Sunday, July 20, 2008

Obscenities in the Blogosphere

I've never thought using obscenities in blogging was acceptable.

When I started, I read political scientists who were bloggers (folks who had career reputations to maintain), and I considered blogging as a new form of journalism. Cursing just seemed unprofessional, and when I did see some use profanity it was normally accompanied by equally crass opinions. It was easy to dismiss these people as unserious.

I imagine someone would have to research it, but my feeling is that lefty bloggers are more comfortable with profanity in their blogging than conservatives. Certainly top left-wing bloggers, who are discussed in Katherine Seelye's piece, "
Easing Off Online Obscenities," find crude language in blogging acceptable, even advantageous, and they've invented little decision rules on when cursing might be fine and dandy:

Has anyone noticed a decline in the use of obscenities in the blogosphere lately (well, at least when various public figures aren’t being quoted)?

Some prominent bloggers on a panel here at Netroots Nation said today that for a variety of reasons, they have scaled back their use of profanity. Others said they were swearing as much as they ever had.

Digby Parton, who writes on, said she initially thought of her blog as an ephemeral form of conversation among friends and used vulgarities freely. But now she is read by a substantially wider circle and has cleaned up her language.
“I don’t use the same amount of profanity,” she said. “We’re taken much more seriously as a political force,” and she has a stronger sense that her words are “out there for posterity”....

Amanda Marcotte, who writes on and had been the blogmaster for John Edwards’s presidential campaign until some of her outside writings were deemed anti-Catholic, described her stance on the matter this way: “I curse and I’m vulgar and I make really, really dirty jokes.”

She said she uses obscenities to entertain people and “to show hypocrisy and the ridiculousness of society.”

Jesse Taylor, who founded pandagon in 2002 and was the online communications director for Gov. Ted Strickland, Democrat of Ohio, until earlier this year, moderated the panel. He said he found that he had been using obscenities so frequently that he simply tired of it (and was also constrained by outside writing that did not allow it).

Now, he said, “My use of profanity is much more targeted.” He still sometimes uses vulgarities as shorthand, he said, but he has found that using them less often gives them more power.

The panelists said there were various things they tried to avoid. Mr. Papa said he tried not to write about killing, especially in connection with mentions of the president. Digby said she was not comfortable criticizing people about their appearance. Ms. Marcotte said she tried to see how vulgar she could be “without crossing the line into being sexist.” She added: “My vulgarity stands out because people can’t believe a young woman is saying these things.”

In the end, no one seemed too concerned about the use of obscenities in the blogosphere or whether it undermined their arguments. They more or less shrugged over the recent off-color language used by Jesse Jackson about Senator Barack Obama, language that some mainstream media repeated and others did not.

I've noted previously how lefties use profanity in their campaigns of demonization. For the left nihilists, it must come across as more powerful, more essential, when President Bush, Joseph Lieberman, or right-wing commentators like Jonah Goldberg, are attacked with a big fat "f***" bomb.

I see it all the time. It turns my stomach, and I'm no wilting lilly.

Perhaps there's a time for it (if I pound my thumb with a hammer while working around the house, I doubt I'd be worried about throwing out a few choice expletives), but I don't expect serious people to take seriously the foul-mouthed potty rants of a bunch of raving online revolutionaries as incisive political analysis.

I mean, the tenor of most these discussions is inbred, to stroke the desires of crooked libidinous demonization among like-minded hard-left cohorts. I mean, just look at how Netroots Nation announced their panel on the bounds of acceptable blog language, "
Different Tones and Wider Nets:"

One of the great debates of blogging is the general rudeness and shrillness acceptable within the discourse. Does profanity exempt you from being taken seriously? Are you necessarily "calmer" because you don't drop a few four-letter words? We'll discuss the tone and attitude of various pockets of bloggers, and also why, no matter what, Michelle Malkin is still worse.
That blurb is right on the main Netroots Nation homepage, and it's simply unfathomable to me that such discourse is considered okay. Michelle Malkin is worse that anyone's use of profanity?

It's not as if the bloggers profiled have advanced their journalistic or political careers by deploying gutter language. Amanda Marcotte, indeed, not only got the boot from John Edwards' campaign in 2004, her controversy cast tremendous doubts on Edwards himself: Did he endorse her vile language and demonization?
Did he condone hate speech? Was this considered an acceptable level of discourse for a presidential candidate?

The answer is clearly no (see Jawa Report for
the specifics of Marcotte's case). But the left bloggers want to make their own rules. They think the mainstream press "needs to let its hair down," which I perceive as the lefties' push to lower the bar on what's proper.

How might we explain all of this? Well, in my view, these folks are essentially Marxist, and at base, we might consider Marxist thought
a doctrine of hatred, a secular demonology:

We hate those, whose existence urges us to reconsider our theories and our vocabularies. We hate what places a safe and irresponsible categorization of the world in jeopardy. We hate what threatens the purity and predictability of our perception of the world, our mode of discourse, and in effect, our mental security.

Thus, for the left, rather than consider that vulgarity has no proper place in the respectable exchange of ideas, crude language is a tool to beat down those who would challenge their way of seeing the world, especially those allegedly in the right-wing superstructure of greedy imperialistic designs.


UPDATE: Dana over Common Sense Political Thought has a fabulous expansion of this topic, "Profanity Does Not Equal Persuasion.

Dana links to Pandagon, where we see, frankly, insane ramblings on why using profanity is okay, for example, from Atrios (actually, paraphrased Duncan Black):

Atrios says (extreme paraphrase) that, rather than worrying that snark and vulgarity will allow the right to shut down discourse, we should recognize that the right has already shut down the discourse and snark and vulgarity are a useful tool to shine a light on that fact. I would add that vulgarity isn’t just the light but the jackhammer - the right has built a bulwark of insensateness, and vulgarity and snark seem to be the only things which reliably break that down, even on a temporary basis. The reaction from righty bloggers when a progressive fails to live up to their fake idea of civility reveals that the bulwark is really a facade - the strong ideological defense they’ve built up is vital, since whenever it drops we see clearly that they don’t actually have an ideology.

To be fair, I noticed Pamela Leavey, of the Democratic Daily, was realistic in her sense of what's appropriate:

Personally after writing online for the Kerry campaign blog in ‘04, I’ve always written here with the “posterity” thing in mind. My thoughts have always leaned towards… You never know who’s out there reading your blog…
That's not the biggest moral repudiation of profane blogging, but certainly heading in the right direction.


Anonymous said...

I feel obscenities tend, as you say, to lessen the seriousness of a statement or opinion. More often than not, it reflects the writers lack of control, self absorption, lack of facility in presenting an idea, and parades personal issues. Of course, the one who utilizes them is usually unconscious of that transparency. Mommy issues, Daddy issues, rage issues, grounding issues etc. sabotage rather than augment communication.

You can ground a discussion without resorting to caveman tactics.