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Don’t Be Cruel

This is not some underhanded attempt to grovel because I am afraid of losing my job or something. Because I’m not, as far as I know. And even if I were, that would be peanuts compared to the idea of the woman you love looking at you and you see how she is disappointed of you, asking you why you would want to write mean things. I would rather shovel shit for living every day than have to come up with an answer to that. Because there really is none. ~Ilkka Kokkarinen, Sixteen Volts 

Theend of Dr. Kokkarinen’s blog hasbecomesomethingofahot topicthesedays.  Not having been a regular reader of Sixteen Volts, I cannot be sure just what sort of “mean things” “offended” and “hurt” so many that would compel a blogger to throw in the towel as a matter of profound shame (his word).  Steve Sailer notes that his university employer objected to his “skepticism about the intellectual consistency of lesbian-feminist theory,” which it deplores as “sexist” and “homophobic” (natch).  But apparently what really did it for Dr. Kokkarinen was that his woman said he was being mean.

This is of interest to me because I have remarked in the past on the futility of blogging, and others have noted the harmful effects that blogging can have, but I have never before heard of a blogger giving up on this particular pastime because his girlfriend/wife wanted him to be a nicer person.  

There are undoubtedly better ways to spend your time than by blogging.  No one is more keenly aware of this than I am.  You could read.  You could listen to edifying, beautiful music.  You could write the Great American Novel, or at least a cheap knock-off of the same.  You could, as Michael does, go salsa dancing.  You could, as I actually have done recently, help out at your local church.  If you felt fairly unmotivated, you could watch a movie and probably still have found the time better spent. 

But if you are going to blog, then surely the point would be to make some kind of substantive contribution to an ongoing debate.  People who are afraid of being “negative” in blogging are the sorts of people who eventually don’t want to have vigorous debates of any kind for fear that someone, somewhere may be offended by a strong view.  Personally, I have never been a big fan of people who say things like, “Accentuate the positive,” and I honestly don’t know what a “positive” political blog would look like.  Would it simply be entry after entry where you quote someone and say, “I think this is just great.  I agree wholeheartedly.  Good job!”?  There is a time and place for those sorts of posts, though usually statements of approval can be pretty redundant, but there has to be more meat to a blog if anyone is going to read it for substantive commentary. 

Obviously if a blog became your entire life–which, happily, Eunomia has not, despite what my frequency of posting might suggest–there would be something seriously wrong.  If you delighted in writing posts that denigrated people for who they were, rather than critiquing or even ridiculing their absurd, offensive or dangerous ideas, you probably do have a problem of some sort.  In my case, I admit that my criticisms tend to be fairly dripping with contempt and sarcasm, but I make no apologies for being a relentless critic of people who routinely endorse the nuclear massacre of civilians, torture or aggressive war.  I try my best to keep the criticism focused on the quality of the ideas in question and never let it stray too much to the people, even when these people endorse some of the most despicable things.  If I have crossed that line, it was probably a mistake, but I would not expect my readers to take my arguments seriously if my posts were focused unduly on people rather than their arguments.  To take that other path of ad hominem attack is to embrace fallacious arguments and embark on a journey bound for insanity and the derangement of the Kossacks.  But I seriously doubt that Dr. Kokkarinen was making ad hominem attacks–usually when people claim to be “hurt” by someone else’s reasoned opinion, it is because they cannot take rational criticism of their own ideas and choices in life.     

If people take my criticisms of, say, Islam as an example of being “mean” towards Muslims, when they are nothing of the sort, there is nothing I could do about that, since this sort of reaction is irrational and cannot be seriously debated.  In just the same way the hysterical reaction to Pope Benedict’s comments about Islam in the context of his Regensburg address on faith and reason should not merit an end to criticism or a compromising of what one believes to be true.  It would appear from Steve Sailer’s post that the reaction to Dr. Kokkarinen’s blog is of much the same kind–visceral, emotional, irrational and very PC–so it is a shame that he has chosen to accept other people’s characterisations of his writing as “mean” and hurtful, especially when it seems clear from the laments of his readers and other bloggers that his is a voice that had something worthwhile to contribute and a voice that will be missed when it is gone.

On a lighter note, Steve Sailer offers an intriguing way to evade the PC brigades that would have appealed to Tolkien:

Perhaps this suggests that the survival of freedom of speech in the West rests with the Finnish language. Maybe we should start studying Finnish to use as a secret language for the discussion of ideas forbidden to be mentioned in English?       

This would be an interesting thing to try, but it would probably be difficult to do.  Do you know how many cases there are in Finnish?  Something like fifteen.  Fifteen cases!  The Hungarians, whose language is distantly related to Finnish, have much the same problem with a language loaded down with different case forms.  When the Hungarian national anthem begins, Isten aldd meg a magyart (God bless the Hungarian), part of the reason for this prayer must be an appeal to God to have mercy on a nation that has such a complicated language.  Oh well.  Ilyen az elet, as my cousins say. 

Update: Contrast this unwillingness to be “mean” with the simple, straightforward refusal to bow to conformity here.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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