As Elouise has just posted while I write this entry, it seems that what started as relatively innocent thoughts on blogs by Elouize and Liz (as well as a comment by Chuck in Elouise’s blog) have led to some rather heatedly sarcastic comments by others in the blogosphere. I believe this all started, believe it or not, more than two weeks ago with some thoughts by Elouise that led into a discussion about blogging and identity that pinged around the Word Herders and others for awhile through what I’ve been calling the “identity thread” (most recently here). The most recent responses have been puzzling.
I think you reveal a great deal about yourself in the way that you respond to what other people have to say. You might think you’re really getting in a good zinger when in reality others are watching you quizzically, wondering what the hell happened in your past to cause you to carry around such bitterness. And if you ignore all of the detailed and nuanced posts that have taken place over the last 18 days in order to pounce on the one that allows you to get your digs in, well, don’t be surprised if people don’t take you seriously.
The accusation (paraphrased): You’re elitist because you don’t want what you have to say on this subject to be linked to who you are. The accuser: a person who posts under a pseudonym.
Mr. Kettle? There’s a Mr. Pot on the phone for you.
Hmmm. Does that sound bitter on my part? What does that reveal about me?
And while I still have no clear picture of what you look like in my head, you feel real.
Small (and sometimes large) misunderstandings are part of the process in blogging. Part of what is happening is various threads merge and seperate across several sites and such. A link or trackback gets posted and another group of posters drifts over to see what is going on, but even if you wanted to, it would be difficult to follow the links back to origins of the discussion.
I didn’t see the accusation you quote (is it a quote, or a summary?), and I don’t know who you are referring to there. I linked back from a comment as WeezBlog to Wealth Bondage precisely to open up the idea of having the proposed discussion in the open, but with masks for anyone who feels they cannot fully speak their mind in the open.
If you have the time to read some of the recent archives at WB, you will see that the author is coming out from behind the mask in spite of considerable professional risk. He is also inviting others to blog under masks with identities know only to the host. My suggestion was that this would be a way to have this discussion publicly without betraying confidences or revealing more than one would want in public. Think about what is being said about “the gesture of withdrawal” in the more general context that he situates it.
There is also the multi-blog thread in the recent past about civility and communication style in bloggerville, which is also very relevant.
George’s entry this morning drew my attention the the thread on Wealth Bondage and the string of really viscious and ad hominen comments levelled both toward individuals and the academic institution. Well, sad to say, it doesn’t surprise me. Other
The accusation should not have been in quotation marks. I’ve removed them in the original post and clarified that it’s a paraphrase.
I don’t use an (explicit) mask when I post, although as the identity thread makes clear, we’re all aware of the performative, mask-like elements that blogging entails. All of my contact information is available online. Hell, I even tell you the neighborhood where I live, the coffeeshops I hang out in, the school where I work, where my family lives, where I’ve been travelling, which libraries I’m working in and when. I’ve written about my failures in grant writing, my fears about the future, what happens in the classroom, my uncertainties about my own abilities. I’ve even been considering writing up some very personal thoughts for public consumption in time for this fall’s National Coming Out day. I’ve had this kind of candor since day one. So perhaps you’ll forgive me when I say that I have little patience for someone who blogs anonymously (but oh, he’s slowly coming out from behind his mask; how brave) but thinks that if *I* have a private conversation with others about some of the issues involved in doing this, that somehow I’m involved in a corporation-like process of subordination and hierarchy-building. Please. And you say that this person wants to start a forum where people can blog anonymously but only he knows their true identity? Now I’m getting confused: who’s the one who wants to maintain the position of power?
Regardless of what others write uncharitably about how professors consider the people who take their classes, students are not “underlings”; they are not “subordinates”; they are not waiters at a fancy party serving us dinner. They are in large part, at UMKC, young adults with jobs who pay the taxes that go toward my salary. I have nothing but respect for them, and I realize that if I write something here that one of them doesn’t like or that puts me in a vulnerable position, then my job could be on the line if they were to draw attention to my blog. Who’s in a position of power then?
There is always considerable professional risk, even if I were to restrict what I write about to classic rock and the weather. As expressed by a UMKC physicist I met at a party recently when he learned of my blog, “When do you do your work?” My answer, “All the damn time.”
Love the emotion, and the heart. Off balance, the voice shaking — that is true. My question is this. For those of us who have been admitted to the inner sanctum, whether of the church, the college, of philanthropy, of corporate or governmental life, who have learned the rules of inclusion and exclusion, have learned the need for silence, who are vested and invested in official roles — how, if at all, do we body this forth for those who are excluded?
Well, the conventions for doing it make up most of English and classical literature, the literature written under Kings and Emperors, prior to revolution and Romanticism. Parable, fable, masquerade, satire, gnomic sayings, fairy tales, roman a clef, carnivalesque, what are these but ways of working around the conventions of silence and bodying forth what cannot be said?
The academic rules of inclusion and exclusion are relatively trivial, (like who gets to sit at High Table at Oxford) for the stakes are so small, but the same kind of conventions of silence apply in all hierarchical organizations, and by discussing the academic variations, we can raise issues of public moment.
The conventions of satire and masquerade are one way to do it. What others come to your mind? Beyond silence and seething fury? Or the urbane blandness of those in power who exclude from the discussion all troublesome elements by invoking the conventions of “good taste” and “good manners.” There are reasons why Dean Swift wrote of both shit and morals. And wrote from behind any number of masks. Get in the game, and see how you do, once you break the rule of silence, and the urbane style of the learned gentleman in the drawingroom, or the faculty lounge. See if you can do it at all.
Good discussion, hope it continues and burns on out of controll. The issue is democracy, its extent and limits, in an increasingly hierarchical society.
Let me just say that I aplaud you for being so open. I try for a measured openness. Not to reveal to much detail, but to talk about the important issues openly. Sometimes I actually worry that the type of candor you speak of can become a security liability; what a criminal might do with my contact information posted openly on my resume.
The Tutor will defend himself more eloquantly than I can, but my point was that if he accuses, he accuses himself more directly than anyone else in this discussion. As he says in the comment above, this gesture in the academic context is much more mild than as it appears elsewhere when the stakes are much higher. Are your private meetings served by red-jacketted servants? No, I thought not, that comment does not apply to you, but there is a connection in the gesture none the less.
Truth be told, people like myself and Frank Paynter are more likely to call for revolution, and to break into the inner sanctum. Mr. C will help you close the door and erase all evidence of the gesture. I suspect you are closer to Frank and I, and somewhat willing to throw the doors open to a much greater transparency, but I do respect your peers who still want more privacy.
After the initial shock of seeing my English assignment creating a mini-stir in the blogosphere, I’ve recovered nicely. Class discussion actually went pretty well, and somewhat by accident, we were able to discuss the question of unexpected audiences o…
I’ve been away for a bit (as those of you reading this — and I quote — “US person’s boring memoirs about his travel trips” (ahem) already know), and since I’ve been back, I’ve been caught in the thick of semester start-up: first-year advising, gradin…
George and company,
To what extent does carnival rely on decorum both as a point of departure and a telos. Isn’t the topsy-turvy world of carnival meant to recycle back to an established order?
I was struck by the twist in the thread on the Happy Tutor’s blog. It follows what I perceive to be an Americano-style of argumentation. A comment about a class of persons gets interpreted as an ad hominem remark (or an ad hominen turn is introduced into the discourse), defenses fly, apologies and then the discourse wraps up with some acknowledgement of the complexities of the status quo. To me this series of moves is inflected by an ideology of individualism. I wonder, following the lead of the Happy Tutor and the call to indulge in the excess of carnivalesque discourse, what would happen if the opening premise (all members of class X share the predicate Y) were entertained as true and invitations to consider the consequences were issued (if the premise is true then if follows that). The rhetorical reaction to an ad hominem remark or even to a generalization can be non-defensive and non-personalizing, i.e. inviting some one to think through the consequences. The appeal is not one to authority of either party. The appeal is to dialogue and exploration notwithstanding the tenor of the tone.
In any regards, the thread has made me consider the social scripting involved in rhetorical moves and posit the existence of an Americano-style of exchange.
For some reason, I’ve not been able to post these remarks on the Happy Tutor’s blog. Gremlins…
[Quite apart from the question of anonymity that is raised, there is also the question of impersonation. In certain cultures, certain masks belong to certain societies and are only revealed to the members of those societies on certain occasions — yes a mask can be an object of secrecy. I find it fortuitous that George is discussing with students a text devoted to masking, _Fantomina_, and invites them (us?) to “Look for something seemingly marginal and unimportant. Be prepared to argue that it is centrally important.”]
A most intrigued outsider to the American Scene,
Interesting thoughts, Francois.
I don’t really have anything more to contribute to this thread, but others are free to use the comments here to continue the discussion.