Posted on | February 16, 2012 | 82 Comments
In an e-mail to some friends this afternoon, I wrote:
While I was working on other posts and not following Twitter, it seems my feed blew up with ‘H8Rs’ who either missed the point or else got the point, and decided to blow me up for having pointed out some obvious but uncomfortable truths about New Media.
The issue here is not whether I am rude or sexist — I am occasionally both — but rather whether there is a polite way in which media exploits what is pejoratively called “sexism.” My willingness to engage in self-revelation, and self-deprecation, exposes me to abuse and ridicule from certain people who are more concerned about image maintenance and reputation enhancement than in, y’know, truth.
But these problems are my own, and I will not project blame onto others for reacting to my own deliberately provocative remarks. However, I wish to hell some people would have more consideration for how my remarks are themselves but a reaction to other provocative stimuli.
[Insert wry reference to Monty Python’s “Argument Clinic” sketch]
Not playing the victim here or anything, you understand. If I write something ambiguous, and am misunderstood, this is nobody’s fault but mine, and I am not entitled to attribute malice to my critics. However, permit me to retrace the chain of causality, just in case anyone wasn’t paying attention the first time:
- Patrick at “Thoughts and Rantings” criticizes Tina Korbe for wearing a short skirt in a CPAC interview with Rick Santorum.
- Melissa Clouthier lectures about indecorous clothing and behavior by young ladies at CPAC.
- I link and comment on Melissa’s critique in a post about my young blogger friend Cody.
- Patrick links me and Melissa in a round-up about the CPAC decorum controversy, seeing this as a vindication of his criticism of Tina Korbe.
- For reasons I can’t quite understand, Patrick brings up an ancient grudge and calls me a “f–king coward.”
- I compose a 2,000-word response to Patrick, in which I attempt to demonstrate that I am sympathetic to his plight, having myself experienced the consequences of my own impulsive temperament.
It appears that my post was seen by some as a personal attack on Tina Korbe, despite my explicit denial of any animus toward her, and despite my attempt to cushion any criticism with self-deprecating humor. As I say, I’m not blaming others for misunderstanding a long and convoluted essay which, quite obviously, was easy to misunderstand.
Perhaps it is arrogant to believe that my good intentions would be apparent to my friends, and still more arrogant to suppose that any error or offense would be indulged on account of friendship. But it is at times like this that you learn who your real friends are.
UPDATE: Did I say “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”? Cue the Zep:
Had a nice phone conversation with Pete Da Tech Guy, who pointed out that there are some people who don’t seem to mind Whitney Houston dying nearly as much as they mind people being “judgmental” about her drug abuse. Interpret that how you will.
UPDATE II: Now, this is remarkable: Melissa Clouthier accuses me of being “vile” to Tina Korbe, while Katie Pavlich accuses me of “attacking” Tina Korbe, and I am at a loss to explain how so many people can see an intention that (to repeat myself) I explicitly disavowed.
The entire point of the post was that Patrick at “Thoughts and Rantings” had implied that his criticism of Tina’s skirt had prompted Melissa’s lecture on dress and decorum. Patrick linked me, and I saw his post because of the trackback. While I was thinking about doing a follow-up post to link back to Patrick, he blew up and called me a “f–king coward,” recalling an old grudge.
OK, so I wanted to show Patrick that I wasn’t holding grudges, and in doing so, (a) I pushed back against his over-the-top criticism of Tina Korbe; (b) recounted my own history of over-the-top criticism in a related example; and (c) concluded by advising Patrick that he should not be so quick to condemn others for their reactions to his deliberate provocations.
Did I argue this in linear form or compose the post in such a way that my purpose was entirely clear? No.
Is there an obvious danger in writing the way I write? Yes.
Are people prone to sympathize with someone they think has attacked their friend? No.
Do I know who my friends are? Yes. Oh, yes indeed, I do.
UPDATE III: Jenny Erikson is amazed by the uproar, as am I. There has been a lot of crazy on the blogosphere today that had nothing to do with me and, discussing it with Jimmie Bise Jr. this afternoon, we reached an agreement that a lot of conservatives are feeling frustrated lately. They are disappointed in the presidential field; their favorite candidate either dropped out long ago or is currently in third place. And there was also some disgruntlement over CPAC this year. Ergo, people are happy to have someone to lash out at.
So I was doing a post about human nature, specifically about someone (Patrick) who had lashed out at Tina Korbe and then lashed out at me, and beneath the video that started it, here is what I wrote:
Our keen-eyed readers will note that at the 0:28 mark of the video, Miss Korbe gives a little tug at the hem of her skirt and, not to get all Melissa Clouthier about it or anything, some folks might say that’s kind of a telltale clue that your skirt’s too doggone short.
Notice the carom-shot: I said I didn’t want “to get all Melissa Clouthier about it” — nudging her for her post specifying what she considered an appropriate dress code for CPAC — before saying that “some folks might say” the skirt was nonetheless “too doggone short.”
Did you catch the downhome informality of those phrases? Did that register to readers in terms of tone? Because having been accused of “attacking” Miss Korbe, it occurs to me that the jocular tone must not have registered.
Now, to let you in on a little secret: I knew for a fact, before I wrote the post, that Melissa’s criticism wasn’t directed at Miss Korbe, because I called our mutual friend Ali Akbar to check first. But Patrick had seemed to be under the impression that his criticism of Miss Korbe was reflected by Melissa’s post, and I was replying to Patrick.
Did you also notice the exaggerated generalizations that followed?
For example, I think tattoos and pierced bellybuttons are two of the tackiest things in the world, but I’m pretty sure not every woman with tattoos and a pierced bellybutton is a whore.
Most of them? Sure, but not all of them.
Similarly, short skirts and exposed cleavage do not necessarily signal that a woman is up for some action with any dude who’ll give her the price of another hit of methamphetamine. It is true that many hookers dress that way, but not every woman who dresses that way is a hooker.
That’s called hyperbole — deliberately stating an argument in an exaggerated way. And the line that followed was about “Maine College Republicans,” a running gag from a previous post I’d linked. And then I got into what prompted the whole thing:
Anyway, my responsible-but-not-judgmental post was linked in a roundup on the CPAC decorum controversy at “Thoughts and Ramblings,” whose proprietor suggested that this was in response to a post he’d done earlier, in which he said, “Tina, you are a Catholic, try actually dressing like one,” and accused her of giving the Senator “a peep show of her hoo haa.”
That went too far, I’d say. It was judgmental to the point of being irresponsible. And while I didn’t realize it when I saw the link yesterday, the proprietor of that blog has kind of a history here, of which he has since reminded me.
OK, when I linked the post that prompted my reply, I expected that people will click through the link and see what I was talking about. But evidently many people didn’t do that, and thus overlooked the nature of the provocation — being accused of having thrown Patrick “under the bus,” etc.
The reason I’ve added this sort of un-fisking of my own post is because I am being accused of attacking someone I had thought I’d made clear I was actually attempting to defend. But this obviously wasn’t as clear to others as it was to me, and so I appeared to be “beating up a girl,” and everything escalated from there.
I’ve since talked to Melissa Clouthier about this, and she was concerned about the “impression” I had created, intentionally or otherwise, and felt that I was insufficiently concerned about it and I suppose she’s right. The problem, I guess, is that almost no one ever shows any deference toward me or concern about my feelings — many people never miss a chance to insult or snub me — and therefore I’m surprised when my occasional breaches of decorum are treated as inexcusable.