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Saturday, May 22, 2004

Cocktail parties and the Nature of Truth

Brad DeLong and Matthew Yglesias attempt the exegesis of Jim Hoagland (what a waste of brains).

Actually they consider the nature of reality.

Brad writes

"Matthew (and Atrios) are correct: the esoteric meaning of Hoagland's columns is often very different from the exoteric meaning--and it is reasonably clear to me that Hoagland believes in the esoteric meanings that are, as Matthew puts it, hidden under "this veneer of reasonableness."

But where does Matthew get off saying that the unreasonable esoteric meaning is what the column is "actually about"? 99 out of 100 readers don't get the unreasonable esoteric meaning; what they get is the reasonable exoteric meaning. And isn't the important article not the one that the writer writes, but he one that the reader reads?

I think Matthew Yglesias has mistaken the nature of reality."

Matthew concedes

"Perhaps Brad is correct. Still, a writer ought to say what he means."

But I think that Brad understates the manifold complexities of meaning.

Matthew and Brad agree that Hoagland's op eds are often covered in a veneer of reasonableness and that this hides an esoteric meaning which they, unlike 99% of readers can decode. Very roughly, they agree that Hoagland manages to sound sane (most of the time) while carrying water for Ahmed Chalabi. He does this by hiding his Chalabist sympathies under code words most of the time. I agree with both of them.

Does it matter what Hoagland has in mind if he is careful to hide it ? Brad says what matters is the Op Ed as read not as intended.

I think many things matter and one of them is Hoagland's reputation. He is a columnist at the Post and is not clearly a nutcase as Krauthhammer is. This means that his judgement influences people who know better. I think Hoagland can do damage at the dread cocktail parties where the world's fate is decided. There, I am sure, his views are not hidden. There the fact that he writes on the Post Op Ed page and is not widely denounced as a loony matters. There everyone grasps the esoteric meaning of op eds.

Maybe only 1 % of people know that Hoagland manages to pass as a reasonable person while shilling for Chalabi. However, some of them are (sadly) much more powerful than Brad or Matthew and are also cynical enough that it matters more to them that Hoagland passes as a reasonable person than that he is not really reasonable.

Also, aside from cocktail parties, there is the risk that events in the next few years will confirm Hoaglands esoteric predictions. Given his track record, this is unlikely but anything can happen. Then he would be able to decode his op eds and correctly claim that he told us so. He would be able to show that the hidden meanings are the true ones by bringing up things he said to friends more or less in private.

Allowing a pundit to have seperate esoteric and exoteric messages allows him to decide ex poste what he predicted. This is very dangerous.

Fortunately the whole debate is dated.

Events have caused Hoagland to drop his mask. He is a true Chalabite and is chosing Chalabi over Bush.

He refers to raid on INC headquarters and Chalabi's house without hiding behind any veneer at all

"In the chaos rapidly enveloping the occupation of Iraq, the scene can only encourage Baathist killers or others who would be willing to rid the occupation authority of this meddlesome Shiite politician. Torture by proxy is already an issue in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Murder by proxy now seems within the realm of the possible in U.S.-occupied Iraq."

The guy spies for Iran and steals everything which isn't nailed down and a police raid is clse to "murder by proxy" ?

My guess is that, after today, there will never be a risk that anyone will imagine that anyone else will mistake Hoagland for a resonable person.

Still, I think, Matthew Yglesias was right to be worried.

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