Manzi vs. National Review.

In the midst of an ongoing discussion in the conservative blogosphere over Julian Sanchez' post on epistemic closure among conservatives, National Review's Jim Manzi performed an epic takedown of conservative commentator Mark Levin's handling of climate change. Manzi pointed out that Levin drew only from (rather questionable) sources that agreed with him in his most recent book, and failed to grapple with even the most obvious possible counterarguments.

The response from the other writers at National Review was telling. None of them offered an empirical counterargument to Manzi; they simply chided him for insufficient tribal loyalty. Here's Andy McCarthy:

...I would just observe that Jim Manzi's post on Mark Levin's widely acclaimed book is beneath him. No one minds a good debate, but Jim's gratuitously nasty tone — "awful," "Trilateral Commission," "wingnuttery," etc. — is just breathtaking. I've read a number of Jim's articles and posts over the years, including more than a few involving exchanges with other writers. He has always struck me as a model of civility, especially in his disagreements with the Left. Why pick Mark for the Pearl Harbor treatment?

McCarthy has accused lawyers in the Justice Department of deliberately working on behalf of al-Qaeda. Manzi accuses Levin of "wingnuttery," and McCarthy reaches for the fainting couch. Katherine Jean-Lopez has a similar reaction:

He's heard a lot worse and can handle his own battles, but as one who has followed Mark's career, I found Jim's tone deeply disappointing. Especially at a time when Liberty actually is endangered and Mark Levin is not to blame.

Manzi's sin wasn't being wrong; it was being intellectually honest in criticism of someone on his own team. Which really just proves Sanchez' original point about conservative reality being fragile because it's narrowly defined by sources of information that don't contradict established political doctrine. Manzi popped the hermetic seal for a brief moment, and his colleagues couldn't handle it.


-- A. Serwer

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