Sunday, 19 December 2004

Michael Kinsley, revise and resubmit

Apparently the blogosphere has gotten the better of Michael Kinsley, in this round anyway. He plans a more detailed response for next week’s WaPo, but this week is simply a concession that some bloggers got the better of him, i.e. made him think twice about dissing Social Security privatization. Here’s a quote:

That conference was the last straw. Last week, to vent my frustration, I sent an e-mail to some economists and privatizing buffs saying, look, either show me my mistake or drop this issue. Refute me or salute me. Disprove it or move it. Or words to that effect.

As an afterthought, I sent copies to a couple of blogs ( and What happened next was unnerving.

A few days later, most of the big shots hadn’t replied. But overnight I had dozens of responses from the blogosphere. They’re still pouring in. And that’s just direct e-mail to me. Within hours, there were discussions going on in a dozen blogs, all hyperlinking to one another like rabbits.

Just so I don’t sound too naive: I am familiar with the blog phenomenon, and I worked at a Web site for eight years. Some of my best friends are bloggers. Still, it’s different when you purposely drop an idea into this bubbling cauldron and watch the reaction. What floored me was not just the volume and speed of the feedback but its seriousness and sophistication. Sure, there were some simpletons and some name-calling nasties echoing rote-learned propaganda. But we get those in letters to the editor. What we don’t get, nearly as much, is smart and sincere intellectual engagement—mostly from people who are not intellectuals by profession—with obscure and tedious, but important, issues.

I always thought Kinsley was fundamentally decent, and regardless of what he has to say about SS privatization, I’ll probably continue to think so. Welcome to instant fact checking, Mr. Kinsley.

On a somewhat related note, I thought I remembered a quote by JFK, about the WaPo no less, regarding getting in a fight with people that buy ink by the barrel. Turns out it was Clinton:

Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.
Kinsley has a similar statement in his column:
You can send your views electronically to a blog in less time than it takes to find a stamp, let alone type a letter.
It’s a good column. RTWT, and I’ll be looking forward to next week’s installment.


Any views expressed in these comments are solely those of their authors; they do not reflect the views of the authors of Signifying Nothing, unless attributed to one of us.
[Permalink] 1. slimedog wrote @ Sun, 19 Dec 2004, 8:05 am CST:

Where do I get me one of them “professional intellectual” jobs? Teaching at university is too dang hard!

[Permalink] 2. Catfish 'n Cod wrote @ Sun, 19 Dec 2004, 8:33 am CST:

The original quote was by Casey Stengel:

Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the gallon.

….Hey, another person from Mississippi State! How’s McCool Hall these days? What’s the on-campus buzz ‘bout Coach Croom?

[Permalink] 3. Barbara Skolaut wrote @ Sun, 19 Dec 2004, 10:55 am CST:

Hi, Robert! Came here via Instapundit. I’m so glad to know you’re blogging again. I’ve bookmarked this site, and look forward to reading your insights again.

P.S. Hope school is going well. :-D

Oh, yeah – about Kinsley. Welcome to the NEW real world, Michael.

[Permalink] 4. Bill Owen wrote @ Sun, 19 Dec 2004, 11:09 am CST:

Guess if you don’t have the wallpaper, you can’t be considered a “professional intellectual”. MSM certainly has it’s share of biases, and Mr. Kinsley demonstrates his willingness to dump on us poor, brainless underclass drones.


Pretty sure the “ink by the barrel” quote is from Mark Twain.



I saw it attributed to Twain in a couple of places, but the only place that compiled quotes—that I found!—attributed it to Bill Clinton.

Bill & slimedog,

After seeing Kinsley on Crossfire for years and reading him since, I rarely agree with him. However, I think he’s a decent person and I give him the benefit of the doubt on intentions.


Glad you found me and I look forward to your comments.


McCool is fine and Coach Croom is really liked on campus. He’s a hard guy not to like: he takes his job seriously and he wants the players to get an education so they can support their families when they graduate. Hard to fault him on either of those points.


I really do think it was Twain. I remember hearing that one way before Clinton.

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