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The Preemptive Self-Pity Two-Step


Beth linking to it earlier reminds me that this, from Belle Waring, deserves to be quoted in full:

What did Freddie deBoer have to say to feminists who make jokes on the internet? That they are not intellectually rigorous, that they are insecure, emotional and spiteful, that they are incapable of defending feminism with rational arguments, that they “flip out” when confronted with logic, that they “censor” people when they don’t want to deal with anything other than the false flattery of servile male feminists, etc. etc. etc. These are the most tedious sexist criticisms ever. I’m sorry, but they are—insultingly so.

DeBoer is making a larger point which, if it were not so hideously sexist, would have some merit. Recursive LOLspeak and self-critical whiteness can be an idle diversion for minds that would be more profitably engaged in political activism. Frothing oneself to a lather about the latest outrage is counterproductive if it only redirects energy away from real issues. OK! These are, in principle, valid criticisms of the internet progressive milieu. HOWEVER: a) this goes awry when the complaint is a sexist one that codes the lamentable unseriousness as female b) the criticism itself can and has become an irritable gesture, quite entirely another matryoshka doll inside the online feminist one! The pose of the Orwell-like contrarian who calls people to action with high-minded seriousness is…also a pose! If you are mcmanus-sensei, you call for burning shit down at every opportunity and lament the trifling concerns of others. Then you accuse people of harbouring a desire for fascist conformity because they like monumental architecture. You didn’t see that coming, did you? No? That’s because mcmanus-sensei is a better troll than deBoer, who has a limited range. Every day Freddie deBoer turns his face to serious issues, and every day the paltry concerns of feminists online blast him like an ill-wind of dick-jokes, a Boreas enjoining him to drink a tall, cold glass of STFU, which batters his doughty vessel but cannot prevent him from steering on, tacking back and forth in the direction of personal liberation, which project he needs no woman’s approval to undertake [swelling strings and snapping pennants].

A couple additional points:

  • In response to libarbarian here, nobody “responded” to de Boer’s immediate substantive point about Brauer’s tweets because Brauer’s tweets are obviously indefensible.  The problem with de Boer’s post was not that he was critical of Brauer but that he cited the tweets of an utter nonentity that nobody of any influence defended as representative of American liberalism in general, a frequent and deeply irritating feature of his writing.  The fact that he incoherently combined this with a ridiculously overwrought attack on a mild bit of observational humor and his latest argument that a website edited by women wasn’t “challenging” its readers enough (presumably, by agreeing more with Freddie de Boer) just made it worse.  (As politicalfootball observed, “When this ‘major tactic’ is used, he claims to be offended by its use. When it’s not used, he’s still offended.”)
  • Making Brauer the Very Face of American Liberalism Today is even more problematic when your immediate response to any criticism is generally to note that you’re just a Daily Dish blogger with 4,000 twitter followers who palpably craves attention a humble grad student nobody with a WordPress blog.
  • The rhetorical value of the “I am but a simple WordPress caveman” routine should, however, be made clear by this classic CT comments thread. Freddie enters the conversation by making an generalization about the quality of research published in social science journals he can’t possibly know enough to defend, combined with an insinuation that anyone who doesn’t agree with him (including the accomplished researcher of you can probably guess which gender who wrote the OP) isn’t a serious researcher.  After being called out on it, he immediately retreats into belligerent self-pity, building up to attacks on imaginary people citing their Ivy League credentials without bothering to engage with the criticisms that were being made of his position on the merits.  If enjoy saying things like “all liberals like torture because Alan Dershowitz” and “this tweet from former vice president of the Duluth Young Democrats just destroyed the American left,” this excuse comes in very handy.  It also highlights the sexism of his repeated assertions that women online Will Not Rationally Engage.
  • I should note here that I haven’t actually read the latest uvam acerbam magnum linked to by Rob above, so perhaps the excerpts in comments are unrepresentative and this one actually gets around to making some points on the merits after all the whining about how he never really wanted the attention reflected by a miniscule percentage of this blog’s posts anyway.  And maybe The Human Centipede III surpasses the achievement of The Rules of the Game, but in both cases I’m happy to play the odds.
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