All Those Cheerleaders Aren’t Your Friends

“The refs have always been blind, it’s our job to make them deaf” – Cheerleader saying

I kid you not, you can type “cheerleader quotes” into a search engine and you actually find pages dedicated to quotes about cheerleading. Of course, having done so, I’m a little nervous about seeing what my “pop-up” adds will look like later today. Hmmm.

Of course the “cheerleaders” in the title doesn’t refer to actual leaders of cheers at a sporting event, but rather the “rah rah” echo-chamber of folks who think exactly the same way you do. Michael Goodwin just penned an article titled “New York Times’ Obama Cheerleading Harms the Nation” arguing that the refusal of the NYT (and other major media sources) to actually question the veracity of Obama administration claims has harmed the nation. I suspect he’s probably right on that point, but I’ll make a slightly more esoteric and simpler point: New York Times’ Obama cheerleading harms Obama.

It is an argument we’ve made time and again in these pages. As the Bible notes in Proverbs 27:17 – “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”

It is difficulty that makes you strong, not comfort. Lifting heavy weights builds your muscles, but laying on couches does not (I can attest to this one). Living things respond to challenge with resilience and fight, but to ease with apathy.

I grew up in what was at the time a “red state” – North Carolina. I have seen first hand how lazy arguments from “Moral Majority” types receive little challenge when surrounded by adoring throngs of the like-minded. This leaves the pedlars of these ideas thinking “I must be right, everybody agrees with me and the ‘amens’ keep on rolling!” The same thing happens just as frequently on the Left, with echo-chamber affirmation supplying comfort and ease to weak argumentation. In both cases this is a disservice to the “thinking” of people who apparently do want to apply thinking to difficult political issues.

Of course, being surrounded by like-minded folks doesn’t necessarily mean that your arguments are wrong. It simply means that if they are wrong you may never find out. It means that weakness-of-argument in defense of an otherwise reasonable policy position will be tolerated, which is probably politically OK if 51% of the country agrees with you anyway – but if you actually have to convince people of something then it is a great harm. And it means that you may well stop even trying to build up legitimate and effective arguments. Why bother if nobody ever challenges you?

One strongly suspects this was the case in the Obamacare web of lies. Everybody with half a mind knew the president’s claims were at the very least disingenuous. You cannot possibly drop a massive legislative change on top of a system and then blithely claim that it won’t cause any changes if you don’t want it to. “If you like your doctor you can keep him” and “nobody is kicking you off of your insurance plan” – malarkey. We all knew it at the time, but the NYT and the media-defenders of Obama told us that the president’s assurances made it a closed case.

Did that harm the country? I tend to think so, though there is possibly some good to come from this whole mess. The president has seriously damaged the link between employment and insurance. Now if we can just make the market open and free again we could have something better at the end of this than when we started.

Did the cheerleading harm Obama? I think the answer has to be “yes” – it did and it still does. Either the president isn’t bright enough to make good arguments in defense of his policies, in which case he shouldn’t be the president, or he is and the unwavering support of his media defenders has deprived us and him of those good arguments. Instead of becoming an effective professor of his policy preferences, he has become an intellectually lazy (dishonest?) A-lister making the 11:45 policy-defense booty-call because that’s all he has to do to get what he wants.

I suspect it’s too late for the president. I suspect it is nigh-on impossible to change at this late hour and become intellectually rigorous in his leadership. But it’s not too late for the rest of us. There are more than enough opposing viewpoints out there to challenge our  thinking and arguments. Again, it’s not necessarily about being right and wrong, but about being sharpened. Those cheerleaders who are always on your side, who agree with your every decision or whim, who ply you with flattery – those aren’t your friends, and they aren’t doing you any favors.

Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy. – Prov 27:5-6

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