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Offensiveness is fun

Our topic: Dave Budge linked to a post on The Huffington Post. Wulfgar is less than happy.

The post Budge linked to is a list of “75 questions to ask progressives.” To give you a taste, I’ll quote what Budge quoted:

– IF ‘dissent is patriotic’ then why are you guys being so brutal to Joe Lieberman for dissenting from you on Iraq?

– If gay marriage is such a slam dunk civil right, why did you sit on your asses while Clinton AND Gore came up with and signed the Defense of Marriage Act?

– Can you explain globalization and why it’s bad without sounding like a gibbering idiot?

-Is ‘progressive’ the best euphemism you’ve got?

-How come all of you were suspicious of Arianna when she was a Republican yet think her aspirations now that she’s a ‘progressive’ are based upon deep conviction?

– Are israeli soldiers more contemptible than terrorists?

-Could it be possible that your ‘all Republicans are stupid or evil’ schtick from bumpersticker to watercooler to cocktail chatter causes everyone else to feel very uncomfortable, but they just chalk
up your rudeness to a simple mind?

-Did you know that satellite imagery reveals that Barbara Boxer is actually a lemur?

-do you think JFK would approve of Michael Moore?
-do you think RFK would approve of Teddy Kennedy?
-do you think Teddy Kennedy would approve of reduced fat Pringles?

Dave says when introducing the list:

People who know me understand that I don’t have a prudish bone in my body and I too engage in unseemly name calling. There are some times when only one word will do justice in a descriptive passage. I do, however, more enjoy when offensive comments are bit more heady.

I think that’s enough set up. I’m inclined to agree with Budge about “offensive” or vulgar commentary. When such comments are in the service of an argument or illustrate a point, I have no problem with them. I’m a huge fan of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit!, a show that reaches extraordinary heights of vulgarity and one that I disagree with fairly often (damn libertarians). I’m hardly nice to some of the people I ridicule on here, as well.

I can’t say that the list in question really qualifies, though. It consists of a) jokes targeting liberal figures, which are funny if you happen to dislike the particular figure, but aren’t exactly thoughtful and b) gotcha questions that seem insightful to people who aren’t liberals and possess a certain mental portrait of them. It’s neither offensiveness for the sake of riling people up, which is its own topic and is rarely pushed as a serious part of political debate, nor is it vulgarity in the service of a point. It’s bottom of the barrel political sniping. Take the question: “If ‘dissent is patriotic’ then why are you guys being so brutal to Joe Lieberman for dissenting from you on Iraq?” If you’re a progressive and you can’t come up with a response to that question in about half a second, you’re an idiot. There is no shortage of idiotic progressives. There’s also no shortage of idiotic conservatives, libertarians, centrists, anarchists, communists, marxists, and so on. Mocking the idiots who associate themselves with a position on the political spectrum is a worthwhile goal, but pretending you’re mocking all of the people who have a certain ideology while making arguments that only stump the idiots is not. It and the related phenomenon of holding up the idiots as representative of an ideology seem to be why our discourse is so awful.

Maybe that’s more than this topic is worth, but blogs have inserted a great deal of vulgarity into national discourse. They are often filled with empty vitriol, so you have to be pretty dense not to understand some of the disdain from people like those who run TNR. On any given day, TNR has plenty of seriously argued pieces. Weakly argued pieces? There are plenty of those, too. What they rarely contain is the mindless partisan ranting that infests places like DKos. Ranting that serves no purpose other than to polarize us and keep us from solving much of anything. As blogs grow more popular at the expense of opinion journalism, I’m not entirely sure things are going to get better. The “elitism” of TNR or the polarizing vulgarity of DKos and Atrios? Forgive me for thinking that choice is not exactly cut and dry.

Categories: Blogging, The media, The Right
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