Wednesday, November 05, 2008

What works

“With reactionaries, never argue on content or with logic. The only thing that works is to make them feel really, really bad and really, really stupid.”
On first read, the perceptive John Fleck stuck Rabett Run into his meta science category which gets too close for comfort. After playing in the USENET sandbox for a number of years, Eli realized that the denialists were very heavy into nasty and straight ahead, determined to throw so much filth that everyone went away to avoid having to shower constantly. Of course this continued in the blog world, just read the comments at Jen's place.

However, the increased reach of blogs and the ability for the bloggers to control content and monitor comments produced another style. The Bunny saw folk manipulating the system to their own personal glory and influence in ways that could only lead to distructive policies. Besides concern trolling, a number of long established strategies from the policy and scientific communities were being deployed. Blogwhoring is not so far from self-citation. To figure out what was happening you had to have some familiarity with both sides and many readers were not quite aware of what was going on but Eli is an old bunny, a veteran of many faculty meetings and conferences and an observer and listener by nature if you can get a word in edgewise.

Rabett Run was started to meet this challenge and the first thing was to find a tone that met that challenge. Michael Berube talks about this in a posting today on Barack Obama's response to attacks:
The curious thing is that Obama has been firing back, pretty consistently, without cursing like a blogger—and without quite “coming out swinging,” either. He’s introduced an entirely new discursive mode to the world of Democratic presidential politics, and I should have recognized it much earlier, because it’s the mode this humble blog has adopted in all its exchanges with David Horowitz: the mode of derisive mockery. (This has, indeed, given some of my colleagues the vapors—such as the guy who told me he doesn’t think mockery is ever appropriate in public discourse. He doesn’t teach at Penn State, though. He teaches at the Institute for Earnest Leftism.)

This is a standard that Eli tries to reach, and sometimes gets close to (IEHO) but often fails. As Berube recognizes,

But unlike my responses to Horowitz, Obama’s mockery hasn’t been over the top; it’s been dismissive but calm, cool, collected, as when Obama replied to McCain’s charge that he is a radical socialist by surmising that McCain’s next move would be to attack him for being a “secret communist” on the grounds that he shared his toys in kindergarten.
further (after a drive by on Darth Cheney)

So no, Obama doesn’t curse like a blogger. But he has brought some serious snark to the campaign trail, for maybe the first time ever in the history of everything ever........ Obama’s fighting back, all right, but in ways no Democratic candidate has even attempted before. He’s not post-partisan, and he’s not Olbermanian either. He merely treats McCain’s attacks with the contempt they deserve, but lightly; and while he performs stability, he also manages to perform seriousness and snarkiness all at once. It’s not easy. But he’s really, really good at it.

ethereal lightness in this business is everything. Sometimes Rabett Run achieves it, it is our goal, but meat axes are sometimes the only tool available. Besides which the Rabett Rest Farm does not have $700,000,000 to support our editing staff, which is your fault for not donating.

There is nothing more to say, let loose in the comments


Anonymous said...

It ain't over til the fat lady (Dick Cheney) sings (in Sing-Sing, if luck goes our way).

Bush and Dick (Thing 1 and Thing 2) have until Jan 20 to wreak more havoc (bombing attack on Iran?)

Plenty of time to start a nookyalur war before the Cat in the Hat comes back (hopefully) to clean up.

Anonymous said...

It's funny that Fleck quotes (Haawwvad's) Greg Mankiw, one of the economists who was "piloting" our economic ship a few short years before it went down.

Here's the advice (little boy) Mankiw gives:

If you really don’t know enough to cast an intelligent vote, you should be eager to let your more informed neighbors make the decision.

The same bit of advice applies to economists like Mankiw.

My advice to Greg: Next time, let Nobel economics laureate Paul Krugman make the decisions. He knows more about economics than you are capable of ever knowing.

Anonymous said...

Yes indeed. Responding with reason to denialists' "arguments" is not an effective way talk to a climate skeptic. This is 2008, not 1988, meanwhile. So, flatearthers meanwhile long time deserve derisive mockery, if anything. Of course, as a service to the innocent bystander you might drop a link e.g. to the relevant section of

So, indeed, dear warriors of scientific truth, please exercise more the art of subtle ridicule. And Eli isn't doing soo bad in it.

P.S.: Hearty congratulations, USA!

Florifulgurator, Germany

David B. Benson said...

Alas, Sing Sing (Alcatraz Island) is now a public park or some such.

How about Gitmo instead?

Anonymous said...

Sing-sing and Alcatraz are two different prisons.

Alcatraz, which was closed in 1963 is now a part of the national park system (only ion America).

Sing-sing is a max security prison that is still operating.

But Gitmo might be more apt for the Dick and his Bush.

Dano said...

The point is: mocking and condescending makes Dano happy. Why? It drives ideologues and denialists batsh*t craaaaazy. Heh.

Sure, you may argue it won't win anyone over to your side. But this negates cognitive science - their ideologies don't want to come over to my side - their brains aren't wired that way.



TheChemistryOfBeer said...

Dano said"The point is: mocking and condescending makes Dano happy. Why? It drives ideologues and denialists batsh*t craaaaazy. Heh.

Sure, you may argue it won't win anyone over to your side. But this negates cognitive science - their ideologies don't want to come over to my side - their brains aren't wired that way."

Actually it will win people over in the middle, if you can drive the ideologues to even more extreme reactions, so that they have no credibility with the middle.

Anonymous said...

Funny thing is, Rabett, you and your various anons here are the denialists, with your faithwarmer religion. Dano thinks he causes some discomfort. Old son, you're like the nerd at the young people party- more a butt of a joke than the joker.

You havn't done an ice return story, Rabett. Unprecedented return, you say!That'll drive all the anons crazy.

JohnS, the 14 M sq km man

Anonymous said...

JohnS makes Sarah Palin look like a genius.

Anonymous said...

For any who may not be aware, "JohnS" is the guy who does not consider his posts anonymous.

As we all know, there is only one JohnS on the entire planet.

Anonymous said...

Funny -- that Berube post quoted me (my 15 milliseconds of fame!), and I also was on USENET back in the day. Small world.

At any rate, the U.S. election signals that it's time to move fully into the politics of what do we do, rather than disputing the science with wingnuts. At this point, anyone who can possibly be convinced by rationality has been, and the remainder might as well by derided when they can't be ignored.

Anonymous said...

Hey Wabbit,

nicely observed characteristics of the Obama kindlier, gentler snark. 'twas very effective and look what happened. Yes, we all try to do that but some are slithy toves.

I think it strikes just the right note and will continue to strive towards the velvet put-down ...

Roger Jones CSIRO

Hank Roberts said...


EliRabett said...

Rather like #2 Hank