Monday, April 28, 2008

I'm Still Alive

I'll start posting again at the start of May.

I have a ton of topics prepared. Don't click on "Read More", there's nothing more to this post. See you in a few days.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Explaining Feminist Blogosphere Eruptions

You can set your watch to Old Faithful and to dust ups in the Feminist blogosphere.
This is a bit of a departure from my usual stuff, but I find it an interesting to diverge occasionally from civil liberties and media criticism. I'm not going to bother to link to the blog storm in question.

There's nothing quite like a good old fashioned blog storm. What is it about Feminist blogs that makes these eruptions a common occurrence? My theory: accuracy, honesty and critical thinking are not things you can turn on and off. When dishonesty, stubbornness and intellectual laziness are accomodated by a culture it's only natural for internal disputes to display all those ugly attributes.

In this particular dust up Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon is accused of "stealing" from lesser known bloggers. According to her critics (currently centered around Feministe) Amanda is stubborn and marked by a persecution complex, unwilling to admit to the slightest wrongdoing. According to Amanda her detractors are engaged in substance-free attacks on her character. Both of these accusations are true to some degree. Why wouldn't they be? In the Feminist blogosphere substance-free attacks are commonplace and Amanda herself has always been defensive and stubborn.

Amanda is Amanda is Amanda

I should note that I generally like Amanda's writing and Pandagon is in my links on the right.

I first came across Amanda in the Salon piece Why I had to quit the John Edwards campaign. In the piece and in subsequent blog postings and comments Amanda refused to acknowledge that posting inflammatory pieces on her personal blog while working for the Edwards' campaign was poor judgement. Her persecution complex was in full display here, yet the reaction from the Feminist blogosphere was almost total and universal support.

Amanda was one of the bloggers fueling the Duke rape case frenzy. Although the Duke lacrosse players were exonerated Amanda, along with much of the Feminist blogosphere, refused to admit any error whatsoever. Many doubled-down, claiming that the lacrosse players simply had to be guilty by virtue of being white young males of privilege. This stubborn refusal to give an inch was a black-eye on the credibility of Feminist bloggers, but within the Feminist blogosphere Amanda was again applauded for her stubbornness.

Those same supporters are now shocked and outraged over her refusal to give an inch to them.

Outrage Culture Can't Be Switched Off

For her part Amanda complains that her detractors are unreasonable, vicious and outright fabricators but Amanda should expect no less.

Many of the commenters attacking Amanda rely on intellectually lazy sloganeering: "it's not about you" and "your privilege is showing." There's no retort to these claims because the claims themselves are devoid of real meaning. These same slogans are regularly employed against "white dudes" and "Nice Guys" with no objection from Amanda or anyone else in the Feminist blogosphere. It's only now that these catchphrases are turned against Amanda that she sees how vapid they are.

Amanda's detractors continue to make baseless claims, including claims that are provably false. Amanda complains but she is well aware that at Feministe baseless claims are considered acceptable. I've been called a "McCain voter" and "a rapist" by Feministe commenters, and while I'm many things I'm neither of those. Evidenceless accusations have rarely bothered Amanda when the enemy was men's rights activists or right-wingers; it's only now that she is the enemy that she objects to meritless character assassination.

Does This Look Familiar to Anyone Else?

Yes, I'm going there. The shoe fits.

1. A person is accused of something awful and subjected to vicious personal attacks.
2. That person responds with "prove it."
3. The accusers claim that having to prove it unfairly puts the onus on the victimized minority.
4. The accused conclusively proves their innocence.
5. The accusers don't apologize. Instead they argue that because the accused is a white privileged person they must be guilty of...something.
6. And finally they claim that it was never about this specific incident anyway, it was always about the power dynamic between white privileged people and women of color, and anyone harping on this specific incident is guilty of missing the big picture.

I could swear I've seen this before.

The Moral of Our Story

A culture that turns a blind eye towards distortion and dishonesty can not be switched off and will on occasion turn inwards. The stubbornness that Amanda is being bashed for is the exact same stubbornness she's been praised for in the past. The empty reactionary rhetoric that she find herself the target of is the same rhetoric her former allies have always relied on.

A recent popular mocking phrase on blogs is "it's OK if I do it." What we see here is "it's OK if I do it to you." When "you" is "white dudes" or "typical progressives" or MRAs or Republicans it's OK, but now Amanda and her detractors are set against each other and cry bloody murder at tactics they've previously revelled in. Turns out being the "you" isn't as much fun as being the "I."

Blog commenter Pinko Punko, addressing the split between Obama and Clinton Feminist camps, hits the nail right on head:

If we have previously overestimated certain individuals ability to emotionally divest themselves from particular topics, we have no one but ourselves to blame, because back when they were preaching to the choir using similar emotional and incendiary language we all sang in tune. Funny how when we now don’t agree the same tune seems so harsh to our delicate ears.

What This Post is Not About

Sadly I must add disclaimers. This post is not about any of the following things:

That women are stupid.
That feminists are stupid.
That Amanda Marcotte and the people at Feministe are stupid.
That men's rights activists, Republicans, "white dudes", "typical progressives" and Duke Lacrosse players are either awesome or terrible.
That there is some sort of direct moral equivalence between Amanda and the Duke Lacrosse players.
That dishonest rhetoric is monopolized by anyone mentioned in this post.
That anyone mentioned anywhere in this post is getting what they deserve or not getting it.

I could write a very similar post about the clash between Obama and Hillary supporting Democrats, or about the clash between various factions of Republicans split across Ron Paul or John McCain lines, or about the clash between left and right leaning libertarians. The Feminist blogosphere is merely a good example of a behavior that is hardly unique. Online communities encouraging lazy reactionary thinking are commonplace, as are the inevitable blowups when the firing squad turns circular.

Even More Equivocating

In fairness to Amanda being stubborn is hardly a rare failing and not a particularly serious one. (I myself am stubborn to a fault) And in fairness to Feministe commenters it only takes a few bad and overly enthused apples to ruin the bunch. In all these eruptions the same small set of names keeps showing up.

Read more!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Limited Updates for a While

Updates will be slow for the next couple of weeks, battling a cold and a pile of work.

AT&T: Your New Branch of Government

For a while I've been meaning to write about the letter AT&T wrote to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. It's a great example of how the application of State Secrets Privileges has widened to the point of absurdity:

Unfortunately, under current circumstances, we are unable to respond with specificity to your inquiries. That is because, on many issues that appear to be of central concern to you, responsive information, if any, is within the control of the executive branch.
Moreover, the United States, through a sworn declaration from the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), has formally invoked the state secrets privilege to prevent AT&T from either confirming or denying certain facts about alleged intelligence operations and activities that are central to your inquiries.

AT&T can't say anything at all to Congress because that information is just too darn secret to share with out elected representatives. That information is of course also too secret to reveal in court, even ex parte and/or in camera. (In the judge's chamber with only one party present) This is how it's supposed to work? A giant corporation mores know about what our government is up to than two of the three branches?

Read more!