Andrew Sullivan has become such a crude polemicist that he long ago ceased to be worth reading. This past November in “Norman Podhoretz crosses the Daily Ditch,” we noted that Sullivan challenged the authenticity of an Ayatollah Khomeni quotation cited by Norman Podhoretz in “The case for bombing Iran” and in World War IV. Sullivan congratulated himself on his willingness to concede an error when he makes one, “however innocently.” When Podhoretz posted a persuasive response to Sullivan regarding the authenticity of the Khomeni quotation, Sullivan nevertheless equivocated, inviting others of superior expertise to weigh in.
Sullivan’s exchange with Podhoretz presented a good example of Sullivan’s bad faith as a polemicist. We previously documented a good example of Sullivan’s peculiar relationship to factuality as well as the peculiar nature of his innocence in “The Daily Ditch.”
Podhoretz has now returned to the subject of Iran’s threat to the West in “Stopping Iran: Why the case for military action still stands.” In an act of misrepresentation shocking even in his case, Sullivan compares a passage in Podhoretz’s brililant essay to the ranting of the obtuse General Buck Turgidson of “Dr. Strangelove.”
But the passage in question is a summary of Anthony Cordesman’s claim about how many Israelis would die versus how many Iranians would die in a nuclear exchange, following which Podhoretz takes issue with Cordesman. The proper comparison is of Turgidson to Cordesman rather than to Podhoretz, but it is a comparison that does not serve Sullivan’s polemical purposes.
Taking an author’s summary of the argument of a third party and imputing the third party’s views to the author himself is fundamentally dishonest. Doing so for polemical purposes is an act of intellectual thuggery. Andrew Sullivan stands revealed as an intellectual thug.
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