Larison has a hard time showing respect for people with whom he disagrees (I’ve been on the receiving end a couple of times), and I don’t think Jonah deserves the Larison treatment.
If I write in a bitter, withering tone in many posts, I learned it from reading the Journal’s editorials as a boy–these were always laced with irony and also quite frequently with contempt for their subjects. Yes, the blogosphere is far less restrained, and particularly in comment sections this becomes quite dreadful at some sites, and I am certainly strongly in favour of restraint, but any attempt to dictate a “code” to bloggers is an attempt to control them and limit their influence.
Bloggers are notoriously combative and often seem unusually “angry” to the refined, calm columnists and media watchers, because many of us, unlike them, actually have opinions that do not resemble weak tea. Having gagged on years and years of their spoon-fed pablum, we spit it back in their face and they discover that they don’t like it at all. Sometimes we’re angry, and sometimes we’re simply calling establishment pundits and media outlets on their flaws in a particularly pointed and critical way that these people can only interpret as a “screed” or an expression of crazed rage. What I despise is the pretense put forward by establishment figures and institutions that they hold the keys to the definitions of moderation and reasonableness. Their insipid policy views are half the reason so many of us are so agitated about the state of affairs today.
I run what I am proud to say is a pretty clean and respectful [say what?] house here at Eunomia, so I know it is possible to create a healthy atmosphere of combative back and forth that does not have to degenerate into mudslinging and insults.... There is a lot of invective and criticism and obvious hostility to various hacks, villains and tyrants who deserve that hostility here at my blog. If I were to subscribe to this bizarre code, I would basically have to stop writing 85% of what I write because of rule #2 alone:
We won’t say anything online that we wouldn’t say in person.
I find such a restriction completely unrealistic and inappropriate. In person, I actually try to be diplomatic and seek to avoid harsh exchanges of words or even intense disagreements. I do this for the sake of civility, and because I am not inclined as a matter of temperament to getting into shouting matches with people face to face,
Written invective will be the outlet for a society choking under the imposed constraints of political correctness and thought crimes. The more consolidated major corporate media become, and the more autocratic the government becomes, the greater the demand will be for increasingly unfettered expression to rebel against these things. To take away that outlet, or to try to say that there is something deeply wrong with that written invective will be to ensure that there are explosions of outrage elsewhere in society.
He offers two justifications here for his tone. First, the objects of his scorn deserve it. Second, if he, and others like him, can’t do this in print, they’ll explode in other, less pleasant ways.
Now, I don’t object to satire, because satirists don’t take themselves too terribly seriously. They’ve got some distance from their anger and are unlikely to explode (as Larison implies he might, if he didn’t have this outlet). But Larison’s bile seems utterly serious and not terribly funny. Give me Aristophanes any day. Give me even P.J. O’Rourke and R. Emmett Tyrell any day. And give me Jonah Goldberg....