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November 12, 2013

Conventional views
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:32 PM * 208 comments

Richard Cohen, of whom I was happily unaware until today, appears to have made an arse of himself in an opinion piece in the Washington Post. This paragraph has been much-quoted:

Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.

The content of this little gem has been factually refuted, mocked, and criticized all over the internet, but I don’t think anyone’s really appreciated its form. I found it…inspiring.


People with conventional views
must repress a gag reflex:
a white man married to a black
woman! With biracial children!

Must repress! A gag reflects
a deeply troubled party.
Women with biracial children
have enveloped parts of America.

A deeply troubled party,
mainstreaming what used to be avant-garde,
has enveloped parts of America.
This doesn’t look like their country.

Mainstreaming what used to be avant-garde
when considering the mayor-elect?
This doesn’t look like their country.
(Should I mention that?)

When considering the mayor-elect,
“a white man married to a black”,
should I mention that
today’s GOP is not racist?
Comments on Conventional views:
#1 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 05:05 PM:

Brava!

#2 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 05:06 PM:

Richard Cohen, 2003: "The evidence Colin Powell presented to the United Nations — some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail — had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn't accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool — or possibly a Frenchman — could conclude otherwise."

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 05:16 PM:

Richard Cohen doesn't make me happy, but this post does.

#4 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 05:34 PM:

This is outstanding.

Having been studying the pantun or pantoum for a while I can't help but notice that the line at the start "People with conventional views" becomes "Today's GOP is not racist" at the end. I approve these hidden subtexts intentional or not.

#5 ::: Laura ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 05:38 PM:

It looks to me as though he's saying that Christie would be most electable for the country, but not in Iowa, where "conventional views" are held.

I find the view he holds of Iowans, especially of "conservative Christian" Iowans, nauseating and not terribly correct. It's especially hilarious when you consider that he thinks that "used to be a lesbian" would be considered a slur to social conservatives. "Reformed!" they would cheer.

I don't consider myself a religious conservative. I interact with many over the course of the week. And you know? Some of them are interracial couples, with biracial children. In Iowa.

Not saying racism doesn't exist in Iowa. It surely does. But gag reflexes? Really?

Come to school with some of my children's friends. The ones whose parents refuse to run a business on Sunday. Or the ones who have a parent who preaches on Saturday and Sunday. Or the ones who met while at Bible study at college. What do those friends have in common? Their parents aren't from the same phenotype or similar genotypes. And then watch how many people come to concerts with these kids, or babysit a child, or do all of the social interactions that are part of the fabric of daily life with nary a gag reflex.

#6 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 05:54 PM:

That's beautifully done.

#7 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 06:09 PM:

Looking at the Elspeth Reeve article which listed all the things which have previously made Richard Cohen gag, all I could think was "man should get something done about that reflux". He seems to have a more sensitive stomach than either someone in the early stages of pregnancy, or someone in the middle of heavy chemotherapy if just being faced with certain situations makes him want to upchuck. It can't be comfortable for him.

Possibly the introduction of Obamacare will allow him to find a doctor to get this condition treated... if, of course, the notion of Obamacare doesn't make him want to throw up as well. I wonder whether he's tried peppermint tea?

#8 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 06:18 PM:

Of course, some women who "used to be lesbians" who marry men are called...

...bisexuals.

But that too would probably make the poor man ill. What must it be like to have such a delicate constitution?

#9 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 06:20 PM:

Tangentially, Mr Cohen: no, you should not mention that Chirlane McCray "used to be a lesbian", because you're almost certainly wrong. I think this is most likely to be a case of bisexual erasure, and that we're discussing a bisexual woman who previously had relationships with women and is now married to a man.

(Of course, I could be wrong. It is not completely impossible that something could have happened to change her orientation, though as far as I can tell it's uncommon. But, in the absence of any statement from her, if he's got to make an assumption about her at all, then the most reasonable one is to assume that she's bisexual.)

#10 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 06:47 PM:

Megpie71 #7: "man should get something done about that reflux"

LOL!

I find it disgusting that he presumes to declare that his Neanderthal prejudices are "conventional" views.

#11 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 07:06 PM:

For the benefit of those of us who have previously been blissful in our ignorance, what is this Richard Cohen item, and why is it that his views should hold any sway? Just, you know, curious.

#12 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 07:07 PM:

Thank you, abi, your post has cleansed my brain of the disgust engendered by Richard Cohen's barbaric statements. Although the tarnish on our common name remains. I think he should change it to "Conventional".

#13 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 07:16 PM:

You are lucky never to have heard of him--he has been a very powerful and influential figure in D.C. for many decades, and many administrations. And he has always been a very bad man.

He has retained his power and his influence by being a one-man version of "even the liberal New Republic says." His views are always predictably reactionary and ugly. He always gives aid and comfort to the right wing. He is the best friend that Republicans could have. But for some reason, he is treated as though he is on the liberal team.

And then, his mouthing of predictably right-wing talking-points is taken as evidence that the right wing talking-points must be the common-sense, moderate, non-ideological view, since
even the liberal Richard Cohen says that we should invade Iraq,
even the liberal Richard Cohen says that we should restrict abortion,
even the liberal Richard Cohen says that we should cut taxes on the wealthy,
even the liberal Richard Cohen says that we should bust unions,
even the liberal Richard Cohen says we should shred the safety net,
and on and on and on.

He is a particularly virulent form of a characteristically D.C. disease, and the sooner he is fired from his job, the better. I just wrote to the WaPo editors telling them that it is time for him to go, and I urge everyone else to do so, too.

#14 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 07:29 PM:

Mongoose @9, “the absence of any statement from her”? Here are her own words: “In the 1970s, I identified as a lesbian, and wrote about it. In 1991, I met the love of my life, married him, and together we’ve raised two amazing kids. I’m reminded every day how lucky I am to have met my soulmate.” The “wrote about it” part refers to an essay she wrote for Essence magazine in 1979, titled “I am a Lesbian”.

You could’ve found all that just by going to Wikipedia.

#15 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 07:30 PM:

The quote provided by Steven in #2 is quite enough to put this guy on the Nucking Fitwit list.

#16 ::: skzb ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 07:41 PM:

I know, but, the trouble is, the Devil is appearing on my shoulder, and wants me to go somewhere Republicanoid and say, "Cohen. Isn't that a Jewish name?"

#17 ::: Edmund Schweppe ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 07:52 PM:

Sometimes my sense of humor disgusts even myself. I saw skzb's comment @15 and realized that bar pbhyq pbzovar Evpuneq "qvpx" naq Pbura "xvxr" gb perngr "qlxr", juvpu vf nyfb na ba-gbcvp fyhe haqre gur pvephzfgnaprf.

#18 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 07:53 PM:

15
I think they've probably stuffed that down behind the couch-cushions of their minds.

#19 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 07:58 PM:

"Used to be a lesbian"? I think we have here yet another instance of the Amazing Invisible Bisexual.

Also, "people with conventional views" is almost certainly code for "me, Dick Cohen". This is an extremely common trope used to disguise one's personal opinions by ascribing them to some larger group to which one belongs. I've done it myself, albeit using different groups for camouflage.

Lovely poem, abi.

#20 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 08:02 PM:

18

I've never done it myself, but I'm sure that people with conventional views do it a lot.

Yeah, in my earlier expression of extreme irk, I forgot to compliment Abi on her poem.

Cool poem, Abi!

#21 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 08:04 PM:

Delightful! I mean the post, not Richard Cohen.

I cannot imagine by what stretch of the imagination this racist and otherwise bigoted* right-wing asshole could possibly be considered a liberal.

I heard the Post is claiming that one line was just "poorly edited" and isn't really racist. They don't make a case for this, they just assert it. I guess if you're publishing a paragraph like that, with an obvious, blatant lie in the first five words, you're pretty fucking poorly edited.

*As mentioned, he slanders the good people of Iowa.

#22 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 08:08 PM:

I first read his name as Richard Corben.
That would have been an improvement.

#24 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 12:49 AM:

Neil W @4: Care to make a small wager on whether that was intentional or not? (You get to take the side of "not".)

#25 ::: 'As You Know' Bob ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 01:08 AM:

Richard Cohen, of whom I was happily unaware until today...

You're lucky.

He came to my attention back in 2006, when he did a column deploring American education for requiring high school students to pass a course in algebra: What Is the Value of Algebra?

He pointed out that he himself was incapable of algebra, and therefore nobody else could possibly have any use for it. He said that his course in typing better equipped him to make his way in the world. He's been on my "Never Read" list ever since.

And yet he remains a pundit with a national stage, pontificating on public policy (...presumably including issues such as the budget and the economy...): after he cheerfully told us that he doesn't understand algebra.

#26 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 02:44 AM:

Richard Cohen is, as this old Obsidian Wings post reminds us, the author of one of the classic Bush-era 9/11isms:

"In a post-Sept. 11 world, I thought the prudent use of violence could be therapeutic."

(Set off in block quotes as a public safety measure.)

#27 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 02:45 AM:

More words from the future first lady of New York: “I am more than just a label … Labels put people in boxes, and those boxes are shaped like coffins. Finding the right person can be so hard that often, when a person finally finds someone she or he is comfortable with, she or he just makes it work.”

and when asked whether she is still a lesbian:

“Sexuality is a fluid thing and it’s personal. I don’t even understand the question, quite frankly.”

(from)

#28 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 02:47 AM:

ObSF:
"He's bisexual, you know."
"Was bisexual. Now he's monogamous."

(Which is a little problematical out of context; in context, it's clear that she means behaviorally, not that his orientation actually changed.)

Avram, #23: That's outstanding. Much better than the original.

#29 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 03:07 AM:

I have no problem with complaints about Cohen’s description of McCray that point out that she rejects rigid labels for sexual identity. And it’s pretty obvious that Cohen’s “used to be a lesbian” was meant as a cheap shot.

But to stick the label “bisexual” on someone who rejects labels is nearly as problematic, right? Take it easy on the “bisexual erasure” language until you know she identifies that way.

#30 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 04:21 AM:

Neil W @4; David Goldfarb @24:

I would never dream of boring you both by providing an easy answer to this enigma.

#31 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 08:21 AM:

David Goldfarb @24, Abi @30

Is the meaning of the change intentional or not?
A challenge and a wager is given.
I honestly don't think it matters a lot;
Nevertheless my side has been chosen.

A challenge and a wager is given,
A side bet on a witty commentary.
Nevertheless my side has been chosen
Further participation unecessary.

A side bet on a witty commentary
With only honour, and not much of that, at stake.
Further participation unecessary
The issue hardly needs to be re-raked.

With only honour, and not much of that, at stake
I honestly don't think it matters a lot.
The issue hardly needs to be re-raked;
Is the change of the meaning intentional or not?

#32 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 08:38 AM:

Neil W (31): ::applause::

#33 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 08:38 AM:

The absurd thing is that this isn't even the first time this week Richard Cohen has said something astonishingly ignorant about race. Just last wednesday he was revealing the personal revelation that he had when watching Twelve Years a Slave:

"I sometimes think I have spent years unlearning what I learned earlier in my life. For instance…slavery was not a benign institution in which mostly benevolent whites owned innocent and grateful blacks."

Mongoose @9:

I don't doubt that Cohen is just as forehead-smackingly ignorant and unreconstructed on sexual issues as he is of racial issues, but I actually have a hard time finding factual fault with that specific point of the piece. At one point Chirlaine McCray very publicly identified as lesbian. Now she clearly does not. (In interviews I've seen she basically rejects any labels.) Of course the way Cohen deploys it as further proof of the ickiness of the DeBlasio-McCray family is silly, and one could wish for a phrasing that more delicately acknowledged the complicated interplay of sexual desire, romantic relationships, and public identity, but if one can accurately say "she used to be a lesbian" of anyone, then I think Chirlaine McCray qualifies.

#34 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 08:42 AM:

I'm impressed by the poem: thank you.

I'm with Laura @ 5; I'm not certain where his ideas of "conventional" come from. I'm in and from the South, not Iowa--but my sister is married to a black man, and no one (in a small town in a still-racist part of the South) is either surprised or upset. My wife's good friends growing up--way out on the "paranoid right" edge of things*--two of their children are in mixed-race marriages; they are entirely OK with this.

*As in, their children who are my age didn't have Social Security numbers until getting them themselves as adults.

#35 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 09:47 AM:

re 34: Cohen is a classic inside-the-beltway "liberal" who believes that civilization ends somewhere between Alexandria and Fredericksburg to the south and around Gaithersburg heading west. He also adopted this irritating contrarian shtick which I presume allows him to think himself profound. Many decades ago he was somewhat interesting as a commentator on local affairs, but his promotion to the national desk was very quickly shown to be a mistake; unfortunately for whatever reason the Post is apparently never going to admit this and put him out to pasture. It also might have helped if some editor had come over to Cohen's desk and inquired of him what-in-the-hell he was talking about, but, yeah, death of editing and all that. But as it stands, he is America's foremost example of the Peter Principle in journalism.

#36 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 10:43 AM:

Lee @ 19: Also, "people with conventional views" is almost certainly code for "me, Dick Cohen".

More likely Cohen, always prone to self-valorizing, believes his views are unconventional. He is more or less an Unfrozen 1960s Liberal. (Think of all the "liberals" back then who worried that "Negroes are moving too fast" or "Women are getting too pushy" or "Anti-war people are going too far.")

He is using "conventional" as a pejorative directed at people he has never met and doesn't know, but suspects are nonetheless racists because the last time he looked was 1968.

#37 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 11:06 AM:

25
I'd forgotten he was the author of that particular display of ignorance.

#38 ::: Brother Guy ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 11:42 AM:

Thank you for taking that piece of ugliness and turning it into something... better. And on top of everything else, now I know what a pantoum is.

Even though my spellchecker apparently doesn't.

#39 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 11:59 AM:

Abi: Applause.

My parents got married in 1956, a few months before I was born. At that time Richard Cohen was 15, and interracial marriage was legal in the state where he lived. Granted, people were hostile enough to it that one celebrated couple moved to a country where they felt more tolerated, the Soviet Union. Things have changed a bit since then, but Richard Cohen doesn't seem to have noticed.

#40 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 12:12 PM:

#25 :'As You Know' Bob

He pointed out that he himself was incapable of algebra....

How happy he is to have found a job as a pundit, then! He couldn't be a doctor or nurse, a machinist, a chemist, or run a grocery store.

He is joyfully proclaiming that he is unable to reason all the way from A to B (a fact that he proves in his columns on a weekly basis), and that his ability to hold two facts in his head at the same time is lacking (ditto).

As to the subject of his linked column, he has come down firmly on the side of making a high school diploma a piece of worthless paper and crippling America! Well done, Richard!

#41 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 12:54 PM:

re 36: Exactly so.

#42 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 02:32 PM:

Ta-Nehisi Coates puts Cohen's column into the context of Cohen's previous descents into racism and sexism.: "Context" is not a safe word that makes all your other horse-shit statements disappear. And horse-shit is the context in which Richard Cohen has, for all these years, wallowed.

#43 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 02:43 PM:

Well, as I said yesterday, I'm thinking seriously about going into maths tutoring. I could teach him to do algebra.

However, there is the inconvenient thing that I'd want paying in £ rather than $. Do you suppose he's able to use an online currency converter?

#44 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 03:21 PM:

Avram, #29: I can't speak for anyone else, but my comment was directed at Cohen for (apparently) not even thinking about the possibility. Frankly, that's the most charitable interpretation of the "used to be a lesbian" thing. Another one, perhaps more likely, is that he's bought into the "being gay is a choice" narrative... or is at least pretending to have done so because that gets him adulation from the Right People.

This is something that bugs the shit out of me, because I have a couple of bisexual female friends who are married to men and talk about how frustrating it is when people assume that their previous relationships with other women were "just going thru a phase" or similar BS. And of course, it's also one more illustration of false-binary thinking; we just recently had that conversation around gender and trans* people.

DaveL, #36: After reading the list of things that make Richard Cohen want to gag, I disagree with your assessment. This appears to be one of his catchphrases, and is usually deployed in exactly the way I described.

#45 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 03:49 PM:

Also, I am becroggled by the number of people (here and elsewhere) who seem to be convinced that Cohen is a liberal. All you have to do to figure out that he's not is read his words.

#46 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 03:59 PM:

re 44: I think you (and TNC) are over-analyzing this. "Gag" is obviously one of his catchphrases, but I don't think it means "I'm having a gut reaction just like everyone else"; it means "I don't have to think through how I or for that matter someone else would react to things." So in this context it means "I, the all-knowing pundit, don't have to know the man, er, person on the street in Iowa to know that they are going to find de Blasio’s household distasteful." Which does not of course explain the Lesbian side comment.

In the larger picture, as far as being a columnist is concerned I have to say that the greater sin is him opining on things about which he knows little and about which he has poorly formed opinions. I'm not so much concerned over whether he thinks people in Iowa are bigots because they do or do not think as he does, but I really don't think he has any basis for offering up an opinion about people in Iowa at all. Therefore even if I don't think we was being that racist at this particular time, I still think the Post ought to dump him as a pollutant in the lake of public discourse.

#47 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 04:07 PM:

Lee, the standards of being "liberal" have changed a lot in thirty years. I'm pretty sure Cohen thinks he is a liberal, and certainly back around 1981 (when his column went national) everyone characterized him as such.

#48 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 04:29 PM:

DaveL @36, but he explicitly describes them as “not racist”. That’s a major part of what’s going on. He’s saying that there’s a group of people in the GOP who feel like gagging when they see an interracial couple, and that those people are “conventional” and “not racist”. He doesn’t mean “conventional” as a pejorative.

And if he did, what the fuck?! Guy’s getting paid for writing a column in a major national newspaper. One of the job requirements ought to be knowing what common words mean.

#49 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 04:40 PM:

More of Chirlaine McCray's own words:
When Essence asked McCray this past May how she told her now-husband "about your past," she said she'd handed him that Essence essay and said, "Look, this is who I am and you should read this." Asked if she was "still attracted to women," McCray answered, "I'm married, I'm monogamous, but I'm not dead and Bill isn't either." She also quoted a friend: "It's not whom you love; it's that you love."
- from here; emphasis mine

C. Wingate, #47: Yeah, well, you can call a chair a table too, but that doesn't make it one. What matters isn't what Cohen said in 1981 or whenever, but what he's saying right now, today, in 2013. And what he's saying right now is emphatically NOT liberal, so quit calling him that forghodsake! Anybody who can seriously argue that it was okay for Trayvon Martin to be killed -- because of what he was wearing, no less! -- is no liberal, full stop.

(And on the topic of "gag reflexes," anyone who can read that column and not have it happen has no humanity left in them. It is OBSCENE.)

#50 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 04:42 PM:

48: It occurs to me that the fact that we're even having such a disagreement over what he meant is testimony to his incompetence as a columnist.

#51 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 04:43 PM:

I'm of almost exactly Cohen's age and provenance (73, New York Jew), and I'm regularly flammagasted by his incomprehension of the way things are different now from, say, 1960.

Living in DC as I do, I get two newspapers: The Post, for the funnies, and the New York Times for news and comment. The main Op-Ed columnists in the Post are (with the exception of E. J. Dionne, who's merely fairly dull, and Eugene Robinson, who's reliably liberal) practically all troglodytes: George Will, Robert Samuelson, Charles Krauthammer, Michael Gerson, Kathleen Parker, Jennifer Rubin, and the occasional blathering from Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor.

Why Cohen gets counted as a liberal is a mystery to me. But I stopped reading him years ago, and only do so when someone calls his column to my attention.

#52 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 06:20 PM:

Is there some special process used to choose columnists at top newspapers, used to find particularly unreflective people, particularly lacking in insight and knowledge? "Hey, we need to hand someone a megaphone that will give their words enormous exposure and power. Let's find someone who makes Archie Bunker look well-educated and broadminded!"

#53 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 06:58 PM:

Neil W @31: Bravo!

#54 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 07:55 PM:

Theophylact @ 51: Why Cohen gets counted as a liberal is a mystery to me.

Cohen's opinions are not out of line for liberal opinion in the year his opinions formed and froze, which I guess was around 1965, or maybe earlier. He's not a liberal by today's standards, much less a progressive. He's a museum piece.

I read him in the Post when I was a kid (before the Atlantic Ocean existed) and thought him even then boring and conventional, but the sort of boring and conventional person who thinks of himself as exciting and unconventional. Whenever I check in on him again he hasn't changed, and I think he has never made any effort to change, being a Post Columnist-for-life.

#55 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 08:36 PM:

DaveL, #54: I thought it was conservatives who insisted on living in the past. This insistence that Cohen should still be classified as a liberal because that's what he used to be, in the teeth of glaringly-obvious evidence that the categorization no longer fits, is incomprehensible.

#56 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 08:54 PM:

Lee 28: (Which is a little problematical out of context; in context, it's clear that she means behaviorally, not that his orientation actually changed.)

Just so. I remember once at a gathering I was talking to a friend, and I said that it was impossible to be both a practicing bisexual and in a monogamous relationship, and a passerby yelled at me that I didn't know what I was talking about.

I didn't think that it would be useful to define terms with her. She was reacting to what she'd probably heard a lot of people say (that bisexuals are incapable of fidelity*) rather than what I actually said, and it sure didn't seem like she was inclined to listen. I just avoided her from then on, and I don't think either of us suffered by it.

Ibid. 55: I thought it was conservatives who insisted on living in the past.

Bingo! Liberals keep pace with the times and update their opinions according to new facts and changing social conditions. That's what makes someone a liberal.

Or, of course, the shifting of the Overton Window. But that only makes someone a "liberal," like Obama or Reagan or Nixon, not a liberal.

*No, I don't think that's true.

#57 ::: janeyolen ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 09:36 PM:

Oh Abi--we are not worthy!!! That was magnificent.

Jane

#58 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 09:51 PM:

Xopher: Well, you could be a bisexual and be serially monogamous. But yes, I get your point.

Re Cohen, one of the disappointments of the gradual shift from print to electronic media is that it's no longer practical to use Cohen's column to wrap dead fish.

#59 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 10:23 PM:

Lila @ 58: That could describe Holly Near, but she self-identifies differently:

Why don't you identify as a bisexual?

I don't know why. Just isn't a handle I relate to. I include human and civil rights in all that I do. I am monogamous. I relate to that term. I am a feminist. If I am with a woman I am a feminist. If I am alone I am a feminist. If I am with a man I am a feminist. And until the one I am with and I part ways, then I am just what I am in that relationship and I don't much think about what I will do next. I focus more on what I bring to that relationship. It is a full time job being honest one moment at a time, remembering to love, to honor, to respect. It is a practice, a discipline, worthy of every moment. I think my feminism and my ability to love has been highly informed by having had lesbian relationships. The quality of my life has, without question, been elevated.

For a brief moment in time I struggled with sexual identity, somewhere in the mid eighties. Then I realized it was the wrong question for me. That is not to say it is the wrong question for others. It just wasn't important to me. So I haven't really thought much about it since. I am going to sing lesbian love songs and support gay rights no matter what. The rest is public relations.

I kind of love those last two sentences.

#60 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 10:33 PM:

Richard Cohen is a liberal. And a lot of liberals are racists. You're welcome to claim they're No True Liberals, and I agree they aren't out-and-out bigots like Cohen, but they are perfectly content to live in a racist society. I wish this weren't true, but it is.

Facing this fact is necessary, I think, to make actual progress on race.

#61 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 10:46 PM:

if there's such a thing as serial monogomy, is there also such a thing as parallel monogamy?

#62 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 10:49 PM:

Erik Nelson @ 61: Yes. It's practiced by pairs of twins.

#63 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 10:54 PM:

Me @ 60: I hasten to add that while there's a lot of economic diversity among the crowd here, very few of you are social liberals. Like me, you are socially radical. I think that's a Good Thing and part of why I like it here.

#64 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 11:10 PM:

I thought serial monogamy meant using only one tone-row for all your compositions. #MalapropDictionary

#65 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 11:22 PM:

Chris W @ 33: despicable as Cohen has frequently been, I think you're unfairly misreading the sentence you quote; do you really think he just now realized that slavery was vile? IMO, he's at least being honest about having been taught the mint-julep version of history; I've run into people of that vintage who don't even acknowledge that they were spoon-fed racism in their childhoods.

#66 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 11:22 PM:

There is a lot of economic diversity in my life. Wealth gets diverted away from me.

#67 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 11:25 PM:

But Lila, you wouldn't be a practicing bisexual during any of them. You'd be a practicing homosexual (or Lesbian) during your same-sex relationships, and a practicing heterosexual during your other ones.

I suppose one could make the case that one is a practicing bisexual over the course of an entire relationship if one's partner changes from strongly male-identified to strongly female-identified (or vice versa), but I would dispute that. 'Practicing bisexual' means having an ongoing willingness to have sex with people of either gender, and if you're monogamous you are only (in practice) willing to have sex with whatever gender (of the many-or-none a person could be) your partner happens to be.

This is one of those things (like that dumb "tree falls in the forest" thing) that seem disputable until you define terms, and then are obvious.

#68 ::: Teka Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 11:55 PM:

@67: I can't speak for Lila, but I identify as bisexual because I have been attracted to both men and women. I am married to a man, and monogamous, but that doesn't negate my fundamental orientation.

#69 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 12:11 AM:

Xopher, I think that this is unlikely to be a productive discussion because you've defined 'practicing' so you can say something technically true that is also bisexual erasure when said by almost anyone else. I am deeply uncomfortably separating practicing from lapsed sexual orientations. It suggests to me that no one is really gay unless they are currently having the gay sex (so as long as you're celibate, you aren't doomed to hell, you terrible sinner you) (so you don't really know what you feel, it's just a phase, you'll grow out of it when you meet the right man) (so bisexual people don't exist in the slightest because they're actually rapid-cycling gay-straight people).

I am straight*. I am not more straight because I have straight sex on a regular basis. I was straight before I started dating. I was straight in high school. I will continue to be straight when I am not having straight sex on a regular basis.

'Practicing' vs 'lapsed' doesn't seem like a useful distinction at all except to come up with a way for 'love the sinner, hate the sin' to make sense.

*values of 'straight' that include 'could meet the right woman sometime, but really, really unlikely'.

#70 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 12:38 AM:

Teka @ 68

Seconded. It's tiresome when people want to pretend that I stop being all of who I am, just because I make choices (like marriage!) that affect my whole life. (I didn't stop being bisexual when I became a mom, either.) The fact that I am bisexual and choose to be with anyone - male or female - is me practicing my bisexuality.

I am the only person who gets to decide what length of period is meaningful vs. arbitrary when it comes to my life and my identity. I don't have to sleep with a different person every night to be bisexual. I don't have to limit myself to carefully balanced threesomes or compensate in any other way to prove that I'm bisexual. Anyone that I choose to sleep with, as a bisexual, is part of me being bisexual - is, by definition, me practicing my bisexuality.

#71 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 12:52 AM:

John A., #60: What views does Cohen hold that make you consider him a liberal? This is a sincere question, because I haven't seen anything in any of the columns I've read that I would describe as a liberal viewpoint, economic or otherwise. Being willing to accept and support institutionalized racism isn't enough.

Teka Lynn, #68: I self-identify as "straight, but not afraid of bisexuality". Which needs a bit of explanation: I have on a few occasions found myself responding to another woman in a way that, had she been a man, I would not have hesitated to describe as "flirting". I've never been sufficiently attracted to actually try to follow up on it beyond that, but it doesn't freak me out that it happened. Sometimes I describe myself as "about a Kinsey 1.5".

#72 ::: gottacook ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 02:09 AM:

#35: According to a follow-up in Wednesday's Washington Post by reporter Paul Farhi about Cohen's having become a story himself, Cohen lives in New York City - so even if a Post opinion-section editor had found the column questionable, he or she couldn't have just ambled over to Cohen's desk to chat about it.

#73 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 02:20 AM:

On the Gay/Straight distinction it strikes me as slightly bizarre that certain sex acts are presented as OK when done by a man and woman, and unutterably wrong when done by two men. I can try to explain it away as being something to do with power, which has some ugly implications.

I am feeling way too old for it to have any practical significance. But I sometimes feel that I have had a lifetime of power-crazed perverts screwing with my mind over what is acceptable.

Too late, I sigh, but somewhere in the graphing against time of desire and curiousity and capacity, there's a hint that some things might have happened. Taboos might have been broken.

But does it mean anything? Nothing happened.

#74 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 05:58 AM:

I know a number of bisexual people who are either married or in long-term monogamous relationships. They all still identify as bisexual.

If choosing to stay in a monogamous relationship with one particular partner stopped a person from being bisexual, then by the same argument it should also stop them from being straight, gay, or asexual. (Yes, some asexual people do have relationships, and some of those relationships are sexual; not all asexual people are sex-repulsed. The definition of asexuality is that you don't feel sexual attraction to anyone. That doesn't preclude being romantically attracted to someone and then having sex with them because it will make them very happy and you don't actually dislike it - it just isn't something you'd go looking for.)

The reason I say this is that orientation is about what kind of partner you habitually choose when you don't have a partner, not what kind of partner you've got when you do. For both straight and gay people, this distinction is immaterial. For both bisexual and asexual people, it matters a lot. If you're bisexual, you're very unlikely to find a partner who is both male and female, so in practice you are almost certainly going to end up with either a man or a woman. But that does not mean you've collapsed your quantum state to either straight or gay, nor does it mean that you must continually prove your bisexuality by having affairs with people of the opposite gender to your partner. That would be as ridiculous as thinking you had to prove you were still straight/gay by having affairs with people of the same gender as your partner.

It's similar for asexual people. Some asexual people are lucky enough to find an asexual partner and have a blissfully happy sexless relationship. This does not always happen. I know quite a number of asexual people who are heavily romantic and therefore end up getting into relationships with sexual people. Depending on the nature of the person's asexuality, this may cause tension. (Asexual people are an extremely varied bunch.) But, whether or not there's any tension within the relationship, someone almost invariably says at some point, "How can you still call yourself asexual if you're having sex?"

Because asexuality means lack of sexual attraction, not celibacy, that's why. Just as bisexuality means that one can potentially be attracted to both men and women.

#75 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 06:26 AM:

Xopher #67: I think you stepped in it with that one.

Shorter Mongoose: Bisexuality doesn't demand having sex with both men and women at the same time. And it does not overrule monogamy.

#76 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 06:54 AM:

Dave Harmon @75:

That's not really a comment that's going to advance the conversation in any direction we want it to go. Basically, you're trying to start a dogpile, and I won't have it.

Xopher can read Mongoose's comment for himself. And telling him he's "stepped in it" is not going to make him read it any better, or listen any more closely, or learn any faster, than he already does. To the extent that we encourage backseat moderation, we don't encourage doing it in that tone—particularly not to regular, trusted members of the community.

Abandon such comments at preview next time.

#77 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 08:04 AM:

This reminds me a bit of discussions I've had about gay priests. Some Catholics find it really upsetting that there can be gay priests (which must make them quite uncomfortable, because gay priests are quite common.). But our priests (other than a really tiny minority of converted Episcopal and Orthodox priests) take a lifelong vow of celibacy. So "gay" in this case can't really point to behavior, but rather orientation.

#78 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 08:22 AM:

gottacook @ 72: Cohen lives in New York City - so even if a Post opinion-section editor had found the column questionable, he or she couldn't have just ambled over to Cohen's desk to chat about it.

You forgot to add that Cohen apparently doesn't have a telephone, internet connection or email address, either, otherwise the editor could have ambled over to his computer and sent Cohen a "WTF?"

Lee @ 55: Cohen self-identifies as a liberal, and is widely viewed as a liberal. Part of the problem with liberalism today is that it doesn't actually seem to mean anything you can pin down. For example, what is the difference (qua John A Arkansawyer) between a "social liberal" and a "social radical"?

As an aside I find it interesting and parallel to the "Is Cohen a liberal?" discussion that the thread has detoured into the question of whether someone who self-identifies as a lesbian but is married to a man is a "true lesbian." We are definitely heading towards Hadrian's Wall here.

#79 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 08:32 AM:

DaveL @ 78

whether someone who self-identifies as a lesbian but is married to a man is a "true lesbian.

I think that significantly mis-states the question. Self-identified (at some time in the past) and self-identifies (at present) are quite different; people change.

#80 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 08:44 AM:

albatross @ 77

So "gay" in [the] case [of priests] can't really point to behavior, but rather orientation.

I don't think this is quite right[1]. Priestly celibacy has a failure mode, and in the case of homosexuality the failure mode has caused two scandals that have really harmed the church (sexual relationships with post-pubescent minors, and sexual relationships between clergy). That would seems to be a plausible argument against gay priests in the current Catholic context. (And would not be incompatible with thinking that gay priests are not a problem in other contexts, such as the non-celibate Episcopal tradition.)

1) I'm not Catholic, so I may be missing something.

#81 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 09:03 AM:

Xopher, I'm not going to jump into the group of people disagreeing with your definitions, but I will ask you a question:

What is the benefit of your defining 'practicing bisexual' in this idiosyncratic fashion, when it demonstrably (both in the case of the passerby in your original anecdote, and in the case of people on this thread) creates not only confusion but pain? Especially since it appears that you think the discussion is about the definition of 'practicing' and it is likely to appear that other people think it's about the definition of 'bisexual'? It reminds me of nothing so much as the sort of argument-by-dictionary-definition that leads people to gleefully explain that no, they aren't actually homophobic, because they aren't scared of gay people, they just think they're disgusting. By the meaning of the words you have chosen to use, your statement is correct, but if this results in either causing pain or needing to explain yourself every time you use the phrase, wouldn't it be better to instead use terminology more aligned with general usage?

#82 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 09:25 AM:

KayTei @ #70, that is extremely well put, and I'm embarrassed now by my previous post.

For the question "What's your orientation?" (as I'd already realized for "What's your religion?" or "What's your name?"), the only relevant authority is the person whose life it is, no matter how odd it may seem to me.

I should know better, because people I love have made clear to me that it's not that simple. I will do better.

#83 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 09:25 AM:

KayTei @ #70, that is extremely well put, and I'm embarrassed now by my previous post.

For the question "What's your orientation?" (as I'd already realized for "What's your religion?" or "What's your name?"), the only relevant authority is the person whose life it is, no matter how odd it may seem to me.

I should know better, because people I love have made clear to me that it's not that simple. I will do better.

#84 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 09:26 AM:

(oops, and apologies for the double post!)

#85 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 09:36 AM:

Lee@55: This insistence that Cohen should still be classified as a liberal because that's what he used to be, in the teeth of glaringly-obvious evidence that the categorization no longer fits, is incomprehensible.

So far as I can tell, most of the people here (with the possible exception of John A. Arkansawyer) are not insisting that Cohen is, at the present moment, a liberal . . . only that he once was, by the standards of a certain point in time, a liberal, and that he may still think of himself as one despite current evidence to the contrary.

#86 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 10:03 AM:

55, 85:

His classification as a liberal is fully comprehensible once you remember who is doing the classifying, and for what reasons.

Right-wingers classify him as a liberal because then they can use him as a tame enemy who suits their purposes. He is inept at advancing any genuinely progressive causes (which helps the right wing), and he often advances genuinely reactionary causes (which helps the right wing). Why wouldn't the right classify him as a "liberal"? He's the adversary they wish they had.

He classifies himself as a liberal because he long ago realized that his meal-ticket depends on it. If he were to simply say, "actually, I am an aging, out-of-touch reactionary with repellent views," then his market value would drop to zero. People like that--i.e. racist trolls--are a dime a dozen in every comment thread, and they don't get paid for their views.

You and I don't classify him as a liberal, because we actually care about liberal causes. But you and I are not part of the DC power system, so our views don't matter.

His ecological niche in DC culture depends on his being a kind of reverse Batesian mimic: some of his outward coloration looks harmless and cuddly, but he is actually quite poisonous.

More comprehensible now?

#87 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 10:15 AM:

albatross @ 52: Is there some special process used to choose columnists at top newspapers, used to find particularly unreflective people, particularly lacking in insight and knowledge?

My impression is that traditionally, newspapers have offered op-ed space as a reward to veteran journalists. In other words, after years and years of “objectively” repeating whatever facts have been spoon-fed to you, you can finally reveal to the world that you have opinions. Strangely, this process is not very effective at filtering for people whose opinions are worth paying attention to.

#88 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 10:22 AM:

oldster: so, a sort of professional strawman?

#89 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 10:33 AM:

Lila: that's a good way of putting it.

And he has spun that straw into a lot of gold.

#90 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 11:02 AM:

Well, I've just learned some things. I was, indeed, being technical in an inappropriate way. The conversation in question was about what it means to "practice" one's sexual orientation—and in that context I'd have to say that I'm not a practicing homosexual at this point, which is the kind of reductio ad absurdum that ought to have alerted me that what I was saying was stupid.

I say "ought" because I should have known better, and I did the wrong thing. Rather than respond to any specific comment above, let me just unreservedly apologize for the hurt my thoughtless words caused. While hurting others was no part of my intent, that doesn't lessen the hurt, and I ought to have been more intentional in thinking carefully about what I was saying and what hurt it might cause. Such forethought would have resulted in my rejecting the comment or perhaps outlining the insight I've come to in the time since.

TL;DR: I'm sorry to all those I hurt. Bisexual erasure is a real problem, and I shouldn't have contributed to it by thoughtless words.

I'm now in STFU mode about this topic.

#91 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 11:04 AM:

re 86: No, that's not it. One thing I'm seeing here is a consistent pattern of misreading what are admittedly not the most clearly written columns out there, to assign him pejorative positions. As I said before, I don't know where the lesbian remark comes from; the best I get is someone who hasn't keep up with the current theories. But I'm absolutely certain that his "conventional people" remark represented him setting himself taking a moderate/liberal position on interracial marriage in contrast to the troglodytes who populate mainstream America.

On the other hand he has stepped away from some standard liberal positions, no doubt about it. In 2004 he wrote a column on abortion which plainly stepped from a canonically liberal to a centrist position. It also, however, rejects the standard "conservative" position. There's a problem here in that "conservative" in American politics doesn't mean "conservative"; it means "rightist". He still thinks of these people as the opposition, but he's too conservative in the abstract sense to be carried along with the progress of the progressives.

re 87: What happened was that back in the later 1970s Cohen had a column in the Metro section, and it was actually pretty good. But you know, the prestige of being in the Metro section is not that great compared with getting space in the editorial section, so he moved up. And t was quickly apparent to readers that he was way out of his depth. But nobody at the time, apparently, could say, "this isn't working; why don't you go back to Metro?" because that would be read as a demotion. Thus he blathers on.

#92 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 11:05 AM:

Mongoose, #74: Agreed. I'm reminded of the XRFH, who was clearly bisexual but for some reason didn't think of himself that way; instead, he defined himself as "straight" or "gay" depending on who he was involved with at the time. It didn't quite change on a weekly basis, but they certainly weren't long-term relationships either.

DaveL, #78: Re Cohen's self-identification, see my earlier comment about chairs and tables. Or, for that matter, the Tea Party "patriots" in Congress whose idea of saving America is to destroy it. And you still haven't answered my question about what positions he holds which would cause other people to identify him as a liberal -- because, I repeat, I sure as hell haven't seen any. "He says he is and a whole bunch of other people say he is" is not enough, nor is "that's what he started out as 30-odd years ago". I want EVIDENCE.

SamChevre, #80: You're forgetting the sexual relationships with pre-pubescent minors. You're also forgetting that statistically, most of the men who molest children of either sex are primarily heterosexual -- outside the Catholic priesthood, many of them are married or have long-term relationships with women. This is not a "gay problem".

#93 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 11:18 AM:

Lee @ 92

I'm neither ignoring nor forgetting sexual abuse of pre-pubescent minors (AKA children). I think it was a major evil, but was in no sense a "gay problem." (I think we are actually agreeing; I count "sexual abuse of children" and "sexual relationships with sexually mature minors" as two different things.)

#94 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 11:30 AM:

SamChevre 80: What Lee says at 92, plus: Many of the victims of the priestly sex scandals were young women. With regard to the children (that is, prepubescents), many (not sure if most) pedophiles are attracted to children without regard to their gender.

Yes, the reported victims are mostly male. But there is much more contact between priests and boys than between priests and girls. Rapists looking for victims go for availability (and rape is what we're talking about here).

Much as the Church (in the person of the previous Pope, who was in the coverup up to his neck, and was a well-known gay-hating scumbag long before he was elected) has tried to blame gays and keep them out of the priesthood, this is bullshit, and designed to use their own monstrous behavior (protecting priests at the expense of children) to advance an agenda they've always had. Don't join it without examining it.

Lee 92: Could you expand "XRFH"? Google avails me nothing. (I'm guessing "Ex-Relationship From Hell," but I'm not sure you'd actually put the R in there in that case.)

#95 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 12:00 PM:

Xopher @94:
Yes, the reported victims are mostly male. But there is much more contact between priests and boys than between priests and girls. Rapists looking for victims go for availability (and rape is what we're talking about here).

Actually, the problem is, as much as anything else, the degree to which a woman sleeping with a priest is blamed for "leading him on" and similar transgressions. ("He's celibate and unworldly." "She's a cherry-picker." etc.) Priests have plenty of contact with female parishoners, and I know of more than one confessional (=theraputic, with all the ethical implications that holds) relationship with a woman that crossed the line.

Leaving aside issues of questionable consent, the history of priestly concubinage is long and varied. There's no question that it continues into the present day as well.

So, yes, reported victims are mostly male. Because most women know what happens when you report that kind of thing to a male hierarchy looking for someone not in the club to take the blame. The scandal is about children and men, but that's not stastically representative of the sex itself.

#96 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 12:01 PM:

SamChevre, #93: Okay, I see where you're coming from; I was confused by your referring to only two major scandals. We still partly disagree, because I don't think that either of the things you are calling "homosexual failure modes" of priestly celibacy are necessarily homosexual. See Xopher's comment about rapists seeking targets of opportunity; within the Catholic Church (just as in prisons) this is mostly going to present itself as other males.

Xopher, #94: Ex-Roommate From Hell.

#97 ::: Janet K ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 12:26 PM:

I agree with C. Wingate (at 91). I've lived in DC and read the Post for over 40 years. Once upon a time Cohen could be interesting as an opinion columnist but I've rarely read him recently. His tendency for introspection is usually a bore even when it doesn't get him into trouble.

He did indeed write badly in the paragraph quoted. Read the whole column to make some sense of what his point is.

Cohen was sneering at Iowa Tea-Party-type Republicans from his self-appointed position as a sophisticated Easterner, one who doesn't blink an eye at NYC's new mayor's family. The "gag reflex" is something he attributes to the conventional people of Iowa.

#98 ::: Janet K has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 12:28 PM:

Did I say something unconventional?

#99 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 12:36 PM:

abi @ 76: *tiptoes around gnomes with careful expression of gratitude*

It took me nearly an hour to write that comment at 74 this morning. Part of that was keeping it as short as it was and not going into lengthy philosophical ramifications, and part of it was ensuring I didn't appear to be criticising anyone, merely disagreeing.

#100 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 12:37 PM:

abi 95: I suspected that might be the case, but I didn't have the data to support it. Thanks.

Lee 96: Roommate! Of course! Thanks.

#101 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 06:19 PM:

How long has Richard Cohen been unknowingly writing this kind of thing? Because I come to the quote @2 and we're oh so very nearly there;

The evidence Colin Powell
presented to the United Nations —
some of it circumstantial,
some of it absolutely bone-chilling.

Presented to the United Nations
in its detail;
some of it absolutely bone-chilling
had to prove to anyone.

In its detail
Iraq not only hasn't accounted for its weapons,
had to prove, to anyone
without a doubt, still retains them.

Iraq not only hasn't accounted for its weapons,
Only a fool — or possibly a Frenchman
(without a doubt) still retains them
could conclude otherwise

Only a fool — or (possibly a Frenchman
some of it) circumstantial
could conclude otherwise.
The evidence, Colin Powell.

#102 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 06:47 PM:

abi #76: I'm sorry, to both you and Xopher. I was trying to be flippant, and wound up being thoughtless.

#103 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 07:12 PM:

Janet K @ 97
Yes, he was trying to assign viewpoints to those people in flyover country, and distinguishing them from his own.
But he also said that the people who held those views, who gagged at an interracial marriage, were not racist.
To which the response is, basically, if you think gagging at interracial marriages isn't racist, you just might be a racist.

#104 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 07:23 PM:

Dave 102: Thanks for this. We're cool.

#105 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 07:39 PM:

I was coming at the definition of "practicing" from a different angle recently. It seems to me that a transgender person is trans 24/7/365 in a more full-time way than I have my orientation. There's a sense in which I'm gay only when I'm in a relationship or having sex or specifically lusting after somebody. Or in earlier years, specifically trying to pretend I wasn't lusting after anybody of the same sex.

But if I go too far down that path, I'll sound like the person who called internet tech support, and they asked if a light on the modem is blinking. "No, it's not blinking, it's off. Now it's on. Now it's off. Now it's on."

I think Mongoose had the best take on it.

#106 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 08:13 PM:

C Wingate @91, on the one hand, the surface reading of Choen’s paragraph is that the “conventional people” who gag at the sight of interracial couples are people other than him. But: (1) he describes such people as “conventional”, implying that he thinks their beliefs are ordinary, rather than a term like “old-fashioned” that would make clear that he thinks their views are outdated (“retrograde” would make it even clearer that he disagrees with them); and (2) he says that they are “not racist”, which is nuts.

So yeah, on the surface he’s talking about those people over there, but if you look under the surface (and you don’t even have to look very far), he’s going out of his way to describe those retrograde racists as not-retrograde not-racists.

On top of that, this is coming from a guy who’s written about how it’s natural for white people to be frightened of black people, how white store owners should be allowed to shut black people out of their stores, and how he didn’t get around to learning that slavery was bad until just a couple weeks ago.

I didn’t have to invent any of that. It’s all right there in Cohen’s columns.

So the best reading I can get out of Cohen is that he’s the kind of guy who, yeah, views himself as a moderate — because that’s how most people view themselves, no matter their actual politics — but has to exaggerate the racism of most of the country in order to find a space for himself in the middle. In other words, he has to make the midwestern Tea Party types out to be outright racial separatists in order to clear some distance between himself and them. And he called them “conventional” because he’s just plain stupid.

The worst reading I can get out of Cohen is “Hey, if you happen want to gag every time you see an interracial couple — that’s a common, conventional thing that doesn’t make you racist, right? Asking for a friend.”

#107 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 09:42 PM:

Sorry to throw a grenade and run. I am just a little frustrated right now with certain things, he said vaguely. Top on my list is local liberals and their inability to empathize with Others to my satisfaction. Hm. I wonder if that's my problem, not theirs?

#108 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 10:02 PM:

Avram @106: More to the point, if he doesn't actually believe those things (and if he learned Slavery Wuz Bad before seeing 12 Years A Slave), his writing is poor enough as to give the impression that he DOES, which is unconscionable in someone who's been a professional writer for decades. That's the kind of screwing-up-the-sense-of-your-piece error that English 101 teachers have to deal with, it doesn't belong on the flagship opinion page of a major daily.

#109 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2013, 10:56 PM:

CHip/Chris W. @ 64/33: Cohen is a tool. That part is undeniable. But that passage looks better without the ellipses. Here's a different elision that leaves a different impression than that one:

I sometimes think I have spent years unlearning what I learned earlier in my life....Much more important, slavery was not a benign institution in which mostly benevolent whites owned innocent and grateful blacks.

And here it is without the elision:

I sometimes think I have spent years unlearning what I learned earlier in my life. For instance, it was not George A. Custer who was attacked at the Little Bighorn. It was Custer — in a bad career move — who attacked the Indians. Much more important, slavery was not a benign institution in which mostly benevolent whites owned innocent and grateful blacks.

I thought Cohen did a pretty decent job of describing the sort of crappy education I, too, got (but even as a child, I was aware that "many blacks were sort of content" under slavery was pretty much bullshit).

By the way, has anyone else noticed how much he looks like Karl Scheidegger?

#110 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 12:01 AM:

John A., #109: That view of slavery, in a middle-aged adult, is only plausible if the only thing he was ever taught about the Slaveholders' Rebellion was Uncle Tom's Cabin plus a childhood viewing of the original Song of the South. He and I are roughly contemporary (he may be a few years older) and MY Social Studies class certainly taught the evils of slavery, albeit in a somewhat watered-down version. Anyone else who made such a statement I would guess had been educated in the Old South, but I am given to understand that Cohen has been a New Yorker all his life, so no excuse there.

#111 ::: gottacook ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 12:18 AM:

DaveL @78: Sure, but it wouldn't have occurred to Fred Hiatt to amble over and ask Cohen "WTF?", either physically or on the phone; he's the editor who is quoted (in the same Paul Farhi story in the Post) as saying he ought to have noticed something wrong: "I erred in not editing that one sentence more carefully to make sure it could not be misinterpreted." Given the hacks he's continued to give op-ed space to, I truly hope he goes too, and soon.

#112 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 12:40 AM:

111
Hiatt isn't a very good editor, and he's done this kind of thing more than once. If he hasn't learned already, he isn't going to.

#113 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 02:15 AM:

Just a quick touch-in on the bisexuality thread. Without speaking for anyone but myself, I was feeling more opinionated than hurt, so I'm super mellow.

Have I mentioned recently that I really love the way this group responds to discussions like this? Way cool, y'all.

#114 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 02:42 AM:

John A Arkensawyer @109, I think pretty much everyone absorbs some kind of nonsense in their schooling, but Cohen went to school in the 1940s and ’50s, and managed to spend all of the intervening decades without once ever picking up a book or talking to someone that could dispel his ignorance on a rather important fact of history.

Remember Roots? That was broadcast in 1977; Cohen was 36 that year. It was a pretty big cultural moment, but Richard Cohen apparently never even overheard a discussion of the show.

(And WTF was up with that thing about the hand grenade @107?)

#115 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 04:09 AM:

Avram @114:
(And WTF was up with that thing about the hand grenade @107?)

I think John is referring to his comment @60.

#116 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 07:46 AM:

Avram @ #114: ...managed to spend all of the intervening decades without once ever picking up a book or talking listening to someone that could dispel his ignorance...

FTFY.

#117 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 08:16 AM:

abi @ 115: Yes, exactly.

Lee @ 110: I think people are very determined to read Cohen in a way they find consistent. Me, I just find him consistently to be a tool. Sometimes he's worse, sometimes he's better. His columns are less consistent than he is.

#118 ::: Barry ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 09:42 AM:

#114 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 02:42 AM:

"John A Arkensawyer @109, I think pretty much everyone absorbs some kind of nonsense in their schooling, but Cohen went to school in the 1940s and ’50s, and managed to spend all of the intervening decades without once ever picking up a book or talking to someone that could dispel his ignorance on a rather important fact of history. "

Cohen was born in 1941. He'd have been 15 when Brown v. Board of Education happened.

The big public struggles of the Civil Rights movement happened in his high school, college and young adult years.

And during his young adult years Cohen was a reporter.


There is no possible way that he remained ignorant.

#119 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 10:24 AM:

bell hooks tells us we need more stories from and of white people of how they've resisted and grappled with racism over the years. Relentless stomping of those white people who do so when they try to explain their personal history does no good and a lot of harm.

And now I'm done.

#120 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 10:28 AM:

John A Arkansawyer: I think part of it is the way he wrote about it makes it sound like he suddenly realized it while watching the movie recently, which is absurd ... but that's what the words he wrote implies.

Again, sloppy writing giving a clear but (probably) an inaccurate view of his inner mind. If accurate it would be loathesome.

#121 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 10:34 AM:

re 106: No, he did not say that those conventional people are not racist; he said that "today's GOP is not racist." You are quite welcome to hold that such a characterization of the Republican Party is also nuts, and extending them far more charity than they deserve I would have to say that they are far too tolerant of the racism of their members, but the conflation of those two clauses isn't consonant with the text.

That said, there's some degree of pointlessness in a disagreement over saying that Post ought to drop him for his immoral views, or because he is manifestly clueless. Personally, I hold the latter to be the greater sin in a columnist, but YMMV. What's more striking to me is the strength of the "he's not one of ours" reaction given that I would say, "well, of course not, since you're all progressives." I'm also inclined to go along with Arkansawyer's assessment in 117. There's a lot of what's bad about Cohen's writing which can be explained by his need to Speak Profound Thoughts On The Issues Of The Day, rather than any specific political program to which he might be an adherent.

#122 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 11:23 AM:

#121:

"the conflation of those two clauses isn't consonant with the text"

Are you sure you want to go this route?

"Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled—about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York—a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children."

You want to argue that it is not "consonant with the text" to read the subject of the second sentence as co-referring with the subject of the first sentence? So he was referring to one group of people in the first sentence, and said they are not racist, and then he dropped that topic and referred to a new group of people in the second sentence?

You want to argue that anyone who thought Cohen was talking about the same group of people in the second sentence as in the first sentence was reading the paragraph in a way that is "not consonant with the text"?

What you are now arguing is not that Cohen is a bad writer who expresses himself unclearly. Your claim about what is "not consonant with the text" is claiming that these words are clear, and clearly do *not* mean what everyone else thinks they mean.

Are you sure you want to go that way?


Maybe what you meant was something like, "the reading on which the absolution from racism, applied to members of the GOP in the first sentence, is carried over to the "people of conventional views" in the second sentence, is of course the most natural reading if we assume that the author is minimally coherent. But it is not *demanded* by the text! It is at least *possible*, logically, to construe the text otherwise!"

If you had said, "not demanded by the text", I would have conceded it to you--after all, if we posit that Cohen had an aneurysm and an attack of amnesia in mid-paragraph, then he might have switched subjects. And aneurysms are logically possible!

But if you claim that the co-referential reading is "not consonant with the text," i.e. that the text itself rules out the normal, obvious reading that follows from assuming Cohen can string two sentences into a paragraph, then I have to disagree.

#123 ::: oldster gotted gnomed.... ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 11:25 AM:

Probably for being ill-tempered and argumentative. Serves me right, and I'll just go take a time-out in the corner for a while.

#124 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 11:56 AM:

FX: Moose takes oldster a cup of tea and some biscuits.

(Because I agree entirely.)

#125 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 11:58 AM:

122/123
I agree also.
Isn't one of the first things they teach about writing, in grade school, that a paragraph is about one subject?

#126 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 12:39 PM:

I am hoping that it will turn out that Richard Cohen is related to me. My paternal grandmother (herself mixed race) converted from Judaism to marry my grandfather, which means that my proudly black father was halachically Jewish (something he was never really happy about). I have a lot of Jewish relatives on 23and me (the commonest surnames among the people related to me are Friedman, Goldstein, Schwartz, Cohen, Green, Scott, Miller, and Brown); I'd love to see him, ahem, gag.

#127 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 02:12 PM:

I agree with Oldster too. "Not consonant with the text," my foot. It's perfectly consonant with the text. If that's not what he meant to write, he should have put a paragraph break in there. As it is, that paragraph means that he's saying that people who gag at the sight of an interracial family are not (or, reading it charitably, at least not necessarily) racist.

Of course they are. There's no non-absurd definition of 'racism' that doesn't cover that.

And yes, the modern GOP is racist. What do you think all those people with the Obama-as-witchdoctor signs, all those Birthers, all those "don't re-nig in 2012" sign carriers...what do you think all of them are, Democrats?

You can argue about HOW racist the GOP is, but let's not be ridiculous here.

#128 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 02:28 PM:

The GOP consistently supports efforts to make it harder to vote; measures that have repeatedly been shown to have a disproportionate impact on minority voters.

If that isn't racism, it'll do until the real thing comes along.

#129 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 02:36 PM:

Xopher @ 128... let's not be ridiculous here

Le ridicule ne tue pas.
Ridicule doesn't kill anybody.
The movie had Fanny Ardant, who's anything but ridiculous.

#130 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 03:01 PM:

Xopher, not a single person here has argued anything but that his first statement about the GOP is hardly credible as stated. As far as the rest of the paragraph is concerned, isn't the divergence of interpretations evidence enough that he's not that careful a writer? This discussion fascinates me, because I simply do not feel the urge to puzzle through his writings trying to convict him of moral failings. The interpretation that he's saying that "the Republicans will have a problem appealing to the ordinary people of Iowa, whom (he thinks) will have trouble with an interracial marriage" is just a lot simpler, and fits the larger context of a discussion of the electability of various candidates; the other version requires too much exegesis. But eventually I don't see the point: regardless of what you think about Cohen's personal views, there's no reason to believe that he has a clue about any of this. I'm inclined to think that he has never been to Iowa in his life, or if he did, that he never got out of easy driving distance of a synagogue in the suburbs of Des Moines, which by the way he didn't go to on the sabbath anyway. Is the fact that he has blathered on with this kind of ignorant and pompous nonsense for decades now suddenly only a problem because you think he can be condemned for holding personal opinions on the wrong side of certain hot button issues? Shouldn't there be a message in the overlap of the "that's not what he meant" and "he hasn't had anything worthwhile to say in ages" groups? I dunno: maybe he has become a conservative of the "liberal who's been mugged" variety. I've reached the point of not caring, just as I stopped caring about his columns long ago.

#131 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 03:13 PM:

Avram, #114: Also, don't forget that Roots was a best-selling book before it was made into a mini-series. For that matter, it was a Reader's Digest Condensed Book too (which I think was how I read it). It was everywhere, in much the same way that Brokeback Mountain was everywhere a few years ago.

John A., #119: The thing that's really frosting me about all this is that I can't get an answer to a simple question: What views does Richard Cohen hold now that cause people to consider him a liberal, since his racism isn't enough to disqualify him? I've asked this several times, and the answers I get are:
1) He says he's a liberal, and so do a bunch of other people
2) He was a liberal back in the 1980s, and hasn't changed since
3) It suits the Republicans to call him a liberal.

What the fucking fuck? None of these are actually answers to the question I'm asking! I'm looking for answers of the form "he supports marriage equality" or "he wants to see better regulation of the banking industry" or "he's for single-payer health care", etc. You'd think they would be easy to provide if Cohen were actually expressing such views anywhere.

The only conclusion I can draw here is "Richard Cohen is a liberal because Reasons," in the sense of "for reasons which are never articulated and may not exist, but I'm supposed to accept them unquestioningly anyhow". Sorry, no.

Lila, #128: Furthermore, Texas is currently arguing in Federal court that these efforts are NOT racist (and should not be subject to Voting Rights Act oversight) specifically because they are partisan in nature: "We're not trying to prevent blacks and Latinos from voting, we're trying to prevent Democrats from voting! Not racist at all, see?" *eyeroll*

#132 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 03:20 PM:

I recall seeing something on the news shortly after President Obama was first elected; I don't have a TV, so I must have been at my parents' house at the time. There was a clip of J Random American shaking his head in astonishment and disbelief, and saying, "Well, he [meaning Obama] looks like a monkey, doesn't he?"

That shocked me, which is why I remember it. We certainly have racism in this country, so I'm not for one moment trying to be holier-than-thou here, but you would never get anyone saying something like that in public. They might say it in private, but if it came out, they'd emphatically deny it, because at least they do know it's not socially acceptable. (We've recently had one or two scandals of this nature involving some of our right-wing splinter groups.)

I was also kind of embarrassed for the speaker. It was as if he'd gone on television with his flies undone. The remark wasn't merely racist, it was irrelevant. It's politics, not some kind of beauty contest. (For what it's worth, I think President Obama is rather better-looking than the majority of politicians, but my views are not necessarily reliable.)

#133 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 03:47 PM:

132
It was something that people in the US said, but in private. In public they'd use codewords. In the last fifteen years, it's become much more open.

#134 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 04:21 PM:

Lee, you've got a computer; what's keeping you from looking? It took a couple of clicks because for some stupid reason the Post won't let you see all of the column archive right up front, but it took me little time to find this column supporting same-sex marriage and castigating the Dems for not pushing it forward, and this one haranguing the BSA for their positions. Here's another one on abortion law in Virginia. He also said that the problem with ObamaCare is that "it's not socialist enough." A quick survey of titles for the past three years shows a lack of interest in talking about the economy, and a lot of interest in the Middle East and in the political game. And he's not happy with Obama. It's not hard to run through this and get a picture of a certain liberal mindset which is probably not as progressive as yours but which isn't "conservative" in the damning sense people here use it.

#135 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 04:45 PM:

C Wingate @130, “puzzle through his writings trying to convict him of moral failings”? Nobody needs to “puzzle” through anything — Cohen’s moral failings are right there in black-and-white.

You’re the one putting effort into trying to break the obvious relationship between those two adjacent sentences.

#136 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 04:47 PM:

Mongoose #132:

I see your point, but I'm reluctant to try to draw much information from the cherry-picked examples (good or bad) that appear on TV. There is, at any given moment, some idiot spouting offensive nonsense on whatever topic you like. TV news is likely to show me one or more of these to drum up controversy, or to get me mad so I'm not thinking straight, or to make some kind of point about why we should all oppose whatever group they're trying to oppose. But they don't even pretend to find representative cases.

This is a place where it's better to get hard data than cherry-picked outrage-inducing anecdotes.

#137 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 04:50 PM:

albatross @ 136: good point, and it makes me feel a bit better. So far as I recall, they were airing a spread of reactions from Americans that they spoke to, but I obviously don't know exactly how representative those reactions were. That one stood out among the others for me because you wouldn't hear anything like it here, but there certainly were other views which were less exceptionable and therefore less memorable.

#138 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 05:08 PM:

Avram, when we're reduced to appealing to how our teachers told us to organize our writing into paragraphs, I must conclude that the "black and white" of this is not manifestly obvious. My explanation of the passage is simple and fits the larger context of the article; yours, it seems to me, is belabored and inconsistent with that context. Since we can't get past that point I think I'm done with that.

#139 ::: C. Wingate is gnomed in black and white ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 05:09 PM:

Perhaps they would like some paper mache fruit?

#140 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 05:33 PM:

It seems to me that the best medication for Cohen's (&/or others') gag reflex might be to smoke a few joints every day. That might even improve his writing ability. Whether it would be too conventional, or unconventional, or Liberal, for him is open for discussion, of course.

#141 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 05:35 PM:

I've spent a while mulling over the "she used to be a lesbian" comment, because I know what I have an issue with, but I haven't been able to phrase it.

I don't think it's "bisexual erasure" in the context I read it in the article; it's "bisexual dogwhistle", and what is heard by the dogs is "she switched once, so probably will switch again (and he's too dumb to realize this)", or "she can't ever be truly satisfied by one person, so she will stray (and he's not enough of a man to stop her)", or "deBlasio's a beard at best and being taken for a ride at worst - the marriage is just a cover/just done for the connections/money/security/children/whatever."

In other words, it's in the article as another reason "conventional people" would, or should, have concerns about the new mayor.

I hear from some of my bisexual friends that this same phrase is occasionally used in the gay community, and that it too is dogwhistle - but in this case, the undertext is "traitor" and "can't trust her", or possibly "she's straight, but liked having the lesbian cachet when she was in college, when it was fun, but not now that it's work."

Which of course makes the life of the serially monogamous (or not serially monogamous, or polyamorous, or...) bisexual even better than it was before, what with the true bisexual erasure that's out there.

#142 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 05:59 PM:

Mycroft @ 141

Yes, that second one is very much my experience. It's "not a practicing bisexual," in the context of people who go on to say things like "I don't think she was ever really bisexual at all. She just talks about it because she thinks it's edgy and liberal."

#143 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 07:22 PM:

I must admit to a certain amount of puzzlement. Given that nobody involved in this discussion appears to hold any brief for Cohen, is the actual argument here about whether or not the Fluorosphere should more fitly despise him for being a bad writer, or for being a bad person?

(I have noticed, from time to time, and certainly not in the Fluorosphere alone, that for some questions, agreement alone is not sufficient; one must agree for the right reasons.)

#144 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 07:35 PM:

Lee @ 131: What views does Richard Cohen hold now that cause people to consider him a liberal, since his racism isn't enough to disqualify him?

Can we at least agree that he's not a very clear writer? A lot of his liberalism is "because that's what he says he is," which may or may not be disposative (see: Mickey Kaus). On the other hand Wingate has a set of links that seem to show pretty liberal positions.

Mycroft W @ 141: Yes, there was (when I guess she was the right age) a lot of "LUG" ("Lesbian Until Graduation" -- aka "edgy and liberal," as KayTei put it) going on at various schools. What's more important and interesting is the way in which DeBlasio's wife being an "ex-lesbian" is a hook on which the undernews can hang subtle inferences about his manhood ("a beard") and her fidelity ("she will switch back").

#145 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 08:54 PM:

http://www.upworthy.com/a-famous-columnist-has-trouble-defining-racism-colbert-eats-him-for-dinner?c=ufb1

Colbert Report is on the case.

#146 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 09:53 PM:

DaveL #144: Yes, there was ... a lot of "LUG" ("Lesbian Until Graduation"...)

I'm wondering how many of those were closer to "didn't want to deal with obnoxious college guys, and flexible enough that they didn't actually need to".

#147 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 10:35 PM:

Dave @ 146

That may be part of it, but I also note that given how small a percentage of our population identifies as openly queer, it's statistically probable that bisexuals will end up in hetero relationships. So a lot of my bi friends are women married to dudes (for now), but to us, it feels more like that was just the way the dice fell. The range of people I'm attracted to didn't change... but an awful lot of people think they "know better" than I do about it.

#148 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2013, 10:50 PM:

Dave H., #146: I live in a state that doesn't recognize marriage equality. In my social circle, there are two women (that I know of) who self-identify as bisexual and are married to men. One of them is poly and continues to have relationships with women; the other has said more than once that she'd like to find a nice girlfriend. Anecdata, to be sure, but still.

#149 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2013, 07:06 AM:

On the Cameron Speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet.

The law forbids both rich and poor
About a bridge to meetly lie.
And anyone may banquet, or
Might serve, as one might speechify

About a bridge. To meetly lie:
Why, that’s a thing, for anyone
Might serve, as one might speechify.
That’s always been the way it’s done.

Why, that’s a thing for anyone!
A banquet where some serve, some speak,
That’s always been the way it’s done.
Austerity’s the thing to seek:

A banquet where some serve, some speak
About a bridge. To meetly lie:
“Austerity’s the thing to seek,”
Might serve, as one might speechify.

#150 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2013, 07:50 AM:

The thing is, AIUI, "austerity" has always been a scam, and it's one of the IMF's main weapons of economic conquest.

For all the talk about "efficiency", it's never about redirecting scarce resources to urgent needs. Instead it's always about (1) keeping them out of the hands of the populace, and (2) reducing the actual capacities of the government, and especially reducing their ability to ride herd on corporate marauders and plutocrats.

Cameron has made several classic mistakes of bad rulers. So far, I've thought of: (1) He forgot that servants can talk. In the modern age, they can talk loudly. (2) He's forgotten that memories aren't actually so easy to erase. Even Orwell had his State breaking people's wills rather than erasing their memories, and even they had to do that to one person at a time. (3) He's given his victims/opponents a very powerful metaphor and image for his misbehavior. That gilded chair might be a lot of what ultimately brings him down.

#151 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2013, 08:40 AM:

Re Cohen: The Colbert Report reminds us that things you say in parentheses don't count.

#152 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2013, 03:49 PM:

Dave Harmon #150:

The classic mistake of bad rulers is your point #1: Those who make lists forget that they aren't the ones who type them.

#153 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2013, 08:59 PM:

I can think of two college-era bisexual women friends who married women, and two who married men.

Lee@110: actually, even Uncle Tom's Cabin would have been a pretty good introduction to "Slavery: not all fun and games." Many of the stereotypes about that book are actually based on one or another of the dramatized versions.

#154 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2013, 11:26 AM:

Headline that makes me wonder what year the writer thinks it is:
White mayor, black wife: NYC shatters image

#155 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2013, 04:01 PM:

Not to mention what image the writer has of NYC!

#156 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2013, 04:43 PM:

Xopher, that was on the website for a major Bay Area newspaper, which should certainly have a clue what NYC is like, and what year it is! (Sadly, some of their staff people are apparently oblivious to what's actually going on around them.)

#157 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2013, 05:49 PM:

“should I mention that
today’s GOP is not racist?”

Well, why not? They always do.

(Brutus is an honorable man.)

-------

“…is there also such a thing as parallel monogamy?”
I don’t think we’re wired that way.

#158 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2013, 11:20 PM:

Kip W. @157: that is some of the best Shakespeare-deployment I've seen in a Fluorosphere thread in a very long time. Where shall your Internetz be delivered? Because for you have won one.

#159 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 09:40 AM:

Kip W:

Wouldn't parallel monogamy be one of those guys with always-on-the-road jobs that keeps two separate families in parallel, each unaware of the other?

#160 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 10:05 AM:

I'm surely missing some detail because this is a bit outside my experience, but what is the point of determining what label to apply to someone w.r.t. sexual orientation? I mean, suppose you see a man who is attracted to men and women, and marries a woman. You can come up with at least three labels that would commonly be applied:

Straight man who did some weird stuff in his wild youth

Gay man who is closeted and living a lie

Bisexual man for whom the coin came up heads.

It seems to me that the labels are there to fit that man into someone else's political or social schemes. To decide what team he's on, or what team he should be on. Often to say he is lying about what he feels, one way or another. If the speaker's purposes are best served by saying he has always been straight and that gay stuff was just a phase or something, then he applies one label. If the speaker's purposes are best served by claiming he's always been gay and is living a lie, a different label gets applied.

Would the right label (if such exists) depend on his current desires, or his past ones? Or his current or past actions? It seems inevitable that any set of labels will miss some detail, but also that when the labels are applied for someone else's purposes (like trying to build a political coalition, or trying to exclude people from one), the labels will often be a pretty lousy reflection of reality.

#161 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 10:24 AM:

It seems plausible to define people's orientation by what they find sexually satisfying, even if that definition isn't convenient for outside observers.

I like Hanne Blank's description of her orientation: sovereign.

#162 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 10:44 AM:

My orientation?
North by Northwest.
When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.

#163 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 11:04 AM:

Albatross @#159

No, that's bigamy.

Question, what is smallamy?

Is there also trigamy? ITWSBT

#164 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 12:01 PM:

How about amyirving?
And ralphbellamy?

#165 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 12:44 PM:

re 160: Well, the most obvious social purpose is assessing sexual availability. Wouldn't want to be barking up the wrong tree.

#166 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 03:08 PM:

Cereal monogamy: married to Cap'n Crunch.

(Elliott Mason; thnx.)

#167 ::: Kip W be gnomin' ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 03:10 PM:

For mentioning the captain of the Guppy, no doubt.

(More likely for gratitude word.)

#168 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 05:03 PM:

albatross, #160: I used to be in an apa with a guy who got absolutely livid about not being able to tell instantly whether someone was male or female; this wasn't in the context of bi- or intersexuality, but secondary sexual signals -- men with long hair or women with short, cross-dressing, etc. (And he got noticeably more upset about "men looking like women" than "women looking like men".) I noted at one point that since he described himself as happily married, seeking a potential sexual partner was surely not enough to explain this.

I can think of two other reasons for this kind of behavior, one positive, the other not. The first would be "not wanting to embarrass myself and/or offend the other person by using the wrong pronouns". The second would be "not wanting to accidentally treat a second-class citizen like a Real Person, or vice versa". I can't help thinking that a great deal of the flap around bisexuality comes from similar sources.

#169 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 05:05 PM:

albatross #160: It seems to me that the labels are there to fit that man into someone else's political or social schemes.

Better to say, to fit them into everyone else's social structures. Part of it is, yes, assessing sexual availability, but it also includes figuring out social expectations in more general contexts. That person who's spent an hour taking and laughing with your partner -- should you be worried, or outright jealous? Or the person who's given you three complements in the past half-hour: Are they flirting with you, or buttering you up for other possible reasons?

There are less palatable factors, such as: What sort of jokes are likely to offend that person? Yeah, you can say "you should never tell a joke that offends anyone", but that's placing a burden that many people will simply refuse. (For understanding social interactions, you also need to account for the people you don't approve of.)

Relations among humans depend on a lot of factors: class, occupation, religion, race, social groupings, and so on. Most of these factors are either visible at a glance or have locally-conventional markers. Humans are primed to pick up on these automatically, and to take them into account. Sexual orientation is a toughie though, precisely because it doesn't necessarily show, and may not be marked.

#170 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 05:45 PM:

Lee and Dave:

Both nice responses, and I can see a thread of commonality between them. I want to know how it is appropriate to treat you. If my notion of proper manners (both how I act and how I can expect you to act) depends on something I can't pbserve about you, then that's going to increase my stress level.

Note that this can be about second-class citizenship, but it need not be. If I have been raised to never use bad language in front of a lady, then I may not know how I am allowed to speak without figuring out the genders of all present. Or I may think there are topics inappropriate for mixed company, or may feel it's inappropriate for me to be alone in some environments with a woman but not a man, or whatever.

#171 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 06:07 PM:

albatross #160: continued:

The biggest class of non-obvious things we keep track of is "what are they up to lately?" Keeping tabs on relationships is a big part of that, and orientation is naturally relevant. In this context, one reason bisexuals get flak from both straights and gays is because "they're making it" more complicated to keep track of them.

Putting cognitive load on people's social maps also makes trouble in a few cases where you're changing something that's assumed to be long-term:

When I was in a pagan community, there were one or two people who got annoyed comments about being in the "name of the month club". Again, people were annoyed because your name is part of your relationship with other people -- that community was willing to accept occasional name changes, but doing it too often still messed with people's social maps.

I suspect a similar issue applies to transsexuals -- for most people, gender is assumed to be a permanent feature -- on the social maps, it's "written in ink", while more transitory stuff gets "pencilled in". Thus even one change (much less a two- or three-part transition) in gender, throws a lot of people for a serious loop.

That circles back to bisexuals, because a lot of people (that is, onlookers) aren't confident that bisexuality is stable. (Sometimes it isn't, notably with adolescent experimentation.)

#172 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 06:15 PM:

BTW, we've been posting past each other a bit -- I hadn't seen albatross #169 or Lee #167 when I posted #170, because I'd just come back from walking Gracie again¹ and continued my thoughts without checking back.

¹ On the trail for most of two hours this afternoon, and two walks since. <Sigh>, but Mom and I have put out the first couple of adoption posters.

#173 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 06:43 PM:

In this context, one reason bisexuals get flak from both straights and gays is because "they're making it" more complicated to keep track of them.

I realize I'm preaching to the choir here, but I don't get how "likes both" is more complex than "likes men" or "likes women".

#174 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 08:11 PM:

Carrie, because they mistake the chord for a trill.

#175 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 08:18 PM:

Carrie, #172: In theory it shouldn't be, but this is another one of those cases where theory and practice differ. If you grow up, as many people in the over-50 age group did, with the assumption ("written in ink" as Dave H. astutely puts it) that heterosexuality is the norm (men like women, and women like men), then simply adjusting to the existence of homosexuality is a major change in your social map. Okay, so you got out your ink eraser and made that change; some men like men, and some women like women. But you still wrote down the new rule in ink, because that's how gender issues are coded. And now you're having to look at another major change -- some men like both women AND men, and some women like both men AND women -- and once again, it's a huge wrench to the way you've learned to see the world. The hostility by some people on the gay side toward bisexuals doesn't help, either.

People who have been raised to be accepting of homosexuality are still likely to be tripped up by the second step, because (once again) rules about gender and sexuality tend to be written in ink.

If I had a prescription for "how to get yourself past thinking about any of this stuff as weird", it would be to read fanfic. :-)

#176 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 08:28 PM:

Carrie @172: I wonder how much of it might be due to the fact that all these inconvenient messinesses mean there need to be more than two Almighty Boxes: Boy and Girl. If everyone belongs in one-and-only-one box, and Column A includes in all its members [male-bodied, likes women for sex, enjoys talking about machines and sports, wears trousers ...] and all Column B's members are [female-bodied, like men for sex, wants kids, talks about food and clothing, wears skirts, defers to members of Column A ...], then life is wondrous simple.

However, every time someone protests that there is more than one box, you now have to memorize all the NEW boxes, and MAN are they messy and confettilike! And some people are in MORE THAN ONE box!

#177 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 09:50 PM:

Dave Luckett, #149: As one who lives in a region with many waterways, I prefer people to tell the truth about bridges. One collapsed in a town where a relative lives. I was quick to make sure that said relative was still extant. But we have many bridges that need maintenance. I don't think austerity is the answer, though. Not unless we can shore up those bridges with golden thrones.
Full disclosure: I read the articles, but didn't sit thru any video.
Amazing poetry though.

#178 ::: Angiportus is with the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 09:51 PM:

Figs?

#179 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 10:39 PM:

Serge @162, in that case, when you take note of the wind direction, you might want to ascertain whether it's coming from a crop-duster!

#180 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 10:45 PM:

Cadbury Moose @163:
In higher numbers, it become trigonometry.
At some further point, it becomes calculus.

#181 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 10:50 PM:

Rikibeth @ 177... But it's OK if there *is* a crop.

#182 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2013, 11:48 PM:

speaking of people who aren't racist, but...
I know one guy who always says "are you with me?" when he starts to say something bigoted. It's like he's saying, "okay, I know I should watch what I say when there's people listening, but you're someone I can really talk to,like a regular person,right?"

#183 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2013, 06:34 AM:

Carrie S. #173: Adding on to Lee # 175, consider that there's a bunch of different components to the simpler case of "how to treat a woman/man". Recognizing orientation at all separates out some of those components, and lets groups of them be rearranged. Recognizing bisexuality breaks up the groups even further.

Happily, this will get easier as more people grow up with the awareness of non-binary genders and orientations.

Lee #175: ... or spec-fic in general.

Elliott Mason #176: Yup, that's the Cliff's Notes.

#184 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2013, 06:43 AM:

Addendum: It occurs to me there's an analogy here to the recent language discussion, specifically the claim that "few native speakers of tonal languages are tone-deaf".

#185 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2013, 09:41 AM:

Dave Harmon @184: So, few people who grew up in diverse, accepting communities would ever say, "Are you with me?" to preface an ignorant, bigoted conversation? :->

#186 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2013, 10:22 AM:

Erik @182: I was at a friend's house once, and another guest who seemed ever so slightly slimy gave us a conspiratorial look at one point and said, "Any n*****s here tonight?"

Sensing an impending racist joke and not wanting to have to endure and then react to it, I spontaneously said, yeah. I'm a n****r. I was kind of surprised that it worked. He didn't tell his story and I'm still alive.

(Footnote: I'm blond, with blue eyes, and a complexion that was even pastier then than it is now. I get a bit more sun these days. I still tell myself sometimes that it was okay, in that situation, to use the word.)

#187 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2013, 10:43 AM:

"What did he say?"
"He said the sheriff's near."
- Blazing Saddles

#188 ::: Mishalak ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2013, 11:50 AM:

Carrie S. @ #173
I identified as gay for many years because it was easier and it was what people expected of a skinny clothes horse. With bisexuality it always becomes a long questioning session about degrees of attraction. And even though I love talking about myself as much as Lucifer it gets old.

#189 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2013, 12:00 PM:

What really baffles me is that a lot of the hostility comes from groups who are usually much better about accepting that one's identity is what one says it is.

I don't expect that I'm ever going to be able to understand this, because my brain isn't wired for it. But it's frustrating as heck--and I say so as someone who is both cis and het, so I don't exactly have a dog in the fight...

#190 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2013, 02:58 PM:

Kip, #186: Bravo! And I agree, under those circumstances your use of the word was totally warranted.

#191 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2013, 05:25 PM:

Kip, I agree with Lee. Strikes me as an appropriate deployment.

But I'm a white guy. And I'm not going to ask the African-American contingent here to Speak For All Blacks, but I'd be very curious what my POC friends think.

#192 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2013, 06:53 PM:

Elliott Mason #185: Definitely.

Kip W #186: Another white guy here, but I'd have said it if I thought of it. Having heard your example, if I ever do find myself in that place, I might expand on it: "Yeah, today I'm a n****r".

Carrie S. #189: Well, the thing is, that sort of unexpected response -- people not dealing well with stuff that you'd expect them to -- is usually a tip-off for hidden factors at play. I'll admit that my"hammer for "hidden factors" is to look for preconscious and/or cognitive issues -- and cognitive load is a big issue for me personally.

For that matter, I did grow up and mature in a succession of deeply liberal and tolerant cultures and subcultures, but I'm recalling now even I was rattled when someone I knew face-to-face announced their gender transition. But I'm pretty sure I managed to keep my discomfort hidden, and I did my best to show proper courtesy, because for me "that's what you do". Online has happened more often, but that's way easier for me -- presumably because online, the wetware doesn't really kick in.

#193 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2013, 07:06 PM:

Dave Harmon: Cognitive load is certainly part of it. I warn everyone I meet in the SCA that it will take a long time for me to learn their mundane name, if I manage it at all; apparently the namespace in my head is pretty much a first come, first served proposition. It literally took me a year to stop using a friend's SCA name when he decided to go by his legal one instead.

#194 ::: Carol Witt ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2013, 10:23 PM:

Xopher Halftongue @ #174: "they mistake the chord for a trill."

Oh, that's lovely.

#195 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2013, 11:10 PM:

Carol: *blush* Thank you.

#196 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2013, 09:47 PM:

Cadbury Moose @163, Kip W @180: polyfidelity is to monogamy as graph theory is to line segments

#197 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2013, 10:13 PM:

and if you had a relationship that was forever mysterious, that would be enigamy.

#198 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2013, 11:36 PM:

Reminds me of something Churchill said "Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." It's the recipe for an enigmyddle.

#199 ::: in medias res ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2013, 02:05 PM:

Chris Clarke's (Coyote Crossing) contribution to the topic:

I’ve heard there was a marriage forged
Reflexive-gagged the common gorge
But you don’t really care for liberals, do you?
It goes like this: A mayor-elect,
His family all mixed complecked,
Our middle fingers asking “what’s it to ya?”
What’s it to ya, what’s it to ya?
What’s it to ya, what’s it to ya?
Your schtick is weak and easily spoofed
Your hiring by the Post a goof
And readers with a brain can all see through you
You claim that you’re no doctrinaire
Some silver-plate wingnut Voltaire
Still families worldwide say “What’s it to ya?”
What’s it to ya, what’s it to ya?
What’s it to ya, what’s it to ya?
Baby, we’ve been here before
Like back in 1954
Just which part of the Constitution threw you?
I’ve seen your flag on rednecks’ trucks,
Your punditry, quite frankly, sucks:
It old and stale and racist. What’s it to ya?
What’s it to ya, what’s it to ya?
What’s it to ya, what’s it to ya?

http://coyot.es/crossing/2013/11/12/oh-you-said-richard-cohen-nevermind/

#200 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2013, 09:05 PM:

In media res, #199 Bravo!

#201 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2013, 11:50 AM:

One of the greatest blessings of the internet is that I no longer need to care what clowns the big newspapers choose to hire as columnists.

Newspapers have a huge advantage in reporting on-the-ground news, as they are designed for that, they have people whose job is to go to the city council meetings or follow the city's finances or whatever. But they have no advantage at all in analyzing the facts that are out in the open and figuring out their implications, which is the valuable part of opinion journalism. (There's also the entertainment end of opinion journalism, which is more-or-less where Rush Limbaugh lived back when I ever heard him. But there's no advantage for newspapers there, either.)

Opinion and factual reporting were tied together by a kind of historical accident, and now technology has cut them apart. This is a very good thing.

#202 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 10:42 AM:

Re: Patrick's link about Malcolm Gladwell

This is a different flavor of the same phenomenon.

My guess is that there is a sweet spot of writing in terms of choosing a topic, staying well within the ideological bounds of the ruling class, and keeping the writing interesting without being too detailed or complicated, which makes it possible to become very influential as a writer among the great and powerful. Gladwell could presumably write more deeply-thought-out books, but they would also be more challenging to read, and they would also inevitably sometimes run outside the bounds of comfortable, acceptable ideas.

I mentally put Gladwell in the same category as Thomas Friedman, though that's probably unduly harsh to Gladwell. But both are the kind of people that busy, smart-but-not-intellectually-curious members of the ruling class and their hangers on often think are deep, insightful thinkers. God help us.

#203 ::: albatross gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 10:43 AM:

gnomed

#204 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2013, 02:54 PM:

#199: I'm so glad I came back to check on this thread. It'd be a shame if I'd missed that. Bravo!

#205 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2013, 04:03 PM:

re 201: Unfortunately it also enables arranging a set of websites on your side of The Cause which tends to push people into a political solipsism because they are never confronted with a contrary authority. The internet is a blessing for me, as you say (and also because it makes fact-checking something that can be done on the spot), but I'm not convinced that it has improved discourse generally.

#206 ::: Gerald Fnord ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2013, 06:29 PM:

I took it for a member of a coastal élite (speaking as a rootless cosmopolitan myself) dismissing the TPers as bigots, unfair when observation of them via the media makes it seem as if only two-thirds of them were so.

#207 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 11:57 AM:

C Wingate:

I see your point. I think alongside the ideological bubbles, you also have bubbles of interest that amount to different answers to the question "what is newsworthy?" How much do you know about the big celebrity gossip, or widely-reported crime stories, or political sex scandals going on lately? I don't know much about those things, but I'm really interested in what the Snowden revelations say about what NSA has been doing to eavesdrop, and whether there will be more cases of MERS and what the reservoir host is. I think it's possible for two people to consume quite a bit of news, each be relatively well informed in some sense, and yet have little overlap. Similarly, there's all kind of background knowledge that is easy to miss, and that makes a lot of opinion pieces and discussions confusing or pointless. How many Americans really have much sense of the scale of our drone wars? (Hell, do any of us really have much of a sense of that? What *haven't* we heard about?)

I'm glad we seem to be losing the small set of gatekeepers who were deciding what topics and facts would simply not be mentioned, and which would be pushed even if they were silly or obviously false. But I'm not sure what the ultimate effect of this will be. Maybe instead of one Overton window, we get a dozen, and little communication possible between most people who live in different windows.

#208 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2013, 09:31 PM:

Alex Pareene names Richard Cohen the #5 hack of the year:

http://www.salon.com/2013/12/17/hack_list_no_5_richard_cohen/

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