gall and gumption

Monday, February 27, 2006

Gabby Inglorious Miltons - II.

Roger Ailes finds another article about those pesky bloggers and how irritating it is that they keep having opinions that nobody cares about.

From the article, by David Ignatius, a columnist for the Washington Post, my favorite bit is this:

The connected world is inescapable, like the global economy itself. But if we can begin to understand how it undermines political stability -- how it can separate elites from masses, and how it can enhance rage rather than reason -- then perhaps we will have a better chance of restabilizing a very disorderly world.

It's bad taste to mention it I know but I've given up on taste. So I will. But I think the person who owns the blame for separating the elites from the masses (a condition that elites rather seem to like) was Jesus. The bit about a rich man getting into heaven being as likely as a camel passing through the eye of the needle. Standing up for the poor, the disgraced, the sick and helpless, saying that's who he cared more about, etc. Now we see it was bloggers.

The French Revolution? Caused by bloggers.

All those anti-monarchical and democratizing movements of the 19th century. Herzen with his newspaper, Garibaldi, Mazzini, all the wonderful characters in Herzen's memoirs. Marx? Who he? That the "elites" as he calls them have always, like for millenia, enjoyed so much more of the means to separate themselves from the non-elites has been one of those central facts about Western Civ. There are plays, operas, novels, big fat histories, essays, polemics, epic poems, it keeps turning up in the record and is something all agree on. People may disagree over why it happens thus, whether it should happen, what should be done about it, whether anything should be done about it. We live to read in the Washington Post of all places that a few blasts of hot blogger air are threatening the unity of society. He sounds like a courtier of Louis XVI, looking over the balcony at the Tuileries and seeing heads on pikes.

There is a whole class of people who think they are thinking about subjects when what they are doing is fretfully insisting that everybody behave. They have no single political adherence, I saw lots of them who you'd consider liberals when I was teaching. The media are full of these people, across the whole political spectrum. They are no longer able to distinguish between truth and decorum. When they think they are talking about truth they are talking about decorum.

I should also mention that this column is in part the consequence of a big storm that occurred at the Post a few weeks ago. Deborah Howell, the ombudsman, wrote a column suggesting that Jack Abramoff, the überlobbyist now under indictment, had donated to Democrats as well as to Republicans. When this was pointed out as untrue, she refused to correct the misstatement and all these people commented, objecting strenuously to the falsehood. The Post took down all the comments, complaining that they were offensive and obscene. A few of them may have been but the majority of them were not. But they Howell, and now, as we see, Ignatius, has ever since that day, taken this stance of being in an embattled fortress from which they look out the windows at the yahoos flinging poo at them.

My feeling is that newspapers are in the information business, not the decorum business. So I find this whole tone rather puzzling. It used to be such a bore, you know, teaching, to run into people who could always tell you what was not to be tolerated. At parties, you sort of want to leave them in whatever room they are in and head to the back porch where the real conversation was going on. And you know, it pleases me that in Persuasion, Anne Elliot's inclination is just exactly the same as mine would be. Oh well if you don't know what I'm talking about go read it again, then... It's surely right about time.

The short version is that decorum is not an end in itself. Decorum serves other ends and sometimes it is only cover for quite base motives. As Persuasion demonstrates so beautifully, decorum as an end in itself is so easy to co-opt to other agendas, it is way easy to corrupt. It needs the backbone of truthfulness, of candor, of generosity and all those other higher-order goods.


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