March 20, 2003

A Policy on Politeness, on Acceptable Comments, and on Other Matters

This is not usenet.

Be polite--to me, and to other commenters. Or your comments may be gone.

The decision of the judge is final.

Posted by DeLong at March 20, 2003 07:42 AM | TrackBack

Comments

It's a sad commentary on our times when you can't even call someone a "theocratic intellectual zombie" without getting harshed.

Posted by: Paul Zrimsek on July 16, 2002 01:31 PM

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Ann Coulter, call your office!

Civility and politeness being in such abundance from Prof. DeLong, who recently called Andrew Sullivan a "truly loathsome toad" for the crime of telling an unfunny joke.

For those of you who have been deprived of the opportunity to read what Brad doesn't want you to, go to:

http://www.musil.blogspot.com/

And ask yourself, what's not civil and polite?

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 16, 2002 02:41 PM

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Brad, it's your play-pen, use it as you wish. In the last 18 hours I have been called, in MY comments section 'genocide-boy, 'racist swine', 'punk-ass' and i'm not sure what else. But yiy show yourself to be a true wuss if yiou can't take the heat. I leave ALL my comments up. In the event someone anon spewed racist drivil, i would remove it, but as i'm not a Liberal, I guess that I can take it. You can't, and I think that that speaks vloumes about your lack of character and backbone. Get tough or lose the blog. buh-buh~

Posted by: dawson on July 16, 2002 03:24 PM

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Dear Professor DeLong,

I really enjoy your blog, and I think you have a lot of interesting things to say. That Robert Musil is so, well, impolite - I'm glad you deleted his thoughts! I wanted to give him a good, hard shake, he made me so MAD.

I would never dream of comparing you to Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler, or Mussolini! That is so RUDE.

However (and please don't take this the wrong way), every so often - just once in a while, you understand - I am tempted to slip in a little thought along the lines of suggesting that you may be just a little bit of a theocratic intellectual zombie, a strange creature from the ranks of the undead, a creature that belongs at the benighted court of the medieval imperial Pope.

Is that OK? Would you delete my comment if I wrote that?

Also, I know you are very busy. But when you have some time in your hectic schedule of a Berkeley on-the-go left-wing activist professor, could you post a list of all the people we ARE allowed to compare you to - so we can avoid being rude like that terrible Mr. Musil? Is it OK to compare you to, say, Liberace, but maybe Motley Crue or Richard Strauss would be going too far?

Again, I love you blog. I'm one of your biggest fans!

Posted by: Lacey Davenport on July 16, 2002 03:40 PM

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Mayhap these creative energies could be diverted by a CONTEST: Be the first to post an intellectually-rigorous comparison of our host -- or other living human notable, for that matter -- to Pol Pot, or to a stew pot, or melting pot, or poker pot, or any other kind of pot.

Suggested prize: virtual immortality, plus a couple of virtual utiles to be budgeted rationally within this unlimited virtual lifetime.

Posted by: RonK, Seattle on July 16, 2002 05:03 PM

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Dr. DeLong, let me introduce you to Godwin's Law and its corollaries, a powerful set of web discourse forecasting tools. :)

Posted by: George Zachar on July 16, 2002 05:13 PM

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Boy, we have a lot of work to do here, folks. After we work through the legends of history (Attila - out? Nero - in?) we have the whole animal kingdom. Loathesome toad - in! Lying snake - who knows? Ape-psychology - in!

And I suppose there are any number of inanimate objects that might be candidates for inclusion, or exclusion. "You, sir, are a pot-holder!" Hmm, does that mean he can take the heat, or is it an insidious Pol-Pot comparison?

This could be complicated. Maybe, most honorable and respected Professor, the laughing academy currently employing you has a speech code you could publish as a time saver for all of us. Maybe we could ask the whole blogosphere to adopt it. We will ask politely, of course.

Highest regards,

Posted by: Tom Maguire on July 16, 2002 05:21 PM

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Taking one step back, I find it revealing that it is after criticizing a (Christian in this case) religious fundamentalist that Professor DeLong was to be flamed...

Besides, it is obvious that some sort of standard of politness have to be observed. I have seen too many discussion forums, newsgroups, etc. degenerate into complete vulgarity and nonsense because of an uncontrolled slip in that direction...

Nevertheless, I do think that comparing Brad to Pol Pot is actually a very very funny comparison, especially knowing how un-communist he is :) Does anybody needs a lesson in comparative economics?

From the Encyclopædia Britannica:

Communism

system of political and economic organization in which property is owned by the state or community and all citizens share in the common wealth, more or less according to their need.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on July 16, 2002 05:49 PM

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I think that requiring a certain level of politeness is essential to the maintenance of a high signal-to-noise ratio in any internet forum. I don't want to have an internet space in which people feel comfortable calling each other "genocide-boy" or "racist swine." It's not a lack of character or backbone, it's a desire to avoid the more unpleasant corollaries of Godwin's Law.

Brad DeLong

Posted by: Brad DeLong on July 16, 2002 06:04 PM

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After reading this post, and his post on health insurance "Health Insecurity", I think Bradley D is an a******e.

Regards,

Posted by: Tom Maguire on July 16, 2002 07:02 PM

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I'm sorry professor, but I'm not buying this. First of all, it's obvious that you devised this policy only after you'd decided to delete Musil's posts from your comments section.

Second, as has been demonstrated by the quotations above, this policy, if implemented Internet-wide, would most likely result in the deletion of a fair amount of your own work.

In the end, I can only conclude that your "Johnny come lately" policy was merely a convenient after the fact excuse for not having to put up with someone who disagreed with you. I'm sorry, but I'm afraid from now on I'll look upon anything and everything you do with a jaundiced eye.

Then again, when you're only comfortable arguing in an echo chamber of your own making, why would it ever really matter to you?

Posted by: Eric on July 16, 2002 07:37 PM

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Gee, I never saw the comment where someone used the phrase "genocide-boy", or "racist swine". Your quick editing, most exalted excellency, or just a strawman? A beautiful, well shaped, artfully crafted strawman, of course, sir, no disrespect intended, sir.

Aloha,

Posted by: Tom Maguire on July 16, 2002 09:57 PM

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Ah. I see that you have learned that if you start from license, where everything appears to be permitted, then punishments must be draconian and idiosyncratic if anything like the order the magistrate holds in his mind is to be realized.

If you had started with a much more restricted set of liberties, might you not have been able to maintain civil discourse by gentle persuasion than by naked force? (Albeit naked force of a purely virtual kind.)

Joseph de Maistre, amused

Posted by: Joseph de Maistre on July 16, 2002 11:50 PM

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Did "de Maistre" just say "You reap what you sow"?

Regards,

Posted by: Christian Table-pounder on July 17, 2002 03:50 AM

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People who want to think about these issues might consult:

http://rc3.org/cgi-bin/less.pl?arg=4288

and

http://www.denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2002/07/Shuttingdowntheforum.shtml

Posted by: Brad DeLong on July 17, 2002 09:29 AM

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Actually, I remember a post way, way, back, right after plastic.com opened, where Brad posted something along the lines of "the level of discussion is silly, forget this."

'Mr. "Musil" was much less "impolite" than you routinely are.'

Might I suggest there's a difference between '"The DeLong hatchet job is worth reading as evidence of the ongoing academic degradation and dishonesty in American universities...' and 'theocratic intellectual zombie'?

Posted by: Jason McCullough on July 17, 2002 01:40 PM

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'He almost sounded as if he was preparing to do something to get Justice Scalia. Maybe as a woman I'm more sensitive to these things, but I didn't like it at all.'

Oh, good lord. Have you been paying attention to anything said in politics for the last 30 years? Wallace, Limbaugh, Gingrich, Reed, Cheney, Delay, Liddy, Drudge, and Atwater, off the top of my head, have spewed invective at such a level that Brad's comments are the equivalent of a schoolyard taunt: remember when Gingrich blamed the Democrats for Susan Smith killing her kids in South Carolina? Forgive me, but it's pretty hilarious for the right to discover an intense fondness for respectful writing when a milder version of their own rhetorical ammunition is turned back on them.

Fred does make a good point; I think there's a slight distinction between accusations of academic dishonesty and a snarky description of Scalia's political opinions in favor of Brad, but it's splitting hairs. So: do you really expect to be able to post insulting comments to someone's own blog?

Posted by: Jason McCullough on July 17, 2002 05:55 PM

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Say, has this comment section been lobotomised?

So many comments have been deleted from this site that it's impossible to even understand what Jason is responding to. Isn't that getting to be a bit much.

And Jason's comments don't suggest that he thought he was responding to anything unusual.

What's going on here?

Posted by: Jesse on July 17, 2002 10:35 PM

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But these links to the good faith comment policies of other blogger sites are not germane.

As other people have also correctly noted, your so-called policies are "merely a convenient after the fact excuse for not having to put up with someone who disagreed with you."

It's not appropriate to reference the considerations of other bloggers who are trying to address real issues on their sites, when what you are doing is something entirely different.

You have had no real problem with impoliteness. Mr. "Musil" was much less "impolite" than you routinely are. In fact, "Musil" points out today on his blog that while you write seriously that Justice Antonin Scalia supports those who collaborated with Hitler ("Charles de Gaulle for his rebellion against the collaborationist French government of Philippe Petain and Pierre Laval stands, in Scalia's eyes, condemned as an enemy of God.") you pretend to be "offended" by "Musil's" obvious non-serious joke ("And I love the witty "Capiche?" at the end, Brad. You sound just like Mussolini when you say that while you pull the plug on nearby dissent, you old cutie. I’ll bet the girls love it, too!").

Don't you realize how bad you make yourself look with this posturing?

Posted by: Freddy McGuffy on July 17, 2002 11:13 PM

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>>while you write seriously that Justice Antonin Scalia supports those who collaborated with Hitler ("Charles de Gaulle for his rebellion against the collaborationist French government of Philippe Petain and Pierre Laval stands, in Scalia's eyes, condemned as an enemy of God.")<<

It's St. Paul who says that the power that is--for example, the Vichy government--is ordained of God, and to be obeyed. If Scalia thinks that St. Paul is correct in his claim that the powers that be are ordained of God, I don't see how he can escape the conclusion. Do you?

Brad DeLong

Posted by: Brad DeLong on July 17, 2002 11:25 PM

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You neatly bypass the basic question. Why is it acceptable for you to seriously compare Scalia to a Hitler collaborator, but not acceptable for "Musil" to joke that "You sound just like Mussolini when you say that while you pull the plug on nearby dissent, you old cutie."

There is a biblical story about the man who can see the sty in his neighbor's eye, but not the plank in his own.

Posted by: Freddy McGuffy on July 17, 2002 11:51 PM

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This is ridiculous. Pointing out that Scalia's position appears to intellectually commit him to supporting Petain against De Gaulle and George III against George Washington is a reductio ad absurdum of his argument (though frankly, since he stands condemned out of his own mouth on the issue of Martin Luther King, reductio ad absurdum might not be such a powerful tool here). It is in no way "seriously comparing him to a Hitler collaborator" and it is either mischievous, malicious or unforgivably dense to pretend not to be able to see the difference. The knockabout rhetoric I must confess to finding a bit tiresome, partly because I don't think Brad has enough malice to write it very well, but tastes differ.

Accusing Brad of academic degradation and intellectual dishonesty is a much more serious charge, and when it comes in the context of a boilerplate rant about academics in general, does not belong in the comments section of somebody else's weblog. Particularly when that rant seems to regard the major slur on Brad's academic entity as having been his failure to read every single right-wing blog extant and take everything they say as gospel. If I call my local cheesemaker a bastard, he is unlikely to retaliate except perhaps by repaying the compliment. If I say that he sells mouldy cheese, I have to expect that he won't let it pass. That is the principled distinction here -- aside for the fact that Musil did not even have the courtesy to write a proper comment on Brad's article rather than (as far as I can tell) simply cutting and pasting what he wrote for his own weblog.

Furthermore, your and Musil's attempt to pretend that the posts were deleted because of the "Mussolini" remark are wholly specious. It is very clear from looking at the facts of the case that the Mussolini remark was made *after* Brad had already deleted Musil's first post.

I will be happy to continue the discussion of the source and interpretation of the Biblical quote relating to motes and beams in the comments fora attached to Musil's weblog, I believe that the URL is http://musil.blogspot.com/i_should_cocoa

Posted by: dsquared on July 18, 2002 05:44 AM

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Perhaps all the righteous posturing of Tom McGuire et al might be more convincing if Brad had posted his original comments on Antonin Scalia's own web site...

Posted by: redmouse on July 18, 2002 07:45 AM

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The right wing herd is coming to the resuce of one of their own again, I see.

Your weblog, your commentspace, your rules.

Posted by: Martin Wisse on July 18, 2002 08:35 AM

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What's ridiculous here is that DeLong has been deleting so many posts by so many people that Jesse above had to ask if this section had been lobotomised. Just what is Jason answering?

Where the comment section of most blogs can be followed as coherent threads, this one is just a jumble of deleted references because DeLong has been chopping so much.

What is also ridiculous is to argue that "Musil" wasn't excluded because of his joke about his Mussolini remark. DeLong deleted "Musil's" second comment, which didn't include any of the material you're focusing on now and at the same time created his obviously fake "politeness policy" that expressly referenced Mussolini. Who do you and he think you are kidding?

DeLong is not just making a "reductio ad absurdum" argument. He believes what he says and he says Scalia supports Hitler collaborators and is a theocratic religious zombie, etc. (whatever that all means), just as he obviously is serious in calling Scalia "unAmerican", which I have never seen a serious person do outside of Joe McCarthy (if you want to count him as "serious"). DeLong says that Scalia is a real threat to America - is "unAmerican," in DeLong's actual phrasing.

If DeLong can't take the heat, he shouldn't be writing superheated screeds himself. A lot of people here have told him that. Any blogger can tell you that if you post something as over-the-top as DeLong's original post, you are going to draw some strong dissent on your comment page - and rightly so.

By the customs of the blogoshere, the heated original post is an invitation to strong rebuttals. The custom is also that you don't delete except for religious or racial bigotry. But DeLong doesn't abide by that rule, either, if the bigoted post supports DeLong.

Pretending otherwise is just ridiculous. This is the web. Everyone sees what's going on here.

And it's also weird to even be writing this comment, since DeLong is obviously just deleting almost everything he doesn't like. It's fairly obvious he will delete this comment, too.

How "American" is that?

Posted by: Joe Rasines on July 18, 2002 09:16 AM

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>>Pointing out that Scalia's position appears to intellectually commit him to supporting Petain against De Gaulle and George III against George Washington is a reductio ad absurdum of his argument (though frankly, since he stands condemned out of his own mouth on the issue of Martin Luther King, reductio ad absurdum might not be such a powerful tool here)<<

I thought reductio ad absurdum was when you got behind the wheel of someone's argument and drove it much further than they wanted to go?

Scalia wants to use St. Paul to condemn civil disobedience--Martin Luther King and company. If saying, "God loves authority and wants you to obey its laws so Martin Luther King's civil disobedience was hateful to God," is--say--driving the argument 100 km down the road, then surely by that time we have long since passed George Washington and Charles de Gaulle? I mean, rebellion and treason are worse crimes against authority than sitting at a whites-only lunchcounter.

So "reductio ad absurdum" does not seem to me to be the right phrase...

Brad DeLong

Posted by: Brad DeLong on July 18, 2002 09:17 AM

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just two responses; unlike Brad, I like flamewars, and he should feel free to delete my comments if he doesn't wish to finance my indulgence:

>>What is also ridiculous is to argue that "Musil" wasn't excluded because of his joke about his Mussolini remark. DeLong deleted "Musil's" second comment, which didn't include any of the material you're focusing on now and at the same time created his obviously fake "politeness policy" that expressly referenced Mussolini. Who do you and he think you are kidding?>DeLong is not just making a "reductio ad absurdum" argument. He believes what he says and he says Scalia supports Hitler collaborators and is a theocratic religious zombie, etc. (whatever that all means), just as he obviously is serious in calling Scalia "unAmerican", which I have never seen a serious person do outside of Joe McCarthy (if you want to count him as "serious"). DeLong says that Scalia is a real threat to America - is "unAmerican," in DeLong's actual phrasing.>If DeLong can't take the heat, he shouldn't be writing superheated screeds himself. >By the customs of the blogoshere [...]>

Posted by: Daniel Davies on July 18, 2002 10:20 AM

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The scare quotes are around "Robert Musil" because it is a pseudonym; the real Robert Musil was a Dutch novelist, playwright, and essayist who wrote, among other works, an incredibly lengthy novel called "The Man Without Qualities".

Posted by: Noto Bene on July 18, 2002 10:49 AM

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Daniel,

Musil uses Blogger Basic, which doesn't have comment capability.

And Musil has offered to post anything DeLong e-mails to him. (Have you sent him an actaul comment and asked him to post it? From what you write, it doesn't seem like you have.)

You would know all this just from reading the comments here, but DELONG HAS DELETED ALL THE POSTS WITH THAT INFORMATION.

There is also a comment on the origninal DeLong post that makes a pretty convincing argument that DeLong's postis religiously bigotted.

In addition, suppose someone wrote about Senator Lieberman, who often quotes from the Torah in political contexts, that his quoting showed him to be a theocratic intellectual zombie, a strange creature from the ranks of the undead, a creature that belongs at the benighted court of the medieval Prague Rabbis. Everyone would know the author of such a comment is a raving anti-semite, and it wouldn't matter if he pretended to put on a fig leaf that he was just making some "reductio ad absurdem" argument.

And, by the way, mathematicians use "reductio' arguments all the time to prove real theorems that they and everyone else thereby accept as true. It's a standard technique. DeLong gets no shelter there.

Posted by: John Nast on July 18, 2002 11:33 AM

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I wholly endorse Daniel Davies view that we should attack a person's ideas, and not the person himself. This is in response to the Davies' exchange above:

"It is very clear here that the referent of "it" is the abstract concept "Antonin Scalia's worship of the state" and not the person Antonin Scalia. Your statement that Brad has called Scalia UnAmerican is outright false, and is so obviously false that it is hard to find the charity in me to describe your use of the phrase "DeLong's actual phrasing" as honest hyperbole.

I would like to offer a possible explanation as to how someone might have thought Bradford's piece was an attack on Scalia. The title is:

"Whoa! That Antonin Scalia Is One Mega Scary Unrighteous Dude, Man"

OK, it's meant to be funny, and certainly the argument that follows supports the possibility that we have blundered into a Cheech and Chong skit. Nontheless, the article begins with a personal attack.

Are there other personal attacks? Reasonable minds may differ, but how about:

"Is Antonin Scalia about to abjure his oath "

"We know that Scalia condemns Martin Luther King, Jr. as a moral cretin "

Thus Charles de Gaulle... stands, in Scalia's eyes, condemned as an enemy of God"

So, in the build-up to the un-American crescendo, there does seem to be a bit of blurring between the man and the ideas, a trend that seems to be continued afterwards near the big finish:

"One of the nine justices of our Supreme Court is a theocratic intellectual zombie,"

As I said, folks may differ, and there are other cites where Bradford does mention that it is Scalia's ideas that are in question, but Davies' position that:

"Your statement that Brad has called Scalia UnAmerican is outright false"

strikes me as a bit of hyperbole.

Hope that helps, hard to be optimistic.

Aloha,

Posted by: Tom Maguire on July 18, 2002 11:51 AM

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On reductio ad absurdum:

You're taking logic lessons from me? Hard times. The basic idea of reductio ad absurdum is simple:

If A is true;

and if B is true;

then C is true. However, suppose we have other evidence that "C" is false. Then, we can conclude that at least one of the two premises is flawed.

For example:

If Scalia applies his view of "Romans 13 and the

Death Penalty" consistently across the human experience;

and If Bradford DeLong is correctly extrapolating Scalia's logic;

then Scalia thinks George Washington is a bum.

Well, there is a lot of evidence suggesting that Scalia's opinion of Washington is somewhat higher. Therefore, Bradford has either proved conclusively that Scalia does not apply the logic of Romans 13 equally and everywhere; or, that Bradford is not able or willing to project the logic of Scalia's mind; or perhaps, both.

Well, a foolish hobgoblin is the consistency of little minds, or something. I am prepared to beleive that Scalia can be inconsistent. I can even believe that Bradford is not the best person to fairly extrapolate Scalia's thoughts. So, Bradford wins - Scalia applies his values differently in different contexts. Wow. Or, maybe wow, since Scalia isn't here to present himself, and evidently some of his supporters have been dumped as well. I, on the other hand and to the Professor's credit, am still standing, so go figure.

As a "reductio ad absurdum" Bradford wins a minor victory. However, given the title of the piece - "Scalia Rocks Hearty, Dude" - No, that is not right, it's something about mega-scary; anyway, it does seem as if Bradford has taken his potential victory to a strange place. If Bradford had said:

Either Scalia believes this nonsense, or he is a flip/flopper! Well, we can talk.

But if Bradford is really following his presentation, from scary dude down to theocratic zombie, to the conclusion that Scalia actually believes this stuff, despite no evidence in support of the Washington theory and what strikes me as self-evidently abundant evidence against it, well - live it up, Professor! It's your blog, and everyone is entitled to a good rant. Hey, I do it all the time, and I am much more civil at cocktail parties later, not having to regale my fellow imbibers with tales of the latest outrage from Scalia, or Krugman, or whoever. So party on, dude. But I'm still not fully convinced as to your Scalia theory. You got off to a good start with the doper thing. By the end, the "theocratic zombie" tone shift probably fooled some of us.

Aloha,

Posted by: Tom Maguire on July 18, 2002 12:15 PM

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'There is also a comment on the origninal DeLong post that makes a pretty convincing argument that DeLong's postis religiously bigotted.'

No, it just stated that he was bigoted. I fail to see how declaring someone dangerous because they (implicitly) support the right of the Pope to do away with government's he doesn't like is "bigoted." Bigotry is disapproval for existence, not opinions, and in this case the target is an opinion.

'So, Bradford wins - Scalia applies his values differently in different contexts. Wow.'

Yes, this is a 'wow', because to listen to the right you'd think Scalia was some sort of logic-eating, correct jurisprudence-making, original intent-divining, legal machine. By contrast, all those liberal judges just use their personal ideology to decide cases, not on the merits.

Brad's just pointing out the same applies to Scalia, and his particular brand of ideology is, yes, dangerous, especially if Bush uses him as some sort of model of ideal judgeship.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on July 18, 2002 12:27 PM

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So, Jason, you seem to be acceding to my point that DeLong's piece only makes sense if the conclusion is "Scalia's view of Romans 13, as DeLong has managed to infer it, is not consistently applied by Scalia across all of the issues of today and history". That, I hope, roughly summarizes my "Bradford wins! - wow!" comment.

If we have achieved agreement on that point, and I am relying on:

"...to listen to the right you'd think Scalia was some sort of logic-eating, correct jurisprudence-making, original intent-divining, legal machine. By contrast, all those liberal judges just use their personal ideology to decide cases, not on the merits.

Brad's just pointing out the same applies to Scalia, and his particular brand of ideology is, yes, dangerous..."

then perhaps you can square that with the rest of DeLong's text and help us all figure out why DeLong closed with the "theocratic zombie" line.

And could you guide us to the passages where DeLong states, implies, or suggests that his point is not that Scalia's ideas are un-American, but rather that Scalia is roughly as unpredictable and inconsistent, or guided by personal ideology, as the "activist judges" Scalia often criticizes.

I think Bradford could have at least attempted to ride his horse into that particular stable. You seem to think so too. I, however, think he kept riding.

Aloha,

Posted by: Tom Maguire on July 18, 2002 02:41 PM

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'And could you guide us to the passages where DeLong states, implies, or suggests that his point is not that Scalia's ideas are un-American, but rather that Scalia is roughly as unpredictable and inconsistent, or guided by personal ideology, as the "activist judges" Scalia often criticizes.'

It's a subtext, and I could have sworn I remember seeing a previous post about how Scalia isn't as beholden to original intent as he insists. I also brought it up after you logically derived it:

'Well, a foolish hobgoblin is the consistency of little minds, or something. I am prepared to beleive that Scalia can be inconsistent. I can even believe that Bradford is not the best person to fairly extrapolate Scalia's thoughts. So, Bradford wins - Scalia applies his values differently in different contexts. Wow. Or, maybe wow, since Scalia isn't here to present himself, and evidently some of his supporters have been dumped as well. I, on the other hand and to the Professor's credit, am still standing, so go figure.'

At least, I think so.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on July 18, 2002 07:22 PM

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Thanks, Jason. I guess. Don't you just hate it when you see someone's post is riddled with typos, and then you realize they are just quoting your own earlier post? I couldn't "beleive" it. Anyway, as to the subtext argument - you are surely right that Bradford approaches Scalia with a bit of baggage, and it is unlikely that the three links he provides will represent the full foundation of his argument. I actually may soon offer in a longer comment which will represent my closing arguments. Since you seem to be the best candidate for "last man standing", let me salute you in advance.

Aloha,

Posted by: Tom Maguire on July 18, 2002 07:36 PM

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Cheerio and all that, old chap.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on July 18, 2002 08:47 PM

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DISCLAIMER: This post may contain some “magic words”, but despair not: the intent is innocent.

Well, it’s been an interesting day at Camp DeLong, with much to reflect on. Since these comments link to the new “Politeness Policy”, let me start there.

“Robert Musil” suggested that DeLong’s post was suggestive of academic dishonesty. I disagree. In fact, I will pound the table and say that such a suggestion is ludicrous. (Sorry, Man sans Qualite). DeLong is an academic economist who also runs a blog where he expounds on whatever the hell he wants, like the rest of us. His piece on Scalia was clearly way out of his area of expertise, and should not be taken to reflect on his academic integrity.

Now, as to banishing “The Man”: Well, the dishonesty charge could have been rebutted. A simple “Hey, if you get golf tips from a heart surgeon, you may be asking an expert. But you can’t sue for malpractice if you hit it into the water.” would no doubt have cleared things up. On the other hand, “academic dishonesty” is fighting words to an academic, so what the heck: bad accusations sometimes spawn bad responses. By the time we get to the “Mussolini” crack, I think its fair to say that we weren’t seeing anyone’s best manners.

Now, let me gracelessly segue to content. Scalia was participating in a panel discussion titled “Religion, Politics, and the Death Penalty”. The presentation was prepared remarks followed by Q & A. Although the theme was the death penalty, Scalia made a couple of interesting side comments:

On judges choosing between their conscience and “the law”:

“He has, after all, taken an oath to apply the laws and has been given no power to supplant them with rules of his own. Of course if he feels strongly enough he can go beyond mere resignation and lead a political campaign to abolish the death penalty—and if that fails, lead a revolution. But rewrite the laws he cannot do.”

Interesting. Does this mean that some revolutions are OK? Does Scalia back Washington with this, or DeGaulle, or Martin Luther King, or Gandhi, or even Castro? Hey, that would be a great blog post, “Scalia comes Out Swinging in Support of Fidel”. I wonder what Scalia means by this? But, he moves back to his original theme, so we are left hanging.

And here we have the bit on civil disobedience:

“The mistaken tendency to believe that a democratic government, being nothing more than the composite will of its individual citizens, has no more moral power or authority than they do as individuals has adverse effects in other areas as well. It fosters civil disobedience, for example, which proceeds on the assumption that what the individual citizen considers an unjust law—even if it does not compel him to act unjustly—need not be obeyed.”

Now, when I see “civil disobedience” I think of Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Thoreau. Maybe Scalia does too, and is slyly condemning King. However, a quick “google” on civil disobedience” turns up Thoreau, international electronic hackers, Act-UP, animal rights groups, and groups that look as if they might be related to G-7 protests. My sheltered life. And where are the tax protestors? So, who among these might Scalia be chiding? Maybe he thinks animal rights activists need to get a grip. But I think it would be a major leap to conclude that he has King in his sights, especially weighed against his previous excerpt on revolutions.

And here is an interesting aside about Roe v. Wade:

Thus, my difficulty with Roe v. Wade is a legal rather than a moral one: I do not believe (and, for two hundred years, no one believed) that the Constitution contains a right to abortion. And if a state were to permit abortion on demand, I would—and could in good conscience—vote against an attempt to invalidate that law for the same reason that I vote against the invalidation of laws that forbid abortion on demand: because the Constitution gives the federal government (and hence me) no power over the matter.

So he could in good conscience support a state law allowing abortion demand. The Times missed that.

Anything else? Well, in the Q&A, Scalia touches on Godwin’s law:

…what it proves is that if one uses an evolving theory of the Constitution you can sometimes achieve wonderful results. I don’t deny that. You can sometimes achieve wonderful results with tyranny. I mean, Hitler produced a wonderful automobile. A stopped clock is right twice a day.

There’s your soundbite: “Scalia for Hitler and Better Cars!” Oh dear, the Times missed that too.

Do I have a point? Yes, Scalia made a couple of off-topic comments about civil disobedience which no one in the audience or on the panel questioned, and DeLong draws a conclusion that:

“We know that Scalia condemns Martin Luther King, Jr. as a moral cretin for failing to obey the segregation laws of his day.”

Well, I don’t know it. Not from this, anyway.

All of which proves what? That it would be hard to take this speech and infer a coherent description of Scalia’s world view, as DeLong claims to have done. Perhaps Scalia could do it, but with these cryptic asides, I don’t know how someone else could.

Leaving us where? I think a fair, open-minded individual such as myself (he said to general guffaws) could look at Scalia’s speech and DeLong’s comments, and say “Huh? How did he get this from that?”

And so what? This is DeLong’s blog, and he is under no obligation to be fair or open minded. Here’s a tip - he doesn’t like Scalia, or the 2000 election, or the cabal that installed the current…. Oh, you know what I mean. DeLong sees “Scalia” and he sees red. He read this speech with the goal of twisting the words to fit the worst possible image of a man whose ideas he loathes. Good for him. To evaluate on its intellectual merits a piece that was clearly an indulgent, therapeutic rant seems to be silly. In fact, the first time I read it, I skipped over the comments and kept moving, having no desire to argue with a man who was enjoying listening to himself scream. My complete absence from the early posts on this subject is my only evidence of that, however.

And why the change? I’m posting now. Look, I would have had a totally different take if DeLong’s first comment in defense of this had been something like this:

“Yes, I said that, and it felt great. Time was, I read Scalia’s name and I had to shampoo, because my brain felt dirty. After that blast, I am going to laugh every time I think about that theocratic zombie. I could write a piece like that once a week for a year, and never stop loving it. I tell you people, I have climbed Mt. Everest, I have walked on the moon, I have had sex while sky-diving, I have won the lottery, and nothing - NOTHING - felt as great as unloading the dump truck on that pompous Scalia fool.”

With that defense, I would have stood up for a blogger cheer. I know the feeling of a good rant, believe me. And look into your dark hearts, people - many of the folks here have had the same guilty pleasure, I am sure. And to the crank who wonders “Skydiving? Was it good for…“ - BEHAVE.

Regrettably, but understandably, DeLong has taken a different tack. Academics are trained to defend their ideas. You don’t submit a paper to a journal and then, when the referee has a few questions, just say “Psych!”. So, we are asked to take this piece seriously, and we have a new speech code, and I feel a certain obligation to Fight for the Right, so here we are.

Or were. I am intrigued, in a ghastly way, as to how this is resolved. Defending this Scalia post can’t have been as much fun for DeLong as writing it, but I don‘t expect we will pummel him into disowning it. Way back when, on something else entirely, DeLong totally misrepresented my views, suggested I couldn’t follow simple arguments, and compared me to a small bird. Whatever. Now the bird I feel like is a vulture, which is not really my style either. So for myself, this is over. I know there is a certain message board ethos suggesting that unrebutted arguments have been abandoned. Well, whatever to that too. I’ll be disagreeing in my heart, though. And if I am not appearing, it is not a “politesse violation”, either. Self-imposed exile, not banishment.

Jason, last man standing, nice going. Bradford, great party, heck of a mess. Time for me to fly.

Aloha,

Posted by: Tom Maguire on July 18, 2002 08:57 PM

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I see that only certain types of "civility" are observed at this site. You can sling shit at Jeb Bush and his family, but it isn't "civil" to question the shit slinger's motives.

Posted by: Josef on October 21, 2002 12:09 PM

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Hello,

You know what's amazing, the minute the website owner decides to delete ignorant and rude posts, reasonable people go bonkers.

As someone who reads website primarily related to games, I am amazed at how often the same the argument gets repeated over and over again. Childish claims that rude posts that agree with the bias of the website owner are validated but other ones equally vulgar are quashed etc, etc.

After all is said and done, though, this is a moderated discussion, and it should be clear that Prof. DeLong will have the final word.

Posted by: Sanjay on March 20, 2003 08:17 AM

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I'm with Sanjay and our host on this one. When you're a guest, you follow the rules of the house, end of story. If you don't like them, you're free to go elsewhere. It's not a freedom of speech issue, it's not a bias issue, and it's not a consistency issue.

Posted by: Tom Slee on March 20, 2003 08:26 AM

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I think it's a good policy to delete offensive posts. I remember a time when political adversaries would politly disagree with each other. Now there is such a tone of rancor that it leads to an atmosphere of hate. And you can find that rancor everywhere, in congress and on tv as well as the web.

Posted by: Dale Wallace on March 20, 2003 08:56 AM

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Well, I thought Tom Maguire's final post sounded fairly reasoned. He might even be right, and it's better than invective (I missed this whole controversy).
Someone has decided just to delete vowels from offensive posts on her blog. You can still read them, if you really want, and I prefer it to censorship myself. It still preserves civilized discourse.

Posted by: John Isbell on March 20, 2003 09:27 AM

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Noto bene wrote `The scare quotes are around "Robert Musil" because it is a pseudonym; the real Robert Musil was a Dutch novelist, playwright, and essayist who wrote, among other works, an incredibly lengthy novel called "The Man Without Qualities".'

I thought the real Robert Musil was Austrian, rather than Dutch.

Posted by: David Margolies on March 20, 2003 09:38 AM

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Reagan was Dutch, not Musil. Nota bene.

Posted by: Hans Suter on March 20, 2003 09:48 AM

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I think the Brad has the right to refuse to host flamewars. He even has the right to bar people who attack him while allowing himself to attack the people he bars. The site is purely eleemosynary, after all. Free ice cream.

Anyone who wants to has the right to host a no-holds-barred all-comers free-for-all. Brad doesn't, for good reason. That sort of "discussion" between people with little common ground always produces more heat than light.

I think that comments sections should be thought of in terms of host and guests. If someone sits down at your table, immediately disagrees with you about everything, and then starts getting increasingly hostile, not only do you have a right to ask him to leave, it's really the best for everyone.

I get the strong impression from the self-pitying, aggrieved statements of many on this particular thread that they don't have any friends or homes to go to and that they feel, somehow, that Brad is obligated to provide them with these. Why? The level of self-righteous anger in many of these comments boggles me -- but then (slur to follow) there's no one in the world as good at being angry as American conservatives, except for [censored].

I have quit coming to this board a couple times because, first, I didn't appreciate being told more or less daily that I, like all liberals, was responsible for all of the crimes of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, and third world starvation into the bargain. And second, because I have a temper and I am as good at gutter talk as anyone, but I recognize that Brad specifically does not want that, not even from people who tend to agree with him.

I always come back because, at best, it's the most interesting board on the net, bar none.

I have posted at my URL a "Guide for Trolls" which some might find helpful. It is designed for a liberal site but is suitable for adaptation by others.

Posted by: zizka on March 20, 2003 10:02 AM

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More dirt on Scalia and the Taliban at my URL.

Posted by: zizka on March 20, 2003 10:09 AM

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This website is a treasure. I could not be more grateful to Brad for adding to it so very often and for keeping the discussion at such a fine level. Only when Brad does not add material am I ever disappointed. Please, please, please continue.

Thank you ever so much!

Posted by: anne on March 20, 2003 10:10 AM

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"It's St. Paul who says that the power that is --for example, the Vichy government -- is ordained of God, and to be obeyed. If Scalia thinks that St. Paul is correct in his claim that the powers that be are ordained of God, I don't see how he can escape the conclusion. Do you?"

Laurence Tribe, a liberal in good standing the last time I looked, on the Wilentz (/DeLong) assault on the theocrat in robes:

"Having read and reread Scalia’s piece in FT, and having concluded that you grievously misrepresented the Justice’s views [I respond]...

"[W]hat Justice Scalia wrote in FT -- in remarks that, when read in full and understood in the context in which he wrote them, leave an impression very different from that conveyed by the excerpts you quoted and by the statements you paraphrased -- in no sense amounts to the blast at secular democracy and the proclamation of a divinely inspired anticonstitutionalism ...

"The blunt truth is that nothing in the Scalia essay warranted your apocalyptic conclusion ... One could reach that conclusion only by twisting the views Scalia in fact expressed...."

Rest at http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/forum/forumnew60a.htm]

"Twisting." Professor, you say you don't want this to degenerate into a place like usenet. So you must know how on usenet people who know nothing about an intellectual discipline -- like say, economics -- so often produce hysterical screeds about it without even *trying* to learn what they are talking about.

Well, if you don't want this place to be like usenet, why do you keep repeating this low-level-usenet type post here?

I love your web site and you've got the best economics blog around. But anybody on usenet who posted this Scalia thing three separate times without bothering to learn anything about it in the meanwhile would be in my killfile.

Human behavior question: Why is it that people who are smart and mentally disciplined in their own profession, who know that even mid-level achievement in their own profession requires intellectual competence and discipline and so is deserving of respect, and who know reasoned criticism in their own field must be grounded in some sort of research and understanding of all sides of the issue they are talking about, so often feel entitled to rush out to totally trash the very *top* people in *other* professions as "intellectual zombies" and so on, solely on the basis of their presumed power of their own pure reason, without bothering to research anything *at all* about what they are talking about? It's bizarre. And it keeps my usenet killfile full.


Posted by: Jim Glass on March 20, 2003 10:53 AM

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I missed this entire dust-up, but it doen't suprise me that it has occurred. I've enjoyed this site, because Prof. DeLong touches upon many interesting topics, and I genuinely enjoy reading the thoughts of people with whom I disagree. I've engaged Jason McCullough, for instance, in numerous forums, and we seldom agree on anything, but he has consistently been courteous and fair, while arguing his side with great vigor and skill. I also have no complaint with Prof. Delong editing the content in any manner he wishes. I think, however, that this site has started to devolve into a forum of ad hominem rhetoric and deliberate misrepresentation of views, and no, it is not entirely, or even mostly, Prof. Delong's doing. I stopped reading Atrios, Little Green Footballs, and many others, for this very reason. This has nothing to do with ideology of the host, it has everything with the devotion to fairness that various participants, including the host, bring to the discussion.

This isn't about being "shrill" either; harsh criticism is perfectly fine, as long as intellectually honest rhetorical tactics are employed. Using language which conflates our political opponents with mass murderers, sub-human life forms, and other imbecilic rhetorical dreck, adds exactly nothing to one's advocacy, which makes the employment of such rhetorical devices curious, since it is often done by people who are otherwise intelligent. It is merely bad faith which compels such behavior? Being unable to peer into the minds of others, I cannot say.

I was recently compared to a Jew hater in this forum because I observed that many academics have the idiotic habit of adopting the conceit of expertise regarding matters in which they have none, while observing that we are all sometimes prone to this form of idiocy. It doesn't hurt my feelings to be baselessly called a bigot, but it is boring. In any case, it should be recognized that there are some in this forum who seldom employ such tiresome practices, and others who employ them with regularity, but the trend has not been encouraging.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 20, 2003 11:01 AM

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Brad, You have asked, politely, in the past for participants to behave, er, with decorum. You are right to do so. As a rule the signal to noise ratio on your site is *very* low (by web standards)and I, for one, would prefer to keep it that way. It's your playpen, and I urge you to edit as you see fit. Many of your customers, I believe, will be cheering from the sidelines

Posted by: Roland Stephen on March 20, 2003 11:23 AM

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Terry, you don't think calling Brad a "theocratic intellectual zombie" was a little impolite?

Posted by: Lukas Bergstrom on March 20, 2003 11:52 AM

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Er, never mind.

Posted by: Lukas Bergstrom on March 20, 2003 12:03 PM

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"And every knowledgeable, sane person in this country knows for a fact that Justice Antonin Scalia would pledge his life, fortune and sacred honor to preserve all of those rights, even those of Professor DeLong, as the law of this land."--Musil

"Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said Tuesday night that government has room to scale back individual rights during wartime without violating the Constitution.

"The Constitution just sets minimums," Scalia said at John Carroll University. "Most of the rights that you enjoy go way beyond what the Constitution requires."

Scalia was responding to a question about the Justice Department's pursuit of terrorism suspects and whether their rights are being violated.

The conservative justice did not discuss what rights he believed are constitutionally protected."--Associated Press


I guess we're all crazy, even Scalia, according to Musil

Posted by: rea on March 20, 2003 12:04 PM

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But to comment on the main point of this thread, if you don't like what Prof. DeLong has to say, you have a remedy--leave. Prof. DeLong very kindly provides us with this forum, but because it's his site, if he doesn't like what we have to say, he can't leave. So it's only fair to concede to him the right to delete posts he finds offensive.

Posted by: rea on March 20, 2003 12:08 PM

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Scalia isn't just a legal scholar. He's a citizen and political agent like all of us. His law is highly politicized, like most law at the Supreme Court level, and is usually authoritarian and illiberal. This is not something to leave to professionals and experts.

I haven't seen Tribe's piece and don't know what his arguments and motives are, but most of what I know about Scalia is bad.

I find his committment to Opus Dei, which originally a soft Fascist Francoist group, sinister. (This doesn't make me anti-Catholic -- on several issues -- death penalty, Iraq war -- I agree with the Pope where Scalia disagrees.

Posted by: zizka on March 20, 2003 12:21 PM

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I posted before I saw Terry's response. However, Terry, there's a difference between insulting a public figure in the company of friends and acquaintances, and insulting a debating opponent. Don't you think?

Posted by: Lukas Bergstrom on March 20, 2003 12:24 PM

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Brad,

It's your site.

Do as you wish.

Those that don't like it can simply leave.

Posted by: GT on March 20, 2003 12:36 PM

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The post says it all folks. This is not USENET, not a public space where anyone is free to gather, it is a space run by a guy who pays for the bandwidth and he gets to call the shots on what discourse is permissible and he gets to set different limits for his opinions. If you don't like it then leave, isn't that what the patriotic conservative mantra is these days anyway?

I like this blog precisely because of its variety. If Brad were to restrict his writings to the activities of Maghrebi traders or some such economic history topic that would greatly reduce the site's allure. I like the fact that it varies from coyotes to technology to octopii to fiscal policy to Iraq and I am interested in the opinions of the posters here who are by far the most intelligent in the blog world. Lest you have any doubts, go visit any of the other blogs and see the glittering array of topics from how HIV does not cause AIDS to how the AIDS pandemic is just a plan to extract rents for third world doctors to how Rachel Corrie deserved to be buried alive because she burned an American flag to how doctors who perform abortions should be killed to whatever is in the Democratic underground....well you name it.

If anything, Brad is more tolerant than he should be: if David Thompson had replaced the blanket baiting of French, Germans, Belgians and Arabs with Israelis he would have been booted long ago. Even if you give him an allowance for not engaging in the especially repugnant task of anti-semitic speech, I think his race bashing has gone way over the line.

I also disagree whole-heartedly with Jim Glass's opinion that Brad should restrict his opinions to his area of expertise. If you think Brad made a post that was not very smart, counter it with a post like Jim did. Don't call him Mussolini like Musil did. And if you ever read Musil's blog you will find that he is a man with an incredible mixture of an inferiority complex and a chip on his shoulder. If he wants to post here he can come back and post under a diferent pseudonym or IP address or he can apologize to Brad. Instead he takes cheap forlorn potshots on his sad blog. He's already using a pseudonym, so who would care if he used another one. It may even be fun to guess: I for one have this theory that a frequent poster on this site is Donald Luskin another of those huge chip on his shoulder guys who takes potshots at Brad on his blog.

The bottom line is that I believe Brad should not restrict his opinions to his area of expertise. In fact I don't think even the people who post here should restrict their postings to their area of expertise: after all then Jim Glass will only post about tax policy, anne will only post about AIDS, dsquared will only post about Steven Den Beste, Will Allen will only post about the highway robbers aka the Federal government, Bucky Dent will only post about economic models, Patrick Sullivan will only post about the Texas Rangers or QWERTY and David Thompson will only curse his ancestors. While there are merits in restricting some of the above to their area of expertise, I think it is a richer place if everyone can cast their 2 cents in a polite manner.

Posted by: achilles on March 20, 2003 12:45 PM

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"I was recently compared to a Jew hater in this forum because I observed that many academics have the idiotic habit of adopting the conceit of expertise regarding matters in which they have none, while observing that we are all sometimes prone to this form of idiocy. It doesn't hurt my feelings to be baselessly called a bigot, but it is boring. In any case, it should be recognized that there are some in this forum who seldom employ such tiresome practices, and others who employ them with regularity, but the trend has not been encouraging."

Just for the record, I'm the one who made the comparison Will Allen is talking about, rightly or wrongly. Will, if you are not a bigot, my apologies.

But please realize this: you are very far from being the only person I have read who has used the words "intellectual" or "academic" as epithets of abuse, and it is a habit I have resolved not to tolerate in anyone. There is nothing about having an advanced academic degree which makes people believe they are experts in matters outside of their fields: they just post their opinions on these matters because first, it's something that they have a right to do, and second, because opinions can both teach others and also induce others to correct your own mistakes. If people giving opinions on subjects outside their area of expertise (and making inevitable mistakes as a result) is something that you find highly irritating, then my guess is that participating in forums such as this will be bad for your overall outlook.

In the original discussion a few threads back, all you had to do was point out the flaws in the previous poster's reasoning about military logistics. However, you trotted out the term "tenured academic" as if you equated such a person either to a low grade moron or to a second-rate fraud--some tenured academics are, but no more than the average for the population. For such an overreaction, you cannot exempt yourself from some of the blame for what follows.

Posted by: andres on March 20, 2003 12:46 PM

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"This is a public forum where the host sets the tone. Your approach leads to the conclusion that DeLong is entitled to be more offensive than his commenters, which is absurd."

Why would that be? If I set the table and want to insult somebody not present, in my house, it's my right. And if one of my guests, who've I've honored with the invitation to sit at my table, starts insulting me personally, it's my right to kick him out. And I do. It would be terrificaly entertaining if the object of my ire were to resist the eviction. But, alas, they don't.

But on blogs, for some strange reason that I don't understand, people feel like they got a constitutional right to squat on the property and chuck rocks at the owner.

Why, it's just what communists do! But these are "libertarians" and "right wingers". Too weird!

"Not even DeLong took refuge in such a literally hypocritical double standard. There is just no way around it: DeLong's actions towards Musil were dishonest, unjustified and unjustifiable."

Um, "Brad Musil" has a lot longer history than this one incident.

Posted by: Russell L. Carter on March 20, 2003 12:55 PM

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Brad

Love you, love this site. Do what you will, and post post post.

Thanks.

Posted by: jd on March 20, 2003 12:57 PM

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My sense of Musil (and Luskin and Jane Galt to some extent as well) is that they are smart people who, deep down, wish they knew more about economics than they do but can't bring themselves to admit it. They may be gifted amateurs but remain amateurs nonetheless.

They were unwilling or unable to pay the price (of doing the hard work required to be recognized as authoritative) but desperately want to act as if they had.

That tension becomes even clearer with respect to Paul Krugman given Krugman's even higher profile columnist job, a job so many of his detractors probably feel they are better qualified to do.

Brad,

This remains the best economics blog on the web (dsquared blogs too infrequently and most others lack the necessary academic knowledge IMHO). May I ask that you keep it that way however you see fit.

Posted by: GT on March 20, 2003 01:07 PM

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I can't believe the sense of entitlement around here, as if this site were a public utility open by law to all. And unbelievably,it all comes from free market [deleted plural noun] too.

There's nothing absurd about the host allowing himself (and his friends) more leeway than he does to his guests, especially when they are not really friendly.

I've started working my way through Musil's site. It seems so far that this is the kind of debate which is best carried on from separate locations. I think that a lot of the animus here is from people who cannot draw enough traffic to their sites to get their refutations read, so they feel that they are entitled to equal time here. Well, they aren't. (And these are people who don't believe in "equal time").

Posted by: zizka on March 20, 2003 01:09 PM

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I liked the site just as much when there was just front page content--about economics, teaching, and history, invariably--and there was no blog.

Of the material in the blog itself, the most interesting by far is the pieces that Brad himself posts to get things started.

You could axe the blog component and I would still come here, Brad. I always did.

Posted by: Jim Harris on March 20, 2003 01:11 PM

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This is Musil's opinion of DeLong (taken from the URL posted by one of Musil's defenders):

"The DeLong hatchet job is worth reading as evidence of the ongoing academic degradation and dishonesty in American universities, a deterioration vastly more extensive than anything known to have occurred to date in American corporate ethics.

It is fascinating that Professors DeLong and Wilentz write this kind of thing in the apparent expectation of continuing to have an academic reputation afterwards - and, chillingly, they are probably correct. In some respects their confidence in the ambient intellectual corruption in which they work suggests that of Michael A. Bellesiles, whose arrogant certainty that these same colleagues would continue to give his increasingly flagrant dishonesties a "pass" came crashing down on him and his fraudulent Second Amendment confections."

I wouldn't want a guy who felt this way about me hanging around my house, and I would be baffled if he seemed to want to be there. (I think that my previous explanation holds: Musil wants DeLong's audience). The Bellesiles reference is a totally irrelevant smear (Delong does not make his living critiquing the Supreme Court). The heavy sarcarsm and broadly dismissive insults are highly unfriendly and not really grounded. We're well rid of the guy.

Posted by: zizka on March 20, 2003 01:34 PM

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What a relief. I have often learned some things at this site, once I even changed by mind about something. I have never however gotten anything out of the childish sort of name calling and chest thumping that some confuse with real knowledge. If this was a classroom, or any other more civilized venue, many of these posters would have been expelled long ago.

Posted by: Lawrence on March 20, 2003 01:47 PM

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Russell L. Carter relates, "But on blogs, for some strange reason that I don't understand, people feel like they got a constitutional right to squat on the property and chuck rocks at the owner."

Mr. Carter continues, "But these are 'libertarians'..."

OK, tell you what, Mr. Carter...you show me any "libertarian" on these boards who has stated (or even strongly implied...my judgement final) that he or she has a "constitutional right" to insult Dr. DeLong, and I'll send you $20.

(And if you find a "libertarian" on these boards who has stated he has a right to "chuck rocks" at Dr. DeLong, I make it $100! :-))

Mark Bahner (Libertarian, both small "l" and capital "L")

P.S. Libertarians (well, a Libertarian ;-)) INVENTED the "Bill of No Rights." See this site for details:

http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/billofnorights.ht.htm

P.P.S. In fact, I made a post during lunch just today, fully supporting Dr. DeLong's right to delete whatever posts he wished...including mine. But my lunch time post appears to have been deleted. (?) (!) :-o ;-) (The only thing I can think of that could have offended Dr. DeLong in that post, was that I noted he called Paul Wolfowitz a "m@dm@n." Sorry Dr. DeLong, I forgot the "@"s in my original post. ;-))

Posted by: Mark Bahner on March 20, 2003 02:20 PM

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"...there's a difference between insulting a public figure in the company of friends and acquaintances, and insulting a debating opponent. Don't you think?"

This was addressed to Terry, but I'd like to respond (note the friendly politeness!):

Yes, and no...no.

1) Yes, calling ________ (fill in the blank, with G.W. Bush, Paul Krugman, Milton Friedman) ______(fill in the blank, with "a liar," "an idiot," "a truly loathesome toad") isn't exactly like saying the same thing about someone who posts here. That's because Bush, Krugman, and Friedman are, respectively, The President of the United States, a widely read and pretty-universally-well-regarded economist, and a Nobel laureate in economics. In other words, calling them names doesn't change the fact that they are where they are, and we almost certainly won't get there. (Excluding Dr. DeLong, of course. :-))

2) But, in a way, the two ARE similar, because they are really not necessary. One can say that all three men are simply being dishonest *about the particular subject* without extending it to "liar." And one can say they are wrong, or very, very wrong, without extending that to them being idiots.

3) And (this is the more important "no") if someone calls a famous person an "idiot" (or "m@dm@n") and the person reading actually happens to agree with the person being called an idiot or m@dm@n, that actually tends to offend the reader who agrees with the famous person.

So, in general, there's a difference between insulting a public figure and insulting a debating opponent...but there are also similarities. And since it really isn't necessary to insult anyone, it probably is best if it's not done at all.

Mark Bahner (Mr. Manners) (Not in any way comparable to the incomparable Miss Manners, who is far, far superior) ;-)

Posted by: Mark Bahner on March 20, 2003 02:56 PM

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Hey Mark, maybe, just maybe, you can detach a bit and at least give a moments passing consideration to the idea that if you weren't one of the impolite antagonists that started or continued this um, dispute, then I never had any intention of describing what *you* believed as "libertarian". (Note the quotes)

Frankly, this rigid paternalistic protectiveness of labels is stultifying. I happen to be libertarian about some things, and radical left about others. I like the free market enough that I eschew large organizations for the more chained-to-the-market dynamism of small businesses. And I'm mystified how a person can pack all of the beliefs experience has provided into a single word. For instance, most of the stuff at that link you so kindly provided makes great sense. But two of the items are absurd.

And that's it for me on labels. The important issue right here is we want to preserve a great blog that is also an intelligent discussion forum for people with all sorts of views. You and I seem to agree on that (if little else). Brad's the host, and everybody else has to play nice in his house.

Posted by: Russell L. Carter on March 20, 2003 03:19 PM

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Gee, "Achilles" says about that "Musil":

"If he wants to post here he can come back and post under a diferent pseudonym or IP address or he can apologize to Brad."

Why would "Musil" need to use another IP address? Did DeLong not only delete Musil's comments but also block his IP address from making comments? Gee, who but DeLong could know that?

Yep. "Sad blog?" It's a sad day in the blogosphere when DeLong has to use a pseudonym in his own comment section to answer his critics. Sad and pathetic.

Posted by: Brad DeLonger on March 20, 2003 03:38 PM

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Andres, I think it is a bit disingenuous, or naive, to maintain that people who are widely recognized experts in their field, like tenured academics, are not more prone than, for instance, bartenders, to adopting the conceit that their expertise extends beyond their chosen field. It is a common aspect of human nature that when one is told how knowledgeable one is regarding one thing, one begins to think that one is knowledgeable about many other things.

Everybody is stupid in some regard, and this is the form of stupidity that academics are most susceptible to. Some of the most wise people I have encountered are those who say "I don't know", or "I'm not sure", most often, but, in the Age of Blogging, it is a form of wisdom that will probably be observed with less frequency. There is nothing wrong with the non-expert offering opinions (hell, I'm a non-expert on nearly everything), but when one prominently features the professional position or accomplishments of the commentator, which helps build credibility, and then adopts a highly sarcastic or dismissive tone towards others, one shouldn't be suprised that people respond in kind when flaws are exposed in the commentary.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 20, 2003 03:52 PM

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Ha! all I can say is if I am Brad De Long, then Brad DeLong would never have gotten tenure at Berkeley!

I am not sure I understand anything about that post, but typically when people are banned from web-sites their IP addresses are blocked. Maybe Brad is not that rigorous in his enforcement of the disbarring.

And Musil's blog is really sad. We all have insecurities, but it is particularly sad when one's insecurities are laid out for the world to see.

Posted by: achilles on March 20, 2003 03:59 PM

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Will, have you ever talked to a neo-Confederate? A dispensationist or fundamentalist Christian? With 1% of the information one of those horrible intellectuals has, they can be a 100x more dogmatic. Get involved with the real world. These are people Bush listens to.

A lot of you guys oughta just quit, or more people than me are going to conclude that you are losers without homes to go to or friends to talk with.

Posted by: zizka on March 20, 2003 04:00 PM

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DeLong's website, although I don't agree with everything he says, is invaluable. DeLong has in the past said that he would delete posts he considered inappropriate, and moreover, that his judgement in doing so would be considered final. If you think he's stepped over the bounds of politeness or whatever you are welcome to go elsewhere. You might even be missed. But no one is forcing you to come here and the rules have been clear for some time.

Posted by: Ian Welsh on March 20, 2003 04:32 PM

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(sigh) Ziska, the irony of you supplying the ironic reply, neatly illustrating my point, would be amusing, if it weren't so tiresome.

First, my views are misrepresented, with the baseless inference that I believe academics are "horrible". Next, the assertion is made that I somehow am not living in the "real world", because I don't share your view that a politician who hopes to gain 270 electoral votes next year (insert predictable rant about Florida here) actually believes that he can hide from the vast middle, where elections are won, the fact that he listens exclusively to dispensationist Christians or neo-Confederates. Gee, I guess I'm just psychotic that way......

Finally, the fine example of pointlessly hostile rhetoric, devoid of informative or well-reasoned content, is topped off with the ad hominem attribution of "loser", apparently for failing to agree with Zizka. You should have your own blog.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 20, 2003 04:47 PM

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and yes, I realize that in my thinking faster than typing, I was stupidly redundant in my first sentence. The shame is unbearable....

Posted by: Will Allen on March 20, 2003 04:56 PM

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" I also disagree whole-heartedly with Jim Glass's opinion that Brad should restrict his opinions to his area of expertise."

Would Prof. DeLong consider a Reading Comprehension Policy?

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on March 20, 2003 05:56 PM

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j-bradford-delong.net is a personal website, hosted by a generous man who donates his knowledge to us gratis. Who pays, decides. It is not unAmerican (as Joe Rasines says); it is perfectly American to defend one's property. So, Dr. DeLong, keep the blog, ban abusive comments. Ignore the imbeciles.

Posted by: Paul Musgrave on March 20, 2003 07:30 PM

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First of all Brad (personally I get worried just by being so familiar) clearly has the right to do whatever he likes with his website. This is really completely and totally obvious.

After that I suggest that attempting to persuade him that his policy is misguided by sarcasm and insult is unlikely to change his mind.

If it is misguided this blog will become boring and sterile and nobody will read it. If he is not wrong it will remain one of the more interesting places on the net. I don't think there is any more to it than that.

For my part I am astonished by the number of interesting posts one man with a job and kids can manage and I am grateful that he has gone to the trouble. In general it works very well indeed.

Posted by: Jack on March 20, 2003 07:56 PM

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"Hey Mark, maybe, just maybe, you can detach a bit and at least give a moments passing consideration to the idea that if you weren't one of the impolite antagonists that started or continued this um, dispute, then I never had any intention of describing what *you* believed as "libertarian". (Note the quotes)"

I don't understand the point you're trying to convey. So maybe you also misunderstood my point.

You said that there were people here who said insulting things to Dr. DeLong, and who seemed to think it was their constitutional right to do so. OK. I completely agree with you, that that's a foolish and ignorant notion. This is Dr. DeLong's site, and everyone but Dr. DeLong is a guest. People who diss Dr. DeLong should know that he is complete free, on HIS site, to wipe out what they've written.

So far, so good.

But then you said that the people who thought this way were "libertarians." Now, if you'd said, "conservatives," I wouldn't particularly care. But *I* am a libertarian, and so if anyone here is claiming to be a libertarian, and saying foolish and ignorant things, I'd like to know who it is, so I can send them an email, advising them on how they're making libertarians look bad.

But apparently, there truly is NOT such a person. Or is there? Again, I'd like to know who it is, who is a "libertarian," who thinks they have the right to insult Dr. DeLong on his website?

"Frankly, this rigid paternalistic protectiveness of labels is stultifying."

It's neither "rigid" nor "paternalistic." But I admit that, as a libertarian, I care what people write about "libertarians." You basically wrote that certain "libertarians" were saying foolish and ignorant things. Well, which "libertarians?"

If you can't identify these "libertarians," who are saying the foolish and ignorant things, I'd appreciate if you stop calling them "libertarians." (When I say that "liberals" do something that bothers me, you can bet that *I* can identify who those "liberals" are!)

Mark (Libertarian)

Posted by: Mark Bahner on March 20, 2003 08:01 PM

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I thought my hostile rhetoric was not pointless at all, but quite pointed; not only that, but it was carefully put into a hypothetical form. If you continue on this way, others than me might indeed conclude that you are a loser, Will. I was trying to help you. I'm full of love for all mankind and generous that way.

Your point that academics are more arrogant than other people is not taken. I've had the misfortune of meeting large numbers of arrogant stupid people. That's what I call the real world. I envy your sheltered life, Will. Bush's core constituency is scary, and he listens to them.

Posted by: zizka on March 20, 2003 08:02 PM

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I'm always amused when I come across a freeplanche of libertarian individualists who are furiously indignant that they aren't allowed to (anonymously) do precisely what they want with private property despite the will of the owner.

That it's in defense of Scalia's intellectual consistency and democratic impulses is lagniappe.

Posted by: julia on March 21, 2003 02:04 AM

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Some of the people that ensure ideal
conversational norms are not followed on
economics-related discussion groups on Usenet
participate here.

By the way, suppose an academic participates on
Usenet in discussion groups related to his field.
Suppose that academic regularly lies about others
say - creates strawman - and otherwise behaves
in a nonacademic way. Should such behavior be
relevant to decisions when it comes time to grant
him a PhD, tenure, etc.?

Posted by: anonymous on March 21, 2003 05:59 AM

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Our next question is an anonymous hypothetical from vaportopia (Yes! I coined that phrase!).

Dotting the i's and crossing the t's, it would be my guess that it's from one of the people who believes that Paul Krugman has unique and damning ethical problems which should disqualify him from the scrupulous, austere and high-minded world of punditry, and who now wants to extend this paradigm to Brad Delong. This communication should probably be sent to the appropriate tenure committee, which I'm sure has a special file sitting ready. But then, who knows what the guy meant?

Posted by: zizka on March 21, 2003 06:24 AM

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Zizka, you know exactly nothing about me, or the experiences I've had. Of course, the same could be said about me, in regards to my knowledge of you. Unfortunately, you seem to believe that making baseless, ad hominem, assertions about people, from a state of ignorance, is something that a presumably intelligent person does. From where does this unfortunate delusion originate? Do you really think this is an effective form of argumentation? Don't bother replying; this site has devolved, with the help of the likes of you, into a slightly more erudite form of Democratic Underground or Free Republic. Congratulations, you must be proud.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 21, 2003 07:13 AM

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I'll tell you what, Will. I agree with you only in that this site has become two divided, rhetorically armed camps, in no small part because of the Iraq war, which was brought on by our "I'm a uniter, not a divider," President. If there's going to be any peace here, it will require some internal policing.

If you're willing to tell Willingham to shut up when he calls me, and people with similar opinions, "Stalin boys", if you're willing to tell Thomson where he should take himself when he starts talking about the French people (not just individuals like Chirac) "betraying" us and how anti-war protesters are appeasers and dupes of Saddam Hussein, and if you're willing to stop using offensive generalizations about tenured academics (try using the actual name of some tenured academic blowhard for a change, and to make it original use someone other than Krugman or DeLong)--

Then I'll refrain from calling you a bigot and I'll do my best to tell Ziska to show some civility if she calls you a loser, or to tell Jean-Philippe that he is wrong and highly impolite when he lays down the blanket description "fascist" when he refers to people like you.

I guess I'll start. Ziska, since I assume you have never met Will Allen personally, please show some manners and don't call him a loser or other offensive names when you are dissecting his postings--save it for the anonymous or celebrity targets of your website. Do this even if the other person, not necessarily Will, has been uncivil to you--you know, turn the other cheek and all that. And remember that people like Thomson and Willingham _might_ start behaving in a civilized manner if their own side starts squashing them for a change.

Okay, Will. I've started investing, even if this makes me sound like a squishy moderate-liberal. Let's hope I also see some return.

Posted by: andres on March 21, 2003 08:44 AM

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I love this blog and the comments. At times, I have responded to trolls in a less than temperate matter and at other times I have had good discussions here. If I get out of hand I hope I will be deleted. The discussions are important to me, but not so important that I would like to annoy Brad into making drastic changes.

1 more vote for Brad doing whatever he feels like.

Posted by: biz on March 21, 2003 10:36 AM

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Zizka,

You are paranoid, right? Oh...

I was talking about Usenet, especially sci.econ.

As far as I know, neither Brad DeLong nor Paul
Krugman have ever posted there.

The mainstream North American economists who
post there, however, behave like ignorant jerks.
And they encourage right wing trolls and
nonsense, as long as this drivel is accompanied
by genuflections to some economists.

It is the violation of conversational norms
that should disqualify these academics from
participation in academia, if they were to
be assessed by their performance there.

Posted by: anonymous on March 21, 2003 12:25 PM

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I, along with all other liberals, have been called a Stalinist (etc.) on this forum five, ten, twenty times that I know of. I wasn't aware that I was changing the tone. Out in the real world it'a even worse. I didn't do it. It would have happened without me.

Posted by: zizka on March 21, 2003 12:26 PM

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Frankly andres, and not that anyone would care, I think I'm going to stop participating in this forum, and probably most, it not all, other similar forums. The examination of different viewpoints, and the debate, used to be interesting. Unfortunately, most comments sections have become largely arenas of baseless accusation, deliberate misrepresentation, and ad hominem assault. It isn't that such rhetoric hurts my feelings (short of physically threatening me, I don't really get too upset with people), it's that such rhetoric becomes extremely tiresome and boring.

Have I always been fair with everyone? Undoubtedly no, although I would maintain that it is not unfair to observe that tenured (which I meant as "widely recognized") academics have a tendency, greater than the general population's, to speak as experts beyond the area in which their expertise lies. I would admit, however, that this opinion was offered in a very sarcastic manner, which mirrored our host's frequent use of sarcasm. This isn't meant to be harsh criticism of Prof. Delong; overall, I've enjoyed his site, and I'll probably continue to read his posts from time to time, when he adresses subjects with some degree of detatched objectivity.

I certainly don't mean to imply that any particular inhabitants of the political spectrum have cornered the market in ridiculously inflammatory, and, ultimately boring, rhetoric, and I have encountered many people who have largely avoided the practice. Too often, however, it has become the norm, which means there really are more consistently interesting pursuits.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 21, 2003 12:36 PM

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What I am always amazed at, when observing the mob at play on the net, is how many people evidently have too much time on their hands. If only they spent a small part of that time as usefully as Brad spends his..

Posted by: Roland Stephen on March 21, 2003 05:49 PM

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"If anything, Brad is more tolerant than he should be: if David Thompson had replaced the blanket baiting of French, Germans, Belgians and Arabs with Israelis he would have been booted long ago. Even if you give him an allowance for not engaging in the especially repugnant task of anti-semitic speech, I think his race bashing has gone way over the line."

Please offer even one example of my so-called "race bashing?" I expect an immediate apology.

Posted by: David Thomson on March 22, 2003 04:59 AM

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"But please realize this: you are very far from being the only person I have read who has used the words "intellectual" or "academic" as epithets of abuse..."


William F. Buckley says that America would be better off if our nation was governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard University. I agree completely. Richard Hofstadter was right to decry illegitimate anti-intellectualism in American life. However, he overlooked our valuable tradition where we take professors with a huge grain of salt. It is very fair to argue that a Ph.D. often warps the individual's ability to think and follow a logical argument. People tend to get weird if they earn their living as a full time academic. Could it be something in the water?

Posted by: David Thomson on March 22, 2003 05:15 AM

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DT, it is you that owes an apology to the rest of the USA, because you are the cause that most of the world, discounting fascists since they go alongside with you, has a bad opinion of the USA.
DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on March 22, 2003 06:46 AM

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GOOD website!Where can we find more information about this ?

Posted by: HGH SPRAY on January 7, 2004 05:24 PM

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