Especially promiscuous?

It seems like only yesterday that Bret Stephens was getting his ass handed to him for pitching a public fit about David Karpf’s joke that the real bedbugs at the New York Times are dud columnists like Bret Stephens, but in fact it was four whole days ago. Apparently the ass-handing rolled off him in a way the bedbug joke didn’t, because he decided to devote his column in the Times to pitching the same fit all over again, but with extra added Google searching.

He tries to pretend it’s prompted by WWII’s 80th birthday this weekend, but nobody is buying it. He huffs about the parallels between then and now, and then he zeroes in on his real point.

All that, plus three crucial factors: new forms of mass communication, the rhetoric of dehumanization and the politics of absolute good versus absolute evil.

It was radio then, it’s Twitter now. It was kulaks and Jews then…

Today, the rhetoric of infestation is back. In the U.S., Trump uses it to describe Latin American migrants. In Europe, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, chairman of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party, warned in 2015 that migrants carried “all sorts of parasites and protozoa,” which, “while not dangerous in the organisms of these people, could be dangerous here.”

True. I’ve pointed it out myself many times.

But he goes on.

More of this talk will surely follow, and not just from the right. The American left has become especially promiscuous when it comes to speaking pejoratively about entire categories of disfavored people.

Eh? The left does more of it than the right? Bad people on both sides but more on the left?

Yes. It’s because they want to exterminate the moderates.

None of this would be possible without the third factor: the conviction that an opponent embodies an irredeemable evil, and that his destruction is therefore an act of indubitable good. That spirit of certitude that dominated the politics of the 1930s is not so distant from us today. The unpopular political figures of our day are the people who seem to convey less than 100 percent true belief: the moderate conservative, the skeptical liberal, the centrist wobbler.

Like that guy wot called Bret Stephens a bedbug, geddit? People like that are like Göbbels!

David Karpf is not amused.

Okay, look, I have two things to say right now. (1) this just stopped being funny. The New York Times is the paper of record. The entire internet knows who Bret Stephens just subtweeted with his column. He should know better. He doesn’t. That’s not okay anymore.

(2) I’m attending the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association right now. I have an actual job that doesn’t leave me with endless time to pursue pointless online vendettas. So I’m going to try to take the night off from this. I’ll have more to say tomorrow.

I’ll say this: beware the demon of self-importance. It is the Foul Fiend! Beware beware and avoid. Do not become so convinced of your own sky-concealing importance that you perceive a mild joke by an academic as the equivalent of Göbbels raging about cockroaches. Especially not after having it pointed out to you and especially not in the New York Times.

(It reminds me a little of Michael Shermer’s intense over-reaction to a brief mention of a stupid sexist thing he said in a column I wrote for Free Inquiry several years ago. He did say the thing I quoted him saying and it was stupid and sexist, but Shermer screamed the house down. It was bizarre. He demanded space to scream in the next Free Inquiry, and got it, but then I got space to reply, and of the two of us I think I was the more…erm…restrained.)

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