Friday, December 9, 2011

troubling

A beautiful summation of your interactive scholarship of the past few months. I'm glad I was able to sit in and learn from your quest. -- a comment on Ta-Nehisi Coates's latest article for the Atlantic, arguing that the Civil War was not tragic.

For me, it's the same as always: the absolute refusal to consider the difference between sympathy for the South and principled opposition to war and killing makes the conversation useless. The essay is of a piece with everything Coates writes on the subject; again and again, I want to see a stance proffered on moral resistance to the act of intentionally taking human life, and instead it's a constant return to the old refrains against romanticizing the antebellum South. Well: yes, every facet of romanticizing the Confederacy is wrong and offensive. And there are many versions. But the refusal to condone killing out of a conviction that killing is always wrong is an entirely separate issue than supporting the "Lost Cause" or any other ugly trope about the South. Are Quakers allowed to oppose the killing that occurred in the Civil War? Are pacifists? Is there a moral difference between that kind of opposition and the kind that laments the loss of the Confederate way of life? I don't know, even though I've read thousands of words from Coates on the subject.

"But our general sense of the war was that a horrible tragedy somehow had the magical effect of getting us free. Its legacy belonged not to us, but to those who reveled in the costume and technology of a time when we were property."

And what of those who revel in precisely nothing about it? What of those who find the condition of slavery tragic, and any and all consequences of it necessarily tragic, including the war that ended that condition? What of those who are invested in the Greek meaning of "tragic," the sense in which unhappy events are played out inevitably as a result of a flaw in character? What about those who simply do not confuse a moral conviction about killing with attitudes towards "costume and technology?"

"But we have stories too, ones that do not hinge on erasing other people, or coloring over disrepute." 

This, is so powerful to me. Yeah, I want to be a part of this team.


Coates and his supporters are free to argue on whatever terms they want, but they also have to live within the confines of conventional language. And when they say that he has proven that "the Civil War was not tragic," I have to say, no, he hasn't. He has in fact refused even to consider the question beyond the narrow scope that he has defined, which is common to much of his work. And he and his supporters have shut down any proposed broadening of the discussion while basking in praise for having undertaken it. Whatever success in argument he's achieved has happened with distortion and sleight-of-hand, by insisting that principled opposition to war is the same as regard for the South when it isn't, or saying that tragic means "really sad" when it doesn't, or by acting as if proving one thing is the same as proving another. The more that a question is insisted away, the more pressing it seems.

I wish that I could articulate how this article reverberated in my soul. Better, I wish that you, TNC could feel that reverberation, and I could read how you described it. 

Now there are a whole host of ways that Coates or anybody could attack the pacifist's position. Opposition to violence, after all, is far, far less popular than support for violence, particularly in politics and particularly online. I am perfectly used to mockery, dismissal, and invective for what I think, and anyone antagonistic to my views can rest assured that the vast majority of people out there will belittle my beliefs. (Hey, there's one in the comments now.) But the issue remains separate from antebellum romanticism.

Figuring out how to say what you're saying, without sounding whiney and petulant is a testament to your strong intellect and to your solid commitment to following the truth wherever it leads.  Nice job.

BTW: Just for myself; for my part in any of it; knowingly or otherwise - and not because I think it's what you wanna hear, but for what it's worth, TNC - I'm sorry.


I have said before that I find the cult of personality he's created at the Atlantic a self-congratulatory creep show. If it were merely a case of someone on the Internet residing in a bubble of affection, hey, who cares. That's perfectly common. What disturbs me is that his defenders, largely white, express their support in terms so close to condescension, or offer praise so wild that it can't meaningfully regard the work at all. When I argue about this subject, his coterie inevitable says "for him, this is personal." That, to me, is a slap in the face, the kind of thing you say about someone who you think is incapable of defending himself. And it has everything to do with race, with a set of guilty white readers who are eager to be absolved of that guilt, and so seek really to deny any responsibility for their role in a racist society.

"For that particular community, for my community, the message has long been clear: the Civil War is a story for white people—acted out by white people, on white people’s terms—in which blacks feature strictly as stock characters and props."

I suspect that a substantial minority of Coates's considerable following is made up of people who do not, actually, think highly of him, though they suppose they do. I suspect that he attracts admiring white people who experience discussion of race as a kind of panic. I suspect that he fulfills for them the role of a racial avatar, someone to hold opinions on race for them, so that they neither have to engage in the hard work of fixing our racial inequalities nor feel indicted by his own observations on race in America. I suspect that for them Coates is not fully human, that he is another in a parade of black symbols who assuage their guilt and massage their egos, that he is a stock character, a prop, but never a human being to be evaluated and thus capable of being truly valued.

The world is a strange place. In the last couple weeks I saw bloggers who Coates will break bread with arguing in support of The Bell Curve, a text which argues (if one bothers to actually check) that the large majority of black people are significantly less intelligent than the large majority of white people. As was inevitable, apologies were offered and friendships maintained, all without the repudiation of the text itself. Historical inquiry is important and I value it, but surely the opinion that black Americans today are inherently inferior is of greater meaning for the future of justice. And yet there is a regard for race science that people can live with, in a way that they can't live with the idea that war is universally tragic. It's no wonder that so many white people find solace in arguments about the Civil War; in them, they find the opportunity to take stands on race that cannot possibly harm them in their day-to-day. They enjoy conviction without consequence, much as they enjoy the promise of the exoticized object, which is to be understood without being judged.

TNC says what he thinks and it is a great pleasure to hear what he says.  This essay ties up loose ends in my understanding of the Civil War like nothing else has.  Not that there is any end to it.  Slavery is the original sin in the New World.  The Civil War was a step in the direction of obviating that sin.  But we are still in process and always will be.  I suspect that TNC has some well thought out views of Abraham Lincoln and look forward to hearing of them.  He embodies all of the conflict and yet is above all of it.

I wonder about Coates. When he reads this endless commentary from white people trying to outdo each other in praising him, as the reach deeper and deeper for hyperbole, as they stretch their vocabularies to bless him with their benevolent white approval-- does he get embarrassed, at all? Does it become unseemly to him? Does he question where this all comes from? I imagine he must. Something is off, here. No one needs to have any sympathy for my convictions to say so. I find no value in universal assent, and beyond the poor optics of a bunch of people agreeing, I fear that it's exactly in those times-- in the deadening warmth of proud unanimity-- that something corrosive slips in the back door.

Update: I'm appending a link to this post by Tedra Osell, with bonus condescension from Belle Waring.

34 comments:

  1. Kool post. I agree there's a weird racial/social dynamic going on in the comments of TNC's blog, but since he bans everybody who disagrees with him in anything less than the most apologetic fashion, I see him as a lot more responsible for the sycophant culture that's developed. He built that community, it must be the sort of thing he wants.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think your posts are an important counterpoint to Ta-Nehisi's, and I appreciate the work you do on this blog in general. However, I'd like to point out one part of your arguments here and in other posts which I find troubling: your conflation of those who don't think pacifism is a realistic answer to certain questions, and those who celebrate violence and bloodshed for its own sake.

    "Opposition to violence, after all, is far, far less popular than support for violence, particularly in politics and particularly online. I am perfectly used to mockery, dismissal, and invective for what I think, and anyone antagonistic to my views can rest assured that the vast majority of people out there will belittle my beliefs."

    Instead of explaining why others should argue for your point of view instead of their own, here you play the victim and assume that those who disagree with your position are doing it out of a desire to belittle you, and others like you, to burnish their Very Serious credentials. Now, I'm not saying you're wrong that this motive exists. I think it certainly does. But I think it's a mistake to assume that those advancing arguments that do not "flatter your preconceptions" are completely unsympathetic to your point of view that, in general, war is bad.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am one of the occasional commenters at TNC's place, and I can agree that the effusive praise and sycophantism sometimes grates.
    But so much of the web is full of awful. nasty, unsupervised ranting, that I'll take a little overeager management and forgive the occasional ego-tripping for a place where the author engages with his community and occasionally takes their advice.
    I have been sympathetic to your point of view on the "tragic" issue. But I thought his most recent magazine piece was better than several of the preceding blog posts. His mentions of the words tragedy and tragic in this article are circumscribed: "tragic" is in the context of Shelby Foote, who he says presents the war as some big tragic misunderstanding. "Tragedy" in the context of civil war sites:

    The celebrated Civil War historian Bruce Catton best sums up this sense when he refers to the war as “a consuming tragedy so costly that generations would pass before people could begin to say whether what it had bought was worth the price.”

    What Coates is saying is that this painful, difficult cost/benefit analysis is done from the perspective of white people.
    I agree that it is frustrating when he claims the word "tragedy" for his own and no one else's, and then defines it as he sees fit. But in this case, I thought he was more precise than in the blog posts of the past, placing the tragedy in the context of historiography, and of visiting Civil War battlefields.
    Yes, the first sentences describes Gettysburg as the "epicenter of American tragedy," but I remember my middle school class field to Gettysburg too, and I remember it feeling like church, or a funeral. My sense is that Civil War memory, as seen from battlefields seems to regard the "heroes" of Pickett, Stonewall Jackson, Nathan Bedford Forrest with an uneasy appreciation, but from what I can tell, Coates wants us to realize that to people like him, they are Bin Laden, they were bent on destroying his kind of people. I don't think he is arguing for raucous celebrations in front of the White House, but just for us to notice that all the funereal hushed tones seem a bit odd. If you can get over his bizarre fixation (and your own) on the meaning of the word "tragedy" I think that is a valid point.

    ReplyDelete
  4. However, I'd like to point out one part of your arguments here and in other posts which I find troubling: your conflation of those who don't think pacifism is a realistic answer to certain questions, and those who celebrate violence and bloodshed for its own sake.

    A serial failing of mine, and one prompted by the marginalization that I once value and hate. It's not something I'm particularly proud of.

    If you can get over his bizarre fixation (and your own) on the meaning of the word "tragedy" I think that is a valid point.

    On the issue of the offensiveness, factual inaccuracy, and ugliness of romanticizing the antebellum South, or views of the Civil War as a tragic misunderstanding, I am in complete accord.

    ReplyDelete
  5. There's a simple answer to your question, but you have to actually read Coates to understand it. Coates is, as he's said a hundred times, very much coming out of the black nationalist world. And a fundamental principle of that world is a denial of pacifism (you might recall that pacifism vs. militance was kind of an important debate for black political theorists).

    Partly, that's because pacifists in questions of war are generally a pretty small faction---when Coates argues against those who insist the Civil War was tragic, he ignores pacifists because very, very few of those arguing for the tragedy of the war are pacifists, most are just nostalgists. He doesn't respond to them for the same reason few people bothered to respond to proposals that the health-care crisis could be fixed with homeopathic crystals. Inasmuch as pacifism is being considered---which is not much---it's with the same weary contempt any black nationalist would direct at those who insist that everything will be better if the oppressed just keep turning cheeks.

    You can certainly make the pacifist case for the tragedy of the civil war. But it rests on a whole lot of counterfactuals: *if* Africans had not been enslaved by violence, *if* there was any indication that nonviolent resistance would have brought freedom, *if* the north had been more willing to act as a safe haven. Then a pacifist response to the horror of slavery would have made sense. But none of that was the case. Given that none of it was the case, the black nationalist position is to regard pacifists as of little use to the cause of freedom or justice save as defenders of passivity, who will do nothing but harm in the real world. You are mocked and dismissed not because people are meanies, but because they regard pacifist thinking as worse than useless, with nothing to contribute to oppressed people who wish to be less oppressed (note that the dismissal of pacifism is not to be confused with a dismissal of nonviolent resistance---the former is a tactic which is sometimes successful, the latter is a principle which regards success as irrelevant).

    For all your insistence that those who admire Coates are really, secretly racists, I can imagine little more condescending than your insistence that Coates take your pacifism seriously simply because you say so, when rejection of pacifism is the very bones of his thinking. It's not "personal", it's philosophical, but like all philosophy, it plays very differently for those on the other end of the whip.

    ReplyDelete
  6. If one believes that the Civil War was the only way to move toward freedom and equality for blacks at that point in time, that it was necessary, actually makes the event entirely tragic.

    I don't think it's contradictory to say that one is happy for such an outcome, even though the means to achieving it were tragic.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Echoing some of the other commenters, I think you're completely talking past Coates. He just isn't addressing pacifism.

    There are a very large number of people, including many (most?) American liberals, who will say that the Civil War was "tragic" in a way that they would never say World War II was "tragic." That's what he's talking about.

    You complain a lot about how people aren't refuting a pacifist argument that you haven't made. If you want to make a case for a pacifist response to slavery, do it! But then you will have to deal directly with what it means for a member of the oppressor group (you) to tell the oppressed that they are morally compelled to turn the other cheek.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I think you need to do "both/and" here. As in, the Civil War was perhaps inevitable given the South's intransigent insistence to the point of war on enslaving and brutalizing millions of people, and also tragic because it resulted in such a bloody human waste. I guess it depends on the tone you strike in characterizing it. Understandably, TNC feels that ending this evil was a good thing and wants to emphasize that rather than the sheer human carnage. Taken too far, that position can flirt with a fairly ruthless Lenin-style take that making an omelet requires breaking a lot of eggs. To avoid that, I think it's unbalanced to neglect either side of the ledger - as the Battle Hymn says, it was a war to set them free, and we should celebrate that while still remembering the horrible meat grinder that the war was. Can you celebrate something tragic which you also mourn? Maybe schizo, but that's what I would do.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I am consistently amazed by your sweeping and inept amateur psychoanalysis of bloggers/commenters.

    ReplyDelete
  10. For most of what you say, Fuzzy, my persistent troll, as always-- cool story, bro. For this:

    For all your insistence that those who admire Coates are really, secretly racists, I can imagine little more condescending than your insistence that Coates take your pacifism seriously simply because you say so

    When have I ever insisted on such a thing at all? Oh, that's right: never.

    Echoing some of the other commenters, I think you're completely talking past Coates. He just isn't addressing pacifism.

    I am, here, in my space, and any kind of comprehensive consideration of this issue requires it.

    There are a very large number of people, including many (most?) American liberals, who will say that the Civil War was "tragic" in a way that they would never say World War II was "tragic."

    You should take that up with them.

    But then you will have to deal directly with what it means for a member of the oppressor group (you) to tell the oppressed that they are morally compelled to turn the other cheek.

    When have I ever told anyone that they are morally compelled to turn the other cheek? I've done no such thing, and certainly not here. In fact we're talking about events that are long past and people who are long dead.

    At the end of the day, this is about one thing: Coates's unceasing conflation of the statement "the Civil War was tragic" with "the Civil War wasn't about slavery/the South had its good parts/I miss the architecture of the plantation houses." Those are entirely separate arguments, practically, morally, emotionally.... This difference has been pointed out to him in his comments by people other than me. He responded the way he usually does: he banned those commenters and solicited applause from his followers.

    I am consistently amazed by your sweeping and inept amateur psychoanalysis of bloggers/commenters.

    And yet your obsession remains.

    ReplyDelete
  11. This difference has been pointed out to him in his comments by people other than me. He responded the way he usually does: he banned those commenters and solicited applause from his followers.

    Do you have any examples of these banned posts? Obviously the nature of banning makes this somewhat difficult to record. However, while I have not read his comment section lately, I don't recall the wielding of the ban hammer with such a heavy hand.

    I think you have shown the existence of overly fawning comments. I think that's a fairly common phenomenon of active commenter community that defend their own borders. There are other benefits but as you say there are risks of getting too insulated.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I don't get it. There is a strong narrative in American culture that the Civil War was "tragic" in a way that other wars generally regarded as just were not. Coates' essay is about that. He is using the word "tragic" in the way Shelby Steele et al. use the word "tragic" in reference to the Civil War, because that it what his essay is about. He believes that this use of the word in reference to the Civil War, and the narrative it implies, is pernicious.

    He is not saying that to be a pacifist is to romanticize the antebellum South. He doesn't even get close to that. He is saying that to speak of the Civil War as "tragic" in the sense that it represented a failure of Northern and Southern whites to live up to American ideals is to erase blacks from history.

    Maybe your problem is that you do not believe this narrative of the Civil War is widespread or worth refuting? If so, Coates disagrees. You are criticizing him for not writing a completely different essay.

    If you're a pacifist you would necessarily have to maintain that black slaves in America were never justified in using violence to defend themselves. That's what I meant about turning the other cheek.

    ReplyDelete
  13. You don't get it because you haven't been through all the context. Coates has regularly defended a blanket statement that the Civil War wasn't tragic. People like Erik Kain have written about ways in which that statement can be disputed. Coates has responded by doubling down and insisting that there is no such legitimate, non-offensive reading. That's what I'm reacting to.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Why bother taking a man seriously who says something as ridiculous as, "Slavery is the original sin in the New World." Really? Well, yes, if you shrug off that whole genocide thing. Slavery was the loincloth.

    ReplyDelete
  15. My apologies of course, my above comment is beside the point and likely not worth the comment. Love your work, keep it up.

    ReplyDelete
  16. OK, I went back and read some of the other posts including yours and E.D. Kain's and two of Coates'. I don't think I missed anything and I still don't get it. Coates has been making one argument throughout, that there is a particularly narrative in which the Civil War is often called tragic and that this narrative is bad and borne of white privilege. You guys are not engaging that at all.

    I don't know why you're even talking about the imagined psychology of Coates' white commenters. Why does it matter? Just skimming the comments on that article, there are quite a few commenters who identify themselves as black praising the essay, too. Maybe it's just a good essay.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Maybe we still need to be asking what the Civil War actually accomplished. It doesn't seem to me that we've arrived at a happy solution to the race problem; are there any other goods claimed for it? I'm not a pacifist at the personal level: someone using a lash should have it taken away from him. Or her. The problem with war is that once violence becomes unrestricted, collateral damage is a given, even a who-cares. Innocents suffer, accumulated wealth created by the labor of hands is destroyed, old grievances are nurtured and new ones created. War leads to poverty and more war.

    Eliminating chattel slavery was something that needed doing, and likewise reforming the Germany of the 30's. But WWII didn't prevent the Holocaust, and the Civil War didn't lift American Blacks to a decent life. I have to believe that if we-all humans had exercised civilized virtue and put the same amount of effort into it that in the event we put into any typical modern war, we could have actually accomplished something. That we did not is, indeed, tragic.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Ah, golubchik moi, I'm not trolling, I'm disagreeing, with some hope of communicating to you what you're missing. In particular, you don't seem to know enough about---or unwilling to acknowledge--- the black nationalist thought that's motivating all of Coates' exploration, in which the repudiation of pacifism is pretty fundamental.

    It's not just that you're talking past him, it's that you're arguing from principles that he denies, and if you want to make a serious argument, you must engage with that denial. You must make some argument for why African-Americans would have been better off embracing pacifism (saying "I'm not saying anyone in particular should have turned the other cheek because hey, this was all long ago" is obviously lame), or why the moral principles of pacifism transcend African-Americans' wish to not be enslaved.

    Oh, and in answer to your question about when you insist that Coates should take pacifism seriously even though you fail to take seriously his repudiations of it, I would be thinking of lines like "I want to see a stance proffered on moral resistance to the act of intentionally taking human life," Coates, you see, does not believe that the intentional taking of human life is inherently immoral---like most people, he believes it is often painful, but also often necessary, and can be celebrated when it is bringing punishment down on those who profited from horror, even as it ends that horror. Again, if you wish to argue with Coates on that point, you need to actually argue with Coates on that point, not grumble that he isn't taking the stance you want and then pivoting to dislike of his comment threads.

    Brendan, you're quite right that Coates is replying to those who would call the Civil War tragic in a way they wouldn't say of WWII. But then, Freddie has approvingly quoted pacifist statements from 1935, so perhaps he would call WWII equally tragic (though it's hard to tell, as he never bothered to articulate what he thought of 1930s pacifism). Whether it's a pacifism of principle or outcomes is hard to say, as he tends to resort to contentless internet memes when asked pointed questions.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I don’t understand the passion this argument – pro or con – excites. Or I do understand, but feel slightly embarrassed for both parties.

    My thesis: unless one is consciously trying to express and explore one’s OWN particular thoughts and feelings about the Civil War, it is pointless arguing about whether the Civil war or wasn’t tragic. In fact, it was PRECISELY to hobble this species of galloping, toothless abstraction that Tolstoy wrote War and Peace. Have we still not learned that!?

    One could say, as I routinely do, ‘Life is tragic’. You could also say, in the same muttering tone, ‘War is tragic.’ These are simple assertions and legitimate, meaningful abstractions because their scope is strictly universal.

    To say the Civil War was/wasn’t tragic, however, is not a legitimate abstraction. However you slice or dice it, the word expresses a judgment that can ONLY refer to the person using it; it has nothing to do with the actuality of the Civil War itself, and those who lived it and suffered it.

    About the most we can say is: I feel/don’t feel the Civil War was tragic from my own particular perspective within my own particular understanding of the word ‘tragic’, and the people who lived through and fought in the Civil War experienced it as tragic or not tragic in their equally particular ways. To put it most simply: for this freed slave it was this particular complex of emotions and thoughts; for this mother of a slain Yankee son it was this particular complex of emotions and thoughts; and so on and so forth.

    Nor I am advocating some empty historical relativism. No, I’m merely sticking up for the dignity of the Real, which is always trying to remind bloggers and historians and other intellectuals in the public sphere that expressive power flows from specificity and concretion, and it is therefore beyond inane to waste our time debating specious abstractions; unless, of course, we have had a few to drink, and feel like being crude and sweeping.

    ReplyDelete
  20. 'whether the Civil War was or wasn't tragic'.

    (Sorry, really need to reread my comments.)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

    ReplyDelete
  22. The War of Northen Aggression
    also featured the first American dictator's suspension of habeus corpus and was fought for yankee cheap labor not for theories of racial egalitarianism.

    Coates is simply leveraging white guilt as much as possible. I wonder if he has considered when the nation collapses, millions of for example Eastern European whites and Russians are guilt-free and tough as nails.

    ReplyDelete
  23. This whole debate is not as complicated as it appears. Coates is interpreting the not-uncommon view that the Civil War is *particularly* tragic. That is, more tragic than other wars (eg, WWII and Independence). He is not always clear about this. If all wars are tragic, then the question is of little interest to him, as far as I can tell.

    By the way, it seems to me that a stronger pacifist position is to view war not as tragic, but as stupid or malevolent.

    ReplyDelete
  24. "He has in fact refused even to consider the question beyond the narrow scope that he has defined, which is common to much of his work."

    This is one of the weirdest criticisms of anything that I have ever come across. Surely you're aware Coates is not under any obligation to consider facets of a question that fall outside his defined scope...?

    If that's what you really want from Coates, though--to say things other than what he says--it points up that your critique here is just an academic one. Coates to you is some guy who just didn't do his homework properly, just didn't read the requisite Aristotle or whoever.

    Step off it, Freddie. I'm sure Coates is a just a middling talent with a sycophantic following. But your engagements with his work just turn you into something ugly.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Paragraphs as honest as the one beginning 'I have said before' are why I read you, Freddie

    ReplyDelete
  26. So, I actually went back and looked at some of the original Coates posts on this "Civil War Isn't Tragic" theme. There are loads of comments disagreeing with him. Your claim that he cultivates an echo chamber or whatever is just completely false, as far as I can tell.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Would he agree that the Civil War was unfortunate?

    Would he agree that a possible world where slavsry ended as a result of something other than war is a better world than the actual world?

    If not, would he think that a possible world that had a much bloodier civil war -with the same eventual outcome- would be a better world? (I'm sure he wouldn't, which means he agrees that the less viloence the better the world, in most cases. Thus, the more violence, the more regrettable and "tragic" the event.)

    Most of TNC's position is hair-splitting over the word "tragic." I think he could've made the point he wanted to make against Southern love of the Confederacy much more clearly. Agree that war is tragic, but the Confederacy was on a moral par, or in the same ballpark, with the Nazi's. End of discussion, no need to parse the many uses of "tragic."

    ReplyDelete
  28. But I agree with most of what Freddie says here.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Freddie,

    I suspect you don't like me and are often annoyed by my comments over at The American Scene, but for some strange reason I keep coming over to your website to read your crazed left-wing writing and I'm rewarded time and time again with posts like this one.

    My only comment would be that some of us think of war as both tragic and necessary -- part of the human condition. To the extent pacifists want to force us to confront the horrors of war and always, always, always try and force nations to figure out alternatives to war; you are doing God's work. While I'm someone who is glad the North beat the South (or the Allies beat the Axis) the price we paid in both wars was terrible and should push us to figure out ways in which we can achieve noble ends without mass industrial killing.

    ReplyDelete
  30. "When have I ever insisted on such a thing at all ['that those who admire Coates are really, secretly racists']? Oh, that's right: never."

    I don't think it's a particular stretch to interpret this as saying exactly that, and it's a long, and clearly very carefully crafted paragraph.

    "I suspect that a substantial minority of Coates's considerable following is made up of people who do not, actually, think highly of him, though they suppose they do. I suspect that he attracts admiring white people who experience discussion of race as a kind of panic. I suspect that he fulfills for them the role of a racial avatar, someone to hold opinions on race for them, so that they neither have to engage in the hard work of fixing our racial inequalities nor feel indicted by his own observations on race in America. I suspect that for them Coates is not fully human, that he is another in a parade of black symbols who assuage their guilt and massage their egos, that he is a stock character, a prop, but never a human being to be evaluated and thus capable of being truly valued."

    ReplyDelete
  31. You're just pissed because he told you to write at you own blog instead of writing pissy comments at his. And please, don't assign your own issues to the commenters at his place ("they're secrectly racists and are just being condescending to him!"). And as so many commenters have said here, he's not responding to the pacifists argument about the tragedy of the Civil War, he's responding to the Lost Causers. Go write a big, detailed post of why the Civil War IS a tragedy from a pacifist point of view, and see how Coates respond to you. That would be a better use of your time than all this amateur psychoanalyzing about other bloggers. You do know that you sound like a 2-year-old throwing tantrums because he's not allowed at the big boys' table, right? And please, please, DON'T regurgitate that stuff about "I'm in the outside because I want to and because the insiders are so damn corrupt" bull. We all know how you really feels about it, you're not fooling anyone else, FYI, so stop fooling yourself. I guarantee, you'll feel better, and maybe you can then stop being so personally nasty to other bloggers. That's right, PERSONALLY NASTY. Your criticisms of these bloggers, while making some good points at times, are not taken seriously because you can't help yourself from making nasty personal attacks and digs. When you get personal, that's when people suspect that your motive is based more on personal jealousy rather than ideological disagreements.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Try writing at least one post a week where if you disagree with someone, you JUST attack their positions and arguments. No digs about mainstream bloggers, establishment cred, sychophant (and secretly racist commenters), etc etc. Baby steps and all that. By the way, I think what you'e just bursting to say is that you don't think Coates deserves his position and the admiration he's received. that he is only getting all that because he's black. (Probably even taking the place of a more deserving white guy not unlike yourself). You're not fooling anyone about that too, FYI.

    ReplyDelete
  33. And I know what your response is going to be to my "attack" - you're going to say that it's the familiar tactics of the establishment to try and silence people like you through personal attacks. I have some responses to that:

    Cool it a little with the persecution complex. You're not Jesus, frankly, in the political blogging world, you're not all that important that the "establishment" would feel the need to silence you.

    It's not even an accurate response since I'm just an anonymoud commenter, hardly the "establishment".

    People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, when you lie down with dogs, you reap what you sow, etc etc. When you've pretty much made a living (mataphorically speaking, of course, I don't think you're making any money from blogging) making nasty personal attacks against other people, it's tasteless to turn around and complain of persecution when you're the one being personally attacked.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.