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Politics
By cam (Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 07:10:30 AM EST) (all tags)

This op-ed by Dinesh D'Souza reminds me of several well known disturbed personalities that frequent sites such as these. He starts it with: "As a conservative author, I'm used to a little controversy. Even so, the reaction to my new book, "The Enemy at Home," has felt, well, a little hysterical."



I don't consider trolling, baiting or sensationalism as valid discourse. Certainly not in politics, we all have our moments, but too many use it for commercial gain, for fame, or to create artificial political division for partisan and electoral advantage.

Fine I can accept that. I don't like it, and try to ignore that, except when it intrudes on my habits - which includes reading the Outlook section front to back on Sunday mornings. Another of my favourite past times is going to the local Barnes and Nobles store where I browse the history and philosophy sections, with no particular purpose in mind, just to see what jumps at me.

Recently the store broke off the modern politics section and put it in the center of the history alcove. It is two shelves high on both sides, waist height basically, and filled with all the sensationalist, rotten muck that passes for political discourse. "How to kill liberals", "How to waterboard conservatives", "How binHillary will be next President" or "Why Bush is the devil" - you know the titles and the authors.

I love probing the depths and complexity of history, politics and philosophy: it is my hobby, but when I see this line up I am faced by a mix of despair and laughter. Despair that the country which produced the great rationalist liberal leap of the US Republic now passes this shit as political discourse, and laughter that such absurdities are taken seriously - commercially and politically.

All is not lost of course. Buried in this morass of sensationalism are modestly named texts like, "The Rights of Man" and "The Federalist". I recognise that commercialism is driving much of this. Even well reasoned and professionally written books such as Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq have sensational titles. Fiasco is an excellent work of journalistic insight into present history and events.

But even so. The desire for eyeballs does not mean that editors have to go to such shrill lengths especially when they carry so little purpose and are devoid of quality, merit or relevance. The recent Liz Cheney op-ed is one example, and this Dinesh D'Souza article is another.

I am reminded of Warren Bass' Book Review of D'Souza's book:

As the great social scientist Thomas C. Schelling might have put it, there are two possibilities here: Either D'Souza is blaming liberals for 9/11 because he truly believes that they're culpable, or he's blaming liberals for 9/11 because he's cynically calculating that an incendiary polemic will sell books.

I just don't know which is scarier.

One has to wonder why his publisher, agent, editors and publicists went along for the ride, and it's hard not to conclude that they thought the thing would cause a cable-news and blogosphere sensation that would spike sales -- a ruckus triggered not despite the book's silliness but because of it.

This sort of scam has worked before (think of Christopher Hitchens's gleeful broadside against Mother Teresa or the calculated slurs of Ann Coulter), but rarely has the gap between the seriousness of the issues and the quality of the book yawned as wide.

This time, let's just not bother with the flap; this dim, dishonorable book isn't worth it.

Warren Bass is saying don't feed the trolls. The problem for reasonable people of conscience is that the Washington Post editors are feeding trolls like D'Souza steak by the truck load.

< 10:08 | BBC White season: 'Rivers of Blood' >
Why did you ban me? I didn't do anything wrong! | 25 comments (25 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
I must ask sir. by dev trash (4.00 / 3) #1 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 08:37:25 AM EST
Why do you hate America?

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I am not to blame by cam (4.00 / 1) #2 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 09:03:45 AM EST
It is not my fault: Patrick Henry made me do it.

cam
Freedom, liberty, equity and an Australian Republic

[ Parent ]
oh okay by dev trash (4.00 / 1) #22 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 05:35:07 PM EST
I can forgive that then.

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[ Parent ]
Well we can't give you liberty, so... [n/t] by leviramsey (2.00 / 0) #24 Mon Mar 26, 2007 at 09:26:09 AM EST

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Could I be the next Lee Abrams?
[ Parent ]
Part of the problem could be by Herring (4.00 / 4) #3 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 09:15:17 AM EST
that frequently these are books about books. Or, rather, books written as a response to a book or collection of books already published. Or not even books. Take, Al Franken's "Lies and the Lying Liars who tell them". I quite enjoyed this book, but clearly it's been written because the author is pissed off with what Fox & Co. have said or written in the past. It's not an attempt to be objective about politics.

A lot of what's published does seem to have degenerated into "You,'re evil", "No, you're evil", "Takes one to know one" etc.

I'm not so up on details of USian politics - we're not heard over here of things that GWB has done that have gone well, but if I were to write a critique of , say the last 10 years of Labour rule in the UK, I could either focus on the fuckups (Iraq, PFI, Iraq, Tabloid-led justice policy, Iraq) or I couldgive a factual account of stuff that actually happened (minimum wage didn't put millions out of work, teachers and nurses salaries did go up). A book called "Tony Blair: The evil lying motherfucker" is going to sell more than "Tony Blair: OK, some things good, some things bad".

I seem to be rambling again.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

That isnt necessarily destructive to political by cam (4.00 / 1) #17 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 12:18:11 PM EST
destruction though. The Rights of Man was in response to Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France. Locke's Two Treatises of Government was in response to ... bugger forgot. It was someone who said the monarchy had a divine paternal right to rule. Also made the treatises hard to read as I had no idea who he was refuting.

The difference it the polemics. Paine and Burke dueled with reason and rationalism. The modern political authors don't bother with such trifles.

cam
Freedom, liberty, equity and an Australian Republic

[ Parent ]
D'Souza = O'Reilly by MillMan (4.00 / 4) #4 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 10:07:04 AM EST
They're both actors. They play a role that gets them paid.

When I'm imprisoned as an enemy combatant, will you blog about it?

To quote Neil Peart by leviramsey (2.00 / 0) #25 Mon Mar 26, 2007 at 09:27:44 AM EST
It's that fool on television
Getting paid to play the fool

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Could I be the next Lee Abrams?
[ Parent ]
who what ? by sasquatchan (4.00 / 2) #5 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 10:21:47 AM EST
I read the same rebuttal. Never heard of the guy, nor read his book.

His letter was eloquently written, and said something I tend to agree with: Hate my message all you want, attack me politically all you want. But, if you want to get down to brass tacks, talk about the issues and questions I raise.

So I really would have to disagree with your post here, cam. I've got no political axe to grind, and no vested interests in this guy or his book. His defense appeared on the up and up. His points, while opinions, sounded well reasoned and defensible. (I won't say I think he's right, but he makes defensible points).

But that is classical troll behaviour by cam (4.00 / 2) #6 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 10:36:14 AM EST
Say something outrageously absurd, provoke an irrational response, and then claim that you are being politically attacked, and that your ideas are being ignored.

That he has written a troll response op-ed in the WaPo suggests to me that "he's blaming liberals for 9/11 because he's cynically calculating that an incendiary polemic will sell books".

I agree with mm, he is a commercial character, and this reply is part of the character he is playing.

cam
Freedom, liberty, equity and an Australian Republic

[ Parent ]
But is his argument absurd ? by sasquatchan (4.00 / 2) #7 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 10:43:38 AM EST
I mean, really ? Some points he makes I think are true: Muslims see the 'culture' America exports and find it reviling. Givin they think of us as a "Christian" nation, they wonder why we put out a lot of trash culture (sex/violence/whatever). I find their reaction not-unlike the cultural conservatives of the 50's with their ire towards sex/drugs/rock'n'roll.

While blaming the LIEbrals for Muslim ire may be trolling, since conservatives do themselves no good claiming we are a Christian nation and act contrary to such a belief, some of his statements didn't sound absurdly trollish. There's lots of talk about what is the Muslim (as if such a large population can really be nailed down and analyzed that easily...) hatred of America/'the west' based on. I think most have some truth to them. (and I doubt it's because they 'hate our freedoms')

Now you could argue (as I think you are) anyone putting out books that poke one side of the political spectrum is, regardless, making statements that are intended to inflame and arouse. That I won't disagree with.

[ Parent ]
There is cultural anti-americanism by cam (4.00 / 1) #8 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 10:57:25 AM EST
in liberal nations like Australia and Canada too, but those nations don't resort to violence because they are uncomfortable about American cultural imports. Neither do they blame American 'liberals' for it.

Does this make liberals in America traitors despite Australia and Canada not smiting the US with violence or some other form of 9/11 depravity.

D'Souza isn't a victim, he is a commercial troll who is artificially trying to create a Schmittian narrative of friend-enemy where the enemy is external and internal (namely the political foes of conservatism - ie liberalism).

This is no different to 'goddless' and all the other shrill polemics that are currently commercially successful.

cam
Freedom, liberty, equity and an Australian Republic

[ Parent ]
I'm not capable of giving by sasquatchan (4.00 / 1) #11 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 12:05:39 PM EST
any rational answer to what the real conflict is over/about. That's why I said there's hints of truth in all the offered answers, from both sides. In fact, I'd say one response (alas, which goes to 'they hate our freedoms') is other liberal nations have the ability to be 'counter' or anti-american within their own social context.

Regardless, I don't post to argue Desouza's points, just that his Outlook article sounded rational and well written with defensible points, regardless of my, his, or your political views.

FWIW, schmittian is an unknown term to me, and google shows it to only be used as a partisan name-calling/insult word  (ie your polemics comment). I'm guessing it's based on Carl Schmitt, the German polisci, but wiki doesn't really show how his polisci writings apply here.

[ Parent ]
What I am arguing is by cam (4.00 / 1) #14 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 12:10:21 PM EST
probably better answered in my reply to debacle. Do we have some duty or obligation to accept their argument as valid if the author (and publisher) choose not to wrap it in a reasonable or rational manner?

I would argue no.

cam
Freedom, liberty, equity and an Australian Republic

[ Parent ]
I sense a theantix comment on the horizon. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #9 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 11:07:30 AM EST

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
It's too easy by debacle (4.00 / 3) #10 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 11:54:22 AM EST
To say "you're a troll."

Some people are just very, very misguided. It's almost like a more universal form of Godwin's law. How do you have a discussion with someone when they think you're a troll?

It's best to assume that whoever you are talking to is sincere. If they are trolling you, that only makes them look the more foolish.


IF YOU HAVE TWO FIRLES THOROWNF MONEY ART SUOCIDE GIRLS STRIPPER HPW CAN YPUS :OSE?!?!?!?(elcevisides).

It may be easy by cam (4.00 / 3) #12 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 12:08:06 PM EST
but it is true. The op-ed pages uses a literary device to double their audience. The echo-chamber one group while trolling the other. Miranda Devine, Robert Novak, Clive Hamilton, etc etc etc. They all do it. They are judged success when the newspapers get two letters, one from the acho-chamber saying "I totally agree with what you said.", and the other from those trolled saying,"you cannot be more wrong!".

Surely we have to be aware of this phenomenon in political discourse, especially from the media? It would be a mistake to take it as serious political discourse, and instead question the commercial and personal origins of those devices. I think that is a rational response - as it is not unique to one party or ideology either.

cam
Freedom, liberty, equity and an Australian Republic

[ Parent ]
Then dismiss them as irrelevant by debacle (4.00 / 1) #16 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 12:13:21 PM EST
But don't call them a troll. You can't prove someone is a troll without a great deal of work. It's relatively easy to say "I have a firm belief that you don't know jack shit about what you're talking about."

IF YOU HAVE TWO FIRLES THOROWNF MONEY ART SUOCIDE GIRLS STRIPPER HPW CAN YPUS :OSE?!?!?!?(elcevisides).

[ Parent ]
Except their irrelevancy is aided by their by cam (4.00 / 2) #18 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 12:20:01 PM EST
marketing, media, and writing devices - which is 'trolling'. This is a valid descriptive verb and one that fails to engage positive discourse. It is a suitable description.

cam
Freedom, liberty, equity and an Australian Republic

[ Parent ]
But it's too easy by debacle (4.00 / 1) #19 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 12:23:40 PM EST
Just like calling someone a radical, or a fundamentalist, or what have you. It's better to just ignore them than to point out that they're trolling and give them a chance to deny it, along with another target.

IF YOU HAVE TWO FIRLES THOROWNF MONEY ART SUOCIDE GIRLS STRIPPER HPW CAN YPUS :OSE?!?!?!?(elcevisides).

[ Parent ]
No it is different with trolling by cam (4.00 / 2) #20 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 12:28:38 PM EST
The best means to deal with a troll is to ignore, or not to feed them, despite their ability to raise passions. To do so they have to be recognised for what they are. There is a reason why I do not read a lot of authors from the SMH op-ed pages. It is not because they don't agree with my politics, it is because they are cynically trolling for an audience. Getting enraged at them (and linking to them) only solidifies their writing techniques and subjects.

It is also different when commercially successful trolls have the mass media to perpetuate themselves. As I said in the article, I may be trying to ignore these people (except when they cross my habits) but it is the WaPo/SMH/NewsCorp editors that are feeding them. I don't have much control over that because negative political discourse is commercially successful.

cam
Freedom, liberty, equity and an Australian Republic

[ Parent ]
But you can dismiss anyone as a troll by debacle (4.00 / 1) #21 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 12:37:58 PM EST
And the trolls themselves can use your weapon against you. Calling someone a troll is like accusing someone of being a pedophile. You strip them of all social integrity without even doing any work. You can build a case after the assumption, and regardless of whether or not they are a troll, credibility is destroyed.

Maybe I'm following the wrong things here, but from what I've seen the term troll is really thrown around too lightly. If someone is a troll, it's not wrong to call them that, but it's important to be sure before you come out and say it.


IF YOU HAVE TWO FIRLES THOROWNF MONEY ART SUOCIDE GIRLS STRIPPER HPW CAN YPUS :OSE?!?!?!?(elcevisides).

[ Parent ]
I can't believe I even know about this... by motty (4.00 / 4) #13 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 12:10:13 PM EST
D'Souza gets trolled to destruction by some guy called Colbert or someone. On telly. Funny even if you've never heard of either of them before.

I amd itn ecaptiaghle of drinking sthis d dar - Dr T
The irony is Colbert wouldnt exist by cam (4.00 / 3) #15 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 12:11:25 PM EST
if we didn't have so many commercially successful political characters. Without them he would not be satire.

cam
Freedom, liberty, equity and an Australian Republic

[ Parent ]
Colbert's a satirist? by ammoniacal (4.00 / 2) #23 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 07:58:41 PM EST
I'll be damned.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Why did you ban me? I didn't do anything wrong! | 25 comments (25 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback