Jim Sleeper, poseur

Trunk, I very much enjoyed the piece you posted by James Kirchick. I certainly hope that Kirchick does not fulfill his promise to remain a life-long Democrat.
I can’t say that I enjoyed Sleeper’s rant, although it is amusing at some level to see this self-styled voice of reason descend into a shrill incoherence. Sleeper seems incapable of actually making an argument. He wants to support his claim that Kirchick (the pro-environment, pro-choice Democrat) and Little Trunk are Stalinists. So he begins, logically enough, by describing what Stalinists did, namely report “enemies of the people” to party-run media and commissars. Since it is obvious even to Sleeper that the two Yale freshmen have done nothing of the sort, Sleeper switches gears and adds that some Stalinists “foment a manipulable hatred against those they snare.” This is certainly true. However, “fomenting a manipulable hatred” does not provide a workable definition of Stalinism because it is a charge that can be applied to all who use strong language to respond to those with whom they disagree. Under this definition, Sleeper could be accused of Stalinism (as opposed to brutish foolishness) for comparing the two freshmen to those who contributed to the creation of the Gulag. Indeed, Solzhenitsyn himself could be be accused of Stalinism, since his words fomented hatred against the Stalinist system.
In any event, Sleeper fails to explain why he thinks the two freshmen were “fomenting a manipulable hatred,” as opposed to expressing understandable outrage. Instead, he simply asks Yale students to read the remarks of Professor Gilmore — one of the professors whose remarks the two freshmen criticized in FrontPage Magazine. I have done that, and fail to see why Sleeper finds the FrontPage report unfair. Kirchick and Little Trunk reported that Gilmore’s remarks focused on herself, while making no developed argument against the war; that Gilmore claimed there was a conspiracy to shut her up that involves the Heritage Foundation, Lynne Cheney and others; and that Gilmore attacked Daniel Pipes for saying that she hates America without acknowledging that she had concluded her article about the war with the pronouncement “we have met the enemy and it is us.” A review of Gilmore’s statement confirms all of these allegations.
There are many ironies associated with Jim Sleeper’s meltdown. My favorite is this — Sleeper obviously started out hoping to be the voice of the “sensible center,” sort of a modern-day George Orwell who agrees with conservatives on key substantive issues, while opposing the alleged Stalinist tactics of certain conservatives. But in reality, as is clear from his latest column, it is Kirchick who has always occupied the sensible center. Sleeper, in attempting to strike the Orwell pose, has engaged in a sloppy dishonesty that goes against everything Orwell stood for. He may be a centrist, but he is hardly sensible.


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