The Corner

Crying Wolf

This “Cry Wolf” story is really interesting (details at Inside Higher Ed, via Instapundit). Quick summary: A group of liberal professors is soliciting scholarly essays on the subject of how conservatives “cry wolf” (i.e. warn of dire and perhaps unknowable consequences) every time the Democrats try to remake some sector of the economy. The point is to assemble a database for the purpose of shaping narratives, or something like that.

I see nothing wrong with this project — in fact, it reminds me of this one time when a bunch of conservatives “cried wolf” in response to a bill that President Bill Clinton signed into law in the mid-’90s. At the time, the air was filled with crazy exaggerations from conservatives: Who could forget the claims that this particular law would transform America into a Third World nation, leaving “children hungry and homeless . . . begging for money, begging for food, and even at eight and nine years old engaging in prostitution” — that was according to one conservative Republican senator.

Another conservative Republican wondered aloud whether the bill would prompt the widespread auctioning of abandoned children into slaveryAnd a writer for a prominent conservative magazine argued that the bill would turn “working- and middle-class communities all over America” into “scary, violent wastelands.” Others made more prosaic predictions: The bill would “put 1.5 million to 2.5 million children into poverty” and end with “children sleeping on grates.”

Of course, none of that came to pass as a result of the 1996 welfare-reform bill — welfare caseloads were cut in half and child poverty rates went down, not up — and by now I’m sure you’ve guessed that the prognosticators who “cried wolf” were not conservatives at all. They were Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Sen. Carol Mosley-Braun, Jill Nelson of The Nation, Rep. Jim McDermott and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, liberal Democrats all.

Update: An e-mail:

Your post reminded me that Global Warming, Climate Change, or whatever the hell it’s being called based on the current weather, is the ultimate Cry Wolf scenario. It has dire and unknowable consequences, a legion of Keyser Sozes (Haliburton, BP, Dick Cheney and other sociopathic monsters), and catastrophic consequences that can be pointed to as evidence any time the weather acts up. Back in the day, Marxist environmentalists scared us with the Population Bomb (didn’t happen), Silent Spring (didn’t happen, wasn’t true), etc., etc., all easily debunked after a few years of waiting for an Apocalypse that never arrived. Now, with Global Warming/Climate Change/Whatever, you can Cry Wolf for years to come since the climate will be changing until we’re engulfed by the sun billions of years from now.

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