Soj: Clearly Decompensating

Sunday, February 18, 2007

I think it just got a whole lot harder to ignore that Soj is... how say... nuts:

Don't ever underestimate these fuckers. They are fucking vicious. If one of them shows up where I am in the United States I will fucking shoot them. And I'm a pacifist. I'll be in Europe in about 30 days and good luck finding me there, fuckers.

I don't have a problem with someone disagreeing with me and you sure don't have to like me (or Boo or anyone else). But when you take it to the "next level" and start endangering totally innocent people, that's when it goes too far. These "paparazzi" are freaking psychos.

The difference between Boo and Britney Spears is she has the BUCKS to hire bodyguards etc. Freaking loons. It's just a fucking blog you freaks!

Night and day you can find me Flogging the Simian

by soj on Sat Feb 17th, 2007 at 10:20:31 PM EST

But first, the back story. Some stuff happened on Booman Tribune. A lot of former tribbers moved over here. Bla bla bla... This part's pretty boring... Anyway, move forward to the last couple of days, when someone called Arcturus launched a broadside attack on Booman, insisting that he's racist. I read the diary in question when it went up. It's not racist. Just kind of a lazy, poorly thought out explanation of Mexico's shocking poverty. I've been to Mexico. It does create some cognitive dissonance. (Supersoling does a capable job of explaining what's wrong with Booman's reasoning on the thread for the Arcturus diary.) Booman responded to the unfair criticism here. It's a conflagration but not a terribly compelling one... until you get to Soj. Leave it to Soj to take an ordinary flame war straight through the looking glass.

My opinions on Soj are well documented and got me banned from Daily Kos. But he has been outdoing himself lately. I've never understood the popularity of Soj's blogging. In addition to being a fraud, a manipulator, and a panhandler, his worst sin is his lack of talent. To paraphrase Truman Capote: That's not writing, it's regurgitating.

Lately Soj's writing seems to have taken a turn for the worse. From the incoherent and pointless; a diary analogizing every act of rebellion in American history to modern-day terrorists. Jesus. To the completely freaking bizarre; a conspiracy diary just this side of David Icke that promises endlessly to become very, very scary, but never does.

And now he's threatening Booman's critics with lethal force. More bizarre, Soj seems to think they're after him and announces that he will be heading back to Europe; much as he did when those "crazy ex-cons" were out to get him. Always a good idea to give the heads up on your general location when you go into hiding.

His allusion to Britney Spears is a little Freudian. They're both narcissistic non-talents having very public break-downs. Somebody get the net.


Arcturus said...

Just for the record, I never "insisted" that Booman is a racist. That question is would be a boring one.

I did however, say that he was trafficking in racist tropes & frames that are embedded in our language.

& despite his insistence that it is a distincition w/out a difference, anyone who has dealt w/ the subject knows that it is distinction that is made all the time in such discussions.

Curmudgette said...

You know arcturus, that's how it read to me at the time. I just reread it to doublecheck my sanity and ensure that I was not swayed by Booman's frame. Ahem:

where does this vile pile of steaming racist jingosim come from? Lou Dobbs? Tom Lancredo? David Duke?

I suppose it would be fair to say that you meant what he wrote was racist, but not that he himself is. But it's a pretty slim distinction if that's the case. You compared him to David Duke for Christ's sake.

Arcturus said...

well, I would stand by the proposition that his picaresque opening makes more sense opening for one of their foaming diatribes, than it does for his piece on checks & balances in the US

& I would strongly argue that the comparisons he relies on only make (construct) sense by a metonymic referral to some very racist themes we're surrounded by

& I don't think the distinction is so slim when one wants to look at how these things float through the culture & language - & are in some ways given validation through familiarity - & personally, I find those 'innocent' repetitions to be more pernicious in many ways than the obviously rapid stuff one gets from the likes of a David Duke

now you may disagree that this example deserved my hyperbolic venom, but I know I've wanted/needed to make some similar distinctions when faced w/ sexist/mysoginist tropes being mindlessly repeated in 'innocent' or 'joking' contexts

the piece, as I wrote earlier today at MBM, is admittedly a verbal cartoon (& I'd add is not an invitation to 'dialogue' - it's but preaching to the choir) & I'm sure he didn't appreciate being made fun of like that - but I'm really not interested in whether he 'is or isn't' - in retrospect, I can see how that could have been made more clear - the perpective I was coming from was stated (I thought) in my opening line w/: look at this "socio-linguistic gem"

Curmudgette said...

I've read it and re-read it arcturus. I just don't see what you're talking about. When I initially read Booman's diary, my only thought was, well that's quite a reach.

I see nothing in there pertaining to race. He's talking about Mexican governance, not the Mexican people. He's not saying, boy those little brown people just don't know how to run a country. I mean, are you denying that Mexico's government has a long history of corruption? Because that was his point. Whatever wealth there is, is not trickling down. I've been there. I also found the level of poverty quite jarring.

I had long conversations when I was there with a Mexican fellow, who described for me the life of the people who live up in the mountains -- the ones they call "banditos" -- who are not even counted in any census. They don't exist and they are considered, by their government, expendable. You think Americans disparage poor Mexicans? Talk to upper middle class Mexicans some time. They're cheap labor to them, too.

I saw what Booman was trying to say; that we are teetering on the brink of becoming an oligarchy, and that our democratic process is the only hope for preventing our slide. He is more positive than I am. I think we are a lot further down the road to ruin than he does. To me he seems a little pollyannish in is outlook. And I agree with supersoling, that he seems rather oblivious to the relationship between American imperialism and third world poverty. But I just don't think racism, or even racist memes, is a fair charge.

Arcturus said...

That's fair enough, esp. since I haven't offered an analytic reading that spells out how I see it working.

briefly, aside from 'corruption' being a highly questionable distinction and determinative factor, I'd say it is relying on a nod from that part of the brain that readily accepts a theme of "them" as "corrupt," a form of Othering (which cannot but echoe in the current cultural climate of demonizing those Mexicans we surely don't wanna become like). Which maybe is a better way of talking about this stuff. We accept the early treatment of Irish & Italian immigrants as "racist," but at some point they become mainstreamed, white (I know that's a little simplisitic). Yet the "raist" tropes & themes remain today. so how do we talk about them? Othering certainly is more inclusive, & look at simliar dynamics in homophobia, nationalism, sexism, or classism (which frankly rings louldy for me as well in that passage).

At any event, thanks - I do appreciate the dialogue.

I mean, are you denying that Mexico's government has a long history of corruption? Because that was his point.

No. I would deny its a disntinguishing factor (both govs have corruption, taking diff forms - cd readiy be shown that US corruption involves higher $$$ & argued 3rd W "C" takes place as a neo-colonial feature greased largely by US corporate $$$ - as far as corruption being the cause of 3rd W poverty, well, I've never read any reputable study that suggests something so simplistic. & the supposed constituional/checks & balances contrast is specious as well - the Mexican C as I understand it is modeled on the US' - I was impressed by the process established to deal w/ electoral disputes, if not by the way it actually worked out in r/l). So again, I find his meaning-making throguh specious contrasts rely on what I would call racist (or Othering)stereotypes.

Curmudgette said...

I agree with you that his reasoning was specious. It's a bridge too far to say that Mexicans live in poverty because their government is more corrupt. But, like so many third world economies the wealth is concentrated at the top. In this country, through our democratic process we were able to disperse wealth and shrink the gap, for a time. Krugman has, of course, written about this extensively, including the obvious truth that we have now dramatically reversed the trend that resulted from the Progressive Movement and the New Deal. We have reverted to the age of the Robber Barons.

But nowhere in Booman's diary did I see "othering." Can we compare this country to no other without being considered racists?

Mexicans live in a poverty that makes America's poor look comfortable. I've seen it with my own eyes. But what we are seeing now in this country puts us in kissing distance of similar poverty and injustice. I think that's what Booman was driving at. He just grasped the wrong straw in his attempt to explain it. It's bigger than corruption. It's a massive transfer of wealth to the richest fraction of 1% that is being enabled by both parties. They're rolling back the New Deal in increments.

Obviously there were checks and balances long before the economic changes of the last century. So an erosion of our Constitution is not the problem.

But racist tropes? Come on! What! If you correctly identify that Mexicans live in Mexico, that's racist? If you note that they live in extreme poverty and that their government has failed to provide an adequate safety net and infrastructure, that's racist? I thought that was just acknowledging reality.

And as far as him "othering" Mexicans by pointing out the political corruption, then was he "othering" our own government when he voiced concern that it was headed down a similar path? Is he also racist against all those rich white men who are destroying our system of government?

Arcturus said...

But racist tropes? Come on! What! If you correctly identify that Mexicans live in Mexico, that's racist? If you note that they live in extreme poverty and that their government has failed to provide an adequate safety net and infrastructure, that's racist? I thought that was just acknowledging reality.

I'm sorry, but that's a mischaracterization of what I'm getting at. Of course those 'realites' exist. Just like propganda, these themes travel all the easier w/ a little 'truth' infusion. My experience tells me that one is predisposed to an understanding of what one sees in those truths. I certainly see more in those 3rd world slums than the product of 3rd world corruption.

The proposition in his piece that I read is: US better than "them cuz of checks 'n balances & a constitution - Mexico's problems are a product of corruption & if we're not careful we'll become like "them" - to me, that relies (& echoes) on the kind of simplistic racist jingoism the air is ringing with these days

plenty of others heard the same inhis words - p'haps its how one's ears are tuned?

Curmudgette said...

plenty of others heard the same inhis words - p'haps its how one's ears are tuned?

The implication being that I'm not sensitive to racism. I disagree, though as a white woman, I'm quite sure I can and have missed some of the subtler forms.

I don't know, arcturus. Perhaps you could provide some examples of comparable "racism." Because I do not see it. The America as a preferable place to live because of our system, I hear, but I just don't see that as racist. Racism implies seeing someone as lesser because of their race, not because of the flaws in their governance. Nowhere does Booman imply that Mexico is corrupt because of their dark skin? I mean if I, say, express dismay at the genocide in Darfur, does that make me racist? If I'm grateful, that up to this point, anyway, our system of governance has prevented us from experiencing something similar here, does that make me racist? Because I will cop to all of the above and I really don't think I'm racist.

Arcturus said...

I think I'd just say that we all, no matter what our ethnic backgrounds, are affected by these embedded themes & frames in our language. I think some people are more inclined to look at it in that frame. Speakers/writers don't get to control the recepon of their worlds in teh semiotic swirl.

P'haps another example? Biden's remarks about Obama being "articulate." & there was an exchange between Greenwald & Nezua (Unapologetic Mexican). At a a ertain point, it seems like people are just talking past each other. That's all I meant in regards to you, & I certinly don't think anything you've said remotely makes you a racist. I really do appreciate you're engaging this; it's somethig I'm learning from & don't feel a need to come to agreement here.

Back to Biden: I don't thinkit was even remotely possible for him to use that word w/out it drawing on & resonating w/ racist stereoptypes. That doesn't make him a racist; I imagine he was quite sincere & a little afraid of it being such a verbose windbag. Greenwald had offered an an apologetics (& i wdn't be surprised if Booman did too - I seemt to recall he has a hardon for JB) & really never evidenced that he 'got it.'

Nomatter the apologetics, as a phenomenon, the speaker doesn't control what's heard, & what is heard has a great deal to do w/ what's already floating in our language & culture.

Or take a look at Le Colonel Chabert's posts over at WOC around the burqa controversy.

It's an ongoing conversation & one can choose to enter it or not. (& if I need tobe clear, I feel that You Are!)

somethign Nezua wrote me (I've permissionto share) is what I'd leave you with:

was walking today, thinking on a post. i think we are all happy to engage the endless argument...because its not talking about antyhing. just bickering about language with more language. we need to bring it back home. fuck the term "Racist." who cares?

if we can define what it is exactly that is rotten in the doings and thinkings of those we call "racist," we are looking deeper, closer to the problem...

(haloscan is doing weird shit when I try to edit here - please excuse the usual shitty typing skills & reading thru the mess)

Curmudgette said...

Oh god! I couldn't believe my ears when I heard that Biden had used the "a" word. And now Karl Rove has done it. Clueless. There was a black pundit on one of the chat shows -- I wasn't familiar with him, and don't remember the name. His explanation of the offensiveness of "articulate" is that the subtext is "He sounds like us!" I've always thought it sounded like white people who were just astonished that the nice negra could speak in complete sentences. "Clean" I don't even know what to do with. That was all painfully obvious.

But as I wrote here, I don't think one need be explicitly racist to say bonehead things. I think our "isms" are quite pernicious and affect everyone raised in our greater culture, including the subconscious self-loathing of marginalized groups. This is well documented and has been the subject of numerous studies.

The rest of your examples I'm not familiar with. Perhaps you have links to the specific statements you found telling.

I still don't see Booman as any more racist than every other member western culture, and I just don't see it in that piece of writing.

Now Paris Hilton. She's a racist.

Arcturus said...

I think my point is impossible to make if one rejects that there is an active stereotype or image out there of the 'corrupt Mexican' - one which has a racist history it can't be readily divorced from. Or that there is a great racist fear of 'the Mexicans' we don't want to become like.

I think my cartoon also falls flat if one can't imagine the words I quoted being spoken by Lou Dobbs opening one of his pieces. But if one can - then it's legitimate to ask what's happening here.

Something commonly discussed is how the stereotypes of the 'weaker sex' & the 'assertive sex' gets woven into our language though metonym & metaphor that Lakoff argues iin a great book Metaphors We Live By can act to structure our experience - becoming pernicious elements of how we think - when the conversation gets diverted into the 'fact that men are generally stronger than women,' or that Mexico has horrible poverty & corruption,' it's difficult to focus on the linguistic dynamics at play

There was just some study in the news of how women tended to think of men as better bosses, despite empirical evidence of many managerial qualities women tend to excel in over men - & the sexist framing was audible in how they talked about it

[Is it fair to ask why use Mexico at all? ( he did write later in a later diary that he thinks & means "hispanic' when he says "Mexico.") So what's being summoned when one conjures that image of the slum to use tfor he fear end of one's example?]

I'll get ya the blog urls, if not the specific diaries. there are some fascinating conversations out there. I think there's some analogy to be had with the image of the faceless brown mass of the slum & the critique of the unseen woman in a burqa being used to make a point about western feminism. If you want to grab my email off blogger, go ahead & we can continue this conversation. Or here if you much prefer - email's just easier fo me.

I still don't see Booman as any more racist than every other member western culture, and I just don't see it in that piece of writing

to re-iterate fro tehe umpteenth time: agree to pt 1, & can accept pt 2 - appreciate you hearing me out

(back to Biden - go look again at Greenwald's apology for it - or I'll bet ya 10-1 Boo has at least one piece on it & see what you think

Curmudgette said...

I think my point is impossible to make if one rejects that there is an active stereotype or image out there of the 'corrupt Mexican' - one which has a racist history it can't be readily divorced from.

I think I see where you're going then. It's just not the stereotype I think of when it comes to Mexicans; "lazy," "thieves" (bandits). Those are the stereotypes I'm more familiar with. Not, so much, high level corruption. Lazy is of course silly. Americans are just too type-A to know we actually need siestas; particularly in climates where the afternoons are deadly. And people become thieves and criminals wherever there is extreme poverty. Violent crime is up for two years straight in this country. Think it has anything to do with escalating poverty?

But the thing is, Mexico's government does have a long, ignominious history of corruption. How can we talk about that without accidentally tripping over a racist stereotype?

I mean, in a sense, it's like this. If I characterize a white person as articulate, it's a compliment. If I characterize a black person as articulate, it's an insult. Now, I have spent enough time with black friends to be sensitive to that. But there are times when I think these gaffes are totally inadvertent and come from no malice, or even subconscious "ism." And I would still characterize Booman's, all-be-it poorly thought out diary, in those terms.

I have no doubt that racists and xenophobes use such things to dismiss Mexico, but I don't think that's what Booman was doing. I think it was more of "There but for the grace of God go I," and an attempt to put it in a context. Not a good attempt, but an attempt. Believe me. I have my problems with Booman, but I don't think this particular sloppy bit of analysis was malicious.

Arcturus said...

How can we talk about that without accidentally tripping over a racist stereotype?

Its not really all that difficult.

I could care less what was/is in Martin's mind;I find it ironic & a little frightening at how easily that stuff can be mindlessly & even unconsciously repeated - it certainly doesn't have to be malicious & I don't think he was being so. Dumb, p'haps. I don't think anyone would argue with the jingoism running rampant there (well, as soon as I type that I realize surely some One would). I'm not sure I can even thinkof an instance where jingoism/nationalism isn't interwoven w/ racism (or Othering, or ___?) that relies on available stereotypes & always finds itself better than "them." The corruption stereotype gets slapped on all sorts of thrid world countries, & seems to be a sub-set of the paternalistic attitudes that have us traveling all over the world to "save" people w/ our guns 'n loans.

Arcturus said...

here, fwiw:

(I'm confuzzled - are you hrh/sv in that thread?)

Curmudgette said...


It's repeated because there's truth in it. And sometimes the truth of it has be discussed, and can be without prejudice. There is institutional corruption in Mexico. Now, where I think Booman is rather blind, is in how much we in the United States benefit from keeping third world countries hobbled. There is an interrelationship between the failure of these regimes and US "interests." As with petty tyrants like Saddam, we suddenly care about the corruption, when they bite the hand that feeds, or otherwise become inconvenient. The US has a long history of enabling the exploitation of third world populations for cheap labor and unfettered access to resources. Oil, for instance, which Mexico has a lot of. And, of course, our obsession with Chavez in Venezuela is obvious on its face. It has nothing to do with his legitimate faults. It's that he nationalized the oil industry, took it out of the hands of the oligarchs, and re-distributed the wealth amongst the poor. Can't have poor people benefiting from the oil they live on top of, now can we.

I once got into a lengthy argument with someone because I commented that civil war in Iraq was a real possibility. She insisted that this meant I was playing into the "paternalistic" attitude that we are the great white hope and Iraqis can't be trusted to self-govern. I, of course, meant exactly the opposite. That Iraq was cobbled together in such a way as keep it perpetually unstable and dependent on western intervention. But it didn't matter. She just kept insisting that I was racist against Iraqis. This is what I mean when I say that statements of fact can be misinterpreted because they resemble other memes. We can't tiptoe around certain issues just because the ideas have been abused by people with racist, xenophobic agendas.

Curmudgette said...

No arcturs,
I'm not hrh. But I read that thread last night, and some of the follow up and I was pretty horrified.

Arcturus said...

Just because I think he's creating his meaning using racist stereotypes implies that I'm saying one can't talk about corruption or poverty in the 3rd world w/out tip-toeing? I'm really not that silly.

Would you feel similarly constrained if the topic were the 'weaker sex'?

One needn't have "racist, xenophobic agendas to participate in institutional/cultural structures. And this is a raccist country.

It's really not a game of 'gotcha' for me.

One last outside example, that may or may not help w/ what I'm trying to get at:

Take academic under-achievement of many minority communities. There are ways to talk about it responsibly; ways to reference it that are totally racist; ways that echo & act to unconsciously perpetuate racist frames. None precludes, implies, or prevents the other. The last, however, relies on its meaning-making ability on the 2nd.

& if you don't see it in that passage, that's fine. I'm content if these sorts of discussions spark someone to pay closer attention to the dynamics of the words & metaphors we use to navigate teh world

Curmudgette said...

Well arcturus,
Obviously, if you choose terms like the "weaker sex," you've answered your own question. But I have actually spoken and written more than a little on problems with female and feminist culture. And I do think women can be hypersensitive to innocuous statements. I'm sure DB will think I'm being terribly disingenuous with that statement, but he likes to pretend that crafting apologia for men who hit pregnant women with baseball bats isn't needlessly provocative.

I think we see things through our own prism, and can fall into traps of victimhood. Here's an example that has stuck with me for many years. I read a letter in the Village Voice that was written in response to a previous letter. I did not see the source material, but it was quoted in the response. It was written by a white male to a black lesbian who described how she was treated on the subway; how she was jostled, bumped, and depersonalized, and that this was indicative of the cultural invisibility of black women. His response, which was very careful to acknowledge the reality of her plight in a broader sense, pointed out that he was treated the same way on the subway. Anyone who has ever taken the New York City Subway knows what it's like to thoroughly depersonalized.

As far as the academic achievement issue is concerned, again, I would appreciate examples of a fair approach and a racist one. It would help to understand where you feel that line is drawn.

What it brings to mind is a discussion I recently had with my husband on how neutral information is seen through prisms. His example was of the disproportionate number of black men in the prison system. The statistics are what they are and statistics do not explain the why of a thing, but some people will look at those stats and say it's because black men are predisposed to criminality. Others of us will conclude that the system is tilted heavily against them, from failing inner-city schools to underpaid public defenders to the bias of judges and juries. The stats don't tell us either way what is the cause, but the raw numbers will be used either way, depending on bias and inclination. And their use, without reinforcing sociological data, will tell you far more about who is interpreting them, than about those black men in the prison system.

Arcturus said...

Yea, I do think it has a lot do to w/ what 'frames' one views the world through.

The black men in prison is an excellent example. (I'm very interested in prison/crim justice issues.) It's hard to talk about the institutional racism that factors into it w/out sounding almost conspiratorial. I recently posted some excerpts from a BAR editor, "american gulag," that certainly can be read that way. He doesn't do the kind of analysis in that piece that would allow an unsympathetic ear to understand where he's comeing from. There's a good piece by Phil Gaspar at Counterpunch (Mar 2, 2007), "prisoners of Ideology" that does get into it.

Somehow, we got from Haldeman in the 60's Nixon White House writing:

"[the President] emphasized that you have to face teh fact that the whole problem reall y is teh Blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to."

to a situation where we have something like 1 million black men behind bars, with blacks going to prison at 4x the nat'l rate, & Latinos at twice the rate.

(I brought up the 'weaker sex' hoping it would trigger some sense of the dynamics of how that might play out in 'neutral' speech

Curmudgette said...

I think it's fair to say that no discussion of race or gender can be neutral, because the surrounding dynamics are too charged. But it is possible to be respectful and thoughtful. And I think it's equally important to listen respectfully and try not to assume offense where none is intended. Sometimes things come from ignorance -- not everyone has the cultural background to understand, for instance, that "articulate" is an insult to a person of color -- and sometimes from lack of enlightenment. But, while I know that you're not playing a game of "gotcha" I think a lot of people are. I think a lot people take statements out of context and scream racism where none is intended, or where racist terms are used satirically.

As much as I hate to hit the third rail, the fracas on My Left Wing over "antisemitism" is a good example. I was blown away by this comment from nonpartisan:

If you think what you're about to say could in any way be offensive to a Jewish person, or could even be CONSTRUED as being offensive to a Jewish person, DON'T SAY IT.

So, basically, we should be mind-reading people-pleasers if we are dealing with marginalized groups -- well, actually, nonpartisan restricted that to Jews, not blacks, because not enough of them were killed in a brief enough time span to require such sensitivity. But I can tell you that I have no intention of ever working that hard to avoid pushing somebody's buttons. I know I'm not a racist, an antisemite, a homophobe, etc., and while I can, on occasion, be obtuse, it does not come from malice, so I won't take that on. Nor will put that on someone else, unless I see clear evidence of such an underlying attitude. Like Paris Hilton. Obviously a white supremacist. Jesus.

There is no end to the things that can trip peoples' wires. I actually lost a friendship of many years because of this post. I was informed that I was unfair in my characterization of skinheads. You can't write satire without stepping on somebody's toes. But fuck it. I won't take on that baggage, nor will I put it on somebody else, unless it's very clear that the intent is to marginalize.

Actually, the skinhead thing raises an interesting point. My husband has several times gotten attitude in public places, wherein it is clear that he is being perceived as a racist skinhead. He's a Marine! It's a high and tight! But it shows to go you how images, symbols, and language, are in the eye of the beholder.

Arcturus said...

Sometimes things come from ignorance -- not everyone has the cultural background to understand, for instance, that "articulate" is an insult to a person of color -- and sometimes from lack of enlightenment.

amen! & it's only through talking & listening that we learn how these things operate, how other people hear the language we use. Insult is one thing. But how we think about ourselves, how men & women use a lexicon that reinforces sexist domination in the workplace, or how Nixon's quote translates into stark statistical fact 40 years later, arew things we can nderstand better when we realize that Langauge Matters.

(I think a lot of distraction & game-playin goes on w/ 'taking offense'. & the dialogues are rarely illuminating.

avoiding 'gotcha' games is probably an ideal - it's all too easy to slip into)

Thought about yr request for example as I ran my wife into the office. In the crude tri-partite model above, the racist spouting ethnic stereotypes as 'fact' is usually pretty unambiguous. Biden's use of 'articulate' would be an instance of a metonym (roughly, using a 'part' to refer to a 'whole') whose meaning relies on an ethnic stereotype of intellectually inferior blacks. One can accept that ole Joe meant it purely as compliment. But intent really doesn't matter when looking at the resonance of the lanaguge involved. Any number of studies of magazine articles can talk about the problem w/out using those, and some in fact, will deal w/ how the language of teachers & parents shapes their thinking about the topic in ways that can perpetuate the problem.

I'm ot the sort to insist that reality is only linguistically constituted, but I'm very interested in its constructions. The reputed dying words of the poet Jack Spicer:

my language did this to me

Curmudgette said...

I'm not familiar with Jack Spicer, but I would point to the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis: culture begets language begets culture begets language, ad infinitum. You simply cannot look at language as a discrete entity. And as I said in my previous entry, you can't chop words out of the lexicon in hopes of reducing "thoughtcrimes." It's not constructive and it's Orwellian. We can't dialog about the destructive history of the n-word, by legislating away the n-word. We should be wrestling unconscious racism to the surface where we can examine it and heal it. Biden stepping on his dick and Michael Richards's meltdown; these are teachable moments and all the reactiveness shuts down the learning process.

Arcturus said...

culture begets language begets culture begets language, ad infinitum.

absolutely! Lakoff has a good section on S-W (a hypothesis not w/out its own problems) in Women, Fire & Other Dangerous Things

as far as legislating vocabulary (n word) or thot (euro anti-holocaust-denial laws) - well, in the words of DtF, I'm a bit of a 'free speech extremist' myself

We should be wrestling unconscious racism to the surface where we can examine it and heal it . . . these are teachable moments and all the reactiveness shuts down the learning process.

& I saw such a moment in martin's para's. Some will agree, some won't. But insisting it can only be, in his words, either "maliciousness" or "stupidity," is to remain in a state of willful cluelessness.

Poetry is my entrance.

Spicer was a gay, mysoginistic, nasty drunk. & a brilliant poet, whose innovations became more useful to writers in the 80's & 90's. There's a great bio by Kevin Killian ("Poet Be Like God") that's also a good glimpse into gay life in 50's SF. Peter Gizzi finally rested into print his Vancouver Lectures ("The House that Jack Built"). At one point his friends managed to get him a job in the linguistics dept at Berkeley. He helped Brautigan get his first novel ready for publication. Joanne Kyger was one of the few women to hang & flourish in his circle. In 1965 White Rabbit Press printed his book Language reproducing the July/Sept 1959 cover of "Language: The Journal of the Linguistic Society of America"

which opens w/ (because I'm a proselytizer at heart):

This ocean, humiliating in its disguises
Tougher than anything.
No one listens to poetry. The ocean
Does not mean to be listened to. A drop
Or crash of water. It means
Is bread and butter.
Pepper and salt. The death
That young men hope for. Aimlessly
It pounds the shore. White and aimless signals. No
One listens to poetry.

Arcturus said...


Arcturus said...

(roughly, Spicer constructed a his poetics around the metaphor of poet as a radio, from Cocteau's film Orpheus - in part a passive receiver, yet somehow separating signal from noise . . .

Curmudgette said...

I keep promising myself that I will get around to reading Lakoff, but have not yet.

Ok, love Brautigan. "In Watermelon Sugar" was one of the best mental vacations I've ever taken.

(roughly, Spicer constructed a his poetics around the metaphor of poet as a radio, from Cocteau's film Orpheus - in part a passive receiver, yet somehow separating signal from noise . . .

This just sounds to me like a good way to avoid personal responsibility... up there with, "And yet, I blame society." I think sometimes art is a way of avoiding the examination of the inner life, rather a tool for illumination. That's how I feel when I read James Joyce. "Portrait of the Artist" can be summarized as: I could not reconcile my Madonna/Whore complex, so I became a writer instead.

Arcturus said...

shizzle, haloscan ate a long comment on GL, poetry, Spicer blah blah

i'll just say that the intersting part in Spicer's model is in teh separating of noise from signal - it was a shockingly useful way to highlight the language-y aspect of poetry/speech against his times' prevailing attitude of L as empty vessel for self-expression - at any event, he ran w/ it in some very playful & instructive ways that are more apparent today

Metaphors We Live By is a great & very readable place to start w/ Lakoff.

Arcturus said...

i more bookie, that goes into different terrain, but that I love:

Talking Power: The Politics of Language in Our Lives by Robin Tolmach Lakoff (1990)

language about language about langauge . . . :)

Arcturus said...

I think sometimes art is a way of avoiding the examination of the inner life, rather a tool for illumination

& then there's the life & work of a George Oppen to consider

Curmudgette said...

I wasn't familiar with either. Thanks much.

Arcturus said...

Benefit of the Doubt