Jamie Kirchick — whose struggles with honesty have been discussed here — penned an odd column for the Politico yesterday. The argument is essentially that “the left” is hypocritical because it criticizes conservative religious extremists while "cynically" developing “a newfound love” for extremists like Wright. He writes:
Yet the left, with its healthy skepticism toward religion, has shown itself to be cynically flexible over the past few weeks in response to the utter insanities emitted from [Wright]. Suddenly, some liberals have discovered a newfound love for extremists who hide behind the cloth to justify their radical views.
That’s an interesting argument because virtually every liberal blogger I read was extremely critical of Wright’s recent narcissistic rant. For that matter, I didn't see anyone endorsing his earlier statements either (some made the analytically distinct point that it was a silly controversy). For that reason, I anxiously awaited his evidence of the “left’s” “newfound love.” He gave three — all people I’d never heard of: (1) John Nichols of The Nation, (2) Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell, and (3) former Tribune public editor Don Wycliff. Quite an impressive list. Maybe these are all liberal luminaries who I've missed over the past four years of blogging, but it seems like he should have added more beef to make such a sweeping, nasty point about so many people.
But of course he doesn't. Kirchick's column is a textbook example of writing an argument first and finding support later. I'm sure he wrote it, added some bracketed place-fillers, and then scoured Lexis to plug in someone — anyone — to justify the argument. The idea that Kirchick observed a groundswell of Wright support among liberal bloggers and then wrote about it is, frankly, absurd.
The bigger problem here, though, is the type of argument he's using (and this form of logic is, sadly, used across the political spectrum). Specifically, he's citing a few outliers to make broad, sweeping attacks against a wider group with whom he disagrees ideologically. But again, honest dealing is not Kirchick’s strong point.