Thursday, December 27, 2007

Goldstein! Goldstein!! I Mean...Goldberg! Goldberg!!


That human beings can be hateful and destructive enough to do something like assassinate Benazir Bhutto and fifteen of her supporters is no surprise to me.

Islamists Like You

Lack of imagination, an obvious side effect of the undersupply of intelligence, is perhaps humanity’s biggest problem. And one of the most damaging effects of lack of imagination is the inability to believe that other people are like you and that you may be every bit as bad as they are and share many of the same evil impulses (those impulses themselves mostly derived from morally-neutral but animalistic instincts for survival and self-defense).

Liberals and leftists in the U.S., for instance, no doubt imagine themselves to be compassionate, warm-hearted people incapable of the kind of violence committed by rabid Islamists. And leftists rarely do commit such violence here, but — since I’m more dialectical than methodologically-individualist in my thinking about such things — I’d say it’s obvious that the calm here arises only because our peaceful, largely commerce-driven cultural norms train us from a young age to expect that conversation will be more rewarding than physical violence. If you grew up in a war zone, that expectation might not exist and certainly wouldn’t seem “natural.”

We are most certainly not spared violence here because individual leftists themselves (to continue with them as the example) are any more loving and gentle than the Islamists — who themselves think they are doing the right thing, of course, as does anyone willing to make personal sacrifices for a political cause. People always think they’re making the world a better place, even when doing so very conveniently allows them to vent their nastiest and most hateful impulses.

And when the mob, tribe, or cabal you’re with hates what you hate, there’s little apparent need to step back and ask yourself whether you’re all a bunch of jerks — though the rare, sufficiently imaginative individual will do just that.

Orwell’s Lesson of the Day

Orwell, perhaps the twentieth century’s most successful teacher of beneficial political lessons (beware Big Brother, doublethink, crusades against thoughtcrime, people who deny 2 + 2 = 4, etc.), tried to show his fellow leftists how ugly their proclivity for collective hate is by depicting citizens in Nineteen Eighty-four who gather each day for the “Two-Minute Hate” session in which an exaggerated, villainous version of an apostate, Trotsky-like figure named Goldstein is shown to them on large video screens — and they dutifully boo, hiss, and wail in rage, letting out the anger they are forbidden to show in all other social interactions (not so unlike some Islamic countries where criticism of Israel is about the only fully free form of political speech).

The capacity for hate is universal and easily channeled for political ends — across the political spectrum, though I suspect leftists tend (despite plenty of exceptions and counter-examples) to lack some of the dampers (behavior-shaping norms, not magically-better hearts) that conservatives and libertarians tend to possess for keeping their own capacity for mindless rage at bay. Libertarians are ever-mindful that no one is obliged to associate with or listen to anyone else, after all, and (most) conservatives see the maintenance of old-fashioned rules of etiquette and civility as one of their chief duties, even (for many) their primary goal, whether or not they always go about it the right way (thus their preference for, say, Winnie the Pooh over Freddy Krueger, much as people with darker sensibilities snicker).

No such restraints seem to exist for the for the leftist qua leftist (though, as human beings, most still observe the usual etiquette rules prevailing in society, of course). For many leftists, there are no etiquette or civility rules higher than current political imperatives — only preferred groups to protect (if you’re “lucky” enough to be a disabled gay black woman, leftists will probably not be rude to you) and exploitative villains to be destroyed by any means necessary (or at least by any means not resulting in expulsion from college, serious jail time, or revoking of invitations to future Manhattan cocktail parties).

SadlyNo vs. Jonah Goldberg

I can’t much complain about the inanity and venom unleashed against me on the leftist site SadlyNo this week, even with some of the hundreds of vicious comments spilling over onto this blog, since I seem to be but a footnote to their long-smoldering hatred of Jonah Goldberg (of which I was unaware, not having heard of SadlyNo before and, with luck, never hearing of it again). Goldberg, by contrast — having just written a book that dares remind the world of the deep historic interconnectedness of the left and fascism — is in for a pretty hefty dose of irrational hatin’ when his book hits shelves on January 8, if this week’s feeding frenzy is any indicator.

Indeed, we can calculate that if a minor figure like me (averaging about 20,000 Google hits in recent months if you use the quotation marks, having written about 2 pages on the left-fascism connection) inspired such a hateful frenzy among the “comedy”-making leftists — over 300 mostly-hateful comments when I checked that one site the final time — then Jonah Goldberg (about 500,000 Google hits using the quotation marks as of this writing, having written about 400 pages on the left-fascism connection) is due for a firestorm of at least the following dimensions, using basic hate-algebra:

Hatin’ [where Hatin' = at least 300 nasty comments] x (500,000/20,000 Google hits) x (400/2 pages on fascism) = 5,000 times as much Hatin’ as I received…

…which portends at least 1,500,000 nasty leftist comments, and that’s before factoring in all the multiplier effects of added media coverage. So I’d say Goldberg’s book is going to have an impact, which will of course make the nasty folk even angrier and less rational, largely to Goldberg’s benefit.

(At this point, since even the “comedy”-making leftists don’t seem too discerning about humor, one of them is probably planning to dash off a letter claiming that on top of all his other crimes, Seavey believes there is a “science of hate” that can be calculated mathematically. A lot of them seem to be that stupid.)

The insulting leftist commenters seem to be that breed of in-over-their-heads, nervously-”brave”-in-a-group bullies who can’t win on substance and so wait anxiously for their opponent to, say, drop a pencil or something, so that they can crow, “Holy shit! This guy disagrees with us and HE CAN’T EVEN HOLD A PENCIL! The hell with a book on fascism, Toddiola-boy, get yourself a fuckin’ book on gravity, dood!! UNBELIEVABLE! And they wonder why we vote for Kucinich!!”

SadlyNo vs. Todd Seavey — and the Inadvertent Admission of Liberal Fascism

I’m sure it all seems like productive, funny activity on the commenters’ end, but — to use that imagination thing I mentioned earlier — how would the results of the week’s comment-fest have been substantially different if, say, I had posted an entry asking leftists to weigh in with evidence that they’re a bunch of spiteful assholes who find it inherently amusing to gang up on people, and they had responded with frank confessionals affirming that hypothesis?

Keeping in mind that what I did to get them started was write a book review, note that they’ve so far, among other things, (a) bandied about outdated financial information about me, (b) called me clinically insane, (c) used various obscenities, and (d) suggested that I’m gay or some sort of ill-defined sexual deviant (which seems to be a favorite and almost inevitable tactic of online leftist commenters, which you’d think would raise questions about their qualifications to be the great defenders of diversity and tolerance and all that). As sociologists have observed time and again, a mob, not the most imaginative of beasts, tends to do exactly the same things wherever it manifests and regardless of its cause — such as go for the genitals. Clever move, mob. Keep up the innovative work.

One commenter, barking loudly up the wrong tree, even sounded very, very proud to know what form to file to urge the IRS to come after me for (imagined) filing irregularities (and a very short, boring, and pointless day’s work that would be for everyone involved, simple as my finances are). About that I have to make an observation: again and again, the commenters and bloggers themselves (who, again, are largely unable to imagine their foe’s sense of humor being superior to their own) accused me of overlooking some “irony” in my comments that they’d seized upon as all-important, yet none of them (as of my final glance at the comments) could be bothered to point out one very large irony to the other commenters, perhaps by saying something like this:

Hey, fellow leftists, this whole feeding frenzy began because Seavey wrote a very brief review saying kind things about a book by someone else that suggests parallels between leftism and fascism, which we considered ridiculous and heretical — yet now we sit idly by while one of own threatens, with obvious and pugnacious pride, to unleash an actual government agency upon this upstart, with all its powers of fining and arresting.

I suggested the left might think like a mob of fascists. Gosh, whatever could I have been thinking?

A Broader Problem with the Culture

Are you proud of yourselves, left, when you wait a bit, cool off (if you ever do), and look at the comment threads ye hath wrought? (I see one commenter has just added a note on my own blog’s prior entry declaring me a eunuch — more progressivism in action! Get those genitals, mob, git ’em, git ’em, git ’em!) If you are proud of this sort of thing, can you nonetheless begin to understand why most of America thinks you’re volatile and nuts and does not share your social-democratic dream of having our whole lives shaped by political committees made up of people like yourselves (instead of the more informal, voluntary networks of friends, family, and commerce that shape life without recourse to political combat — but more on those foundational issues Saturday or so, if I get the chance)?

But by all means, keep hatin’, left. It doesn’t really bother me, and it just makes it all the more apparent to the undecided that what motivates you is no nobler — though channeled less destructively — than what motivates those Bhutto-hating Islamists or, say, the Klan. It’s all hatred — and each of the aforementioned groups imagines its own hate to be the holy and justified kind. Our culture rightly values compromise and negotiation (even in a world where some issues have clear-cut answers), but more and more it seems that self-perpetuating hate is all the left has to offer, and that will always prove self-marginalizing in the end. Even the Nazis didn’t last, and neither will the Islamists in the long run, strong though hate burns in the short term — and right and self-affirming though it feels to the hater at the time (I’m sure a Viking who’d just finished raping and pillaging would be as startled as any of us to be told later “You’re a bad person because of what you did” — he was channeling his rage in a socially-approved fashion, after all).

I suppose this atmosphere is in part the downside of the past several years of (often brilliant) snarkiness in the general culture — comedies like Family Guy and sites like Gawker (SadlyNo’s apparent inspiration), both of which I like, don’t get me wrong. But the price we pay for that brand of humor is creating a generation who think that snideness is enough, proof in itself that you must be smarter and morally superior to your target. You’re wrong about that, of course, and you might want to think carefully about how powerless you’d be to gently and rationally persuade your fellow mob members in the (unlikely?) event it were ever you with whom they disagreed, perhaps even you who had an important but unpopular point to get across (unlikely as that may also be). There isn’t much hope for dialogue once the mob starts whacking the day’s chosen piñata-of-injustice.

In closing, good luck to Jonah Goldberg with his book — he’ll need it, obviously. He’s up against a formidable wall of stupidity, a wall insulated by arrogance and self-righteousness, nestled in mutually-reinforcing catechisms of venomous anger — all spat out with the desperate, joyless, my-turn-next laughs of petty sadists. Enjoy the snakepit you’ve made for yourselves, leftists. It will have to be your substitute for civilization.

(An afterthought: judging by the level of discourse this week, some of the leftists will probably also respond to this post by saying “Oh my God, he thinks a Bhutto figure! What a crybaby!” but I trust those smart enough to understand that that’s not at all what I’m saying will benefit from this post in ways that some can’t.)


anonymous fan said...

Kudos to brilliant and subtle references at the end to The Simpson’s Whacking Day! (A Springfield holiday in which an angry mob drives snakes into the town square and whacks them to death…um, just because!) One of the better “angry mob” ironic commentaries in early Simpsons history. :-) More clever comedy than your critics, indeed!

Slippery Pete said...

what a moronic post.

David Walser said...


Very well done.

Jimmie said...

I wrote a post noting the venom written about the book and it drew more comments than any post I’ve written in recent memory thanks to several links to sites on the left (including Sadly, No!). The comments I received weren’t much nicer.

Seems quite a fuss to kick up over a book that none of the commenters have ever read. I intend to buy the book when it comes out and write a review of my own, simply to see what all the fracas is about.

Anonymous Fan II` said...

Curse you, anonymous fan, I was just about to comment on the “Whacking Day” reference but you beat me to it.

Lino said...

The reaction yesterday reminded me of an acquaintence who accosted me in the grocery store after spending several years in prison. Never educable, while inside he had developed strong opinions about “the system” and “the man” and “justice” – and from that had spun out an entire jailhouse metaphysics which may have made sense to him and his fellow inmates in that closed system, but which at the produce counter was a less than perfect mechanism for making the judgments at hand. Not to mention being quite loud and off-putting…

Dylan said...

A lot of leftists aren’t leftists because they’ve thought about anything. They’re leftists because it’s “cool.” Being a musician in Brooklyn who encounters a lot of people very conscious of their hipness, I do believe that. Because I’ve gotten into arguments with them and they clearly are more worried about how their opinion affects their standing on the glamour front than whether it’s actually any kind of well-thought out position. Che Guevara is glamourous. Ronald Reagan isn’t. So the former is going to trump the latter in their minds no matter what kind of rational argument you put forward.

Thus, people who don’t agree with them are ‘uncool’ and deserve to be heaped with the kind of unthinking scorn that the ‘cool’ kids in high schools all over the place often heap on their less popular peers (especially on the anonymous web). And a lot of their nastiness is as low-brow and juvenile as it was in high school (screwing with a person’s name, lots of scatalogical/sexual remarks, etc). They’re basically a bunch of children.

This is not true about all left-liberals at all (and I think the Ann Coulters out there are a similar right-wing phenomenon). But there are a lot of them that fall into this category.

Chad said...

Its the mind process of the simple:

“I am right because I believe I’m right.

Therefore, all else are wrong.

Since I am right, I have the moral authority, nay, the moral requirement, to take all steps necessary to impose my vision upon those that are wrong.”

And from that, you get fascism. Which sounds a lot like what comes from those left wing mouthpieces.

White Strunk said...

No offense, TS, but you need to dial way back on the parenthetical and hyphenated asides in your writing style. Reading that post was like running a hurdle race.

Greg Swann said...

Just stunning. The book review was great, but this is remarkably better. You have a book in this thesis.

Astral Projectionist said...

As someone who is also guilty of it (crap, here I go again) I’ll ditto White Strunk’s advice (although agreeing with every thing you said (and wishing I’d said it myslef)).

Astral Projectionist said...

Jesus Christ, these psychotic, Bush-addled wackos can’t even SPELL! No wonder they can’t get laid!

Bill Whittle said...

Todd, as someone who has been through this myself with this crowd, allow me to offer an observation.

More and more I have become fascinated by the psychology of people’s political views… at least when you get to the Red Zones on either sideof the field, as the vast American middle is as sensible and sound as always.

I came to this by wondering what sort of psychological drive could force one through the intellectual (and moral) (watch out: hurdle!) gymnastics required to believe that “9/11 was an inside job.” That theory, as just one example, is so ridiculous on its face that you have to be very, very ill in order to force yourself to believe it.

A few days ago, they had a forum topic at Something Awful, which, unlike Sadly, No, was at one time in the distant past hilarious. (Lately it has become – JUMP! – an abandoned swimming pool of political bile.)

The forum question was happily one that I had been dying to ask these sad people for a long time: TELL ME ABOUT YOUR PARENTS.

Alcoholics, wife-beaters, cheats, deadbeat dads, religious lunatics… One of the main writers there constantly laments about the horror of having to go home for Thanksgiving. To deal with those stupid, drunk a-holes…

Self-hatred is a horrible affliction. Hating who you are as these people must — they are pretty much uniformly white, male Americans after all, and what could be worse than that? — has got to just eat away at everything noble and gentle in the human psyche.

The snark is there to cover the rage. (Rage without snark is unseemly and waaaay to obvious.) The rage is there to cover the hole that these people have inside them. They know it’s there. These are not happy folks. They think that by putting all of their character points into INT they have achieved something with their lives, but the fact is they are largely uneducated and emotionally incapable of the ability to examine a proposition from various angles, which is the hallmark of genuine, problem-solving intelligence.

This is why the criticm you get from people like this is on the level of “what a moronic post.” There is no attempt to explain why it’s moronic, as this would require some thinking, not to mention the ability to construct complex sentences and deal with abstract issues.

It’s scary when these hordes swarm out from wherever they come from. Not scary in the physical sense, and certainly not intimidating (it’s actually energizing), but simply shocking and alarming. As Theoden said when faced with such people: “What can men do against such reckless hate?” The answer, I think, is to just do more of the same. Jonah (and you) have hit a nerve.

(I almost never employ parentheses but I thought your readers could use the exercise.)

Meredith said...

Well put.

Dave said...

There seems to me to be as much hate in your post as there is in anything you’d read in the comments section on a leftist blog. The stuff Bill Whittle writes is similarly full of bile directed at “these people”. But you don’t curse, so I guess you feel like you’re uncorrupted by that impulse.

Not to mention, asserting that no one has attacked Goldberg’s book on the merits is plain dishonest.

Eric Blair said...

Orwell was a socialist? I don’t believe it!

Eric Blair said...

Todd Seavey, Greg Swann and Bill Whittle are morons? Now that I can believe!

dave said...

I’d like to see the right wing response to a laudatory review of “It takes a village.”

Ignorance and vitriol know no ideology.

The fight should be against ignorance and hate. I lean left and disagreed with the opinions in that book review, but I was disturbed and disappointed at, (but mostly bored by) the comments against it. That review, if nothing else, should have been a springboard for a stress test of ideas. It would have been more enjoyable than a bunch of people calling each other morons and murderers.

By the way, the commenter who said “What a moronic post” offered no less of an explanation than the commenter who said “Very well done.” Dumbing down isn’t only bad when a group of others does it.

Anyway Todd, keep up the good work. I enjoy the blog.

cokane said...

You’re pathetic. Casting a website that makes a couple posts about you and its comments as an attacking mob is the pit of absurdity. You sound like a baby whining about this.

Patrick Carroll said...

I enjoyed this post. Thanks.

Bilwick said...

“I’m going to sic the State on you for calling me a fascist!” Savor the irony.

fishbane said...

My goodness. A well known political humor site mocks a book review of an incredibly silly book (by a man who likes to explore a bit of offensive genitalia reference himself), exploring a topic which has never been explorerated in such depth or nuance, with a Hitler mustache on the cover, and out come the smelling salts.

Well, I never! Where’s my fainting couch?

Jimmie said...

“They think that by putting all of their character points into INT…”

A D&D and a Lord of the Rings reference in the same comment. Nice, Bill!

Brain said...


No, Todd is just a promising LISP writer (there’s that indicative capitalization and parentheses))

Francis said...

I don’t know the names of all my logical fallacies, but taking the juvenile comments in the Goldberg thread as proof “that self-perpetuating hate is all the left has to offer” has got to be one of them. I mean, your sample set is skewed; you’re only seeing comments from the sort of people who leave comments like that.

This incivility is hardly a liberal-based problem — or even conservative-based, though god forbid you write something that gets you on the bad side of the Freepers. It’s all over the web, presumably because the anonymizing effect of the web makes people feel like they have carte blanche to be as much of a jerk as they please.

Specifically to political discourse, though, I think the tone of the overall discussion has deteriorated considerably over the years, but if I were going to try to trace it back to a source, I think I’d have to say that it was Rush Limbaugh that started it all, with his gleefully malicious mockery generally not backed by facts. Bill O’Reilly followed, and I have to suspect that if left-wing discourse has become more uncivil, it’s in response to the fact that being civil didn’t do us a fucking lick of good in defending ourselves against the logic-free attacks of right wing pundits who weren’t concerning themselves with such niceties. (Which would, in the public service announcement on this subject, lead up to a young liberal child shouting at his neocon father, “I learned it from watching you!”)