platform at the Times accomplishes that very neatly. Whatever role commercial motivations might play (e.g., he's a controversialist who will attract readers), the Times is colluding with the parties that are promoting that failed militarist agenda that all sane Americans should be repudiating. So why is the Times rewarding him instead with a platform? It's part of what's called "managed consent", and most of us are too willing to be managed in this way.
And so it's not a question of agreeing or disagreeing--it's a question of legitimate or illegitimate. Do we think of David Duke, to use Miller's example, as someone we agree
or disagree with--or is he someone we repudiate as outside the bounds of legitimacy? Duke has a right to his opinions, but we have a right to perceive them as illegitimate nonsense. And so should Kristol's discredited, pernicious neoconservatism disqualify him from being being considered a legitimate voice.
If you even for a moment wonder why I am asking these questions, it's a signal to what degree you have accepted the media establishment's frame for what is left and right, what is legitimate or not legitimate. It's to say that I must take Kristol seriously not on the merits of his body of work, but because the mainstream media, for its own motivations, takes him seriously. The first step for any kind of clear thinking is to recognize and repudiate that frame--it's corrupt to the core.
For the Times to give a propagandist like Kristol a platform means that it is colluding with his agenda. If you are NY Times management, you don't do that unless either you've been conned or you're fundamentally sympathetic to the agenda. Which do you think is the more likely explanation?