October 4, 2011

Why Stanley Fish never wants to meet his personal piñata Jürgen Habermas.

Because he's so important. Because he needs him so much:
If he were taken away from me, I wouldn’t know what to do. I’d have to find someone else to be the object of my unreflective scorn. And that would prove difficult, given that Habermas, or anyone else who might fill this slot, has very particular views (the ones I love to hate), and installing a disciple or a simulacrum in his place would not really be satisfying....

[W]ere I ever to meet him, the odds are that I would like him (the public record suggests that he is an admirable fellow) and if I liked him it would be hard for me to continue beating up on him....

[W]hoever are the characters filling out your precious roster of perfect villains and nogoodniks, take care not to meet them. And if one of your antiheroes happens to turn up in a coffee shop you’re sitting in, get up and leave immediately.
Ha ha. He's saying that knowing that people use him that way (which he's okay with, since it means he's important). Just spell my name right is the old saying. And Stanley Fish is a lot easier to write than Jürgen Habermas. Also a lot easier to read.

And by the way, this is why I like writing from my remote outpost in the Midwest. I don't want to encounter the various politicos I want to inspect and criticize and mock. I need to protect myself from the squishiness that would infect my writing. I have gone out of my way not to meet, say, a Supreme Court Justice.

And this is why political candidates go roaming all over the countryside, looking for hands to shake, eyes to contact. Stay away. Don't let them infect you with their camraderie.

62 comments:

Alexander said...

This makes it all the more damning that Brian Leiter reportedly knows everyone.

Salamandyr said...

this is why I spent last week-end studiously avoiding any contact with the guest of honor at the local convention, Spider Robinson. I was afraid that I might be prompted to tell him exactly how I feel about his work of literary excrescence "Very Bad Deaths", or even worse, that I wouldn't.

Robert Cook said...

This is one of the reasons I.F. Stone cautioned that reporters should not become friendly or too cozy with the people they cover, particularly politicians.

(This is also one of the reasons Surpreme Court justices should not be going on hunting trips with or be treated to all-expenses paid trips to "conferences" by and with people who may very likely have direct or indirect policy or financial interests--or both--in the outcomes of Supreme Court decisions.)

Fred4Pres said...

Many of us should not meet J because we woudld beat him to a pulp and end up charged.

PETER V. BELLA said...

Camaraderie is the new infectious pandemic sweeping the nation. It would be wise to stay off of planes, trains, subways, and buses- anyplace where you can be stuck in a tube with a politician.

Also take universal clean precautions. When in the presence of a politician wear a mask, gloves, and have plenty of sanitizer available.

CJinPA said...

According to Seymour Hersh's "Dark Side of Camelot," Time magazine White House reporter Hugh Sidey used to go skinny dipping in the White House pool with JFK.

But when it came to toweling off the Commander-in-Chief, he drew the line. He was a journalist, damn it.

Pastafarian said...

Fred, you LDS perp, J can bench 600 pounds. Ka-peesh?

Maybe it's just me, but I wouldn't mind meeting J or Robert Cook or garage mahal at an Althouse meetup. I can't imagine that I'd be any less of an asshole to them, just because I've met them.

Paddy O said...

“You don’t know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you’ll be asleep. You’ll be turned the other way. And you’ll be unarmed.”

rhhardin said...

I met Stanley Fish long ago when his career advancement strategy was disparagement of Wayne Booth.

He wasn't at all likeable.

The strategy then was hit higher.

Now he sleeps in port.

CJinPA said...

Fred4Pres,

Your guy is my town today touting his popular vote initiative. I'll say Hi.

Henry said...

There's also the reverse play. What if you were Jürgen Habermas and you really felt like defusing Stanley Fish? You might go out of your way to meet him!

In my liberal enclave, I play this small role. My friends all now know at least one tea-party-sympathizing big-government-limiting unintended-consequence-promoting non-leftist. And I'm generally a very nice fellow.

Check out the first comment to Stanley Fish's column. That's what I'm talking about.

Chip S. said...

I like the way that Stanley Fish has embraced his fictional alter ego, Morris Zapp. He doesn't just say that the humanities are an elaborate game, he puts himself forward as Exhibit A.

Seems like a cool guy.

Don't know anything about Habermas, but I'd guess that the real reason Fish doesn't want to meet him is that he'd be an insufferable bore.

gerry said...

Don't let them infect you with their camraderie.

That made me smile.

Lance said...

So what does this say about journalists hanging out with the politicians they're supposed to cover?

edutcher said...

Fred basically nailed it. The only way people like Ritmo or J or Alpha have a life (foul-mouthed as it may be) is over the Internet.

If they said those things face to face people would be taking turns rearranging their perspective with a Louisville Slugger.

Cook, I have to say, at least keeps it civil and articulate.

Not to mention coherent.

Pastafarian said...

Fred, you LDS perp, J can bench 600 pounds. Ka-peesh?

J's brand of Spanish or Italian is the same as Pepe Le Pew's brand of French.

Scott M said...

J's brand of Spanish or Italian is the same as Pepe Le Pew's brand of French.

To so dishonor Le Pew is to invite ten paces at dawn.

Fred4Pres said...

Sort of like the Yankees-Red Sox?

J said...

Habermas's writing is abstract and dry, but he's not a postmodernist. Fish is.

Neither will do much for yokels at the Alt-tard cracker barrel---Larry the Cable Guy's their normal fare. Not Kant. .

(and note the sockpuppet's BS as usual)

Scott M said...

Sort of like the Yankees-Red Sox?

David Cross, voice of Minion from Megamind, said that he named his dog Red Sox so when he goes down to Central Park he can yell, "Come on, Red Sox! Let's go, Red Sox!"

Now back to your regularly scheduled topic.

J said...

yo edu ,or Byro LDS joto, or any A-tard--

step in a ring, legal even. mano a mano.

POP. Yd be gone.

Pastafarian said...

Damn, J, you must be quite the fighter, to announce that you'll take all comers and beat them, sight unseen. You must be 300 pounds of solid muscle, with an extensive and impressive record in the MMA or UFC.

Either that or you're a 15 year old fuck-tard with 9 inch biceps and coke-bottle glasses.

J said...

more like yr just another lying bag of klanshit ,not to say a coward, "Pasta". The usual A-tard wicca dreck

chuck said...

Orwell also made this very point somewhere in his writings, that it was difficult to remain properly critical of people that he had actually met.

Scott M said...

J said this:

Backto your usual pathetic ad hominems, eh, Squat

Then said;

yo edu ,or Byro LDS joto, or any A-tard--

and this;

more like yr just another lying bag of klanshit ,not to say a coward, "Pasta". The usual A-tard wicca dreck

So, I have to know...and please spell each word correctly in your response. Do the two examples I provided above rise above the level of "pathetic ad hominem"? Seriously. I'm honestly curious.

J said...

You obviously can't read Squat-tard, trash. Yr derailments dont'mean shit, perp

This was about Habermas and Fish. Maybe spend a few hours wikiin-g that Squat. OR better stick to Chilton manuals, trash

Scott M said...

Fail on both counts, as expected. Since you seem to think this is your thread, please tell me what

yo edu ,or Byro LDS joto, or any A-tard--

step in a ring, legal even. mano a mano.

POP. Yd be gone.


or anything else since your first comment had to do with the subject.

edutcher said...

J said...

yo edu ,or Byro LDS joto, or any A-tard--

step in a ring, legal even. mano a mano.

POP. Yd be gone.


For those familiar with the movie "Tombstone", think Ike Clanton.

deborah said...

rh, you forgot the other five W's.

Betsy said...

I really don't understand the comments -- all I wanted to do was remark on the "spelling" bit!

Umlauts, tildes, and other accent marks are not a part of the English alphabet. Therefore, it's maybe a nice touch to seek out the special characters and put these in, but when writing in English, it's fully acceptable to drop them (replacing the umlaut with an "e" -- e.g., Juergen -- if you want), just as we transliterate Greek, Russian, etc., rather than trying to reproduce their alphabet.

Right?????

Richard Dolan said...

"I don't want to encounter the various politicos I want to inspect and criticize and mock. I need to protect myself from the squishiness that would infect my writing."

It's the same idea that runs through so much of Henry James' fiction -- the unobserved observer who sees all and understands it better than those in the arena. But keeping unobserved and out of the arena is essential -- a kind of quantum principle of indeterminacy at work in a politico/literary setting.

As an added benefit, Henry James is much more readable (and enjoyable) than Habermas (or even Fish).

J said...

Squatty, you're not the interrogator here, perp. You know what Im referring to klan-stooge.

Now, your first reading of Habermas! Gut gleuck, scheissekopf

Sigivald said...

And this is why political candidates go roaming all over the countryside, looking for hands to shake, eyes to contact. Stay away. Don't let them infect you with their camraderie.

This is why I don't watch speeches or listen to debates - if I care about the content, which is rare indeed, I check the transcript.

I don't care about how pretty someone is, or how pleasant their voice is. In a politician, I care about their views and their actions. In a philosopher, I care about their ideas.

(One wonders how many people voted for President Obama, for instance, because he's handsome and has a pleasing voice, more than any particulars of his stated or inferred agenda?)

Carol_Herman said...

Stanley Fish thinks he's a viable candidate for the Supreme's bench?

HELLO. Obama gets to choose. And, the guy with the "list" is the Mormon Orin Hatch.

Then?

If it's Obama's election to win ... the Supreme's will look like a tag team for a community organizer ... who MUST place a Chinese person on the bench. Not just any Asian would do.

But how to get confirmed?

The senate's full of bozo White Guys.

Scott M said...

This is why I don't watch speeches or listen to debates - if I care about the content, which is rare indeed, I check the transcript.

Ditto. I can't abide the dog-and-pony show the modern debate has become. By reading through the transcript, though, you can key in on things said, or responses triumphant or bungled. If you zero in on something specific, you can also go online to hear their inflection or see their posture, if such a thing grabs you, but, for the most part, the televised debates are crap with an entire magnitude of crap higher the more people they cram onstage.

All that having been said, I'll be tuning in to watch the first presidential debate and, even if the GOP flubs so badly they do themselves irreparable harm, I will make sure I have plenty of popcorn on hand to watch Cain or Rubio eviscerate Biden.

J said...

So ,how's the Habermas going Squatty Moroni

hah hah hah hah

deborah said...

James Thurber once met a man who was reluctant to tell the name of his dog...James Thurber.

ricpic said...

Isn't Habermas a marxist? So this Fish criticism of Habermas must be some kind of internal Stalinist versus Trotskyite squabble over the reading of the sacred text.

Scott M said...

So ,how's the Habermas going

About as well as your writing ability, I should think, John.

Freeman Hunt said...

But sometimes the people we write about show up in the comments!

(That has happened to me twice here.)

I don't suppose we'll see a Supreme commenter though.

Freeman Hunt said...

Except maybe that state supreme court justice who flips out if you criticize Shirley Abrahamson. Or she might show up at someone's house with a dead rabbit. Never know.

J said...

Squatty, Im a professional editor.

We don't need to write like Safire in comboxes, trash. OR even say like your hero Brigham Dung--well, you aspire to Brigham-speak--but still a long ways off, Sqautty Mormonic .

Scott M said...

Squatty, Im a professional editor

Holy shit! That is by far and away one of the funniest things I have read on this blog in a long, long time.

Thanks for that, J.

J said...

In fact, it's not scott-tard. You're just another white trash yokel who can't read (or writer). Published writer as well,fool. Stick to the chilton's manuals,or Book of Moron. Come on,tell us about the "Golden Plates", Mr Morality. Donde estan Las Placas, puerca

Scott M said...

You're just another white trash yokel who can't read (or writer).

Some editing chops you've got there, John.

Published writer as well,fool.

Words are wind, Jon Snow.

A. Shmendrik said...

Nogoodnik - I like that.

ldm said...

Auberon Waugh once wrote to the effect that he hated meeting the politicians and others he regularly skewered in his columns because he was afraid he would like them.

Trooper York said...
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Trooper York said...

I must admit that when I met several of the commenters at an Althouse get together in Brooklyn I was very surprised at what they looked like. It was very different than what I had imagined.

For example from the way he writes I always imagined that Palladian would look like Mr. Peanut with the cane and top hat and monocle. I told him that when I met him. But he doesn't look anything like that.

I have spoken to several of our more liberal brethren over the phone and they were all uniformly good guys.

People are very different in person than they sound on the internets.

Scott M said...

I'd go to a midwest Altcon should such a beast ever arise. In a very public place, very well lit. And lots of beer.

St Louis is very centrally-located, wink, wink.

Beth said...

David Vitter frequents one of my favorite sno-ball stands. He's still a weird creepy dude.

cokaygne said...

Couple of things I miss since I don't read the NYT much anymore are slide shows of really cool places and Stanley Fish. Without him the NYT is good only for wrapping fish.

Ann you're right about staying away from politicians. I worked in state government for many years and had to meet with a legislative committee every month. The legislators were rational people in private conversations. Then you'd see them quoted in the paper on some issue and you couldn't believe that it was the same person. it is as if politicians feel like they have to act crazy when communicating with the masses. Worst example of that is TV ads in election years. Only when I found out that TV election ads are intended primarily to suppress the vote for the opposite candidate and not necessarily to increase the vote for the candidate who sponsored the ad did I understand them.

Politicians are crazy.

yashu said...

From "The Courtship: The story behind the Obama-Brooks bromance" by Gabriel Sherman of The New Republic, here:

In the spring of 2005, New York Times columnist David Brooks arrived at then-Senator Barack Obama’s office for a chat. Brooks, a conservative writer who joined the Times in 2003 from The Weekly Standard, had never met Obama before. But, as they chewed over the finer points of Edmund Burke, it didn’t take long for the two men to click. “I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging,” Brooks recently told me, “but usually when I talk to senators, while they may know a policy area better than me, they generally don’t know political philosophy better than me. I got the sense he knew both better than me.”

That first encounter is still vivid in Brooks’s mind. “I remember distinctly an image of--we were sitting on his couches, and I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant,” Brooks says, “and I’m thinking, a) he’s going to be president and b) he’ll be a very good president.” In the fall of 2006, two days after Obama’s The Audacity of Hope hit bookstores, Brooks published a glowing Times column. The headline was “Run, Barack, Run.”

[…] “My overall view,” Brooks told me, “is ninety-five percent of the decisions they make are good and intelligent. Whether I agree with them specifically, I think they’re very serious and very good at what they do.” It is an odd situation to say the least: David Brooks, prominent conservative, has become the most visible journalistic ally of arguably the most liberal president of his lifetime.

[…] “Obama sees himself as a Burkean,” Brooks says. “He sees his view of the world as a view that understands complexity and the organic nature of change.” Moreover, after the Bush years, Brooks seems relieved to have an intellectual in the White House again. “I divide people into people who talk like us and who don’t talk like us,” he explains. “Of recent presidents, Clinton could sort of talk like us, but Obama is definitely--you could see him as a New Republic writer. He can do the jurisprudence, he can do the political philosophy, and he can do the politics. I think he’s more talented than anyone in my lifetime. I mean, he is pretty dazzling when he walks into a room. So, that’s why it’s important he doesn’t fuck this up.”

yashu said...

White House officials have gone out of their way to cater to Brooks recently. Take Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, whose career Brooks kept a close eye on after he graduated from the University of Chicago in 1983 and took a job at the City News Bureau, a Chicago wire service. At the time, Axelrod was the lead City Hall reporter for the Chicago Tribune. “I followed his career because he was who I wanted to be,” Brooks told me. “He was a hero.” The two finally crossed paths in 2004, when Axelrod was working for John Edwards. And, this April, as the keynote speaker at The Week magazine’s opinion awards ceremony--where Brooks was honored--Axelrod showered the columnist with praise, calling him a “serious public thinker” in an era of “insipid, instant commentary and one-hour news cycles.”

[…] That morning, he had published an unusually harsh column criticizing what he saw as Democratic overreach on health care and the stimulus. Already, he had heard from administration officials complaining about the piece. But “they’re always nice,” Brooks said, adding, “It’s never, ‘You’re a complete asshole.’My line is, the Clinton people would tell you you’re a complete and total asshole. The Obama people say, ‘We love you. You’re a great guy. It’s sad you’re a complete and total asshole.’ They’re always very mature about it.”

A similar thing happened in early March, when chief of staff Rahm Emanuel called Brooks to complain about that morning’s column criticizing Obama’s spending programs; later in the day, the White House sent over a chart showing that spending was, in fact, holding to historical norms. Brooks told me that Obama had personally signed the chart “Dear Comrade Brooks.” In June, The Washington Post reported that Emanuel had arranged for Obama to “drop by” a briefing Brooks attended. “I feel like I can call anybody,” Brooks says of his access to top White House officials such as Emanuel, Axelrod, and Office of Management and Budget head Peter Orszag. “With Bush, there were months when I was in favor, and months when I was out of favor. Here, you can write whatever you want; you don’t notice any diminution. If I call Rahm or Orszag or Axelrod, they’re happy to talk.”

Brooks isn’t blind to the fact that the White House goes out of its way to flatter him. This spring, he told Charlie Rose, “David Axelrod walks into a meeting with me, carrying the Reflections On The Revolution In France by Edmund Burke. They’re not without manipulation.” It’s easy to understand why the administration does this. Brooks’s sympathetic columns help to validate the key myth of this White House: that it is fundamentally post-partisan. Plus, Brooks appeals to a major Obama constituency: the latté-sipping Baby Boomers who were the subject of his 2000 best-seller Bobos in Paradise. These were among Obama’s strongest supporters in the last election, but their loyalty could be tested by spiraling deficits, botched health care reform, or a flagging economy.

yashu said...

My favorite part:

... Obama had personally signed the chart “Dear Comrade Brooks.”

Trooper York said...

Beth said...
David Vitter frequents one of my favorite sno-ball stands. He's still a weird creepy dude.

You are mistaken Beth...that is really Raj from the Big Bang Theory.

ricpic said...

David Brooks was so impressed by Obama's pants crease. Tells us Brooks is an arriviste, so unconfident about his newly acquired status and so afraid of exposure, his own, that form trumps substance every time when judging the worth and status of others.

sorepaw said...
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sorepaw said...
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sorepaw said...
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dbp said...

Sigivald said...

"One wonders how many people voted for President Obama, for instance, because he's handsome and has a pleasing voice, more than any particulars of his stated or inferred agenda?)"

I sort of hope that most of president Obama's votes came from the former. I can understand, not agree with, but understand someone who is taken-in by nice superficial qualities. What I can't understand is how anyone could be taken in by all the hopey-changy pablum he was peddling. Of course what happens is that people are sold on the "sizzle" and then try and rationalize that select round is really prime porterhouse.

rcocean said...

This is one of the reasons I.F. Stone cautioned that reporters should not become friendly or too cozy with the people they cover, particularly politicians

Unless of course, they're Communist spies or promoting Joe Stalin, in which case they're A-Ok.

Per Izzy Stone.

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