Stephen Marche just wrote an article about the whole Niall Ferguson brouhaha, The Real Problem with Niall Ferguson’s Letter to the 1% at Esquire. He notes that Ferguson charges $50K+ for public speeches, and that this is the audience he is going after: the super wealthy and corporation who can afford such outrageous speaking fees. I don’t accept this idea, but it is a reasonable contention.
I think that Niall Ferguson has allowed his ideology to harm his thinking ability. This more blinded thinking (which was always there as seen in his first book, The Pity of War), made him too cozy with conservative political elites. As we see with Fox News, once you get inside the echo chamber, you are lost. You don’t get good information and your arguments get soggy because no one ever questions them.
So I thought Marche’s article was effectively an apologia for Ferguson—a way of removing some of the shame of his recent work. But despite that, the comments on the article were hostile. The following quote really struck me:
This is typical “Look! I’m in the center! I’m reasonable!” thinking. Regardless, check out that last sentence, “How about an issue of Esquire focused solely on ideas moving forward without cynicism or blame?” This is exactly what we heard from Obama three and a half years ago. There’s a problem with it. Assigning blame is not cynical. Assigning blame is part of the healing process. Not assigning blame indicates that we believe what happened before was okay.
Societies need guidance. Personally, I’m not for major penalties. But I am for holding a person up and saying, “What you did was wrong.” I am for shame. Because shame is something that a society needs. It is something that I need. We all do bad things. When those bad things are public, the shaming should be public.
If Niall Ferguson is just to be forgiven without discussion, then Niall Ferguson and those who believe him will go on spreading lies. In fact, while we have our Very Serious discussion of “ideas,” Niall and his clan will be off in their echo chamber becoming more and more convinced that our society has become a socialistic hell that much be saved through armed revolt.
This I posit, is even more important than discussing the policy ramifications of the ACA. Shame on us if we insist on elevated discussions while the base of our culture crumbles underneath.