Rough trade

by Ted on December 16, 2003

I had half-written a post about the latest adventures in dumpster-diving, but Gary Farber beat me to it.

I have to say that the ever-increasing recent trend of many political bloggers — some from both sides of the column as they perceive it, though I’m seeing more from the right guilty of this of late (but that might be sample error on my part) — to react to any news event they perceive as likely to be politically polarizing by going to a site known to be full of what H. L. Mencken called “the booboisie,” mouthing off with sub-simian mewlings admidst the mouth breathings, is not a pretty sight. It would seem to be a masochistic endeavor, but no! It has a purpose! Because then said blogger can pull up this eagerly sought handful of soiled straw and proclaim: this is what The Other Side believes! That Other Side! They’re so stupid! Ha ha ha, stupid other side! Me not stupid like them! Me smart. Stupid other side!

The world is full to the gills with stupid people who say awful things on the Internet. Pointing this out doesn’t constitute a political argument.

Philosoraptor has some related thoughts. Philosoraptor is also a really excellent, thoughtful website, and we should encourage him to keep blogging. I’m not pointing to any one post because it’s all good.

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07.11.05 at 1:53 pm



Ophelia Benson 12.16.03 at 6:34 pm

Yeah, this line is pretty funny –

“See, it’s arguing against straw because random people you’ve never heard of who are foaming at the mouth, scientific studies reveal, turn out not to be spokespeople for a given Party or position.”

Darn! Another person who’s seen through the disguise!


Mike Jones 12.16.03 at 7:17 pm

Very nice. I’d add only this bit of wisdom: In any argument, there will be people on your side whom you will wish were on the other side.


Glenn Reynolds 12.16.03 at 7:41 pm

That’s gotta be the stupidest post I’ve ever seen! This is what blabbering liberals who hate Bush do best.


Jerry 12.16.03 at 7:48 pm

How about we call this practice “Billy-gloating” as they are going out looking for ugly, troll-under-the-bridge type viewpoints to gloat over?


Kathryn Cramer 12.16.03 at 8:06 pm

In general, people’s reactions to the capture have been pretty peculiar. It’s nice that Saddam Hussein has been captured, but why anyone thinks it’s an argument for anything is beyond me.

I think the people Tim Blair is quoting watch too much TV. It seems to me that they’re reacting to dumb newscasters trying to extrapolate something from the capture, and their kneejerk is to pull in the other direction.

The speed of the Internet (and breaking TV news) allowed people to collectively blurt out many things they hadn’t thought enough about, which is a shame all around.


fyreflye 12.16.03 at 9:14 pm

All too true; and a good reason shy smart bloggers like Josh Marshall and Instapundit don’t solicit reader comment. Not that you guys aren’t smart. The responses you get are usually fairly intelligent. But that’s because your comments are too reasonable to foment much hate speech. OTOH some of the more popular (i.e. most hits) bloggers seem to post only to incite the ire of the rabble.


Gary Farber 12.16.03 at 9:18 pm

“OTOH some of the more popular (i.e. most hits) bloggers seem to post only to incite the ire of the rabble.”

“Throwing-red-meat blogs,” I’ve long called them. It’s a terrific path to popularity. How lucky I am that I am so successful at avoiding such popularity!


JRC 12.16.03 at 10:05 pm

Utter, total, absolute agreement in regards to Philosoraptor. That guy rocks. Now we just need to harass him into implementing comments, so we can talk about his posts somewhere other than here.



a_retrogrouch 12.16.03 at 10:18 pm

The silly ravings of Glenn Reynolds aside (please!), I have to agree wholeheartedly with Philosoraptor on Saddam’s capture. I should feel euphoric, but I just can’t. I just wonder where James Baker will have him removed so he can’t sing.

I can’t remember in my 45 years when I’ve felt so…disgusted with America and the way the Bushes and their cronies have manipulated public opinion, hijacked the media and the political process, and misused the U.S. military towards empire, instead of addressing the roots of terrorism. (And many of them know it, Glenn.) I have never had such apprehension for the future of this country, and I wonder if it will be eventually worth defending.

Reynolds and his ilk will sit back and take their shots, but a real patriot would know that something is terribly wrong, and it will either be fixed or the whole experiment will come to its end.


roy edroso 12.16.03 at 10:28 pm


Ted Barlow 12.16.03 at 11:04 pm

Oh, I dunno, Roy; it doesn’t seem so hard to draw a line. The line is “don’t drudge up garbage from comment sections and display it like it proves anything.”

The Corner and Andrew Sullivan are obviously fair targets- those folks actually make their living doing this. (Meditate upon this for a moment.)

Wacked-out blogs, like Kim du Toit or Emperor Misha, seem like fair targets too. It never occurred to me that bashing them was in poor taste. They went through the trouble of starting a web page; they exposed themselves to ridicule. Besides, when you’re making fun of Emperor Misha, it’s understood that you’re making fun of Emperor Misha, not every conservative everywhere.

But look at a forum like, say, FreeRepublic. It produces outrageous posts as predictably as yeast produces carbon dioxide. What possible point is there in dredging them up, especially as proof that “this is how the other side thinks”? You might as well be making fun of furries.


roy edroso 12.16.03 at 11:15 pm

Well, Ted, I guess I’ll miss my bi-monthly Freeper raid, but it’s a small price to pay for an untragic commons.


Gary Farber 12.16.03 at 11:54 pm

I added a response to Roy Edroso. (I also changed two words for the sake of clarity; alas, they are in the section you quoted — “both sides” to “each side.”)


fyreflye 12.17.03 at 1:49 am

I should point out that in my previous comments I was referring to bloggers like Atrios and Pandagon just as much as I was to those like Instapundit or Kim duToit.


John Isbell 12.17.03 at 3:24 am

This week’s US News & World Report has an op-ed by the unique John Leo whose thesis consists almost entirely of dredgings from sites like Democratic Underground. Perhaps he should be told about dumpster diving.


Pete Guither 12.17.03 at 4:15 am

Thanks for this post. I particularly appreciated:

“The world is full to the gills with stupid people who say awful things on the Internet. Pointing this out doesn’t constitute a political argument.”

That statement should be distributed widely through the blogging community.


novalis 12.17.03 at 5:05 am

God damn it, why does everyone always make fun of furries?! They’re not hurting anyone, they’re just acting as they truly believe they are. Do you make fun of transgendered people too (I once asked a furry, and he found this a good analogy)? Furries are fucking brave, to go on the ‘net and say, “hi, I’m a chipmunk”. That takes guts! And yet, even supposedly liberal, high-mindded people like you, Ted, make fun of them. That’s not very nice!


Gary Farber 12.17.03 at 5:50 am

I’m willing to put down money to bet that I’m the only one here who typeset a Steve Gallacci furry comic in the year 1981, who drove across country for three days to get to the World Science Fiction Convention with a major “furry” artist in 1981, who has any knowledge of the orign of the furries in the comics, funny animals, and apas of the time, and more. (Can you say “Ken Fletcher, Reed Waller, or Dan Steffan”; I didn’t think so.) But will I get credit? No! That’s not very nice!

Er. Or something. I just thought I’d mention that one-uping on obscure topics doesn’t always work out.

Of course, none of that has anything to do with anything.


Gary Farber 12.17.03 at 6:07 am

Except that, really, one-uping on obscure topics doesn’t always work out. Heh. Pitch me another softball, please. I didn’t even take one hand out of my pocket.

No, I’m not embarassed I know this, without in the least being a furry. I’ve all sorts of weird sub-cultural crap in my background. It’s why my blog is so darn fascinating, and, yet, I never need to self-promote.


John Isbell 12.17.03 at 2:04 pm

Well, I once saw a furry episode on ER.
Ampersand has written a fair bit on transgendered/transsexual people, novalis, if this matters to you you could pitch your analogy to him and he might well post on it.
There is a talking dog in blogtopia (y! sctp!), and I am sometimes a penguin.


Grand Moff Texan 12.17.03 at 7:21 pm

sample size of … oh, hell, why do I bother?

Shorter dumpster-diver:

[it’s only a model]

Waitaminute. “Dumpster-diver.” Is that English English? Skip-spelunker is harder to say while(st) drunk.


anon 12.17.03 at 9:07 pm

Will one of you well-trafficked souls please start compiling the Fair-minded Blogger’s Credo? (which includes “I shall not engage in dumpster diving”…)


novalis 12.18.03 at 2:35 am

Gary, I never claimed to be anyone special — I’m just a guy who doesn’t like to see people kicked while they’re down (or, really, at all). The closest I come to fur is that I read Ozy and Millie.

John, I’m ashamed to say that I don’t read Ampersand regularly (although it seems to have an RSS feed, so I’ll try syndicating it into my reading list). At any rate, I’ve long lost the original chatroom conversation [1] (and never got permission to post it). I’m not very conversant with furry culture, so I don’t know if this is a common view. To my knowlege, I’ve only ever met one fur in person, and I don’t think I asked his opinion. In short, I don’t have any data. But if you know Ampersand, perhaps you could pitch it to him. If you want interview victims, Everything2 has a bunch of furry members (and more than that list — they’re just not all active).

[1] But, of course, I saved the conversation with a famous programmer having hot dragon sex with someone in a public chat room. Naturally.


ronyon 12.19.03 at 12:42 pm

My dad(a preachers son with a philosophy)degree schooled me against the straw man style of debate,which has not kept me from resorting to it…
It seems to be the favorite style of many talk shows,which seem to only invite poorly spoken opponents,or even keep them on staff!

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