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I told you that the Chicago St. Louis Phoenix Arizona Cardinals were a team of destiny.  But did you believe me?  Nooooooo.  Or maybe yes.  I’m not sure.  But I do know this much:  I live three hours from Philadelphia, close enough to know that the failure of the Eagles’ defense to anticipate the Warner-Fitzgerald attack is entirely the fault of Donovan McNabb.

And speaking of Philly, I’ve now tried twice—once early Saturday morning, once early Sunday morning—to post a nice constructive comment on Erin O’Connor’s blog, because Ms. O’Connor was so kind as to reply to my post about Jason Rantz and ACTA, and even to leave a trackback on this notoriously untrackbackable blog.  Ms. O’Connor chides me for being snarky and for using the epithet “wingnut,” and although I plead guilty to the charge of snarkalariousness in the nth degree, I have to say that I have always found “chiding” to be a most deplorable discursive mode.  It arises from anger, it’s not conducive to sincere inquiry or exchange, and when academics or others who make any sort of intellectual claim do it, it really serves them badly.  Just my humble opinion, of course.  (No, actually that’s what Ms. O’Connor said about snark, in comments.  But still.)

Anyway, I’m not sure why my attempt to comment at Critical Mass has met with a double fail.  But I’ll simply assume that my reply to Ms. O’Connor was captured by her snark spam filter, and I’ll reproduce it below, in the hope that we can keep a civil conversation going:


Well, I thank Ms. O’Connor for the kind (and civil!) words, and I quite agree that Ms. Neal did the right thing in that debate.  But I do think a limited defense of snark is in order.  I’m not of the David Denby school that says Snark is Everything That is Wrong with Today’s Society Today—though I suppose that much was already clear.  More important, I actually am trying to offer people a discursive mode of dealing with people like Jason Rantz.  Because, you see, when someone like Rantz comes along and says, “All you need to learn about immigration law I can teach you in this one sentence: it is illegal to enter our country without permission, bypassing our laws,” he’s demonstrating that he’s not a serious interlocutor on the subject, and doesn’t merit a serious response.  The good lord Moloch gave us snark for just such rhetorical occasions.  Likewise, every once in a while David Horowitz says things like

radicals like Berube can’t be bothered to actually read or respond rationally to anything that ruffles their progressive feathers, let alone be concerned about the fact that their entire political focus since 9/11 has been in getting our terrorist enemies off the hook.

And how should one respond to such a provocation?  Well, another man might’ve been angry, and another man might’ve been hurt.  And another man might try to ignore it (that never works) and still another might’ve done the Grover Furr-patented “Horowitz = Goebbels!!1!!” dance.  Me, I’ve gradually decided that the way to deal with vile smears like this is to ridicule the wingnuts who utter them.  (And I use the term “wingnuts” precisely as our Founding Fathers intended.) Because people like Mr. Horowitz and Mr. Rantz are chiefly trying to gin up some outrage, and too many academic leftists are all too eager to oblige them.

By contrast, when Ms. Neal shows up at a conference and decides to drop the “How Many Ward Churchills” nonsense in favor of a serious discussion of student engagement and academic standards, I’m happy to take part.  Ms. Neal, smart as she is, knew perfectly well that the ACTA-pamphlet approach wasn’t going to fly at the National Communication Association, and as a result, we actually did have a productive exchange—even where we disagreed (e.g., we agree that tuition costs have placed college out of reach for far too many families though we offer different reasons why).  Reasonable conservative critiques of higher education (or anything else) are perfectly OK by me; Horowitzian smears and ignorant Rantzian rants aren’t.  Personally, I enjoy debating stuff with smart people who disagree with me—even on my blog!  Mr. Drake, you’re welcome to comment anytime.  Feel free to stop by.  And Ms. O’Connor, thanks again for the reply.


So that’s my comment on Ms. O’Connor’s gracious reply to my post.  Just for the record.  But I do think that once you get past my snarkitude (if you can), the major point remains: conservative intellectuals have a lot of work to do if they want to disavow the Palin/ Plumber wing of their constituency in the US.

OK, enough of this for now.  I have to compile a dreary Works Cited and then get back to writing about important things, like hockey and karaoke.  In the meantime, We Are All Arizona Cardinals Now.

Update:  Almost forgot!  Even though I actually have no rooting interest now that my Giants are done for the year, I do love it when this happens.  Pull quote:  “the Arizona Cardinals over the Philadelphia Eagles in next Sunday’s NFC Championship Game? Put it this way: Tim Tebow and the Philippians have a better chance of strip clubbing with Pacman Jones.”

Posted by on 01/19 at 11:34 AM
  1. If McNabb were any good at all, he would have pulled a Sammy Baugh, and subbed in for Brian Dawkins at safety to pick off a few of those terribly sneaky Warner to Fitzgerald passes. Indeed, No One Could Have Predicted the Cardinals would throw the ball to a 6’ 4” guy who’s really fast, jumps really high, is very strong, has great hands, and really want to catch the damn ball.

    As for Jason Rantz, I remain unconvinced he hasn’t changed his name, just to fit into the memorable Set of Authors Whose Names Map Form and Content, like Sidney Mintz, who writes on sugar, or Elaine Scarry, who writes on torture.

    Posted by John Protevi  on  01/19  at  01:36 PM
  2. And we thank you for enabling us to laugh at these unserious people, Michael.  But not for the image of Grover Furr dancing.

    Posted by  on  01/19  at  01:45 PM
  3. Wow,

    I didn’t have any trouble posting there.

    I think maybe my deeply insightful comments (see below) were well received in the spirit they were intended.



    Are you sure that Mr. Berube wasn’t referring to Wingnuts in the context of fans of the Detroit Red Wings? I know he’s a big hockey fan and I also know that this term can refer to people who are fans of that team.

    Also I’d like to point out that wingnuts hold a lot of things together that otherwise might fall apart. So I don’t think we should just get rid of the word just because some people don’t like it very much.
    Posted by: Elliot Tarabour at January 19, 2009 9:02 AM


    Posted by  on  01/19  at  02:49 PM
  4. I’d just like to echo everything you said, Michael.

    Posted by  on  01/19  at  02:57 PM
  5. I think the basic argument O’Connor is making is wrong.  Satire and sarcasm and snark are time-honored forms of critique.  Granted, they are not always appropriate but they often are.  She seems to want to rule them out-of-bounds all the time.  That is just silly.

    Posted by  on  01/19  at  03:24 PM
  6. I can confirm that Elliot is correct about Wing
    Nuts in Detroit.  This is a sad and unfortunate coincidence in naming.  Red Wing Nuts used to have appropriate hats, easily visualized if you use your imagination.  They are now passe.

    My wife and I watched the two-bird game together.  She, ever the socialist, was pulling for the under-dog Cardinals, if I may launch a Santorum style bird on dog metaphor.  For reasons that are not clear even to me* I was pulling for the Iggles.  Maybe I feel nostalgia for the Lion’s Marty Mornhinweg era.

    Should be a fun Super Bowl.

    You may now return to your regularly scheduled snarking.

    *In all other respects, having actually been there, I loath all things Philadelphian, that are not 18th century historical artifacts and/or monuments

    Captcha: love, as in I love irony

    Posted by jazzbumpa  on  01/19  at  03:55 PM
  7. John Proveti: a list of such names must include the celebrated architect Rem Koolhaas.

    Posted by djw  on  01/19  at  03:57 PM
  8. Over the years, Berube has almost singlehandedly refined academic snark to an art form,
    I can only assume that, since she is ‘she who is without snark,’ her comment above must be taken solely in its most complimentary of form.  You, sir, are a master artisan!!

    snarky comment: The Eagles should immediately trade for Anquan Boldin!

    Posted by  on  01/19  at  04:39 PM
  9. Off topic, but since there was a long discussion of Elizabeth Alexander here—I’ve tried out an inaugural poem, and would be interested to hear what you thought.  It is not Great Art—and I also still haven’t changed the color scheme—but since I’m going to be reading it tomorrow, any comments would be useful.

    Posted by Rich Puchalsky  on  01/19  at  05:28 PM
  10. djw: many thanks for that great addition to the list!

    Posted by John Protevi  on  01/19  at  05:53 PM
  11. I think to those who think snark doesn’t have a place in intellectual discourse, you can really just point to large swathes of the 18th century. Jonny Swift and Al Pope—there was some serious snark going on there.

    Posted by Chris in NF  on  01/19  at  06:01 PM
  12. Rich, that poem made me cry.  No, wait, it’s your color scheme, still making my eyes bleed.  The bounciness is nice.  Keep it bouncing, as Pierce Inverarity once said.  But I do wonder about this bit:

    Obama? Yeah I know about his biz
    A man in Chicago told me how he is
    The more you work for him, the more you believe,
    The less of his regard you will receive

    Do you think that’s true about David Axelrod?  Cass Sunstein?  Valerie Jarrett?  And you know I’m with you on the insult that is Rick Warren, but how about that Hilda Solis?  And what if we get that there Employee Free Choice Act?

    Elliot @ 3:  actually, I think the fact that my comment had three hyperlinks in it was the problem.  You know, that makes my comments look like diet-drug spam to some filters.  But yes, it is always possible that Jason Rantz might be a fan of the Detroit Red Wings, in which case the term “wingnut” would be no more stigmatizing than “cheesehead” in Green Bay.

    Chris @ 11:  I believe Mr. Swift is still blogging, actually, and still snarking away.

    And V. Ed @ 4, I agree with your perspective completely.  Thanks for sharing.

    Posted by  on  01/19  at  09:11 PM
  13. Thanks for the comment, Michael.  If I have achieved bounciness, I am one small step towards eternal veneration as avatar of the Bard.  The stanza that you picked out was, oddly enough, the only part of the poem that I directly cribbed from a sentence in someone’s blog—I have an Email sent to him asking whether he wants to be credited / associated with my version of the thing—oh, well, it’s from here.  A very good blog by the way.  I don’t think it’s true of individuals—Obama seems to be loyal in that regard—but in terms of groups, yes, he gives me the impression of always having his attention turned towards those who he has not yet won over.

    We may get the Employee Free Choice Act, yes.  I probably didn’t make the poem sufficiently dialogic enough, or the dialogue instead of being between pretty good and not very good ended up being between pretty bad and only equivocally bad, when that’s not really what I think.  I have to plead the accumulated years of Bush damage here.  Not to seriously compare Bush to Ceausescu, but:

    “Andrei Codrescu, who was born in Romania and became a U.S. citizen in 1981, wasn’t one even to venture a try [writing an inaugural poem].

    ‘I voted for Obama, but I grew up under Ceausescu,’ Codrescu wrote of the former Romanian dictator. “The idea of writing poems for people in power gives me the creeps.”

    (From here).  One of the other poets I know who tried and failed to write referenced that one.

    Posted by Rich Puchalsky  on  01/19  at  09:51 PM
  14. More kool names:  Dr. Leakey, Urologist (he was my grannie’s doc);
    Dr. Hertz, dentist (my mother worked in his office).

    Posted by  on  01/19  at  10:38 PM
  15. OMG, I went to O’Connor’s blog and I almost passed out from lack of oxygen.  It was like one of those strange craters in Africa where an underground vent leaks carbon monoxide and poisons any living thing that ventures by. As the mindless earnestness crept into my lungs and my brain cells began to wink out like stars in the morning sky my almost nerveless fingers just managed to click me back to the life-giving fresh breezes of snark that blow here in America’s Airspace.

    And Rich, your poem is a valiant effort but it doesn’t scan.  Count beats, my man, count beats.  Either pentameter or tetrameter, but not both.  See my version of your first stanza at your blog.

    [My favorite limerick:
    There was a young man of Japan
    Whose poetry never would scan.
    When they said, but the thing
    Doesn’t go with a swing
    He said, yes, but I like to get as many words into the last line as I possibly can.]

    Posted by  on  01/19  at  10:47 PM
  16. Thanks, Bloix, but as I wrote there, it doesn’t scan on purpose.  Too regular means not enough bounciness.

    Posted by Rich Puchalsky  on  01/20  at  12:41 AM
  17. Too regular means not enough bounciness.

    What?? You are going for a synthesis of Steven Reich and the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo????

    Posted by  on  01/20  at  02:01 AM
  18. If only, spyder.  Although since “going for” does not mean “achieved” ... actually, in the parts that aren’t supposed to sound like people talking to each other but inexplicably rhyming, I think I was going for a sort of freestyling Dr. Suess, too disgruntled and possibly drunk to be able to bash out regular anapestic tetrameter.

    Posted by Rich Puchalsky  on  01/20  at  09:33 AM
  19. Speaking as someone who is all too often in earnest, at least when writing, I appreciate and even admire good snarkers.  As others have mentioned, the literary history of snark (in the form of satire and other types of incisive wit) is long and glorious (according to a certain definition of glory, anyway).

    Furthermore, to display my earnest nature for a moment ("nature" being my captcha word, handily enough), I find the idea that we’d all be able to get along if people on the left would only be civil to be exceptionally frustrating.  It sounds an awful lot like other arguments I’ve heard before ("if --insert minority/oppressed group here-- would just sit down and be quiet and wait patiently, then their rights will come to them eventually;” “well, if --insert progressive group here-- would just be civil, then maybe we could talk about social change;” “men would respect you women more if you just behaved in a more ladylike manner;” and so on).  Does the fact that Mr. Bérubé snarks on his blog invalidate the arguments he makes elsewhere that are more serious in tone?  If not, then what, exactly, is the problem?  It brings to mind one of the basic ideas of rhetoric: that one uses different forms of discourse and rhetorical strategies in different rhetorical situations.

    And now I shall toddle off, having exceeded, I fear, my earnestness allottment for the day, which is dangerous since I still have over six hours of the workday left.

    Posted by Liz  on  01/20  at  11:42 AM
  20. This is all well and good, but Mr. Berube is avoiding what seems to be the obvious question: whose uniform will bring them a Superbowl victory? Will Cardinal red prove to be a power color after all, or will the ominous tones of the Steelers overwhelm them in the end? (Also, the Steelers logo is one of the best in the NFL- do logos count?)
    A nation awaits your answer, sir.

    Posted by  on  01/20  at  05:38 PM
  21. I can only assume that, since she is ‘she who is without snark,’ her comment above must be taken solely in its most complimentary of form.  You, sir, are a master artisan!!

    Or alternatively she has mastered the art of “the snark that conceals the snark”, merely pretending to be a fawning sycophant when in reality she is actually someone else altogether.

    Posted by  on  01/20  at  06:25 PM
  22. It’s Kurt Warner. He has that weird light. And he may think it’s Jesus but I think that Jesus doesn’t make any difference, he’d still have that weird light no matter what.

    Posted by  on  01/21  at  04:37 AM
  23. This is all well and good, but Mr. Berube is avoiding what seems to be the obvious question: whose uniform will bring them a Superbowl victory?

    I am not avoiding this question—on the contrary, I am thinking about it constantly.  My instincts tell me that the Steelers, because of their very manly color scheme and classic logo, will have no more trouble with these redbirds than they did with the northwestern birds who played in their pajamas, but there are a couple of complicating factors here.  I expect to post on this next week.

    Posted by Michael  on  01/21  at  09:19 AM
  24. They should go for the Chicago Cardinals uniform, which was actually stocked with copious amounts of red feathers and a plastic beak.

    Posted by Neue Internetprasenz  on  01/22  at  10:31 AM





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