Why is Matt Yglesias?
Reflexive contrarianism will doom us all.
At 11:32 AM yesterday, an 18-year-old man armed with an AR-15, a handgun, and high-capacity magazines opened fire on students at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Two adults and 19 children between the ages of seven and 10 were slaughtered before police killed the shooter, making it the second-deadliest school shooting on record (26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012).
By now, we know what happens next.
Shock turns to sadness. Sadness turns to anger. Anger turns to frustration. Nothing changes. To borrow once again from Søren Kierkegaard as I did less than two weeks ago: we live in an “age of advertisement and publicity. Nothing ever happens but there is immediate publicity everywhere.”
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We know that the government won’t take any steps to prevent this from happening again. We know that as a result of today’s inaction, future atrocities will take place. Maybe it will be a kindergarten classroom in Ohio, a New Hampshire daycare, an Illinois high school, or an Iowa pre-K. Maybe it will be all of them. And maybe it’ll happen next week or next month or next year. All we know for certain is that it will happen again because we won’t do anything right now. It’s hard not to feel rage about what this country we live in chooses to let happen — over and over. I feel it. Maybe you do, as well. It’s a deep sadness mixed with anger and hopelessness.
With that in mind, I present to you a very, very frustrating tweet from Matt Yglesias.
“For all its very real problems, one shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the contemporary United States of America is one of the best places to live in all of human history and there’s a reason tons of people of all kinds from all around the world clamor to move here,” wrote the Slow Boring Substacker.
This type of reflexively contrarian opinion is the core of Yglesias’s wildly successful career. Smug, know-it-all debate club nonsense is his bread and butter. He knew it was tone-deaf when he tweeted it, but hit “send” anyway. The message, that people should stop complaining about things like children being mowed down by a man with an assault rifle because the U.S. is good in other ways, missed the mark. This sort of actually, you’re wrong for feeling upset by this and saying that our country is clearly broken attitude exemplifies the type of sociopathic narcissism embodied by self-styled “contrarians.”
When pressed on it, Yglesias kept doubling down, basking in the upset of others.
“Oh no did I get ratio’d? Was it for failure to read the room?” he responded sarcastically to one tweet.
When someone else tweeted, “This really ought to be ratio-ed,” Yglesias snobbishly replied, “Don’t worry, it has been.”
Matthew Yglesias @mattyglesiasFor all its very real problems, one shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the contemporary United States of America is one of the best places to live in all of human history and there’s a reason tons of people of all kinds from all around the world clamor to move here.
He then got irritated at people he believed were mischaracterizing his words.
And when someone else pushed him on it, Yglesias again defended his decision to respond to a mass shooting of children by chiding people for being too harsh on America by saying, “Don’t seem that contrary to me — I think it’s probably a widely held view.”
It was an inappropriate thing to say at an inappropriate time. It was infinitely worse for the world than just saying nothing at all, but infinitely better for his career than had he kept his Twitter fingers to himself.
Deep down, he must have known this when he was busy rolling his eyes at the horrified public for internet clout and new subscribers. He did it anyway, and it really makes me question the absolutely perverse incentive structure being provided to us by the internet and social media.
After hours-upon-hours of defending his tweets and reveling in the anger of others, Yglesias tried to walk it back, tweeting, “I’ve often encouraged others to be more mindful and considered in what they say on here, and often acknowledged that I don’t always live up to that standard — my widely criticized remarks yesterday evening were an example of that and I’m sorry.”
“Thank you to the people who reached out to me in a generous way and helped me see past my knee-jerk inclination to stick up for something ill-considered,” he continued.
“Like a lot of people, I am frustrated by the fact that the country does not respond to the death toll associated with widespread gun ownership in the way that I would like,” he added. “And I’m doubly frustrated that I don’t personally feel like I have great ideas on how to change that.”
“I think it’s important to try to understand the depth of the actual challenge here which is not a handful of lazy or inept politicians or the corruption of the NRA but an electorate that is genuinely pretty leery of even very mild gun rule changes when it’s put to a vote,” he finished.
Aaron Strauss @aaronstrauss@jeffhauser The problem being that the GOP's position isn't "deeply unpopular" when actually presented to voters. I wish reality were otherwise--but this issue doesn't have much implication re popularism https://t.co/5Pa2snwAsa
He knew what he did. He does this on quite literally every issue. To him, politics, current events, and the world are just games. He’s a professional devil’s advocate, and he doesn’t care how his childish nonsense affects others.
Yesterday, it was gun violence. Tomorrow, it might be something related to COVID or maybe LGBTQ issues or the war in Ukraine. If people die or lose their rights, is that just the cost of a writer’s personal success? We, as people who probably spend too much time online, need to stop rewarding this nonsense.