July 20, 2008

"I used to swear a lot. I like swearing, and I love reading people who do it well."

Oh, lord — is that swearing? — I'm going with a second Kevin Drum quote this morning — and a second post traced to the netroots convention. But anyway, this is a different subject: The use of rough language among friends and in blogging that used to be written in the style of talking to your friends but is now written with the intent to reach the whole political world, which isn't going to listen properly if you talk like that. Was the bad language ever good, and if it was, what have we lost? We do still want blogging to sound like the way we'd talk to friends, don't we?

22 comments:

Bissage said...

I like swearing because swearing can make you mine.

Here’s all the proof you’ll ever need.

Bleeeeech!

rcocean said...

He (Papa)said he started his blog during the buildup to the war in Iraq, when, he said, disagreement with the idea of going to war was suppressed.

Mr. Papa said his impulse toward vulgarity, including references to rape, was a reaction to that climate of suppression. Besides, he said, “I curse a lot in my daily life.”


To me (a non leftist) this is unintentionally funny. Also funny , the NYT's treats these people as normal and mainstream - instead of labeling them left-wing cranks and oddballs. But I guess in NYC, professors who curse because they are oppressed, are a dime a dozen.

Donald Douglas said...

I question the premise of the piece, i.e., we still got a whole lot of swearin' goin' on...

When one's got no ummpphh, a few cuss words add a sense of importance.

American Power

Palladian said...

"Mr. Papa said his impulse toward vulgarity, including references to rape, was a reaction to that climate of suppression."

"climate of suppression" = most people disagreed with you

Swearing is not communication. Swearing is verbal violence, the equivalent of a slap. Swearing is a way of not communicating. Instead of saying "umm" when you have nothing to say or have no way of linking thoughts, you say "fuck" and slap the listener or reader until they are too numb to notice or care that you have nothing interesting to say.

Most people have nothing interesting to say. Most people would rather be hitting people than talking. This is why many people swear.

P. Rich said...

Was the bad language ever good...

At least it had shock value. Vulgarity has become so commonplace it does little more than substitute for lack of effective vocabularity.

Donald Douglas said...

I just read the Seelye piece, and I'm more convinced of my original point above. Netroots Nation advertised the panel thus:

"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."

Cussing is part and parcel to left-wing smears and demonization.

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? Was this considered an acceptable level of discourse for a presidential candidate?

The answer is clearly no. 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 proper respect.

Call me old fashioned, I guess.

American Power

Meade said...

"We do still want blogging to sound like the way we'd talk to friends, don't we?"

Fuck yeah!

sydney said...

"In the end, no one seemed too concerned about the use of obscenities in the blogosphere or whether it undermined their arguments."

It does undermine their arguments. I can remember the first time I read the Kos, before his blog was a big network of similar thinking people. I was so turned off by the language I could never get to his arguments. He just seemed to be angry and senseless. It's still that way over at his site, it's just magnified now.

I had the same reaction to John Kerry. When Newsweek published their post-election behind-the-scenes campaign story, I breathed a sigh of relief that a guy who used obscenities so casually in daily life wouldn't be in charge.

Some people adopt obscene language because they think it makes them seem "manly" or one of the "common man." But they've confused the idea of the "common man" with the vulgar man. As so many of the other comments have already pointed out - obscenities are nothing more than a mark of a lack of thoughtfulness.

Christopher Hamilton said...

Ah, I think it depends. Some individuals use swearing as a part of their character. It may be entertaining to others who read the individual's blog frequently and can pull out the facts.

Host with the Most said...

Christopher, you are correct.

However, in much of life, cursing is used to intimidate others, even when the curse itself is not directed at the person the "curser" wishes to intimidate. While many wouldn't think for a split second to curse in church, the same people will often curse at work around church- goers, knowing that they have a temperamental advantage over those abstaining. It is a power play; always has been.

My father, a former career Marine and preacher's kid, was never known to have uttered a swear word. At his retirement ceremony, the colonel that spoke said about him "he the one of the toughest, but we never heard him say anything stronger than 'doggone it'". It is possible to earn respect without cursing in one's everyday life, but hard.

I guess I can say that I can live with others cursing - I do occasionally myself. But why do most who curse also make such a negative judgment of those who don't?

AJ Lynch said...

The NYT found several lib bloggers like Marcotte, Atrios, Drum and Kos who curse alot.

All four of them are kind of wussy aren't they? That says something.

..

Donald Douglas said...

Sidney says:

"It does undermine their arguments. I can remember the first time I read the Kos, before his blog was a big network of similar thinking people. I was so turned off by the language I could never get to his arguments. He just seemed to be angry and senseless. It's still that way over at his site, it's just magnified now."

Summation of most of the hardline lefty bloggers, big networks or not.

American Power

rhhardin said...

There's no stable referent across languages for what counts as swearing.

But you need swearing, so ones will always be invented.

Swearing is rude if you don't have a relationship with the listener that allows swearing. A certain kind of closeness is required. It's mostly familiarity that's in question.

Outside that permission, swearing is rude not because of a reference, but because it presumes a relationship with the listener that has not been granted.

It's offensive for that presumption, and because it's offensive it's useful.

You always need a way to offend.

Hence the invention of the necessary words in every language.

Language grows to meet every need.

Technically, swearing only makes a convenience of grammar, but colors the whole thought it appears in. Any part of speech, any component of a made-up word, can offer the necessary platform for the insertion of a swear-word.

garage mahal said...

Swearing on a blog. UNCIVIL!

Mocking Parkinson's and Autism patients from the mouths of Limbaugh and Savage. A little joke. Get over it!

Trooper York said...

Fuck this shit.

vbspurs said...

Even when I was a little kid, I knew swearing was a way of getting attention -- and because of that, I found it manipulative and childish.

Both of which I hate.

Cheers,
Victoria

Trooper York said...

Great Caesar’s Ghost!

Oligonicella said...

People who cannot read past vulgarities have a deeper problem that those who salt their writing with them.

Tone is more important than verbiage. One can be just as derisive, condescending or any other vulgar attitude without uttering a single curse word.

Those whose wrists fly to their foreheads at the sound or vision of cussing are no more than a version of Miss Manners, chastising those who do not behave as they do. They also have the characteristic of expanding the dictionary of unacceptable words to include their own idiosyncrasies.

In essence, they attempt to become thought police and I have only one response -- fuck 'em.

Richard Dolan said...

"We do still want blogging to sound like the way we'd talk to friends, don't we?"

The image of blogging as a conversation among friends has no connection to reality. Instead, blogging is a public event to which all are invited, and anyone can participate. So why should it make sense for it to "sound like" something it's not?

Robin Goodfellow said...

Blogging isn't a formula or a genre, it's just a way of presenting and publishing words, it has as much specificity as "book" or "movie". Attempts to define blogging elsewise are just silly cliqueishness.

sydney said...

From Richard Dolan:

"Those whose wrists fly to their foreheads at the sound or vision of cussing are no more than a version of Miss Manners, chastising those who do not behave as they do. They also have the characteristic of expanding the dictionary of unacceptable words to include their own idiosyncrasies.

In essence, they attempt to become thought police and I have only one response -- fuck 'em."

There's a difference between legally restricting what someone can say and considering the words they chose to express their ideas as ineffective. Swearing is an ineffective way of communicating. It just makes one look stupid and angry.

Biff said...

Richard Dolan wrote:

"Those whose wrists fly to their foreheads at the sound or vision of cussing are no more than a version of Miss Manners, chastising those who do not behave as they do...In essence, they attempt to become thought police and I have only one response -- fuck 'em."

Puerile nonsense.

When words or behaviors that are likely to offend others are casually chosen when inoffensive alternatives are readily available, then that active choice strongly suggests either (1) basic disrespect for one's cohorts, (2) an attempt to intimidate others by discarding customary guidelines for social interaction, (3) an attempt to divert discourse by substituting linguistic lightning rods for true discourse, or, in the best case, (4) ignorance of the customary guidelines themselves.

There are times when profanity can make a powerful, relevant point, but the utility of profanity is diminished through overuse, unless, of course, one's objectives are numbers one through three from above.

Ironically, those objectives are much more compatible with policing thoughts and oppressing others than Miss Manners, whose objectives seem geared towards finding common linguistic and behavioral ground where the focus can be on exchanging ideas, rather than insults.

Dick is an ass.