Monday, November 23, 2009

Political gotcha of the week so far

Now, I'm going to leave the specific names out of this so as not to inflame people's partisan feelings, but I thought this was a hilarious trick, very much in line with Jonah Goldberg's astute observation that if you took Sarah Palin's actual political opinions and published them without saying whose opinions they were, “many of her worst enemies would say 'that sounds about right,' and some of her biggest fans would say 'that sounds crazy.'” Politics is the place that people who want to feel smart and virtuous, but who don't want actually to invest any effort in research and moral discipline, go to rant at the Evil Persons who disagree with them and to trumpet their own self-adulation, because, as Bryan Caplan patiently and devastatingly explains, politics is the one area in life in which stupidity and unreason have literally no bad consequences whatsoever for the person who indulges in them (other than the damage done to one's own character by such indulgence).

So here's an absolutely lovely trick played on persons at a website whose commentors are predominately of one particular stripe, and who hate one particular book-writing politician (whom I'll call "George Washington") passionately, while adoring another particular book-writing politician (whom I'll call "Abe Lincoln") with equal passion. The trickster got onto the site and said something like, “Can you believe what a terrible writer this George person is? I mean, who writes sentences like this? 'The apartment was small, with slanting floors and irregular heat and a buzzer downstairs that didn’t work, so that visitors had to call ahead from a pay phone at the corner gas station, where a black Doberman the size of a wolf paced through the night in vigilant patrol, its jaws clamped around an empty beer bottle.'”

He was a big hit. The comment section immediately joined in talking about how hopelessly bad such a sentence was, with one commenter saying, “That sentence by George Washington could be entered into the annual Bulwer-Lytton bad writing contest. It could have a chance at winning a honorable mention, at any rate.”

Only after the trickster had been sufficiently amused did he let folks in on the trick: “I probably should have mentioned that the sentence quoted above was not written by George Washington. It’s taken from the first paragraph of ‘Cowgirls Wear Leather, Chaps,’ written by Abe Lincoln.”

[The Peril cackles delightedly.] To the trickster: I love you, man.