Okay, I have spent waaaaay too much time tonight and last night catching up with the 836 846 comments on the Tom Watson and FDL posts about language and liberal anti-feminism. Or at least that’s what they nominally started out as, but to me both threads ultimately turned into discussions of power: Mainstream media and political establishment vs. blogs; large blogs vs. small blogs; front-pagers/moderators vs. ordinary commenters.
There are two threads of discussion that I want to focus on, because I’m intrigued by their symmetry:
On the one hand, the FDL front-pagers and loyalists argue that Tom and the FDL dissenters’ pleas for them to use less sexually offensive language are part of, or of a piece with, the establishment’s desire to use the club of “civility” to neuter them of their rebellious, subversive, sometimes even transgressive passion and anger.
On the other hand (and this is not a counterargument to the first hand, merely a different hand pointing in roughly the opposite direction), the FDL dissenters argue that the FDL community, led by the front-pagers, brutally suppresses dissenting opinions with derision, abuse, and outright censorship. (Full disclosure: I made some comments on FDL which put me closer to this camp, although they’re not as strongly-worded as my composite summary here. UPDATE: I may have not been entirely clear. I meant that I was closer to the dissenter camp in this debate, not one of the dissent-suppressing loyalists. Which is not to say that I never piled on or accused someone of trolling. I did, but hopefully not very savagely or often.)
So, in other words, each side of the debate believes that their right to express themselves is under attack by a more powerful adversary who finds them threatening. I’m wondering if this is simply human nature, or if it’s an insecurity inherent to the progressive internets. The Republicans and the corporate media have tried to marginalize and demonize liberal bloggers for at least two or three years now, so we’re all a little hypersensitive.
The thing is – and this is why I’m more sympathetic to the dissenters – the power that the FDL front-pagers, moderators, and loyalists have over other commenters is far more immediate. Most non-trolls want to fit in. They want to be accepted by the community, so an attack by a front-pager speaking in The Voice Of God (whether they mean to or not, as Pach has realized, and Jane is coming around to), or by a bunch of regulars, can be a very chilling prospect. The end result is that many of the less thick-skinned commenters, myself included, will either self-censor to avoid another(‘s) beatdown, and/or become increasingly uncomfortable and embarrassed by the disagreements that escalate into screaming matches, until they finally just leave the room. Granted, the latter is not exactly a direct result of intimidation, but it is an indirect and undesirable outcome.
The corporate media and political establishment’s power over the blogosphere is similar, in the sense that it can only pressure and not compel, but it is also more tenuous. I really don’t think there are very many liberal bloggers who give a rat’s ass about whether the media or politicians like them – quite the contrary. But while they may not crave approval, I believe that many do crave credibility, which the establishment is loathe to bestow upon Dirty Unwashed Hippie Bloggers. This allows them to be manipulated with the Carrot Of Civility: the media myth that the only reason no-one takes liberal bloggers seriously is that they use bad words and say mean things, and if they just behave themselves they will attain respectability. I could probably count the number of liberal bloggers this has worked out for on my nose… if I had tertiary syphilis.
Jane, to her credit, sees right through this bullshit, and has pledged never to jump through civility hoops for The Man. I absolutely have no problem with that philosophy, and I say Rock on, sister. Where it gets a little dicey is when Jane and her loyalists project this onto their commenters who take offense to some of the stronger language (or imagery), and treat them as agents of that hostile establishment. They are not. Sure, some of the criticism comes from opportunistic trolls, but most of it comes from regular commenters who, for example, find the “c-word” offensive. But they are friends, speaking on their own behalf, expressing their own personal feelings, and they deserve more respectful treatment than, say, Deborah Howell or Mark Halperin. And with that in mind, viewing honest criticism from a lowly commenter as a form of oppression to be vehemently opposed simply does not make sense. [Warning: Unsolicited advice follows. You may wish to avert your eyes.] Far better to direct the justifiable rage where it belongs, while listening to and nurturing the community of commenters. If a large number of commenters (and some front-pagers, for that matter) are uncomfortable with the c-word, it’s okay to retire it. Really. It doesn’t mean the bad guys won and you lost. It just means FDL is more welcoming to the people who love it, and that’s a net positive.
Yes, you can take this too far and end up declawing yourself, but I think it is possible to weigh a word’s utility against its unpopularity or offensiveness. The c-word is very offensive to many people, and it doesn’t really convey much beyond hostility. “Whore”, on the other hand, does not provoke the same level of visceral reaction in most people, and it conveys an image of someone who has chosen money and power over principle. I would hate to see “whore” go away; it encapsulates the essence of the Republican party and all its enablers, including the Democratic ones. But I would venture to say that there are very few thoughts which are effectively illuminated by the c-word.
But this is veering into an entirely different debate, the one about what language is acceptable and what language should be tossed overboard. There was a lot of juicy, interesting discussion about this, but I don’t think I’m qualified to add much to it, so I’m just going to leave that side of it alone and mumble about imbalance of power. I’ve probably made a big enough fool of myself as it is.
Do you see now, people? Have you finally fucking figured it out?
I do not like football. I don’t know how much clearer I can make that point. This sport blows. Everyone’s running around and hitting each other… yikes. All I wanted when I was a kid was to hang out with my mom in the kitchen and make some zucchini bread. But nooooo, everyone’s all like, “You’re a Manning. You should play football!”
Fuck that. You should hear my dad in interviews. “We never pushed football on the boys…” Yeah right, old man. I just fell into this shit naturally. It had nothing to do with the family football games we played every afternoon for SEVENTEEN FUCKING YEARS, Dad. Or the film study sessions after dinner. No, that was for fun. Ass.
Give me squash. There’s a sport. You got two guys in a box swatting at a dead superball. Now THAT I can get on board with. No coaches. No annoying family members telling you about how “great the game is”. None of that crap. Just you, some other sweaty guy, and lots of grunting. Bliss.
I got a bigass signing bonus, you know. I could play that shit all day. All I have to do is prove to everyone that I’m not good enough to play this bullshit football. Critics say I’m inaccurate. Wanna bet? I’m the most accurate fucking passer in the world, people. Those aren’t interceptions I’m throwing. They are FUCKING CRIES FOR HELP.
I’m gonna get out of this game. And if it means throwing another 20 dead-on picks and costing the Giants the playoffs, then fuck it. I’m doing it. You can’t stop me. Nothing will keep Eli from that squash court.
I don’t know why I never saw it before. And I wondered why he seemed to be actively trying to lose games.
1 commentNovember 30th, 2006 at 08:27pmPosted by Eli
But I was surprised that none of them pointed out the obvious: That if we do withdraw from Iraq, and it becomes an even worse bloodbath than the occupation, the Republican and media spin will be that this is all the Democrats’ fault. After all, it was the Democrats who wanted the troops to retreat before the job was finished (of course, whether “finished” means Iraq becomes a paragon of democracy or a lifeless, smoking wasteland depends on which conservative nutbar you talk to).
So therefore, any casualties incurred while doing what the Defeatocrats wanted are therefore entirely on our effete, latte-sipping eggheads. Never mind that we never wanted the troops there in the first place.
The masters of the plastic universe are baffled. From their imaginations, their computers, from their calloused fingers, magnificent kingdoms have sprung. They can re-create the Seven Wonders of the World in a literal snap. But now they huddle in their model shop of Legoland California and contemplate the seemingly impossible:
How in the rectangular heck do you give a Lego bride a Lego bosom?
Tim Petsche considers miniature chef hats borrowed from a Lego kitchen set. Too big. What about a couple of Lego daisies? someone else suggests. Too weird.
Such are the dilemmas of grown-ups in a child’s fantasy job.
[Eric] Hunter and the other master model builders work in a Carlsbad shop filled with some 2,000 floor-to-ceiling bins full of virtually every piece Lego has created, in every color (that would include the seven shades of pink). Outside in the theme park, their obsession with detail is why a small black Lego rat can be found in the New York subway display, and why Secret Service men on duty in mini-D.C. all look alike and sport tiny earbuds.
His work is focused on a planned Las Vegas exhibit, due to open next spring in the park’s Miniland U.S.A. Designers expect to use more than 2 million bricks to build miniatures of famous Vegas hotels and casinos, complete with a tacky wedding chapel and Lego showgirls.
[T]hey smile at their own inside jokes, such as the home brewery that the model builders constructed and hid atop the model of the Kennedy Space Center, and the Elvis impersonator amid the crowd of mini-commuters at Grand Central Terminal. Then there’s the Lego body of Jimmy Hoffa, buried where no tourist will ever see him, deep within a column of the new Freedom Tower in fake Manhattan.
Lego bosoms? Lego rats? Lego Hoffa? Lego Elvis? Awesome. I also like the acronym for the Washington Metro Area Lego Users Group: WAMALUG.
I mean, yeah, I probably wouldn’t have a girlfriend, but I bet I could build a perfectly serviceable one out of some Mindstorms kits – a little strategically-placed bubble wrap, coupla really big Lego chef hats, and I’m sure it’d work out fine. I could call her Legolita – you know, like in that KuBrick movie with James Mason.
2 commentsNovember 28th, 2006 at 07:47pmPosted by Eli
I’m coming in a couple of days late on David Sirota’s great HuffPo piece on why the punditocracy sucks, and why it espouses an utterly false view of what is Sensible and Centrist, but I had a chilling thought while reading passages like these:
…[W]hen you look at this large group of pundits, what do you know, almost every single one of these columnists lives in Washington, D.C. or New York City.
This is no exaggeration, and unlike most of the commentary in the news, it is not a fact-free opinion: it is cold, hard truth. By my informal count, every single Washington Post Writers Group columnist covering domestic politics lives inside the Beltway or in the Big Apple, except for Ellen Goodman who lives in Boston and Ruben Narvarette who lives in San Diego. Similarly, at least six out of the 8 New York Times columnists live in Washington D.C. or New York. LA Times? Same thing. Every single one of their national political columnists except Meghan Daum and Niall Furgeson live in Washington, D.C. Then take a gander at one of the biggest syndicates – Creators. By my count – which is only an eyeball count – roughly half of their entire stable of columnists lives in Washington or New York. In all, I can find almost none of these people who actually lives somewhere other than one of the coasts of the country – real-life proof that the media Establishment really does see the heartland as “flyover country” to be ignored.
That’s right folks, the stereotype is, by and large, factually true: coastal elites are trying to impose a very narrow world view on the rest of the country – and people sense it because the opinionmaking machine is so uniform, and the media so consolidated, that this very narrow world view is being jammed down our throats everywhere. Hell, I can see it right there in my face when I sit down for a bagel at my local coffee shop in Helena, Montana, and open the local paper’s commentary section, which – like many local papers’ opinion pages these days – is now dominated by “national” pundits. On any given day, I see pieces from George Will trumpeting a New York City billionaire for his Wall Street conservatism. Or, I see right-wing Washington nobody Mona Charen and her latest screed demanding that all Jews adhere to neoconservatism as proof of their religious devotion. At best, if I’m lucky, I get a David Broder piece telling me how anyone who thinks our economic policies should serve middle America is a “protectionist” worthy of being tarred and feathered.
These professional political pontificators have barely ever bothered to even visit the middle of the country. Worse, the very top topics they address are way beyond merely unreflective of opinion in small towns like Helena: they have absolutely nothing to do even with what is important to our community. The people who spew these views are, in short, trying to impose their warped opinions and priorities on the rest of us.
So the next time you, one of the other 97 percent of the non-Washington/New York population read something outrageous from a national columnist or see some pundit arrogantly bloviating on television in a way that would get them a knuckle sandwich in your local bar, ask yourself: Are you really surprised? Is it any wonder that the Establishment’s definition of the “center” is so totally and completely divorced from America’s? Is it really a shock that when one of these columnists wrote that “voters shouldn’t be allowed to define the choices in American politics” none of his fellow opinionmakers said anything, and in fact, many probably agreed? Are you really stunned that one of these columnists recently wrote with a straight face that the recent election means Democrats must shed all of their ties to pro-choice voters, unions and minorities?
And perhaps most important of all, ask yourself: are the majority of Americans really wrong when they say the media does not actually represent this country’s mainstream and, in fact, has, through its leading opinion voices, shown a severe disdain for the very “national” perspective it purports to represent?
My chilling thought is this: The Republicans have (I believe) successfully fostered the myth that the media has a liberal bias, and the fact that almost all media pundits are wealthy coastal elitists plays right into that myth. So not only are these pundits completely full of shit… but I’m afraid that a large chunk of the population thinks they’re liberal.
Hopefully, if the general population is smart enough to see that the pundits are full of shit, they’re smart enough to see from which ideological direction most of the shit is spewing. If everyone thinks David Broder and Richard Cohen and the pro-war, pro-Lieberman, anti-blog stable of wankers at The New Republic are typical liberals, then the progressive movement is probably doomed.
You do not want to pass this up, people. The shadowy and mysterious Codename V. is taking requests for bad movies to watch and mock mercilessly review. If you have read any of V’s past reviews, you should know that this is not to be missed.
So shoot V. an e-mail with the worst movie you can think of, and perhaps, one day, you will see it immortalized! It’ll be like… Razzymandias or something.
He may be a certified lame duck now, but President Bush and his truest believers are about to launch their final campaign – an eye-popping, half-billion-dollar drive for the Bush presidential library.
Eager to begin refurbishing his tattered legacy, the President hopes to raise $500 million to build his library and a think tank at Southern Methodist University in Dallas….
Bush sources with direct knowledge of library plans told the Daily News that SMU and Bush fund-raisers hope to get half of the half billion from what they call “megadonations” of $10 million to $20 million a pop.
Bush loyalists have already identified wealthy heiresses, Arab nations and captains of industry as potential “mega” donors and are pressing for a formal site announcement – now expected early in the new year.
The rest of the cash will come from donors willing to pony up $25,000 to $5 million.
“It’s a stretch,” said another source briefed on the plans. “It’s so much bigger than anything that’s been tried before. But the more you have, the more influence [on history] you can exert.”
The half-billion target is double what Bush raised for his 2004 reelection and dwarfs the funding of other presidential libraries. But Bush partisans are determined to have a massive pile of endowment cash to spread the gospel of a presidency that for now gets poor marks from many scholars and a majority of Americans.
The legacy-polishing centerpiece is an institute, which several Bush insiders called the Institute for Democracy. Patterned after Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Bush’s institute will hire conservative scholars and “give them money to write papers and books favorable to the President’s policies,” one Bush insider said.
[P]lanners believe hometown and Texas pride will outweigh any drag from Bush’s diminished political fortunes. “The money will be there,” a senior Bush adviser said. “The President is very popular in Dallas and the library will be great for the city and SMU.”
There’s another major inducement for potential donors: Their names aren’t required to be made public.
I just love that last sentence. I wonder if any of those megadonors will expect anything in return.
So much for Mr. I-Don’t-Care-What-Stoopit-History-Thinks-Because-We’ll-All-Be-Dead. Dubya realizes that there’s a very real chance that he will go down in history as a disgrace, as The Worst President Ever, and that he needs to hire as many flacks and sycophants as he can to sing his praises, even after his stain has been scrubbed from the White House. In a perfect world, a full-court press might be enough to edge him past his role models, Nixon and Harding. In the real world, it might be enough to bring him close to Reagan, especially if anything even remotely hopeful or positive occurs in the Middle East, which his foundation (and then the media) will immediately hail as the inevitable outcome of his Bold Strategic Vision.
$500 million buys an awful lot of lipstick… but this is an awfully large pig.
4 commentsNovember 27th, 2006 at 10:57amPosted by Eli
Next year, I want to see a new coach, a new offensive coordinator, and an alternative option at QB. Also, please draft a running back, a wide receiver, a left tackle, and at least one cornerback and linebacker.
4 commentsNovember 27th, 2006 at 01:26amPosted by Eli
It is sheer bad-move genius from start to finish; from Hoyt Axton singing the opening closing theme song (“Seth Is The Devil”), to Erik Estrada(!) camping it up as a flamingly gay parade organizer, to Pat Morita talking “Is that all you got?” smack to a giant poisonous snake.
Your life will be immeasurably poorer if you do not watch this movie.
5 commentsNovember 25th, 2006 at 03:01pmPosted by Eli
In Pittsburgh, “Nursebot” (a robot which took on male and female personalities of Earl and Pearl depending on the gender of the voice used at the time) was tried out with elderly patients. Despite the stereotype of older people being technology phobic, the patients accepted the robots.
Which small-screen star – who doesn’t get out much – engages a dominatrix in a Manhattan “dungeon” to stand on his groin in a parka and repeat in a loud whisper, “We’re on the top of a mountain, no one can hear us …”
Wow. Now that’s a fetish!
6 commentsNovember 22nd, 2006 at 07:41amPosted by Eli
Two peace activists have planned a massive anti-war demonstration for the first day of winter.
But they don’t want you marching in the streets. They’d much rather you just stay home.
The Global Orgasm for Peace was conceived by Donna Sheehan, 76, and Paul Reffell, 55, whose immodest goal is for everyone in the world to have an orgasm Dec. 22 while focusing on world peace.
“The orgasm gives out an incredible feeling of peace during it and after it,” Reffell said Sunday. “Your mind is like a blank. It’s like a meditative state. And mass meditations have been shown to make a change.”
The couple have studied evolutionary psychology and believe that war is mainly an outgrowth of men trying to impress potential mates, a case of “my missile is bigger than your missile,” as Reffell put it.
By promoting what they hope to be a synchronized global orgasm, they hope to get people to channel their sexual energy into something more positive.
Michael Richards stunned a comedy club audience, shouting racial epithets at people who heckled him during a stand-up routine.
The 57-year-old actor-comedian, best known for playing Jerry Seinfeld’s eccentric neighbor Kramer on the hit TV show “Seinfeld,” was performing at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood Friday night when he launched into the verbal rampage, according to video posted on TMZ.com. [I’m not going to provide a direct link; if you want it, you’ll find it]
The tirade apparently began after two black audience members started shouting at him that he wasn’t funny.
Richards retorted: “Shut up! Fifty years ago we’d have you upside down with a f—— fork up your a–.”
He then paced across the stage taunting the men for interrupting his show, peppering his speech with racial slurs and profanities.
“You can talk, you can talk, you’re brave now mother——. Throw his a– out. He’s a n—–!”
Richards shouts before repeating the racial epithet over and over again.
While there is some audible chuckling in the audience throughout the outburst, someone can be heard gasping “Oh my God” and various people “ooh” after Richard uses the n-word.
I can’t even begin to guess what he might possibly have been thinking. And while “profanity-laced tirade” may be the most beautiful three words in the English language, “racial epithets” and “the n-word” are just plain ugly.
Maybe Richards can do some commercials for George Allen’s presidential campaign – he should have ample free time…
7 commentsNovember 20th, 2006 at 11:51amPosted by Eli
After railing for months against Congressional corruption under Republican rule, Democrats on Capitol Hill are divided on how far their proposed ethics overhaul should go.
Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate, mindful that voters in the midterm election cited corruption as a major concern, say they are moving quickly to finalize a package of changes for consideration as soon as the new Congress convenes in January.
Their initial proposals, laid out earlier this year, would prohibit members from accepting meals, gifts or travel from lobbyists, require lobbyists to disclose all contacts with lawmakers and bar former lawmakers-turned-lobbyists from entering the floor of the chambers or Congressional gymnasiums.
None of the measures would overhaul campaign financing or create an independent ethics watchdog to enforce the rules. Nor would they significantly restrict earmarks, the pet projects lawmakers can anonymously insert into spending bills, which have figured in several recent corruption scandals and attracted criticism from members in both parties. The proposals would require disclosure of the sponsors of some earmarks, but not all.
Senator Barack Obama, an Illinois Democrat tapped by party leaders last year to spearhead ethics proposals, said he was pushing for changes with more teeth. “The dynamic is different now,” Mr. Obama said Friday. “We control both chambers now, so it is difficult for us to have an excuse for not doing anything.”
He is pushing to create an independent Congressional ethics commission and advocates broader campaign-finance changes as well. “We need to make sure that those of us who are elected are not dependent on a narrow spectrum of individuals to finance our campaigns,” he said.
…Democratic lawmakers argued that the real ethical problem was the Republicans, not the current ethics rules, and that the election had alleviated the need for additional regulations. “There is an understanding on our side that the Republicans paid a price for a lot of the abuses that evolved,” said Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, alluding to earmarks. Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat and a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, said the scandals of the current Congress were “about the K Street Project for the Republicans,” referring to the party’s initiative to put more Republicans in influential lobbying posts and build closer ties to them.
“That was incestuous from the beginning. We never had anything like that,” Mr. Harkin said of Democrats. “That is what soured the whole thing.”
So let me get this straight: Now that the Democrats are in control, Congress doesn’t need ethics oversight because they’re not like the Republicans. Oh, okay.
First of all, saying that you don’t need rules and oversight because you’re the good guys is a Republican trademark, and look what that’s gotten us: Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, warrantless wiretapping, the abolition of habeas corpus, etc., etc.
Second of all, aren’t there still Republicans in Congress, still up to their corrupt pre-election shenanigans? Are we to believe that they’ll voluntarily clean up their act now that the Democrats are in power? Or that their corruption simply doesn’t matter if they’re in the minority?
The Democrats know all this, and are being willfully obtuse because they’re just as addicted to lobbyist money as the Republicans. They may not be as overtly corrupt (at least I hope they’re not), but they figure, Why take chances? And they certainly don’t want to enact anything that might aid their future challengers (i.e., campaign finance or earmark reform).
This is all very disheartening. I want the Democrats to draw a very clear distinction between the Republican approach to corruption (“If it feels good, do it.”), and the Democratic approach (which should be “Zero tolerance, we work for the people of the United States,” not “We’ll make some of it illegal, but we won’t look too hard for it.”). Hopefully Obama and his allies can talk some sense into these idiots. Hell, even Rahm is advocating a crackdown on earmarks.
3 commentsNovember 19th, 2006 at 11:13amPosted by Eli
In a lot of cases, I think the American Bigotry Revealed by the movie has maybe been a little bit overblown, as there were numerous occasions in the film where it appeared to me that some of Borat’s more offhand remarks simply didn’t register on his victims, because they were so far out of the frame of reference of what they were expecting that they just assumed that they either misheard him or he must have meant something else. Remember, everyone in the audience expects Borat to say anti-semitic, misogynistic things, so we’re listening for them. I think that does make a difference; the people he’s talking to have no such expectation, so their brains struggle to process it, or rationalize it away.
That being said, there were certainly plenty of occasions where there was clearly no misunderstanding at all. Sometimes humorous, sometimes… kinda creepy.
And after the movie, spork and I went Jew-tipping. I tipped six, spork only tipped two. He is weak, like woman or Jew; I could crush him easily. High-five!
5 commentsNovember 18th, 2006 at 06:56pmPosted by Eli
I think it’s great news that O.J. has written a book about how he would have killed his wife and Ronald Goldman, if he were the killer. As anyone who reads or watches a lot of whodunit crime thrillers like CSI or Criminal Minds or Wire In The Blood knows, the key to catching an insane killer is to get inside his head and understand what he was thinking before, during and after the murder. That O.J. has reached this stage can only be viewed as a testament to how serious he is about his quest to find the real killer or killers and bring them to justice. It should also be recognized for the impressive achievement that it is; typically a person has to be borderline insane themselves in order to inhabit the mind of a killer so thoroughly and completely, so for a sane and peaceable fellow like Mr. Simpson to pull it off is nothing short of amazing.
…Or maybe he just figured out a way to cash in on having committed a double murder without actually admitting to it, but only a hardened cynic could believe that.
3 commentsNovember 17th, 2006 at 11:37amPosted by Eli