Ugly

Ugly

Matt Yglesias:

“As anyone who knows me can attest, I don’t have what you’d call a strong “Hispanic” identity. (…) But for all that, I have to say that I am really truly deeply and personally pissed off my the tenor of a lot of the commentary on Sonia Sotomayor. The idea that any time a person with a Spanish last name is tapped for a job, his or her entire lifetime of accomplishments is going to be wiped out in a riptide of bitching and moaning about “identity politics” is not a fun concept for me to contemplated. Qualifications like time at Princeton, Yale Law, and on the Circuit Court that work well for guys with Italian names suddenly don’t work if you have a Spanish name. Heaven forbid someone were to decide that there ought to be at least one Hispanic columnist at a major American newspaper.

Somehow, when George W. Bush affects a Texas accent, that’s not identity politics. When John Edwards gets a VP nomination, that’s not identity politics. But Sonia Sotomayor! Oh my heavens!”

Julian Sanchez:

“I’ll cop to sharing some of Yglesias’ irritation at the treatment of Sonia Sotomayor, and if Republicans are managing to get a rise out of my pallid ass, I can only imagine the kind of damage they’re doing to their brand among, you know, real Latinos. (…)

Look, it’s not racist to oppose a Latina judicial nominee, or to oppose affirmative action, or to point out genuine evidence of ethnic bias on the part of minorities. What we’re seeing here, though, is people clinging to the belief that Sotomayor has to be some mediocrity who struck the ethnic jackpot, that whatever benefit she got from affirmative action must be vastly more significant than her own qualities, that she’s got to be a harpy boiling with hatred for whitey, however overwhelming the evidence against all these propositions is. This is really profoundly ugly. Like Yglesias, I don’t think I’m especially sensitive to stuff like this, or particularly easily moved to anger, but I’m angry. I don’t think Republican pundits really appreciate the kind of damage they’re probably doing, for no reason I can discern given the slim odds of actually blocking the nomination. Which, perhaps, goes to Sotomayor’s point: They really have no idea how they sound to anyone else.”

I don’t think they do either.

Look: I’m angry, and I’m not Hispanic at all. For the record, I am not writing about Sonia Sotomayor because I think she’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. I don’t. I think she’s a fine nominee and will be a very good Supreme Court justice, but she does not make my heart go ding-a-ling. I’m writing about her because when people tell lies about someone who does not deserve it, it makes me angry. And if there’s any point to blogging at all, it’s that it gives me the opportunity to do things like actually read the Ricci case and write about what I find, thereby making it just that little bit less likely that those lies will work.

This is what comes of letting crazy people run a party. It’s what comes of making pissing off liberals into a goal in itself. And it’s what comes of fine-tuning ways of dismissing all criticism and all contrary evidence, so that you end up living in an epistemic cocoon. Bad news? It’s the liberal media. Someone claiming that Bush did something bad? Quick: look for evidence that that person is writing a book, and disregard the fact that while some people will say anything to sell books or promote themselves, other people will not. Someone criticizing any Republican policy anywhere? That person obviously hates America/white people/success/whatever. If nothing else works, try thinking about kerning.

Go down that road and you lose the capacity to actually consider the facts. All you have left are your own preconceptions, floating free of any actual connection to evidence or reality. And if your preconceptions lead you to think that any Latina must be “some mediocrity who struck the ethnic jackpot”, then no amount of actual achievement — graduating at the top of her class, editing the Yale Law Journal, sitting on the Second Circuit — will dissuade you.

A fantasy world in which your own preconceptions are always confirmed is a pretty sorry substitute for the actual world around us, in all its unexpected richness. But it’s even worse when your own preconceptions are so very, very ugly.