Justin of Chicken Yoghurt is wearyingly obtuse in the comments at Never Trust A Hippy. In response to this from Paulie:
The prize for the most telling response to the Tim Toulmin /Alistair Campbell dialogue and call for a ‘blogger code of conduct’ surely goes to Chicken Yoghurt. His response is that the blogosphere….
“…hasn’t yet orchestrated a propaganda offensive (in both senses of the word) that contributed to the deaths of 655,000 people. What’s more offensive, a sweary blogger or a Deputy Prime Minister who can’t keep his hands to himself?”
Let me translate that for you.
“Why should I tidy my room when the world is in SUCH a MESS!”
Nope, sorry. That’s a not a very good translation. Can you be a little clearer?
What’s your point exactly?
“What have I done?! It’s so unfair! NuLabour’s always picking on me! Just tell me, what have I done?”
Paulie’s point seems clear enough to me. Attacks on the government by bloggers like Justin—and this government needs attacking—would have a little more credibility if they didn’t read like they were written by Kevins with laptops.
With the patience of a trendy teacher dealing with a spoilt student, Paulie has taken the trouble to explain to Justin why his (and others’) behaviour is not “helpful”. Sod that for a game of soldiers. The correct response to online sulking and swearing and slander isn’t to call for regulation like Tim Toulmin; it’s just to quote examples like Paulie did in the first place and marvel at their mountainous inanity. So let’s do it again because it’s easy. Alastair Campbell says that blogs contain “offensive stuff”; Justin throws another egg at The Man:
“What’s more offensive, a sweary blogger or a Deputy Prime Minister who can’t keep his hands to himself?”
“Yeah but no but John Prescott shagged his secretary! So nerr!”
Perhaps that’s why bloggers have a reputation for not getting out much: if I unironically broadcast head-slapping, irrelevant, adolescent stupidity like that then I’d be afraid to show my face outside. Up against people so ignorant that they employ a team of librarians to do a job that could be handled by a small piece of computer code, some online commentators still manage to make their targets look good.
Kevin Justin again:
[Unlike Alastair Campbell, the blog The Devil’s Kitchen] hasn’t yet orchestrated a propaganda offensive (in both senses of the word) that contributed to the deaths of 655,000 people.
Now that is an inspired rhetorical curlicue. How can I translate it and still embed a clever double meaning like the one Justin rightly draws our attention to in the original?
“Yeah, we might cuss sometimes, but at least we didn’t kill hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis with our Words of Mass Destruction!”
I wish I could say I hadn’t seen its like since I was an undergraduate, but, with the state of debate these days, I can’t. Read the rest as we bloggers say. It’s crushing stuff. Turning on his PC every day to face criticism like this—its wit, its rigour, its scholarship—must have been what drove Matthew Taylor to resign.
I agree that a bloggers’ code of conduct would be a complete waste of time, but Justin’s claim that bloggers are “already self-policing” is hilarious—“self-reinforcing” more like. The members of the pouting little boy bloggertarians club, frustrated beyond reason by Blair’s continuing survival and the takeover of the main opposition party by the Forces Of Statism, deploy the English language against the UK’s establishment with the incisiveness of little girls in an Anastacia forum and police themselves by collectively celebrating the “best” online verbal abuse. And even in that department they’re pretty unimpressive. They should extend their Web 2.0 activism out from the blogosphere into the real world and set up a flickr gallery showing the Best Snotballs Gobbed at an Elected Politician in 2006.
Here’s Anastacia fan Gemma from the comments at PooterGeek objecting to criticisms of her debating technique:
“Diss diss diss diss diss diss diss diss dis diss 😛
Getting mad now are ya?”
Here’s Justin the thirtysomething teenager from the blog post in question objecting to criticisms of his debating technique:
“To think that [Alastair] Campbell once consorted with [sic] princes and presidents and now he’s slagging off bloggers for whatever slim living it affords. I think I have an erection.”
Don’t curl your toes like that, dear reader; this is part of the Web 2.0 revolution, the new coffeehouse culture, the revival of satire. It’s punk all over again, but, unlike the Sex Pistols, Chicken Yoghurt and The Devil’s Kitchen—crazy names, crazy guys—really will smash the system this time (rather than leave Yes touring stadiums 30 years later with a separate pantechnicon for their money and Johnny “Rotten” appearing on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here).
Today the old-timers under attack are the giant lizards of mainstream politics. The Kids have extracted DNA from Jurassic jokes—Charles Pooter, Anthony Aloysius St John Hancock, Rick from The Young Ones, Wolfie Smith, and Roger Mellie—and used modern technology to create a terrifyingly dull new joke: the bloggertarian profanisaur—“self-policing”, self-regarding, self-fisking.
I responded to what I saw as an ad hominem attack from Paulie with the level of reply I thought it deserved. You filtered the exchange via guesswork and your ignorance of my thought processes. Now that Paulie has responded with a longer, thoughtful piece I have returned the favour in his comments.
At least Paulie has read a bit of my blog in order to form his opinion of it. You seem to know an awful lot about me on the basis of reading just one post. You give no impression of having read anything beyond that which, I’d argue, gives you little right for the conclusions you draw about what I say and how I say them.
You then descend to the level that you accuse others of sinking to. Crazy names, crazy guys, Pootergeek. Is there a term for a one-man circle jerk?
Personally, PG, I’d be a little ashamed to put my name to piss-poor research and juvenile abuse like this. You’ve obviously not done much reading around Chicken Yoghurt, but, what the fuck, you went ahead and slagged it off anyway. Bravo.
If you’re really looking for who poisoned the well, as opposed to basking in rhetorical self-importance, I suggest you root a little closer to the mammaries of power.
Paulie criticised your words, exactly as I did. Indeed, I encouraged people to read what you had to say in your original post in full.
I know nothing about you personally so it would have been impossible for me to mount any kind of ad hominem—apart from my generously inferring that you are over thirty while noting that that post read like it was written by someone under twenty.
You responded to a reasonable characterization of the state of much of the blogosphere by referring to the state of your penis, and answered other criticisms with infantile misdirection. Why should I be interested in anything else you have to say? What has any of it to do with Paulie’s original post?
Perhaps the rest of your oeuvre is rich and subtle, but I approach debates by addressing the words in front of me, rather than pointing at my genitals, or indeed John Prescott’s. If I have missed some wider context to which the tumescence your organ and the question of what Mr Prescott does with his are pertinent then please do take advantage of my comments to share it with us.
Yes, my blog also has a silly name.
Dang. Just when I thought my case was solid the walls cave in.
Do I need to read Chicken Yoghurt on a daily basis to have “the right” (as Justin would deny me) to point out petulant gibberish and non sequiturs? Maybe it was “Chicken Yoghurt Petulant Gibberish and Non Sequitur Wednesday”. If so, my bad.
Tell me, Jarndyce, how would you respond if a government minister asked people to consider an abusive outburst of his in a wider context or to do better research before drawing attention to his shonky arguments.
You guys just can’t see the irony of this kind of pleading, can you? You sound exactly like the people you affect to despise. “You have no right!” “Where is your research?” “Juvenile!” The breathtaking pomposity of it. People will think I write these comments myself to make me look good.
Au contraire, Damian, you have the complete right to make an arse of yourself in public. I wouldn’t want to deny you that: it sells papers, after all. What you don’t have is the right to expect anyone to take seriously your theory that the satirist and the sycophant ought to be held to the same standards. Good luck selling that one.
If do unfunny knob gags here from now on will you call me a satirist as well?
I now remember why I’ve gone out of my way to avoid engaging with the so-called ‘Decent’ Left. You refuse to address the substantive points – it’s all about how I’m saying it rather than what I’m saying. At least I tried to address the substance of what Campbell and Taylor had to say even if the way I said it gave you the vapours.
That Prescott is a revolting serial sexual harasser, who in any other walk of life would have been fired in seconds – let it pass, eh? So much for women’s rights in the workplace – those who would turn a blind eye to Prescott’s behaviour forfeit their right to lecture me on morality. That Campbell is a propagandist who helped lay the path to a disastrous war, which disqualifies him, *in my opinion* from criticising mere bloggers – well, knob gags are the greater crime it seems. That Matthew Taylor, a man at the heart of an authoritarian government, feels free to criticise those who stand aghast at practically his every move is less important than bloggers whistling in the dark. Priorities, you see, Damian.
And with that, I’m done. No doubt you’ll be relieved to hear I won’t be back here to offend your delicate sensibilities any further.
Oh dear, oh dear, PG; what a dull little man you are.
Mind you, as I have pointed out before, I expect nothing less for one of the great minds who thought up the staggeringly banal Euston Manifesto, a ridiculously prolix document which could effectively be summed up in one sentence, i.e. “I love what Toni’s doing and I think that he should keep on doing it.”
You see, what you have missed is the element of fun: I enjoy insulting people; I enjoy calling people names. Many other people enjoy reading the same — it is a relief from the tedious sincerity of the MSM and the kind of bloggers who… well… would write something like the Euston Manifesto.
Whilst Chicken Yoghurt’s politics diverge from mine, he is enjoyable to read because, whilst less overtly scatalogical than my own writings, his rage is eloquently expressed, right down to the knob gags.
As CY points out in his long and thoughtful reply to Paulie (most of which I agree with), the people at whom we aim our vitriol are worthy of neither respect nor politeness. For these people to attack bloggers when the politicians that Taylor and Campbell have advised have done real financial and bodily harm to millions of others is, frankly, disgusting and there really isn’t anything that can adequately describe my affront at such hypocrisy.
In the meanwhile, would you be happy for me to deride your every post as boring leftie rhetoric in order for me to attempt to change the way that you write? No? Good.
Then with all due respect — and you might have noticed that I don’t have much — please don’t attempt to tell me or CY how we should write.
Indeed, I find the DK very entertaining. But swearing alone would would not bring readers, under that are the many valid points made. One of the best (and sweariest) recent ones was on the 66% pay rise for MPs, can you seriously defend that??
In a free society, as long as a blog is not libellous and abides by the laws, why the **** is it any of Campbell’s business? I think some of the comparisons above are very apt, it is indeed ludicrous for someone who was part of a dishonest, corrupt and self seeking government that has killed thousands for no better reason than the PM’s ego, to complain of a few swearwords.
“… the people at whom we aim our vitriol are worthy of neither respect nor politeness.”
It seems to me that that’s Damian’s point, in a nutshell. When that’s the basic premise of your blogging — that argument proceeds from knob jokes and a basic lack of decorum — then you’re not doing anyone a service, or contributing to any debate. All you manage to end up doing is sound like a prat, and switch people off. (I’m very often guilty of this, too, but hey, you live and learn.)
The fact is that blogs *do* contain offensive stuff, but it’s not political commentary coming from the opposite direction to mine that I find offensive. It’s the sloppiness and intellectual lack of effort which usually has at its heart the notion “NuLabour = fascism.” This does nothing for me and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t do much for many level-headed and sensible critics of this Government either.
You may have to delve through the swearwords to find them — well, actually, you shouldn’t have to delve at all — but nearly every, single one of my posts contains valid points, linked research and, often, alternative solutions.
If people prefer not to avail themselves of this aspect, then that is entirely their choice. But, as xoggoth says, swearwords alone would not bring people to The Kitchen (and many read it despite, not because of, the swearing).
I don’t particularly want to get embroiled in this argument, except to observe that it’s perfectly possible to read PG’s criticism of “puerile, sweary blogging” and nod along even if you are one of the main offenders.
I don’t regard myself as a satirist just because I occasionally try to write satirically, any more than I would claim that having struggled through Wittgenstein makes me an intellectual, or having once slept with two women in one calendar year makes me a swordsman. I don’t call John Prescott a c*nt because I think it’s satire; it’s because I think he is one. We’ve had this discussion before, which is why I’m not keen to reopen it, but if a [large] proportion of the people who stumble across my site, or those of DK or others, find it childish, badly written, intellectually lazy, offensive, or just plain unfunny, I’m perfectly comfortable with that. Sometimes a knob gag is *just* a knob gag; that some people don’t like knob gags goes with the territory.
And, in response to Rob’s point that such material does not contribute to “the debate”, I would say that is very much in the eye of the beholder. When people argue about politics in the pub, they are not always decorous or polite; nor are their points always intellectually honest, rigorously thought through, or groundbreaking in their insight. We can accept all of this as true, but still say that ordinary people talking politics in a pub is part of what politics is all about. I simply don’t accept that in calling Blair a lying bastard, you thereby forfeit the right ever to be taken seriously.
Of course you have “the right” to point out “gibberish”, but the substantive point Justin was making was perfectly sound; for a representative of the government to blame the distrust between politicians and public on the press and bloggers is just staggeringly hypocritical.
There are millions of people in this country (though not myself) who consider themselves progressives, broadly sympathetic to left-of-centre parties, and to whom the Tories are anathaema, but who regard the Labour government as having betrayed them and their ilk by lying to take Britain into an illegal war, and don’t want to see them get away with it. Some of those people have blogs, and take every opportunity to point out what they see as hypocrisy and mendacity from their leaders. Even if you think they’re wrong, it’s just demonstrably and objectively true that the actions of this government have played a far larger role in the poisoning of public trust in politics than a few swearwords on a blog that are read by a couple of hundred people at most; and it’s perfectly reasonable to tell Alistair Campbell to f*ck off and look into his own conscience before criticising others for being offensive.
But – to come to the point of my comment – while the dividing line between the Private Eye end of the market and the Viz-clones can occasionally be blurred, to slander the output of Justin McKeating by describing it, if I may paraphrase, as “knob gags masquerading as satire” is just absurd. You can level that charge against myself, but I find it hard to imagine that any reasonable person who has ever read more than a couple of the posts on CY would consider that a fair or indeed recognisable characterisation of his blog, whatever their political views.
Because when you do you somehow manage to embarrass yourself still further in public?
What substantive points? I agreed without question with your central (reasonable) contention: that a bloggers code of practice was superfluous. It’s there in my post. Read it.
Let’s read yours again. Let’s enumerate the whole thing Anastacia style in the order you presented it:
So I addressed 7 and 8, the only worthwhile parts. I’m going to credit you with enough intelligence to identify the fallacies in 1-to-6 and 9-to-10. The source of your current discomfort is that you know they’re rubbish. Not that their shortcomings were drawn to your attention by your commenters. Earlier on you clumsily implied that I was “a one-man circle jerk”, whatever that is. If you’re going to sling abuse it helps to grasp your terms first—it’s the “circle” part that’s the point of the insult—and it helps if the responses to the very post in question on your own blog don’t exemplify the term you’re misusing.
I’m doing you a favour by pointing outsiders at your output. I have to argue my corner here all the time because I’m not part of a gang. (Remember that “cut-out-and keep guide to Decentism” that one of the Euston stalkers put on his blog? Even on that my name appears in its own separate Venn circle.) I’ve turned down invitations to write for two group blogs and I have had more fun at the Labour Party’s expense here than either the Conservatives or the Lib Dems. One of the beauties of blogging is that you can check my archive and see that the latter is true.
Another of the beauties of blogging is that it can give you the chance to test your own premisses and logic in a public forum. Often I find that annoyingly clever people come here from all over the World, write in my comments boxes, and make me think harder about the things I believe in; it’s not always like shooting fish in a barrel.
How you’re saying it is exactly what the debate is about. We are arguing about the quality of debate on blogs. How many different ways does it need to be expressed before you understand? Can you not see that you might have a problem when you answer criticism of the offensiveness and low quality of blog debate with an offensive low quality blog post? Alanis Morrissette should drop by: your repeated admissions that you don’t comprehend this are a perfect illustration of what irony really is about.
And even if this hadn’t been the subject of the discussion, as a general rule, if you come to the right conclusion for the wrong reasons once—“It’s a modern policy for a modern world”, “The Bible told me to”—you’re pretty soon going to come to the wrong conclusion. When, like the Anastacians, you wallow in the admiration of your fellow bloggertarians in the absence of any proper reflection or any decent jokes you might as well just write “diss diss diss diss lmao” and spare us the pretence of argument or “satire” or having anything interesting to say at all.
You have run me through with one of your infamous verbal épées, sir. I fear I will bleed to death. What a fool I was to provoke a wit of your stature.
But I got off lightly. I can only guess the sense of intellectual defeat experienced by Tony Blair when you called him a “cunt” or Charles Clarke when you called him a “cunt” or Patricia Hewitt when you called her a “cunt” or Polly Toynbee when you called her a “cunt”.
Would that I were not blinded by my partisanship I might escape my dullness, my littleness. Would that I had your courageous contrarian flair, the unique vision to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for example, for the “greedy fucker” that he is.
That bloke with the dodgy hairpiece I heard grumbling over his pint at the Dog and Duck yesterday: he must have been reading The Devil’s Kitchen. Where else could he have purloined his eerily similar insights?
I’m fascinated by your and Justin’s fascination with my “Decent Leftism”. Good idea. You keep losing the argument at hand so you probably ought to (re-)start another one.
Having, as recommended, browsed some of the other posts at Chicken Yoghurt, I’d like to offer Justin a link to the definition of “ad hominem“ and you a link to the definition of “eloquence”
So why not shut up then?
Do not dismiss me so cruelly, Mr Kitchen. Say you will share your secrets with me. Let me be your apprentice. Permit me to stand at your side as you juggle enallage, appose alliterations, griddle metaphors, stuff synecdoche, call Gordon Brown a “cunt”.
Perhaps one day, after long and diligent application, this humble African boy will learn your native tongue sufficiently well to pass in refined company for a true gentleman. How my mother’s heart will swell when I can finally join you at High Table and keep pace with the Bambi leaps of your celebrated mind, the finely calibrated flutter of your badinage. I beg of you: reconsider.
Would I school Swift and Shakespeare?
[It’s “scatological” by the way.]
How the ironies accumulate. Now Mr E is here to complete the set. Sensibly retreating to the one defence that seems to make some superficial sense—to stupid people, that is—he writes:
Let’s nip over to Wikipedia where the very first example of a fallacy in the media and politics is this:
Which brings us right back to Justin’s provably false accusations of ad hominem and the substance of Paulie’s original post, not that most of the comments here have made any attempt to go there.
Thank you, gentlemen. It’s been special.
So essentially you dislike the style of writing purveyed by DK, Mr Eugenides and CY. This is because the frequent use of bad language robs the writing of credibility. This may be true (although one wonders, credibility to who?), but the blogosphere is a diverse place, and there are plenty of Norm Geras’ and Oliver Kamms if you’re looking for worthy analysis, just as there are plenty of DKs and Mr Eugenides’ if you’re looking for a less polished analysis, interspersed with swearing. The latter, incidentally is a lot closer to most informal political discussions.
As for the notion that attacking Campbell in response to his call for less offensiveness is an unacceptable logical fallacy; is there a satirist (of any description) that wouldn’t? It’s like Prescott chairing a marriage guidance clinic, Ian Paisley ticking people off for intolerance or Oliver Reed hectoring us (from beyonf the grave admittedly) for binge drinking. In each case the message provided is good and sensible, but the medium through which it is provided (especially in Ollie’s case) makes it worthy of ridicule.
And the ‘humble African boy’ shtick to DK was a bit unnecessary wasn’t it?
Their writing style wouldn’t be a problem if they weren’t answering accusations of childishness by being childish.
And that line might work if if wasn’t for it being part of a defence of the shoddiness of blogging which is itself a shoddy piece of blogging.
It was aimed squarely at the “Oh dear or dear what dull little man you are” schtick. If you pretend to condescend it helps if you have attained some kind of superiority to condescend from. Which, incidentally, is perfectly of a piece with DK’s using a big word instead of a small one and then failing to spell it correctly. Mr Pretension, meet Mr Stupidity. He should stop trying to mix it with pygmies like me and stick to the swearing: at least he can spell “cunt”.
Sorry, why is it a shoddy piece of blogging to compare Campbell criticising others for being offensive to Prescott advising on marriages or Reed on drinking?
They may be philosophical fallacies, but that is not necessarily the sane thing as being shoddy blogging. It’s a device that is used in virtually every comedic form, from Private Eye to stand-up. Is blogging held up to an A-level philosophy test before it passes muster?
And if we’re being extra picky, surely it was a defence to the charge of shoddy blogging that is itself a comment to someone else’s blog. There is a distinction, unless every commentor to the BBC’s have you say is also blogging.
What are you on about? I was talking about—indeed I seem to be the only person talking about—the original post by Justin that Paulie quoted.
Ooh, look, there’s a polar bear!
that line might work if if wasn’t for it being part of a defence of the shoddiness of blogging which is itself a shoddy piece of blogging.
Just so we’re clear about this;
1. A government spokesman identifies a problem (distrust of political process) and fingers what he sees as the main culprits (media and bloggers).
2. I respond with the observation, “I don’t deny my role in souring the relationship between government and governed, but it is massively dwarfed by your own”.
3. In doing so, I am guilty of ad hominem argument, and therefore torpedo my own point.
If this is a fatal logical fallacy which thereby licenses you to disregard both it and everything else I’ve said, how is anyone supposed to have a debate about this? How can any discussion of the breakdown in a relationship between two parties be conducted – sensibly or childishly – when your ground rules, imported from Wikipedia no less, preclude any criticism of one of those parties?
Justin’s formulation – comparing the negative effects on political discourse and trust of a few swear words on a few blogs, on the one hand, with the deaths of 655,000 mostly innocent people, on the other – is a perfectly cogent one, even if you don’t care for the way he expresses it or agree with the reasoning behind it. For someone from the government to blame the one for the public’s distrust of them, but totally ignore the other, is simply incoherent, and that was the point of his original post.
It’s not “irrelevant and adolescent” to point that out, and I still haven’t seen a rebuttal attempted, much less accomplished.
Even if you accept that Alastair Campbell is responsible for the deaths of 655 000 mostly innocent people—I don’t; it’s nonsense—Justin’s formulation simply isn’t cogent. I have already explained exactly why. I’m happy to leave it at your believing it is and my believing it is not. Other people can reach their own conclusions.
Maybe another way of putting it is: whenever I read blogging of the type CY, DK and the rest are defending above, it makes me more satisfied with, and more sympathetic to, the government than I was before I read it. This is probably not the effect they’re after, and it’s almost entirely a result of the style, rather than the substance, of the critique, which means that I find the style counterproductive.
I fully accept that there may be others who think: “Yes, that’s right – I’d never looked at it like that before, but now he comes to mention it, Tony Blair really IS a cunt”. Good for them, and stuff. But for me, it’s the opposite of persuasive writing.
I also fully accept that it may not be intended as persuasive writing. Again, fine. But badly written, unfunny, unpersuasive writing on a blog tends not to make me want to come back to it. My loss, I guess.
Here’s why I think you’re completely wrong on this one, Damien. It’s your agreement with this bit:
That translation is just plain wrong. The issue isn’t “Should I tidy my room?” The issue is “Should the Government spend time and money and manpower teling me that I should tidy my room and how I should do so?” Since the Government has limited resources, any criticism along the lines of “How dare they expend effort trying to force me to tidy my twenty-foot-by-fifteen room while they leave faeces stuck to the walls of their own concert hall?” is entirely valid.
A very disappointing post from you.
I hope I didn’t make any typos in this comment. I’d just die if you were to point one out.
You are right. If Justin had framed his criticism in that particular form then it would have been (partially) valid for him to do so. He did not. And, as I have pointed out, I conceded the worthlessness of government intervention for the good reasons that made a tiny part of Justin’s original post.
I am glad my argument is not with you because you’re annoyingly clever. But yes, you made a typo: it’s “Damian”.
[Filing away the word ‘curlicue’ for later use]
Re the typo, at least he didn’t spell it with an ‘o’. I’ll get a Christmas card addressed to ‘Damion’ this year, guaranteed. Likely from a blood relative.
That would be quite a serious misspelling of “Inci”.
It’s taken me a lot of hard work to get that “ly clever”.
Sorry about your name, Damian. My fucking it up, not your having it.
Anyway, right, since you agree that the “translation” is bad, why do you take the piss out of Justin’s saying
His point seemed clear enough to me: verbal offensiveness on blogs versus offensive actions by politicians; actions trump words. He was explicitly responding to the Government’s idea that blogs are “undermining the relationship between public and politicians”, so any example of the Government or its ministers doing something which undermines the relationship between public and politicians is, I’d’ve thought, fair game. I would hope details such as the limitedness of government resources would be implicit. I’m not going to have start spelling that out in every bloody blog post, am I? You don’t.
Come to think of it, I’d agree with a lot of your points about puerile insults if you had avoided picking as an example a really perfectly inoccuous point made, though angrily, quite reasonably. I rather like the Devil’s Kitchen myself, but don’t care for the swearing, precisely because I don’t find it offensive.
PG asks “Would I school Swift and Shakespeare?”
Well, yes you would, actually. Your whole argument echoes Thackeray’s tedious Victorian criticisms of the Yahoo episode in “Gulliver”:
“When Gulliver first lands amongst the Yahoos…he describes himself as ‘almost stifled with the filth which fell about him’. The reader of the fourth part of “Gulliver’s Travels” is like the hero himself in this instance. It is Yahoo language: a monster gibbering shrieks, and gnashing imprecations against mankind – tearing down all shreds of modesty, past all sense of manliness and shame; filthy in word, filthy in thought, furious, raging, obscene”
– Thackeray, “English Humourists”
DK et al don’t approach Swift of course, just as you don’t come up to the level to the Great Mediocrity Thackeray. But the principle of your arguments is the same: one can criticise a state of affairs and be right, but one really must observe the proprieties. One mustn’t rock the boat…
And indeed Paulie’s original criticism of the swearbloggers is exactly the same as Thackeray’s of Swift. That their “savage iconoclasm” ends in nihilism. That wasn’t true of Swift and it isn’t true of Mr E. You may think it is, but you haven’t explained why anywhere on this thread. All you’ve done is repeat the mistake bourgeois commentators have made about Swift, Pope, Horace et al. They can’t see beyond the rude words.
Those words do indeed contrast with your own earnestness, so well exemplified in the Euston manifesto – (on which subject, I loved this bit: “I can only guess the sense of intellectual defeat experienced by Tony Blair when you called him a “cunt”” – I must have missed the earth-shattering and enduring impact of your own, carefully polilte effort).
But as Sir Toby said to Malvolio, “Dost thou think because thou art virtuous there shall be no more cakes and ale?” Incidentally, I know you wouldn’t presume to school Shakespeare, but what do you think of the cunt gag in Hamlet? It’s always totally spoiled the play for me…
PS, on the whole African boy thing, it’s a shame to see that even as you try to demonstrate your disdain for DK, you still feel you have to prove to him you know all those long words. Chippy? Or will that bring shabby insinuations of racism down on me too?
Once again, Mr Codify, you step into my comments to attack the argument you wish I’d made rather than the one I actually made. In fact, this time you pretentiously summon up an historical one to ascribe to me.
I used long words in my reply to DK, not because I prefer them, but to mock by contrast; you’re a scholar of satire so I shouldn’t need to tell you this.
And whenever I’m accused of being “chippy” or “having a chip on my shoulder” then I know I’ve won. It’s the ultimate non-argument. I’d never heard the words until I moved into the sort of circles occupied by privileged people who aren’t very bright.
The reference to Africa had nothing to do with race and everything to do with language. If I’d been born in the Netherlands and described myself as “a little Dutch boy” it would have worked in exactly the same way. It happens that I was born in Nigeria and my mother is from Sierra Leone. I’ve devoted far more space on PooterGeek to questioning insinuations of racism than I have to making them. Everyone who reads this blog regularly knows this, but, for the record, DK’s attempt at lofty contempt for me wasn’t racist; it was, like your comment, simply pompous and stupid.
And that’s the point you made that I’m attacking. Maybe I was mistaken. Clearly the culmination of your argument in the phrase “profanisaur” meant something else entirely. Sorry.
Once again you ignore the points made to you. You raised Swift and Shakespeare as examples of fine writing – I pointed out to you that Swift was frequently attacked for the language he used, and that Shakespeare placed a cunt gag in one of the central scenes of Hamlet. Maybe you just didn’t read that bit.
If the reference to “humble African boy” really had nothing to do with implying DK was condescending to you because of your race, then I apologise – tho it seems like a highly disingenuous thing to say, and other people clearly thought so too.
I’d advise you never to read the Dunciad. It’s a shame, because it’s the finest satire ever written, but I don’t think you’d like the pissing contest. No cake and ale for you, Malvolio.
Fight, Fight, Fight!!…
I have to admit that I find this comments section quite wonderful. You can call the winners as you see them (as I’ve met several of the participants and like and admire what little I know, especially the writing and…
Well done, sir! You have found many examples of swearing in my blog. Excellent work. Truly, thou art at the very pinnacle of English comprehension.
Now, if one were to read my posts — rather than Googling for “Devil’s Kitchen” and “cunt” — one might find that there were perfectly cogent points in them: after all, when I call Gordon Brown a “cunt”, I explain why I think that he is one.
Indeed, people like Squander Two and Doctor Crippen read my blog despite the swearing, so there must be some intellectual rigour to my writing, some point to it beyond calling people “cunts”.
I just prefer to write in a certain style because that is what pleases me; I don’t aim to change the world with my blog, although I have been known to change minds.
And I have not done that through the liberal use of swearwords, but by intelligent argument.
Also known as “Draw Bush As a Chimp For the Umpteenth Time” Syndrome.
I prescribe a good couple of days with a copy of John Lloyd’s “What the Media are Doing to Our Politics”.
When the government sours the relationship with the governed, it gets booted out on its arse. When the media (and by extension bloggers) do the same (accepting the very limited degree to which blogging is responsible), there is no blowback. It’s the old ‘power without responsibility’ thing, and the internet makes authors of us all.
Contribute, or sneer like a frustrated wannabe, but don’t tell us they are the same thing.
So the relationship between the government and the governed is soured by someone using sweary words while discussing politics? Gosh.
If you say so, Squander. I certainly didn’t.
(Though I did complain that the quality of the swearing was almost as poor as the quality of the “arguments” embedded in it.)
On the contrary, I think calling John Prescott a “cunt” is an invaluable contribution and fosters an environment in which a meaningful exchange of coherent opinion on the substantive issues can flourish.
I wasn’t alluding to “sweary words” per se, but I am genuinely concerned about the deliberate and destructive infantilisation of contemporary political discourse. Aren’t you, or do you reject the premise?
I know. I was responding to Brownie.
Me too. I don’t think swearing is it.
There’s swearing and there’s swearing. Merely calling Prescott “a cunt” and not saying anything else (arguably) infantilizes the debate, but that’s mainly because it’s criticism with no substance, not because swearing is involved. Giving a list of reasons why you hate him and also calling him “a cunt” does not do so; instead, it merely involves using a word that some people prefer not to read or hear while keeping the debate at a perfectly sensible level.
That being said, there’s nothing inherently wrong with criticism without substance; people have a long history of expressing their anger, and there’s nowt wrong with that. The problem arises when the insults are used as an alternative to substance, with the underlying assumption that they are as good as genuine complaints.
To my mind, the word-use that infantilizes politics more than anything else is the popular coining of oh-so-hilarious puns such as “nurse quacktitioner” and “Paddy Pants-down”. These are the sorts of things five-year-olds would come up with, yet they are inexplicably popular in British politics, even among supposedly mature commentators.
My first comment—the one you originally responded to—didn’t mention “swearing”. My second comment made it clear I wasn’t focusing on “swearing” when I said: “I wasn’t alluding to ‘sweary words’ per se…”, yet your post immediately above gives the impression my issue is with the use of swear words. It’s not. Or at least it needn’t be.
But since you ask, calling someone with whom you have a profound political disagreement a “cunt” is, to my mind, a manifestation of ignorance. You can craft the highest of highbrow critiques of John Prescott’s politics, but litter your post with profanities and it’s going to detract from the genuine points made. It’s as simple as that.
David Irving may be a Liverpool supporter and have some really interesting things to say about tactics, where Stevie G should be deployed to greatest effect, etc., etc., but I would never know this as his contributions in other areas have dissuaded me from taking him seriously on any subject. The racist cunt.
Your first comment was made as part of a conversation about swearing.
Yeah, I know what “per se” means, thanks.
No, detraction is something the reader does. You choose to find certain words distracting or you don’t. My grandma’s still offended by the use of “damn”. The doesn’t mean your using the word “damn” detracts from any other points you might make.
Now you’re just talking smartarse rubbish, Squander. I don’t think bloggers should be prohibited from swearing—“offensive” words can be highly effective when used by someone who knows how—but Brownie’s point is perfectly reasonable and true for a large part of the population even if it isn’t true for you.
No one should be allowed to discriminate against me, but I don’t think they should be prevented by the law from referring to me as a “nigger”, not that I’ll let them get away with it here.
However, if someone writes a blog post containing a perfectly legitimate criticism of Trevor Phillips in which they refer to him as a “nigger” then I might well find it “distracting” enough to disregard everything else said on that blog. The author would be the one at fault, not me.
Plenty of people think it’s silly to object to the word “nigger” and there was a time when most people in this country thought that way. Now they don’t and using it is usually counterproductive. “Fuck” is unparliamentary language and is not normally considered a part of civil conversation between strangers. You might think this is silly, but it happens to be the way things are.
A: You’re all cunts!
B: Waah! you hurt my feelings, you cunt!
A: Well you fucking deserved it!
C: Hello, I’m a serious moderate grownup. Whatever B – or I – may have done, you can’t call us cunts, because we say so.
C: Are you with the terrorists?
Well, this is a thread I honestly regret reading. I feel my IQ has dropped ten points already. I’ll never trust D2’s judgment on what might be worth reading again.