Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Paul Gigot and Intellectuals and Society

A central thesis of Thomas Sowell's Intellectuals and Society is that intellectuals have brought untold pain* upon the world because they never have to pay a penalty when they are wrong. Doctors, architects, financial advisors are held to account for failure, but not intellectuals.

Paul Gigot, editor of the editorial pages for the Wall Street Journal, writes:
"Ms. Palin might have been a contender. Had she finished her job as governor, devoted a year or two to learning what she didn't know about the world and economics, built a network of support around the country, and developed a thicker skin about the media, she might now be a formidable candidate. Instead, she chose to be a media celebrity and to play hard-to-get as a candidate. The best thing she could do for her reputation at this point would be to declare once and for all that she isn't running, and then work to support whoever is the GOP nominee."
Might have been a contender? Maybe Mr. Gigot hasn't read the most recent poll on Real Clear Politics that puts Palin in third place even without running. That's what the current ABC/Washington Post poll shows. Does that mean that only those with an above 14% rating (Mitt Romney and Rick Perry) are "contenders"? The ABC/Washington Post poll taken in July about a month before Perry announced had Palin in second, two places ahead of Perry. Actually, Perry polled behind Ron Paul at that point. So, Perry polling way down the list, should never have been considered a "contender"?

Still, Gigot, knowing he will never be penalized for making a false assessment, feels free to say whatever enters his head. He sniffs at hard evidence. Much like Clark Clifford never was penalized for calling Ronald Reagan an "amiable dunce". When you're an intellectual you can make outrageous statements, smear people, and it's all water off a duck's back.

Fortunately greats like Ronald Reagan prove the smearers wrong in the court of history. Still, there is no price that intellectual incompetence brings in the area of political opinion--except the price a society pays for following bad advice.

If Paul Gigot is wrong about Palin, he will never pay a price at the Wall Street Journal or with a lowered reputation among his fellow editors. He'll still lead the Journal's report on the Fox News channel Saturday lineup.

Of course, this is a small smear, as smears go. But, how sad that neither Gigot nor the Wall Street Journal understand that words really do matter and opinions from those in powerful positions should be based at least partially on fact.
*Like the intellectuals who counseled disarmament before World War II or those who thought eugenics and eliminating inferior races and population groups was the key to a successful world order.

UPDATE: The New York Sun has a quite different take and finds Sarah Palin an important, maybe key, voice in the Republican Party right now. (And they use actual evidence for their opinion.):
"There’s more in Mrs. Palin’s full Facebook posting [Welcome, Union Brothers and Sisters], and if it is a taste of a campaign ahead, the race will be richer for it. For where are the rest of the Republicans? The Drudge Report has been leading with the story all day. Aside from Drudge, Mrs. Palin was way ahead of the press. Where is the Republican presidential field? Some say that Mrs. Palin is just teasing the Republicans and that she won’t run in the end. But right now there is no one else coming at this issue from quite the angle she is — or with the plain spoken news sense."
[emphasis added]


James Nicholas said...

Why is Gigot even commenting on her? If she so clearly is a non-factor, why waste precious ink and the highly prized Gigot intellect? Would he not be better off parsing the nuance of a Romney-care that was right for Massachusetts but apparently wrong for the U.S., or is that no longer the operative Romney position? The fact of the matter is that people like me and millions of Americans like me care about what Sarah Palin says, and for good reason. We don't really care what Mr. Gigot says, also for good reason. That's not going to change anytime soon, if ever. Give it up, Paul.

Moths to a flame, me amigo.

T. D. said...

I, too, was wondering what the positive value for Gigot and the WSJ is in an editorial commentary like this.

Why put your reputation on the line before you have to? John Fund wasn't snarky, but he recently made an unnecessary prediction which he admitted wasn't based on hard information.

But, of course, there's no professional downside for intellectuals making stupid comments or unfounded predictions. Except, as you point out, losing lots of their natural reader base. At this point, like you, I think Paul Gigot is silly and a waste of time to read or listen to. He'll have to do a lot of work for me to take him seriously again.

Wasn't the New York Sun right in the importance of her response to Hoffa's remarks?

Thanks for the comment, JN!