I’ve been thinking about Jimbo’s recent discussion (also here) of “cynical reason” quite a bit over the last few days. Jimbo’s comments arose out of a discussion of David Horowitz’s assertion that university professors work an average of six to nine hours a week while collecting annual salaries of over $150,000. Now, if I lived in such a reality, the last few months of my life would have been far less stressful. Of course, Jimbo’s point was that Horowitz knows very well that professors don’t collect such salaries or work so little. Instead, he’s engaging in cynical reason, saying what he knows to be false in order to further some other goal, whatever that may be.
Today’s New York Times offers yet another example of this kind of cynicism, with Maureen Dowd’s column on the USA Next group, a group which wants to criticize the AARP’s opposition to Bushian Social Security “reform.” In order to criticize the AARP, USA Next recently posted a “comically hyperbolic” advertisement on the American Spectator website alleging that the AARP not only supports gay marriage but also hates the troops, both horrible sins under the Bush regime. The ad suggests that because the AARP opposed the Ohio “gay marriage” amendment, on the grounds that the amendment’s vague wording might afect legal recognition of any union, including older heterosexuals living together, they must by default condone gay marriage. The AARP ostensibly does not “support the troops” because they do not specifically endorse the USA Next position on combat veterans’ health benefits, which is, of course, a non-issue when it comes to the AARP position on Social Security.
In the article, the President of USA Next, Charlie Jarvis readily admits that he doesn’t believe that the AARP is a front for a pro-gay, anti-troops agenda, but knew that he could count on liberal bloggers to express outrage and moral indignation at his absurd allegations, as I am now. But then Jarvis gleefully admits that that’s exactly what he wants (and that’s why I’ve refrained from linking to–or even trying to find–the USA Next website) because this “viral” quality of blogging spreads the USA Next message for free around the entire blogosphere. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve engaged in my share of liberal outrage blogging, but Jarvis’s stragtegy here calls for a different kind of response, one that brings the cynicism of people like Jarvis into much clearer relief. I’ve been thinking a lot about the economy of linking and how it might be used to promote these conservative ideas, and I’m still caught in this impasse between criticizing groups like USA Next and being complicit with their goals of spreading their anti-Social Security, I mean, “pro-privatization,” message.