I’ve tried to write about this a couple of times since I heard the story from Michael Bérubé, but I couldn’t do it justice because it makes my brain go all woozly. Patrick couldn’t deal with it either. To heck with artful journalism. Here’s the flat telling:
No, really. They think he’s brilliant. They think he knows what he’s talking about. He subs for Michelle Malkin.
(We will now pause to give veterans of the old GEnie SFRT time to quit screaming, catch their breath, and wipe off their screens.)
(Patrick, peering over my shoulder, reminds me that Dafydd is still remembered by the veterans of several online SF discussion venues for having repeatedly trashed the discourse. When Dafydd gets into an argument, which he almost always does, his sheer personal obnoxiousness can be so prodigious that, years later, people still talk about it with awe.)
Moving on to the specific occasion of this post:
Dafydd’s quickly gotten the hang of his new gig. He was being truthless and abusive just yesterday at Big Lizards, doing freestyle smears of Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwen—both of whom are far better writers and political analysts than he is—on utterly specious grounds:
Let’s start with Patterico, since his case is the clearest—and the least important in the grand scheme of things, relating only to the execrable Amanda Marcott of Pandagon and Melissa McEwen of Shakespeare’s Sister—neither of whom contributes much if anything to the national discourse.This is not a line Dafydd should pursue. After all, when Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwen landed paying gigs doing blogging for the Edwards campaign, everyone who heard the news and was already acquainted with them did not immediately phone half-a-dozen friends and scream, “YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS!” and “OH MY GOD THEY THINK HE’S SMART!”
Patterico is appalled that apparently, both Marcott and McEwen actually resigned because they received (they say) “threats” and “ugly e-mails and comments.” I use the word “apparently” accurately, because in fact, we have no evidence whatsoever that they really received anything, or at least not the e-mails seemingly quoted at Firedoglake.I have many times seen Dafydd refer to having received communications in the mail, some of which were harder to believe in than the hate mail that’s lately been aimed at Marcotte and McEwen. I don’t recall him even once starting out from the assumption that he was required to physically prove that he’d received the mail.
I certainly don’t recall him—or anyone else, ever—arguing the principle that if someone says they’ve received mail, but they don’t immediately provide convincing externally certified proof that said mail was received, you’re entitled to call them a liar and launch into general smears of their judgement and character.
I guess it was all he could think of at the time. That’s the trouble with going pro: you have to keep cranking the stuff out, even when you’re short on inspiration.
What I do recall, quite clearly, is that Dafydd was notorious for making sweeping unsourced claims, and arguing at vast length—but almost never backing down—when the other people present took his assertions apart point by point, documenting their own arguments every step of the way. His usual response was to make more sweeping unsourced claims, and get hurt, angry, petulant, and loud when others were less than polite about them. It was one of the main ways he trashed conversations. Who knew it would turn out to be a saleable skill?
Lefties and liberals make almost a religious fetish out of claiming to have received death threats.Malarkey. Dafydd hung out online with lefties and liberals for years, and nobody was slinging death threats. Well, okay, there was that one memorable incident where someone made one implicitly, and Yog Sysop actually lost his temper; but that was only a right-left thing if foreign nationals and royalists count. Outside the online SF forums, the main source of talk about death threats is the right-wing media, usually because they’re making them. This is sometimes discussed by leftists, almost all of whom illustrate their remarks by linking to specific quotations that were put up online by the people who made the threats.
But let’s take a more general look at Dafydd’s assertion. If leftists and liberals are constantly making a big deal about death threats, shouldn’t the subject show up on Google Trends? It does: one vertical spike, in April 2004, which is almost certainly the story about 9-11 Commission member Jamie Gorelick received death threats at a time when she was under attack by the right-wing media.
Purely by chance, while I was Googling on April 2004 I found this.
They use the claim as a truncheon to attack anyone who disputes any portion of what they argue: ‘here’s some of the mail I recieved from the Rethuglican hate machine — now whose side are you on?’Fibber.
People who’ve argued with Dafydd have frequently been far more diligent, responsible, and hygienic than he has. I don’t recall a single one of them using death threats as an excuse.
Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwen got hit with truckloads of vicious hatemail after Bill Donohue and the Catholic League pretended to be shocked and offended by Marcotte’s language (yeah, right), and revved up the troops. It was a political hit; nothing to do with Christianity. The result? Both of them have quit their jobs with the Edwards campaign—and they and other bloggers will hesitate before speaking so freely again.
I’ve been the recipient of that kind of abuse, though not in that quantity. So has Patrick. You know the nursery rhyme about sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me? Not true. It does real damage. Has a PTSD feel to it. Joy is the engine of our spirits, and it takes it all away. You get depressed, and hurt all over. Your own words fail you. The damage can last for years.
That’s the intended effect. It’s meant to hurt—to be so nauseating and dispiriting that the person who’s the target shuts down and stops communicating. It’s not just a matter of triumphing (albeit by grossly unfair means) in the argument of the moment. The underlying message is: We don’t care about what’s right, or fair, or accurate. We care about winning. If you stand against us, you will lose, and we will hurt you as much as we can for having fought us. We will wreck your career, and hurt the people around you and the things you care for. If you cry out, we will hurt you for that, too.
To quote the invaluable Digby:
Now they’ve got Bill “anal sex” Donohue working the NY Times like it’s a cheap whore, braying in faux outrage that he’s “offended” by something that Marcotte wrote in the past about Catholicism. Please. This game has gone on long enough.If lying to us has become an industrial process, so has verbal bullying and abuse. That’s the field in which Dafydd is now writing. There’s no question that Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwen took a bad hit from Donohue and his fake-Christian minions. They said so when they quit the Edwards campaign. Big Lizards/Dafydd ab Hugh is going after them because they said they got hurt:
Republicans write books calling Democrats traitors and calling for the internment of all American Muslims. They have hate radio shows with listeners in the millions, in which they call liberals cockroaches and compare them to terrorists and child molesters. These same radio show hosts are invited to the white house for strategy sessions and are feted by the conservative press as if they are heroes.
The idea, dim as it is, is to contrast the bile the Left spews out with the even more wretched and revolting vile supposedly spewed out by their enemies on the Right,I’m about as bilious right now as anything Dafydd runs into, and I’m being nicer to him than he was to Marcotte and McEwen. His column is, in fact, wretched, revolting, and vile.
I didn’t use to think he was this bad. I was willing to believe he was such an inept thinker and debater that his wholesale slaughter of formerly interesting conversations was unintentional, and his angry splutterings the habitual ill-judged reaction of a man who was in over his head. I don’t recall Dafydd being this deliberately malign. I think it’s a learned thing he’s picked up from the context in which he now operates. I don’t think he understands that over the long run it’s going to cost him his soul. He really is kind of hapless.