Monday, June 10, 2019

Against A Link Between The IDW, Intellectual Dark Web, And Radicalization To Right Wing Extremism

Tweet chain in which I argue against this series of tweets:

...Look, it would be wrong to suggest that any individual member of the IDW is necessarily responsible for far-right radicalization, or even that the IDW as a group is tarred by association. But it is ludicrous to deny that a link exists. Worse, it is dangerous....

....I suppose we can think of that link as consisting of three components: 

1) Ideational. Here I would include hatred of SJWs/PC/ID politics, suspicion (at least) of feminism, anxiety about the status white men and Western civ, and alarm over Islam. Lots more, but you get the idea....

....2) Platforming. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Rubin has interviewed PJW, Southern, Hopkins, Molyneux, and Milo. Many of these and others have appeared on Rogan’s show, as well as other fora associated with the IDW, etc etc...

....3) Networks. YouTube’s algorithm apparently thinks that someone who views some IDW videos is likely to have an interest in far-right videos as well. The link is presumed to exist, at least according to Google....

...I think it requires a kind of willful blindness to deny that a link exists. That link may not carry with it any responsibility or blame, but it is real. And worth talking about. If a link exists between BLM and anti-police violence, we should..

My tweet chain

1 of 11, There’s that misleading “link” again. 

Though not addressed to me, I saw your tweet chain about the 3 components. 

2 Your 1st component betrays at minimum ad hominem paradox, ideational adjacent to “hatred,” “suspicion” “anxiety” and “alarm.” There are differing, thought though and nuanced analyses of each time on your list. And differing feeling about each item exist. 

3 But the reductive latter side of your adjacency perverts the I of the IDW, which is its principal mark. 

4 Your 2nd and 3D, as does your basic point, (see below), drown in vapid amorphousness. Where does public exposure stop and start?. It’s everywhere across all media. So a link between all that media and radicalization? 

5 Plus it reductively reduces the IDW as one unvaried  blob. It elides way too many needed distinctions. 

6  And your argument from an algorithm to support a “link,” and at that a link that doesn’t in any meaningful sense exist: that’s self evidently self-annihilating and absurdly attenuated.

7 And in your own words,  “That link may not carry with it any responsibility or blame” and “it would be wrong to suggest that any individual member of the IDW is necessarily responsible for far-right radicalization, or even that the IDW as a group is tarred by association.”

8 So what does this “link” come to? I think it’s analogous to these: ...a link between Democratic speech and conduct and James Hodgkinson or a link between Cdn sexual attitudes and conduct and Marc L├ępine. 

9 You can say obviously the latter are crazy and (most of) those radicalized aren’t. 

10 But we all in many ways, some sane, some not, process what’s out there , around us. Agency breaks any presumed causal chain, namely presumed links. So your whole notion of a link reduces itself to amorphous triteness, an observation so commonplace that it verges on fatuity.

11 So I suggest that criticism of your “link” isn’t wilful blindness: rather it’s seeing all too clearly what you say. 

An Interpretation Of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 120

That you were once unkind befriends me now,
And for that sorrow, which I then did feel,
Needs must I under my transgression bow,
Unless my nerves were brass or hammered steel.
For if you were by my unkindness shaken,
As I by yours, you've passed a hell of time;
And I, a tyrant, have no leisure taken
To weigh how once I suffered in your crime.
O! that our night of woe might have remembered
My deepest sense, how hard true sorrow hits,
And soon to you, as you to me, then tendered
The humble salve, which wounded bosoms fits!
But that your trespass now becomes a fee.
Mine ransoms yours, and yours must ransom me.

So I’ll for starters , and likely for finishers, heretically paraphrase this poem as I understand it.

The voice is speaking to his lover, dear friend, generally an intimate, intensely  close to him or her—I’ll assume him. He’s saying, “You once did me a very bad, a very heavy, thing—and we as readers are introduced to a past transgression that stands by memory and being summoned up adjacent to his own recent transgression. 

The notes you provided say of “unkind” that it denotes something “cruel, against the principles of natural kindness and kinship.” He’s saying, paraphrase, “That one time you did that very bad thing to me, becomes a friend to me now given the (we readers presume) comparable “unkindness” I’ve just done you. 

So there’s an immediate ironizing his relationship with whom he’s speaking to. For a rival friendship now arises from, is comprised by, exists in, the fact and memory of the past terrible transgression. 

He’s saying that knowing how deeply sad he then felt—“that sorrow”—and because of it, now  it imposes necessity and duty upon him—“Needs must I.” He must, as your provided notes say, “bow my head down as an act of repentance, or under the weight of punishment.” He would, he says, have to have nerves of strong metal, inhuman imperviousness, not to oblige that dictate that he so humble himself. 

But it is to be noted that while he acknowledges what he is obliged to do, he doesn’t explicitly commit himself to doing it. The first four lines set up contrasting imperatives and perspectives: duty—“needs must,” transgression;” sheer human emotion—“sorrow,” “feel,” “unless my nerves were.” And nowhere in the first four lines is there any apology as such or expression of genuine regret or contrition. Rather we have a detached sort of “framing” of what has happened and what ostensibly should be done about it. It’s cold, analytical and detached.

An idea of equivalency is introduced in the first four lines. It suggests an empathetic equation would be fitting. “I know how badly I felt when you did me wrong. So out of that I know how badly you feel now due to my wrong and out of that I know what prostrating amends I should make.” So, on this way of seeing it, “befriends me now”  is due to past experience leading to present understanding of what has to be done. But there’s a stronger suggestion that, in line with the ironizing and detached observation of what seems appropriate, “befriends me now” suggests the new friendship is owed to the poet being armed with something that he can deploy to defend and acquit himself.

He goes on to say in tone becoming just a touch querulous that if s/he has now been rent by his “unkindness,” the repetition of “unkind” deepening the sense of equivalency, as he was by his/hers, then hell itself, the worst burning suffering imaginable, measures the time spent in illimited agony. So now what emerges, on my reading of the sonnet, is the inversion of empathy, the transgressor emboldened to virtual impunity by his past suffering. 

So, “ And I, a tyrant” I read as a mocking deprecating of himself and perhaps a mimicking what his intimate has called him in his/her anger at him.  

But why a tyrant and of what does his tyranny consist?  

Tyrants by your provided notes were “traditionally arbitrary and headstrong in their judgements and relentlessly cruel.” A tyrant is literally “a cruel and oppressive ruler.” 

So what flows from this understanding of the word? 

The transgressor has the power because it is he who has caused such immense suffering by an act, as noted, “cruel, against the principles of natural kindness and kinship.” So, therein exists the cruelty. 

The arbitrariness, the headstrongedness, the oppressiveness reside in his refusal, a wanton refusal, considering how deeply unkindness cuts, how it against the very bonds of the human and natural grace, to obey “Needs must I under my transgression bow.” 

And don’t those same marks of tyranny, here tyranny in intimacy, reside too in “have no leisure taken/To weigh how once I suffered in your crime”? To weigh is to assess; “leisure taken” is time taken to assess, to get a proper, a calm, a rational, perspective on his past suffering, to come to terms with it, to get past it, to, as they say, “move on.” So here as well is tyranny in intimacy, the continuity of burning grievance now with a chance to get even. Yet another reason for the befriending now, now the two reasons for the befriending being a shield against present imputation and the sword of intimate vengeance. 

In sum here, he’s playfully cruel in referring to himself as a tyrant, revelling in admitting it.

He deepens his tyranny by noting and contrasting the alacrity with which s/he then, in the past, made amends—“as you to me, then tendered/The humble salve...—with his own headstrong refusal to, a refusal that defies, as noted, the natural order of human bonds and human grace. My sense is that he genuinely wishes it might have been different: 

O! that our night of woe might have remembered
My deepest sense, how hard true sorrow hits...

I can see a view that holds he’s saying this cruelly and tauntingly, ever the tyrant. But I tend see him more being analytical and detached and maybe a touch wistful. He knows he can’t transcend his tyranny in intimacy. He knows he can’t get past how “how hard true sorrow hits...” He’s ever enmeshed in hurt, anger, grievance and wanting intimate revenge. 

In the last two lines are cast in mercantile language. They replace the language of human bonds and human grace with “fee,” and “ransom” abutting and resolving the depth of “trespass.” It reminds me of what Laertes says to Hamlet, who is a dead man walking, what Hamlet says back to him and my comment on it:

...Laertes, guilty of murder, seeks absolution by dint of himself as a victim, but cannot see clearly enough into himself to understand the magnitude of his own blame: “I can no more. THe King, the King’s to blame.” Of ‘noble Hamlet” he wishes to transact forgiveness, asking for it in mercantile language:”Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet.” Ever Laertes, ever a lesser man, he offers absolution as a bargain: Hamlet’s death for Polonius’ and Laertes’ deaths will cancel each other out: “Mine and my father’s death come not upon thee,/Nor thine on me.” An ostensibly grave and moving offer of friendship and reconciliation made with the luminous clarity only death’s onset can bring, this, really, is a facile morality. His bargaining traduces murder, guilt and complicity. Hamlet, who wanted to embrace Laertes to his heart as his equal and his “brother,” sees better. Rather, he accords to heaven what isn heaven’s and top Caesar what is Caesar’s in scornful rejection of heaven’s probity in such judgments: “Heaven make thee free of it.”...

As your provided note says, paraphrasing the sonnet’s last two lines, “My trespass, my guilt, my fee, redeems your trespasses of the past, and those trespasses of yours must now redeem my more recent ones.”

I’d say the theme of the poem, its idea as its glue, is something like the inversion of empathy, past hurt exacting revenge in intimacy as opposed to grace in intimacy. There are innumerable ways of encapsulating the theme.

I’d say that without this notion, or an alternative notion that emerges from a different reading, a reader is at sea with the sonnet, not really understanding it, not, so to say, in any competent relation with it.

Of course there’s much more to be said about it, a concentration on the specific poetics going on and how they as technique merge with the thoughts moving through so that finally form and meaning are one. But what I said will do, I think, for the issue between us about theme being some extraneous construct that doesn’t exist, save in the most self conscious works wanting to make an explicit point, a notion I reject and I believe here have demonstrated otherwise.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Themes Or No Themes In Literary Works


About 1/2 way through The Age Of Innocence.

Pretty good, stilted prose notwithstanding.

I guess it’s one example of a jewelled style not being essential to a good or great novel.

But what I want to note given our various backs and forths about theme is how this book wears its theme(s) on its sleeve. And it’s pleasurable to see how it works its explicit way through each step of the novel. 

If we wanted to say which novels are most explicit about their themes, the idea(s) underlying and unifying them, this one would be, as the sportswriters say, “in the conversation.” 


You did not read my paper carefully.  The theme that they talk about is not an overt theme, which many (mostly not great) novels do not have, unless war and peace is the theme of W and P.  No New Critic would write an essay on the themes of pride and prejudice in P and P.  The point was finding something hidden that required a special method which Frye and Holland explain.   Many novelists think a theme a serious book makes.  Lousy books have themes.  


Your paper is long gone from the forefront of my mind.

I thought I had read it carefully and think Inrecall you saying as much in my first round of notes to you.

But whatever as to that. 

I understand the idea of imposing on a work an idea not apparent in it or stating its theme at such a level of generalization or abstraction that it’s useless. Both comprise bad literary criticism. What I’m now and have been talking about is an idea or cluster of ideas that *arise from* a work and illuminatingly unify it. 

And in fact such an illuminating essay on the themes of pride and prejudice could be written about that novel, exploring them as the novel presents them and presents them in everything that goes, in how the characters are constituted and what they do. If no New Critics have done that, though probably some literary critics have, one, new, old, or post-new should. And if it’s for the first time, a great critic could write a seminal essay of literary criticism about Austen’s novel.

Finally while sure lousy novels can have themes, The Age Of Innocence is the opposite of a lousy novel. I say, and this is where I came in, its idea of cluster of ideas, which make sense of its overlapping worlds, or put another way, combine them into an overall world  view, is explicit and is pleasurable in its clear presentation throughout the novel. 


I'm not big on thematic unity.    The unity is in the hidden logic of one thing following another in a compelling way.  There is no hidden reason why Hopkins goes from judging God for being unjust to praying for God to bring him relief from his despair.  Or how Hamlet goes from sullen, somewhat nasty prince, (and much else)  to a more peaceful state of mind despite it all, but we are moved by what happens, and it feels important, but the theme and its unity don't explain it.  The theme seems to make its locus of value too conceptual.  


Dorothy Van Ghent:

...A novel itself is one complex pattern, or Gestalt, made up of component ones, in it inhere such a vast number of traits, all organized insubordinate systems that function under the governance of a single meaningful structure, that the nearest similitude for a novel is a 'world.' This is a useful similitude because it reflects the rich multiplicity of the novel's elements and, at the same time, the unity of the novel as a self-defining body...

Dorothy Van Ghent: 
...human experience is organized into patterns that are in 

E.M. Forster:
..Plot is a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality...

If we can’t say why a character does something or why in different instances does different things, that’s authorial lapse, unless the intended point is that there’s no sense to it. 

Most importantly:


Monday, June 3, 2019

Jonathan Turley, Mueller, Barr, GK And I

First: Jonathan Turley: Turley

Then GK:

...I agree --it has nothing to do with being pro  Trump or right wing. But, what does  it have to do with?  Does the Muller release indicated that Muller was incompetent in his understanding of the law?  Does that incompetency go beyond Muller to also include all the other lawyers who helped him write the report the and the conclusions it (almost) reached?  Was Muller's disdain for Trump so bitter that  he pursue a result that would tarnish not only Trump but the whole White House legal edifice? If so, why?  

I am willing to say that Barr and Muller were both men of high repute before undertaking to play their parts in the Trump circus.  But, can't understand why two prominent Republicans and prominent Republican assistant attorney general, would create a legal stew that even the dogs don 't to taste.  Turley's  questions don't lead to any possible answers that people could puzzle through and agree that the law was followed and America -- despite the complexities of democracy is still reasonably healthy...

Then I:

It strikes me that you’re asking a series of non questions and harbouring a standard that by design or effect distract us from the salient point. 

That point is this, in one way of putting it: the OSC Report is a significant event; the fate of the presidency may hang on its reception; ideally it ought not be either politicized or weaponized nor have been created or tilted towards facilitating either effort; so when the creators of the Report act oddly, muddy their remit and ultimately don’t do a big part of their job, then that is profoundly worthy of critical comment and profoundly worth knowing. 

For non Americans it can be a matter of great interest. For Americans it is a matter of vital and practical interest. They can take the criticisms into account as they assess the Report and form centres of electoral consensus and pressure on whether and to what extent the Report is actionable. 

There are no limits to the possible scope of criticism but this writer has chosen noteworthy three issues and made good, maybe devastating, points about all three. I cannot see the relevance or probity, given his short piece, of questioning why he didn’t raise and explore more tangential issues and conduct.

My call is that the OSC effectively created an impeachment referral and that Barr and those amongst him did a straight shooting job in disseminating, commenting on the Report and answering the question that the OSC, falling down on its job on this, failed properly to. 

You invoke a bizarre criterion for judgment by setting it up that unless this short piece doesn’t lead to an epiphany of clarity, doesn’t provide clarifying illumination for all Americans, leaves opinions and even passions relatively unaffected, then it’s basically a meaningless exercise. Which of course isn’t how great national conversations and evolving consensuses in a liberal democracy work. Rather, usually there’s a conglomeration of insights and understandings over time that lead to emerging consensuses that then exert and have political effects. 

I’d judge Turley’s short piece to be a quite helpful contribution to that emergence.