Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sneering, snideness, irony, and blogging

The tone I most dislike in political blogging is the sneer. Sneering and snideness. The sneering aside that acts as an emotional drive-by rather than direct engagement in the polite and polished civil discourse that provides grounds for civil and civilized disagreement. Irony, when not done in a friendly fashion - irony when really and truly meant - has much the same effect because it means you don't address an argument or a person holding such an argument but instead, in effect, address yourself to an imaginary audience that already agrees with you, sitting in emotional, not rational, judgment upon your subject. It only succeeds as a tone because you have already decided in advance that you are interested merely in conversing with those who already agree with you, and conveys the message to anyone else that you are not interested in discussion, but only in a priori agreement. It is an emotional tone in lieu of reasoned discussion, and serves as gatekeeper (I'm only interested in those who already agree with me) through affect, rather than an invitation to reason together. I try not to indulge that here; not sure I always succeed.


Scott Lahti said...

You've just nailed why I could never see Limbaugh, Coulter, O'Reilly, Hannity, Malkin, Ingraham and their iron-filing magnetic cognates across the cable, talk and blog spheres, or what is called ''movement'' conservatism in the Regnery/Townhall ghetto, as embodying my ''side'' of things, though my fundamental dissent from the dominant technocratic-progressivist worldview of the late-industrial age (in which such ''fearless'' faux-dissenters share more than they realise), and provisional agreement with occasional telling critiques of leftist nonsense from more urbane center-right sources, are beyond question. I'm convinced, for example, that *operationally*, Coulter is simply a left-wing comic actress with an exhibitionist style of narcissism, and in no way a counter to the usual suspects of the Rosie O'Donnell Hollywood ''left''.
This passage from a 1973 essay on Gandhi in the great postwar humanist weekly MANAS

amplifies your post nicely -

''Joan V. Bondurant clearly distinguishes Gandhi's *satyagraha* from its obverse, *duragraha*. She discovers that, in contra-distinction to the former, the latter means stubborn resistance of the opponent's policy or action, 'prejudged' to be ipso-facto wrong. The *duragrahi* regards truth, justice, rightness his monopoly and does not allow the possibility of the opponent also being in the right.

In *duragraha*, the opponent is regarded as the embodiment of evil. He is not allowed to explain his standpoint. Even the distinction between the wrong and the wrong-doer is not maintained. The *duragrahi* first destroys his opponent's position in order to destroy his misdeeds. The latter is subjected to maximum suffering. As a matter of fact, there is no meeting ground between the *duragrahi* and his adversary. The former forces the latter to accept defeat and to grant the desired concessions. The *satyagrahi*, on the other hand, enables the alleged evil-doer to prove his point and allows a fair chance of its acceptance.

It should be clear that Gandhi aimed at erasing the spirit of partisanship in the fight for justice. The ideal outcome of a conflict, for Gandhi, would be the dissolution of the issue through the agreement of the opponents, instead of a defeat of one with victory for the other. There would be no separate triumph, but a common friendliness. This involves the remaking of attitudes and ideas of 'interest,' so it requires great patience and persistence. The objective is to see in what direction the good of all lies, and this often requires a purification of values.''

Scott Lahti said...

And here's the closing graf from the review by Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times, of Ronald Brownstein's new book, ''The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America'' -

''In the long term, Mr. Brownstein writes toward the end of this sobering book, 'the party that seeks to encompass and harmonize the widest range of interests and perspectives is the one most likely to thrive. The overriding lesson for both parties from the Bush attempt to profit from polarization is that there remains no way to achieve lasting political power in a nation as diverse as America without assembling a broad coalition that locks arms to produce meaningful progress against the country’s problems.'''