On Grim’s Law

Writing a few days before the election, Huffington Post Columinist Ryan Grim broke a longstanding taboo by advancing what I will refer to (with apologies to my linguist friends) as Grim’s Law.

The pundit, according to Grim, is “endowed by (the) creator (with) the inalienable right to be consistently wrong and never apologize.”

It hardly needs to be said that the days following the election provided nearly ideal laboratory conditions for assessing the predictive accuracy of Grim’s Law.  An astounding number of pundits were consistently wrong on the election in so many ways that it will take a veritable encyclopedia to document their errors.

Among the most egregious were those who predicted not only a Clinton victory, but denied even the possibility that the race could be close.  For those doing so from the left, the certainty of the result became grounds for attacking “soft leftists” urging swing state votes for Clinton.  According to them, we were capitulating to the “climate of fear” manufactured by the Democratic Party of “hippie punching” those who had the courage to resist the calls to help prevent the disaster of the Trump presidency.

In retrospect, it now seems incredible that these charges would be levelled, but they were more or less routinely in the weeks and days prior to the election, not just by random internet bloggers but by bona fide pundits-those with access to substantial major corporate media perches.

Indeed, one of these left pundits, hereafter LP, showed up in the comments section of this very blog to issue a snidely personalized attack on Chomsky and myself for our article advancing swing state lesser evil voting.

“Congratulations John, this post will be used relentlessly to bash everyone an inch to the left of Democrats. As was surely it’s (sic.) intent.”

This was followed up by a rather stunningly confident assertion of what he took to be fact of the matter:

“By the way: Trump cannot win. This election is not close. It has never been close. The notion that it was ever close was always a fantasy sold by a media that needs to perpetuate the idea that it’s close.”

At the time, as I pointed out in response, most polls indicated that Clinton was ahead but that the election was close, with a few polls putting Trump in the lead.  But this was too much for our LP to bear and he invented his own reality, using it as the grounds to launch an attack against me and Chomsky.

“And in 2020, they’ll nominate another conservative Democrat again, and you’ll make this identical argument again. Every presidential election of my lifetime, the Democrats have lured soft leftists like you to hippie punch with this argument. And they will never stop doing it.”

It has now been two weeks since the total bankruptcy of LP’s comments was revealed, sufficient time for us to assess the validity of Grim’s Law namely, its prediction that when a pundit, in this case LP, is embarrassingly and incontrovertably wrong, they “never apologize.”

I can personally attest therefore to Grim’s Law having been confirmed.  For not only would LP not apologize, he would double down on his attacks on me in a facebook thread hosted by Astra Taylor in which he accused me (bizarrely) of blaming Jill Stein for the Trump presidency, something I neither believe, nor have I ever suggested.  In short, another invention on his part providing the grounds for an attack.

It would be easy for me to put this aside if it were not for LP’s most recent performance.  As I mentioned, P is clearly moving up the ranks, now in a position to inform Washington Post readers that, contrary to what Clinton supporters have repeatedly asserted, “Sanders could have won” . The piece was approvingly circulated by Sanders sympathizers who assumed that the pundit was giving voice to their views.

Probably few were aware that rather than supporting Sanders when it mattered, LP was not just neutral but hostile, having reminded his readers that he has “repeatedly and publicly said that I won’t vote for Bernie Sanders due to his stances on Israel, immigration, and guns.” Some months later, he would shift to becoming, in his words “a lukewarm supporter”, making clear that to those who were deeply invested in the Sanders campaign, donating whatever they could afford to, putting in countless hours canvassing, phone banking that they were investing in a “highly flawed” candidate who would almost certainly disappoint them.

Yet again, Grim’s Law is confirmed.  In no way did LP provide any evidence that he held these prior views, he now sees himself as leading the parade: dictating how the left should respond to the attacks on its core institutions which will define the Trump era.

As a pundit, he sees himself as having the right to do so, but with complete certainty and blithely dismissing questions as to whether his past analytical failures and factual gaffes should raise any doubts.

Those of us who do so without the benefit of his platform will, as Thucydides remarked, “suffer as we must”, our rejoinders, relegated to the fringes of what now passes for discourse in the new media age.

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