June 15, 2006

Language and Hate

Right, those two posts from yesterday! First, Jill's:

Jeff Goldstein is a paste-eating Ďtard. Ann Coulter is an anorexic cunt with an Adamís apple. Hey Michelle Malkin, me love you long time!

Is this ok on left-wing blogs?

I donít think so, and neither does Scott.

"Wow," I thought, "Finally." Because this apparent disconnect between what some lefties say they believe about racist, homophobic, misogynist language, and what they do with that kind of language vis-a-vis the, ah, wingnuts, has baffled people on the right for a long time. And Jill addresses that in short order:

Part of [me] hesitates to write this at all, because I think that itíll just be more fuel for a racist, sexist, homophobic right to say, ďSee? Itís really the left thatís racist, sexist and homophobic!Ē But the point is that itís not a gotcha game of who the real bigots are ó there are apparently enough individual bigots to go around.

I've skipped, as you'll notice if you read the whole thing (and you did, right?) the part about the GOP advocating racism, homophobia, etc. as national policy, though not because I disagree with it; on the contrary, it's THE chief thing lately that's making me feel that maybe me 'n' the GOP are not such a good fit, after all.

It's not that I believe all Republicans are inherently racist; I've tried before to be very clear that I don't believe that at all. I do, however, think that presently the right is where most racists, homophobes, and misogynists congregate, where they feel most comfortable. This is, to me, a problem. I don't think the right as a whole has done enough to flush these people out and drive 'em off. I don't think the right overall has been willing to examine some of its underlying beliefs about those who are Other, whether "Other" is women or gays or blacks or Hispanics, and I've tried at times to say that, too, though likely I've still been sadly deficient.

It isn't easy, or fun, or rewarding, to knock your own side. So I have a lot of sympathy for Jill's concerns up above--that she'll just be handing the other side a big club to hit the left over the head with. It's why Chris Rock quit doing that routine he had about black people versus [that word], the infamous one in which he said he wished he could join the KKK, he'd do a driveby from coast to coast--because too many racists seized on that and used it to reinforce their hatred. The last thing you want to do, when you're critiquing your own side, is wind up creating a situation in which the other side gets to shout at you, "See? See? She admits it!" over and over again.

The question I guess this brings up for me is, do progressive liberals have a special obligation to be extra-vigilant in eschewing hate speech? Any more than the rest of us? Morally, no. Practically speaking, however, when your side has billed itself as The Un-Racist, The Un-Hateful, it really helps if, when people look to you for that, that's what they see--and not "Hey Michelle Malkin, me love you long time." Otherwise, you leave them open and receptive to the idea that no, no, it's the left who are really the racists.

(The parallel between this and the subset of Christians who seem amnestic to Paul's pronouncement that the greatest of virtues is love is left as an exercise for the reader.)

One last thing, although what I have to say about it is only tangentially related to Jill's point:

But left-blogs have been known to have their racist, sexist, able-ist and homophobic moments. Case in point: The DKos drama of last year. A recap for those who werenít around: Kos, the biggest left-wing blog, had a ridiculously sexist ad up on his site. I donít remember the exact content of it, but it was something like hot young girls in bikinis fighting in whipped cream and then making out. He received some criticism for it, and instead of having a lightbulb moment and saying, ďIím sorry, I honestly hadnít realized that the ad was sexist, because as a guy I donít usually have to think about these things. But now that so many of my fellow liberals have pointed it out and taken issue with it, Iíll take it down,Ē Kos responded with a defensive rant in which he called feminist bloggers ďthe sanctimonious womenís studies set.Ē

The thing that killed me about that episode, which indeed I do remember, is that from where I sit, the whole thing could have been avoided if Kos' side had been willing to take a hard, critical look at the guy's character back in, say, April 2004.

Yeah, character. I'm sitting here with my toes crossed (I could hardly type with my fingers crossed, now, could I?) that this does not launch an "OMG what IS it with the wingnuts and the obsession with character, like does Dubya really have any character anyway when he lied us into war after stealing the election and fuck CHARACTER, you hypocrite Repukes wouldn't know about CHARACTER if character were blowing you in the Oval Office" rant in the comments, because that's not my point.

My point is that when a man says something hateful (and I hope we can agree that what Kos had to say about the deaths of the Blackwater contractors in Fallujah was hateful) and people call him on his shit, and his response is to delete what he said and then edit what he said and then move what he said to make it look like he didn't say it in response to what you thought he did and then rationalize what he said and BLAH BLAH BLAH--that all says something about the guy's character, only it doesn't say anything good.

So to my mind, expecting Kos to react to the criticism of those ads in any way other than the way he did was, frankly, a little naive. But that's my only nitpick of Jill's post, and I'm fully aware that it's one that could easily be aimed back at the right--particularly regarding Ann Coulter, who also should have been escorted out of the building the first time she said something hateful, instead of everyone waiting for her to target the Jersey Girls.

It also applies to the subject of Scott Eric Kaufman's post, the post that prompted Jill's. This is more difficult for me to talk about, because I'd like to keep the discussion very, very general here--and that's because, as I've hinted previously, I don't mind admitting that I think the subject of Kaufman's post is suffering from "No, actually, it really isn't funny at all"-level mental illness. I am not mocking, here. I am serious about this. And so I think there's no telling what that guy would do if I got in his crosshairs, and I think I like my job and my relative anonymity, and I think that if you're wondering why I don't speak out more about some of this guy's behavior, well, connect the dots. If you squint at them closely, you'll see that they spell B-E-C-A-U-S-E-I-A-M-C-H-I-C-K-E-N-S-H-I-T. Then again, I'm pretty chickenshit regarding rabid squirrels, too. I'm not sure that's unreasonable.

Here's part of Scott's post that Jill took issue with:

My fellow leftists who read political blogs have never actually had to befriend someone with whom they "shared" damn near tangible differences. They have never had to interact daily with people whose politics they found repulsive. They have never been close to someone they would have given a kidney to and spent whisky-soaked nights debating the fundaments. They live in an echo-chamber which demands ideological conformity at the gate. And you know what? The "intellectual" environment in which they live breeds the stupidity they so regularly evince.

The thing about being in an echo chamber (and do echo chambers exist both left and right? Is Charles Johnson a terrible dresser?) is that the people in the chamber are the worst judges of whether or not they're in the chamber. It is tough to tell people in an echo chamber, "Hey, you're in an echo chamber." People get defensive about that. "I am not! My views and my environment are very diverse." Except when they're not, as a later post at Feministe yesterday by zuzu demonstrates:

Now, Iíve always known that the right wingers are way the hell more organized than the lefties. Iíve assumed that the talking points were coming from somewhere, LGF or Rush or somewhere, and the good little dittoheads, having received their marching orders, were spreading their wingnutty message far and wide.

If you've spent any time at all hanging around wingnut blogs you're going to read that, and you're going to have a difficult time not pissing yourself laughing. Because if you've spent any time at all hanging around wingnut blogs, you know all too well that that's not how it works. You also know that the chief thing to remember about right-wing blogs is that (1) they're blogs, and therefore, by definition, (2) all the authors of these blogs detest each other.

That isn't to say that groupthink never sets in, or that there aren't some issues that unite the right more than they polarize it, but good gravy, YOU try sending some of these jokers out with marching orders. You'd find it easier to herd cats. Hey, wingnuts! Remember how we all agreed completely about Schiavo? Those were some days of wine and togetherness, weren't they?

So if it were me, I wouldn't dismiss Kaufman's echo chamber point just yet. Yeah, it's a little back-patting of him, and it also ignores some, ah, patterns of behavior by his subject that I don't think Kaufman was entirely aware of before those patterns were thoroughly, exhaustively catalogued here. But in the abstract, I think his point stands. If you're regularly throwing around blanket slurs like "moonbat" or "Dhimmicrat" or "wingnut" or "Rethuglican," you might want to listen for the echo.

I feel a little bit like I'm intruding where I don't belong--after all, these are posts by people on the left, about people and practices on the left, and what business is that of mine anyway? I may not be certain whether I stand on the right anymore, but I still think it'd be a stretch to claim I'm on the left. So why'm I saying anything at all about this? Is it the scolding gene acting up again? Am I just a damn busybody*? Who asked me anyhow?

And all I can say is okay, no one asked me. I was just glad to see the subject come up. Not because it proves that Liberals are the Real Racists (it doesn't), and not because it gives "my side" something to gloat over, but because it'd be better if political bloggers on both sides dialed down the hate, whether the hate is blogger-generated or merely thriving in their comments. That's one. For two, I'm glad because it takes some guts to examine your own side the way Jill and Scott did, and I hope they're not thanked for doing so by a bunch of conservadorks trackbacking I-Told-You-So posts to their work. I only wish my admiration and respect were actually worth something, because they've earned it.

UPDATE: This, on the other hand--is this necessary?

FURTHER: Regarding the update above and some other comments from that thread, I just have to say--if Dawn Eden came to my door personally to deliver me a big ol' embroidered scarlet "A," suggested I pin it to my chest, and then stood there reading aloud from a lovingly calligraphed, itemized list of my sins, in front of the neighbors, I STILL wouldn't hypothesize that with a name like "Dawn Eden," she must have been "fighting against being a stripper all of her life"--although if she tried to pin that "A" on me herself, it is true that I might have to go all kung fu on her ass. Well, maybe that's just me.

*Yes, pretty much.

Posted by Ilyka at June 15, 2006 01:00 PM in hell is other people

Disclaimer upfront...its late, I'm having insomnia (see my blog for clue) and I haven't finished reading all the links but

1) I believe the GOP has done a lot more to fight off its hatefilled and/or fringe (see the departure of Buchannan vs Michael Moore feted at the Dem Convention) also see who was trolling for votes at KosKiddie convention

2) I was royally pissed (gotta be those hot-flashes) at the stupid twat "Dana L" who wrote for WaPo, for crissakes, that George Bush was responsible for forcing her to get an abortion (cuz he wasn't around to stick in her diaphram for her I suppose)...I wrote about it and was immediately labeled "misogynist"

Racism and sexism are collectivist paradigms...anathema to individualists... either classical liberals or contemporary conservatives. The Left hates our guts. They don't disagree because they think we are wrong, they think we are EVIL. That's why they don't accept that people can sincerely disagree with them WITHOUT being racists/homophobes or advocating same. Believe in secure borders and a sane immigration policy? Racist! (only if said by an R) Believe that redefining marriage should not be up to judges, AND it is a radical notion? Homophobe! (Prager is right)

Larry Johnson thinks Karl Rove drove his mom to commit suicide.

There's a nice intellectual argument!

ok..time to try that sleep thing again.


Posted by: Darleen at June 16, 2006 12:46 AM

Insomnia I can forgive just fine, Darleen, but find some way to criticize Dana L.'s family planning decisions without calling her a "twat," and I might just read the rest of this comment.

Or I may not. Because let me tell you something about this:

The Left hates our guts. They don't disagree because they think we are wrong, they think we are EVIL.

This is exactly the kind of thinking I am dead tired of. I'm fine with "the left" as a shorthand just like I'm fine with "the right" as a shorthand, provided the person using it REMEMBERS that it's only a shorthand. There is no concrete "The Left." There are only human beings who subscribe to a set of values--rigidly, loosely, or somewhere in between--that we may collectively term at times "The Left," because it's easier than writing or saying ponderous things like "human beings who subscribe in varying degrees to a set of values," etc.

I do not wish any longer to be told that I ought to feel alienated from my friends and family who help compose "The Left." Nor do I want to hear anymore how much they ostensibly hate me. Hate's a pretty strong word. It has no place in my relationships with people I value who happen to disagree with me politically, however vehemently they do so (or I with them).

There's another, more practical aspect to all this: If in fact some people on the left do think I'm evil, how is my dumping them into a box labeled "The Left," calling them twats and moonbats, asking them why they hate America, chortling about their "Bush Derangement Syndrome," and publishing their offline information--bonus points if I do it right after bragging about that integrity pledge I signed!--going to do a damn thing except convince them that they're absolutely right?

I don't mind picking on a few public figures on the left whom I think are idiots--Murtha comes to mind here--but I admit frankly that I haven't had a whole lotta zest for doing so lately, and that may be because the hate that's been directed at me personally in the last four months hasn't been coming from The Left. It's been coming from The Right. It wasn't a woman on the left who lobbed several obscenity-laden, personally insulting rants into my comments, quit speaking to me, and started shit-linking my posts via a guy whose foolishness she normally wouldn't suffer one minute. No, that was a woman on the right.

It wasn't the dozens of people, most of them COMPLETE STRANGERS to me, who participated in Blog Against the Strawfeminist Week via several lefty blogs, who told me they couldn't express themselves on my site because they didn't feel comfortable. They showed up and left courteous, thoughtful comments to a TWO-TIME BUSH VOTER. Not ONE of them called me "evil." No, it was a woman on the right who didn't feel comfortable enough speaking her mind to me.

It wasn't one of the Sadly, No! guys who got all hurt and pouty at me for ignoring his dumbass nonargument in my comments and then shopped his tale of woe around via sockpuppets to various sites on the internet just to get in a few more digs at me and make himself feel better about his microscopic intellect. No, that was a guy on the right.

Oh, and hey--I got one of my first links in a long time from one of the Cotilion members today. While I appreciate her support and love what she wrote, it's also true that I got a nice fat scathing comment about what a whining, bleeding-heart baby I am from it, too.

So you see, it's a little fucking hard right now for me to be a right-thinking rah-rah cheerleader in the game between the Totally Not Hateful At All Right and the Truly Awfully Hateful Bush-Deranged Left. Because it's not the hateful, Bush-deranged left who are slowly making me hate reading the internet. That would be the right again.

That doesn't change what I think about current events--I am not so ruled by my emotions as to practice my politics based on which side's nicer to me, like it's a high school decision between whether I join the preppies or the stoners--but it sure does affect my enthusiasm level for various subjects, and I'd have to be made of stone for it not to.

And that, as the old hippies used to say, is where my head's at right now.

Oh, one final thing: Your comment's gonna be missing one hyperlink. Nothing personal. Site rules.

Posted by: ilyka at June 16, 2006 03:03 AM

Nice post.

Racism and sexism are collectivist paradigms...anathema to individualists... either classical liberals or contemporary conservatives. The Left hates our guts.

This is a helluva juxtaposition; a condemnation of collectivist paradigms, immediately followed by a collectivist paradigm.

Therein lies at least 50% of the problem with dialogue online. We lump anyone considered the "other" into a group, and proceed to demonize/dehumanize them.

People are people, regardless of their stated and actual political beliefs, and they fall all along the asshole spectrum.

All of us being a little less smug, and a little less certain of how correct we are, would go a long way.

Posted by: Hubris at June 16, 2006 04:58 AM

Well, it appears that some on the "right" and on the "left" agree on one thing -- that's it's A-OK to dump on "Dana L."

But for different reasons.

(How long do you think it will be before some sneak digs out her personal contact information and posts it all over the web?)

The "right" is dumping on her because she got the abortion at all, and "they" (referred to hereafter as "Thing 1") refuse to seem to be able to connect the dots between the FDA's completly political and faux values-driven ("It will encourage teenage girls to have sex!") refusal to let Plan B to be sold OTC and the fact that someone who is on a long-standing regimen of drugs that are proven tetrogens kinda dictates against bring any unplanned pregnancy to term leaves only the option of abortion.

Some elements on the "left" (referred to hereinafter as "Thing 2") are dumping all over Dana L. on what can only be called classist and enconomic snobbery ("How *dare* she complain, when poor women of color are being impacted!" and "She has all this privledge! How dare she give in to carnal urges in her marital bed!")

I cannot help but feel that the same circumstances, in the context of an economiclly disadvantaged woman of color, would have received an entirely different written reaction from Thing 2.

And that that same new context would have had cries of "How stupid she was! The cult of dependence on government handouts has left her even unable to put in her own BC barrier, and she's gonna blame her plight on the president instead of on her own inability to keep her legs closed!" from Thing 1.

When (at least to me) the whole **** point of the article was that, if someone with the financial and social resources of a Dana L. had to jump through these insane hoops in order to prevent the very probable case of a severly damaged fetus, think how much harder it would be for someone without those resources in the same situation.

Oh, by the way, for both Thing 1 and Thing 2, my considered opinion is that Dana L got knocked-up because she made a mistake in the passion of the moment with her hubby. She's human. Go bite your own tails.

As for you, Ilyka, being classed as a compatriot to Thing 1, I think that you are actually being regarded as more of "Lefty" than "conservative" or "moderate," because of The Great Label Shift that has moved discourse and perception further to the "right" over the last few years, where views formerly regarded as "moderate" are now classed as "socialist."

Posted by: Craig R. at June 16, 2006 10:49 AM

Y'know, it may be time to start that Centrist Bloggers Club.

I don't like "The Left." I don't agree with all of their causes, plus, I'm an apostate.

I don't like "The Right." I don't agree with all of their causes, plus, I'm a feminist. (They get SO bent out of shape on that.)

I am a centrist who harbors some causes that are considered left-wing, and some that are considered right-wing.

We are stateless individuals. Centrists of the blog, unite!

Posted by: Meryl Yourish at June 16, 2006 11:14 AM
Y'know, it may be time to start that Centrist Bloggers Club.

Sign me UP. You, me, Hubris, and anyone else who thinks it might be fun to be called "the fifth column in this country" by the hard right and called "pathetic, sellout enablers of Bushitler" by the hard left. What's not to love about that scenario?

Posted by: ilyka at June 16, 2006 11:42 AM

How did that get posted twice?


Posted by: Craig R. at June 16, 2006 12:25 PM

Agh, meant to fix that for ya, Craig. Sorry. Half a second, here.

Posted by: ilyka at June 16, 2006 12:29 PM
the fact that someone who is on a long-standing regimen of drugs that are proven tetrogens kinda dictates against bring any unplanned pregnancy to term leaves only the option of abortion.

Thanks for reminding me of this, btw--I had forgotten about the teratogenic issue.

Here's the thing: I'd be perfectly fine with someone making the decision NOT to terminate under those circumstances, to just hope that the drugs wouldn't have damaged the fetus, to wait and pray for the best, because it's a deeply personal decision.

It's what you note earlier that bugs me--the missing of the point, which is, IT SHOULD NEVER HAVE COME TO THAT. The woman should have been able to get her damn Plan B. Plan B isn't an abortifacent. If being pro-life is about BEING PRO-LIFE, and not punishing wicked sluts, then don't restrict access to things that PREVENT ABORTIONS. I honestly can't think of anything more counter-intuitive than being, politically, pro-life but anti-birth control (I have no problem with someone being personally pro-life but anti-birth control, which is why I don't join in on these Dawn Eden pile-ons that seem to occur every month or two).

I believe the point of Darleen's post was that the woman was refusing to take responsibility for her actions. But the bulk of that post was pure Monday-morning-quarterback: Dana didn't call ENOUGH places for Plan B. Dana should have taken the time to insert the diaphragm. She should have, she should have, she should have--okay, but guess what? None of that allows for what happens if someone doesn't. And none of that takes into consideration how poorly my life, Darleen's life, and most women and men's lives would hold up under that level of scrutiny. Because the plain fact of the matter is, people fuck up.

What marks one's character is how gracefully one deals with fuckups. And if one is adamant about not bringing a baby into the world that will be at high risk for damaging birth defects, and one tries to correct the fuckup that led to this being a possibility in the first place, I don't see that as a failure of character. I don't see that as an invitation to me to yell "Stick a fork in the bitch, she's done!" I see that as just doing the best one can with the cards one was dealt--even if some of those cards were self-dealt.

I cannot help but feel that the same circumstances, in the context of an economiclly disadvantaged woman of color, would have received an entirely different written reaction from Thing 2.

I'm not even going there. I'd just wind up between that rock and that hard place where I either struggle to prove I'm not racist (and how well does trying to prove a negative work? Not very well at all!) or crying and begging for forgiveness for my racist, racist racistness.

Posted by: ilyka at June 16, 2006 12:55 PM

Being the only left-leaning blogger to have actually HAD Dawn Eden come to my door (back when I self-published INSIDE JOKE and threw parties and Dawn was one of my occasional contributors and a welcome party guest), I find myself bothered by how people characterize her. Granted, when I knew her she was a somewhat different person, but all this slagging of her prompted me to get back in touch with her, and our brief email exchange was very cordial.

Just because someone disagrees with you doesn't necessarily make them a monster. And if you deem them to BE a monster there are better ways of expressing that than picking on physical or gender characteristics. Based on the portinos of her writings I've been unfortunate enough to come across, I think Coulter is a ghoul and a viper, so that's what I call her, not "trannie skank" or whatever other people use.

Posted by: Elayne Riggs at June 16, 2006 02:10 PM

Hang on, Murtha's on "the left"?? Since when? I see him as something of a centrist, if not right-leaning. Just not ultra-right the way the people in power and many of their lockstep supporters seem to be nowadays.

Posted by: Elayne Riggs at June 16, 2006 02:12 PM


Dana's article in WaPo was so extraordinarily stuck-on-stupid I almost suspected it was written by a Moby pro-lifer. That was what fueled my ire. My own position is, for want of a better term, reluctant pro-choice...and when a so-called "my body my decision" article gives credence to the stereotype of pro-choicers as a bunch of shallow, flighty, untrustworthy females who wallow in their "victimhood", then I'm going to rant.

Sure people fuck up. But adults... you know as in 40 something lawyers ... own up to their fuckups. Dana piled one irresponsibility upon another and suddenly its never HER fault..but that damned godbag behind the tree.

I don't give a double goddamn what the FDA SHOULD be doing about providing Plan B over-the-counter... the reality remains it is NOT, has never been, OTC. Dana took less time to track down Plan B then buying a pair of shoes and she wants to blame others because it should be available.

I respectfully disagree with your posit about "label" shift being to the "right".

I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globeóthe belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americansóborn in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritageóand unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty. [...]

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibilityóI welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve itóand the glow from that fire can truly light the world.[...]

../whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.

Sir, I contend that those sentiments - Rights come from God and America's mission is to be defender of liberty beyond our own shores - do not dominate, indeed may no longer be welcomed, on the left of center.

Yet, it was a [classical] liberal who said them.

Posted by: Darleen at June 17, 2006 11:11 AM


You may have noticed that my sentence contained three areas of ideology.

It is not the idealogy of classical liberals nor contemporary conservatives to ascribe "proper" political positions based on melanin levels or gender configuration.

THAT is the province of collectivism and now dominate in Western Leftist cant.

When was the last time you heard from anyone "right of center" pointing to -- say Jesse Jackson -- and denigrating him as an "inauthentic black" because of his political views?

Posted by: Darleen at June 17, 2006 11:21 AM