Michael Hirsh's Assertions:

A commenter on the thread below suggested that someone ought to respond to "[Michael Hirsh's] claim on the merits." The trouble is that the claim is so vague and impressionistic that it's hard to see just what to say about it. Are Southern/Southwestern mores "savage [and] unsophisticated"? Are "Yankees" from the "Northeast and upper Midwest" generally "more diplomatic [and] communitarian"? Where exactly is one to find good definitions for those terms, much less figure out which region best exemplifies them?

Likewise, when Hirsh says that, "the realism and internationalism of the Eastern elitist tradition once kept the Southern-frontier warrior culture and Wilsonian messianism in check," he's presupposing that there's a boundary between "the Eastern elitist tradition" and the views of Wilson, who was President of Princeton and a professor at Bryn Mawr and Wesleyan (though admittedly he was born and studied and practiced law in the South), all Eastern elitist institutions. Where precisely is that boundary, which we'd need to identify to see whether Hirsh's statement is indeed accurate?

Similarly, what exactly counts as a "coarsened sensibility," or "the shallowest sort of faux jingoism"? Not exactly the sorts of terms that are precisely enough defined to be conducive to careful analysis. And what's "faux jingoism," incidentally? Is it something that pretends to be real jingoism, but actually isn't genuinely jingoistic enough to count?

There are, I suppose, some things that one might test about Hirsh's claim, for instance whether "Jesus Christ Superstar" is indeed likely to be seen as more "blasphemous" than it was when it debuted; there are probably surveys on the subject, and I'd be happy to hear what people have to say about this. Another example that at least uses terms crisp enough to evaluate, is whether the "United Nations ... [is] are critical to missions like nation-building in Afghanistan"; presumably people who are more knowledgeable than I am on the subject can discuss whether the UN really has a good track record with nation-building in combat zones.

And there are some logical lapses, such as the complaint about "Hillary Clinton pander[ing] shamelessly to Roman Catholics, who have allied with Southern Protestant evangelicals on questions of morality" -- aren't those Roman Catholics mostly in the supposedly good Northeastern and Upper Midwest states, and didn't they come by their views and attitudes through their own cultural patterns, and not through the supposedly malign influence of Southerners and Southwesterners? Similarly, consider "Barack Obama seems to be so leery of being identified as an urban Northern liberal that he's running away from the most obvious explanation of his association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and former Weatherman Bill Ayers: after Obama graduated from college he became an inner-city organizer in Chicago, and they were natural allies for someone in a situation like that." That may be a good factual explanation, but does it really respond to the concern of many people -- all over the country -- that liberals should find better allies than that, and should be faulted when they do indeed make such alliances?

But at bottom, the overall piece doesn't strike me as a "claim" that can be sensibly confronted "on the merits." It's a rant. You can buy it or not, and be entertained by it or not, but you can't really substantively confront its core arguments.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Michael Hirsh's Assertions:
  2. Diplomacy: