This evening, U. Wisconsin law Prof. Ann Althouse reveals her “sad experience” in weblogging (“Right and left: my sad experience,” Jan. 31, 2005):
“bloggers on the right link to you when they agree and ignore the disagreements, and the bloggers on the left link only for the things they disagree with, to denounce you with short posts saying you’re evil/stupid/crazy, and don’t even seem to notice all the times you’ve written posts that take their side.”
Ann asks “Why is this happening?” and confesses “I find it terribly, terribly sad.” My experience has been similar in many ways, and I share Ann’s feeling that this is all very distressing.
Disclaimer: The following are broad generalities used to try to explain a perceived general phenomenon — they do not apply to every editor of a weblog who identifies himself or herself as being on the Left or on the Right.
Although they wage nasty internecine battles, I believe that many webloggers on the Right ignore disagreements from people they see as outside their ideology, because their conclusions are “faith-based” (including ideological “faiths”). Therefore, while they are pleased to point out when outsiders agree on a point, disagreement from the Center or Left can be safely ignored, as neither facts nor reason are relevant to their conclusions. They have a creed that supplies all answers.
Because I have always considered myself to be liberal (modifed the past couple decades with the adjective “practical”), I am much more distressed by the attitude of those on the Left towards anyone who disagrees with either their ends or means on a particular issue. From my campus days in the Vietnam antiwar movement, and right through the Clinton Administration, to the present day, I have seen the Left instantly demonize and dehumanize their oponents, while demanding complete adherence to their orthodox tenets. As I have said before at this weblog, this Leftist intolerance — often in the name of tolerance — seems to be based on a premise of moral and intellectual superiority, and a refusal to concede that those with opposing views are acting in good faith (as opposed to acting with a hidden agenda of increasing personal wealth or power). Thus, once you have strayed from their litany of mandated positions, you are ostracized — your support is unwanted and your disagreements are worthy only of ridicule and contempt.
Webloggers on both political extremes often have more than enough IQ, but their EQ needs a lot of work. Thinking that there is only one catechism worth reading, and that you possess it — whether it’s based on religion, ideology, philosophy, or political science — makes the world a lot uglier and solutions a lot harder to achieve. Like, Prof. Althouse, I hope to see more open-mindedness and civility in weblog discourse, and hope that I can always live up to that goal.
Please note that, as per my disclaimers, I know — and in fact revel — in the many exceptions that exist to the generalities I have made above.
update (Feb. 1, 2005): At her The Other Side of the Ocean weblog, admitted “leftie” law professor Nina Camic takes a look at the issue’s raised by Prof. Althouse, in a post called “Hand me the mike, I have something to say! [or not.].” After noting that she’s been “plenty slandered for [politcal commentary] on right-leaning blogs,” Prof. Camic says, in part:
But I do agree with one aspect of her post: I, too, am saddened by so much of what I read in blogs, and comment threads are even worse. . . . At first it seems funny and then it just seems sad, desperate, irresponsible.
The blog is a stage and unfortunately anyone can grab the mike. And I admit,
sometimes, in fascination, I log on and listen, mesmerized by the lack of restraint, a demonic pleasure derived from seeing someone so exposed, so childishly out of control. But the experience always leaves me feeling empty. Writing and ranting that is neither clever nor funny hardly qualifies as banter. And most often, it pushes the boundaries of meanness.
It’s not just the left or the right. Thoughtlessness and meanness are, unfortunately, universal. Though thankfully, I have come across far more kind posts and blogs than snarky ones.
Prof. Althouse adds her own, well-stated response in an update, here (my emphases):
I’m reminded that I should say, I don’t think all the irrational blogging is on the left. I’m just saying that I’m struck by the way the right perceives me as a potential ally and uses positive reinforcement and the left doesn’t see me as anything but an opponent — doesn’t even try to engage me with reasoned argument. Maybe the left feels beleagured these days, but how do they expect to make any progress if they don’t see the ways they can include the people in the middle? If you look around and only see opponents and curl up with your little group of insiders, you are putting your efforts into insuring that you remain a political minority.
“tinyredcheck” I’m going to add other note-worthy links on this topic, below, as they arise:
(Feb. 1) Steven Taylor at PoliBlog adds his temperate thoughts, including that politics
is not a zero-sum football game and that “We should not caricature bloggers based on
whom it was they voted for in November, or whether they support the Iraq War or not.”
(Feb. 1): Prof. Althouse added a good line she received in an email: “I’ve heard it said
that the Right is looking for converts and the Left is looking for heretics.”
understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental
law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.” And
adds: I’d probably replace “stupid” with “hopelessly naive” or “let their emotions cloud
their judgement.” . . . “On many issues, most liberals don’t look at deviations from the
holy scripture of liberalism as differences of opinion, they view them as moral failings.
You aren’t just wrong, you are as Ann’s reader puts it: a “heretic.” . . . There are a few
conservatives who look at things the same way, but for the most part, if conservatives
disagree with you, they tend to think you’re a bonehead on that issue.”
Ed. Note: Why the difference? Perhaps because many of the leading
Liberals fought their first politcal wars over civil rights, the Vietnam War and
Watergate – issues that could realistically be painted in terms of good and
evil. On the other hand, many on the Right, have been fighting high taxes and
big government — issues that have more to do with intellect than morality. That
set the stage for how each side saw their adversaries.
Of course, the New Right — the religious Right — does tend to see disputes
as battles between good and evil. That sort of self-rigtheousness is ugly
and unlikely to lead to positive discourse, no matter its source.
(Feb. 2, 2005) Baseball Crank offers additional causes: (1) Liberals see their fight as against
the evil of bigotry, with opponents as bigots; (2) Many liberals have not had the “formative
experience of having had to reconcile themselves to political disagreements with people
they otherwise like or respect, and it shows.”
January 31, 2005
she paints her nails
a ruffed grouse drums
the woods awake
at a time
’til the icicle lands –
pretty blue sky
[Jan. 31, 2005]
I think the New York Times editorial got it right today: “For now at
least, the multiple political failures that marked the run-up to the voting stand
eclipsed by a remarkably successful election day.” Nobody should be surprised
that “ordinary Iraqis” have demonstrated their preference for peaceful resolutions
to their country’s serious and difficult problems. “Message from Iraq.” (Jan. 30, 2005)
Thanks to Prof. Bainbridge for his extensive quotation last night from our
reflections on the Iraq elections.
that the Messenger wasn’t the reason for the Democratic loss in Election 2004. Many of the
issues listed by Prof. Bainbridge could readily — and realistically — have been presented to the
public in a winning way, by a Democratic Party willing to fully embrance its historic values.
In his rendition, Prof. Grace only states half of “the rule of optimal taxation: If
it moves tax it!” After pondering such examples as real estate and estate taxes, my
personal version has always been: “If it moves, or doesn’t move, tax it!” Since lawyers
regularly both “move” and “don’t move/lie” (you know, like a rug), the situation discussed by
the good RiskProf may already by covered. In what seems like a silly idea to me, New Jersey
is imposing a tax on lawyers to help defray the cost of medical malpractice insurance. Whether
the suit challenging the special tax is frivolous, I shall leave to experts on the laws of taxation.
A verse from a favorite Jesse Winchester song keeps gliding through
my head lately, and I think I was meant to share the lines with you:
If the wheel is fixed
I would still take a chance
If we’re treading on thin ice
Then we might as well dance
So I play the fool
But I can’t sit still
Help me get this rock
To the top of this hill
‘Til we’re sick of it
Do it ’till you can’t do it no more
January 30, 2005
the wrecking ball swings
in and out of darkness
the darkness lengthens
into a kitten
rise on their scaffold
the hush of Sunday morning
under new snow –
tires spin and spin
[Jan. 30, 2005]
As we enter February 2005, nobody can say whether the Iraq elections “Iraq flag”
are a “success.” It is far better to hope that the elections will lead to a stable government
that brings peace, freedom and security to all its people (and peoples), than to point
out all the ways this process falls short of an acceptable model for choosing a
government. We can’t let disagreement with Pres. George W. Bush cause us to hope
Iraq remains in chaos. Iraq may end 2005 with a government that is far from any our
Administration would choose. The American public, pundits and politicians will have
plently of time thereafter to decide whether either American policy in Iraq or the state of
Iraq society and government can be deemed a success.
update (7 P.M.): Prof. Ann Althouse has remarks I want to echo: “What profound
admiration so many of us in America feel for the brave people of Iraq! They remind
us of the beauty of the liberties we take for granted and the courage that we are so
rarely called upon to show. ” (which is a sad lead in to the blurb immediately below)
According to a preview in today’s USA Weekend magazine, a new Knight Foundation
survey found that “The majority of high school students assign little or no value to the rights
guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment: freedom of the press, speech and religion.”
(For complete results, starting Monday, go to firstamendmentfuture.org.) Here are some
specific — and worrisome — results:
73% of students take their First Amendment rights for granted or don’t know how
they feel about them.
21% think musicians should not be allowed to sing songs that may offend others.
74% believe people should not be allowed to burn the American flag.
36% think newspapers should not be allowed to publish without government
Wearing her Editor’s hat at Law Technology News, Monica Bay says “So count on us to continue
to ban jargon that creates walls, rather than bridges.” (We agree: Can We Talk About “Virtual” English?) But, can we get our favorite Scold to join us in the small gesture of adding those two little letters “we” back to the ugly stub of a word “blog”? (See Does Blog Jargon Turn Off Outsiders? and, A (We)blog by Any Other Name)
January 29, 2005
a man outside the market
feeds crows from his hand
now and then from the meadow
. . . cow bells
“snowflakeSN” Billie Wilson
“shelling peas”: “Acorn” No. 6 (Spring 2001)
“deep winter” – The Heron’s Nest (December 2000)
zero degrees –
for the scarecrow and me
[Jan. 29, 2005]
(both genders even)?
I’ve been missing Ethics and Lawyering Today, which
hasn’t been published since July. I hope Bill and Lucian are well.
Got Insurance? You can go here and find out if a Virginia
lawyer has been disciplined since 1991 or is practicing without
malpractice insurance. Bravo, to the unified Virginia State Bar!Comments Off
January 28, 2005
in bird song
witnessing his will
finds a prism –
Stroke Awareness: the 3 Simple Questions — not an urgan legend! Most email health alerts forwarded by well-meaning friends are bogus and I have complained about them more than once. However, even my main hoax-sniffer Snopes.com acknowledges that Three Simple Questions can help the layman recognize a stroke — and get the immediate help that can greatly minimize disability after a stroke.
When you think someone might have suffered a stroke, ask him or her:
- to smile.
- to raise both arms
- to speak a simple sentence.
If the person can’t do any of the above tasks, call 911 and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.
local schmocal: are you counting on local government to solve the economic development problems in your town? Your humble pundit is not holding his breath.
Tim Sandefur has a thoughtful piece about states as “local laboratories” in which he points out that they don’t have unlimited powers to experiment with the lives of their citizens. Freedom of the citizen is both the goal and the limit of State power. Tim quotes Madison: “[A]s far as the sovereignty of the States cannot be reconciled to the happiness of the people, the voice of every good citizen must be, Let the former be sacrificed to the latter.”Comments Off
January 27, 2005
Jim Kacian appears to be dabbling in haiku one-liners, and the pair below
are from the newest roadrunner haiku journal, where you can also find an
interesting example from Ed Markowski, and much more to delight you. If
you’ve studied dagosan’s haiku primer, you already know that Japanese haiku
have traditionally been written in one vertical column.
flood season the endless stream of reportage
returning the loon’s chuckle my laugh
from Presents of Mind,
one p.m. five degrees too many errands
[Jan. 27, 2005]
Martin Grace, a/k/a The RiskProf manages to worry about how he might look in a
hard hat or scrubs, while asking whether state-appointed consumer advocates really benefit
Prof. Bainbridge wants to see the money — “As of now, I’m not saying anything nice
about the President or his policies until I get paid. So there.” [This is another instance
where Prof. B could use the protection of an Implied Disclaimer Notice.]
“tinyredcheck” Speaking of Prof. B, his post on Corporate Social Responsibility may
It seems, Jesus would have made a terrible Catholic CEO (or conservative law professor).
Mike “Fedster” Cernovich at C&F appears to be asserting a “liberty” to kick butt when
other airline passengers get out of line. Count me in the “least restrictive alternative”
school of thought on this particular liberty.
Speaking of one-liners, Steve Martin’s letter to Johnny Carson is a fine tribute. I will
miss Mr. Carson, and also miss the days when Americans of all ages and parties (I’m not sure we knew
we had ideologies back then) watched the same late-night show and could laugh about it together the
next morning.Comments Off
January 26, 2005
our footsteps find the grass
beneath the snow
fistful of sand
the milky way stretching
to where my wife lives
my childhood home
a parking lot
“dwindling light” (May 2003)
vacancy sign flickers –
the smiling bum finds
a heated grate
[Jan. 26, 2005]
“snowflakeSN” The third post made to this weblog asked the question Is a Legal Fee Ever Too Big?,
in which we decried the reluctance of courts, bar counsel, and attorneys in general
to declare a contingency fee unreasonable. We’re pleased to see that the 2nd Circuit
rejected the request of class counsel in the Visa/Master Card Debit-Card Antitrust
case for a $609 million fee — confirming the lower court’s award of $220 million.
more of my coverage at C&F. Here are some quick comments:
The Profile page of class counsel, Constantine & Partners, states “The
firm’s billing rates and total fees are typically significantly less than those
charged by larger firms.” (Ed. refrains from using smirk emoticon.)
The Appeals Court noted the hard, long, excellent work of class counsel, but
correctly emphasized “preserving as much as possible for those who were harmed.”
As one of the consumers who can no longer use his debit card at Wal-Mart, I’m
not all that thrilled at the injunctive relief in this case.
Use Those Quote Marks, Searchers. Despite our frequent status as an Inadvertent Searchee,
we still marvel that this weblog was the #6 result out of about 41 million in an MSN search for
but if he or she is reading this, please consider using quotation marks:
yielded only 25,000 results for you to sift through, and save you all of the results that include “F**k”.
January 25, 2005
the shape of his knees
in the hanging jeans
shadows of dragonflies
pass over the bridge
a puff of fog
floats over the falls
New Year’s dawn
that little grunt
dad always makes –
putting on my socks
the shower turns cold
[Jan. 25, 2005]
reinstatement of the death penalty in New York State. Click here, for a quick way to
e-mail your State legislators to voice your opposition.
Priorities: poetry and groceries this morning; maybe some punditry
this afternoon.Comments Off
January 24, 2005
eyeing the spot
where our bumpers bumped–
snow in his thick eyebrows
coffee shop . . .
the only empty seat
returns to the porch rail
new snow fluffs off
staring match out my window –
I blink first
the squirrel scampers
after the snowstorm –
bright, cold, and lovely
[Jan. 24, 2005]
“tinyredcheck” Over at haikupoet.com, Paul and Mary Mena have a nice new look,
and more great photo-haiku combos. The last one, reminded me why
I often dislike buses and elevators, so I penned:
after he leaves the bus –
[dagosan, Jan. 24, 2005]
You can catch me proselytizing about Small Claims Reform, over at
Crime & Federalism today. It might sound familiar to our visitors.
Last week, I forgot to mention George Carlin’s take on poetry, when I
only one sentence: “More people write poetry than read poetry.” I still like the book.
The entire f/k/a gang is very glad that Prof. Althouse is safe after her auto
accident. Evan Schaeffer empathizes, but wonders about the wisdom of admitting fault
at the scene and on her weblog. Walter Olson manages not to mention tort reform (but,
I bet he was tempted).Comments Off
As my hair comes to look more and more like Albert Einstein’s, and I need to cover my tonsure on cold days, I have to wonder: Did Einstein wear hats? If so, what kind? And, what did he do about hat-hair?
I bet his Memorial in D.C. was magical this weekend, with the snow and ice.
reprise: time is relative
me and einstein -
[June 30, 2004, rev’d Jan. 24, 2005]
Albert Einstein Monument . . . .
- visit with Al, Washington, D.C. circa 1980 -Comments Off
January 23, 2005
the carriage horses
turn a tight circle
stumbles in clover
the chip shop counter
worn by small change
“frosty morning” – The Heron’s Nest (Jan. 2001)
“mid-argument–” – The Heron’s Nest (Oct. 2001)
“Friday evening” – A New Resonance 2: Emerging Voices (Red Moon Press 2001)
the Plow God builds
a mountain of snow –
can’t see the river today
licking the last smudge
of ice cream from the bowl –
snowplow scrapes the street
[Jan. 23, 2005]
January 22, 2005
The following was posted this evening by your Editor in a Guest role at Crime & Federalism. I hope it will avoid future misunderstanding and hard feelings:
A lot of lawyers have gone to great lengths crafting their weblog disclaimers — usually to make sure the great masses won’t mistake info and opinion for legal advice or empathy for a client relationship; some want you to know they don’t endorse the products that appear in those annoying ads that grow like mushrooms in the shade of their sidebars. Over at f/k/a. I’ve even tried to clarify that my cranky punditry should not be attributed to the many excellent and innocent haiku poets who have agreed to grace the site.
It has come to my attention, however, that those of us who offer commentary and criticism on our weblogs are often misunderstood by readers who needlessly take offense — personal, ideological, professional, etc.. This problem is especially true for some of us older webloggers who have steadfastly refused to utilize emoticons.
Therefore, I’m using the webbully pulpit provided me as a guest at C&F, to set forth my Notice of Implied Disclaimers. Henceforth, please consider the following disclaimers — unless specifically disclaimed — to be applicable to anything I write on the Web or in any other sectors of cyberspace:
Notice of Implied Disclaimers
YIKES – “Yes, I Know there are Exceptions and (unfair) Stereotypes“. This disclaimer comes in handy when a poor, well-meaning soul — like, say, Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers — is addressing a topic with politically-correct connotations. A little YIKES! in advance might spare you unseemly public groveling (or a night or two sleeping on the proverbial academic sofa). However, even a good YIKES! (combined with the TIMID and PMS disclaimers explained below) won’t save you from folks with no sense of perspective or humor*.
TIMID – “This Is [merely] My Interpretation, Dear” . If you’ve ever been accused of sounding like a condescending know-it-all, a prophylactic TIMID disclaimer may save you yet again from a lonely night on the cyber-sofa. I’ve always thought everyone knew that everything they said was only their own view of the facts or the truth, but that appears not to be the case, thus causing much difficulty. Please don’t confuse TIMID with the phony humility of IMHO (or “with all due respect“).
PMS – “Pardon My Satire,” “Post May include Satire,” or “Pretty Much Satire” — a recent run-in, while discussing Anonymous Lawyer, with young lawyers and law students who appeared to be unfamiliar with the genre of satire, has convinced me that prudence requires the PMS Warning. Even Prof. Bainbridge could recently have used this Implied Disclaimer, and avoided a postscript describing the location of his tongue.
s/david a. giacalone,
a/k/a haikuEsq and Prof. Yabut,
Feel free to adopt the nomenclature of Implied Disclaimers yourself, since I don’t expect you to waste a perfectly good Saturday night, like I just did drafting your own. Having made this announcement, I’m fairly certain that I’ll no longer have to worry about insulting, miffing, irking or otherwise raising the ire of (thoughtful, secure, mature) readers who may encounter my words here in cyberspace [PMS].
*Linked image from Best of Callahan.
a cloudburst passes
the sumo wrestler
the sparrowComments Off
This post was almost titled “Not One Damn Mind Changed” — almost a snide, sarcastic piece about the ineffectiveness of Not One Damn Dime Day, the delusional egotism of its proponents, etc. But, a more positive approach is called for. To convert slacktivism back to effective activism, it seems important for the politically disappointed (I’m one of them!) to remember:
- activism takes action
- likely results are highly correlated with amount and duration of effort
- preaching to the choir is not an effective way to change minds
- and neither is self-congratulation over your moral or intellectual superiorityAs the folks at Snopes note in their coverage of Not One Damn Dime Day:“[R]esults are generally proportional to effort: If the most effort one is willing to put into a cause is to do nothing, then one should expect to accomplish nothing in return.”A Boston Globe editorial today, “Blue horizons“ (Jan. 22, 2005) has some good advice to those who are blue over the presidential election:More important than making a statement about last November is the need to talk about the future and how people of differing political views might find common ground. That ground might include working to change tax policies favoring wealthy Americans so the country can provide essential services and not burden the next generation with debt.That ground might include better stewardship of precious natural resources that can never be replaced and the promotion of global policies that would make America more than a feared superpower and expand its role as a leading world citizen.Dialogues on the polarizing social issues, the separation of church and state, privacy rights, and gun control might also help opposing sides to at least hear each other as individuals rather than as hated manifestos.Sporting a bracelet, boycotting the American economy on “Not One Damn Dime Day,” escaping on a cruise for the inauguration, or joining the “Turn Your Back on Bush” movement during the inaugural parade may have allowed the disenchanted to vent but not to change minds.America needs to move beyond red and blue and press for a nation united under a bolder, more inclusive vision.RabidNation of Daily Kos, one of the prime movers behind Not One Damn Dime Day and Black Thursday, sign” tried to defend the call to spend no money on election, and to stay home from work, by noting that the boycotts would not harm small businesses: “Both BT and NODDD have advocated that people shop before and after the 20th, especially at locally-owned small businesses, to make up for any shortfall. Nobody’s going to lose their job or take a pay cut on account of events tomorrow.” He brushes aside those who note that boycotts don’t work with this retort: “Funny that people would say this during the same week of Martin Luther King’s birthday. Uh, the Montgomery Bus Boycott? The Chavez/United Farm Workers grape boycott? Sure, some work and some don’t. But because some don’t, is that any reason not to try? ”The f/k/a Gang believes that MLK, Gandhi and many others who have led effective protests would point Rabid to the numbered items above.Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich found out about NODD on Thursday, from an anti-Bush friend, andhad this to say about it (Jan. 21, 2005):“Are you doing it?” I asked my anti-Bush informant, who had just fumed over Bush’s wearing the presidential seal on his inaugural cowboy boots.
Her patriotic answer: “Are you kidding? I have no food in my house. I have to go shopping.”
And that, in a nutshell, is the hard truth of political protest: Good causes often meet bad tactics, and practicality eventually trumps ideology.Effective protest has to be practical, focused, and active. Hidden, short-lived, symbolic gestures only make the participants feel better; they don’t make the world better.playing their games
on the sly…
pale blue butterfliesit’s become a world
of pale blue butterflies!
pale blue caps!coolness–
a blue hanging bell
red blossomsp.s. If somebody wants you to shun Big Oil for a whole day, point them to Another Silly One-Day Gas Boycott.Comments OffOlder Posts »
rumble of thunder
a street juggler
lights his torches
one rock for my garden–
a thousand ants
so suddenly winter
in her pill box
credits: “so suddenly winter” The Heron’s Nest
“one rock for my garden–” The Heron’s Nest
Jim Wallis of Sojourners Magazine was on the Charlie Rose show last night (Jan. 21, 2005),
discussing his newest book God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It.
As usual, although Wallis is a religious believer and I am not, I found myself consistently agreeing
with his message. I especially liked his statement “religion has no monopoly on morality.” As the
book flap states:
It has become clear that someone must challenge the Republicans’ claim that
they speak for God, or that they hold a monopoly on moral values in the nation’s
public life. Wallis argues that America’s separation of church and state does not
require banishing moral and religious values from the public square. In fact, the
very survival of America’s social fabric depends on such values and vision to
shape our politics — a dependence the nation’s founders recognized.
presidential campaign to let the American people know that the vast majority of us hold moral and
ethical views that fit squarely within our national consensus on values — and that differences on
how those values should be applied in particular instances should not “excommunicate” anyone
from our social community or political discussion.
Frankly, many Baby Boomers are “allergic to religion,” because of disillusionment with the religious
institutions of their birth, and many feel intellectually superior to believers. We need to get over both
of these obstacles to recognizing and acknowledging the values we share with American believers,
just as certain segments of American’s religious community need to recognize that they do not have
a monopoly on morality nor on solutions to America’s social and political problems.
Although I believe that the majority of America’s believers come in “good faith” to
the positions they take on political issues, I admit to being skeptical — just as I am,
for instance, with the interpretation of legal ethical requirements by lawyers — when
a person’s positions consistently result in their own financial gain or the enhancement
of their social position.
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