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May 5, 2004

How we get stupid. Never mind the specific argument about Ted Rall. (Of whom, an intelligent defense here.) What I like about this new post from Max is that it makes me realize that I like the idea of “epater le bourgeois” about as much as I like “things have to get worse before they can get better,” which is to say, not very much at all. Both are bromides by which liberal-minded people seduce themselves into treating other people as things, as mere means to an end.

Shock can be a legitimate tool. The photos from Abu Ghraib are shocking. The impact of that shock may punch through some complacency and do some good. That doesn’t mean that shock is always the appropriate tool, or the morally proportionate one. Unless you think that “bourgeois sensibility” is a transcendent evil on par with cruelty, exploitation, injustice, or oppression. I’d be interested to hear the argument, but my eyebrow is pre-raised.

Beyond all that, another thing about valorizing “epater le bourgeois” as a practice is that it becomes habit-forming, like angry righteousness. And an activist who’s developed predictable habits is an activist who can be gamed. David Horowitz was once the baker’s daughter. [05:35 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on How we get stupid.:

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2004, 07:42 PM:

Sorry, blame me for suggesting usage whether than the actual Pascal quoted language - I trust it will be reset to the quote any second now.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2004, 09:57 PM:

I think the problem when you fetishize bouleversing the proles is that it gives you, in practice, the right to decide who it is salutary for you to deny the humanity of and offend as much as possible.

Which is kind of what Karl Rove thinks.

I don't really warm to the argument that actions that suck are good and useful if good people are doing them. How exactly does that work? Were they good when they started? Is their get out of jail free card as the get out of jail free card of ten because their hearts are pure?

How do we tell the difference between people who suck and people who act like they suck but mean well?

Isn't that a question that the current group in power would like to get us used to asking?

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2004, 10:53 PM:

Google hasn't been helpful, just what does "epater le bourgeois" mean? Well, I guess I want to know what epater means as I'm familiar with the other.


Hal ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2004, 11:26 PM:

I think it means "scandalize (or shock) the bourgeois." In this case I take it the bourgeois is like a burgher, a member of the middle class.

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2004, 11:31 PM:

"You must shock the Bourgeois. (Il faut Úpater le bourgeois.)"
attr. Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867, French poet)


Not since the publication of Swinburne's Poems and Ballads (1866) had there been such a sensation in the literary world. Swinburn had been charged with perversity, unwholesomeness, and morbidity -- terms later flung at the Aesthetes and Decadents, who wore them as badges of their sensitivity and superiority. In this they had been instructed by artists and writers in France who declared that the bourgeoisie was not only their natural enemy but also their sport, for in order to demonstrate moral superiority, the would have to shock and dazzle the dull and mettled middle class -- "Úpater le bourgeois" (to shock the bourgeois) became the battle cry.

One contrasts the type of meal envisaged by the Decadents to what might be the more recent food related to this quote, " 'The function of chefs was, and remains, to Úpater le bourgeois, which means to astonish them,' Ms. Hess said."
(Hope those quote marks meet the high standards of punctuation here.)

Darkhawk ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2004, 11:57 PM:

Betcha the concept would be a lot less popular if the French-language version weren't available and people had to fall back on "freaking the mundanes" to describe the behaviour.

hypochrismutreefuzz ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 04:13 AM:

Now, can someone explain what is meant by the baker's daughter?

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 05:15 AM:

I've been away for a week. I get back to ... well, you know what's been going on. And I see a fuss about some guy called Ted Rall. And you know what? I look at the offending article that caused so much flamminiferous exudate and I find that he's incompletely right.

I'm not an American. I was opposed to this war from the outset. And this is about the first time that I've seen an honest assessment of the Abu Ghraib atrocity's fallout written by an American. The truth hurts -- which is why people are screaming and condemning Rall. But he's right, you know.

I think I said in my own blog, way back when the US rejected membership of the ICC, that the only plausible reason was that they wanted the US military to be free to commit war crimes. I really don't like being proven right on that prediction.

What Ted did was pin the tail on the rabid donkey. He diagnosed an ailment -- in this case, galloping gangrene in the American body politic. What he stopped short of was prescribing a solution, though.

You want my solution?

The Bush administration probably could convince the Arab public -- and everyone else - that they didn't approve of torture of prisoners, mass murder of civilians, collective punishment, and other war crimes -- if they reversed their decision to opt out of the International Criminal Court.

(As a point of note, Republican black propaganda to the contrary, the ICC can't proceed against accused war criminals if their home country is capable of putting them on trial. The ICC can't simply go in and arrest US army soldiers -- first it has to prove that the US won't hold them responsible. But membership of the ICC would be a powerful signal that the US government does take its responsibilities under the Geneva and Hague conventions seriously because it intends to actively prosecute home-grown war criminals.)

Immediately signing up to the ICC wouldn't undo the damage inflicted by those photographs, but it would add a heavily underscored "and I mean it" to Bush's assertion that this sort of thing isn't tolerated.

But they won't do that. I'm willing to bet $500 that the current administration won't sign up to the ICC. Because that would imply recognition of an authority to which they are accountable, and accountability is the one thing that is anathema to the Bush junta. Just as it was to the guys who ran Germany from 1933 to 1945.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 08:48 AM:

You know, Charlie, I take some real exception here.

First, in the post you're commenting on, I specifically started by saying "Never mind the argument about Ted Rall." What I wanted to talk about was some observations of Max Sawicky's that are interesting irrespective of the Rall discussion.

Second, you're talking as if the current round of "flamminiferous exudate" over Rall is about that article. In fact, it was touched off by this cartoon. Indeed, I hadn't even bothered to read the Rall article that you're defending, because (I now explain for the third time) what interested me about Max Sawicky's post wasn't the specific argument with Rall, but his general observations about political rhetoric.

Third, although I don't particularly want to turn this thread into another giant argument about Rall, it seems worth noting that Sawicky specifically noted that his argument was primarily with the Rall article's title: "An Army of Scum." The body of the Rall article itself is more or less right. As Sawicky says.

So let's review up to this point. There's widespread comment in the blogosphere over Rall's cartoon attacking the late Pat Tillman. Max Sawicky spends six words expressing his disdain for it. I agree in three words. In a later post, Max uses the title of a Rall article (article, not cartoon: see? these are different things) to make some interesting observations about politics, misanthropy, and rhetoric. In a post whose very first sentence is "Never mind the specific argument about Ted Rall," I make some other Rall-free observations. (I also link to a defense of Rall.)

Oh, and meanwhile, for the past week there are 5,271,009 pieces posted to the blogosphere by Americans angry and disgusted about what Rall (correctly) refers to as the "structural corruption" of our military.

Your response to all this is to wade into a thread that began with the sentence "Never mind the specific argument about Ted Rall" and hector us about how right his article is, with ornamentation about how "people are screaming and condemning Rall" because "the truth hurts."

I recognize that you've been away from the net for a few days, but really, you might have spent five minutes glancing at whatever blogs you frequent before making the jawdroppingly offensive remark that Rall's article is "the first time that I've seen an honest assessment of the Abu Ghraib atrocity's fallout written by an American". Thanks ever so much for that. Yes, none of us Americans have written a single thing expressing horror at this stuff, or observing that its consequences will be dire. Or maybe you just thought we were all dishonest. Being as we're Americans and, as you're careful to imply, incapable of a clear-eyed view of this stuff.

Jesus Christ on a pogo stick, Charlie.

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 09:28 AM:

Sorry 'bout that. I'm not kidding about being out of touch, either: I've been away for a week, and before that was head-down in work, and before that was ill (with, I think, Boskone Bug 2.0 or 3.0 -- it's getting hard to tell at this point). Add a dose of splenetic rage and a seasoning of schadenfreude and you probably can guess why I blew up over the first blog I came to (which just happened to be yours).

But that's enough about me. Let's talk about you.

I don't think epater le bourgeois is a fair accusation to lay on Rall. You're absolutely right about the risk of being gamed by the other side ... except it has already happened. The fact that it's possible to accuse a journalist or cartoonist of trying to shock people for depicting the unvarnished truth is itself a symptom of how badly biased the news coverage has become. Sure Ted Ralls is cynical -- but cynicism should be the natural posture of any thinking human being in the face of calls for patriotic self-sacrifice issued by elderly chickenhawks.

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 09:35 AM:

Sorry, hit the "post" button instead of "preview" while re-editing. I'm about to go away now and do some hard thinking. But, to finish up that last posting (as I intended to):

We've been gamed and maneuvered into a situation where an expression of cynicism about Dear Leader's war goals can be misread as an attempt to outrage polite society. The unvarnished cynical truth is redefined as wild-eyed radical nihilism. So: when polite dissent has already been corrupted into tacit support for a gentler, milder, version of the War Party's policies, what's left for us?

Paul ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 09:36 AM:

After a week of Abu Ghraib, Ted Rall, and people who think Indymedia nutbars are a fifth column worth worrying over, I just want to know where all the sane people have moved to. And why didn't they leave me an address?

MD▓ ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 10:31 AM:

About "Úpater", I think "to shock" is strangely stretching a translation, at least in modern french. Too bad I don't have an etymological dictionary here to check the exact sense it might have had for Baudelaire. First bland translation coming to my mind would be "impress"...

Oh... I know just go there. Should do it.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 10:51 AM:

Paul - they're in the hospital awaiting species transplant surgery. There's a huge backlog, though, so don't expect them out anytime soon. (I'd be there, but my insurance says it's "elective" (Hah!), so I have to save up the money.)

I first encountered the word 'epater' as the title of a fanzine by our host; I asked what it meant, and that's why I understood the phrase 'epater le bourgeois' when it was used here. No criticism of Patrick is implied or should be inferred; for one thing, that was 20 years ago, or close to it. I think we tire of shock for shock's sake, the longer we live/more of it we see. Also titles are one thing, behavior is another; fanac and political discourse are also distinct critters, though there's certainly overlap.

I'm not sure it can be successfully argued that "'bourgeois sensibility' is a transcendent evil," but complacency and ivory-tower isolation certainly enable lots of things that are. Bourgeois sensibility (e.g. "we don't speak of such things") helps enable that isolation. I don't know who it was who first said "Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle that fits them all," but I'd argue that the tendency to paper over unpleasant things, or "protect" your children/family/the common people from knowing them is one of the good intentions with which the well-known road is paved.

As I was growing up, homosexuality (to pick a non-random example) was one of those things "we don't talk about." The idea that two men kissing was an unfit sight for bourgeois eyes contributed to my oppression; the staging of "kiss-ins" - lots of men kissing each other in a public place - was an important political tool. The idea was that it shouldn't BE shocking: keep doing it until it no longer is.

But that was a far cry from a specific dis on a specific freshly-dead person, for example. And it does become addictive, as Patrick says; I spent a lot of time with a lavender chip on my shoulder, coming out to people just to freak them, and thinking I was being political and brave. Sometimes I was, sometimes I was being a jerk. I've learned, more or less, to distinguish.

There was a song with the line "why must you be such an angry young man/when your future looks quite bright to me?" I took at as addressed to me directly. It helped.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 11:09 AM:

"I don't think epater le bourgeois is a fair accusation to lay on Rall."

Oh for God's sake. WHAT WAS THE FIRST SENTENCE OF MY POST? Wasn't it "Never mind the specific argument about Ted Rall"? Did the little IP packets not make it to Scotland? Does your browser render it in white on white?

Personally, I'll match you outrage for outrage; I'm as cynical about our current leadership as you, Ted Rall, and a bag full of Indymedioids. And as alarmed about the current prospect. So, I suspect, is Max Sawicky.

But apparently this doesn't matter. The script goes like this: Americans are stupid, dishonest, or deceived; they're all "fussing" about Ted Rall (cleverly hiding their "fuss" in posts which deviously begin "Never mind about Ted Rall"); and Charlie Stross, armed with the moral clarity that comes from being a citizen of the other country currently committing atrocities in Iraq, is here to set us straight. Evidently nothing I say is going to get us off this script, no matter how many times I explain that I'm making some general observations and not talking about Ted sodding Rall, so excuse me very much and please, please go on with your conversation about the moral obtuseness of Americans and, oh, yes, very important, Ted Rall.

Certainly the next time I'm tempted to put up an Electrolite post consisting of reflections about my own changing attitudes toward certain kinds of rhetoric over time, I'll remember that nobody ever reads anything except topic sentences. No percentage. The heck with it.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 11:40 AM:

Hey, hey, hey! Am I "nobody?" Did I not address your actual point? Charlie Stross doesn't speak for me. Ted Rall? (Ptoo!) We will speak of him no more!

(Or am I just too boring/conflicted/tedious/whatever...? Argh, wish I could send some of this self-doubt to Dubya, who desperately needs it.)

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 11:41 AM:

sb Am I "nobody"? Argh again.

Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 11:41 AM:

Patrick: You have a don't think of pink elephants problem going here.

Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 11:53 AM:

Regarding shock, I find the shock of the day-to-day news cycles of this week to be quite inhibiting in blogging about much else. The details of my own life seem much too trivial to mention side by side with THAT. This is not the fascination of the car wreck, of being unable to look away; rather I wake up in the morning not wanting to look at the news because what I find could be even worse that what we saw the previous day. And I feel somehow helplessly dragged along with the point-of-view character who is the monster. The U.S. in this situation drags the collective "us" along for the ride. No one else stopped this, though some tried, so it falls to the American public to do it, and to do that we can't look away. What the realtion of this kind of shock has to the kind of scandalizing of the middle class, I'm not sure. But there is something very different from the shock of art about this shock of the real.

MD▓ ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 12:04 PM:

Just give people some time Mr Nielsen Hayden, just one person addressing the thread in the wrong direction, even on multiple occasion, doesn't invalidate everyone else's worth of interest comments.

Xopher, I totally agree with the use of shock against bourgeois self-censorship and apathy as a good tool... the trouble is to know when and how to use it properly. Too much of it, or repeated poorly aimed use of it, and people will grow anesthetized or, even worse, complacent.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 12:13 PM:

"You have a don't think of pink elephants problem going here."

Kathryn, you're right. Also, I'm being much to crabby to Charlie, who is a pal and a fine upstanding (if shaggy) human being and darn good writer too.

This stuff puts us all on edge. And we get defensive. "Hey, what do you mean, trying to shock me with the enormity of it all? I was shocking you first!"

Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 12:33 PM:


Ophelia.Well, God 'ild you! They say the owl was a baker's daughter. Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be.
- Hamlet, IV:v

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 12:42 PM:

I'm about to go out and buy an expensive new espresso machine. That's the kind of shock I need right now. Patrick, you're right: the news over the past week screws with our heads.

Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 01:37 PM:


Thanks, I needed this. I think you're right; the practice of shocking people out of their complacency gets addicting, just like righteous indignation gets addicting. I've done too much of both not to recognize the justice in the comparison. Both can give you adrenalin jolts of a sort of frenzied, unwholesome joy. After a while, you're just a rat at the lever, pushing the button that gets you the joy juice. Must watch out for that. In the mean time, there are some folks I owe apologies to. Anyway, thanks. And thanks also to the link to Teresa talking sense. I needed that, too.

Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 01:39 PM:

Charile is not shaggy. He is fluffy. Like a big black dandelion head, just before you blow on it.

Mris ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 01:39 PM:

MD^2, I think for me the question is whether the shocking action is something you'd otherwise believe in saying/doing. I don't imagine that the people who participated in the kiss-ins Xopher mentioned had picked up the practice of kissing other gentlemen for the purpose of being shocking only. Rather, it was something they thought was right and reasonable (and they were right! and reasonable!), and it only needed to be done en masse to make that (shocking) point. I would think that, in an ideal world, each of them would have gone on kissing other gentlemen more or less at mutual will. It was a good thing on its own as well as being shocking at the time.

If I go up to my grandmother and say, "Grg fckng Bsh has fckd vr veterans and servicepeople in the following ways...", she will be shocked, but not by the list that follows. The shock at the language I used would be a distraction from my actual political point (that if she supports the military, she should oppose Bush), not a way to intensify it. I think that's what a lot of purely epater le bourgeois stuff does: it focuses on itself rather than on some other, better end.

Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 02:14 PM:

Shocking conduct or language, humor, outrage, dispassionate analysis, anger, cynicism, enthusiasm, all are valuable tools. All can become the end, rather than the means, which is generally a bad thing. The hard part is recognizing in yourself when you're letting the joy of using the tool blind you to the damage you're doing. Even harder sometimes is recognizing someone else's point when they suggest you ease up.

Personally, I think everyone can use a bit of shaking up now and then, but devoting a lot of your time and energy to shaking people up, to the exclusion of other forms of interaction, can be a sad way to spend your life.

Hey, can you tell that dispassionate analysis of something tangential is my preferred refuge when I can't figure out how to express my outrage at the real problem? I must have typed up half a dozen different posts on the various Abu Ghraib threads here, gone through several preview drafts of each, and ended up closing the window in frustration.

Martial ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 05:40 PM:

"when the bourgeois shock the avant garde" is still my favorite definition of "postmodernism".

Michael ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 06:04 PM:

Tastes differ. I can't agree with you, sorry... Anyway I like Tad Rall's writing. I find it sad that people have sunk into such intellectual decay as to find fault with an attempt to epater the bourgeoisie.

No, wait, actually, I don't generally like Tad Rall's writing, or attempts to epater the bourgeoisie, for the very reason that people epatering the bourgeoisie are usually full of themselves. Thus they don't actually epater anybody, so much as they delineate their own tribal boundaries and allow the bourgeoisie, far from being epatered, to ignore them completely. Except that the bourgeoisie can pick out keywords from their epatering natter so they know what they can safely not think about. If you get my drift.

Seth Ellis ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 08:18 PM:

Actually, the biggest problem with épatering the bourgeoisie is that only the bourgeois bother with it. Nobody else cares any more. Avant-gardism is a leisure activity of the bourgeois -- that is, people who have enough free time to sit around wondering whether they're shocked or not -- and has been for quite some time. Shocking the bouge has become an extremely conventional mode.

James J. Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 10:00 PM:

Oddly enough, an example of "shocking" behavior was the #1 story on "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" tonight. A man flying with his wife from Oakland to LA was bounced off a Southwest flight for wearing a t-shirt with "Good Bush - Bad Bush" written on it, with pics of female torso and the alleged leader of the free world under the relevant titles. He was wearing it under a long-sleeved shirt with several buttons undone. A flight attendant told him it was offensive, and asked him to cover it up. He did so without protest, then asked what the procedures were for filing a complaint. At that point, the pilot apparently intervened and had the man and his wife removed. They caught the next flight without incident and without wardrobe change. When asked, the man said he was a Republican, but his sense of humor knew no political boundaries.

I have a number of shirts I wear to cons that would get me bounced off that flight; the most "outrageous" is probably the Negativland "Christianity is Stupid. Give Up" shirt. At cons, people will ask about them, and interesting discussions result. As for that shirt, I consider it a succinct comment on a bloated, patriarchical, homophobic, hypocrital bureaucracy.

Do I wear it to "shock"? No more (or less) than when I put on an outfit with half-a-dozen different paisleys in it.

And, I was told the other day by the sales dweeb at my workplace not to wear any "offensive" clothing to work Monday, as Hallmark people will be coming in to do the annual slave labor (oops, I mean subcontractor) inspection. I'll probably wear that shirt, safely hidden under another, just because. As Dennis Miller said (back when he was funny), "Some of them are just for me."

Guy Matthews ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 10:06 AM:

Ted Rall: My post will have nothing to do with him *nodnod* (sorry, couldn't resist :) )

Behold today's top news item in the UK: "Holocaust on a plate"

Unfortunately that link isn't recent, for some reason the latest and greatest hasn't surfaced yet. Namely that this display is on its way to the UK and has hit a significant snag. Whilst the PETA UK site proudly announces it will be opening its UK tour in London, not... going... to... happen. As the Greater London Authority, led by our beloved (total wanker actually :P) Mayor Ken Livingstone, has banned the event.

PETA as usual? No, this definitely has to be a new record. So here're some specific thoughts:

1. Of course it's utterly offensive, effectively comparing Jews (of which I am one) to cattle and chickens. Obviously they're going for massive shock value, but to me this raises the question of relationship between shocking conduct and deeply offensive conduct, must the two go hand in hand? I generally think not, though on the one hand it's pertty much guaranteed you'll offend SOMEONE if you act in any form of outrageous manner, I feel it's an entirely different thing to very deliberately set out to offend a large group of people.

2. That being said, the jewish communbity AND the GLA are over-reacting. Yes this is utterly abhorrent, but it's not, as many are saying, anti-semitic, just insulting. As such banning the expo is pointless, just beause they appear in London does NOT mean I or anyone else has to go see the damn thing, let them express themslves freely, and let US express ourselves by not showing up.

3. Finally, and I suppose most relevant to this discussion, does this work? I think it's completely pointless, obviously not a single soul in the jewish community will get behind this movement, all we're feeling is revulsion and grief, not sympathy for the cause OR the animals, heck I'm going to go out and buy a couple extra steaks to spite these people :P. The rest of the world has mixed reactions, I listened for 2 hours to a cross section of londoners calling in to discuss this nonsense, some people amazingly enough felt they could agree full on with the holocaust=slaughterhouse/factory farm comparison, others were revolted, very few were indifferent. But does any of that matter? Those who were agreeing were already vegetarians, each n every one of em, and I doubt any meat eaters will change their ways over something this agressive. Logic suggests the correct application of shock effect would be to get the ministers responsible and other people in authority to actually visit some of the worst slaughterhouse sites in the middle of a workday, with the intent of promoting stronger enforcement of anti-cruelty legislations. Comparing jews to cattle to convert meat eaters into vegetarians? Not a very good strategy.

skippy ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 03:42 PM:

hey, could we talk about ted rall for a minute?

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 06:42 PM:

Patrick and Ulrika:

Charlie appears to be no longer either shaggy or fluffy. See this recent picture from Plokta.con.

Paul (another one) ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 09:15 AM:

Here's a nifty dichotomy:

a) People who are smart

z) People who are not smart

Here's another dichotomy:

a) People who 'get it.'

z) People who will never 'get it.'

And here's the part most pertinent to the discussion of Ted Rall.. er... I mean 'epater le bourgeois:'

Given the difference between a and z in both of the above, there are three kinds of people.

1) People who use the difference as a tool for their own personal or partisan ends.

2) People who see the difference as a dangerous tool in the hands of the people we talked about in #1 above.

3) People who score closer to z in both the above dichotomies.

So the question is: If you fall into category 2, how do you go about devising a way to protect yourself and others from the category 1 people without going insane?

Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 08:04 PM:

Charlie appears to be no longer either shaggy or fluffy.

Less fluffy, I grant you. On the other hand, at some angles he now bears an eerie resemblance to David Bratman. Transatlantic dopplegangers of doom, skeedeeboomboom. And moreover, yikes.

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 12:40 PM:

Thanks, Dan for the baker's daughter reference. It was also, strangely enough, referred to on Making Light, not all that long ago.

Reading one of Clive James' books of essays quite a few years back, one part stuck with me. He wrote he was glad he wasn't tested by being brought up in or overtaken by a regime like the Nazis, because he couldn't be sure he would not end up like a prison camp guard. This thought haunted him for some years. Under different circumstances, we "know not what we may be".

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 12:43 PM:

... should that be "Thanks, Dan," ... (where's that special vacuum nozzle for the cat again)?

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 01:28 AM:

1. On Ted Rall - you can't keep people from talking about him because he's _interesting_. That's why they keep returning to the subject even though you wanted to talk about something else.

(I went and read the comics and columns in question and I don't think he's too harsh at all: I also don't think he's really harsher than the slew of people I swam through to end up here. That's a pun. Elephantine, as usual)

2. I've thought about the "epater le bourgeois" issue off and on for, um, thirty-seven years or so. My father used to refer to some folks as the "freak brigade" (Actually, I think it was something slightly different, but I could sit here in a fog for hours trying to recall the one word I want, and never get on with what I want the word for) -- these were people who dressed funny and had hair down below their knees and talked real loud and used bad language.

You know what? They served a damned fine purpose. They stretched out the field of discourse, so that for a brief time there one could speak frankly and _truly_ moderately about the state of the world, and not be labelled a nutcase by phony right-wing extremist "moderates." When we lost our freak brigade to the attrition of mellowing age and the need to earn a living, we also lost all the left end of the field of discourse. What's now considered the left is where the dead middle used to be. The current pall on real conversation makes the chill of the McCarthy era look like a free-speech festival.

3. However, going back to Ted Rall because he's interesting and you can't stop me, he's _not_ what I would call extreme.

Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2004, 09:24 PM:

The Pentagon now says that Tillman was probably killed by friendly fire.

So - regardless of our attitudes toward Rall's cartoon - ironically, Rall may have been right after all when he asserted that Tillman died for no purpose.

Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2004, 09:26 PM:

The Pentagon now says that Tillman was probably killed by friendly fire.

So - regardless of our attitudes toward Rall's cartoon - ironically, Rall may have been right after all when he asserted that Tillman died for no purpose.

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2004, 09:53 PM:

Mr. Oldendorf do I understand you to say that:

if Sergeant Tillman was killed by the enemy he was running toward then he died for some purpose

if Sergeant Tillman was killed by the men of his unit behind him then he died for no purpose?

Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2004, 11:03 PM:

Mr. Myers -
I wasn't actually putting forth my opinion on the circumstances of Sgt. Tillman's death, just bringing the new information to this thread. My own feelings are conflicted, a mixture of admiration for his heroism combined with disgust at our leaders.

The point of my posting (...and sorry for the double post...) was more to note that a change in the circumstances of Tillman's death might alter our perception of the tragedy.