Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Do Not Mess With Dana Stevens

A few days ago, I wrote a post admiring the writing skills of Dana Stevens, the culture critic at Slate. I then stumbled upon the following review of Stevens, which included such tidbits as,

"The result in Stevens has been some of the most comically overwrought prose this side of an undergraduate civics paper. Two posts by her in, and the Movie Club is the worse for wear....[after quoting Stevens] It’s January 3rd, folks, yet that may be the most inept attempt at a meaningful sentence I digest all year."

I will try (and often fail) to avoid forging ad hominem attacks. However, I am a big believer in defending people, even phantoms whom I've never met, the ones who live in copper wires and fiber optic cables. Thus, I do not draw my own "civility line" at presenting harsh critics in their own words. Therefore, here is more from Freddie DeBoer:
Title of Blog Post from last week:
"The Continuing Fraud of Mickey Kaus"

On Martin Peretz:
"His blog is linked to by mainstream blogs and online magazines. He is a firmly establishment figure. He is also a vulgar and hateful man....he's become a clownish figure..."

And then there are almost 400 earlier blog posts that I don't have the energy to wade through. This all may seem like trying to remove the whips from the sex shop; after all, the civility norms of the internet differ from the general tone of face-to-face conversation or academic journal critique.

However, what irks me is that the following is posted on Freddie De Boer's personal wikipedia page:
"I believe that the irrational anger, out of hand rejection, and defensive zeal with which people on Wikipedia reject postmodernism reveals the degree to which that rejection is the product of doubt and fear...I think nothing can be accomplished without an attempt at genuine dialogue, founded on mutual respect and a good faith understanding of the opponent's viewpoint [words bolded in original]."

As much as I try, I will not always write in a respectful tone. Please call me out on it, as this is something I try to avoid. We all have our bad days. However, if someone mocks people whom I admire, he will be called out on that, as well. We are left with differences of opinion concerning what is respectfully-conducted discourse, and upon whom forceful language is legitimitely proclaimed. Therefore, it's a good thing Freddie's a self-described "post-modernist."


Antiquated Tory said...

I've read the Stevens review you linked to, and I agree that it's brilliant, and DeBoer is nuts to lay such opprobrium on her. On the other hand, he is angry with Kaus and with Peretz for using their public presences to undermine the liberal agenda in American politics and give intellectual respectability to the most kneejerk, hate-filled brand of hard-right Israel hawkishness, respectively. You may or may not agree with him but it's not extraordinary that he would use harsh language to refer to them. If he does not think someone is deserving of any respect, why should he show them any?

Heal Spieler said...

Hi AT,
Sorry for responding so late. I don't read Kaus or Peretz, so I don't really know much about their political views. My issue really has more to do with civility. I know many people think that people with my libertarian views don't deserve any respect, but I still wish that they'd argue in a way that isn't demeaning. I suppose, if you really find someone's views so detestable, it may make sense to speak strongly about it. But then we just end up with Dr. Strangelove-esque mutually assured deprecation.

Freddie said...

So does civility require that people be allowed to respond to their critics, or not? I've commented in this space several times. Those comments have never appeared. Your commenting policy says "I will erase any that are patently abusive or spammish". Whatever you might think about my comments, they have not been patently abusive. So does this discourse of civility entail letting people respond to those who have criticized them, or not?