The Corner

Energy & Environment

Jonathan Chait Is Intellectually Dishonest: A (Lengthy) Series

Yesterday, Jonathan Chait offered a lamebrained criticism of my column on shallow celebrity climate activists, essentially: “Why do you refuse to defend this indefensible position you don’t hold, which is advanced by a party to which you do not belong?”

That’s basic Chait-ism, as is Part 2: The post pretending that he didn’t write what he wrote, pretending that he wrote something else, and declaring that he was right all along. The problem here, Chait says, is that columnists such as me find it “uncomfortable to linger on disagreements with their colleagues on the right.”

At the risk of sounding self-aggrandizing, I wonder if there is another conservative writer less uncomfortable lingering on disagreements with their colleagues on the right than I am. That, along with 140-word opening sentences, is kind of my thing.

Chait keeps trying to recruit me into the Republican party (critics like me “refuse to frontally challenge their party’s denialism,” etc.), of which I am not a member and have not been for a very long time. I suppose that one very good way to demonstrate one’s disagreement with a political party is to not belong to that party. Another would be, oh, I don’t know, to publish a little book arguing that its political leader is unfit for public office, to write that some of its most cherished beliefs are obviously wrong, or in this case to advocate, as I do, environmental policies that are at odds with its agenda. Obvious enough for an ordinary person, but then Jonathan Chait is not an ordinary person—he’s an intellectually dishonest cretin. And hence he simply ignores the facts for which he cannot account.

What Chait writes: “Williamson’s charge of hypocrisy is manifestly insipid.”

What I actually wrote: “My point here is not the hypocrisy and stupidity of celebrities, Leonardo DiCaprio sailing around on the world’s fifth-largest yacht and all that. I don’t mind hypocrisy all that much — it is right up there with alcohol among the most valuable social lubricants.”

Etc.

This ends up being the familiar “Why did you write a column about that instead of a column about this?” line of criticism, which is more or less intellectually null.

I don’t mind criticism. But I expect that criticism to take into account what I actually have written and think. Jonathan Chait does not manage to meet that minimal criterion, because he is intellectually dishonest. His editors at New York know this. I am not the first to point it out. I surely will not be the last.

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