Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Amanda Marcotte and Scary America

I posted previously on Amanda Marcotte and the Pandagon blog. My intention was to make a point about the discontinuity between mainstream politics and bloggery - a discontinuity that resulted in Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon having to resign from the John Edwards campaign because of her anti-Catholic remarks on her blog. Two comments on that post - from Frank Wilson and Dark Heart - inspired me to look closer at Pandagon and Marcotte. It's not a pretty sight. Sample this post and the comments. The first point is that, though Marcotte seems to have a degree in English, she is a truly awful writer. I noted this in that previous post, but I have only just realised the scale of the problem. Writing this bad is an intellectual as well as an aesthetic affront. Secondly, Marcotte is a paleo-feminist of the sort that has largely vanished from the world that I inhabit. She seems to take her intellectual lead from Shere Hite, my views on whose thinking can be found here. Thirdly, the post and comments I highlight provide a terrible vision of one of the worst aspects of American culture - its crude stratification of debate into a series of postures. This is, essentially, legalistic in that it assumes absolutely contrasting positions and then uses any weapons at hand to destroy opposition. Nothing in what Marcotte and most of her commenters say displays any wisdom whatsoever about the real world. In this it provides evidence of another American shortcoming - parochialism. Much as I love that country, this stuff really scares me.

12 comments:

  1. 'I mention this, because it seems to me that therefore, when Christians are contemplating an action that is morally questionable, it appears they should consult the Bible before acting.'

    It was very cruel to direct me to something like this, Bryan. Why does this make me feel the urge to open a sanctuary for mistreated commas?

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  2. Harvard are apparently looking at parochialism in their curriculum overhaul - Harvard? Biind leading the blind.

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  3. Thanks, Bryan. Thanks a bunch. You've cheered me up no end. Normally, I would laugh at something that puerile, crass and irredemiably philistine (I laughed at my own comment earlier in the day). But I think you're right - it's off-putting. And one is tempted to generalise? But is it really representative?

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  4. A Subtle American (not an oxymoron, nor an anomaly)February 15, 2007 12:57 am

    It ain't representative. Any more than skinheads are representative. It's a narrow p.o.v., a blogger singing to her choir. Surely you have similar dimwits with their own followings on British blogs.

    "Parochialism" is a particularly interesting word choice, too, because Catholic schools in America are called "parochial schools." I don't think Amanda would like them one eensie weensie bit.

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  5. A while ago, John Kerry gave a talk at Pasadena College. He made some jokes about President Bush being stupid e.g. "...had lived in Texas but now lives in a state of denial....You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq." Or did he? The mainstream US media immediately got sucked into a great firestorm of claims that he had called US troops stupid.

    This Markette thing is similar. The issue is not really her somewhat rude remarks, but how they have been taken out of context and spun up into a great controversy. Her accusers are themselves on record for racist and anti-semitic outbursts but this was scarcely mentioned. No Democrat politician in this dumbed-down "he said/she said" media climate can ever be "nice" enough or watch their words carefully enough to avoid being flamed for these "gaffes" and we, the long-suffering public, are left with no clue as to what their real policies or characters might be.

    I disagree with what you have to say, but defend to the death your right to (...sound of turkeys, with bird flu, making stuffing...). Media immune system? Freedom of speech?
    http://www.varsity.co.uk/news/105/2/
    ..."When asked how the cartoon could have evaded censorship..." (AARGH!)

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  6. Back in the day (only a few years ago really but internet time is faster than real time) the only decent blogs I could find were American, so I have done a very great deal of arguing with Americans (hence the Brit monicker: they insist on calling us that).

    What you say about them in this post is mostly an unfair exaggeration of some of their less appealing ways of approaching debate, but this is pretty hard to deny: the crude stratification of debate into a series of postures. This is, essentially, legalistic in that it assumes absolutely contrasting positions and then uses any weapons at hand to destroy opposition.

    Iraq is the obvious example. The anti crowd used scattergun argument ('any weapons at hand') and blankly refused to accept any moral ambivalence in the issue; while the pro crowd got into a position where it became impossible to criticise any aspect of the invasion or concede any ground whatsoever for fear of appearing a national traitor ('postures').

    Whether this is something new, or is worse than it used to be, or whether it has been exacerbated or just exposed by blogging, I don't know. Now that the terms 'left' and 'right' in the Anglosphere just mean anti or pro-American, maybe it was bound to be ugliest in America itself.

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  7. Most Americans form their opinions based on the last book they have read, hence their limitations.

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  8. America is diverse. It is not one nation under God (whatever that really means). It represents all that is great and good, and all that is low and vile. If you look for the latter you will find it in abundance. But likewise, the former. At the moment, what is questionable is obvious. That is all.

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  9. Andrew, nothing is easier to shoot down than an absolute statement. (Besides, most Americans don't read *any* books!)

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  10. Just to clarify that Andrew wasn't the Andrew we all know and love, Susan.

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  11. We knew that couldn't have been you, Andrew. You have a very distinctive style and unlike that other Andrew you don't have a sneering, superior tone (superior tone, perhaps, at times, but not of the sneering variety). I'm only joking (85%).

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