Mark A. Kleiman Sucks Giant Green Slimy Goat Balls; or, How To Talk To Motherfuckers Who Tolerate Indecency While Mewling About Incivility
And I mean it. Fuck a bunch of Mark A. Kleiman. Fuck him and feed him fishheads.
Kleiman, pearls firmly clenched, does his “civility please” schtick yet again, this time in ostensible defence of Ana Marie Cox, whom both Atrios and Digby had attacked with some substantial snark:
Atrios is mad at Ana Marie Cox for her column about the Colbert performance at the White House Correspondents Association dinner. Well, Atrios is always mad at someone, isn’t he? He seems to share with George W. Bush the sincere and passionate belief that anyone who disagrees with him must be A Bad Person. (And would someone please send him a dictionary so he can look up the term “wanker”?)
Atrios links to Digby at Hullabaloo, who provides a detailed fisking of Cox’s column. Digby’s point seems to be that Cox is acting like an insider journalist, thus betraying her Web roots. Or something. (“Our little Wonkette is all grown up.” Do I hear the voice of condescending envy, with just a touch of misogyny?)
Several commenters think the above is unfair to Atrios. I’m not cricizing him for being angry; Lord knows, I hate BushCo about as much as one can on an outpatient basis. I’m criticizing him, and Digby, for attacking Cox personally for her failure to join the chorus on this one occasion, despite Cox’s well-established Blue credentials. As to “wanker,” of course Atrios knows its original meaning, but he doesn’t seem to have noticed its obvious inappropriateness as applied to a female.
Second update Atrios, responding to my suggestion that he tends to personally denigrate people who disagree with him rather than responding to their ideas, helpfully suggests that my criticism of his post results from my illiteracy. I’d like to thank him for providing evidence for my point.
In response to comments, I’ve changed “male chauvinism” to “misogyny.”
I’ve edited the comments, not to remove criticisms of me or the post but in accord with our published “play nice” rules of engagement. If you feel the urge to read reams of obscene abuse directed my way, let me refer you to the comments on the second Atrios post. Most of the obscene abuse directed at Ana Marie Cox is in the comments to the original post.
There it all is in one nut’s shell. Take note, aspiring pundits. In Kleiman’s complaint, you witness all the qualifications on display to gain one entree to the sacred halls of Sensible Liberalism, like Joe Lieberman Weekly or The American Prospect or Washington Monthly. There’s the general moral tepidness under the flimsy affected heroism, the demand for “standards” of tone and style, a faint whiff of delusions of persecution; then, finally, the whining.
Anyway, the part after the snip, by which I mean the part heavy on whining, was an update posted in response to this post by Atrios:
Y Kant Kleiman Read?
Better reading comprehension next time, Mark.
Which was pithy in the Atrios style. So let me elaborate on just why Kleiman sucks, not merely in this instance but in general — why, as a pundit, Mark A. Kleiman is worse than useless and isn’t fit to pick corn out of the turds of pundits whose tone and style he finds so offensive.
I’ve long ignored Kleiman on the grounds that he’s the sort of ponderous, pseudo-liberal gasbag that is often spectacularly wrong, and just as spectacularly boring. He’s the kind of pundit that people who enjoy Kevin Drum find entertaining. He’s like the timid, quasi-liberal version of Tacitus, though without Tacky’s indefatiguable trolling talents. As it happens, Bitch, PhD. had Kleiman pegged from the get-go, and her appraisal is very much worth revisiting. The context here is Eugene Volokh’s “yay for torture” post. Remember that? Yeah. But then Volokh took it back, or at least appeared to, and immediately the Sensible Liberals tripped over themselves to congratulate him for doing so:
Anyway, so now he’s changed his mind. Sort of. On the grounds that the opposition would make it very difficult to run a legal system. Not, mind you, on the grounds that it’s fucking disgusting (I know, just like a girl to get all emotional. That’s not a substantive political argument! Next you’ll be saying that it “makes you feel sick,” and we’ll be able to accuse you of being Victorian. Which of course is a substantive political argument, because we say so).
And apparently a number of people seem to think that this is real big of him. This is how low the bar is set? It’s reasonable to debate whether or not torture is ok while tut-tutting the inexcusable level of personal abuse that someone advocating torture gets, praising him for his usual even temper?
Yes. Let’s all toss bouquets about when people advocate torture in measured tones, and distance ourselves from those who are horrified. Let’s nod our heads sagely and have a discussion: is torture a good idea? Let’s denigrate those who express incredulity and anger at said discussion by calling them “abusive” without even tasting the bitter irony. And, having whetted our appetites over a rousing gentleman’s debate, let’s buy torture advocates dinner when they allow that, well, torture may be desirable but, alas, it’s not practical.
You can advocate something horrible, as did Volokh, or you can write a dunderheaded piece of analysis, as did the former Wonkette, and be in fine standing with Kleiman. But heaven help you if you personally attack anyone! To Kleiman, that is the crying sin which won’t be tolerated! Especially if you use naughty words! Mark A. Kleiman is restrained — he even says he’s just as angry (i.e. morally outraged at BushCo.) as Atrios, he just doesn’t let it get the “better” of him. Plainly, Kleiman sees himself as a cool customer who doesn’t let partisan anger, or any kind of moral revulsion for that matter, influence his tough political analyses, which are obviously so logically-tight that Brainiac or HAL-9000 would fry their circuits from sheer envy.
Actually, I take leave to doubt that Kleiman has a capacity for moral outrage at all, and don’t buy for one minute that “for the sake of argument” crap he peddles. Bitch, PhD.’s analysis was spot-on, but it reminds me of something Sidney Blumenthal wrote years ago that makes the point in a larger way (the gasbag to whom he refers is George F. Will):
Like the politicians Will set out to study, his words must be taken seriously. Two words are key to his thought — “decent” and “civility” — his shorthand for different political mentalities. “Decent” arises in his language as something bad about Democrats: “There hangs about the Democratic party an aura of moral overreaching. A symptom is the use of words like ‘decent’….as in ‘a decent society requires this or that.'” “Civility,” according to Will, is what will be restored when the Iran-contra scandal is swept away. But the meaning of these words, as Will uses them, is broader.
He uses “civility” to mean manners masquerading as morals, a category of form referring less to the rule of law than to the rule of etiquette; it is more an unspoken social, rather than ethical, code. Correct behavior may make the good possible, it is not goodness itself.
By contrast, “decency,” which Will belittles, actually is about morals. And there is some history behind the word and its content. The introduction of the word “decent” into the political vocabulary can be attributed to George Orwell. In his essay on Charles Dickens, he defined the essence of the great novelist’s sensibility as “decent.” In an age of totalitarians, Dickens’s message was still contemporary. Orwell wrote: “The central problem — how to prevent power from being abused — remains unsolved…’If men would behave decently the world would be decent’ is not such a platitude as it sounds.” Since Orwell’s use of the word, a number of liberals, intellectuals, and reformers have taken it up. “Decent” connotes a tempered moral position, one that carefully avoids righteous absolutism; it also suggests compassion and patience. The word is precisely the opposite of elite condescension, the opposite of hauteur.
This neatly annihilates Will but almost as nicely cleaves Sensible Liberals like Kleiman, whose active hostility to the decent isn’t so apparent as Will’s but whose fealty to stupid “standards” of civility more than equals the bowtied fucktard’s. Basically, like Bitch, PhD., Blumenthal finds something abhorrent and hollow in those who strictly call for civility and at the same time give plenty of legitimacy to the most dreadful, indecent arguments and personages in the entire polity.
Still skeptical? Let me show you. Let’s say you — well, you have a Randroid nutjob who says that people should whack anti-war protestors with 2x4s. The normal response is to condemn said Randroid as a morally-degenerate asshat. But no, that would be incivil, and we can’t have that. Rather, one must calmly engage the “really bad suggestion” — thus making it legitimate, as if it’s just another policy proposal to yay or nay. And for good measure, when the decent people reply in kind (the moral equivalent of turning the other fist to Galt’s argument) the Sensible Liberal decides then that “[d]ebate’s over. Time to go home. Your opponents can make you angry, but it takes people who are (at least in a given argument) on your side to make you ashamed.” How’s that for even-handedness? Galt advocated violence, the nasty Atriots cussed her in e-mails for it. And the Atriots are the bad guys. But then Galt’s suggestion was indecent, which Kleiman can find time for, while the Atriots were incivil, which he finds, of course, to be beyond the pale.
But then bullshit even-handedness is Kleiman’s stock-in-trade.
And if his pole-up-his-ass style wasn’t enough to turn you off, and you somehow otherwise find tolerable his skillz at cheerfully engaging depravity and stupidity, there’s always his pro-war idiocy to give you a reason to ignore him (and is of a piece with his uncanny ability to countenance the obscenely indecent for the sake of civility): Here and here.
So fuck that fucking pukeface Mark Fucking A. Fucking Kleiman.