August 02, 2002
Who you calling lefty?
I don't quite understand the reactions of certain people to Brian Linse's Lefty Directory. It's only a label, folks. Would you have preferred that Brian call it his Blogroll of People Whose Opinions Are Reasonably Similar To His Own?
I see Brian's list as a resource for people who may not know about some of their fellow travellers. I've gotten some referrals from it, and I think that's great.
How would I feel if some other blogger listed me on a roll of Righty Bloggers? Assuming it was intended, as Brian's list clearly was, as a compliment, I'd take it in the spirit in which it was given, and I'd let my words speak for themselves. Just because I call myself a liberal doesn't mean you have to call me one. I repeat: It's just a label. Draw your own conclusions about who and what I am. Don't let a keyword do your thinking for you.
As for Ken Layne's assertion that "lefties generally can't write" and are "rarely funny", all I can do is wonder which of those blogs he's been reading. I honestly don't know how anyone could read Ginger or Ted or Patrick or Avedon or any of a number of these people - how about your good buddy, Ken? - and say such a thing. Unless Layne himself was trying to be funny, of course. But hey, I'm just a humorless lefty, so how can I tell?
Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 02, 2002 to Other punditry
I, for one, am glad to see something that celbrates Liberals weblogs. Conservatives seem to see the blogosphere as their own personal candy store, and it's nice to have a compendium of people who think like us. That doesn't make us better, just different. To those Conservatives who whine about a directory of left-leaning weblogs: get over yourselves. If you don't like them, don't read them.
I've linked to several Conservatives, not because I agree with their political views, but because I enjoy their writing. I would hope that Conservatives could be more open-minded about those who think differently.
For some reason I am suddenly thinking of an individual of Chuck's and my mutual acquaintance who called me a socialist and a class traitor.
I'm happy Brian listed me. You think those guys who are dissing him would clue in that it's not an insult.
I dunno. I've been browsing some of the self-declared "left" weblogs, the ones I wasn't reading and linking to already, and while I've found some keepers (Jeanne D'Arc notable among them), I also think Ken Layne has a point. There's a lot of really boring self-righteousness on our "side." Yeah, yeah, there's plenty over there, too. And yet.
One of the weblogs you recommend, for example, sports a subtitle on its masthead that stops me in my tracks: "Another small attempt to disseminate progressive thought." This remarkably concise bit of passive-aggressive self-aggrandizement conveys two messages loud and clear. The first is that the writer isn't interested in conversations, he's interested in emptying his vessel of "progressive thought" into the waiting minds of his readers. The second message is that model of the "blogosphere" that we've heard altogether too much of lately, in which, dominated by wicked, bullying libertarians and conservatives, we "progressives" light the candles of our "small attempts." This model is in fact a pretty obvious stage-set for gratifying self-dramatization all around; the right-wingers get to pretend they're strong and the left-wingers get to pretend they're brave. Win-win!
So I click to the next blog, and what's the first piece of liberal thinking I see? Our brave liberal blogger making fun of some right-wing web columnist because he's "18 or 19." Imagine how impressed I am. Overjoyed, too, to find myself part of the party of smug, youth-hating old people. If anyone needs me, I'm in Antarctica for the next 75 years.
I like the list, although I think it is probably not nearly as "lefty" as some would like. It is also way too diverse to be taken seriously as a compendium of any sort of "liberal thought", nor should it be. For example, at least two of us (me and Chad Orzel) rarely blog about politics, and stick to things close to our fields of "expertise". I like it, though, as a way to find smart, funny (contra Layne, who, is, ironically, a funny, talented, liberal writer), interesting people. What the hell else is this supposed to be about? I don't see anyone raining dollar bills on all of us for doing this.
Toward the end of Rebecca Blood's Weblog Handbook, she briefly discusses the birth of the warblogger "cluster" (without using the term warblogger). She writes that this cluster gave a more libertarian and conservative to the previously left-wing-oriented world of weblogs.
I'm convinced that there's a new wave, as it were, of liberal/left weblogs in reaction to the Instapundit generation. But since writing...you know, the other week, I've become convinced that there has been a much larger group of southpaws in place all along.
Patrick has been at this longer than Virginia Postrel.
Ray Davis looks like something very close to an O.G. - his archives go back to 1997.
Blood and Doc Searls predate Andrew Sullivan.
Avram Gruner - b. 1998.
And a yadda and a yadda and a yadda yadda yadda.
Next phase: Pre-9/11 leftist bloggers switch from decrying warbloggers to complaining that these snot-nosed liberal blog kids today have no appreciation of their forebears.
I see Patrick is on the warpath again, attacking leanleft and chilicheese for sins that seem to mostly sprout from Patrick's own imagination.
It's amazing how much he manages to read in one little sentence like "another small attempt to disseminate progressive thought". Must come in handy, this mindreading skill... No, those two messages do not come in "loud and clear"; you might want to ask Kevin what he actually meant by
his subtitle instead of inventing an explanation out of whole cloth.
As for Chilicheese aka Eric Hallstrom's problem with Shapiro, Patrick tweaked the truth just a litttle bit to fit his notions:
"Wow! Ben Shapiro is a terrible columnist. Here is a webpage describing logical fallacies. It will go hand in hand with Ben's latest rant. Oh yea, he's 18 or 19. I bet you couldn't tell from his rock-solid reasoning."
That's making fun of Shapiro's poor reasoning skills, not his youth.
Note that Eric Hallstrom's age is nowhere stated on his site, but judging from the picture at
http://snow.prohosting.com/echallst/my_photo.htm he seems to be in his mid twenties or so --hardly
able to be a "smug, youth-hating old" person.
And there you have it, two attacks on lefty weblogs, full of sound and fury but with little substance, but for Patrick enough to be disdainful about all lefty weblogs.
Thanks for the spirited defense Martin, but Patrick has me dead to rights: I am a grumpy old youth-hating 27 year old. Ok I am kidding bit, but I am a bit smug.
The point I was making about Shapiro is probably unclear, but I intended to suggest that one reason his columns are utterly devoid of good arguments is because of his lack of life experience. Doing well on the SAT and getting into college at 16 don't guarantee you can write politically coherent articles. It is a common problem with youthful writers. Many try to hard to be ideological purists. And that makes their writing bad. I admittedly didn't set out my position that thoroughly, but Patrick probably needs to get some thicker skin.
All in all, it sounds like Patrick is typical self-loathing liberal. I don't really have time to be bothered with that.
What I meant was fairly clear, I thought: There weren't a lot of progressive blogs that I was aware of, and I live in a very conservative area of the country. I am an opinionated bastard, so I wanted a place to put down my thoughts, work out my arguments, perhaps engage a few people and change their minds, and generally just rant. I assumed my wife would read it and my friends and coworkers. As for the "small attempt", it was meant to convey the sense that I do not equate myself with the likes of Alterman or Corn or any other full time columnist. I try my best to be articulate and interesting, but lets face it, I, just like you, am just a schmuck with a computer. I am not a wordsmith, and do not pretend otherwise. Mate, as far as I am concerned, the rightist on the web do seem weak. There are more of them, but I see more original ideas, better writing, and more dealing with hard issues from the left side of the blog roll than I do from the right.
For the record, I welcome comments, respond to critical ones, read a raft of rightist blogs each week, and when one of them says something that strikes me, and that I have not seen elsewhere, I post about it. That just hasn't happened for a bit.
What I find amusing about your post is that you are complaining that I do not seem interested in discussion based upon a straw man that you constructed from your rather creative interpretation of one sentence. I have never heard of you until today, but I sincerely hope that these kinds of tactics is not your standard definition of conversation.
Thanks to Eric for confirming it: "I intended to suggest that one reason his columns are utterly devoid of good arguments is because of his lack of life experience."
It seems to me pretty clear that people of all ages fail to make good arguments. It's equally clear that some 19-year-olds succeed in arguing well. Thus it's unclear why, when a 19-year-old fails to do so, it's -- as Eric claims -- because they're 19.
No, Kevin, my remarks in this thread aren't my "standard definition of conversation," as you put it. My remarks in the thread are the result of wanting more left-leaning bloggers to be smarter. Nor am I very impressed by:
I try my best to be articulate and interesting, but lets face it, I, just like you, am just a schmuck with a computer. I am not a wordsmith, and do not pretend otherwise.
The fact is, we're all "wordsmiths", amateurs included, and we're all just "some schmuck with a computer", professionals included. We're all fallible, and none of us get a special break when we write unclearly or say foolish things. This applies to Josh Marshall and Glenn Reynolds, and it applies to me and you. If you write sentences like "I sincerely hope that these kinds of tactics is not your standard definition of conversation", you're not doing yourself or anyone else any good. Good written English is as much your property and your heritage as it is that of any professional "wordsmith."
Well, thanks for the grammar lesson Patrick, but the point remains: instead of actually dealing with anything that was said on my site, you invented a straw man based on one sentence, and proceeded to gleefully attack it. No matter how you try to justify it, that remains an intellectually dishonest action. Frankly, if this is the best you can do, then I am not impressed.
I will assume that I just wasn't clear enough, and you were not just deliberately misinterpreting what I said. Nowhere did I say I was not to be held accountable for my arguments, or even for my grammar mistakes. I said I was not a wordsmith - and I am not. I am not a person who can write eloquently, or memorably. I am sorry if the fact that I do not try to claim to be something I am not bothers you so much. Next time, I promise, I will claim to be the second coming of Hemingway.
One final thing: I do not think that you should claim to be trying to get "more left-leaning bloggers to be smarter" in a thread where you do nothing but create straw men and misquote people.
Let's see. In your first paragraph, I'm "intellectually dishonest". In your second paragraph, you announce that "I will assume that I just wasn't clear enough, and you were not just deliberately misinterpreting what I said." But in your third paragraph, I "do nothing but create straw men and misquote people."
I think I'll sit this out until you make up your mind.
I just want to say for the record that when I first got into the web one of the best sites I found was Bennett Haselton's Peacefire, which he started doing when he was still in his teens.
Mind you, I do like to think I've gotten a bit better since I started writing in my own younger years....
I am not sure what your point is anymore.
I think you are probably attributing too much to a brief bit of throw-away text at my blog. I appreciate young authors. I also believe one of the reasons Ben Shapiro writes silly columns is because of his youth. I don't think my opinions are inconsistent. I noticed you didn't quote my explanation of why a lack of life experience can be an obstacle for writing politically coherent prose. I have not categorically rejected the value of young writers. This is a nitty, petty distraction.
"No, Kevin, my remarks in this thread aren't my "standard definition of conversation," as you put it. My remarks in the thread are the result of wanting more left-leaning bloggers to be smarter. Nor am I very impressed by:
I try my best to be articulate and interesting, but lets face it, I, just like you, am just a schmuck with a computer. I am not a wordsmith, and do not pretend otherwise."
IMO you need to relax Patrick Nielson Hayden. You sound like the self appointed lefty blog Nazi.
"I am not sure what your point is anymore," Eric Hallstrom said to Patrick. I can see Patrick's point quite clearly, and Eric has now made clear in repeated posts that Patrick is on-target.
The point is that people of all ages over, say, six, write badly, and some write well. That age, or "life experience" is no more a determinant of writing skill than is religion, place of birth, degree of melannin, height, dexterity of fingers, or any other utterly irrelevant characteristic.
The word for associating an irrelevant characteristic with an ability is "prejudice." Eric Hallstrom states, repeatedly, that he believes writing clearly is a factor of age. That he doesn't see this for the self-evident fallacy it is demonstrates conclusively he believes what he says:
1) implicitly, that "good arguments" are a product of "life experience" -- this is so demonstrably false, I find it difficult to believe anyone would put it forward. Everyone over the age of, say, fifty, tautologically has plenty of life experience. Does this make them good writers, and expounders of "good arguments"? Gee, I'd not noticed.
2) explicitly, that "that one reason his columns are utterly devoid of good arguments is because of his lack of life experience." No, if writing is devoid of good argument, it's because the writer is thinking unclearly, and writing poorly. In point of fact, grasping the laws of logic, and ability to understand and use English are quite unrelated to "life experience." They are related to care and attention and having bothered to acquire a grasp of logic and English. This care is taken by people of all ages, and is not taken by larger numbers of people of all ages.
"Doing well on the SAT and getting into college at 16 don't guarantee you can write politically coherent articles." Absolutely true. Also, being 27 or 37 or 67 are equally lack of guarantee of writing well or thinking clearly.
"It is a common problem with youthful writers."
No, it's a common problem with bad writers, who come in all ages.
"I also believe one of the reasons Ben Shapiro writes silly columns is because of his youth."
Right. You assume poor writing is a product of youth. That's incorrect. That's Patrick's point. In the words of Woody Allen, you're a bigot, but for the left.
There are plenty of brilliant teen writers. Wait, Patrick was one of them when he was a teen! Eric Hallstrom, on the other hand, has the life experience of a 27-year-old, and thus has some other reason for writing awkwardly and unclearly, and reasoning poorly.
I will take Kevin's repeated assurances that "I am not a person who can write eloquently, or memorably," as a curious form of enticement as to why I should want to investigate his blog. There are, after all, far too many well-written, thoughtful, insightful blog-writers doing blogs full of memorable writing. Hey, some "Kuffner" guy does one. The warning is, however, kind.
Your post demonstrates clearly that older authors can reason poorly too. I have never, ever claimed life experience produces good writing. Thanks for affirming that.
As for your criticism of my actual argument that one reason (not the only reason, just one) Ben Shapiro (not all 18 year-olds, but just one), writes badly is his lack of life experience: The one singular line from my posts that you don't quote is the explanation for my claim. Of course, you would have to answer it then. My claim was that "[m]any [youthful writers] try too hard to be ideological purists. And that makes their writing bad." There is an implicit suggestion there that the felt need to maintain one's ideological purity decreases (to some extent) over time. Why might this be? Because people hone their viewpoints, learn from their mistakes, recognize flaws in their reasoning that can be addressed by adopting variations on their previously held policy or political positions. There was no suggestion in my post that some old folks do not have ideological purity issues (Pat Buchanan, etc.).
So what is your point Gary?
- "Also, being 27 or 37 or 67 are equally lack of guarantee of writing well or thinking clearly."
I will agree with that (and that is some good, clear writing, Gary).
- You quote me saying "It is a common problem with youthful writers," to which you respond "No, it's a common problem with bad writers, who come in all ages."
I am not sure what you reference here, but if you are simply claiming that old people write badly too, no disagreement from me there. If you are suggesting, however, that old writers have as serious a problem as young writers do with ideological purity as an obstacle to good writing, I disagree (see above). Finding commonalities between bad writers doesn't answer my argument.
- "You assume poor writing is a product of youth."
Nope. This is called a straw person argument.
- "...you're a bigot, but for the left."
Whatever duuuude. Do you really think this, or have you just been waiting so long to use that Woody Allen quote you blew your wad and tossed it in?
- "There are plenty of brilliant teen writers."
I agree with that too.
- "Wait, Patrick was one of them when he was a teen!"
Can't comment on it. Did some googling and see Patrick has lots of accolades. I am not sure if ideological purity had any effect upon his early writing. Probably not. You will note I never accused Patrick of bad or politically incoherent writing.
- "Eric Hallstrom, on the other hand, has the life experience of a 27-year-old, and thus has some other reason for writing awkwardly and unclearly, and reasoning poorly."
Well, I guess we will have to agree to disagree. For the record, I do not believe my writing is awkward and unclear or that my reasoning is poor.
So, I can't really see any point to your post other than you wanted to take cheap shots at me based on a straw-person argument of your own creation. I have reserved my cheap shots for the end because I wanted to lay out my position first. With that said, you sound like a real dick. Try to find some worthwhile issues to argue about. Thanks for wasting our time.
I've been intending to jump into this fray for awhile now. Unfortunately, all work and no play makes Kevin a dull boy. I will try to post something of substance this weekend (it's been approx. 2 weeks since my last blog-a-thon).
That said, I think the Woody Allen quote being tossed around here is misplaced. Instead, the more appropriate quote (from "Bullets Over Broadway") is that this discussion is "petty bourgeois crap."