[my friend and colleague, Steve Aufrecht, at his outstanding blog, What Do I Know?, has posted an article that is not only highly critical of the poll on Palin I posted Monday morning, but looks at what he considers to be some sort of malady on my part in a unique and fascinating way. Steve's article is posted below, and at What Do I Know? where it is also accompanied by its own set of comments from his regular readers, none of which support my publication of the poll in the way I have. Please also go there and read the comments. Earlier in the week PA published Mel Green's compelling essay on her reactions to my Palin poll and an earlier essay. Her essay, Progressive bloggers and Palin: Civility versus Namecalling, can be found at this link. I hope to respond to both essays this weekend. I'd like to thank Mel and Steve for allowing PA to cross-post their articles here.]
--- by Steve Aufrecht
"Gilles de la Tourette syndrome (Tourette Syndrome or TS) is a neurological disorder which becomes evident in early childhood or adolescence before the age of 18 years. Tourette syndrome is defined by multiple motor and vocal tics lasting for more than one year. The first symptoms usually are involuntary movements (tics) of the face, arms, limbs or trunk. These tics are frequent, repetitive and rapid. The most common first symptom is a facial tic (eye blink, nose twitch, grimace), and is replaced or added to by other tics of the neck, trunk, and limbs. . .
There are also verbal tics. These verbal tics (vocalizations) usually occur with the movements. These vocalizations include grunting, throat clearing, shouting and barking. The verbal tics may also be expressed as coprolalia (the involuntary use of obscene words or socially inappropriate words and phrases) or copropraxia (obscene gestures). Despite widespread publicity, coprolalia/copropraxia is uncommon with tic disorders." [From here. Emphasis Added]
So, if a blogger whose career has included being in corrections, a Harbor Master, in radio, and a respected classical musician among other things who writes about politics has outbursts of "[seemingly] involuntary use of obscene words or socially inappropriate words and phrases" are we seeing a case of blogger Tourettes?
Words fascinate me and I like to watch people who know how to use them well. It's an art form. Some words, like fuck, used to be reserved for very special situations and settings. When someone used them outside those settings, they got people's attention because they were so rarely used in what used to be called "mixed company." But now the words are used so often that they have little shock value, though people still notice their inappropriateness. I lament the loss of those words which can be used in times of crisis to communicate how extreme the situation is.
To throw them at someone like mud, doesn't fit my notion of 'appropriate' on a blog that purports to be a serious force for social and political change. When Phil Munger called Sarah Palin a slut, I winced. 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.
And so when he gets threatening comments in response, my reaction is similar to when someone jumps into the lion's cage at the zoo. I'm sorry he's hurt, but that's why they give out Darwin awards. I'm sure someone will accuse me here of blaming the victim, and I agree that the threats are inexcusable. But given that other local bloggers have suffered the same fate, it seems prudent not to poke the crazies (on the other side) in the eye with gratuitous insults. Can you explain how this is different from Limbaugh and Fagan? You give the Tea Party folks solid evidence that the left has its share of frothing madmen.
Free speech gives us the right to say many things (though not to libel), but just because one may, doesn't mean someone should.
I've covered this ground in other posts (here's one on blogging guidelines for instance) and I'm tired of repeating it. And Mel Green has already done a better job than I'm doing. But I do want to say this on the record. I've emailed Phil with my specific problems and asked him to explain himself. I'm not objecting to obscenity per se, but I think it is counterproductive in a serious political blog. Unless it is necessary to the story (and sometimes even then) it distracts from the message, alienates some allies, and confirms the negative stereotypes of those of differing ideological persuasions.
So, Phil, I ask you again to explain the purpose of your expletives and gratuitous insults and why you think their use does more good than harm on your blog. Or perhaps get tested for blogger Tourettes.