Saturday, February 08, 2003

Some more mail, this time about my old porn post (which generates a lot of google hits, I have to say), which was then followed up by another short post:

I enjoyed reading your website. Since my job right now is insanely boring (document review which is completely pointless - adding insult toinjury) I started reading more and more of your stuff. While I agree with a lot of what you said, enjoyed reading what I didn't agree with, and was impressed by your knowledge of politics and foreign affairs, I did feel compelled to comment on something you wrote. Anyway, I wanted to respond to your comments about violent porn. As someone with dom tendencies, I have some of the fantasies that your
referred to in your blog. So part of my reason for writing you is simply to say, "lay off my fantasies." And my porn too, of course. Having had several relationships that, in large part, centered around exploring my dom fantasies as well as my gf's sub fantasies, I think I have a better perspective than people who have never had any true exposure to it, and it annoys me that people who don't know what they are talking about are talking about (possibly) banning something they don't understand.

Case in point, Avedon Carol's comment, "There are several adages floating around the BDSM community to the effect that the person who really controls a scene is the "bottom", not the "top". It doesn't take much thinking to realize that in a heavy bondage scene, it's the person who does all that tying up and beating who also has to do all the thinking and planning and work; meanwhile, the bottom or submissive just gets to lie back and be the center of attention."

Anyone who could write that has absolutely no experience as a top, and no experience in the 'scene. It may seem counter-intuitive, but, in my experience, it is part of the dom's purpose to push the limits of the sub, and the sub's to make sure that it doesn't go too far. Hence the prevalence of safety words and phrases - no top is ever going to say "Eclipse! I'm spanking you too hard and I can't take it." Of course, if the dom is observent and considerate, it wouldn't be necessary to use the safety word or phrase, as he was able to tell that the bottom was reaching her limits, or was at the limit of where they wanted to go that day.

But I digress. :) My point is that, while you recognize that the fact that you occasionally have rape fantasies doesn't mean that you actually want to get raped, you don't believe that a dominent person who has the same fantasies can keep them in the fantasy world. In fact, I find the idea of actually raping someone completely abhorrent, and I don't think that I am alone in that among dominent men.

Specifically, what I disagree with is when you said, "the commercial production of those fantasies to model those behaviors to others is a problem, because while self expression poses no dangers of modeling violent behavior and placing it in an acceptable light, distributing those fantasies for consumption by others does."

Would you agree with me if I said that the commercial production of those fantasies to model those behaviors to others is a problem, because while self expression poses no dangers of modeling [submissive]
behavior and placing it in an acceptable light, distributing those fantasies for consumption by others does. Is there any danger of you watching 'Slap Happy' and then wandering naked through Central Park? No one seems to
think that women will somehow develop a taste for being raped, while everyone is terrified that I will switch from happily living out a fantasy with consenting adults to raping women.

Rape has, unfortunately, existed for thousands of years, and we can't blame the media and violent fantasies for almost its entire history. I don't know what causes rape, nor do I have a good method to stop it, other than possibly chemical castration as a mandatory punishment for rape. But I do know that we won't eliminate rape by outlawing movies, books and animation that features it. I have absolutely no facts to back this
up, other then the knowledge that crime in Japan is much lower than in the US, but given the prevalence of rape in Manga and Hentai Japanimation, it would make sense that rape in Japan is much more common that in the
U.S., but I don't believe that to be the case.

Anyway, I should get back to work. I have no idea whether you find any of this interesting, but I felt like venting. I enjoyed your blog very much.


Hi Tor.
Thanks for your email. I totally don't think that anyone who had dom fantasies is going to turn into a rapist. I don't even think I implied it. I definitely don't think there's anything inherently wrong with a dom fantasy, just as there isn't anything inherently wrong with a sub fantasy. I was just saying I had read studies, which to me were convincing, which demonstrated that there was an increased likelihood (which is different from a definite outcome) that people who watched lots of violent behavior being modeled would actually behave violently. And since porn is less necessary to society than art or political speech, there could be a little more leeway in how it was restricted. However, even though I said that then, I think it was just a position I was trying on for size, and I'm probably going to reject it and go back to my free speech absolutism.


Tor writes:

I recognized that you are just 'trying the position on for size', but the defection of a single free-speech absolutist is unacceptable. Actually, I'm not sure I'm a FSA, but I do believe in free porn. When you say,
"And since porn is less necessary to society than art or political speech, there could be a little more leeway in how it was restricted," I have to disagree with your characterization of porn as less necessary. One of the seminal reasons the internet even exists is porn, as I can't think of another catalyst that would have provided the energy necessary for the internet to jump from ARPANET to the information superhighway. So I'm going to say that porn is responsible for the internet. But whether that is true or not, should the fact that people are ashamed of their porn mean that it is less necessary to society?

The fact that most porn owning or appreciating people will not admit to their use of porn shouldn't mean that porn is any less necessary than, say, commercial speech. In fact, as porn sites for a long time comprised a majority of the money making sites on the web, one could consider it commercial speech, and not obscenity. And the fact that people -apparently- enjoy porn so much should make it as necessary as 'fine art,' in kind of a value neutral way. I would venture to guess that more people 'appreciate' Playboy than Picasso on any given day. And more people 'appreciate' Playgirl than Caravaggio. Caravaggio is very underappreciated. I just think that if we are going to decide what is necessary to society, we shouldn't just pick the things people are proud of.


I got some email asking me how I could possibly support war in Iraq.

I’m not exactly supporting war in Iraq. I’m just pretty much in agonies of indecision over the issue. I’m not the only one I know who feels that way.

Believe me, I’m skeptical. I have no idea what post-war Iraq will look like, or how a peace could possibly secured that won’t just usher in another war, or at least several smaller scale conflicts, if heavy continued U.S. presence in the region prevents all out war. I don’t hear any realistic plans from the Bush Administration about post-war rebuilding. Like Atrios, I also don’t hear a major effort from the media to question the Bush Administration about their plans. I don’t hear a major effort from the media to question the Bush Administration about anything. That’s not the way the American media is structured. It’s very disturbing to me when I read about the coming Turkish occupation of Kurdish territory in Iraq, or I look forward to the probable U.S. control of oil production in Iraq. I realize that even if the U.S. is initially welcomed as a liberator, years and years of foreign occupation and profit from Iraqi resources could easily sour that welcome. I would love it if someone were in charge of these operations whose motives I wasn’t entirely suspicious of. Like Jeanne d’Arc, I get seriously freaked out when I hear about the U.S. government talking using nuclear weapons in Iraq. We should not be lowering the nuclear threshold for any reason.

But what are the alternatives on the other side of the fence? Are we to decide that we just won’t believe a word that comes out of Colin Powell’s mouth? I think a lot of the evidence presented in his speech was credible, and that Iraq is almost certainly in material breach of Resolution 1441. So what is our answer to that? Just let it happen? What is the point of the U.N. Security Council if its rules aren’t enforced? So what then? More inspections? It seems to me that it would take a heavily armed massive inspection team to make sure Iraq had surrendered all of its prohibited weapons, a team basically akin to an occupying force. I think the presence of such a team and the inevitable conflicts that would arise would eventually lead to a war anyway. And even if they didn’t, how long would the inspectors stay there, making sure that Saddam didn’t rearm? The rest of Saddam’s natural life? The will on the part of the international community wouldn’t last that long. The only reason it’s there now is because Bush pushed the issue so hard. I don’t think Saddam will use his weapons to directly attack the United States. But when you compare the situation in Iraq to the situation in North Korea, one is led to ask, why can’t we do anything about North Korea’s nuclear posturing? And the answer is because NK is in a good position to inflict serious harm on its neighbors. When dictators get their hands on very powerful weaponry, it makes them more belligerent and harder to control. There are lots of indicators that Saddam is not a rational actor, and he’s willing to take actions that jeopardize his own survival. So how would we stop him if he decided to reoccupy Kuwait and he were in possession of weapons of mass destruction, without massive loss of life? And even if our powerful desire to stop him is in part due to a desire to secure oil production in the region, does that change the fact that it’s bad if a murderous dictator gets to roll into a sovereign nation unchecked? And I know someone’s thinking right now, “Oh, like we’re about to roll into a sovereign nation?” But I think we’re likely to get a Security Council authorization for whatever action we take, and that does change the kind of precedent we’re setting. It’s not preemptive; it’s enforcing the U.N. Resolution, which we probably wouldn’t have gotten in the first place if Bush hadn’t announced his intention to do whatever he wanted. I guess those are the games you have to play. It just won't be good for anyone's peace, stability or security to have a nuclear-armed, belligerent, ambitious dictator throwing around his weight in the Middle East.

So basically, I don’t know. I think that invasion might be the right thing, but I wish someone else were in charge of it and there were a credible post-war plan. I know this is just a rehash of things you’ve heard elsewhere. I don’t claim to have anything new to say on the subject. I just want to explain my thinking, since I was asked. I do know that I can’t go to the anti-war rally, which several people have invited me to. I just don’t know that I oppose the war. Believe me, I don’t feel great about it either.

Friday, February 07, 2003

Wow, good for Andrew Sullivan, I have to say. My respect for him just skyrocketed. (It was pretty low before.) It's one thing to honestly support Bush's foreign policy (and even I'm being drawn a little further over to the hawks, but I still refuse to commit). My problem with him was always that he seemed little more than an apologist for Bush, incapable of criticizing anything he did, and at the same time he would misrepresent the positions of people he disagreed with. That last part is probably still true, but he just proved that when Bush behaves in a way that is not "conservative" in any sense of the word, Andrew Sullivan does have a core set of beliefs that will motivate him to criticize him. Good show.

Or maybe he just wanted to prove the lightbulb joke wrong.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

I'm sure everyone will have seen these by now, but here's the wonkish story about the Bush budget.

And here it is adapted for the screen.

Mark Kleiman comments.

This is the kind of thing I don't really have the expertise to be insightful about, but I figure I ought to link more regularly to things I think are important, even if I don't have much to say.

Here's my comment:
That plunging red line sure is scary. That's my future, or at least, it will be if someone fiscally responsible doesn't come along to dig us out of this hole, and even if the tax code gets fixed, the revenues will still be forever lost. I'm sorry, but how do raging budget deficits get to be conservative, much less compassionate?
I have a question for the technically inclined readers of my blog: Is there an html tag that keeps your blog from being crawled by search engines? The comments are weird lately, so maybe you should email the answer. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

You know, &c. posts like this one make me think Bob Somerby is right about everything:

WHILE WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT, the one person who seems to be unambiguously hurt by revelations of John Kerry's Jewish heritage is John Kerry. And the reason has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. As this Boston Globe article suggests, Kerry's evasiveness on the issue "mirrors a larger confusion about his essence: Who is he? What does he believe in? Whether the issue is war with Iraq or support for affirmative action, his political core is hard to pin down, perhaps as difficult as his personal roots." Talk about becoming a prisoner of your own media narrative....

Why on earth is &c. not the least bit critical of that narrative? Why is Kerry a prisoner? How is it that &c. can call the narrative "his own" when it is so clearly concocted by his opponents?

And why in God's name does having a Jewish grandparent mean you don't know who you are? I have a Jewish father and an Episcopalian mother. I know who I am.

This absurd Boston Globe article starts with the sentence, "Massachusetts voters could never quite figure out who John Kerry is," but provides no evidence for this assertion that this is a widespread attitude, other than that's now the press narrative. The article goes on to imply that this dialogue is somehow unclear or evasive:

McLaughlin: I remember -- and maybe this is one of the bases for the ''enigma'' rap, and that is that you -- your name is Kerry. You're obviously Irish, your dad.

Kerry: No, I'm a mixture.

McLaughlin: Well, your father's Irish. Right?

Kerry: No. My father came from Austria.

McLaughlin: Oh, did he?

Kerry: Yeah. And I actually came over, what . . . his grandfather came over originally in 19 -- gosh -- '10, '12, somewhere around there. But my grandmother converted from Judaism somewhere in the -- I don't know . . . we're still trying to find all the details of it.

McLaughlin: But the name ''Kerry'' is an Irish name.

Kerry: Oh, I presume. Irish, English . . .

McLaughlin: Does your father have some Irish in him?

Kerry: I don't know the answer to that. We're looking and I don't know.

How is that unclear? So he couldn't recite his entire genealogy from memory. He was certainly clear that his grandmother was born Jewish.

Why does &c read this drivel and not criticize it?

Next we'll be hearing about how Kerry claimed he discovered Chernobyl, how he said he and Theresa were the inspirations for
, and how he claimed to have invented Morse Code.

Jesus. Oh, but I'm not Christian--I shouldn't say that. It might mean I don't know who I am.
As long as I’m taking issue with things Mark Kleiman wrote, I might as well take up the question of marijuana legalization.

He argues for keeping the commercial production and distribution of marijuana illegal, because, among other reasons

Being a pothead isn't nearly as bad for you, or for the people around you, as being a drunk. It doesn't cause violence, it doesn't rot your liver, and, for most people, the period of continual intoxication passes after several months and doesn't return. But some people -- everyone my age knows a few -- get caught in very-long-term patterns of dependency, and even the shorter period is nothing to write home about, putting aside the risk of being busted. If it happens to coincide with, say, the tenth grade -- and cannabis initiation happens much earlier now than it did twenty years ago -- some schoolwork, and some emotional growing-up, are likely to be missed, and not all of what's missed is going to be made up later.

I would never argue that nobody smokes too much pot, or that it’s inconceivable that habitual pot smoking saps people of motivation. However, I think observing that some people are lazy and apathetic for a long period of time, and then observing that they are also habitual marijuana users actually doesn’t demonstrate that its their marijuana dependency that’s causing their laziness and apathy. If you are listless, disaffected, or looking for a way to tune out of your environment, then marijuana provides a good way to do it. One of my experiences with it is that it makes things that are very boring much more tolerable, since it provides a certain degree of internal stimulation to concentrate on (whoah, my muscles feel all swirly), and reduces the degree to which your senses are invested in what’s going on around you. However, there are many other good ways to do it: video games, for example, and no one’s suggesting making them illegal, even though I can testify that my abuse of Civilization II was much more damaging to my psychological and physical health than any pot I ever smoked, and I’m not the only person I knew who had a problem with Civ. If you really want to disengage, you’ll find something to help you do it. Some people eat constantly as a way to concentrate on internal stimulation rather than thinking about their environment. I’m not arguing that marijuana is never the causative factor, I’m just saying that the coincidence of marijuana smoking and extreme disengagement is not prima facie evidence for the former causing the latter. Personally, I’ve known several heavy marijuana smokers (I’m defining heavy here as gets high once a day, and smokes enough to maintain it for say, 2-3 hours. I realize there are heavier ones), who lived very active, energetic lives. They just didn’t get high when they were doing their active, energetic things. They had no desire to sit around all day, or to find something (pot, video games, name your poison) that made it happen.

In any case, I think it’s just absurdly paternalistic for the government to keep commericial production of marijuana illegal because it makes some people lazy. U.S. citizens can exercise their own judgment and will power about pot the same way they can about Civ II or Little Debbie’s Snack Cakes. I also don’t like Mark’s grow your own plan; if it’s safe enough to grow legally, it’s safe enough to sell legally. Not everyone will live in environments where it’s easy to grow their own; why on earth should they not have the same rights as someone who does? Under Mark’s plan, there will still be dealers, and those dealers will still be unfairly criminalized. As someone who saw someone she knew and liked murdered because her murderers thought it was safe to rob her—she was a pot dealer and couldn’t call the police—I strongly feel there is no excuse for criminalizing honest business people who are selling a product that is no more dangerous than lots of amusements that are already legal. Sure, it’s sometimes abused. But it’s the responsibility of individuals, not the government, to make sure they use it responsibly.

Monday, February 03, 2003

As I frequently protest when posting to this blog, my blog is not really supposed to be political, because what I know about foreign and domestic affairs is about what Ben Shapiro knows about women. So I like to share little anecdotes from my personal life, or the lives of people I know, because that’s something I do know about, and perhaps hopefully add a little insight into the workings of human relations in friendships and families, if not on the world stage.

So I was inspired by this excellent piece of advice for straight men, found over at Two Tears and a Bucket, to issue my own public service announcement, mine for straight women:

Don’t take romantic advice from other women. Women give terrible romantic advice. Except for me, because having learned the reason most women give terrible romantic advice, I now correct for it in my own advice giving, and now my advice giving combines the best aspects of advice from both genders.

Who should you take romantic advice from? Men, straight or gay. Or women who’ve learned the error of their ways, like me.

Why should you never take romantic advice from women?

Women want to be reaffirmed. A lot. Because women want to be reaffirmed, they know that other women want to be reaffirmed. So when women are upset about an interaction with a man, their female friends want to offer reaffirmation. He's being a jerk, they nearly always tell the distraught woman. Also, it's a really unfortunate thing to admit, but Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus has some valuable insights to offer. Actually, I've never read that book. I just think its thesis, as I understand it--that most men and women have fundamentally different communication styles, and this will be a source of conflict in most straight relationships--is true in my observation. Even the femmest guy I dated (who practically everyone thought was gay), was a Martian at heart, in fact, he may have been the most Martian of all. Women understand the communication style and behaviors of other women. They don't understand the communication styles of men. So when they hear about a dispute between a man and a woman, the woman's behavior makes sense to them. The man's does not. Furthermore, they identify with the distraught woman. Her conflicts remind them of their own. If she's right in this situation, they were just a little more right in all the arguments they've had in the past. You're absolutely right, they tell the distraught woman. He's such an ass. Even when the advice-giving women are hip to the Mars/Venus dynamic, which they probably are, it doesn't make a difference, because then they assume that the "female" style of relating is better: "Why can't men talk about their feelings? What's wrong with them? They're so repressed." They don't seem to realize that it's a brave new relativistic world we're living in, and there's just no objective reason to think that the woman's way is better than the man's. Even if there were, it wouldn't matter, because it's still a man you're trying to have a relationship with, and the way to resolve conflicts is to compromise, to try it their way for a while, and in my observation of advice giving women (which is not all-encompassing I admit; I think I am now an exception to this rule; there may be scattered others), they don't urge the distressed woman to compromise at all. They just affirm, affirm, affirm, and often, women's romantic advice is the direct cause of major trouble in a relationship.

Here is an example.

I have a friend. I'll call her Sally.

I love Sally. Sally, as a matter of fact, is more like me in the way her emotions work than any other human being I've ever met. As soon as I discerned this similarity, I didn't even have to know Sally that well in order to know her really well. I know how certain dramas in Sally's life are going to play out before they do. But Sally is really self-deluded in some ways, ways I've been self-deluded, although I think I snap out of it a little more thoroughly than she does.

In 2001-2002 my friend Sally had a gentleman friend who was a member of the special forces of the Air Force. (Here’s some gossip: Did you know that the stealth bomber might give pilots brain cancer? Sally’s gentleman friend was a stealth bomber pilot. Another stealth pilot and he both got malignant tumors in exactly the same part of their brains. They were both young men and they both had no history of that kind of cancer in their families.) I would call him a fuck buddy. They met occasionally to spend the weekend together. He never told her he loved her or anything like that. Sally, naturally, hoped for more, although she knew intellectually it was never going to happen. He went off to the Middle East post-September 11th (but came back occasionally, and they would see each other). He also had other girlfriends. She hadn’t heard from him for several months, and she got worried, since he’d had brain cancer and he was sometimes called off in the middle of the night to paratroop somewhere, or some such thing. Finally, she got through to him via email. “Sally,” he said, “I’ve been trying to email you. Life is good. Married, with a baby on the way. Will talk soon.”

Naturally, Sally got this and was upset. She likes to think the reason she was upset is the way he told her (but he said he had sent her other emails; she doesn’t know what the content of those was), but in fact, she was upset because she was jealous. He had gone off and gotten married and didn’t want to be with her any more.

If she had been interested in being friends with him, the logical thing to do would have been to send him an email saying “Congratulations! Whoah, that was sudden. I’ll have to get details. Here’s what’s going on in my life.” She could talk about how upset she was, how he didn’t even have the consideration to pick up the phone and call her, how they promised that if they found another relationship they’d tell each other, etc. etc. to her friends. That’s the appropriate outlet for those sentiments. In fact, something along those lines was her first impulse. But then, she got The Advice.

“Sally,” said her friend, who is also my relative, “Nowhere in this email do you say that you’re angry at him. You should tell him how you really feel.”

So Sally writes him a big email telling him how mad she was (I didn’t see it). He wrote back (she didn’t tell me what was in it). She wrote him back telling him she didn’t like his response. And that was it. Later she told me, “I didn’t like the way he behaved, but I don’t need him in my life.” Oh the irony! She was supposedly mad at HIM for trivializing the value of their relationship, but stuffing it for a moment and extending a simple, uncomplicated congratulations was too much for her to do to preserve that relationship. In fact, she wasn’t interested in a real friendship, but she managed to turn it around so that he was doing the rejecting.

But anyway, the advice. If Sally had asked a man, the man would have said, “Look, the guy just got married. Who knows, maybe he got cornered into it by the baby. He’s not ready to talk about it right now. Cut him some slack and be understanding if you want to keep up the friendship.” Or something like that. And that advice would have encouraged compromise. Maybe sometime later, when their post-marriage friendship was in a less vulnerable stage, she could bring up that she had been hurt. Contrary to the Venutian ethic, it is not advisable to express one’s feelings at every moment of the day, especially when dealing with Martians.

In fact, that’s just about the advice I gave her, except I combined the best elements of female and male advice giving: I reaffirmed her and then I told her to stuff it: “I know, that’s just awful. He couldn’t have picked up the phone? I would be so upset if some ex-boyfriend of mine got married and didn’t even tell me. I totally understand. But you know, you don’t even know what’s going on with him right now; his life is probably really complicated. You don’t know why he got married. Maybe it was because of this kid and he might even be a little embarrassed. Men aren’t good at expressing their feelings like we are, so we just have to tolerate that. Also, another thing I’ve noticed that men often can’t do that well is maintain truly intimate relations with women other than their romantic partner. I’ve gotten totally dumped as a friend by some men as soon as they found girlfriends. So probably it’s hard for him to talk to you with the same frankness he did before. Your relationship will probably have to redefine itself. It’s totally natural to be hurt and jealous though, I would be. He didn’t treat your relationship like the important thing it was. But he probably just needs some time.”

Tragically, I came to the situation too late. She had already gotten The Advice and sent the angry email off. I did, however, have a temporary salutary effect, and a few days later she said she had been thinking about what I had said—that the news of his marriage was an ego wound, and that she was being narcissistic. I didn’t, in fact, say that, but I wouldn’t have disagreed, exactly, either. Anyway, she actually seemed to be drinking the notion in. But then she got an email from him and fired one back and that was that.

It may be that their relationship was destined to end anyway, and that it’s all for the best. But my point is about advice. My relative’s advice was designed to HELP THE RELATIONSHIP. I ask you, was it not terrible advice? Tragically, I’ve witnessed this advice being given by female friends all across the nation. It’s possible the phenomenon’s reach is worldwide. So if you’re a woman, and you take advice from women, try to discern whether their advice fits the pattern I’ve described. Do they endlessly support you while never seeing the man’s point of view? Do they encourage you to express your feelings at every turn? Do they tell you all about how this bastard is just like their jerk of an ex-boyfriend? If they do, those are tell-tale signs you’re getting some bad advice. If you’re interested in relationships that work rather than end, don’t take it. Get your romantic advice from a man. Be prepared for some ego bruising and some total incomprehension on their part, but they’ll know better than you do how to relate to your boyfriend.

Thus concludes my public service announcement.
As someone in the I-Don't-Know camp vis-a-vis Iraq, I don't feel I should participate in this campaign. But I'm happy to spread the word about Rice for Peace. Via Jeanne d'Arc.

Sacred Chow, always a pleasant place to get your lefty sentiment and your vegan cake, had signs up in front of their baked goods today: "Scones not Bombs." And my server was wearing a t-shirt with a picture on one side of a woman playfully pulling her undies down on one side and a picture of George W. on the other. The captions were "good bush" and "bad Bush."
I don't know whether or not we should invade Iraq. I do know, however, that I'd rather entrust the job to Scooby Doo than to our current administration.

At the very LEAST, if proposing a war, the necessity of which is not at all transparent, our fearless leaders must demonstrate that they do it not because they think it will all be a video game, but because their conviction of the necessity is strong enough that they can propose it even while staring the horrors of war full in the face. They must be able to ask for support for war from the American people with a stunning, graphic depiction of bleating animals, screaming women holding their dying babies, and men's bodies being trampled at their back. If they did this, then we could all be assured that they understood and were willing to confront the suffering we were about to cause, and they truly believed that the ultimate good we were striving for would redeem that suffering.

But that's not what they're doing. Even if the Bushies were not directly responsible for this, they should ask that the painting be uncovered, because its concealment is an affront to their honesty. But they won't do that.

What was that you were saying about Orwell, Mr. Sullivan? As the Rittenhouse Review would say, please call your office.

Via Atrios.
I got this letter:

Hello, GC

Hey anyone who channels Rodgers and Hammerstein is okay by me. And I’m sorry about your aunt’s identity theft. Has happened in my family, wasn’t pretty.

Obviously a would-be protestor should have the courage to sign her own name and not yours.

But I am still puzzling on the subject of “whoever.”

“whoever has the most buying power would be able to determine the content of any free (i.e. advertising sponsored--and all us bloggers rely on advertising sponsored media as primary sources) media”.”

Surely you don’t imagine with my shopping cart, pitifully tossing out the Pfizer pharmaceutical products, and cackling as I shut down one more radio talk show.

No, I don’t usually hold with corporate arm twisting to control product. (Incidentally, are you away of the Rush’s successful extortion that closed down Talk show host Randi Rhodes?).

Being “against” boycotts seemed to me more like being “against” lawsuits…There are cases and cases, what makes one “frivolous” has to be decided on its merits.

I am REALLY for freedom of speech, kid. But the meaning of “free” in these matters is, first of all. “Not on my dime.”

My hope is that withholding my credit card selectively may help advertisers rethink why they are sponsoring Rush in the first place. There are times when I feel extremely naïve for doing this, I don’t think advertising is the whole story either, and if stripped of his commercial sponsors Rush would still be bloviating based on the right wing foundations that profit from his “product.” Could happen, then at least we would all notice.….

If it doesn’t, anyway, I lose that overly precious sense that “my” headache or nausea relief is worth speeding a few bucks to fling epithets at a veteran who is protesting for peace. I can make that much sacrifice and call it Lent.

I don’t particularly see hurt feelings as the issue, but that Americans ought to be able to exercise the rights for which they are asked to sacrifice

And that threat you seem to visualize as ultimately distant way-- Strikes me as a good description of current reality. Are you aware that Presently, “10 companies own over 90 percent of the media outlets?” And that the current administration is in process of removing the last barriers to monopoly? Try to find a good channel in ANY market that hosts an exchange of views with “liberal” callers with any measure of courtesy.

America seems more and more like a company town, where the mayor is also the police chief and CEO of the chief employer. I.e. a deeply claustrophobic place. You might ponder that, as far as “liberal” listener goes, tomorrow is already here.

KG Miller (enclosed comment
came from Molly Ivins column, linked below.
Molly Ivins

Best wishes --

KG Miller

My response:

Dear KG,

First of all, my objections to this Take Back the Media campaign are not so much aimed at the individual practitioners, but at the overriding logic of the campaign and its advisability as a strategy for the left. I don't envision you cackling maniacally as you toss Pfizer products out of your shopping cart. Second of all, I'd just like to make it clear that I don't think this TBTM boycott is the gravest problem facing our nation. Clearly, that is Keanu Reeves's enduring ability to get speaking parts in major motion pictures.

Over on Matthew Yglesias's blog, I argued that I didn't think this campaign was justifiable on "what if everyone did as I did?" grounds, and that ought to be a first test. Basically, the response I got was along the lines of, "Oh, nobody reads Kant anymore." That may be true. I've never read Kant. (But it kind of drives me crazy when I'm talking to people and trying on different moral philosophies and I get labeled as Kantian or utilitarian and my interlocutor doesn't really engage with me, but just categorizes my line of thinking and moves on.) Anyway, their point was that I should really think of the consequences of this particular boycott.

Alright, what would the consequences be? One bloviating right-wing asshole would be off the air. That would not eliminate the demand to be pandered to by bloviating right-wing assholes. Another would take his place, and the talk radio contingent would probably be galvanized, in their own sort of way, by the loss of their favorite BRWA. What is it the right wing says about the left: that we try to smother their viewpoint? That we're whiny and we complain about their success rather than mounting are own serious challenges? This campaign just plays into that stereotype, and it's doubtful to me that it will have any great positive consequences. I actually don't think you should underestimate the right wing and its ability to mobilize its base. If we actually get Rush off the air, they will be pissed, and it's not unlikely to me that they'll look for a left-wing figure they can punish. I understand your point about media concentration, and I do think its a problem. But the concentration of lots of content under a few corporate auspices is one thing. The concentration of lots of content under a few corporate auspices with motivated grassroots on either fringe (and again, don't underestimate the ability of the right wing to be more organized than we are) actively punishing advertisers who sponsor content that's edgy or extreme or offensive to some people is quite another, and it would be much worse.

I do know about Randi Rhodes. Actually, I think Rush's suppression of her would be a good justification for a boycott. The aim of that boycott could be getting Rush to retract his statement that he would leave Clear Channel if Rhodes were syndicated. But it's not the justification Take Back the Media is using. (Because it's less sexy, I guess.) Take Back the Media is announcing that its reason for boycotting is that "Rush Limbaugh calls War Protesters 'Anti-American, Anti-Capitalist Marxists and Communists'!" Elsewhere on the site, it calls Rush Limbaugh "hate speech." I grew up, partly, in Los Banos, CA. I've listened to some Rush. He's obnoxious, he lies, but if we're calling him hate speech than we have just expanded the definition too far (especially since there are settings where "hate speech" is banned). By this logic, anyone who said something like "Bush is a terrorist" would also be guilty of hate speech. If these tactics continue, advertisers will just avoid any political commentator who's half way to extreme as if the advertisement were a product endorsement from Osama bin Laden, and then ALL we will be left with is the concentrated media under a few corporate auspices, oh yeah, and whatever's funded by right wing foundations. Like I said, if you don't think this Rush boycott could encourage that kind of action from the right, I think you underestimate the right.

Goblin Queen

Sunday, February 02, 2003

Matthew Yglesias makes a point that I was going to make in my extended tirade against the Fumento ADHD article, but then decided that I had made enough points for one rant: that ADHD may not be commonly abused by people it's prescribed for, but it's resold and other kids take it like they would an amphetamine.
Ampersand and Trish Wilson are exactly right about this cartoon.

I can believe that the artist did not intend to create an anti-Semitic image--he was riffing on Saturn Devouring One of His Children.

However, as they teach you when you're a lit major nowadays, intent doesn't mean much. It's the effect of the text on the reader that matters. And yes, maybe there's another source for the image but no one with any knowledge of history could look at that cartoon and not think of the Jews-eat-babies myth, which comes to my mind much more quickly when I look at that cartoon than any Goya painting. Its effect is profoundly, offensively anti-Semitic.

Though the artist's narrative of his own thought processes is convincing, where was the editorial staff of the Independent while this cartoon was making its way to the pages? No one looked at that cartoon and thought, "Gee, we're using a pogrom- and Holocaust-justifying stereotype to caricature Sharon. Maybe this is a bad idea"? Evidently not. Since I can't believe that the cartoon's implications occurred to no one, I then have to conclude that someone thought it was a good idea. Trish Wilson points out that it appeared on Holocaust Memorial Day.

I am the first to criticize the persecution complexes of some of the Jews in my family. I hate it when people insist any criticism of Israel is necessarily anti-Semitic. But there is criticism of Israel that is anti-Semitic. All the more reasons why Israel-critics should make it clear to which camp they belong. The fact that the Independent is willing to let it get ambiguous in this manner raises some serious questions. The Independent is "opening the subject up to debate." The author is still defending the image. They both owe the world, specifically the Jewish community, one of those "There was no intent to offend, but we understand and accept why people took offense, and we have learned from our error and will behave differently in the future" apologies. Even Trent Lott could be persuaded to do as much. Why can't the Independent?