Thomas Frank, Posterboy for Liberal Media Elitism, Ends Wall Street Journal Column

August 17th, 2010 5:22 PM
With the media elite once again reminding the unsophisticated rubes in flyover country of their intellectual and cultural inferiority as it pertains to sensitivities regarding Islam, it seems a good time to review the recent movements of one of the most condescending liberal elitists of the contemporary commentariat: Thomas Frank.

The columnist recently left the Wall Street Journal for Harper's Magazine.

Frank, you may remember, penned the 2004 book "What's the Matter with Kansas?" which explored the baffling (for Frank) tendencies of rural populations between the two coasts to vote Republican. By Frank's account, their political views ran directly against the grain of their own interests.

(Never mind that a very similar book could easily be written about wealthy professionals who, against their own interests, vote for Democrats seeking to raise their taxes and increase regulations on their employers.)

Always teeming with a patronizing sense of moral superiority, Frank has characterized conservatism as "institutionally opposed to those baseline good intentions we learned about in elementary school."

Charles Krauthammer once said that conservatives think liberals are stupid, and liberals think conservatives are evil. Well Thomas Frank thinks the conservative elites are evil, and the conservative masses are stupid.

Frank has dubbed "demented logic" the notion that Barack Obama - not George W. Bush - is responsible for the state of the economy, and has bemoaned the fact that, in his words "half our political system is dedicated to the destruction of the government." That's right. He fails to meaningfully distinguish between constitutional constraints on federal power and "the destruction of the government."

Frank's seemingly willful ignorance on the intricacies of conservatism have irked a number of commentators, who note that he simply makes no effort to offer a nuanced argument. His ham-handed approach came under a good deal of fire after he released his book "The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule". Reason's Jesse Walker wrote of the book:

Frank, formerly the editor of the radical journal The Baffler and currently the token lefty on the Wall Street Journal op-ed page, doesn't just fail to distinguish between crony capitalism and free markets. He actively refuses to recognize the difference. "Laissez-faire," he admits, "has never described political reality all that well, since conservative governments have intervened in the economy with some regularity." Yet that doesn't prevent him from declaring a little later that "what makes a place a free-market paradise is not the absence of government; it is the capture of government by business interests." If you relied on Frank for your information, you would never dream that the idea of laissez faire initially emerged not as a defense against left-wing regulators, who were scarce in the 18th century, but as a critique of subsidies, government-imposed monopolies, and what Adam Smith called the "mean and malignant expedients of the mercantile system." In other words, the "free-market paradise" was supposed to be an alternative to "the capture of government by business interests."

In other words, for all his pontificating on the horrors of the absence of government intervention in the economy, Frank seems to be quite confused about what exactly constitutes a free market. This is a fairly representative sample of the intellectual caliber of his arguments.

Given all this blather and his consistently derisive - if often erroneous - criticisms of conservatives, it should not have been surprising when the Huffington Post penned a short piece on Frank's move to Harper's devoid of any ideological labels. That fact should also tell you pretty much all you need to know.