Saturday, January 18, 2014

#877: Mark Levin

Mark Reed Levin is a lawyer, author, the host of The Mark Levin Show, and president of the Landmark Legal Foundation. He previously worked in the Reagan administration and was a chief of staff for Attorney General Edwin Meese.

His talkshow is nevertheless pretty popular for its rather non-original rants about Muslim infiltration of the US, and Obama and the Supreme Court conspiring to implement Stalinism in the US. In particular ‘the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated our gov’t – it’s called Barack Obama,” says Levin, based on the fact that Obama isn’t sufficiently aggressive in the Middle East for Levin’s taste. He then went on to call Chuck Hagel an “Israel-hater” and a “sympathizer with the most radical elements of the Middle East” before declaring that “the president is Chuck Hagel” because he believes the same, which doesn’t make very much sense, but that’s how things work for Mark Levin – if you disagree with him, ever so slightly, you are a Muslim Nazi Commie traitor, and his “argument” against your position is going to be restricted to repeatedly emphasizing that. Here is Levin arguing incoherently asserting that Obama caused the October 2013 government shutdown to launch a coup.

That is pretty much how his books work as well, though they have achieved some popularity in certain quarters.

Men In Black: How The Supreme Court is Destroying America (2005) is the kind of moronic rant you risk ending up writing if you try to make up for your total lack of critical thinking skills with zealotry, rage and paranoia. The central idea is that activist judges on the Supreme Court have “legislated from the bench,” thereby ruining America. Needless to say, neither the premises nor the inferences are particularly coherent, and Dahlia Lithwick aptly, but very charitably, concluded: “no serious scholar of the court or the Constitution, on the ideological left or right, is going to waste their time engaging Levin’s arguments once they’ve read this book.” Of course, Levin never defines “activist judge”, and given the absence of any “any structure or argument, this book could just have been titled Legal Decisions I Really, Really Hate.” It’s the kind of book that ends every chapter (the first three does indeed) with the word “tyranny”, and it was popular among idiots due to being endorsed by Rush Limbaugh, the well-known and highly respected legal scholar who also penned the foreword. Given this background you can probably predict Levin’s reactions to Obama’s Supreme Court picks: “the rule of law is dead” – and yes, Levin has slogans and arbitrary classifications (“tyrannical”, “traitorous” and so on) and examples, but has yet to provide an argument for anything; that he is right is just supposed to follow from his personal fears and wishes, I suppose; and no, Levin – despite his education – doesn’t even begin to grasp even the most fundamental principles of the legal system he criticizes.

Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto (2009) was popular as well, but hardly needs much comment as it contains precisely the stuff you’d think, backed up by nothing even remotely resembling an argument or review of facts (a few anecdotes, interpreted as Levin wants to interpret them, don’t really make for a good substitute) – but plenty of denialism, including global warming denialism, a section that was slaughtered by Jim Manzi (Levin and his fellow denialists’ responded rather predictably, by using every tactic in the book except for engaging with Manzi’s arguments; how stupid Levin’s denialism is can perhaps be gauged here). Levin has later argued that the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality is Obama’s attempt to impose tyranny as well because marriage equality is in conflict with the people’s opinions – not the majority opinion, which is in favor of marriage equality, but Levin’s opinion, which is what makes something tyrannical.

Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America (2012), billed as a piece of political philosophy, is basically a number of quotes from famous people that Levin likes (or not), from which he draws whatever conclusions he wants. Carlin Romano, himself not the brightest of the bunch, called it “dis­as­trous­ly bad from be­gin­ning to end.” David Limbaugh called it “a masterpiece”, which is probably even more damning. The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic (2013) calls for updating the Constitution (not a particularly conservative suggestion), but was not uniformly praised among conservatives either, though these refrained, as others did not, from really pointing out the insanity of Levin’s fantasy world.

To top it all, Levin is also into various forms of holistic therapies, and has defended homeopaths’ right not to vaccinate.

Diagnosis: It may be argued that he makes delusion and paranoia into something of an art form, but it ain’t pretty

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