Bryan Caplan  

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Here's an eyebrow-furrowing 1-star review of an anti-Obama book I haven't readI guess the reviewer is serious, but you tell me:

There will always be skeptics and nonbelievers. In "The Obama Nation," Dr. Corsi makes clear he is no believer and harbors suspicions about any messianic figure that appears out of nowhere and builds a fervent following. He warns that misplaced hope is naive and dangerous. He has doubts about any unifying movement that is galvanized by a cult of personality. He has doubts about connections, backgrounds, associations, hidden agendas, oblique messages, word origins, trust faith dreams peace hope change . . . Dr. Corsi certainly is full of doubt.

It's understandable to show doubt in the face of forces we cannot comprehend. Even Jesus had a Doubting Thomas. Which makes me wonder how Dr. Corsi would respond if Jesus returned and decided to run for the U.S. Presidency? Surely Corsi would target even Him as "unfit" and radical.
So far Corsi sounds like a pillar of sanity.  The 1-star review goes on:

Here is the truth: some truths are unknowable. Contrary to what Dr. Corsi exhorts, it's simply not always black-and-white. There's a gray area between veracity and faith, and human truths always have two sides. In this realm, Dr. Corsi and his "facts" and footnotes have no relevance. He is rendered tangential and his arguments immaterial.
And people say that no one talks like Ayn Rand villains!  Lest you think I exaggerate, the 1-star review goes on:

Here is the truth: the basic ideas that are brought about by any visionary that have positive universal applications in our daily lives can never be destroyed. The words of change, the message of hope and the idea of redemption will endure. We should not be frightened, instead, we should embrace the opportunity to witness the rebirth of optimism.

Sometimes, you just have to put your foot on the water (Matthew 14:29-31) and if your faith is strong, you will not sink.
You could dismiss this review as the work of a demented mind, but that's hardly fair - the spelling and grammar are well above average.  You could dismiss it as the work of an agent provocateur, but that's pretty paranoid.  I'm left with the thought that some smart people think that if we just have faith in our leaders, we'll witness miracles.  Scary.
 

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COMMENTS (20 to date)
Corey S. writes:

I think you're too quick to dismiss the potential dismissal as a work of a demented mind. Crazy people are occasionally able to write using proper spelling and grammar.

This person clearly has a slippery grip on reality.

RobbL writes:

Well, at least we will have closure (unlike in the case of those pesky Armageddonists who keep pushing their forecasts out). We will all (probably) know what an Obama presidency is like in the near future.

Of course I was one who thought we would hear libertarians recanting after September so I guess I am no good at predictions.

Franklin Harris writes:

I was moved to make a related point about Rand's villains yesterday at Reason's Hit & Run blog:

Rand is such a mixed bag. On the one hand, she wrote an essay about big business as a persecuted minority. On the other, "Atlas Shrugged" is filled with decidedly unheroic businessmen who collaborate with the government for subsidies and protection from competition, up to the point of being complicit in their own nationalization -- much like the financial sector at present.

Ironically, while a lot of libertarians skip over Galt's speech (because we've heard it all before), that seems to be the only part of "Atlas" that Rand's critics bother to read. Well, except for maybe the sex scenes.

Cowcup writes:

When the issue is Iran, Obama is like Chamberlain.

When the issue is Economics, Obama is like FDR.

When the issue is his charm, Obama is like Hitler.

When the issue is Joe the Plumber, Obama is like Stalin.

Brad Hutchings writes:

One advantage of widespread public religiosity is that the masses don't offload their Jesus fantasies onto public officials. I've never heard people who lived through the time talk about FDR as Jesus. While JFK was royalty, even he wasn't Jesus. As talented a politician as Bill Clinton was, he only ascended to the height of becoming the first black President. And now we have Obama, who despite the incessant mocking from the right for assuming the Jesus role, has pretty much assumed the Jesus role.

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And we'll all vo-ote for The One.

Willem writes:

It's a heterogeneous economist!

Les writes:

I think of the reviewer like a car using less gas when it is in PARK.

The reviewer uses much less energy to leave his mind in PARK, than to shift it into gear.

Troy Camplin writes:

Yes, facts are irrelevant to the Left, especially the far Left. The fact that there are any Marxists left at all shows that facts and reality are irrelevant. This guy is proof positive of that.

dearieme writes:

"it's simply not always black-and-white": but He is.

aez writes:

"There will always be skeptics and nonbelievers."

Great all-purpose uncontradictable and dismissive statement. I've heard it most often when telling people, "No! I really, really don't want to be an Amway distributor..."

Steve Roth writes:

The fact that there are literate but sloppy- and gloppy-minded Obama supporters hardly merits a blog post, does it? At least (pace Brad Hutchings), this person doesn't think Jesus or God wants him/her to vote for a given candidate.

>Corsi sounds like a pillar of sanity.

I realize you're speaking in relative (and rhetorical) terms, but even on those terms, you don't really mean that, do you? Corsi pretty much embodies the irrational voter model.

As a more direct response to Corsi (and incidentally to those who assert soaring but empty rhetoric by Obama), I'm inclined to hand off to one past master of soaring rhetoric:

"Consider, then, whether your claim of conservatism for yourselves, and your charge of destructiveness against us, are based on the most clear and stable foundations."

http://trueconservative.typepad.com/trueconservative/2008/08/more-great-minds-lincoln-on-conservatives.html

hacs writes:

There is one aspect has not been considered yet at this presidential contest: the political ambition of each candidate. Senator John McCain is at the end of his political career as Senator Barack Obama is at the beginning of it.

If the candidates would be perceived as not very comparable, perhaps because their attributes are little substitutable, perhaps because they are very heterogeneous, and so forth, then the choice between them could be displaced to latent aspects. So, the point in this election could be which of them would meet with a bigger political loss at an eventual bad government?

Alex writes:

"I'm left with the thought that some smart people think that if we just have faith in our leaders, we'll witness miracles. Scary."

Best quote I've read in months.


lmk writes:

Very good post, but there is a selection effect here. The mainstream left doesn't take Corsi seriously, so you're going to see a disproportionate number of negative reviews from people outside that mainstream. If the average person on the left were to criticize Corsi, he or she would do some from a much different angle.

RL writes:

The reviewer was clearly intelligent. He begins by developing a theme (there will always be skeptics and nonbelievers) and later uses repetition to literary effect (Here is the truth...[repeated]).

Yet there is a sense of daffiness to the writing. It's like an intelligent priest preparing this week's sermon.

I'd have to say we live in a society where magical thinking is commonplace, the norm.

My favorite expression of why to believe in politicians (including Obama... and W.) goes something like this.

Fifty years from now, nobody will care what this President did unless it worked. It will be simply irrelevant to the Real World in which we live and work. It is impossible for this President to occupy the White House for more than eight years; during that short span of time, it is very difficult to do significant long-term damage to our country. Even what you think is long-term damage today, when you consider it, is probably less than a decade old. The genius of this country and its Constitution is not that it guarantees goodness; that is impossible. The genius is that it ruthlessly and rapidly exterminates badness, which frees us to take bold risks with our leaders.

Is Obama risky? Very. Am I concerned? Very. Will I vote for him anyway? You bet your arse I will. Rewards always come with a side of risk. Even if you don't know whether there really is a reward or how big it is... you can generally eliminate everything that doesn't carry ANY appreciable risk as not carrying any appreciable reward, either.

(I'm a Republican. I voted for W., twice, and I am not ashamed of it. I believe the level of our success in Iraq is higher because of him, and even though I have had several "head-desk" moments during his two terms, I do not believe he has done anything negative that we will still care about in twenty years.)

EconNewbie writes:

I'm not surprised. If anything I bet this reviewer is a young voter. As a college senior I constantly encounter well educated people, usually young college students, who support a politician or a party with a scary devotion. Obama is the favorite among young voters. Although the most common reason his young supporters often give is "just listen to him talk". I guess well educated doesn't always mean smart.

AMoore writes:

I agree that well educated does not always mean smart. I am a college student and I support Barack Obama 100%. It is not just to hear him talk. I support him because while others claim that he is inexperienced and risky, I believe that he simply the man that plans to blitz straight through the middle of the issues instead of tip toeing around them. If you look at his plans, they benefit the middle and low class citizens who are screaming for financial stability. The problem is that any surplus left by Clinton was squandered while almighty Bush choked on peanuts and gave "big boy" speeches.

I support intellect, tax cuts, and cheaper college tuition. I support a better, more stable economy. I support change!

Bill writes:

The book reviewer doesn't need your or Corsi's "facts." They are, afterall, tangential.

Tom West writes:

I think that people here seriously underestimate the importance of faith. Of course the reviewer has left himself open to ridicule by expressing that faith so clearly, but the desire to find someone or something worthy of worship is a fundamental drive in many if not most human beings.

The interesting thing is that historically, I suspect that societies without that faith were obliterated by those that were capable of sustaining that faith. After all, once society has left behind the faith that allows one to die (or kill) for some tenet, you're easy pickings for a society that does.

If the USA ever faced a true threat to its existence (and no, I don't think Al-Queda counts), it would be the sort of faith that Obama inspires in this would-be acolyte (along with the faith of millions of others) that would allow for the sacrifice that is necessary to defeat such foes.

Let's hope the economic success of such a faith-less society continues to defeat any existential threats before that sort of sacrifice becomes necessary.

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