Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Losing John

There's a guy I know named John--maybe you know him, too. Born an ordinary small-town Ontario kid, he moved into the big city for work and then ended up staying. A programmer by day, he's also a bit of a politics geek. He's never gone so far as to start his own blog, but every few days he drops by the Progressive Bloggers to see what like-minded people are saying about the state of Canada in the world. He's always voted Liberal. Okay, he was disgruntled enough with Paul Martin in 2006 that he thought about voting NDP, but at the last minute he got nervous about the Conservatives getting in and ended up giving the Liberals his X yet again. In the end his MP, Maria Minna, was reelected, and when it came right down to it, that was just fine with him.

On Saturday morning, John wakes up, makes himself a cup of coffee, and flips on his computer to skim the latest headlines from cbc.ca. A few clicks, and he lands on some news that chills his blood: the previous night, while John was asleep, about a dozen Canadian men were arrested for plotting an attack somewhere in southern Ontario. Nobody knows what the target was, but the investigation is ongoing. He flicks back and forth between online news sources and both Canadian and American 24-hour news channels, but nobody's saying what the potential targets were. He clicks through to his trusty Progressive Bloggers, but finds nothing there, either. Frustrated, he turns to the Blogging Tories and hits paydirt. It's all speculation, of course, but to John it's better than no news at all. The bomb might have been intended for the subway (John takes the subway every day!), or maybe even some area oil refineries (what would that do to the economy?!).

In the afternoon, John calls his parents, just to check in. Shocked, he learns that they don't even know what's happened. His mom actually sounds more worried about him than she does about the terrorists, and John clenches a fist around the phone in frustration. She hasn't followed things through in her mind to their inevitable conclusion. Thousands of people could have died. Maybe people John knew. Maybe even John himself. No, we didn't actually have our own 9/11 here on Canadian soil, but at least when the Americans went through this, they all banded together and did something about the problem. Guys like the ones who almost did this--they don't stop at one foiled attempt. Maybe next time, they'll succeed. And next time could be tomorrow, or next week, or when we least expect it.

For Saturday dinner, John snacks on last week's cold pizza and the dregs of chips he found in the cupboard--somehow, he's just not hungry enough to make himself a meal--and just after midnight, he finally drops off to sleep. In the middle of the night, he wakes up from a dream, sweating and shivering. In his mind, a burning CN Tower topples onto the whole of downtown Toronto and sets it ablaze as he watches in abject horror. He can't shake the image. He can't fall back asleep. He gets up, flicks on his computer again, and glances at the latest from that Tory blogger he'd been reading earlier: he's speculating about a free vote on capital punishment. John catches himself thinking that might not be such a bad thing.

On Sunday, John steps outside for the first time since first hearing the news--he wants to make sure to pick up the weekend edition of the Toronto Star in case he's missed anything by sticking to television and online news sources. At the corner store, the conversation is about the weather, about the Stanley Cup finals, about anything but the fact that a bunch of people with names like Ahhmad and Jahmaal almost blew up John's city. John finds himself frustrated all over again--why are he and a handful of Tory bloggers the only ones who care about this? Over at his ordinarily likeminded Progressive Bloggers, some folks are referring to the people who are scared as hysterical, and in the comments section of that post, a well-known, well-respected blogger is even saying that it's people like John who are letting the terrorists win. Suddenly, John's not just frustrated; he's angry. He turns back to the Blogging Tories, who are talking about the size of the potential bomb. Information is good; it makes him feel calmer.

Sunday stretches on, and turns into Monday. John goes in to work, but he feels twitchy. He can't concentrate on coding, so he keeps sneaking peeks at the news online. The latest from the Progressive Bloggers is ridicule, but the Toronto Star's Rosie DiManno and the Globe and Mail's Christie Blatchford resonate with him: The enemy within. The elephant in the room. The war on windows. Monday turns into Tuesday, and there's a bit on Warren Kinsella's blog that briefly gives John pause. Kinsella's suggesting that a bunch of people go to a Jays game--at the site of one of the potential targets--and "wave the flag, and wear a few T-shirts bearing a defiant message." John remembers his own admiration of the "we are not afraid" campaign after the London subway bombings, and he wants to join them. But the trouble is, John is afraid. And in a world of rhetoric that's been polarized into "now we Canadians finally recognize that we, too, are under siege" and "if you're scared, you're letting the terrorists win," John's finding himself increasingly aligned with the former group. He's honestly not sure whether that makes him crazy or if it makes him sane, but mostly, he doesn't care. His world has been turned upside down. He's too busy being scared.

#

I realize that we bloggers are better at sarcasm than we are at sympathy, better at fisking than we are at feeling--but without so much as a passing nod to John and his irrational yet entirely human fears, we lose him. Me, I'm not scared of the terrorists, and I'm not scared of the hard-right bloggers and columnists who are gleefully pulling out old Jack Layton quotes about security certificates, either. But the prospect of watching the Johns of this country slip further and further into the sort of reactionary thinking that's gripped my country of birth for nearly five years? That's what really scares me.

26 comments:

Andrew said...

Well written, as always IP.

One of the annoying things about blogging is that it is terribley easy to write attacks and also very seductive to just write about stories that mesh with your instictive confirmation bias. It is far more difficult to tackle stories that "go against the grain", or suggest that perhaps your view of the world is not 100% correct.

So we see in partisan political blogging how the Blogging Tories whallop lefties whenever the progressives go completely mute about a tough story, and then the progressives whack the BTs when they clam up about an equally hard-to-handle story.

In the case of the foiled terrorist plot the progressive reaction, as you have noted, has been attacks on the Blogging Tories, but mostly overwhelming silence overwhelming silence. (There are some exceptions - Mike, at Rational Reason, had an excellent article the other day).

When you look at a tough story for the CPC - for example the Prime Minister appointing Fortier - the same reaction is mirrored back by the Blogging Tories - i.e. attacks on the progressives, but mostly silence.

Bloggers have to stop attacking each other so damn much, and start covering the difficult stories from their own point of view. I want to read leftist reaction to patients dying on medicare waiting lists and rightist reactions to the latest reports on the benefits of public health care. Those are the interesting stories.... those are real discussions worth following.

There are only so many "the CPC is anti-gay!" and "the Liberals are crooks" stories I can stomach.... and besides - how many versions of those memes are truly necessary?

Okay - I've rambled long enough....

wonderdog said...

Well, Andrew: I'm glad to see that you're willing to condemn the open racism being promoted by Debris Trail, one of your fellow Blogging Tories.

You'll have some credibility with that criticism when I read that condemnation on your blog. But you were too busy today blogging about the Boer War, so perhaps you should practice what you preach, huh?

The progressive reaction has not been mostly attacks on the Blogging Tories; that is a partisan fabrication. It has been mostly not-very-credible kneejerk suggestions that the investigation was tainted and the charges trumped up -- which I challenged with a post today.

I will not allow open promotion of racism to go unanswered. It deserves ridicule; if, as a consequence, I "lose" someone who is not smart enough to read a newspaper, so be it.

There is no way to combat wild speculation and appeals to racism without being negative. People are vulnerable to this rhetoric because it plays on fear. What is one to do? Reiterate the facts? The facts are already available to anyone who can read. What "John" wants is more facts. Given that more facts don't exist, what am I to do?

Fabricate them? I'll leave that to Andrew, with his patients dying on waiting lists, and his progressive reaction that doesn't exist.

The only thing left is to counter misinformation.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Andrew,

Thanks for the compliment. But while I agree with you that we don't go "against the grain" often enough, that's not quite what I was saying here. What I'm saying is that in the absence of any sympathy at all from progressives for the irrational but human fears that inevitably come up in some people after something like this, the afraid among us *are* going to fall into a reactionary echo chamber that they don't even really agree with intellectually. I saw it happen time and time again in the U.S.; among good friends, even. And I'll be damned if I'm going to sit by and let it happen here.

wonderdog,

What "John" wants isn't just more facts, it's also the feeling that his fellow progressives aren't going to abandon him entirely because he's frightened. He wants to know that when he comes to them and says: "yeah, but isn't it really about Islam?" that at least some of them are going to disagree with him with level-headed arguments instead of poking fun at him. And most of all, he also wants to hear, from just one of them: "You know, we can't let it take over our lives, but yeah, man, I get you. I'm scared, too." The more we put our noses in the air and claim to be above all that, the more "John" is going to start thinking he's really been on the other side all along.

Andrew said...

Thank you for missing the point entirely, Wonderdog.

Cripes - if I actually tried to write a post every time someone threw the "why don't you attack blogger X for saying Y" garbage at me (in comments and email) my blog would be nothing but rebuttals of the dumb things some people write.

If you think I have no credibility on issues of racism because I don't smack down racist bloggers like flies, that's your perogative. Enjoy that line of thinking - you're entitled to it despite being utterly wrong. Personally I put up with enough racism directed at me (by my fiancee's mother, for the crime of being white) than to spend a lot of cycles blogging about others' racism.

As for my "partisan fabrication".... well, I guess we're just reading a completely distinct subset of blogs if what you say is true. The progressive blogs I'm reading have a hell of a lot of attacks on the BT, and precious little in the way of examination of the issues.

-----------

IP,

Yes - I know I was off on a tangent. ;)

wonderdog said...

Oh, well, I'm sorry. I guess I should start to be afraid, so I can be properly sympathetic.

I'm not "claiming" to be above all that; I'm actually not frightened by this. But I thank you for your condescending assumptions about my emotional state.

Anonymous said...

IP: thanks for this.

"John"

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

wonderdog,

I'm not scared, either (though who knows, maybe I will be next time). But I can sympathize with and understand something I don't personally feel. Me stating that it's important to at least try do that says nothing about your emotional state.

anonymous,

You're welcome. :-)

wonderdog said...

Well, Andrew, my suggestion would be that you should stop lecturing from on high on how bloggers should write.

You accuse progressive bloggers of being silent on unpleasant stories, yet rather than challenging open appeals to racism made by your fellow travellers, you're blogging about the Boer War.

And rather than challenging the wild speculation and appeals to fear published by your fellow travellers, you're blogging about the Boer War.

Yes, it does take courage to go against the grain, Andrew. It takes courage to tackle the difficult stories.

Let me know when you get around to taking an unpopular stance.

Because, you know, while you're leveling at me the implicit accusation that I won't do that, well, the record speaks for itself, doesn't it?

Dr. Dawg said...

Perhaps we attack irrational fears, fomented by screechy columnists like Christie Blatchford and the reactive fools I quoted on my site. We tell people like John to chill and give him the unadulterated facts. No, our daughters won't be in burqas anytime soon; no, amputations for petty theft will not occur here, although they do in the domain of staunch US allies like Saudi Arabia; no, women will still be able to drive.

And if same-sex marriage and women's equality concern you, turn your attention to the Harperites and their cheering section.They are far more of a threat on the social front than a squad of kids with too much fertilizer and too few brains.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Dr. Dawg,

I don't disagree at all with your message, just with your method. Rather than "attacking" irrational fears, I'd rather debunk them along with a spoonful of sympathy. It's really not all that hard to put ourselves in a scared person's shoes and imagine how that might be negatively affecting his ability to reason. And if someone's already being irrational, he's not going to be won over by being ridiculed.

I certainly don't mean to say that there's no room for sarcasm in blogging--it's not my personal style, but normally I love it in others. I just saw it go so wrong in the U.S. when it came to irrational fears that I wanted to make a plea for sympathetic alternatives here. People like Steve Janke aren't going to listen one way or the other, but people like "John" just might.

Deanna said...

Excellent post, IP.

While I'm not afraid (and have a little trouble understanding why anyone would be, given that most of us are not afraid of crossing a street either), I think you're right - lending a sympathetic ear as we explain why we're not afraid (and why John shouldn't be) is definitely a better tactic than score.

You catch more fl.. Johns... with honey than you do with vinegar, as they say.

Dr. Dawg said...

I don't disagree at all with your message, just with your method. Rather than "attacking" irrational fears, I'd rather debunk them along with a spoonful of sympathy.

For a start, I used the word "attack" as in "attacking a problem." Secondly, the hysteria I noted on my blog didn't come from Joe, er, John Blow, but from some bloggers on the starboard side of the blogosphere.

They're fair game--and they were talking hysterically.

wonderdog said...

Shorter Andrew Anderson: "My ideological fellow travellers spew so much hysterical, racist claptrap that I can't keep up. And you other people shouldn't criticize them, either."

Andrew sings this song loudest when his fellow travellers say things that are utterly indefensible, and get spanked for it. And here he pretends that it is the "progressive" point of view that is indefensible -- that's why they're so quiet, right?

Shorter IP: "If you attack people who spew hate and hysteria, you will lose the support of people sympathetic to hate and hysteria."

You mistake my purpose. I am not an activist, and don't care how people vote. My concern is with truth and morality. I expect people to rise above fear and govern themselves accordingly. If they fail to do so, fuck 'em.

To the facts: I suggest a review of the actual posts made on the PB and BT blogrolls, and in their comments, over the past 48 hours or so. I think you'll find that the progressive reaction is misrepresented here.

Scotian said...

IP:

Very good post, well thought out and on a very good point that is not addressed often. Now, I am one of those that is not afraid of the terrorists, I have long since accepted my mortality because of a health issue so I do not have a fear of death anymore but simply an acceptance of it. The means by which it happens will not change the end result so that is why I do not find news like this fearsome for me. I can though despite it sympathize with those that feel it when they do hear it though, it is not so long ago that I had to work through my own fear of death after all.

The problem I have though is with anyone that is unable to recognize the dangers of allowing their own fears to dictate their actions to them, especially when it is purely speculative driven fear as opposed to a response to an actual attack/tragedy. I can understand why people could find the news of what happened last Saturday frightening, what I cannot understand is the fear junkies that spend more time letting their fears drive their thinking than recognizing the rather fundamental and obvious point about terrorism, namely that it is intended to drive fear in the target population and therefore to let one's fears drive one's thinking is to play right into their hands, hence the name "terrorism". That is something I find very difficult to sympathize with.

Your "John" strikes me as someone that is unwilling to accept that reacting in/with terror is exactly the wrong response to terrorism and instead of learning more about terrorism itself (as opposed to just the latest perpetrators/ideology behind it) and its uses simply wants to be able to focus his fear and turn it into anger. This strikes me more revealing of an emotional immaturity that no amount of simple sympathy is likely to reach, I have found too often that this sort of reaction is looking for feedback to interact with and increase the intensity of that fear/anger instead of trying to face it head on and deal with it in a healthy manner. No amount of sympathy short of recognizing the idea that the fear is not only understandable but an appropriate response (unfortunately almost always a violent one or one that penalizes many innocent bystanders by it's overly broad nature) will be seen as sufficient in many of these cases.

So while I think you raise a very important and valid point I am unfortunately not sure that there are all that many "Johns" out there as you have portrayed him. One thing I have noticed is that when people are letting their fears, whatever they may be, drive their thinking they unfortunately tend not to respond well to anyone that does not only have sympathy but also some agreement in the "reasonableness" of their fear and the response of anger/hatred towards the source of that fear.

I have done very little commenting on this terrorist plot and not yet dealt with it at Saundrie. I have done this because I am waiting to have sufficient facts available to have a reasoned response. My first reactions were to take this at face value because in this country we have not as yet started using fear of terrorists as partisan tools by a sitting government unlike in America alas. That I believe that CSIS and the RCMP would not have laid such charges without a reasonable basis for it. That said though I also acknowledged that while I did not share the cynical responses of some on the progressive side I could understand where it came from given the unfortunate similarities between the Bush Administration's political tactics/strategies and the Harper government's tactics/strategies.

I did read a lot of both progressive and Blogging Tories reactions though and while I personally found some of the progressive side's automatic assumption of some sort of set-up by the Harper government for some purpose more than a little worrisome it paled by comparison to the reactions I saw from some of the BT's in terms of naked hate and rampant xenophobia. Not to mention the willingness to not only jump to wild conclusions without any evidence to do so with but to also conclude that anyone not reacting in that manner was somehow not taking the terrorist threat seriously. Not to mention the willingness to use this event for partisan political points about how this was proof of Harper's new way of doing business unlike the prior government in their view. Especially not the response of some of near glee at finally having something to point to to say "see we were right about the threat all along while you lefties don't believe it exists".

Anyone that is drawn to such and finds it reasonable is not likely to respond to informed calm disagreement about how to respond to this threat, how to look at this threat, and most importantly how not to let one's fears cause one to support/commit the very aims the terrorists are out for. Consider the paradoxical mindset of many in the BT community that believe the terrorists hate us for our freedoms and feel therefore the best solution is to limit our freedoms to fight back without once appearing to recognize the inherent contradiction there.

I guess what I am trying to say is that while I believe you raise an important point and that it is important for those of us on the progressive side to not be dismissive of people feeling fearful since there is a rational basis to feel the fear, that I fear it is unlikely simple sympathy for that response and acceptance of it's understandableness while disagreeing with the idea of letting that fear drive the response will reach many people. I do think it important to recognize that the fear response is rational, but I also think it is at least as important to recognize that while feeling the fear is reasonable acting out of it is not, especially in a response to terrorism.

I think it is important for us to differentiate between feeling fear and letting fear drive one's reasoning. It is rather difficult to be anything other than critical of those that allow fear to drive their reasoning/thinking whatever the source of that fear, indeed that is something the philosophers have known and written about for millennia now. I think this is where the real divide is, and while I think the point you raise cannot ever be forgotten/ignored it is not likely to be as significant a point to worry about as you do.

Sorry about the rather long winded response, I found it difficult to address the very valid points you raised while having reservations about them as well. This is unfortunately a very gray area despite the preferences of some on both sides of this issue to try and see it in a black/white manner. Fear is also one of if not the most powerful emotional motivators in human nature and can never be simply dismissed without repercussions, especially not in situation such as this. The trick is to have sympathy and understanding for feeling such while giving no support for the idea that acting out of it is a reasonable/rational response. That is a very tricky balance to find and not one many people on either side of this issue in the blogosphere appear willing to try and address. Which is why I found this post of yours to be exceptionally well done and important, both in timing and in substance. Thank you again for writing it.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Scotian,

I hope you're right that there aren't many Johns--that would certainly make things easier. I do know for certain that there are some, though, because they've posted about it (although they seem to dwell in livejournalland rather than blogspotville, and many of them are Janes).

I also disagree that Johns can't be reasoned with. After 9/11, I knew many of them, and they were dying to be reasoned with. They just wanted that reason to be tempered with a little human understanding and sympathy--something we don't tend to be very good at over here in blogspotville (and the mainstream media isn't much better).

The most important thing I'm trying to get at here, though, is that in the United States, Johns became a voting block, and a target for the right to aim their fearmongering at. I don't think I need to go into the repercussions a similar result would have here. And while I don't know that there are necessarily enough Johns after this failed attack to make a difference--I hope there aren't--there would certainly be more of them after a successful terrorist attack. I just hope we on the left deal better with our Johns (and Janes) if and when that happens to us than the Americans managed to with theirs.

James Bow said...

I think you are being unfair to Andrew, Wonderdog. In my opinion, he's right, although he's exaggerating the problem. There are loonies in every political and social group, I've found, and the blogosphere seems to have a disproportionate number of these people because the Internet tends to attract a disproportionate number of people with axes to grind. We might find a number of things said within groups we are ideologically opposed to that we find personally objectionable, but we are engaging in a similar outgroup homogeneity that some people are engaging with on all Muslims if we believe that all individual Blogging Tories or Progressive Bloggers are responsible for the looney actions of looney BTers or PBers.

Ultimately, Andrew speaks for himself. He has no special responsibility to police the people he's associated with. I too have seen too much partisan attacks on all PBers or BTers on the basis of their fringes. It's unfair and inaccurate.

James Bow said...

Where Andrew is exaggerating the problem, in my opinion, is in the willingness of PBers or BTers to portray each other as a homogenized group defined by their loonies. Just like Andrew, most bloggers speak for themselves, about whatever turns their crank. It is an expression of our freedoms, and I don't see any special responsibility for anybody to defend or attack anybody else unless they want to.

If you have questions about somebody's opinion about something you find objectionable, why don't you just ask them?

Andrew said...

Wonderdog,

I know you're a cranky blogger, but really, tell whoever is shitting in your cornflakes to knock it off - your mood is downright repugnant, and it seems to be affecting your common sense a tad as well.

Well, Andrew, my suggestion would be that you should stop lecturing from on high on how bloggers should write.

Here's a hint. When I start a post "One of the annoying things about..." I am expressing personal opinion. The funny thing about personal opinions is that others may think differently - perhaps you absolutely love rabid blogging - good on you, it still annoys the hell out of me to read so much of it.

You accuse progressive bloggers of being silent on unpleasant stories, yet rather than challenging open appeals to racism made by your fellow travellers, you're blogging about the Boer War.

I also accused the BT of doing the same thing. Thanks for the selective reading ability though.

I see you had the audacity to "waste" time posting about D-Day, and even copied out a little poem as well. Shouldn't you be spending that time smacking down the racists instead?

And rather than challenging the wild speculation and appeals to fear published by your fellow travellers, you're blogging about the Boer War.

Yes, the BT are my "fellow travellers" alright. Keep peddling that garbage and maybe someone will believe it. The BT blogroll is for bloggers who support the Conservative Party of Canada.

So yes, some on the extreme fringe of a blogroll I belong to (or "my fellow travellers" as you so quaintly put it) have been appealing to racism in order to try to whip people into a frenzy. Thanks for pointing that out.

Yes, it does take courage to go against the grain, Andrew. It takes courage to tackle the difficult stories.

Let me know when you get around to taking an unpopular stance.


I guess you don't read my site much. I seem to do a fairly good job of taking an unpopular stance with just about everyone.

But really - how difficult a stance is it to be anti-racist? In a country like Canada is being racist the norm? Smacking down a racist isn't the particularly daring stand you're trying to make it out to be.

Because, you know, while you're leveling at me the implicit accusation that I won't do that, well, the record speaks for itself, doesn't it?

No - I didn't level that accusation at you, implicit or otherwise - but thanks for trying.

Barking madly, indeed.

Andrew said...

Lemme flesh this out before someone exercising selective reading has a fit:

"Smacking down a racist isn't the particularly daring stand you're trying to make it out to be."

What I'm trying to say here is that racism is a social taboo in Canada (which is an excellent thing). Taking a stand against racism is not socially daring - you are not risking ridicule or a public flogging. You are just saying what decent people think.

In your comment you imply that it takes courage to smack down a racist in Canada - I don't believe that you are correct.

wonderdog said...

James, let us review:

Under criticism here are two posts, one by Dr. Dawg and the other by me, that attack specific bloggers for their reactions to events. Neither of those posts mentions the Blogging Tories, or suggests that all conservative bloggers hold the same point of view.

Andrew has responded with a broad generalization about the response of progressive bloggers, a generalization that is demonstrably false. His defence of that generalization is that we must be looking at different samples of the population -- for the record, my comments are based on the content of the Progressive Bloggers and Blogging Dippers aggregators at the time of his comment. His generalization appears to be based on nothing more than a couple of posts he read, but he ascribes certain reactions, opinions, and motives to left-wing bloggers as a whole.

Based on your comments, James, I am glad to see that you view this sort of thing as unfair.

The thrust of IP's post here is that certain posts and behaviour are inappropriate and counterproductive to goals she believes we should share. The thrust of Andrew's comments are that bloggers should avoid negative posts and deal with the issues.

My response is that it is false to assume that we share goals. My concern is limited to what is true and what is moral. This is my sole concern, and I intend to write about what concerns me, rather than about what IP and Andrew believe I should write.

Based on your comments, James, I am glad to see that you understand that blogging is an expression of individuality.

Andrew suggests that I fail to tackle the tough issues, and criticizes me for taking the easy route of attacking bigotry.

It is notable that Andrew himself has gotten to the bottom of things by writing about the Boer War. I take it as self-evident that the naked bigotry displayed recently by many blogs affiliated with the Conservative Party is a tough issue for Conservative Party supporters, and one they'd rather not talk about. And Andrew does not. I do not demand he attack racism; rather I point out that he has spent several days studiously ignoring an obnoxious theme common to numerous conservative blogs, and that this undermines his demand that I, and others, tackle issues that are difficult for "our side."

Based on your comments, James, I am wondering if you'd like some more straw to flesh out that straw man.

Andrew has chosen to take me to task here -- for this post singles me out -- for only posting what meshes with my confirmation bias, and for failing to post about things that reflect badly on my side.

I do not have a side, and at the time of Andrew's comments I had already made a second post debunking a bogus meme spreading through the left-wing blogs, the entrapment argument. Andrew failed to notice that post, or indeed the entrapment argument itself. He also failed to notice that I have promoted several points of view unpopular on the left, such as support for the mission in Afghanistan, that I have defended certain statements by Stephen Harper, his defence minister, and the Chief of Defence staff from left-wing criticism, on the basis of truth, or that I left Progressive Bloggers out of inability to stomach views that were evidently either overwhelmingly popular with other members, or with the administrators.

Based on your comments, James, I can only conclude that you're sticking up for your new drinking buddy.

I'm glad you all got together the other day to sink a few beers. But when you criticize me for expressing the very points of view that you are promoting, well, I'm inclined to think that you had a few too many.

wonderdog said...

Here's a hint. When I start a post "One of the annoying things about..." I am expressing personal opinion.

Here's a hint for you, Andrew: when I criticize you for the opinion you express, falling back on the fact that it is an opinion is not a defence. The fact that it's your opinion does not change the fact that you're climbing on your moral high horse.

Your mistake is a simple one: you don't understand that rhetoric is an issue. In fact, it is the only issue in politics. Rhetoric is the currency of politics. That's why it interests me, and that's why I tend to ignore what you quaintly call "the issues" in favor of examining the real issue. And the fact that I do it in a certain style is, well, tough toenails for those who don't like it.

I see you had the audacity to "waste" time posting about D-Day, and even copied out a little poem as well. Shouldn't you be spending that time smacking down the racists instead?

I already did that, Andrew, as you noticed, and so I moved on. Let me try to understand the convoluted mess that you are passing off as logic here:
- you criticize me for attacking bigots, suggesting I should address the issues
- I point out that you, yourself, are not addressing the issues, but avoiding them
- you suggest that I am somehow a hypocrite because I am not attacking bigots
Next time, bring your brain to the party, Anderson.

I see, incidentally, that you miss the applicability of the "little poem" to recent events, and indeed to the subject of IP's post. It could easily be interpreted, in fact, as being sympathetic to the point of view expressed by many right-wing bloggers. Ambiguity is the beauty of metaphor. But I suppose a weakness at interpreting metaphor goes along with the sneering disdain for the arts you express by writing it off as "a little poem."

Yes, the BT are my "fellow travellers" alright. Keep peddling that garbage and maybe someone will believe it. The BT blogroll is for bloggers who support the Conservative Party of Canada.

So yes, some on the extreme fringe of a blogroll I belong to (or "my fellow travellers" as you so quaintly put it) have been appealing to racism in order to try to whip people into a frenzy. Thanks for pointing that out.


Someone had to do it. Nobody on the BT blogroll seems to want to let the side down by criticizing their fellow travellers -- although one noted member of that blogroll has criticized other bloggers for doing so. Who might that be?

But really - how difficult a stance is it to be anti-racist? In a country like Canada is being racist the norm? Smacking down a racist isn't the particularly daring stand you're trying to make it out to be.

I didn't write that, and you know it. I made a general comment about taking an unpopular stance, and you're constructing a dishonest little straw man.

For me to criticize the bigots you associate yourself with is not courageous. For you to do so would be, in blogging terms at least.

So how difficult is it to be anti-racist on the BT blogroll, Anderson? I wouldn't know.

No - I didn't level that accusation at you, implicit or otherwise - but thanks for trying.

This post criticizes only two bloggers, and I'm one of them. Your comment criticizes bloggers for failing to take unpopular stances, for posting easy stuff that meshes with their biases. The implication is clear.

Again, I point out that you only post this argument when your fellow travellers are getting spanked. Can you point me to the posts you've made in the past bemoaning the thrashing being handed to some poor dope on the left who's posted indefensible shit? I mean, I'm sure you've done that. I'm sure your principles are rock-steady.

James Bow said...

With respect, I think you are being overly sensitive. I do not see IP's link to Dr. Dawg's "Hysteria" post as a criticism. If you'll look on that post, you'll see that I commented favourably there, because Dr. Dawg has put together some great examples of hysteria. I don't see IP's post as a criticism of that, but rather an explanation of how some unnerved individuals might react, as she experienced from her perspective as an American-born immigrant to Canada looking back on her country since 9/11.

Is Andrew a new drinking buddy? No. He and I have respected each other and, dare I say, been online friends for at least a couple of years. We agree with each other on a number of issues, and when we disagree with each other, we do so with respect for the other person's point of view. And we share a common frustration with the loonies on our fringes, tainting the political air with their angry rhetoric.

So, yeah, I'm sticking up for him because I know him to be a decent human being. I'm pretty sure that Stageleft and Balbublican would do the same.

wonderdog said...

Is Andrew a new drinking buddy? No.

Oh, please. For a writer, you sure as hell don't read well, James. A tip: not everything is meant literally.

And, uh, who are you referring to as the author of angry rhetoric here?

Because my post was funny, not angry. Can you quote the angry part?

What makes me angry are silly lies like those promoted here for partisan reasons by Andrew.

James Bow said...

And, uh, who are you referring to as the author of angry rhetoric here?

What makes you think I was referring to angry rhetoric here? Rather, I was referring to a number of trolls on both sides of the fence who have attacked Andrew and I for being too socialist or too conservative.

wonderdog said...

James: I mean, who are you referring to here as the author of angry rhetoric?

It's a fair question. I like ice cream and puppies, but they have nothing to do with the post we're reacting to or to this comment thread, so why would I bring them up?

James Bow said...

I mean, who are you referring to here as the author of angry rhetoric?

I never referred to anybody here as the author of angry rhetoric. From your "drinking buddy" comment regarding myself and Andrew, I felt the need to explain why we feel that we have much in common.

And it does relate to Andrew's sentiments, raised in his first comment, that there are loonies and angries on all sides of the political spectrum, that can taint political debate with their rhetoric.

In general, I agree with him. I myself count a number of NDPers, Liberals and Conservatives as good friends, even though the political arguments that go on around them can get too heated for any rational discussion to take place. I'm able to deal with these people because they don't wear partisan blinders. They treat me with respect despite my divergent political opinions; theywilling to listen, and debate me on my ideas without resorting to attacks of a more personal nature.

I fear that some people fail to understand that the people they are arguing with are, in general, as human as they are. It's easier to shout at text on a screen than it is to somebody who is sitting across from you, sharing a beer. I guess I shouldn't be surprised: I've been on the Net since 1993, and I've seen the destruction of Usenet as a useful community. In some ways, the blogosphere is the new Usenet, where people get on board just to vent and not to listen. At least you have the ability to move away from discussions that erupt in flames, although running away from strong disagreement and to blogs which share your political opinions and only your opinions has its own risk of forming an echo chamber.

I sense that Andrew is seeing a lot of negativity around him at the moment. A few Conservative bloggers have left the blogosphere because, in their eyes, the situation is good enough that they're not angry enough to blog, and that disappoints him. Why should the Net attract a preponderance of those with axes to grind? It may be hopelessly naive to hope that the Internet could provide more of an exchange of ideas, but I think that's where Andrew is coming from. And why shouldn't he wish for something better?