Friday, December 07, 2007

Bloggertarian Round Up

This is a round-up on the fallout from my original poke in the general direction of bloggertarianism a while back.

It’s been fairly exhausting. It’s even been bad tempered at times. But I’ve spent an extraordinary amount of time in the comments boxes of others over the past few weeks. Regulars here will note that I'm generally not that rude to people normally, and I've slightly adjusted my normal tone in these threads. The reason for this is that one of the early postings featured a particularly obnoxious bloggertarian calling me all kinds of c*nt. And lots of angry libertarians weighed in supporting him in doing so - and some of them were very upset when I replied in kind. So I've conducted this argument on other people's terms.

A few commenters have raised the question with me about Citizens Income and ID Cards. I’ve not been ignoring it – I didn’t really get around to answering it until this week – in the comments here.

Here are some other threads in which the whole thing has been discussed: Feel free to pick up any loose ends in the comments here.

Easily the thickest bloggertarian that I’ve found anywhere is regular Liberal Conspiracy troll, Roger Thornhill. Now I’ve been accused (sometimes with a modicum of justification) of constructing Strawmen here. But Roger is the real deal. He is not capable of exhaling, it seems, without accusing someone of being a fascist.

You’ll find him here initially noting the discussion (I’m a sociofascist, apparently) and here as the first commenter under Devil’s Kitchen’s rant. Apparently I’m a “Left-Fibbernazi.” (WTF??). His site is called “Neue Arbeit Macht Frei” – New Labour Sets You Free … not!

Perhaps I’m investing too much in this, but this outlook is so comprehensively offensive and stupid that it does need pointing at repeatedly.

I understand the libertarian notion that taxation is theft and any state imposition – even from a liberal democracy – is on a continuum that leads to totalitarianism. I’d even acknowledge that these claims make you re-examine your own views about democracy in a sixth-form sort of way. But Roger takes all of this to a new level. His remarkable bit of photoshopping, and this gem:
“If you think New Labour is, erm, what is that term you used? … ‘a social democratic party in an age of network governance’…then you really need to look more carefully at what they are doing and also more carefully into your sources of fatuous newspeak.”
So a fairly respectable term in social science isn’t just questionable. It’s ‘newspeak’. It’s Orwellian.

In one of the many arguments this has led me into, I was thinking about why I’ve bothered with all of this. It certainly has caused lots of arguments. Here’s my explanation (cut and pasted from elsewhere):
I think that libertarianism is extraordinarily rife on weblogs and discussion forums in a way that it isn’t in any other sphere. I’m not alone in this observation either. Aside from people I’ve met through blogging, I’ve only ever met one person who describes themselves with any conviction as a libertarian in the way that I think I’ve been discussing the term here.

And because of this, I think that libertarianism has a gravitational pull on online discussions that makes those discussions less of a deliberative tool than they could be.
For this reason, I think that it needs challenging - which is what I’ve been doing.

24 comments:

The Plump said...

And it has been huge fun to follow. Sorry I haven't joined in. Will do soon.

Longrider said...

Challenging is good - you may even change minds with a reasoned argument. Misrepresenting people - and I accept that you made a mistake here - is a bit like kicking over an anthill and discovering that it is full of flesh eating soldier ants; not a good idea... ;)

Ian said...

I'm at a conference so I haven't had time to give this my full attention lately, but

What I have found so infuriating about this 'blog war' is your arrogance and self-righteousness, which permeates most of your posts on this topic. You constantly call people who have a different worldview to your own stupid, 'not very clever' etc.

You really give the impression that you think you are talking down to naughty children rather than political opponents.

And like I discussed in my post on the Liberal Conspiracy thread, you seem to think that your politics are somehow 'right', and libertarians' politics are 'wrong' and it is as simple as that - and that's rubbish.

John Angliss said...

*Insert joke here* fibber-nazi sequence.

Larry Teabag said...

I commend you on an excellent blog-war. But the question is, who won?

Will said...

That Ian bloke is perhaps one of the thickest cunts I have ever come across online.

Spectacularly stupid - keeps insisting that he should be included and validated in arguments that he doesn't get.

larry teabag -- vermin -- should be put in a camp.

Ian said...

No, Will, that's crap. I can only assume your comments are referring to my only previous tangle with you, a discussion (in the comments of this thread at DSTPFW) in which my counter-argument to your position was met with the two-word response "another prick.".

I'd also like to add at this point that the bile above is from someone who a fellow leftist recently described as a 'problem' to be 'solved' and as a "demented ranting wreck" (Link). The last line of your above post is further evidence for that as if any were needed.

Paulie and fellow 'Decent leftists' - this is not someone you want on your side.

Will said...

See?

The Plump said...

"this is not someone you want on your side".

Yes he is.

Larry Teabag said...

Ian makes a good point.

Paulie - please can we have an official ruling on whether you count your brain-damaged friend here as a "negativist", and "a nasty abusive shithead", etc. given that he's dementedly rude, and incapable of anything except calling everyone he disagrees with a "cunt".

It seems to me that he ticks all the boxes in your complaint-form against DK (or Roger Thornhill), except for being on your side.

Larry Teabag said...

Hello?

Paulie said...

Sorry - just seen this. I normally get emails telling me I've had comments, but I didn't get one for this for some reason.

The difference between DK and Will?

It's not just that Will is 'on my side' (because I'm not sure that he is a lot of the time), it's a bit more complicated than that. Also, I'm not particularly here to defend the way that Will deals with people either. He can do that himself if he feels like it.

He never gets 'brain damaged' on me though, whereas DK has done. We're all big boys here - if someone thinks that they can pick Will up on his manner, then they can do so - aside from his abuse, he tends not be be drawn into illustrating his own ignorance in the way that DK does when he gets challenged. My loose understanding of Will's position is that there is no point in debating patiently with people who don't acknowledge the way that social forces work. It's a position that I'm more sympathetic to now than I was a few weeks ago (before all of this). Arguing with Ian (comments above) is a good example of this. You have to just keep explaining yourself to someone who insists on being included in conversations that he doesn't really understand.

But - and this is the main difference - DK is just stupid. He'll write a post like that original one about something that I'd written - fill it full of insults and invective, and then when he gets called on it, he thinks that it's appropriate to then try and engage in what he thinks is a serious debate. A few skips away, and he's actually improvising a philosophy out of nothing ("You own your own life!"). If you start an argument in the way he does, it will always end the way that one did. He thinks he's a 'consequentialist libertarian' when he's really just an ex-public schoolboy who objects to paying tax. I spent a bit of time looking through his site for anything that hinted at wit, originality or perceptiveness and found nothing. As I said in my comments, he is *just* a nasty abusive shithead.

Will isn't *just* a nasty abusive shithead. He's much more than that. And he is the exact opposite of a negativist.

Larry Teabag said...

Thanks, and Happy New Year, and all that.

Well I'm not going to "pick Will up on his manner" because I don't give a fuck how he conducts himself. My only concern here is one of double-standards: you were having a go at the bloggertarians for, among other things, "poisoning public debate". But you're quite happy to allow your own pet bottle of cyanide to leak into any comment-thread without remark.

DK is just stupid. He'll write a post like that original one about something that I'd written - fill it full of insults and invective, and then when he gets called on it, he thinks that it's appropriate to then try and engage in what he thinks is a serious debate.

The only difference I'm seeing here is that DK eventually tries to engage in serious debate, whereas Will doesn't. This is how he "tends not be be drawn into illustrating his own ignorance in the way that DK does". Well whoopee doo for positive engagement.

Will isn't *just* a nasty abusive shithead. He's much more than that.

Can you point me to any evidence of this? You're not the first person I've heard to to hint at the political genius lurking beneath the lobotomy, but whenever I've looked through his archives I haven't found anything except a mental number of links to everything Christopher Hitchens has ever written.

And he is the exact opposite of a negativist.

You know how I wasn't convinced that "negativism" is - necessarily - such a bad thing...? Well that sentence hasn't exactly changed my mind.

Paulie said...

I've gone into a bit more detail on the 'poisoning of public debate' bit here.

http://nevertrustahippy.blogspot.com/2007/04/in-defence-of-guido.html

The difference is that - in Guido's case, poisoning of debate is a deliberate policy. In DK's case, he's too busy calling people cunts to have a deliberate policy on anything. If he was a bit cleverer, he'd realise that he's cut from the same stick as Guido.

In Will's case, I'm not sure whether he thinks public debate changes much one way or another.

Larry Teabag said...

The plot certainly thickens.

So if I understand you right, you prefer the Guidos and Rubbishes of this world to the D2s and Chickyogs because the former have 'positive' identifiable long-term goals, whereas the latter do not.

And this holds even when the former advance their aims with an arsenal of dishonest, destructive, and disgraceful methods, and even when the latter restrict themselves to thoughtful 'negative' critiques of actual government policy.

Is that correct?

Paulie said...

I think that you're asking me if I think that people arguing rudely is worse than people always taking a completely negative viewpoint?

A bit of personal abuse on weblogs is a minor thorn in the side. Having a dysfunctional professional commentariat that partly define the climate in which politicians operate would seem to me to be a much bigger problem.

I've still not seen a half-decent argument defending negativism, and god knows, I've been looking for it for long enough.

Larry Teabag said...

No, quite obviously, that is not what I'm asking you.

I'm asking you whether you think that *arguing*, thoughtfully but negatively, is worse than propagandising, spinning, lying, manipulating, distorting, smearing, etc., to advance some "positive" aims.

Because it looks to me very much as if you do.

See, my view is that one could mount a reasonable case against "negativism", but that you have failed to do it. Part of that analysis should be to determine under what circumstances it is reasonable and fair to argue negatively, and when it is just a lazy cop-out - which undoubtedly it sometimes is. Your answer, "never", which you take as an unsupported axiom, is so daft as to totally wreck your case.

A second problem is that "negativism", even when properly formulated, isn't the only, or even the worst, dysfunctionality in the commentariat. I've mentioned some other issues above, and you can add "vested interests" to the list. But these don't seem to concern you.

So you've arrived at a weird position where a lot of excellent, independent-minded writers are to be condemned as "negativists", irrespective of how worthwhile their specific negative insights are. Meanwhile you give a free pass to any passing apparatchik you identify as having "positive" aims, never mind how destructively they may advance them.

Paulie said...

Much as I'm enjoying having you as the arbitrator in this argument Larry, I'm not sure that you've been following it as closely as you say you have, or that you've really understood it all.

I tell you what; Why don't you write a post on your own blog saying what your position is on all of this? One of my objections to negativists is that they present a permanently moving target to anyone who tries to take a reasonably consistant position, and I'm beginning to wonder if you're one of them.

When you do it, you could give me examples of 'excellent, independent-minded writers' that I've dismissed. You could give examples of "vested interests" that I'm prepared to turn a blind eye to as well?

Larry Teabag said...

If you were following this debate as closely as you think you have, you'd have noticed that you've already told me that you consider me a negativist, and I've already told you that I'm happy to wear the that label. I don't see it - necessarily - as a bad thing.

I'm not "presenting a moving target" or indeed any sort of target, I'm making an honest attempt to discuss your own pet campaign with you, on a comment thread beneath a post on that subject. I'm making reasonable criticisms of your position, in good faith, and I'm being entirely consistent in doing so - if you're suggesting otherwise than please provide evidence. In fact I've been making the same single, boringly obvious point to you for rather a long time. And you have never made any attempt at all to address it, despite it occupying a rather central place in your argument.

You can respond, or can continue to fob me off with patronising nonsense - up to you. But maybe I can help you understand why this little meme of yours hasn't really caught on as you'd hoped.

For your last paragraph: it's obvious isn't it? You've written reams of posts castigating D2, chicken yoghurt, Tim Ireland, etc., for their negativism, and yet you write a long post in defence of one of the most despicable propagandists in the blogosphere, who has nothing useful whatsoever to contribute (that's Guido, for the avoidance of doubt) solely on the basis that "he has a positive aim - a model that he is prepared to promote". So it seems beyond question that this negativist obsession of yours has utterly screwed your priorities.

Paulie said...

Larry,

I ignored that comment all that time ago because you had ignored the post that you were commenting on. In it, I outlined how 'just do nothing' involved advocating *something*.

I wrote about this elsewhere here as well:
http://nevertrustahippy.blogspot.com/2006/05/why-state-funding-for-political.html

I don't recall writing 'reams' castigating Chicken Yoghurt or D2. In the latter case, I responded to a rather rude post that he wrote about my position (and I'm quite satisfied by the way that particular argument played itself out). D2 is not, by the way, a negativist. He advocates plenty of things. For some reason, he decided that he was for a few weeks last year.

I picked up ONE comment by CY, and I think that - on balance - he accepted the criticism once I'd expanded upon it - if not the tone of it.

As for Tim Ireland, I think that I've been quite even-handed about him. I think he's quite impressive. I just wish that he'd argue *for* things more often.

And my 'defence' of Guido is hardly a defence of his position. I'm saying that he is competent at what he does. His blog actually works as a political tool towards an objective. Most don't (including, I accept, this one).

Paulie said...

For the avoidance of doubt, here is the part of my argument that you ignored the first time.

From here:
http://nevertrustahippy.blogspot.com/2006/12/windy-manifesto-reply-part-one.html#c3776863708253806566

*********************

But, currently, the meagre rewards for initiativitis are preferable to the penalties for inactivity. So if you prefer less active government, prepare yourself or further decades of frustration – until this problem is cracked. This is probably my main argument: That the way that politics and policy is discussed is counterproductive.

Alternatively, if you wish to reduce the capacity of individual politicians, departments of state, or other players to do harm, the obvious thing to do would be to argue for smaller departments of state – and stronger, more dispersed equivalents.

I’ve always argued that politicians should have less capacity – as individuals, or within their offices – of doing as much as they appear to be able to do. This is why this blog is quite repetitive in it’s advocacy of…

* Stronger local democracy – and regional constituent assemblies
* Political decentralisation – that cabinets choose the Prime Minister, rather than the other way around
* ‘In-and-outers’ – political parties that are able to redirect the state when they win an election
* Weaker political parties in other ways – parties that have less hold over elected representatives and less patronage than they do at the moment.

This last objective can be achieved by giving elected representatives at all levels the resources that they need (ones that can’t be snaffled by the parties as they are at the moment) to develop a degree of independence. This could be achieved by a new approach to state funding for parties, and a quasi-constitutional approach that would give more scope (and less bureaucratic censorship) to elected representatives to develop their own positions.

**************

I look forward to reading your views on the virtues of negativism. Hey! I've got a fantastic idea! Why don't you write it on your own blog?

Larry Teabag said...

If I may say so, for an enthusiastic deliberator you have a bizarre attitude to people discussing subjects raised by you in your comments sections. Ok I'll sod off then, but just a few small points before I go:

I agree with what you say about Guido. I just wouldn't write it in a post entitled "In defence of Guido" any more than I'd defend a suicide bomber for being a competent handler of his weapon of choice. What he does is beneath contempt (obviously the terrorist is far further beneath contempt, if I need to add that).

The D2 argument - did I miss the post where, having agreed on a working definition of negativism, you went on to discuss its merits as you said you were going to?

In the section of argument which you say I ignored, I agree with the problems you identify, and I'm perfectly willing to entertain the suggestions you make. But it's an absolute non-sequitur to go from there to saying that it's *never* appropriate to argue negatively against specific proposals - a position which as far as I'm concerned is just absurd.

I might write a post on this stuff, but only if I can think of a way to make it interesting to my readers.

Larry Teabag said...

I have written something about it.

will said...

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