Monday, November 12, 2007

WHY WE SNARK. Megan McArdle pleads for comity:
My point, which I stand by, is that calling someone a [censored] does not, in fact, advance the debate. I can think of no circumstances under which someone who is concerned about appearing too feminine will be moved to change his views because you called him a big, fat nancy-boy. Even if it were true, the effect of insulting someone on this level is never to cause them to reexamine their position; instead, it energizes them to seek out reasons that you're wrong, and moreover, a huge jerk whose other ideas are probably equally moronic.
And so on, "anger is something that we're currently a bit oversupplied with," come on people now, smile on your brother.

You have to remember that with these guys, civil discourse is always a one-way street. Just the other day McArdle characterized her bleeding-heart opponents as practitioners of what Julian Sanchez calls The Care Bear Stare ("They'd line up together and emit a glowing manifestation of their boundless caring, which seemed capable of solving just about any problem"). It's a perfectly fine insult, implying that people who disagree with her are moony-eyed dopes who just want to wish problems away. How it's supposed to "advance the debate" is hard to figure.

The post to which McArdle's plaint is a follow-up had to do with a reaction to an appalling 2003 essay -- brought back into the spotlight by Kevin Drum's Golden Wingnut Awards -- by one Kim Du Toit. Called "The Pussification of the Western Male," the essay is chock-full of such Nietzschean aphorisms as "You know the definition of homosexual men we used in Chicago? 'Men with small dogs who own very tidy apartments.'" Read the whole thing, and I think you'll agree that Du Toit is as likely to "reexamine his position" in response to reasoned counterargument as a dog is to stop licking his own balls.

But on McArdle's side of the DMZ, Du Toit is considered a major thinker. He's on the Ole Perfesser's blogroll. His essay has been celebrated by several top rightwing bloggers. He's right up there in the pantheon with Steven Den Beste.

Du Toit's essay richly deserves the often impolite mockery to which it has been subjected. But its essential crappiness is not the only reason why it got such a razzing -- just as a desire to raise the discourse is not the only (or even the real) reason why McArdle rushed to Du Toit's qualified defense.

One big reason why making fun of conservative bloggers is, in some quarters, a popular pastime is that they've been so inflated for so long. After 9/11, when irony was alleged to have died and Republicanism was decreed a unipolar superpower, "warbloggers" and "anti-idiotarians" began dreaming of domination. They were going to take down the MSM, reduce the Democrats to a rump, and remake America and the world in their own, suburban image.

While wimpy-assed liberal columnists deferred meekly to the War Party, mainstream conservatives praised and elevated their digital proteges, and such gibberish was published as would make Mencken blush. To argue with it was to be shouted down as a traitor, a Fifth Columnist, a pre-9/11ist. All a sane man could do was laugh.

Now the bloom is a little off the rose. Iraq's a looted shell, Arabia is not yet the 51st state, and the citizens are asking for health care. The mad mostly remain mad, but they're trying -- more modestly, of necessity -- to shift the grounds of debate. A more muscular occupation replaces dreams of Iraqi democracy, Iran offers new hope of revivifying bloodshed, and the next crop of Republicans promise not to embroil themselves in scandals and patronage.

When we laughed at them before, they were roaring so loudly they couldn't hear us. Now they can't help but notice. And they want us to stop. After all, we're only hurting ourselves! I may indeed bust a gut, but that's a chance I'm willing to take.

No comments:

Post a Comment