Thursday, October 23, 2008

Welcome to the Dustbin of the Irrelevant and Marginal

I recently discovered a blogger, The Mojo Bison, via our trackbacks in the first Iran Death Ship post. I was curious about his reaction; on reading his post it was obvious we hadn’t impressed him much for speculating about the booty those radioactive Somali pirates had taken from a ship on the high seas. To the Mojo Bison’s way of thinking, our loose talk put us in the same shaky airplane as some of the left wingnuts who jump to conclusions using parachutes consisting of slim evidence…you know, it’s not the jump, it’s the landing…

Today, on the second Death Ship post Mr. Mojo Bison cautions us again:

One must be careful. While other explanations for the cargo are equally speculative, none are so volatile as the Fallout Bomb line. It makes the casual observer go, “Wow, those people at Gates of Vienna are real nutballs!” And thus are you instantly put into the Dustbin of the Irrelevant and Marginal. You risk becoming an echo chamber of true believers…

Oh, Mojo B, your kind warnings have come too late. We have long since been relegated to the Dustbin of the Irrelevant and Marginal. In fact, my dear man, we have been living here for quite some time now. Our readers even donated generously for the renovations, and it’s a rather charming neighborhood once you learn your way around. Maybe a kind of Dan-Rather-Charming neighborhood?

Of course, ol’ Dan did much more than simply speculate. That boy held onto his piece of “evidence” with a death grip that scorned reality - in the same way that oak trees will hang onto leaves past the last vestiges of reasonable Autumn. It was sad, wasn’t it?

However, I repeat: the original post, and the second one, too, are but speculation. And I still fail to comprehend what is wrong with thinking out loud as long as one does not impugn another’s motives, forebears, etc. Do you think our speculation rises to the level of, say, the professionalism of the MSM when they speculate about Sarah Palin’s family? How about the recent New York Times piece on Cindy Cain? Has this behavior relegated them to the Dustbin? (I fervently hope not. They’d ruin the neighborhood and our taxes would go up.)

What about the zillions of words raised so far in speculative argument about the causes of global warming? Even if we were ever able to slam the lid back on that can of worms, what are we now to think of the shrinking heliosphere? Surely speculation will arise about the long reach of evil mankind, so long we can harm even the sun? There seems to be no end to our ignorant narcissism.

Wait! Perhaps we’d better look a little closer at this word we’re tossing around. Maybe you and I define differently this activity of speculating. After all (as Peter Drucker said and I repeat ad infinitum), communication is the act of the recipient. So maybe when I say “speculation” you have in mind a meaning for this word that I don’t intend.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the verb form this way:
- - - - - - - - - meditate on or ponder a subject; reflect; review something idly or casually and often inconclusively

That dictionary phrase “often inconclusively” is key here. In these posts, we have reached no definitive conclusions, though everyone is quite curious -- and curiosity is a sign of intelligence, as I’m sure you know. In the first case, the Baron’s curiosity was immediately aroused by the radiation deaths of those Somali pirates. Didn’t that information grab your attention? Didn’t you wonder what they’d stumbled upon?

When I found Shirat Devorah’s Part Two of the story, I became even more curious. As I said at the conclusion of my essay on the new information:

…if this blogger’s prediction regarding Bush’s post-election plans to open a US “Interest Section” in Tehran turns out to be true, then perhaps this revelation will lend credence to the rest of his story. Since we’re dealing with a short time frame here, his thesis will be up for examination very soon.

I would be most interested to hear what those more expert in matters of intel have to say about this “Part 2”. Anyway, the comment thread on the “Death Ship” post was getting long, so this might be the place to begin anew with your contemplations on the subject.

Mojo, during the first post you described us in this process as stepping from stone to stone; I found that visual metaphor an apt portrayal. However, you forgot to say, or didn’t notice - we knew well and stated such - that we were traversing a fever swamp into which we could tumble were we to claim anything more than the tentative bits of what little was actually known - i.e., those dead pirates had expired due to radiation poisoning and they did so because of something they came into contact with on a stolen ship. We found this turn of events alarming.

If you look at t the comments on both posts you will see many people disagreeing with what few conclusions were drawn. Like you, some questioned the wisdom of even discussing it. Those disagreements and deep reservations were not taken down…thus proving that we are not an “echo chamber”. Loud and contentious sometimes, but no echoes.

The rules here are simple: stay on topic and no incivility or profanity. Though a few readers find our reasons for this last standard implausible, it is indeed the case that some homeschoolers send their older children over here to read. Having homeschooled our own son, I can understand why they do so. Thus, civil discourse is a must…though some people skirt the edges of the mud pond. In fact, a few have fallen in.

If you think we’re an echo chamber, do read some of commenter Afonso’s remarks. He is young and his English is a bit wonky (a darn sight better than my non-existent Portuguese, which is limited to “vinho verde”), but more than that he is often outrageously offensive…at least I think he might be so when I can actually get the gist of what he’s saying. And I speculate that he may be a misogynist, too.

You could sample some of Conservative Swede’s arguments - acute, aggressive, and iconoclastic. Think of him as an extremely intelligent and widely-read pit bull, but a pit bull with surprising streaks of generosity and compassion running through his feisty spirit.

So…no echo chamber here, Mojo B. Our commenters range from the disdainful (Nodrog), to the thoughtful (the great majority of our commenters) to the historically knowledgeable (e.g., Yorkshireminer), to the skeptical (in this case, Henrik, who thinks the information on this subject is too thin for speculation), to the energetic and persistent (zenster), to the kind and curious (Natalie). And so on, through kepiblanc and Archonix and rohobo and heroyalwhyness to joe six pack and xlbrl -- some of whom are willing to contemplate what that radioactive material might mean for us and for those possibly in harm’s way.

I love our commenters. Conservative Swede is allergic to echo chambers. And Fjordman was badly betrayed by the members of one such group. He would not be here if he thought this chamber echoed.

Then there is El Ingles, who got us into trouble for daring to speculate on possible horrific scenarios if Europe continues on its present course - he wrote out loud what the p.c. elites have ruled verboten. But we knew full well what was likely to happen when we put his post up. And it did transpire as we thought: Pajamas Media ripped off our epaulettes and defrocked us for our temerity. That ouster from the Group of Worthies permitted free speech to flow.

Previously, Chas at Little Green Footballs had already consigned us to the outer darkness for daring to support the Flemish and the Swedes in their desire for the liberty to form political parties and to vote. But Chas simply happens to be a leftist who was bowled over by September 11th. His leftist social doctrines haven’t changed and his definitions of what it is permissible to say or even to believe appear to be as narrow as they must have been on September 10th. To boot, his understanding of things European seems to be skimpier than our speculations on things radioactive.

It was our readers and commenters who held things together when larger blogs were utterly silent during these public trials. You could hear the crickets chirping back then. Small blogs like ours -- those who knew that freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose -- were quite supportive when we were attacked or ignored. Our gratitude to them, and to our donors, remains deep and wide.

So, Mojo Bison, here we are, already consigned to the ignominy of living amongst those who populate the Dustbin of the Irrelevant and Marginal. I must warn you that commenting here on a regular basis could land you in the same perfumed compost pile we inhabit. Remember what your momma told you: people judge you by the company you keep.

Hanging out at Gates of Vienna is not for the faint of heart.

To our readers: May I recommend for your enlightenment, The Mojo Bison’s post on “higher” education? My only problem with his essay is that he wrote it first. I swear, the man must be reading my emails or listening to me rant to the Baron. Education in this country is simply a bureaucratic corporation. Help your children avoid it if you can.

His money quote:

But I digress. Colleges are money-making machines, and most students don’t need half of what they are forced to learn, prepared or not.

Mr. Bison didn’t use the word “corrupt” but I will. And I’d question whether the kids actually “learn” when they are merely forced to regurgitate on demand for some safely-tenured twit the nonsense said professor pontificates in class or office.

By the way, I exempt Hillsdale College from this blanket condemnation. Could the secret of their success be that they don’t accept federal funding?

No doubt our readers could speculate on that.


Anonymous said...

Aw Dymphna, it's so cute that you mentioned me :) Actually, your characterizations of the commenters here is cute in general.

Unknown said...

Remember what your momma told you: people judge you by the company you keep.

Better to be judged bad by a large majority of respectable types (like the cold-blooded lizards) than to hold one's tongue.

Anonymous said...

Oops, forgot to mention this: this was an excellent post.

Zenster said...

Dear Dymphna,

I'm happy to report that you are not the first—nor hopefully the last—woman to describe me as "energetic and persistent". Said description most often accompanied by a rather contented smile.

That aside, please permit me to second Natalie's worthy motion regarding your most excellent post. I was equally compelled to note the tinfoil hat components of this latest Islamic potboiler but remain unapologetic as to the degree of conjecture provided by myself or others.

As to this "echo chamber" nonsense, let's be sure and leave that to those experts over at the diminutive verdant pigskins web site, emkay?

The often fractious and generally healthy debate that so appropriately characterizes Gates of Vienna was in full force with respect to this Iranian Death Ship post and in the vast majority of others as well. Therefore, it is without compunction that I say:

Carry on.

Afonso Henriques said...

"To boot, his understanding of things European seems to be skimpier than our speculations on things radioactive."


Well Dymphna, the English part I'll have to agree, but me!?? offensive?
It may be so but usually it is not my intention. Why not sharp? Sharp is cooler...
And by the way, another usefull and easy term in the Portuguese language is vinho do porto and of course, one of my favourites, joga bonito.

Returning to the "sharp" part, I really said some offensive things about democracy but that's just because I only now realised what is comming with Obama... and who dares to be against Obama here is not welcomed so I only grasp at Gates of Vienna...

Misogynist? No... "Machista"? A little bit... I think the difference between them is that the second actually opens the doors for the ladies...

Henrik R Clausen said...

All things considered, I think the 'Iranian Death Ship' story is perfect for the blogosphere. It's coherent in detail and with the policy of Iran, but still has some gaping holes in it. It's been debated back and forth in a decent manner, without any hard conclusion.

It's certainly not been an echo chamber here. Debaters have a somewhat coherent world view, which leftie loonies may consider 'echo chamber', but that's something else. There's preciously little group pressure at GoV (provided a few rules are kept), and that is good.

One thing we can conclude from the Death Ship story is that our governments will possibly never tell us the truth. And that's weird, for there is a story - there's enough evidence to be sure of that.

Perhaps later, when there's no US election at hand, we'll get the details. Not unlike when Israel bombed the Syrian nuclear facilities, and Syria merely complained about Israeli jets dropping spent fuel tanks on their area. Months later, when Syria had removed most every trace of the reactor (I've seen the arial shots before and after), did we get to know what had really gone on.

I'm not holding my breath for this, though.

no2liberals said...

I haven't commented on these threads, even though I made note of this story weeks ago, when it first broke.
I prefer to stay away from hypotheticals. That doesn't mean I am opposed to considering the possibilities, just don't participate in them.
Whatever the situation, we do know some pirates died from exposure to the contents of this ship, and that alone should be alarming to any reasonable person. Wherever the destination of the ship's cargo was bound, I don't see what good could have possibly come from it.
So, dymphna, as you were, you are standing on Terra Firma.
BTW, using the NYSlimes as an example might not have been the best choice. Their stock is now rated as junk, and deservedly so.

Steven Luotto said...

Dear Zenster,

Please continue to be energetic and persistent at least here at GOV (where I've become a lurker). I'm a big fan.

Ilíon said...

This was a *very* good essay, Dymphna.

Professor Mojo said...

D, we will continue to disagree on the matter of echo chambers and true believers.

However, I am pleased that a) I was not accused of incivility or foul language --hard to persuade someone you're cursing-- and b) you enjoyed my latest post on higher ed. You probably figured out that I am an academic --and for what it's worth, I like Hillsdale. (In fact, I went to grad school with one of the current history faculty --ain't sayin' which.)

At any rate, you and the Baron do your thing, I'll do mine.