If you have "no place to go," come here!

Block that metaphor? Notes on being boldly shrill.

vastleft's picture

Speaking for me only (and for my very occasional use of post-editing privileges), I'd like to make some suggestions to our guest posters (i.e., non-Senior Fellows) about the use of certain metaphors.

Merely supporting or being optimistic about the president-elect is not diagnostic of Kool-Aid drinking, Zombie-ism, or being some kind of 'bot.

This is the sense of fair play that launched a thousand "Reasonable Obama-voters prophylactic" caveats.

Alas, there are those who are not-so-reasonable. Conveniently, these are the kind of folks who pretend away our caveats.

Some of our fellow "progressives" out there are abusive to skeptics, blind to foul play, unabashed with hypocrisy, and/or hopelessly drunk on hopey hype. It is for them that snark was invented.

There are also, in our "progressive" midst, noxious prevailing memes and places where "fairness" is officially or unofficially off the menu. So if you want to rail about the free-flowing STFU and crushing joinerism, aim a clear lens on gauzy pony fantasies, or note that Daily Kos and DU smell like a bad day at Jonestown, by Jove, have at it!

My advice is simple: fit the metaphor to the context.

No votes yet


flotsam's picture
Submitted by flotsam on

"Merely supporting or being optimistic about the president-elect is not diagnostic of Kool-Aid drinking, Zombie-ism, or being some kind of 'bot."

Thanks for that, vastleft. I hope this signals a return to the kind of reasoned (but sharp) discourse which attracted me to Corrente, long ago. I support Obama - not blindly, not stupidly, not naively, not uncritically. I hope that can be said without fear of being called a kool-aid drinker, or a "dickwad" (yep, that happened too). I may or may not be a dickwad - I'd like to think I'm not - but being an Obama supporter is not the criterion of measurement for it. By the way, what exactly is a dickwad?

Have a good weekend, and keep doing what you're doing. I really appreciate it.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

To have worthy discourse.

For the most part, I think we've succeeded. Some truths were inconvenient, some unpleasant metaphors fit some folks unpleasantly well. And some otherwise rational Obama supporters took offense when we criticized jerky ones because, in part, they turned a blind eye to the jerkiness and to our caveats, such as "Reasonable Obama supporter prophylactic: this does not mean you."

No, we didn't write an explicit caveat every time we spoke snark to groupthink. But we've written about things that are (or were) real... and real disconcerting.

I've tried my best while documenting and railing at prevailing bullshit to provide air cover for those who merely disagreed in candidate preference. Lambert has, as well. (Other Senior Fellows disagreed with our preference and/or choice of topics and tone. Vive la différence.)

Most of our guests have done a pretty good job in that regard, too, and if they've been heavy on the hyperbole and light on the caveats, keep in mind they've been chased out of almost every so-called progressive forum on the internets: DU, DK, and the comments sections of nearly every A-list blog.

But, on occasion, we feel the need to serve up a little chin music, and with each change of phase (primary, general election, etc.) comes a change in the threshold for what types of shorthand are appropriate.

So, I don't view this as a change in policy. But facts on the ground have changed. They changed when Hillary suspended her campaign, they changed after election day, and the times'll keep on changing.

At least some of us recognize it. I'm amazed by how often when I avow skepticism of Obama or criticize one of his statements or actions that other bloggers/commenters:

a) Assume that I'm a woman and a PUMA, as if either or both would negate my argument
b) Reframe my every argument as if I'd said "Hillary would have been better," when I've said and intended nothing of the kind.

These characters are the real dead-enders, the fighters of phantoms.

We just want our "more Democrats" to be "better Democrats," and they won't unless, as FDR explained, we make them.

Submitted by lambert on

That is all!

MsExPat's picture
Submitted by MsExPat on

because it was the central metaphor Didion herself used in her short speech. She used the phrase quite effectively, pointedly reminded the audience of its origin.

And some the other members of that panel had crossed far over the line from the simply "supportive" and "optimistic." You should listen to the podcast before passing judgment on my reporting of it.

For the record, I don't think that being optimistic about Obama's administration is being a kool-aid drinker. But, like Didion, I do think that having blind, unreasoned faith in a leader to "know what's right" and "be able to work it out" is a dangerous thing.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

I'm urging guest posters to be wary of framing posts in terms of Zombies, Kool-Aid, 'bots, etc., unless the body content unabashedly warrants such a thing.

Anyone who doesn't listen to the podcast will just roll their eyes and say "Oh, there goes Corrente, calling people who support the President-Elect a Kool-Aid drinker."

To your point, I have struck the word "gratuitous" from my ed-note, because the word is germane to the source material. But I stand by my decision to retitle the post, because the original title (something like "Joan Didion isn't drinking the Kool-Aid," was it?) suggests that the only alternative to her POV is cultism.

I've felt the brunt of this myself, when I've dared avow that holding my nose and voting for Obama might after all be the best option I had. NoBama fanatics instantly labeled me a Kool-Aid drinking sell-out, even as I couched such comments in the most blatant Never Forget framing imaginable.

I'm not, BTW, opposed to the Kool-Aid metaphor on general principles. My gosh, they're making it hard to avoid.

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

and below are just scattered thoughts....

I understand the heat you are talking about, and applaud you and this blog for being open to frank and blunt discussion about all things, even "sacred cows". But sometimes no matter how you dress it up a pig is still a pig. Avoiding being troll-bait is good, but on the other hand, self-censorship is not so good and if you (we) don't cross the line once in awhile, you (we) will never know where it is....

Sorry, I've got a virus today and my mind is not screwed in right....

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

I just don't want to be unfair to the good guys.

Indeed, the line isn't clearly marked, but this post is an attempt to approximate where it is.

A good test is to ask whether our content cashes the checks that our most provocative frames write. Agreed?

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

Roger that.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

I have been out a while but it seems to me that if people refer to or comment on a post they should be responsible for knowing the entire context and the entire content. Ignoring the context led to "fairy tale" being racist and RFK being a call for assassination. Bill and Hillary weren't responsible for those comments being misconstrued they were deliberately distorted by Obama supporters. Posters shouldn't be held responsible for deliberate distortions, the distorters should be.

Of course that doesn't excuse some of the sloppy stuff. But trying to appease thew deliberate distorters to fit in is almost as bad as being a distorter.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

... beside the point.

It's not my job to listen to the podcast. Nor is it the job of visitors who skim the site to listen to the podcast. One solution would have been to re-write the post to provide more context for the Kool-Aid reference, but that's above my pay grade.

Look, I don't give a flying fuck about the distorters, but I do not want people who happen to like or have a little hope for the new administration to reasonably feel disrespected here.

If they don't like the facts and issues we choose to write about here, that's their problem. Some folks have been thin-skinned about that, and they're free to enjoy the unharshed mellow of the rest of the leftysphere.

But I'd hate for them to be turned off because people like them are carelessly treated as, de facto, less than sane, less than human, etc.

I don't think that MsExPat was doing that, but without providing the context (save for those with the time and inclination to listen to the podcast), her post title could very reasonably have been seen that way.

Again, I want reasonable, non-thin-skinned people to know they're welcome here. They don't get to choose what we write about, and I don't think it's oppressive censorship to expect posts with controversial and/or potentially eye-rolling terminology to earn the heat they generate.

And are the standards different for Senior Fellows on our own blog and other posters? Yes, they are.

admin's picture
Submitted by admin on

And as the primaries recede, context will become more and more important -- exactly because the record hasn't been kept everywhere.

So, by giving context to snark, it's a three-fer: (1) Snark is, of course, a Higher Good; (2) keeps the record straight; (3) for those who click through, shows the wealth of analysis we've done, and maybe gets people to stick around.

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

It's not my job to listen to the podcast

If you are going to go around changing people's posts, its you're job to KNOW that what they'd written was inappropriate --- having listened to the first eight minutes of the podcast, the appellation "Kool-Aid" was ENTIRELY appropriate (one of the bozos actually compared Obama's election to winning WWII!).

The simple fact is that when one talks about "the Village", one is talking about Kool Aid Drinkers -- and when someone "famous" shows up and isn't slobbering over the precious, there is not a damned thing wrong with using "not drinking the Kool Aid" to decribe that person.

I mean, for Fuck's sake, to we have to add caveats about Republicans? About Bush administration officials?

ElizabethF's picture
Submitted by ElizabethF on

and immediately felt, again, what's wrong with me? It was so thick with unconditional love uttered again and again by grown men that I thought surely I had the wrong settings.

The best part was Howard Dean who was offended by the misogynistic campaign used against Hillary and Sarah.

All should listen to the podcast.

MsExPat's picture
Submitted by MsExPat on

It's not my job to listen to the podcast. Nor is it the job of visitors who skim the site to listen to the podcast. One solution would have been to re-write the post to provide more context for the Kool-Aid reference, but that's above my pay grade.

My purpose in writing the post was not to be inflammatory or to troll. A few days ago someone had posted about the NY Review of Books event with Didion, and wondered when the event would go up online. I found it the other day, and as a public service, posted to add a pointer for people here.

Since we'd already discussed Didion's comments, I felt it would be unnecessary and bandwidth-wasting to go on at length--isn't brevity and linky goodness part of the culture here?

It never occurred to me that by framing my headline with Didion's own metaphor--kool aid drinking--I was in violation of some blog rule or offending someone's (your?) sensibility. Nor did I imagine that among these wonderfully sharp, ironic and literary Corrente-readers that it might be necessary to explain at length why I was using the term.

In any event, if you thought the post, as written, needed more context, all you would have had to do was email me explaining the problem, and I'd have fleshed it out. Editing it over my head and then writing a scolding post about what a bad, bad word this guest poster had used was, IMO, over the top.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

And it was not my desire to make you look bad. From what I've seen, you're a "wonderfully sharp, ironic and literary Corrente-reader/writer."

Unfortunately, the impressions made by blog posts happen at hyperspeed. The fruit fly is superannuated compared to the life-cycle of the typical blog post, so if we're concerned about the content of a post, we edit first, discuss later.

It's something we rarely do. But sometimes we do.

Corrente has lost a lot of friends. To those whom the shoe fit, those who were abusive, truthy, or willfully deaf to the mania that overtook PB1.0 and the meat-world Democratic Party, I say good riddance.

But I've seen the tenor of some PUMA sites these days, where every post is framed in disgust that the post's content doesn't support, and I'm trying to establish a firewall against that here.

I don't want people who are willing to listen to fair -- if snarky and memory-hole unapproved -- skepticism and criticism to feel unwelcome here, because it appears that our POV is that the mere act of supporting or liking or being optimistic about Obama is de facto disrespected here. That was never the intent of our Obama-skeptical posting, and it isn't today.

Your explanation makes total sense, to me. We had another fine guest poster frame a post last week in terms of zombies, and I un-frontpaged it... until he re-wrote it with a frame that didn't overwhelm his content's ability to fit it.

Your post, where the matching content was there... in a large MP3 file that would take a few minutes to listen to, presents a tricky edge case.

If this were a court case, the content of the MP3 would be fully exculpatory. Your intentions are not in question. But this isn't a court case, it's a communication outlet, and we're on the knife's edge here, with countless controversial posts, and I want to foster a culture where we're boldly shrill but also thoughtful about whether we're causing collateral damage.

No doubt, some of our guests will think I'm backing away from being bluntly critical or snarky about the new administration. I'm simply not -- unless the new administration conducts itself in a way that's not criticismworthy or snarkworthy.

I'm sharing with y'all some of the standards that I use when I venture into very unpopular territory, trying to keep a clean nose, where a reasonable observer would know that the targets of our snark and skepticism and criticism fully deserve it.

I hope to see you continue to post here, and given the thoughtfulness of what you've written in your posts and in this thread, I think it's extremely unlikely that I'd ever find the need to tinker with something you'd write in the future.


vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

If Hillary wrote a synopsis of something that appeared to be racist, but was revealed as not racist if you listened to a linked video, that would be a comparison.

The fairy-tale and RFK flaps were completely manufactured, with framing created with the purpose of deceiving.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on -- Post Drinks Cheney's Kool-Aid!

"... Imagine, then, my distress when I read the following paragraph in a Page One feature about the new Plum Book in the Nov. 13 Washington Post (" 'Plum Book' Is Obama's Big Help-Wanted Ad"):

"Many of the positions are highly specific, such as assistant secretary for terrorist financing at the Treasury department. Some, like the jobs that will turn over in the vice president's office, are not included because the office technically is not part of either the executive branch or the legislative branch. [Italics mine.] "

Is Addington now moonlighting as a Post copy editor? It isn't remotely established that the vice president's office "technically is not part of either the executive branch of the legislative branch." All we know is that the outgoing vice president believes it, for transparently self-serving reasons; that the incoming vice president does not believe it; and that to the limited extent the matter has been examined in court, a federal judge isn't buying it. ..."

admin's picture
Submitted by admin on

What it really shows is, as it were, attenuation of the virus.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

The object of the Kool-Aid drinking description is quite clear. Cheney tried to hypnotize people with his Fourth Branch bullshit, and the Post is echoing it.

My problem with the aforementioned post was that -- unless you downloaded a MP3 and played it -- the obvious impression is that ordinary enthusiasm for Obama is being equated with cultism.

This is different from pointing out behavior, which I gather the other speakers in the Didion podcast did (and which has been documented in these pages), that is evocative of Kool-Aid drinkers. It could have been solved by adding more context to the post or, as I did, by taking out the provocative and (without more time and effort than it takes to read a blog post) ostensibly unsupported framing.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

everyone on that panel--1000% right.

they even went right back to their wildy insane and repetitively gushing behavior the second Didion stopped talking--as if she had never even spoken.

i see "kool-aid" as any blind, uncritical repetition of spin and myth, and/or absolute trust in a politician not based on or backed up by past actions or facts--like when Joan Walsh said "If he trusts Clinton, then i trust Clinton." (or whatever that was)---everyone who is turning off their brains when discussing any and all pols. If a poster or commenter here does that, and does not back up their "hope" or "trust" or "faith" that Obama will do something they want done with anything real or any real proof that he's either done it before or really means what he's saying about something, then it's koolaid.

Accepting their words on anything is not enough for adults with brains. Hoping they'll act one way when they never have isn't either.

MsExPat's picture
Submitted by MsExPat on

they even went right back to their wildy insane and repetitively gushing behavior the second Didion stopped talking--as if she had never even spoken.

The extraordinary thing about this panel discussion is how thoroughly the other panelists--all male--marginalized Didion, made her invisible, really. They didn't address what she said. Once or twice the moderator, out of politeness, tossed her a gratuitous softball question, which she'd answer--and then it was back to our regularly scheduled program

It was as if she was speaking into the wind, or sending dispatches from a different dimension.

Because I have experienced that feeling before--hasn't every woman?--I think that "kool-aid" is not at all an inappropriate metaphor here. (Although if I'd not been quoting Didion, I might have headlined the post using a different metaphor: "Bummer! Joanie Dropped the Bad Acid!")

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

because you're not gushing about our new historic hero"

-- i posted this link from jezebel here a while ago about it -- --- "... She started by describing the "unexpressable uneasiness" she and some others had felt early on in the campaign. Why? "We were getting what we wanted," she continued, meaning, a smart, qualified, decent candidate the Eastern elite could get behind. And yet the frenzy surrounding Obama made her uneasy — both the sense that he was a young person's candidate, "a generational thing we couldn't understand" and the unthinking embrace of "naivete transformed to hope, partisanism as consumerism." Didion bridled at the wanton use of "transformational" and said she couldn't count the number of times she heard the 60's evoked "by people who apparently had no memory that the 60s" didn't involve decking babies out in political onesies.

Didion was at pains to say that she did not think any of this was Obama's doing, nor to his tastes. He would, she speculated "welcome healthy realism" and achievable expectations. In our frenzy, we are doing him a disservice, expecting miracles "at a time when the nation can least afford easy answers." She recalled, the day after the election, an overexcited newscaster declaring that we now possess "the congratulations of all the nations." She likened this to the naivete of thinking we'd be regarded as beloved saviors in Iraq. But, she ended, "in the irony-free zone that our country has become, this is not what people wanted to hear."

Clearly, no one really did. At once, the other panelists were back to comparing Obama's election to the fall of the Berlin Wall (Pinckney), evoking Lincoln (Delbanco), celebrating "the passing away of religious tyranny" (Wills, I believe.) And they weren't wrong, of course, but the palpable self-congratulation in that room by some very fine minds was worrisome and uncomfortable and lacking in humility, and so Didion's measured caution was more reassuring than all the other rhetoric combined. ..." )

it seriously is the epitome of "kool-aid".

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

In discussing this idiotic claim, Timothy Noah at Slate suggests that the Plum Book is put out by the Administration:

The same language appeared in the previous Plum Book, published in 2004. (No such language appeared in earlier directories produced by the Clinton administration in 1996 and 2000.)

But he's wrong. The book is provided by the Government Printing Office under the authority of Congress, through either the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs or the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform who alternate responsibility.

The 2004 edition would have been under the Senate committee, which was then under Republican control. The 2008 edition, however, came out under authority of the House committee under Democratic control, chaired by none other than Rep. Henry Waxman - who damn sure ought to know better.

Friends help friends by telling them when they've made a big mistake. Let's all help our good friend Henry by sending him a barrage of e-mails pointing out the error

2008 United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions, Appendix No. 5, page 210

and demanding suggesting requesting that he make an immediate correction.

Rep. Waxman can be reached at his office here or through the Oversight Committee here. Why not send him a message at both places!

Probably too late for the print editions, although calling them back for a public bonfire has a certain appeal. Changing the online edition, however, should be something that can actually be accomplished by a sternly worded letter.

Politeness, please.

Submitted by lambert on

This excellent point is buried here and nobody will write.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

I'll clean it up and post it.

Really though, if you see something you like you should just take it and run; for me this is a pot luck event.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

i'm inclined to say "too late."

snark/boo/flame away, but it's not like...nevermind, you know what i would say. enjoy the dance with the ones that brung ya.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

you're not hearing me.

I intend this post in the same spirit all those "prophylactics" were intended. I'm not planning to get out of the strong medicine business, nor losing my taste for the old prescriptions, just trying to make sure the medicine continues to be labeled correctly.

And the ones that brung me have heard me howl before when they step on my (or someone else's) feet. I hope they'll keep dancin' here. They're smart folks who aren't easily bullshat. I like that.

admin's picture
Submitted by admin on

But I keep writing those "prematurely correct" posts because there keep being more people on our side of the gym in which the dance is being held. Why would that be, I wonder?

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

"Merely supporting or being optimistic about the president-elect is not diagnostic of Kool-Aid drinking, Zombie-ism, or being some kind of 'bot." ---

if it's not based on anything real--and is in fact belied by past actions, and/or proof of lies/reversals about stances, then it is.

that's how it works.

Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

This was really a bit much, VL, and I'm in general agreement with MsExPat, here, though, I go even further and call this post grandstanding, and it's not the first one. I think that if you felt that there was some huge or growing issue about a term that perhaps you'd have addressed it more appropriately instead of making an example of someone and brow-beating everyone else, which is exactly how I took this. This was not a good look and disappointing.

hobson's picture
Submitted by hobson on

I will add another, I think you were wrong, VL. You should have "engaged" MsExpat in comments, or made this post without censoring her post. My perception is that you have been one of those who can discourage people with thin skins as much as anyone else here At the same time, you have tried to present other points of view. I am thinking specifically of when you posted Glenn Greenwald's email answering a criticism of yours. As I remember, you were unhappy with the reactions to his email. And you made it known to the commenters. And there have been plenty of what I would call attacks on people who have posted here by the "community" that were not only tolerated but encouraged.

It's one thing to discourage trolls. It is also one thing to edit posts in the manner of a book or a magazine article. It's another to decide in what seems a gratuitous manner when a post or even a headline to a post by a recognized guest, as you put it, is not up to an unpublished standard. It would seem there is a lot more work to be done on PB 2.0 if no one knows the rules but the senior fellows.

PS: I don't know about the rest of you but on my 19" monitor set at 1280 x 1024, this text, when you are composing a post is awfully small.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

that it's our house, and we have the right to make editorial decisions.

We exercise that right rarely, and we are careful to make sure that any alterations we make are clearly indicated, so we don't put words in someone else's mouth.

We don't pre-approve anything and don't post-approve everything.

But we reserve the right to remove content at our discretion. That's not to say that everything that goes on the site has met our approval -- we do not have the resources nor the inclination to exercise full editorial control. It's at our judgment and, yes, our whim. It's our blog, it's not a public accommodation.

I wrote this post to help provide advice to our guest posters about the kinds of titles and framing that might run afoul of those judgments and whims. I don't like editing, unfrontpaging, or deleting posts, and guests don't like having it happen. I'd like to keep that to a minimum, and I believe we do.

The Glenn thread illustrates the difference between frontpage posting privileges, with which we are unusually generous for a blog with considerable readership, and a comment. If anyone wrote a post as thoughtless as many comments on that thread, I would have deleted the post in a heartbeat.

admin's picture
Submitted by admin on

So, your concrete proposal would be? Seriously. Everybody knows that documentation is the last thing to get done, so do you want to write up a proposal for a policy?