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Monday, January 19, 2009

Snarkacilious

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:

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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.

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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 Michael on 01/19 at 11:34 AM
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