the nag-o-sphere?

I should probably apologize in advance for this post, as it's hard to write something like this without being misunderstood.

But I see blogging as a sometime art form, sometime labor of love, often opinionated and political, and nearly always a spontaneous effort in which I write about whatever I feel strongly about at a given moment. Whenever I write something, I always expect that some people will disagree and it might be criticized. That goes with the turf, and I try not to let things like negative comments or critical links interfere with my flow. Whenever you say something publicly, you have to anticipate public disagreement, because that's the nature of the beast.

However, blogging being an unpaid, volunteer effort, there is no way that I (or any other blogger) can write about everything. This is ameliorated by the nature of the blogosphere -- i.e. when a lot of people are writing about whatever strikes them at the time as important, a lot of topics will be covered. I tend to write about things that I either know about or feel especially strongly about, and which aren't likely (at least I hope) to be found everywhere else. But I do miss a lot. Some of this is to avoid boring regular readers who know damned well about, say, anti-gun bias in the Philadelphia Inquirer, or anti-homo bias in WorldNetDaily. If I filled my blog with posts every time I saw stuff like that, it would become very tedious. (For me to write and for readers to read.)

But then there are a lot of things I haven't written about; the CIA video erasure "scandal" is a random recent example. Lots of other people are more up on the facts, and I'm suspicious and skeptical as always but the spirit just hasn't moved me to write a post yet. It just doesn't have a "post feel" to it, and I think the world will survive whether I write a post or not. (Besides, I have been incredibly busy, and weekends do not allow me much time to write.)

Anyway, there is something that really fries me, and that is when I am criticized not for what I have written, but for what I have not written. It's the cheapest of cheap shots, because there are countless topics that I miss, and it has absolutely nothing to do with what I think or how I feel about them, nor does it mean I am unaware or not thinking about them. In some cases, I have actually written a post, and not had time to finish it. It takes me a lot of time to get the links right, proofread something, and give it the punch I think it deserves, and I cannot begin to estimate how many unfinished posts there are sitting in this blog.

What set me off yesterday was to read Stanley Kurtz's post about "Steynophobia", the central thesis of which I agreed with wholeheartedly (via Roger Kimball and Glenn Reynolds):

This is a big deal. The blogosphere has so far largely missed it, but this attack on Mark Steyn is very much our business. There may be an impulse to dismiss this assault on Steyn, on the assumption that it will fail, that Steyn is a big boy and can take care of himself, and that in any case this is crazy Canada, where political correctness rules, rather than the land of the free. That would be a mistake. The Canadian Islamic Congress's war on Mark Steyn and Maclean's is an attack on all of us. ...
That this is an attack on all of us is absolutely right, and I agree with Kurtz 150% (if it is possible to agree with someone more than he agrees with himself).

But his criticism that "the blogosphere has so far largely missed it" -- that I took quite personally. Remarks like that aggravate the constant nagging feeling I have (which might be a form of latent blogger burnout) that blogging is an obligation. A blogligation, if you will.

"Who does this paid professional writer think he is, scolding an army of unpaid volunteers like me?" I thought.

However, the more I thought I should not take remarks like that personally. But the reason I did was because it just so happens that I have an unfinished post just sitting there.

Here it is, in raw unfinished form, now exposed for the world to see, and argumentatively titled What part of "free speech" do they not understand? (part II). (Please forgive the unfinished thoughts and unlinked links):

Whenever someone I respect as a writer is sued for writing something, that something is worth reading closely.

I was shocked to see that in nearby Canada, Macleans was sued because some group of Islamic crackpot activists didn't like Mark Steyn's "The future belongs to Islam."

Naturally, this caused me to read it closely. Among other things which got him sued, Steyn noted something I've noted repeatedly -- that the 9/11 attacks had the paradoxical effect of making people less likely to criticize radical Islam than ever before:

Sept. 11, 2001, was not "the day everything changed," but the day that revealed how much had already changed. On Sept. 10, how many journalists had the Council of American-Islamic Relations or the Canadian Islamic Congress or the Muslim Council of Britain in their Rolodexes? If you'd said that whether something does or does not cause offence to Muslims would be the early 21st century's principal political dynamic in Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and the United Kingdom, most folks would have thought you were crazy. Yet on that Tuesday morning the top of the iceberg bobbed up and toppled the Twin Towers.
And this:
To Americans, it doesn't always seem obvious that there's any connection between the "war on terror" and the so-called "pocketbook issues" of domestic politics. But there is a correlation between the structural weaknesses of the social democratic state and the rise of a globalized Islam. The state has gradually annexed all the responsibilities of adulthood -- health care, child care, care of the elderly -- to the point where it's effectively severed its citizens from humanity's primal instincts, not least the survival instinct. In the American context, the federal "deficit" isn't the problem; it's the government programs that cause the deficit. These programs would still be wrong even if Bill Gates wrote a cheque to cover them each month. They corrode the citizen's sense of self-reliance to a potentially fatal degree. Big government is a national security threat: it increases your vulnerability to threats like Islamism, and makes it less likely you'll be able to summon the will to rebuff it. We should have learned that lesson on Sept. 11, 2001, when big government flopped big-time and the only good news of the day came from the ad hoc citizen militia of Flight 93.
And pointing out
Actually, I don't think everything's about jihad. But I do think, as I said, that a good 90 per cent of everything's about demography. Take that media characterization of those French rioters: "youths." What's the salient point about youths? They're youthful. Very few octogenarians want to go torching Renaults every night. It's not easy lobbing a Molotov cocktail into a police station and then hobbling back with your walker across the street before the searing heat of the explosion melts your hip replacement. Civil disobedience is a young man's game.

In June 2006, a 54-year-old Flemish train conductor called Guido Demoor got on the Number 23 bus in Antwerp to go to work. Six -- what's that word again? -- "youths" boarded the bus and commenced intimidating the other riders. There were some 40 passengers aboard. But the "youths" were youthful and the other passengers less so. Nonetheless, Mr. Demoor asked the lads to cut it out and so they turned on him, thumping and kicking him. Of those 40 other passengers, none intervened to help the man under attack. Instead, at the next stop, 30 of the 40 scrammed, leaving Mr. Demoor to be beaten to death. Three "youths" were arrested, and proved to be -- quelle surprise! -- of Moroccan origin. The ringleader escaped and, despite police assurances of complete confidentiality, of those 40 passengers only four came forward to speak to investigators. "You see what happens if you intervene," a fellow rail worker told the Belgian newspaper De Morgen. "If Guido had not opened his mouth he would still be alive."

No, he wouldn't. He would be as dead as those 40 passengers are, as the Belgian state is, keeping his head down, trying not to make eye contact, cowering behind his newspaper in the corner seat and hoping just to be left alone.

Imagine getting sued for saying that!

Were I Steyn, in honor of the lawsuit I'd rename the piece "How the West was lost."

Via a LGF link I found at Jim Rose's blog, MacLeans explains what happened:

Complaints were submitted to Human Rights Commissions in B.C. and Ontario on the grounds that "the article subjects Canadian Muslims to hatred and contempt," according to a CIC press release. In the release, the CIC labels Steyn's article as "flagrantly Islamophobic."

Faisal Joseph is the CIC's legal counsel on the matter. "In Canada, we have 750,000 law-abiding Muslims," he says. "When you read that article, it sounds to some people [like] there's an attack from the 'Muslim' world against the 'non-Muslim' world. We take real issue with that type of characterization and the implications of it."

In response, a Maclean's spokesperson provided the following statement: "Mark Steyn is a thoughtful and experienced journalist, and the piece was a commentary on important global political issues. It was not in any sense Islamophobic, and Maclean's is confident that the Human Rights Commissions will find no merit in the complaints."

While I don't think it's "Islamophobic" either, the problem I have with MacLeans' defensive posture is that it should not matter whether it was. Such thinking is the whole problem, and it's precisely the way freedom is lost.

In Europe and in Canada they do not have free speech, and in this country a number of people are working to destroy it.

How would you define "Islamophobic" anyway? "it sounds to some people [like] there's an attack from the 'Muslim' world against the 'non-Muslim' world"?

Huh? How is that supposed to sound? If I complain because a school teacher's life was threatened for naming a teddy bear Muhammad, how do I know someone might not say I'm being "Islamophobic"?

Look at the way "racist" can be defined. Racism can be considered opposition to affirmative action, as can "having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, [and] defining one form of English as standard."

Fortunately, we can't get sued for such things. Yet. But they're working on it.

If this is what "human rights" commissions are about, the whole thing presents a good case for abolishing human rights commissions.

In answer to the question "What part of "free speech" do they not understand, why, neither.

Geez, looking back, maybe it was the link to Glenn Greenwald that took the wind out of my sails. Greenwald is against hate speech laws, amazingly, and I agreed with him, but it just made the whole thing look like a Herculean supereffort to unite the whole blogosphere behind this, and an idea like that is a much bigger deal that another post in support of Mark Steyn. Because it goes beyond the merits of Steyn's argument, and to the greater issue of free speech generally.

Anyway, thanks to my angry reaction to what I perceived as a scolding from Stanley Kurtz, I'll never finish it. But that's a silly reaction on my part, and again touches on why the Kurtz criticism is not directed personally against me:

The blogosphere has so far largely missed it...
I wrote the post on December 3, which was last Monday, after I had seen two bloggers discuss the lawsuit against Steyn. The first was Jim Rose, who on December 1 linked Little Green Footballs' post of the same day.

So obviously, it was not the fact that the blogosphere "missed it," but that they "largely" missed it. If a smaller blogger and a large blogger don't "count" according to Kurtz, then what possible difference would it have made to him whether my post had been published? Zero. So obviously, I'm not being scolded.

Or am I?

There are such things as obligations, but I don't take my marching orders from paid writers like Stanley Kurtz, and I don't like what seems like an attempt to shame me for missing something. The idea that I should write about something because someone says I missed it, that completely takes the wind out of my sails, and makes me feel like never writing about it at all. Nothing could be less spontaneous than being forced to write about something in response to a scolding, and nothing is more likely to generate a sense of blog burnout, or at best a tired, repetitive collection of similar posts no one will read.

I'm tempted to say "You want me to write about something you think I should write about? Pay me!"

But that would also be argumentative, and I don't think their argument is with me, as what I write would not matter to the people who are probably trying to create an army of "reliable" followers. I'm not politically "reliable." (Just ask some of the Commies I used to work with!) I don't trust people who do as they are told, or write what they are told to write. (Such people remind me of.... activists. Ugh.)

My apologies to all I have offended, for I really agree that the attack on Steyn is an attack on all. I'd have probably done a better job of defending him had I not felt scolded, though.

I don't mean to single out Stanley Kurtz, as I've seen this across the spectrum. Andrew Sullivan, for example, has often criticized Glenn Reynolds for what he has not written, and he's just one example. (I've seen too many to keep count.)

A more recent example was the scolding of "Instapundit, Volokh [and] the usual suspects" for not writing about Evan Coyne Maloney (which was quoted in the Wall Street Journal):

Apparently some major state university has threatened a lawsuit against the movie "Indoctrinate U," and the websites about the movie have been temporarily (one hopes) frozen. What is going on here? Which university has threatened them? And what with? This should be exactly the sort of thing one should be able to find out about in the blogosphere, but I see nothing on Instapundit, Volokh or the usual suspects (I may have missed it though; if so, sorry. Maybe I am the only one who doesn't know. It wouldn't be the first time.)

This is news, oh fellow bloggers.

And I'd be willing to bet that Instapundit and Volokh know about it! So do I, as I wrote a post about it the other day despite the creepy feeling that I was obligated.

(I'm not sure I'd want to be Glenn Reynolds, though, for I'm sure there's a lot more of this than I've seen.)

But what do you do when a spontaneous, unpaid artistic endeavor gets weighted down with what amount to petulant production demands?

Ignore them? Take a break from blogging? Comply with the demands and eventually become completely burned out so you quit blogging entirely?

I don't know. While there's certainly no rule against anyone criticizing anyone for anything, it strikes me as poor politics for paid writers to be scolding bloggers who share their general ideological bent for not writing enough of the kind of blog posts they'd like to see. They should remember that there are plenty of unpaid bloggers and paid writers on the other side who will scold them for whatever they do write, so they're creating a classic "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario.

But maybe I'm wrong in my assessment. Maybe there is no "nag-o-sphere." Either way, I'm glad to get this off my chest so I can go back to what I'm really neglecting....

MORE: Sorry I haven't had time to proofread this, but I will later. I have visitors and my neglect is suffering from the spillover effect.

(To be a blogger means to be in a state of chronic and perpetual negligence.)

MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, a constructive way to stick it to the Canadian Censorship Human Rights Commission directly!

Simply buy a copy of Mark Steyn's book and mail it to the censors here:

Canadian Human Rights Commission
344 Slater Street, 8th Floor, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1E1, Canada
Telephone: (613) 995-1151
Toll Free: 1-888-214-1090
TTY: 1-888-643-3304
Fax: (613) 996-9661
I just did it! And let me tell you, it's a lot easier than writing an uninspired, forced, and unoriginal blog post. And probably more effective too, because some humorless government bureaucrat who loves controls and censorship will be forced to open it and just thinking about that bureaucratic nose that will be wrinkled in irritation and disgust (as if "s/he" smells a turd somewhere), that makes it well worth the $18.45-plus-postage cost of the protest.

Just think, for slightly more than twenty bucks, you get to help Mark Steyn, fight censorship, and piss off the people you most want to piss off -- and all without writing a blog post!

Plus, it's a wonderful form of therapy for overworked bloggers, or just people who are upset about creeping totalitarianism but feel they have no outlet. I just did it, and I want to bear witness to the calming effect that sending the Steyn book to the censors has had on my nerves. I doubt I could have felt this good had I spent an hour with a shrink (and they can easily run $150.00 an hour).

So send the Steyn book to the Canadian censors! I heartily recommend the experience.

MORE: Andrew Sullivan, it should be noted, opposes criminalizing hate speech, and said this:

If someone bashes me over the head because I'm gay, I want them prosecuted for assault, not bigotry. They have an absolute right to their bigotry, as I have an absolute right to call them on it. But the law should criminalize nothing but specific acts that anyone, regardless of their race, religion, orientation or whatever. Here's hoping Britain will escape the worst of the hate-crime nonsense peddled by the p.c. left in America. But I'm hardly optimistic.

posted by Eric on 12.09.07 at 03:02 PM


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