Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Right Way to Engage

Henry Farrell:
Let’s imagine that we lived in an alternative universe where some of the more noxious nineteenth century pseudo-science regarding ‘inverts’ and same-sex attraction had survived into the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Let us further stipulate that the editor of a nominally liberal opinion magazine had published one purported effort to ‘prove’ via statistics that same-sex attraction was a form of communicable psychosis, which invariably resulted in national degeneracy when it was allowed to persist.
The post goes on in that vein, and the target is Andrew Sullivan and his continued trumpeting of his intellectual courage in publishing racist bullshit when he is - quite rightly - upset when nitwit Republicans use similar bullshit against anything involving TEH GAY. What interests me is Rich Puchalsky's insistence on the right way to engage:
You don’t seem to be understanding what I’m writing. I already held up two cases that serve as models for how to acknowledge someone like Sullivan. 1) Steven Jay Gould (in his engagement with Sullivan’s source), 2) the Poor Man. In short, it’s best to either be so overwhelmingly expert and well-written that anyone who looks at your reply even briefly will suspect that the person’s wrong, or so mocking and unserious that it’s clear that you’re giving no respect either to the person or the process of deliberating with him.

This blog post doesn’t match the first model because it’s not really an expert attack. It doesn’t match the second because it still treats Sullivan as someone who could conceivably change his mind or be convinced by evidence or understand an analogy that it is not in his interest to understand.
It seems to me that Henry's post demonstrates that Sullivan is plenty awful and that Rich's demand is that Sullivan be made more awfuller or that Sullivan be crushed under a big safe full of statistics. Maybe Henry should say Sullivan's a piece of shit?

33 comments:

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Teach the controversy!
~

J— said...

Teach the controversy!

All One Guy.

(Off to read the Crooked discussion. Back later.)

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Nothing is worse than a right-wing Pet Shop Boys fan.

Nothing!

vacuumslayer said...

Maybe Henry should say Sullivan's a piece of shit?

Would that be so bad?



OK, so I skimmed through the comments looking for yours...and I'm going to have to insist that you ban me from your blog or just whole online experience...because I swear I am infecting you with my bad spelling/grammar/typing errors. It's fucking creepy!

Substance McGravitas said...

It's a CT curse. My writing is always shit there.

Malacylpse said...

You know, there's a lot of smart people over at CT, but this whole "we liberals must only engage with malicious idiots on terms that are right and proper, which clearly precludes calling people malicious idiots" thing they have going over there gets tiresome.

Substance McGravitas said...

The thing is I don't see that in the post. Out of context I don't think Rich would be complaining.

Substance McGravitas said...

Elaborating, I don't see how you could come away from that post and think Andrew Sullivan ISN'T a piece of shit.

Malacylpse said...

Yes, and they are now at 100-plus comments, about a third of which are at least somewhat about whether Henry was right to write that (most excellent) post.

The comments there somehow remind me of the aggressively-nice ObWi back when I still read it. Maybe it is just me and my general tendency to be a jerk.

El Manquécito said...

Maybe it is just me and my general tendency to be a jerk.

Those of us who just must be jerks eventually find the right places to be ourselves. I think you're safe here.

Substance McGravitas said...

I'm for the jerkiness, but I don't have my real name attached to various goatse posts. I can live with non-pottymouthed expression from people who have standing on the line.

mikey said...

This is why I often wonder if I truly belong in the blogs. Sullivan, Hitchens, Klein (either of 'em, Thudner), Yglesias, Krugman, it doesn't matter. It seems to me that people spend ridiculous amounts of energy and effort trying to give them a bad name, I assume so people will shun them and they will die alone, diseased and impoverished.

Why? Who cares? You can read them or not. I happily acknowledge I real most of them. They're smart, informed people with something to say. Do I agree with all of it? Of course not. Again, so what? I actually can read opinions I disagree with without turning into a pillar of salt and blowing a way. Sometimes it's even good to think about things you disagree with. I mean, for me it is, anyway.

All I ever ask of the blogs is that they don't a.) Lie or b.) be a fucking idiot or tool. If they're smart, thoughtful and considered, they're actually on the side of god. Do any of you guys have somebody that you read that you agree with one hundred percent of the time? I mean, if you do, why? They're YOU. Nothing to be learned there.

But whatevs. It's an inherent flaw in my OS. I'll never understand this process, and you'll always think I'm some kind of dork for not getting it.

One more thing. I Kipple, too. Bwwaaah Hahhhh Hhhaaahhhh!

J— said...

I sympathize with Puchalsky, but I think his frustration, when directed at Farrell's original post, is misplaced. Farrell does what The Poorman Institute and Sadly, No! and other good political snark blogs often do--point up inconsistency and hypocrisy and remind us good faith engagements will be lost on the disingenuous--but just without the cutting humor and zany creativity that attracts many of us to these sites.

J— said...

attract

Substance McGravitas said...

Should I mention that this was a trolling-for-mikey post?

It seems to me that people spend ridiculous amounts of energy and effort trying to give them a bad name, I assume so people will shun them and they will die alone, diseased and impoverished.

Disease: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! But, mikey, as a good commie you should understand that I wish Andrew Sullivan nothing but the most adequately-cared-for-within-our-means end.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I assume so people will shun them and they will die alone, diseased and impoverished.

Funny thing, mikey, that's exactly what's happening to us.

And all a Joe Klein, for instance (way over on the left...as the left is defined for us by our corporate masters) will debate with whatever screeching loony FAUX has just promoted is precisely how much more we deserve to be screwed.

Sure, the guy who says we're only going to cut your finger off is more reasonable than the guy who says "Nope. Gotta be prudent, gotta take your whole leg...everybody's gotta sacrifice."

But don't you wish you could have someone else who would speak for you?

* Substitute limbs and fingers for Social Security and such as.
~

Substance McGravitas said...

Sure, the guy who says we're only going to cut your finger off is more reasonable than the guy who says "Nope. Gotta be prudent, gotta take your whole leg...everybody's gotta sacrifice."

I like my fingers on my legs just the way they are!

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Well, see, there's another objection Mister McGravitas (IF that is your real name!):

They don't even make any sense, or know what they're talking about.
~

mikey said...

Yeah, man. That's what I've been saying all along.

If we could just silence those dissenting voices, we'd be fine...

Substance McGravitas said...

Mikey, as a for instance, I am not one of the folks who think Paul Krugman is a left-wing saviour. But while I disagree with what his stances were on free trade (not sure if he's modified those much as I haven't paid enough attention to him) and I'm sure I'm more of an economic interventionist than he is, I can appreciate that he's not a shitbag impervious to facts over his own ego when he has a point to argue, as Sullivan obviously is regarding that Bell Curve shit. Hiring Sullivan is reprehensible and yes, there's no problem at all in believing he should never be a paid writer again. That opinion is dissent too.

It's not like Sullivan can't get a free blog and keep writing, as we do. Maybe, though, he should work at 7-11.

And pre-emptively, don't worry about continuing the argument if you wanna.

Substance McGravitas said...

Yeesh, bad writing. By that I mean "Please argue if you like."

wiley said...

Let us further stipulate that the editor of a nominally liberal opinion magazine had published one purported effort to ‘prove’ via statistics that same-sex attraction was a form of communicable psychosis, which invariably resulted in national degeneracy when it was allowed to persist.

Let us stipulate further yet that said editor wants nothing more than to go completely, stark, raving, fucking mad with some same sex organs on a same sex persona and that instead of encouraging him/her to write more of this pointless psycho-babble drivel for the purpose of convincing him/herself and anyone else who will listen that having same-sex sex is just too crazy to entertain, that he/she ought to just go for it. With our blessings. Press on.

Do the nasty with someone who has a body like you do. Even if you discover that the actual encounter is not as sexy to you in the meat-world as it is in your sexual fantasies, and hasn't turned out to be your cup of tea, at least you'll know this about yourself and can then enjoy your fantasies without worrying that you might act them out, because you already have.

See. That's how people who aren't terrified of themselves and others think and act. Easy isn't it?

Smut Clyde said...

Maybe Henry should say Sullivan's a piece of shit?

I am in favour of pointing out the central role of J. Philippe Rushton within the intellectual foundation of Sullivan's Bell-curve enthusiasm, and relying on guilt-by-association ridicule.

Malacylpse said...

I'm in favor of pointing out that Charles Murray himself burned a cross and go for guilt by association with one less step.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

If we could just silence those dissenting voices, we'd be fine...

You've got that precisely backwards, mikey.

Last I checked, Joe Klein and company (the 'sensible' liberals who supported the war on Iraq, and now all agree that we need to cut 'entitlement spending') still have their media platforms and paychecks.

It's the people who have been right about every major policy issue for the last 30 years that have been silenced, mocked, and ignored.

Here's a cartoon.
~

J— said...

Oh, now it's ON!

mikey said...

Last I checked, Joe Klein and company (the 'sensible' liberals who supported the war on Iraq, and now all agree that we need to cut 'entitlement spending') still have their media platforms and paychecks.

They sure do. I'm not sure how you make the calculation that the fact that they hold opinions that you (and I, for that matter) disagree with should disqualify them from having a job writing for a publisher. That seems, well, kind of frightening...

Substance McGravitas said...

I'm not sure how you make the calculation that the fact that they hold opinions that you (and I, for that matter) disagree with should disqualify them from having a job writing for a publisher.

Where said publisher is supposed to be a publisher interested in facts, Sullivan does not deserve a position at that publisher. It's easy. I lie at work - and my work is pretty opinion-based - I get fired, and rightfully so. Sullivan does not.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

That seems, well, kind of frightening...

I find it frightening that you're concerned with a problem that doesn't exist (e.g. thunder doesn't like Joe Klein, and therefore Joe might lose his job) and ignoring the problem that does exist: people who were right about the Iraq war, like Phil Donahue and Robert Scheer, did lose their jobs. And they haven't been replaced...instead the Michael Gersons, Marc Thiessens, and Jennifer Rubins of our world are the ones rewarded.

The Iraq War is just one of a number of such media signposts along the decades.

Current ones include insisting that Social Security be cut in order to pay for things like the Iraq War. And that we need to get ready to blow up Iran.

P.S. We were led into the war with Iraq based on absurd propaganda regarding the threat Iraq posed to the U.S. The war that was supposed to be paid for by Iraqi oil has instead cost us $3 Trillion (cost of ignoring Afghanistan for 7 years is included in that sum). We don't know how many Iraqis lost their lives, because our government didn't want us to know.

It's not an opinion that this was a disaster, mikey. It's a fact. Tell me who lost their job for helping 'catapult the propaganda'? Then tell me why no one deserved to lose it.
~

mikey said...

Sigh.

I know. We've had this argument a million times. I'll cut it short before we bore everyone again.

But in brief. You're wrong.

We went to war because we elected a president who sent troops to invade Iraq. Joe Klein, along with every other writer on the planet, lacks the authority to order the American military to invade and occupy a foreign power. The GW Bush administration is responsible for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and to say anyone else has any responsibility is both to absolve the criminals responsible and to grossly mis-understand the power of the media vs. the power of the people WE put in office (although it's important to remember that WE put Al Gore in office and Bush stole it, but that doesn't change the fact that he's the one who ordered the attack on Iraq, not Joe Klein or any other writer, none of whom deserve to lose their job because YOU or I think they're wrong)...

wiley said...

Yeah, one of the things the neocons did to lie us into launching a preventive war against Iraq was taking all the tentative words out of CIA intelligence reports. The CIA analyzers could not say that they have proven that Iraq didn't have WMD because you can't prove a negative. If a CIA agent had taken all the neocons out for making them look like such jerks, who could blame them. What am I saying? I wish they had.

Substance McGravitas said...

But in brief. You're wrong.

We went to war because


Here I think you're reading a little too much into what thundra wrote. There WAS a propaganda campaign waged by the government, and I agree that the war would have been waged with or without the suckers Klein, Sullivan et al. But those two bought it.

So let's leave the war culpability aside, which, going back, I don't see thundra explicitly addressing, not that I want to speak for anyone else.

What your argument boils down to is that the worth of people who write should never be measured. That's ridiculous. It's measured all the time by people who hire writers.

Brendan said...

I think Rich Puchalsky may be displaying signs of too much reading of the Kings of Snark. Don't get me wrong -- I love Teh Sadlys, TPMI, and a whole host of others, but I do sometimes wonder if over-indulgence in that form causes one to be unable to appreciate subtler jabbing.

In fact, I'd say some of the best satire is good precisely because of its understated nature.

In any case, I didn't read Henry Farrell as showing the slightest bit of respect toward Sullivan's distressing indulgence in pseudoscientific racism.

Speaking of whom, I don't really have the energy to get into a long back and forth about Sullivan, but I will say that it seems to me that there have to be more ways to respond to him than either This Extreme or That Extreme. He's an odd duck with some appalling blind spots, but he's not, in my judgment, utterly worthless because of them. It is certainly true that I have written off others because of a persistent streak of racism or something equally heinous -- John Derbyshire is a good example -- but for whatever reason, I don't do the same with Sullivan. Maybe it's just that, like Hitchens, when he's on, he's on like few others ever are.