WHEREIN WE PONDER THE MYSTERY OF MEGAN McARDLE GETTING PAID TO WRITE THIS SHIT

Posted in Rants on December 19th, 2012 by Ed

Being an Opinion Professional – pundit, columnist, bobblehead, what have you – is a lot like being a Federal judge or a left-handed starting pitcher with all of his elbow ligaments intact: it's essentially a lifetime appointment. Short of extreme circumstances (the journalistic equivalent of impeachment, a torn labrum, or pitching for Dusty Baker) there appears to be no way to actually lose the job. You can be wrong about absolutely everything, constantly move the goalposts, make things up out of whole cloth, and propose ideas that make no sense, are insane, or both.

Part of this stems from the dynamics of the industry. There is not much of an audience for incremental suggestions and the blandly reasonable. No one wants to be the New David Gergen (David Brooks aside). There is an incentive to Go Big, to be attention-getting without sounding like a complete lunatic. And even if you fail at the latter, there is still plenty of work to be had in the minor leagues (explicitly partisan blogs and magazines, etc.) Few people remember him, but the career of Westbrook Pegler is a great example of the career arc of the insane. From his perch on top of the world as the big gun in the Hearst empire in the 1930s, he wasn't fired until 1960 when he turned on Hearst himself. Then he kicked around the low-end newspaper syndicates, and then to a job writing the John Birch Society newsletter until he grew too insane even for that outlet (explicit antisemitism and encouraging readers to murder RFK will do that). Despite being demonstrably batshit, it took four decades for someone to stop giving the guy an outlet for his dyspeptic ranting.

Perhaps not the freshest example. However, it helps us understand why it is nearly 2013 and Megan McArdle is still being paid by highly visible media outlets for her writing. This is the woman who once responded to a reader pointing out that her statistics are bunk with "It wasn't a statistic – it was a hypothetical," and somehow the entire media did not collectively laugh her into oblivion. So here we stand in the shadow of another tragedy and Megan – Newsweek's most recent hire, by the way – has vomited a 4000 word jumble of boilerplate quasi-libertarian nonsense on the none too prestigious pages of The Daily Beast. After concluding, shockingly, that there is nothing that government can do about mass shootings, she offers:

My guess is that we're going to get a law anyway, and my hope is that it will consist of small measures that might have some tiny actual effect, like restrictions on magazine capacity. I'd also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once. Would it work? Would people do it? I have no idea; all I can say is that both these things would be more effective than banning rifles with pistol grips.

This does not even rise to the intellectual level of a decent Facebook post, and here we find the author being paid for the right to expose a global audience to this sewage. This is what she came up with. This is her idea. This is the best she can do. I guess that fancy University of Chicago education didn't cover things that cheap public schools give students in first-year social science classes: collective action problems, free riding, or, I don't know, watching Tombstone long enough to get to the Kurt Russell-as-Wyatt Earp "Your friends might get me in a rush but not before I turn your head into a canoe" scene that explains for anyone old enough to form sentences why people neither take initiative nor act simultaneously in such situations.

So all we really need to do is overcome millions of years of evolution and man's basic instinct to survive, adopt the basic tactics of North Korean infantry during the Korean War, and assume that a gunman can't shoot people faster than they can (in unison) give him the bum rush. If that holds, everything should be fine.

This is the person they pay to comment on finance, economics, politics, and social issues. I'm not sure if Newsweek counts as a top-tier media outlet anymore, but if so, I can't imagine McMegan getting another job in the big leagues after this. She needs to accept her fate and take a job at National Review Online. She can share an office and psych meds with Charles Krauthammer. It's for the best.