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December 16, 2006

Comments

This is good, presumably the next time a Republican politician rightfully ejects people from a private function based on their choice of t-shirt or bumper sticker, we won't hear liberals complaining about violations of the first amendment.

Nice to have you on board! Welcome.

As a side note, you might want to realize that doing your best to save people from hell isn't the same as hating them.

Slight difference there, don't you agree?

So, the president having a town hall meeting is a 'private function'? Or just coming into town necessitates the need to set up 'free speech zones'?

Or is this also a slight difference?

I read that post by Amanda. I hadn't realised (according to Amanda) many American kids get given A Modest Proposal to read in high school... and I'm really slightly appalled. (I started reading it at about 12, because I was a highly-precocious Swift fan, was shocked by it, and quit reading it - I didn't finish it for years, and only after I had clearly understood that Swift was writing satire - and the historical background to that satire.

As Amanda points out, in order to write the equivalent of A Modest Proposal, a person would have to be an Arab Muslim writer widely respected and read in the US - and she couldn't think of an example, and neither can I. (Salman Rushdie leapt to mind as a Muslim writer, but of course he's not Arab.)

Without prejudice to the main issue, Amanda is in error: Swift was (as her citation indicates) Anglo-Irish--which does not mean one of the rulers oppressing Ireland, but also not the large mass of Catholic Irish. To quote Macaulay: "Swift never, in anything that he wrote, used the word Irishman to denote a person of Anglosaxon race born in Ireland. He no more considered himself an Irishman than an Englishman born in Calcutta considers himself as a Hindoo". Nevertheless, his modest proposal was in no way comparable to the writings discussed here--he was engaging in economic satire.

Dear truth:

LJ already said what I wanted to say about private functions and town hall meetings, so I won't bother with that. I also realize that "doing your best to save people from hell isn't the same as hating them." Until your comment, it didn't occur to me that saying "Someone explain to me again why these vermin should not be exterminated?" was a way of trying to save people from hell. Even now, though, it doesn't fully make sense to me. I mean, aren't the people Vilmar is talking about Muslim? And won't killing them in a state of unbelief make them more, not less, likely to go to hell?

I await illumination on these points.

And DCA: true enough.

To quote Macaulay: "Swift never, in anything that he wrote, used the word Irishman to denote a person of Anglosaxon race born in Ireland. He no more considered himself an Irishman than an Englishman born in Calcutta considers himself as a Hindoo".

There's some truth to this, but I think it's overstated, as one might expect from Macaulay. The relationship of the Anglo-Irish to the Catholic Irish peasantry was of course a fraught one, but it is not to be compared to that between English colonizers and the colonized in India, of all places. The Anglo-Irish position is much more ambiguous. Not least because the English didn't really consider them to be English. Nobody doubted that the son of English parents born in Calcutta was himself an Englishman. Someone born to the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland was much less clearly an Englishman. Certainly some Anglo-Irish would have believed, like Wellington, that being born in a stable doesn't make one a horse. But for many, I don't think the situation would be nearly as clear. Note that, a century later, at least, many of the great Irish patriots (Parnell, Yeats) were from Anglo-Irish families.

A right-wing joke is a tacit admittance at not being able to carry out whatever is being advocated. For instance: "I was totally joking when I called for Iraq to be turned into glass!" You see, right-wing jokes are imposed on somebody. An example would be economics: "There's a sucker born every minute, and if I can sell him on this, well then, the joke's on him!"

See how that works? "evil" isn't taken into the humor equation. If it's at someone else's expense then it's funny. This is also what attracts 6 year olds to Tom&Jerry.

This would be funny if it weren't so serious. You complain in an earlier thread about the situation of women in Iraq, and at the same time you deride any serious attempt to do anything about it as too violent.

We will have to destroy some Muslims in order to save the others. And don't bring up the whole Vietnam village quote, if it was phrased instead as, "We had to destroy that village in order to save two others", it would have been (and is now) quite reasonable.

As for the first amendment bit, it is amazing that you are able to read my mind and tell exactly which incident I was referring to. In all seriousness, there have been plenty of times when Republicans had functions on private property with private money, and liberals have complained about being excluded based on their speech or beliefs or bumper stickers or Wiccan paraphernalia.

I am just glad that we won't be hearing any more of that now. It is good when we can find things on which to agree, isn't it?

John's right. It's an odd situation. I wish I could remember which preface Shaw (another Dubliner) wrote about the double-thinking of the Protestant Irish - about being definitely not English, yet definitely British.

The Duke of Wellington's position was different from Swift's again - the Wellesley family were Anglo-Irish peers, not commoners. The Peerage of Ireland was, by the 18th century at least, openly a means of granting a title that didn't mean the title holder got to sit in the House of Lords. That Wellington didn't identify as Irish at all wasn't surprising: it would be wrong to assume that Swift didn't.

It's all too easy to understand how the bleak, shameful conditions of Guantanamo came to be and continue (see Hilzoy's (in the following post), when you consider that these bigots are an essential part of the Bush regime's shrunken base of support.

thetruth: In all seriousness, there have been plenty of times when Republicans had functions on private property with private money, and liberals have complained about being excluded based on their speech or beliefs or bumper stickers or Wiccan paraphernalia.

Really? These incidents don't ever seem to have made the news. Were you thinking of some specific incident? Can you link to an account of it?

The incidents that have become famous of exclusionary practices on the part of Republicans have been incidents which took place on public property, at public events - naturally, those are the events which have received wide publicity and would spring to mind, given you didn't specify which events you had in mind. Perhaps you could do so?

In all seriousness, there have been plenty of times when Republicans had functions on private property with private money, and liberals have complained about being excluded based on their speech or beliefs or bumper stickers or Wiccan paraphernalia.

Cite? And a cite to hilzoy (or other librulz here) complaining about it?

Sorry, lj and I crossposted. It's a bit of a pile-on, and I'll leave thetruth to lj. ;-)

Also, this bears all the hallmarks of being a threadjack - unless thetruth really thinks that being excluded from a party (or even the State of the Union) for wearing a t-shirt, is exactly the same as calling for the murder of children.

unless thetruth really thinks that being excluded from a party (or even the State of the Union) for wearing a t-shirt, is exactly the same as calling for the murder of children.

Excuse me? Did I make that assertion? Put words in peoples' mouths much?

Look, there are two almost completely separate issues here.

1) If a liberal shows up at a private conservative function with a "Free abortions for the gay baby married whales" t-shirt, and is told to hit the road, it isn't a free speech issue. We seem to all agree with that. Great. Maybe we can all just get along.

2) In order to fight Islamist terrorists, a whole lot of them are going to need to be killed. And the best way to work for women's rights in Iraq is to start killing the people denying those rights, until they begin to get the message (Uh..they being the Islamists, not the women). That's what is known as a tough stance on foreign policy. Get one, maybe you'll get control of the White House again one century.

You want women in Iraq to be free? Fine. Me too. Let's start shooting. If you find yourself cringing at that, you need to stop worrying so much about women's rights in Iraq, you don't have the stomach for it.

thetruth seems to be channeling the spirit of Swift, though it is not clear that he or she realizes it.

You want women in Iraq to be free? Fine. Me too. Let's start shooting. If you find yourself cringing at that, you need to stop worrying so much about women's rights in Iraq, you don't have the stomach for it.

It's times like these I regret that A Few Good Men was ever made.

Good lord. Be serious here for a minute.

You people (ok, some of you people) claim to actually care about the rights of women in Iraq.

Tell me, what is your plan to protect those rights that does not involve telling people that their religious beliefs are, in fact, incorrect, and shooting the people that put up an argument?

Anyone?

A drum circle? Support groups? Aromatherapy? Yoga for peace?

Tell me, what is your plan to protect those rights that does not involve telling people that their religious beliefs are, in fact, incorrect, and shooting the people that put up an argument?

Well, my plan was not to invade Iraq in the first place, but to devote the effort to making Afghanistan better. You wanna tell me why that didn't work?

My next plan is to encourage energy independence, so that we aren't siphoning money that props us governments like the Saudis and others to espouse mysogynist principles.

I suppose we could kill all the men, which would then put the women in the majority, but for some reason, I see a number of flaws with that. I also don't see an effective way of sniffing out what people believe in terms of women's participation in society to determine who should be shot. If you have a way of determining this, please share it with us.

Of course, I'm sure that someone with your handle would not be whipping up a strawman flambé, so if you could summarize your previous opinions on this administrations interventions in the Middle East, we can marvel at your prescience and insight. Looking forward to that.

Tell me, what is your plan to protect those rights that does not involve telling people that their religious beliefs are, in fact, incorrect, and shooting the people that put up an argument?

I must admit confusion here. Could you explain why it's necessary to kill Arab children to support Muslim women's rights?

Stop the threadjack. thetruth has neatly diverted attention from the point of the post, and got people earnestly trying to explain something that should be obvious to anyone with a functioning brain.

There are plenty of hate sites on the Web, and apparently plenty of hosting services happy to have them. RWH can just crawl its slimy little ass over to one of those.

Christ. I love the Web, I really do. But I can't help wishing the bottom feeders were as technologically backwards as they are morally and intellectually, and were still confined to expressing themselves in crayon on grocery bags, or whatever the hell it was they did before blogging enabled them to all find one another.

Um, energy independence?

For Iraqi women being victimized (meaning, often, being murdered) by a false religion, that's what you have to offer? Your country will pursue an energy policy that leads to being able to not care what happens in the Middle East?

Attention, women of Iraq. Do not fret. I, liberal japonicus, have turned down the thermostat and am, at this moment in time, wearing my best sweater. I now care nothing about the Middle East. Obviously, your freedom is imminent.

Explain to me how this will work better than, you know, shooting Islamist terrorists and all that.

Do you even tangentially realize this is why liberals absolutely can not be trusted on national security issues? Is the gulf between realism and fantasism now that wide?

Thetruth is another damnable troll, whether consciously duplicitous or simply blind to the meaning and implications of what they're sayng. They have no facts, present or historical, to support the idea that brutality would improve things. It's just that the amoral and their toadies always wish it would. Real men and honest women look at what has worked in the past, and check their wishes against it; bullies and cowards alike are scared by evidence and retreat into their dream-worlds. Faith in power as a substitute for wisdom, for understandng, for collaboration, and for the intelligent use of violence in the service of a larger end and subject to constant scrutinity is for the weak in heart, not a people worthy of respect.

And, Casey, that's just a nasty post.

I think I addressed hilzoy's main points. If I didn't, please tell me how I didn't. I love a good debate.

I don't "hate", I'm not a "bottom feeder", I'm not "backwards", I don't need crayons to express myself.

You're just trolling, being intentionally insulting with no content. If you have an argument with something I said, let's hear it. Let's have the best argument win rather than the playground insults, OK?

And on preview, Bruce is going down the same road. Because I don't agree with his postulates, I am not a "real man".

You guys can do better than that. Tell me where I have either the facts or the logic wrong. Leave the personal insults to dkos or wherever.

Okay, M. Serious Thinker TheTruth, please do explain to us unserious, impractical, misty-eyed idealists exactly what your firm, tough resolve to kill us some Muslims in order to implement our foreign policy has to do with killing all (or even a great percentage of) Arab children?

Seriously, how does decrying calls for the indiscriminate slaughter of Arab kids somehow become cringing at the idea of killing any Muslims whatsoever?

(To the rest of the commentariat: I third Jes and Casey. This is a threadjack, and a crude, despicable one at that.)

Personally, I think we have less chance to protect Muslim women now than we did on September 10, 2001. Then there was a prevailing international consensus on the importance of keeping attention on Iraq, and although it was already strained, the web of diplomacy allowing the US to cooperate with other natons was n much better shape than it is now. Now we have a harder time getting reliable informaton and we're hated and feared throughout the world as well as in Iraq. Nobody at all has the slightest reason to trust our seriousness when we talk about noble ambitions, and why should they? We leave our own cities in ruin when it's inconvenient to fix them, and we'd demonstrably rather torture random bystanders than engage in the discplined effort of understanding and defeating our real foes.

In such conditions, the prospect for humanitarian action is basically nil. And it'll stay that way until the world sees us decisively reject the entire framework of our current war and occupation, hold someone criminally as well as morally liable for it, and take real steps to repair any of the damage we've done. We will be on the same sort of skeptical probation as Japan after World War II, or the reunited Germany, and rightly so - the world has seen us be monsters, and lying capricious ones at that. Until we actually do better, the sensible course for the rest of the world will be to keep us contained as much as possible.

We can play all the word games we like. That won't bring back to life the Iraqis dead because we threw their country into chaos, the half million plus of them. Nor wll it rebuild the homes and lives of the hundred thousand forced to flee every month. What's true for the men and children of Iraq is also true of its women: they have no hope of peace or security until this administration is gone from power and its schemes have been repudiated and its instigators have faced justice. A Democratic administration that tries to stay the course won't do it, any more than Admiral Doenitz could be allowed to keep running Germany after Hitler's Death. Nor will one that makes a show of pardons and reconciliation. Until this wave of monstrosity comes to a decisive end, there'll be no room for better.

Pardon the missing Is in my messages tonight, by the way. My cat left more than his usual quantity of hair on the keyboard recently, apparently.

Tell me where I have either the facts or the logic wrong.

Well, I suppose a good place to start would be with your assertion that you'd addressed hilzoy's main points. Hilzoy was discussing a right-wing site getting its plug pulled by its webhost after it published a "satirical" endorsement for the indiscriminate slaughter of all Arab children. She discussed how invocations of Swift in their defense were troubling and uncompelling.

You responded with a sarcastic comment that now liberals will never be able to complain about politically-motivated ejections from private functions, and a vague assertion that wanting to save people's souls isn't the same as hating them, presumably directed at hilzoy's labeling of the site in question as a hate site. When pressed by hilzoy as to how killing infidel Muslims would promote the saving of their souls rather than ensuring their damnation, you scrupulously avoided answering.

Which is to say, you in no way addressed the main points of the posts. I would (and have) in fact argued that you've gone out of your way to divert attention from the main points of the post. The post was discussing a site being shut down for making (*wink*, *wink*, *nudge*, *nudge*) "satirical" calls for genocide. You instead have discussed in very vague terms the necessity of our having the resolve to kill Muslims.

Okay, M. Serious Thinker TheTruth, please do explain to us unserious, impractical, misty-eyed idealists exactly what your firm, tough resolve to kill us some Muslims in order to implement our foreign policy has to do with killing all (or even a great percentage of) Arab children?

When the United States nuked Japan, it did not kill a "great percentage" of the people in Japan. And yes, many Japanese children were killed. But US foreign policy was thereby quite efficiently implemented.

I am being accused of threadjacking, but I think this is an example of the liberal tactic of accusing your opponent of a crime of which you yourself are guilty.

I'm interested in how you will non-violently change a nation's religious attitudes towards women. No one here seems to have a clue. You seem to be doing what liberals have been accusing Bush of doing, rushing headlong into a situation with no idea of how it will work out.

NV is quite right, of course. None of what thetruth is going on about has any relationship to Hilzoy's comments about a private webhosting service deciding not to carry a particular weblog, or about how right-wing "satire" isn't Swiftian.

I'm reminded, Hilz, of the boycott thread: once again we have people who claim to be keen on markets objecting to markets that make undesirable decisions. If there were real money in it, we'd probably see more right-wing hosting services; the general lack of them suggests to me that as with a lot of right-wing book publishing, there is no real market and one has to be manufactured with pump-up sales.

thetruth:

Thank you! This is exactly what I was talking about! Your response is just barely tangentially related to the original topic, but no more. We were not discussing whether blowing up a city would make everyone left alive in it country do what we wanted them to do; we were talking about (and I will be more precise than I was last time) a site getting shut down after its host received complaints that it'd taken a "satire" calling for the slaughter of not some, not "a great percentage", but ALL Arab children (Muslims and otherwise), and repeated them with glowing endorsements.

Please address this, and not the arguments that you are generating and introducing solely for derailing the discussion of the above.

Also, what Bruce said.

As a public service to the right-wingers who've lost track of what's funny, I offer a pointer to this post from a very funny comic book-oriented weblog, which includes the line:

It's like Die Hard on a trampoline.

Read and become wise.

We were not discussing whether blowing up a city would make everyone left alive in it country do what we wanted them to do

I am unable to parse this. The fault, I suppose, is mine.

No, mine. I omitted an 's'. Hence,

We were not discussing whether blowing up a city would make everyone left alive in its country do what we wanted them to do.

But truth be told, that isn't frightfully important, as this is, again, what we were not discussing.

Please address the subject at hand, i.e., a right-wing site getting yanked by its webhost after having received complaints regarding its warm repetition of satiric calls for genocide (arguably in such a manner as to question if the repeater, at least, was viewing it as satire).

Alternately, discuss the appropriateness of comparing IMAO's piece to A Modest Proposal.

Or as a last option, take my apparently unparsable prose as a handy excuse to bow out of the thread gracefully, as there's clearly no way that anyone would expect you to respond to writing that incoherent...

Gee, had late-19th-century American women known that they only need to begin shooting, or get someone to shoot on their behalf, white male Christians in order to improve their status in our own society, things would be a lot different today, I gather.

PS: DNFTT.

And the best way to work for women's rights in Iraq is to start killing the people denying those rights, until they begin to get the message (Uh..they being the Islamists, not the women). That's what is known as a tough stance on foreign policy.
The best way is to stop bringing those Islamists into the country, training them, stuffing them with money and weapons, calling them "the right guys for Iraq", inviting them to White House and praising their efforts, propping up Constitution that says in its second article that all the legislation should be derived from Islamic law etc. This is what in fact happens, and your "best way" is just a masturbatory fantasy.

And to say that "Right Wing Howler" argues for freeing Muslims from Islamic extremists is nonsense. His goal is to turn all the Muslims into Islamic extremist and then "kill them all".

Right Wing Howler pages are available">http://rightwinghowler.com/*">available via the Wayback Machine. I do wonder why the guy picked a name that would be more appropriate for a site cataloging outrageous right-wing errors.

Vilmar says he was planning to stop blogging anyway and "please don't be too critical of Hostgator. They've been a great web hosting service and were extremely helpful whenever I had issues to be dealt with to include backups and upgrades." No doubt he's being held hostage by CAIR and forced to post such things.

Jeff Greenfield also reached for Swift when defending his hilarious Obama-Ahmadinejad joke.

IMAO's piece is not like Swift at all. It's not funny. It's not really satire. Frank J. is not poking fun at all those silly people who hate Muslims, using their own rhetoric against them to point out where it really leads. He's just pushing his own views a bit farther than (I assume) they actually go. He's like Ann Coulter (on a charitable reading of Coulter): creating a deliberately outrageous and excessive version of himself pour épater les bourgeois, et pour amuser les gens dont le sens de l'humour à été tout perdu dans un accident tragique. Christopher Hitchens, peut-être. Not Jonathan Swift.

Huh? Frank J. may be no Swift, but his piece is quite clearly satire. And the suggestion that analogies to Swift are apt only when perfectly, precisely apt (Amanda's argument) would shut down pretty much every analogy ever done in the political world (left or right).

On the other hand, Capt. Ed is off and CAIR does appear to have a point.

von: his piece is quite clearly not meant seriously -- it's in some way tongue-in-cheek. (I hope I made it clear that I think this.) The question is: is it, in particular, satire?

Here's Wikipedia:

"Satire is one of the most imprecise literary terms; usually it has a very definite target, which may be a person or group of people, an idea or attitude, an institution or a social practice. In any case the target is held up to a ridicule that is often quite merciless, and sometimes very angry; ideally in the hope of shaming it into reform. A very common, almost defining feature of satire is a strong vein of irony or sarcasm, in fact satirical writing or drama very often professes to approve values that are the diametric opposite of what the writer actually wishes to promote."

Swift holds up to ridicule a particular view of social problems, in which there are no moral constraints or responsibilities, in which markets operate completely without any limits at all, and in which economics is interwoven with a kind of moral blindness. (The sort of view in which the bleaker implications of Ricardo and Mathus does not appear to be any sort of problem.) To someone who held this view, the consumption of Irish children might well seem to be a solution to the problem of there being too many Irish children without any means of support. By pretending to espouse such a view, Swift is presumably trying to make plain exactly what is objectionable about it.

What, exactly, is the parallel story about IMAO? Is Frank J. holding the views of people like, say, some of the LGF commenters up to ridicule, trying to make it clear what underlies their statements about Muslims, and where it leads? I don't think so. As best I can tell from reading his site, he's (broadly speaking) on their side, and if he were to do satire at someone's expense, his object probably be someone on the left.

I'm open to the claim that there's (specifically) satire going on here; I just haven't seen it yet.

Frank J. may be no Swift, but his piece is quite clearly satire.

what Hilzoy just said. if this is satire, who is the object ? is he satirizing himself ?

when i visited IMAO, his piece was right next to an ad for a "know thy enemy" t-shirt, which has a list of "Fun Facts About Terrorists" - here are some of the 'facts':

  • They enjoy blowing themselves up, and we enjoy blowing them up. You'd think we would get along better.
  • They will riot and kill each other over a few stupid cartoons. We should make more of those.
  • If a guy is being overly sensitive to racial profiling, he may be a terrorist. Strangle him with your shoelaces just in case.
  • They hate us for our freedoms. And our large American penises.
Fun!

is that T-Shirt satirizing itself ? if we assume the wearers of the T-Shirts aren't actually advocating strangling people who think there can be problems with ethnic profiling, who are they satirizing ?

it's not satire. it may be intended to be satire, but it misses that fundamental ingredient: mocking the subject. instead, it's just an exaggerated version of what many wingnut bloggers write anyway, and it's pretty much identical to what they wear on their T-Shirts. it's not too far from fantasy.

Part of the trouble is the notorious nebulousness of the term ‘satire’.

A different part of the trouble is that swift’s satire took the form of a sustained exercise in irony, i.e. saying the opposite of what you mean, i.e. uttering ‘p’ as a means to the end of convincing people that not-p.

But satire and irony are very different things, even if they can be used together (as Swift used them). Irony is only one of many devices a satirist can use.

The original exhortation to kill all muslim kids may have been satirical in some sense. But it was not ironical; it was not intended to highlight what a bad idea it would be to kill all muslim kids.

The difference between Frank J. and Swift is far deeper than the fact that Frank J. is not muslim or even sympathetic with them (as Swift was certainly sympathetic to the plight of the irish, whatever his own ethnicity was).

The big difference is that Swift was not in favor of even a little bit of baby-eating; he was not advocating an exaggerated version of his own position, but rather the opposite of his position.

In the case of Frank J., he seems to be someone who exaggerated his own sincere policy beliefs; he advocates killing hundreds of millions of muslim children, without distinction, when his sincere position might simply be that we should kill hundreds of thousands of muslims, perhaps with some discrimination by age, sex, and other trivialities such as actual guilt or innocence.

The exaggeration serves the double purpose of allowing for braggadocio and allowing for deniability; maximum trash-talk with minimum back-up.

Hilzoy, I think your interpretation of it as an epater-les-bourgeois is partly correct, although given the other stuff people have reported as having been on that site, one....wonders.

Too much hate speech gets shoveled out under the guise of "satire" and if anyone blasts it, the writer whines in explanation "hey, I was only JOKING...."

Too bad that defense wasn't available at the Nuremberg trials.

I read threads from the bottom to the top so i read Cleek's list of T-shirts before I read the explanation.

I tought the T-shirts were meant to make fun of rightwingers. The last one works particularly well as a spoof of Bush supporters. I'd enjoy wearing one just to piss off my Republican neighbors.

Which proves, I guess, that one shouldn't read threads backwards, but also reinforces the points made by leftie commenters here: it isn't satire to exaggerate one's beliefs unless the intention is to satirize oneself. Therefore the the piece about killing Muslim children isn't a satire. It's either hate talk or lousy writing.

is this a satirical send-up of bunnys ?


    I wish I were a bunny, with a soft and fuzzy head.
    I'd groin-kick all the terrorists, until they fell down dead.
    I wish I were a bunny, with a cotton tail of fluff.
    Blasting bad guys with my Glock, 'cuz I don't take no guff!

    I'd tear their guts out with my paws, and wiggle my pink nose.
    And pee upon their ankles as I chewed off all their toes.
    I'd chop their heads off with an ax, and play and hop around.
    And sing my happy little song, upon the blood-soaked ground.

    I'd kill and maim and kill again, spread cute and cuddly death.
    And giggle at insurgents, as they draw their final death.
    Oh, I'd love to be a bunny, with a fully-loaded gun.
    I'd shoot at Eason Jordan - targ'ting journalists is fun!

    ...etc

"Satire," along with "irony," isn't what it used to be.

Satire and irony were once oblique attacks on a complacent Establishment, usually wielded by people who were members of marginalized classes, or who sympathized with those marginalized classes. Satire and irony took conventional wisdom and stood it on its head; used sly inversions of language and image to undermine "what everyone knows is true." Satire and irony were surrealism in humoresque form.

Satirizing the powerless for their powerlessness isn't satire; it's bullying.

Irony employed to reinforce conventional wisdom isn't irony; it defends, rather than undermines, the Establishment.

It's not just right-wingers who use satire and irony in ways antithetical to what satire and irony are for. A lot of comedy over the last 20 years does the same thing: shallow-minded comics use "irony-as-knowingness" to play to the ignorance and apathy of their audiences, essentially telling them it's OK to be ignorant, apathetic, and even hateful.

And the best way to work for women's rights in Iraq is to start killing the people denying those rights, until they begin to get the message (Uh..they being the Islamists, not the women). That's what is known as a tough stance on foreign policy.

Well, assuming you're not a troll, you just described Al Qaeda's foreign policy - they objected to Americans in the Middle East, so decided to kill the people responsible for keeping them there - the American citizens - until they began to get the message.

Well done.

But it was not ironical; it was not intended to highlight what a bad idea it would be to kill all muslim kids.

What the hell? The entire piece is about what a bad idea it is to kill all Muslim kids.

I think that what's throwing y'all for a loop is that Frank J. is satirizing some of the more extreme elements of his own side. He's also, to a degree, making fun of individuals who would ascribe such views ("kill all Arab children") to his "side."

Hilzoy, I don't see how your citing WikiPedia's definition of "satire" disturbs the fact that this Frank J.'s efforts are satire. (You surely can debate whether or not it is effective or worthwhile satire.)

Satire and irony were once oblique attacks on a complacent Establishment, usually wielded by people who were members of marginalized classes, or who sympathized with those marginalized classes. Satire and irony took conventional wisdom and stood it on its head; used sly inversions of language and image to undermine "what everyone knows is true." Satire and irony were surrealism in humoresque form.

Ridiculous.

You also need to ask yourself whether the word "Establishment" is at all meaningful to the current debate (or, indeed, meaningful at all). The anti-Frank J. side of the aisle, after all, just won a majority in both the Senate and the House.

In the case of Frank J., he seems to be someone who exaggerated his own sincere policy beliefs; he advocates killing hundreds of millions of muslim children, without distinction, when his sincere position might simply be that we should kill hundreds of thousands of muslims, perhaps with some discrimination by age, sex, and other trivialities such as actual guilt or innocence.

What's the basis for that assumption?

ObWi is becoming a low-grade echochamber; what passes for genuine debate is the creation and destruction of straw men (and poorly built staw men at that).

It's a true shame.

is that T-Shirt satirizing itself ? if we assume the wearers of the T-Shirts aren't actually advocating strangling people who think there can be problems with ethnic profiling, who are they satirizing ?

No, that T-shirt is not satire. It is meant tongue-in-cheek -- I presume -- but it's not satire.

ObWi is becoming a low-grade echochamber; what passes for genuine debate is the creation and destruction of straw men (and poorly built staw men at that).

And welcome back to you too, von.

thetruth is that some Iraqi women might now believe that restoring Saddam Hussein to power would restore some of the rights recently taken from them by the clerics who rushed in to fill the vacuum.

thetruth is, of course, that the problem during Saddam's secular rule was that the vacuuming never seemed to get done, the women being off to their jobs and such, but the mass graves filled up anyway.

thetruth is that Saddam was the best of both worlds for conservatives: he killed as many Iraqi kids as he could get his hands on AND let women wear lipstick, as long as they got some of it on his sons. Why we had to interrupt the whole mess just to take over the task of killing Iraqi kids is beyond me. Little did we know, because we fired all of the gay translators, that our goal of blanketing Iraq with Avon ladies would go unrequieted.

I can't tell whether my country was being satirical or ironical in this Iraqi endeavor, mainly because the architects of the mess seem so earnest and, like Jack Benny or Johnny Carson, have mastered the earnest deadpanned expression when they drop the punchlines. I'm waiting for Ed McMahon to cue the laughing so that I know when to start chuckling, because thetruth is that once we've slaughtered all Muslim children in order to save them from hell, they won't need to pay taxes any longer, which is what the Beatles meant when they sang, "The love you take is cheaper if you take it from someone making the minimum wage and if you can get it tax-free, think of the stuff you'll accumulate by the time you die."

Speaking of bunnies, Phyllis Schafly, whose life was spared by thetruthseekers despite her objection to unisex bathrooms back in the day, once advised wives to greet their husbands at the door after a busy day at the office dressed as a fluffy Bunny (sans Glock, but with stiletto heels) and nibble on their carrots. Apparently, this would keep the husbands from having affairs with hot blondes with hot permanents and avoid the possibility of coming home to a real fluffy bunny boiling on the stove, though I have led a Schafly-disapproved life, having let my wife be the professional moneymaker and greeting her at the door wearing only an apron and a Molsen after preparing a nifty rabbit cacciatore for dinner.

Satire is a blunt instrument. Few artists can wield it like a scapel, among them Aristophanes, Voltaire, the Cohn Brothers, and our man Swift.

It would be ironic if George Bush turned out to be a world-class satirist to go with his smirk. How disappointing for thetruth and theothertruths if Bush had been kidding all along about killing all the Muslims.

I’ve read his (Frank J.) stuff before - occasionally he is funny, but it often comes across a bit strained. I would agree with Hilzoy’s Coulter comparison – he tends to be deliberately outrageous and excessive.

I’ll mostly agree that the comparisons to Swift are not accurate when you parse it that deeply – however it is the first thing that came to my mind. (The very first comment in the original thread says, “You forgot the main title, ‘A Modest Proposal’”.)

Frank is quoted in an article today in the Hernando Today:

In an e-mail interview, Frank J., who said his last name is Fleming, told Hernando Today that the piece was a satire “made to ridicule extreme viewpoints like that.”

“I think someone would have to be pretty stupid to take it as an actual incitement to violence,” Fleming said. “That satire was laid on quite thick and was hard to miss.”

Fleming said it was his impression that Tavares was “playing along with the satire and not being serious at all.”

The obvious question IMO is why didn’t CAIR go after the author of the satire rather than someone who reposted it? The answer seems to be that they have been after this blogger for awhile.

He {Bedier} said CAIR has been monitoring Tavares’ site for some time.

And from the CAIR press release hilzoy linked:

He noted that CAIR had raised concerns about the anti-Muslim site at a local forum on hate crimes in November.

If it was truly the satire they had a problem with they would have gone after Frank J. They decided some time ago that this blog had to go, they watched and waited, and they used this as their opportunity.

I never read Vilmar, so I don’t have an opinion as to whether or not his blog constituted a hate site. I do have problems with CAIR in general though, specifically their promotion of Muslim victim hood and their frequent use of lawsuits both to promote their agenda and to attempt to silence critics. Possibly they were right in this case, but I still don’t like the overall methods used to squash opinion they don’t agree with.

Has anyone here read more than a dozen posts by Frank J.?

Just so everybody knows, OCSteve posts from four minutes in the future.

Just so everybody knows, OCSteve posts from four minutes in the future.

You would think I could do a better job of countering your arguments then :)

Has anyone here read more than a dozen posts by Frank J.?

I have probably read more than a dozen. It’s not a regular stop; it is usually following a link. As I said, he occasionally writes something quite funny that then makes the rounds.

His logo – the mushroom cloud on the moon? As I recall, he had an essay a couple of years ago that in essence said we should nuke the moon. His argument was that it would show all the other countries that we were batsh*t crazy so they would know not to mess with us. Yes – that was satire as well.

von:

Hilzoy, I don't see how your citing WikiPedia's definition of "satire" disturbs the fact that this Frank J.'s efforts are satire.

von, imagine you lived in Cuba in 1965. Several powerful figure have called for the government to carry out "massive purges, just like Stalin." And then a fervent supporter of Castro, one who has enthusiastically waved the flag for the mini-purges to date, writes something saying he endorses the idea of massive purges, but "even bigger than Stalin's."

If you were in that position, would you tell people that this qualified as "satire," and they were foolish not to see that? According to your views, you'd have to.

If you understand and accept this, then fine. But I doubt you'll find many people who agree with you.

von, I don't remember your being so bilious when your side was riding high. Tsk.

Would you rather I said "petit-bourgeoisie" than "Establishment"? I wasn't talking about a particular political party, but a social class: the comfortable, conformist, and orthodox that satire and irony used to delight in puncturing. The point I was making is that satire and irony are now used to appeal to the comfortable, conformist and orthodox - not to challenge their world view, but to confirm it, in an obversion of subversion.

Von:

I read Hil as saying that Frank J. was making satire, but not up to Swift's standards. Do you disagree, if that's what she intended? The 'Establishment' hasn't changed yet, and may change only slowly once the new Congress, with very bare amjorities in both houses, is sworn in.

That said, I agree in a limited sense with your remark about echo-chambers: threads that are about what people on the other side of the Great Divide are doing on the internet aren't usually very interesting to me. And they bring out the least in analytical thinking and the most in 'f*ck yeah' posturing.

So, von, care to write something really meaty?

The President spent years telling us that he didn't care much about the man who actually masterminded the largest atttack on American soil. His administration barely even acknowledges the anthrax attacks that followed. We learn that after Bush rejected Chalabi, the government had literally no plan with regard to a new head of state of Iraq. The administration says everyone in custody is guilty but can't possibly get a trial, rejects the Geneva Conventions as old-fashione, refuses to submit to any restraint on the warmaking power, rigs elections on a national scale, and claims to promote democracy and the rule of law.

Satire's hard.

For example, von, I'd be interested to know your views on http://arablinks.blogspot.com/2006/12/year-end-summary.html>this and what it portends for what you think can still be accomplished in Iraq.

ObWi is becoming a low-grade echochamber; what passes for genuine debate is the creation and destruction of straw men

Heh, indoozle. Given your set-em-up-knock-em-down parade of strawmen in hilzoy's Pinochet thread the other day, you'd be the first to know.

When a nontrivial portion of war supporters are, in fact, part of the "invade 'em all" brigade . . . when a certified farking lunatic like Pam of Atlas Shrugs gets exclusive interviews with John Bolton . . . when utter nonthinkers like John Hinderaker get quasi-exclusive audiences with the President . . . when Glenn Reynolds and the Wall Street Journal and National Review have spent five years calling everyone to the left of Rick Santorum traitors . . . I am not so ready to take a look at pieces like that and think, "Hmmm. Satire."

The anti-Frank J. side of the aisle, after all, just won a majority in both the Senate and the House.

Yes, and I'm sure the man who considers himself the only person with any power in prosecuting this war is terribly interested in their opinions. Champing at the bit, he is, to get their advice.

No, that T-shirt is not satire. It is meant tongue-in-cheek -- I presume -- but it's not satire.

then please explain to us the difference between what that shirt says and what the article in question says. because to me, they're both mocking those who would react negatively to weaker versions of the arguments by making wildly inflated versions. "Hey liberals - ya didn't like my first idea? Well, how do ya like this one! HarHarHar!"

OCSteve: I read several months' worth of Right Wing Howler while writing this, and it's all pretty much like the Google cache here.

CharleyCarp: I tend to agree with cleek's reading of Frank J. -- "Hey liberals - ya didn't like my first idea? Well, how do ya like this one! HarHarHar!" -- and to think that while that's some form of (attempted) humor, it's not satire, and certainly not Swiftian satire.

von: feel free to pitch in and improve things. No snark at all intended: it's hard to maintain a diversity of viewpoints with (most of the time) only one fulltime poster.

It seems to me that the original post at IMAO was more hyperbole than satire because it does not do a good job of establishing context. There is no set-up. It might have been effective if there were a couple of paragraphs of introduction before the satirical turn, but there isn't anything. It starts at the turn. This is why it fumbles. Badly. But it might have been an effective satire if it had bothered to focus on what it was trying to satire. It didn't.

Right Wing Howler's post further decontextualizes the original. I can't say one way or another how he meant that to be taken. When I see a student paper with this sort of assertion it usually means that the student has not really thought the matter through, and is just reacting to a perceived gotcha. It's usually not hate, just superficial and unreflexive reading coupled with unexamined opinions.

Captain Ed's defense of the two posts and attack on the hosting service doesn't address any of the problems with either of the posts. It just uses the situation as an occasion to flog CAIR and the hosting service and harp on Freedom of Speech:

"Look -- injustice! Dudgeon-a, dudgeon-a, dudgeon-a..."

Whatever.

If someone wants to sift through the archives to find prior posts from Right Wing Howler that either warrant his censure or show that CAIR was unfairly targeting him, then I might take more interest. In the mean time I see little to get worked up about.

ObWi is becoming a low-grade echochamber

"low-grade" ?

take a stroll through Atrios' or Drum's comments some time.

Hil: OCSteve: I read several months' worth of Right Wing Howler while writing this, and it's all pretty much like the Google cache here.

I reviewed that – hyperbole, over the top, – but I’m not ready to pronounce it a ‘hate’ site based on that. Most of it is just highlighting various things said by various people and adding some snark. I know there are plenty here who consider LGF a hate site – I don’t. If anything, I would say that this guy was trying to emulate LGF (in many of the posts I read). Point out what they say, in their own words, and add some snark.

“Hate site” is a pretty serious charge. Based on this incident and the goggle cache, I’m not ready to call it that. “Inciting violence” definitely seems too strong. As I said, CAIR may have been right in this case, I don’t know. But we have an obscure blogger, who was shut down by a national organization whose motives I have plenty of reasons to question. I just don’t think it is a slam dunk.

I admit this is a first impression and I am not fully up to speed on this, and I have a bias against CAIR.

Actually, OCSteve, this is a blogger whose website was shut down by the host provider. Unless CAIR was providing the webspace for this site, it had no power to have it shut down.

one of the problems with looking at any online incident and judging whether it was proper or not is that there is almost always a huge back story that never is exposed to the light of day. For example, in this one, did the host provider have previous complaints? Were there previous warnings issued? I suspect so, though I also acknowledge that it is relatively easy to gin up a campaign against a particular website, and if the blogger decides to make a fight of it, something's gotta give.

Unfortunately, what makes the blogosphere go round is the isolation of individual incidents shorn of context followed by massive amounts of analysis of that particular incident. Of course, if one makes metaphorizes the notion of different ideas fighting it out on the battlefield, one can expect that it is going to be conducted like a war rather than a discussion.

OCSteve: this gets into the knotty question of what constitutes hate speech, the complexities of which are among the reasons why I have always opposed hate speech codes on campus. (Different situation from hosting companies, I think: you have a captive audience of students -- transferring from one college to another is a lot more difficult than switching blog hosts.)

However, to me, calls for violence that are not obviously jokes are part of it, and "Someone explain to me again why these vermin should not be exterminated?" seems pretty hateful to me. Esp. since it wasn't alone -- there was a bunch of talk of killing, stockpiling weapons, etc. It wasn't serious the way a detailed plan for the killing of a specific community would have been -- i.e., serious in the sense of announcing a clear and specific intent -- but it wasn't obviously a joke either.

I once knew someone who was, for a time, homicidal (he never acted on it, thank God), and got to know some of the steps between kidding, kidding but there's something serious there too and that's pretty disturbing, is he still kidding?, oh dear I don't think he's in any obvious way joking at all, seems pretty serious but at least he doesn't have any realistic idea of how he might do this, oh hell now he does, oh double hell he bought a gun, etc.

The first part of the progression involves the person's getting serious (meaning, not kidding); the second involves the move from a generalized intent (I'm going to do X, but without any clear idea of how or when or any of that -- e.g., 'I'm going to get back at him') to a specific and detailed plan. I think this site is a fair way down the first set of steps (seriousness), but not at all down the second (concreteness.)

But the first step is the one that seems to me crucial for calling something a hate site, as opposed to an incitement to violence/planning concrete actions site.

I’ll bet if the cops lined a few of these goat-fornicating little shiites up and then shot them, in their own neighborhoods, ripped their heads off and stuck them on a pike containing a pig’s headless corpse, this crap would stop REALLY quick. If not, it would get them really pissed off so that they’d mass in protest providing cops easy targets to mow down.
If this bitch wants to pray she should do it outside the gym.

Said bitch being a Muslim woman. She is a bitch for no reason other than being Muslim, as far as I can tell.

And you still want to tell me that organizations like CAIR have no agenda and that they don’t want the US to be turned into an Islamic cesspool of terrorism like where they came from?

This is because a financial organisation has decided to offer Muslims a financial instrument that does not involve interest.

All quotes in italics from the google cache. The site is pretty clearly a `hate site'. Also, it has no qualms about calling for the murder of Muslims. I don't know if it qualifies as inciting violence in a legal way in America.

Other websites shut down on letters to hosts include Absolute Write, shut down by Barbara">http://www.sfwa.org/beware/twentyworst.html"">Barbara Bauer.

I know there are plenty here who consider LGF a hate site – I don’t.

For heaven's sake, why???

Keir- thanks. That clarifies things.

Thinking about this, and how the ideas of one person can influence others had me remember this story about Takako Konishi.

And welcome back to you too, von.

Sorry; a bit over the top (was I). The second or third "Frank J.'s real point is X" post, however, was starting to get to me. As was the claim that because Frank J. was not sufficiently oppressed, he could not engage in satire or irony.* As was the claim that Frank J. was not engaged in satire because, omigod, he can't possibly be satirizing folks on his own side! As was the claim that satire can only be satire if it's good satire ("good," that is, by whatever standard you wish to apply today -- aesthetic, moral, social, political, etc.). As was the suggestion that Frank J. was lending crypto support to actually Muslim-baby-killing proponents. Etc. Etc.

AARRRGH. I'm about as liberal a Republican as you get (on social issues, at least), and I've been at odds with this administration's policy in Iraq from just after day one (and regret not having been at odds on day one). When I'm being driven bonkers, you can bet that folks two shades to the right of me have written y'all off as loonies. And that's not good because, presumably, you want to convince not only me of the total bitching-ness of your position, but also want to convince the folks slightly right of me.

Best,

von

*What is this, a Python sketch?

von, I have some sympathy for your position, but be careful what you ask for.

And that's not good because, presumably, you want to convince not only me of the total bitching-ness of your position, but also want to convince the folks slightly right of me.

The folks slightly to the right of you who have not been convinced already by reality, are probably unconvincible by mere rhetoric.

As was the claim that satire can only be satire if it's good satire

Bearing that in mind, I'm curious how you would classify Michael Richard's (aka Kramer's) outburst about hanging upside down with forks. I'm thinking we either need to define satire a little more rigorously, or it could just be waved around any time as a get out of jail free card. Note this isn't telling you what Frank J did or did not think, I'm just wondering why someone would think me loony for thinking there are lines that have been crossed.

Just as an aside: is it possible for Coulter to create a "deliberately outrageous and excessive version of herself"? I mean, she's kinda there already, isn't she?

von, I have some sympathy for your position, but be careful what you ask for.

When Atrios starts posting things that look serious and, well, like something that doesn't completely ruin one's expectations of what might be written by someone with a Ph. D from Brown, well, the universe has indeed turned inside-out.

Which, in this case, is rather an improvement over the previous version of the universe.

Has anyone here read more than a dozen posts by Frank J.?

Ever? Sure, probably nigh on a couple of dozen. Sometimes he's really funny, but that's probably subject to the inclinations of the reader. This isn't one of those times.

hyperbole /= satire

Hyperbole: A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect.

Satire: the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly.

The real problem with hyperbole, these days, is that too many people are saying what they mean, then when called on it are claiming that their speech was satire (when they actually mean hyperbole).

Slart: I think Atrios can be a useful blogger when he tries.


"This isn't one of those times."

My question wasn't about the funny, but about the flirting-with-the-shapes-across-the-fire - "Is Frank J. holding the views of people like, say, some of the LGF commenters up to ridicule, trying to make it clear what underlies their statements about Muslims, and where it leads?" or ...

I have no idea what Frank was trying to do, and insufficient inclination to find out. If it's a joke, it required far too much explanation to be considered funny, in addition to which I'm too lazy and far too busy to be made to work for the laughs.

Open thread!

"I have no idea what Frank was trying to do, and insufficient inclination to find out."

Hey, no fair, that's my line.

Hey, no fair, that's my line.

Well, what's mine?

Just had a deadline moved on me so this will be brief but OOC, von, would you consider Coulter or Limbaugh to be satirists? Michael Savage? Michael Moore?

[Which, I realize, is more or less along the lines that Francis put forth but I think it's an interesting question in its own right.]

You want women in Iraq to be free? Fine. Me too. Let's start shooting.

let's say, for example, that the US is invaded in 25 years time by a coalition of Muslim countries that are outraged by the rights enjoyed by women in this country (not to mention our gross violations of a number of treaties).

who should they shoot? how might they go about identifying those who support their cause, are neutral, are opposed, or who are plain ol' p*ssed off because we are occupied?

and how many people should they shoot? 5% of the adult male population? 10%? 50%?

or will this coalition recognize in advance of invasion, because they collectively have 2 whole gray cells to rub together, that they cannot change people's minds about fundamental issues of civil rights at the point of a gun.


i would very much appreciate it if someone could explain to me the masturbatory fascination of the remaining few who are pro-war with solving our problems in Iraq by more killing.

yes, it is possible to obtain peace by killing enough of your opponents. That was the Romans' strategy. Nowadays, however, we call that a holocaust (or, more politely, the peace of the grave). But its worth remembering that a small terrorist cell caused billions of dollars in damages to the US in one day -- a feat not available to the Carthaginians.

Two points to make late, late in the thread: (1) the issue of what is a hate site might have something to do with whether the hate in question is in a post or in a comment. Commentors due not, for example, usually consent to a user agreement before being allowed to contribute. And I'm hard-pressed to think that there is a strong onus on moderators or hosters to go around deleting comments. But that's not to say they may not have some responsibilities.
(2) because some hate speech doesn't fall under the purview of protected speech, you're asking hosting services to assume liability for publishing yourself, and that is just something they don't have the budgets to do (and no obligation to either). I don't know if there is a parallel there with campus hate speech codes (if that is to govern all the speech of students, even speech that does not implicate others in liability).

But its worth remembering that a small terrorist cell caused billions of dollars in damages to the US in one day -- a feat not available to the Carthaginians.

True, the Carthaginians could not cross the ocean to the US and it didn't even exist yet if they could have and since it didn't exist there were no dollars and the concept of billions didn't exist at the time.

They did bring elephants to attack Rome though.

Just had a deadline moved on me so this will be brief but OOC, von, would you consider Coulter or Limbaugh to be satirists? Michael Savage? Michael Moore?

Possibly at some times (I'm not fans of/don't frequently listen to any of those folks). Generally, however, I would say not.

As was the claim that because Frank J. was not sufficiently oppressed, he could not engage in satire or irony.

A claim that was not made by anybody but you, for the record, 'slong as you're in the habit of objecting to strawmen. Unless you're under the misimpression that, say, Moliere was "oppressed" under any meaningful definition of the word.

"Unless you're under the misimpression that, say, Moliere was "oppressed" under any meaningful definition of the word."

I would have thought that the reaction to the original version of _Tartuffe_ might count as oppression.

One general question occurs to me (if this thread is not dead already). How much do we need to know about the author to adequately assess or appreciate a written work?

I understand that there are whole literary schools devoted to such questions, with theories ranging from the purist "the work stands alone" to "everything is contextual," and I don't really want to rehearse all that here.

I'm more interested in the kind of "folk" (and largely untheoretical) criticism that we all practice. My sense is that we (most of us) feel that a poem, for example, should be able to speak for itself; it's "valid" whoever wrote it. An autobiography or memoir, on the other hand, we value in large part because of who wrote it - or who we think wrote it - and we are perturbed when we discover, for example that Letters of an Indian Judge to an English Gentlewoman was in fact written by an Englishman.

My sense is that most people regard satire, as it is being debated in this thread, as closer to the latter than the former, i.e., we can't judge it without knowing the person who wrote it.

Is that true?

Should it be true?

Discuss.

You people are really dense. I wil apply your Wikipedia definition of satire to Frank J's post and demonstrate how it applies.

"Satire is one of the most imprecise literary terms; usually it has a very definite target,

Leftist idiots and their obnoxious. cartoonish stereotypes of conservatives

which may be a person or group of people, an idea or attitude, an institution or a social practice.

See previous

In any case the target is held up to a ridicule that is often quite merciless, and sometimes very angry; ideally in the hope of shaming it into reform.

ie realizing the stupidity behind their ludicrous stereotype of conservatives as fascist, hate mongering, war mongering, racist, bigoted, homophobic, Islamophobic, jack-booted, right wing death beasts.

A very common, almost defining feature of satire is a strong vein of irony or sarcasm, in fact satirical writing or drama very often professes to approve values that are the diametric opposite of what the writer actually wishes to promote."

emph. mine.

Do you get it yet. You morons are the target of the satire. How do you get dressed in the morning. You do know it's underwear on the inside and pants on the outside, right?

dr. ngo: 'My sense is that we (most of us) feel that a poem, for example, should be able to speak for itself; it's "valid" whoever wrote it.'


I think that's an impossible standard for most sorts of poetry to live up to, or entirely live up to. Even a poem as beautiful and impersonal as say this might be invalid from a Swift or a mid-career Auden. If this didn't exist I couldn't write it without even the ideal reader saying, "Get off it".

Though if you think of it on a continuum, a poem has to be more 'self-supporting'. Sure, it's an impossible standard, but given the linguistic structure supporting a poem versus one supporting a longer work, one that will be drawn.

There is also something to do about the way learning and education has progressed in the West, in that the standard view of a poem (I think) is that one doesn't have to know the totality of the author's work to understand the poem. With the rise of education viewed as learning discrete things, poems fall victim to the notion that they can be studied independent of other context. I have a student doing her graduation thesis on Chinese poetry, and one of the things that she talks about is how each poem is designed to 'echo' earlier poets. This whole notion is underpinned by a much stronger notion of a canon than we are prepared to accept today, which I think is both a good and a bad thing.

"This whole notion is underpinned by a much stronger notion of a canon than we are prepared to accept today, which I think is both a good and a bad thing."

I think there's still a very strong sense of canon (or rather canons) in the West. One has to read a lot of iambic pentameter to train one's ear to hear it; one has to have an idea of the past, or rather various pasts, to feel the day's meters or avoided meters. One has to know what images were current and what they were thought to do to have a full sense of the new images. One has to know what was shocking to know what's only a head-fake now. It helps to have read early Auden in reading Ashbery so one is nimble and receptive; it helps to have read Herbert in reading Bishop because she sometimes has him in mind.

I can however well imagine classical Chinese poets were better studied in their traditions than many poets today - "Make it new" is perhaps stronger now than "News that stays news".

For a smart guy, FIAR doesn't have much in the way of spelling or punctuation skills.

And his people skills aren't anything to write home about, either.

rilkefan: I think that's an impossible standard for most sorts of poetry to live up to, or entirely live up to.

"Entirely," sure. But I believe (and, more to the point, I suspect most readers believe) that poems, including those two you cited, are wonderful in themselves, and that one can enjoy and appreciate them considerably (if not "entirely") without knowing much if anything about Stevens or Hopkins.

Back in the day, when I was an undergraduate (more than 40 years ago), I was just discovering modern poetry, and I remember reading, and being blown away by, poems by authors I had literally never heard of before. (E.g., Delmore Schwartz,
"The Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me"
) Nor did I feel any particular obligation to find out more about them.

Now if I was writing a dissertation on Schwartz, I'd obviously want to know more about him. If he'd written a memoir, I'd immediately wonder about his putative truthfulness. But I don't need to know Schwartz to decide if this is a poem or not.

Is it "satire"? I suppose we'd need to investigate!

PS: If you could in fact write anything of Hopkins' quality, I would surely not be the one to tell you to "Get off it"! So what's stopping you? ;}

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