The gross immaturity of the blogosphere (with emphasis on “gross”)

So this morning I noticed that a certain Rep. Mark Souder from Indiana was resigning over an affair. None of my business, of course. I’d never heard of the guy, and who represents Indiana in Congress is no concern of mine. Of course, I knew that the blogosphere would go nuts over this, because it supposedly had to do with an extramarital affair, and if this guy were a Republican the liberal blogs would have a field day drawing absurd conclusions that this said something about all Republicans, and if he were a Democrat, the opposite reaction would ensue.

But then, I was briefly tempted to post when it occurred to me that I could say something like, “Good for you, Rep. Souder — not for the affair, but for the resigning.” As in, something a certain SC politician should have done last year, thereby sparing us from hearing how he spends his weekends on the Florida taxpayers’ dime.

I couldn’t even bring myself to give Mr. Souder even THAT much of a backhanded compliment when I saw what a mealymouthed, whiny, blame-every-else explanation as to why he was resigning (pardon the all-caps; they’re from the original):


Not that there wasn’t a certain justice in what he said. As to that…

A little later, I saw a link to a Wonkette post that in part said the following (please excuse the language):

Indiana Republican and eight-term congressman Mark Souder is resigning immediately because he had sexytime with a woman who was not married-in-Christ to him. Souder just defeated a teabagger in the GOP primary, but with less than 50% of the vote, and eh we’ve never heard of this guy — Indiana’s third congressional district, we should pay more attention to this hotspot! — so let’s get to the crazy all-caps SORRY JEEBUS I PUT MY WANG IN ANOTHER LADY’S LADYPARTS. Also, he’s a wingnut who campaigned on the bullshit “I will repeal Obamacare,” so let the Devil take him!The Devil take you, Mark Souder, for your Infidelity Against God! The Devil take you!

I usually don’t look at the Wonkette, or any other blogs that embody everything I don’t want this one to be. But I found myself wondering, as I usually do, is this stuff written by maladjusted 13-year-old boys? You know, an adolescent too worked up to stop and think about anything but his desire to impress his peers with his pimply disrespect for the whole world. The proper medium for this form of expression is the bathroom wall of a middle school.

Aside from being foul-mouthed, aside from taking idiotic, raving, snarling, snorting joy in the pain of other human beings, it is painfully unimaginative. Yeah, I know the history of the Wonkette, and how it interspersed commentary with sexual meanderings the founder moved on, so it has a standard to live down to. But it does it so badly, in such a thoroughly off-putting manner.

I would weep for the independent blogosphere, if I had cause to expect better of it. The good news is that the bar is so low that it’s easy to raise the standard, which I will continue to endeavor to do in my own little corner, with your help.

42 thoughts on “The gross immaturity of the blogosphere (with emphasis on “gross”)

  1. Brad

    Hey, I sort of knew the kids would have fun with this one. And sure enough, Corey Hutchins of the Free Times wrote this over on Facebook:

    “Reading that post totally reminded me of the face my grandfather made the first time he watched my brother and I play ‘Mario 3’ on a Nintendo shortly before walking off to stare out the living room window for another three hours. Just didn’t get it.”

    To which I reply, HEY, ALLA YOU KIDS, GET OFFA MY LAWN!

  2. Michael P.

    “As in, something a certain SC politician should have done last year, thereby sparing us from hearing how he spends his weekends on the Florida taxpayers’ dime.”

    Who’s dime is spent when Florida’s (or any other state)governor comes and stays for a weekend in South Carolina? South Carolina taxpayers perhaps?

  3. Phillip

    I’m no fan of the Wonkette, but the reason progressives shake their heads at this sort of thing is for the same reason conservatives do when it turns out a liberal politician has committed some sort of embezzlement to line his pockets with cash: hypocrisy. Conversely, I don’t bat an eyebrow when a Dem gets caught in bed with someone to whom he is not married, or a Repub scams thousands for his own personal greed. That’s just doin’ what comes natural…

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    The angry female blogosphere, also not to my taste, is at least angry to start out, I have found, because a lot of them are gay or not the currently stylish size, and have been unfairly discriminated against. I think the Tea Party crowd may have suffered similar triggering injustices, and both groups have gotten addicted to working themselves into a lather. The media types, following in the footsteps of their right wing radio brethren, have found that it also drives page views and other ratings. The Tea Party has attracted attention if not a lot of election wins, yet.

    Too sad.

    But the language you found so offensive isn’t really obscene–just colloquial and funny, actually.

  5. Bart

    And you thought all of the negativity and nastiness come from the dreaded Tea Party and supporters.

    Now you know why I stay with your blog and a few others who actually try to discuss the issues without the vitriol and display of human nature ugliness for all to see and try to call it political commentary.

  6. bud

    Maybe there are some rudimentary similiarities between the Wonkette’s description and the middle-school bathroom wall but there is something very important to keep in mind here. And she illustrates it well. The GOP has postured themselves as the party of “common sense family values”. And they just keep coming at you ad-naseum with it. Sure the Dems have their own moral lapses and I’m not defending them. But it sure as hell is damned hillarious to see yet another one of these self-rightious pompus ass hypocrites get their comeupance. The sad part of all this is that the loyal followers of these idiots will continue to look upon them as some sort of salvation from the evils of liberalism to their own detriment. At least the Wonkette is trying to capture the essence of the horrors of the GOP. Too bad Brad doesn’t quite get it.

    But there’s hope. Some of his recent postings indicate a willingness to at least entertain the idea that the GOP is the real villian in American politics and NOT, repeat NOT partisanship.

  7. Brad

    The point, folks — and sorry to be Captain Bringdown here — is that another human being’s failure to uphold a standard, particularly one he has set himself, is a horrible thing, and not a legitimate source of glee.

    And if partisanship gives people an excuse to think it’s OK to laugh at and mock another’s failings, to sneer at the person’s profession of faith and laugh uproariously at his failure to live up to it, well then that’s just another reason to condemn partisanship.

    It is NOT OK to laugh and be snide about another person’s pain. It just isn’t.

    Maybe I’m just more aware of myself as a person who falls short in God’s eyes and in my own to appreciate this kind of giggly Schadenfreude. It just appalls me. And I look at something like the Wonkette, and reflect that these people exist on a constant diet of this, on a perpetual reaction to the world that never rises above this level. We keep on, in Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s phrase, defining deviance downward in our public discourse. And it disgusts me.

    By the way, I don’t think the Wonkette is “she” anymore, since Ana Marie Cox left. I don’t know who’s doing it, but I think it’s more than one person, and mostly guys. Hence that certain snickering boys-room tone I’m picking up on.

    By the way, I just looked there to try to answer that question, and saw that the site refers to supporters of Rand Paul as “Paultards.” There’s just no way that is defensible. And Phillip, there’s nothing “progressive” about it.

  8. Kathryn Fenner

    I have no patience for those who wrap themselves in the flag or espouse pious virtues–ye shall know them by their fruits. Far too many folks both around here and away spout on about their faith. Put up *and* shut up. There’s altogether too much “testifyin'” going on outside the church walls. Don’t talk about your faith–do something to *show* me your faith.

  9. Brad

    So really what you’re saying is that this is not about this guy or others who have fallen, you just can’t stand for anyone to stand up for traditional moral values, and therefore take delight when one of them falls.

    Well, I don’t. All that posturing and self-righteous talk is off-putting to me, too. Not my style, not my approach to faith. But I DO sympathize with the impulse to which these people are trying to resonate. I sympathize with people who look out on a world that LAUGHS at broken families and ugly middle-aged men making fools of themselves with young girls (or boys) and desperately want to reshape society to where it’s a better place to raise their kids. And there are people who enter the political sphere who embrace that cause with various levels of sincerity (about as many different levels as there are individuals doing so).

    And when one of them is exposed as a) a fraud or b) someone who has fallen short of his own beliefs (and you do NOT know which it is; you don’t have that power to look into others’ souls), it is not a source of amusement, much less partisan political amusement, which makes it all that much more tawdry.

    Part of this is my own political attitude: I sympathize FAR more with the religious conservatives in the GOP than with the economic libertarians who don’t believe in anything but themselves (they are their own God). One of many reasons I can’t adopt the attitude of a partisan and just despise all people of that “other brand.”

    And just as I have a low opinion of the Mark Sanfords and Nikki Haleys on the right, the people on the left who appall me the most are those who sneer and jeer and laugh or curse the beliefs of the religious conservatives. If people are groping for the transcendent, however unsuccessfully or simplistically or inadequately, they should not be mocked.

    I find myself thinking of my friend (and yours, Kathryn) Hal Stephenson. He is my ideal religious conservative (among those I know), and I think of how it must pain him to see someone who embraces faith publicly, or advocates abstinence fall like this. And how unnecessary it is for anyone to take delight in it, much less snigger and jeer about it in this grossly immature manner.

  10. bud

    The point, folks — and sorry to be Captain Bringdown here — is that another human being’s failure to uphold a standard, particularly one he has set himself, is a horrible thing, and not a legitimate source of glee.

    That is not, repeat not the point. The GOP is trying to fool voters by proclaiming they are the party of virtue. They don’t believe it at all. They just want to be in power and they are greedy and they lie, cheat and steal to remain in a position of power for themselves and their rich benefactors. So yes I do confess to a bit of joy when one of these bastards gets caught. Its the same joy we all felt when the Times Square bomber was captured.

  11. Brad

    No, Bud, you don’t know that. You don’t know that “they don’t believe it at all.” I believe that most of them believe it quite fervently (including some of those who have fallen spectacularly), based on my interactions with them. But I don’t KNOW that any more than you do.

    And … I think we’re getting close to a breakthrough here in touching upon what exactly is wrong with partisanship in America today … you do NOT get to excuse yourself for altogether despising these people based upon that certain knowledge that you do not have.

  12. bud

    At one time the GOP was a good, reputible opponent. Now they’re just a greedy bunch of selfish hypocrits with an agenda that pushes only for the accumulation of wealth for the few while ignoring the welfare of the many. A few decades back this type of greedy hypocricy manifested itself in the form of the televangelists like Jim Baker and Ted Swaggert. Later it spilled over into the talk radio market with spinmeisters like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Now the once decent, if perhaps misguided, Republican party is becoming fraught with these self-absorbed, holier than though greed meisters. No I don’t know what’s in these people’s hearts but all the evidence leads to the courtroom standard of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt that a growing percentage of the GOP has been taken over by folks with nothing but contempt for their naive flock. It has become a very dangerous party which serves to undermine the constitution and ruin the lives of hard working Americans. They are nothing short of criminals and to enjoy a brief moment of joy that justice has prevailed is but a small sin in comparison to the huge suffering heaped on the public by these demented charletons.

  13. Doug Ross

    There’s a difference between a “fall” and a “leap”.

    Hypocrites aren’t fallen creatures. They are victims of self-inflicted wounds.

    Part of the problem in today’s society is there isn’t enough shame. Souder SHOULD be ashamed of what he did. Sanford SHOULD be ashamed of what he did. Bill Clinton SHOULD be ashamed of what he did. Souder was the only one who did the right thing (but most likely because of the publicity, not because of the act itself).

  14. Brad

    You’re right, Doug! He’s the only one of those who did the right thing — even if not for the right reason.

    I’m a big fan of shame. We need to haul it into Washington by the truckload.

    But again, I’ll take exception to “hypocrite.” Maybe he was insincere in the views he expressed. But it’s just as possible that he was sincere, and fell. That, after all, would be the source of shame. I don’t know WHICH is true (probably, some mish-mash of the two). But I know I don’t have the right to assume, not on anything that personal, not on anything that bears that directly upon the state of another’s soul.

  15. Phillip

    Save your sympathy, Brad, for those who actually suffer real effects from the heavy hand of politicians and government into the realm of private behavior. They deserve it much more.

  16. Brad

    Like who, exactly? If I knew who these people were who are suffering so, perhaps I would feel sympathy.

    Tell me one person who is suffering because of some heavy-handed new law that has been passed. This is a class of people I hear about theoretically from left-leaning libertarians, just as I hear about those poor businesses suffering so from the the right-leaning libertarians.

    And I suppose there are some; I’m just not seeing them.

    But there’s a big difference here. Whoever these sufferers are, I’m not seeing anybody personally attacking them, gleefully applauding the spectacle of their PERSONAL, individual lives falling apart.

    I am seeing that in this case. And I’m saying no one has the right to do that. And I’ll say the same about anyone who would propose to publicly pillory the people you’re concerned about, too: No one would have the right to do that, either.

  17. Kathryn Fenner

    Look, Hal Stevenson seems to be the real deal to me, and he walks humbly. Talks humbly, too. To my knowledge, he does not point fingers or hold himself out as better than anyone else, or judge them. It’s the stonecasters I have trouble feeling sympathy for when the boulders start to roll. (How’s that for a metaphor?)

    I espouse traditional moral values, too–like a monogamous lifelong marriage, and if that marriage is truly irretrievably broken, perhaps I would give the participants a ticket out. Before they check out, they have to keep it zipped or risk being judged. Period. I believe every child should have two parents (of any gender) in residence whenever possible. I also believe in personal integrity.

    If, nay, *when* I hold myself out as an expert in something, and I regrettably do sometimes, and at others I am simply being brave, and I fall short, I expect to be pilloried. As I am fond of saying, “You can’t be a lightning rod for change and not expect to take a few hits,” and I have.

  18. Kathryn Fenner

    “Tell me one person who is suffering because of some heavy-handed new law that has been passed. This is a class of people I hear about theoretically from left-leaning libertarians, just as I hear about those poor businesses suffering so from the the right-leaning libertarians.”

    Well, Brad–how about LGBT people who cannot marry the person they love and cannot adopt a needy child and cannot even have the person they love visit them in the hospital, pre-Obama?

  19. jfx

    Well, somewhat in defense of the admittedly uncivil Wonkette-type behavior…

    …this is an honest reaction to a pervasive cultural meme, the particularly insidious political and cultural charlatan who publicly exploits conservative discomfort about sexual expression….while expressing himself freely behind the scenes. I think I can understand the intense frustration of liberals beholden to that level of sexual hypocrisy.

    You have many Wonkette-types who feel this Souder guy has made a pretty good life out of attacking liberals SPECIFICALLY in the “human sexuality” subsector of what you call the kulturkampf…so there’s this victimization-mentality slapback, where the liberals who are inclined to feel oppressed by a Souder-type feel a kind of karmic vindication. And it manifests itself sometimes as sophomoric blog-sniping.

    Yeah, it’s pretty ugly. But the Wonkette-types do have that right. We all have the right to publicly pillory anyone, anytime. God Bless America. But you know what they say…”It doesn’t mean you should, just because you can.”

  20. Bart

    Republicans certainly have their fair share of hypocrisy. But, so do the Democrats. If you want to go on a rant about Republicans, have the balls to take on the self-serving Democrats as well bud! The lies and deceit come just as fast and furious from the Democrats as it does from the Republican side. Neither one has the franchise on being righteous.

    I get sick of hearing the same old mantra of rich Republicans when the wealthiest people in America are Democrats and Democrats comprise most of the wealthiest in congress. Don’t see too many of these people giving up their riches, do you? Al Gore, another “righteous” Democrat just spent over $8.5 million on another home. Well now, where is the indictment of good ol Al? But then, I guess it is acceptable to “buy” your way around your sermon about climate change and carbon footprints. So, who is giving the working stiff the finger, Democrats or Republicans? I think both have their middle finger in the face of America.

    Reading your comments does remind me of Wonkette, DailyKos, Keith Olbermann, and Chris Matthews. Symbols of civility all. But then, all sins of the left are forgiveable because of – exactly why I ask myself?

  21. Herbie

    Yes, Brad you do have to have that conversation again. Over and over because all humans are created equal, and all citizens have equal protection under the law. When–when?! Is that finally going to happen? When it is talked about so much that you can’t ignore it, and we finally do something about it? I guess it’s just a boomer thing I wouldn’t understand.

  22. bud

    Brad, why are getting on to Kathryn? You asked for an example of someone harmed by the hypocritical behavior of Mr. Souder and she responded with an example. And a good one at that.

  23. Kathryn Fenner

    Hey, you said you couldn’t think of one, and I reminded you of one. Perhaps we do need to have that conversation again, if you are so forgetful….and I’m hardly a libertarian.

  24. Phillip

    Bart: In a capitalistic society such as ours, it’s very difficult to be elected unless you have a certain degree of wealth…or at least can tap into a lot of wealth. So, assuming most politicians are wealthy, you can either be one who A) can only identify with the interests of his/her moneyed class and pursues policies designed primarily for the benefit of that class… B) somebody who at least can identify somehow with folks who are struggling to put food on the table and clothes on their back, and recognize that they are part of society too and need a voice at the table. The way most Republicans would put it, I suppose, is that at least they are not traitors to their class the way Gore and Pelosi are!

    Brad, Kathryn took the words right out of my mouth about who I was thinking of. Also thinking of, for example, the 754,000 arrested in 2008 (most recent statistics available) for marijuana possession alone.

  25. Karen McLeod

    For me, the problem with those conservatives who trumpet “family values” is that these “values” do not, frequently belong to the political sphere. If they are behaviors that cause no one harm (other than, possibly, oneself) then they should not be legislated against. If it is a matter of faith, it should not be mandated. When someone advocates to mandate specific ‘family values’ (say monagamous heterosexual) or faith (say Christian), and then is shown to be, in actuality, ignoring the those values it underlines the basic problem: these should not be items in the political sphere. That the person did so tends to earn him/her particular contempt.

  26. Kathryn Fenner

    “I get sick of hearing the same old mantra of rich Republicans when the wealthiest people in America are Democrats and Democrats comprise most of the wealthiest in congress.”

    I would imagine that would depend greatly on how you define “the wealthiest.” Especially now that corporations are persons even for election contributions.

  27. Kathryn Fenner

    and Bart–say you are completely accurate–where’s the *hypocrisy* in wealthy individuals voting for more taxes and opposing tax cuts for the rich? Tax cuts for the rich have been a Republican mantra for decades now.

  28. Brad

    Back to Phillip’s last point, “Brad, Kathryn took the words right out of my mouth about who I was thinking of.”

    As I said, I’m not inclined to revisit those subjects, because we just go around and around and y’all end up thinking I’m a big meanie, and we get nowhere — that is, when we discuss the merits or lack thereof of such concepts as same-sex “marriage.”

    But to adhere strictly to the confines of this discussion… it started with Phillip speaking of “those who actually suffer real effects from the heavy hand of politicians and government into the realm of private behavior.”

    To which I responded:
    “Tell me one person who is suffering because of some heavy-handed new law that has been passed.”

    Kathryn countered, “how about LGBT people who cannot marry the person they love and cannot adopt a needy child and cannot even have the person they love visit them in the hospital, pre-Obama?”

    Let’s set aside the fact that I always think of bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches when I read LGBT, and address the points at hand…

    I don’t see how EITHER of those categories fits my request for someone “who is suffering because of some heavy-handed new law.”

    In both cases, you are speaking of CHANGES, or the lack thereof, to long-standing practices that you would like to see changed. I don’t see how the first category applies at all, unless you’re talking about efforts by conservatives to prevent courts from making new law, which doesn’t fit what I’m asking for at all.

    On the second, you’re talking about some back-and-forth on the federal level about trying to make hospitals across the land, through regulation (not, as I recall, statute), prejudge family fights — as in, always give precedent to the wishes of blood relatives, or always go by written wishes of patients, or whatever.

    Not exactly the same as draconian new laws being passed that impose some burden upon people that did not exist in the past — which is what I was asking for. No jackbooted thugs kicking down people’s doors to drag them off to prison or write them a ticket for what they do in private. As they do in China, apparently.

    Which brings me — oh, I feel the undertow pulling at me! — dangerously close to discussing merits, but I think I need to point this out…

    When we’re talking about gay marriage, and someone opposes that change from all that has gone before, it is NOT the same as doing anything TO the people who want such arrangements.

    If the conservatives get their way, nothing changes. No one is prevented from having the relationship they want with whomever they want, or expressing their feelings any way they like. Marriage is NOT about people’s private lives. It’s about what society as a whole chooses to recognize. And it is perfectly legitimate for everyone to participate in the discussion of what we as a society choose to sanction or bless, and it is wrong for anyone to try to preclude anyone from participating in that discussion. Whether you’re for it or agin it.

    You may not follow what I’m saying, because so many of us have been trained to think in terms of what individuals GET TO DO, rather than in communitarian terms. But this simply isn’t about what individuals get to do. No one is even talking about changing the associations that individuals choose. We’re discussing how society regards it through its laws, and it’s a question that’s unsettled.

    Everyone does currently have equal protection under the law, as Herbie put it. No right that has ever existed in the past is being denied to anyone. What we’re discussing is whether a NEW arrangement of social recognition and stamp of approval, entirely different from anything that has been accorded in the past, will be accorded. And as I said, everyone has a right to participate in that discussion.

    And now I brace myself: 3… 2… 1…

  29. Doug Ross

    “When we’re talking about gay marriage, and someone opposes that change from all that has gone before, it is NOT the same as doing anything TO the people who want such arrangements.”

    Replace “gay marriage” with “illegal immigration”. The majority of Americans want things to stay as they are and to see the laws enforced. We’re not trying to “do” anything to the lawbreakers.

    Please stop throwing that “family feud” argument into the hospital visits for partners debate. It might be an issue in 0.00001% of the cases while the lack of visitation impacts 99.9999% of gay partners in that situation. And once a person is over the age of 18, blood rules don’t matter.

  30. hal stevenson

    i am treading on completely new territory-have never made a blog post that i can remember, but since brad has brought me into the conversation, here is my perspective-

    promoting what is right and doing what is right are separate things. The Bible gives us God’s law and then tells us we cannot keep it. we should try with all our heart, but in the end we need grace. failing in what i SHOULD do does not make it any less right.

    public policy and service is about promoting what we think is right- our personal behavior SHOULD reflect our public advocacy. Sadly, as in Souder’s case, sometimes it does not. I am sure he is paying a significant cost for his personal failure and he did the appropriate thing to resign, but his sin does not negate his position that abstinence is the right policy. you may disagree that it is the right policy, but you cannot use his personal failure to make that argument. reveling in his personal failure does nothing for your position on the public policy issue itself and is actually counter-productive. the choir may love it, but the congregation is turned off.

  31. Kathryn Fenner

    Welcome, Hal!

    For me, the issue is the tone as much as, if not more than, the message. The politicians who have been in the forefront of abstinence promotion adopt a “holier-than-thou” tone to my ears. Everyone does not exude Hal’s graceful humility, alas.

    Sure, do I believe that abstinence is the right thing to do outside of marriage (or if that isn’t legally available, a committed relationship)–absolutely. Is preaching it to teens (the congregation here, not the choir of sensible adults) a very effective strategy? Doesn’t appear to be….so blocking any other strategy is causing unwanted babies to be born (or aborted) and disease to be spread.

    and c’mon, it is especially rich that Souder made the abstinence ad with the woman he was not abstinent with.

    Martin Luther said it–the devil is never far from the church door.

  32. Bart

    @Hal, I would also like to add my voice to those welcoming you to the blog. Your words are well thought out and your point is in keeping with my sincere beliefs as well. Although, sometimes I am guilty of saying one thing and turning around and doing the exact opposite. Perfect? Not on your life. But, I keep on trying.

    As you already know, Kathryn is the official “Hall Monitor” and arbiter of good taste and civility around here. She might not know it, but I do take heed of what she has to say and sometimes, follow her lead. 🙂

  33. Kathryn Fenner

    @ Bart

    😛 😉

    @ Hal–I think the site looks like a great idea for kids who are looking for help in staying abstinent. I wonder how effective it will be against both the “cool” kids factor deplorably reinforced by Hollywood, and against the large holes some kids have from their unfortunate childhoods, which they are intent on filling with a romantic partner and maybe also a baby. I think we need to attack on many fronts.

    I also think that adolescents have a very finally attuned sense of “phonies” and it is very important to them, more so than to more mature people, that people walk the talk.

  34. Rob Evans

    Brad, I think the best approach is just to do the best you can without worrying about how other people express themselves. What people say or how they say it isn’t really that important. What’s important is what policies are chosen and the effect they have on people’s lives. You aren’t likely to be able to influence Wonkette. It’s very unlikely that they’re ever going to hear of you or know what you say about them. And even if they do, they’ll probably just ignore it, figuring that they have hundreds of thousands of times as many readers as you do – and without multiple counting of readers.

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