Alarming News: I like Morgan Freeberg. A lot.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: We were following a trackback and thinking "hmmm... this is a bloody excellent post!", and then we realized that it was just part III of, well, three...Damn. I wish I'd written those.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: ...I just remembered that I found a new blog a short while ago, House of Eratosthenes, that I really like. I like his common sense approach and his curiosity when it comes to why people believe what they believe rather than just what they believe.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is an intriguing guy...[he] asks great questions and answers others with style, flair, reason and wit. On the blogroll he goes. Make him a part of your regular blogospheric reading. I certainly will.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is brilliant.
Common Sense Junction: Misha @ Anti-Idiotarian never ceases to amaze me. He keeps finding other good blogs. I went over to A.I. this morning for my daily Misha fix and he had found this guy named Morgan Freeberg in Fair Oaks, California, that has a blog, House of Eratosthenes. Freeberg says its "The Blog That Nobody Reads" but it may now become the blog that everybody reads.
Jaded Haven: Good God, Morgan, you cover a topic from front to back with a screwy thoroughness I find mind boggling. I'm in awe of your thought proccesses, my friend, you're an exceptional talent. You start by throwing in the kitchen sink, tie in someone's syphilitic uncle, bend around a rip tide of brilliance and bring it all home in a neat, diamond dripping package of an exceptionally readable moment of damn fine wordsmithing. I love reading you.
Mein Blogovault: Make "the Blog that No One Reads" one of your daily reads.
Philmon: When Morgan meanders, stick with him - he's got a point and it'll be worth it in the end. He's not a hit-and-run snarky quip kind of guy. The pieces all fall into place like tumblers in a lock and bang! He's opened a cognative door for you.
Rightlinx: Morgan at House of Eratosthenes is one of the best writers out there. I read him nearly every day because he manages to provide an interesting perspective, even though I don't always agree.
Poetic Justice: Cletus! Ah gots a laiv one fer yew...
I Got Served
Wednesday night I got an e-mail from one “godstool.” It was one of those auto-generated e-mails I get when people attach comments to this blog, and contents of the message consisted of five simple words.
Oh snap, you got served:
Following thereafter was a link to a blog called “Hammer of Truth.” Now, where have I heard that name before?
Ah…this weekend past, I took that blog to task for conferring a certain amount of credibility (I thought) on Capitol Hill Blue, using the word “endorsing” to describe what they were doing, and for this I called them “Hammer of Bullshit.” Apparently, even though this is the blog nobody reads, Hammer of Truth has been reading it. My comments were noticed by them, and/or brought to their attention, and several among their fans had some things to say about it. Somehow this has become the post that people actually read, within the blog nobody reads.
We get Blogbashed
It�s not often we here at Hammer of Truth are on the receiving end of negative criticism for the types of stories we post about (well, differing of opinions is a whole other beast). I like to think most of our readers are smart enough to realize that simply posting (even mocking) something doesn�t automatically translate into endorsement.
Apparently not so much with this blogger, who chooses to call us Hammer of Bullshit (which, incidentally, is where the cleverness of his exhaustive post ended) in regard to my writeup on the dubious quote of Bush calling the Constitution “just a GD piece of paper.”
I suppose I endorsed the veracity of the reporting when I called Capitol Hill Blue “the political rag that doubles as a tin foil hat” or when I used finger-quotes around the word “reporting” or when I followed up with an update pointing out the credibility gaps of CHB and a prior acknowledgement of being conned. No, indeed� let me fess up now and say I was indeed “endorsing” the article.
You caught me, Mr. blogger who�s schtick is to rip on the credibility of a post that�s ripping on the credibility of a news story. I�m betting you�d be a riot to take to the comedy club, I can only imagine the insightful 3000-word critique on how you didn�t get any of the jokes.
I’m inferring Mr. VanDyke’s intentions, here, are to confuse and intimidate me from saying anything further with any meaningful amount of confidence. Assuming I’m right about that, he has succeeded. I’m thoroughly confused. I have little idea what to make of this.
I am cowed, I freely confess, from commenting on this with certainty.
The only thing left for me to do is speculate, with as much of an open mind as can be mustered by a thick-headed ogre like me.
My first impression is that his response is sort of peculiar. Putting myself in his shoes, if someone makes some observations on my comments and posts an article saying something about those observations, to the effect of “this guy is some kind of bullshitter!” — the last thing I’d do, whether I was innocent or guilty of the bullshitting, would be to hide behind the centuries-old “but I was only kidding!” defense.
That’s the timeless refuge of bullshitters, isn’t it?
I suppose some may doubt that. I would refer them to the Andy Savage Greg-in-Duluth phone clip, in the unlikely event they haven’t heard it already. If the point of your defense is “no, no, I’m not a bullshitter, and you’re a clueless dolt for thinking I am one,” you’re poorly served by the I-was-only-joking defense. As you can tell, listening to the Greg Clip all the way to the very end, this is what people have been known to say when their hand is caught in the cookie jar.
Now, it could very well be Mr. VanDyke really was having a joke at Capitol Hill Blue’s expense, and putting no credibility on the report whatsoever, in fact, renouncing it before I “hammered” him just as forcefully he renounces it after that I have done so. And, of course, that I’m a big, stupid doo-doo head for having failed to notice this.
Uh, gee that must be nice. Being a fan of subtle humor myself, I’ve had my share of readers misunderstand me from time to time. I always took that as a sign that the author (me) failed to anticipate and accommodate the attention span and intellectual/emotional state of his reader. From his indictment that my critique was 3,000 words long, I’m gathering Mr. VanDyke agrees that when I write things, this is indeed one of my responsibilities.
Odd that it is not one of his.
What to conclude? Well, we know Mr. VanDyke speaks for the entire “Hammer of Truth” blog — he says so — and, where he comes from, there are certain rules when you write about things. The word-count of what you write (mine was 1,391 not counting the quotes, Stephen, covering a lot of other things besides just you) is critically important to assessing what you’ve written and how well you’ve written it. The point you are trying to make, on the other hand, is a fairly trivial matter — as is the substance of what you have drawn upon in order to substantiate that point. The similarity of your thesis, as inferred by your audience, to the thesis you intended to argue, matters not one bit. The fault for any substantial difference between those two is on the audience, not on the author.
Yawning chasm between those two? No problem. Call the reader a raging idiot.
Capitol Hill Blue supplied “evidence” that our President has a low regard of the Constitution. VanDyke’s point, which certainly doesn’t seem to be ironic or sarcastic in any way, is “we here at Hammer of Truth don�t need much convincing that previous administration actions speak louder than these reported words when it comes to Bush�s view of the Constitution.” Got that? If you buy into the idea that his primary focus was to bash CHB, instead of endorsing it, his “bashing” was an argument that CHB’s facts were — not mendacious — but unnecessary! Granted, there is a distinction to be made between “endorsing” something and saying “this is irrelevant because it proves something that is already known” — but there is also a very great difference between that latter one, and saying “this is irrelevant because it’s impossible to prove, for now, and Capitol Hill Blue, that matters because your reputation sucks ass.”
Now, I’m thinking the meaning of VanDyke’s original musings, which I’m trying so hard to puzzle out (obvious as it may be to everyone else), is narrowed down to one amongst those three. I’m still not entirely sure which of those three it is. My confidence that any great majority among his readers, would be able to offer one consistent answer out of those choices, is mediocre at best. There’s a possibility he himself isn’t altogether sure. It seems a given he wants to place some weight on the CHB report, but it’s known from experience that if someone places too much weight on it, crediting VanDyke with the inspiration for doing so, he’ll repudiate the notion and call the other party stupid.
There is an important reason why, being a latecomer to the party, I should marshall my limited mental resources to figuring out what’s going on here: There is a marginal likelihood that VanDyke is correct, and I owe him and the Hammer of Truth an apology for my use of the vulgar term more conventionally applied to bovine feces. I’m not one to duck an apology when it is owed, so to answer that, I turn to one of the most trusted reference materials I have available. On Bullshit, by Prof. Harry G. Frankfurt of Princeton University, ISBN 0-691-12294-6. This is one of the best investments have I ever made, book-wise. I bought it on Amazon, lured into doing so only because the first two paragraphs were so well-written, each noun, verb and adjective chosen with care you don’t often see nowadays:
One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, nor attracted much sustained inquiry.
In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves…I propose we begin the development of a theoretical understanding of bullshit, mainly by providing some tentative and exploratory philosophical analysis…My aim is simply to give a rough account of what bullshit is and how it differs from what it is not � or (putting it somewhat differently) to articulate, more or less sketchily, the structure of its concept.
This book is a very quick read — very quick. I shall not quote a single word from it beyond what is necessary, to settle this issue between Mr. VanDyke and me. To do that, what I need to do is ascertain, with pinpoint accuracy, what “bullshit” is and whether or not this overlaps with what VanDyke wrote that earned my wrath. If there’s overlap, my critique stands, and if it isn’t, obviously I should do the Teapot Dance.
The applicable paragraph begins at the bottom of page 53, I think.
What bullshit essentially misrepresents is neither the state of affairs to which it refers nor the beliefs of the speaker concerning that state of affairs. Those are what lies misrepresent, by virtue of being false. Since bullshit need not be false, it differs from lies in its misrepresentational intent. The bullshitter may not deceive us, or even intend to do so, either about the facts or about what he takes the facts to be. What he does necessarily attempt to deceive us about is his enterprise. His only indispensably distinctive characteristic is that in a certain way he misrepresents what he is up to.
This is the crux of the distinction between him and the liar…A [liar is] responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it…For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.
Mr. VanDyke, I’m willing to “endorse” Professor Frankfurt, at least as far as his definition of exactly what bullshit is. He has stated it competently enough that, were I to undertake to outperform him, my efforts would be prohibitively expensive and I expect I would fail. In defining bullshit for us, he has also made a case about the high importance of calling out bullshit when one sees it. In that spirit, I continue to consider it an important mental exercise, for my personal benefit if for the benefit of none other, to affix that label to your article.
Do I owe you an apology for having done so? You’ve left me unclear, I must say, so I must be as dimwitted as you imply. It has not escaped my notice that the state of affairs, and your comprehension of same, appears to have been one of the least-significant considerations here up to now. Does the Capitol Hill Blue report prove that President Bush disrespects our Constitution? Or is the veracity of the Capitol Hill Blue report substantiated, in some way, with your prior acquaintance of the President’s disregard for our Constitution? Which is it? That is a state of affairs. Do you even know which? You appear to be choosing which one it is, moment to moment, based on convenience (and criticism from a blog nobody reads).
That is a litmus test of bullshit.
But it could be, as you imply, confusion on my part and on my part alone. So to help sort out my confusion, I’d sure be in your debt if you can clear up one thing:
What is the state of affairs? What does the Capitol Hill Blue report mean? Does it prove something? Does it merely suggest something? Is it unneeded support for something already proven elsewhere? If so, then why bring it up? Is the report evidence of Capitol Hill Blue’s tinfoil-hattery? Is it really the point of your post to be “ripping on the credibility of a news story”? (When you “served” me, you said exactly that.) If that is the case, why demonstrate this with something that’s not only unprovable, but irrefutable as well, and furthermore suggesting something about our President you already believe to be true? Why not wait for CHB to come up with something demonstrably false? After all, if you’re “ripping” that news source and it is truly deserving of your “ripping on the credibility,” it should be a short wait before such a thing comes down the pike. Why didn’t you go that route?
Or is your belief about President Bush, something I’m misinterpreting as well? I’m assuming not; I’ve taken a look through your archives, and you do appear to earnestly believe in the opinion that your text stated. Conclusion: Whatever irony you put in your original post, fell short of this part.
Or is the point of your original post that President Bush really doesn’t respect the Constitution? I notice now that the story has gotten the “legs” you doubted that it would get — there are many people out there who agree with this premise, and cite Capitol Hill Blue’s report as supporting evidence to prove the point. One must wonder naturally: If “mkfreeberg” at House of Eratosthenes lacks the smarts “to realize that simply posting (even mocking) something doesn�t automatically translate into endorsement” — are these other people lacking in those smarts as well?
And if you’re not going to “endorse” Capitol Hill Blue’s report, then who will? If nobody will, then what else is out there to suggest our President shows the disrespect you seem to have decided he shows?
Is there anything out there that is so powerful, that if I say “so-and-so endorsed this as evidence of the President’s lack of respect for the Constitution” — said so-and-so won’t get all pissy and backpedal like crazy, like you did, dusting off that tried-and-true excuse of bullshitters, “I was only joking”?
If there is no such thing, then what do we REALLY know about this President?
I called you a bullshitter, taking your argument seriously as I did so. You, apparently, were not nearly as offended by the vulgarity, as you were by the notion of my simply taking your argument seriously — your repudiation of your own idea was so forceful, it became obligatory to cast doubts upon my intelligence as you did the repudiating. In so doing, you appear to be taking the “Dan Rather Memos” approach: You spoke truth because what the “proof” proves is believed to be true, even though the “proof” itself has been placed in significant doubt.
(I notice the analogy holds in another way: Just as the discovery of the forged documents was the subject of Dan Rather’s broadcast, so too was the posting of CHB’s story the event that inspired your original post.)
In short, the strength of your argument was such that once I noticed (in a blog nobody reads) you put your name to it, you renounced the argument and called me a fool for taking it seriously. Not a very strong argument! Are all of the arguments against this President’s respect for the Constitution, so feeble? Or just yours?
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