Friday, February 5, 2010

Diversity XXI: Race in Conversation pt. 2

Guy Yedwab makes a big mistake in this post by assuming that Garvey-- who has proven time and time again to be nothing but a not particularly bright (if well read) internet troll-- is speaking in good faith. Trolls aren't interested in good faith conversation, they're interested in provoking and upsetting people for private enjoyment


As a result of not realizing that Garvey is, in fact, a garden variety troll, Guy seems to think that it would be better if 99 were less angry and tried to keep engaging with Garvey in "conversation". And used the f* word less. Well, all due respect to Guy, whose blog I really like but fuck that. You can't have any conversation with everyone.
Either Isaac misunderstood my post, or I didn't make myself clear -- which is very possible, because I only devoted a few lines to the idea.

I do not believe that Thomas Garvey was speaking in good faith. I stopped reading his blog a long time ago because I realized exactly what Isaac says -- he enjoys baiting people, he throws bombs without providing much substance, and I never left a post of his feeling enlightened. Just sometimes angry.

But suppose a troll lands a bomb at you and you decide to argue back -- after all, you can simply ignore them -- what is the point in arguing? What was the point of that furious post?
  1. You want to convince Garvey to change his mind
  2. You want to convince your blog-roll readers that Garvey is wrong
  3. You want to have some sort of public catharsis by screaming at a wall
Isaac things I'm advocating option number one, but I'm not. I agree that it's pointless. But if your goal is number 2, I think you're much better served by a sharply written post that focuses the anger into tearing your opponent's argument apart, rather than just spewing anger. The spewing anger route might get an "amen" from your own choir, but like it or not there are going to be people on the fence who'll miss what you have to say because they're put off by the anger.

If you're going for option 3, then I probably have already spent too much time talking about the post and I'm tired.

This isn't just about 99 Seats. This is about how we debate major issues in this country. We talk about the partisan rancor in this country, and it's precisely because of this process -- the trolls control the tone, because people feel they have to match the tone of the trolls or get drowned out.

This is what has always appealed to me about Obama over his opponents. That Q&A Obama had with the Republicans is perfect. And it's not just perfect because I (who already agree with him) was happy to see him take on the Republican party -- it's perfect because it allows the independents who may be watching the chance to hear both sides.

In the primary election, I happen to know that what decided the primary for my mother was the fact that as time wore on, the Clintons got more and more desperate, were basically lobbing bombs and saying ugly things of increasingly unpleasant caliber, and Obama simply stuck to the issues and the facts. Which didn't mean not fighting back -- it just meant avoiding the lure of personal attacks.

That's what I was getting at. It is precisely if you don't think the other side of the conversation is dealing with even hands that you shouldn't waste your time flying off the handle. In those cases, the conversation isn't about you, it's about the people listening.

Oh and one more thing. It's not that I don't like the word fuck. I can fucking drop that fucking word every other fucking word if I fucking feel like it. Fuck is a fucking FANTASTIC word in some contexts -- I actually even like the way that it gives Glengarry Glenn Ross the Mametian rhythm. I fucking LOVE George Carlin and I've definitely yelled a good hearty "FUCK OFF" in someone's face before.

I just meant that, in the context of a heated response in a heated debate, all the fucking makes it sound like what you're saying is just sound and fury.

Aaaaand.... one more fuck for the road.


99 said...

Good points all, Guy. And I'm very happy to be having this conversation with you and others.

When it comes to Garvey, I choose a different path of engagement (though I will be giving him a wide berth for a while): I do choose attacking his ideas. I don't believe that I'll change his mind or make him see the folly of his ways or anything. But I also don't think ignoring his particular brand of damaging stupidity does any good, either. One of the ways bigots like Garvey get away with it is because good, smart people ignore them. I'm of the opinion to shine a light on them, call them out, call them out for what they are, and, when necessary, mock them ruthlessly. It's not always the mature, or even the most productive thing to do, but is. Sometimes it is just plain satisfying. Sometimes you do it to keep them out of your house, a whack across the nose that lets them know they can't get away with it. Sometimes it's raising an alarum, so people know what's what.

Sorry to clog up your comments with my blather. But I just wanted to respond.

RVCBard said...


Sometimes, what we* do is not about or for you. Sometimes, it's for and about us.

You're doing a lot of the things mentioned here on Stuff White People Do - and you don't even see it.

(* we = any marginalized group)

cgeye said...

"In the primary election, I happen to know that what decided the primary for my mother was the fact that as time wore on, the Clintons got more and more desperate, were basically lobbing bombs and saying ugly things of increasingly unpleasant caliber, and Obama simply stuck to the issues and the facts. Which didn't mean not fighting back -- it just meant avoiding the lure of personal attacks."

I guessed you missed these attacks by proxy:

CultureFuture said...

99 Seats -- no worries! Comments are for comments, obviously. I definitely agree on the calling out of Garvey, but we stand apart on the satisfyingness of whacking him on the nose.

RVC -- Nobody says that what people in marginalized communities has to always suit me or cater to my tastes. But to address a question you asked in another comment section as to why we feel we need to talk about the "Dialogue," I can't speak for anyone else, but it's kind of the thesis statement of my blog. The subtitle of the blog, "A BLOG ABOUT THE FUTURE OF ART, THE FUTURE OF POLITICS, AND THE CONVERSATION THAT MAKES UP OUR CULTURE" is meant honestly: to discuss how we discuss what's important to us.

But as to the content of the conversation, you say that sometimes I do things that are mentioned on Stuff White People do and don't even see it. I believe that was the point of my first post? That as much as I'd like to be that mythical post-racial, every day will be a struggle for me? A struggle I'm willing to have, but it isn't as though I'm making the choice to remain backwards and unenlightened.

Try as hard as we might, we are still each the centers of our own universes, because that is literally the perspective we try to see from.

But I still strongly disagree with, for instance, Stuff White People Do's advice:

5. ...Don’t explain why you said what you said or did what you did.
7. Don’t talk about how you feel.

In a conversation, both sides get the opportunity to represent themselves. I am still a blogger and this is still my blog and this is still my forum for voicing my opinions, views, emotions, etc.

CGEYE -- Oh, certainly there was mounds and mounds and mounds of sexism towards the one and racism towards the other, and it was clear that John McCain himself, for instance, was okay with it (just in response to that one link that had McCain laughing at someone calling Hillary a bitch). I didn't see any one of those links though contain an actual Obama campaign member (I might have missed one) making a sexist comment -- I remember it happening a couple times and in each case, having that campaign member resign (which both sides kept to). In other words, while I agree that there was sexism, I don't think it was by proxy from Obama.

And also I should make it clear that while I feel that while Hillary took some shots which were personal, I can't recall any incident in which she made a remark that was racist or such. Bill's South Carolina comment was in that column, but I don't think he represented the candidate or the campaign.

The specific incident in which my mother parted ways with the Clinton campaign was the assassination comment:

I do have to say that our perception of how much Clinton was directly personally attacking Obama was probably overblown, although for my mother I know the assassination comment is a bright white line that cannot be crossed. As I look back, I can't really believe that Hillary Clinton really meant to imply that someone could or should assassinate Barack Obama so that she could become the nominee, but the comment remains unacceptable.