Jeff Goldstein is upset at Patterico. The reason is too inside baseball to rehash here, but it involved someone poking fun of him, him reframing it into an assault on his family, threatening an anonymous commenter, threatening to out an anonymous commenter, said commenter telling him to bring on the lawyers, him responding with threats of physical violence, then actually outing the anonymous commenter and being banned shortly thereafter after making a crack about a hanging-tree which — while not a death threat per se — certainly qualifies as ban-worthy in light of the earlier escalation. Goldstein disagrees:
Once he’d established the pretext for disallowing me to defend myself — and giving his commenters the freedom to attack me without my having recourse to respond directly to them (something I’ve never disallowed him to do on my site) — he then encouraged people to support his “honor” at the expense of mine. He set up a lynch mob and then pretended to wash his hands of the whole thing.
SEK tried to link back here with yet ANOTHER exegesis on his having be WRONGED by my anger . . . So let him have that last word . . . He just ain’t gonna be having that last word here.
He then deleted the automatically-generated WordPress trackback I’d so callously lobbed and banned me. I know what you’re thinking: Goldstein wouldn’t be so hypocritical as to ban me, thereby “disallowing me to defend myself — and giving his commenters the freedom to attack me without my having recourse to respond directly to them,” would he? On 16 October 2008, Goldstein wrote:
I shouldn’t have to point this out, but what the hell, I’m feeling kinda engaged this evening. First, IF ANY OF THIS IS TRUE (hi, SEK!) . . .
He merely mocked me in the forum from which he’d banned me, thereby “disallowing me to defend myself — and giving his commenters the freedom to attack me without my having recourse to respond directly to them,” and that’s completely different from Patterico banning him, thereby “disallowing [him] to defend [himself] — and giving [Patterico's] commenters the freedom to attack [Goldstein] without [Goldstein] having recourse to respond directly to them,” what with the names and pronouns in the brackets being different — nay! significantly different. In the first case Jeff is doing something to someone else, whereas in the second someone is doing that same something to Jeff. That changes everything.
Because everything comes down to intent:
My argument is that when one does not take into account what the author intended, one is no longer concerned with “interpretation” as such. Instead, s/he is concerned with what s/he is able to do with a text . . .
Again: saying a literary text has a single meaning and that the meaning belongs to its author [does not mean] that other people can’t draw different meanings from the text, or that the meanings they draw can’t be even more interesting in many ways than the author’s original signification.
It simply points out, from the perspective of how both meaning-making and interpretation actually work, that doing so is itself an intentional act, and that when one does not appeal back to authorial intent, one has ceased interpreting and commenced writing his or her own text, which is what happens when we add our own signifieds to signifiers that have been emptied of any previous signification.
To appeal to anything other than authorial intent is to string together empty signifieds to signifiers like so much popcorn at Christmastime . . . unless you’re Goldstein. When a Deputy District Attorney from the Compton Branch Office writes:
I have a job and I don’t have all day every day to go around correcting the misimpressions. I ran myself ragged last week trying, in the middle of a very demanding work week — but every clarification I issued was met with five more distortions.
Then follows it up with:
This guy has all day every day to sit on his ass and think of ways to attack my character.
His true intent was not — as one would expect from the first comment — to indicate that he found it difficult to engage with someone when they state five points to his one; no, his true intent, which only intentionalists can divine, was to impugn stay at-home-parents. This insult became “the new talking point,” despite its author insisting:
My comment was about time and access to computers. Can we not have a debate about the merits of DAs vs. teachers or stay at home parents? All three jobs serve an important function. But only one gives free access to post comments and blog posts throughout the day, which was obviously my point.
According to someone named “Jeff G,” when facing down “those who are out to pull whatever you say or write out of context” — who want nothing more than “to recontextualize what you say in order to use it as a cudgel against you” — when they “are dictating your mode of rhetoric” and “working to silence you by making sure you become overly vigilant,” all will be lost unless you:
Insist on what you meant. Refuse to accept their reframing. And in the event that it was your failure to signal your intent properly that is the cause for confusion, clarify.
Unless, of course, the person insisting you insist is the same person reframing your argument, in which case you are an unprincipled liar. Because, as practiced by Goldstein, intentionalism’s an excuse masquerading as a theory of language.
Thus concludes today’s lesson in Why The Internet Is No Fun. (Or The Greatest Fun, depending on your interpretation.)