Jay Reding.com

Vulgar And Proud

Amanda Marcotte, John Edward’s former blogger, has a piece that defends vulgarity as a form of populism. In it, she demonstrates exactly why the left wing of the blogosphere’s only real impact will be in raising funds and embarrassing political candidates. She writes:

The word “vulgar” was by far the favorite word of critics, and make no mistake, it was used in a way that was consistent with its classist roots as a term denoting the lowly language, taste, behavior, and entertainments of the common people. John Broder of the NY Times made the classist connotations of the term explicit by suggesting that Edwards would teach us to use a more “civil tone”. Bloggers are the vulgar common people and in order to get into the hallowed halls of politics, we need to become civilized. Joan Walsh, in her companion article to mine in Salon, also drew on class-based metaphors to describe what was distressing about the blogger invasion, when she called our style “street-fighing”. Bill Donohue provided as religion hook to excite the masses, but I think the mainstream media was willing to entertain his baseless accusations because it provided them another opportunity to rail against the vulgar bloggers.

Now, it’s hardly surprising that a radical feminist would find evidence that anything somehow intersects with the Holy Trinity of the Secular Left (race, gender, or class — and usually some combination of the above). However, in its own mode of analysis, she does have a point. Blogging is seen as being a lesser form of media by the establishment.

Marcotte does go on to say something that is quite interesting:

This is where blogs step in, at least on the left. Blogging is a real counterpoint to the thoughtless, elitist, soundbite-driven mainstream media, where we’re supposed to absorb an endless stream of soundbites and photo ops and our participation is limited mostly to a vote every couple of years. Blogs are bringing back the 19th century debate culture, where people would attend real debates and political rallies and listen to speeches for hours at a time. The irony about the vulgar people is that the vulgar people crave analysis, debate and participation, because these things validate our intelligence and our right to be citizens. The blogs are still appealing only to a small segment of society right now, but they’re still relatively new and have the potential to reach a much larger audience over time.

Now, I’ll say that Marcotte’s writing is cheap invective, not real debate. She’s the Ann Coulter of the left, and while both have moments of clarity, they thrive on the sort of high-school rhetoric that has much more in common with Beavis and Butthead than with Lincoln and Douglas.

However, her populist argument isn’t without some merit. However, we have to ask ourselves if that form of populist expression is really good for our democracy. Democratic debate can’t be more than a bunch of people calling their political opposition “Christofascists” and “wankers.” I’m not sure how that sort of thing validates anyone’s intelligence, except in the negative. Yes, blogging can be incredibly edifying, which is why so many people do it. Yes, it does in many ways harken back to the pamphleteer culture of the 19th Century.

Marcotte then demonstrates why the blogosphere will never be the asset to the left that it could be otherwise:

Right now, the American left has ceded the populist ground that should be ours for the taking. In part, it’s because we respect the moral obligation not to pander on sexist, racist, or religious grounds.

For one, when has the American left ever declined to pander? Secondly, if Marcotte’s idea of retaking the populist high ground is trying to push the envelope more and more and be as vulgar (in the truest sense of the word) as they can, then blogging not only won’t have much mainstream appeal, but it shouldn’t. Do we really want a political culture that’s descended to such depths? Where the ad hominem, not the rational discussion of policy, is the predominant type of discourse?

There’s something totalitarian about that comment as well — that while the left trumpets the values of “tolerance” and “diversity” and engages in actions such as enforcing mandatory speech codes on college campuses, there’s a desire to ensure that ethical bounds don’t apply to those on the “right” side of the issues. Amanda Marcotte can make whatever disgusting slurs she wants in the name of her ideology, but the same people would accuse anyone making a similar comment about Islam as a racist, bigot, and a danger.

In the end, it’s the same constant self-rationalization leading to intellectual incoherency. Marcotte and her ilk won’t have much impact over the long-term because being vulgar is hardly new or exciting. There’s plenty of people who can lash out at the “wingnuts” and the “Christofascists” just as well. It’s the people who can actually think that make a difference, and those are the people who will influence politics.

Being vulgar is nothing to be proud of. Playing to the passions of the mob is not great rhetoric. Slinging filth is not a sign of a great mind. It’s all been tried before, and better to boot.

19 responses to “Vulgar And Proud”

  1. Mark says:

    “For one, when has the American left ever declined to pander?”

    This from a member of a political party whose three main candidates for President, in the last 4-8 years, have gone from steadfast pro-abortion rights defenders to falling over each other to validate their “pro-life” credentials.

  2. Jay Reding says:

    This from a member of a political party whose three main candidates for President, in the last 4-8 years, have gone from steadfast pro-abortion rights defenders to falling over each other to validate their “pro-life” credentials.

    Except for the fact where neither McCain nor Giuliani has changed their position at all. McCain has always been largely pro-life and Giuliani has always been personally pro-choice. So far it appears that only Romney has changed his position on the issue.

  3. Mark says:

    In 2000, John McCain said he had no interest in dividing the country by overturning Roe vs. Wade. Seven years later, as a means of raising the stakes of his flailing Presidential campaign, he’s specifically calling for Roe vs. Wade to be overturned. Giuliani, while ardently supporting abortion rights through his political career in liberal New York City, is now reaching out to the hard right by saying that while he’s still personally pro-choice, “don’t worry, he’ll be certain to appoint the SCOTUS nominee who will overturn Roe.” Some serious hair-splitting on Rudy’s part….and total flip-flopping on McCain and Romney’s part. But hey, with the Democrats having changed their minds on the necessity of a war waged based on bad intelligence, “the American left never declines to pander”.

  4. Jay Reding says:

    McCain’s record on Roe is hardly what you make it out to be: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/campaigns/wh2000/stories/mccain082499.htm. McCain immediately backtracked from that statement, it’s likely he was just misquoted or misspoke. His position hasn’t changed.

    Giuliani’s position is probably the most coherent. There’s nothing wrong with being pro-choice but still anti-Roe. Roe is bad law, and it should be repealed. Repealing Roe doesn’t mean a ban on abortion, it just gives the states the ability to decide, which is exactly the way the Founders intended it to work.

    Romney’s still the only one who’s been inconsistent in his views, which probably explains why he’s already starting to lose some support from conservatives.

  5. Will says:

    “Repealing Roe … gives the states the ability to decide, which is exactly the way the Founders intended it to work.”

    The Founders wanted to make sure the states had the authority to regulate abortion?

  6. Jay Reding says:

    The Founders wanted to make sure the states had the authority to regulate abortion?

    Yes. Amendment X: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

  7. Mark says:

    “Giuliani’s position is probably the most coherent. There’s nothing wrong with being pro-choice but still anti-Roe.”

    This kind of hair-splitting is not gonna play with general election voters and I’d be surprised if it played with GOP primary voters. Essentially Giuliani is telling us that he supports a woman’s right to choose…..unless she’s one of the 30-35% of American women who lives in a state that would criminalize abortion if Roe was overturned. It’s unlikely that that talking point is gonna be persuasive to the very voters Giuliani most needs in his corner to win nationally….suburban women north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

    And just as a talking point, “I support legalized abortion but oppose Roe vs. Wade” comes across as smarmily disingenuous opportunistic as “If the U.S. Senate hadn’t been given faulty intelligence about Saddam’s WMDs, there would not have been a vote, and I wouldn’t have voted to authorize this war.”

  8. Eracus says:

    Except that Roe v. Wade is not a law passed by any Congress, Mark. If this is not true, please cite the legislation by which it was proposed and identify which President of the United States signed it into law.

    Roe v. Wade is a judicial decree handed down by a 5-4 Supreme Court opinion, which by definition is unconstitutional. It is beyond dispute that the founders never intended for the law of the land to be decided by a single member of the U.S. Supreme Court, especially in matters as private and personal as what should remain privileged between a patient and her doctor.

    This unconstitutional, illegal precedent is the fundamental objection conservatives have to Roe v. Wade. It has nothing at all to do with a woman’s right to choose, which many if not most conservatives believe is already protected in the IV Amendment, the dimensions of which (especially in such matters as abortion) are to be legislated by the elected representatives of the individual States. (See X Amendment)

    What brought the controversy over Roe v. Wade about was not whether a woman and her doctor had the right to decide the course of a pregnancy, because that has been an unfortunate fact of life for more than two thousand years. What most conservatives object to is that what was once established as a foregone conclusion in the common law definitions of individual privacy, was turned into an industry of abortion on demand, to be financed by the American taxpayer without any legal foundation whatsoever, and rendered as “law” based entirely upon Harry Blackmun’s personal opinion. Well, now. Who made Harry Blackmun King of America?? Isn’t this sort of law by decree precisely why we fought the American Revolutionary War?? Of course it is, and that is why Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

    Most conservatives believe that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare and are willing to support any legislation that protects the individual and prevents the interference of the State. In order to lay the legal foundation by which such laws can be passed, we have to first repeal Roe v. Wade — not to betray our wives’, our daughters’, and our sisters’ right to privacy, but because it is not a law but an unconstitutional judicial decree. What we can’t understand is why liberal Democrats insist on the one hand that while big Government has no place in our bedrooms, on the other hand it has every right to be in our doctor’s office deciding treatments and cures. It makes absolutely no sense.

    But then we also realize that we are here confronted with the very same walking contradictions of moonbat madhatters who believe that “supporting the troops” means undermining their mission, aiding the enemy, and cooperating in their defeat. Go figure.

  9. Mark says:

    Eracus, I have no interest in discussing the nuts and bolts of Roe vs. Wade and its Constitutionality. It may surprise you to learn that I agree that Roe was a huge SCOTUS overreach. I’m looking at this from a purely political angle just as Republican candidates do when they need their values voters to chase the “pro-life” carrot around the racetrack once every 730 days on the first Tuesday of November in even-numbered years.

    To say you support a woman’s right to choose…..if she lives in a blue state, is trying to have it both ways, and that’s exactly what Giuliani is doing. Affluent suburban families who don’t want to see their slutty teenage daughter forced to bring her history teacher’s baby into the world and “dishonor the family name”, and the slick-talking former Mayor of New York City who wants it both ways on abortion (and who will also send their daughter to be killed in the civil war in Iraq if she doesn’t get pregnant). These kinds of voters, who live in places like New Jersey and suburban Philly, are the kinds of voters Rudy would need to win over if he had any chance of winning the Presidency, and they’re not gonna persuaded by Jay’s assertion that returning to the era of back-alley abortions will only occur in red states.

    It’s this sort of contradiction in core political values that is mandatory of Giuliani to win over the zealots in his own party’s primary and swing voters in the general election….and it continues to be the reason I believe his campaign is a non-starter. And if it isn’t a non-starter and the guy does get nominated, Democrats will be dancing in the streets to have gotten a 2008 election freebie laid at their doorstep.

  10. Resident expert says:

    So Amanda Marcotte is the Ann Coulter of the left? Let’s see …

    Ann Coulter pushes her arguments in her best-selling books and in regular teevee appearances and campus lectures.

    Amanda Marcotte’s comments came in her blog that were relatively unknown (at least compared to Coulter) until the Edwards dust-up.

    Yep, they’re just alike, those two.

  11. Some guy says:

    But then we also realize that we are here confronted with the very same walking contradictions of moonbat madhatters who believe that “supporting the troops” means undermining their mission, aiding the enemy, and cooperating in their defeat. Go figure.

    You forgot beating their wives, too. How could any moonbat argue with that?

  12. George says:

    It’s the people who can actually think that make a difference, and those are the people who will influence politics.

    Stop generalizing. Get down to brass tacks. Name ten people from each side – conservative, liberal – who “can actually think.”

  13. Eracus says:

    Why, thank you, Mark, for yet another illustration of your psycho-pathology. With your tortured logic and delusional stream-of-conscienceness, please entertain us some more with how Giuliani’s special “sort of contradiction in core political values” twice got him elected Mayor of New York carrying 4 of the 5 city boroughs. Could it be possible Rudy knows something you don’t? Or was this just a fluke, a blue-state anomaly that’ll never happen again in a million years, because, you know, people in New York are so very different from people in New Jersey and Philly….

  14. Emily says:

    Marcotte’s painfully self-conscious transgressive rhetoric derives from the hoary old impulse to epater le bourgeois, not any serious populist project. She’s avant garde like that. It’s only after the fact, & implausibly, that she’s decided to wrap herself in the common person’s mantle.

  15. Eracus says:

    So you mean she’s just another liberal Democrat, barking moonbat, AND a hypocrite? No kidding?

  16. Mark says:

    Eracus, I hate to break it to you, but mayoral elections (particularly in 1993) are not indicative of partisan affiliation in more consequential races. If Giuliani is the GOP nominee for President against any Democrat, he’ll be lucky to get more than 25% of the vote in New York City. Kind of like Minnesota’s own Norm Coleman, twice elected Mayor of St. Paul in the early-to-mid 1990’s….but later finishing third place in the 1998 gubernatorial election and losing all 110 of St. Paul’s precincts to Walter Mondale in the 2002 Senate race.

    When one’s political duties are as limited as that of a Mayor, it’s alot easier for partisans to briefly change teams than when the candidate’s political duties are as substantial as that of the leader of the free world. And the fact that Rudy will almost certainly be parroting The Decider’s talking points on the very issues driving The Decider’s approval ratings into the toilet, the people from New Jersey and suburban Philly will not they are not so very different from New Yorkers who will also vote against Rudy by a landslide margin.

  17. Eracus says:

    Why, thank you again, Mark, for still more of your signature after-the-bong-hit, “wow, what a headrush,” stoo-pid bloviations. Thanks for sharing! But I hate to break it to you, pal, St. Paul, Minnesota ain’t no New York, New York, and little Normie Coleman sure as hell ain’t no Rudy Giuliani. Do you honestly not see how anybody who could possibly come up with such an idiotic, ridiculous comparison must be either absolutely stoned or pathologically delusional? Hopefully, it’s just good weed combined with the fact you have never lived east of the Mississippi and consequently, as usual, have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Again.

    Honestly, Mark. That is the stupidest drivel I think you have ever posted here. In 2000, Al Gore lost his own home state and he was the incumbent Vice President. Was it because “it’s alot easier for partisans to briefly change teams than when the candidate’s political duties are as substantial as that of the leader of the free world?” Or was this just a fluke, a blue-state anomaly that’ll never happen again in a million years, because, you know, people in Tennessee are so very different from people in New Jersey and Philly…

  18. Mark says:

    Eracus, you devolve into cartoonish more with each successive post….no small task given that your introductory post on this blog told us that local DFLers burned your ice house down out of spite for your GOP affiliation (gotta give you credit for a memorable entrance). Now, your every post is trying to break the Guinness record of deploying the most inanely hostile adjectives to insult the growing chorus of critics to your ideology. It’s getting to the point where nobody is gonna dignify your colorful (but ultimately empty) thesaurus vomit with a response as you will simply make a couple of delusional observations and then proceed to call your opponent delusional.

    Now, you are reduced to saying that New York City (where Giuliani was once Mayor) is more like Tennessee (where Al Gore lost in 2000) than St. Paul (where Norm was once Mayor). You’ll have to elaborate on that one for me….and please, for the sake of everybody growing bored with your infantile name-calling antics, at least try to cut the schoolyard insults down by half. Al Gore lost Tennessee because he changed his political ideology since his years in the Senate representing that state. The Tennessee Senator who once opposed abortion rights steadfastly supported it as a Presidential candidate in 2000. The Tennessee Senator who opposed gun control laws in the 1980’s was for expansive gun control measures by 2000. The Tennessee Senator who fought for his home state’s tobacco industry in the 1980’s was actively seeking to sabotage it by 2000. Gore moved to the left of those he once represented in the Senate….just as Norm Coleman moved to the right of St. Paul residents, changing his positions on key issues with the prevailing national political wind of the hour….and Giuliani is attempting to do now to court fringe-right GOP primary voters. He supports the status quo in a wildly unpopular war and claims to support abortion rights while confessing his intention to outlaw legalized abortion in a third of the country. This is not a formula that can win you a majority in New York City….or New Jersey….or suburban Philly….or St. Paul. But maybe Tennessee. Maybe!

    Did I say that in simplistic enough terms that EVEN YOU were able to understand it?

  19. Eracus says:

    You’ve just delivered another insane pathetic diatribe, Mark. It’s unreadable except as an illustration of your obviously decompensating mental illness. You need to see a doctor before you hurt yourself or someone else. Seriously, get some help.