Since new competitive media have forced liberals to confront opposing points of view, they seem to have abandoned emotionalism as their main argument. Their new posture is mock hardheaded realism. Liberals flex their spindly little muscles and announce that everything that used to make them cry – guns, racial profiling, torturing suspects – simply doesn't work: The fact is, it doesn't work, this is according to several studies, and no, you can't see them, why would you ask?
Thus, for example, after decades of womanly hysteria about guns, we started getting statements like this from Fox News Channel's Alan Colmes to Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America: "Let's talk about some hard and cold facts, Larry. The fact of the matter is, Larry, that the odds that a home will be the scene of a homicide are much greater if there's a gun in the home." Soccer moms across America shot up straight at that one and said: I did not know that!
As the inestimable economist John Lott has shown, the study behind this flagrantly dishonest "cold hard fact" assumed that anyone killed by a gun in or near a home where anyone owned a gun was, therefore, killed by "a gun in the home." The study merely attests to the fact that people who live in high-crime neighborhoods tend to own guns. This is like the joke about diets causing people to be fat because most people on diets are fat. Or, as Lott says, on that theory of causation, hospitals must cause people to die because lots of people who die have been hospitalized recently. (Lott exposes dozens of such phony "studies" and shibboleths about guns in his splendid new book, The Bias Against Guns [buy book].)
After 19 nearly identical-looking Muslim men hijacked four airplanes and murdered 3,000 Americans, people weren't in much of a mood for liberal preachiness about racial profiling. So instead of screaming and trying to make Americans feel guilty, liberals took a hardheaded realist approach. Asked if there was anything wrong with ethnic profiling at airports after 9-11, Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz said: "Yes, it doesn't work." Other, better ideas, he said, were face-recognition technology and national ID cards. These would work great – assuming we know who the terrorists are. But if we knew who the terrorists were, the only plane they'd be boarding would be on its way to Guantanamo.