Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Is it even possible to have this conversation ... ... without proving Kathleen wrong? Bloggers who have been at it for a while have noted a recent decline in commenting, and while that decline may have begun with the popularity of RSS feeds (which abstract the content of blog posts from their web presences, encouraging reading without interaction), it has accelerated with the privatization of discussion on platforms like Facebook. When a friend shares a link there, it’s only natural to discuss the link with that friend, in that environment, rather than discussing the text with the author, on the author’s site. I'd start it, but I'm not a commenter, strictly speaking, so I don't know. (Or am I one? I try to "tend the garden" beneath my own posts, but I don't comment on other sites all that often anymore.) One thing I will note is that both Kathleen's post and the one to which she links have a slightly melancholic tone, and it's understandable why: once upon a time bloggers measured their worth by their ability to generate comments. (And mostly still do.) This worth doesn't accrue when accomplished cheaply -- as through deliberate provocation or daft contrarianism -- but when a blogger invests five or six thoughtful hours in a post, seeing comments snaking below it makes the investment feel worthwhile. This isn't the case so much anymore, though, because the conversation's have disappeared: if you link to something I write on Facebook, the uptick in traffic alerts me to the fact that I've written something that's being read, but I can't participate in the conversation, which not only strikes me as a strange -- inasmuch as I'm being excluded from conversations I've started -- but also creates an occasionally inhibiting paranoia. I know people are talking about something I've written, but I'm structurally excluded from that conversation. I like to imagine that if I wanted to join it, I'd be welcomed, but only because it's a comforting thesis that I can't disprove. But this post is about commenters and I'm a blogger, so I'll stop yammering and concede the floor to you.
Find them! Make them say the words! After a series of answers in which Speaker Boehner distances himself from Michele Bachmann’s paranoid concerns about the infiltration of our government by agents of the Muslim Brotherhood, this exchange occurs: Q: Would you consider taking her off the Intelligence Committee? Congresswoman Bachmann? JOHN BOEHNER: I don’t know that that’s related at all. Nor do I. It’s not like the Intelligence Committee is tasked to oversee “the intelligence and intelligence-related activities of 17 elements of the US Government, and the Military Intelligence Program.” It’s not as if a person on said committee sending a letter full of undocumented slanders and strange accusations of cultural capitulation has anything to do with intelligence — either in its governmental or colloquial sense. It’s not like the letter to Inspector General Charles McCullough contains material lifted from the splash page of this website or anything. It’s not as if the letter to Acting Inspector General Lynne Halbrooks demonstrates a “serious concern” about how the government labels things. Except the Halbrooks letter demands an investigation into: The failure of the Army in the aftermath of the Fort Hood massacre to characterize the jihadist motivations of the alleged shooter, a self-declared “Soldier of Allah” Major Nidal Hassan. This was compounded by the after-action investigation which did not even describe the incident as an example of “violent extremism” — the government’s approved euphemism for obscuring jihadism. The use of euphemisms, this letter contends, “may even pose security risks for this nation, its people, and interests.” This makes perfect sense: if I say nothing when they come for my language, I won’t be able to complain when they impose shariah law because they already took my language. Policing language is very important to the authors of these letters, as evidenced by a demand for a corrective action, consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States , to ensure that no Muslim Brotherhood associated entity or individual is placed in a position of honor or trust within the programs and operations of the Department of Defense unless he or she has publicly condemned and disclaimed previously stated goals of the Muslim Brotherhood. They must “publicly condemn.” They want to make some unnamed (and all future) people prove they’ve uprooted some thoughts from their heads. In words. (Presumably before the Brotherhood takes them away.) Failure to do so might “unnecessarily expose U.S. personnel [in Afghanistan] to hostile action and diseases.” They must be made to say the words, or Our Troops might catch diseases. The vector of these hypothetical diseases? Doesn’t matter. It could happen. If none of this makes much sense to you, consider it a compliment, because none of these letters make sense. The boilerplate questions that conclude all of them can be summed up thus: Is anyone under you a Secret Muslim, and if so, has he or she publicly renounced their commitment to “civilization jihad”? What is the current relationship of your Secret Muslims to the Muslim Brotherhood? Have you taken the “corrective action”...

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