Who attracts attention, a readership, and professional opportunity, when it comes to online opining, is almost entirely random and subject to all kind of weird screens. Patronage is big. Chance is big. When you started is big. The best thing to do, if you feel that some people’s success on the internet is undeserved, is get over it. It’s Chinatown. Deserve has nothing to do with it. Let go of the idea that there was ever anything fair about it and you’ll sleep easier.
Many people do. Some don’t. Those people tend to be the bitterest critics of anybody who’s gotten even a little bit in the way of attention or success. I have always attracted their ire, which is weird because I simply haven’t ever been that big of a deal. But it’s funny: the people who believe the most deeply in meritocracy aren’t really the people who have climbed to the top but rather a certain section of those who haven’t. And funnier still: they tend to direct their anger not at the people on the upper echelons of whatever status ladder we’re talking about, but those who have climbed just a little bit up. That’s always been my experience, anyway. The internet is crawling with writers who have tried to make a go of it, found that for whatever reason they’ve failed, and who get mad at the mildly successful – people like me. Call it the narcissism of small differences, or something similar: they can imagine being me in a way that they can’t imagine being, say, Ezra Klein, so they direct their resentment towards me in a way that far outstrips my actual professional success or influence.
John Halle has been one of those guys for a long time. He’s one of these centrist Dems who styles himself as a radical, which for some reason is an endemic condition these days. He’s written a blog post in which he’s dinged me for getting the 2016 election spectacularly wrong – which is true, I did! – but more has invoked “Grim’s Law” in arguing that I’m a pundit who will not admit error about that. To prove this, he cites my Facebook posts as proof positive of my refusal to acknowledge that I was wrong. Which is… strange.
Given that he was trolling my Facebook for ammo, it’s unlikely he missed it, especially considering that many mutual Facebook friends of ours shared it. And given that it got a lot of interactions it’s even less likely that it never popped up on his feed. For the record, I also apologized on Katie Halper’s radio show and in an upcoming interview with Amber Frost in The Towner. I also acknowledged I was wrong in an early draft of the Washington Post piece he cites as an example of my nefarious ways, but it got washed out in the ordinary ebb and flow of writing for a professional publication. I suspect that’s what’s really at issue here, not my supposed inability to admit fault, but the fact that I have, through many years of hard work and at considerable professional cost in academia, developed relationships at major publications that occasionally pay me money to share my thoughts. I’ve worked hard, I think I’ve done some good work, and I’ve also been privileged and lucky and the recipient of unearned advantage. That’s life. Like I said, John: you have to let your resentment at the unfairness of all this go.
Sure, I was wrong. Spectacularly wrong, in fact. My reasons are the same as many. I have said for a long time that I thought doom was coming to the Democrats, but not until 2020 or 2024. I trusted the Clintonite machine, and it turns out that confidence was misplaced. That was an error, and it’s far from the first I’ve made, nor will it be the last. Sure, I’m sorry about having failed that way. Of course, the vast majority of the punditry got it wrong, including John Halle himself, which he neglects to mention. To claim that I wouldn’t admit being wrong by citing several Facebook posts – which is weird, given the semi-private nature of Facebook, but whatever – and then to ignore a post that he doubtless saw is just flat dishonesty. When I pointed this out to him, he proceeded to
amend the post and apologize immediately block me on Facebook and Twitter. I also posted a comment on his blog which he will no doubt refuse to unleash from moderation. And he knows my name and it’s more than a little bizarre that he refused to use it. Will he admit fault for having deliberately misrepresented whether I admitted fault or not?
Well, there’s this thing called Grim’s Law….