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10/05/2004

Enough of "Shrill"

It was initially useful when Brad DeLong started labeling "shrill" those who finally recognized the nature of the Bush administration. The left tends to focus on arguments to the exclusion of arguers, what is said rather than who said it. Prof. DeLong, and Shrillblog, provide a nice corrective to this occasionally unfortunate habit.

But the exercise has quickly lost much of its utility. First, because so many people are "shrill." It becomes nigh impossible to remember who is shrill and who is still blinkered, who has mustered the intestinal fortitude to confront reality as it is, and who has not. I suppose a searchable database would help, but it needs to be searchable by keyword, subject, and geography. Perhaps the good Professor can apply some of his oft-blogged information management skills to the problem.

Second, and more seriously, because there is no "shrill." "Shrill" as we use it is simply a euphemism for "not yet having been proven to have underestimated the problem." Those who were shrill seven months ago don't look prescient now - they look almost as naive as the rest of us. Human rights groups that were drawing attention to our mistreatment of detainees - do they deserve accolades despite having so badly underestimated the problem? Those warning about voter intimidation - do they deserve accolades for having so badly underestimated the problem? Those warning that Bush was deceptive about the reasons for Iraq and its future prospects - in retrospect, shrill or naive?

Richard Clarke was labeled "shrill" - but his book reads like today's overt Bush administration policy, with the policy subtext much worse. Seymour Hersh was "shrill" for discussing the mismanagement of Syria and the corruption of Perle - run of the mill problems today. Howard Dean was "shrill" for saying that capturing Saddam didn't make us safer - it is now accurate to label Bush a liar for continually asserting the opposite.

At best, "shrill" means "moderately prescient." With this administration, it is not possible to be shrill enough to accurately capture its malice. Even the shrill are incapable of screeching loudly enough.

 

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