Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Ok, so let me get this straight. Because Atrios made a few facetious comments about an ill-advised bit by Jane Galt that may or may not have advocated violence against protesters. Some people who read Atrios' site wrote her nasty emails. She freaks out and stops blogging. Atrios' response:

I don't condone sending pointlessly obscene emails to anyone, and nor did I ask anyone to. But I find it a bit odd that someone has a problem with my linking of Galt's calls for inappropriate vigilante violence to (admittedly different) vigilante violence on the grounds that doing so might cause some inappropriate emails. If my words are somehow irresponsible for that reason, then so were hers, which was the point of the 'goon squad' comment in the first place.

But, please stop sending nasty obscene emails to people.
And, therefore, because of all this, according to Pejman, this is proof that Atrios is a demagogue who is (somehow) "dumber than a colony of decapitated cockroaches who suffered from a particularly agonizing insect variant of Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease at the end of their lives."

Obvious contradiction aside, (you can't be retarded and a demagogue at the same time) I don't see the problem here. Atrios said something. Somebody else sent a bunch of nasty emails. Atrios does not have control over these people and never has; their choice to email is their own. Flaming is, additionally, a well known and thoroughly familiar aspect of Internet society (such as it is), and flaming emails in response to obviously inflammatory rhetoric is as familiar to political debate online as portly white guys are to politics offline. Atrios also had no control over Jane's reaction to utterly predictable flaming, and I imagine it was probably overstated on Jane's part, although I can't be sure. (Pejman's absurd "gotcha" about Atrios saying that was embarassing, by the by.)

And because of this, Pejman spends page after page of:

-selective quotation (he argues that Atrios' current material reflects his past work, conveniently ignoring the excellent information concentration and research that led to his role in unearthing Lott's past and bringing it to light, which is what granted him his current popularity)

-absurd generalization (he tries to extend these carefully selected Atrios postings and a few equally carefully chosen comments on Jane Galt's site to the entire left; a common technique by several members of the right, but nonetheless a dishonest one)

-and out-and-out lunatic ad hominem attacks (like the one above, and entire paragraphs devoted to taking cheap potshots at the left that would embarass Atrios) lengthily repeat the tired rightist canard that "the left is dead". This despite the obvious fact that Atrios is neither a representative of the left and the equally obvious fact that the left does not HAVE such a representative, as it is as chaotic and disorganized online as it is offline. I mean, if he were making comments about a leftist movement as carefully organized as movement neoconservatism is then he might have a point- but such a thing simply doesn't exist. Nobody on the left is responsible for the actions of anybody else that they haven't authorized as their representative, and Atrios has neither given nor has been given such authorization. The only thing he has is readers, and that makes Pejman as responsible as anybody else, as he must have read Atrios' site to be able to quote him.

Besides, there's a logical inconsistency here. Jane's complaints and Pejman's amplification of said complaints to a wholesale dismissal of the left would have some merits if nastiness were restricted to the left, and if the right were unceasingly civil and polite. Nobody who is even halfway familiar with a huge number of online conservatives would even dare to venture that, unless they were being willfully and brazenly dishonest. Everybody gets harassed, some more than others, and for every example of a horde of leftists sending hateful email (however one defines that) one could bring up at least one example of a flock of right-wingers doing the same damned thing. Yet Pejman spends an entire paragraph asserting:

So what is left to the Left (pardon the pun)? Shouting. Screaming. Lying. Moaning. Whining. And hate mail. Let's not forget the loads of hate mail being sent to the members of the winning political camp in order to try to tarnish the taste of that victory to the greatest degree possible. In the final spasms before ideological rigor mortis finally sets in, we witness demagogues and idiots like Atrios seeking intellectual (*chortle*, *snicker*, *loud guffaw*) leadership of a decaying movement for one last massive bitching session based on one false premise after another, before "the rest is silence," finally, and mercifully.
So, other than being resoundingly silly, this leaves me with a conundrum. Is Pejman being:

a) hypocritical

b) ignorant

c) dishonest


d) all of the above?

Take your pick. And yes, I'll accept e) overreacting to Jane's overreaction.

EditI found a poster ("zanzinger") on Atrios' message board who made a pretty wise observation about this whole situation:

I think the problem here is that a lot of people in blogistan (both bloggers and readers) have their amps cranked to 11 at all times. Everything is "outrageous" or "shameless" or "disgusting" or "treasonous" or "fascist". Nobody knows how to chill. Galt self-righteously makes stupid comments about protesters. Atrios self-righteously calls her on it. There is some self-righteous back and forth. Galt self-righteously signs off. More self-righteous chest-puffing here and elsewhere.
Had he known, he probably would have added "Pejman self-righteously claims that this has killed the left." Still, this is a much better insight than anything Pejman wrote. The internet does lend itself to extremism and overreaction, and it would appear that said tendency claimed a few victims in Atrios and Jane. It also claimed a (willing?) victim in Pejman.

Zanzinger called it: "nobody knows how to chill". So let me be the first to say: Chill, folks. Honestly, this whole thing has been blown out of proportion.

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