Harold Pollack on the Wall Street Journal
Liveblogging World War II: October 24, 1942

John Holbo Performs a Signal Service by Informing Us of the Concern-Troll Gap

Those of us liberals who find amusement and profit in concern-trolling conservatives Have long focused on the three standards: lack of contact with reality, lack of intellectual substance, and lack of arithmetic competence.

We have long warned conservatives--completely for their own good, of course, and out of no motive than altruistic benevolence--that they cannot and will not survive and flourish and that nobody will take them seriously as long as they promote and put forward as their speakers people as lacking in contact with reality as Ramesh "Romney did too tie Obama in the second debate!" Ponnuru, people as lacking in intellectual chops as Victor Davis "Ezra Klein is the real racist here!" Hanson, and people as lacking in arithmetic competence as Kevin "Dow 36000 by 2003!" Hassett.

Now the thoughtful and keen-eyed John Holbo has added yet a fourth standard that those of us who seek to concern-troll our conservative brethren and sistren: a meta-standard: John Holbo worries about the concern-troll gap:

John Holbo:

Not Doing It Right: I am increasingly concerned that a critical concern troll gap is opening up between liberals and conservatives.

Liberals, due to our honorable tradition of not being able to take our own side in an argument, have a healthy aptitude for it. We love to talk up, in a ‘more in sorrow than in anger’ sort of way, the good sort of conservatism we’d like to have, if only we could. But conservatives don’t really have a go-to fantasy of the ‘good’ liberal who needs to be rescued from the ‘bad’ liberal. This may be because conservative rhetoric--the rhetoric of reaction--is so dominated by slippery slope arguments. The bad thing about liberalism is its bad spirit, causing it to be the case that apparently moderate policies are, in effect, creeping Jacobinism, due to soul-destroying nihilism or resentment, what have you, that lurks behind.

If the spirit of liberalism--as opposed to its letter--is the essential problem, per the slippery slope style, you can’t switch gears smoothly, suddenly coming over all concerned that the spirit of liberalism is in danger of slipping. After all, how much worse could it get than communism and fascism? Where is there for liberalism to slip to but up?

So I reiterate my concern that posts like this one suffer from a critical missing piece:

Liberalism isn’t doing so well lately. In fact I’d go so far as to say that liberalism is becoming downright pathological.

You can’t pull that off unless you can fake-praise the good, true spirit of liberalism for at least, like, a paragraph. A sentence, even. What’s so great about liberalism that it should be a bad thing that it’s gone crazy?

As Disraeli probably said somewhere: you can judge the health of a party by the health of its concern trolls, so--in a society whose political culture rests on the health of its two-party system--it is a matter of utmost concern to both parties should the health of the concern trolls of either of the two great parties fail to such a degree as this.

Seriously: aside from Conor Friedersdorf's high-quality concern-trolling on the issue of the unchecked executive power to unleash flying killer robots, are there any other examples of high-quality right-wing concern trolling these days?

I think this gap is now the most serious of the four. I recommend that--for their own good, of course--conservatives abandon their efforts to learn arithmetic, to contact reality, or to discover how to make coherent arguments, and instead focus their attention on upgrading the concern-troll elements of their keyboarding battalions.