08 Mar 2012

More Blogging Is Safer Blogging

Steve Landsburg 78 Comments

Steven Landsburg is drawing heat from the president of the University of Rochester over Steve’s posts on the Limbaugh/Fluke fiasco. (If anyone is concerned, I checked with Steve to see if we should all just let this issue die away, and he basically told me, “Bring it on” [not in so many words].)

First, to avoid the same trap that ensnared Steve, let me be clear: I don’t think the UofR president should have said anything about it, and of course he is doing so because “politically correct” people are complaining. Also, I have been reading Steve’s stuff for years and I didn’t think anything he wrote was outrageous.

Having said that, many of Steve’s loyal fans are being quite obtuse in their over-the-top defenses of him. I can totally understand why some of his more recent readers–or people who never heard of him but were pointed to his Fluke comments by outraged people–were shocked at his initial post.

I’m bringing this point up because this type of thing happens a lot when there is a public controversy. People quickly rush to their preferred outposts, and then heap massive sarcasm and exaggeration on their opponents. This is bad for both sides, because (a) it’s unfair to the opponents and (b) actually makes it harder for the reasonable people on one’s own team reach out to the reasonable people on the other side.

So let me get specific. In the comments of Steve’s post about the president’s statement, I said:

Well, I think your longtime readers know “what you meant” Steve, but jeez when RL calls a law student a “slut” and a “prostitute,” you probably should be a little clearer when rushing to his defense. (Again, you didn’t defend *those words*, but my sentence is perfectly accurate as to what happened.)

Probably (though not necessarily) responding to me, a subsequent commenter said:

KenB, I think you nailed it. We all know that ignoring 95% of a news story to focus on the economics and logic is part of Landsburg’s shtick. But to some people, any discussion of Limbaugh’s statements that doesn’t include a denouncement of his degrading tirade against Fluke is tantamount to being completely on his side.

Now THIS is what I’m claiming, is complete BS. This guy is making it sound like Landsburg meekly said, “Well you know, in this whole Rush Limbaugh thing, what’s important to focus on is the equivalence of insurer mandates and wealth redistribution. So let’s talk about when it makes sense to make others bear some of the cost of…”

Except no, that’s not what Steve did. If he had done that, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Instead, what happened is that Steve posted a blog with the title “Rush to Judgment.” OK? Steve didn’t call it, “When is it proper to make others share costs?” No, when Steve is trying to summarize what his post is about, he decided to characterize it as his defense of Limbaugh from the criticism of others. With that title, here is how Steve then proceeded (my bold):

Rush Limbaugh is under fire for responding in trademark fashion to the congressional testimony of Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, who wants you to pay for her contraception. If the rest of us are to share in the costs of Ms. Fluke’s sex life, says Rush, we should also share in the benefits, via the magic of online video. For this, Rush is accused of denying Ms. Fluke her due respect.

But while Ms. Fluke herself deserves the same basic respect we owe to any human being, her position — which is what’s at issue here — deserves none whatseover. It deserves only to be ridiculed, mocked and jeered. To treat it with respect would be a travesty. I expect there are respectable arguments for subsidizing contraception (though I am skeptical that there are arguments sufficiently respectable to win me over), but Ms. Fluke made no such argument. All she said, in effect, was that she and others want contraception and they don’t want to pay for it.

To his credit, Rush stepped in to provide the requisite mockery. To his far greater credit, he did so with a spot-on analogy: If I can reasonably be required to pay for someone else’s sex life (absent any argument about externalities or other market failures), then I can reasonably demand to share in the benefits. His dense and humorless critics notwithstanding, I am 99% sure that Rush doesn’t actually advocate mandatory on-line sex videos. What he advocates is logical consistency and an appreciation for ethical symmetry. So do I. Color me jealous for not having thought of this analogy myself.

Some could be forgiven for construing the above as Steve’s basic endorsement of what Rush said, not merely absence of evidence that Steve was shaken deeply to his core by the obvious mistreatment of a woman.

Oh wait, I spoke too soon. Steve then did go on to criticize Rush for calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute.” Phew! Some of us were worried. I guess the UofR president didn’t read this part of Steve’s post:

There’s one place where I part company with Rush, though: He wants to brand Ms. Fluke a “slut” because, he says, she’s demanding to be paid for sex. There are two things wrong here. First, the word “slut” connotes (to me at least) precisely the sort of joyous enthusiasm that would render payment superfluous. A far better word might have been “prostitute” (or a five-letter synonym therefor), but that’s still wrong because Ms. Fluke is not in fact demanding to be paid for sex. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) She will, as I understand it, be having sex whether she gets paid or not. Her demand is to be paid. The right word for that is something much closer to “extortionist”. Or better yet, “extortionist with an overweening sense of entitlement”. Is there a single word for that?

And then, just to make sure Steve lets us know what the real issue is here, he concludes the post like this:

But whether or not he chose the right word, what I just don’t get is why the pro-respect crowd is aiming all its fire at Rush. Which is more disrespectful — his harsh language or Sandra Fluke’s attempt to pick your pocket? That seems like a pretty clear call to me.

Love him or hate him, it’s your call. But don’t tell me we are supposed to think Steve was on-board with everybody who thought Rush was totally out of line for using those terms, and that Steve simply failed to mention the obvious.

I also note that my above commentary is also applicable to the half a dozen people at Landsburg’s blog who said, “The president obviously didn’t read your posts Steve!” No guys, the president obviously did read Steve’s posts; he had to know how bad the damage control was going to be, for one thing. And after reading the above commentary, the president would quite understandably say, “Holy cr*p Landsburg, you wrote that?? Do you know how many phone calls I’m going to get now?!”

And now since I’m complaining, how about this blogger’s attempt to spin things around and make Landsburg’s critics into anti-feminists?

[UofR prez:] “We are here to educate, to nurture, to inspire, not to engage in character assassination.” [Blogger defending Landsburg:] Where’s the character assassination? Landsburg disagreed with the policy Sandra Fluke promoted. In Congress. Professors have the obligation to “nurture” and “inspire” her from afar by refraining from taking on her ideas? Is that some special kid-gloves treatment for women? Ironically, that would be sexist. Should we be patting the female political activist on the head and murmuring good for you for speaking up? That is dismissive. It’s better feminism to react to what a woman in politics says and to respond to her with full force the way you would to a man. And that’s what Landsburg did…

Again, no, that’s not at all what happened here. Limbaugh attacked a person he disagreed with in a way quite specific to her sex. I don’t recall Limbaugh calling any of the guys who support the coverage “gigolos.” So no, Limbaugh didn’t respond the way he would have to a man. Limbaugh wouldn’t have asked for a man to post videos of him having sex (even though, unless the guy were gay, that would still involve the same type of show). But in that case, it wouldn’t have been as funny/entertaining, and that’s why Limbaugh wouldn’t have said it. The joke only worked because it was a young woman saying those things. If it had been a 50-year-old woman, Rush might have made a different joke about “who the heck would want to sleep with her?” or something like that, but it wouldn’t have been the same joke.

And, in regards to Limbaugh saying she should post video online, Steve was upset that he hadn’t thought of that argument himself.

Last thing: Rush Limbaugh has said way more controversial stuff in the past. I actually don’t understand why this particular thing ignited such a firestorm.

78 Responses to “More Blogging Is Safer Blogging”

  1. P.S. Huff says:

    What? Althouse was talking about Landsburg, not Limbaugh.

    “I don’t recall Limbaugh calling any of the guys who support the coverage ‘gigolos.’ So no, Limbaugh didn’t respond the way he would have to a man.”

    Actually, if the mandate covered condoms for men, and a 30-year-old male student testified in favor of it on the ground that he couldn’t afford to purchase all the condoms he needed, Limbaugh might well have called him a “gigolo.” That remark, by the way, would not have raised any significant controversy.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      It would have if the guy were gay. (Your point about selective outrage is still right.)

      And I know Althouse was talking about Landsburg: Landsburg said he wished he had come up with Rush’s “spot on” analogy. The analogy would have been spot-off if it were Alan Dershowitz testifying. So Landsburg didn’t at all treat this situation the same way he would have, if it hadn’t been a young woman doing the testifying.

      • P.S. Huff says:

        It would have been “spot off” because Alan Dershowitz is not being subsidized. I think you just mean the joke wouldn’t work, but that’s a separate issue, no?

        • Bob Murphy says:

          PS Huff no, if Alan Dershowitz had gone to Congress and said, “I want you to force my employer to pay for my condoms,” and then Rush had said, “If we’re going to pay for it, we should at least get to see video of it,” then that wouldn’t have worked. Because there would be no “benefit” the way there is a benefit in older men watching a young woman. And this was the very statement Landsburg said he wished he had come up with.

          So, Althouse is wrong when he (?) says Landsburg treated this situation dispassionately, and the critics are demanding special treatment of Fluke because she’s a woman.

          • P.S. Huff says:

            Ann Althouse is a female law professor.

            Landsburg liked the joke because it illustrated, in this particular context, the principle of reciprocity. In the situation you describe, the joke would not have worked; but I’m reasonably confident Landsburg would still have objected to the subsidy-seeker’s feeling of entitlement.

            • Bob Murphy says:

              PS Huff wrote:

              Landsburg liked the joke because it illustrated, in this particular context, the principle of reciprocity. In the situation you describe, the joke would not have worked; but I’m reasonably confident Landsburg would still have objected to the subsidy-seeker’s feeling of entitlement.

              Translation: Yes Bob, now I totally agree with you that Landsburg’s response was utterly dependent on Fluke being a young woman.

            • P.S. Huff says:

              “I totally agree with you that Landsburg’s response was utterly dependent on Fluke being a young woman.”

              You mean “a young woman or a young (heterosexual) man”? If you’re referring to that little segment of his response, then that is true as far as it goes. But so what? Do you think Landsburg would be less enthusiastic about a similarly on-point joke involving Alan Dershowitz?

              • Bob Murphy says:

                PS Huff wrote:

                Do you think Landsburg would be less enthusiastic about a similarly on-point joke involving Alan Dershowitz?

                Am I in the Twilight Zone? By the same token, nobody should get upset at Rush. He didn’t call Obama a slut for apologizing to foreign leaders for US military policy. I mean, what the heck? Rush only used that joke because it worked in this case. If the joke wouldn’t have worked, then we can all agree Rush would have chosen a different joke. So we shouldn’t get mad.

              • P.S. Huff says:

                The point is that this line of mockery is only logically coherent with respect to young people. The fact, then, that it would only be used of a young person is not evidence of a special inclination to mock young people (or, as you prefer to describe the class, young women).

                The reason the joke works with respect to someone like Fluke and not with respect to someone like Dershowitz is not that Limbaugh was appealing to some deeply-entrenched societal prejudice that only young people should be required to videotape themselves having sex (!). As you yourself pointed out, there would be no reciprocal “benefit” to (a rather base portion of) “society.”

                For the record, I thought Limbaugh’s sex-tapes comment was crass and inappropriate. That, however, does not make it sexist or “ageist.” It just makes it boorish.

      • Ken B says:

        Althouse wrote ” It’s better feminism to react to what a woman in politics says and to respond to her with full force the way you would to a man. And that’s what Landsburg did…”

        and you retorted “So no, Limbaugh didn’t respond the way he would have to a man.”

        Pretty convincing evidence you did misread and thought she was talking about Limbaugh .

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Ken B: You are too credulous then. I was establishing that Limbaugh was basing his response on her status as a young woman, and then reminded everyone that IN THIS CAPACITY Landsburg wished he had beaten Limbaugh to the punch.

          For the record, Ken B, though it seems you really don’t want to see it: Steve didn’t say, “Aww shucks, Rush beat me to the punch in pointing out that this woman wants others to subsidize her.”

          No, Landsburg lamented that Rush was the one to come up with the spot-on observation that Fluke should post videos if she expects us to pick up the tab.

          And so, does that observation work if Fluke is anything other than a young woman (and it helps that she’s a student, because that is closer to typical male fantasies)? No it does not.

          My gosh I feel like I’m spending 10 minutes explaining how “Who’s On First?” works.

          • Ken B says:

            Bob, I get the point, just as I note you replace ‘analogy’ with ‘observation’, subtly shifting the meaning. SL was explicit: sharing in the benefits of any subsidy. My remark here (you have not replied to my more substantive comments) was directed to the apparent confusion of SL and RL in your grammar. ‘So no, Limbaugh ..’ suggests a conclusion reasoned about Limbaugh. If you say you were clear in your mind I believe you; your pixels were less clear.

            • Gene Callahan says:

              “you have not replied to my more substantive comments”

              You have yet to make those, Ken. Bob can’t respond to future remarks, but only to the vaporous comments you have posted so far.

  2. Eric Evans says:

    “Rush Limbaugh has said way more controversial stuff in the past. I actually don’t understand why this particular thing ignited such a firestorm.”

    Forgotten about that whole election season thingie so soon? It’s that time of year where politicians and the media hold a match under the crotch of every -ism and see which groups notice their pants are hot. Right now it’s the feminists and the Catholics and, conveniently, the controversy kept us all occupied (no pun intended) while HR 347 quietly made its way into law.

  3. Dan Hewitt says:

    1) Rush Limbaugh made a great analogy about the videos. We always hear from the left that benefits should be shared with those that incur the costs – see Elizabeth Warren:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLXVcdwcgZg&feature=related

    2) Rush Limbaugh was an a**hole for calling Fluke those names.

    I thought that Steve Landsburg did a great job of keeping these two points separate. He explicitly said that Fluke herself deserves respect but her position does not. How much clearer could he have stated it Bob?

    • Ken B says:

      @DH: he could have added a long winded denunciation of any pejorative use of any epithet. His crime is that he did not.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        Ken B wrote:

        His crime is that he did not.

        Fine, Ken B., ignore 95% of Landsburg’s post.

        • Ken B says:

          Actually I looked through 100% of his post, and in none of it did he ostentiously dismiss the use of any sexual slur or innuendo.

          Let’s try an experiment. Insert this phrase into SL’s first post at an obvious place: “Rush’s use of terms like slut is reprehensible in any case. No-one should ever use sexual slurs to demean an adversary. Not only that but he can’t even get the definitions right ..” Would we be having this argument? Then the your complaint is an implicit demand that such disclaimers be included. That is what I object to. That disclaimer is operfectly correct. I would have included it. I don’t think I should be required to.

          • Dan says:

            If he put in that disclaimer his post wouldn’t of made sense. He liked the crass joke about having the girl post pornos of herself for everybody to watch. How does your disclaimer fit when he says he wished he came up with that analogy?

  4. Daniel Kuehn says:

    Why should the rest of us opine but not the president of UR, exactly?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Daniel because it’s his boss and would make other faculty less likely to opine. You seem to recognize the problem when it comes to the Heritage Foundation.

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        Am I taking crazy pills, or is there a massive difference between a college president speaking out against what he considers to be “demeaning” a student, and a college president speaking out against Landsburg’s views on health care in the U.S.. Because he was outraged at the former, not the latter Bob.

        If Ed Feulner, the Heritage president, called out his researchers because he felt that they had demeaned someone else, I would be 100% OK with that. That’s very different from calling out his researchers for drawing conclusions in their research that he doesn’t agree with.

        You let me know when the president of UR publicly denounces Landsburg for holding the views he does on health care in the U.S, and I will be right there with you suggesting that it’s some kind of threat to academic freedom.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Except Steve didn’t demean the student that would justify the college president speaking out against Landsburg.

          The college President is taking his anger at Limbaugh’s demeaning of the student, and transferring it to Steve as if he made the comments too, probably because Steve isn’t shouting from the rooftops that Limbaugh was out of line, and probably to cover his own arse against potential criticisms of the form “Why aren’t you publicly condemning Landsburg’s comments? What, do YOU agree with Limbaugh too?!”

          Since Steve didn’t demean Ms. Fluke in his article, since he was really only addressing the ethics of what she is saying, the UofR president publicly condemning Landsburg is the equivalent of the president speaking out against Landsburg’s views on healthcare.

          • Daniel Kuehn says:

            Well the president and Steve are welcome to argue over whether the president’s accusation holds water. The point is, it seems to be a reasonable concern for a president to voice to his professors.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              Well the president and Steve are welcome to argue over whether the president’s accusation holds water.

              But we can do that too because we can read Steve’s post.

              I think the take away point here is that if we agree that it is better for a college president to respect his employees’ intellectual freedom, and that speaking out and not respecting it is warranted when an employee demeans a student, then because Landsburg didn’t demean a student, the president should have followed the dictum of allowing Landsburg his academic freedom.

              • Daniel Kuehn says:

                “But we can do that too because we can read Steve’s post.”

                OK – but you’d be arguing with yourself. I have no interest in arguing that point. I was simply responding to Bob’s point, and suggesting that academic freedom does not imply mute administrators.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                OK – but you’d be arguing with yourself.

                I don’t see how that follows. You said Landsburg and the President can debate the President’s accusations. OK, fine. I was simply responding to that point, and suggesting that readers can also debate his accusations, since we can read what Landsburg wrote too.

                I was simply responding to Bob’s point, and suggesting that academic freedom does not imply mute administrators.

                Of course, but is that what Bob is calling for? Mute administrators? Or administrators who only refrain from speaking out against a professor’s arguments on particular academic matters, like healthcare and politics? I am sure Murphy would have no problems with administrators speaking out against professors who, say, call for the murder of all redheads.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Thanks for proving the point of my post, Daniel. You and I have an understandable disagreement, and you exaggerate your side to make me look bad. (I probably did the same by linking to your Heritage post.)

          The UofR president did bring “policy” into it, by the total tangent on prostitution. Other libertarian (or even socialist, for that matter) faculty members who think prostitution ought to be legalized are probably going to wait a few months before bringing those views out into the open.

          • Daniel Kuehn says:

            Ya – I did notice the prostitution thing, which could be considered a policy statement. He wasn’t outraged that Landsburg was OK with prostitution – presumably there are lots of academics that are OK with prostitution. Deans and presidents can express their views too.

            Seriously though Bob – do you think other academics who support the legalization of prostitution at UR will say “my president clearly has a chip on his shoulder about prostitution legalization – I better keep my mouth shut”, or do you think they will say “my president is fine with expressing views on different subjects including legalizing prostitution, but when I do that I probably shouldn’t call an individual student who is clearly not a prostitute, a prostitute”.

            Honestly Bob – what’s the takeaway here? UR professors should not support the legalization of prostitution or UR professors should not call individuals prostitutes?

        • Silas Barta says:

          Would it be good enough if I pointed out a case where the president of UR denounced Landsburg for holding the views he does on prostitution?

          Cause he did that.

    • Ken B says:

      DK: The complaint is not that he opined but that he did it on his official stationery.

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        Yes, if you’re scolding those you manage, doing it in an official capacity is typically the most effective way of doing it.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          DK actually killing them with a drone is best.

        • Ken B says:

          Effective is not the problem, quite the reverse. Fair and appropriate are what’s at issue. Was SL engaging in his offical duties? is it OK for your boss to scold you on his official letterhead for how you conduct your non-work affairs?

          I think Bob makes the same point about ‘effective’ with the drones, but I’m never sure with Bob.

          • Gene Callahan says:

            “is it OK for your boss to scold you on his official letterhead for how you conduct your non-work affairs?”

            Absolutely. Bosses do it all the time. Of course, not if you do something in your own living room, but if you do something on a very public blog, a blog upon which you advertise your connection with the institution in question, absolutely.

            My wife works at a bank, and you wouldn’t believe the things they require of her. (She can’t, for instance, have any brokerage account… nor can I, for that matter!)

  5. Bob Murphy says:

    This is awesome! Every single person–both “right” and “left”–has disagreed with this post so far. I’m hoping Landsburg and the UofR president will both chime in and say I’m wrong, too.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      But don’t tell me we are supposed to think Steve was on-board with everybody who thought Rush was totally out of line for using those terms, and that Steve simply failed to mention the obvious.

      Maybe I’m confused but, didn’t Steve say that Rush’s choice of words were in fact out of line? He said both slut and prostitute were the wrong words.

      Or are you saying that because Steve just isn’t going ape$#*t at Limbaugh, but is praising his overall reaction, that it would be wrong to put Steve in the same category of people who are totally against Rush’s entire rant emotionally and intellectually? If that’s what you’re saying, I’ll agree.

      I also agree that Steve’s defenders are misleadingly making it seem like he is Limbaugh’s nemesis, when it is more like a case of a couple of professional baseball teammates, one of whom utters, say, a racial slur that is picked up by reporters, and results in a public outcry, and the other teammate coming to his buddy’s defense, agreeing with him in principle, but telling reporters that he would have just used different words to describe the same sentiment. Then, that teammates’ politically correct fans rush to his defense, saying we’re supposed to believe that the defending teammate is somehow on the same side as the team’s closest competitors in the standings, as if meekly saying he’d have used different words somehow makes it as if he’s not on that team at all.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        MF wrote:

        Maybe I’m confused but, didn’t Steve say that Rush’s choice of words were in fact out of line? He said both slut and prostitute were the wrong words.

        Maybe Daniel should pass me the crazy pills…

        Yes MF, I specifically acknowledged that Steve said they were the wrong words. But not because he recognized it was inappropriate to use sexually charged words to mock the testimony of a young woman. No, Steve was just parsing the definitions and concluding that they didn’t quite fit. Then Steve went on to say she should be called an extortionist, etc., and later settled on the “brilliant” term “contraceptive sponge.”

        So again, if you want so say, “Grow up, everybody, she’s a big girl, she should be able to handle some jokes,” OK that’s a coherent position. But don’t try to say Landsburg distanced himself from the terms and focused on the substance of the argument. Landsburg obviously had no problem with the concept of what Rush was doing, he rather thought those jokes didn’t quite hit the mark (in contrast to the “spot on” video joke).

        And btw, these were jokes. Like I said in the post, Rush has said things that I personally found more offensive in the past, like saying the Abu Gharaib soldiers were just “blowing off steam” etc. With the Fluke thing Rush made jokes that were in poor taste, while I agreed with his basic premise, whereas in other areas I am horrified at his actual policy position and the moral view it implies.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          I specifically acknowledged that Steve said they were the wrong words. But not because he recognized it was inappropriate to use sexually charged words to mock the testimony of a young woman.

          OK I get what you’re saying now.

          But what if I drew your attention to something else that Steve said in the same post:

          “But while Ms. Fluke herself deserves the same basic respect we owe to any human being, her position — which is what’s at issue here — deserves none whatseover.”

          That to me says that he thinks it is wrong to mock anyone on the basis of their age or gender, and that the real issue is her intellectual position on contraceptives and politics, so I dispute your claim that Steve said they were the wrong words “but not because he recognized it was inappropriate to use sexually charged words to mock the testimony of a young woman.”

          I think he made it clear that he does indeed recognize that it is in fact wrong to mock people on the basis of their gender. He said all individuals deserve the same respect!

          The way you are interpreting Steve’s words would suggest that we would all have to believe Landsburg is like Limbaugh when it comes to calling people names, laughing and elbow tapping each other at their expense. But I think Steve made it clear that he parts company with Rush on the name calling and that he is against mocking Fluke by using gender infused insults.

          BTW, did you even read the second and third paragraphs I wrote? I fell over backwards defending your other arguments.

    • Silas Barta says:

      FWIW, I agree with your point about how Landsburg should have leveled the legit criticisms he did have.

  6. david nh says:

    Perhaps I am missing something. Landsburg’s implicit point, I would have thought, along with Don Boudreaux’s in another post on this topic, was the following: people who are in truth advocating violence (albeit to be conducted on their behalf by their agent, the state) are not entitled to kid-gloves treatment or to coddling. They are not speaking even remotely from the moral high ground. It is simply grotesque that a student at an elite law school believes she is entitled to have her birth control paid for by others and moreover that she is prepared to appear before Congress to proclaim her sense of entitlement (greed by another name) and lack of self-reliance to the world. This is worthy of respect?

    Rush Limbaugh is not the agressor here, she is.

    The state has advanced to the extent it has because we as a society have found it convenient not to recognize such advocacy for what it is and to allow advocates of taking via the the state to present themselves as somehow noble or “well-intentioned”.

  7. RPLong says:

    Just curious, Murphy… Why are you weighing in on this issue in this particular way? It seems like you’re not making an economic point or a political point, but rather simply saying that Landsburg lacks tact. You might be right, but what’s the point?

    • Rick Hull says:

      My guess is, he’s watching this unfold and can’t *not* blog about it. There’s an angle he sees that seems quite pertinent but no one else is talking about it.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      RPLong what’s the point of your comment? I don’t see any implications for economics in your comment, hence I wonder why you typed it?

      (See what I did there?)

      • RPLong says:

        Sorry, about that Bob. I’m really not trying to give you a hard time, I’m just genuinely curious what your angle is.

        • Gene Callahan says:

          Maybe he likes people to be polite?

          • Bob Murphy says:

            Gene Callahan wrote:

            Maybe he likes people to be polite?

            Well yeah, I do, but that’s not what drove this particular post. Landsburg’s stance on Rush wasn’t what I would have written, but it would be a boring world if everybody wrote the same blog posts I would have written. I understand Steve’s personality, sense of humor, etc. and his first post made my eyebrow shoot up but that’s about it.

            What made me write this post were the defenders (like Ken B.) on Steve’s blog who thought Steve was being unfairly tarnished for failing to state that he thought Limbaugh was out of line with “offensive” remarks. I’m saying, 99% of new readers of that first post wouldn’t have concluded that Steve disapproved of what Limbaugh said.

            (I’m not even saying Steve should have disapproved; that’s how modest I’m keeping my stance here. I’m saying that it is far from clear that Steve disapproved, and yet Steve’s shock troops are actually saying, “He didn’t read your post Steve!”)

    • Ken B says:

      @RPL: he thinks he has an interesting insight. He did mention he was on crazy pills.

      @RPM: I think in a very mild way RPL did to you what you are defending.

  8. Ken B says:

    Bob, I am going to conflate 2 comments I left at TBQ; they needed a little tidying up.

    @Bob Murphy:
    “Like you, I find it odd that Steve’s defenders are saying, “He specifically said Rush shouldn’t have used those words!” when Steve’s objection wasn’t the use per se, just that they didn’t quite fit.”

    You shouldn’t. Demanding that I condemn not just the words used in the case at hand, but that I also ostenatatiously denounce every and any such use of those words is a deamnd that I prove my worthiness to be part of the debate. It is the equivalent of a loyalty oath. I will no more consent to genuflect to prove my worthiness to debate than I will demand you genuflect to prove yours.

    Consider an example. Say I drag up an anti-semitic quote along the lines of ‘he is a blood sucking vampire like all jew bankers’ and I riposte, “No, that cannot be true; I saw his reflection in a mirror just this morning.” According to my lights I have used a modicum of wit to pwn the bigot, and make him look a fool. Your argument implies I think it’s ok to call other Jewish bankers blood sucking vampires, and deserve condemnation. I reject that.

    We all see that Steve sidestepped the issue of condemning such language. As one poster noted Steve often sidesteps emotionally provocative stuff to concentrate on the logic.. the evocative term he used was that is ‘Landsburg’ schtick’ He does this not to endorse the slurs but to somewhat flamboyantly call attention to his argument.

    The same literate commenter used the term ‘conceit’. That explains Landsburg’s post. Like a poem by Herbert there is an underlying trick around which Steve’s exposition is organized. It is this: I will reject Limbaugh’s language but instead of posturing I will *ta-da* end up with a different bit of mockery, viz ‘extortionist with an overwheening sense of entitlement.’

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Ken B.: Ah, at long last, you are actually doing something besides reiterating the points I’ve been trying to refute. I like this a lot:

      Consider an example. Say I drag up an anti-semitic quote along the lines of ‘he is a blood sucking vampire like all jew bankers’ and I riposte, “No, that cannot be true; I saw his reflection in a mirror just this morning.” According to my lights I have used a modicum of wit to pwn the bigot, and make him look a fool. Your argument implies I think it’s ok to call other Jewish bankers blood sucking vampires, and deserve condemnation. I reject that.

      OK, now allow me to make two changes to make your example more analogous to Landburg’s current predicament:

      (1) The year is 1935 and we are in Berlin. A popular media figure calls someone a “blood sucking vampire Jew.” Half the country sides with the media figure, and half denounces him.

      (2) Then you riposte, “Actually, I disagree with that terminology. I checked and that person is an Italian Catholic.” And you do this “pwning” of the bigot in a blog post entitled, “Let’s Be Fair With the Fuerher.”

      If people didn’t know much about you and your overall views, would it be understandable if people thought you sided with the half of the country who agreed with the original media figure?

      In other words, the reason your original analogy made your intended point so well, is that nowadays it is clear that people aren’t supposed to say that about Jewish people. But as so many people defending Rush are evidence of, it’s not nearly as obvious in the Fluke case.

      • Ken B says:

        Bob: You messed with my punchline. The joke is a joke at all because there are no vampires. I quite agree if my joke had been ‘but he’s not circumcised’ it would constitute an *endorsement* of the slur in some significant fashion. You would be right in that case. My joke DIMISSES and MOCKS the original slur.

        Let me mess up your joke:
        “Ah, at long last, you are actually doing something besides reiterating the points I’ve been FAILING to refute”

        Actually, that’s better! :)

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Ken B. wrote:

          Bob: You messed with my punchline. The joke is a joke at all because there are no vampires. I quite agree if my joke had been ‘but he’s not circumcised’ it would constitute an *endorsement* of the slur in some significant fashion.

          Checkmate.

      • Ken B says:

        Lemme expand on how my joke works, because the point is relevant. The joke turns on litotes. I deny the absurd part of the statement in a serious way, as if I were taking the slur as a serious contention. That ironaicl understatement shows up its absurdity, and by inference my disapprobation. In the version where I say I saw not his reflection in the washroom mirror but his foreskin I am not pointing up the absurdity, so my joke does not imply disapprobation. The fact that I play along implies approbation. That is why your messing with my punchline REVERSES the inference to be drawn.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Oh Ken B., I totally get how your joke works. But that’s not how Landsburg’s joke worked. As you said above:

          Bob: You messed with my punchline. The joke is a joke at all because there are no vampires. I quite agree if my joke had been ‘but he’s not circumcised’ it would constitute an *endorsement* of the slur in some significant fashion.

          You hang out at Landsburg’s blog, I read your comments a lot. You are a logical guy. Surely you will either (a) retract the above statement or (b) congratulate me on a good game.

          • Ken B says:

            Bob: I always congratulate the loser on a good game! Good game Bob.

            I do think I see your point better. You are arguing riffing on the slut thing IN ALMOST ANY WAY sort of endorses it. I agree that riffing on it is SOME WAYS does. One of RL’s minions suggest ’round heels’ I recall for example. I don’t think SL’s riff does but more to the point I don’t think you would either had he included a more elaborate explicit disclaimer. (I have another comment about that here). I think the way SL pretended to take RL seriously and refuted him shows an ironical intent.

            • Bob Murphy says:

              Ken B. wrote:

              I do think I see your point better. You are arguing riffing on the slut thing IN ALMOST ANY WAY sort of endorses it. I agree that riffing on it is SOME WAYS does.

              You know Ken B., it takes the fun out of playing the game when I clearly win, and you don’t recognize it. Look, you yourself came up with an analogy where someone called somebody a “vampire Jew,” and then you said if you had pointed out that the person wasn’t a vampire, it wouldn’t have been an endorsement of harping on the person’s ethnicity.

              So I came back and said no, a better analog to what Landsburg did, would be for you to correct the bigot by saying “That person isn’t Jewish, he’s an Italian Catholic.”

              Then, thinking I somehow don’t understand humor, you came back and said–and I quote:

              I quite agree if my joke had been ‘but he’s not circumcised’ it would constitute an *endorsement* of the slur in some significant fashion.

              Right, so everyone is mad that Rush called her a “slut.” Steve came back and said “No she’s not a slut, because a slut doesn’t need to get paid to have sex.” Rush also called her a prostitute, and Steve said “No she’s not a prostitute, because I think she’d have the same amount of sex regardless of whether she got paid.”

              So, applying your own logic, we must conclude that Steve’s remarks have constituted an endorsement of Rush’s pejorative terms in some significant fashion.

              Now we’ll pause, catch our breaths, and you will proceed to explain why the very analogy you came up with, was not really a good analogy to make your perfectly obvious point to illustrate how dense I am being on this matter.

          • Dan Hewitt says:

            After reading through those comments yesterday on Landsburg’s blog, I’m not sure why you’d want to mess with him at all, Bob.

            Ken B yesterday at Landsburg’s blog:
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4CizzE-zZo

            • Ken B says:

              :)

            • Bob Murphy says:

              Exactly, Dan Hewitt. Tons of completely inappropriate aggression from Ken B. But entertaining to be sure.

              • Dan Hewitt says:

                Ha ha, maybe in the end a shirtless economist wearing boxing gloves comes in and KO’s the pilot?

        • Gene Callahan says:

          Ken, you were already checkmated. Now you stop playing.

          Bob, when someone keeps moving the pieces after you have mated him, you have to walk away from the board.

  9. Robert Fellner says:

    Bob, you are spot on, as usual. And, as usual, your point will is validated by being totally ignored and dodged with a continuation of over-the-top exaggerations and selective reading.

    You’re not crazy, just a bit lonely in your ability to remove yourself from a situation and genuinely try to assess it as objectively as possible.

    The comments here are so ironic in their almost perfect illustration of your the point you are trying to make. The more right you are, the less chance of anyone else acknowledging it! That sounds like a recipe for insanity….

    • Robert Fellner says:

      I don’t even know how to explain the “point will” and “your the point” errors above other than I just woke up? ….

  10. joeftansey says:

    If we used gender-neutral terms for people who have sex we wouldn’t be having this problem.

    Also – you guys take ad homs way too seriously.

  11. Ken B says:

    Bob: i crave your indulgence to engage in a bit more conflation. Say that the relavant passage of SL’s first had been this:

    There’s one place where I part company with Rush, though: He wants to brand Ms. Fluke a “slut” because, he says, she’s demanding to be paid for sex.
    Rush’s use of terms like slut is reprehensible in any case. No-one should ever use sexual slurs to demean an adversary. He should apologize of course. Not only that but he can’t even get the logic right.
    There are two things he gets wrong here. First, the word “slut” connotes …

    The point you riff on about the analogy is intact, and just precedes this.

    Would we be having this discussion?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Ken B. if Steve had said that, it would have helped. It would have caused a lot more cognitive dissonance later on.

      The thing is, I don’t know that Steve thinks Rush’s use of “slut” is reprehensible. Rush wasn’t using it the way Dan Akroyd said “Jane you ignorant slut.” Rush was trying to use it as a way to jeer, mock, etc. her position, just as Steve called her an extortionist. (I.e. Steve didn’t mock the position–he didn’t run around saying “this is extortion! this is extortion!” rather he said “SHE is an extortionist.”)

      I really think I need to stop at this point. You guys are pushing me into sounding like I want to banish Steve to Mars, and that’s not what I’m getting at. I’m saying Steve is being attacked by the president and others not simply because he didn’t properly genuflect to the gods of PC. Rather, he is being attacked because he sure sounded like he thought Rush did nothing wrong. Maybe that’s a good or bad thing, but don’t say, “Steve was as horrified by Rush’s terminology as Jon Stewart was! It’s just that Steve is an economist and took that condemnation for granted…” No he didn’t.

      • Ken B says:

        Stop by all means, you have conceded my main point. had SL included such a disclimer there would be no issue; since he did not bless the use of the terms the conclusion he did not is based on inference. The inference is in essence the lack of the disclaimer. So what we are seeing is in effect a demand that such disclaimers be included. That is what I object to.

        • Gene Callahan says:

          Ken: Independent referee here declares you were mated about eight moves back. You are like knight in Monty Python, squirming on the ground with all of your limbs missing, telling Bob he is a chicken for going away.

          Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

          • Dan says:

            There is a funny meme that I couldn’t find that fit really well with this. The punch line was basically “it’s like playing chess with a pigeon; no matter how good you are at chess, the pigeon is going to knock over the pieces, crap on the board, and strut around like it’s victorious.”

  12. Ken B says:

    but don’t say “Steve was as horrified by Rush’s terminology as Jon Stewart was! It’s just that Steve is an economist and took that condemnation for granted…” No he didn’t.

    I never said that. I said SL shouldn’t need to prove he’s appalled. All the brouhaha is because he made no effort to disclaim any more than he had to for his logic to work.

  13. Dan says:

    How are you missing Dr. Murphy’s point? He is saying that he believes that Dr. Landsburg didn’t include your disclaimer because he doesn’t agree with it. The evidence is stronger for this position. Landsburg wished he came up with the analogy of having her put pornos of herself online and he later attacked her as an extortionist because slut didn’t quit fit. Plus he said prostitute would’ve been a better description than slut. Nothing in that post would lead me to believe that Landsburg agrees with that disclaimer.

    • Dan says:

      This was in response to Ken B’s comment,
      “Stop by all means, you have conceded my main point. had SL included such a disclimer there would be no issue; since he did not bless the use of the terms the conclusion he did not is based on inference. The inference is in essence the lack of the disclaimer. So what we are seeing is in effect a demand that such disclaimers be included. That is what I object to.”

  14. Tom E. Snyder says:

    “Last thing: Rush Limbaugh has said way more controversial stuff in the past. I actually don’t understand why this particular thing ignited such a firestorm.”

    It’s an election year. Anything to take down the conservatives/Republicans to boost Obama.

  15. Rob says:

    Thanks to Bob for taking a stand for basic decency – often sadly lacking in the blogosphere. Landsburg should not be punished by his employer but I think he does deserve the approbation of his peers for his post,

    • Rob says:

      meant “condemnation” not “approbation”

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