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Being Shrill: A Credo


One strange thing about Stoller’s argument about centrist bloggers is that it strikes me as no longer true. Drum, Yglesias, and Marshall have all become much more aggressive and partisan over the last year. I don’t think any of them presume competence or good faith on the part of the Bush Administration at all. (Indeed, none of them ended up supporting the war, largely for this reason.)

And this change in tone has not gone unnoticed on the reactionarysphere. The reaction to Yglesias’s recent excellent article pointing out that war supporters are trying to start a “backstabbers” meme–where the failures of the war become, bafflingly,the responsibility not of the government who conceived and executed the plan but of the media for accurately reporting the results–is a case in point. Uberhack Glenn Reynolds responded, in addition to evidence-free claims that the American press is rooting for an American loss, with inevitable claims that MY has “gotten shriller.” As Yglesias responded, “let’s just say that calling your opponents ‘shrill’ is a good way to avoid engaging with what they say.”

The word “shrill” has become, of course, a primary means of trying to enforce definitions of partisanship that are strictly a one-way ratchet. Reynolds can smear his opponents repeatedly as “objectively pro-Saddam”, “rooting for the other side,” as part of the “moral rot” of something called “the left,” and this is safely within the bounds of good discourse. But if Paul Krugman uses rational arguments to explain why Bush was lying in claiming that his budget numbers don’t add up, denunciations of his shrillness (in lieu of engagement with his unassailable empirical claims) pervade the conservative media. Anybody who can name one right-winger who Reynolds has called “shrill” wins a valuable prize.

While the word “shrill” is basically meaningless when applied to prose, we know its primary recent usage–as a way to stigmatize intelligent, outspoken women who don’t know their place. Among the right of the blogosphere, its use has been expanded to cover all non-reactionaries who don’t know their proper place (which is, as Digby would say, to say “please sir, may I have another?”) What we must do, therefore, is to wear accusations of shrillness as a badge of pride. And this seems to be happening; centrists like Krugman are no longer willing to play by rules that require the left to have one hand tied behind its rhetorical back. This blog will hopefully be frequently “shrill” as defined by wingnuts, and proud of it.

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