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Discourse and power and blog comments

A long post about blogs and comments and discourse and also blogs.

Well, Friday turned out to be kind of weird.  I spent the afternoon doing a bunch of errands that had accumulated during the week like so many early leaves in the front lawn (including shipping my mother her birthday present a week late—September is a very busy month for us Bérubés), and by four or so I was feeling like I’d caught up with things.

Then late in the afternoon, that sneaky Scott Eric Kaufman, who keeps changing the spelling of his last name just to vex me, informed me that my campaign to win uniform admiration and all world power had hit a snag, and he sent me a url to prove it.  For it happens to be the case that in my very own discipline, there are a bunch of radical theorists whom I have been steadily pissing off for years now, and they have finally gotten together and decided to do something about it!  Why are they so pissed off, you ask?  Oh, pretty much for the usual reasons.  The most recent is that one of them had a bad dream about a liberal, and wrote about it on the Internets. The first commenter on the dream replied:

So who’s going to pull the stick out from up Berube’s ass—again—and explain to him that somebody who says “We are all Hezbollah now” is simply engaging in creative hyperbole. Isn’t that one of those liberal arts values that he’s always wetting himself over in his own space ? Oh, never mind. I’m just crushed that he didn’t manage to work the prospect of the future Constitutional Convention into it again. Yeah, we should all be salivating for that, Mike. After all, once Hillary gets into the Oval Office, she’ll probably rig it so you’re chief gatekeeper over there. You know, in gratitude for all you’ve done to hold the liberal banner of white-gloved, civilized bombing so terribly high. [snerk] Whatever.

Frankly, I think this is kind of mean.  Because, you know, I’ve always been completely honest on this blog about my inability to understand or perform complex speech acts like “we are all Hezbollah now,” and that’s why this blog always says, straightforwardly, that it’s not the kind of blog that says something it’s not saying, or says it’s not saying something it is saying. 

So you can imagine my reaction when I came across some of that creative hyperbole in the very next comment!

Someone needs to hurt Michael Bérubé, very soon and very badly.

That, or I’d like Mikey boy to go visit my now-incommunicado internets friend in Alabama who’s been living on disability for the past two years and who just suffered a stroke and is confined to a 3rd rate nursing home to tell him that his Green vote in ‘00 was the act of a self-indulgent upper middle class purist. My friend’s left side is paralyzed (how...symbolic!) but his right is still OK, and I think he could lay Bérubé out even from his wheelchair.

I wouldn’t want to mess with this “et alia” fellow, myself.  He looks very tough and noir-like.  But nevertheless, this comment made me a little bit angry.  I would never tell a Nader ‘00 voter that his vote was the act of a self-indulgent upper middle class purist!  Maybe Eric Alterman would say that, but not me.  I would say other things entirely.  Like: Nader was once a great standardbearer for progressive causes, but in 2000 was a terrible candidate who not only decisively threw the election to Bush but by his own account, actively wanted Bush to win, and who has developed some very creepy politics of his own, as he explained in a 2004 interview with Pat Buchanan.  (If I’m reading that first commenter’s reference to a Constitutional Convention properly, a lot of these Naderites’ most recent anger at me stems from this post back in March, in which I pointed out that Nader had told the New York Times in November 2000 that he “did not in any case believe for a moment that Mr. Bush would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade. ‘The first back alley death, and the Republican Party is in deep trouble and they know it,’ he said.  He described the party’s opposition to abortion as just for show, ‘just for Pat Robertson.’” Discussion of that one spilled out onto various blogs in the usual blog-rhizomatic fashion, though I stayed out of the comments deep in my own comment thread because they got really, really weird after the 150 mark. And if you’ll click on “very creepy politics” above, you’ll find Ralph telling Buchanan, “I believe in choice. I don’t think government should tell women to have children or not to have children. I am also against feticide. If doctors think it is a fetus, that should be banned. It is a medical decision.” Not that that’s incoherent or anything.)

So, once again with emphasis, for all those of you who want to re-fight 2000: Nader was a lousy candidate on the merits.  And anyone who voted Green/ Nader in the belief that they were “building a movement” was simply delusional.  The 2000 Greens won about one-eighth of Ross Perot’s vote in 1992 (one-third of Perot ‘96!), and Nader abandoned the party immediately after taking it over.  The Greens’ 2004 ticket sucked too.  But of course I don’t mind people who despised the Gore/ Lieberman ticket; I despised it too, and as a former member of the Citizens Party and the New Party, I’m all for non-delusional third parties that run good candidates in local races where they have a shot at actually participating meaningfully in electoral politics.  Last but not least, if you were a disaffected lefty who didn’t want to participate meaningfully in electoral politics and voted for David McReynolds in 2000, you’re OK with me.  This blog has never had a bad word to say about you McReynolds voters.  Never!  Because at least you folks didn’t have the movement-building delusional thing going against you, or the Nader-is-God personality cult thing, which, like all personality cults, creeps me the hell out.

But what about the “someone needs to hurt Michael Bérubé, very soon and very badly” part of et alia’s remark, you say?  Well, I think that’s just some of that “creative hyperbole” I’ve been hearing about.  So I took a moment out of my busy Friday afternoon to reply, saying,

Well, I guess I’d understand the concept of “disability” better after I’d been hurt very badly. So there’s that.

Best wishes to all thugs,
Michael

That comment provoked this witty riposte in return:

Either you’re really Bérubé and you’ve just proved how incredibly petty you are, or you’re just a troll—

—waitaminit. I think that’s distinction without a difference.

And this was so sharp and incisive that it made me apologize:

You’re quite right, et alia. I apologize for my pettiness in clicking on the link Scott Kaufmann sent me, and coming upon the Two Minutes Hate In Progress. You may resume your violent little fantasies now. Be sure to theorize them in terms of power differentials and triangulation, etc.

Cheers,
Michael

The Kaufmann with two n’s—well, that’s just a little joke Scott and I share, because he keeps changing his name and all.

Anyway, I’m glad to report that et alia has since taken up my suggestion, and has been rigorously theorizing his affect and reflecting on his Nietzscheanness and so forth, and deciding that Scott Kaufman and I are “pathological” and “incapable of being in such an emotive state that would enable them to either handle polemic or realize that ‘don’t triangulate’ is a legitimate critique of their strategy.” ‘Cause you know me, folks.  If there’s one thing I have trouble understanding, aside from complex hyperbolic speech acts, it’s “polemic.”

Not long after this, the sneaky Scott Eric Kaufman himself wrote to apologize for ruining my lovely day.  Pish-posh! I replied.  I told Scott that he did not ruin my day.  I had lately had my head swelled by a great review of my book (followed by bracing criticism of why Rawls has a better account of deliberation than I do, too), and I needed to be reminded that somebody out there needs to hurt me.  Besides, this kind of thing just goes with the territory.

______

You see, some of the fiercest Theory bloggers and commenters on the Theory tubes of the Internets are the Young Radicals of my discipline, and their experiments in “polemic” have been going on for quite some time now.  These are radical young radicals, at that—so radical that some of them are angry at Democrats, unlike any other liberal-progressive bloggers anywhere in blogtopia (yes!  Skippy invented that phrase!).  So I’m a natural target for a certain constituency, you understand.  And it’s good to see that the kids have the fire in the belly!  They remind me of my younger days, they do.  Why, heh-heh-heh, when I was a young theory whippersnapper I was saying precisely the same thing about my professors at the University of Virginia.  One afternoon I was attending a meeting in a secret room in Wilson Hall with my theory comrades in the Theory Group.  E. D. Hirsch had just taught a course in the history of literary theory, and he had said some things about Nietzsche that we young’uns didn’t much like.  My friend Sluggo decided that we had to grab him the next time he came down the hall and apply the choke hold to him.  “Yes yes,” agreed my friend Bluto.  “Only when Don Hirsch is gasping for air will The People finally breathe free.” Those 80s theory wars were good times, oh my.  Of course, we didn’t put our little fantasies on the Internet tubes where people like Hirsch could read them.  That’s because the Internet tubes hadn’t been made public yet. 

But that was long ago, when I was young and had a lean and hungry look.  I’ve gotten old and fat since then, and I’ve come to enjoy the advantages of the Executive Faculty Golf Courses in Champaign and State College.  And that’s how I know that these young radicals will come around, too, when they learn the game and join the club.  So if I run into this “et alia” fellow at the MLA this year, I’m not going to snub him; I’m going to invite him up to the private suites and show him where we keep the good bourbon.  Then I’ll introduce his friends to Hillary.  And then we’ll have a few laughs.  Because down deep, these are sweet kids.  A little crazy and mixed-up sometimes, but good kids at heart.  You gotta love spunk like theirs.  I mean, sure, they hate liberals.  Sure, they think that liberals are milquetoasts and punching bags.  Sure, they flip out when liberals don’t behave as meekly and tamely as they think liberals are supposed to behave.  And sure, they have an unhealthy obsession with Hillary.  But I’d never go around saying that they have anything in common with the far right, because that would be triangulating!  So let’s just say the kids are all right, and leave it at that.

But I can’t say the same about this one “Turbulent Velvet” fellow who hangs out with that crowd.  He’s another matter entirely.  He’s not a graduate student; he’s a professor with a professor job.  And he seems to me to be full of all kinds of conflicts lately.  Here’s his contribution to this discussion:

http://sweet-nothing.livejournal.com/2006/09/22/

Look at the comments section.

To get at the nuances of thuggishness involved here, consider that Berube is receiving kudos right now for his book about teaching the liberal arts. He adduces evidence that liberal professors are in fact very patient and fair with alternative views, do not oppress or hector, and thus he assauges conservative fears about classroom indoctrination. His evidence? His own narration of his experiences patiently teaching, in which he is the star. I think instantly of Allan Bloom’s little teaching anecdotes in which he dispatched student naivetes with such aplomb, and I think of a grad student friend who called this sort of thing “fungo writing”: you can always hit the ball when you pitch to yourself.

Don’t just consider how Berube’s trivial, condescending retorts to John, hidden away in some corner of the internet which he thinks will remain hidden, undermine the self-presentation of his mature pedagogical tactics in his new book, always nurturing his students. It would be amusing enough to ask him whether, as an academic celebrity and opinion leader, he thought the infinite fairfairmindedness of his role as pedagogue suddenly ended when students turned 22 and the tuition was no longer being paid—after which his grandfatherly guidance could turn to dismissive third-rate Usenet sneers toward positions with which he disagreed. After all, if leftist thought suffers from an “infantile” disorder, why is there one gentle pedagogical role in guiding leftists to greater maturity the classroom and another more elminationist one on the Internet? Presumably one answer might be that at 22 all students have had their educational run (because everybody goes to college, and “citizen” = “student”!) and now have to grow the fuck up and take care of themselves. That would be a telling answer if, like me, you had the kung fu to elicit it.

Well, dear friends, my book does not suggest that I always nurture my students.  And whether or not Professor Velvet has done any kung fu fighting (which I find a little bit frightening), I encourage you to check the url to “Maxims and Reflections” he provides here—the one in which I allegedly undermine Professor Velvet’s version of my self-presentation.  Because the funny thing is that I’m not in that comment thread.  I suppose it could be said that my very absence from that thread somehow undermines my book’s argument with regard to liberalism and democratic deliberation.  But really, if you go looking through that comment thread for evidence of my thuggishness, you’re going to waste sixty to ninety seconds of your valuable time, just as I did (well, I did want to see if someone was posting comments under my name).

No matter!  Professor Velvet goes on to theorize the power differentials involved in professors commenting on the blogs of graduate students:

But there’s another level here, which is that John is a grad student, and Berube could harm his job prospects if he wanted. (Is John too sanguine that academics with Berube’s principled commitments would never do such a thing, or is he just brave?) When you consider the real power differential at play in this exchange you see pretty deeply into Berube, not least because he is following vanity links to anything that mentions him—and then sneering down comments on a student weblog. It also demonstrates that the high contempt is not just a response to a perceived immaturity of polemic, as it supposedly was to my post at Scott’s. He behaves the same way if there is “leftist” disagreement, even if it is expressed more moderately.

I’ve moved among, and had my dissertation supervised by, people who are much larger academic celebrities than Michael Berube. That experience would not lead me to say very much that is good about academic celebrities and the gap between the political morality displayed in their work and what gets played out in their everyday relations. But I am pretty certain that the celebrities that I knew, if challenged in a little blog post by a graduate student at another university, would simply not answer because the power dimension made that small-minded and more than a little irresponsible. There’s a petty arriviste quality to Berube’s need to defend and extend his turf everywhere, even to people over whom he has real power—in fact to make sure they grasp the multidimensionality of his superiority. It’s something that’s been said about Moulitsas. I’ve been thinking about what it is about liberal culture that throws this kind of leader over and over again.

It’s possible that Professor Velvet has been pretty badly scarred by moving among, and having his dissertation supervised by, academic celebrities much larger than myself.  Because he seems to think that “academic celebrities” should simply ignore the lower orders, and he seems to be rather appalled that I don’t behave like his idea of an academic celebrity.  That’s what the “arriviste” line is about: I don’t conduct myself in the manner of the true royalty of my profession. Well, he’s got me there!  Everyone who knows me would back him up on that.  Though the idea that I would harm the job prospects of some graduate student at some other university is just bizarre beyond belief.

And yet there are a few points worth engaging in this strange comment, all the same.

First, to give Professor Velvet the benefit of the doubt, he may be thinking of this August 12 thread at “Maxims and Reflections,” to which Matt Christie of Long Sunday and pas-au-delà directed me not long after it was posted (apparently because it was posted by a former member of the Long Sunday theory crew).  There is indeed a great deal of thuggishness and rudeness on that thread, but it doesn’t come from me, and it doesn’t come from the blog’s owner either. It comes mainly from commenters asking “why would the elimination of the state of Israel be such an unworthy goal?” and pointing out some of the flaws in my criticisms of Hezbollah’s leftist fans.  (Those last two hyperlinks will give you some idea of why I stopped contributing to that discussion.  One can only be called a moron so many times before one concludes that one is a moron for sticking around.)

Now, why did I bother replying to anyone on that blog in the first place?  Because Professor Velvet has a point—surely some academic “celebrities,” if challenged in a little blog post by a graduate student at another university, would simply not answer because the power dimension made that small-minded and more than a little irresponsible.  It’s possible that Professor Velvet doesn’t understand the whole “public sphere” thing, in which people debate each other regardless of rank or station, but I suppose that’s all right.  The truth is that I ignore the vast majority of taunts and challenges I get from all quarters, left and right and other, especially the ones from people who base their critiques of me and my comrades on the fact that they saw the face of Noam Chomsky in their grilled cheese sandwich.  (That happens about every two to three months on average.  Ask Roxanne!) And I’ve ignored all the radical players in this latest blogodrama for a couple of years, too, the turbulent Professor Velvet included.  But back in August, I did defend some of my criticisms of the Hezbollah Left on some Hezbollah Left websites; and in the case of John of “Maxims and Reflections,” I did think it was worth pointing out to him that just because I don’t believe 9/11 conspiracy theories doesn’t mean I am quite so stupid as to inhabit what he describes as a “cheering political paradigm in which things basically are as George Stephanapholous would have you believe they are.” At the time, I didn’t know what John’s status in the profession was; I knew only that I’d seen his work on Long Sunday, and that I’d been apprised of his post by one of the Long Sundayans.  I know that the Long Sunday crew and the Valve crew like to give each other a hard time for all kinds of theoretical and political and other reasons, regardless of everyone’s rank or station.  I understood that John’s post was a reply to my series defending the democratic left, which began here in early August.  And when someone writes a criticism of my work that claims,

there is a powerful undertow toward power in the discourse of the “democratic” “left” that I finally find so dismaying that I have no choice but to reject the thing root and branch. Because few people they accuse of defending Milosevic or Hussein or Nasrallah or any other Hitler-Of-The-Month has defended these people with anything like the vigor and passion with which the “democratic” “left” has implicitly defended Bush, Clinton or Bush.

I have to say that I find the second sentence of the remark profoundly mistaken, no matter who makes it—the merest graduate student or the most fabulous celebrity.  Mistaken about the vigor and the passion of the Milosevic defenders on the far left, and mistaken about the democratic left’s relation to Bush, Clinton and Bush.  Look, people want to believe 9/11 was an inside job, they’re gonna believe that 9/11 was an inside job.  But whatever they believe and why, they still have an obligation not to make complete mishmash of the beliefs of the democratic left.

_____

Still, Professor Velvet raises an important ethical question about professors commenting on graduate students’ blogs.  (Of course, I would never try to harm a graduate student’s career—or, indeed, anyone’s career—just because he or she had posted something critical of me on a blog, any more than I have ever tried to harm someone’s career for writing far-leftish stuff about me in print.  Or any kind of stuff!  But I’ll say so in so many words just to make that clear.) But the really, really mind-bendingly weird thing about Professor Velvet’s blog comment about my blog comment is that this round of metabloggy unpleasantness got started last week when Professor Velvet himself showed up unbidden on Scott Eric Kaufman’s blog, hijacking Scott’s post about Joan Didion and haranguing Scott at length, concluding his first rant (of two) with a three-paragraph parenthesis that ends like so:

Please focus and listen carefully: it is possible, at a basic human level, to find this set of rhetorical moves cowardly and morally disgusting without having any institutionally “leftist” commitments that might provide you boys with the hook for the easy ‘infantile’ dismissal. Kind of like your basic human concern about ‘hypocrisy,’ hey Scott? Yet I haven’t found a single alpha liberal on the internets, not one, who can treat an argument like this with respect or even have the self-discipline to momentarily stem the logorrheic tide of GreenpuppetNadertyedyeCounterSDSPunch attribution insinuation & hatemongering if someone should try to make it. As a simple and linear result, my philosophical & moral assessment of American academic liberals, O let me tell ya, has changed a great deal over the last five years.

I learned of this comment early last week.  At first I was going to dash off an email to Scott telling him not to worry about being called a liberal, but when I saw the full-bore aggression of Professor Velvet’s “intervention” on Scott’s blog, I decided that a private email wouldn’t suffice, so I replied to that thread instead.  Because, as some of you know, I really can’t stand academic bullies.  And since Professor Velvet’s comment opens with the extraordinarily petulant remark, “I believe I pointed this out in our last Burkeborkin’ go-around about ‘symbolic politics,’ Scott, and this confirms my suspicion that it didn’t register any more than anything else I said in that exchange,” I realized he’d had some history of badgering Scott, and was now getting very upset that Scott still hadn’t come around to understanding Velvet’s wisdom.  That’s why Professor Velvet told Scott to “focus and listen carefully.”

And I found Professor Velvet’s comment objectionable for another reason:  it’s the standard foolishness about how it is absolutely imperative for radicals to distinguish themselves from liberals but utterly cowardly and immoral and disgusting etc. for liberals to distinguish themselves from radicals.  At the time, I didn’t even stop to think that it was the comment of a professor badgering a graduate student on the student’s own blog. 

But it turns out that this kind of badgering is perfectly OK, you see, because even though Professor Velvet is a professor and Scott is a graduate student, Professor Velvet was merely playing a kind of fun rhetorical game, as he explains in his third comment on the thread:  “I take full responsibility for the polemic, since I did want to see how that played out too & that was just as much of a priority.” (Remember, liberals like Scott and me, we don’t understand polemic.)

So apparently the power differential is no problem so long as the professor in question is anonymous or Turbulent, and takes responsibility for wanting to see how his polemic plays out on a graduate student’s blog.  (As he explained in a later thread, “that was the kind of thing I was testing, how far inducted into the academic myopia Scott was.”) And that, dear friends, is why I’m not terribly concerned with et alia and others, and why I’m perfectly willing to show them where we keep the good bourbon.  But I am genuinely worried about the health of this Turbulent Velvet fellow, who follows his turbulent comments on a graduate student’s blog with a scathing critique of my comment on a graduate student’s blog.  When I asked around about him, I was informed that he’s just had a child and isn’t getting much sleep lately.  I know how that feels, O let me tell ya!  So if his friends would be so kind as to bring him some nice herbal tea and some soft pillows, I think that would probably help.

In the meantime, I certainly don’t want to leave anyone with the impression that, as Professor Velvet claims, I would actually prefer to leave any of these exchanges “hidden away in some corner of the internet.” I’m quite happy to have all these comments and replies aired in the open, and happy to reproduce ‘em and link to ‘em right here on my very own blog. 

And here’s what I’m wondering about with regard to perceived power imbalances on academic blogs.  On the one hand, we all know that the virtual public sphere of the blogosphere is only a virtual public sphere.  We also know, if we’ve been taught the right things to say about Habermas and his ilk, that the “real” public sphere is just a liberal bourgeois mystification that obscures relations of power and domination.  But on the other hand, when it comes to relations of power on academic blogs, I sometimes think that there are some people out there who just really like saying a lot of foul shit about people on the Internets (in the interests of conducting their experiments into why liberals don’t understand polemic, you understand), and who proceed to get really, really pissed when the people in question call them on it, at which point they unburden themselves of scrupulous—and strangely liberal—theories of power imbalances and bloggy responsibility. 

What do you think?

Posted by on 10/02 at 07:50 AM
  1. I think that congratulations are in order to you, for finally fulfilling your long quest to become the liberal Den Beste.

    Posted by Martin Wisse  on  10/02  at  09:23 AM
  2. Thanks, Martin!  But you should say more about your feelings about Israel while you’re here.  Go ahead!

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  09:27 AM
  3. Hey, what was that snapping sound?  Probably some sort of “Snap!” Skewered, Professor Bérubé, skewered, in grandiose Churchillian fashion.  Though I do find the implied disrespect of Den Beste somewhat questionable; I think Gary Cooper turned in a fine performance.

    (Goodness, what is it with these people?  I personally think that Long Island would have been a much better choice for the 1947 Partition Plan, and even I think that they are so far over the top we’d need a fourth family of quarks just for them.)

    They remind me of my younger days, they do.

    They probably remind David Horowitz of his younger days, too, which is part of the problem.

    I had lately had my head swelled

    Yes, we’ve all seen, Ghost Head.  Sorry, Professor Ghost Head.  Must pay proper respect to the royalty of the profession.

    In cowardly anonymity,
    Captcha: living

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  09:41 AM
  4. I’m not too sure what to make of all this talk of power differentials and public spheres and such, but I think I’d kinda like to be the alpha liberal who treats Turbulent arguments with respect.

    And, Professor Berube, if you have any quibbles with my stance, please keep them to yourself. I’ll have you know I’m a graduate student. Even if I am a mid-life crisis, second-career graduate student, the power differential still exists. It would reflect very badly on you to take advantage of my fragile status in the hierarchy.

    If I achieve alpha liberal level, however, you may take the gloves off.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  09:55 AM
  5. Speaking of hockey, when are you doing your preview of the upcoming season ?

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  09:59 AM
  6. Ah, Michael, your eliminationist tendencies exposed at last! I’ve always suspected you as a Conan type:

    Fawning underling hoping to pre-emptively mock any critics: What is happiness for you academic celebrities?

    MB: Happiness is to visit a graduate student blog, to crush your enemies’ job aspirations, to see them driven before you into adjunct-hood, and to hear the lamentations of their thesis directors.

    Posted by John Protevi  on  10/02  at  10:01 AM
  7. You know why I compared you to Den Beste? Because you’ve got the same schtick he has: lots of long, verbose posts filled with oh so reasonably presented kookery. You know Den Beste ended up obsessing about dodgy anime, do you not? Don’t let it happen to you!

    Another thing you have in common is that you spent long posts doing victory laps about how superior you are to your opponents, without, you know, actually engaging their arguments. Somewhat like you did on that thread you so helpfully linked to.

    No, you’d rather snark about how I “should say more about [my] feelings about Israel while [I’m] here”.

    Look, if you want to say I’m an anti-semite or anti-Israel or whatever, have the guts and say it, rather than hiding behind that little smirk of yours, eh?

    At least that way it’s clear you have no arguments left.

    Posted by Martin Wisse  on  10/02  at  10:03 AM
  8. I apologize for snarking, Martin.  I guess I was under the impression that you’d led with an insult rather than an argument.  (I don’t know much about Den Beste, because I don’t keep up with your friends in the comic book world.) And I simply invited you to say more about the real reasons you disagree with me.  That’s all.

    Posted by Michael  on  10/02  at  10:10 AM
  9. No, Michael, he means you should have engaged the arguments of the guy who said you needed to be hurt. Because that’s an argument, isn’t it? The reductio ad bellum if I’m not mistaken.

    Posted by John Protevi  on  10/02  at  10:18 AM
  10. T.V. is a professor??  Sigh.  The “petty arriviste” comment was perfect (and if I’d seen it when I was writing my doggerel about his fascination with alpha dogs, I would have used it); who else would try a put-down based on someone not being *aristocratic* enough? 

    The problem with this group, broadly described, isn’t even that they’re thugs; they’re wannabe thugs.  An actual thug is at least capable of beating someone up.  But wanting to be one without dreaming of ever really doing something is just pathetic and tiresome.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  10:18 AM
  11. And I simply invited you to say more about the real reasons you disagree with me.

    Professor, his disagreement has nothing to do with his desire to see Israel eliminated, and everything to do with your inability to make substantive arguments, even in absurdly long posts.  You also fail to address your serious critics, except when you do, but then you don’t do it in a way that counts.  Therefore you are indistinguishable from Sam Brownback.  QAD.

    (After all, a substantive argument such as “So who’s going to pull the stick out from up Berube’s ass—again” needs to be refuted with copious footnotes, not mockery.)

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  10:25 AM
  12. he means you should have engaged the arguments of the guy who said you needed to be hurt

    But John, I did engage!  I even tried to see the bright side of that argument.

    If I achieve alpha liberal level, however, you may take the gloves off.

    Thanks, V. Ed!  I’ll keep that in mind.  And as for gloves . . .

    Speaking of hockey, when are you doing your preview of the upcoming season ?

    Thanks for asking, Jack!  One of these days.  Right now I’m too anrcissistically involved in the beginning of my own season, in which I’m trying to come back from a couple of injuries and long stretches of poor play last year.  So far so good, though (perhaps not coincidentally) I picked up my first penalty in three years last night.  For roughing.  Actually for arriviste roughing, which is a double minor.

    The problem with this group, broadly described, isn’t even that they’re thugs; they’re wannabe thugs.  An actual thug is at least capable of beating someone up.  But wanting to be one without dreaming of ever really doing something is just pathetic and tiresome.

    Uh, Rich, do we really want to encourage them in that direction?  I mean, implying that we’d find them less pathetic and tiresome if they actually applied the ol’ choke hold?  I say we bring out the good bourbon, myself.  To et alia, I’d add, “come in here, dear boy, have a cigar,” but I see that he’s already got one.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  10:30 AM
  13. I guess I should add, despite the chance that it may be perceived as an underling kissing up to the powers that be, that I’m reading and enjoying your book. Parts of it could be used in classes on teaching methodology and effectiveness, though I know that’s not its aim. I’m saying this as a member of the public sphere.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  10:30 AM
  14. What I want to know is, how does one go about defending something vigorously and passionately, yet implicitly? It sounds like a useful skill.

    Posted by David Moles  on  10/02  at  10:30 AM
  15. I’ve played Stratego with Mr. McReynolds several times. He plays fair and is a gentleman about losing.

    He was also very nice to his late lamented cat, AJ
    (after AJ Muste).

    Let us all vote for David McReynolds, except in the swing states, where we should all vote for ___ _____.

    I shall also out myself as a grad student, Michael. Do your tentacles reach into mathematical valuations? If so, please point me to some area wherein we may violently disagree. I’d like to be able to justify my future academic flameout.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  10:33 AM
  16. Let me preface this comment by noting that: a) it addresses an admittedly tangential point; and b) that I am not one of those who feels that all political disagreements need to become jihads (so please do not see this disagreement as anything more than what it is).

    I have no great interest in refighting 2000, Michael, but let me disagree with you about Nader in a number of ways.

    First, linking to another blogger who claims that Nader cost Gore the election hardly proves the point. Indeed, even the Mike Hersh piece to which you link admits that Gore actually won Florida and therefore the election (as I think all rational people would agree).  But more significantly, Hersh largely takes exit poll numbers and sees what would have happened if people had voted for their second choice candidate. This might be some indication of what would have happened if we had Instant Runoff Voting (which I would wholeheartedly support), but it doesn’t tell us what the race would have looked like without Nader (unless by that you mean exactly the same campaign, with Nader magically disappearing the day before election day, his name equally magically disappearing from the ballot). Hersh does speculate on how Gore could have devoted his resources more effectively had he not had Nader to contend with, but Hersh simply assumes that the Gore campaign did (and would do) an effective job allocating its resources. Put another way, Gore needs to take responsibility for his own campaign.  He had nearly no operation in NH, which he also nearly won. At any rate, the only really thorough look at the question of the effect of Nader and Buchanan on the 2000 presidential elections by a political scientist that I have seen is this paper by Harvard’s Barry C. Burden.  The picture he draws is significantly more complicated.

    Secondly, Nader did not part with the Greens after 2000. Nader never actually joined the Greens, so he couldn’t have subsequently left us.  Even in 2000, there was significant friction between the Nader campaign and the party because he wouldn’t share his contribution lists with the GP.  Things really came to a head, however, in the 2004 campaign season, when Nader refused to run for the Green nomination but expected the party to endorse his independent run for the presidency anyway. The party refused (full disclosure: I was an anti-Nader delegate to the 2004 Green Party convention in Milwaukee). In many ways, however, the party has never recovered from this fight, in part because Naderite Greens insist on treating non-Naderite Greens more or less as Michael’s interlocutors have treated him in the above cited threads. But I digress…

    Third, the Gore campaign was amazingly successful in scaring would-be Nader voters away from voting for Nader, as Nader’s final tallies indicate.

    But, fourth, nonetheless, despite all this, the 2000 Nader campaign was effective from a movement building standpoint. Green Party registrations shot up throughout the country.  The GP became an FEC recognized party.  And, as a result of this national exposure, we achieved electoral success in hundreds of local races (despite what Michael says about running locally vs. running nationally, in fact there’s a synergy between the two).

    Since then, we’ve largely squandered our gains (and that’s one thing that the Nader crowd within the party is right about...sad to say, 2000 remains something of a highwater mark for the Greens in the US).  Things are never easy for third parties in this country, but the last six years have been particularly hard. However, we’ve also largely blown what opportunities we’ve had through infighting, inefficiency, and an inability to get our message out or make our presence effectively felt (even in the quasi-free medium of the internets). 

    Enough of my obsessions...y’all go back to arguing over the netiquette of personal attacks.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  10:44 AM
  17. a substantive argument such as “So who’s going to pull the stick out from up Berube’s ass—again” needs to be refuted with copious footnotes, not mockery

    Not necessarily, mds.  I could point out, for example, that the stick was not removed the first time.  Thus I refute Ms. Xeno’s “again”!

    I guess I should add, despite the chance that it may be perceived as an underling kissing up to the powers that be, that I’m reading and enjoying your book.

    Thank you, my son!  Your successful academic career is now assured.  Also, please let me know if you’d like me to reduce the amount of oxygen in your rivals’ offices.

    What I want to know is, how does one go about defending something vigorously and passionately, yet implicitly? It sounds like a useful skill.

    It is indeed a useful skill, David, and if you join the Democratic Left we will teach it to you.  But only if you use it for the benefit of centrists and conservatives, never for the benefit of the real left.

    I’ve played Stratego with Mr. McReynolds several times. He plays fair and is a gentleman about losing.

    Unlike a certain Sore Loserman I could name, who put all his Stratego pieces in the Democratic counties in Florida and refused to count military Stratego ballots!

    Do your tentacles reach into mathematical valuations? If so, please point me to some area wherein we may violently disagree. I’d like to be able to justify my future academic flameout.

    Sure thing, mathpants.  I say that Wiles’ proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem completely misused the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture.  And as for the “identity element,” when are we going to get past our fixation with identity, as Walter Benn Michaels says?

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  10:50 AM
  18. As a 2000 McReynolds voter, I’m offended!  McReynolds’ votes in Florida were greater than the (officially certified but not real) difference between Bush and Gore’s votes in Florida.  So we McReynolds voters (or at least the Florida ones) are just as responsible as Nader voters for the last eight years.  Spew on us, too!

    Posted by Michael McIntyre  on  10/02  at  10:57 AM
  19. This post would be funnier if you’d just be done with it and admit — as we’ve all figured out anyway — that Perfessor Velvet is actually Todd Gitlin.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  10/02  at  10:57 AM
  20. Just for the record, Ben Alpers and Mitchell Freedman are two of my favorite Greens, and my quarrel is primarily with Nader himself.  I didn’t cast a vote for president in ‘96, and you know, the other half of my March post on Nader was a reminder that James Carville and Paul Begala believed that Zell Miller would be a perfect running mate for Gore.  When Lieberman was announced in early August, I told Janet I would be voting for Michael Harrington as a write-in, on behalf of the democratic left and Deceased-Americans everywhere.

    As a 2000 McReynolds voter, I’m offended!  McReynolds’ votes in Florida were greater than the (officially certified but not real) difference between Bush and Gore’s votes in Florida.  So we McReynolds voters (or at least the Florida ones) are just as responsible as Nader voters for the last eight years.  Spew on us, too!

    Sorry not to have given offense this time, Michael!  But I’m with you on this one.  McReynolds didn’t do a dishonest feint of saying “safe states” and then campaigning in close states, and he wasn’t supporting Bush.  I congratulate you on your exceptional powers of discernment.

    This post would be funnier if you’d just be done with it and admit — as we’ve all figured out anyway — that Perfessor Velvet is actually Todd Gitlin.

    That would be funny—and would bring a whole new layer of “alter” to the term “alter ego.” I’d toyed with the idea of guessing that T.V. was Lee Siegel.  But what would really be funny would be if everyone involved in this extended blogspat got together, as in panel 54 of What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts—Graphic Novel Version, and asked for volunteers to write combative letters to the Chronicle of Higher Education. 

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  11:12 AM
  21. "Uh, Rich, do we really want to encourage them in that direction?  I mean, implying that we’d find them less pathetic and tiresome if they actually applied the ol’ choke hold?”

    Well, no, it’s still bad to be a thug.  I guess that I think that the chance of taunting et alia into deciding to go out and actually find someone to hurt you very soon and very badly is so minimal that the risk is essentially nonexistant.  What I mean is that since et alia is evidently an academic, it’d be better and more interesting if he or she had fantasies of academic triumph—cutting you down with a witty remark, perhaps, or a devastating argument—that might actually encourage him or her to become witty or a good arguer.  Or, you know, fantasies of political triumph even.

    But they aren’t either witty or good arguers, and they have no actual political involvement.  So they fall back on this pathetic tough-person bit, a kind of mixture of Hollywood and barely remembered bits of a radical past in which thugs actually existed.  I mean, T.V. thinks of himself as eliciting answers with kung fu.  That’s just sad.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  11:22 AM
  22. "hidden away in some corner of the internet which he thinks will remain hidden”

    I think, if anyone were to assume that I belived any corner of the Internet is ever, in any sense of that word, “hidden,” I should be offended at this slur on my intelligence. And really, if I wrote the kind of prose found in the quotations from Professor Velvet’s texts, my once-upon-a-time supervisor would have quietly put me out of everyone’s misery with a frying pan.

    I will hereby out myself as a professor, which, I gather, means I can both mistreat graduate students and blame others for doing so. I think I didn’t just miss the memo, I missed the whole Professor’s handbook.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  11:40 AM
  23. I say that Wiles’ proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem completely misused the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture.

    Clearly, it’s time for you to do victory laps about how superior you are to Wiles, without, you know, actually engaging his arguments in anything but the most elliptic way.  As for the insubstantiality of the identity, well, as Popper would say, “Mathematics...” [slams set of all sets onto coffee table] “...is that!”

    I will hereby out myself as a professor, which, I gather, means I can both mistreat graduate students and blame others for doing so.

    How on earth did you get through graduate school without this rule becoming self-evident?

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  12:15 PM
  24. Hey, Bérubé.  Word on the street has it that you think you’re ready to challenge me for the North American Academic Celebrity Championship.  Well, let’s see what you’ve got.  I’ve laid the title belt right here on the steel lectern.  It’s yours if you can take it from me.

    Posted by Eugene Genovese  on  10/02  at  12:26 PM
  25. Michael,

    you’re free to associate with the semigroups, if you like. Most of us like a bit of structure in our lives.

    “Elliptic?”

    Well-played, mds, well-played. A duel? Choose your perversity.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  12:36 PM
  26. By the way, I once criticized Brian Leiter for going too hard, as a well-known professor, on a grad student (and he replied).  After all, I’m a liberal, and I am concerned about power imbalances.  I think that one difference in that case was the use of real names.  But who can get excited about a public criticism of “T.V.” or “et alia”?

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  01:16 PM
  27. What do you think...about with regard to perceived power imbalances on academic blogs?

    I don’t have the data (or a sufficiently sophisticated statistical background) but just using Google blog search a bit, i would estimate there are roughly 20K academic blogs that are willing to classify themselves as such. There are probably another 400K graduate student ones that are both academic and “grad studenty.” Just taking the US DoJ stats for violent crime in the US, one could guesstimate that of the 20K blogs > 500 of those may be written by, or controlled by, persons who have violent tendencies and issues of power with others.  This of course means nothing.  Some people will use words to attack others, particularly from anonymous vantage points (smart tactical offensive operation), while some do so in the extreme hyperbole of Coulteresque rhetoric. 

    I would suggest, to better respond to MB’s question, that we ask Sean Carroll from CV or Clifford Johnson from Asymptotia, if these sort of issues show up in the academic science blogs as often as they seem to appear in the humanties theory ones??

    Last but certainly well towards the top of the pile:
    This discussion somewhat reminded me of a now infamous NFL play televised yesterday: when a Tennessee defensive lineman intentionally kicked and stepped, with his cleats, on the helmetless face of the Dallas center.  Football is a violent game, thus all the padding and helmets.  But for someone to wait until a player is at his most vulnerable (power mismatch) to enact some hideous outrage, reeks of adolescent immaturity and Rumsfeld like bulliness.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  01:42 PM
  28. But on the other hand, when it comes to relations of power on academic blogs, I sometimes think that there are some people out there who just really like saying a lot of foul shit about people on the Internets (in the interests of conducting their experiments into why liberals don’t understand polemic, you understand), and who proceed to get really, really pissed when the people in question call them on it, at which point they unburden themselves of scrupulous—and strangely liberal—theories of power imbalances and bloggy responsibility.

    Not just academic blogs. Seems to go just as well for blogs like—oh, fer instance—Firedoglake when they’re criticized.

    I really wish you had the time to tackle that issue. (Chris Clarke is a pretty good resource on what went down.) Maybe I wouldn’t agree with what you’d say, because I have some pretty strong feelings about what happened last week there and around. But I feel the same dynamic went into play.

    It’s not something that’s last week’s news, either. Just on the white blogs (very few of which deigned to discuss it at all, anyway). The POC blogs are still discussing it.

    It’s a problem without a solution, though. From my perspective it seems we’re in agreement, that people will say and do vile things on the internet. They’ll say them offline too, there just isn’t a record of it.

    Whenever this happens, though, I know at least for me that a little bit of me dies. Maybe that’s just a personal thing. Probably is. I’ve had more than enough of it, though.

    Love,

    Hanna

    Posted by Hanna  on  10/02  at  01:48 PM
  29. Well-played, mds, well-played. A duel? Choose your perversity.

    Very well, Mr. Mathypants!  I choose the universe, the perversity of which tends towards a maximum.

    Pre-emptive strike:

    What’s purple and commutes?

    A purple Abelian group!

    Wait, can we start again?

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  01:56 PM
  30. I think I’ll wait for the graphic version of this discussion.  (I realize I may be waiting a long time, but I remain hopeful.) But count me in as a former Nader admirer who barely recognizes the 2000 (and beyond) version.

    And while blog comments (anonymous or otherwise) can be interesting to read, it’s hard to imagine a search committee or promotion and tenure committee giving them much weight (compared to peer-reviewed publications, etc.) But perhaps I’m naive.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  02:22 PM
  31. eh.  I know arrivistes, and you’re not an arriviste, not even in a blogosphere virtually constituted by parvenu citizens.  Indeed, it’s actually very nice of you to notice parvenus, even though it’s a no-win situation when you do.  It’s true that your blog collects weird marginalia, but it also sponsors real conversation about it, so all in all, it’s a pretty elastic and adaptable space, and that can only be a good thing.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  02:29 PM
  32. Micheal, are you asking if Professors (as a class) have a responsibility to undergraduates (as a class), irregardless of venue?

    If so, there are a few stomping points I would like to make.

    1) Are acedemic blogs really part of the acedemic institution? How far do acedemic responsibilities extend outside of the institution?

    2) Not all personal attacks are equal. Some are illegal. Some are imperitive. Some are mental illness. Some are true but irrelevent. Is it not really just a tactic with different forms that each have their own ethical concerns? Certainly you are no stranger to personal attacks; how do you decide between acceptable and unacceptable attacks?

    3) In spite of its techno-centric name, isn’t the blogosphere a public venue?

    4) Is it fair to say that people engaging in personal attack are “just” doing that and nothing else?

    Posted by Central Content Publisher  on  10/02  at  02:36 PM
  33. I think that congratulations are in order to you, for finally fulfilling your long quest to become the liberal Den Beste.

    Let me set the record straight here.

    Stephen Den Beste was a corpulent kook who, from the warm, dark, and safe confines of his mother’s basement, wrote countless 100,000-word essays on the art of war and other “important” matters concerning American foreign policy, all with the tired, almost condescending tone of some old sage in a Graham Greene novel who’d seen all and done all.

    YET: This Den Beste was no sage or salty old man of the world as you would imagine from his know-it-all tone and condescending pontifications. No, imagine a Kent Dorfman-like person who--laughably--fancies himself a modern-day Clausewitz and you have Den Beste. Instead of wearing fancy Prussian military garb, Den Beste the “Warblogger” Clausewitz was clad in a greasy T-shirt and three-day-old BVDs as he clacked away on his keyboard, dreaming up 21st Century warfare while he replayed every episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9 on his DVD player.

    The “Warblogger” set in 2002 took Den Beste’s ponderous pontifications of piffle seriously, while those of us experienced in the art of war (and other real life activities that required more effort than just leaving Mom’s basement for Cheetos and Mountain Dew “commando” raids to the local 7-11) could clearly see that Den Beste was not only full of shit, he was certifiably WACKO. Just because he played one million hours of “Doom” or read every issue of The Fantastic Four did not make him an expert in military science.

    The first step to becoming an expert in military science is to hump a rucksack on a 30-mile forced road march in the summer heat and humidity at Fort Benning while your drill sergeant screams in your face the whole way. Den Beste couldn’t even hump a blow-up sex doll, let alone leave his mommy’s basement to join the Army or Boy Scouts or any other military or quasi-military organization.

    Suffice to say in 2006 that 99.99% of Den Beste’s 2002-2003 essays on how the Iraq war would unfold were completely wrong in the most hysterically hilarious manner imaginable. The only WORSE predictions were made by the civilian nut jobs running the Pentagon.

    So, no, Michael is in fact NOT the left-wing blogger version of Den Beste.

    Posted by mat  on  10/02  at  02:37 PM
  34. More than this discussion, which seems to me both rarified and abstract by containing itself within the boundaries of discourse on academic blogs, I’d like to see one that focuses more on the concrete institutional context within which questions of academic power become meaningful. Although I would argue that threats of violence are always meaningful, the ‘virtuality’ of discourse on the internet highlights the distinction between expression (or thought if you will) and act in a way that is perhaps more important.

    I say this because I understand violence to sometime originate from the perception (justified or not) of dispossession, powerlessness or marginalization. How academia treats such perceptions seems to me to have a profound bearing on what its place and role is in promoting a democratic society. Which is not to say that your raising the issue of “perceived power imbalances on academic blogs” doesn’t invite such discussion (or that I haven’t done more than restate large parts of what you’ve already said). But, to separate the patently offensive and always inappropriate from all else, it seems to me a profoundly different question than how the academy is (and became) a place where people have to fear for their livelihoods (and lives!) in discourse. I greatly appreciate the efforts you make when you examine things like the MLA’s failure to pass the NYU resolution. If I have a complaint, it is that such concrete discussions are all too often few and far between in academe, to my mind characteristic of a liberal reluctance to undercut its won authority and privilege.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  03:03 PM
  35. no, Michael is in fact NOT the left-wing blogger version of Den Beste.

    Whew!  I was wondering if I was going to have to look up this Den Beste guy and provide a refutation of Martin’s initial point with copious footnotes.  Because all I remember of Den Beste when I first started reading blogs was that his was the one that gave me the impression that some bloggers made sure to don their official Star Trek commanders’ uniforms before logging on.

    “hidden away in some corner of the internet which he thinks will remain hidden”

    I think, if anyone were to assume that I belived any corner of the Internet is ever, in any sense of that word, “hidden,” I should be offended at this slur on my intelligence.

    You know, lalouve, so many insults have been hurled around in this exchange that I completely forgot to be offended by that one.  Everyone knows that the Internets do not have hidden corners!  They do not have corners at all!  They are perfectly spherical!  They do have alternate universes the perversity of which tends towards a maximum, however, and require special operations in order to be “read.” These are known as “comment sections.”

    And that’s as much as I can manage in terms of math banter.  I now will retire from the field without taking that victory lap, and let mds and mathpants (and Christian H., if he so desires) proceed to solve the n-body problem for us.  (Hey, does anyone remember the July 2005 comment thread in which Jonathan Vos Post, Mission Planning Engineer for Voyager 2, stopped by and explained the dream he had which gave him the equations for the 1986 flyby of Uranus?  That was completely kewl.)

    And while blog comments (anonymous or otherwise) can be interesting to read, it’s hard to imagine a search committee or promotion and tenure committee giving them much weight (compared to peer-reviewed publications, etc.)

    It is indeed, alwsdad, unless the comments in question provide people with the equations for approaching a planet whose axis is nearly parallel with the plane of the ecliptic (as Vos Post put it, “possibly the dreamed equation that had the greatest impact on the real world was my triple integral of a function projected from 9-dimensional parameter space on the Uranus flyby of Voyager II,” in comment 27 of that thread).

    Seriously, I think Professor Velvet was doing something quite insidious here—playing on the fears of graduate students that they will be harmed somehow by blogging under their real names.  Just after badgering a graduate student who blogs under his real name, of course.

    The academic job market is very terrible, as you know, and Ph.D. candidates have all kinds of legitimate worries about the factors that influence their job prospects.  Some of them have been told, quite openly (by Ivan Tribble, for example), that making public remarks on blogs will hurt them with Google-minded search committees.  Velvet is drawing on that when he suggests that in a few years, I will be combing the job market trying to harm some guy with whom I traded snide remarks way back in the summer of oh-six.  It’s a very strange suggestion, to put it politely, and perhaps I’m naive to think that Dr. Velvet will come to realize that when he gets himself some much-needed sleep.

    And you all should listen up when Stephanie talks about arrivistes and parvenus.  Her work on the subject, from what I’ve heard thus far, is really good.  Stephanie, I did tell you that your paper at that “Shame” conference last March rocked the house, right?

    Hanna and CCP:  I’ll try to reply in the next comment installment.

    Posted by Michael  on  10/02  at  03:21 PM
  36. and let mds and mathpants (and Christian H., if he so desires) proceed to solve the n-body problem for us.

    Ooh, ooh!  I claim n=0, 1, and 2.  You snooze, you lose!

    (Wait, you assumed a spherical Internet?)

    I’d gush over the brilliance of your use of “comment sections,” Professor, but you’d probably accuse me of hyperbola.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  04:25 PM
  37. Great for you to confront these silly, mean and petty people, Michael.  They are the bane of the college professors’ world.  Me?  Haven’t even heard of these bozos.  But I understand more clearly how you come to criticize certain devotees of Chomsky and certain Nader voters.

    In my world of right wingers in suburban San Diego, I am dealing with people who call CNN the “Communist News Network”, who think the “liberals” are causing the war in Iraq to be lost, who listen to Rush, O’Reilly, Hannity, and watch FoxNews, and think Hillary, Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore threaten our open government. 

    As you and I have discussed my Nader vote in 2000, and my return to the Dems thereafter, I feel no need to comment.  Now, after this blog reading break, it’s back to Yom Kippur services for this heretic.

    Posted by Mitchell Freedman  on  10/02  at  04:25 PM
  38. Seems to go just as well for blogs like—oh, fer instance—Firedoglake when they’re criticized.

    I really wish you had the time to tackle that issue.

    Ah, one of the major blogspats I stayed away from!  Online, anyway.  Privately, Hanna, I sent an email to a whole bunch of the parties involved.  It didn’t address any of them personally, because I understand that in that dispute (just as in this one) there were personal antagonisms and blog-comment disputes that went back for months and months, and about those I was completely ignorant.  Anyway, the email went something like this.

    I come across disputes about the exclusion of X from Y event all the time in academe.  And from what I’ve learned in those disputes, things usually go best when the discussion starts like so:

    Q.  I noticed that there were no X [for the sake of argument, let X = bloggers with accents in their names] at the bloggers’ lunch with Bill Clinton.  Was this a simple oversight, or were some accented bloggers invited who couldn’t make it?  Because if it’s a simple oversight, I have a list of accented bloggers you might want to keep in mind in the future.

    A.  Thanks, Q!  We did indeed invite an accented blogger, but she couldn’t make it.  It’s a perfectly legitimate question, though, and if you have a list of bloggers you think we should be aware of in the future, we’d be most grateful.

    Now, of course the Clinton Lunch discussion didn’t start off that way.  These things almost never do.  The initial Q was more accusatory, and some of the As in response were so over-the-top accusatory, defensive and all-out vile that they made the accusatory nature of the Q seem more than justified.  And yes, Chris Clarke’s reading of the grammar-and-spelling police was—like everything Chris does—quite wonderful.

    CCP, the blogosphere is indeed a public venue.  There are no hidden corners, though some areas are more well-traveled than others.  Personally, I don’t consider academic blogs part of the institutional apparatus of academe, but I’m still thinking about whether I might be thinking too narrowly about what constitutes a kind of penumbral institutional structure.  Because, of course, academic debates and informational exchanges take place on blogs all the time, whether or not they’re incorporated into the discipline-and-punish mechanisms of academe.

    As for the line between personal attacks and ordinary critiques, and the line between acceptable and unacceptable personal attacks, well, I’m not sure yet what I think about this.  I do know that I think the T.V. et alia crew are using one branch of “theory” to justify all manner of outrageous and poorly reasoned attacks on liberal proceduralism and individual liberals themselves, and yeah, I do think et alia crossed the line, even more egregiously than Horowitz did when he claimed that my entire focus since 9/11 has been in getting our terrorist enemies off the hook.  But one of the things that made my weekend so weird, on this score, was that I was thinking about that crew’s borderline-deranged personal attacks at the same time I was thinking about this discussion of whether a commitment to democratic deliberation entails a commitment to antifoundationalism as well:

    Re:  whether deliberation, for Berube, implies anti-foundationalism: doesn’t it have to? And if it does have to, then it stands in marked contrast with Rawls’ idea of political liberalism (to the advantage, in my view, of the latter.) The question is not whether foundationalism is _true_; it’s whether there are reasonable foundationalist doctrines that can co-exist with non-foundationalist ones in a liberal polity. For Rawls, there are. By contrast, the view whereby deliberation is “all the basis we have for doing or believing anything” suggests that there aren’t. I’m skeptical whether that view is true. (But that would involve a long discussion. We’d need to sort out what’s meant by “basis.") But isn’t there—given what the view excludes—also a question re. whether it can really be called liberal?

    That brief comment, I think, provides more edifying food for thought than anything T.V. et alia have produced to date—at least in the corners of the Internets that I’ve come across thus far.  (And it goes to Hanna’s question as well, insofar as it involves the question of who gets to contribute to the discussion.) I’ve also received a very interesting email advising me to check out Chantal Mouffe’s work on Carl Schmitt.  From challenges like these, I can actually learn something.  For now, I’m going to take this commenter’s (vigorous yet implicit) suggestion that I think more about what I mean as a “basis.”

    Posted by Michael  on  10/02  at  04:33 PM
  39. mds, you can always start again. and again. and again. if you stand on your head every now and again.

    Sadly, the “maximum perversity” is already defined, in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Intersection Homology, as:
    (2,3,4,...,n-2). Iz pretty kinky, no?

    Michael, you’re better off without the victory lap, to be honest. No one throws flowers in math, as that would take away from valuable looking-at-ones-feet time.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  04:33 PM
  40. Ooh, ooh!  I claim n=0, 1, and 2.  You snooze, you lose!

    Indeed I do.  The n=0 one I think even I could solve.  I just keep forgetting there are ns that low.  Do you think there are any ns that low for the equation x to the n plus y to the n equals z to the n?

    Posted by Michael  on  10/02  at  04:53 PM
  41. "I do know that I think the T.V. et alia crew are using one branch of “theory” to justify all manner of outrageous and poorly reasoned attacks on liberal proceduralism and individual liberals themselves [...]”

    Maybe that explains the Schmitt fixation.  Really, though, isn’t that a large part of what all of “theory” is about?  It’s political, but has no political program, so it has to attack something, and it never attacks conservatism.  (Well, they write why-aren’t-the-liberals-doing-something attacks on Bush, but if you look at their characterization of Bush, they think he’s a neoliberal.)

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  04:54 PM
  42. Well, I think it’s just that one branch of theory, Rich.  The branch that’s fond of sweeping denunciations of mere liberalism (and doesn’t much care about where on the spectrum those denunciations come from) and that believes that The People will breathe free only when Richard Rorty is gasping for air.

    Anonymous Coward (34), the question of how the academy is (and became) a place where people have to fear for their livelihoods (and lives!) in discourse is a very good question.  In lieu of answering it, though (because I can’t), I just want to let you know that the MLA did indeed censure NYU for its response to the strike.  The censure simply didn’t come from the Delegate Assembly the way some people wanted it to, that’s all; it came instead from the Executive Council, who voted unanimously in January to rebuke NYU.  I’d spent a few weeks last year telling people that if they wanted the MLA to take a position on NYU, the EC was the way to go, and though some people didn’t want to go that route (for all kinds of reasons), it did, in fact, work.  The MLA’s opposition to NYU’s strikebreaking is now a matter of public record, even if most of the public doesn’t know that.

    And Genovese (24), you are goin’ down.

    Posted by Michael  on  10/02  at  05:25 PM
  43. I actually see a substantive difference between your comments, and Prof. Velvet’s.

    His are anonymous.  If, and when, a graduate student he has been enjoying this “vigorous” sessions in which he attempts to impart his wisdom, with more, or less, success, happens to be in a place where this professor might be able to affect his career, the grad student won’t be as likely to know.

    And that is a power dynamic which is problematic.

    Posted by Terry Karney  on  10/02  at  05:39 PM
  44. 1) Here is a link to the discussion on TNR that Michael posted above that should work. (Tinyurled it.)

    2) Here is some discussion that touches on the appropriateness of spherical as a descriptor for the Internet. One alternative description:

    > But what *IS* the internet?
    > It’s the largest equivalence class in the reflexive transitive
    > symmetric closure of the relationship “can be reached by an IP
    > packet from”.  --Seth Breidbart

    3) And if you really want to make see how ultimately unhidden the cornersnooks and crannies of the Internet are, check out Fravia’s searchlores site.

    4) On the actual question asked - It just serves to remind those of us outside looking in that: Academics are people too! (just like trucks.) The mish-mosh of anonymous, semi-anonymous and self-identified participants does complicate the nature of the discourse, as it does make it less transparent and predictable as to what possible actions someone in the dialogue can actually take in other arenas. And given its digital nature, and therefore the easy long-term storage of the content of the dialogue, this includes any future unknown reader(s). I have been witness to some instances where this has come home with a vengeance (and I am guessing ex-Representative Foley is appreciating the nuances of this latter point even now.)

    5) Much bad behavior exhibited, including what Michael shows, but I am trusting that none of us will get the opportunity to dilate on the transformational aspects of the Internet at our War Crimes trials as did Albert Speer for the communications technology of his day:

    The telephone, the teleprinter and the wireless made it possible for orders from the highest levels to be given directly to the lowest levels, where, on account of the absolute authority behind them, they were carried out uncrtitically; or brought it about that numerous offices and command centers were directly connected with the supreme leadership from which they received their sinister orders without any intermediary;…

    [from McLuhan’s The Agenbite of Outwit via Understanding Media.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  05:59 PM
  45. Thanks Stormcrow… I’m getting to that now! Until then…

    On “penumbral institutional structure”.

    I guess there’s a trade off in that while one can enjoy the added credibility that comes with speaking as a professor, one cannot speak without being a professor (except anonymously). I have hundreds of usenet posts from the late eighties/early ninties still available on google news (under a different name, so don’t bother looking). These posts are embarrassing on a level that actually frightens me. Much worse than any CCP rantings. While I think Professor Velvet is certainly wandering into the realm of abuse of power, Professors also have a certain responsibility to show undergraduates that what they say *can* and *will* be used against them to a degree that far outstrips will-this-be-on-the-final worries.

    Et Alia more than crossed the line. Inciting violence against a person or group is immoral. In Canada, it’s illegal too. But, these are also extreme personal attacks. Not all personnal attacks are so careless.

    Posted by Central Content Publisher  on  10/02  at  06:04 PM
  46. I’d like to punch Nader in the mouth.  Rhetorically and substantively, o’ course.

    Posted by Capt. Trollypants  on  10/02  at  06:40 PM
  47. The n-body problem? We should not try to solve it. If we do, the solar system might collapse. Plus, since mathpants is a graduate student, the Velvet Guide to Academic Blogethics makes it impossible for me to comment (yeah, I know, worst excuse ever for not having a good answer).

    What about the n-vote problem? If G looses and election by n votes where $n << N the total number of votes, then any tiny event before, during or after the election is “reponsible” for G’s defeat! It’s genius!

    By the way, have you ever been heckled by the approximate identities of the Hecke algebra?

    Re:Nader. Sure, Democrats losing elections has nothing to do with their sucking up to corporate power. Here’s a short list of responsibilities:

    Bush becomes President in 2000: Nader.

    Invasion of Iraq: ANSWER.

    Bush in 2004: Still Nader. Kerry wouldn’t have had any opportunity to screw up if Gore was president.

    Global warming: The Green party. Why do they need to undermine the Democratic push for better CAFE standards?

    Invasion of Iran: SWP(UK) for those “We are all Hezbollah now” T-shirts.

    Bankruptcy reform: CPUSA.

    No filibuster on the “burn the constitution (detainee) act of 2006”: WWP

    Democrats loosing 2006 elections: Todd Chretien.

    Man, we radicals are really all-powerful if you think about it.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  06:49 PM
  48. Do you think there are any ns that low for the equation x to the n plus y to the n equals z to the n?

    Well, coincidentally, I have discovered a marvelous proof of this, but this comment box is too small to contain it.

    Kudos, Professor, for bringing us full ellipse ("full circle” wouldn’t be eccentric enough for this blog).  Now I understand why only one of us has tenure.

    For now, I’m going to take this commenter’s (vigorous yet implicit) suggestion that I think more about what I mean as a “basis.”

    Monsieur mathpants, over to you to explain just what he means as a “basis.”

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  06:50 PM
  49. No filibuster on the “burn the constitution (detainee) act of 2006”: WWP

    I’ve laid the title belt right here on the steel lectern.  It’s yours if you can take it from me.

    I’ve laid the title belt right here on the steel lectern.  It’s yours if you can take it from me.

    Obviously, Mr. h., what you really meant was WWE.

    Man, we radicals are really all-powerful if you think about it.

    But, since the Left is already all-powerful, and by definition includes everyone who is more liberal than Joe Lieberman, how can you radicals also be all-powerful?  Or does that simply mean that the radical left as a subset of the Left contains all of the omnipotence, leaving the rest of the Left with no, er, potence whatsoever?  Hmm, part of that actually matches up with observation.  So I guess We Are All Hecke Algebra Now.  It’s the cause that braids us together.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  07:08 PM
  50. You got it - the radicals have power measure 1 inside the Left. Although, how does this mesh with my observation that the power measure is really a point measure concentrated on Michael? The only possible conclusion is that D. Ho. is right and Michael actually is a radical!

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  07:19 PM
  51. When all is said and done, much more is said than done.

    Thank god.

    I will say that this has been the most meta flamewar I’ve seen in a long, long time.

    Posted by James Killus  on  10/02  at  07:35 PM
  52. I actually see a substantive difference between your comments, and Prof. Velvet’s.

    His are anonymous.  If, and when, a graduate student he has been enjoying this “vigorous” sessions in which he attempts to impart his wisdom, with more, or less, success, happens to be in a place where this professor might be able to affect his career, the grad student won’t be as likely to know.

    Good point, Terry.  I’m not sure how this aspect of T.V.’s rhetorical experiment was overlooked in the subsequent theorizations thereof.

    Et Alia more than crossed the line. Inciting violence against a person or group is immoral. In Canada, it’s illegal too.

    Well, in Canadia they are too polite, as a rule.  And besides, et alia didn’t incite violence so much as perform a complex form of creative hyperbola in an elliptical alternative Internet.

    Christian H. (47) made me laugh out loud.  It’s good to see the CPUSA get some of the blame for a change!  Even though the passage of the bankruptcy bill was really the fault of the RCP.

    So I guess We Are All Hecke Algebra Now.  It’s the cause that braids us together.

    The only possible conclusion is that D. Ho. is right and Michael actually is a radical!

    Oh, I get it.  Now the mathematicians are talking in that wingnut code of theirs, just like Bush when he says that the counterinsurgency in Iraq will amount to less than a comma, tipping off his fanatical mathematician followers by alluding to the proverb “never place a period where God has put a ‘less than’ sign.”

    Posted by Michael  on  10/02  at  07:43 PM
  53. It’s nice to see that, no matter the area of concern, no matter the topic of discussion, online forums start to produce the same “types”.  Now in blogs, before that in online communities (web and telnet and dial-up), and Usenet before that.  And probably fan conventions and academic conferences and part conventions before, during and after that.

    Oh, and high school, but now with better dialectic.  (Sometimes.)

    (This is a classic “ennui meta post”, btw.)

    Posted by MoXmas  on  10/02  at  07:45 PM
  54. Even though the passage of the bankruptcy bill was really the fault of the RCP.

    After reading the WLatLA graphic novel, I was afraid blaming the RCP for anything would get me banned.

    tipping off his fanatical mathematician followers

    Whose bastion is the Journal of Poor and Denied Algebra.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  07:59 PM
  55. Got lemons, make lemonade.

    The academic job market is very terrible, as you know, and Ph.D. candidates have all kinds of legitimate worries about the factors that influence their job prospects.  Some of them have been told, quite openly (by Ivan Tribble, for example), that making public remarks on blogs will hurt them with Google-minded search committees.

    When the Tribble piece crawled into daylight, I had already considered--and rejected--the paranoid, toe-the-line way of sneaking back into academia.  Sure, I earned my phud back in the dark days of the eighties, but I never did a serious academic job search until 2003/4.  As someone who has to use a walker to get around (or so the twenty-somethings assume) and faced bias against people in their fifties who were trying to compete for Assistant Professor positions, I had to laugh at poor Ivan and his paranoia.

    I had decided that the blogs would not long be some hidden corner for a certain type of academic perversion, but that they would one day become the centerpiece of scholarly debate (ain’t happened yet, but it is coming).  So, instead of running away, I dove in.

    It’s not that I’ve made it to that golf course for the academic stars or anything, but I know that I have the blogs to thank for my tenure-track job.

    It didn’t hurt that I’ve been called an idiot on the blogs (well, that might have helped: one of the first to do it was David Horowitz) or that I occasionally (maybe more often) make a fool of myself on the blogs or even insult people.  It didn’t even hurt that others have often made a fool of me (they needn’t have bothered--I can do that myself).

    So never fear, you whippersnappers trying to grasp that elusive bottom rung where I’m hanging on as hard as I can: the blogs ain’t gonna hurt your career--not even if a certain MB has a vendetta against you.

    But you knew that, didn’t you?

    Posted by Aaron Barlow  on  10/02  at  08:16 PM
  56. Hold on, I’m confused about this.  Isn’t there some kind of patheticity exemption from inciting to violence?  Like, if you incite to violence, but it’s clear that no one could conceivably be influenced by you, does that count as inciting to violence?  (Call Bishop Berkeley).

    I guess that I have the same feeling about T.V.’s putative vigorous leaning on Scott.  Doesn’t that require, you know, vigor?  Or am I failing in my commitment to procedural liberalism by lack of desire to sanction people for offenses that they seem incapable of really committing, even if they say they’d like to?

    With regard to Nader: I always disliked Nader, though I respected certain of his organizational gifts, because I started out working in a DC-based advocacy group, and I saw the way that he actually treated his workers.  Paying people nearly nothing because they’re idealists and will work for nearly nothing prefigures just about all of Nader’s later uses and abuses of people.

    Finally, about theory and “sweeping denunciations of mere liberalism”—is there any branch of Theory that actually attacks conservatism?  I mean, there’s plenty of attacks on rationality, presumptions of universality, proceduralism, and so on, as well as on liberalism itself (both plain and neo), but I’ve never seen an attack on conservatism.  Is there anything in the radical right project that is actually incompatible with Theory?  Right-wing postmodernism, for instance, is now becoming familiar, but is there actually a broader congruence than that?

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  08:20 PM
  57. Michael,
    Here is my take from outside academic blogs. Blogs and the internet can be scary shit. I’ve read quite a few of your threads and when they start to dip into the kind of comments by et alia and professor velvet it is like academia becomes this nasty liberal(going), leftist (going), insane(gone!) Pepperland. Is this what they mean by cutting-edge thinkers? (ouch) Jeez, all that’s really required is to present a decent enough human front to dethorne those bad Imperials.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  08:20 PM
  58. All righty, I confess I haven’t read all these comments. But I did want to mention that last week, I made a grilled cheese sandwich that bore a striking resemblance to the ghostly one-eyed Bérubé head—only with more buttery goodness. Then I cut the sandwich into quarters, and lo! It was as if you had been hurt very badly, with melted cheese gushing from your nose like so much blood from the Hansons.

    captcha: white. No, whole wheat!

    Posted by Orange  on  10/02  at  08:56 PM
  59. I will say that this has been the most meta flamewar I’ve seen in a long, long time.

    Oh, no you don’t. This group is way too smart to fall for the old “provoking a metaargument over the degree of metaness of a metaargument” troll bait.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  10/02  at  08:58 PM
  60. And purely as an aside to an aside, the second time I visited Steven DenBeste’s site I read this:

    In Euclidean geometry, the fifth axiom was: if there is a line on a plane, and a point on that plane which is not on that line, then there is exactly one line on that plane passing through that point which is parallel to the other line

    HaHaHa! I wrote him a email explaining that what he’d produced wasn’t the contentious Fifth Postulate at all, but instead, a statement implied, as Proclus rightly remarks, by the proof of Euclid I.31! Oh, man!!!

    Then I finished my bag of Cheetos and deleted his site from my bookmarks.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  09:18 PM
  61. I guess that I have the same feeling about T.V.’s putative vigorous leaning on Scott.  Doesn’t that require, you know, vigor?  Or am I failing in my commitment to procedural liberalism by lack of desire to sanction people for offenses that they seem incapable of really committing, even if they say they’d like to?

    Way to stick up for me, Rich.

    Speaking of: Michael, thanks for this post...and, you know, orfay otnay entioningmay ethay anticfray atelay ightnay onephay allscay andyay ethay uncontrollableyay obbingsay.  I appreciate it.

    Posted by Scott Eric Kauffman  on  10/02  at  09:39 PM
  62. This group is way too smart to fall for the old “provoking a metaargument over the degree of metaness of a metaargument” troll bait.

    Oh, yeah? Says who?

    And besides this is hardly a flameware (so far), meta or otherwise. But of course that statement may just be Wilcox’s Corollary to the Wilcox-McCandlish Law of Online Discourse Evolution in action;
    The more involved one is in a flame war, the less likely one is to recognize it as such.
    But I am counting on the The Wilcox-McCandlish Paradox - Thread degeneration can (theoretically) be forestalled or even reversed by citation of the Wilcox-McCandlish Law. - to work it’s magic and keep things civil.

    And I see that back in the day, Steven Den Beste made into the respectable media WSJ Opinion Journal.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  09:46 PM
  63. For the record, this is only the sixth most meta- blog debate I’ve participated in, and I don’t think it even cracks the top 100 worldwide.  But then, I didn’t know I was in a meta- blog debate the first five times.

    So never fear, you whippersnappers trying to grasp that elusive bottom rung where I’m hanging on as hard as I can: the blogs ain’t gonna hurt your career--not even if a certain MB has a vendetta against you.

    Brand new blog name:  MB for Vendetta!  No, it doesn’t quite work, does it.

    Finally, about theory and “sweeping denunciations of mere liberalism”—is there any branch of Theory that actually attacks conservatism?

    Rich, it sounds like I should do that Stuart Hall post sooner rather than later.  But I fear that it’ll wind up like the Raymond Williams material, only even longer.

    And as our country slides completely off the cliff, everyone, let’s take a moment to reflect on the fact that warbloggers (and the Wall Street Journal!!) turned for their intellectual sustenance and high-level military strategizin’ to Steven Den Beste and Dafydd ab Hugh, shall we?  Because we couldn’t have made that shit up if we tried.

    Posted by Michael  on  10/02  at  10:44 PM
  64. Thank you, Michael.

    Love,

    Hanna

    Posted by Hanna  on  10/02  at  10:57 PM
  65. Well, in Canadia they are too polite, as a rule. - Michael

    Oh, we check. We just don’t cry when we get a penalty for it.

    And that - my friends - is my first and last hockey metaphore.

    Posted by Central Content Publisher  on  10/02  at  11:30 PM
  66. Oh, and Ottscay—onay oblempray.  Ybay ethay ayway, I see that another member of the adicalray eoriathay oggingblay igadesbray has decided, with a yawn, that you (of all people!) don’t come off very well in all this.  I’d say these guys are about two or three days away from uingsay ouyay orfay ouryay unchlay oneymay.  Just yifay.

    Posted by Michael  on  10/02  at  11:41 PM
  67. While everyone licks their wounds and recovers from the nastiness of this internecine meta-agreeathon, it is only appropriate that we “vicious, bitter and hateful” liberals should take a minute to ponder the fact that, in contrast, the right is full of “kindly, affable and good-natured” souls. How do I know this to be true? Because this fellow, Vasko Kohlmayer, says it is - and if you can’t trust the author of The Case For Waterboarding at Front Page, .. well what can I say.

    What a glaring contrast with the gracious deportment of George W. Bush. In him we see the human aspect of conservatism at its best – kindly, affable and good-natured. The fact that there are other conservative champions who exhibit these as well as other admirable qualities should makes us confident and optimistic. Rush Limbaugh, Victor David Hanson, Mary Matalin, George Will, Sean Hannity, Cal Thomas, Bill Kristol, David Horowitz, Clarence Thomas, Peggy Noonan, Mark Steyn are some examples. They truly are gallant and classy warriors in the great struggles of our time.

    It makes one regret that they have almost no counterparts on the liberal side of the battlefield.

    I definitely agree with his last statement. It is regrettable that we don’t have absolutely no rather than almost no counterparts.

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  01:13 AM
  68. It’s good to see the CPUSA get some of the blame for a change!

    It’s funny how, even though the CPUSA controls UFPJ to almost the degree that WWP/PSL control(ed) ANSWER, that’s never brought up in criticisms of UFPJ.  Maybe because in this case CPUSA acts as a fairly direct proxy for the Democrats…

    Why oh why must our antiwar movement be divided between Third-Period neo-Stalinists and Popular-Front neo-Stalinists?

    I have a math joke on the tip of my mind, but it won’t come.  Something about what a neo-Stalinist party with a periodicity of 3.14159, instead of 3, would look like.  Help me out here, Christian.  (captcha: aid.  The blog asks you too!)

    Posted by Kalkin  on  10/03  at  01:26 AM
  69. ’...defended these people with anything like the vigor and passion with which the “democratic” “left” has implicitly defended Bush, Clinton or Bush.’

    My GOD you literary academics are devious and clever! You manage to bring vigor and passion to defending somebody implicitly! It’s the most I can do, and sometimes more, to put across my vigor and passion explicitly. How ever do you do it?

    I know, you’re not gonna give away the Guild secrets. Since you don’t understand people who are saying what they’re not saying, I’d better explain the concept of a rhetorical question. Or you can ask your friend Rumsfeld, whom you’ve been defending with the most passionate implicitness I’ve ever seen.

    Posted by Porlock Junior  on  10/03  at  01:33 AM
  70. More on topic, Michael, you do have a tendency to a kind of argument-by-"look-at-this-crazy-self-refuting-quote," even in your series of explicitly anti-far-left posts, which makes it quite understandable why people accuse you of failing to take arguments substantively.  You didn’t, for example, bother to say anything actual about the history of Hezbollah, but relied on a common-sense sort of revulsion in your readers.

    That kind of argument is sometimes appropriate, but often isn’t.  Logical fallacies are one thing, but historical and ethical questions are another.  I’m suspicious of attempts to deal with them by encouraging people to just reject one side out of hand.  What was it Gramsci said about common sense?

    This seems to be getting into the “ethics of mockery” issue that someone brought up on an earlier thread, I don’t remember exactly where.

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  01:42 AM
  71. Michael Berube deserves condemnation for having gone to Regis. Having gone there myself, I see no excuse for such reprehensible behavior. And if he could find such an excuse, it would be his responsibility to share it. That he has not as yet speaks badly of him. Also, my vodka tonic has gone flat. Perfectly shocking.

    Posted by Thers  on  10/03  at  01:42 AM
  72. I wish I could edit my 68 because I have a clever Lukacs reference I want to put in (about what it takes for an organization to become a historical agent), because it’s vaguely apposite but more importantly because if I manage to cite Gramsci and Lukacs appropriately in two successive posts then I think I get some kind of award or title.  Maybe “cadre”.

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  01:46 AM
  73. Thers, a vodka tonic, on a Monday night?  I want your life.

    Unless you’re joking.  But that would be arriviste or something.

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  01:49 AM
  74. Thers, you vile imposter! Everyone knows that the only acceptable liquor for a properly Regian tonicky preprandial is gin! Your vodka concoction and flat tonic smacks of the debased mixing practices one hears of at Spellman and other unmentionable places downtown. Please desist from this wonton besmirchment of our good name.

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  02:27 AM
  75. Everyone knows that the Internets do not have hidden corners!  They do not have corners at all!  They are perfectly spherical!

    um, excuse me, but the internet is actually a bunch of tubes.  Sheesh.  and this is supposed to be an academic blog.

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  03:07 AM
  76. It’s funny how, even though the CPUSA controls UFPJ to almost the degree that WWP/PSL control(ed) ANSWER, that’s never brought up in criticisms of UFPJ.

    Evidence for this claim about UFPJ, Kalkin? And while you’re at it, what justifies the parenthetical past tense in your description of ANSWER?

    The national coordinator of UFPJ is Leslie Kagan, who has links to the Committees of Correspondence, which was a group that split from the CP (I guess that cuts both ways), but unlike ANSWER, UFPJ has a democratic (that’s a small-d) structure, making it pretty difficult for any organization to be pulling the strings behind the scenes.  The Steering Committee, whose representatives are elected by organization rather than as individuals, does include a CP member, but that hardly constitutes control.  The Steering Committee also includes the American Friends Service Committee, Global Exchange, CODEPINK, the Institute for Policy Studies, Not In Our Name, and a bunch of other left and liberal groups.  It is a broad coalition of the left and liberals, and I suppose that does make it resemble the Popular Front, but the mere existence of a left-liberal coalition is not a sign of Stalinism.

    Full disclosure: I’m national co-chair of an organization, Historians Against the War, which is represented on the UFPJ Steering Committee.  I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party (I never thought I’d have to say that, but it’s the truth!).

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  03:55 AM
  77. More on topic, Michael, you do have a tendency to a kind of argument - by- “look- at- this- crazy- self- refuting- quote,” even in your series of explicitly anti-far-left posts, which makes it quite understandable why people accuse you of failing to take arguments substantively.  You didn’t, for example, bother to say anything actual about the history of Hezbollah, but relied on a common-sense sort of revulsion in your readers.

    It’s quite true, Kalkin, that I did not say anything about the history of Hezbollah in that series.  Nor did I say anything about RCP’s responsibility for the bankruptcy bill, because that wasn’t the subject of those posts any more than the history of Hezbollah was.  As I recall, those posts touched on the following items:

    -- I was likened to Nazi apologists for not condemning Israel’s attack on Lebanon in precisely the way some people wanted it condemned;

    -- I noted that the Monthly Review zine was being run by an enthusiastic fan of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad;

    -- I noted the wholly uncritical and unqualified support of Hezbollah among some on the “radical” “left”;

    -- I discussed, at some length, Dan Lazare’s defense of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and his support for the Iraqi “resistance” (which one, Lazare didn’t say);

    -- I discussed, at some length, Michael Albert’s strange moral evaluation of bin Laden;

    -- I argued, at some length, that ol’ Ed Herman was not only incoherent on the so-called “Cruise Missile Left” but had also made a complete hash of my actual arguments against war in Iraq;

    -- I argued for a left politics based on the ideal of participatory parity—which, I find, none of my “radical” “left” antagonists has taken up.  Instead, they’ve focused on two words in that final post—liberal internationalism—and have played word-association games with them ever since (liberal internationalism = interventionism = imperialism = bombing = running dogs).  Which is precisely what was going on with “Maxims and Reflections“‘s insistence that all forms of internationalism are imperialist.  A truly astonishing remark, if you ask me.

    So I’m tempted to conclude, Kalkin, that when it comes to standards for engaging with other people’s arguments, you have one standard for one group of leftists and quite another for me.

    Posted by Michael  on  10/03  at  07:45 AM
  78. Full disclosure: I’m national co-chair of an organization, Historians Against the War, which is represented on the UFPJ Steering Committee.  I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party (I never thought I’d have to say that, but it’s the truth!).

    Splitter.

    Posted by Michael  on  10/03  at  07:46 AM
  79. mds, christian h., associated giants upon whose shoulders one fails to stand,

    the best way to fail at punwar is to start one and then go to bed!

    as for “basis,” what’s to think? Just let the determinant dilate the fundamental parallelogram of your assumptions, brah. Don’t get all hung up on the details, else the Bourbaki will come suck out your intuition through your ears, at night, with a rigidly constructed straw.

    I shall now channel N.L.: the ability to make reference to things mathematical endows me with the right to rule as a philosopher-king!

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  07:59 AM
  80. which brings up:

    Michael, your flip remark about ‘word-games’ brings to mind a solution:

    the best philosophers must retire to a tower and rotate continuously on the meaning of the word ‘Left’ and what is meant by ‘the Left is bald’ versus ‘the Left is presently bald.’ Clearly, the problem, like all political problems, is one of definition of terms.

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  08:05 AM
  81. "I wish I was a trust-fund leftist
    That is all I really want to be.
    Coz if I was a trust-fund leftist
    Everyone would be in love with me.”

    Sung by Alvin & the Chipmunks to the song, “I wish I Was an Oscar Meyer Weiner.”

    Posted by Kirby Olson  on  10/03  at  09:29 AM
  82. Den Beste references.  Hardcore.

    Posted by The Editors  on  10/03  at  09:46 AM
  83. Now Kirby, you’ve only got half a joke there.

    When you rewrite an A-B-A-B lyric that’s known by a significant percentage of your readership, it’s really important — with very rare exceptions — to rewrite the second “B” line. Your version above, ending on the verbatim line that everyone here likely had burned into their minds thirty years ago, even if they’re 19 years old, disappoints the reader, who was likely expecting a little witticism or bon mot.

    Certainly, the lyric as you render it really says little about the topic of discussion, or even the meta-meta-meta topic. Some of us may love individual trust-fund leftists — there are definitely one or two of whom I am fond — but TFLs are neither so lovable that the emotion correlates to the condition nnor so uniformly unlovable that the line as you (don’t) cast it is a humorous reversal.

    This is especially a shame given the ease with which you could have provided a new line. I mean, come on. It’s just one line, iambic pentameter, rhyming with “be.” In this context, the lines fairly write themselves!

    Everyone would bow to my degree
    I would never be a detainee
    I could castigate the bourgeoisie
    I would teach Lacan in Tennessee

    or, if a slam at our gracious host was desired:

    I would blog on drums and Wayne Gretsky

    There is really, to sum up, no excuse not to have completed this assignment. Final grade: D+.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  10/03  at  09:59 AM
  84. Ben - http://www.appealtoreason.org/?p=40
    ... which is representative of how I’ve heard the “democracy” of UFPJ described by everyone I know who’s personally interacted with it.  Anecdotal evidence, I know, but it’s all I have on either side of the question.

    But maybe my comment was unfair, even with “almost” in there as a get-out clause.  Fine, I withdraw it.  UFPJ may have Popular Front politics and may have issues with democracy but not because it’s actually controlled by the CP.  Redbaiting is bad.

    ANSWER is dominated by the PSL now, which won that much in the WWP split (but also has only one representative on ANSWER’s Steering Committee), thus the past tense.

    So I’m tempted to conclude, Kalkin, that when it comes to standards for engaging with other people’s arguments, you have one standard for one group of leftists and quite another for me.

    I’m not pretending to engage with your arguments in any remotely complete way.  I’m making a comment in “understanding” of how they come off to some of your opponents.  And it’s not quite fair to say that Hezbollah was not the subject of your series of posts, since the “we are all Hezbollah now Left” was your label for your collective foil.

    I argued for a left politics based on the ideal of participatory parity—which, I find, none of my “radical” “left” antagonists has taken up.

    Maybe because they more-or-less agree with it?  As - I suppose - one of them, I do, and I found that part of that series of posts quite edifying.  (Will flattery get you to stop being “tempted to conclude” things?)

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  10:34 AM
  85. the “we are all Hezbollah now Left” was your label for your collective foil.

    Fair enough, though I was trying to say that it was just the most recent manifestation of a longer-running phenomenon.  I think Fred Halliday’s take on this is much smarter and better informed than mine, fwiw.

    Maybe because they more-or-less agree with it?  As - I suppose - one of them, I do, and I found that part of that series of posts quite edifying.  (Will flattery get you to stop being “tempted to conclude” things?)

    Touché, Kalkin.  But saying “I agree with about X and disagree with you about Y” needn’t take the form of flattery.  The people who showed up in that week’s final comment thread—and elsewhere—to say, “your ‘participatory parity’ is all well and good when it comes to internal relations within a polity, but it doesn’t jibe well with your nebulous ‘liberal internationalism,’ at least not without further elaboration of the latter” were pretty much right, I think.  Certainly more on target than the people who read “liberal internationalism” as “justification for war in Iraq.”

    And Kirby:  what’s a trust fund?  Is that something conservatives have?

    Posted by Michael  on  10/03  at  11:39 AM
  86. what’s a trust fund?  Is that something conservatives have?

    It is my sincere hope that enough self-identified conservatives in positions of power have in fact exhausted their entire fund of trust.  The jury is still out, however (assuming the right to a jury remains at all).

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  11:48 AM
  87. Isn’t there some kind of patheticity exemption from inciting to violence?  Like, if you incite to violence, but it’s clear that no one could conceivably be influenced by you, does that count as inciting to violence?

    You mean like the Declaration of Independence??  Rereading the list of particulars, changing a few nouns and adjectives, one realizes that it applies all too well to our current national circumstance.  The question then arises as upon whom the titular labels of Tory, Colonist, and Radical will fall.  Eventually someone is going to have to pick up a rocketlauncher and take down a helicopter.  Meanwhile back to the metablogging, flamewar-discoursing, parodizing, comment thread.

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  01:52 PM
  88. what’s a trust fund?

    a non-demoninational pool of potential sin, from which the blessed of many faiths choose to dip themselves, as in baptisms of ecstasy and mirth.  While the captcha word is “father,” and i do thank my godfather for my epiphanic swim, the religion of his children killeth the earth; i much prefer the trustafari credo.

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  01:57 PM
  89. Clearly, the problem, like all political problems, is one of definition of terms.

    True dat.

    And in re Kirby’s verse, while Chris’s comments are apposite, articulate, and alliterative as usual, I must say that I’m more concerned with the way Kirby takes the delicate aquiline curve of a sensitive meter and thuds it into dull dead lead. After all, that ditty lilts relentlessly in our primitive iguana brains because of the tripping trochees, which Kirby spasmodically spondifies.

    “TRUST. FUND.” simply doesn’t adequately replace “OScar MAYer,” in short. Not to mention that part of the fun of singing the original jingle is drawing out the long “e” in “wiener,” so that the verse itself tickles us into saying “wheeeeeee....” That short “e” in “leftist” is no dang fun at all: “Lehhhhhh....” Eh.

    I have no revisions to suggest.

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  02:28 PM
  90. Formal analysis rocks.

    Posted by Michael  on  10/03  at  02:33 PM
  91. "Oh, I wish I were a latte-sipping leftie,
    That’s all I really want to be.
    ‘Cause if I were a latte-sipping leftie,
    I’d run over Rush Limbaugh with my Volvo.”

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  02:37 PM
  92. You are of course correct, Amanda. I blush to admit I have pretty much given up on expecting fine-tuned meter in plebeian filk. I’m happy if the number of syllables per line isn’t off by more than two.

    That said, “trustafarian leftist” is a good quick fix.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  10/03  at  03:29 PM
  93. O, I wish I were a Lutheran surrealist
    that’s the most I’ve ever hoped to be:
    ‘cause if I were a Lutheran surrealist
    non sequitur might pass for irony.

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  03:47 PM
  94. (Dang iguana brain.)

    Oh, I wish I was an anrcissistic lib’rul,
    That is what I’d really love to be,
    ‘Cause if I was an anrcissistic lib’rul
    I’d be lib’rully in love with me.

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  04:02 PM
  95. Thanks to this thread, I’ve learned a hard truth about myself: that someday, maybe not today, maybe not any time in the next ten years, but someday, I’m going to be sentimental about Steven den Beste, and wonder whatever happened to him.  I can never respect myself again, and for that, I blame you, Berube.  I would blame Martin Wisse, but he might be a grad student, and I presume that would be bad form.

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  04:17 PM
  96. Dang iguana brain.

    Arguing ban, naiad?

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  10/03  at  05:38 PM
  97. Gird! I gun a banana!

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  06:21 PM
  98. Hey, does anyone remember the July 2005 comment thread in which Jonathan Vos Post, Mission Planning Engineer for Voyager 2

    Michael, you’ve been kook-taken again. I think. Please tell me that comment was intended ironically.

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  07:14 PM
  99. Well, I’ve been kook-taken many times, like the day someone sold me a copy of The Collected Wit and Wisdom of Edward S. Herman.  But the funny thing is that Jonathan Vos Post seems to be real.  Though with these science/ science fiction people, who can say for sure?

    Posted by Michael  on  10/03  at  11:10 PM
  100. Comment 100!  Where’s my door prize?  Can I get reimbursed for my broken scroll finger?

    Posted by Capt. Trollypants  on  10/04  at  05:45 AM
  101. if it was The Jonathan Vos Post, a “view comments by” search on Making Light would be illuminating.

    “develop”

    Posted by julia  on  10/04  at  07:55 AM
  102. The door prize is in an obscure corner of the Internets, Captain.  Just take the fifth tube to your left, and slide!

    Posted by Michael  on  10/04  at  08:03 AM
  103. Julia—Well, how about this fun Making Light thread from the summer of 2004?  Will that suffice?

    I liked Brad De Long’s contribution in comment 41. 

    Posted by Michael  on  10/04  at  08:10 AM
  104. How on earth did you get through graduate school without this rule becoming self-evident?

    That was very simple: no one at my alma mater would have blamed anyone for anything done to graduate students. I think they just got the popcorn concession and sat back to enjoy.

    Posted by  on  10/04  at  08:28 AM
  105. Chris, I think the context changes the last line and makes it more pointed.

    And therefore is better than a new line.  The old line becomes a new line.

    Thanks for all the feedback.

    I suppose what drove me to write it (I could write a book about what drove me to write it but even I would be too bored to read it) is graduate school.  Before I went in I too was a leftist, but then when I saw all the posing as corporate daughters of CEOs would pull up in hot cars and talk about how white men were so evil and had to be destroyed, etc., because they were such victims… Talking at the water fountain about plans to put their trust funds into better-functioning accounts, etc.

    It was then that I began to become a Christian, as I could understand the final line of the Lutheran prayers on which I had been raised, “Is now and always shall be, world without end.”

    Ending lines change mood and meaning in new contexts, Chris.

    That’s why you sometimes have to leave them as they are instead of trying to hot dog.

    Posted by Kirby Olson  on  10/04  at  02:00 PM
  106. Chris, I think the context changes the last line and makes it more pointed.

    And therefore is better than a new line.  The old line becomes a new line.

    Luke 5:37,38

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  10/04  at  02:10 PM

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