December 6, 2006

The "Stupid" Dialogue.

Q: Is it not "incredibly lame" -- as you yourself said -- to call your opponent stupid?

A: You forgot the part about how I said it was "an admission that you have no substance."

Q: Yeah, well, then, that too.

A: And you forgot the part where I called Glenn Greenwald "such an idiot" and a "moron." ("Disreputable slimeball" is another matter altogether.)

Q: Yeah, yeah, yeah, all that too. So you admit, don't you, as you must, that you are a hypocrite?

A: First of all, if this was a contradiction, I'd own up to it. It provides an occasion to look appealingly self-deprecating and to quote Walt Whitman. (I am large. It's the blogs that got small.) But it's not a contradiction, for two -- at least two -- huge reasons. First, you have to see the two statements in context. I said "calling your opponent stupid is incredibly lame... an admission that you have no substance" in response to someone who made no argument other than to call me stupid. It was the sum total of his argument. I called Glenn Greenwald an idiot and a moron in the context of a 152-word paragraph that stated a substantive argument. You can object to the epithets because they were epithets, but not because they revealed a lack of substance. The substance was also there, and the substance established the stupidity of what Greenwald had written. Second, Greenwald's post was titled "The meaninglessness of tenure" and intended to be personally insulting to me. My retaliation with cheap insults was meant as a taunt, as a way to say "same to you, &*%#!" It was ironic, a way of saying -- not that everyone got this -- I don't normally stoop to your level, but today I feel like making an exception, &*%#!

Q: I don't get it.

A: That's not a question.

Q: Yeah, but I don't get it.

A: You're an idiot.


michilines said...

You've just read the galley for Chapter 4 in Althouse's heroic novel. Working title: I am Large.

Revenant said...

It's kind of sad that so many people need the obvious explained to them, but I'm glad Ann's willing to do it. :)

Tibore said...

And the sad thing is, that exchange is not just found in this blog, it's seen in most of the blogs with traffic out there.

Disgustipated said...

Ann #5: kudos where kudos due. . .

You explained the apparent contradiction. Whether I agree with your rathered tortured distinction or not, I applaud your intellectual honesty for at least addressing it.

I agree that epithets are epithets and are just not persuasive regardless of "context." However, do not fret because it is really not your use of epithets that I read as "an admission that you have no substance."

. . .tis mostly the "substance."

d said...

Splashing a bunch of words on the page is not "substance," just as inventing facially absurd hypotheses to explain why Jose Padilla might have been deprived of his senses does not "meet the burden" of refuting a serious argument.

stephenb said...

If I never hear the name Greenwald again...

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you and someone are`nt getting along; work on it.

dave said...

Give it up, lady.

You're. Fucking. Toast.

And the biggest fucking joke on the internet. The fact you can't see that makes it doubly hilarious.

Delete away!

Simon said...

Ann should get toasted? What? ;)

Anyway, come back when you've been the answer in a New York newspaper's crossword puzzle.

Garage Mahal said...

Ann will get a damn link from Sullivan if it kills her.

I think what happened is Ann confused two different Sullivan posts. The "Religionists", and the "Mormon Undergarments" post.

Ann Althouse wrote:
AND: Glenn Greenwald is such an idiot. Am I supposed to respond to this foolishness? Glenn, you moron, in case you didn't notice, Sullivan is mocking Mormons in general. That's what bothered me.


This has to be referring to the Mormon undergarment post. But this isn't what GG was objecting to in his post -- GG was alleging hypocrisy from Althouse when she used term "Islamists" on occasion, while at the same time criticizing Sullivan for using "Christianist".

Ann Althouse continues...
I don't object to the word "Christianists" if it is used fairly to refer to something that is the equivalent of "Islamists." I use the word "religionists" myself. See here, here, here, and here. Words like this mean something and have a place. The key is to use them in the right place. I criticize Sullivan when he shows a hostility toward ordinary religious people who aren't trying to bully their way around the political world.

Again, it must be the Mormon underwear pics again? Because he clearly defined "Christianist", and the term isn't remotely connected with "ordinary religious people who aren't trying to bully their way around the political world."

You've also never cited if, or where Sullivan used (improperly) the term "Christianist" when describing "ordinary religious people" (as you yourself later said you didn't object to the term Christianist, if used fairly)

Ann Althouse said...

Garage: I wasn't confused. Try again.

Anonymous said...

Ann, I feel bad for you. I have noticed a trend in your behavior toward Greenwald ever since one of his posters called you out for beginning your New York times Op Ed on the warrantless wiretapping decision by attempting to point out that the Judge who ruled against the Bush Administration in that case wrote a poorly worded and hastly edited opinion because among other reasons, she referred to a Chief Justice as simply a Justice. That clearly was a big thing for you, since you blogged about it before your op ed was published, and it was the big oepning to your op ed. Greenwald and his reader called you out for it because in another op ed written for the New York Times approximately a year ago, you made the same "gaffe," you also referred to a Chief Justice as simply a Justice. Oh... the irony..

Ever since then, you have been doing one blog post after the other about Greenwald and what you view as his shortcomings. First you wondered how he could have so many readers with his writing style. I recall you recommending Strunk and White and trying to be genuine in your complaints, but in the context of the whole Justice vs. Chief Justice Op-Ed, the whole writing style post and the what has followed just comes off as bitterness.

I do agree his posts may be a bit long, but he does have more readers than you, and they must find the length and detail refreshing from the other bloggers who don't go into as much detail and just link to something else. Deal with it.

By the way, was he a slimeball, an idiot, or just plain evil for calling you out for that? You are a law professor, correct?

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann, I feel bad for you..."

Spare your sympathies for a worthy cause. GG is promoting me. I have no problem with that. Whatever his individual demons are... they are too boring to get my attention. Why not do some volunteer work if you find yourself running over with charity?

-Peder said...

Your explanation makes complete sense to me. It did in context when it originaly happened but I understand that some people need complex things explained to them.

Davebo said...

"Garage: I wasn't confused. Try again."

Wow, that certainly doesn't leave many other options to salvage your credibility.

Oh well, you'll always have tenure right? Although it's hard to determine who is more detrimental to the perception of legal academics.

So scratch my last, you'll always have instapundit.

Anonymous said...

Oh goody, another Althouse dick fight. Ann sure luvs her dick fights, she dick fights with those on the left, and she dick fights with those on the right.

stephenb said...

Why not do some volunteer work if you find yourself running over with charity?

Now that's funny.

Anonymous said...

Humpty Dumpty: When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.

Xanthippas said...

Well now wait a second, Greenwald's post was also pretty long, and on a substantive issue, so didn't he do what you claim you're doing here when you call someone stupid? (Or did there, I mean. It's a little confusing to keep up.)And to be fair, after he updated he wasn't calling you stupid, so much as he was calling you incoherant and dishonest, which I regard as more substantive claims than saying someone is "stupid" at least.

Anyway this is all a rather minor argument in the blog proxy GWOT, but it's amusing at least.

Ricardo said...

Is there a mud wrestling pit somewhere, where bloggers could go and work out all these interpersonal problems, and provide some real entertainment for the viewing public?

The Exalted said...

It was ironic, a way of saying -- not that everyone got this -- I don't normally stoop to your level, but today I feel like making an exception, &*%#!

except that you "stoop" to this juvenile level of silly name calling quite often. . .

TLC said...

Ann, thank you for once again championing simplicity above complexity. Simplicity is so non-partisan, which is true because complexity is very partisan. Complexity must be partisan because it is difficult to understand and things that are difficult to understand are bad and anything that is bad is partisan so complexity is partisan. If complexity wanted to be non-partisan it would simplify itself like our Dear Leader has and do everything He says and think exactly the way He thinks about everything.

Ann Althouse said...

TLC: You've really got that parody thing down pat, except for the part where it's not like anything I've ever said. Reading the actual person you think you're parodying is kind of key.

Alpha Liberal said...

Actualy, Ann, you didn't respond to the substance of Glenn G's comments. you distorted what he said, and basically engaged in a highly emotional venting. Nothing rational about it.

Good effort to explain it away, but, again, he responded to your name-calling post in a methodical and logical way and you never engaged a substantive debate. (Exactly like your winger fanbase who've I've yet seen offer a substantive reply above the playground level).

And that's what's disappointing, as a Wisconsin taxpayer. You could at least put up a good effort at a rational argument before ducking behind name-calling and false representations of others' statements.

And for all those defining entertaining, snarky prose as "good writing," that's not what Greenwald does. He does rational, with a dash of snark. You want vacuous snark, well, I guess you've found your blog home.

Alpha Liberal said...

Geez Louis, Althouse. You repeat the same behaviors you engage in with Greenwald with commenters here! You don't address anything with substance and, instead, just get snide and snarky (and rude).

It leaves one with the impression that you don't have much depth behind your postions or respect for people who disagree with you.

You've definitely got an axe to grind against Greenwald. I think gail grimmel has nailed the reason why. He blew your NYT op-ed out of the water.

Academics can be so petty. Maybe it's time for a sabbatical?

Alpha Liberal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ChurchCommittee said...

Ahhh... if only you had a shred of Glenns intellect and skill you'd be worth reading. Unfortunately, you don't. And the mere suggestion that Padilla was blinded for fear that he might communicate by blinking was perhaps the dumbest thing I have ever heard. When even your own kind (read: right-wing, Bush-apologizing idiots) calls you out on it, you know you're really worthless.

Zeb Quinn said...

I disagree. Sometimes "stupid" aptly says it all. Not always. But sometimes. In those instances it's a waste and wrong to try to gussy it up.

Theo Boehm said...

The blogosphere runs on fights. They help the collective site meter spin and get that adreneline pumping, but increasingly I find myself drifing to the edge of the crowd, looking for a way to slip out.

I just wrote that on another thread on this blog. Like the proverbial moth, I've spent far too much time flickering around the flames of controversy.

They've done their job. They've got my attention. And they're even dangerous, because they waste my time.

These are not contretemps, but choreographed pas de deux. Althouse owns as much above, when she says, "GG is promoting me. I have no problem with that." These things help everybody, don't they?

They may be amusing to some, but I don't appreciate the legions of trolls and deteriorated tone of blogs that allow/encourage these sorts of dust-ups. Perhaps I just don't understand publicity.

Controversialists are in it for the long run. For blogs it's never about the piddling few dollars from increased ad revenue. It's about things more elusive: fame, influence, ego.

So, how much do I want to participate in somebody else's publicity machine? I'm a big Althouse fan, but the answer for this and similar controversies is not at all.

kodos423 said...


So, it's totally okay for you to call someone stupid isn't the sum total of your argument and/or you're responding in kind. Is it just me, or do you think that maybe you should have written "If the sum total of your argument is 'you're stupid', then you're incredibly lame"? Because I'm not sure there's a person alive who would argue with that sentiment. The thing is, that's not what you wrote. So, going back over it once you've been busted is, you know, incredibly lame. I guess the only thing lamer would be if all this was coming from a professor at a prestigious university.

And for the record, I'm a huge fan of epithets. Huge. And I agree with you're "I'm giving myself a do-over" argument: if you can both post a substantive argument that makes your opponent look foolish and call him or her a stupid jerky jerkpants (or worse) then you'll be tops in my book, no matter what your politics are. But that's not really what you did, neither with the comment you objected to, nor with GG. Plus, I'm betting you're not going to lose much sleep over winning my affections.

Wickedpinto said...

The questions never challenge the use of the word "retard"

I suggest, to assuage your interoggator by instead of calling the likes of greenwald stupid and idiotic, you call him retarded, or even modify it, functionaly retarded, or just compare him to retards, and functional retards "the only thing keeping him from being functionaly retarded is his inability to not crap on everything that he thinks is beneath him" That way you have a lot of grey area.

Al Maviva said...

Ann, how dare you question Glenn's brilliance! He is a constitutional scholar! And an actual lawyer who practiced law for a couple years! And published! And he has a popular blog! And a law degree! And a pool boy who sometimes logs on and writes comments in other people's blogs for him! And he's on the Townhouse email list! Most of the time anyways except when the Kewl Kids want to talk shit about him! Who are you? Just some school teacher! That's who! And everybody knows it! Except you! And that's pathetic! Or it would be except we all hate you and you can't have pity for somebody everybody hates! And your mom cuts your hair funny!

Good day, Sir!

Ps. Wickedpinto - I think they like to be called "Asian Americans" these days.

Anon Y. Mous said...

"I disagree. Sometimes 'stupid' aptly says it all. Not always. But sometimes. In those instances it's a waste and wrong to try to gussy it up."

That's just stupid.

Anon Y. Mous said...

Al Maviva: "Ps. Wickedpinto - I think they like to be called 'Asian Americans' these days."

Now we have to refer to retards as Asian Americans? Isn't that going to piss off the Orientals?

Zeb Quinn said...

"That's just stupid."

So is that.

monkeyboy said...

Sorry I'm late to the party.

And the mere suggestion that Padilla was blinded for fear that he might communicate by blinking was perhaps the dumbest thing I have ever heard.

Oh yea, because thats thats never happened.

Al Maviva said...

Goddamit, Anon y. Mous. This isn't about Vietnam!

libbyterian said...

" Whatever his individual demons are... they are too boring to get my attention."

Gail, don't take Ann's comments to heart. I find her response to be typical of an arrogant and bitter academic who can't handle valid criticism.

I agree with you in that it does seem like this post really embarrassed Professor Althouse, and well she hasn't been the same since.

Ann, you should let go of bitterness and heed your own advice: volunteer and give back to the Madison commmunity.

Alpha Liberal said...

Theo Boehm said:
The blogosphere runs on fights. They help the collective site meter spin and get that adreneline pumping, but increasingly I find myself drifing to the edge of the crowd, looking for a way to slip out.

He and I seem to disagree on a lot, but he captures my views of this blog. It's pretty clear Althouse is using conflict, personal insults and controversy to pump up her web traffic.

if she was doing this while adding substance to debate over the issues of the day, that would be tolerable. However, she does not. Even with the public here, she will not respond to a point made with a substantive reply. That she saves for imagined personal slights, dollie discussions and what-have-you.

As a Wisconsin resident I'm embarassed she represents the UW on the web. So, I will greatly reduce my web traffic at her site. She can have the fanbase who mimic her destructive approach to to public "dialogue."

Pedro said...

Wow. I could never understand why Greenwald -- who has never, to my knowledge, really contributed anything original or intellectually substantial to any debate -- has such impassioned followers willing to join Ellers and Ellsberg as his forward attack troops. Perhaps its because rather than insight and thoughtfulness, Greenwald and his black-and-white philosophical simplism comforts those who are too lazy or too insecure to do the heavy-lifting it would require to wrap their minds around complex issues, most of which resist being corraled into highly partisan explanations.

Besides having too much free time, that would help explain why Greenwald and his unquestioning, loyal troops get so incensed at the kind of sincerity and (are you listening, Andrew?) doubt-tinged moderation that defines Althouse's blog. Her greatest sin in the eyes of Greenwald and other intellectual non-heavyweights is to throw damp towels on the fires of knee-jerk indignation and outrage that fuels their sense of self-importance. As Erasmus (and Eric Hoffer) teach, nothing threatens true believers like somebody who dares to forego the empowering indulgence of emotion and consider things rationally.

"Let's consider all the angles..."; "..but from another point of view..."; "...I don't know, what do you think?" -- who would be more likely to end their posts thusly, Althouse or Greenwald?

Why does Greenwald remind me so much of myself when I was 17 years old and knew everything? And why do I have to read his uninteresting commenters on Althouse's blog? If I wanted their point of view, with all its receptivity to nuance and complexity, I'd just go read the opinion page of my old high school newspaper.

Al Maviva said...

Dear God, Alpha Liberal. You didn't have to do that.

We knew things were bad. Indeed, we knew how tough it was for you to endure, day after day, in this vile, screaming right wing cesspit.

There were many days that I often wondered aloud, "How does he do it? How does Alpha Liberal keep on keepin' on?"

Now I know. You were in the depths of desparation over the bitter irrationality and outraged loserdom of Ann.

Only you among us - and the occasional visitors from Ellers Ellersberg's place - realized that Glenn's amazing intellectual candlepower had torched Ann's intellect, burned it to a crisp, like an overcooked deep fried Thanksgiving turkey, which is the high communion of southern racist republican rednecks, BTW.

We cannot know, how tough it must have been for you to post here. Indeed, we cannot know what humiliation you must have felt, as both a Wisconsinite (Wisconsonian?) and an Alpha Liberal, at lowering yourself to our level. Oh, the horror, the shame of it. How much worse shame must you feel that the likes of me occasionally post in this blog that claims Wisconsin as its home?

And now you're gone. Alpha, we hardly knew ye.

Well, ye shall know. To us, you were like a bright light in the shining city on the hill, in a lamppost, roughly 9 feet off the ground in accordance with local zoning requirements, with wattage between 35 and 50, which doesn't sound that bright but on a dark night it's better than nothing and it doesn't keep the neighbors awake, and it's bright enough to keep you from stepping on dog turds on the lawn if they're big enough. And there you were, like a lampost, willing to share your genius with us, to drop bits of wit and nearly other-worldly wisdom upon us groundling. So fond we were of your droppings, that they too shall be missed. Thanks for all your efforts to enlighten those of us hopeless reactionary, nazi-like folk who toil in the darkness. We shared your opinion that you believed you were like Father Damian among the lepers. You will be missed.

Farewell, sweet prince. The place just won't be the same without your daily web hit, and I may be forced to consider bothering Jeff Jarvis from now on.

Ann Althouse said...

Libbyterian: "I agree with you in that it does seem like this post really embarrassed Professor Althouse, and well she hasn't been the same since."

Key bit of information undermining your theory: I've never read that post.

It is, obviously, the case, that lefty bloggers targetting me has increased my traffic. That doesn't mean I'm trying to make myself a target. I find it unpleasant enough that I won't read things that seem mean.

Disgustipated said...

Question, Ann:

Did you read the briefs in the nsa case or the procedural posture before you wrote that op-ed?

I really sincerely want to know.

There were more than just stylistic critiques in your piece and you should know better (and should teach your students better).

Ann Althouse said...

Disgustipated: I saw the criticisms and dealt with them at the time. If you read the op-ed without jumping where your fear takes you, that is, with understanding, you'll see it makes a basic and what really ought to be an uncontroversial point.

Theo Boehm said...

Alpha Liberal quoted me above, so I'd like to clear a few things up.

First and foremost, I am a longtime Althouse fan. I am impressed by her writing, her photography, the clever and thoughtful structure of this blog, and I never fail to learn something about the law when she posts on legal topics. I also tend to agree with her take on politics, which, in my view, is refreshingly honest and thoughtful. Obviously, I don't see eye-to-eye with her on everything. But she puts up, in my opinion, arguably the best general-interest blog out there.

I hardly want to be viewed in the same category as the recent critics who have buzzed in, attacking Althouse and her readers so freely and foolishly.

That said, my point is that I don't like some tendencies I've noticed here. The willingness to join gratuitous blog fights is first among these.

Obviously, Althouse is free to do what she wants with this blog and pursue the goals she chooses. She should realize, however, that not all her regular, loyal readers will be entertained by cooked-up controversies whose main aim is publicity. Seeking the largest possible audience coarsens the content and lowers the tone by, among other things, the appearance of armies of trolls, whose raison d'etre seems to be invective and insult.

I have a little list.
They surely won't be missed.

My hope is that she would seek attention in ways less disagreeable to those of us who look for interesting and intelligent content, and leave the dog fights for the junkyard where they belong.

Ann Althouse said...

Theo: I ignore most things, but I fight back occasionally when I feel like it for one reason or other.

LarryK said...

Incandescent...scintillating...and oh so Alpha. Can we really live without him? We don't have to!! Because a closer reading reveals the great AlphaLib will only "reduce my web traffic" at this site but not leave completely. So fear not Al! While the Great Man's droppings may become less frequent, we can sleep well at night knowing they will still be dispensed, from time to time, as the Spirit moves him. Alla Akbhar!!

Disgustipated said...


Your overall point was taken by me to be one that is certainly uncontroversial. . .in the abstract. You conclude first with a rhetorical question: "If the words of the written opinion reveal . . . , what sense does it make to . . . ?" Then with a hypothetical: "If the judge’s own writing . . . , the significance of saying. . . evaporates."

If these apply to her ruling (as I assume they do. . .tho your use of the rhetorical and hypothetical allows some room), then you have made judgments about her opinion writing style that invoke more than just form on its face.

While it may be possible - in theory - to write a valid and intellectually honest stylistic critique of a judicial opinion without a complete knowledge of the arguments before the court, that is not what you did. You specifically cited the lack of detailed legal discussions to support your thesis. . .discussions of arguments that were not before the court.

Would it not have been "judicial activism" to discuss arguments that were not raised?

Your broad point is indeed unassailable (judicial activism bad. . .unjustified pronouncements bad), but I found little support for it in the judicial opinion at issue.

As an attorney and a teacher, I would have hoped that you would have taken great pains to make sure that your op-ed in the NYT helped elucidate rather than obfuscate the complexities involved.

And what does "jumping where [my] fear takes me" mean? I would like to respond, but I seriously don't know. Your piece wasn't that long, and my critique is specific and narrow. My criticisms apply only to the application of your broadly espoused principles (which are hard to disagree with) to the opinion at issue. I simply feel that you read more in to the lack of certain discussions than you would had you actually read the doj's arguments.

Where is my jump? . . . fear?

Monkey Faced Liberal said...


First, thank you for directly addressing the questions I posed to your regarding you seeming hypocrisy.

I am sorry if I was not intelligent enough to understand your earlier explanations, though I think I now understand your reasoning.

-To call someone stupid, or otherwise insult them, when that is the sum total of your argument is lame.

(For example, I, unprovoked, writ that Paris Hilton is a "skank" on my blog. This is lame.)

-To call someone stupid, or otherwise insult them, within the context of an argument where you provide evidence that they are stupid or otherwise show that the insult is appropriate is not lame, as long as this is in response to earlier insult.

"Paris Hilton writes on her blog that I am stupid. I write on my blog that Hilton is always photographed not wearing underwear, there is a video of her out having sex, and she is rumored to have a lot of sexual partners, and that this all makes her a skank"

However, I am sorry to say that I am still a little confused about your reasoning. Perhaps this makes me an idiot, but if you would clear up these remaining questions I would really appreciate it.

1) Calling you stupid was NOT the sum-total of the argument made by the commenter you called lame. In fact, he quoted where you wrote "Perhaps there is a fear that he will communicate in code by blinking." and then stated "Wow. And I thought "scared stupid" was just a figure of speech!"

I think he is clearly making the argument that someone who thinks that Padilla might be communicate with others by blinking is letting their fear of terrorism led them to think "stupid" things and act in a "stupid" manner.

While you might not agree with the substance of his argument, it does have substance, does it not? Does this mean that his comment was not lame?

2)You seem to be saying that it is wrong to insult someone in a post where you have a substantive argument that attempts to establish why the insult is correct (such as Greenwald's orginal "The meaninglessness of tenure" post), but that is ok to respond to such insults with insults, as long you provide evidence or an argument that supports these insults?

In other words, if Greenwald's post was in respond to a post from you where you insulted him and provided an argument to back up this insult, you would be in the wrong and Greenwald would be in the right?

Greenwald fault (or lameness) lies in the fact that the was the first to insult someone else. If you respond to an insult with an insult (as long as it is backed by an argument) that is ok and not lame.

I know that brevity is important to you, so I apologize for the length of this post. But I wanted to make sure I communicated to you my confusion in the hope that you would clear this up for me.

Best Regards,

Monkey Faced Liberal

Monkey Faced Liberal said...

I apologize for the typos in the post above.