It was the blogosphere that did it.

by Henry on August 1, 2011

Some remarkable logic on display in the Washington Post ombudsman’s defense of Jennifer Rubin’s notorious jihadism in Norway post.

There are other reasons I got so many e-mails on Rubin; they have much less to do with terrorism and tragedy and more to do with modern technology and partisan politics. Liberals and conservatives don’t talk to each other much anymore; they exist in parallel online universes, only crossing over to grab some explosive anti-matter from the other side to stoke the rage in their own blogosphere. The liberal blogosphere, propelled by tweets, picked up Rubin’s piece and spread it around rapidly, helped by a trifecta of posts from theatlantic.com. … This brings us back to the shootings in Norway, an act committed by a disturbed man who drew some of his inspiration from extremist Web sites. A blogosphere given to vitriol and hasty judgments ought to consider the possible consequences of its own online attacks.

If I understand the logic of this column correctly, the ombudsman, one Patrick Pexton, thinks something like the following.

(a) Bloggers are partisan and don’t usually engage with people on the other side. In this sense, they are rage-filled extremists.
(b) Breivik was partly inspired by rage-filled, extremist websites.
(c) Therefore, rage-filled extremist leftwing bloggers ought to consider their own culpability, and shut the hell up about Jennifer Rubin.

I can’t remember the term for this logical fallacy (it’s of the ‘all cats have fur – all dogs have fur – therefore all cats are dogs’ variety). No doubt someone who, unlike me, took Philosophy 101, will inform me in comments within moments of publication. But an awful lot of work is being done by the elasticity of the notion of rage-stoking extremism here. And this is not to mention the intimation that James Fallows and Ta-Nehisi Coates are rage-filled hatebloggers …

However, there is a serious point to be extracted from this muddle. Which is that discussions of online extremism often tend to confuse two, quite different forms of extremism (here, I think Cass Sunstein’s work has had quite some problematic consequences). One is not really extremism at all – it is common or garden partisanship. That is, it is plausible that online interactions makes vigorous partisanship (in which you perceive yourself as in competition with the other side, perceive little value in direct intellectual exchange with them etc) more prominent, either because it makes it easier for partisans to find each other and organize, makes people’s partisanship stronger through mutual reinforcement, or both. Here, though, there is a crucial moderating influence. Partisans are engaged in political contention through electoral competition. This (as Nancy Rosenblum argues) has a substantial moderating effect – in the end, they need to win votes by influencing people if they want to succeed. This also leads to all kinds of indirect learning. The second is actual extremism, where people are potentially willing to abandon democratic politics and pursue violent means to achieve political ends. Here, there is no such moderating influence.

There is no necessary reason to believe that the former necessarily leads to the latter. In the US case, the online forces that push towards partisanship on the left tend overwhelmingly push against the other kind of extremism. There is no effective contact between e.g. MoveOn or the Daily Kos on the one hand, and the various subgroups and splinters who are more enthusiastic about violence on the other. When the latter try to influence the former, they get mobbed and repelled. The right is a quite different matter – there are dense social ties between online partisans and anti-Muslim bigots and crazies claiming that universal dhimmidom is right around the corner.

Pexton’s suggestion that leftwing bloggers need to think carefully about whether they too will inspire the mass-murder of scores of teenagers doesn’t deserve a serious response in itself. But it is worth looking at as a specific manifestation of a more pervasive intellectual confusion between two different forms of ‘extremism,’ one of which is not in fact a form of extremism at all.

{ 239 comments }

1

skidmarx 08.01.11 at 8:32 pm

2

Ciarán 08.01.11 at 8:44 pm

I picked up a different, though related, logic:
1. Extremists feed off partisan blogs.
2. Partisan blogs called Rubin on her Islamist jibes.
3. Left wing extremists might now kill Rubin AND WHOSE FAULT WOULD THAT BE?
I believe the philosophy term for such a position can be found in this text.

3

Ryan Cooper 08.01.11 at 8:45 pm

I think skidmarx is right about the actual argument, but Henry’s example about dogs and cats looks to me more like an illicit minor fallacy.

Also, though I have actually taken a formal logic class, this.

4

Freshly Squeezed Cynic 08.01.11 at 9:11 pm

Isn’t the main problem most liberals have with Jennifer Rubin is that she’s an egregious hack?

This is obviously a partisan matter. Only left-wing extremists think hacks are bad.

5

Daniel Nexon 08.01.11 at 9:21 pm

The best part is where he claims that, as she started observing Shabbat around 9pm, she didn’t know that the perpetrator was more into Pamela Geller than Osama Bin Laden. Never mind that sundown was at 8.30 in Washington, so by their own timeline she was already engaged in unsanctioned blogging. And the ombudsmen seems unconcerned that she couldn’t be bothered to follow one of the biggest stories of the day after she’d used it to score (or, at least, try to score) partisan points.

6

William Timberman 08.01.11 at 9:29 pm

Is Pexton’s nonsense any worse, logically speaking, than Brad DeLong’s glib re-titling of Matt Yglesias? (Progressive Income Redistribution Is Not the Only Business of Government) If rage is the disease of left blogistan these days, surely it’s no more virulent than self-congratulation amongst the centrist punditry.

If you were to ask me, I’d say that throwing spitwads from behind Mommy’s skirts is a pretty good way to piss a lot of people off.

7

Phil 08.01.11 at 9:42 pm

The history of the radical left in 1970s Italy teaches us many things, but one is that the dangerous kind of armed group is the kind that’s in communication with a much bigger social movement hinterland. Actually that’s not quite true – the really dangerous kind of armed group is the kind that’s just in the process of being beached by the decline and/or repression of a much bigger, etc (compare the work-rate of the Red Brigades in 1970-77, the Red Brigades in 1978-81 and the post-split successors to the Red Brigades in 1981-3).

8

noen 08.01.11 at 10:09 pm

I don’t think that argument even rises to the level of fallacy. The proper name for Jennifer’s post is plain ‘ol bullshit.

9

nick s 08.01.11 at 10:59 pm

I don’t want to speak ill of the dead, but the ombudsman position at the Post has been tits-on-a-bull since its instigation –the holders have served not as readers’ representatives — compare, say, the Guardian’s readers’ editor on coverage of the Norway attacks — but as firewalls and apologists for the paper’s most shameless hacks, and by extension, Fred Hiatt.

10

Joshua W. Burton 08.01.11 at 11:27 pm

Daniel Nexon, @5:

The best part is where he claims that, as she started observing Shabbat around 9pm, she didn’t know that the perpetrator was more into Pamela Geller than Osama Bin Laden. Never mind that sundown was at 8.30 in Washington, so by their own timeline she was already engaged in unsanctioned blogging.

Candle lighting for DC was 8:11 pm that day. Seeing no evidence of sabbath-desecrating postings by Ms. Rubin in the previous several weeks, I think it’s extremely low to assume bad faith, and it’s difficult for me not to read into Daniel’s remark a sneering tone which I hope has little place here. The offense of posting her retraction more than an hour before tzeit hakochavim on Saturday is actually much more severe (scholarly citations upon request), but in turn is far less grave than the offense Daniel (if a Jew) commits by shaming her publicly for it. A critic from within the pale of decent Jewish thought would be dan l’khaf zahut (inclined to read charitably) at least to the extent of assuming that her (perhaps improperly) hasty retraction was motivated by a considered, or even anguished, judgment of the competing and equally core Jewish values of motzi shem ra (slander) avoidance and sabbath keeping.

Surely it’s enough that she’s a raving hateful wingnut deserving of public calumny: must we chase her into her home? I’d like to believe that Crooked Timber can be a safe place to post even for the minority who might have to leave it unwatched for 25 hours or so.

11

christian_h 08.01.11 at 11:53 pm

Being one of the left-wing extremists who does not believe electoral politics is the only kind available I’d like to argue that a call for overthrowing the government (say) is somewhat different than a call for violence (“nuke Teheran”, “resistance against the islamification of America”) against racially oppressed groups or third world nations. In other words, I violently (bad pun intended) disagree with the notion that radicalism as such is bad and worthy of blame, and that there is therefore no need to further investigate what is radical about the politics of the person in question.

Rubin is, despite what the hired flak called ombudsman at the Post might say, a racist. She’s not as extreme in her rhetoric as Geller or Spencer, but she’s a racist nonetheless, and therein, to me, lies one problem (the other being her jumping to conclusions based on that racism, but that’s in a way secondary) – not in her stridency.

12

piglet 08.02.11 at 12:04 am

“the dangerous kind of armed group is the kind that’s in communication with a much bigger social movement hinterland”

The dangerous kind of armed group is called, er, Army. Also, speaking of Italy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/August_1980_Bologna_bombing

13

Andrew F. 08.02.11 at 12:12 am

Henry, you’re wrong in part.

First, you’re misreading the ombudsman and you’ve omitted a key sentence that provides important context and immediately precedes the statement about Norway. That key sentence is Some of the e-mail she received was way over the line — ugly, obscene, vile and, worst, containing threats of physical harm. His point is that a polarized blogosphere fosters the hatred and misunderstanding that leads to threats of physical harm and, at worst, contributes to actual violence.

He’s not talking about ordinary partisanship there, but about vitriolic hatred. It’s the difference between claiming that Bush enacted awful policies while being sensitive to facts contrary, and claiming as an article of faith that Bush is a deeply evil man. It’s the difference between arguing in a reasonable tone, as you have here, that the lefty blogs aren’t as bad as those on the right, and writing in obscene threats to columnists you viscerally hate. You haven’t suggested someone do something vile to the ombudsman; you haven’t suggested he lacks a soul; you haven’t suggested that he deserves to be injured.

Second, you’re partly wrong about the effect of partisanship. Part of the problem of polarized discussion is that it leaves a person with certain intuitions and beliefs less space to find an ideology that enables that person to achieve a moderate equilibrium.

Instead the person must either turn towards one pole or the other, and after making this choice his odds of becoming more polarized increase. He reads sources that claim the left is always correct, or that the right is always correct; he reads that the left operates out of decent motives, or that the right does, and that the other side is in some way malicious; he reads that one side wants to enact policies that are grossly unjust and would imperil civilization, and that the other side wants to stop them; he gradually stops appreciating any other viewpoint; he inches towards fanaticism.

Now, yes, polarized discussion can be dominated by those who want to win by legitimate political means – and that’s the case with both the right AND the left in the US. But the fact that it is so polarized makes it a little easier for the more fanatical to decide that – given the gravity of the situation – legitimate political means aren’t enough.

As I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t think that type of enabling comes remotely close to rendering partisan voices morally blameworthy for actions like Breivik’s – but it’s also true that partisanship, even when the partisans genuinely believe in the political process and limit their prescriptions to it, can contribute to fanaticism.

14

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 1:13 am

hasty retraction

Such as it was, and indeed it was churlish at best. Going back to her Saturday update, I found it sad that even a bigot and a baiter could aim for an apology and miss that badly.

Notwithstanding and on the facts presented, anyone who piles on to the halakhic angle, whether to scorn her for being a day late or an hour early, is trying to pick a fight with a people rather than with a person. It’s not a good place to stand while allegedly calling out a hater.

15

b9n10nt 08.02.11 at 2:12 am

@ William Timberman @ 6:

Wouldn’t it be great if the term “radical center” became an ideological epithet evoking the knowledge that the “center” in American politics is devoted to the systematic entrenchment of elites’ priveledge?

16

Daniel Nexon 08.02.11 at 2:48 am

10: how about reading the ombudsmen’s “she’s Jewish” defense so that you don’t make yourself look like a fools.

“What compounded Rubin’s error is that she let her 5 p.m. Friday post remain uncorrected for more than 24 hours. She wrote four other unrelated blog posts that night, through about 9 p.m. Police officials in Norway at 8:33 p.m. Washington time had made their first statement that the suspect had no connection to international terrorism or Muslims. Rubin should have rechecked the facts before signing off, and Post editors should have thought about editing her post more that night.

But Rubin has a good defense. She is Jewish. She generally observes the Sabbath from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday; she doesn’t blog, doesn’t tweet, doesn’t respond to reader e-mails.”

17

Andrew Burton 08.02.11 at 2:49 am

Much of Ms Rubin’s writing is undisguised cheerleading – “I just spoke to a Senate Republican staffer who told me the Democrats are wrong. And you know what, they are.”

Rubin’s original assertion – that a Muslim-inspired set of killings in Norway meant that the US couldn’t afford to spend less on carrier groups, F-35s and missile defence, was – how shall we say – something of a non sequiter. After a day had gone by, a short and simple “I was too quick to post yesterday, and I’ve learned from this” would have been gracious and graceful. But, according to Mr Pexton, Ms Rubin is instead “forceful and unrepentant, yet not unreasonable. She is not an ogre or a racist.”

Forceful, unrepentant, and wrong. Fred Hiatt must be so proud.

18

LFC 08.02.11 at 2:52 am

To J.W. Burton @14:
I think her religious observance or lack thereof is beside the point, and as someone who routinely “desecrates” (your verb) the Sabbath I couldn’t care less. If Sabbath- keeping is indeed “a core Jewish value,” as you say at #10 above, then it is a value I reject (at least for myself). If Judaism has an equivalent of excommunication, which I believe it may although I don’t know what it’s called, you probably should pronounce the sentence upon me forthwith. (My parents are deceased, as is the rabbi who officiated at my bar mitzvah, so no one will mind.)

19

Daniel Nexon 08.02.11 at 2:53 am

Or, more accurately, “fool?”, as you are one person and the phrase was an interrogatory. Just so we are clear: SHE seems to have told the ombudsmen that she didn’t retract because she was observant, but she also says she was WORKING on OTHER POSTS until about 9pm.

20

Beleck 08.02.11 at 3:01 am

all this to-do because someone got called on their BS? my goodness. any wonder why there is partisan/extremism on the blogosphere.

if lies and pandering go unquestioned or unchallenged, extremism is the result. which is what America is today. all the Far Right BS from Fox and whomever has gone on for so long and polluted the well that used to be common. The left is not blameless, the left is also not as extreme or as well funded in the ability to manufacture the 30 years of right wing BS.

Now someone is called on their BS and they call it “hurtful and vitriolic”? the seeds of discord have gone unchallenged for so long, i find the lack of “courtesy” unsurprising.

that of course, does not excuse or warrant harm or the calling for harm to anyone.

this is such a manufactured to do. to avoid the ownership of being full of it. and taking responsibility to own up for one’s own lies. Where does it start? the ownership of responsibility? When will those who outright lie or even casually utter falsehood ever be held accountable.

Accountability for one’s own actions seems only to be for the certain select and few. and there is any wonder the country is divided! oh please, this lady jumped to conclusions that were obviously wrong, and doesn’t want to be held accountable! just say, ” I was wrong.” instead i hear a lot of “defensiveness” and “you can’t say that about me.”

oh please! this kind of evasiveness only encourages such bile and “partisan” hate filled rants. The pot calling the kettle black in my opinion. just don’t ever question anyone, and everything will be okay, right? after all we know Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction. YOU dare to question me?

21

Vanessa 08.02.11 at 3:14 am

To the question of the fallacy: It’s actually an “undistributed middle.” The “middle” in question being either “have fur” or “are extremists.” The fallacy is that the middle term never refers to the whole of the group (i.e. every furry creature or every extremist), so it is entirely possible that while both of the other terms (cats/dogs, Bloggers/terrorists) are encompassed by the middle, that doesn’t mean they ever intersect each other.

22

kidneystones 08.02.11 at 3:27 am

Henry writes…
“…There is no effective contact between e.g. MoveOn or the Daily Kos on the one hand, and the various subgroups and splinters who are more enthusiastic about violence on the other. When the latter try to influence the former, they get mobbed and repelled. The right is a quite different matter – there are dense social ties between online partisans and anti-Muslim bigots and crazies claiming that universal dhimmidom is right around the corner…”

I think there’s some truth to Henry’s assertion’s claim about the differences between the online left’s response to overt calls to violence, and those from the right. However, part of the tolerance we see on the right resides in the right’s fundamental philosophical stance, both on second amendment rights and on the rights of the individual versus government. Online posturing is another component. I’m curious about Henry’s claim about “dense, social ties” linking the regular right with the crazies. This sort of claim would seem to require some evidence. There’s no question tribalism is operating. But it operates virulently on the left, as much as it does the right. 9/11 truthers enjoy enormous support from the online left community, so much so that they had to be banned from DKOS and other sites. These nuts are not, of course, calling for armed insurrection. They share with the extreme right, however, a paranoid vision of government conspiracies of all kinds. I’ve written plenty of anti-right polemics in the past. But online voices are just that, a particular tone for a particular audience.

I’m not at all convinced that the right-wing noise machine does anything more than mirror and give form to existing prejudices in some sort of unhealthy feedback loop. Reading the NYT and leftwing blogs exclusively serves a similar purpose. Taking pot-shots at Rubin is fine. She’s a partisan and a much better read than most partisans, with the exception of Glenn Greenwald and company.

The rhetorical double-standards on display here and elsewhere are instructive. Evidently it’s fine to characterize political opponents as terrorists who, in the words of Margaret Carlson, “strap bombs” to Congress. The ninety odd victims in Norway are political fodder for the left and the right. The failure of the progressive left to protect those most at risk deteriorates into attacks on right-wing pundits. Sad doesn’t quite cover it.

23

nick s 08.02.11 at 3:38 am

I’m curious about Henry’s claim about “dense, social ties” linking the regular right with the crazies. This sort of claim would seem to require some evidence.

Will this Pamela Gellar photoset do for starters? Or Jon Stewart’s montage of wingnut-welfare book titles? Or are you just going to bullshit some more?

24

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 3:55 am

but she also says she was WORKING on OTHER POSTS until about 9pm

With the sabbath crowding her, she kept typing until about 50 minutes after candle lighting — still within the Rabeinu Tam’s lenient minority opinion on which hundreds of delayed airline travelers reluctantly rely each Friday — and missed the Norwegian update in those hectic borrowed minutes. Whether she was rushed by imperfectly expressed religious conscience or by arriving guests, she paid a heavy and public price for her imprudent erev shabbat sprint. She was neither the first nor the worst of Jews so caught that week, or any other.

She then somehow discovered her gruesome folly while unplugged, and was sufficiently moved, whether by fairness, vanity or mere discomfort, to jump the gun by an hour on Saturday night, a temptation for which no similar leniency exists. Again, I have seen many observant Jews do likewise, in less pressing causes: when wonderful news broke on a Saturday morning twenty years ago, I saw a whole country hopping on one foot like a schoolboy with no bathroom pass, waiting to turn on the TV.

Nothing about this is implausible or reprehensible from a perspective of Jewish law at anything near the vulgar and prurient threshold of lashon hara that is crossed by calling her on it. As the ombudsman says (and contra LFC @18), the timing, while it excuses none of the shameful speculation in Ms. Rubin’s original post, is very much to the point in understanding the slowness of her (again, stingy and inadequate) update.

If Daniel merely meant (“the best part”) that this backstory is irrelevant in walking back her mens rea that noisy quiet day, then I hope he is now better informed. But if, as it still seems to me, he finds Ms. Rubin’s genuine religious scruples about chilul shabbat implausible on the face, then I invite him to check in more detail than I did to confirm or refute what looks like her consistent standing pattern of silence from sundown on Fridays to full darkness on Saturdays. (Or, in a more Jewish, and dare I say more Christian, spirit, to give her the benefit of the doubt and drop it.) And finally, if he means to mock her because she has such scruples, then I’d like to call, passionately, for a bit of moderation — either the self-imposed sort, or the editorial kind that ultimately defines a blog as a salon for diverse perspectives or as a soapbox for narrow intolerance.

25

Substance McGravitas 08.02.11 at 4:19 am

And finally, if he means to mock her because she has such scruples, then I’d like to call, passionately, for a bit of moderation—either the self-imposed sort, or the editorial kind that ultimately defines a blog as a salon for diverse perspectives or as a soapbox for narrow intolerance.

I won’t speak for anybody else, but surely a salon for diverse perspectives can include discussion of religious hypocrisy and mockery of the absurdities of religion.

26

ScentOfViolets 08.02.11 at 4:20 am

Nothing about this is implausible or reprehensible from a perspective of Jewish law at anything near the vulgar and prurient threshold of lashon hara that is crossed by calling her on it.

What does this have to do with her original flacking? Explain in detail, since I’m just a dumb mathematician who can’t follow the logic here.

I’m sure you’ve got a good explanation ;-)

27

Daniel Nexon 08.02.11 at 4:27 am

Josh: this is rediculous. I mean, seriously, you’re involing Rabenieu Tam’s opinion in the context of finishing *blog posts*? Whatever.

28

Daniel Nexon 08.02.11 at 4:30 am

Note to self: stop commenting from an iPad. I clearly can’t use it well enough to spell properly, viz. Joshua and Rabeinu.

29

kidneystones 08.02.11 at 4:40 am

nick s.

Takes exception to a request for evidence of “dense, social ties” and offers a Pam Gellar photo-montage and collection of book-titles “for starters.” I assume you present Gellar as the extremist. She is an anti-Islamic bigot of the most virulent sort. Kind of like Rahm Emmanuel’s dad. That said, I don’t believe she sups with George Will often, even as the noted Reagan fan praises libertarians for the current successes.

Henry is a bright guy and I enjoy his take on many topics. My own experiences with people of the right and left have been almost invariably pleasant and civil. It is in the online forums that the cleavers come out. Hence, my interest in evidence of “dense, social ties”. I’m prepared to believe they exist, particularly in smaller religiously, ideologically, or ethnically homogeneously communities.

I’m afraid your collection of book titles and the Gellar photo-montage isn’t evidence of anything than the fact bigotry and paranoia sells and distracts. The Democrats’ war on Libya and determination to impose regime change by force is all the evidence I need of selective myopia and double-standards, thanks. The fact bigots on the right are still publishing books shouldn’t come as news to anyone.

I am curious about the dense, social ties. I think Henry errs in his “jihad” against Rubin, to use popular progressive jargon. I read Rubin and find her far less polemical than the mainstream journalists who are currently calling the tea party “terrorists.” But that’s just me, I suppose.

30

ScentOfViolets 08.02.11 at 4:55 am

It is in the online forums that the cleavers come out. Hence, my interest in evidence of “dense, social ties”. I’m prepared to believe they exist, particularly in smaller religiously, ideologically, or ethnically homogeneously communities.

I’m afraid your collection of book titles and the Gellar photo-montage isn’t evidence of anything than the fact bigotry and paranoia sells and distracts.

Translation: If you can’t make me say I’m wrong then I win (and how many times do we have to go through this song and dance?)

You know, Kidneystones, I don’t think anyone greatly cares if you’re “convinced” or not.

31

nick s 08.02.11 at 4:56 am

Define ‘social’ in non-euphemistic terms. Given the false equivalences you offered up from the outset, it’d be nice to have something solid to work with, out of an abundance of caution that you might want to play a game of quibble.

32

Substance McGravitas 08.02.11 at 4:56 am

33

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 5:20 am

What does this have to do with her original flacking? Explain in detail, since I’m just a dumb mathematician who can’t follow the logic here.

Standing on one foot: Jennifer Rubin, of whom I first heard in this post, appears to be both a racist and a harridan. She also gives fair prima facie evidence of being either a strictly or a socially observant Jew, and her ombudsman so describes her (the weasel words “generally observes” suggest the looser standard, but this is immaterial to what follows) while her posting history also supports the claim.

She made a flurry of posts on a Friday afternoon, including the one in question here which was spectacularly ill-advised in the absence of data, and (by the kind of bad luck that follows when you act in haste, and in my experience doubly so late of a Friday) made actively risible by contrary data that arrived in those final minutes. On a plausible (but in my view, clearly wrong) theory entertained by hundreds of commenters on her blog, she then mulishly hunkered down for 23 hours, before issuing a graceless retraction. On the theory that a colleague who knows her personally calls “a good defense,” and that is instantly convincing to me, she is “on call 24/6″ and simply dropped off the planet at a very inconvenient time. She might have heard about the fuss over lunch on Saturday, or when a less observant friend came by to visit that afternoon, or not at all until someone (improperly early, but again let’s not cavil) turned on a computer shortly before eight that evening. She then, with extreme belated haste, did her best to set it right, which (being who she is) wasn’t very good.

A poster above waded in with a very coarse and sarcastic call-out of the purely religious aspects of this comedy of errors, and I asked him to draw it mild, because if he thinks she’s hiding behind a suddenly invented lifestyle then her column’s archive refutes him, and if he thinks her lifestyle doesn’t add up to a strong factual alibi for just the exculpatory bits above then I can cite common Jewish experience to refute him. And if we have indeed come to “mocking the absurdities of religion” when those absurdities, considered gravely and anthropologically, explain the otherwise psychologically inexplicable, then we are at a place where there is no point in trying to make sense of what and when this confused and misinformed bitch actually wrote. (And, I might add, we have identified CT as a place where no observant Jew would feel safe posting to a thread that might turn on him while he’s resting and then parse his weekly silence with malice and no remorse. There are so many bad and baseless accusations of Jüdenhasse floating around this end of the pool that it’s necessary to underline what the real thing looks like on the, thankfully very rare, occasion when it surfaces.)

Can’t help you with the dumb mathematician part, sorry. For what it’s worth, I’m a smart particle physicist, and ceteris paribus that would put us roughly eye to eye.

34

Substance McGravitas 08.02.11 at 5:24 am

trying to make sense of what and when this confused and misinformed bitch

Joshua, don’t pretend you’re fighting for a people when you discount half of them.

35

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 5:25 am

Joshua: this is ridiculous. I mean, seriously, you’re involing Rabeinu Tam’s opinion in the context of finishing blog posts? Whatever.

Exactly. If this isn’t your life, you missed the part of the story that depends on it being hers. (Or, if you got it and still think it’s “the best part,” then others who missed it need to see who you are and what you’re kicking.)

36

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 5:27 am

when you discount half of them

I’m sorry, was “bitch” misogynistic? I don’t like her very much, but I’ll withdraw it.

37

Sebastian H 08.02.11 at 5:37 am

“Translation: If you can’t make me say I’m wrong then I win (and how many times do we have to go through this song and dance?)”

Yeah don’t do that, that is ScentofViolet’s exclusive game.

I’d like to hear more about the dense social ties too.

38

kidneystones 08.02.11 at 5:37 am

sov (lovely name, btw) and nick write…

Kevin Drum looks at the infamous sh@t sandwich and discovers the unpalatable truth: so-called progressives offered no compelling arguments to convince voters to that Dems could be trusted to manage the economic crisis. The first concrete evidence of Dem failure arrived in 2010. The rest has been arriving in installments.

I found Newt Gingrich’s willingness to transform every act of lunacy into an indictment of his political opponents profoundly loathsome. Dem willingness to sell-out the poor to the public service unions is the most illuminating example of Dem special interest politics. Hurling invective at the right hasn’t worked. Nor will it, I suspect, given the evidence of recent elections. Grayson ramped up the Taliban Dan rhetoric and torpedoed his own campaign. Imagining the left to be conscientious and noble at a time when the Dem peace-prize president is waging three wars and selling out the poor is self-deception at the deepest level, as Glenn Greenwald has repeatedly pointed out.

The term “social” is Henry’s, Nick. By which, I offered two examples. Racist bigot Rahm Emmanuel’s father is inside the Dem/AIPAC tent as much as Pam is. Reagan dined with Will in his home. There are real historical links connecting right-wing terrorism with “respectable” Democratic political organizations. Robert Byrd is one recent example. Dem politicians in Boston rely, in part, on Irish communities that still view the British presence in Ireland as an illegal occupation.

Calling out Rubin seems entirely unreasonable given the scurrilous accusations of “terrorism” being leveled at people I happen to disagree with. They’re wrong, they’re not evil. Their success, as Kevin Drum points out, is concrete evidence of progressive failure, not of libertarian success.

39

ScentOfViolets 08.02.11 at 5:41 am

A poster above waded in with a very coarse and sarcastic call-out of the purely religious aspects of this comedy of errors, and I asked him to draw it mild, because if he thinks she’s hiding behind a suddenly invented lifestyle then her column’s archive refutes him, and if he thinks her lifestyle doesn’t add up to a strong factual alibi for just the exculpatory bits above then I can cite common Jewish experience to refute him. And if we have indeed come to “mocking the absurdities of religion” when those absurdities, considered gravely and anthropologically, explain the otherwise psychologically inexplicable, then we are at a place where there is no point in trying to make sense of what and when this confused and misinformed bitch actually wrote.

Sigh. Josh, I’m dumb, but I’m not stupid. I ask you again:

Nothing about this is implausible or reprehensible from a perspective of Jewish law at anything near the vulgar and prurient threshold of lashon hara that is crossed by calling her on it.

Did you really think I wouldn’t notice this?

You get one last chance. Then I’m going to conclude that there’s simply no connection between the two observations . . . with the concomitant conclusion that you wanted to engage in “her accuser is just as bad” diversionary tactics. And whether or not her accuser is “just as bad”, it still doesn’t change the fact that her behaviour has been appalling – especially for so ineptly trying to play the religious card.

You want to talk about how bad Daniel’s been behaving by bringing up her little stunt as a completely separate issue? Go and write up your own blog post about it. Nothing’s stopping you.

40

ScentOfViolets 08.02.11 at 5:44 am

Can’t help you with the dumb mathematician part, sorry. For what it’s worth, I’m a smart particle physicist, and ceteris paribus that would put us roughly eye to eye.

Btw, this puts you somewhat beneath me. Two words: String Theory ;-)

41

snuh 08.02.11 at 6:08 am

obviously i’m not jewish and don’t know terribly much about judaism, but it is amusing that there apparently exists a religious tradition in which correcting mean-spirited errors during arbitrary hours of the week is considered an ethical transgression.

42

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 6:13 am

And whether or not her accuser is “just as bad”, it still doesn’t change the fact that her behaviour has been appalling – especially for so ineptly trying to play the religious card.

Well, that’s just it, isn’t it? The “religious card” here might be a ruse, played by the ombudsman who on this reading should at least change his job title to “apologist” if not to “sock puppet.” But then we have to explain why months of prior archived postings support the ruse. On the Occam hand, my simpler theory that she was completely out of the loop from minutes after Norwegian authorities proved her a fool until minutes before she leapt ineptly to her own defense . . . is completely consistent with everything we know, and adds up to a nightmare gaffe that will make most observant Jews cringe with empathy, remembering similar fiascoes or near misses — be the rest ever so appalling.

Daniel thinks, either in ignorance of halakhic nuance or in gleeful “gotcha” contempt of same, that he has a Perry Mason answer to where Jennifer was on the night of July 22nd. He’s wrong, but if it were me caught against the stopwatch in her place, I’d be pretty embarrassed. Not embarrassing people in this way is a very big thing in halakha, and if I’m going to comment at all then Lev 19:17 sets the proper tone. Tu quoque is no answer to valid thoughtful rebuke, but it is the perfect riposte to a hypocrite who misuses a law he neither follows nor respects to humilate someone who, whatever her other faults, appears to be trying to live under its yoke.

43

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 6:21 am

obviously i’m not jewish and don’t know terribly much about judaism, but it is amusing that there apparently exists a religious tradition in which correcting mean-spirited errors during arbitrary hours of the week is considered an ethical transgression.

An excellent point, and one I raised at once in @10. Supposing she became aware of the mean-spirited error early in the sabbath, she’s on the horns of a dilemma, and I would certainly think better of her for making the humane choice — notwithstanding the well-known jape that the rabbi who said “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” was a heretic.

But it’s not so amusing that a personal piety as innocuous, in itself even salutary, as turning off the beeping world for a day can lead with complete obliviousness to the same result, is it?

44

nick s 08.02.11 at 6:23 am

Dem politicians in Boston rely, in part, on Irish communities that still view the British presence in Ireland as an illegal occupation.

I think you mean ‘Republican politicians in New York’. But we’ve established at least, amid the spatterdash, that you’re working from a definition of ‘social’ that requires supping at table and sitting on a porch, as opposed to attending political gatherings, forming political organisations and conducting political activities together in physical and online environments. How quaint.

45

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 6:29 am

Two words: String Theory ;-)

Got a Fields Medal of your own, have you? I’m impressed. And here I was giving you the toss by equating even a dumb mathematician with one of our’n — I stand abashed.

46

kidneystones 08.02.11 at 6:36 am

nick s writes….

Actually, I do mean Dem constituencies in Boston, but I’ll happily acknowledge Republican links to terrorism in Ireland and Latin America. Unlike you, I’m not a drum-beater for either party. I don’t want to appear rude, another difference separating us I fear, but you’ve just now pointed out the fairly obvious distinctions between what most people might consider to be “social” relationships and those based exclusively on political affiliation and interest. Congratulations, I suppose, are in order and I’d offer mine had you made your argument rather my own. Thank you, though.

Still waiting for evidence of the “dense social ties” binding advocates of violence and the larger conservative community. Not holding my breath however.

47

dsquared 08.02.11 at 6:44 am

Hang on; are you saying that Pamela Geller is an out-there wacko bigot who isn’t really part of the conservative community? I thought you were accepting that she was part of the conservative blogosphere but that she couldn’t be accused of directly advocating violence. The fact that we are confused about this seems to be a big problem for your argument, kidneystones.

48

IM 08.02.11 at 6:46 am

“a hypocrite who misuses a law he neither follows nor respects “

That is a pretty good description of Rubin.

Who by the way attacked american jews for being to intellectual – that is in antisemitic terms – because they couldn’t see the glory of Sarah Palin.

49

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 6:58 am

“a hypocrite who misuses a law he neither follows nor respects ”
That is a pretty good description of Rubin.

No doubt, and I hope those who noticed her before I did have been calling her on it in neighborly reproof. With all that ammunition, though, why attack her sabbath observance? . . . and, especially, why be arch about it when it looks like the only guileless part of this story? (Unless, of course, the target is sabbath observance simpliciter, and if that’s the punchline I feel my time has been well spent drawing it out.)

50

IM 08.02.11 at 7:09 am

Nobody aside you gives a damn about her Sabbath observance. She is a polititical hack, not a charming person in aWalter Scott novel. If she really wants to stop writing on friday evening, perhaps she just should stop writing.
But no, her two gods – hate and war – needed a sacrifice.

Now we know: If her assumed religion – she hates being jewish anyway, wanting to be a true full blooded american like Palin instead – and the interests of the military-industrial complex clash, the MIC wins. That the dozens of dead from a terrorist attack are just fodder for the propaganda needs of the military-industrial complex is just the dressing.

51

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 7:14 am

If she really wants to stop writing on friday evening, perhaps she just should stop writing.

Oo, wot a giveaway! D’jou hear that? D’jou hear that, eh? That’s wot I’m on about!

52

IM 08.02.11 at 7:20 am

Because the world needed her comment friday evening, when not much was known anyway and not a day later?

53

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 7:41 am

Better: “If she really wants to stop writing on Friday evening, perhaps she should stop writing late on Friday afternoon.” Sound advice, for both a peaceful Saturday and a calm start to the workweek.

The other way has also been encouraged many times, of course, but it never ends well.

54

IM 08.02.11 at 7:45 am

That is what I said. But you wanted to misinterpret it.

55

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 7:55 am

That is what I said.

In @49? Really? (6079 Smith W, is that you?)

56

bad Jim 08.02.11 at 7:56 am

We need a law of the excluded muddle to get rid of compulsive centrist disorder. “Shape of the earth? Opinions vary.” The left isn’t denying evolution or climate change or simple budget arithmetic or claiming an existential threat from poor Middle Eastern countries or thundering about an impending end to civilization due to immigration or the prospect of universal health care or Bibles being taken away or Christmas made illegal or marriage destroyed. The right wing, however, is in lockstep insisting on each and every one of such insane propositions.

The left is of course angry that hard-won gains and precious opportunities are being lost. It’s true that both sides are angry, but adults are expected to understand that there are better strategies than equalizing tantrums. Of course, if our opinion leaders understood that, we’d have fought fewer wars and mightn’t be in such a sad state right now.

57

IM 08.02.11 at 7:57 am

No. I am what I am.

58

Phil 08.02.11 at 8:06 am

Piglet – there are two main readings of the Italian “years of lead”. One (whose advocates have included Philip Willan, Guy Debord, Sergio Flamigni and ex-Red Brigadist Alberto Franceschini) has it that it was mainly a matter of parapolitics & false-flag operations with a fringe of more or less deluded genuine activists. The other (whose advocates include most historians of the period and most activists who were around at the time, notably ex-Red Brigadist Renato Curcio) says that it was a genuine social movement phenomenon which the secret state meddled in & tried to use for their own ends.

Both sides agree that both elements existed – it ultimately comes down to which end you want to start at. While I’ve got a lot of respect for the people in the first list, I think it’s a really good idea to start at the social movement end. That goes for the Right, too – neo-fascist street-fighting was a substantial social movement in Italy in the mid-70s. (One of the less remarked-upon things that happened in the late 70s was that they were driven off the streets.)

59

Phil 08.02.11 at 8:22 am

The left isn’t denying evolution or climate change or simple budget arithmetic or claiming an existential threat from poor Middle Eastern countries or thundering about an impending end to civilization due to immigration or the prospect of universal health care or Bibles being taken away or Christmas made illegal or marriage destroyed. The right wing, however, is in lockstep insisting on each and every one of such insane propositions.

This reminds me of two things, one of which is the Left as a social movement (sit quietly, children, while I tell you a story from the old days). Back when vegetarianism (say) was an oppositional statement rather than just a lifestyle choice, you knew more or less what you were likely to get if someone said they were a veggie: you knew they were very likely to support CND, very likely to give to Oxfam, quite likely to believe in gay rights, quite likely to believe in homeopathy and a bit more likely to have doubts about the Kennedy assassination than the average bear. Those things are unbundled now – an X-Files box set isn’t the mark of a radical. That’s a mark of progress – the reason they’re unbundled is that they’re all more or less mainstream. But a bundle of ideas like that is a powerful thing, particularly when you’re mobilising – it means you know what you’re getting as soon as someone opens their mouth, and you can concentrate on fighting the common enemy. Maybe that’s something like what we’re facing from the Right now. (Just a shame the ideas are so crazy.)

The other thing it made me think of was Italy, only this time I’m thinking of present-day Italy. A paper I’m working on at the moment has this formulation about the difficulty of Left-Right polarisation in Italian conditions:

the drive for a transition to some form of political normality has become the primary cleavage in Italian politics. However, this dividing factor has the predictable, if ironic, effect of uniting those who resist it far more effectively than those who support it: one bloc includes those parties which oppose all the goals of the transition, coherently and consistently, while the other includes those which support any of them, with whatever degree of inconsistency and opportunism. Both blocs are ideologically heterogeneous, but the relative balance of heterogeneity is strongly in favour of the Right.

“Transition to political normality” is very much an Italian thing, but the dynamics of imperfect polarisation seem to map onto the US situation.

60

bad Jim 08.02.11 at 8:27 am

(Note that it was the ombudsman who asserted religious privilege to excuse Rubin’s tardy and tendentious acquiescence to reality. The problem isn’t that in this case it’s rather lame, it’s that it’s no excuse at all. )

61

William Timberman 08.02.11 at 8:27 am

b9n10nt @ 15

In the present political climate — pace Gramsci — lexical usurpations of the kind you advocate are a purely Republican specialty. We probably ought to try something else — anything else. Even if no one thinks we’re very clever, we might eventually come away with a reputation for honesty.

62

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 8:43 am

The problem isn’t that in this case it’s rather lame, it’s that it’s no excuse at all.

Could you elaborate on this a bit? Stipulating arguendo that she was truly ignorant of both world news and the response to her stupid posting until she saw the morning paper, or even for the whole of shabbat, as any observant Jew (whose Friday dinner and Saturday lunch companions are not political junkies) would be routinely likely to be — or that, aware of it, she felt ritually obligated to hold off until evening — what would you recommend?

That her acquiescence to reality was tendentious and grudging, who can deny? But do you truly consider its tardiness unexcused, or do you conclude the ombudsman is lying? And if the latter, then where is all her prior sabbath-breaking writing to support the charge?

63

William Timberman 08.02.11 at 8:46 am

Joshua W. Burton

I’m neither a Jew nor a particle physicist, but I’ve enjoyed your teaching. When facing judgments temporal or spiritual, I’d be relieved to have someone with your talents to counsel me. (I doubt that one so agile would necessarily be available for such a humble task, but even the act of looking for one would be a comfort.)

64

bad Jim 08.02.11 at 8:49 am

Phil, I am of course discussing the United States, where, unfortunately, diversity itself is demonized by one side and considered a source of strength by the other. Maps of election results, church membership, histories of slavery, state policies on taxation, education and contraception, and for that matter even diabetes incidence, are nearly indistinguishable.

65

kidneystones 08.02.11 at 8:51 am

dsquared writes…

You’ll have to ask nick s. about Geller. I’m saying she’s a bigot. I’m agreeing with Henry that there is a difference in the way the right and the left responds specifically to those who advocate violence and offered some reasons why. Geller may well have dense, social ties to mainstream conservatism. However, I haven’t seen any evidence of “dense, social ties” linking anyone to anyone. When I do, I’ll let you know. The name-calling seems juvenile and counter-productive at best. As noted, I found Gingrich’s attempts to exploit acts of madness for political purposes reprehensible.

Calling the tea party “terrorists” is about on par with calling those who opposed the war “terrorist-sympathizers.” As I noted initially, I’m prepared to believe the dense, social ties exist. But I don’t consider political activists attending the same political conventions or even exchanging links to be dense, social ties. Color me old-fashioned.

Hope the helps.

66

bad Jim 08.02.11 at 9:25 am

Joshua, my points are that the ombudsman made that defense, not Rubin, and that I don’t have to respect any religious excuse. “God ate her homework” simply does not deserve to be taken seriously.

Apart from that, I have no concerns about hers or any observance of the Sabbath. I’m of the opinion that the oft-quoted line from Hamlet, that a particular custom was more honored in its breach than its observance, meant that it was actually preferable that a cannonade not accompany the king’s carouse, not merely noting that it was seldom observed.

67

dsquared 08.02.11 at 9:48 am

However, I haven’t seen any evidence of “dense, social ties” linking anyone to anyone. When I do, I’ll let you know

don’t put yourself out unduly, but most of these blogs summarise their “links” to other conservatives, via a list of links, often helpfully entitled “Links”, or some such.

I don’t consider political activists attending the same political conventions or even exchanging links to be dense, social ties. Color me old-fashioned.

Sorry, but the kids left the cap off my “Old-fashioned” highlighter pen and it’s dried out; I’ll colour you “completely unreasonable”, it’s a pretty similar shade.

68

Chris E 08.02.11 at 9:54 am

““forceful and unrepentant, yet not unreasonable.”

In the circumstances, that is a very strange definition of ‘not unreasonable’.

69

Roger 08.02.11 at 10:03 am

‘I can’t remember the term for this logical fallacy (it’s of the ‘all cats have fur – all dogs have fur – therefore all cats are dogs’ variety). No doubt someone who, unlike me, took Philosophy 101, will inform me in comments within moments of publication. But an awful lot of work is being done by the elasticity of the notion of rage-stoking extremism here’.

Pot, kettle, Chris Bertram.

70

MR Bill 08.02.11 at 12:15 pm

Re: Pam Geller.
British Activist and former Ambassador Craig Murray asks who funded Breivik, and his comments catch Pam Geller scrubbing stuff (like quite suggestive letter from Norway) from her website: http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2011/07/who-funded-breivik/
Ms. Rubin? meh.

71

SamChevre 08.02.11 at 1:34 pm

May I just register my amusement that anyone could look at the history of the US over the last 50 years and think the Right, rather than the Left, is the group that relies on means outside the democratic process to change social norms?

72

P O'Neill 08.02.11 at 1:45 pm

I assume that Pexton’s NYT equivalent is already typing up his bipartisan moderate centrist take on Joe Nocera’s column today.

73

Daniel Nexon 08.02.11 at 1:50 pm

Joshua – I think you are misunderstanding the spirit of my criticism. I have no doubt that Rubin is an observant Jew and I do not believe this to be a sudden and facetious defense. But I find it ridiculous (not as in “implausible”) that she was, by (apparent) admission, willing to work late to finish a few of her propaganda posts but completely disinterested in monitoring an important, developing story she had weighed in on in a cavalier manner. Your response to me is to invoke a minority opinion on timing that observant Jews usually rely on to deal with circumstances beyond their control, e.g., late planes., which I think demonstrates the degree to which we are talking past one another. As someone whose short-lived religious experience is in the reform tradition, I frankly don’t care if she blogs or reads reuters updates until the wee hours of the morning. But I think the whole episode says a great deal about how she manages the intersection of her religious and secular priorities.

74

nick s 08.02.11 at 2:08 pm

I don’t want to appear rude, another difference separating us I fear

Well, bless your heart.

75

Walt 08.02.11 at 2:25 pm

If anything, the fact that she was immediately unavailable makes it worse. If you’re going to make an unfounded accusation, you shouldn’t do it right before you become unavailable to revise or retract it.

76

Calderon 08.02.11 at 2:39 pm

There is no effective contact between e.g. MoveOn or the Daily Kos on the one hand, and the various subgroups and splinters who are more enthusiastic about violence on the other. When the latter try to influence the former, they get mobbed and repelled. The right is a quite different matter – there are dense social ties between online partisans and anti-Muslim bigots and crazies claiming that universal dhimmidom is right around the corner.

What’s the evidence for this general claim? As for the specific issue, so far as I can tell, Anders Breivik had no more involvement with anti-Muslim websites than James Lee did with Al Gore.

77

Theophylact 08.02.11 at 2:39 pm

That’s the Texas “Well, bless your heart”, I presume.

78

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 2:56 pm

But I think the whole episode says a great deal about how she manages the intersection of her religious and secular priorities.

Daniel, are you saying that imperfectly punctilious observance — the kind that can get caught up in work for a half hour past shkiah, once — is inconsistent with “unplugging” as a factual matter (nobody lives that way, so she must be lying) or are you saying that the juxtaposition is possible but “ridiculous” (if she lives that way, she deserves to have her observance publicly laughed at, when it leads to a bad outcome)?

If the former, I can point you here to start; the Sabbath bride has many suitors outside the shtetl, as anyone who has made contact with “the reform tradition” might know. If the latter, I will say again that the etiquette problem itself rises to a halakhic matter of some gravity, and that on the ordinary humane level you might think about cutting a Jew the slack you would cut a person. (“See, she stopped off to go to early Mass and missed her plane, but — here’s the best part, see — it turns out that making up a skipped Mass on Monday morning, according to Archbishop X, isn’t even allowed.”)

Her beliefs and practices, whatever you think of them (and whatever bad Jim and others above think of hers, yours and mine) seem, as a factual matter, to explain her 23-hour silence as very likely oblivious rather than stubborn. Especially if her level of observance doesn’t live up to her own ideals, she may be shy to bring it up, but Pexton, standing as ombudsman near her desk and far from her sabbath table, finds it convincing and worth mentioning. Please, just leave it there and confine your contempt to the aspects of Ms. Rubin’s work and life that are in fact contemptible. They’re not hard to find.

79

mds 08.02.11 at 2:58 pm

Well, bless your heart.

Spot on, nick s. At least kidneystones didn’t mention praying for us.

If you’re going to make an unfounded accusation, you shouldn’t do it right before you become unavailable to revise or retract it.

Feature, not bug. Especially when it allowed the ombudsman to turn it all into “How dare you criticize the tardiness of her correction, you anti-semites,” rather than acknowledging that her follow up was no genuine correction at all, but a doubling-down on her vicious thuggery. Seriously, “Okay, this time it wasn’t the Islamist brutes, but it still means I’m right about the need for lots of offensive military equipment to kill Muslims with” is reprehensible regardless of whether she rolls on Shabbos or not.

80

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 2:59 pm

Walt writes:

If anything, the fact that she was immediately unavailable makes it worse. If you’re going to make an unfounded accusation, you shouldn’t do it right before you become unavailable to revise or retract it.

With this, I heartily agree. But it’s a lesson of prudence, much more than of decency.

81

Uncle Kvetch 08.02.11 at 3:02 pm

Liberals and conservatives don’t talk to each other much anymore; they exist in parallel online universes, only crossing over to grab some explosive anti-matter from the other side to stoke the rage in their own blogosphere.

Wow. Apparently this joker hasn’t listened to 10 minutes of right-wing talk radio in his entire life.

82

Daniel Nexon 08.02.11 at 3:20 pm

Joshua – as is the responsible thing to do, I’ll blame myself for your conintued misunderstanding of the nature of my criticisms. She was working on her computer until about 9pm. She was blogging until about 9pm. Yet she apparently never once, after 8.30, bothered to check headline news developments? Her latest Obama-is-a-lameo missive was important enough for her to stretch her “day” but during that same time an unfolding terrorist attack–one she considered important enough to drive our defense and security policy–deserved not ten seconds of her time? It isn’t that I don’t believe her. I do. But it is precisely because I believe her that I condemn her.

If you think this amounts to an undignified attack on her religiosity, then all I can say to you is “chill out.”

83

Uncle Kvetch 08.02.11 at 3:20 pm

9/11 truthers enjoy enormous support from the online left community…

Bullshit.

…so much so that they had to be banned from DKOS and other sites.

So much support that they were banned by the same community that gives them enormous support? That’s not even bullshit, that’s just idiotic.

I think Henry errs in his “jihad” against Rubin, to use popular progressive jargon.

Bullshit again.

Robert Byrd is one recent example.

BINGO! Where’s my prize?

84

Dragon-King Wangchuck 08.02.11 at 3:36 pm

I had a bit of an explosive conniption about that Pexton piece yesterday. I won’t quote it since it is full of that uncivil language and vitriol that is apparently responsible for all the ills of the world, but (and apologies in advance if my HTML is messed up – the Preview seems to be messed up) here are some links. Anyways here’s the main things that enraged me about that piece:

1. Hasty conclusions. Teh hasty conclusions that left-wing bloogers jumped to was that Rubin is a racist and sociopathic hack who thinks all terrorists are Muslims and cares less about the dozens of dead and injured than about cuts to defense spending. Teh hasty conclusions that Rubin (and Pexton as well) jumped too was that the Utoya massacre must have been the work of Muslims (since all terrorists are Muslim). Who do you think has an easier set of conclusions to justify?

2. The obscenely horrendous nature of Rubin’s (and Pexton’s) conclusion. I mean, it could not be moar wrong. It wasn’t Islamic terror – it was Anti-Islamic terror. Plus – it is part of the whole “Islam is Evil” narrative required for the right-wing mass murderer to maintain his Holy War delusions.

3. The obscenely horrendous nature of this whole left-right equivalence nonsense. Seriously. The victims of the massacre were leftist socialists. It was a leadership camp for the Norwegian Labour Party. So a right-wing psycho shoots up a bunch of left-wing kids – doesn’t that make this the worst possible time to try and peddle a “both sides do it” narrative.

4. Where is this “both sides do it” when the Wash Post has negative stories about left-wingers? When the derisory editorials about anti-war protests were covering every single op-ed page on the planet, how many of them derided “both sides”? When covering anti-globalisation protests, where are the balancing statements about right-wing activists?

5. “Both sides”? Really? Go ahead and name some incidents of left-wing extremism. Think up the worst ones you possibly can and then compare them with what happened two weeks ago. Example, the G20 protest in my hometown – zero fatalities and the overwhelming majority of injuries were to protestors (some of whom were victims of excessive police force). Nevermind the difference between simple partisan name-calling and serious extremist activity – there is a fundamental difference between left-wing activism and right-wing activism.

6. Pexton claims that the high degree of partisanship means that left and right “don’t talk to each other”. Kinda rich to be making that observation while defending Jennifer Rubin’s column – one that even he acknowledges as being offensive to the left-leaning. funny how change never seems to start with the publisher in the mirror.

7. This is apparently from the Washington Post’s ombudsman. I’m starting to think that the Washington Post doesn’t know what “ombudsman” means.

85

Dragon-King Wangchuck 08.02.11 at 3:38 pm

Clarification: “my hometown” is Toronto. Which I affectionately refer to as “LEAFS SUCK”.

86

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 3:39 pm

mds, @79:

Especially when it allowed the ombudsman to turn it all into “How dare you criticize the tardiness of her correction, you anti-semites,” rather than acknowledging that her follow up was no genuine correction at all, but a doubling-down on her vicious thuggery.

No, he clearly (if rather limply) acknowledged it. “When she went online at 8 p.m. Saturday, her mea culpa post on Norway was the first thing she posted, although its tone also hurt her, particularly this sentence, which struck many readers as borderline racist . . . .”

And his review of the sunset vs. news wire chronology is exactly the sort of fact finding for which an ombudsman is needed. “Rubin should have rechecked the facts before signing off, and Post editors should have thought about editing her post more that night.” In other words, there is blame here, and some of it accrues to our masthead rather than to an employee who has certain Title VII rights to reasonable accommodation.

I think it’s easy to say what Pexton said (or hey, even everything I have said here and above) without playing the anti-semitism card. But by all means, keep a close eye on it if you are worried that the trump play will beat your hand.

87

Daniel Nexon 08.02.11 at 3:45 pm

Joshua – two additional points of clarification:

1) I do see how some of my early posts implied your interpretation, so my “chill out” was uncalled for; and
2) accusing an agnostic of committing a sin is pretty pointless.

The gist of my “she was working until 9pm” is that invoking her status as an observant Jew does not evade the basic problem: beyond the opportunity to score cheap political points, she just doesn’t really care.

88

Substance McGravitas 08.02.11 at 3:46 pm

I think it’s easy to say what Pexton said (or hey, even everything I have said here and above) without playing the anti-semitism card.

What anti-semitism has been demonstrated thus far?

89

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 3:53 pm

Daniel Nexon, @82:

She was working on her computer until about 9pm. She was blogging until about 9pm. Yet she apparently never once, after 8.30, bothered to check headline news developments?

Sure. She was closing down, and her input channel necessarily lowers the semaphore before she clears the output cache. I have often had more than a half hour of outgoing state to clear on my way out the door, haven’t you? This is basic computer science at human timescales; it doesn’t even touch any religious question. Suppose she’d had a long, long plane flight to catch at a fixed time, and was so full of herself that she went on blogging until the taxi had been honking for a while? There is still no way her last posting can reflect everything she would know if she had been listening instead of typing it.

90

Dragon-King Wangchuck 08.02.11 at 4:07 pm

Further clarification on #7.

I don’t mean to cloud the main point with all the highlighting of Pexton’s blatant hypocrisy. Yes, the accusations he throws at Rubin’s critics are just as valid if not moar so when levelled at both he and Rubin. That’s an important thing to notice. BUT moar importantly:

The ombudsman of the Washington Post just used the offensiveness of Jennifer Rubin’s posts as a justification for them being wrong.

Here’s his words:
If your politics are liberal and you don’t generally read Rubin, but you read her Norway posts, you probably would be pretty offended. But if you are a conservative, or someone who reads Rubin regularly, you’ll know that this is what she does and who she is.

Slightly Shorter Patrick B. Pexton:
If Jennifer Rubin has offended you, well that is a feature and not a bug. And as the representative of the Washington Post’s readership I have to say that you are all very mean and little people for complaining about it. Besides the real monsters in this whole scenario aren’t the folks at the Washington Post for supporting the notion that “all terrorists are Muslims (even when they aren’t – because Islam is Evil)”. It isn’t even the deranged psychotic Knight Justiciar living in his delusional world of Holy War against the Evil that is Islam. It’s the readers of the Washington Post. Especially the uncivil ones.

91

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 4:07 pm

Daniel Nexon, @87:

1) I do see how some of my early posts implied your interpretation, so my “chill out” was uncalled for;

Thanks for that.

and 2) accusing an agnostic of committing a sin is pretty pointless.

Not at all; it denies him the asymmetric tactic of using your own scruples, which he does not share, against you.

92

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 4:17 pm

Substance McGravitas, @88:

What anti-semitism has been demonstrated thus far?

None, and none has been insinuated. I’m puzzled that “mds” even brought it up, unless the subject is much on his mind.

I did clearly mark off (@33, 51) some wrong turns that would quickly take the discussion into that swamp, but so far everyone has avoided them.

93

mds 08.02.11 at 4:20 pm

I’m puzzled that “mds” even brought it up, unless the subject is much on his mind.

Well, bless your heart. I must grudgingly applaud your skill.

94

kidneystones 08.02.11 at 4:28 pm

Uncle Kvetch complains,

There’s some sloppy thinking going on here, unc. DU, DKOS, and associated sites are run as private fiefs, not democracies. The reason management had to act, in the case of DKOS, is because the community did not. The majority of commenters/diarists may well have refudiated the troofers, but that didn’t stop a whole bunch of diaries dedicated to “exploring the question” from cropping up on a daily basis. And if the metric for “dense, social links” is cross-posting, then I can assure you that there are plenty of 9/11 troofers who are currently posting at DKOS and also at sites that tolerate the swill.

Smear them all for the actions of a few? Why not? To be fair, it is entirely possible that you simply don’t read and are, therefore, unaware of the fact that there are currently about six featured op-eds railing about tea-party jihadis from the NYT and other bastions of balance and fair-play. Check out RCP or the Huffpo, I’m sure you’ll find the offending headlines.

I’m fine, btw, with all the name-calling and the sarcasm. It just doesn’t seem to be winning progressives many battles. But don’t let that stop you.

Bingo! Do I win a prize?

Cute.

95

Daniel Nexon 08.02.11 at 4:29 pm

Im a bit confused as to how I’m using Rubin’s own scruples against her. I’ve been arguing that religious observance is not a good excuse for her behavior before she unplugged. I did not mean to suggest, although I can see how that was a reasonable interpretation of my comments, that she shouldn’t have gone silent from that point on.

Anyway, I would like to think that a journalist with a national platform would — knowing that s/he was approaching cutoff, that s/he had made some pretty serious claims, and that information had been circulating for a few hours that already undercut the assumption behind those claims — bother to check the “story of the day” just once before signoff. After all, it takes only a “reload” on a static news page. But, not having done so, I would hope that if religion were offered in his/her defense, that this would be in the context of a genuine mea culpa.

However, I’m not a blogger for a national newspaper, so what would I know about journalistic responsibility?

96

Daniel Nexon 08.02.11 at 4:34 pm

And let me add that I think there were good reasons for leaning toward a jihadist motivation for the attack. For months the terror-watch literature has worried about cells planning to launch small-arms attacks in Europe. Rubin’s “sin” was to take this wager and elevate it into a left-baiting call to buy more F-35s.

97

Bruce Baugh 08.02.11 at 4:35 pm

This is a serious question.

I knew that there are passages in the Talmud that explicitly discuss circumstances in which it’s appropriate to break the dietary laws – basically, to save one’s life, and to help save others’, the idea being that it’s better to live and be capable of good in the future and have a bit of atoning for impure eating to do than to insist on eating purely and die because of it. I seem to recall that there are precedents for Jesus’ comments about doing lifesaving work on the Sabbath, that it’s not just another of his own riffs on what it all means.

What I don’t know is how much there is in the same vein when it comes to apologizing for having wronged others and making one’s regrets and the truth known. Wasn’t having much luck browsing on the subject, either. Are there any readers who can address the matter knowledgeably? (And I’m not going to mind being told “no, there isn’t such a thing”; I’m ignorant and curious.)

98

Henri Vieuxtemps 08.02.11 at 4:39 pm

Would this be a bad time to make a joke along the lines of ‘she should get a shabbat goy blogger’? ’cause that was the first thing that came to my mind when I read Pexton’s piece.

99

bianca steele 08.02.11 at 4:42 pm

Would this be a bad time to make a joke along the lines of maybe this isn’t a good kind of job for a nice Jewish girl to have? Though maybe if you’re far enough to the right you get a, like, indulgence.

100

Dragon-King Wangchuck 08.02.11 at 4:46 pm

Also too, this argument about whether Rubin was justified in leaving her factually incorrect piece of tripe uncorrected for so long is besides the point. This is her correction:

That the suspect here is a blond Norwegian does not support the proposition that we can rest easy with regard to the panoply of threats we face or that homeland security, intelligence and traditional military can be pruned back. To the contrary, the world remains very dangerous because very bad people will do horrendous things. There are many more jihadists than blond Norwegians out to kill Americans, and we should keep our eye on the systemic and far more potent threats that stem from an ideological war with the West.

LOL! Factually wrong (and as factually wrong as she could possibly be) but still right. Because:
1. Defense spending is moar important than the dozens of dead and injured. Who cares what actually happened when there’s a possibility of cuts to the Pentagon!
2. Islam is Evil. Maybe not the only Evil, but at a minimum – moar evil than Anders Breivik.

The fact that she’s an observant Jew and therefore had some cooling off time* before posting her update kinda makes it worse.

* I thought that a full day of introspection might have alerted Rubin to the fact that perhaps it was a little too soon to be analyzing a mass murder from the perspective of budget negotiations. Guess that shows how wrnog I can be.

101

ScentOfViolets 08.02.11 at 4:48 pm

and 2) accusing an agnostic of committing a sin is pretty pointless..

Not at all; it denies him the asymmetric tactic of using your own scruples, which he does not share, against you.

Riiiiight. Pointing out that a congressman who says certain sexual practices are “against his relgion” has just been caught in a bathroom stall with his pants around his ankles while being ministered to by a young man is just an ill-bred attempt at “asymmetric tactics”. Pull the other one; it’s got bells on.

Daniel thinks, either in ignorance of halakhic nuance or in gleeful “gotcha” contempt of same, that he has a Perry Mason answer to where Jennifer was on the night of July 22nd. He’s wrong, but if it were me caught against the stopwatch in her place, I’d be pretty embarrassed. Not embarrassing people in this way is a very big thing in halakha, and if I’m going to comment at all then Lev 19:17 sets the proper tone. Tu quoque is no answer to valid thoughtful rebuke, but it is the perfect riposte to a hypocrite who misuses a law he neither follows nor respects to humilate someone who, whatever her other faults, appears to be trying to live under its yoke.

I think you misunderstood what Daniel was saying. But it’s nice to know it’s taken you only a few hundred words to slip in the mumbled admission that no, there is no connection. And that you’re perfectly okay with such ethically dubious practices. I guess that your thinking there was, even if you are caught out, what’s anyone going to do about it. Shades of “epistemic environments”! Speaking of which:

Got a Fields Medal of your own, have you? I’m impressed. And here I was giving you the toss by equating even a dumb mathematician with one of our’n—I stand abashed.

Uh-huh. A Fields Medal trumps testable predictions. A Fields Medal trumps falsifiability. Good to know just what kind of a physicist you are. Oh, and btw, my name? ScentOfViolets? That’s an allusion to a rather famous 19th mathematical physics problem (in fact, it’s a filter. A lot of people who are physicists – and even some mathematicians – have gotten it.) You may have heard of Boltzmann tussling with statistical mechanics? No, I guess not.

And so while I’m still just a dumb mathematician, at least I don’t make stupid logical errors like certain physicists, or cling to theories that aren’t really theories, like certain physicists, or am unable to recognize major historical developments in my field, like certain physicists ;-)

102

Dragon-King Wangchuck 08.02.11 at 4:49 pm

Daniel Nexon @ 96,

To steal a phrase, Sadly, No!

103

ScentOfViolets 08.02.11 at 4:56 pm

I’m fine, btw, with all the name-calling and the sarcasm. It just doesn’t seem to be winning progressives many battles. But don’t let that stop you.

Sigh. Who says that we’re all “progessives”, Kemosabe? Nice to know that you think that ethics are just tools to employed in the battle of Gotchas! though.

And hey, why don’t you tell us – specifically – what sort of evidence it would take to “convince” you. Specifically.

And in advance, please. Don’t want to go through yet another cycle of “that’s not really evidence, so I’m still right”, now. Right ;-)

104

Dragon-King Wangchuck 08.02.11 at 5:00 pm

The actual report (a 7MB pdf). Three Islamic terror attacks in 2010:

1. A cartoonist had to lock himself in his panic room when attacked by one guy. No casualties.
2. A toilet bomb (set by one guy) exploded pre-maturely. No casualties.
3. Two explosions ten minutes apart, set back one guy. One fatality. That same guy.

OMG! Al Qaeda! Al Qaeda! Or whomever the current Islamic Terror Boogeyman is!

105

nick s 08.02.11 at 5:07 pm

if the metric for “dense, social links” is cross-posting

Which it isn’t. But don’t let that stop you.

106

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 5:08 pm

I’m a bit confused as to how I’m using Rubin’s own scruples against her.

You aren’t, unless (as was, for a while, unclear) you were saying, not even that people shouldn’t keep shabbat, but that people who keep shabbat imperfectly lose the privilege.

I agree, and have repeatedly averred above, that talking when she’s done listening is journalistic bad form and speaks to character, and that (because any sabbath observer has been caught in this trap now and then) Friday afternoon is a good time to err on the side of prudence, which she emphatically did not. (The ombudsman cuts through the religious excuse and dings her for this, in fact.) I think you can play fast and loose with these constraints for a long time without catching a bad break of this magnitude, but that’s high-stakes pool for you. My ire is chiefly (mis?)directed at the proposition, which you also reject if I now understand you, that it would be poor judgment and ego overtaken by bad luck at 8:11 by the Chabad calendar, but it’s mere hypocritical sanctimony at 9:03.

107

Dan Nexon 08.02.11 at 5:09 pm

Oh, man, I give up. I’m either wrong or incoherent.

Joshua – you are right. I’m being unfair.

@102. What I meant to say is that her “sin” was moving from this wager to absolute certainty; the left-baiting was just gravy. However, “most terror attacks” (with a profile like that of Oslo) in Scandanavia are not, to my knowledge, carried out by th Lapland Liberation Front or the “Back to Denmark” movement in Southern Sweden.

108

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 5:12 pm

Henri Vieuxtemps, @98:

Would this be a bad time to make a joke along the lines of ‘she should get a shabbat goy blogger’? ‘cause that was the first thing that came to my mind when I read Pexton’s piece.

No joke. Failure to cover this foreseeable need, whether at her expense or the Post’s, is what spreads the blame to the editorial level, as Pexton correctly notes.

109

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 5:22 pm

Dan Nexon, @107:

Joshua – you are right. I’m being unfair.

Whew! Thanks, and well spoken, sir.

Sometimes you have to be standing just there, to see how it looks from that side; I claim no special objectivity, just a slightly different set of biases. Which is why cultural diversity is an intrinsic good, after all.

110

Dragon-King Wangchuck 08.02.11 at 5:36 pm

@107

I should apologize. I did understand your point – that Rubin took Joscelyn’s hypothetical1 as a given and then used it to flog her own agenda. Yeah, that’s pretty horrible.

What I did, was to take your point and use it to flog my own agenda – poutrage at society’s identification of Terroism with Islam (and apparently the Washington Post bears no responsibility in that). That things which are factually incorrect are also taken as given if they support the idea that Islamoterror is waiting around every corner. Of course there’s a serious Islamic terror threat to Norway! All three 2010 European Islamoterror events happened in Denmark and Sweden!

fn1: Someone had a killer line about this – about citing Joscelyn as an expert on terrorism is like citing David Duke as an expert on race relations. Wish I could find the link.

111

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 5:51 pm

Bruce Baugh, @97:

This is a serious question.

At your service, any time.

I knew that there are passages in the Talmud . . . .

Start here. The very strong principle is that even a safek d’safek (nested twofold doubt) of risk to human life overrides anything but murder, incest and apostasy. I know a transplant surgeon who drives home from the hospital when called in on Shabbat, under clear orders from his very Orthodox rabbi — were he to even be tempted to entertain the thought, “well, I could explain this to the resident over the phone, instead of driving in and being stuck there until tonight,” the risk to the patient in that hesitation outweighs any sabbath concern.

What I don’t know is how much there is in the same vein when it comes to apologizing for having wronged others and making one’s regrets and the truth known.

I don’t know, either. These are, as I said @10 and @43, two very strong competing negative prohibitions. Traditionally, the First Temple was lost to idolatry, but the Second to baseless hatred and gossip. A good starting point (and a terrifying one, even to many bloggers less Jewishly connected and less outspoken than Ms. Rubin) is here. I heard the pillow parable before I was four years old, and therefore so did my kids.

112

Barry 08.02.11 at 5:53 pm

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 8:43 am
” Could you elaborate on this a bit? Stipulating arguendo that she was truly ignorant of both world news and the response to her stupid posting until she saw the morning paper, or even for the whole of shabbat, as any observant Jew (whose Friday dinner and Saturday lunch companions are not political junkies) would be routinely likely to be—or that, aware of it, she felt ritually obligated to hold off until evening—what would you recommend?

That her acquiescence to reality was tendentious and grudging, who can deny? But do you truly consider its tardiness unexcused, or do you conclude the ombudsman is lying? And if the latter, then where is all her prior sabbath-breaking writing to support the charge?”

First, she shouldn’t post with no evidence at all on a major breaking news story minutes before she can’t update for 24 hourse.

Second, that she refrain from flat-out lying, which is what her post was – an assertion that a terrorist attack means that we need to spend vast additional sums of money on high-tech conventional war tools.

Third, that she refrains from quoting an intellectual brothel like AEI (unless they’ve apologized for their Iraq War propaganda, and have fired all responsible, which hasn’t happened yet).

113

Daniel Nexon 08.02.11 at 5:58 pm

@110 No disagreement. I’m totally down with the fact that most terrorism in the US and Europe isn’t Islamist in motivation. But I am sympathetic to those who initially read this — based on location and nature of attack — as quite possibly jihadist. I did. Your agenda deserves repeated flogging.

114

jackd 08.02.11 at 6:17 pm

Back in the hazy, distant past (@22), kidneystones wrote:
9/11 truthers enjoy enormous support from the online left community, so much so that they had to be banned from DKOS and other sites.

Which looks to me like a nice example of a self-refuting assertion.

To be as fair as I can manage, kidneystones has attempted to explain this, and not being familiar with DKos, I can’t say he/she is wrong on the facts reported. I will say that setting up a bunch of diaries on DKos – to the point of getting banned – is the kind of obsessive activity I’d expect out of the 9/11 troofies. And my own reading of the left blogosphere over the past 7-8 years has turned up practically zero support for the troofies when they do pop up.

So, kidneystones: I would expect that “enormous support from the online left community” would translate into a significant selection of well-known bloggers who have expressed sympathy for the troofies at least and in some cases actively encourage them. Care to name a couple?

115

novakant 08.02.11 at 7:07 pm

Partisans are engaged in political contention through electoral competition. This (as Nancy Rosenblum argues) has a substantial moderating effect – in the end, they need to win votes by influencing people if they want to succeed. (…) The second is actual extremism, where people are potentially willing to abandon democratic politics and pursue violent means to achieve political ends.

Peaceful political partisans put and kept Bush and Blair in power who in turn abandoned (or at least made a total mockery of) democratic politics and pursued (very, very) violent means to achieve political ends. Of course neither killed anyone by their own hands, but they killed many, many more than that idiot in Norway.

116

piglet 08.02.11 at 7:09 pm

kidneystones 94, what a BS. “The reason management had to act, in the case of DKOS, is because the community did not.”

How could “the community” have acted? They majority couldn’t prevent wing-nuts from posting comments. The fact that wingnuts show up on some online forum cannot be held against the bulk of forum participants. Your posturing is quite disingenuous, to say the least.

DragonKing: something went wrong with your spell checker (moar please!)

117

MPAVictoria 08.02.11 at 7:11 pm

“Peaceful political partisans put and kept Bush and Blair in power who in turn abandoned (or at least made a total mockery of) democratic politics and pursued (very, very) violent means to achieve political ends. Of course neither killed anyone by their own hands, but they killed many, many more than that idiot in Norway.”

And what is the alternative? Should we all head to the hills with rifles and boxes of ammunition whenever a politician from the other side is elected? Do you think constant civil war across the developed world would somehow be less bloody?

118

piglet 08.02.11 at 7:17 pm

Rubin: “There are many more jihadists than blond Norwegians out to kill Americans, and we should keep our eye on the systemic and far more potent threats that stem from an ideological war with the West.”

Since nobody mentioned this so far, notice how Rubin writes as if only American victims of terrorism count. I don’t know whether there are any “blond Norwegians out to kill Americans” but there was at least one “out to kill Norwegians” and that may be more than there are Islamic jihadists “out to kill Norwegians” (I could be wrong about that but the point is, there is no evidence to the contrary).

It is hard to say whether Rubin made that gaffe consciously, probably not, but certainly the appeal of her argument (from the point of view of her right-wing readership) rests in part on the fact that they don’t identify with *those victims*. European socialist youths are not the kind of victims *they* are concerned with, and *they* don’t care that much about *that kind* of terrorism.

119

Donald Johnson 08.02.11 at 7:23 pm

“nd what is the alternative? Should we all head to the hills with rifles and boxes of ammunition whenever a politician from the other side is elected?”

Well, maybe the alternative is not to elect people who start pointless wars that kill hundreds of thousands of people .

120

bianca steele 08.02.11 at 7:24 pm

What is especially annoying about the ombudsman’s column is the disingenuous blame it casts not only on the left side of the “partisanship system” but on the “blogosphere.” I find it impossible to doubt that editors know perfectly well which writers, of what genders and of which kinds of surnames or representing which opinions, as well as which kinds of human interest stories, get the nastiest responses from readers. It would be unsurprising if online responses fit exactly the same pattern snail-mail responses do. It seems irresponsible to pretend a problem of that magnitude, and involving such a risk of violence, could be resolved by having a few bloggers hang up their keyboards. It’s not as if it would be so difficult to accomplish: much easier than deporting all the undocumented immigrants in the US, or making every major city with its suburbs commutable by public transport.

121

novakant 08.02.11 at 7:27 pm

I don’t know what the alternative is, recognizing that the whole system is f@cked up and that the democratic process can easily lead to mass murder and therefor not trusting it might be a start. What’s your alternative- putting trust in the democratic process no matter what the actual results (Bush and Blair were, at least nominally, on two different “sides” of the political aisle)?

Don’t worry, I won’t be heading to the hills, I’m just a disillusioned anti-war guy.

122

nick s 08.02.11 at 7:50 pm

What is especially annoying about the ombudsman’s column is the disingenuous blame it casts not only on the left side of the “partisanship system” but on the “blogosphere.”

Hush, there: don’t you know that trolls and flame-warriors only exist on the internets, and not as well-remunerated newspaper columnists, TV pundits or Regnery authors?

123

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 7:57 pm

UltravioletCatastrophe @101:

Uh-huh. A Fields Medal trumps testable predictions. A Fields Medal trumps falsifiability.

Not from down here, very much. But up in your rarefied world of math, I hear that Ed Witten, and his proof of Yau’s positive mass conjecture, and the Fields Medal he won for it, are really quite the thing. The brother of a dear family friend won a Fields last summer, and the whole family (more-than-smart mathematicians, all) were very excited; I’m pretty sure it’s a big deal.

Come on now, ‘fess up. Are you actually qualified to have an opinion about Witten’s work, and to speak as an intellectual equal to people who use their own names? Or are you just a thin cloud of aromatic plant metabolites, floating anonymously in the breeze until I close a window?

124

Colin Danby 08.02.11 at 8:01 pm

Thanks Joshua for your comments.

125

Kaveh 08.02.11 at 8:10 pm

@114 re DKos and the “truthers”, users can’t delete or hide blog entries (“diaries”) from other users, they can only hide comments, so no matter how unpopular the “truther” position was, this is something the admins could not rely on the user base to deal with. It says nothing about the popularity of the ideas there.

As for more general sympathy on the left for “truthers”, doesn’t “9/11 conspiracy theory” cover a very wide range of positions? Like, ranging from people who think the attacks were faked (e.g. the towers were demolished by explosives), which IMO is silly, to people who think the Bush administration was intentionally negligent towards terror attacks in general, because a terror attack of some kind would be the “Pearl Harbor” moment the neocons were already looking for–IMO, not silly, though I’m not sure how anyone would find evidence for it. Which conspiracy theories still enjoy how much support?

126

ScentOfViolets 08.02.11 at 8:33 pm

Uh-huh. A Fields Medal trumps testable predictions. A Fields Medal trumps falsifiability.

Not from down here, very much. But up in your rarefied world of math, I hear that Ed Witten, and his proof of Yau’s positive mass conjecture, and the Fields Medal he won for it, are really quite the thing. The brother of a dear family friend won a Fields last summer, and the whole family (more-than-smart mathematicians, all) were very excited; I’m pretty sure it’s a big deal.

Sigh. I think this adequately defines and contrasts the two of us[1]. And, uh, don’t take this the wrong way, but you don’t seem to have much of a clue as to what the Fields medal is about.

Notice to all: I did not force him to say this, or trick or trap him in any way.

Come on now, ‘fess up. Are you actually qualified to have an opinion about Witten’s work, and to speak as an intellectual equal to people who use their own names?

Now I know why I never see you over at Woit’s blog or at n-category cafe. Do you really not understand the difference between mathematics and physics? Do you really not understand the difference between mathematical theory, and misapplying mathematical theory to (incorrectly) model the real world? That a theory has to make falsifiable (testable) predictions before it can even be considered a theory? Guess not.

Oh – just in case your insulting misattribution was supposed to be something else as well: the ultraviolet catastrophe is something even undergraduate physics majors know about. You know, the one where incorrectly applying a mathematical theory of partitions incorrectly gives the result that the amount of power radiated by a canonical black body increases without limit the higher the frequency of the radiation ;-) The one that Planck fixed up with his assumption of quanta?

The fact that you think this is supposed to be some sort of test of bona fides makes you look like a “physicist” who only has a B.S. – or maybe a B.A.

Next time, don’t post such rubbish and you won’t get called on it. You know, that rot about B’s ever-so-much-more heinous activities somehow excusing A’s transgressions. Not gonna fly.

[1]The odd thing here is – quite by accident – my graduate work just happened to be in algebraic geometry with a generous side dish of topology. So yes, I do happen to know what a Calabi-Yau surface is. I also used to be a big fan of string theory a decade or so back. But – you guessed it, regular readers – there hasn’t been much in the way of testable predictions. Here’s the latest from Not Even Wrong: String Theorists Throw SUSY Under the Bus.

127

DaveL 08.02.11 at 8:56 pm

I’m not motivated to comment here much, but it seems to me that claiming to be a physicist and giving one’s own name (…I presume…) trumps claiming to have been awarded a Fields Medal and operating under a pseudonym.

128

Michael Larsen 08.02.11 at 9:21 pm

I feel a little bit like Marshall McLuhan being dragged into Annie Hall to testify on behalf of the narrator, but facts are facts. Speaking ex cathedra as a mathematician, I can confirm that Joshua Burton is, indeed, a physicist by the only meaningful standard; i.e., he has contributed non-trivially to literature of his field (theoretical particle physics). He also happens to have a Ph.D. (but so do many people who do not meet this higher standard). His main point, which I take to be that sensible mathematicians respect the intelligence of good physicists, does not seem to call for further comment.

Sincerely,
Michael Larsen

129

Oregon Beer Snob 08.02.11 at 9:32 pm

This whole “she’s an observant Jew, so that’s why…” thing is just weird. Using her religion to excuse her blatant Islamophobia is even more ridiculous than the other excuses.

130

John 08.02.11 at 9:53 pm

Iv come to think that my inability to follow SOVs posts is due to a lack of intelligence on my part, so Id genuinely be interested in an expert opinion on a question thats been playing itself over in my mind the last few days. Is he (a) a bona fide genius as outlined time and again or (b) a dips$$t.

131

bianca steele 08.02.11 at 9:56 pm

I think the argument is, “she’s an observant Jew, so she should be permitted work rules that allow her to comply with the rules of her religion,” which you’d think would be a popular kind of argument here. But this thread has taken a strange turn.

132

ScentOfViolets 08.02.11 at 10:28 pm

I’m not motivated to comment here much, but it seems to me that claiming to be a physicist and giving one’s own name (…I presume…) trumps claiming to have been awarded a Fields Medal and operating under a pseudonym.

Er, you don’t you have that backwards? That is, don’t you really mean that Joshua is the one making some sort of claim? I certainly haven’t said anything about being awarded a Fields medal.

133

piglet 08.02.11 at 10:34 pm

SoV, this doesn’t contribute to the thread. Neither does the excessive discussion of the Sabbath angle of the story. I can’t believe how this thread has gone off track.

134

Joshua W. Burton 08.02.11 at 10:34 pm

Aw, shucks. And here I was only inviting Michael to toss in a proud word for his aforementioned brother-in-law, or for his advisor who of course is also a Fields medalist.

My own advisor got her PhD without an advisor in a sexist era, and is the only living person to have correctly predicted a Standard Model parameter ahead of experiment: to my egalitarian physicist sentiment this is lineage indeed (and makes me feel unworthy of her), but perhaps there is something to be said for a more storied mathematical genealogy going back to Gauss and Leibniz as well. Unhappily, the project isn’t yet configured to trace the family tree of notable mathematicians by scent.

Michael, you seem to have me (deservedly!) beat by 1 in Erdős number, as well. That site also offers nothing for our shy friend, at least under the handle he uses here.

135

ScentOfViolets 08.02.11 at 10:35 pm

Iv come to think that my inability to follow SOVs posts is due to a lack of intelligence on my part, so Id genuinely be interested in an expert opinion on a question thats been playing itself over in my mind the last few days. Is he (a) a bona fide genius as outlined time and again or (b) a dips$$t.

Sigh. No John, I’ve never claimed to be a genius, in fact specifically disavowed any such comparisons just a few days ago right here on this blog.

Now, personally, I find it hard to believe that you don’t understand that claiming B’s actions are worse than A’s in no way exculpates A for their bad behaviour. But if you want me take you at your word that you can’t follow what I – a nongenius – is saying . . . uh, okay.

136

piglet 08.02.11 at 10:36 pm

PS Neither SoV nor Joshua have made any claims about Fields medals. Please put it to rest.

137

ScentOfViolets 08.02.11 at 10:42 pm

Speaking ex cathedra as a mathematician, I can confirm that Joshua Burton is, indeed, a physicist by the only meaningful standard; i.e., he has contributed non-trivially to literature of his field (theoretical particle physics). He also happens to have a Ph.D. (but so do many people who do not meet this higher standard). His main point, which I take to be that sensible mathematicians respect the intelligence of good physicists, does not seem to call for further comment.

This is odd, because I happen to know a number of physicists myself. And none of them have much in the way of kind words for those of their brethern who stoutly maintain that string theory is doing just fine thank you very much. There seems to be a general embarrassment amongst the community that these guys even talk about stuff like Boltzmann Brains.

I dunno, maybe Joshua isn’t that kind of particle physicist. But you have to admit he did set the bar kind of low with his “ultraviolet catastrophe” bit of jargon. Just as I’m sure you’ll admit that string theory has turned out to be pretty much of a dud, and that a lot of perfectly good mathematical machinery gets horrendously misapplied in the sciences.

138

ScentOfViolets 08.02.11 at 10:53 pm

SoV, this doesn’t contribute to the thread. Neither does the excessive discussion of the Sabbath angle of the story. I can’t believe how this thread has gone off track.

Actually, if you look up above, I stepped in when Joshua started his snark about the people calling out this excuse about Jewish observances being rather selectively applied as worse than those who were actually behaving badly.

My point was – and is – that even if it were true that calling out the bad behaviour is worse than the bad behaviour itself (Hah!), this has absolutely nothing, zero, nada, zip, with the original offense. Those comments do not magically excuse the bad behaviour we are discussing , nor does it require that the conversation must now be redirected towards those hapless malefactors who had the inexcusable bad taste to point it out.

And if you look up above, it takes Joshua a mere 300 or so words to admit that in fact there is no connection, but that yes, it does make for some dandy distraction. Look at where we’re at now.

139

DaveL 08.02.11 at 11:08 pm

SoV, my apologies if I misinterpreted your posts.

I do still think it’s kind of funny to see a physicist and a mathematician throwing mud at each other. Which one is the true Queen of the Sciences?

From my limited reading, souring on String Theory and failing to do so mostly seem to partition based on age.

140

LFC 08.02.11 at 11:11 pm

SoV,
Your propensity to focus on (relative) trivia and mangle even those trivia is quite amazing. Joshua and Daniel had an extended exchange which appears to be finished. Anyone interested in that exchange can read it and reach his or her own judgment. We don’t need your pugnacious glosses on it, I don’t think. And speaking for myself I don’t esp. care about the Fields medal, string theory, the relative merits of mathematicians and theoretical particle physicists, etc. Give it a rest.

141

Andrew Burton 08.02.11 at 11:31 pm

I think Joshua Burton (no relation) has effectively made the point that a genuinely religious Jennifer Rubin might have, in good faith (literally), posted something on Friday then not come back to it until late Saturday evening.

Physics, mathematics and any other sidelines aside, at this point Ms Rubin clearly did not (a) write a post saying something along the lines of “we’ve now learned the killer is thought to be Norwegian, and I’m sorry I jumped to other conclusions,” and (b) reflect on whether US defense spending, which is (order of magnitude) as big as the rest of the planet combined, is relevant to any discussion about a small number of individuals (or one individual) of whatever background killing scores of people in Norway with small arms and a fertilizer bomb.

Point (a) is about good manners, I think. We all say something, and occasionally write something, we quickly regret. Most of us typically apologize then move on. Ms Rubin, apparently, is “forceful and unrepentent,” (see my comment at 17), so I guess she doesn’t.

Point (b) is about judgement and ability to draw insights from limited information. Her inference on Friday is, bluntly, batshit insane. On Saturday it’s, I dunno, ascended to a level of batshit insaneness that mere mortals can’t grasp. A Norwegian kook commits appalling violence on other Norwegians, and so…. my point still stands, Let’s Stay Strong On Defense Spending! That’s the real idiocy that has me curled in a fetal position in a corner.

142

kidneystones 08.02.11 at 11:36 pm

piglet writes….

I think you’re confusing your terms, re: wingnuts. But no matter. You’re essentially correct. I blame the left-wing epistemic environment for creating the conditions that led me to inflate my claim. When will there be some form of accountability?

On the larger question of “dense social ties”, I fear you’ve done my own argument more good than harm. Still not seeing the links. Which is actually my point. Thanks!

143

ScentOfViolets 08.03.11 at 12:07 am

I do still think it’s kind of funny to see a physicist and a mathematician throwing mud at each other. Which one is the true Queen of the Sciences?

Strictly speaking, mathematics isn’t a science. And I’m rather a one-trick pony; my principle beef is that people need to be logical, consistent, and follow good science practices, such as burden of proof requirements, falsifiable theories, etc.

Which is why I stepped in with Joshua and pointed out that what he said had absolutely no connection with what went before . . . and much distraction ensued.

144

ScentOfViolets 08.03.11 at 12:13 am

Your propensity to focus on (relative) trivia and mangle even those trivia is quite amazing.

Really? There’s this thing called ‘blockquotes’. Let’s run the instant replay of what Josh said:

Nothing about this is implausible or reprehensible from a perspective of Jewish law at anything near the vulgar and prurient threshold of lashon hara that is crossed by calling her on it.

Care to point out how the italicized part has any relevance to the conversation? No? I didn’t thinks so. And that was my point, ye bloody moron. Nor did I say anything about Fields medals; that’s what your boy brought up.

So frankly, LFC, I could care less what you think.

145

ScentOfViolets 08.03.11 at 12:16 am

Point (a) is about good manners, I think. We all say something, and occasionally write something, we quickly regret. Most of us typically apologize then move on. Ms Rubin, apparently, is “forceful and unrepentent,” (see my comment at 17), so I guess she doesn’t.

Point (b) is about judgement and ability to draw insights from limited information. Her inference on Friday is, bluntly, batshit insane. On Saturday it’s, I dunno, ascended to a level of batshit insaneness that mere mortals can’t grasp. A Norwegian kook commits appalling violence on other Norwegians, and so…. my point still stands, Let’s Stay Strong On Defense Spending! That’s the real idiocy that has me curled in a fetal position in a corner.

Hopefully that’s something most of us agree upon, regardless of all the distracting chaff thrown up.

146

ScentOfViolets 08.03.11 at 12:25 am

One last thing, per my regular schtick:

From my limited reading, souring on String Theory and failing to do so mostly seem to partition based on age.

I think that if you read a little bit deeper, most people who have soured on string theory started out thinking is was going to be the next Big Thing. What has happened is that after twenty or so years, string theory has yet to make a testable, falsifiable prediction. And if a theory can’t do that sort of thing, it is – at best – a completely useless theory.

Doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about physics, or evolution, or economics, or any of a 1001 different theories about human behaviour, both specific and general.

Can we all agree about this basic bit of epistemology at least? I would certainly hope so, though I have bad days where I suspect people merely pay lip service to the principle, that little hypocrisy that vice pays to virtue as Rochefoucauld would say.

147

LFC 08.03.11 at 12:40 am

SoV @143

I understood your so-called “point” but I regard it as a case of inflating a tangential remark into an undue importance. You seem to assume, wrongly and on no basis whatsoever, that I agree with everything J.W. Burton wrote. In fact I agreed rather more with D. Nexon. I suggest that it is you who more closely fits the description ‘bloody moron’. What I object to is your thin-skinned pugnacity, apparently willful obtuseness, and propensity to fling insults wildly. So if you don’t care what I think, I assure you the feeling is mutual.

148

ScentOfViolets 08.03.11 at 1:09 am

Sigh. I don’t have the energy to argue with you LFC. And while you never said anything about understanding my point until your post 146, would you at least agree – vocably and visibly with my post 145?

Or is that too much to ask?

149

MPAVictoria 08.03.11 at 1:19 am

“Well, maybe the alternative is not to elect people who start pointless wars that kill hundreds of thousands of people .”

Well that I can agree with Donald. Rest assured that I never cast a ballot for either of those bastards. Of course the very nature of democracy means that no one here can dictate who gets to form the next government.

novakant
“What’s your alternative- putting trust in the democratic process no matter what the actual results (Bush and Blair were, at least nominally, on two different “sides” of the political aisle)?”

I agree that democracy produces non-optimal results (to put it very, very mildly). I just do not think that we have found a better system. Those of us on the other side have little choice but to protest, make as much noise as possible and wait for the next election.

150

MPAVictoria 08.03.11 at 1:22 am

ScentOfViolets it seems like you spend a great deal of time talking about your credentials. I am sure everyone on the internet is very impressed but I am not sure this is the forum.

151

LFC 08.03.11 at 1:33 am

would you at least agree – vocably and visibly with my post 145?

In the natural sciences at least, I guess a useful theory generally should make testable, falsifiable predictions. So to that extent I agree w/ your 145. (But I don’t really know anything about string theory so I express no opinion on it specifically.)

152

ScentOfViolets 08.03.11 at 1:52 am

ScentOfViolets it seems like you spend a great deal of time talking about your credentials. I am sure everyone on the internet is very impressed but I am not sure this is the forum.

Doubtless you can quote at length where I have done so ;-)

In the natural sciences at least, I guess a useful theory generally should make testable, falsifiable predictions. So to that extent I agree w/ your 145. (But I don’t really know anything about string theory so I express no opinion on it specifically.)

What about elsewhere? Because I think that this applies to any theory. Otherwise, all you’re doing is playing is Monday morning quarterback. And all you’ve got is a bunch of people chanting their tribal tropes. That’s not going to get anything done.

How about it? Does anyone disagree with this? And if so, why? And if no one does disagree, let’s keep this in mind in any future conversations, eh?

153

MPAVictoria 08.03.11 at 2:18 am

“Doubtless you can quote at length where I have done so ;-)”

But of course:

“’I’m just a dumb mathematician who can’t follow the logic here.”

In response to Joshua saying he was a physicist
“Btw, this puts you somewhat beneath me”

“my graduate work just happened to be in algebraic geometry with a generous side dish of topology”

You attacking Joshua’s credentials
“The fact that you think this is supposed to be some sort of test of bona fides makes you look like a “physicist” who only has a B.S. – or maybe a B.A.”

“And so while I’m still just a dumb mathematician…”

Also just for fun a comment from you on March 24, 2009 at Obsidian Wings
“I’m not sure exactly who’s saying what here, but I certainly didn’t mean to imply that these were contradictory. When I said ‘no’, I meant that no, it’s wrong that this is not an asymmetrical information. Not that it was one but not the other. That’s my math PhD habits speaking :-)”

We all get it. You are very, very good at math. Well done. Bravo. Now can you please go back to the topic of the thread. Mainly what a horrible hack Jennifer Rubin is.

154

ScentOfViolets 08.03.11 at 2:29 am

Gee, why don’t you provide the full quote there:

Come on now, ‘fess up. Are you actually qualified to have an opinion about Witten’s work, and to speak as an intellectual equal to people who use their own names? Or are you just a thin cloud of aromatic plant metabolites, floating anonymously in the breeze until I close a window?

To which I replied (per your quote):

“my graduate work just happened to be in algebraic geometry with a generous side dish of topology”

Guess you just “forgot” to include that bit, eh? And so on and so forth with the rest of your, er, output. Oh, what’s that you say? That I never specified that it has to be to something other than a direct question?

Well, gully gee, ya got me there, MPAVictoria.

Stick a fork in the twit; she’s done. With this sort of dishonesty, there’s no point in wasting any more energy on her.

155

MPAVictoria 08.03.11 at 2:36 am

” That I never specified that it has to be to something other than a direct question?”

Oh someone asked you specifically what your graduate work was in? I seemed to have missed that. My apologies.

156

ScentOfViolets 08.03.11 at 3:59 am

Oh someone asked you specifically what your graduate work was in? I seemed to have missed that. My apologies.

Doubling down on the venom, are we? When someone asks for you qualifications, you don’t say, I have a degree . . . in Science! You don’t even say that you have a degree in math. That’s not nearly specific enough. The man was asking about a specific topic. Well, whaddaya know, it just happens to be a topic in geometry.

But you knew the jig was up when the word “qualification” was quoted, didn’t you? All of this is just equivocating to distract from your dishonest quotes. You owe me an apology, you poisonous little thing. Not that you’re big enough to do so.

PLONK!!

157

Emma in Sydney 08.03.11 at 4:15 am

Henry, your comments policy reads:

If your comments are blatantly racist, sexist or homophobic we will delete them and ban you from the site. The same goes for comments which are personally defamatory or insulting or which seek to derail a thread through provocation of one kind or another. If your comments strike us as stupid or irrelevant we may also delete them in the interests of keeping the conversation at a reasonable level.

Commenters who who routinely seek to make marginally relevant debating points may be barred to make room for those with a substantive contribution to the discussion. It is up to us.

Could you please enforce it? Please?
JQ? Chris? Anyone?

158

JanieM 08.03.11 at 4:25 am

What Emma said.

159

ScentOfViolets 08.03.11 at 4:28 am

Thirded.

160

John Quiggin 08.03.11 at 7:58 am

SoV, I’m glad you agree, as you seem to be derailing this thread. Could you take a break from commenting until Henry can make a final ruling, please?

161

Emma in Sydney 08.03.11 at 8:18 am

Thank you, John Q, I appreciate it.

162

ptl 08.03.11 at 8:54 am

“Aw, shucks. And here I was only inviting Michael to toss in a proud word for his aforementioned brother-in-law, or for his advisor who of course is also a Fields medalist.”

I find all this (the whole exchange, but actually, particularly this) quite extraordinary, its anyway irrelevant credentialism, embarrassing. Seriously. “Our Erdős numbers are better”? Please…

(Fourthed)

163

Andrew F. 08.03.11 at 10:54 am

All this discussion of whether Rubin was wrong in speculating before signing off, or wrong in some of the words she chose, or just plain wrong, misses the point.

The key sentence of the ombudsman’s article:

Some of the e-mail she received was way over the line — ugly, obscene, vile and, worst, containing threats of physical harm.

We all agree that that behavior is way over the line, right? It goes beyond anything Rubin has ever written.

To the extent polarized spheres of discussion make it harder to understand other viewpoints, make it easier to demonize other viewpoints, and render fruitful discussion difficult, it’s true that polarized spheres contribute to an atmosphere in which extremism may grow. Polarized spheres don’t have to endorse violent means of change for the polarization to have that effect.

There is a curious phenomenon in which, following a major act of illegitimate violence, that act becomes a favored example of the evils of (1) partisanship, (2) extremism, (3) any questioning of immigration, (4) too much immigration, (5) the right wing, (6) the left wing, (7) American discourse, (8) European discourse, etc.

Perhaps it derives from a deep-seated instinct that when things like this occur, we acted wrongly and are being punished. Perhaps it derives from so often having viewed the other side as the source of all hatred/bigotry/violence/etc., that we instinctively look to the other side for causes.

It’s much simpler. Neither left nor right caused this. Those who actively supported Breivik’s plans and intentions, and Breivik himself, did. There will always be crazy people who do violent things, and there will always be those who actively support them.

We should condemn extremism, and not give comfort to violent extremism. Beyond that, there is no lesson to be drawn from Breivik for political discourse, though there may be much for security forces to learn.

164

Jim Demintia 08.03.11 at 11:02 am

“All this discussion of whether Rubin was wrong in speculating before signing off, or wrong in some of the words she chose, or just plain wrong, misses the point.
The key sentence of the ombudsman’s article:
Some of the e-mail she received was way over the line — ugly, obscene, vile and, worst, containing threats of physical harm.
We all agree that that behavior is way over the line, right? It goes beyond anything Rubin has ever written.”

Not to condone hate mail, but you do realize that there is an enormous difference between sending angry emails to a newspaper pundit and being a neocon propagandist, right? I mean, I’m pretty sure that “the point” of this case is not that one shouldn’t write mean emails.

165

sg 08.03.11 at 11:50 am

Hey Joshua, how about this: if you want to use every breaking news story as a reason to impugn a particular religion, you don’t get to use the practice of your own as an excuse for being a mean-spirited, racist arsehole.

166

Barry 08.03.11 at 12:11 pm

John Quiggin 08.03.11 at 7:58 am

” SoV, I’m glad you agree, as you seem to be derailing this thread. Could you take a break from commenting until Henry can make a final ruling, please?”

I’m fifthing or sixthing the request, and pointing out that SoV has done this repeatedly. It’s a PITA to go through a thread where every third comment is SoV on some vendetta.

I request that SoV be put on a permanent moderation list – no comment of his goes through without approval.

167

John 08.03.11 at 12:50 pm

I request SOV be made a contributor, it might distract him and, personally, hes really started to grow on me. Also can all those who have derailed threads in the past, Im speaking primarily to all the abortionistas out there, please get of your high horse(s). Having said that I really dont get SOVs problem with Joshua, it seems to me Josh, if I may be so informal, was only doing what SOV consistently demands of everyone else; arguing a pedantic, factually watertight but narrow and largely irrelevant point

168

SamChevre 08.03.11 at 1:03 pm

Seconding Barry’s request.

169

Donald Johnson 08.03.11 at 1:17 pm

“It’s much simpler. Neither left nor right caused this.”

People who condemn the acts of Islamic extremists but not Islam in general are not responsible for Breivik. People who portray all Muslims as a danger to Western civilization set the stage for people like Breivik. Would we even argue about this if the subject were anti-semitism? Are those who portray Jews as a menace to Western civilization responsible to some degree if someone believes this and then murders Jews?

170

bianca steele 08.03.11 at 1:32 pm

Andrew F. has some good points. But I was struck[1] by the ombudsman’s use of the words “anti-matter” and “explode.” Surely metaphors of weaponry indicate a violent mindset and contribute to the coarsening of discourse and should be wiped out[2].[3]

[1] Itself a violent metaphor,

[2] Oops.

[3] Speaking as someone who thinks anti-matter is a pretty good metaphor.

171

nick s 08.03.11 at 1:42 pm

We all agree that that behavior is way over the line, right? It goes beyond anything Rubin has ever written.

Well, we don’t know everything that Rubin has ever written, because we’re not privy to her emails. I’ll be politer than Jim Demintia at 164, but there’s obviously a difference between private correspondence and writing that carries the weight and imprimatur of a major media outlet.

172

Gregory 08.03.11 at 1:56 pm

helped by a trifecta of posts from theatlantic.com

A trifecta posts by a journalist, calling out Rubin not on a matter of opinion but on a matter of fact. Note how the ombudsman here implies that Fallows’ post was just another outraged liberal instead of a journalist appalled at the hackitude of a Post employee. Though why anyone should be surprised at the hackery of a Post employee is beyond me.

173

Joshua W. Burton 08.03.11 at 2:25 pm

Seriously. “Our Erdős numbers are better”? Please…

Er, yeah, sorry about that. Reviewing the bidding, it started with a bit of (self-deprecating!) physicist/mathematician banter on my part, and morphed bizarrely from there. I was still boggling at how to answer a dick-measuring challenge from a virtual person when Michael stepped in, and I (perhaps wrongly) thought Woody owed it to Marshall McLuhan to shake his hand, thank him . . . and make sure his cameo made it into the credits.

No mutual preening was intended: what looked like credentialism on my part was all about underlining, by ironic contrast, the truism that anonymoids may leave a lingering scent but can’t cast a shadow. Sorry if it looked otherwise, but I was wrapped up in the sheer surrealism of the tableau and wasn’t thinking clearly about the audience.

(My point about Witten’s Field Medal was simply that, whether or not string theory is good physics, it’s led to centrally important new mathematics — and therefore it was an own goal for the math side in a math/physics fight I still don’t understand why I was in, after yielding right-of-way at the start.)

174

sg 08.03.11 at 2:28 pm

Joshua, as far as I can tell you were the first person in this thread to refer to yourself as “smart.” So who was doing the dick-measuring?

175

Joshua W. Burton 08.03.11 at 2:44 pm

Hey Joshua, how about this: if you want to use every breaking news story as a reason to impugn a particular religion, you don’t get to use the practice of your own as an excuse for being a mean-spirited, racist arsehole.

Sounds fair on the face, but it’s not. Better: if you want to use every breaking news story as a reason to impugn Islam, any attempt you make to link your mean-spirited, racist nonsense to Jewish values invites your critics to impugn those values (and invites better Jews to defend those values by refuting you). But you are still entitled in a free society to Jewish practices (and to a fair reading of their incidental consequences) even if you spit on Islamic practices.

176

bianca steele 08.03.11 at 2:45 pm

Oh, I think it’s perfectly easy to see the relevance of Erdos and Erdos numbers and other kinds of measurement to this topic.[1] That said, this probably is not be an appropriate place to have that discussion (and if it got to be a usual thing, I would probably stop commenting, regardless of how informative it might be).

[1] And I seem to remember SoV has upped the pressure in at least on other case where one might have seen a woman’s right or ability to participate as being in question.

177

Joshua W. Burton 08.03.11 at 2:50 pm

Joshua, as far as I can tell you were the first person in this thread to refer to yourself as “smart.”

Oh, dear. “I’m just a dumb mathematician.” “Well, I’m a smart physicist, which puts us even.” (1) It’s banter. (2) It implies “okay, mathematicians are smarter than physicists, so let’s not do this, ok?” (3) Oy.

178

sg 08.03.11 at 2:54 pm

After you blame the murder of 70 people on a muslim without evidence you don’t get good faith interpretations of your own intentions. Which means that you don’t get to blame your religion for a lack of follow-up. Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but assigning yourself the right to blame religion A for mass murder doesn’t give you (or your “ombudsman”) the right to blame religion B for late attempts at a (mealy-mouthed) apology. Life doesn’t work that way.

Unless you’re a worthless hack, of course.

179

Joshua W. Burton 08.03.11 at 3:09 pm

Shorter sg: push handicapped KKKers off wheelchair ramps. Not in my country, please.

180

mds 08.03.11 at 3:28 pm

“Our Erdős numbers are better”

My Erdős number is i. Top that.

Not all particle physics theorists believe in string theory / M-theory, either.

Also, the cheetah is the world’s fastest land animal, and I don’t like turnips.

And Jennifer Rubin still has a large, well-funded soapbox for her ideas, ideas which are odious no matter how much expert Halakhic analysis is introduced into the model as a parameter.

181

Henri Vieuxtemps 08.03.11 at 3:29 pm

Well, don’t push handicapped KKKers off wheelchair ramps, but, don’t let them use their handicap as an excuse for shooting people either.

182

Sebastian H 08.03.11 at 3:39 pm

So hopefully more on topic and simultaneously more concrete:

We’re at a point in history where one relatively crazy person can latch on to rhetoric, work himself into a lather, and then blow up buildings in a way that endagers a couple of hundred people.

That’s bad.

We’re NEARING a point in history where one relatively crazy person with good biological training (say Unabomber level education) will be able to create a very nasty disease in his home lab which on the low side could kill millions and on the high side could endanger much of the human race.

That is going to be worse. I have no idea what the heck to do about it, but really that is what we are risking if we can’t figure something out soon.

183

bianca steele 08.03.11 at 3:57 pm

Joshua, I’m trying to figure out what your argument is. sg didn’t say anything so heinous as what you’ve accused him of. Jennifer Rubin, on the contrary, sometimes appears to be in some kind of contest, whether with herself or with others, to be as offensive and as aggressive toward Islam as she can possibly be. Because of that behavior, I don’t give her the slightest benefit of the doubt when she writes on a subject I have an interest in, even when she raises issues I think are interesting. I don’t see a reason to give her any benefit of the doubt when her silly excuses for not doing something, at times when an apology would be expected of another in her situation, relate to religion. I certainly don’t see an extra reason to give her cover whenever she alludes to her religion.

It is, I think, interesting that it’s only rightwingers who become shrill in that way. (Leftwing bloggers and columnists, on the contrary, seem to me to have a tendency to get wonky and kind of boring.)

184

Joshua W. Burton 08.03.11 at 4:01 pm

Well, don’t push handicapped KKKers off wheelchair ramps, but, don’t let them use their handicap as an excuse for shooting people either.

Depends on the sense of the word “excuse” that is intended. We try the shooter, and we get to use powder residue on the wheelchair as evidence. But a prosecutor who says the defense doesn’t deserve to use wheelchair tracks as factual exculpatory evidence (or as mitigating evidence against premeditation) because their client has odious views? Mistrial, and talk of disbarment.

I think this is all clear by now, isn’t it? (Mr. Nexon has also conceded the secondary point that you can fall short not only in human decency but also in strictness of observance without surrendering basic Title VII rights.) Can we leave it here?

185

piglet 08.03.11 at 4:02 pm

Andrew 163: “The key sentence of the ombudsman’s article:

Some of the e-mail she received was way over the line — ugly, obscene, vile and, worst, containing threats of physical harm.”

Where to begin. These emails are not publicly available. We don’t know how many of them exist and whether the “threat of physical harm” is not an exaggeration by the ombudsman. Regardless, to suggest that those who publicly and with reason criticize a racist blogger are stoking violence – and by extension that they are the real culprits, not the racist – is pretty shameless. There may or may not have been private “over the top” emails but the ombudsman’s concern should be about public “over the top” blog postings. What the ombudsman here does is using unverifiable allegations tangential to the case at hand to paint the racist as the victim.

186

piglet 08.03.11 at 4:06 pm

Rubin: “There are many more jihadists than blond Norwegians out to kill Americans, and we should keep our eye on the systemic and far more potent threats that stem from an ideological war with the West.”

Since nobody mentioned this so far, notice how Rubin writes as if only American victims of terrorism count. I don’t know whether there are any “blond Norwegians out to kill Americans” but there was at least one “out to kill Norwegians” and that may be more than there are Islamic jihadists “out to kill Norwegians” (I could be wrong about that but the point is, there is no evidence to the contrary).

It is hard to say whether Rubin made that gaffe consciously, probably not, but certainly the appeal of her argument (from the point of view of her right-wing readership) rests in part on the fact that they don’t identify with *those* victims. European socialist youths are not the kind of victims *they* are concerned with, and *they* don’t worry that much about that kind of terrorism.

187

Henry Farrell 08.03.11 at 4:10 pm

I’ve been travelling, hence lack of intervention – but what people said.

SoV – this isn’t the first, nor the second time that you’ve tried your ‘I am a mathematician – therefore _ipso facto_ I outrank you all’ stylings on this blog. You are a graduate student math instructor bullshitting on the Internet. There is _nothing inherently wrong_ with grad student math instructors bullshitting on the Internet – I have no _a priori_ reason to believe that math instructors are, as a class, worse bullshit artists than physicists, political science professors or whoever. But, exactly by the same token, there is no inherent reason to believe that they are any better either. I don’t know why your self-justifying hierarchy of academic prestige is so important to you – but I don’t particularly care either. This is a blog for debate – not for Comic Book Guy stylings. Please take a week’s break from commenting on my posts – and I suspect that it may be a good idea for you to take a break from commenting on John Quiggin’s posts too. And if you decide to come back after your holiday, please be advised that your comments will be deleted summarily and without warning if they fail to live up to my (doubtless entirely subjective) minimal standards for reasonable discussion. Continued poor quality commenting will lead to a permanent ban.

188

Tom Bach 08.03.11 at 4:16 pm

Joshua, I’m trying to figure out what your argument is.

As I understand it, his “argument” is that while it’s true the Rubin initial and follow up posts are contemptible; it’s wrong to insist that her explanation for the 24 hr delay is a dodge/lie. That’s it.

189

ptl 08.03.11 at 4:21 pm

OK, thank you, Joshua.

190

Kaveh 08.03.11 at 4:25 pm

I didn’t think the derailing could get any worse than the abortion tangent.

I’m going to have a go at formulating an alternate version of Joshua’s overall point (reiterated @175), with a little more nuance & detail, and yet (hopefully) in a relatively small number of words(!), and maybe its virtues will be a little more clear: If you’re going to mock the absurdities of religion, at least do it in a way that doesn’t misrepresent what the religion says. Like, don’t accuse somebody of being inconsistent if they’re not actually being inconsistent. Even if you don’t like a particular religious person, and they deserve to be mocked till kingdom come, misrepresenting people and their ideas is dishonest, and you shouldn’t do it. I agree with this in general.

But! I don’t think that point is relevant here, because even if those last 50 minutes after the sabbath begins is panic time, when there’s likelihood of breaking news about a terror attack you just weighed in on by guessing the perpetrator’s religion, that is the only thing you ought to be panicking about anymore, not some other thing you’re on a deadline to finish up. Using the sabbath as an excuse is just a distraction, and therefore insincere whether or not she was technically breaking the rules of sabbath observance by going 50 minutes over.

Also, re dense social ties, I’m not sure what the usual definitions of social are in network analysis, or whatever field the term is being borrowed from, but it seems like there’s a difference between what I think of as social, and appearing at the same speaking engagement with somebody. But I’m not sure how much that matters–if there’s dense organizational ties between the extremist right and the far right who get published, then that’s what is really relevant.

191

bianca steele 08.03.11 at 4:27 pm

I think he might be arguing that Rubin’s Orthodox faith prevents her from letting KKKers ride on her wheelchair. But I’m not sure.

192

LFC 08.03.11 at 4:28 pm

Rubin’s line “there are many more jihadists than blond Norwegians out to kill…” also implies that “a blond Norwegian” could not be a ‘jihadist’, that jihadists are all non-blond, and by implication non-white. Which is false. Remember John Walker Lindh, who fought w/ the Taliban? He may not have been blond, but he was definitely white/Caucasian.

193

Joshua W. Burton 08.03.11 at 4:31 pm

Bianca, I knew literally nothing about Ms. Rubin before reading this thread, and based on writings of hers I’ve read since then she seems like an ugly piece of work. If she told me it was dry this week in Albuquerque, I’d check before going out without a raincoat.

But the character of the (very limited scope, and not particularly exculpatory) sabbath excuse Pexton invoked is factual and verifiable: her documented blogging patterns are those of someone who is offline on Saturdays, and at risk of being put on a false footing thereby. If you’re cavalier about this, you’re simultaneously cavalier about every Jew who might be put in the same spot, and some of us don’t have horns. That’s really the start and end of it (the doubly-minor point that Mr. Nexon raised by slandering her as a sloppy sabbath keeper raised some red herrings about rabbinic fine points and halakhic ethics of testimony that have since been graciously settled and set aside . . . and unsuccessfully revived by mischief makers).

You’ll sometimes see vegetarians get testy about careless use of the “Hitler was a vegetarian” trope, and some of them can quote chapter and verse on the (to everyone else) historical footnote. This doesn’t make them Nazi sympathizers, and it doesn’t even make them pedants; they’re just minding their own vegetable patch so it doesn’t get trampled. It doesn’t help when they are humorless about it, but I’ve seen in this thread that being whimsical also carries risks.

194

Substance McGravitas 08.03.11 at 4:34 pm

If you’re cavalier about this, you’re simultaneously cavalier about every Jew who might be put in the same spot

That’s false.

195

bianca steele 08.03.11 at 4:38 pm

Joshua, it doesn’t seem to me proper to claim that a religion lays strong injunctions (on coreligionists and outsiders alike) never to say anything bad about a coreligionist especially in a way that’s linked to the religion, while being not only fairly quick to accuse outsiders of antisemitism (“we don’t all have horns”?!), but also (in your words) cavalier about who is a coreligionist and who is not.

If Rubin knew she would get reactions like yours by claiming the Sabbath as an excuse, she is doubly wrong.

I read Daniel Nexon differently than you do. There’s nothing slanderous about what he wrote in the normal English meaning of the word “slander.”

196

Kaveh 08.03.11 at 4:41 pm

@193 A shorter version of my point @190: the real criticism is that whatever she was working on 50 minutes into the sabbath should not have been given priority over breaking news on the Utoya attacks, so saying the sabbath is the reason she didn’t correct herself sooner is still somewhat of a dodge, thus insincere.

197

Kaveh 08.03.11 at 4:43 pm

@195 FWIW, I took the horns thing as a jest, if a bit of an edgy one.

198

piglet 08.03.11 at 5:03 pm

LFC 192: that’s correct too.

199

William Timberman 08.03.11 at 5:09 pm

Are there no barristers among us? My own take was that Joshua’s explanations and caveats were both subtle and witty, and given the grave poses we so often adopt while throwing the baby out with the bathwater, not to mention the often trampled upon delicacy of our social peace, very welcome in being both.

Which may be an overly florid way of saying lighten up, but lighten up it ought to be, IMNSHO.

200

Joshua W. Burton 08.03.11 at 5:19 pm

Kaveh @190:

But! I don’t think that point is relevant here, because even if those last 50 minutes after the sabbath begins is panic time, when there’s likelihood of breaking news about a terror attack you just weighed in on by guessing the perpetrator’s religion, that is the only thing you ought to be panicking about anymore, not some other thing you’re on a deadline to finish up. Using the sabbath as an excuse is just a distraction, and therefore insincere whether or not she was technically breaking the rules of sabbath observance by going 50 minutes over.

OK, here we go again. Henry Farrell, please cut me off when it’s enough; I’m not sufficiently objective any more.

Review of chronology: stupid Norway posting was about 5 pm, later stupid Obama postings were in a rush ending at 9:03, candle lighting in DC was 8:11, Rabeinu Tam most lenient time was 9:09. Norwegians released their news at 8:32. Next evening, shabbat was over at 9:10 (9:40 by Rabeinu Tam), her bad “correction” was posted about 8, and must have been written earlier.

Ordinarily, a faithfully observant Jew would have been off the net by 8:10 under most circumstances (counterexample: she was in Chicago Friday where candle lighting was later, and she had some lifesaving medical need to fly to her sick aunt in Halifax on Saturday morning). The relevance of wildly implausible counterexamples is that as a Jew I am religiously obligated to presuppose them, if by so doing I can avoid making a possibly baseless accusation of sabbath violation. And so is Daniel, and so is Kaveh if s/he’s Jewish. I was misunderstood (angrily, by the shrinking violet) when I made this tangential point before, and nothing hangs on it, but those are the ground rules.

I think Kaveh’s argument runs like this: if she had done it right, she would have been bentshing yayin (blessing the wine) at 8:45 Friday. Failing that, she should have been hanging on the news, out of an uneasy sense that she was even farther out on a limb than is usual for squirrels like herself. Failing that and self-absorbed in some other squirrel business (saving the world from Obama, etc.), she loses all absolution for not checking the news before her guests arrive at 9:15, after they leave at midnight, during shul at 9 next morning, at lunch with other friends at 12:30, during her nap from 2 to 5, and so on.

But I don’t think it should work that way, and I don’t think it’s safe for other observant Jews on CT if lots of CT readers think it should work that way. Whatever her level of observance, and however badly she manages the Friday rush, she’s still entitled to her nap, and therefore she’s entitled to the factual presumption that sometime around 7 pm Saturday, she was caught surprised and starting to rough out her contemptible hasty follow-up, rather than a night and a day into plotting her contemptible careful follow-up.

How does her being a proven liar figure into this? Well, if she were claiming she missed the fuss because she was visiting an amusement park all Saturday, I’d want to see ticket stubs. But if she’s claiming, as a factual excuse, an intrinsically blameless cultural peculiarity that is demonstrably shared by over a million strictly observant, and several million sloppily observant Jews in the US, then her past record of non-posting on shabbat is her ticket stub, and her intrinsic mendacity is overcome by Occam’s razor. And yes, this would be true even if (as is not yet proved on the evidence) she would deny the same benefit of doubt to a Muslim blogger who was too faint to respond before sunset during Ramadan. This is about our deal with fairness, not about our deal with Ms. Rubin or Ms. Rubin’s deal with anyone else.

201

Substance McGravitas 08.03.11 at 5:21 pm

My own take was that Joshua’s explanations and caveats were both subtle and witty

I think Joshua’s an entertaining and clear writer. But, though it’s perfectly plausible to imagine that Rubin was operating within the tenets of her faith to make shit up, it’s also perfectly plausible to imagine she wasn’t (though both are irrelevant to her making shit up). I’m unconvinced that my charity or lack of it in her case does anything to the cause of anyone anywhere, but if it did I would hope people would recognize that religious excuses for anything deserve an eye-roll in the first place, even while we recognize that people will have their rituals – and be justly accomodated in the less disruptive ones! – no matter what mean atheists think.

202

Daniel Nexon 08.03.11 at 5:29 pm

@200. Wow. I make a lame and unfair argument. Joshua convinces me I’m wrong. I disown it. Now I come back and find out others have picked up the water. Can we just leave it at the fact that’s she’s an offensive hacktacular tool? That seems damning enough.

203

bianca steele 08.03.11 at 5:30 pm

I’m not sure the relevance of the Chabad determination of candle-lighting time. Is it later or earlier than others’ traditions? (I’m vaguely aware of an Internet tradition that non-Jews may permissibly take Chabad as the equivalent of a Chief Rabbi of the US, which is a little strange–though not as strange as a group of people I know who wanted to learn about contemporary Israeli culture, and asked a Chabad rabbi to teach them about it).

204

bianca steele 08.03.11 at 5:48 pm

I apologize if that last comment was over the top. But we are not talking here about the G-d’s-eye judgment of her case. We’re talking about journalism. Readers and editors alike are perfectly in the right to demand her to do good journalism, or good partisanship, or whatever is her job. And they are perfectly in the right to complain if she cannot. There are other jobs that don’t expose her to the harsh opinions of other people. The rest of us, if we can’t reconcile conflicting demands of a job, leave that job. We don’t demand to be allowed to practice a job that involves harsh criticism while somehow being immunized against criticism in a way our peers are not.

205

Joshua W. Burton 08.03.11 at 5:51 pm

Footnote to Bianca @195: That I’m punctiliousness on curious Talmudical grounds to grant benefit of un-reasonable doubt to Ms. Rubin on the charge of sabbath violation, and that I (tolerantly, with rhetorically proportionate mock anger that may have been misunderstood) hold Daniel as a fellow Jew to this standard while perfectly aware that he doesn’t share it and thinks I’m a bit mad, doesn’t mean that I grant the same unreasonable doubt to her on things that matter to you goyim. As I understand it, you’re not excoriating her for doing melakha after candle-lighting; you would if anything think better not worse of her if she’d pushed it another hour and gotten her retraction off at 10 pm Friday. So would I, frankly, but I put no blame on her for not doing so, both because I wouldn’t lightly demand sabbath-breaking of a Jew and because, as a factual matter, I’m satisfied that it’s unlikely she knew anything at 10 pm.

In other words, call her on chillul shabbat and I feel obligated to go all medieval on you, or at least on Daniel. Call her on her behavior in the temporal world, and I’d like to engage in a fair-minded temporal discussion of the discoverable and inferrable facts of the case, including the religious facts. Where the two accusations interact, it gets complex, but as Daniel agreed, it is in the end unfair to bill her alleged failings on the religious charge against her court costs on the secular charge.

206

Joshua W. Burton 08.03.11 at 5:52 pm

Wow, weird formatting goof. That was a hyphen after “un” @205; please ignore the unintended strikeout from there to the hyphen in candle lighting.

207

Joshua W. Burton 08.03.11 at 6:07 pm

Bianca @203: CYLOR (consult your local O rabbi). Lots of people rely on Chabad to do the astronomical calculations, and to bear the costs of running a usable website, while doing the offset to keep their own family or congregational tradition. The always-amusing scholarly discussion of the problems of setting up a mikveh (with 40 seahs of naturally flowing “living water”) on Mars usually ends with the conclusion that you draw the water from Chabad’s ritual bath, since they’ll be there first, running seders for Israeli backpackers on their post-IDF Wanderjahr.

(A bit like the Canadian conceit that HBC (Hudson’s Bay Company) really stands for Here Before Christ.)

208

Dragon-King Wangchuck 08.03.11 at 6:08 pm

This is weird. In Rubin’s defense, it’s certainly believable that she didn’t check back on news from Norway in that three to four hour window.

Oh wait, it’s not weird – I’m going to attack Rubin again for it.

It’s believable because it’s clear that she did not give a damn about the victims of the terrorist attack. She wrote about it from the perspective of budget negotiations. And a full day later, one that supposedly involves some spiritual introspection, she maintains that despite being factually wrong, the important thing is that we can’t cut defense spending.

Conclusions:
1. The Oslo and Utoya casualties are secondary to defense spending cuts, even in the days immediately following the tragedy.
2. Being factually incorrect is secondary to defense spending cuts.
3. DEFENSE SPENDING!
4. ???
5. Profit.

And this is even if we gloss over her (in Pexton’s words) borderline racist correction (like Pexton wants us to do).

I appreciate that the role of commentators and pundits is to occasionally look at things from a detached perspective – in order to provide a “big picture” analysis. She did this in the wake of a pretty horrific incidence of terrorism, so early that she didn’t have all the facts, or really any facts at all.

The delay in responding isn’t a huge problem in that there was a delay – it’s that in spite of the delay, the “correction” was so very wrnog.

209

elm 08.03.11 at 6:15 pm

I’ve gone back to some archives and it was known that the Utoya attacker was blonde, blue-eyed, and tall at around 2PM (EDT, I believe) on Friday, July 22nd. If Rubin had been paying any attention to the news about this story, she would have known some relevant facts much earlier in the day.

210

Joshua W. Burton 08.03.11 at 6:15 pm

The delay in responding isn’t a huge problem in that there was a delay – it’s that in spite of the delay, the “correction” was so very wrnog.

Just so (and extra style points for the typo).

211

Joshua W. Burton 08.03.11 at 6:25 pm

it was known . . .
at around 2PM (EDT, I believe) on Friday, July 22nd

That’s not good enough, I’m afraid. Pexton stakes his masthead’s credibility against 8:33 pm EDT for first official word by Norwegian police. A solid attack on that concrete finding — either a demonstrated error, or a widely publicized earlier report of equal stature to the police report — brings down his whole shady post-mortem, and probably buries all this shabbat pilpul under it. (Telling cultural symptom: does any other culture have a word for “intricate legalistic argument of no ultimate practical significance” that is not at least slightly derogatory?) But you need to be sure of the time zone and a lot more, before you launch it.

212

Daniel Nexon 08.03.11 at 6:31 pm

It is true that by no later than 5pm credible reports identified the man as ethnically Norwegian. I believe that’s when I started making inquiries about far-right groups in Norway. So she did have a good 2 1/2 hours or so before going into religiously-inspired “rush mode” to think about whether her earlier post was such a good idea.

213

Daniel Nexon 08.03.11 at 6:32 pm

Oops, what elm said (@209).

214

Kaveh 08.03.11 at 6:40 pm

@200 & 205
because, as a factual matter, I’m satisfied that it’s unlikely she knew anything at 10 pm.

Joshua, I think you’re getting submerged in the legal fine points and losing sight of the larger moral issue, which IMO is actually pertinent to the larger issues addressed in the original post.

The OP started out addressing the issue of what kind of public speech is connected with violence. Rubin had just published something speculative about the attacks which, if she’s right, would contribute to the public discourse on terror attacks, but which also (whether or not she’s right) might lead to revenge attacks on people with overly-brown skin or turbans, like those that happened after 9/11. I’d certainly agree that that risk is acceptable if she’s right about the religious background of the terrorist (we have to have open, honest discussions, &c.) but if she’s wrong, then she has a serious moral obligation to correct herself ASAP. Now, I get that there are specific provisions for “finishing a task”, but I don’t see how those provisions couldn’t apply equally to watching the news for developments on Utoya. Unless she just didn’t care that much about whether she might be wrong about this, because she doesn’t value those lives/doesn’t care about factual details. The best excuse/apology she might have offered under the circumstances is that she made a mistake by spending her last few minutes after candle-lighting on some Obama post rather than watching for info on Utoya. Saying “it was the sabbath” elides the choice that she made to finish writing junk about Obama and not pay attention to the news instead, or (at least) while she was doing so.

You state that she probably didn’t know anything at 10 PM (and I believe you) as if that fact were a completely neutral thing, unrelated to her values and priorities. But it isn’t (and I’m sure you didn’t mean to imply that it is, but intentionally or no, the implication, however slight, is there).

215

piglet 08.03.11 at 7:01 pm

“Henry Farrell, please cut me off when it’s enough”

Second that. Although frankly it’s way too late for that now. Joshua you really have derailed the thread. Your first two or three comments were on topic but the rest was just inexcusably bad behavior.

216

Joshua W. Burton 08.03.11 at 7:04 pm

Kaveh @214: see “squirrels” @200. I think I made it pretty clear that (based on very short acquaintance, since this thread introduced her to me) I think what she was doing late Friday afternoon was generally inappropriate for a Friday afternoon, a Friday evening, or a Tuesday morning. But that’s who she is, and as we’re all in furious agreement I don’t think it needs to be belabored. Let’s all go egg her front door, I’m on it.

“What’s that funny thing on her doorpost? Hey, anyone got a fire axe?” is where it gets queasy, and I rush home to watch my own door. Saying that, whoever she is and whatever she writes, she somehow thereby has a diminished right to be ignorant at 7 pm Saturday of something she was (however culpably) ignorant of at 9 pm Friday, is a small mezuzah moment.

217

Dragon-King Wangchuck 08.03.11 at 7:10 pm

Kaveh @ 214,

You stated:
Rubin had just published something speculative about the attacks which, if she’s right, would contribute to the public discourse on terror attacks

How so? How does admonishing against defense spending cuts contribute to the public discourse? It’s not like defense spending cuts aren’t reflexively attacked whenever they’re brought up. And in context of a deranged gunman unleashing a terrorist attack in Norway? I mean the original 5 pm Rubin post doesn’t compete with this thread for, uh, “non-sequiturlarity” – but that is damning with some pretty faint praise.

218

Dragon-King Wangchuck 08.03.11 at 7:14 pm

Just to clarify, I am saying that the original Friday 5 pm Rubin post has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, even if you alter reality to match her erroneous “facts”.

Although in Rubin’s defense (haha), I guess this means she’s right in that it doesn’t matter to her argument if the facts are wrong. Because facts have no bearing on her argument.

219

Joshua W. Burton 08.03.11 at 7:18 pm

@211 vs. @215, a digression on irregular verbs. I enjoy the pilpul, you are asking for moderation, he is way too late for that now. And this little piglet went “we”, “we”, “we”, all the way home, so I suppose I’m outvoted in spite of many kind remarks above. Thanks for your patience, and sorry to have exacerbated the bit shortage.

220

Donald Johnson 08.03.11 at 7:29 pm

I wouldn’t blame Joshua for thread derailment. He made a legitimate point, Daniel backed down, and then others got involved and it got weird. Now we’re getting into discussions of thread derailment.

Sebastian made a good point about the dangers of angry people in an age where it’s getting increasingly easy to kill large numbers of civilians, but since that seems to be an insoluble problem and too depressing to think about I suggest we stick to detailed discussions of the ins and outs of Sabbath breaking.

221

Henri Vieuxtemps 08.03.11 at 7:43 pm

Legitimate point? Oh, come on, it’s a hobbyhorse. Too much attention to the stupid Shabbat thing; where’s PZ Myers when you need him, to desecrate it with a rusty nail.

222

Kaveh 08.03.11 at 7:44 pm

Dragon: Her writing doesn’t actually contribute anything, I said that for sake of argument.
Joshua: I wasn’t saying she had a diminished right to be ignorant at Sat@7 of what she was ignorant of Fri@9, I’m not sure why you brought that up. Anyway, I think I made my points clearly enough and so have you, let’s not derail this further.

223

elm 08.03.11 at 7:52 pm

@211

Thanks for jumping down my throat. Sorry my facts aren’t good enough.

These probably aren’t good enough either:

6.40pm BST, 1:40PM EDT “Witnesses who have managed to escape from the island, says to NRK reporters on the spot that the perpetrator had a Norwegian look. He should be between 185 to 190 cm tall and have blond hair.”

or

2056 [elm: this is BST, that’s 15:56 EDT]: The foreign minister has also confirmed that the man arrested following the shooting on the island is Caucasian.

Nexton’s dissembling doesn’t concern me in the least. I’m well aware of the quality of Washington Post’s editorial page and I never expect its ombudsman to share my opinion of it.

224

Daniel Nexon 08.03.11 at 7:57 pm

@220. I’m the one who bears responsibility for the whole Shabbat issue. Joshua can hardly be accused of “thread derailment” for pointing out that I was wrong on the merits. The fact that she should have noticed emerging information inconsistent with her post well before the times in question, on the other hand, is a much more important point when it comes to Pexton’s ridiculousness.

225

Barry 08.03.11 at 8:07 pm

Joshua W. Burton 08.03.11 at 6:25 pm

And you still haven’t addressed two points:
1) If she was just about to go into a 24 no-update zone, then she should have been cautious in what she wrote. Some guy further up made a comment about Talmudic law saying bad things about gossip and slander. Of course, that guy was (in true Rovian form) using that to attack the people who pointed out her lies and slander.

2) Her original post was 100% BS and lies – an Al Qaida attack shows that we need F-35’s and more aircraft carriers?

3) She quoted a known nest of liars, the AEI (famous for their Iraq War ‘analyses’).

226

elm 08.03.11 at 8:10 pm

Daniel Nexon @224

Sorry for inadvertently mixing up your name with that of ombudsman Pexton’s in my post @223.

If Rubin had been paying attention to the actual news in the hours before 5PM EDT on Friday, when she made her post rather than the Weekly Standard and the AEI, she would have known there was a significant problem with the idea that “jihadis” and Al-Qaeda affiliates were involved.

The second top-level comment on http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/post/norway-bombing/2011/03/29/gIQAB4D3TI_blog.html“>her original post was made less than 1 hour after her post (7/22/2011 4:53:28 PM CDT — 5:53 EDT) and says:

CTV, among other sources, is reporting that the shooter, who allegedly was also seen in the area of the bombing prior to it, was Norwegian. Tall, blond and Nordic looking. If true, it is one more nail in the coffin of ethnic profiling, regardless of his ideology.

<blockquote

227

John 08.03.11 at 8:31 pm

It feels as if a massive injustice has been done, poor SOV might have been a loudmouthed firebrand but any thread derailment was simply to feed his not inconsiderable ego. This has now easily surpassed the abortion ‘debate’ of earlier this week on the who the f$$k cares scale. Joshuas point is pretty solid, if largely irrelevant, but why in the name of God are people debating the finer points of it. Its the least interesting thing about this story. (Even more so than the abortion angle) Theres something amiss here and it aint Joshua, although I would advise an interest in Shabbat is an acquired taste. Its this inability, even if you have no idea what your talking about, to allow even the smallest point pass without challenging it aggressively with bulls$$t.

228

piglet 08.03.11 at 10:16 pm

Barry 225, please, if he hasn’t addressed certain points, it was his choice not to address them and there’s no need to repeat what has already been said many times.

John, Daniel, please. Joshua made a legitimate point, nobody denies that, but then making the same point, with slight variations, *thirty-nine* more times? And while SoV has been rightly blamed, Joshua was clearly feeding the loop with irrelevant remarks about mathematicians vs physicists. What I am getting is a total lack of consideration on the part of some commenters, including but not limited to Joshua, for the fact that they are not alone in this thread. It’s in the internet just like in the real world: some behave as if there’s nothing else but “me” in the world and if the rest of the community doesn’t give them a hint of disapproval, they won’t ever realize.

Having said that, I’m out of here.

229

piglet 08.03.11 at 10:17 pm

(Oops) What I am getting *at* is a total lack of consideration etc.

230

nobody 08.03.11 at 11:53 pm

“I can’t remember the term for this logical fallacy (it’s of the ‘all cats have fur – all dogs have fur – therefore all cats are dogs’ variety). No doubt someone who, unlike me, took Philosophy 101, will inform me in comments within moments of publication.”

I’m either blind, or nobody posted it. The term is “syllogism”.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syllogism

</nerd>

231

Emma in Sydney 08.04.11 at 12:09 am

My original request for moderation did not specify SoV. I think there were a number of offenders, and certainly Joshua W Burton was one of them, so I agree with piglet. Some people never seem to learn that they cannot force others to agree with them, and attempting to do so is both boorish and boring. If you have made your argument and failed to persuade, repeating it ad nauseum is unlikely to succeed better.

232

ScentOfViolets 08.04.11 at 2:11 am

SoV – this isn’t the first, nor the second time that you’ve tried your ‘I am a mathematician – therefore ipso facto I outrank you all’ stylings on this blog. You are a graduate student math instructor bullshitting on the Internet.

Sigh. No Henry. I’m not. Really.

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ScentOfViolets 08.04.11 at 2:22 am

John – no worries. It’s pretty obvious that some people were out to settle some old scores. As for the rest, I think the problem is that my bullshit detectors have been on “sensitive” after turning in grades for the semester. I merely happened to be the first to winkle out Josh. And, like any Cassandra, frustrated that people weren’t getting it.

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Andrew F. 08.04.11 at 11:00 am

Jim @164: Not to condone hate mail, but you do realize that there is an enormous difference between sending angry emails to a newspaper pundit and being a neocon propagandist, right? I mean, I’m pretty sure that “the point” of this case is not that one shouldn’t write mean emails.

Jim, your phrasing is tendentious. I point out that what the ombudsman thinks “brings us back to Norway” are the “obscene…vile…threats of physical harm.” These aren’t merely “mean emails” nor are they merely “angry emails.”

After elaborating on other causes for the furor over the article, he noted that because liberals and conservatives rarely read each other for anything other than ammunition, it becomes easy to quickly demonize a commentator from the other side. Once that is done, you make it easier in turn for the nutjobs to start doing things like making obscene threats of physical violence.

THAT is what I take to be the point.

piglet @185: Regardless, to suggest that those who publicly and with reason criticize a racist blogger are stoking violence – and by extension that they are the real culprits, not the racist – is pretty shameless.

I very rarely read Rubin, but I did look at the posts at issue here. I don’t think they’re racist, frankly, though I’m reading them without much knowledge of her other writing.

You’re misunderstanding the ombudsman’s point. It’s not that he’s opposed to Rubin being criticized – it’s that he found the level and tone of some of the “criticism” to be that of vitriolic hatred. The polarization and division of the political blogosphere renders it easier for that vitriolic hatred to form – makes it easier for us to dehumanize and label rather than understand and engage.

There may or may not have been private “over the top” emails but the ombudsman’s concern should be about public “over the top” blog postings. What the ombudsman here does is using unverifiable allegations tangential to the case at hand to paint the racist as the victim.

Your “case at hand” and the ombudsman’s concern are obviously different. You are concerned entirely with whether Rubin was right or wrong in her posts. The ombudsman is concerned about the level and type of reaction to Rubin’s posts.

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piglet 08.04.11 at 5:05 pm

“The ombudsman is concerned about the level and type of reaction to Rubin’s posts.”

Frankly, the ombudsman’s main concern should have been for the journalistic integrity of WP. His role is to investigate complaints of journalistic misconduct and, frankly, to protect readers from irresponsible pundits. His role is really not to protect pundits from criticism, even from “over-the-top” criticism. That is not to say that hate mail to Rubin, if it really exists, should be condoned. But the ombudsman used that alleged hate mail as an excuse to distract from Rubin’s misconduct, which is the issue that he as ombudsman should have concentrated on.

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elm 08.04.11 at 8:53 pm

piglet, I agree that the ombudsman’s role should be to represent and protect readers and uphold some standards, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

His role is, apparently, to dismiss criticism from one side and amplify criticism from the other.

Consider this column about the WaPo story Michelle Obama orders 1,700-calorie meal at Shake Shack plus slights to Nancy Reagan and Barbara bush.

As expected, he says the editors should have caught the slights to Mrs. Reagan and Mrs. Bush, but on Mrs. Obama:

As for Michelle Obama and her burger and fries, the quick-hit blog post clearly went beyond the traditional boundaries for coverage of first ladies. But I see it as no great sin.

A little tabloidy, invasive and sexist? Well, yeah. But given Michelle’s child nutrition advocacy, a story not completely out of bounds.

Back to his defense of Rubin, I noticed this paragraph:

Rubin was hired by Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of The Post, to be an opinion blogger who would appeal to conservatives and people who want to follow conservative politics. She does.

Apparently it’s her job to hold the puke funnel and we should all just shut up already. I would expect nothing else from Fred Hiatt.

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Jay Rosen 08.05.11 at 2:30 am

I took note of that, too. “Rubin was hired by Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of The Post, to be an opinion blogger who would appeal to conservatives and people who want to follow conservative politics. She does.”

Shouldn’t a conservative opinion blogger be hired to write well, to know her stuff, to make strong arguments, or is appealing to conservatives really the job description?

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elm 08.05.11 at 4:59 am

Jay Rosen:

I think there’s a fundamental dichotomy there:

1) Accurate information

2) Appeal to right-wingers

Pick one.

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Greg M. 08.05.11 at 1:38 pm

And in terms of rage & the Republican media machine, of which Rubin is very much a part, there’s nothing quite like:
1) Jim David Adkisson, who in the summer of 2008, walked into a Unitarian church, murdered two people, and tried to murder six more. He left a charming manifesto in which he said he wanted to “kill all the liberals” because we were “socialists.” In his home were found books by Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and Bernie Goldberg (two Fox News hosts, two Fox News frequent guests).

2) Richard Poplawski, who in March of 2009, uploaded a video of Glenn Beck talking about the FEMA death camps onto a website he frequented, and then went out and murdered three Pittsburgh cops.

3) Scott Roeder, who called Dr. George Tiller a baby-killer before putting two bullets in his brain while Tiller was at church. While no direct link has yet been established between Roeder and Fox, it should be noted that Bill O’Reilly called Dr. Tiller a baby-killer 26 times on the air over the space of four years.

4) Byron Williams, our first unsuccessful killer on this list who was, thank God, intercepted before he could reach the Tides Foundation, but who nevertheless fired at and endangered the lives of California State troopers before being arrested. He was going to Tides because Glenn Beck encouraged it. He says so himself here:
http://mediamatters.org/research/201010110002

And then there’s the guy who flew a plane into the IRS building in Texas, and the Holocaust memorial killer, and the murder of Arkansas State Democratic party Chairman Bill Gwatney by Timothy Dale Johnson in 2008. I don’t have the same “smoking guns” for these guys that I do for the first four, but by God I’m gonna list them anyway as possibilities. Because I would dearly love to know what made up their media diet. Oh yeah, and a Planned Parenthood clinic was just firebombed.

And now we have the Muslim-hated Anders Brevik, who sucked up his hate from American right-wing websites. How long until another Jim David Adkisson or Richard Poplawski comes along?

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