Media Matters responds to Thomas Sowell's sound and fury

On March 31, conservative columnist Thomas Sowell angrily lashed out at critics, apparently in response to a March 29 Media Matters for America item.

Under the headline “Stupidity trickling down,” Sowell wrote:

As much as I enjoy most of the messages from readers, there is no way that I can answer more than a small fraction of them.

The messages I don't reply to at all are those from obviously ignorant people who offer insults instead of arguments. However, a recent column has brought forth more than the usual number of uninformed denunciations, so it may be useful to other readers to explain why they should not take such nonsense seriously when they encounter it.

Sowell's denunciation of the practice of “offer[ing] insults instead of arguments” immediately after referring to “obviously ignorant people” is so amusing, we can only presume it was deliberate. Still, Sowell was so adamant that he had been misinterpreted, we worried -- just for a moment -- that he may have a point.

Our concern didn't last long.

Sowell continued:

What I said that set off the crazies was that there is no such thing as “trickle-down” economics.

After presuming that we're the “crazies” in question -- and continuing to presume that Sowell was kidding when he denounced those who “offer insults instead of arguments” -- we're compelled to note that Sowell simply lied about his previous column.

What Sowell actually wrote on March 29 -- what actually "set off" us “crazies” -- was:

A classic example is the “trickle down theory,” which no one has ever advocated, but which the left insists on fighting against.

Sowell's subtle attempt to change his earlier argument is a pretty good sign that he isn't making an honest case; that he knows his contention that “no one has ever advocated” the trickle-down theory was obviously false. And it was, as we pointed out.

Sowell, though, took issue with our reference to Ronald Reagan's budget director:

Some of those who denounced me for saying that there was no trickle-down theory cited an article by David Stockman years ago -- as if David Stockman was the last word, and I should forget everything I learned in years of research because David Stockman said otherwise.

Well, Sowell claimed that “no one has ever advocated” “trickle down theory.” We pointed out that Ronald Reagan's budget director, by his own admission, advocated exactly that. We'll grant that Stockman certainly isn't “the last word” on economic theory of any kind. But surely David Stockman can fairly be considered an expert on whether or not David Stockman advocated a particular viewpoint.

Sowell went on to rant:

As far as they [here Sowell seems to be referring to Media Matters] were concerned, they already had the absolute truth and only needed to vent their anger over my having dared to say otherwise. That is a sign of a much more general and much more dangerous trend in our society today that goes far beyond a handful of true believers foaming at the mouth against one columnist.

With but a few small changes, mostly in terms of who “they” refers to, that's a statement with which we could agree completely.