Thursday, September 04, 2008

Missing the Shitstorm

Apologies for the language, but I can't think of any other descriptive term that would work as well.

So anyway, I had a few things in mind to blog about. Since I last checked in, back in mid-August, some interesting discussions came about dealing with changes in the Democratic party's platform language regarding abortion, and whether those changes were meaningful, and if so in which way. As someone intrigued by Obama and very uncomfortable with abortion rights, I had a few things I thought I might say about that.

And then, there was the matter of the American Political Science Association convention which I just returned from, and some arguments which some bloggers and scholars I admire had gotten caught up in involving APSA's decision to hold next year's convention in Toronto. There were some interesting ideas being brought up, and I thought I might pile on to that as well.

And then, of course, there was Senator McCain's selection of Governor Sarah Palin as a running mate on the Republican ticket. Definitely some things worth saying there.

But I returned from APSA late on Saturday, and Sunday was Sunday, and Monday was a holiday which we spent hanging around the house, playing with the kids. And then it was Tuesday, and I had a lot of work to catch up on. Sure, all along, I was catching snippets of news on the radio and from the daily paper's headlines and from a cursory scan of my usual blogs, and I knew that there were some rather provocative things being thrown around regarding Palin and her family and her candidacy. But, well, par for the course, is all I thought.

Then finally, I get really plugged back into things yesterday, and let float a few general thoughts amongst some friends. And I get schooled. A couple of them let me know, in no uncertain terms, all about just what Andrew Sullivan (and, excuse me, but, well, damn--do people really still read that obsessive goofball? I suspect I haven't clicked on his blog in two years or more) and the New York Times and Maureen Dowd and US magazine and Diane Rehm and Jim Lehrer, etc., etc., have all been saying about her. The rumors. The photographs. The questions. The jokes. The contempt. All of which, I assure you, doesn't surprise me. I think--and have said more than a few times before--that the Republican party hacks and Thomas Franks of the world have (with very different aims in mind, but mostly similar strategies) twisted the alienation and resentment many white, rural and exurban, working and middle-class, Protestant voters feel from today's economic and cultural elites in all sorts of crazy ways, but that doesn't mean such alienation is groundless. There really is contempt out there. So, again, it doesn't surprise me that a fair amount of it would be directed at a female Alaskan governor with five kids. I just had kind of...well, missed it.

So I guess I'll just have to quote Ross Douthat here, and make my confession:

[A] number of readers seem to be under the impression that what we've been witnessing in the media and online over the past couple days is a very serious, nuanced and thoughtful exploration of Sarah Palin's record....If that's what you seriously, seriously think has been going on lately, then you should probably look elsewhere for analysis of the media's Palin coverage, because you and I are living on very different planets.

I'm pretty certain Ross and I are on the same planet. So I suppose the only explanation is...well, I don't read Daily Kos, or Huffington Post, or hang out around Free Republic or NRO or any other place which keeps track of their every post. I usually only take the time to read beyond the headlines at major newspapers and news websites when someone I trust and like refers to an article therein. I don't often read through the lengthy comment threads on even my favorite blogs. We don't get either network or cable television reception in our home (and don't miss it), so I'm not watching CNN, or FOX, or anything else. And I definitely, definitely, don't read Sullivan. So basically, when shitstorms like this happen, I'm pretty much useless. Lengthy ruminations on political-theoretical-cultural-moral issues I can handle, but if any of you are coming here for immediate commentary and outrage, please consider my pundit license to have long since been turned in.

More later. Good to be back.


Nate said...

I have exactly two blogs in my "Politics" folder in Bloglines. Yours and Mr. Andrew Sullivan's. Sullivan has his faults, I grant you. (The most prominent stem from his obligation/ability to post over forty posts a day, every day.) I sometimes wish, as someone who became a fan of his after reading his outstanding book Virtually Normal, that he spent more of his time in "lengthy ruminations" and less of his time in "shitstorms", the former of which paints a much better picture of him as a man. The fact remains, though, that shitstorms exist and are, for better or for worse, important. And I'm glad that Sullivan, compromising of him as it may be, is in the fray: his instincts aren't perfect, but they're better than so many.

scritic said...

Well, Sullivan stopped surprising me long ago; he gets far too excited and I miss the kind of arguments that I see at Matt Yglesias' or Kevin Drum's (and even, Ross Douthat). But his blog stays in my Reader because, like it or not, a hyper-popular high-traffic blog is a good way of staying in touch with what I call the "pulse of the moment". So that's why I still skim his posts. But yes, I have stopped reading him seriously.

Rob said...

Pulse of the moment, meh.

I've never really even heard of Andrew Sullivan.

Russell, I think you missed a pile of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

But I also think that Palin's nomination throws the race in an interesting direction.

Matt said...

Most of the "big" political blogs I don't read and I don't watch TV. I don't miss that at all. (When I do watch I'm amazed at how stupid it is.) I think you've been lucky to miss much of this. You can learn what little there is to learn about Palin in other ways and you can learn that most of what there is to her is bad, and much of what she's supposedly done is a lie and that it's a quite cynical and transparent ploy. (Don't just believe me, believe Peggy Noonan!) There's very little there, but it's not worth digging through the garbage over. You'll certainly not feel better after you do.

Russell Arben Fox said...

Nate, I am extremely gratified that you like my occasional reflections on things political enough to bookmark me. I suppose I may have come off harshly enough in my assessment of Andrew Sullivan that in might seem like I was attacking everyone who read him, and that's not what I meant to do. I respect a lot of what Sullivan used to produce, and I can respect someone who, as you say, recognizes that "shitstorms happen," and figure he's a good a guide as any (or in fact, perhaps better than many). All I can do is speak for myself, though, and for, I can't right now think of anything I've seen under his byline since about 2005 or 2006 that I really thought was worth the effort. To each their own, I guess. But thanks very much for reading.

Scritic, thanks also for your comment. What I say above about applies to the whole "pulse of the moment" thing as well, I suppose.

And Rob, Matt...well, thanks for sharing in my loneliness and disconnectedness from the 24-hour-"news" cycle, I guees.

tertium quid said...


It's good to have you back. Sullivan is an odd one, I must say. He is a fellow Oakeshottian (fellow with me, and meaning that he wrote his dissertation on Oakeshott and premised much of his book on conservatism on Oakeshott's account of the same), but actually manifests none of Oakeshott's skeptical disposition, falling for Mr. Bush or Mr. Obama like a teeny bopper listening to Elvis for the first time.

I look forward to your reaction to the Palin candidacy (and have noted Patrick Deneen's comments already) because I trust both of you as reasonable voices of populism.

I hope all is well in Kansas, and my new e-mail in Canada is Send me further agrarian posts and I will work on getting you a trip to Montreal.


harry said...

I think Obama will win through this campaign.

John B. said...

Good to have you back, Russell.

I think much of the strum und drang re the Palin selection is a sort of meta-outrage: people are upset not because of what is known about her but because of what isn't known. Like her or not, her record as a politician and her larger biography just aren't very substantial, even for determining indirectly what her political and policy views are; and most of what has been touted on her behalf as strengths has been revealed to be, at best, what Huck Finn would call "stretchers." Nor does it inspire confidence when the McCain campaign has sequestered Palin from the press and sees no reason to clear up some ethical concerns regarding Palin during her tenure as governor under active investigation by the Alaska legislature.

As for Sullivan, I read him regularly: for me, his blog serves as a sort of RSS reader for the conservative blogosphere. His gradual coming to see the Bush administration for what it is in the wake of Abu Ghraib was, I suspect, a bit ahead of the curve relative to public opinion, and I respect him for that--I'd started reading him before then and would regularly be ticked off by what I saw as his blindness to the administration's gross errors and "misunderestimates" in Iraq. I do wish at times he weren't quite so consumed by The Moment and would step back and try to take a longer view of things. But excitability aside, for my money there's no more clear-eyed critic of what passes for "conservatism" in this country. Also, in the wake of the Palin selection, it's been interesting to see some neo-cons that parted ways with him over Iraq express their serious concerns about her in much the same terms as he has.

Anyway. Have fun catching up on all this.