Mothers, fathers and sons.

Such a bouquet of delights was the NYT magazine yesterday. (I know the magazine publishes online a few days beforehand, but I’m ol’-skool, and wait for the pleasures of Sunday morning and its coffee and waffles.) I was looking forward to Christopher Buckley’s memoir excerpt, after noting Brother Rod and the Pontificatin’ Pedants wringing their damp hands over it earlier in the week. Is this Christopher Buckley’s “Mommie Dearest?” Rod wondered, describing the Buckley scion’s portrait of his mother as a “mean, lying bitch.”

After taking my own measure of the piece, I can say it must be difficult to go through life as a writer who is unable to actually, you know, read. It’s true that Buckley did acknowledge his parents’ many faults, which I guess in Outer Wingnuttia is a capital offense, but I don’t see how anyone could read the portions of “Losing Mum and Pup” that were published this weekend and come away with the idea that the surviving Buckley is getting even somehow. This is an enormously affectionate portrait of two complicated people who had a full complement of virtues and flaws. Normal adults know this is the way of the world, but in a culture that idolizes The Family, I guess it’s better to sweep these difficult truths under the rug and never speak of them again.

I don’t get it. But here’s what I know: Writers, particularly memoirists, are charged with one job over all others — telling the truth. If you can’t tell the truth — and that is perfectly fine, not every truth must be told — don’t even pick up your pen. Keep your mouth shut. You don’t have to wallow in the bad stuff; part of telling the truth is telling the whole truth, painting the lights and the darks, because only a portrait with a full range of tones can come anywhere close to a fair rendering.

Stipulated: The truth will vary from person to person. The truth is not the same as accuracy. The truth is never the whole truth, and rarely nothing but. But for Christopher Buckley to publish a book that does nothing but underline the fantasy others have about what his parents “must” have been like — that would be a lie. The world has enough lying writers. (All of these stipulations are themes in Laura Lippman’s excellent “Life Sentences,” now available at an Amazon kickback link near you.)

You know the first column that really landed Tim Goeglein on my radar? It was something he wrote about his parents after one of their anniversaries, about how their thousand-year marriage had been blessed personally every day by Jesus, who guided their lives down to the last detail, and as such kept them from ever making a serious mistake or speaking a cross word, and how he personally handed over every one of their children in a holy glow of pure white light, and every one of those children was brought up in the way of the cross, and blah blah blah.

I thought: The bullshit is strong in this one. He bears watching.

Goeglein was a guest at the Buckleys’ from time to time, not that he ever dropped their names, but I remember his making some reference to “my friend Pat” in a column that was obviously Mrs. B. It was right after William F.’s death that I went looking to see if he’d written anything about conservatism’s fallen lion, and, well, we know how that turned out.

Lesson: Tell the truth. (My truth: I have perhaps embroidered the details of that Tim column. But not by much! More truth: I met Christopher Buckley once, at a library event. He was charming at an Olympic level. Whatever flaws his parents had, they knew how to raise a son to hold up his end in social situations.)

Elsewhere in the magazine, Virginia Heffernan takes a look at reader comments, a feature-not-bug of legit publications that I suspect we’ll be wrestling with for quite some time:

Anne Applebaum is an American political journalist living in Poland whose columns appear weekly in The Washington Post and on Slate. Her views are pro-free-trade and generally hawkish. A Thatcherite in the 1980s, and a supporter of Obama for president in 2008, Applebaum is stoutly pro-immigration, pro-intellectual and anti-torture. Last year Foreign Policy magazine declared her one of “the world’s most sophisticated thinkers.” In awarding the 2004 prize for general nonfiction to her book “Gulag: A History,” the Pulitzer committee called it a “landmark work of historical scholarship and an indelible contribution to the complex, ongoing, necessary quest for truth.”

But what does the analog world know? Online, readers see Applebaum and her work quite differently. To read The Washington Post’s comments section is to discover an outraged throng that insists she knows absolutely nothing. Not long ago, a poster named jbburrows pronounced Applebaum a “liberal fool.” Respondus described her as “a lapsed neo-con addict.” Lloyd667 on Slate wrote, “Anne gets just about everything wrong.”

Just about everything.

This is something I’ve wondered about for a while: Why are the comments on my sole-proprietor, no-budget, stitched-together, lame-o blog so wonderful, and those on professionally done, big-budget, well-respected sites so terrible? I’ve referred in the past to the Free Press Klavern, the slavering, anonymous, brain-free troupe of readers who feel obligated to chime in on every Detroit story and turn it racial. Let’s just go over there and see…

OK. Here’s a feel-good story about one of the city’s most prominent businessmen, who’s married to a younger woman (not under nefarious circumstances; he was a widower). She’s expecting twins. Let’s just fish one out of the hat:

Are they really his? I guess we will have to see what they look like.

And so on. Big media companies go to great, painstaking lengths to make themselves “diverse” inside and out, and Gannett probably goes the furthest — they were the company that decreed from on high that reporters must seek out non-white sources on all stories. (Which spawned some of the great inside-baseball media stories, which we can all tell one of these days after it sinks beneath the waves.) I can’t imagine being a black reporter or editor, working hard on a story, and having this stuff attached to it like a hemorrhoid. (It’s not just race that excites the yahoos, but that’s topic No. 1.)

I’ve heard different things about Gannett comment threads, but all via grapevines, nothing official. The gist is that they purposely keep their hands off, for legal reasons — if you moderate, you’re responsible for what appears there, but if you don’t, you’re not, so the explanation goes. It makes no sense to me, but then, I’m not a lawyer.

It’s the anonymity that brings out the beast in people, of course. Take away the name, and people feel free to say any damn thing that bubbles out of their id. I don’t except myself, either — I’ve been an anonymous blog commenter in the past, and while I don’t do it anymore, I will say that it served its purpose. But most people who comment here are anonymous or at least somewhat shrouded — I know Coozledad’s real name, and it is neither Coozle, nor Dad — but we generally keep things decent and respectful.

Maybe it’s the anonymity, plus the size of the net cast. When you’re one of thousands reading a MSM website, it just seems easier to spew. I don’t know. I do know I’m grateful to you folks for being the fabulous community you are, from sea to shining sea and then to a few more seas (hello, Copenhagen!). Don’t ever change, or if you do, just get funnier and smarter.

Russian-study time. Have a great day.

Posted at 10:19 am in Media |
 

78 responses to “Mothers, fathers and sons.”

  1. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 27, 2009 at 10:32 am

    It feels rude to say it, but could it be a function of size and numbers, then re-filtered by Gresham’s Law. If there’s 1 racist kook among 1,000 readers, you may get less here; when the Freep gets 5 out of 5,000 readers, the five Klavernites drive out other commenters.

    There’s strong feeling and distinct disagreement here (see end of last thread), and i get frustrated with a certain amount of what feels like willful reframing, but i keep commenting because i have a fundamental faith in the basic good will and wit among the regular commentariat. But it wouldn’t take many nasty vicious trolls to make it feel not worth the wading through the muck to try to restate a simple point you made 256 comments ago.

    Gannett’s webpage standard also only gives you 5 to 10 comments at a time, and when our local paper gets a comment discussion going, it gets really old to try to fish around to pick up the sense of the debate when it just gets up to 75 or 90. So the poo-flinging trolls slowly, steadily predominate. (Which brings to mind Sturgeon’s Law . . .)

  2. Julie Robinson said on April 27, 2009 at 10:46 am

    As the daughter of a journalist I believe in truth and light, so I comment under my own name. There are times for anonymity but there are even more times for common sense.

  3. jcburns said on April 27, 2009 at 10:50 am

    I sometimes wonder Nancy if this was instead a representation of your print column—in other words, if this daily entry appeared not here but on the FW News-Sentinel or the FreePress or whatever ‘actual’ publication’s site, whether the level of commentary discourse would plunge downward just because the subtle change in the role of the author/proprietor.

    If it was, instead, Nancy-paid-pontificator-for-Gannett or NewsCorp talking here (and filtering her words through an editor or two) with you being a bit more guarded because that’s what you do when you’re accredited to a for-profit news company…it’d be a different sort of “comment” almost from the get-go.

    My point, and I almost have one, is that the urge to talk back to Ms. Smarty Pants On High Professional is different than the urge to join into an intelligent conversation “over coffee” (and indeed, I am slurping) at someone’s site run out of her home.

  4. Dorothy said on April 27, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Julie that is the wisest and sweetest comment I’ve read here at nn.c in awhile. Thank you for stating that so well! (no offense intended to all the other members of the nn.c regular commenters club!)

  5. John said on April 27, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Good luck with the Russian. I’m wading into the Russian accusative here in Ukraine. Tomorrow, I’m going to see Damien Hirst’s art, which includes a cow with its guts hanging out. Not sure which is uglier.

  6. LA Mary said on April 27, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Whether I agree with comments in here or not, I am impressed by how much thought people put into what they say here (most of the time.)

  7. Hexdecimal said on April 27, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Nancy – One reason the comments on your blog may be a bit nicer than that of a newspaper blog is that while we may not always agree with the opinions expressed here [on any given subject], we do respect the presenter. Also, most of you know each other personally. My having been (lurking) visiting here for several years I know I feel like I know some of you personally; and, having lived in the Fort for many years I just may in fact know some of you. Hence a bit more restraint from all on the name calling, hair pulling, and general cattiness that one reads on MSM blogs.

    On my posting anonymously: I would like to say I use it to protect myself, but I labor under no allusions that Nancy could not find me by tracking back my IP address or via my other electronic mouse droppings. Therefore, for full disclosure, my name is Mark Queen, formerly of the Fort, and currently residing in Scottsdale AZ.

  8. John said on April 27, 2009 at 11:51 am

    And thanks for patching me through to the Chris Buckley piece. Fabulous.

  9. coozledad said on April 27, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    The witness relocation program is a wonderful thing, but the names they randomly generate really suck sometimes. It was either Coozledad or Bucky.

  10. beb said on April 27, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Nancy asks: Why are the comments on my sole-proprietor, no-budget, stitched-together, lame-o blog so wonderful, and those on professionally done, big-budget, well-respected sites so terrible?

    Because there’s no money in it.

    All great art forms work best when there’s no money in it, or at least very little. The hey-day of FM radio was in the early dsays when most FM stations were just place holders for the rich and powerful FM stations. Once owners discovered that there was a lot of money ro be made in FM radio, playlists were imposed, random craziness suppressed andestablishment types promoted to DJs. The Inrternet was a lot more fun because everyone tried to make some money off it. And so forth. There’s no money to be made from reading or commenting on nn.c so the only people who do comment here are those who actually enjoy it. The people who are commenting on the big rag’s websites are attracted the size of their potential audience. Spewing their opionions there is like shouting into a megaphone from a rooftop without all the draft blowing up their skirts.

    So the more successful this site becomes, the more attractive it will become to the knuckle-dragging class.

  11. Sue said on April 27, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Well this is sort of in line with yesterday’s and today’s discussions. I enjoyed the translation:
    http://moonshinepatriot.blogspot.com/2009/04/meet-press-april-26-2009.html

  12. adrianne said on April 27, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    At my Rupert-owned little tabloid out in the outer Hudson Valley, one of our editors made it his mission in life to stamp out idiot commenters on the news forums. He got no sleep for about a month, but after relentlessly rejecting racial and mean-mouthed commenters, our news forums are pretty well-behaved. You have to monitor them, though, to stamp out idiocy.

  13. brian stouder said on April 27, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    (All of these stipulations are themes in Laura Lippman’s excellent “Life Sentences,” now available at an Amazon kickback link near you.)

    And thanks to good ol’ Nance and her links, I discovered not just Ms Lippman’s marvelous website – The Memory Project – but also her wonderful books.

    Check out her latest little blog entry, with the memory question: “what do you remember about bedtime? Love it, hate it? Did you have rituals? Or rules you flouted?”

    http://www.journalscape.com/LauraLippman/2009-04-20-11:14

    Interesting stuff

  14. Jean S said on April 27, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    My thoughts exactly on the Buckley piece. He did his own children (not to mention himself) a tremendous service by being so honest.

  15. brian stouder said on April 27, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Ms Lippman has a saying – something like ‘all memoirs are treasonous’ (or maybe it was ‘all writing’); maybe some folks are reacting to that aspect of Buckley’s book. I’ve caught that fellow on C-SPAN before, and he got me laughing so hard my sides hurt! He told a great story about when he was a speech writer for then-VP GHW Bush, and he (Buckley) had written the VP a short speech (on something or other) and the speech referenced Thucydides…and GHWB (a well educated fellow, who certainly knew who Thucydides was, afterall) tripped over that name, and tripped again, and proceeded into a protracted struggle to spit it out…which caused much flop-sweat by Chris Buckley at the back of the room, and drew a rebuke from an Admiral who was present

  16. LA Mary said on April 27, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Off topic, and I apologize for that because it’s a good topic:

    Yet again one of the recruiters here received and application with what the applicant must have thought was a resume, but was some other file. We’ve seen love letters, break up letters, and a pleading letter to the IRS. Today, we got someone’s Craigslist ad for a crib and ottoman. Taken literally, this applicant was describing herself has having steel ball bearing wheels and being easily wiped clean with a damp cloth.
    If anyone out there is job hunting, please open the file you’re attaching before you hit send.

  17. LA Mary said on April 27, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    The applicant also claimed to be thickly upholstered. I just saw her and it’s not true.

  18. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 27, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    “described herself (as) having steel ball bearing wheels and being easily wiped clean with a damp cloth.” — which would make one quite popular in certain categories of Craigslist, no?

    I thought the Buckley piece was a loving tribute (said the son of challenging if not famous and wealthy parents). Ultimately, what else can we give our kids but honesty? You can put some silly spin on what it means to “honor your father and mother,” but it doesn’t mean lie about them, and it doesn’t even necessarily mean you have to like them. But the core self needs to honor that they are who they are to you, and Chris Buckley did just that for his folks.

  19. LA Mary said on April 27, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    It might. I don’t see this person working out at the triage desk in the ER. The wipe clean quality might come in handy, though.

  20. brian stouder said on April 27, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    I’m a big ‘thickly upholstered’ man, myself (especially recliners with well-turned Victorian legs)

  21. basset said on April 27, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    I thought the Buckley was a well-told story, but that classic Buckley tone makes me want to organize an armed mob and sack Stamford. Or something.

  22. del said on April 27, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Something of an aside: I think people evolve in cyber-commenting, you know, as most of us have evolved from our first exposure to email. Anyone out there have an older friend or relative new to email who’s still fascinated by chain emails making the rounds?

    The first distinguishing feature of cyber-commenting is anonymity, causing the discourse to degenerate. Think of the comments you hear from the crowd at a baseball game, or, in extremis, the Seinfeld episode in which NY Met Keith Hernandez is pelted with spit. Hey where’d that come from? Nancy’s right, it gets old fast, and, as Danny said about incendiary talk radio, you get tired of being mad all the time.

    Another thing. Much communication is nonverbal and the keyboard can’t communicate intonation, facial expression, posture, any of that stuff. We all know it, but it still takes a while to deal with. Who hasn’t had sender’s remorse after a comment or email? Take consolation from the fact that on the internets all those folks whose words you respect eventually stumble. Everybody publishes stuff they want to take back — I’ve given my share of mea culpa follow-up comments. In the end though, we learn again the reasons for civility, and for words.

    A few things set NN.c apart. Lots of journalists are out there in Nallland and that works very well on the net. It’s about the words. And Nancy’s posts draw people in. Good stuff, thoughtful stuff. And she’s got a few loyalists who act as de facto site moderators. And the commenters are almost like a wikipedia community. I still remember quoting a Supreme Court justice about the legal definition of obscenity and having MarkH correct my attribution. It’s fun to comment to the NN.c wikipedians, learning from Jeffttmo about apophenia, and coozledad how to turn a trenchant, funny phrase. Yep, Nall’s ahead of the curve, I think.

  23. mark said on April 27, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Really bad idea of the day: flying a 747, followed closely by an F-16, a few hundred feet above the NYC skyline for a “photo shoot,” without alerting the public. Perhaps the “photo shooters” also wanted footage of thousands of panicked, tearful citizens pouring out of high-rises.

    Nice.

  24. Bill said on April 27, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Thanks for the link to Buckley’s memoir. I find the classic Buckley tone deliciously over-the-top (said with that Bill Buckley leer where he pops his eyebrows and opens his eyes wide and shows all his teeth) and I enjoyed the heck out of this one.

  25. Sue said on April 27, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Anyone picking up on the pandemic/stimulus package link? The original package wanted lotsobucks for pandemic preparation, arguing damage to the economy from a pandemic as the reason to include it in the stimulus package. Republicans were not buying it, and the compromise eliminated something like 75% of the money for preparedness and all of the money for emergency service help. It’s beginning to look like a misstep by the Republicans, with support of course from the Dems.

  26. Scout said on April 27, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Nancy knows my real name too, I only use this name on the toobs because it is my favorite cat’s name, and I am nothing if not a crazy old cat lady.

    I agree with all of the previous comments that outline why it’s different here, and I’ll add one more. After lurking for a long time and sometimes offering the occassional comment, I feel like I know the regulars and this has become a sort of Internet Cheers, a community if you will. I know I’m not alone in this assessment because there is very little nest shitting, as my very colorful mother likes to say.

    I love coming here because while there are many blogs I follow for great writing, Nancy’s is that plus a comment section that is every bit as enjoyable as the original post.

  27. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 27, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Sack, in Stamford? Sherry perhaps, or a dry Madeira, spiced with nutmeg, cloves, and mace, but sack is so common (plus the raw eggs whipped into it during the summer gets quite stringy).

    Connecticut is the Nutmeg State, after all.

  28. Gasman said on April 27, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    nancy,
    A big first year anniversary thanks for helping to deflate that skulking little turd Tim Goeglein. He was, is, and always will be a smug, sanctimonious liar.

    I heard Christopher Buckley on NPR on Saturday essentially saying the same things as his article. His portrayal of his parents was not always fawning, but I don’t think that he should be expected to necessarily paint an unbiased portrait.

    I never like William F. Buckley. He always came off as arrogant, smug, and condescending in the extreme. He was also an unrepentant racist and homophobe. He undoubtedly had great intellectual gifts, but he was no debater. He bullied, he did not debate. His style was to humiliate, to verbally eviscerate his opponents. He did not debate as Lincoln did, by trying to sway your opponents with the strength of your logic. No, he sought to demolish foes by publicly humiliating them. He may have been charming, but they said the same thing about Hermann Goering. So what.

  29. mark said on April 27, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    gasman, you’ve become the thing you claim to hate.

  30. basset said on April 27, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    too true, now that you mention it he was a lot like Limbaugh only leftier and smarter.

    and, if Christopher had been, say, a seed-corn grower down in Greene County, we’d never have heard his story no matter how interesting his parents were.

  31. jeff borden said on April 27, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    The worst thing about both WFB and his son, Christopher, is their treatment of the younger Buckley’s son from an affair with a Random House publicist named Irina Woelfle.

    WFB went out of his way in his will to state that the bastard child Jonathan not receive one red cent. And Christopher has never laid eyes on the boy, who is now 8-years-old and living with his mom in Coral Gables, Fla., waived all visitation rights and made his monthly $3,000 in child support dependent on the mother never contacting him.

    I like the guy’s writing a lot, but this is creepy shit.

  32. Gasman said on April 27, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    mark,
    I never said I hated Buckley, I just didn’t like him. I am also pretty sure that I have not become Buckley. I am not racist nor homophobic. I also actually enjoy verbal jousting with those who disagree with me, so long as they are honest, accurate, civil, and try to persuade rather than bully. When you abide by such conduct I even enjoy your posts.

    As to my comments regarding Tim Goeglein, I stand by them. I do not hate him either, I just find his intellectual sloppiness and his arrogance to be tiresome. I have personal history with Goeglein. We attended the same high school, Paul Harding, in Fort Wayne, at the same time. He was two years behind me. I have no memory of him from that time, either good or bad. I find his fundagelical sanctimony ironic for one who plagiarizes. If you are going to be holier than thou, you might want to skip such obvious moral shortcomings.

    I would agree that, like Buckley did not, I do not suffer fools lightly. So long as you are not a fool, we are like the vegetarians at the dinner table: we have no beef between us.

  33. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 27, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    How was WFB a homophobe? I won’t waste our time debating whether opposition to federal civil rights legislation is racist (it might not be, y’know), but i don’t recall Buckley having a thing to say about sexual orientation.

    He did come out in favor of decriminalization of most drugs in his last two decades, and stayed quietly but firmly in that camp. But other than defending a traditional definition of marriage . . . i think he favored civil unions, but that particular language didn’t gain currency until he had pretty much stopped writing.

    Or are we saying defending a traditional legal definition of marriage is homophobia? I favor legal civil unions for all and pitching matrimony/marriage language back into the theological territory from whence it came — does that make me a homophobe? But i’m not sure WFB qualified, and i’m quite certain Pat Buckley wasn’t homophobic, unless it was towards a gay man wearing white after Labor Day.

  34. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 27, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    This is as far as i could find Buckley going, and it seems to strain a bit to call this argument homophobic.

  35. ROgirl said on April 27, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Some of the wingnut attacks on C Buckley must also stem from the fact that he broke with sacred tradition and voted for Obama. His revelations about Mum and Pup must be more than some true believers can bear.

  36. Gasman said on April 27, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Jeff (tmmo),
    I would have posted sooner, but I could not find my file of unflattering WFB quotes. Once I found it, my post practically wrote itself.

    I am not criticizing Buckley for defending traditional marriage, but for making statements that I believe fairly qualify as homophobic. I’m not sure what level of proof you require for the label of homophobe, but I’ll offer the following:

    On live TV in 1968, addressing Gore Vidal –

    “Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I will sock you in your goddamn face, and you will stay plastered.”

    In the New York Times, March 18, 1986 –

    “Everyone detected with AIDS should be tatooed in the upper forearm, to protect common-needle users, and on the buttocks, to prevent the victimization of other homosexuals.”

    Then in 2005, referencing himself in the third person –

    “The objective is to identify the carrier, and to warn his victim. Someone, 20 years ago, suggested a discreet tattoo the site of which would alert the prospective partner to the danger of proceeding as had been planned. But the author of the idea was treated as though he had been schooled in Buchenwald, and the idea was not widely considered, but maybe it is up now for reconsideration.”

    The Nation had a post-mortem analysis of this issue. Do those statements rise to warrant the moniker of homophobe? To be fair, Buckley did have some close friends who were gay, notably Roy Cohen, who died from AIDS. His statements above, however, do not present a man who was willing to accept homosexuality to any real extent.

    As to WFB’s advocacy for the legalization of marijuana, I found a blog poster that posited the following:

    If you’re a liberal who smokes pot, you’re a stoner.
    If you’re a conservative blowhard who smokes pot, it shows a real commitment to intellectualism.

    For the record, überliberal that I am, I do not support the legalization of marijuana. Go figure.

  37. Gasman said on April 27, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    nancy,
    I’ve noticed that since about Thursday or Friday I cannot edit posts. I remember someone else mentioning the same.

    Correction: now it seems to be working.

  38. Gasman said on April 27, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    Here’s the infamous interchange between WFB and Gore Vidal that aired on August 28, 1968 during ABC’s coverage of the Democratic Convention in Chicago. Bullyboy WFB in fine form.

  39. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 27, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    “His statements above, however, do not present a man who was willing to accept homosexuality to any real extent.”

    I’ll go with that. So why not decriminalize marijuana? Mind you, decriminalize is what’s usually discussed, not legalization. Or is that your point? (In the same way that oxycontin isn’t legal, but a controlled substance.)

    Testing by way of Gasman’s note on editing — it’s been on and off the last few days. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t. [Insert “comment Viagra ™” joke here.]

  40. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 27, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    By way of Gasman’s note on editing — it’s been on and off the last few days. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t. [Insert “comment Viagra ™” joke here.]

    Just tried to add the above to comment 39 twice, pasted, quit page, reopened, still couldn’t edit, and made it into this new comment.

  41. nancy said on April 27, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Thanks for pointing this out, Gas and Jeff. The plug-in is activated, so I don’t know what the problem is. From following J.C.’s Twitter feed, I think he may be on the road at the moment. I know he follows comments pretty closely, so if he sees this, FYI, John.

  42. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 27, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Ah, and this happened on Friday — after the next comment pops, the original non-appearing comment edit turns up (i caught it within the 30 min. limit and deleted the double pump).

    A little patience may be useful here, contra the usual internet immediacy.

    So, an experiment, having just seen a link that seems tailor-made, so to speak, for this blog.

  43. alex said on April 27, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Re Vidal and WFB, I’ve always suspected that was the pot calling the kettle black, and really not a whole lot worse than “crypto Nazi,” frankly. I look at it as two evil sissy queens going Bill O’Reilly on each other in 1968.

    I suspect WFB’s attitude would be like that of the Cheneys or anyone else in his circles: If you have wealth and privilege, you can screw whomever you please. If you don’t have wealth and privilege, sucks to be you.

  44. Old Lino Operator said on April 27, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Linotype operators liked setting the Buckley column because he used one syllable words which meant they could get four spacebands in a line of type, and that meant less hand spacing and faster work. There can be more to a man than logic and intellect, and they quickly learned to ignore content when working on the NS editorial page. (The advance NS stuff was usually done by the nightside, i.e., JG printers.)

  45. LA Mary said on April 27, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Sometimes I worry that I assume there are a lot of Larry Craig right wing self hating gays out there. I always thought WFB was in that group. Alex, thank you for sharing my perception. Also, Roy Cohn as a gay friend does not give you any points in the gay tolerance department.

  46. moe99 said on April 27, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    Thanks for pointing out Roy Cohn’s essential hypocrisy, LA Mary.

  47. nancy said on April 27, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    The old linotype operator wins the thread. I decree.

  48. Deborah said on April 27, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    I have always been impressed with the NNC comments (and of course the blogposts). Every once in a while I am compelled to comment here, but I must say it is intimidating for me to do so because I’m such a lousy writer compared to you all.

  49. Deborah said on April 27, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    OK now I’m having the editing problem, I caught my error “Everyone once in a while” in my comment above and I can’t fix it.

  50. Deborah said on April 27, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    And after I wrote the last comment the first one was fixed? I’ll stop now.

  51. Kirk said on April 27, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    My memory is that Buckley used a lot of multi-syllable words that most of his readers wouldn’t recognize, to show everyone how brilliant he was.

  52. nancy said on April 27, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    I once heard him in an interview explaining the difference between “regal” and “kingly.” He had a point.

  53. JC said on April 27, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    I’m in complete agreement with Deborah. I come here to read the comments as much as the entries that inspired them. When it comes to reading comments in newspapers’ websites, though, I’ll pass. In fact, I would love a feature that allows me to turn off comments so I don’t see them at the end of a story. If I want uninformed, borderline racist commentary on current events, I’ll attend a family reunion.

  54. Linda said on April 27, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Part of the reason the discourse tends to be high here is that nobody wants to be the weak link. Who wants to stand out for a negative reason? But also, trolls tend to infest certain websites because nobody goes through the trouble to challenge them. Sometimes, good, well-informed snark can run them off. Even anonymous people don’t want to look stupid in a public place, and when everybody’s agreeing with them–or nobody is running them off–they feel right at home, like termites in untreated wood.

  55. Rana said on April 27, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    I think a lot of it depends on the community’s – the blog owner’s, the commenters’ – willingness to call a troll a troll, and ban them (or mock them, depending on the blog’s culture) as soon as it becomes obvious that the person isn’t there in good faith.

    The original poster’s presence in the comments thread seems to help a lot with keeping things civil as well – people seem somewhat less inclined to indulge in rug-pooping if they know that there’s a fair chance that the host or hostess is going to call them out for it.

  56. Gasman said on April 27, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    Jeff (tmmo),
    As for my not supporting the legalization of weed, it is because I feel the liberal arguments that I have heard so for are either intellectually weak, unsupported, or flat out false. In my mind they amount to our liberal canards that don’t really withstand scrutiny.

    1. That legalizing and taxing will undercut the criminal element.
    Why this assumption? If there are going to be taxes imposed, I guarantee that some enterprising entrepreneur will produce weed at a lower price than the taxed product. We already have such versions of tobacco that comes in from Canadian Indian reservations. If there is a profit to be made, criminals will do so.

    2. Legalization will take away the “forbidden fruit” aspect and create less demand.
    I believe that demand would rise and do so significantly. It would also do nothing to lessen the use by teens. The teenage brain is still developing and weed, especially the more potent stuff grown today, has a demonstrably more harmful effect on teenage brains than those of adults. I think anyone arguing that teenagers aren’t dumb enough and need chemical enhancement is going to have a tough time selling that notion. NPR did a recent mock story – sometime last week on All Things Considered – on what it would be like three years after the legalization of weed. They predicted that usage would increase by at least 30%, based partly upon the experience of the Danes. Addiction would almost certainly increase.

    3. Legalization would aid those seeking medical marijuana.
    I think that most of the “medical” marijuana advocates are simply looking to get that particular camel’s nose under the tent. For many that make this argument it is simply a disingenuous way to legalize weed via the backdoor. There have been very few legitimate double blind medical tests concerning marijuana’s efficacy in any clinical application. Also, very few physicians would advocate smoking as a delivery method for any drug. Smoking anything is just about one of the worst things that you can do to your body, especially if your health is already compromised. I would need to see serious medical studies that confirmed these assertions that it helps. Medical advancements have to be on the basis of more than just anecdotal evidence.

    Is our current drug policy flawed? Hell yes, but that doesn’t mean that legalization is going to actually solve anything. We could certainly alleviate a significant burden upon our legal system, but we could also do so by legalizing murder, assault, robbery, etc. Legalization will not make these problems go away.

    If were going to seriously contemplate this notion of legalization, let’s be honest in our discourse and thorough as we consider all of the ramifications.

  57. grapeshot said on April 27, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    I post a comment here occasionally, usually late at night, long after everyone has left. (Always late to the party, I am.) I use a nickname because I have a day job, and all things considered, I would prefer to keep it. I know that a nickname won’t keep a determined searcher from finding my identity, but it does afford me a sort of thin veneer of privacy, allowing me to feel as if I can comment in a public forum without feeling as if I’m exposing my private being to crass drive-by’s. It certainly sounds high-minded to swear to never post anonymously (as if that’s really possible), but only someone who’s never worked for a thin skinned, neurotic individual and who doesn’t have to worry too much about food and shelter can afford such transparency (and the resulting vulnerability.)

    I should stipulate that I do not at this time work for any such individual or organization, but I have in the past, and it has left me with a healthy paranoia.

  58. Gasman said on April 27, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    Jeff (tmmo),
    I just reread your earlier post regarding legalization vs. decriminalization. I would open to a discussion of either, but would demand honesty in both discussions. There certainly could be vast differences between the two. However, the lack of addressing the pernicious reality of addiction is a serious flaw in either argument, in my humble opinion.

  59. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 27, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    And, IMHO, the fact that we’re still largely guessing when it comes to addiction treatment/recovery/rehab. That’s the problem for each option in its own way, whether the so-called “drug war,” decrim, or straight legalization.

    12 step seems to have the best results, but even they can’t tell you why, or many details about how. But on TV, having your rehab center in Malibu is a real plus for selling books outlining a treatment plan.

    I think the arrest/incarcerate cycle in most communities has as much to do with antisocial behavior rubbed raw by poverty as it does with addiction, so decriminalization would largely mean local police and patrolling sheriffs would have to find other pretexts for pre-emptive arrests vs. waiting for DUI justification or picking them up on a warrant after the fact.

  60. basset said on April 27, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    Well, if smokin’ that stuff is going to be at least semi-legal, we better put this guy on speed dial:

    http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2009/04/an-evening-with-paulie-gee-gianonne-pizza-madman-of-warren-nj.html

    Never been to New Jersey, ever, or cared to, but now I have a reason. Make that a mission.

  61. MaryRC said on April 27, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    Thanks for the link to Christopher Buckley’s article. I agree that if you are going to write, you have to write truthfully. Jessica Mitford had a conversation along these lines with her sister Nancy and I can’t remember which of them said this. They both wrote about their family (there was a lot to write about) and one of them asked the other whether she would write frankly about some aspect of their parents’ lives. The other sister said more or less what Nancy has said, that if you are going to write about them at all you have to write the truth.

    The article was particularly interesting in comparison to a recent Vanity Fair profile of Pat Buckley which gushed over how marvellous she was but also hinted that she could be difficult, hard on her friends and a heavy drinker. This was left between the lines, for example tossing in an anecdote about how she and Bill Blass became estranged after he spread rumors that she drank, leaving you to guess whether the rumors were true or not. Unlike the VF writer Christopher didn’t pussyfoot around, did he?

    I thought it was an affectionate memoir. That story about Christopher being abandoned on his graduation day, though … ! That still stings, you can tell.

  62. Mosef said on April 28, 2009 at 12:21 am

    The NN commentators do get a plus for civility, which is not to be under-rated. But as to content… “you need to get out more” jumps to mind.

  63. joodyb said on April 28, 2009 at 12:32 am

    i’ve been reading nn.c since near-beginning, and my heart still leaps daily at an ingenious construction or POV.

    we come here because it’s rewarding. it’s the odd visitor who shouts into the void. heh.

  64. Gasman said on April 28, 2009 at 12:48 am

    Aside from his rather narrow views on race and sexual orientation, William F. Buckley was a huge fan of Joseph McCarthy. From the title of his book McCarthy and His Enemies, you can tell how he felt about old Joe.

    WFB set the tone for modern conservatism, and I do not mean that as a compliment. While he exuded a certain amount of charm even when he was most pompous, WFB’s latter day acolytes tend to be devoid of his charm, intellect, or command of language. Thus the snarkfest that is too often the first line of conservative reasoning.

    I did like two Buckley quotes in particular. Although I did not like the context in which he made it – advocating decriminalizing/legalizing marijuana – I love to quote it out of context:

    Conservatives pride themselves on resisting change, which is as it should be. But intelligent deference to tradition and stability can evolve into intellectual sloth and moral fanaticism, as when conservatives simply decline to look up from dogma because the effort to raise their heads and reconsider is too great.

    Possibly a recognition of the intellectual lightweights that were rising to the top of the conservative movement? What would WFB have thought of Sarah Palin?

    The other quote was his realization that our Iraqi misadventure was a blunder on several levels:

    One can’t doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed. …

    He went on to cite the multiple ways one could measure our failure. He clearly blamed Bush and Cheney for dragging us into this quamire.

  65. moe99 said on April 28, 2009 at 3:29 am

    http://www.2008electionprocon.org/pdf/US_v_Lee.pdf

    The Reagan Department of Justice prosecuted a Texas sheriff and several others for waterboarding prisoners. Isn’t that interesting?

  66. alex said on April 28, 2009 at 7:49 am

    The Douchehat debut:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/28/opinion/28douthat.html?_r=1

    And to think they got rid of Mr. Kristol because he was babbling incoherently.

  67. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 28, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Alex, he’s not saying Cheney would have or should have won . . . plus i think name-twist mockery is right up there with “so’s yer mama.” Of course, my mom had a name so easy to twist into derision she never used it.

  68. brian stouder said on April 28, 2009 at 9:28 am

    I clicked Alex’s link and bailed after two sentences, but then Jeff’s comment sent me back there again (as often happens), and the guy’s article was at least not ridiculous.

    But truly, if I were an opinion columnist, I wouldn’t want the byline beneath my headline to make people say “doubt that”.

  69. alex said on April 28, 2009 at 9:29 am

    All name-twisting aside, it’s a pretty unimpressive effort from the ballyhooed new voice of neoconservativism. But I’ll give him points for deftly dissing the fringier elements of the Republican party while using Cheney as his stooge.

  70. Jolene said on April 28, 2009 at 9:36 am

    I agree. It was interesting enough as an intellectual exercise to contemplate the idea of Cheney as a candidate, but, as a debut column, this seemed pretty underwhelming.

    I’d have preferred a “talk directly to the reader” approach in which he introduced himself and talked about how he hoped to use the space.

  71. coozledad said on April 28, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Alex: Thers says it’s pronounced Doo-hat. Is the Times scouring the editorial pages of preptard school papers for people with such a lack of self-awareness they refuse to change their name from Hal Foreskin or Debbie Fistula?
    I’m awed by the sheer alabastrine density of these people.

  72. Jolene said on April 28, 2009 at 9:40 am

    Actually, cooz, he says it’s pronounced “Dow-thut”.

  73. nancy said on April 28, 2009 at 9:48 am

    I prefer the sophomoric “douche-hat,” m’self.

    And Cooz — Lucille Buttlicher was a classmate of my dad’s.

  74. coozledad said on April 28, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Thanks, Jolene. You know that gave his grammar school teachers a headache.

  75. coozledad said on April 28, 2009 at 9:53 am

    There’s always the alternative pronunciation dodge. “It’s pronounced BOOT LE SHAY, you proles!”

  76. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 28, 2009 at 10:01 am

    After 12 years of “Gillfish,” said Jeff Gill, i feel sympathy for any name-mockery victim. Buttlicher, though, just calls for a Probate Court filing, $50 fee, and a legal name change to something safe and short, like Putz or Schmuck or even Hitler.

    South of here in Pickaway County, OH, they discuss changing Hitler Road every couple of years, but the family goes back to 18-oh-something and still lives in the area, and the signs stay up . . . until stolen, which is the real reason the county wants to change the road name.

  77. LA Mary said on April 28, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Douche hat is a great name. So visual. Didn’t we determine he was in the closet last time we discussed him?

  78. caliban said on May 7, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Nancy. But can you define louche? I think it’s William Hurt. Or John Hurt. There;s blood lust refardibg the torturers. How about humiliating all those assholes, Cheney and the stovepipe included. And if Cheney keeps blowing his hole, put him in revolving stocks. to tour the country.

    The deal is fairly clear. Cheney is the piece of shit. HUMILIATE THIS SAD EXCUSE FOR A HUMAN BEING.