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January 13, 2012

Froma Harrop on the Tea Party
Bumped For Being Awesome

Little update to RD's post: Via @jamestaranto, she says "a lot of my reasoning ended up on the cutting room floor."


You remember her. She's a member of the The Providence Journal's editorial board, a syndicated columnist, and she has been named president of the National Conference of Editorial Writers (hereinafter: "NCEW"), a group at least in part dedicated to "restoring civility in America's public discourse." On August 2nd last year, she wrote an editorial that contained the following:

Make no mistake: The tea party Republicans have engaged in economic terrorism against the United States--threatening to blow up the economy if they don't get what they want. And like the al-Qaida bombers, what they want is delusional: the dream of restoring some fantasy caliphate. . . . Americans are not supposed to negotiate with terrorists, but that's what Obama has been doing. . . . That the Republican leadership couldn't control a small group of ignoramuses in its ranks has brought disgrace on their party. But oddly, Obama's passivity made it hard for responsible Republicans to control their destructive children. The GOP extremists would ask Obama for his firstborn, and he'd say, 'OK.' So they think, why not ask for his second-born, to which he responds, 'Let's talk.'

(Emphasis Ace's.) Ace posted a nice take down, and the thread was effective and funny. Among other things, Ace said, "I guess the NCEW's new mission of improving civility in discourse is going gangbusters under Froma Harrop's leadership, eh?"

But in a later piece, Ms. Harrop doubled down, stating her claims were perfectly civil. And, in fact, that they were factual. (Note: This, despite a later assertion of ironic intent.*)

Well, John Oliver from The Daily Show got in on the action in a masterful and funny interview of Ms. Harrop last night. It seems that Ms. Harrop might be a little short on self-awareness and, well, the concept of irony. The interview is hilarious. It appears below the fold.

I'm left with questions. 1) Did she not know this was John Oliver from The Daily Show, and was she not aware of the kinds of things that typically happen during Daily Show interviews? 2) Was this a case of intentional hypocrisy on her part for rhetorical gain? Or was she acting out of complete ignorance?

My thought is that it must be the latter. In fact, the very thinking processes that allow her to ramrod an organization devoted to the elevation of civil discourse while at the same time not recognizing her own use of some of the ugliest language imaginable to describe the Tea Party simply did not occur to her. She was unaware of the contradiction. (Yes, I'm trying to avoid making another point about my latest pet theory, "working memory overload.")

To make things worse, I believe those same thinking processes kept her from recognizing John Oliver's rhetorical goal, an ironic, humorous criticism of her conflicting points of view. She ended-up played a dense straight man all the way through. She never picked up on the gag.

In fact, she double-downed again, *accusing the Tea Partiers of having difficulty recognizing irony. Oliver clarified, to paraphrase, "You mean, even where there's almost a dictionary definition of it right in front of them, they don't get it?" Her response, "Absolutely."

Well, I can understand where she's coming from. The possibility her positions were absurdly mutually exclusive must never have occurred to her. After all, high-minded, super-intelligent people never make mistakes.

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posted by rdbrewer at 05:44 PM

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