eating my vegetables

So you should follow Scott’s lead and read Sonny Bunch here… I have been engaged in a little pissing contest with him in his comments section. I really shouldn’t.

Look, obviously, I disagree with both Bunch and Scott, but they may be right on some level. The thing is, as Bunch says– “turnabout is fair play, you reap what you sow, etc.” And that was the spirit in which I went after McCain. I really felt and feel that he was unfair to John, and the Culture11 wound is still fresh. I care very deeply for a lot of the people who were involved in that enterprise and I guess it was a bit soon. I took McCain to be unfairly harsh to John and Culture11, in a way that to me signalled that he was fair game for some snarking.

But as is often the case with petty revenge, ideas about who started it and who was the first to go below the belt tend to have no ending. And Scott’s right, it doesn’t do much for me; surely, arguing with Bunch hasn’t done me any favors today. So who knows. It did feel good. Interestingly, I think despite the fact that I was flipping off one of her favorites, Helen might see that I was embodying the principles of argumentative pugilism and loyalty that she admires.

For now, let me say that I’m not certain that there was much benefit to saying what I said.

I do want to clear something up– Bunch says in his comments that I am “an amateur man of letters who has written about how much he wishes to become a professional man of letters”. I actually think I have been fairly consistent in saying that I’m not looking to write professionally. I have actually had some offers to write regularly for pay, although it wouldn’t be enough to support myself. I have turned them down for assorted reasons. Not that I am not envious in some ways of many professional writers, bloggers and pundits; I certainly am. But they aren’t pure jealousies of the opportunity to do this professionally; and I have had opportunities that I have not followed, for personal reasons. I have a complicated relationship to this enterprise.

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15 thoughts on “eating my vegetables

  1. Sonny comes off every bit as venomous as those he ridicules, if not more. If he believes turnabout is fair plays, etc., then everyone should be free to cuss and curse, since politics has always been infused with nasty commentary. So what gives? If the only way to break the cycle is to turn the other cheek, he should be pulling a true Jesus H. Christ right about now, instead of going into pit bull mode.

    Not to say he thinks very highly of his profession, which ultimately amounts of a distinguished form of whining.

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  2. Guys, it was my bad. I think that in my first contibution to this flame war, I made clear — as clear as I make any point when I’m tired and angry — the history of my grievance against Culture11, a grievance that preceded my knowledge Conor’s involvement in that fiasco.
    I’ve had some profitable flame exchanges with Conor during his tenure at Culture11, and was actually beginning to enjoy it, like I enjoy by anti-Greenwald rants or anti-David Brooks rants. So it was kind of a kick in the head when, after two days of covering the RNC, I realized that Culture11 was kaputski.
    Brace yourselves for this: When I was your age . . .
    If you’re under 26, I was working as a nightclub DJ or driving a forklift or playing in rock-and-roll bands. At 26, I got a $4.50-an-hour job as a staff writer for a tiny weekly tabloid in Austell, Ga. After another 18 months of job changes, in fall 1987, I landed a job as sports editor of a twice-weekly paper in Calhoun, Ga. By June 1989, I was 29 years old, married, with a newborn daughter.
    So I was closing in on 30 and considered myself doing well to make $300 a week covering prep sports in North Georgia. I was 38 years old when I was hired in November 1997 by The Washington Times.
    Now, try to see all this from my perspective, will you? I don’t give a hoot in hell what your SAT Verbal scores were, some of you youngersters appear mighty doggone ridiculous trying to run before you’ve even crawled. As someone even more grizzled than myself said in an email yesterday, self-publishing software has made it very easy to think of yourself as a writer.
    Prior to the widespread availability of the Internet (mid-1990s), your choices at age 23 would have been (a) take an entry-level staff gig at a newspaper/magazine, or (b) dwell in that sleazy semi-pro twilight of doing record reviews for crappy weekly “alternative” tabloid or maybe Xeroxing your own crappy “zine.”
    Well, hello, WordPress and now, without benefit of filling out an application or sending “over-the-transom” submissions to publications, you get that short feedback loop: Megan McArdle linked me! or: Did you see my exchange with Larison?
    Think, dear boys, how ludicrously vain you appear to a 49-year-old who worked his way up through the trenches of local straight journalism to arrive in Washington at age 38. In short, I am insanely jealous to think what might have been if, when I was a senior in college, it might have been possible so much as to send an e-mail to a magazine editor.
    So I see you young ‘uns with these infinite opportunities, and doing so damned little with them, and watching you fritter away your time makes me angry at the idiotic waste of it all.
    Then some dweeb like David Kuo burns through a (rumored) $1 million in venture capital in about 5 months, and the anger is redoubled. When I was 28, I worked with two fine young journalists (Jim and Dawn McFadden) neither of whom is in the business anymore, but either of whom would have been able to get a helluva lot more mileage out of $1 million than Culture11 did. A brilliant opportunity, utterly wasted, due to towering incompetence. Doesn’t it break your heart to think of it?
    So my incoherent and various angsts sometimes focus in on something in a way that seems irrational, because — really — it is irrational. This is my weakness, and you are not to blame. OK, maybe Conor, but the rest of your were mostly collateral damage. Beers at CPAC?

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  3. McCain thinks we’re vain because we make use of modern technology to publish our thoughts. Good lord. Did you know, back in my day before the printing press we had to shout our thoughts from atop a large boulder! Now you damned vainglorious youngsters can actually participate in the conversation! And you don’t even have to walk seven miles through the snow to do it…

    You damn kids should be working in, er, journalism with all those great journalism jobs being created each year….because 2009 is just exactly the same as previous pre-internet decades when people actually still read newspapers.

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  4. RSM –

    That was a pretty amazing vent. Having read your earlier posts, I have to ask: Isn’t it possible that factors beyond anyone’s control – the economy, nervous investors etc. – doomed Culture11? It seems a bit excessive to blame Kuo for everything.

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  5. RSM: I, for one, appreciate your comment and the sincerity therein. Not that you care – or should care – but I respect you a lot more for that.

    Although I must admit to being a bit confused by your apparent support of the Joe the Plumber-as-war correspondent experiment as contrasted with your criticism of a website that simply sought to act as an outlet for aspiring conservative-ish writers (and not necessarily journalists) to get their feet wet. I’m pretty sure I speak for all five of us here who were published at Culture11 in saying that none of us considered (or consider) ourselves journalists.

    Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that the entire purpose of this particular site is to get away from the trap of pretending to be journalists. Instead, the goal (whether we are successful or not, you can draw your own conclusions) of this site is “a conversation amongst friends” more than as a source of hard-hitting faux-journalism that you can get at any number of blogs of various sorts. To a certain extent, it is that type of attention-seeking writing that we are trying to avoid, even if we may or may not succeed in doing so.

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  6. E.D. – I don’t actually think McCain was chastising y’all (or, I guess I should say, us) for being vain, but more expressing his complicated feelings about what he had to go through back in the day to get a job writing and how we take it for granted … which, you know, we do. We really do. To be expected, sure, our taking it for granted. But must, MUST be a weird thing for older journalists to witness.

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  7. Elizabeth, you may be right. I agree, it must be frustrating on a certain level…though at the same time, I think it should be viewed more as an opportunity than as something to be bitter over. Every expansion of media technology has lead to a wider potential dispersion of media and commentary, from the printing press to cable news to the blogosphere. And yes, each generation takes that new medium for granted….

    Thanks. You’re right, and I may have been a little too sarcastic…

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  8. At some point, we’ve got to come back to this simple fact: McCain drastically misrepresented what John Schwenkler said, and did so in the commission of slurring him as some heavy-handed elitist. That requires rebuttal, full stop.

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