Saturday, May 22, 2004

More on Ignatieff

Recently I criticized Michael Ignatieff at length for his combination of supercilious prose and ignorance w.r.t national ID cards. Yesterday, Jon Mandle of Crooked Timber discussed Ignatieff's new book, coming to similar conclusions (although in a more politely worded form) about his more general program for civil liberties and security.

In fact, I think J. Mandle is much too easy on Ignatieff. Mandle claims that Ignatieff basically agrees in substance with both the principles and the conclusions of civil libertarians, but chooses in rhetoric to caricature civil libertarians as extremists and foes of security. I find this rhetorical move less excusable than Mandle does. By caricaturing civil libertarians as extremists, Ignatieff frames the debate in a way that discredits the very people who are most likely to argue for the right outcomes. Ignatieff is a star writer at the New York Times, and so he's about as influential as anyone in the press when it comes to framing the debate. In fact, because of the way that discourse works, his framing of the debate will probably be much more influential than his conclusions --- particularly when powerful voices in government are echoing his framing but contradicting his conclusions.

Ignatieff is therefore incredibly irresponsible, and incredibly stupid, to participate in the marginalization of civil libertarians. If the junta currently running our government succeeds in dismantling our freedoms, then people like Ignatieff will be partly responsible.

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