Monday, February 15, 2010

PA's Apology to Readers Who Were Offended by PA's Use of a Controversial Term for the Crazy Woman

I read through all the comments at the articles posted here and elsewhere about my derisive Palin headline, and the saint or slut poll I conducted. The results of the poll were 50 votes for "saint," 423 votes for "slut," a total of 473 votes. That makes it the second highest total of votes for a poll conducted by Progressive Alaska.

More important than the apology to Palin posted below, is an apology to people who are my friends and readers who were bothered by my use of the questioned term. Although many commenters at articles here and elsewhere supported me, many did not.

Steve's invention of the term "Blogger's Tourette," to describe my use of profanity and ad hominem attacks fails to resonate with me. I've used profanity and profane images in my protests for over 40 years. In most instances, I put a lot of thought into my use of profane terms and images before deciding whether to use a term, or not. I can be somewhat impulsive, both at this blog, and in other communications. I don't see that as a bad thing, though.

Frankly, Steve's concern about how politicians in Juneau think about bloggers in general is strange:

As I walk around the Capitol building these days and introduce myself as a blogger, people's eyebrows rise and I hear words like credibility. In part this is due to people like Phil when he's having a bout of blogger Tourettes.

The credibility of Alaska's progressive bloggers doesn't stem from our choices of when we use profanity or the personal nature of the way we fight back when attacked. It rests on other matters, as Eric Boehlert so fully covered in his chapter on our strengths and weaknesses, in his book, Bloggers on the Bus.

Though many friends thought Steve's column was quite funny, I'm more impressed with Mel's arguments, from the point of view of a feminist. Early Saturday, I posted a diary at firedoglake's Seminal, titled Did I Over-React to Threats from Sarahbots Late Last Week? firedoglake is the progressive community where I've gotten to know the most on-line personalities over the longest period of time, and I've made a lot of friends there since early 2005, when I began commenting.

Some of my friends supported me, but some people for whom I have enormous respect were critical of my use of "slut." As an example, my friend Darkblack, whose art has often adorned Progressive Alaska, wrote:

The basic sentiment troubles me not (although the specific word has a rather heavy load for some that envelops it irrespective of intent and context, thus rendering its use problematic) – Unfortunately, using it could be seen as handing a group of one’s enemies a cudgel with no compunctions about violence, and no concerns about any collateral damage during the event.

ratfood observed:

Unfortunately, regardless off our record as individuals, some terms and images carry so much associated historic baggage that I am inclined to consider their use in any public forum ill-advised.

Palin’s transgressions are the sort that could be committed by a person of either gender. In my opinion using a term in reference to her which has historically been used to demean women is at the very least, needlessly provocative.

then ratfood came back with another comment, after thinking it over for a while:

Ed, I would like to add that the saint/slut dichotomy strikes me as sophomoric and can only detract from the good work that you do. Please pull the plug on that poll as soon as possible.

I didn't. PA ran the poll for its duration. That troubled some people, including Mel.

The two nationally known writers from whom I feel I've learned the most are Howie Klein and Jane Hamsher. Howie uses profanity very seldom, and is careful in the ad hominum area. Jane uses profanity, sometimes to great effect. Her blackface caricature of Joe Lieberman during the 2006 Connecticut senatorial primary battle which Liebernam lost to Ned Lamont is well known. Jane is generally acknowledged to be the person Rahm Emanuel directed his "fucking retards" comment toward last summer.
I wrote to Jane after reading Steve's article:

I recall you having to defend your use of profane terms from time to time. Has criticism of this aspect of your writing influenced how you use profanity in posts? I'm sure you try to use such terms sparingly, but are you swearing less, or about the same?

Part of her reply was this:

As far as the PC police go, I hate 'em but I try to stay out of their way. Back stage we were laughing our asses off about rahm's foibles but we couldn't say it on the blog without drawing down rashers of shit.

I don't use the "c" word or the "n" word or the "s" word but my skin crawls every time someone has the language nannies jump all over them when their intent isn't [to] malign (though so often it is). But it just isn't worth going to the mat over.

Anyway, for the time being, I'm going to try to clean up my language at PA. I think that both Steve and Mel are right in sensing that use of overly derisive terms puts some off who would otherwise appreciate what I write here.

Thanks to everyone who commented either pro or con on how I termed Palin, and on the poll.

And to those who were offended, I really am sorry.


Mel said...

Thanks, Phil.

jim said...


Anonymous said...

Phil I see no reason for apology.
Last I heard this is America and free speech is for everyone not just the Right.
I also disagree with Steve, ad hominem defined by Wiki:
An ad hominem argument has the basic form:

Person 1 makes claim X
There is something objectionable about Person 1
Therefore claim X is false

The term ad hominem has sometimes been used more literally, to describe an argument that was based on an individual, or to describe any personal attack. However, this is not how the meaning of the term is typically introduced in modern logic and rhetoric textbooks, and logicians and rhetoricians are in agreement that this use (equated with "personal attack") is incorrect

Anonymous said...

Good post, Phil.

You are as aggressive in your questioning and examining yourself as you are of questioning/examining other people. Palin, on the other hand, is only aggressive in questioning other people's motives and beliefs while denying that she's ever wrong.

Now that your friends have their apology, will you please light a fire under their butts and everyone else's butts up there to redouble their efforts in helping expose the dangerous demagogue who rose out of Alaska??

Can we have the same passion, ink, and angst against Palin as we have witnessed on your use of a controversial label (slut) describing her??

The lower 48 sent her home in ignominious defeat in '08 but she's back with a harpy's vengeance. We're sick unto death of her down here!....and, quite frankly, she would never have had the opportunity to scour the national political landscape like a biblical plague if the Alaskan electorate had done their jobs in the first damn place!

Mel said...

It's so strange to me how people keep saying "free speech is for everyone" while simultaneously criticizing other people for using their free speech.

As in, I used my free speech to criticize Phil. So did Steve. So did some rightwingers.

As in, Phil used his free speech to apologize, because based on his own judgment after a week of discussion, he decided that it was warranted.

Of course, you're using your free speech to criticize other people's use of free speech, & you're perfectly free to do so. I'm just sayin'.

Mel said...

Phil, I've just written an update to my today-post, wanted to draw your attention to it since you might not see it otherwise --

Phil has now taken down the offensive poll (because “it was over”), & has written a second apology post, this time apologizing for those of his readers including me who found his use of the term “slut” offensive. I’ve added the post to the list above.

I’m not overly fond of his other term for Palin, which he uses in the title of this post — “PA’s Apology to Readers Who Were Offended by PA’s Use of a Controversial Term for the Crazy Woman” — but I can live with his use of it. I appreciated his post: he’s clearly been reconsidering things in light of criticism — not only from me & Steve, but also other’s of his readers. He ended the post,

Anyway, for the time being, I’m going to try to clean up my language at PA. I think that both Steve and Mel are right in sensing that use of overly derisive terms puts some off who would otherwise appreciate what I write here.

Thanks to everyone who commented either pro or con on how I termed Palin, and on the poll.

And to those who were offended, I really am sorry.

Thanks, Phil. As one of those offended, I accept your apology. I also really appreciate the respect & consideration with which you’ve treated my criticisms over the past week.

Meantime, I have been privately informed about a post at the Conservatives for Palin (C4P) site which has taken it upon itself to congratulate me for being one of those “with the courage to criticise those whose lives seem committed to a downward spiral of abusive tabloideeze about all things Palin.” And then demonstrating my “courage” by selectively quoting from a number of my comments over at Phil’s blog, being very careful to exclude any of the numerous things I said in those comments that were in any way critical of Palin or her followers. I’ll be writing a post later to correct the imbalance. (At least they had the courtesy to recognize that I’m not a C4P fan, & also to notice that I’m a she not a he — since I sign my comments Mel, I’m sometimes mistakenly assumed to be male.)

I’ve also taken a bit of criticism for being “holier than thou,” “sanctimonious,” & “self-righteous,” & for some other stuff too complex to go into right now for how I’ve conducted myself during the course of these discussions. I’ve appreciated Phil’s self-examination in his second apology post today; I feel it’s only fair to do my own. So I’ll be writing one of those later too, in the next couple of days. Thanks.

Thanks again.

Philip Munger said...


You're 100% OK in my book.

I don't feel the term "Crazy Woman" or "CW" for short, for Palin, is derogatory, inaccurate or ad hominem. Her "wild ride" is just one of many acts that no sane person would have attempted. And since most of her nutty acts tend to be selfish and are often performed to the detriment of others, the label may even be a bit mild.

I'm not sure what the most accurate adjective, set of adjectives or descriptive words for Palin are.

I'm assuming, of course, that "Crazy Woman" bears no more weight when used than "Crazy Man" might be for Glenn Beck, for instance.

Coral said...

First of all, thank you for the apology. As one of the people shocked to see, essentially, the virgin/whore dichotomy being applied--and, worse, being applied where sex shouldn't be a factor--I am glad that you apologized to Palin and to your readers.

I still feel the need to quibble, though. Like Mel said, the use of the term "Crazy Woman" for Palin is still upsetting. Long before the saint/slut debacle, I was bothered by it, honestly. I get that she's local, so maybe you're just extra sick of her, but I looked back through your archives and couldn't find as dismissive a term used for, for instance, G.W. Bush. I don't mean to say you weren't critical of him, but you seemed less insulting. (And, of course, it would be pointless to bring his gender into it when insulting him, which makes comparing the two harder.)

I feel like this might need some explanation. It's obvious to me why "Crazy Woman" is an offensive thing to call her, but it might not be obvious to you. I'll do what I can, and hopefully anyone else who feels similarly will jump in and help out: There's this idea, in our society, that a woman who is too aggressive, too sure of herself, is crazy. Women are seen as emotionally untrustworthy--apt to break down and cry, or throw things, and that's derided as a mental flaw. It's used as a reason not to listen to us. A number of guys talk about their crazy wives, and I believe somewhere out there on the Internet is a "man law" having to do with "crazy women." It's this whole misogynistic way of thinking about--and therefore dismissing--women; and if you're not guilty of taking part in it (or victim of it) I can see how you might be unaware of what you're doing. You may not be trying to tap into this vein of thinking, when you use the term "crazy woman." You may honestly just mean "crazy person." But if "crazy person" is all you're getting at, I don't know why you'd go out of your way to emphasize that she's female. It looks, for all the world, like a bit of winking and nudging to the other guys in the room, about yet another unstable woman whom we should all just ignore.

I won't deny she's crazy. And kind of stupid. And that we'd all be better off if she were getting less attention. But it has nothing to do with her gender. She's not significantly dumber or crazier or worse at speaking than Bush (at least when he first got started), as far as I can tell; I think she's just too bullheaded to listen to her advisors/handlers. She's no more dangerous than Glenn Beck--and possibly a little bit less crazy. But she is (more or less) a political figure, and as awful as her opinions might be, as ineloquent as she is, there's plenty to tear down about her without making it about her gender. Stick to what's important.

Mel said...

My issues with "Crazy Woman" have more to do with stuff about psychiatry & how people with mental health issues are perceived & treated. I know a few people who have been locked up, force-drugged, etc. for being "crazy", including my kid.

And also, just because I don't find it especially useful to replace people's names with insulting appellations except in very specific circumstances to begin with.

But I don't see it as a sexist term. So, it bugs me, but not enough for me to have made an issue over it, since "crazy" has a much wider application of meanings to begin with. And in the end -- especially after considering some of the private criticism people have leveled at me -- I don't want to do a complete "political correctness" thing over every aspect of other people's political speech.

So I'll live with it easily enough, even if I'm somewhat bugged by it. Can't have everything.

Besides, I'll still probably still call Palin "Palinocchio" when I come across her lies.

anon. said...

Break out the smelling salts and bring on the feinting couches...

I love, (figure of speech), the people who decry phil's choice of words on the basis that it's somehow an all-encompassing 'sexist' attack.

In order to make that argument, they have to ignore the sexism that Palin introduces into her act all the time.

I don't see this 'faux outrage' coming from the pious when Palin picks up the sexism cudgel, it's only too obvious there's a double standard at work.

Heh, eheh... 'double standard at work'... creeping sexism. Alors.

Now calling her the crazy woman is sexist too ?

God help the witless.

Coral said...

Palin absolutely is sexist; nowhere did I suggest she wasn't. She's a terrible person with pretty much no redeeming qualities. Hence, I said "there's plenty to tear down about her without making it about her gender. Stick to what's important."

I don't think it's wrong to point out sexist attacks leveled at someone who is, themselves, sexist. I don't think it's necessary to ignore Palin's sexism to point out how Phil's sexist-seeming language is upsetting. (For the record, I'm not accusing Phil of being sexist. I am explaining what I find objectionable about the term "Crazy Woman," the implications of which go far beyond the implications of the term "Crazy Man," if he were to use it about Glenn Beck.) I believe progressives do not need to demean ourselves by using sexist language; we have so many valid points about Palin's behavior that we don't need to muddy the waters or stoop to her level. She only stoops to that level because she has to, to gain support for her terrible policies/ideas/agenda/whatever-it-should-be-called.

Your argument comes down to "she did it first, so it's OK." That's not logically--or ethically--sound reasoning. Just to reiterate: there is no double standard, because I did not--and nobody did--suggest that Palin's sexism is appropriate.

Anonymous said...

Well I for one think this whole blogger conversation over the poll has just been juicy!

Now if the c4p people could just clean up their act...

The next woodshed graffiti fest is still gonna say, "Alaskan Bloggers Rock".

Unless Rep. Young decides to insert his foot into his mouth... again.

Nice learning experience Phill. Nice to know you have appologized to the offended and plan on walkin a cleaner trail. I wanna be the 'trail monitor'. You know jump all over your butt if you sway from the chosen path. Spew and chew you out... At least till you apologize to me. snort... Just kidding...

Ya all deserve a hug.

Anonymous said...

As a female, I didn't like "slut" but am fine with "Crazy Woman". It kinda reminds me of "Crazy Horse".

Oh no, do you think she might get it into her head that the nation needs a gigantic mountain sculpture of her head in the Black Hills?

Maybe you should come up with a different nickname after

Philip Munger said...

{{{{annoy mouse}}}}

can't wait to meet you, btw.

Mona said...

Oh, screw Steve and Mel. They're both c's, n's and s's. (What's the "s" word?)

They're just WORDS, people! All the crazy shit going on in the world and THIS is what concerns you?!?!?!

Sheltered and spoiled Americans.

Philip Munger said...

a term some locals have used since shortly after Palin was elected Wasilla mayor has been Mooselini.

alaskapi said...

When I LOLed about your Howard- Beale -moment remark it was because it seemed such a perfect description... the snapped part, not going to touch the insane part.
There's so many other things to do and so much to learn that I can hardly bear having to maintain any part of the sentry duty on SP's antics but I think we have to.
Next time you're on thermal overload status with your watch on her, maybe send up a request to be relieved of duty til you can regain a bit of distance and your composure...?
I still think Mel is mostly right.
I also think SP has hitched a big part of her star on gender politics, in an underground, underhanded sort of way and we, none of us, has managed to address it head on, seriously.
Amnd you are not the only one who has pitched face forward into that pit over her...

Steve said...

Phil, the Tourette's reference was an attempt to lighten things up a bit and clearly not a perfect analogy. But I was confident that you'd consider what people said and then come to your own conclusion with no malice. Not many people can do that. My concern was never with the language itself, but with how the language and more the insults affect people who are still making up their minds.

Thanks for for respecting Mel and my intentions and showing that people can disagree constructively. I used to take that for granted.

Philip Munger said...

Thanks, Steve.

"I used to take that for granted."

I do hope that's not a reflection on your time in Juneau.

clark said...

love the photo of the kitty.

HarpboyAK said...

Phil, I think that you haven't been helping your arguments by your use of offensive language. You know me well enough to know that I might use such language in private, but not in public, and I think that your blog is public because you have made it so.

I don't believe in censorship, and I certainly believe in free speech rights, but I've also learned over the years that using offensive language may put off the very folks that you are trying to persuade or educate. It might wake folks up, and it might make the author feel better to vent, but it's not very effective.

Hyperbole can be effective, especially when coupled with humor, but the false dichotomy you presented in your poll was not at all effective, and several folks have mentioned to me that they wouldn't vote in it because they would have other less offensive definitions of Her Majesty.

Your blog would be much more effective if your use of offensive language was an unusual and rare event.

Mona said...

Keep posting your opinion, Phil. Complete with "bad" words, if you so wish.

Even tho I typically disagree with you about 50% of the time, I come here to read YOUR OPINION. I'm a big girl, I can handle profanity.

What is the BFD with profanity? I don't get it! Is the problem that someone told you to have a problem with it? Think for yourselves. It's just a WORD.

alaskapi said...

It's not profanity at issue.
It's not a mere word at issue.
It's the way we live in the language we all use to make our way through the thoroughly human part of our world at issue.
Slut doesn't have the freight for me that it does for plenty of others, but the inaccuracy of the description does , especially in light of the continuing SP fallout.

Anonymous said...

alaskapi @ 8:15 PM: "I also think SP has hitched a big part of her star on gender politics, in an underground, underhanded sort of way and we, none of us, has managed to address it head on, seriously."

I agree. On the balance, Palin has actually derived many more positives from exploiting her gender than negatives. She wouldn't be where she is today with fame, fortune, and fans without McCain's selecting her as his VP because she was a woman.....a female political tool to mop up more votes in certain demographics in his quest for the WH.

Gender politics? She continuously references herself as the fecund mother figure while at the same time is wearing purple stiletto boots. She presents herself as the grateful citizen governor at a veteran's memorial while at the same time sits on an elevated stage in very short skirt. Oh, yes .... Palin has hitched her star to gender politics and is working it vigorously from both angles: 1) the self-exploited sexual object and 2) the externally-exploited sexual object/martyr. It works very well to keep people's focus off the fact that she has little else to offer as a politician....and either angle is provocative to the media and public.

If you want to address Palin's use of gender politics head on, the critical point to grasp is that Palin is not some "EveryWoman" icon or representative. A gender-related insult or compliment to Sarah Heath Palin is not automatically conferred to every other woman. She alone is responsible for her choices and behavior but she would like you to think that every insult or criticism of those choices extends to all women. Therein lies her power. She's the quintessential purveyor of guilt. The more people she can rope into the guilt, the more control she enjoys......and gender/sexual issues carry a freight-load of guilt in our society.

The conversation on this blog has been diverted in the direction which works best for Palin: a discussion of her martyrdom as a female politician followed by self-flagellation and apology from her attackers.

Some people say she has set back women in politics a good 60 years. Nonsense! She has made the other hardworking women in politics look like thoughtful geniuses. Her gender politics strategy has propped her up in the short term but will work against her in the long term. We are already seeing her downward trajectory....

mary b said...


I don't think you needed to apologize. She may or may not be a slut in the traditional sense of the word, but she is an attention whore. A slut for Fox the Newsless.

But if it makes you feel better, than I'm all for it.

I knew how you meant the word. I am a grown woman and didn't take any offense. We all know Palin will do anything, anything at all to try to take down Obama. I didn't like her from the get go, but I really, really dislike her for always putting down our POTUS in such a nasty, chilish, crazy manner.
I wish she would just go away to her 'cabin' and let the adults deal with the problems she knows nothing about.

Anonymous said...

That is one good looking cat Phillip. mooch? Anyway, I thought the picture appropriate. I also thought your first 'apology' was both appropriate and funny. Still, it is good that you put the feelings of your friends ahead of your dislike of your enemies.


alaskapi said...

anon 2 11:17-
I stand corrected. You have addressed SP's gender politics quite clearly. Well done.

alaskapi said...

anon@ 11:17-
apologies for sticky shift key and bleary edit eye here...
no #2 anon...
nor anon 2

Anonymous said...

Interesting week at PA, Phil.

Thanks for just being yourself.

anon. said...

coral, you claim there's no double standard,

and yet you made that claim right after you claimed there was a double standard, ie crazy woman carries some unsubstantiated heightened degree of implications than the term crazy man.

sorry coral, you can't have it both ways.

And coral, I made no argument that because Palin did it first it was ok.

That's just your pretentious and ill-conceived presumption that you'd like to assign to what I did say.

What I said isn't what you hope to mischaracterize it to be.

Worry about your contradictions, coral, I didn't provide the source of your contradictions, nor will I provide you an excuse for your contradictions.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a problem with the reference to CW and the wild ride. It fits.

My water broke, doctor said go to the hospital, hooked up to monitor, baby's heartbeat went down, emergency c-section, the cord was wrapped around his neck 3 times. If I had acted like Palin, my son would be dead. I find the wild ride hard to believe and horribly negligent if there is any truth to end.

CGinWI said...

No deep analysis. I just appreciate the example of three bloggers discussing issues of real concern to them with mutual respect and the desire to come to understanding. Would that our Congress could do the same.

I commend you all for the example you have set.

darkblack said...

I've come quite late to this teapotted tempest, so I'll just add that 'bad words' (and 'bad images') happen to good people - and for one to take forthright ownership of their intemperate use and responsibility for the subsequent consequences (as opposed to running from the 'scene of the crime' with weasel words a-blazing as so many typically do today) is the mark of a superior character worthy of friendship and support.