Oh Well, Whatever…Never Mind

Over at Whatever, science fiction writer John Scalzi offers up an amazingly bad argument over whether Barack Obama is a Socialist. Now, for the record, I don’t believe that Obama is a Socialist, at least not in the capital-S sense of the word. I do believe that he is a deep Left progressive that has some socialist tendencies. In this way, he’s a mirror image of myself as a deep Right conservative with libertarian tendencies. But no, Obama is not the reincarnation of Eugene Debs.

Scalzi starts his piece by talking about Obama’s speech to school kids, and mocks all those who raised questions or shouted accusations. His contention is that those crazy Right wing nuts didn’t want Obama to speak to the kids because Obama is a Socialist:

Wow, that was sure some socialist speech Obama gave yesterday, huh? I went to pick up Athena from school, and all the kids marched out of building, singing “The Internationale” and clutching copies of the children’s illustrated edition of Das Kapital, distributed by smiling members of Young People’s Socialist League. Truly, it’s a new day in America, comrades!

So his piece begins with a bad faith argument. There may have been some people on the Birther circuit who opposed the speech on these grounds, but the overwhelming majority of thoughtful (and sometimes not-so-thoughtful) criticism was not of the speech itself, but the lesson plan, provided by the Department of Education, that wanted children to write letters demonstrating their support for Obama. The lesson plan is mentioned nowhere in the midst of Scalzi’s snark. My guess is that he had no problem with it, and that’s fine. But he characterizes the critics disingenuously.

….Obama gave a pleasant, platitudinous and largely bland speech exhorting the kids to, you know, stay in school and study hard and respect their teachers, and everyone who got all wound up that the President of the United States would have the gall to address the nation’s school children when he’s a socialist now looks like a complete jackass.

It’s just a strawman. Rather than look at the substance of the debate, Scalzi sticks to name calling based on bad faith assumptions of what conservatives said.

From this point, Scalzi ignores the speech and concentrates his efforts on 1) defending Obama against the charge that he is a Socialist and; 2) insulting those who disagree with him.

Now, I don’t actually disagree with him on the first point. There are differences between Obama and, say, Lenin. But I do think that Obama’s willingness to assume control over private industries (such as the car companies) displays a mindset that may not be dyed-in-the-wool Socialist, but clearly is open to the idea that a legitimate role for the government is controlling some of the means of production.

According to Scalzi, I am now “ignorant as chickens,” “mad as hatters,” a “tool,” a “moron,” “ignorant,” a “troll,” and “not serious.”

He ends thus:

So, Obama opponents, either find a better and more accurate way here to voice your opposition to the president and his policies than diving for the “socialist” button, or run the risk of being expunged for being a moron, and having me laugh at you while I do it. I’m tired of it, here and everywhere else, but especially here. Please, Obama opponents, be smarter. The nation, its president, its people and its discourse, deserve better.

While I find it hilarious that at the end of such an insulting, take-no-prisoners post Scalzi would then claim that our “discourse” deserves better than to call Obama a Socialist, I would point out that Scalzi offers only one (1) piece of evidence in his claim that Obama is not a Socialist.

You know who don’t think Obama is a socialist? Socialists, that’s who. “We know, of course, that Obama is not a socialist, and that he is not a radical,” wrote Dave McReynolds, in the pages of The Socialist, which, if you don’t know, is the magazine of the Socialist Party USA, and McReynolds a two-time presidential candidate for that party. Yes, I know, it’s wacky to rely in this matter on the assessment of someone who is both a socialist and a Socialist, rather than, say, someone belonging to a tribe of political thinkers whose understanding of socialism is so screwed up that many of them apparently can’t tell the difference between socialism and fascism.

Aside from the fact that Scalzi also cannot tell the difference between fascism and socialism (he dodges the question in the comments section of this even snarkier and more poorly-reasoned post that is completely dismantled here by Michael Moynihan at Reason), this is the equivalent of saying that Ronald Reagan was not a conservative because some lunkhead in the Klan or the John Birch Society claimed otherwise. So the proof is that a man who wants a complete takeover of private industry by the government has disavowed a man who only wants the government to take over some industries. Okay. Whatever.

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