Monday, March 13, 2006


I begin to suspect the reason the Left is so cowardly is that it has abandoned the notion of Transcendance. If you really believe this world is all there is, and that even most of that consists of cynical crap about power struggles between race, class, and gender, it becomes exceedingly hard to find reasons to put your neck on the line for anything. But the human heart goes on demanding heroism of itself. So the Left settles for the child's game of pretending to be courageous by standing up to Tom Monaghan, or calling Bush "Hitler", or similar variations on double-dog daring each other to knock on the door of the widow down the street, shout the F word, and run away. If they actually had to face a real tyrant or threat, they would crumple like tin foil. It's kind of sad, really. I miss Harry Truman.

I ran across the gem just above while doing my usual sweep through the blogosphere yesterday. It's hard not to rise to bait like that, and I did. Unfortunately, however, you won't find anything in the site-owner's Comments section in this respect. It seems that the echo-chamber syndrome has struck him with a vengeance, and I have been banned from his site.

Just so no one jumps to hasty conclusions, I'll tell the story here. Be warned: it has its twists and turns, and even some self-mockery. It has cowardice, lies and over-generalizations aplenty. But—and this I guarantee, although it's hardly necessary to do so for my small but hardy band of regular readers—you will find no X-rated language here, no abuse, no violence, not even the herbs and spice of a good personal jibe. This is Dawg’s Blawg, after all, not Pulp Fiction. Kids are always welcome.

First, let me introduce Mark Shea. He runs a religious blog called Catholic and Enjoying It. It is hard to pigeonhole Mr. Shea. He is generally conservative, but hates what the Bush Administration is doing at Gitmo. He is into Church politics, but is not an extremist: if you want to know about the dread "RadTrads," head on over there. He is also capable, however, of breathtakingly silly comments such as the one above.

Among the cast of characters there is also Kathy Shaidle, who needs no further introduction, and won't get one either, nor will she get a link; someone named Paul who appears to be a co-religionist; some supporting actors on what's left of the Comments thread; and Dr. Dawg himself.

Let’s get the offending paragraph, for "offending" it is, out of the way first. That a person could write such a thing while the news of Tom Fox's death is still reverberating in the media speaks volumes about his world-view. Lacking courage, eh? With Canadians Harmeet Sooden and Jim Loney, and Norman Kember from the UK (who are still alive, many of us hope, but not all), Fox literally put his body on the line for his pacifist and progressive beliefs. It was an act of courage and of integrity so profound that even conservatives in the blogosphere have published respectful pieces. One of them got labelled “lib-leftish” for her pains, but that's the breaks.

Among others who would no doubt be sweepingly dismissed as "cowardly" by Mr. Shea are Nobel laureates Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, NAACP activist Rosa Parks (not to mention Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andy Goodman), the countless other folks who did dangerous sit-ins and voter registration in the Deep South, and, earlier on, IWW union organizers like "Big Bill" Haywood and IWW members like Helen Keller (yes, that Helen Keller)…and the list goes on. And on.

Let’s be blunt: anyone who states that the "left" is composed of cowards is seriously out of touch with the phenonomenal world. It's a preposterous claim, advanced in an unsubtle petitio principii sort of way. It amounts, quite frankly, to revisionist history. The little flourish at the end seems quite in keeping with the rest of the fantasy, too. Harry S. Truman? The man who courageously ordered from his executive office that A-bombs be dropped on the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Is that the man we’re talking about?

But I didn’t get into much of that over at Shea's. I did, in my initial posting, mention Tom Fox and Rachel Corrie, though. (I also made the foolish mistake of stating that Shea was using the word "Left" to describe anything he didn’t happen to like, but more on that in a moment.) That’s where things began to come apart.

It appears that Shea is somewhat of an admirer of Kathy Shaidle, and it was the latter who had sparked this particular post on his part with an entry at her place about T-shirts emblazoned with swastikas and the slogan “Vote Republican.” A pretty easy target, when you come to think of it, Korporate Amerika making bucks by dissing Korporate Amerika, but this is the blogosphere, and easy targets are our stock in trade. In any case, he linked to her site, and, immediately following what I thought was a pretty inoffensive post over all, Shaidle's trademark blizzard of dry ice landed in the Comments section.

Tom Fox, she said, should have bought an expensive sports car to deal with his middle-aged Angst. As for Rachel Corrie, she was "about as courageous as Patty Heart (sic)." One commentator roasted her for the first throwaway line. I'm still scratching my head over the latter one. But she also accused me of stalking her.

Now, boys and girls, that's a pretty serious charge. Stalking is a specific offence in the Criminal Code of Canada. To accuse someone of that falsely is libellous, and, for what it's worth, actionable. As you know, however, I don’t approve of suing bloggers, so I merely point this out. That this took place in Mark Shea’s version of Fantasyland seemed oddly appropriate, though. Here I was, at Shea’s site, engaging a comment made by Shea, and making no reference whatsoever to Kathy Shaidle, and she drives by to claim that this constitutes stalking. Of her. She's so vain...

It is true, of course, that Kathy and I have crossed swords on occasion, in the Comments section of blogs in which we happen to share an interest. She doesn't permit comments at her site, but I have been known to take a swipe or two at her views on mine. In fact, the very first comment I ever received—now archived at Haloscan until I spring for their "pro" version—was a warm and cuddly little post from none other than Shaidle herself, which I richly deserved, to be honest, having mentioned her and others in an unkind fashion in my maiden post. But that's run-of-the-mill blogosphere give and take. She went after me on a few occasions for using a nom-de-plume; I would obligingly uncloak, but it never made a difference. I referred to her infamous "Newsflash: Arabs are violent retards" header more than once, but I haven't been alone in that. She draws attention for that sort of thing, including mine, but Antonia Zerbisias, for one,has probably spent more time on Shaidle than I have.

So much for the "stalker" charge, which I asked her to take back, not under threat but out of decency. I also wrote directly and non-threateningly to Shea, pointing out that a line had been crossed on this occasion. But then a new actor entered the scene, one "Paul." He went after me like a rabid pit bull for daring to besmirch the name of Shea by my stating that he had misused the word "Leftist" to mean anything that displeased him.

The truth? I was wrong. He hadn't done anything of the kind. I am so used, by now, to hearing the word "leftist" employed by conservatives to describe everything from neo-Nazism to parking in a fire lane—one commentator over at Dust My Broom even called Pat Buchanan a "leftist," for crying out loud—that I over-reacted and over-generalized, not for the first time. Shea wasn't saying that all cowards, by virtue of being cowards, are "leftists." He was saying that all leftists, by virtue of being leftists, are cowards. Mea culpa, and I'm glad we cleared that one up. In fact, I did so over there.

The dénouement of this little saga? This morning, I discovered that Kathy's offending comment had been removed. And every word of every one of my posts had been as well, leaving what Osip Mandelstam once called "just enough people for half a dialogue."

And today we have a guest ending from A.A. Milne:

Tigger said: "Excuse me a moment, but there's something climbing up your table," and with one loud Worraworraworraworraworra he jumped at the end of the tablecloth, pulled it to the ground, wrapped himself up in it three times, rolled to the other end of the room, and, after a terrible struggle, got his head into the daylight again, and said cheerfully: "Have I won?"

Just another perfect day in the blogosphere.

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