Tuesday, March 27, 2007
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Score one point for Cass Sunstein
One of the arguments that Cass Sunstein makes in republic.com is that the Internet allows people to filter their information flows so that they buttress to their prior ideological beliefs. Blogs call this "cocooning." The extent to which this effect is more concentrated in online activity than offline activity is open to debate, but it's an interresting argument.
I believe Ann Althouse's divalog exchange with Garance Franke-Ruta on bloggingheads.tv qualifies as a data point for Sunstein's argument. Click here to see the video, in which I think it's safe to say that Ann gets angry.
That's not the main point of this post, however. Compare and contrast the comments on Ann's words and behavior at the bloggingheads site with the reactions at Althouse's blog post. Everyone watched the same video -- but the reactions are very, very different (on the backstory for what sparked this in the first place, click here).
[You're treading on veeeerrrry dangerous ground here!--ed. Oh, relax.]
UPDATE: In comments here, Althouse points out one source for this disparity in comments: "I moderate and delete really insulting comments on my blog. That's skewing that data." I hope it's not skewing it too much.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Lots and lots of blog reactions -- and Franke-Ruta posts her take here. One additional note -- if you watch the video, I think it's clear that Garance was genuinely startled by Ann's anger. This has the effect of making Ann's outburst seem... disproportionate. In fairness to Althouse, however, it should be pointed out that when taping a bloggingheads segment, the participants cannot see each other. I suspect if Ann had been able to see Garance, her reaction might have been different.posted by Dan on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM
At what point do decent people cease to dialogue with Althouse or treat her with any respect? Does she have to call John Edwards a faggot?
Damn.posted by: Anderson on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
Since Althouse is professionally committed to *not* engaging in dialogue-- her refrain is that those who don't "get it", 'it' being her blogging-as-performance-art that's liberated from the demands of mere truth-claims, should just leave her blog and never come back-- why would anyone *try* to engage her in dialogue? Ignore the crazy person and eventually she'll surely go away; if a performance artist rages in the woods and there's no one to hear, etc.posted by: anonymous commenter on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
I wouldn't begin to read Althouse out of the human race or, more important of course, the blogosphere, to which she makes an extraordinarily valuable contribution.
But she should (as at some level she already does) know that
Saying regrettable things on-line is synonymous with blogging. Getting angry because one has done so need not be.posted by: Solomon on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
Dan: A key point you're missing: I moderate and delete really insulting comments on my blog. That's skewing that data.posted by: Ann Althouse on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
The sheer volume of incensed righteous fury that has come forth from the "progressive" blogosphere gives some support to this theory. All the usual suspect blogs have posts about this, and many of the commenters in their threads seem just as emotional and incensed as Prof. Althouse herself became. I mean, Jeez, this is just a feeding frenzy. IMHO everybody needs to step back, take two deep breaths, and move on. But ironically the fact that the comment flaming has turned into a blazing inferno on the left makes the liberal bloggers and commenters seem "unhinged" themselves.
It's just teh internets folks.posted by: adam on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
I am amused that you call Ann Althouse a conservative Diva. Perhaps she is a conservative Democrat, as I thought that she pretty consistently votes Democratic, and, I think, voted for the Big Moose, John Kerry.posted by: Jim Bender on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
Ann's comment half misses the point: what's notably missing from comments on blogs other than hers is a significant volume of posts from supporters, and certainly any sustained effort to defend her. Even if she is deleting insulting comments, it would not explain this absence. I actually think this has little to do with Sunstein's thesis. I don't think Ann's commenters are ideologically predisposed to think she did not overreact. Rather, I think because they are familiar with her work and interact with her routinely in comments, they are more likley to be sympathetic to her in general. It's not so much ideological "cocooning" as it is personal loyalty of some sort, and I think this sort of loyalty is far more prevalent in the more personal, interactive media of blogs than in print or other media.posted by: matt on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
I think with respect to Sunstein, it's the fusing of the personal with the ideological that creates the cocooning effect, which results in an ideological bias. This cocooning is evidenced, for example, in Althouse's ridiculous and repeated claim that the "left" blogosphere is more hostile than the "right," without any recognition that they can both be equally awful (see lucianne.com). She holds onto this idea with a kind of child-like faith and no frame of reference beyond her own experience (i.e., the conservatives are nice to ME!) It's as if, without this belief, Althouse's tremendous narcissism would come crashing down, and she'd just have to face facts about her maybe (just maybe!) not being as likable and endearing as she views herself. This becomes refracted into some bizarre and inaccurate self-stylation as an inside-out Democrat. To think, she spends a good quarter-hour of that divalog railing against personal narratives needlessly intruding on the realm of ideas! She's Exhibit A in the tendency.posted by: festus on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
Althouse voted for Bush in 2004, because she mistrusted Kerry's foreign policy.
So that does make her a conservative of sorts, taking a pro-war position when she (as I would say) should have known better. But she's a Democrat (rarely votes otherwise, votes for Feingold) and a liberal generally despite this (as I would say) lapse in judgment, and it's scarcely to the credit of the left blogosphere not to see she's closer to them than to the right.posted by: Solomon on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
Solomon, this point is a canard. It's only Althouse who keeps bringing her voting record up as relevant, as if her voting bona fides are enough when people are responding to the substance of her arguments. She drags out her voting record to shield herself from any actual debate, then turns around and cries "partisanship!" It's absurd anti-intellectualism. Believe it or not, almost nobody cares who she voted for (except maybe conservatives who want to say "but see! she's a liberal and we like her!"), and her past voting record has no bearing on how people view her. People are responding to the words she's written or spoken, and she does those words a disservice when she chalks up every disagreement to the left's witch-hunting orthodoxy.posted by: festus on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
Actually, I do think there is something to the idea that the left blogosphere is nastier than the right. Holy righteous anger seems to be popular on the left as does excommunication for those who stray (see the first comment on this thread).
Politically, I have almost nothing in common with conservative Democrats -- I'm not religious, I'm for gay marriage and stem cell research and think 'Intelligent Design' is useless, I'm for an end to the war on drugs, and on populist issues I favor freer trade and freer immigration. But even so, I can debate with conservative democrat types without anybody shouting or blood pressure rising, without insults or threats of excommunication. Nobody insinuates that I'm evil or lying or a paid stooge.
But the progressive blogs? Even though I much more in common politically (and, like Althouse, have voted for more Democrats), it's like finger-nails on a chalkboard. I may agree with them on more issues, but that doesn't translate into fellow-feeling, and the incompatibility seems more cultural than political.
This brouhaha has artificially conjoined two separate questions: (1) was it reasonable for Althouse to conclude -- in light of both all that had been said in the preceding fifty minutes by Franke-Ruta and in the last year by members of Franke-Ruta's self-styled "movement," the leftosphere, about Althouse -- that Franke-Ruta intended slight or snark, and (2) having so determined, was the response disproportionate to the slight.
Solomon's comment above is entirely disconnected from reality on both counts. His claim that Althouse's "anger at Franke-Ruta will be taken by all but a few viewers as motivated by shame and embarrasment at what the record shows" is astonishing, given that the record completely supports Althouse's view of events. Indeed, even Althouse's most vociferous critics concede by implication that their attempt to distract from Ann's point has been empty from the beginning: Even "Trex" (a nom de plume chosen, presumably, to rhyme with the contents of his skull) doesn't have the balls of brass it would take to strip from his reprinting of Althouse's original post the heart of Ann's criticism, viz., "I really don't know why people who care about feminism don't have any edge against Clinton for the harm he did to the cause of taking sexual harrassment seriously, and posing in front of him like that irks me, as a feminist. So don't assume you're the one representing feminist values here."
I might be more willing to believe the "innocence abused" version of this story if BHTV participants could see one another (as Dan knows, they cannot, which excludes body language from the range of cues one can use to determine one's opponent's intent). I might be more willing to believe it if Franke-Ruta hadn't spent the first ten minutes or so of the discussion discussing how she persuades interlocutors to give her the result she wants from them. I might be more willing to believe it if Franke-Ruta hadn't started that section of the diavlog with an inflammatory line that made plain that she was on a fishing expedition. I might be more willing to believe it if Franke-Ruta wasn't associated with Scott Lemieux, the Grand Inquisitor of anti-Althousiana, and various other members of the cabal that has spent the last year attempting to obscure - with increasingly childish and transparent rhetoric and misdirection - the ineluctable fact that they have no answer to Althouse's actual criticism of Valenti.
Unfortunately for Franke-Ruta, none of these defenses are available to her. She is left with three possible defenses. Either the remark was intended to provoke precisely the reaction it got. Or she was so totally inured of the Valenti version of the story as to be totally ignorant that her characterization of that argument was the "Jessica Valenti breast Controversy" rested on total acquiesence to one side's version of the story (and words areloaded: if one refers, in a debate about 9/11, to "the so-called 'terrorist attacks,'" that choice of terminology is absolutely intended to telegraph a certain point of view and frame the ensuing debate around it). Or, as one of Althouse's commenters suggested, the intent was merely drop a snarky comment into "the record, unnoticed by Ann, but picked up on the particular frequency that Tapped readers hear." None of these defenses even remotely suffice to push Althouse's conclusion out of the bounds of reasonableness in the context of the moment.
Ultimately, this latest controversy is little more than an Althousian rohrschach: as Dan notes, "[e]veryone watched the same video -- but the reactions are very, very different." Who was a critic of Althouse yesterday is a critic of Althouse today; who liked her yesterday likes her today. Everyone watched the same video, but see in the exchange confirmation of their prejudices about Ann: the people who know the back story think she's clearly in the right, and the people who have spent two years doing anything they can to stone the heretic see a rich new source of ammunition. The latter are, frankly, despicable people - a bunch of jumped-up supernumeraries with bigger eyes than stomachs, still smarting from their inability to rebut a damaging criticism with anything more substantial than a personal assault on Ann, playing the "insulting upwards" card in a desparate bid for relevance.
Ann - non illegitimi carborundum.posted by: Simon on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
dude...wow...what are you talking about? I just don't get the "cabal" here. Franke-Ruta was having a debate, a conversation. She referenced a controversy that was discussed EXTENSIVELY in a previous bhtv exchange with Glenn Reynolds. If there was context that needed providing for, why didn't Althouse provide it? Even assuming Franke-Ruta was being snarky (which there is no real support for, she seems genuinely aghast when Ann goes bananas)...is Ann that much of a wilting flower that she can dish it but can't take it? C'mon now. The substance of Ann's original post about Clinton and sex harrassment has been debated all over these here internets, over and over, to a sickening degree...to the extent that it has been lost in the shuffle, it's been because of Althouse, which today sounds more like an conspiracy-mongering personality cult than ever before.posted by: festus on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
I don't think Ann's commenters are ideologically predisposed to think she did not overreact. Rather, I think because they are familiar with her work and interact with her routinely in comments, they are more likley to be sympathetic to her in general. It's not so much ideological "cocooning" as it is personal loyalty of some sort[.]
Well, there may also be an aspect of personal loyalty, but I think your better point is the observation about familiarity: it stands to reason that regular commenters at any blog are more familiar with the blogger, their record, their views, and so forth, and are thus far better able to see through what are plainly distortions of actual events than those who happen upon her for the first time, under the guidance of other bloggers, most of whom seem to have found no more constructive a way to work through their unrequited crush on Althouse than by hurling sharp objects at her.posted by: Simon on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
dude...wow...what are you talking about? I just don't get the "cabal" here. Franke-Ruta was having a debate, a conversation.
Yes, and she was having a debate, a conversation that took place in a context, and people that Franke-Ruta is associated with -- in the leftosphere generally and Tapped specifically -- form part of that context. She was clearly familiar enough with l'affair Valenti to bring it up, purportedly as an example of why Atlhouse inspired hostility in her circles - and yet we are asked to believe that she had no idea that this controversial subject that made a lot of her colleagues attack Althouse a lot might provoke a reaction? That simply isn't credible. If you walk into a room full of 9/11 firefighters and talk about the "so-called 'terrorist attacks,'" what do you imagine the reaction would be? Or, to take an extreme example, walk into a conference on climate change and make a speech about "so-called 'climate change'"? Like talking about "the war of northern agression" instead of "the civil war," the choice of words to describe an event are not neutral. Franke-Ruta's use of those words, in that context, was inflammatory.
Now - was it intended to be inflammatory? I'd suggest that the operative standard here isn't even whether, all things considered, in the cold light of day, once it's been psychoanalyzed and considered from every point of view, whether Althouse correctly construed Franke-Ruta's intent; it suffices for it to have been reasonable as a snap judgment. Put yourself in her place: here is this woman, whose cohorts have spent the last several years attacking me, viciously and repeatedly, and who have continually misrepresented my position about Valenti and Clinton in order to avoid answering it. And now she wants to throw out a coy reference to it, offhandedly in the middle of a sentence, as if that version of events is established as fact. I think Althouse made a reasonable snap judgement with the information available to her, and frankly, I think that the "cold light of day" reevaluation vindicates it.
There is a significant and vocal group of the left of the blogosphere who are absolutely determined to gag and punish Althouse for the unspeakable heresy of not accepting absolutely and in every particular their brand of liberal dogma. It isn't a defense that she actually agrees with them on most issues - no, she must agree with them on everything, and repent for the awful sin of having voted for Dubyah, or be hung in effigy throughout the "movement" leftosphere identified by Garance.posted by: Simon on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
This all strikes me as evidence of the work of group attribution errors, in-group bias, and other common forms of bias not specific to the internets.posted by: Daniel Nexon on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
Conceding for the sake of argument that Francke-Ruta's construction of the issue was biased, I think that while Althouse's anger is understandable, not least too because of some of the vile comments directed her way during the original controversy, her own gracious apology to Francke-Ruta at the close of the diavlog suggests she recognized her response to have been disproportionate. To overreact is not the end of the world -- the past history of the dispute was fraught with emotion -- but I think it's probably worth acknowledging.
I might add that Prof. Althouse's original concerns about President Clinton deserve consideration and debate, and I really think her choice to challenge another blogger's personal appearance rendered such reflection less likely, as well as being rude. The blogosphere is contentious (often for the better, to be sure) and it's hard to gauge precisely what tone to adopt in the ambiguous, fast-moving ether of electronic debate. But it's worth trying to notice when the cause of debate seems to be advanced by a more adversarial posture and when it's being harmed by one. It's also worth bearing in mind that "the right" or "the left," like "the religious" or "the secular," while useful as rough categories, don't say much about the diverse assemblage of people who comprise them. There's room for communication across and within all these kinds of lines; everyone is bound to be selective and to have priorities in such dialogue, but we shouldn't assume we thoroughly know others' intentions, reasons, or perspectives too quickly.posted by: mark on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
It's all very simple - many of us with lives outside the blogoshpere check blogs that reinforce our political/cultural/etc. biases because we want commentary on what we have read or learned without being insulted. I would love to read a liberal blog or two or columnist or two to get a different side of the day's controversies. However, I have yet to find one that is even minimally congenial to being read by someone on the Right. I would presume the same holds for most people from the Left - they have a hard time finding a conservative blog that doesn't insult them.
It's not some sort of strange behavior - it's common sense. A whole lot of us average Joes on the Left and the Right take enough crap during the day, we don't need it from some webhead, too.
Moderate Democrat Ann has twice in two years asked her readers to vote her the Conservative Blog Diva. How could a moderate democrat do that?
Study what she posts on, who she links to, who she blogrolls, what she says, the claim she is a Democrat is farce. The claim she is a Democrat that bashes Democrats is how she sells her Conservative Blog Ads (which is what she sells.)
A note about Simon, check the wiki entry for Ann Althouse and see who does the most policing of it and who likes to use the word vandalism and the power of revert.posted by: anon on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
Moderate Democrat Ann has twice in two years asked her readers to vote her the Conservative Blog Diva. How could a moderate democrat do that?Asked and answered.
Study what she posts on, who she links to, who she blogrolls, what she says, the claim she is a Democrat is farce.
She's pro gay marriage, pro choice, generally sympathetic to affirmative action... And while she's generally supportive of the war, she's been plenty critical of its handling, and in any event, one's view of the war says very little about one's political orientation (Pat Buchanan has opposed the war since day one; I suppose that would make a claim by him to be a democrat less farcical than Ann's, right, Anon?). So: what "conservative" positions does she take?
A note about Simon, check the wiki entry for Ann Althouse and see who does the most policing of it and who likes to use the word vandalism and the power of revert.
And you point is... What? That I'm not a neutral, disinterested voice in this? *chuckle* Of course I'm not. But that's irrelevant: I may not be disinterested, but neither are her critics. Am I seeing events through the lens of my preexisting feeling about Althouse? You bet. But that is no less the case for her detractors, all of whom made up their minds about Althouse a long time ago. And that isn’t a criticism, per se - Althouse inspires strong feelings, and I can entirely see that what to me engenders loyalty, affection and respect, to Lemieux, Klein et al engenders impotent rage. Ultimately, as I said upthread, who was a critic of Althouse yesterday is a critic of Althouse today; who liked her yesterday likes her today.
No doubt some of the folks attacking Ann over this are genuinely doing nothing more than jumping to Garance’s defense. But they are a tiny, invisible minority, compared to the lion’s share, which far from righteous indignation and the obligation to jump to Garance's defense are rubbing their hands in glee at yet another chance to hurl more abuse at Althouse. Old battle, same combatants, new ammunition.posted by: Simon on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
It seems to me that Bloggingheads should be considered neutral ground. Neither Garance nor Ann can call it home turf.posted by: MER on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
Althouse has a volatile temper, and it's come up before. Watching her spar with Andrew Sullivan is humorous, as he gets prissy and deliberately overstates people’s comments on controversial subjects, and Ann dons that puzzled look too easily when criticized.
Althouse is normally savaged by leftist critics for having the effrontery to call herself a Democrat. She is, at best, a tepid conservative and not even very libertarian.
I thought her comments at the beginning of the exchanges were really on point and stopped Franke-Ruta in her tracks. The points regarding how social scientists and/or governmental agencies might or might not be overlooking abuses due to multicultural motivated sensitivity. Franke-Ruta had no response to her point, and I found that much more interesting than Althouse’s inability to understand why lefty’s don't love her.
Franke-Ruta's self-styled "movement," the leftosphere
One of the primary reasons for miscommunication between left and right (or, the left and right who are interested in genuine communication) is the attributing the views of the entire 'other side' to individual commenters. She isn't responsible for what other people say or think, or for defending their positions.
be totally ignorant that her characterization of that argument was the "Jessica Valenti breast Controversy" rested on total acquiesence to one side's version of the story
I've heard this line several times from supporters of Althouse. But it makes me wonder what they would want it to be called? Or, rather, what would a neutral description of the incident be? Althouse did mention breasts several times.
Ultimately, this latest controversy is little more than an Althousian rohrschach...
I find that an odd thing to say for two reasons:
As for the Conservative Diva argument, Althouse doesn't make any sense. Compare it to a Black Diva contest- it isn't a contest about who is the most conservative (or, the most black), but being conservative (ie being Black) is still a precondition of the contest.
fwiw, the parallel to Lieberman/McCain is perfect- she's a lightning rod for criticism from the left because she calls herself a liberal but spends her time attacking liberals. That sort of character is going to be attacked by liberals and beloved of conservatives- when I look at her posts (she's "sick" of both Dems and Repubs bc of the attorney scandal? She wonders why keeping detainees at Gimto to undermine any possible rights they could claim "isn't persuasive to Gates and Rice"), she strikes me as a moderate conservative.
Just a clarification: Althouse may have genuinely liberal policy positions, but she seems to be taking in and handing out conservatives memes-of-the-moment.
Example: the USA scandal. A typical liberal is incensed. A typical conservative calls this 'politics as usual'.
From her front page today, I find this nugget:
Well the whole brouhaha was kind of interesting, but none of it changes the bottom line, which is that Ann Althouse treated Jessica Valenti despicably, and then, when called on it, acted like a petulant child, claiming to be The Victim. If she wonders why liberals are "mean" to her, she need look no further.posted by: alwsdad on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
I've heard this line several times from supporters of Althouse. But it makes me wonder what they would want it to be called? Or, rather, what would a neutral description of the incident be? Althouse did mention breasts several times.
A neutral definition would be one that didn't take sides. I'm going to stick with the civil war example I used earlier (it wasn't my idea, but it's an effective one, I think): what would be a "neutral" definition of the events that gripped this nation between 1861 and 1865? I think "the war of northern agression" wouldn't fit that requirement. "The war between the states" is more descriptive, but doesn't really capture it. "The civil war" is much better. Likewise, the reason the term Franke-Ruta used is inflammatory because it assumes that the controversy was about breasts. It wasn't. The "controversy" was really about the incapacity of Althouse's critics to answer in good faith her criticism of feminists associating with Clinton, and the controversy consisted of some incredibly vicious and illiberal things being said about Althouse over a protracted period of time. And I don't mean "vicious" in the debased value it has assumed in popular currency; I mean that if you read some of the things that have been said - including by people Franke-Ruta is associated with directly and indirectly - they are vicious in the full Jane Gray pound of silver "characterized by vice; grossly immoral; depraved; profligate" sense of the term. No person that I can think of who was on the other side of that controversy has the slightest bit of credibility to criticize a drop of ink from Althouse's pen about Valenti after the flood of it they spilled in attacking her. They want to hold her to Marquis of Queensbury rules while demanding license to fight freestyle.
To re-use another illustration: imagine if you're at a conference some day where Ann's on a panel, and suppose you step up to the mike and start asking a question by referring to "that bloggingheads segment where Ann went totally psycho on Garance." D'you think you're going to get your head handed to you because you brought up a soon-to-be touchy old subject, or because of the manner and context in which you raise it? There's a whole controversy that could be explained in a way that would make sense to people, but you just THROW OUT a term that is character assassinating to Ann...
See how easily this starts to sound familiar?
I find it an odd thing [for you to call this [little more than an Althousian rohrschach"] ... for two reasons: 1)you've given up so easily on the idea that things might actually be right or wrong. that sort of relativism is usually reserved for way-left folks, and then only under specific circumstances[,] [and] 2)you were so vigorously defending althouse moments before, but now you admit that, at best, it's just a matter of taste.
I concede that her critics look into it and see proof that the's batshit insane. That isn't to say that they're right. Likewise, as Dan notes in his post, those familiar with what actually happened who are at least somewhat sympathetic towards her see it as no such thing. I readily concede that someone who's never heard of Althouse or Valenti might watch this and think "wow, that was uncalled for," but I don't accept that as a valid metric.
And in any event: there is a correct response to a rohrschach test - it's an ink blot, and I have to admit suspicion that most of Ann Althouse's critics would say that an actual ink blot proved Althouse was batshit insane. These are not rational actors. (Side note: I now have an insane fantasy of a quasi-SNL skit where a psychotherapist is administering a rohrschach test to Robert Bork, and we can't see what's on the card because of the camera angle but we're led to believe it's an ordinary rohrschach; "tell me what you see," says the psychotherapist, and Bork says it's just an ink blot, whereupon the pyschotherapist tosses the card towards the camera and we see it's the ninth amendment, then the same again and when the card's tossed it's the 14th amendment, and so forth...)
One of the primary reasons for miscommunication between left and right (or, the left and right who are interested in genuine communication) is the attributing the views of the entire 'other side' to individual commenters. She isn't responsible for what other people say or think, or for defending their positions. If you can treat folks on the 'other side' as individuals with differing, nuanced viewpoints, you'll get a lot further in understanding.
I have no desire to be associated with the views of TAPPED or The American Prospect, which is why I don't work for them. Garance, however...
Likewise, I have no desire to be associated with FreeRepublic and the commenters at LGF, which is why I don't associate with them and will criticize their behavior freely, which of course is why Garance immediately agreed that her colleagues had been beastly towards Ann and should be horsewhipped for their behavior. If Garance wants to distance herself from the inchoate mass of the leftosphere, then that will be just marvellous. Except I missed the part in the divalog where she distanced herself from her colleagues...
If you let the barbarians at the gate in, I suppose it's possible that they just want to drink some tea and chew the fat, but if that's what they have in mind, there are far better ways to declare that intention. Your suggestion's three days too late; it might have been credible before their single-voiced seizing on someone losing their temper and what could reasonably have been regarded as yet another pot shot in an ongoing savagery. But right now, I can't hear your appeal to reason over the deafening cacophany of a thousand axes being ground at once.posted by: Simon on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
the people who know the back story think she's clearly in the right,
1) You are overstating this in terms of whether people think Althouse was "in the right" with regard to the original, backstory brouhaha. I agreed with Althouse's sexual-harassment criticism, and also didn't--and don't--think she was originally trying to attack Valenti. But I do not believe she handled that situation well after the controversy got under way; at least, I don't agree with how she chose to proceed. I'm no fan of Feministing, though I do scan it in feed because of some of the issues and stories it highlights, and generally couldn't care less either way about what Jessica Valenti does or says. But I also can see the situation from her point of view, and Althouse did choose to make it personal. That's fine; her choice; this is the blogosphere; and it's not as if other bloggers, including those who got involved in that brouhah, didn't make the same choice. It's silly, however, to pretend that there wasn't more than one way took at the situation, or that Valenti could validly feel hurt, humiliated and attacked as a result of how the whole thing played out.
2) You are misstating this in terms of whether people think Althouse was "in the right" with regard to the current brouhaha. I know the backstory every bit as thoroughly as you (maybe even more so), and I DO NOT think Althouse was in the right. In fact, while I had previously kept my opinions to myself about this, I deliberately went over to Althouse right before composing this comment to state that explicitly "to her face," so to speak, first.
I know the backstory; I've read Althouse almost from the beginning; I like the majority of what she does on her blog (outside of these types of flaps); I'm a fan of the podcasts; and I can fairly be characterized as a regular, I think. She has shown some kindnesses to me offline via e-mail, for which I'm grateful (which gratitude does not require blind loyalty, however), and in fact she's the one who encouraged me to get a blogger account so I could start commenting.
Yet I--***clearly***--do NOT think she was in the right. You don't speak for "everybody" who's a non-anti-Althouse regular, Simon, though you appear to be presenting yourself that way.
It's NOT white knights against black knights, however much you might like to present it that way, here, there and everywhere. Life's a whole lot messier and nuanced than that, which understanding you demonstrate with regard to every other topic on which you post apart from Althouse herself.
Sorry for failing to close the bold in "1)". I meant only to bold the word "overstating." Dan, I don't know if you ever fix commenters comments in this way or not, but if you do, it would sure make the first part of my comment more readable. I don't feel nearly as vehement as that excessive bolding would indicate!
Thanks.posted by: reader_iam on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
Rather, I suggest that the standard of review should be a fairly deferential clear error standard: even if an alternative interpretation of Garance's remarks is possible, even if there is evidence to support that alternative reading, are those alternatives so plainly compelling and self-evident that we can say with definite and firm conviction that Ann's reaction was a clearly and totally unreasonable interpretation? That is, was it a reasonable snap judgment, in the context of that moment, after Garance's comments earlier in the divalog, and in view of the way Garance's fellow-travellers in their so-called "movement" have treated Althouse over the last few years, to interpret those remarks as a snarky attack?
A better phrashing would have been that "the people who know the back story think she's clearly within her rights." (I do accept, as I must, that even that is a generalization, and I concede that it may be possible to be familiar with all of the context, and accept my view of the standard of review, yet still conclude that Ann's judgement was unreasonable, but I find that very hard to imagine.)
I suppose my request would be for you to clarify what you mean by saying she was in the wrong. Do you mean that you reject the standard I advance, or do you accept it and say that her conduct failed even that test?
The other point that I must pick up is the implication that I'm unwilling to accept criticism of Althouse, or that I'm being excessively deferential to her for reasons left unstated ("gratitude does not require blind loyalty"; "[l]ife's a whole lot messier and nuanced than that, which understanding you demonstrate with regard to every other topic on which you post apart from Althouse herself"). I'm not offended by, but am somewhat bemused by, that claim, especially from a regular commenter at Althouse, because I feel as though my comments routinely and regularly dissent from Ann's positions, not just on minor subjects but on the most significant subjects.
Moreover, I wrote a post last year - ironically enough, dissenting from the last bhtv divalog - wherein (I feel) I attacked her position on the legal status of abortion in no uncertain terms. To be sure, I'd be less than honest if I didn't admit that I tried a dozen ways to write that post that were less caustic before giving in and facing the inevitable (that there was really only one way it could be written), but nevertheless, I felt she was not only completely wrong, but worse yet, she was stating a position that was, I felt, wildly inconsistent with principles she herself had previously enunciated, which I thought she was setting aside purely because they demanded a result that Ann was unwilling to accept politically. And said as much. So the inconvenient truth that dogs the idea that I have "blind loyalty" towards Ann is that I literally can't think of anyone who has provoked me to respond with a more comprehensive fisking of a position than has Ann Althouse.
All that being the case, I really don't know what to make of what I take to be the claim that I to kowtow Althouse. When I think she's wrong, I say so.posted by: Simon on 03.27.07 at 09:13 AM [permalink]
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