This 5000-word piece began with a question from Time123 asking why I was so upset over the Supreme Court leak. It turned into a rambling discussion about the leak, the protests, the legality of the latter and the dangers posed by the former — but mostly, a discussion about the way we criticize our institutions. Specifically, too often we do so carelessly, with too much cynicism and hyperbole.
Overly harsh criticism of our own country carries several dangers. One is that it gets thrown back in our face. If influential people in the U.S. compare the racial tensions in our country to genocide, China will use those statements to minimize or justify its own actual genocide. If people here call the president a dictator, actual dictators will point to those statements. If Tucker Carlson criticizes Joe Biden as a military aggressor, an actual aggressor like Russia will put Carlson’s comments on its own state TV.
Another danger of rhetorical hyperbole in criticism of our government is that it encourages a fatalistic cynicism within our country, that tears down our own respect for our institutions. And as Jonah Goldberg has argued throughout his career, these institutions are fragile. They are precious. They are what separate us from the reign of thuggishness that history teaches us is the default governmental system of humanity.
That’s not going to be a very popular opinion for a people whose habitual stance is to toss off a quick snarky comment that assumes the worst about everyone in government. Perhaps those who actually read the piece will come away with a different view.