1. No psychologizing. Rachel Lucas was widely praised for this analysis of Michael Moore’s inner life. It was funny, and it might even be true. But it is irrelevant to Michael Moore’s arguments, which are bad, and even to Michael Moore’s behavior, which is worse. By their fruits shall ye know them. There is a scene in the very funny movie Office Space where one character, having been drawn by another into an absurd criminal scheme, turns to him and says, “You are a very bad person, Peter.” That’s what I think of Michael Moore: he’s a very bad person, who believes very stupid things. There the matter ends.
2. No attribution of motives. This is a related matter, and I’ve discussed it on a large scale with Bush and Iraq. Many of the loonier anti-war arguments, like the accusations about Bush avenging his father or setting up his Houston cronies with a sweet deal, rely on attribution of motives and can be dismissed out of hand. On a tiny scale it happened to me just yesterday. The usually superb Colby Cosh and I were arguing about Pulp Fiction and he accused me of pretending not to like it to be au courant. Now how would he know? And even if he were right the fact would neither strengthen Colby’s argument nor weaken mine.
3. No tribal pleading. Nothing is more tiresome than constant shilling for one party or the other. The lesson of Sid Blumenthal, once a respected and interesting journalist, later a Democratic party shill, and finally a hired flack, has been lost on such people. (Paul Krugman is at stage 2 of the Blumenthal trajectory.) Whoever is tempted to this should remember that it was his loyalty to certain ideas, one hopes, that made him loyal to a party, not the other way around.