Trust, Standing, and Communication

The week’s “Almost All-Rush-Limbaugh” posts got me to thinking about language and the use thereof, and this of course always makes me think of Mr. Carlin (requiescat in pace).  Needless to say, this post will refer to some colorful language, reader beware.

George Carlin did a number of bits on language.  Everything from “Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television” to the “Incomplete List of Impolite Words” to “Soft Language”.  The Incomplete List still cracks me up when I hear it, now.  George was pretty relentless on offensiveness and political correctness and communication.  Some of his very common themes are:

  • Americans are terrified of simple language
  • Americans are hugely puritanical about language
  • Americans aren’t keen on using blunt language in their discourse
  • People get fucking offended way too easily
  • Violence is deeply embedded in our discourse

All of this is true.  We are, as a social organism, very prone to reading offense into language, and in the last decade(s), we’ve gone quite a long ways towards changing the common patois to reflect a distaste of language’s common connotations.  We modulate our language; as each successive generation finds offense in what was the vernacular before, it is discarded and replaced by the new, and then again.  Sometimes this is because the language is more expressive, but more often it is because the language is less expressive.  It removes explicit connotations for implicit ones.

There is something weird about this. Granted.  George is right about these things.  Americans are freaking weird.

Fundamentally, language reflects group thought; calling people of African ancestry the “n-word” was reflective of the times 100 years ago… polite people called black people “colored”, and impolite people called them other things.  Then colored people decided that “black” was beautiful, and then “African-American”.  When it comes to generating your group label, I think this is something that the group has standing to do on their own.  If black people want to be called “colored” or “African-American” or “The Beloved” or “Ham Sandwich” they absolutely have the right, as a group, to grant standing to those who use their self-applied label, and refuse standing to those that don’t.  If Latinos want to be called Hispanic, or not Hispanic but Chicano, or neither but Mexican- (or Nicaraguan- or Central-American-) Americans, good on them.  Generating group identity is what keeps the world from falling apart.

Because George is wrong about this – it means something to be a fucking asshole (not that this should be censored, mind you).

Language, how you use it and what elements of it you choose to use when you are speaking to other people, or about other people, reflects one of two things: your thoughts about your topic, or your inability (or unwillingness) to suss out what language works with your audiences…. and to your audience, this is reflective of how much trust they will grant unto you.

Without trust, your ability to communicate with people is generally in the fucking toilet.

There are two types of trust establishment, in language.  The first is constructive.  You!  You are like me!  You like this thing I like!  This thing I like is awesome, and you like it too!  We should talk about these awesome things, and find other things that are awesome and share them with each other!  When your communication is primarily positive, the bonds that develop out of that trust are positive, and inclusive.  You seek to tell others about awesomeness.  When someone who has already established trust with you by building lots of positive threads, they can say something that you might otherwise consider offensive, coming from someone who doesn’t have that context.  Because, hey, that guy likes the shows I like, and is into playing the sorts of games I like to play, and his wife and my wife share recipes, and okay maybe he has odd ideas about economic policy, but he can’t be all that bad.

The second type of trust establishment is negative.  Those guys!  Those guys suck!  The things that they like are shitty!  We should talk about how stupid they are to like shitty things!  Let’s find more things about them that are horrible, and talk about those things!  Your bonds are no longer positive, they are negative.  You are bound not by being like someone else, you are bound by being unlike terrible people.  Well, terrible people… they might be getting legitimately screwed by something, but we don’t have to care about that, right?  They’re terrible people.

Generally speaking, I think that the second leads to a very sick dynamic.  But hey, that’s just me.

Now, here’s some things that I want to be totally clear on, before going any farther.

Bill Maher is an asshole (edited to add, thank you, Dr. Russell).  Ed Schultz is a blowhard.  Keith Olbermann is not an additive to American political discourse.  Rush Limbaugh is a seriously offensive human being.  Hannity is a self-righteous prick.  If anyone wants to start a Kickstarter program to pay these people to never speak in front of a microphone, again, I’ll contribute my share.

It’s sad that these are the public faces of our political punditry, representative or not.

I disavow Maher’s ridiculous beliefs about vaccinations.  I think referring to a candidate for public office using particular words offensive to an entire gender is beyond beyond the pale.  What Ed said about Laura Ingraham reveals that Ed has a really hard time staying on the righteous side of “ranting crazy”.  Olbermann actually detracted from his legitimate criticisms of the Bush Administration with his rhetoric.

Here’s the thing about Rush, that conservatives don’t seem to be getting.  For me, at least, his latest (extended, multiple-day diatribe) is not really all that different from anything he’s done before.  To borrow a phrase from Blaise, he’s a shrieking monkey, flinging poo to express his anger.  I don’t normally go to the monkey cage he’s in, so this bothers me not an awful lot.

However, this last week is indicative of something, to me.

Here’s the demographic breakdown for voters in 2008.  225 million people of voting age.  131 million people voted.  Of that 131 million somewhere around a third are reliably swing voters, independents, or not strictly affiliated with either party.  The other two thirds are split basically in half between the GOP and the Democrats.

So somewhere in the ballpark of 44 million people are reliable GOP voters, and 44 million are Dems.  This obviously lacks nuance, but it’s close enough for the point.  Rush’s weekly show has somewhere between 15 and 30 million listeners.  Bill Maher has a weekly audience of 1 million.

There are plenty of people on the conservative side who have said that what Rush said was unacceptable.  There are plenty of people on the Left who have said that what Bill Maher said (or what Ed Schultz said) was unacceptable.  Neither side has lily white hands here.

Again (granted) we don’t know the exact makeup of Rush’s listeners, as a group.  We don’t know the exact makeup of Maher’s, either.  But there’s somewhere between 15 and 30 times as many people listening to Rush as watching Maher.  Remember, conservatives, how you joked about Air America failing?  I can state with reasonable certainty that it didn’t fail because 15 to 30 million people were listening to it.

Sure, maybe the Left does have a double standard for how outraged they get.  Maybe the Right has a double standard for how outraged they get.  Pulling from higher up in the post, established trust will do that, so that’s not exactly surprising on either side.

Let’s stick with the middle estimate and say that 22 million people listen to Rush.  I’m not going to put a scientific assessment on how many of them are registered Democrats vs. Republicans, but I’m okay with guessing that it’s on the upside of more than half of them are Republicans who generally agree with what the guy says, who find what he says to be compelling.  Somewhat significantly less than half are the people who listen to him to get angry.  That doesn’t say anything necessarily about the ideas behind the voice.  This says nothing about public policy.  But it does say something to me about the group dynamic.

As Jaybird says, I suspect the GOP is going to need to spend more time in the wilderness.

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304 thoughts on “Trust, Standing, and Communication

  1. I don’t know that it necessarily *WILL*, however.

    Americans like throwing bums out… and I can easily see people voting for Obama despite wishing they could vote for not-Obama (but certainly *NOT* Romtorum) and holding their nose and voting Republican downticket.

    Obama claims a mandate, republicans claim a mandate, and we get blessed with gridlock for another 2 years before the Republicans try to impeach him for something.

    And *THEN* they can go to the wilderness for a year or so.

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  2. Good post. Its sort of funny you lump Olbermann in there. He certainly got double plus pompous but he never called people vile names ( correct me if i’m wrong). Some of the things he got most upset about were civil liberty violations which i imagine many libertarians would agree with. Whatever. Your point about the number of people who listen to Rush compared to Maher makes sense. But i think you miss a big part of it. Rush headlines at big time conservative meetings. Candidates go to him for approval. He is a big player, maybe the biggest in R politics. Do Maher, Shultz or Olbermann have anything like that standing? Given what Maher has said about religion no D pol is going to want his endorsement much although they might take his money. Part of the reason the “he’s only an entertainer” bilge is so silly is its so at odds with the plain facts of his power and influence in the R party.

    Everybody has some double standards. That is just part of being an imperfect human. The question is can we think about them, see through them and not be a prisoner to them.

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    • There’s two ways to look at this.  The outsider looks at this and says, “This guy is representative of your party!  You’re all (negative thing) too!”

      The insider ought to look at this and say, “Jesus Christ, this guy is representative of my party!??!”

      The outsider needs to be careful that he’s not overgeneralizing, and there’s certainly been a whole lot of that going on over the last week, so I have some sympathy for conservatives who have to put up with this.  On the other hand, the insiders who are saying “Jesus Christ, this guy is representative of my party!??!?” are getting crap from their own team.

      That would bother me, if I was an insider to that group.

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  3. Okay, haven’t read this yet but I wanted to say – good job on the picture and formatting! Thanks! You could put the more tag a bit further down if you want. This is fine, too.

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  4. Oh yeah regarding trust in institutions and Rush’s demographic this story went, as i far as i saw, unremarked upon in all the Rush threads. Is this worse then Rush since he is a judge who presumably hears cases with open Dem’s and/or black people. And the fact that he was so forking stupid to send this from an official e-mail.

    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/02/bush_nominated_federal_judge_sent_joke_email_implying_obamas_mother_had_sex_with_dog.php

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  5. I don’t think it matters that Rush has more listeners than Ed or that politicians seek (more to the point – need to seek) his approval.  They’re both basically doing the same thing.  We should have same basic expectations for their conduct.

    It matters that Bill Maher is doing something different.  He’s legitimately an entertainer.  He plays clubs and theaters as a stand-up comic.  He works blue on the reg.  If that shouldn’t change our expectations for him or our standards for his conduct, then forget it.  I’m outta this conversation.  Because if not recognizing that difference – that Bill Maher is an entertainer and that Rush’s claims to be one in a similar way or in any way that makes him different from Ed Schultz are bunk – is flat-out denial of straightforward apparent reality.

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    • …*And* it’s not to say it’s all cool when he calls someone a c-nt, either.  i just don’t want to hear about how it’s the equivalent of any kind of serious commentator, which both Rush and Ed are, doing it.

      In other words, IMO the “He’s just an entertainer” justification does have merit.  It’s just BS w/r/t to Rush.  Rush is certainly not just an entertainer, nor is he primarily an entertainer, and only arguably is he an entertainer at all.  Bill Maher is pretty much just an entertainer, and certainly primarily one.  His use of the c word is closer to the line than some entertainers’ since he works politics, but he’s still an entertainer.  And I don’t want to take words like that out of the hands of entertainers, though by all means I don’t want them to use them about political figures, nor indeed to use them at all.  I don’t want them to, but neither is it an outrage when they do.  It is an outrage when either Ed Schultz or Rush Limbaugh do,because they are both essentially doing real political polemics. Just because they both go after increasing their viewer/listenership, this doesn’t mean what they’re doing is primarily entertainment.

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      • Al Franken was “an entertainer” right up until he parlayed his celebrity to Senate status. Could I fill a book with all the hateful things Franken has said? Don’t even need to Franken wrote the book himself.

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        • Perhaps you could elaborate a bit on the sins of Al Franken.

          Calling Bill O’Reilly a liar?   That didn’t pan out, seems everything Franken said was true.   I seem to recall Franken talking to the Tea Party, and gosh, he was really quite civil with them.   Franken even apologized to being rude to Mitch McConnell.

          But then, it’s not fair to say you couldn’t fill a book with hateful things Franken has said.   Perhaps the Readers’ Digest version would suffice.

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              • Well, I’d say that’s a part of it. I would have guessed that a Senator Franken would have been making intemperate jokey comments on Tuesday and apologizing on Wednesday with regularity and he hasn’t. If I had to guess, it might be specifically because he was more conscientious about the possibility of being scoffed at and dismissed.

                I don’t have anything specific off the top of my head with regard to his senate career, but whenever I hear something about him, it’s typically positive. I’ve heard his constituent outreach program is first rate, he gets along well with his colleagues, and various endearing stuff like this.

                He appears to be taking the job very seriously.

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            • ward’s right. Franken was a comedian, now he’s a senator. He’s lived up to both, though Will’s right — Franken’s the best of a good lot, works hard, does his job well. It takes a bit of brains to be even a middling comedian.

              If we must choose based on job type, let’s choose comedians instead of lawyers. At least they’ll be funny on CSPAN

               

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          • Oh, I have to say – as someone that actually often found Franken funny – that a lot of what he said was pretty mean-spirited.  I remember reading the Rush book, and while I remember there being a lot of good commentary, it was sandwiched in between a lot of different ways of talking about Rush’s appearance.

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            • When Fox sued Franken, the case was literally, not figuratively, laughed out of court.

              Those squareheads at Fox can dish it out.   They’re not so good at taking it.   Franken gutted the right wing blowhards like so many panfish.

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              • Years ago my wife and I went to a black tie fundraiser for a charity hospital’s endowment fund where Franken had been tapped to keynote.  Most of the people there were in their 50s and older, and it was a pretty conservative audience.

                Franken started right in going after old people and conservatives, and never let up.  The lack of laughter was cringe-worthy.  But after a while, because he didn’t let up, it became hard for me not to start giggling.  In its own way, it was one of the most entertaining stand ups I’ve ever seen simply by being one one the least well-received stand ups I’ve ever seen.  Surreal.

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                • Not to shoot the messenger here but that’s about the most pathetic debunking site ever.   I’m especially impressed with the “debunking” about WMDs.   I notice they didn’t make any reference to his book called “Why Not Me?”  in which he laid out what a terrible president he’d be.

                  Ward, you’re just not playing ball here.   We’re trying to talk about trust, standing and communication here.   Patrick’s trying to talk about how we might find some common ground.   I’ve been gabbling away about how we shouldn’t tar Conservatives with the Rush Limbaugh brush, how we ought to take Conservatives seriously.

                  I’m going to make this personal.   All you do is whine and cast aspersions.   I’m not picking up any signals which might lead me to believe you’re going to ever discuss anything with me or anyone else around here on the basis of what we might agree on, or even on the basis of what the nation might need.    You put words in everyone’s mouth around here.   You need to stop that.   Nobody’s going to take you seriously until you do.   It’s tiresome and it’s dishonest.

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        • Ward, seriously, what is your end game here? Convincing people that liberals say nasty stuff? Convincing them that liberals say nasty stuff and other liberals don’t always criticize them for it? I suspect everyone here, including the liberals, will stipulate those points. So where are you going with it, because alone, that has nothing to do with any of the points the OP’s have made.

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          • Yes Chris yes. People of every political stripe say nasty things. Admitted. Libs do it, Cons do it, everybody does it. People are vile sometimes and that doesn’t deal with the issues raised in the OP’s.

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          • Further stipulated that the boundary lines of what is or isn’t “appropriate” are blurry and irrational. Edgy transgressive comments are “humor” in one context and “ofensive” in another, without a clear logic or geometry. Pity the poor white comedian who decides to do a cover version of Dave Chappelle’s monologues!

            But for the vast majority of Americans, going after Ms. Fluke was way beyond the pale, compared to going after Ann Coulter. And no matter how hard one tries to argue that they are the same, the majority of Americans aren’t convinced.

            Unfair? Maybe. But the sword has cut both ways, many times.

             

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      • Darn near every show on television is politically oriented if you peer at it through the right set of glasses.  The fact that Maher chooses to do political/current events based comedy and mix it with a chat show format doesn’t make him a Liberal pundit in the same vein as El Rushbo is on the Conservative side.  (See also Stewart, Colbert).  And I don’t know why I’m bothering to argue the point with you, so I’ll shut up now.

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    • We are allowed to have differing opinions on this. I invite everyone to weigh on on whether Rush is an entertainer in the same way in which Maher is, and Maher a serious commentator/polemicist as Rush is… and whether we should therefore hold them to the same standards of decency… and whether it’s as serious a thing in each case if they breach them.

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      • I have to go with Maher not being just a comedian.  Yes, he still does standup, but his show is not just a comedy show, but a political one.  He doesn’t get excused, at least not for what he says on the show–perhaps he would get excused for what he says in a stand-up routine at your local comedy club.

        But the difference in audience size and partisan influence does  actually matter, despite some folks’ efforts to claim the contrary.  Having a smaller audience and no real influence doesn’t make what Maher or that Malloy guy said any more defensible, but it does mean their side of the spectrum doesn’t have much duty to wag their finger.  If Maher had the power to force Democratic candidates to kiss his ring the way Limbaugh does, then Dems would have more duty to wag their finger.  The finger-wagging responsibility grows in conjunction with the amount of influence the person has.

        And that’s where the “Rush is just an entertainer” claim falls short. It’s a very weak attempt to pretend that what Rush says doesn’t matter, when in fact it does because he is a very effective opinion shaper–you can’t be an influential person and yet have your words not matter.  Any claim to the contrary is transparently self-contradictory.

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        • Well, Tom points out that he does get excused.  Tom says it’s because he’s of the left (or whatever); i say it’s because he’s a comedian and people don’t take what he says seriously.  People do take what Rush says seriously, and they take what Ed Schultz says seriously.  i think people’s actual behavior is on my side here.

          But if that’s your view, then what of Obama’s c*nt money?  Is he a scoundrel if he keeps it?

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          • The link below shows that some people, including on the nominal left) do take what he says, even as a comedian, seriously, and take him to task for that.  I’m guessing they would have the same view about any comedian saying such things, though, and I’m guessing they wouldn’t say it’s  equally an issue for Maher to make the comments he does during his opening monologue on his show as it would be if Rush said the exact same things during his broadcast.  It would be much more serious for Rush to say the exact same things.  So you can think that Maher shouldn’t get a complete pass and also not think it’s the same thing if Rush says the same things. And I rarely take this tack, but I am actually seriously skeptical that anyone who says they really feel it’s just the same for both (I know you didn’t say that), even apart from Rush’s influence which only concerns how politicians and other ‘decent’ types ought to react to him, has really reflected on their views on the matter and has found they truly feel that way.  I just have a hard time believing that.  Rush and Maher in their primary capacities simply do not engage in the same kind of communication.

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          • I’m not sure where Maher gets excused. He couldn’t stay on ABC, and he can keep his job now because he has enough viewers for HBO’s purposes, and he doesn’t have any sponsors. “Liberal” groups like NOW have no problem criticizing Maher, though.

            I don’t think he gets away with it becasue he’s a comedian, he gets away with it because of where he says it. When he said it in a commercial format, he didn’t get away with it.

            By the way, I find it odd that Tom and others are demanding that liberals criticize their own (look what happened to Schultz, by the way!), and in the process do a lot of criticizing of liberals, but seem to have no real desire to criticize their own. There’s something disingenuous about suggesting that in order for you to criticize my people, you have to critizie your people too, while I only have to criticize your people.

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            • Well, just about nobody could have said what Rush said on major network TV and kept his job.  That’s kind of a special venue.  Along the lines of the kinds of things we’re talking about here, Maher knew his constraints there.  What got him fired was itself a special case that we can’t draw many conclusions about the normal state of play from: testing exactly what major national media (network TV no less) would tolerate in terms of lack of reverence for a certain set of ideas around the attacks in the first few weeks after 9/11.  That’s a pretty one-off situation that doesn’t tell us much about what who can say about politicians and especially female politicians (and others on the political stage, however fleetingly) in more or less normal circumstances.

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              • I agree that his situation at ABC was unique, but the point still stands: he can get away with a hell of a lot now because he doesn’t have advertisers. All HBO cares about is subscriptions, and if he brings them in, he’s got a show, period.

                 

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                • If he a) was not a comedian, b) did serious political commentary punctuated by poor attempts at humor for three hours a day and c) nevertheless said the same number and level of transgressive things he does in the course of his one-hour show each day during the course of those three hours, but d) this all still happened on HBO, I posit that, 1) he’d be torn apart in the serious press, right and left alike, 2) he might nevertheless drive subscriptions up for HBO, but 3) he’d be removed from the show inside of four weeks.

                  This, of course, is happening in an entirely counterfactual universe, because in that universe Bill Maher would have to be someone serious enough to give a serious political show to. The reason you’re having trouble imagining that scenario is because in your mind, Bill Maher really is in fact quintessentially an entertainer, so you can’t imagine a scenario in which a Bill Maher political talk show is in fact a serious political talk show (like Rush’s). That Bill Maher would be completely different person, and the public, after observing his career, would have come to think of him as an entirely different kind of public figure. The Bill Maher you actually know would make it into a comedy show, subverting its seriousness at every turn.  And that is my point.

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            • By the way, I find it odd that [some] are demanding that liberals criticize their own… and in the process do a lot of criticizing of liberals, but seem to have no real desire to criticize their own.

              And while simultaneously objecting to the liberals’ double-standard!

              And while simultaneously pretending it’s a non-issue.

              My theory is that if you take enough contradictory positions all at the same time, you become immune to any effective attacks because you can just hop from one to the other, temporarily abandoning one for another, so that wherever the attack is directed you are temporarily elsewhere.

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          • I think it does matter that he said it in his act, rather than on his show.  Which doesn’t mean it’s ok, just that there’s not such a strong requirement that liberals rush to condemn it, because of where it took place.

            But not that there’s an absolute lack of requirement for liberals to condemn it, as Maher’s a bit of a special case.  He’s both political commentator and comedian, and while he can change hats, he can never completely be just one or the other (at least so long as he keeps doing both on a regular basis).

            But it looks to me like Maher has taken some criticism from liberals, roughly an amount that’s commensurate with his particular influence. And that’s about as it should be.

            Rush has neither the cover of having said his stuff in a stand-up act nor or being as minor a player as Maher, so conservatives do have a stronger requirement to condemn him–not because of a double-standard about liberals/conservatives, but because of common standards of venue and degree of influence,

            As to Obama’s c*nt money?  I’m not sure.  Did Maher apologize, sincerely (as Schultz did)?  That would make some difference. Still, if I was his adviser I’d have suggested returning it.

             

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            • I agree with much of this.  All I know is that he says this stuff all the time, and people tend to think not much of it.  I think it’s because he’s a comedian.  Comedians can work politics – it’s doesn’t make them serious political communicators, whom I think as a matter of descriptive fact we hold to a higher standard.  Some comedians are doing erious political communication in an actually funny way.  Al Franken did this on his radio show.  But it appeared on a network and format that made it presumptively serious poltical communication, which it was in fact. If Franken had tried to say the same kinds of things Maher does, he would not have gotten away with it.  He pushed the envelope at times, as Rush does, but to my knowledge skated along the line.  We can debate whether he was given more leeway than Rush was because of where he stood ideologically.  What I can’t see debating is whether the line is in a completely different place for Maher than it was for Rush and the defunct Franken show, for whom it was in basically the same place (and we can debate whether enforcement was looser for one or the other). I just can’t see arguing that it isn’t.

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    • Here’s the thing about Bill Maher.  He’s that precocious young teenager who’s really smart and who likes to sit at the grownup table, but he’s incorrigible and he can’t stop saying “fuck” because he knows it shocks everybody.

      Sorry, Bill, you’re either a bad comedian or you’re pretentious thinking that you belong at the grownup table because you talk about politics but you act like an immature teenager.  His schtick is bad.  Pick one and fucking do it already, PJ O’Rourke did what you’re trying to do already and he’s way better at it than you are.

      Jon Stewart makes fart and dick jokes, but it’s clear that his set is not meant to be the grownup table, but a meeting house for precocious young teenagers who are really smart who like to get together and make fun of the grownups and sneak a beer.  Adult conversations happen, but he’s in a clubhouse.

      Bill’s set is all, “no seriously, this is serious stuff.”

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  6. So somewhere in the ballpark of 44 million people are reliable GOP voters, and 44 million are Dems.  This obviously lacks nuance, but it’s close enough for the point.  Rush’s weekly show has somewhere between 15 and 30 million listeners.  Bill Maher has a weekly audience of 1 million.

    This is still guilt by association.  This is a crap argument, brother.  Nobody’s defending his use of “slut.”  [Forget clarifying the context, which was not the same as Schultz’s or Maher’s.  Rush had a context; they were just being hateful, but nobody wants to hear that.]

    Right now, the Obama superPAC is holding $1 million of Maher’s money.  Rush has apologized, but Obama still has the money of Maher, who called Palin a c*nt.  Get your outrage on.  Mr. President, return the c*nt money!

    Can anybody find the “controversy” of the Maher c*nt money in the major media?  I googled it, and not one mention I could find from them.  Yet there are 100s about Limbaugh.  Why is this?

    You know why, gentle brother.  The media made Limbaugh a news story, and decided the Maher c*nt money is not newsworthy.  So even we LoOG follow the media narrative, all Rush all the time.

    Teach the controversy!

    [Me, I don’t care about any of the b*llsh*t, but it hogs our blog—I’m not going to grab the mainpage about the Maher c*nt money and perpetuate this silliness and these plastic controversies, but I am going to protest it in the comments like this.]

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            • Jason, That’s good for when somebody makes a claim that needs to be documented. But “99” in this sense denotes an absence of substantive claims, an effort to just play games with argumentation by ignoring others’ substantive claims.  Because no actual substantive claim is made, there’s actually nothing to cite.

              In a sense, the “99” is shorthand for “sophistry.” Perhaps just using that word would be better, had it not been so frequently misused on this blog.

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                • Jesus, Jaybird, read the thread.  Chris used “99” as a shorthand response to Tom.  Somebody asked what 99 meant, so I told them, without any fishing references to anybody else.  Then Jason suggested another alternative, without any fishing references to anybody else.  I responded to that with some clarification, without any fishing references to anybody else.

                  You know who’s the only one who’s mentioned Tom here?  You.

                  Whether “99” is a good or bad approach, it stands for a general type of argumentative style found on the web that is not exclusive to one person, so to talk about it is not to talk about that one person.  Only you found it necessary to talk about that one person.

                  Don’t fishing blame us for what you did and we didn’t. If you don’t like “99,” feel free to say so, but don’t make false accusations. At least not until after I’ve had enough coffee to feel like being somewhat nice about it.

                   

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                    • Jaybird,

                      First., that sub-thread in response to Chris’s question was only about the meaning of “99.” It was not about Tom. You’re the one who jumped into it and mentioned Tom.  Why you did that I don’t know, but no matter how many times you claim that sub-conversation was about Tom, it remains an inaccurate claim.  You saying it was about Tom just doesn’t make it so.

                      Second, all you’ve shown about Chris’s comment is that he was responding to Tom. Apparently you seem to think that’s sufficient evidence to demonstrate a vendetta. Again, you saying so doesn’t make it so. Pony up an actual logical argument in support of that particular comment not being a response to bad argumentation by Tom or recognize that you’re just making assertions you can’t back up.

                      Finally, one the one hand you say you want us to critique bad arguments, but on the other hand if we critique a bad argument made by Tom you’ll assume it’s about Tom and not about the argument. That’s a nice little bit of confirmation bias you’ve got going there–there’s absolutely nothing Chris or I could do that would demonstrate to you that we have no vendetta.  If we give up and stop critiquing Tom, we don’t fulfill your request that we critique bad arguments and you can conveniently interpret it as being because you persuaded us to not engage in our vendetta. But if we do critique a bad argument made by Tom, then you will conveniently interpret it as evidence of a vendetta.

                      Nice trap; well played.  Have a drink on me.

                       

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                    • So me seeing “Shorter Tom” as being about Tom is a misinterpretation?

                      Second, all you’ve shown about Chris’s comment is that he was responding to Tom. Apparently you seem to think that’s sufficient evidence to demonstrate a vendetta. Again, you saying so doesn’t make it so. Pony up an actual logical argument in support of that particular comment not being a response to bad argumentation by Tom or recognize that you’re just making assertions you can’t back up.

                      I will have liberty to spend time on the Google tonight and find the comments where you and Chris explain that you have a lot of history with Tom. I don’t have time right now.

                      Deal?

                      Finally, one the one hand you say you want us to critique bad arguments, but on the other hand if we critique a bad argument made by Tom you’ll assume it’s about Tom and not about the argument.

                      It’s the 99 (along with past history and the whole “shorter Tom” thing) that makes it about Tom. You point out that Chris addressed the argument… but I thought that 99 was used when entering data into statistical software to denote missing data.  The use of it here denotes an absence of any substantive argument.

                      So Chris both addressed Tom’s argument and 99’ed him? Hrm. Something sure is fishy here.

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                    • So me seeing “Shorter Tom” as being about Tom is a misinterpretation?

                      “Shorter John Doe” is an old internet trope by now.  Sure, it could be about the person, but it’s really making a re-statement of the argument. In its very nature it’s a critique of the argument, and is only about the person if that happens to be the intent behind it.

                      Whether it’s a misinterpretation or not I can’t really say because I don’t know what’s going on in Chris’s mind and what his motivations are.  But neither can you, which is the relevant point.  That particular form of “shorter John Doe” doesn’t suffice to prove anything except that the commenter is mocking the argument.  You can think it might indicate something more, and you might be right, but you can’t claim the correctness of your interpretation as being factually true, as you have been doing.

                      I will have liberty to spend time on the Google tonight and find the comments where you and Chris explain that you have a lot of history with Tom. I don’t have time right now. Deal?

                      Jeez, let me spare you the trouble. Chris and I have been arguing with Tom for probably 3 years or so now, on Positive Liberty, on the short-lived One Best Way and on Dispatches from the Culture Wars (at least I did a few times there, can’t really say whether he and Chris tangled on that blog).  But us having a history with him does not prove that every time we critique him it’s because of a vendetta.  Especially if, as Chris and I claim, dishonest arguments are a tactic he’s used all throughout that time period and on all those blogs. We have a history of tangling with his dishonest argumentation.

                      If you want to believe history = vendetta, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that this long history of argument about argumentative style is something deeper. But you haven’t demonstrated that. You haven’t even tried.  Your whole argument so far is based on your assumptions and speculation, which is why I’m calling bullshit on  you.  And the thing that really keeps bugging me is that I’m pretty sure you’re one of the decent guys here who calls on others to be generous in their assumption about those they’re arguing with.  You’re not being generous at all–you’re treating your assumptions as proven fact about our wicked ways.

                      It’s the 99 (along with past history and the whole “shorter Tom” thing) that makes it about Tom. You point out that Chris addressed the argument… but I thought that 99 was used when entering data into statistical software to denote missing data.  The use of it here denotes an absence of any substantive argument.

                      This demonstrates that you still don’t get our point.  To say there is no substantive argument is not to say there is no argument.  Chris addressed the argument by claiming that it had no substance.  There’s no contradiction there. Why you keep seeing this as a contradiction is beyond me, but it’s clearly your error.

                      If I responded to your critique with, “Don’t listen to Jaybird, he tortures puppies for fun,” you could respond with, “that’s an illegitimate argument because it has no relevance to the claims I am making,” and you would be both addressing my argument and claiming it was without substance.  No contradiction there at all.  “99”ing me would be the same response, just more succinctly.

                      So Chris both addressed Tom’s argument and 99?ed him?

                      Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.  “99” is a substantive response, just in symbolic form.

                      For pete’s sake, this isn’t hard.  What does “+1” mean?  It means, “That was a great comment.”  Sure, we could always say “great comment,” but sometimes we prefer to use “+1.”

                      I’m really struggling to fathom the difficulty you have in grasping that symbols can stand for substance. They may not provide the most nuanced explanations–and preferring a more nuanced explanation is fair–but that they do incorporate substantive meanings is as evident as anything could be.

                      If you think that “99” isn’t making a substantive statement about the illegitimacy of an argument, then you still misunderstand it, because that’s just flat out wrong.

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                    • P.S.,

                      Jaybird, I’ll let you take the last comment, so it doesn’t seem like I’m trying to shut you down, but if we need to continue this, can we please take it off the public threads?  My email is first initial last name at adrian dot edu.  I’ll be happy to explain my position, but it’s not what you think it is, and the more we drag this out in public, the more it drags someone else out in public, further making it look like I’m trying to embarrass him when I really am not–that’s not good for either him or me, and however fair it might be to me it’s sure as hell not fair to him.

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                    • I think the “Shorter ____” approach is an appropriate one if done fairly.  I remember D.A. Ridgley (where is that fisher nowadays?) doing it quite expertly.  While the person’s name was incorporated into it, the crux of it was a critique of the position and the argument stylings.  Just my two cents.

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        • Jaybird,

          For my part, as the (now somewhat regretful) originator of “99,” I have not changed its meaning at all.  See my original use of it here. For me it is and always was about dishonesty in argumentative style, not factual inaccuracy.

          But I don’t always see it being used as I originally conceived it, or at least its sometimes been used in situations I wouldn’t use it in and don’t think its appropriate for.  But once we set things like this loose in the wild we lose the ability to control them.  And that’s why I’m somewhat regretful about having started it.

          And perhaps I didn’t explained my meaning as clearly as I could have, leaving people uncertain about what it signified.  But I assure you my repeated explanations are consistent from the first to the last, and none of them are accurately read as “you’re not backing up your argument.”

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        • Jaybird, I take what Tom is doing here to be representative of what he always does, and what I thought 99 was meant to highlight: he hasn’t offered any actual substance, but instead of making a substantive point on the issue or addressing the points of others, he’s merely tried to change the subject, and make the whole conversation into a partisan game. And, in case it’s not clear, he has in fact been dishonest in the process.

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          • The way you argue against Tom doesn’t come across as arguing against dishonesty but it comes across as you arguing against Tom.

            Just so you know.

            It’s fairly easy to argue against dishonesty, Chris. Simple, even.

            I wish you spent more time arguing against dishonesty than in masturbatorily pursuing a personal vendetta.

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            • I wonder what personal vendetta I have. I think Tom, who is a front page author and frequent, is a sophist pure and simple. So I point it out when I see it, which is often, because he’s a frequent commenter as well. I don’t feel the need to point out specifics, because I’ve done that before, and I got the same response I get for 99. 99 seems easier. You disagree. I can appreciate that. I just don’t care.

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              • So instead of arguing against dishonesty, you wish to argue dishonestly.

                I ain’t gonna tell you how to live, of course, but I would ask why MixingMemory wouldn’t be a better venue for your 99ing. You could get your stuff out of your system and the people who care enough about dishonesty to argue against it wouldn’t get distracted by your lazy shorthand that always results in someone asking “What does 99 mean?” and James jumping in to explain that it means something completely different than how you use it.

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                  • Hey, maybe we can just ban everybody who argues right-wing points without apologizing about it and finally have the community everybody* seems to want.

                    Not for *MY* sake, mind. *I* can handle right wingers! I just worry about women and other people who might be afraid to come here based upon the various comments we allow to stand in the comment section.

                    Those poor people.

                    Those poor, poor people.

                     

                    Edit: Okay. That was intemperate. I ought to not have posted that particular comment.

                    To address your comment, I’d find that infinitely preferable. Perhaps he could even change the warning based on what was written above! “Warning: The above has errors of fact.” “Warning: The above equivocates between a matter of taste and a matter of law.” “Warning: The above is arguing ‘IOKIYAR’.”

                    Of course, that would require effort.

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                    • That sounded personal, JB. Do you want to get into the fray on this issue, and actually express a view on offensive comments? You were notably absent yesterday. So I’ll repeat what I wrote then: we tolerate some people around here despite how offensive the comments they make are to women. That’s a fact, right? I mean, we do in fact tolerate those people, and they do in fact write things women find incredibly offensive.

                      I think you’re confusing a description with a normative claim here, something I’ve seen you do on several occasions. So, no, no one other than you is talking about protecting anyone (tho its worth noting that you frequently, I’d say reflexively, interpret these types of situations in exactly those terms). People are talking about the reasonable limits of public discourse which is objectively offensive to members of the commentariat.

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                    • I see now that this really irks you, and that you really do think it has something to do with Tom being a conservative. I’m sorry that it does, though that still doesn’t inspire me to do it differently. We’ve had this argument, and I’m still inclined to 99 (but open to other alternatives). You haven’t really offered a viable alternative. Others have, but I found those ideas less attractive. I imagine there are other possibilities that no one has mentioned. I’m open to considering them as they come up.

                      I don’t know that I can convince you that it doesn’t have anything to do with Tom being conservative, so I won’t try. I’ll just say that it doesn’t, and if you look at who else I’ve gone off on for their habitual dishonesty on this blog, you’ll find that he’s a liberal (and, strangely, he and I get along better now, because he’s… cooled it a bit).

                      Anyway, I’ll now honor my promise to shut up about this, and let you say whatever you want. I just wanted to comment on this one since it’s clear to me now how personal it is to you. I am actually sorry that it bothers you so much. I’m just not sure that’s a good reason to stop.

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                    • Do you want to get into the fray on this issue, and actually express a view on offensive comments? You were notably absent yesterday.

                      Is the official position that I am not allowed to have an opinion on these offensive comments unless I have an opinion on those offensive comments?

                      For the record: I am offended by different things than most folks. There are comments that could strike many as overwhelmingly offensive that strike me as something worth chewing on and other things that strike others as trivially true that really, really rub me the wrong way.

                      When I am offended, I tend to communicate that I have been offended. When I haven’t been, that’s pretty easy to tell too.

                      In a nutshell: For the most part, I see “offensive” as something that requires the active participation of two parties.

                      And anyway, Bob’s gone. I don’t think he’s coming back.

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                    • Obviously banning is out of the question, but you seem to be arguing that even calling right-wingers out too often is not acceptable? I get that there aren’t that many conservative commenters here, and maybe they are “those poor, poor people” whose feelings must be protected and defended at all cost.

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                    • Good Lord, *NO*, Somni.

                      I do not object, at all, to the calling out of any comment, any political position, or any creed.

                      I do object to calling out particular commenters using a private language.

                      Odious arguments *SHOULD* be argued against.

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                    • JB and I have had many productive conversations about how to have critical but productive conversations here.  We don’t always see eye to eye, but I think he provides a lot of useful feedback how to do that, both with specific commenters and in general.  If you think that he is saying we ought not to call out that which we find bothersome (be it the argument itself, the language used to convey it, or whathaveyou), you have read him wrong.  I think he is a strong advocate of calling people out in a way that furthers conversation.  If this is not possible, it best not to engage the person in question, with the idea being that they will ultimately expose their own weaknesses.  I don’t know if I’m quite so trusting in the “free market” solution, but I understand the logic and appreciate JB’s general levelheadedness on these topics.

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                    • I do object to calling out particular commenters using a private language.

                      You know, Jaybird, I’ve had several cups of coffee now, and it still seems to me that you’re being a complete a**hole on this issue.  Where the fish is the private language?  I explained my intentions the very first time I proposed using “99.”  I’ve explained it repeatedly, to every single commenter who’s asked about it. How much more public do I need to be?

                      It’s a goddam shorthand, not a private language.  Look at all the other shorthand terminology floating around the intertoobz–do you think everyone always understands them, especially the first time they were used.

                      For christ’s sake, I still haven’t even figured out what you want here, and I’m not sure you know, either.  You don’t want us to use symbolic language, but to explain in detail how someone is using dishonest argumentative techniques.  Fine.  But then you don’t want us to do it too often to this particular person, even though this person uses dishonest argumentative techniques all the time.  WTF? (Sorry, should I explain what that means?)  And you don’t want us to talk too much about that person, but when we aren’t talking about him, you bring his name up and tell us not to talk about him!

                      Fine, you don’t like “99,” and for my part it’s not a valuable enough device to be worth pissing off people I respect so I’ve been backing off on it.  But it’s not such a wicked device to justify the falsity and BS you’re streaming out on this thread.

                      Jeez, next thing you’ll be calling me a fascist, then I’ll claim Godwin, and then you can excoriate me for using private language again.  I like you, man, but right now I think you’re being a total dick.

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                    • Full point to James:

                      He’s used this supposedly private language on comments of mine (where it was indeed appropriate, if not how he’s defining it hereabouts).

                      It’s not directed against one commenter, but against anyone being especially dunderheaded.

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                    • I explained my intentions the very first time I proposed using “99.”  I’ve explained it repeatedly, to every single commenter who’s asked about it. How much more public do I need to be?

                      You say above, and I’m quoting here: “But I don’t always see it being used as I originally conceived it, or at least its sometimes been used in situations I wouldn’t use it in and don’t think its appropriate for.  But once we set things like this loose in the wild we lose the ability to control them.  And that’s why I’m somewhat regretful about having started it.”

                      So I ask you this:

                      Was I bitching about your use of “99” in this case?

                      If I wasn’t, and if the person who was using 99 was using it differently than you had originally conceived it, does defending the definition that you intended when you began really move us anywhere?

                      But then you don’t want us to do it too often to this particular person, even though this person uses dishonest argumentative techniques all the time.

                      This is an error of fact.

                      I would be delighted if dishonest argumentative techniques got called out, by name. Each time.

                      And you don’t want us to talk too much about that person, but when we aren’t talking about him, you bring his name up and tell us not to talk about him!

                      No. This is not the dynamic at all. This is another error of fact.

                      It’s a personal vendetta that you (and Chris (and others?)) have apparently cultivated over the course of several years. I’m trying to break the pattern. If you want to argue that the two comments (at this moment, 31 and 32) that started this particular thread aren’t part of this pattern of personal history manifesting itself again that shows up all the goddamn time between you guys, I’m going to have to say the burden of proof is on you.

                      Again: I’m not saying don’t talk about him. I don’t like telling people how to live.

                      Jeez, next thing you’ll be calling me a fascist, then I’ll claim Godwin, and then you can excoriate me for using private language again.

                      How little you know me. I compare people to Nazis.

                      (Though if you claimed “Godwin!”, I’d be tempted to explain the difference between violating a Law and demonstrating it.)

                      But it’s not such a wicked device to justify the falsity and BS you’re streaming out on this thread.

                      I see it as something that lowers the tone far more than Tom could ever hope to do. It reminds me of the shit they pull at Balloon Juice, honestly.

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                  • It’s a personal vendetta that you (and Chris (and others?)) have apparently cultivated over the course of several years

                    This is an error of fact.  Would I have come to Tom’s defense as often as I have over the years if I simply had a personal vendetta? When I think Tom’s right and people are disagreeing with him, I agree with him.  You must be engaging in some serious confirmation bias if you think that I always back, or at least complicitly ignore, critiques of Tom.

                    Your error of fact colors your perspective on this issue, and you seem to have made up your mind that you know what’s in my heart.  If that’s the case, then there’s no point having a conversation with you because you already know the Truth about me, and nothing will change your mind.

                    As I said, you’ve got an “unfalsiable hypothesis.”

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                    • Would I have come to Tom’s defense as often as I have over the years if I simply had a personal vendetta? When I think Tom’s right and people are disagreeing with him, I agree with him.  You must be engaging in some serious confirmation bias if you think that I always back, or at least complicitly ignore, critiques of Tom.

                      This fails to address what I said. Would you mind if I quoted the sentences from the paragraph I wrote that followed the sentence you quoted?

                      “If you want to argue that the two comments (at this moment, 31 and 32) that started this particular thread aren’t part of this pattern of personal history manifesting itself again that shows up all the goddamn time between you guys, I’m going to have to say the burden of proof is on you.”

                      I’m standing by that.

                      There was also a sentence from that paragraph that neither of us quoted.

                      I stand by that sentence too.

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                    • This fails to address what I said. Would you mind if I quoted the sentences from the paragraph I wrote that followed the sentence you quoted?

                      “If you want to argue that the two comments (at this moment, 31 and 32) that started this particular thread aren’t part of this pattern of personal history manifesting itself again that shows up all the goddamn time between you guys, I’m going to have to say the burden of proof is on you.”

                      I can’t tell which comments you’re actually referring to, but what’s really fishing hilarious is that as I write this, 32 is a comment of mine where I’m half siding with Tom against Michael Drew. Ain’t that a hoot–here on this very thread where you accuse me of being vendetta-driven, I’m taking Tom’s side on a point where I think he’s right.  God I’m one ferocious take-no-prisoners kind of vendetta-er, ain’t I?

                      Now, how I’m supposed to respond to comments when you don’t actually identify them in a way that allows me to find them, I have no fracking clue. Feel free to show me which ones, and demonstrate to me how they’re proof of a vendetta.  Remember, you’re making the accusation, so the burden of proof is on your shoulders–don’t think you get to make the claim and then Chris and/or I have to prove we’re innocent.  And, yes, I think that’s exactly the game you’re playing here, because you’ve not yet demonstrated how any of our allegedly unfair comments weren’t accurate responses. You just seem to be saying that we do it so often that the frequency itself is evidence of a vendetta, whereas we’re arguing that the frequency is evidence of how often that person engages in dishonest argumentation.  You’ve never actually demonstrated that we’re wrong, so from my perspective your accusations are just so much wild poo flinging.

                      Assertions aren’t evidence, right? And what do you have so far but assertions?

                       

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                    • At this moment, it’s 46 and 47.

                      It’s Tom’s comment to the OP and Chris’s comment to Tom.

                      And now I’ll repeat myself again:

                      “If you want to argue that the two comments (at this moment, 31 and 32) that started this particular thread aren’t part of this pattern of personal history manifesting itself again that shows up all the goddamn time between you guys, I’m going to have to say the burden of proof is on you.”

                      Do we know what comments I’m talking about now?

                      Feel free to show me which ones, and demonstrate to me how they’re proof of a vendetta.  Remember, you’re making the accusation, so the burden of proof is on your shoulders–don’t think you get to make the claim and then Chris and/or I have to prove we’re innocent.

                      I’ll ask honestly, here. Do you really need me to find the comments from you and Chris where you talk about your shared history with Tom dating back to Positive Liberty and how he’s always like this?

                      Assertions aren’t evidence, right? And what do you have so far but assertions?

                      I will spend a few hours with the google tonight, finding your comments talking about how you all have shared history.

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                • Except, Jaybird, his explanation wasn’t inconsistent with how I used it. In fact, I think my use is perfectly consistent with his explanation. He may disagree, I dunno. He knows how to contact me, and he knows I’m open to hearing what he has to say, because we’ve been hanging out in the same internet spaces for years.

                  And again, you disagree with my use of it, as you’ve made clear to the tune of dozens of comments on it. That’s cool. I’ve told you why I disagree with you, you’ve told me why you disagree with me. At this point, we’re not going to convince each other, so I’ll just let you disagree from now on, and hell, you can even call me dishonest, without further comment from me.

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    • Tom, your comment is manifest silliness.

      Obama doesn’t have a cent of that million dollars.  He can’t return it, if he wants to or not.  It went to a SuperPAC, and as such is not under the control of any candidate.  Now, that SuperPAC may be supporting Obama, but he can’t direct them to do a damn thing with it.  Love or hate our shiny new post-Citizens United world (count me with the latter), but those are the facts of the matter.  I’m sure, were he here, Sam Alito would be all too happy to explain it to you.

      And for the record, I didn’t have my place in this community when Maher made his comment about Palin, so I didn’t have a similar platform to criticize it.  If I had, you may rest assured that I would have offered blistering criticism of it.  I detest Maher and his nauseating smugness, and found his comment loathsome.  Happy?

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      • Russell,

        Good point that some of us (alllllll of us) should have caught earlier. Obama does not have that money, and he cannot legally coordinate with the PAC about its use.

        The most Obama could do is say that he’d like the PAC to return the money. And I think it would be fair to argue that he should. But to say that “Obama still has the money,” is factually false.

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      • And for the record, I didn’t have my place in this community when Maher made his comment about Palin, so I didn’t have a similar platform to criticize it.  If I had, you may rest assured that I would have offered blistering criticism of it.  I detest Maher and his nauseating smugness, and found his comment loathsome.  Happy?

        One of the dynamics that I see over and over is the dynamic calling for higher morality on the part of the opposition. “I can’t believe that they would do X. X is absolutely horrible”, we can easily imagine the opposition saying. Yet we find examples of members of the opposition doing X and, well… silence on the part of the folks who are yelling now.

        While it’s certainly possible to make this argument sound like “you’re not allowed to be offended by *THIS* unless you were offended by *THAT*”, I’ll instead say this: there are grounds to wonder if outrage over X is politically useful in this situation while it wasn’t politically useful in that one. To narrow it down to any one individual is, indeed, manifestly silly. However, if we can’t find *ANY* of the folks who show up to scream about X being absolutely horrible today around back when someone on “their” side Xed the other day? It’s enough to make a person suspect that “politically useful” is the driver to criticism of X rather than X’s horribleness.

        Does that mean that X isn’t horrible? No, not at all. Of course it is. One wonders if we couldn’t stamp X out if we all put our back into it… rather than only caring when someone on the other side did it.

        (It’s also exceptionally easy to find examples of Republicans only screaming about X when Democrats do it, for example, and remaining silent when an R is caught. The “IOKIYAR” acronym stands for “It’s OK If You’re A Republican”.)

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        • Back in the day, I blogged for Science Blogs. I remember a time when Dawkins (I think, though it might have been Harris) had done something that even his biggest New Atheist supporters couldn’t get behind. When this came up in the forums, a certain prominent New Atheist who blogged there argued that we shouldn’t say anything about Dawkins’ (or Harris’, argh) behavior, because we were on the same team, and talking about Dawkins’ mistake would have hurt the team.

          I assume that’s what’s going on in most of these cases involving political friends or foes. I don’t find it strange, or surprising. What I do find somewhat odd is using, “You don’t criticize X when your side does it! I’m out raged!” as part of a larger defense of X when my side does it.

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          •  What I do find somewhat odd is using, “You don’t criticize X when your side does it! I’m out raged!” as part of a larger defense of X when my side does it.

            FWIW I think this is at least a sincere argument.  I think for most of us, transgressions on our side show up differently than transgressions on the other side; further, I think failures to condemn transgressions show up differently in both directions as well.

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              • Not precisely, I think.

                I think the emotional logic involved is more like “That was wrong.   My side may have something similar, but it’s really not the same.”         Our ideological biases allow us to see extenuating circumstances, shades of grey, asymmetrical parallels, and inherent bad faith in arguments we are not fully invested in.

                This is a weakness in human nature, but it is human nature.   And it’s places like LoOG where we get to have our biases challenged.

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              • It’s a very explicit way of saying “X is wrong when your side does it, but not when my side does it.”

                Personally, I think it’s a little more nuanced than that. It’s that the accusation made by team A that what team B said is wrong is unjustified (and unjustifiable!) since team A didn’t level the same accusation at themselves. So the technique – and this is why it’s a trick – skips right over the rightness/wrongness of the actual language, focusing instead on the legitimacy of the accusation of wrongness.

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                • I disagree. In order to suggest that you can’t criticize someone on my side for doing X until or unless you’ve criticized someone on your side for doing X, while at the same time I actually criticize the person(s) on your side for doing X, I have to a.) admit that the person on my side did X and b.) admit that X is worthy of being criticized. The only way for this to be consistent is for me to also criticize the person(s) on my side for doing X. However, as these threads show, this defense almost always accompanies other defenses of the person on my side who did X.

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                    • Snarky, imagine you are a Whig and I’m a Tory. There’s a new scandal about some Tory pamphleteer calling the wife of a Whig MP an Athanasian wench, and you start going off on said Tory pamphleteer. I object, and point out that some Whig pamphleteer once called a Tory MP’s  wife an Athanasian wench, and you never said anything. In fact, when your guy did it, it’s so much worse, because he was just being a big meanie, whereas my guy did it because your MP’s wife really was sleeping around and it was a big scandal and everyone knew about it. So here’s what I’ve done: I’ve admitted that calling an MP’s wife an Athanasian wench is bad, I’ve criticized your guy for doing it and you for not criticizing your guy for doing it (and suggested that your not criticizing him for doing it makes it unfair for you to criticize my guy for doing it), and then I not only haven’t criticized my guy for doing it, but I actually defended my guy. Does that make sense?

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                  • Yes. Good argument there. Maybe there’s two ways to look at it: from the pov of the accuser, and the accusee. From the pov of the accuser, the argument proceeds like you’ve suggested: make an accusation of poor behavior and respond to the criticism that ‘you’re side does it too!’ by arguing that it’s different.

                    From the pov of the accusee, I think it goes like this: you aren’t justified in accusing my side of bad behavior unless you’ve established your bona-fides by actually criticizing your own side when they’ve engaged in a relevantly similar offense. But you haven’t since you think those cases are not relevantly similar. SO why should I take the accusation seriously? The argument then degenerates into a fight to establish the bona fides for the accusation to have merit.

                     

                     

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                  • A memory.

                    Eliot Spitzer was caught having associated with high-dollar “escorts” across state lines. When called on this, one of the go-to arguments was (remember it?) David Vitter! “How come you didn’t complain about David Vitter?”

                    You could ask if Eliot Spitzer may have misused his authority to extract in-kind services from the organizations he failed to investigate (because, remember, one of the things he was famous for was breaking up prostitution rings) and the answer came back “you didn’t call for David Vitter to resign! He’s still a Senator!!!”

                    (And, of course, “I thought you Libertarians *WANTED* prostitution legalized”. That was always a fun one to argue against.)

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                  • That’s a good example, JB. Political language is corrupted for obvious reasons. My point above is that even non-partisan arguments can be swept up in the partisan-language fray. So, if even if an influential libertarian accused Rush of morally objectionable language, the obvious response is to say ‘did you denounce Paul for his racists screeds? If not, then you’re accusations have no merit and are based purely on politics’

                    The point I’m trying to stumble my way through here is that the game being played is to raise the level of political discourse one notch higher on the meta-meter to where no one has the legitimacy to actually make an accusation of morally reprehensible behavior stick, since there will always be some way to criticize their bona-fides. So the argument takes place in a world where the truth of the accusation can never be established because the (assumed) conditions for legitimacy are impossible to meet.

                     

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                    • Deep down, my suspicion is that folks don’t really particularly care.

                      So and so said something offensive… so freakin’ what? Oh, there’s leverage to be had? Better put on my outraged face. Oh, it was my guy who said the offensive thing? Better figure out the best way to keep the other guy from getting leverage…

                      It’s got a great deal of explanatory power, this.

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                    • Oh sure, tho I think people do in fact care, and they are especially sensitive about policy-related language. The only point I’m making is that the trick of holding your partisan accuser (or any, really) to a standard of parity wrt self-criticism is irrational, since the standard cannot be met. But that the trick also has the pragmatic virtue of deflecting attention away from the truth/falsity of the accusation. And it does this by irrationally – but pragmatically! – appealing to the accusers hypocrisy.

                      It’s an instance of pragmatically justified irrationality. That’s my point. :)

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                    • Deep down, my suspicion is that folks don’t really particularly care.

                      Deep down, I think that attempts to silence a woman by calling her a slut and a whore really do bother women, and that claiming that their outrage is feigned and purely tactical is pretty fishing disrespectful.

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                    • I would like to fulsomely apologize to anyone who I may have offended by stating that I suspected that their outrage was merely feigned in order to get a leg up on one’s opponent in one’s argument.

                      I am truly, deeply, sorry and would like to know how I might make amends to anyone who I may have disrespected thereby.

                       

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        • At this point, I’m almost hoping for some idiot liberal to say something patently offensive, just so I can condemn it vociferously and thus establish my “equal opportunity outrage” bona fides once and for all. And, just to clarify, my comment about Tom’s argument being silly was predicated entirely on his insistence that Obama return money over which he has no control.

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    • Tom, I’m sorry that the movers and shakers in your “tribe” are such slime.  I realize that you have to grasp whatever you can to maintain a shred of decency while still clinging to your tribe.  That doesn’t make them any less slimy though.

      Every single Republican of note — office-holder or “entertainer” or whatever — has become a fountain of haterd and lies.  Every. Single. One. (I’d be glad to know of any exceptions.)  They cheer the death of innocent men, they support sexual abuse for women seeking aid, they tell African-Americans how lazy they are.  They praise pedophiles for forcing employees into what they want (and call it “religious freedom”).

      This is what your tribe has become.  It’s up to you to accept the slime or reject it.

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      • I’ll give you three, and I’m no Republican.

        Orrin Hatch.   Fundamentally decent man, sorta took Hillary Clinton under his wing when she got to the Senate, has worked long and hard to maintain some semblance of old-school civility.   I agree with little he has to say, but he’s no fountain of hatred and lies.

        Jon Huntsman.   Exhibits far too much sanity for his own party these days.   Genuinely thoughtful, intelligent man.

        Lindsey Graham.   Good guy.  Used to be a JAG lawyer.   Has done as much as anyone to put an end to the abuses and secrecy at Guantanamo as anyone alive.   Don’t agree with many of his positions but this is a righteous man in a nest of vipers.

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  7. Me, I don’t care about any of the b*llsh*t, but it hogs our blog—I’m not going to grab the mainpage about the Maher c*nt money and perpetuate this silliness and these plastic controversies

    Then stop it. Maher is a really creepy sexist pig. I would not want to be alone in a room with him, but the fact is, he and the other jerks you listed together don’t have nearly the followers of Rush and that does make a difference. It is not necessarily guilt by association, it is the magnitude. Millions more people are exposed to the nasty fart of Rush than Maher, therefore it makes perfect sense that many more people recognize, care, or complain about his stench. It is simple math not some leftist media conspiracy. All of the “but look X does that too” doesn’t make one bit of difference in assessing the behavior of Rush who is sadly a very popular and influential conservative mouthpiece. In one breath you claim that you are not defending him but in the next you claim there was some “context” to his comment and not in the others. Can you be any more disingenuous? You are acting like the child who got caught and in trying to get out of it claims “but everyone else is doing it.”

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    • He’s influential in part because he projects a degree of seriousness about what he says.  That’s a necessary condition to be influential in that way.  If Maher were a serious commentator the way Rush is, perhaps he could wield influence (I doubt it), but the fact is, his basic image is one of unseriousness, so he cannot possibly wield the kind of influence Rush does.

      It’s seems to me that it’s perfectly right to say that it matters that politicians have to seek the approval of Rush given that he says the kinds of things he says, and that this makes Rush different from Maher.  but it doesn’t make sense to say that, because Rush commands that kind of infuence, that therefore saying what he says is worse than if Bill Maher said the same things, merely because of that influence or the number of listeners he has.  We should hold serious commentators on the left to the same standard we hod Rush to, even though they have nothing like the influence or audience Rush has. if Bill Maher can say the same (kinds of) things and not fail to meet the standards we set for him by nearly as great a margin, (and I think most people feel that he indeed can), then that has to be because the basic mode of his communication – the basic thing we think of him to be doing – is different.  And I think people think that it is, and I think they are right to.

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      • Well, I mean, or else he can say them because he’s on the left.  But I’m denying that’s the case.  No one serious on the left or right could get away with saying what Maher does as easily as Maher does.  Perhaps a conservative comic couldn’t, but I’m guessing one could, if they were funny.  That last part is key (and that’s why the comedy world really does have different rules than the world of serious political communicators – which includes Rush – which Tom wants us to examine through the distorting Maher lense).

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        • The point I was making, was that looking at what Rush said on its face was inexcusable and unacceptable regardless of how other political personalities behave. I also wanted to make the point  that his behavior generates more media because he is that much more famous/infamous which is contrary to Tom’s claim that this attack was based on liberal media bias. This is separate from discussing whether Maher is classified as entertainment and Rush as a serious political commentator. Rush is wildly popular and Maher just isn’t. Both are vial creatures but Rush will get more attention based merely on the fact that he is the bigger fish to fry despite his conservative leanings. Comparing Rush’s behavior to others is an attempt to lesson it and that is why he and these other blowhards get excuses to continue spewing crap, and that is what really makes comments by those defending him insidious.

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          • Johanna, in retrospect I’m not sure why I quibbled with what you wrote.  I was just focused on making the point that we shouldn’t actually think worse of what Rush says because he’s more influential.  But obviously, to the question of why he gets more attention when he does, what you say about his greater influence is the major driving factor, and you weren’t saying that that actually makes what he says worse.  For some reason I was reading you as though you were. My bad.

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  8. Regrettably, Rush achieved his (political) goals with his behavior. The right-wing trash on talk radio are leaping to his defense today. Talking points of interest:

    – Sandra Fluke is now either “Sandra Slut” or “Sandra 3000 Condoms Fluke” as they call her.

    – Accusations are made approximately every 5 minutes that the “only reason” Sandra Fluke is at college is to have sex.

    – Insinuations are often (approx. every half hour) made that other reasons to use the pill don’t exist.

    – The argument that “taxpayers are paying for other people to have sex” is trotted out ad nauseum.

    Rush Limbaugh has been punished for his behavior, which is good. It shows that our society isn’t completely insane. At the same time, the right wing trash that infest “talk radio” have taken Rush’s line and run with it, and are barely getting noticed as they spread misogyny everywhere they can. “Cut off one head, and two will take its place”?

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  9. Violence is deeply embedded in our discourse

    Certainly true.  May I suggest however that this fact is an artifact of an older, more violent time?

    Steven Pinker’s work suggests that we as a species are transitioning away from violence.  Language may be a lagging indicator here.

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    • Aha. Hmmm.

      Yes. Surely the days of beating swords into plowshares are just around the corner.

      I am not sure how anyone who looks outside of our relatively peaceful society and time could believe this. We are less violent than hunter-gatherer societies, true, but it is only when we are given strong incentives to resort to violence and do not do so that we can speak definitively on the matter.

      Whatever the merits of the rest of his work, Pinker is off-base here.

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  10. I do not buy the argument that Rush’s sin is greater because he has a bigger audience – from what I have read recently there are no decent listenership figures out there – 20-30 million is just the conventional wisdom, apparently based on some wet-finger-in-the-wind estimate made 20 years ago.

    Whether Bill Maher is an entertainer or a pundit is a matter of opinion and is barely relevant. He used a bad word in an offensive manner but it seems as if this was just one occasion.

    As far as I know, Ms Fluke has personally attacked no one while Bill Maher was insulting a woman who knows only to attack all and sundry. And Sarah Palin is a prominent political figure – the odd insult or unfair attack comes with the territory; ask Barney Frank or Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama etc.

    What was uniquely appalling about Rush’s conduct is:

    1. Ms Fluke was hardly a prominent political figure
    2. it was not a one-off use of sexist insult  – it was a 3 day rant
    3. the demonisation of  young women with active sex lives by a man with his tawdry sexual history
    4. it was lies, all lies:
    1. Ms Fluke’s testimony had nothing to do with sexuality, but why medicines that can be used for contraceptive purposes can also be prescribed for non-contraceptive purposes.
    2. For all any of us know from her testimony, Ms Fluke, could be a virgin. Yet, this hollow parody of a conservative attempted to destroy this young woman.
    3. It is also spreading the meme that it is about Govenment supplying contraception on the public dime when it is , in fact, about ensuring that the employees of private religious-affiliated institutions have the same rights to choose the content of their health insurance packages as the employees of wholly secular private organisations
  11. And I think it is undeniable that Limbaugh is more influential on the Right than the names mentioned such as Maher or Olbermann are on the Left.
  12.  

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    • Made a mistake in 3b

      For all any of us know from her testimony, Ms Fluke, could be a virgin. Yet, this hollow parody of a conservative attempted to destroy this young woman. based on his own fevered imagination of her love life

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    • I do not buy the argument that Rush’s sin is greater because he has a bigger audience

      It’s not that his sin was greater; it’s that a larger number of people are caught up in the penumbra of that sin.  The fact that he is more influential does not mean he is worse than a Maher (he may be, but for other reasons), but it does mean that the party he influences has more responsibility for admonishing him.

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      • As I pointed out above, there’s an equal problem with the Republicans not bringing the rest of the right wing radio trash to heel. Rush himself briefly “apologized” in the most non-apology way possible, and is now retaliating; the rest of right wing trash radio is following his lead, propping up the “what he said wasn’t so bad” meme, and doubling down on the attacks on Ms. Fluke.

        On my drive to work this morning between 6 and 7, I heard the phrase “3000 condoms” uttered at least 40 times, alongside a constant barrage of “this is why we ought to be teaching abstinence-only in schools”, “is she at school to learn or to get laid”, and “why can’t she just learn to not have so much sex?”

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      • The problem that I have with this argument is that if it is the word that is offensive, then the size of the audience should not matter  If we are calling out misogynistic comments then we need to call them out.  Name them and shame them so to speak.  And while looks can be deceiving, it does appear that Rush’s comment has been vilified much more than other voices from the left.

        I do think that it is a valid criticism of the right for not calling them out (as what he said was reprehensible), but the lefts lack of clarity of policing its own side is problematic.

        By the way, love the use of penumbra, one of my favorite words.

         

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        • @aaron: Except that is saying that liberals or conservatives need to pay attention to those we find on our own side reprehensible in the first place as being politically relevant. Maher has a following, but even though I would say I agree with him politically far more than I do Rush, I refuse to listen to him. Why wasn’t I pissed about what he said, well because I don’t pay enough attention to him to realize it happened. I believe all of the guys talked about here have been called out for their comments, the more popular, the more you heard about it. The backlash against Rush seems bigger because more people probably pay attention to his big stupid mouth than the others being bantered about here. Rush hasn’t been shamed worse than anyone else, it is that more people are interested so it just makes it seem that way.

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    • This. So Much of It This.

      In particular I am struck by the fact that Sarah Palin is in fact a public figure who can not only defend herself but does so often and even goes on the offensive as often as not (and here I mean the martial or football metaphor of offensive, not necessarily the act of offending someone, although that could work, too) and insults people all the time. Does the fact that she uses nicer words to call people perverts and pedophiles make it better? I don’t know, but it does show she can get down in the mud with the best (worst) of them and can hold her own. Whereas aiming three days of insults and sexual slurs against a private citizen testifying before Congress seems like a lot lower on the class meter. I’ll save my outrage for those who pick on puppies, not wrestle bears.

      On the other hand, what I find exponentially so much more offensive from both Palin and Limbaugh, and anyone on the left who does this including Maher et al on vaccinations, is lying about health care. Palin, and those who echoed her, unforgivably lowered the level of discourse on end-of-life care in this country with their talk of death panels and Rush is equally more offensive when he and his ditto heads start spreading the lie that  The Pill has no other use than as birth control. On the one hand I believe that anyone listens to Rush, to paraphrase Seinfeld’s quote about tabloids, deserves to be lied to. But these people have daughters or employees who may have medical needs that require The Pill. That their medical choices are now may be limited by this ignorance is so much more offensive than the word “slut.”

       

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      • Sarah Palin is one of those targets that strikes me as being worthy of attacking because of her shallowness, incuriosity, alleged corruption, if not her support for poor policies.

        It’s when she starts being attacked over whether she actually gave birth to Trig that, suddenly, we’re finding ourselves not discussing her shallowness, incuriosity, alleged corruption, nor her poor policies.

        Instead we are in crazytown.

         

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        • This happens entirely too often with so many people.  The first word someone used to criticize Bush’s ears was one word too many.  And where people thought they were being slick or pithy or whatever, all they were doing was making Bush’s critics look stupid.  There is enough legitimate stuff to criticize just about every public figure on (some much more than others, obviously); focusing on the illegitimate, stupid, or irrelevant stuff takes us directly to the aforementioned Crazytown.

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  13. I think that from what I’m reading, a lot of people are misunderstanding Pat’s argument.  (Pat, jump in and slap me if I’m wrong.)

    The argument isn’t that Rush has more listeners and so his “sins” are worse that Maher’s (or any of the others).  I think Pat’s saying that they’re all equally bad.

    The point of the numbers isn’t which entertainer is better or worse, it’s which is more influential.  It’s not about the entertainer, it’s about the meta of what the entertainer means to each side that is key.

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      • I think the point that I (not Pat) am making is, the interesting thing about the brouhaha has never actually been Rush.  It it were we might as well talk about Michael Savage, who spends entire shows constantly saying things as or more offensive than what Rush said last week.  We don’t talk about Savage because GOP leaders don’t have to beg him for forgiveness if they say something he disapproves of.

        To me, the interesting part of this story has never, ever been Rush.  It’s been the GOP leadership.

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        • Partially this.

          Also, partially:

          Tom, there’s guilt by association and there’s guilt by association.  If a driveby commentor says something racist, it doesn’t really stain this blog.  If someone who is a front-pager on this blog says something vile and racist (and actually means it), all the rest of us are going to be stained by that, and we’re going to have to expend effort to re-establish our credentials.  That’s just the way things are.

          Look at it another way.  Some small percentage of Americans believe in alien abduction.  I don’t feel the need to go to great lengths to try and convince them that they’re wrong.  About half of the American population believes that some other nutty woo thing is real.  I feel a bigger obligation to try and explain to them why I think they’re wrong.  Not because I’m trying to defend America from accusations of anti-science bias from the EU, because I want to make America better.

          This isn’t about what Liberals think of Conservatives.  It’s about what Conservatives think about Conservatives.

          Replace “Americans” with “Conservatives” and compare Rush to the bigger nutty woo thing.  I’m not a Conservative, but I’m not a Liberal either and I happen to think that this country works best with neither party is in the grip of some sort of hysteria that distracts from their political views.  Rush is a hysteria.  Half, dude. If it’s not half, it’s more than a third.  Lots of the people who agree with you, politically, think that this is acceptable social behavior from someone who is a public figurehead – even if only because they all have made him one.  Many, many more conservatives are rushing to Rush’s defense than are trying to act like grownups.

          I’m not saying that you’re one of them.  I’m not saying that this reflects badly on conservativism as a political philosophy.  I’m saying that conservativism as presently incarnated in the U.S. has to start policing itself much more vociferously or it is going to explode its ability to do anything.

          If I was a joiner, and half of a very large group I joined all agreed that something I thought was really inappropriate was acceptable and I thought it hurt our ability to perform our core mission significantly, I would want to do something.  If half of this large group used negative language all the time instead of positive language, I would honestly be terrified about our long term viability.

          That’s all.

          And it strikes me as odd that so many conservative blogs and talk radio shows are continuing to double down.  Although this last week has enabled me to find a few really interesting conservative blogs, most of it was spent wading through shit.  Just ugly stuff.  Comments and callers that just said incredibly vile, dehumanizing things.  Even on the popular conservative blogs who came down on the “Rush is a jagoff” side of the equation had junk in their comment threads that was just terrible.  It isn’t all sock puppetry, dude.  It isn’t all a double-standard.

          That doesn’t bother you?  Or do you honestly think I’m just seeing what the liberal media wants me to see?

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          • Conservatives are in serious intellectual trouble, ipso facto.   At its core, what does being a Conservative imply?   Seems pretty obvious, they want to conserve, to preserve something good within the status quo.    To their minds, Progressive Liberals are always trying to tinker with a running engine, screwing things up without a complete understanding of the consequences of their actions.   Is this a pejorative conclusion about Liberals?   Depends on your view of what’s good within the status quo or your predictions on what will fail.

            But the world is changing too fast to hold onto every wonderful thing from the past.

            To a man armed with hammers, all the world’s problems resemble nails.   I write this over Fedora 16.   Fedora 17 is out there, I’m girding up my loins to finally do the #yum upgrade some time soon.   But I’d never allow Fedora on a production server:  I’d use RHEL, the well-understood, supportable and stable product which used to be a Fedora release.   My clients are perfectly willing to pay for support contracts.   That’s what Conservatism ought to be, not some wretched embrace of antique nonsense but a defense of the tried and true.

            And it’s not like my clients won’t upgrade their servers.   When I tell them it’s advisable to upgrade to the next version of RHEL and recompile their applications, they’ll make plans accordingly.   I am not my clients:  I trust their judgement as they trust mine.    Change is a big deal, stability is a paramount concern in these things.   Insofar as that’s a Conservative viewpoint, the chief selling point for upgrading is improved stability, better security and improved performance.   It’s not like they take my word on these things, I have to demonstrate why there’s any benefit.

            Progressives ought to seek out Conservatives and especially Libertarians, to use them as sounding boards for their newly-minted ideas.   It might be useful if political theory was set forth in use cases.   Lawmaking suffers because it’s so arbitrary,  the guard rails alongside the mountain roads, keeping vehicles from going ass over teakettle down the slopes.   Nobody wants to actually grind up against a guard rail.  Hence we lower the speed limits at particularly dangerous curves, put up signs to tell the truckers they’re soon to hit a steep road gradient, that sort of thing.

            This is hardly Nanny Statism.   It’s common sense.

            Our problem is definitional.   Insofar as Rush Limbaugh calls himself a Conservative, his enemies seem intent upon picking up the tar brush and besmirching all Conservatives.    Insofar as Bill Maher’s japes demean well-meaning religious people and Keith Olbermann thinks he’s the prophet Jeremiah, they get what they deserve:  a big fat paycheck and the lasting hatred of the people at whose expense that paycheck was earned.

            But let’s not confuse these public jackasses with the causes they supposedly represent.   The plural of anecdote is not data.   I have been obliged to change my own stupid assertions often enough over time to know a periodic serving of crow is a highly nutritious diet, if not the most palatable dish ever to emerge from my frying pan.

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  14. Lenny Bruce said it all much better:

    I got three kykes here, do I hear five kykes? I got five kykes, do I hear six spics, I got six spics, do I hear seven niggers? I got seven niggers. Sold American. I pass with seven niggers, six spics, five micks, four kykes, three guineas, and one wop.

    Well, I was just trying to make a point, and that is that it’s the suppression of the word that gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness. Dig: if President Kennedy would just go on television, and say, “I would like to introduce you to all the niggers in my cabinet,” and if he’d just say “nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger” to every nigger he saw, “boogie boogie boogie boogie boogie,” “nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger” ’til nigger didn’t mean anything anymore, then you could never make some six-year-old black kid cry because somebody called him a nigger at school.

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    • Lenny was wrong, too.

      I mean, he’s right, in principle, but human social behaviors aren’t susceptible to that level of logical scrutiny.  Words matter, and they matter precisely because of their context, and trying to wrench a word from one context to another doesn’t work.  Which is too bad, but that’s the way it is.

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      • I don’t see how he’s wrong.   If there’s one thing all those PoMo bullshit artistes like Deleuze and Guattari got right, language is slippery and has a way of getting away from those who try to lock it down.

        Wrenching?  No.   Communication, like biology, reproduces with errors.   Information entropy, as Claude Shannon concluded, is a process of resolving the uncertainty contained in the information itself.

        Words move, music moves
        Only in time; but that which is only living
        Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
        Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
        Can words or music reach
        The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
        Moves perpetually in its stillness.
        Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
        Not that only, but the co-existence,
        Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
        And the end and the beginning were always there
        Before the beginning and after the end.
        And all is always now. Words strain,
        Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
        Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
        Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
        Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
        Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
        Always assail them.

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  15. Just a nitpick — most “independent” or “swing” voters are as reliably partisan as official Democrats or Republicans. They vote consistantly for one party or the other, they just like calling themselves independent.

    They’re more variable with their turnout than their choices.

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    • What you’re saying is absolutely true of “independent” voters.   70% of them vote reliably with a single party–as reliable as card-carrying partisans.

      But, by definition, a swing voter is one that goes in either direction.   Most political scientists don’t think that the constitute more than 10% or 11% of the population, but since there are really the only “persuadable” faction in normal elections, most campaign strategy is aimed directly at them.

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      • There are a bunch of people who claim to be swing voters who probably reliably come down on one side or the other, but the point of the numbers was to spitball what the size of the “core GOP base” is, relative to the Rush audience.

        Any way you slice it, Maher’s audience is a small bit of the Left.  Rush’s audience is a statistically big chunk of the GOP.

        This has nothing to do with the size of their offense(s).  It has everything to do with the guys who are standing in your group, when your group gets together.  If I was a conservative, it would worry me that there are so many of these who make up the people who are in my group.  I would be fighting negative language.  I’d be really goddamn sick to death of dealing with it too, so I don’t blame Tom or anybody else for being sick to death of it, either.

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  16. By the way, my own view of all of this is that I am not the least bit bothered by Rush calling a woman, any woman, a slut. I think he should be able to call women sluts as often as he wants. In fact, I hope he does call them sluts as often as he wants, because then we’ll know how often Rush thinks of women as sluts. I prefer the sexists, racists, and bigots generally of the world to be out in the open about it, so I know who I’m dealing with. Every time Rush does something like this, he reminds us of who he really is. I hope he continues to remind us, and maybe convince more people that, yes, Rush is in fact who he is.

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    • You need to be careful here. Language expressed is not simply a reflection of internal reality. It actively effects it. The relationship is dialectic.

      One of the reasons for insisting on civil discourse is that it actually makes those involved more civil. It is more than patina. Yes, this even includes Rush.

      That is actually the lesson of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Indulging evil instincts not only reveals but feeds them and modifies your character.

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      • Oh, I agree with this, but the fact that the “relationship is dialectic” is all the more reason that I want people’s real views on the table, so that I and others who disagree with them or find them offensive can point them out. Because that’s the other side of the dialectic, to me. I also don’t have any problem with sponsors leaving Rush. That’s a good thing too. I just don’t get upset when he says stuff like this, or when anyone does, because hey, now I know.

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  17. i have been eating so much popcorn whilst lurking here.  the cato threads are comedy gold.  the level of protection TVD and Bob Cheeks get is high-larious as well.

    the entreaties for civility (in order to subvert the left’s points) caused me to read this http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/06/right-stupidity-spreads-enabled-polite-left  every morning to remind myself how effective being a polite liberal is.

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    • He was here from the get go (earlier than I was at least and I go back a ways) and, when he wasn’t entertaining himself by driving people into a frenzy, was a fun and clever commentor and a stellar writer. There’s no triumph in his departure.

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      • Bob was here for a long time, longer then i have. I admit i never understood the affection or the “crazy grand pa” treatment which buoyed his years long trolling. He would regularly say things that if new commenters said they would get a rash of poo for. Hell there was the theme of slagging on those darn Balloon Juice commenters while Bob just kept doing the same thing. It was obvious to me years ago, he was trolling 99% of the time and believed exactly what he said when he was making vile comments.

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            • Thanks – believe me, it’s my pleasure.

              FWIW, my specific recollection of the early days of Bob Cheeks is that you, Jaybird (and eventually Northie) did a pretty good job keeping him in check by calling him on his BS without letting him get under your skin.  I think that became harder to do as the site got bigger and more and more new but nonetheless dedicated and valuable commenters started showing up without the acquired knowledge of how to keep Bob in check, ensuring all-too-frequent meta-debates about his increasingly outrageous behavior.

              And yes, this site is as good or better than it’s ever been.

              Still, there is nostalgia for the loss of Bob, not due to the loss of his political commentary, but due to the loss of the other ways in which some of us got to know him over the years.

               

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              • Thanks Mark, that’s a perfect summary. We knew him, he was a character and sometimes behaved inexcusably but we did know him.

                Also personally he was an amazing foil. I think the first time I got mentioned on the front page was when he made one of his Bobisms and I got in some kind of perfect one sentence zing reposte. Scott was so tickled he put it up on the wall and Bob was mightily bemused by it.

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                • I remember when I started reading comments here, my first encounters with Bob were comments composed almost entirely of unattributed Voegelin quotes (not just unattributed, but intermingled with his own words). I always found that amusing.

                  I think getting rid of Bob, however it’s done, is a bad idea. I don’t think he was performance art, as evidenced by the fact that it’s precisely this sort of behavior that got him run off from First Things, if I remember correctly. Don’t get me wrong, I think he took pleasure in getting under people’s skin. I just think he believed what he was saying while he did it. I feel weird about  banning, or effectively banning (I know he banned himself, technically) people for saying what they really believe, even if they are Treason In Defense of Slavery apologists who hate Muslims, think anyone to the left of Pat Robertson is a disease, and they have attitudes about women that would make people think they were backwards even in 1912.

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                  • I second this, sort of.  t’s probably okay that he’s gone; the site is different now and expanding faster, and I can see where it becomes difficult to present oneself that way – and everyone associated with the site is associated with the decision to continue to host those views.

                    BUT – I do think Bob meant pretty much every word he (whoever he is) typed.  And I think he offered a perspective no one else here does – true, old-school, unabashed, unReconstructed transcendental quasi-mystical American crypto-conservatism, rather than just a kind of retro liberalism that just thinks that actually-existing mainstream left-liberalism has just gone too damn far.

                    Perhaps we could recruit James Poulos to replace him.

                    I jest.

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              • I don’t know if I’d describe that as “how to keep Bob in check”; more like “people showed up who hadn’t yet got used to the idea that someone on the Internet might be wrong but that’s just something that happens sometimes”.

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  18. all of this civility talk made me consider whether it would be better off under a “grant no quarter/expect no quarter” dynamic.  speculating, but the elimination of the use of the selective outrage machine tied to civility could take away a tried and true way of dodging arguments.

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    • They used to have a solution for this.  Back in 1804.

      People used to say crazy shit all the time, early in the republic.  You read old pamphlets and you’ll see that political discourse hasn’t gotten uglier, it used to be way worse.

      But back then, you could stare at someone from across the aisle and say, “Sir, you have exceeded the bounds of civil behavior.  I challenge you to pistols at dawn!”

      Now, “pistols at dawn” meant something different then than it does now.  Apparently, historically, lots of duels went unfought by people quibbling over the rules and whatnot.  People turned them down.  But it served one purpose: you could say whatever the hell you wanted, really, but at some point someone could say, effectively: hey, buddy, are you willing to bet your life on that?  If you are, let’s go.  If you’re not, you’re going to look the fool in front of everyone else, best apologize.

      Not saying this is better than what we have now (lest one think I’m advocating returning to pistols at dawn), but there is no break anymore.  There is nothing anyone can say to anyone else that equates to: prove how strongly you actually believe that, asshole, and we have a standard of proof that is a societal standard.

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      • This is also why Robin Hanson has commended the virtues of betting cash on one’s opinion.  If it has some real-world consequence, it’s not just signaling anymore, and you won’t signal anything unless you believe it more than the amount of risk you’re incurring.

        Bob was signal all the way down, without any content.  In a Hansonian world, he’d never have bet a dime.  Serendipitously, Arts & Letters Daily pointed me to <a href=”http://www.standpointmag.co.uk/node/4330/full”>this essay about Umberto Eco that reminded me very much of him</a>.  The key, of course, is that Bob is a <em>postmodern</em> conservative.

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        • But a lot of the recent arguments in the League have not involved things you could bet money on.  Bets are about outcomes; the recent kerfuffle has been mostly about interpretation.  I am not sure how helpful this concept is.

          Also, pistols at dawn favours the violent.

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            • I am curious as to how many people seriously think that they are able to shoot someone at close range over an intellectual dispute or an insult.  You need to be a violent person to be able to do that naturally.

              Without training in firing at a human target, that number is low; studies by Brigadier General Marshall in WWII showed that only about 15-20% of the men on the front line were actually firing their weapons.  Some of those men were firing high; only about 2-4% of the male population is psychologically capable of killing close up without discomfort.  Now, his methodology has been challenged, with good reason, but there is enough corroborating evidence from historical analysis based on what we know about musket accuracy and battlefield scenarios that we know that, in Europe at least, most soldiers were not shooting to kill, or the casualty rate would have been much, much higher.

              That is why the modern militaries spend so much time training soldiers to be ready to shoot other human beings, not just square targets.

              So no.  Even using a pistol on another human being requires a violent disposition or deliberate desensitization.  Ergo, it favours the violent.

              I just realized I am taking this entire conversation too seriously.

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  19. It amazes me to watch as legitimately complicated political issues become us v them screaming matches, which is what I think has happened in this case (although to be fair, there isn’t much screaming here).  There were some very thoughtful posts around these parts regarding the Catholic institution/contraception issue.  It is an issue that has no “good” solution in my opinion.  The Catholic church has a legitimate concern as do its women employees at its secular institutions.  I am very wary and uncomfortable with either forcing the C church to pay for insurance covering something it regards as sinful OR discriminating against a subset of working women because they happen to work for a religious employer.  To discuss the real issue involves empathetic thinking, serious concern for conflicting principles, etc.  In other words, for me at least, it requires some mental and emotional work.

    The Rush controversy, otoh, requires no work.  Rush is puerile, pusillanimous POS.  But I don’t think any of this is about Rush, or what he said, or Sandra Fluke.  It’s about drawing lines in the sand so we don’t have to do the difficult work of the real issue.  And so, to borrow from Jaybird in comment 61 (do the numbers stay the same?), it is politically useful – for both sides.  And this is why we see people defending Rush – not because what he said was actually OK in context, but because it is politically useful for them to defend him.  It rallies the base.  It conceals the actual issues.  It relieves us of the hard work of dealing with world.  “Those liberals are such hypocrites — they have entertainers who say ugly things to women — the MMS just picks on us!”   “Those conservatives are such low-life women haters – Rush et al, just show what they really think.”  Bleh.  A pox on both houses.

    All of which is my long winded way of saying that the second type of trust in the OP is often much easier and instantly gratifying than the first.  Which is a real shame.

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  20. Patrick,

    Pretty much agree with your post except for the end.  I view all the folks you mentioned as “grenade throwers”.  Their job is to stir up the relevant political sides and fan the flames of whatever “outrage” has been perpetrated by the other side onto their team.

    I consider Oberman an ass, Rush a buffoon, etc.  The only person I’d ever listen to is Coulter and only because of her looks.  I don’t really listen to what she has to say.  This is all entertainment for the masses for each side and I definitely believe that the media is using this / fanning it in an attempt to get Rush fired or punished.  If this had happened the other way around, there would be less drama.

     That being said, I support what Rush said and support everyone else saying whatever they said.  Everyone has the right to be offensive and take offense.  Let the drama continue!  I truly believe this is all “bread and circuses” for consumption.  In the end, little will come of it.  If Rush looses a job, someone will fill in of similar vein.  About as interested I can become on this is topic is to note “they’re still talking about this shit!?” as I walk past the TV in the reception room of our building.

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  21. Distillation of two weeks’ threads (paraphrasing the liberals):

    Rush is horrible and while occasionally (actually constantly) liberal “entertainers” do the exact same kind of thing (and worse) it really doesn’t matter because they don’t have as many followers, therefore Rush is evil and by inheritance the GOP is equally evil. The Left is blameless because no one listens to the Left. No really, no one listens to us, we have no audience and no media outlets. No really who you going to believe me or your own lying eyes?

    The GOP backs Rush 100%

    Get rid of all interlocutors who dare to disagree with us, the Borg will assimilate you, resistance is futile.

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    • Get rid of all interlocutors who dare to disagree with us, the Borg will assimilate you, resistance is futile.

      Really? Have you been banned?  Has Tom Van Dyke been banned? Has anyone called for banning either of you over this?

      Do you seriously believe that’s what led to Bob being banned? ‘Cause if so that’s some seriously dope stuff you’re smoking, and I want to get a hit off it.

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      • Why ban someone James when you can just be an ass 100% of the time that person posts? I’m not talking about myself here but your dozen or so comments above WRT Tom’s single post. I’ve invited people to come here and participate in what used to be a rather convivial atmosphere with some really smart interlocutors but they’ve all demurred because from an outsider’s viewpoint it ain’t so convivial. I don’t personally believe you don’t want ANY conservatives here, I just believe you want a numerical advantage of about 20:1 on them so whatever they say can be immediately and overwhelmingly attacked. Someone intelligent might wonder why some wouldn’t want to participate in such a melee. Now me, I’ve done martial arts and there’s nothing more fun than  going against multiple attackers in a class with instructors and rules, but in the real world that is a fool’s game.

        Now I’ve stated, and for the record, the Rush is a jerk, that I’ve never listened to him in my life and that I don’t intend to start anytime soon. But that still hasn’t stopped many from attributing to me Rush’s baggage, again and again. When I toss it back in the faces of those trying to pin me to that garbage, and ask where their umbrage was against their own ideological brethren, I get cries of “unfair, unfair”. Indeed it is, as is painting me with Rush’s brush. If I haven’t made that crystal clear in the past dozen or so posts I’ve failed at communication.

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        • Ward: It is interesting that you think that you are being grouped with Rush. I don’t believe I said or insinuated anything like that but you were quick to label me here as a Liberal not offended by the trash liberals say. Before you go continue crying about  your connection to Rush, you should check out the mirror and see how you did the same exact thing to me that you are whining about happening to you in this thread. The victim thing is not flattering Ward.

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        • You know Ward, I actually like you.  You know you and I agree more often than you agree with most people here.  And there are areas where we disagree, but have usually done so reasonably.  But your claim that I have a dozen comments about Tom’s comment is just factually wrong–they’re about Jaybird’s comments, not Tom’s. Hell, in my actual comments about Tom’s comments here I’ve half-agreed and half-disagreed with him. I think he’s wrong about Rush not mattering, but I think he’s right about Maher not being in a completely different arena than Rush.

          And, you know, you claimed there was banning of conservatives who disagree with the liberals…it’s a bit late to move the goalposts on that one.  You’re usually an evidence-based guy; be one on that issue here, please.

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          • Honestly, could y’all just put an end to this little back-and-forth?  It strikes me as exceedingly unlikely to do anything or go anywhere other than to result in hardened positions, bruised egos, and damaged relationships.  Mind you, this isn’t a threat to shut the thread down or anything of the sort, just a gentle suggestion that this isn’t a line of discussion terribly likely to be productive.

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          • James, I’m no victim here, I’m a voice crying in the wilderness /for/ the victims. You see some you don’t see others. I never said “ban”, just chase them away, same effect. Not everyone is a Bob, if anything he was a caricature of a conservative as Kim1 is for the Left. Useful to a point, but if someone’s words can be replicated by an automaton, they /should/ be replaced by one. Bob certainly could put together thoughtful prose, but I suspect as things got more politically polemic he figured, “why bother?”

            I did a count of comments along the line, not necessarily correctly as you’ve pointed out, I blame the format and my inability to free up enough time to make this blog a full time occupation. Again that real world thing interferes. I do note that there are preponderance of unemployed liberal leaning folks here, not criticizing, just noting.

            , Rush isn’t the only media misogynist. That was my point, that is still my point and it still has not been addressed adequately by you or Katherine. If that makes you uncomfortable that you were silent during those episodes, or if you want to hide behind the same canard used by others here that those guys don’t count, they don’t have a big enough audience, so be it. I can point to numerous specific situations where I was supposed to support Rush’s statements or was simply placed in his same box. I have no truck with the man, I think he’s a pseudo-entertainer and the RNC “apology” that Tod was so excited about had more to do with Steele’s personal dismay at poor wording than any kind of ass-kissing or genuflection of the RNC to Rush.

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            • Ward, the conversation about Rush to me is about Rush, not who he is compared to anyone else. That is giving him an excuse for his behavior. I don’t like, haven’t heard of, or support any of the other media guys described here as “like” Rush. I can’t speak to what they said when they said it because I don’t find them worth my time, interest or respect. If I actually cared about what they say, I would indeed call out their behavior. I’m quite comfortable admitting that I loathe Maher upthread. I quit listening or paying attention to him years ago due to his sexist attitudes. This does not mean I condone them. It means I have no desire to give any effort to thinking about him.

              Why is it my duty to attack people I care nothing about because you believe they are on the same side of the political fence as me? If you find some media liberals behavior so vial as examples like Rush, I could ask why you aren’t actively attacking Rush? As you have no connection to Rush, I have none with the liberal misogynists. I don’t expect you to defend Rush. Why do I care about Rush? I have to deal with family and acquaintances who believe and hang on his words as more than just entertainment. It is scary and an indicator of the breadth of his influence and someone with that influence should have to deal with the good and bad of his popularity. No pity, no excuses, no matter who else is doing it.

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    • Since Limbaugh made his statements against Fluke, every GOP presidential candidate has spoken out against Limbaugh’s comments.

      “Those aren’t the words I would have used” is a pretty searing indictment.

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