Tuesday, October 23, 2007

THE LAST TIME THE METEORS CAME, WE THOUGHT THE SKY WAS ON FIRE. NATURALLY WE BLAMED THE IRISH. WE HANGED MORE THAN A FEW. And you think I'm an old crank! Megan McArdle contra whippersnappers Brian Beutler and Ezra Klein:
First of all, the notion that this is some sort of uniquely horrible moment in world history is absurd. I grew up with the very real fear that one day, without much warning, I would simply vanish in a radioactive cloud. The fear of nuclear annihilation was the ever-present undercurrent to the lives of children living in major urban areas, or near military installations, in a way that you simply cannot comprehend unless you've lived it. Compared to the threat of global thermonuclear war, any of the world's current problems, including climate change, are trivial.
'Course folks were tougher in those days. I was jitterbuggin' that very night. And we had the liberals and commies to deal with, too:
Think of the communists languishing for decades, their only substantial achievement stealing nuclear secrets for Stalin. Or the student movement of the 1960's which contributed to the end of the war, but lost on everything else they wanted, and moreover only fought against the war because half of them thought Ho Chi Minh was the good guy.
Us libertarians showed 'em, though:
Or the decades it took for the NAACP et. al. to get America to the point where we could even have a civil rights movement.
How'd them liberals feel when the Invisible Hand wrote Brown vs. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act? Pretty darned foolish, that's what!

What any of this has to do with what Klein and Beutler wrote is hard to figure. They seem to be saying that it's hard to gain much these days with old-fashioned protest tactics such as marches. At the end of her lecture, McArdle does appear to relate to their arguments:
The narrative where you pour out of the classroom, tell everyone how wrong they are, and sit back and wait for magic social change is a fantasy cooked up by the Baby Boomers. Who, by the way, destroyed the effectiveness of protest by creating a protest culture which emphasized alienation from, rather than solidarity with, the larger culture.
In other words, she agrees that old-school protest is pretty weak, but thinks Klein and Beutler are forgetting the real problem: fogeys even fogeyer than Megan McArdle.

Funny, from her writing I thought she was about 19.

UPDATE. McArdle responds to Beutler:
I *do* think that protest has become less effective, but that's largely because protest only was effective when the protesters dressed and acted like solidly middle class members of the larger society. The shiite protesters I watched at the Saudi embassy the other day understood that--*they* were all in suits. But most protests today involve a substantial number of protesters whose idea of dressing for the protest involves shining their Che tattoos. The message this sends is: this is an issue that fringe nut jobs care about.
Presumably she's okay with Billionaires for Bush.

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