Oh, dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
— Sean McElwee (@SeanMcElwee) January 14, 2015
Very short version: National Review Online’s Kevin Williamson caught Alternet (and later, Salon) publishing an article where it was claimed that the five richest Members of Congress each had a net worth greater than countries like Peru, Greece, and Hong Kong*. Once this got caught by horrified pundits across the political spectrum, Alternet and Salon quietly scrubbed this claim (which was based off of a remarkably bad interpretation of a Wikipedia article**) without owning up to it (at least, they haven’t yet, at 1 PM Eastern time). The interesting*** question then becomes How in God’s name did everybody miss that, at either website?
I submit that the reason that this mistake (which would have been obvious to anybody who knows that even modest countries will have a GDP in the billions) fell through the editorial cracks is because it had the malignant fortune to hit one of the blind spots of progressive foreign thinking. To wit: progressive activists in this country don’t really like to think about foreign countries, except in terms of how they can be used to push domestic policies. The most obvious example of this would be the Global War on Terror – it’s amazing how docile the groups that gave the antiwar movement its oomph became the second that a Republican was out of office – but this isn’t a bad example, either. Apparently in Alternet- and Salon-world foreign countries are these picaresque and precious little toys of places where the locals go about their quaint native ways, because in them everybody knows their place and nobody has any pocket money. It’s all very Ugly American****; in fact, Alternet is apparently one monocle and pith helmet away from adopting a policy of shouting at foreigners until they admit that they know English.
Yeah, I know this is harsh. They originally wrote and published that Darrell Issa***** is richer than Hong Kong. To quote a physicist friend of mine: that’s not even wrong.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
PS: I don’t actually care that we have rich people in Congress. We always have; we always will.
*Yes, I am well aware that Hong Kong is not actually an independent country. I’m not the one that used it as an example.
**Hey, let’s be honest, though: everybody at least looks at Wikipedia. We’ll usually go on and confirm the stuff that we find there, because you never know when a lunatic has done a page edit or three, but it’s too potentially handy to simply ignore.
***The question How was the mistake made in the first place? is not actually interesting, because the answer (Because progressive activists can’t do math properly) is already known.
****Mind you, if you’ve never read the book, you should. It’s quite good, and the ‘Ugly American’ of the title is actually an all right dude.
*****They misspelled his name, of course. Because Fight the Power, man. Fight the Power.