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Thursday, September 12, 2002

Puncture This

First I must begin with some Full Disclosure: In my post yesterday I said that Niles and I talked on the phone for an hour, he in Hawaii and I in Sydney, watching CNN together. Some of that hour was spent making smart-ass wise cracks that can not bear scrutiny in the daylight. One of the less offensive jokes was that Gary Condit must be behind the attacks, in order to get Fox News ("All Chandra Levy, All the Time!") off his ass. But these were made in private to one another, and not repeated afterward to prove what shining wits we were. And, for me at least, they were a way to cope, blunt instruments with which to bat away the horror.

Damian Penny takes issue with's Forbidden Thoughts on 9/11, and prays for Salon's swift demise.

Salon editor Scott Rosenberg replies to this thusly

I do not know who Damian Penny is...

Translation: Who does Damian Penny think he is??

We were thinking precisely this: That an orthodoxy has coalesced around 9/11, and that one good role of journalism is to puncture orthodoxies. That the range of human response to 9/11 was a lot wider than that reflected in the media orgy of 9/11 retrospectives. And that it's probably a lot healthier to air such responses than to pretend that they don't exist.

" good role of journalism is to puncture orthodoxies..."

Leaving aside the issue of whether it is indeed a role of journalism, let alone a good role, to puncture orthodoxies, here we find another orthodoxy: that the puncturing of orthodoxies is a Good Thing. Dissent is valuable for its own sake, not for any actual points it might make, not for identifying potential flaws or threats, but of its own accord. The implication would be that there are no good orthodoxies. There is nothing, no sentiment so good and fine that it can't be mocked; in fact, the better and finer the sentiment (and therefore more widely subscribed), the more urgent mockery becomes.

Remember that the "orthodoxy" they're puncturing here is not an orthodoxy promoting war against Iraq or Al Qaeda or terrorism, it's an orthodoxy that says the mass murder of thousands is a terrible thing, and deserves to be mourned, and that mourning should be respected by those who cannot or will not join in.

In the piece I linked to below, Simon Schama talked about the "pious hush" the administration is using to "bestow on its adventurism the odour of sanctity." Breaking that hush seems to me to be valuable, even patriotic.

This leads me to believe that Rosenberg's own personal position is anti-war, which is a perfectly valid stance. Bush believes that the way to prevent further terrorist attacks like 9/11 is to go after terrorists and the regimes which support them. There are good arguments against this. Rosenberg, however, rather than refuting Bush's reasoning, is attempting to ridicule the "root cause" of the reasoning. Rosenberg is belittling the dead in order to denigrate the war.

I wouldn't have come to this conclusion after reading "Forbidden Thoughts"; I would have come to the conclusion that Salon was staffed (and read) by tasteless cretins. But Rosenberg's invocation of the "pious hush" reveals an agenda besides a simple juvenile game of gross-out. (And note Rosenberg's own sanctimony in ascribing his little gallery of crudity to the holy cause of dissent.)

But here's where Rosenberg really stamps his feet and manages to piss all over himself.

But before you wish that Salon goes bankrupt, may I ask how you pay your bills, and how you'd feel if someone wished the same on the source of your livelihood? When did political disagreement turn into a license to wish that your opponents lose their jobs, or worse (cf. Ann Coulter's comment, "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building")? Good night.

I would point out that Rosenberg has little room for indignation here, since he's the one who published an article that must have caused pain to those who lost someone in the attacks, but someone on the comments page has already done that. (Last time I looked there were 54 comments, running about 2 to 1 against Rosenberg.)

As for the threat to his livelihood, Rosenberg should grow a damned skin if he's going to be a Real! Journalist! It's not like anyone asked him to become a journalist; he could've taken an honest job like mob construction boss or used car salesman. I'm a scientist, and I can't tell you how many people have told me that it's criminal to fund all that stupid old science when there are starving baaaaaybeeees right here in our own country. Damian's a lawyer, and I'm sure he could tell you all the lawyer jokes there are, not all of them said jokingly.

Salon must be near the end, if Rosenberg is throwing a hissy fit over this.

But enough of him. Let's puncture some orthodoxies, since that is an intrinsically Good and Holy Act.

The first orthodoxy to go is the one that says you must actually know what you talk about before pontificating on it. I haven't read "Forbidden Thoughts". I only know the bit Damian quoted, plus a few quoted in the comments. This post isn't so much about the lack of taste displayed in soliciting and publishing the forbidden thoughts; it's about Rosenberg's blithering justification. But still, ordinarily I'd want to know what I was talking about. But no more! Down with the tyranny of informed discussion!

I would also mention the ridiculous orthodoxy that it takes some sort of smarts or talent to be a Real Journalist, something not just anybody can do. But, geez, that observation has been done to dea---wait a minute! What the hell! I puncture the orthodoxy of originality! Ha! I point out that anybody with half a brain can be a journalist, and that frequently it takes less than that. In fact, from the remarks of real good journalists I know of, brains and talent may actually be a hindrance, since those guys are unemployed.

Oh, and a body in motion will tend to come to a complete stop on alternate Thursdays. The entropy of a closed system cannot micturate. E=mc**hammer. Gravitational force is mediated through the exchange of tiny invisible pink unicorns. There. Punctured a bunch of 'em.

Finally, I repudiate the orthodoxy of manners. Therefore I will point out that Rosenberg is a festering pustule on the spotty ass of humanity, and that his mother dresses him funny.

Down with orthodoxies! Coming soon: Motherhood, eggs, and football.

Oh, and cheap straight women. Down with 'em all!

By the way, here's Damian's reply to Rosenberg.

UPDATE: And here's another one, where Damian says he doesn't want Salon to go bankrupt. Show some spine, man!