Sunday, 11 June 2006

Political Blogging and Its Infinite F'ing Discontents You may remember a couple of weeks ago when I posted a little something about how Jeff Goldstein is a more intellectually substantial opponent than most people think. Not that Jeff hasn't said some ape-shit stupid things. He certainly has. I wonder though if that isn't our fault. How did my fellow far-leftists respond to my original post? By continuing the parade of (perhaps deserved) calumny which has characterized the "debate" from the start. I deleted well over 100 comments which were beyond beyond the pale. They accused Jeff of being things in the very language typical of the thing they accused him of being. He was called a "misogynist" by people who insisted he was a "pussy." He was labelled a "homophobe" by people who called him a "faggot." All of which hinted that there's some disconnect among his leftist critics. Somehow "brain" failed to connect to "words" in some crucial fashion. People who wouldn't dare share a room with Michael Bérubé and call someone "retarded" wrote that Jeff was a "paste-eating 'tard." I would say they "wrote it without a second thought"—but this particular commenter wrote it four times before drawing the conclusion that I would continue to punch "delete" no matter how many times he posted it. And you know what? I'm disgusted. This hypocritical posturing of my compatriots on the left momentarily stuns me to silence. Into it I say, "This cannot continue." The problem with the political blogosphere parallels one I see everywhere in academia. Those who speak have done so to the choir for so long that they are unable to acclimate themselves to criticism. They equate it with hostility and respond with hypocritical stupidity. Why else would someone who fights for gay rights call someone else a "faggot"? (I'm not interested in subterranean homophobia here. That's too obvious. I'm more interested in the clueless things self-identified progressives say.) Why am I suddenly so apoplectic about the political blogosphere? I'm glad you asked. I've spent the past few days vigorously disagreeing with Jeff and his commenters. (I first intervene here.) And what does my stern but vehement objection to his opinion earn me? Emails which encouraged me to write the following form letter: Dear _____, I appreciate your email and think highly of the untainted leftist politics you ostentatiously practice. Their purity confirms your purchase in "the reality-based community." Thank you for bringing to my attention the fact that I am a "servile cunt." Indeed! I understand that my calm contradiction of the arguments proferred by Jeff Goldstein and his commenters disturbs you and find your desire to cut to my quick commendable. As I imagine the placid expression you countenanced as you wrote that I email, I am ashamed, I say, ashamed at my behavior. My decision to oppose Jeff sans invocation of the increasingly funny appellation "paste-eater" clearly shows a lack of requisite creativity on my part. For that I apologize. I will preface any future interaction with Jeff or his "retarded...
Idle Hands vs. Damnable Complicity As a corollary to the saga still raging below, I want to write about one of my students. (I'll keep it general.) She's writing about a local "advocacy group" devoted to a cause which any reasonable person would consider commendable. The first draft of her article outlined a series of meetings in which the members of this group talked about themselves and their spiritual development. No mention of the commendable cause which ostensibly unites them. In her second draft she added an account of another meeting no different from the first, as well as a conference which this group had organized. The conference celebrated the publication of a memoir by a prominent academic in which she talked about her experiences. The proceedings consisted of little more than all the members of the advocacy group talking about their experiences too. Everyone talked about themselves and formed what they called a "sisterhood." Still no mention of the cause which ostensibly unites them. My student arrived at her mandatory final conference with a horrified look on her face. She sat down and handed me yet another draft. "Before you read it, I want to say something." "Yes?" "It's boring. I sat there writing and I couldn't stop thinking about how boring it is. They don't do anything. They meet to discuss [a cause which any reasonable person would consider commendable] but all they do is talk about themselves and how they have to heal themselves before they can do anything else. But they never do anything else. I wish I had chosen a different subject. I can't believe I chose this one. I'm so stupid." "No you're not. [Long explanation about artificial crunch of the quarter system on conventional research and reportage and how it forces students to run not necessarily with the best but "the best available" idea.] But I see something interesting in this topic." "Really?" "Why not point out the difference between their words and their actions?" "I don't want them to hate me. They let me into their lives and I don't want to betray their trust." "Remember that Janet Malcolm quotation I read in class? 'Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people's vanity, ignorance or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse.' You're going to betray them. There's no way not to. They know you're there using them, and you know they're using you. The thing you have to remember is that you have a commitment to the truth, not to further inflating their already bloated image of themselves. You're not their PR department." "I know, I know. But they really want to help people." "And are they helping any?" "No, no, not really." "What if you point that out? It may shatter their image of themselves, but what about the victims [of the practice the commendable...

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