Meet an Enforcer of Approved Opinion

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To be attacked by a Gore Vidal, or an H.L. Mencken, one of the great wordsmiths of American criticism, while surely unpleasant, must have been oddly exhilarating for the poor souls on the receiving end. I, on the other hand, have the more dubious and prosaic distinction of being a regular target of Ian Millhiser.

So you’ve never heard of Ian Millhiser. You’ve never seen him. But you only think you haven’t. You have.

Ever met someone who’s dying to let you and the rest of the world know he holds all the approved opinions? Then you have met Ian Millhiser.

In every hysterical reaction to dissident voices – i.e., voices that (gasp!) differ from both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney! – you have seen him.

You have seen Ian in every social climber who would die a thousand deaths before entertaining an unconventional thought.

In literature and television we have the stock character: the absent-minded professor, the stuck-up cheerleader, the backwoods yokel. Millhiser, too, is a stock character. He is the thought controller: impatient with diversity, predictable, establishment, banal, humorless.

Millhiser typically insinuates that people who disagree with him strongly, like me, are probably indifferent to or even privately supportive of slavery. Slavery. But consider this: abolitionist political parties were lucky to receive two percent of the vote. How likely is it that someone desperate to hold approved, establishment-friendly opinions would have been – of all things! – an abolitionist?

Ian has no scholarly accomplishments I can uncover – no peer-reviewed articles, no books from major scholarly publishers, indeed no books from any publisher at all. That in itself doesn’t make Ian a bad guy, of course. But it’s kind of funny that the entire Millhiser corpus of panicked articles about the takeover of the United States by unlettered rubes is composed by someone of no scholarly distinction whatever.

Once or twice a year I reply to another one of Ian’s pieces. They’re all pretty much the same: uncomprehending analysis, stern rebukes of dissidents, and stolid, sledgehammer prose without elegance or nuance. He is a self-parody, the epitome of the hectoring, p.c. automaton.

Millhiser pretends my replies to him do not exist. He continues to make the same inane arguments, in the full confidence – alas, probably justified – that his limited audience has not read my refutations. In fact, he refuses to quote anything I have written in the past 15 years.

That’s about what one can expect from ThinkProgress and the other left-wing thought-control sites that monitor and censure unapproved thoughts.

My Nullification FAQ was largely inspired by Millhiser, who raises the same long-exploded arguments again and again, no matter how many times I refute them. I finally decided to write up a FAQ and leave it at that. You will not be surprised to learn that Millhiser pretends the FAQ does not exist.

I have written a whole book about nullification of unconstitutional federal laws. Millhiser has attacked and smeared me for years without once quoting from that book, or from anything I have written on the topic. In my book I included many primary documents, in part so readers wouldn’t have to take my word for things, and in part to make it harder for the world’s Millhisers to erase them from history.

His latest is an interview at AlterNet, with editor Joshua Holland, called “American Right-Wingers Are No Longer Conservative – They’re Extremists.” Oooh! Well, we can’t have that!

Extremist is one of the commissar’s favorite words. Nothing gets under the thought controller’s skin more than an uppity peon who thinks there might be more to political philosophy than John Kerry and Mitch McConnell. Be satisfied with the range of debate we allow you, citizen. Any opinion a reasonable person might want to hold can be found in that yawning chasm that separates these two men. You have an opinion that differs from both of them, you say? Why, you’re an extremist.

Millhiser and Holland are appalled at conservatives’ lack of respect for “long-standing precedent” and “venerable tradition.” (These would make excellent rebukes of Socrates and Copernicus, I note in passing.)

Falsehoods and abuses, we are to believe, become truths and virtues if perpetrated long enough. And for heaven’s sake,venerable tradition? Is this what AlterNet, which advocates social policy that would have horrified even the left-liberals of two generations ago, is now pretending to favor?

Of course, Millhiser does not care one whit about “precedent” and “tradition,” else he would be writing articles about the risible jurisprudence of the New Deal Court and its transparently political departures from longstanding precedent. What Millhiser cares about are nationalism and government power, just like the neoconservatives he pretends to oppose. Law school taught him the nationalist theory of the Union, and he is going to defend this preposterous notion come what may.

So in the interview we are treated to the following analysis. Some Tea Party groups are attempting to resist government power in unapproved ways. Some of them even think the states can nullify unconstitutional laws. This makes them reactionaries. If they were real conservatives, they would roll over and die like the good losers left-liberals expect them to be.

According to Millhiser, these conservatives supposedly have a faulty understanding of the Tenth Amendment:

About four years ago, you started to hear these weird noises about how things violate the 10th Amendment. And not just, you know, the Affordable Care Act – that’s when they made this argument over and over again – but it was also people claiming that Medicare violates the 10th Amendment. Social Security violates the 10th Amendment. And what I started to hear at these Tea Party rallies that were popping up is speakers got up and they were saying things that very closely resembled this discredited constitutional theory that existed about 100 years ago. At the time, it led to child-labor laws getting struck down, it allowed pretty much any law protecting unions getting struck down, that led to minimum wage getting struck down – all of these essential worker protections getting struck down…. And while we were asleep at the switch, they were writing books and they were educating their partisans about how awesome it would be if we had this crazy theory of the 10th Amendment, and then I guess we wouldn’t have to be stuck with these terrible child-labor laws anymore.

As usual with Millhiser, it is enough for him simply to point out his opponents’ view; he need not trouble himself to refute it. So we never actually learn why these people are wrong to read the Tenth Amendment the way they do, apart from the fact that this reading makes Ian Millhiser unhappy. Theirs is a “discredited constitutional theory.” Discredited by what? By anything relevant?

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