frightened out of my pajamas!

I wasn't going to write a post about Tuesday night's Pajamas Media-Politics Central panel conference, but attendee August J. Pollak made me feel a certain sense of obligation.

To their credit, PJM is smart enough to keep their big-name hyper-partisans out of the public eye. Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds, notorious for his self-proclaimed "moderate" position by way of merely linking to right-wing blogs on a daily basis instead of offering the viewpoints himself, served as moderator (Reynolds' money quote of the evening was his description of his nonpartisanship: "My dream is a world where happily married gay couples have closets full of assault weapons," which... yes, I believe is still frightening.) The extremists who might have, you know, made the hypocrisy of the eventís premise embarrassingly blatant were kept in the shadows...
I'm wondering who these extremists were, and why and how they were "kept in the shadows." There was a room full of people, and my biggest problem was that I couldn't meet everyone, as I'm not much of a human party navigator. Plus, not everyone had a name tag, and I don't have an encyclopedic memory of which names go to which blogs, so I may very well have spoken to bloggers whose blogs I know but whose names I didn't connect with their blogs. Either I'm too shy -- or it's just too awkward -- to ask "What's the name of your blog?" to everyone whose name I didn't recognize.

How to spot the extremists? I have no idea. Considering that Mr. Pollak seems to feel that Glenn Reynolds is a clever extremist who passes himself off as a moderate, I must have been in pretty extreme company.

Hell, I'd be willing to bet that I'm an extremist myself!

And a scary one at that. No really. If gay couples with closets full of assault weapons are "frightening," then this was definitely an extremist extravaganza -- and not because the attendees were gay or had closets full of assault weapons. (There's really no way to know these things, and if I didn't even ask people what their blogs were you can be damned sure I wasn't getting around to sexuality or weaponry. Nor did I volunteer that my pit bull understands how to safely handle a Kalashnikov.) No; the reason I'd have to concur that this was an extremist extravaganza was that the room exploded in laughter when Glenn made the remark about gay couples with closets full of assault weapons.

Yes, they laughed. And at a "frightening" statement.

As if it wasn't enough to be laughing at frightening things, the extremists came up with an extremely frightening topic -- "How partisan is too partisan?"

The question itself is so frightening that I can't answer it. I don't honestly know what is too partisan, although I enjoyed the discussion. There was discussion of the difference between a partisan and an ideologue, and during the question and answer period I was tempted to interject the word "activist," but nearly a third of the room had their hands up, and I didn't want to be seen as an activist basher, because there are good people who believe in activism on behalf of good causes, and the type of activists I deplore (and, hence, use as a definition of the word) might not be at all like the people who'd consider themselves "good" activists. No, I will not say "the only good activist is a dead activist." Not only would that be real extremism, I don't think it. But the inability to define commonly used words is one of the things that makes discussion of these topics problematic.

Partisanship in journalism exists, though. There are even activists involved in journalism, and probably ideologues. What was on my mind as I listened to the panel was the the Philadelphia Inquirer's coverage of the gun control issue. There's partisanship, and then there's partisanship, but when sensationalized, emotional lobbying is passed off as reporting, to my mind it's beyond the point of merely being partisan. It's out-and-out ideologically-driven activism, and it is dishonest to call it news reporting.

For those who like journalistic activism, though, my position would make me an extremist. Funny thing, though; I'm too liberal to call them extremists. I don't object to being called "extremist" or "right wing," as these terms are just labels, and they have no meaning when they are used without explanation in the pejorative sense. I could call someone "left wing" or "right wing," but because the overused words have no meaning anymore, I generally prefer to discuss specific issues. In general, though, I have noticed that "right wing" is hurled not so much as a descriptor, but as an insult. Often in the context of words like "frightening" or "extremist." [The idea may be to evoke images of death squads in El Salvador or something, but I can't be sure.]

I only took a couple of pictures, as my camera doesn't work that well indoors at night, but Pam at Atlas Shrugs has plenty. And from what Bill at INDC says, I think August J. Pollak might have gotten it wrong. Far from impersonating a "moderate," if Bill is correct ("no visible antennae, wires or other electronic components.. warm and remarkably flesh-like [grip] .... optics tracked movement with reptilian smoothness") then Glenn Reynolds is actually impersonating a human being. Aren't there activist groups trying to make such extreme things illegal?

Bill concluded that the people at the event were "nice folks" and "surprisingly not abnormal for a group of bloggers." I'd gotten a surprisingly similar impression. Among the people I met and spoke with were Matthew Sheffield, Fausta (great pics there too), Tiger Hawk, Ace of Spades, Judith Weiss, Michael Totten, Baron Bodissey, Pam from Atlas Shrugs, Neo-neocon, Cliff May, Nick Gillespie, and of course, PJM's organizers and hosts, Roger Simon, Gerard Vanderleun, and Nidra Poller. Definitely all nice folks (well, in Glenn Reynolds' case, appearance-of-niceness machines who might as well be real folks.) Without exception, everyone I spoke to was delightful and charming.

Isn't it frightening that extremists and mindless robots can manage to pass themselves off as nice people? It would be easy to attribute this to pajamas, but I only saw one actual pair being worn, so I don't think that's it.

Besides, I neither own nor wear pajamas. One of the alleged humans took a picture of me standing in the shadows while actually not wearing the pajamas I do not own, and I offer it as proof.

PJme.jpg

NOTE: The above list of people that I met is from memory, which is not perfect. Hope I didn't leave anyone out!

UPDATE: Oxblog's David Adesnik (someone I've love to have met, and may have met without knowing) was there too, recognizes the inevitable reality of partisanship, but tries to offer smart partisanship:

Smart partisanship is partisanship that keeps the interest of the other side. Smart partisanship is something you disagree with, but feel that you have to read because you want to know what the best argument is for the other side.

That's the ideal I keep in my head when I blog. When I write, I keep an imaginary not-me on my shoulder that has the opposite opinion about everything. My goal isn't to get him to agree with me, but to prevent him for saying "This is a waste of time."

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

A lofty, desirable, goal, to be sure, and one which would, if implemented, tend to foster the development of ideas over than the mindless parroting of them.

When blogging, I also try to keep the "imaginary not-me" with the opposite opinion on my shoulder, and sometimes I have to literally imagine the hell out of my "imaginary not-me."

"This is a waste of time" is a mindset and a feeling I know all too well. (If anything is really frightening, that's it.) It's been a starting point for more blog posts than I care to admit. Sometimes, battling with that "waste of time" feeling can be good.

But should I ever let the "imaginary not-me" win?


MORE: By the way, I absolutely hate it when stuff like this happens, and I don't know what to say when it does. (Dammit!) Perhaps Dean and Michelle could make love not war? Nah, that's too mushily surreal to imagine. But I'm reminded, "when reality sucks, time out for the surreal!"

Sigh.

Perhaps everyone can sit down and draw happy pictures.

(Of what? Muhammad?)

UPDATE: Admitted extremist Baron Bodissey (who seemed for all the world like a nice guy) links this post, and argues that August J. Pollak is right:

...itís better for all concerned if the Bushitler Halliburton Neocon Theocrats are kept muzzled and leashed at such events.
Muzzled and leashed? Those are fighting words for Coco. I'll try not to let her read this.

UPDATE: I don't think N.Z. Bear made it from my memory into this post, but I met him too. (Doesn't look at all like the picture at the top of his blog, either!)

posted by Eric on 09.28.06 at 11:27 AM










Comments

I agree with you. Everybody I met, starting with you, was charming and delightful, and interested in much more than their own points of view.

It was a pleasure.

Fausta   ·  September 28, 2006 4:10 PM

Thanks for visiting, Fausta! It was a pleasure meeting you too.

Eric Scheie   ·  September 28, 2006 4:47 PM

I used to go visit and post at Dean's World daily because it truly felt like "Dean's College for the Liberal Arts" where people from a wide array of the political spectrum could have thoughtful and respectful conversations.

About the time Dean got enthused about Transhumanism and about defending Islamics it took a turn for the worse I think, and I found myself in a blithering temper. Since I have a relatively thin skin (and could never deal with the amount of garbage a serious blogger has to deal with) I left.

And yes, I met you, but at Nashcon, and you were charming, except a lot shorter than I expected. :)

Although I didn't see this in you, I did see a lot of mmmmm...highly ambitious people there. And I think thats part of Dean's problem.

Eric R. Ashley   ·  September 28, 2006 6:28 PM

Eric I remember you well, and I enjoyed your "Death of a Blogger" CD. I see it's now on Lulu

http://www.lulu.com/DeathofaBlogger

Dean is right but so is Michelle. That's the nature of tragedy.

Eric Scheie   ·  September 28, 2006 10:55 PM

And ambition? It's a near-universal human condition, but personally I don't know how I feel about it. My ambivalence about ambition probably has something to do with why I blog, but why I am not more hits-and-traffic obsessed as some. I'd rather earn than get.

Eric Scheie   ·  September 28, 2006 10:59 PM

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