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December 29, 2004

Comments

Edward goes first:

This began with my critique of your essay line "Vietnam fought America, and America was the enemy." In elaborating on why this is a binary argument that doesn't account for a worldview that attempts to look beyond "America, love it or leave it"....

I suppose in itself, it is. But reading in context, it's pretty clear that it's meant only to explain the stance of Sontag and her companions in adulation for America's enemies in the period. There was no attempt to argue -- nor, I think, would most reasonable people construe the statement as arguing -- that it is "necessarily anti-American to object when America is conducting itself in morally questionable ways." (And really, no need to tell me that.) Your extended discourse on "binary" viewpoints is basically a strawman argument, flailing at an opponent that does not exist, viz:

They're arguing with blinders on, insisting, for example, essentially that by 1920 it was perfectly clear that Communism was 100% bad and America was 100% good....

America 100% good, eh? I'll let you cite where I said that. As for Communism, see my exchange with von above. Ground covered, Edward.

Now, are you still going to defend her fondness for Castro, or what?

Jadegold next:

Not abandoning a thing, Tac.

Except, well, your initial argument, such as it was. By all means, resume the pursuit.

Your interest is largely motivated by self-interest not by what is best for this country or even what you perceive is best for the nation. We can explore this at greater length if you wish.

Oh, by all means. Bluff called. Go for it, chief.

Your interest is largely motivated by self-interest not by what is best for this country or even what you perceive is best for the nation.

Whoa, now, JadeGold. Let's begin with the premise that everyone is arguing in good faith.

And then we have Lily:

Way up thread I made a comment that condemning current leftists for the support given toCommunists back in the 20's was as unfair as condemning current conservatives for the support give to Hitler before WW2.

Oh, not necessarily. The past informs the present, and you misunderstand one without the other.

Well because arguments based on the distant past can be so unfair or irrelevant.

Well, sometimes they can. But there's no hard and fast rule about that one, is there? Condemning modern Democrats because Democrats were the slave power party is probably unfair; condemning John Kerry for doing his part to aid Communist victory in Vietnam is probably not. I don't think you can assert a universal rule for this one -- it's case by case.

Right now I think current conservatives spend a lot of time arguing with with their fantasy of how leftists thought three decades ago....yes lefties do this to conservatives, too.

Well, okay. I think these can be supported or knocked down on the merits, not on a statute of limitations.

Now, are you still going to defend her fondness for Castro, or what?

Oh...so that's what stuck in your claw. Now it's clear.

I'll revert to my original statement here:

If she empathized a bit too blindly with existing Communist regimes (which she latter corrected), it wasn't so blind as to adopt their desire to see the US fall, just change what was widely viewed as an foolishly considered war plan.

Now for st....

It just seems that coherency would be an essential underpinning of such repellant smugness.

No, not at all. See dKos and Calpundit comments.

That being said, you're right the sentence as written makes no sense.

More generally, as a professional nihilist I don't have a stake in this question, but isn't "the distance travelled from genocide" a rather repulsive metric?

I suppose it depends on how far.

Incidentally, I see that my brief comment may have been misunderstood. I thought your snark unfair, but I didn't think it was "ad hominem." ("Rilkefan's unfair snark aside ....") My locution was a bit confusing, however.

Exactly how does one become a professional nihilist?

Pace von's plea above, I'm not sure you're arguing in good faith anymore, Edward. You had a whole series of justifications for her liking Communist Cuba, and seem to have abandoned them in turn in favor of -- now, a somewhat irrelevant quote of yours about the nature of her own anti-Americanism.

Ah, felixrayman.

See, the slave thing -- it's easy to grasp the difference. One group renounced it, and the other never really did. See? Think hard, and one will recommend itself over the other.

Finally, Rilkefan, predictably nihilist:

"Sontag used to shill for genocide...."

No. She shilled for genocidal causes, but I rather doubt she ever explicitly endorsed the practice -- indeed, I suspect it may have had something to do with her eventual disenchantment with its practitioners. Try accurate quoting, please.

Or someone who by certain standards is a shill for imperialistic, war-profiteering, homophobic Conservatism....

War-profiteering. Heh. That's a new one.

....as if there could be no principled if wrong-headed "hardcore" left position....

Is it worth pointing out that there's no contradition between shilling for something and having a principled belief in that thing?

I'm not sure you're arguing in good faith anymore, Edward.

Nice try Tacitus, but pay attention and you'll see...

You had a whole series of justifications for her liking Communist Cuba, and seem to have abandoned them in turn in favor of -- now, a somewhat irrelevant quote of yours about the nature of her own anti-Americanism.

I'm sorry the thinking here requires some work on your part. I'll use smaller sentences. ;-p

How on earth is it irrelevant to point out that in her worldview in the 60's there were enough reasons to doubt the morality of the United States that other options seemed worth considering? She made a mistake. You get that one. But the context in which she first believed Castro had some value is much more complicated than you're acknowledging with your 1920 cutoff.

I offered the various possibilities for her refusing to see her mistake before she did because I actually value her process (coming to conclusion via a careful consideration of ALL the evidence) over the one you seem to be advocating and the one Reagan and Bush have made so popular, which still, to my mind is far too close to "America: right or wrong" for comfort.

von: "I thought your snark unfair"

For the record, you may judge it unfair, but I don't think you can call it snark, as it was written in all seriousness. Perhaps "smug" or "self-satisfied" would have been better choices than "self-congratulatory".

The etymologists out there won't need to note that the original meaning of "ad hominem" meant "appealing to the listener's emotions", but I find it interesting.

"Exactly how does one become a professional nihilist?"

By getting a Ph.D. in physics and working in the field. (Note that many physicists, including one or two I know, would disagree.)

But now that makes one wonder why that is so

we never fought a long bloody war against Mao or Stalin.

See, the slave thing -- it's easy to grasp the difference. One group renounced it, and the other never really did. See? Think hard, and one will recommend itself over the other.

One renounced it after hundreds and hundreds of years. How many months after the tsar fell did the US invade Russia to fight the communists?

So capitalist countries are given centuries in which to work out the bloody details, communist countries, months.

Cognitive dissonance.

The etymologists out there won't need to note that the original meaning of "ad hominem" meant "appealing to the listener's emotions", but I find it interesting.

Hmm. I had thought that ad hominem had always meant what it means today, which is something a bit narrower (and slightly different) than that. But I'm not an etymologist, so whatta I know.

Or someone who by certain standards is a shill for imperialistic, war-profiteering, homophobic Conservatism....

"War-profiteering. Heh. That's a new one."

Here Tacitus would say, "I see you can't even pretend to uphold your side of the issue".


"Is it worth pointing out that there's no contradition between shilling for something and having a principled belief in that thing?"

It might be, if it weren't wrong.

Shill: "One who poses as a satisfied customer or an enthusiastic gambler to dupe bystanders into participating in a swindle."

Though perhaps the dictionary hasn't caught up with some lazy common usage.


"Sontag used to shill for genocide...."

"No. She shilled for genocidal causes, but I rather doubt she ever explicitly endorsed the practice -- indeed, I suspect it may have had something to do with her eventual disenchantment with its practitioners. Try accurate quoting, please."

You wrote that she shilled for genocidal Communism. When we write clearly, we use words to convey information. You thus intended to convey that her support for Communism meant support for its genocidal aspects - that or you were writing unartfully again, in which case I apologize.

As for "quoting", I wrote that the thrust of the article was "blah", your words not appearing in quotes and hence not quoted, clearly indicated as well by "thrust", the whole relying on the previous paragraph.

So much for Tacitus - now to see if von has corrected me on something yet again.

Apologies to the blog participants for getting ad hom (new sense) just now - von calls us to a higher tone and I bow in his general direction.

Mao, Stalin, Hitler.

I usually avoid threads like this for the same reason I stopped reading the Tacitus site after a few weeks, and the Redstate site after a day or two: they make me behave in a childish manner. This one, though, I can't resist.

I think it is certainly true that Mao and Stalin have had more friends within the American information distribution business than Hitler ever could -- especially after 1941. This cannot be refuted, but is also not, in my view, a complete explanation for why we use the comparison to Hitler, and not to the other guys. I think there is a cultural component.

Hitler is a product of Western Civilization. A cancerous growth, to be sure, but not unfamiliar. He wrote in an idiom that we understand, not to mention an alphabet we can read. Although he's not "us," he's enough like us that we can say that one of us is being like him. Do I remember correctly that he had inherited some land in Colorado before the war?

The cultural contexts for Mao and Stalin are just too foreign for most of us to relate.

The simpler reason that Bush is compared to Hitler rather than Mao or Stalin is that his policies tend towards crony capitalism, not towards communism. I don't think the comparison is in any real way apt, but calling Bush a maoist is surely even more of a reach than calling him a fascist. Even an over-the-top stupid insult has to have some kind of internal logic.

(I don't think the fact that Mao and Stalin were our allies in a long and bloddy war counts for anything anymore, but definitely had an impact on how they were treated during the war).

Let's see if this turns off the italics.

Or this.

Tacitus: condemning John Kerry for doing his part to aid Communist victory in Vietnam is probably not

Oh, God.

This is exactly the kind of snide lie that makes Tacitus, in the long run, completely unreadable.

st: You [Tacitus] obviously disagree vehemently with much of Sontag's thinking, and it would have been pointless for you to write the piece as if that wasn't true.

Excellent comment on the essay, I thought - all of it, not just the initial sentence I quoted.

Jadegold: Too many good things said to comment on - but well done anyway. Tacitus's knack is for the plausible sweeping statement, punctuated, as noted above, with outright lies.

Jes,

I think someone needs to chill. You or Jade accusing someone of outright lies is sort of funny.

You know Von, the comment section reminds me of DKos (except freeper hasn't been used) after the 2002 elections, all that is missing is Navy Davy, Moe and some vulgar language. Mind you Von, this isn't a complement

If you can't attack the message, call the messenger a liar.

the comment section reminds me of DKos...

Or at the erstwhile tacitus.org. I'm not familiar enough with the current incarnation to make a contemporary comparison.

Which is to say: this'll be the last time I (and I hope most other people) swing by this thread. Enjoy the space, y'all.

Or at the erstwhile tacitus.org.

Yes, which is why adding a strongly partisan Republican contributor is unlikely to have much beneficial effect -- the result will probably just be more brawls like this one. If the powers that be truly believe that the purpose of this blog is to provide "a place where the left and right can meet and argue and try to find common ground (or, at least, common humanity)", then they need to re-write the Posting Rules (which were, after all, mostly borrowed from tacitus.org) to ask for more than just the bare minimum of civility, and then be prepared to exercise their banning powers. There are several regulars here who are clearly not interested in finding common ground with anyone more than an arm's length from their own opinions.

Oh God, I hadn't looked at this thread. Stop it, everyone.

(heh heh. Four 'close italics' tags in succession seem to have done the trick.)

kenB: There are several regulars here who are clearly not interested in finding common ground with anyone more than an arm's length from their own opinions.

Cup of tea, Ken?

Hilzoy: Oh God, I hadn't looked at this thread. Stop it, everyone.

I dunno - can we at least post knock-knock jokes until the Sontag thread has as many comments as the Coulter thread?

Is it just me, or does every thread Tacitus shows up on turn into one of these?

Cup of tea, Ken?

Not sure how to interpret this, Jes. I could go through several possibilites and respond to each, but it's probably easier just to ask you to elaborate.

you mean Sebastian, Slarti and Von are not partisan Republicans?

Depends on what partisan means to you. I have a difficult time seeing that label attached to me, given that I'm pretty much a non-participant outside of blog comments. I might accept the label if its meaning is that I'm emphatically a supporter of what the Republican Party ought to be.

Late to the game, again. More company, and more holiday chaos. Sosume.

Well, time to do the roundabout again. Edward first.

....small sentences.

Like this one? Viz: Jackass.

How on earth is it irrelevant to point out that in her worldview in the 60's there were enough reasons to doubt the morality of the United States that other options seemed worth considering?

They weren't valid reasons, Edward. Speaking of thinking things through. Your defense of her, in this sense, is about as valid as if you'd said she adored Communist tyrants because aliens would destroy the planet if she did not. It's a reason, of sorts, but is it a good one? A defensible one? No. If you're going to posit the existence of X as a rationale for Y, you'd best be able to defend X, I'd think.

....I actually value her process (coming to conclusion via a careful consideration of ALL the evidence)....

Yeah, I got that line from Steve Sailer, too. Moving on....

Next up, felixrayman:

One renounced [slavery] after hundreds and hundreds of years. How many months after the tsar fell did the US invade Russia to fight the communists? So capitalist countries are given centuries in which to work out the bloody details, communist countries, months.

I leave it to you to ponder the ins and outs of the Russian Revolution and Russian history in general. Try Orlando Figes' "A People's Tragedy" -- it's probably the best in English. And your understanding of the subject will elevate from where it is now: which is to say, that of the high school enthusiast for WSWS.org.

Suffice it to say that "slavery" in Russia, such as it was, was institutionalized in serfdom; which was abolished c.1861, if I'm remembering correctly; and the evils of which were swiftly surpassed by the young Bolshevik government even as it fought its civil war.

Next....

Ah, rilkefan!

No, really, rilkefan, do go into the war-profiteering. The rest of it I understand and have no hope of swaying you on, but that's a geniunely new one to me. Please expand.

Though perhaps the dictionary [definition of shill] hasn't caught up with some lazy common usage.

Hey, take it up with Merriam Webster. They don't back you up. m-w.com, chief. 0-1.

You thus intended to convey that her support for Communism meant support for its genocidal aspects....

Why can't Johnny read? As you note, we tend to write what we mean. In this case, done. 0-2, rilkefan.

....your words not appearing in quotes and hence not quoted....

Yeah, hence "try accurate quoting," you having done neither.

0-3, rilkefan, and done.

Tacitus: "Like this one? Viz: Jackass."

See the posting rules.

Jesurgislac's turn:

This is exactly the kind of snide lie that makes Tacitus, in the long run, completely unreadable.

Which makes one wonder why you griped so when I banned you, eh? In any case, it's no lie, and if you care to argue the point, by all means, have at it.

Jadegold: Too many good things said to comment on....

A pity Jadegold is not here to read it, having apparently cut and run after the bluff was called.

Awesome work, Hilzoy. Great job policing up the David Duke metaphor and keeping things in order. Oh, and the personal insults. Oh, and your fellow posters. Just saying.

Finally, watcher:

Is it just me, or does every thread Tacitus shows up on turn into one of these?

I can't help the obsessives, sorry. Some bitter folks here.

Tacitus: I was on vacation. I do that sometimes. When I came back, I tried. See 12/31/04, 1:52am (where the italics end.)

Tacitus - war-profiteering refers to Halliburton et al., as you surely must know.

Re "shill", I was quoting a dictionary definition - the Merriam-Webster on my desk doesn't include your version. Note that the web m-w quotes Andy Rooney, so you're in good company; as I said, kid, lazy common usage.


"Why can't Johnny read?"

Why can't Tacitus defend the plain meaning of his words when called on it, or admit to a banal misphrasing?


"Yeah, hence "try accurate quoting," you having done neither."

I give up trying to help you understand this.


"0-3, rilkefan, and done."

You're done being puerile? Glad to hear it, son.

....war-profiteering refers to Halliburton et al.

Ah. Hence their recent record losses, then.

Re "shill", I was quoting a dictionary definition

See, here's how it works, kid -- words have multiple meanings at points, and you don't get to simply declare which ones are valid and invalid. In this case, you have apparently decided that "shill" means only one thing -- one of the noun versions, and not one consistent with the text in question -- and therefore any other meaning, however endorsed by any commonly-recognized authority (a dictionary, natch), is invalid. According to, well, you. To which I say two things: first, best of luck making the case that the official Merriam Webster website is getting a definition wrong; second, good move not doing a humanities PhD.

Why can't Tacitus defend the plain meaning of his words when called on it....

When you grasp the plain meaning, I'll happily defend it. Considering you have endorsed my very rhetorical usage in your phrasing in this thread -- apparently without realizing it -- I think we can chalk this one up to your incomprehension.

I give up trying to help you understand this.

This is easy, my boy. When you are urged to try X, it does not logically follow that you have previously tried X. Get a handle on this, and you'll have it all clear.

The pity to all this, of course, is that you probably do understand where you've gone wrong here, and are merely being perversely obstinate for the sake of process points. Which is fine, of course, as I don't mind hammering you at length, but if dignity is important you might consider Jadegold's salutary example and simply disappearing.

And Hilzoy, forgive me if I say that your enforcement is woefully selective, as the state of ObWi comments in general shows rather well. Not saying you were unfair to me.

"The pity to all this, of course, is that you probably do understand where you've gone wrong here, and are merely being perversely obstinate for the sake of process points."

Amusingly enough, I had thought of writing the same thing in reference to you, but it's such a banal opinion to express about an interlocutor.


"Which is fine, of course, as I don't mind hammering you at length"

Well, I do mind hammering you at length, because I have a certain amount of respect for you and it pains me to see you subject yourself to humiliation. I don't understand what you get out of sowing discord and indulging yourself in sneering childish self-judged point-scoring, but when you outgrow it I feel sure you'll be a clear force for good in the blogosphere instead of a talented but sadly flawed one. I'm only sorry that I didn't decide to ignore you after watching your meltdown on a Billmon thread a while back - a thread where I had been defending you and probably made matters worse by trying to restrain you.


"if dignity is important you might consider Jadegold's salutary example and simply disappearing."

I'm going to take my multiple dictionaries and leave you with Andy Rooney and what dignity is left you after the above display; perhaps when you're five years or so older I'll be interested in interacting with you again. Jadegold is either otherwise engaged, no longer interested in this thread, or (more likely) came to the conclusion I've just expressed before I did and bowed out - if it is important to you to continue your imagined triumph over him/her, there are other less stale threads available where he/she is active. But I'd counsel you against it.

Well, this thread has descended to crap.

If y'all would quit trying to prove that you're the gosh-dang smartest, and actually read what each other has written, you might have a chance at understanding that no one's the devil in this thread.

I second the motion. I have been slow to exercise my banning priveleges because I rarely post. If we have to put the posting priveleges as a permanent most-recent post just so y'all don't miss it, I'm sure we can accomodate. There are people here that I don't particularly care for, either, but I at least endeavor to maintain civility.

But please, please don't scream violation when you've just finished pissing all over Tacitus and are outraged when he returns the favor.

Just cut it out.

I repeat myself:

"Apologies to the blog participants for getting ad hom (new sense) just now - von calls us to a higher tone and I bow in his general direction."

I resolve to hew to this line in future - if I find myself in another pissing match on this blog I'm just going to stop posting here.

And your understanding of the subject will elevate from where it is now: which is to say, that of the high school enthusiast for WSWS.org.

Ah, as he loses the argument, the ad hominems begin. The usual.

My point stands. You will not apply the same standard to other Western countries that you apply to communist ones. You say that within a decade, "there was plenty of information available about the methods of Communist rule: slave camps and extermination".

Yet by 1800, there was plenty of the same sort of information available about the methods of Western "Civilization". Slavery and extermination were par for the course. In retrospect we can see that Western countries - after many centuries - evolved into more humane societies, but you have specifically denied that such retrospection is needed. In retrospect we can see that Russia abolished serfdom, it was not clear in 1800 that this would happen.

Using your criteria, one must either agree that by 1800, there was no excuse for anyone being pro-Western (whether we call it capitalist or some other name), or one must experience cognitive dissonance by making the same claim about Communism in the 1920s using the same standard of evidence.

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