Undoubtedly the worst editorial decision Salon ever made was giving Joe Conason a daily column, allowing a partisan ferret to slime his political opponents and spread disinformation across the Internet in an effort to prevent any serious discussion of issues. This kind of tactic is one big reason why leftists are losing the ideological war. Conason's recent attacks on me (and in the four years he has been attacking me, it is he who has regularly struck the first blow in these exchanges) illustrate the problem. But they also illustrate the tediousness of having to deal with political leftists like him. Bankrupt of ideas, discredited by events, they just keep flinging mud at others in the hope that a flood of lies will obscure the poverty of the argument that sustains their side.
Thus Conason originally accused me of regarding all leftist critics of the war as traitors, and of failing to include rightwing critics in my smear. These were easy lies to refute since I had published a piece by leftwing war critic Todd Gitlin and personally given it the title "A View From the Patriotic Left?" I had also published attacks on the antiwar right, specifically the right of Justin Raimondo and Pat Buchanan. Conason's response? Ignore the one you can't deny (Gitlin) and claim that Justin Raimondo and Pat Buchanan are really leftists (this will be news to both).
I also wrote an article for Salon called "A Serious Problem for the Patriotic Left," specifically that if you have traitors in your midst and don't separate yourself from them in word and deed, you will have to bear the consequences. Conason of course did not respond to the substantive point of my article or retract any of his smears. Today Conason's new Salon column ("Here's the proof David") once again returns to the attack (this is his third in a row). He is not only unrepentant in these matters, but without further analysis repeats his smears. He cites a deranged blogger from www.horowitzwatch.blogspot.com who claims not to be part of the progressive left. Like Michael Berube (see my previous blog), Conason and other leftists' number one priority is dissociating themselves from the crimes their political movement supported and spawned.
(One of the pleasures of being a conservative is not having to do this. You don't have to rewrite the past, not because conservatives have never committed crimes but because conservatives aren't forced by their ideology to defend the indefensible. The way leftists like Conason and Berube dissociate themselves from the consequences of their political beliefs is that they make a false distinction for example between progressives generally and progressives who are actual members of the Communist Party, between vanguards and fellow-travelers or "critical" supporters.
The fact is that there isn't a progressive among the three just mentioned who 1) is not a member of the left that supported the Vietnamese Communists in their war of conquest in Indo-China 2) who opposed the Khmer Rouge before they took power 3) who supported the Reagan Administration's efforts to free Marxist Nicaragua, and so forth and so on. Which is what being part of the communist left (small c) means.
I have actually never discussed the left with any leftist who admitted that their actually was a left -- it's always to them a thousand fragmented issues groups and ideological sects. Funny thing, though, when they call a demonstration to help the Communists in Vietnam or support the Palestinian Jew-haters or let Saddam off the hook all these little fragments appear to be marching together.
Conason is fascinated by my description of the Washington "peace" march led by the Workers World Party as "100,000 Communists March On Washington to Give Aid and Comfort to Saddam Hussein." The leaders of the so-called peace march (which was in fact a fifth column march of anti-American leftists) Conason admits were Iraqi supporters. But others in the march were innocents and/or dupes ("ordinary Americans who simply oppose another war on Iraq"). Yeah, I'll buy that one. By characterizing them the way I did, I "smeared" them.
Two things. First, assuming Conason is correct (and he's not) there's a great difference between mis-characterizing some anonymous marchers in a crowd of 100,000 and writing many deliberate lies about a particular individual (and not retracting them when they're pointed out). The first could easily qualify as a mis-generalization or an overstatement, and in any case it does not particularly injure any of these anonymous people. Conason's comments about me are calculated lies and smears designed to injure.
But Conason isn't even correct in his characterization of marches. There never was a demonstration organized by the Communist Party itself in which there were not dupes or innocents or ordinary Americans who thought that the stated issue was actually the issue. (Look up "fronts" Joe.) Yet no one has a problem with headlines during the Cold War that said 100,000 Communists marched on this or that occasion, despite the presence of many who were led by the nose. Second, you would have to be comatose on your feet at the Washington March not to know you were on an anti-America pro-Iraqi demonstration.
I don't expect an apology from Conason. Nor do I think many readers will be fooled by his shoddy and malicious journalism. I have posted this in part to explain why I sometimes do not answer attacks like these. It's just too tedious and takes time away from more important matters.