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June 10, 2009

When Adults Act Like Children

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy.
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.

- Romeo and Juliet

I've been mulling this post over for several months. This is something of a departure for me because in over five years of writing online I've almost never hesitated - even for a moment - to take on a fight I believed in with all my heart and soul. But the truth is that I'm tired. I am finding that the longer I spend on the Internet, the more my faith in human decency and common sense are eroded.

During most of a largely misspent youth I leaned to the Left politically. The reason for my youthful liberalism can be summed up in a single word: empathy. When I saw another human being in trouble, pain, or need it seemed only natural to offer my help and support. Since the world is full of struggling people - far more than one sympathetic young woman could ever hope to assist - it seemed reasonable to extend my own moral guidelines to government. In my youthful estimation the world would be a far better place if everyone could just agree to pitch in and help those in need.

But as I grew older and began to put my principles into practice I noticed a troubling thing. Empathy based decision making rarely produced the results I expected.

A year or two of helping friends who seemed to reel from one self-induced contretemps to another raised disturbing doubts in my mind. Empathy as an overarching guide for human behavior was often counterproductive. Not only did it not help; in some cases it seemed to be actively harmful.

Over the years I noticed that rescuing friends from serial disasters of their own creation didn't encourage them to make smarter decisions. If anything, my interventions skewed the risk/reward calculation we use to select the best course from a range of alternatives. By stepping in and helping each time friends chose poorly, I made it harder for them to learn from their mistakes. They continued to do predictably self destructive things and then look for someone more responsible to bail them out.

Over time I realized I couldn't keep substituting my judgment for theirs. The natural world punishes bad decisions. This natural feedback mechanism helps us distinguish what works from what doesn't. But I was subverting the learning process; unintentionally rewarding bad decisions and encouraging more of the same. With the best of intentions, I had produced the worst of results.

And so I became a conservative. I embraced the idea that people make the most efficient and productive choices when they base their decisions on the way the world *does* work, not the way they wish it would work. I came to believe subjectivity, empathy, and tribalism make extremely poor foundations for building a society or governing one's personal conduct because they elevate subjective feelings over objective experience and morality. I learned to separate my personal feelings and loyalty from notions of right and wrong, responsible and irresponsible. I learned that even though I often chafed at them, rules are not always bad. Centuries of accumulated human experience have resulted in some pretty smart guidelines for getting along with each other and achieving our goals.

I learned that sometimes, the best way to help someone you care for is to hold them accountable.

This is difficult and often unpleasant. We humans are a clannish species. It's only natural to view those we like and agree with more charitably than those outside our social circle. Women, in particular, tend to shrink from confrontations (especially with friends and colleagues). It seems disloyal, somehow. But balanced against these natural feelings was the chastening effect of experience. Discounting principle for empathy hadn't produced the results I'd thought it would. I had learned a valuable lesson: if you care about a person, institution, or nation you encourage it to be the best it can be. You want those you care about to make good decisions, not irresponsible and counterproductive ones.

But elevating principle over natural sympathy or personal loyalty has a steep price tag. Sometimes you find yourself taking positions which make you unhappy or uncomfortable. Attempting impartiality can make friends angry and conflict with your personal desires or sensibilities:

Like most people, Justice Holmes had empathy for some and antipathy for others, but his votes on the Supreme Court often went against those for whom he had empathy and for those for whom he had antipathy. As Holmes himself put it: "I loathed most of the things in favor of which I decided."

After voting in favor of Benjamin Gitlow in the 1925 case of Gitlow v. People of New York, Holmes said in a letter to a friend that he had just voted for "the right of an ass to drool about proletarian dictatorship." Similarly, in the case of Abrams v. United States, Holmes' dissenting opinion in favor of the appellants characterized the views of those appellants as "a creed which I believe to be the creed of ignorance and immaturity."

By the same token, Justice Holmes did not let his sympathies with some people determine his votes on the High Court. As a young man, Holmes had dropped out of Harvard to go fight in the Civil War because he opposed slavery. In later years, he expressed his dislike of the minstrel shows that were popular at the time "because they seem to belittle the race."

When what is popular doesn't coincide with what is right, it becomes difficult to stick to your principles. But I became a conservative because traditionally conservatives have upheld the notion that there are objectively discernable standards of right and wrong; standards whose application does not and should not depend upon personal loyalty or natural sympathy.

Perhaps that is why I find sentiments like this so perplexing:

You guys get a pass. I have different standards for people I like.

Yes, I understand it may have been a joke. But it also happens to illustrate a troubling trend. In a post entitled - with unintentional irony - "Nation of Seventh Graders", an old and respected friend manages to defend every single thing I dislike about the blogosphere:

I don’t understand why Whelan needs to apologize for identifying a law professor who thinks he can engage in public debate and orchestrate a targeted attack on Whelan under a false name. I think the law professor’s employers should be taking a close look at such low ethical behavior, and consider what kind of example he is setting for aspiring lawyers, who will operate in a very public world, governed by personal responsibility and consequences.

It's rare when I disagree with Jules, but on this occasion it's hard to find much I agree with in his post. Outing Publius did nothing to rebut a single argument he made. The act was intended to inflict personal damage and quite possibly to retaliate for statements Ed Whelan objected to. The problem is that generally accepted principles of self defense dictate the principle of matching force. If you are confronted with deadly force, you may use deadly force to defend yourself.

If you are called names or insulted, however, you do not get to deploy the tactical nukes. It makes no sense to argue that if a blogger "attacks" another blogger (good luck defining "attack" - there's a subjective standard for you), anything you do to him in retaliation is justified. I also disagree - vehemently - with characterizations like this:

Unfortunately, as the law prof who aggrandizes himself as Publius reportedly states, identity-masking pseudonymity is an accepted norm on the blogosphere, and given how much of our lives is being conducted in cyberspace, it is in danger of becoming a societal norm. That raises the prospect of our (accelerated) evolution into a nation of seventh graders, making prank hangup calls and writing things on walls.

...anyone who has professional reasons for not expressing an open opinion, as the law professor seems to think he does, may want to consider whether doing it by pseudonym doesn’t corrupt whatever standards and ethics he thinks pseudonymity is allowing him to maintain.

It isn't anonymity by itself that contributes to objectionable online behavior. It's the fact that online, we can do things we'd never get away with in real life. At first blush that might seem like a good argument for "outing" pseudononymous bloggers. Punish them for writing things you don't like. Make the argument personal. Hit them where they live - make them pay for angering or offending you.

But self defense doesn't require such drastic measures. The remedy for objectionable speech is not to damage your opponent personally. The remedy is opposing speech: cogent and coherent refutation of the offending idea.

The notion that writing under ones' own name forces bloggers to behave responsibly or decently is unsupported by experience. After all, Ed Whelan was writing under his own name and yet that didn't stop him from responding to a battle of words with an act that brought near universal condemnation from both the right and the left. Jules writes under his own name. Somehow, I suspect that in real life he'd think twice before applying words like "coward" to those who blog under a pseudonym. That's a thinly veiled ad hominem argument which appeals to the sad tendency of human beings to substitute bias and knee jerk reactions for careful consideration. We've heard this argument before. The Left use it all the time:

"Just ignore what he said. He's a wingnut/Republican/Faux News watcher/sexist/homophobe/chickenhawk. Because of who he is, it's perfectly acceptable for me to gloss right over his argument and substitute insults for a well reasoned rebuttal."

I've blogged under a pseudonym for years. I do it for reasons I consider well thought out and worthwhile. My husband is a senior Marine officer. I don't think either the Marine Corps or he ought to be associated with my opinions. I don't think I should have to worry that some unprincipled person will dig up and publish personal information about my family in retribution for some opinion I've expressed that offends them. If I do something unfair, unwise, or embarrassing, I think it should be only me who suffers.

And at times, I have suffered. The idea that using a pseudonym shields a blogger from scorn, ridicule, disagreement, embarrassment or correction is frankly silly. I have a comments section where anyone is free to take apart my arguments. I publish my email address too. I've been harrassed, threatened, and had my site hacked more times than I can count. In fact, though it may seem convenient for conservatives to attack the messenger rather than consider an unpleasant idea, women online are far more likely to experience vicious personal attacks than men:

On some online forums anonymity combined with misogyny can make for an almost gang-rape like mentality. One recent blog thread, attacking two women bloggers, contained comments like, "I would fuck them both in the ass,"; "Without us you would be raped, beaten and killed for nothing,"; and "Don't worry, you or your friends are too ugly to be put on the black market."

Jill Filipovic, a 23-year-old law student who also writes on the popular blog, Feministe, recently had some photographs of her uploaded and subjected to abusive comments on an online forum for students in New York. "The people who were posting comments about me were speculating as to how many abortions I've had, and they talked about 'hate-fucking' me," says Filipovic. "I don't think a man would get that; the harassment of women is far more sexualised - men may be told that they're idiots, but they aren't called 'whores'."

Most disturbing is how accepted this is. When women are harassed on the street, it is considered inappropriate. Online, though, sexual harassment is not only tolerated - it's often lauded. Blog threads or forums where women are attacked attract hundreds of comments, and their traffic rates rocket.

That's why a lot of us use pseudonyms. It's not as though readers don't know who we are or how to contact us. Pseudonyms just make it a tiny bit harder for the nuts in this world to hurt those we love.

Oddly, when the name "Deb Frisch" comes up most people think of Jeff Goldstein. But long before the Goldstein/Frisch brouhaha consumed most of the available oxygen in the blogosphere, Deb hung around VC. She was here for months. Like Jeff, both my readers and I were insulted, stalked, threatened, and generally harassed. My server was hacked. But unlike Jeff, I chose not to turn what on balance was merely an unpleasant experience with a troll into a three ring circus.

I've objected to uncivil behavior many times over the years regardless of whether it was perpetrated by liberals or conservatives:

If you have any doubts whatsoever about this, all you need do is imagine the look on one of the Obama girls' faces as they are confronted with the term 'bukake' or 'raped' in conjunction with their mother. They don't even need to read it themselves. Children are cruel - someone might easily tell them about it just as someone told me about this post.

Was this really necessary? Standards. They are supposed to apply to both sides.

The response - as often, lately, from conservatives as from liberals - has been depressing.

Rather than respond to the case for evenly applied standards of decency, some conservatives and some liberals seem to prefer nasty personal attacks. I rarely recognize anything I read about myself in their so-called rebuttals: I hate men. Or I hate sex. That one's an eye roller. I must be fat, ugly, or a lesbian. Or I want to control what other people do. That is arguably my favorite.

It is also arguably the most stupid thing I've read in all my years on the 'Net.

How on earth does merely expressing an opinion equate to forcing another adult to do what I want? When did women obtain the magical power to control helpless grown men via the written word? I must have missed that memo. When other bloggers disagree with me, are they trying to control me too? Odd - I thought they were simply expressing opinions contrary to my own (something they have a perfect right to do). I don't get my pantyhose in a wad, even when people on my side choose to resort to insults rather than reasoned rebuttals. In the world I live in my actions are my own responsibility. So long as what I do comports with my own values, I can sleep at night.

Conservatives - and especially conservatives online - need to think about what kind of world it is we want to live in. If what we want is a bare knuckle free for all where personal attacks are not only condoned but applauded (but only so long as the attacker is firmly on "our side"), that's one thing. But if we want to have any credibility when we object to our opponents treating conservatives and their families with contempt and derision, we might want to consider actually practicing what we preach.

We might want to consider not calling women who dare to voice opinions we disagree with sluts and whores; to consider speaking up when some on our own side forget themselves.

We might want to take a long, hard (heh... she said 'long and hard') look in the mirror, because our online community - any community - is what we decide to make it. Standing up for civility is not political correctness and it's not wimpy. In fact, there's quite a bit of evidence for the proposition that there are times when taking offense plays an essential part in maintaining a well ordered society:

You could say our lives as social beings are ruled by the three R's: respect—the sense that proper deference has been paid to our status, reputation—the carefully maintained perception of our qualities, and reciprocity—the belief that our actions are responded to fairly.

...Being on the alert for scoundrels is exhausting, and confronting those who violate social rules is potentially dangerous. But humans feel compelled to do it because without vigilance, fairness and cooperation break down. Gazzaniga cites experiments that show that individuals who take the risk of punishing cheaters enhance their own reputation within a group. (Here's a real-life example.)

Humans' sense of indignation is not just limited to violations against us. Even if you're able-bodied, think of how offended you feel when you see another able-bodied person pull into a handicapped parking spot. Most of us will just walk on, quietly irate, but a few will yell at the driver. These moral enforcers are vital to society. Frans de Waal writes that experiments with macaques show that if you remove the individuals who perform this policing function, hostilities increase among the entire band.

Perhaps this is why, unlike Jules, I was encouraged by Ed Whelan's decision to apologize for outing Publius. I was encouraged because whatever one thinks of his actions up until that moment, Ed Whelen did the right thing. He acted the way I expect a conservative to act. He elevated what was right over what was personally expedient.

And that took enormous courage, because in so doing he had to admit that he was wrong. That takes integrity, a quality I see all too rarely on our side of the blogosphere these days.

Ed Whelan made me proud to be a conservative.

His actions, and those of conservatives who urged him to do the right thing, gave me hope that perhaps we do stand for something after all. They gave me hope because if conservatives continue to condone the substitution of personal attacks for civil discourse when it suits our purposes, there will be no place for people like me on the Internet. They will be driven away and the only voices left will be the ones who enjoy shouting and feces flinging. The conservative side of the blogosphere will be blissfully free of dissent or thoughtful discussion. We'll become the echo chamber the Left makes us out to be: a place where only those willing to defend and agree with the tribe are heard.

I've taken my share of lumps over the past five years and contrary to the brash talk of the bare knuckle crowd I've held my own just fine. I've chosen not to take the name callers and the trolls seriously and though I can't claim I've never been hurt or angered, I haven't let silly personal attacks stop me from writing or rock my world.

But while incivility doesn't frighten me, it has worn me down. What I find most distressing is when my own side scream like banshees over some perceived insult from the Left and then proceed to dish out the same or even worse. I can't - and won't - defend such people.

Even though they're supposedly on "my side". And contrary to what many on the right seem to think, simple disagreement is not an "attack". It's not personal and it's not disloyal, and calling those on your own side crybabies, wimps, sluts or whores doesn't make you a brave warrior for truth (much less do anything to advance conservative ideas). Arguing that a blogger should "know better" than to advance unpopular opinions because conservatives will "just attack you"; that we lack the ability to control our own behavior or rise above our instincts is a pretty depressing indictment of our claim to be the party of ideas.

Of course these tactics do generate a lot of traffic. And perhaps, in the end, that's the point. I suppose we all have to decide why we're doing this. All I know is that when my own side abandons its principles, the cost of blogging begins to seem unacceptably high.

Posted by Cassandra at June 10, 2009 06:32 AM

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That was one of the best, most thought provoking blogs I've read in a long, long time!

Posted by: Terry at June 10, 2009 12:42 PM

Many times you have taken a position that I have simply just couldn't get my head around. But I did one of two things: Stated why I saw things in black and white and then hung around for the conversation that was sure to enlighten me, or either agreed wholeheartedly to where there was nothing to add, or said nothing at all when I disagreed and couldn't come up with an Opposing View. I don't regret it and I don't think it hurt me...except the growing pains. That is a good thing when a blog can accomplish making one think.

Never once was I offended by you or the Knaves.
Sandbagged, yes. But never offended and never put off.

In reading you, Juliette and other blogs, I also had hope that the internet provided just that: Freedom of speech and the freedom to really look at an issue from all sides.

The Founders would have loved the web for that reason.

Oh, and FIRST!!!

Posted by: Cricket at June 10, 2009 12:44 PM

Yeah, I bristled too at Jules' argument. I can somewhat understand the desire to know who you are really arguing with if that other person is standing their argument on their own reputation/authority. If your argument is nothing more than an appeal to authority, then it does become a legitimate debate point to ascertain whether you actually have that authority.

But if you are simply approaching it from the standpoint of "I'm just another person with an opinion" then digging into someone real life is nothing more than blatent intimidation. If in order to win a debate you have to resort to threats (whether they be to that person's or their familie's safety or just their livelihood), you have already lost.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 10, 2009 01:20 PM

As someone who pretty much openly sexually harrassed you for years as my Jacques Chirac charicature persona, I thought you handled it extremely well and with grace. The repartee added another layer of "Pepe LePew" ridiculousness to an already buffoonish Chirac. Your ability to laugh at Chirac's clownish posturings made it that much more fun for everyone. I think much of this garbage would go away if people could laugh at themselves and others in a healthy way.

Posted by: a former european at June 10, 2009 01:29 PM

I know you're kidding afe, but it never occurred to me for one moment to think of your hilarious comments as harassment, sexual or otherwise :p

I agree on the laughter up to a point. After all, that's how I've chosen to respond to people who thought it would be more effective to insult me personally than to respond to my arguments.

Over the years, I decided that anyone who isn't capable of making a rational argument doesn't deserve a response. Me saying, "BUT...BUT... I AM *NOT* A FAT, UGLY MAN HATING LESBIAN WHO WANTS TO CASTRATE YOU AND STEAL YOUR CORNFLAKES!" is unlikely to convince the kind of person who resorts to such nonsense.

At the same time, if I've learned anything over the years it's that we all respond differently to threats or insults and I am suspicious of the argument that if you blog, you've "asked for" whatever treatment you receive.

Blogging takes time and effort. You're constantly wondering, "Is this worth it? Am I accomplishing anything? Ou sont mes Gauloises and what good is it, anyway, wandering in an existentialist hell bereft of a Supreme Being, the right to unlimited personal gratification, or government sponsored income transfers from the filthy rich to the deserving poor?"

There's a lot to be said for not blowing a gasket over a bit of criticism but I've noticed that the ones who most often do just that are the very ones who claim others should grow tougher skin :p

Posted by: Cassandra at June 10, 2009 01:42 PM

Oui, I agree. I have been a bomb-thrower from time to time, but I don't get insulted or offended when someone wants to get rough-and-tumble over my provocative statements. If you launch a salvo like that, then you are pretty much inviting someone to a throwdown. If you want to be more genteel about it, then one shouldn't jump into the mud-wrestling pit in the first place.

I'm not saying that being in-your-face is my preferred approach. It is not, as my penchant for caricatures will attest. Nevertheless, being a man, the testosterone sometimes grabs hold of the reins and I'm spoiling for a good dustup. Even so, fights need not be mean, and can be downright friendly, as any good-ole-boy in a sawdust-floored honky tonk can attest. Maybe its a guy thing.

Posted by: a former european at June 10, 2009 02:09 PM

I think it is a guy thing to a certain extent, afe.

But I think it's one thing to argue that some guys don't mind a good dustup even if it gets rough, if the point of that argument is, "Hey, they're having a good tussle and neither of them seems to object to it so what's the big deal?"

I can understand that argument and happen to think it's a valid point. The argument I'm not so sanguine about is the "Hey, men are wired to behave that way and therefore that's the way it should be" - i.e., that's the standard and if you want to write online, you are consenting to whatever happens to you. Or even the oft-stated "blogging is not for the thin-skinned", which seems very much like an excuse for acting like an ass and then getting positively thin-skinned yourself when you're criticized for doing so :p

Whenever I read something like that, I think, "Jeez - who in the heck are you to tell me what blogging is?" I can disagree, and furthermore I think I ought to be able to opine without tacitly agreeing to be personally savaged.

Now if someone wants to point out that I shouldn't be surprised if arguing with someone who's already behaving like a colossal ass will probably draw more colossally assholish behavior, I'll agree on that one. And I can't say I've been a bit surprised when exactly that has happened to me.

Hell - I knew it would before I decided to open my mouth. I raised two sons and have spent my life around Marines and Sailors, neither of whom are known for displaying excessive politesse :p But that doesn't make rudeness right, and those same Marines and Sailors will very quickly take one of their own to the woodshed when their behavior reflects poorly on the Marine Corps or the Navy. I know - I've seen it happen over and over again.

That's one reason people still respect the military - the rules mean something and moreover, the military voluntarily adhere to a far more rigid code of conduct than the civilian populace.

And they don't think doing so makes them weak or wussy. :p In general, I've found that people who are secure don't spend a whole lot of time worrying about what others say about them.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 10, 2009 03:02 PM

I think the problem is one of degrees for us (although I have to say that I'm not what would traditionally be termed "conservative"). I see one of two things happening in arguments - people who either "don't want to rock the boat" and therefore don't speak up, even respectfully, and people who speak up whether they can be respectful in that speech or not.

I'll admit I've been guilty of both. Most of my family is pretty much further left than I am on some issues. It doesn't matter to them that we agree on several things, it only matters to them that there are things on which we disagree. In conversations, the disagreements are the ONLY subjects that they make snide asides about, rather than just letting the conversation drop.

Usually I'll just let it roll off (recognizing that there is nothing I - or even Jesus Christ himself - could say that would change their minds), but there are times when they place one straw too many on my back and I'll explode. All sorts of nastiness will come spewing out (as it's been storing up for a while). I'm not the cleanest mouthed speaker in any normal circumstances, so you can imagine the plethora of filth that can come pouring out of my mouth.

Anyway, I see an awful lot of the nastiness on the right happening in that same manner. Not that I'm excusing it at all, but I think in order to fix something you have to understand why it is happening. Not to make excuses, just in order to get the right approach.

In fact, the husband and I have had some pretty animated discussions about his own in-your-face response to leftists assumptions/rudeness/and arguments. He said he's had enough, he can't be quiet anymore, and being polite wasn't winning any battles. He said they don't understand decent behavior and they don't respond to rational discussion. Having viewed the latest David Letterman I can certainly understand where he came up with that point.

But is it true? And given that there is quite a lot of truth in the thought that people actively participating in the nastiness aren't going to listen to anything but the sound of their own voice anyway - how do we react? How do we provide an alternative? The squeaky wheel gets the grease, after all.

It's a thorny issue all around, I think.

Posted by: airforcewife at June 10, 2009 03:37 PM

Well, you make some excellent points.

A few thoughts:

1. When progressives begin by attacking you, does it incline you to consider their arguments? Does it make you more or less likely to retaliate in kind?

I've never been a big fan of the "niceness isn't winning any arguments" meme. First of all, people who are jerks won't be persuaded whether you're nice or nasty, so persuading them was never an option.

But what about people who are open to being persuaded? Aren't they the ones we want to appeal to? How do we convince them we're the better option if the best rebuttal we can offer is to climb right down in the gutter with those among our opponents who like it there? Because let's face it - not everyone on the Left is nasty or unreasonable. If we allow the worst fringe to set the standard (and that's the logical outcome of this tactic) then we've just doubled the number of unreasonable people in the world :p

2. I get really aggravated (not at you!) at folks who justify bad behavior with "I'm angry".

I get that. I totally get it.

Because damn it all, I'm not a single bit less angry than they are. People seem to assume that if you restrain yourself, you must be feeling no emotion.

That's crap. Entire weeks have passed when I've been so angry or so disgusted that I can't write. If I did, all that would come out would be profanities. But I assume you all don't come here to read profanities. I don't always succeed, but I try to offer my best side, not my worst.

Am I human? Do I sometimes lose my temper? You all know I do. But I don't excuse myself when I do.

3. How is what Letterman said any different from the examples I've objected to lately emanating from the right? OK. So he implied that Sarah Palin's 14 year old daughter was 'doable'. And that was really uncalled for and offensive, but it could just as easily have been taken as a hit on A-Rod and his notorious inability to keep his pants zipped.

What offended me about Letterman's little "jokes" was that he thinks it's OK to denigrate a female politician and her daughter in crudely sexual terms.

Ummm... just like several extremely popular rightly bloggers do every single day. And God help anyone who dares to suggest this is bullsh**.

That people lose their tempers sometimes and do or say regrettable things doesn't particularly bother me. I've done the same thing.

What bothers me is listening to conservatives defend this behavior while simultaneously screaming bloody murder that someone from the other side...err... lost their temper and said something regrettable.

It's wrong, no matter who does it, and I'm tired of hearing otherwise intelligent folks saying that behaving like a decent human being (in fact, treating the Left as we constantly demand to be treated) is "political correctness". What a load of hogwash.

I don't have to try to understand anger. I completely understand it. Everyone gets angry including me.

But I don't buy into the 70s "We're no more than the sum of our biology and therefore we must all engage in primal scream therapy and give free reign to our worst emotions" mantra. I'm not an animal or an instinct.

I'm a thinking human being, even if I forget that sometimes :p I don't believe we have to "understand" conservative anger (or the rage of the black man or the fury of oppressed womynhood). I get those things.

It's just that frankly, understanding feelings is irrelevant to controlling them. They are what they are. Now where do we go from here?

Posted by: Cassandra at June 10, 2009 04:01 PM

This is one of the few sites that really make me think. I don't always agree with what you say, but I respect your position and learn from the supporting arguments you make. I've been really disappointed by the number of people who complained about the lefts methods, and then whole heartedly adopted the very same methods. No wonder we have a credibility problem.

Posted by: Pogue at June 10, 2009 04:06 PM

The problem is, I think, that too many people weren't spanked as children and thus don't know how to behave in an acceptable manner in social situations.

I know this makes me sound tremendously arrogant (who am I to say that I'm little Miss Appropriate when anyone who knows me also knows that's probably not exactly true?), but I also think that it's something to think about. When children are raised to think with their feelings rather than to be considerate of other's feelings this is exactly the outcome.

To go back to the example of my family again, they say things they KNOW will bother me, but rather than just not mention it and stick to "polite subjects of discussion" as used to be the social rule, they deliberately try to force their own opinions on me without any willingness for conversation give and take.

My own anger (which I do try to control) is then in reaction more to their inconsideration and rudeness than to their actual political views. And when my temper goes... I confess that the nastiness I spew at eruption is geared towards *hurt*, not making a political point. I want them to understand exactly how they made me feel, I want them to feel just as small and unvalued as they apparently wanted to make me feel.

And even when it blows over, I have to also admit a bit of feeling of achievement - because what they say had consequences for once.

And then, being the practicing Catholic I am, I engage in lifelong guilt over the whole darn thing.

Anyway, that is on a personal level. On a national level I think that people in the public spotlight have a responsibility to the people they are representing (whether elected or not) to retain the civility in their public operations. We need examples. Anyone who has studied human behavior and societal manifestations of such can draw the obvious conclusions about the behavior of the general public in relation to the behavior of those seen as role-models (just look at the decline in the behavior of the adolescent female with the introduction of the Britnys and Xtinas for an example).

I guess in reality I agree with what you say, but I also understand the anger that drives the behavior. I do not agree with the constant barrage of nastiness, I think it is revolting. But I do see how we got there.

Also, one aspect of this that is truly troubling is that I think that many people don't see this as a discussion - they see it as war. And there's no way civility can come out of that until there is rubble.

Posted by: airforcewife at June 10, 2009 04:59 PM

Very good post Lady.

Posted by: lutonmoore at June 10, 2009 05:05 PM

I should add that where my comment about "understanding where it comes from" comes in is in regards to the belief of some that this is war, not conversation.

Things in war are acceptable that would never be acceptable in peace-time. It creates a different standard of behavior for so called "polite society". It's not merely boorish behavior at this point, it is something that has far longer reaching consequences and I think we can see that illustrated beautifully on the left where they are STILL screaming about ChimpyMcBusHitlerCheneyBurton.

Posted by: airforcewife at June 10, 2009 05:07 PM

Well, I wasn't trying to excuse bad manners. I think being rude or impolite is pretty much inexcusable, and makes one look like a huge, boorish jerk. I was raised in what might now be considered "quaint" Old-World standards of etiquette. I have become americanized to an extent over the years, but I still have to fight the urge to get up whenever a lady enters or leaves the room, for example (when I forget and do stand up, most people look at me perplexed and uncomfortable, so I force myself not to).

Mannerly conduct does not dilute your argument, but reinforces it. Review, for example, some of Winston Churchill's famous quips and badinage which could be quite cutting without ever resorting to screaming or four-letter words.

IIRC, he was confronting one of his foes, Lady Astor, I believe, who told him: "Winston, if you were my husband I would give you poison!". To which he replied: "Madame, if you were my wife, I would take it". Our British cousins seemed to always have a flair for such retorts.

My previous comments re liking a good fight now and again presumed my opponent was another male. Such an attitude was not intended to apply to a woman, just like I would never strike a woman but see no problem with popping a guy in the mouth every now and then when he's asking for it. Its like my favorite Texan defense when a cowboy was asked if he killed a cattle rustler, he admitted the deed but only did so on the grounds that the rustler "needed killin'". That one still cracks me up.

Posted by: a former european at June 10, 2009 05:35 PM


I'll read the comments later... For at the moment, I'm courteously discussing supper with Walkin' Boss, asking my contractor where and when I can expect the carpenters/painters to reappear and having a conversation with the Microsoft Windows Registry in the bowels of an MS OS on a misbehaving PC. All while I struggle to maintain the utmost civility... albeit while clutching a 2 pound mallet as a heart patient squeezes a rubber ball. =;^}

Hang tough on the either-tubes M'lady... As I mentioned at an earlier time, your voice is needed and most assuredly appreciated in these times that try conservative souls.

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at June 10, 2009 05:41 PM

So I read this very excellent post and got side-tracked by the link to Letterman's cracks about Sarah Palin and her daughter. I was so angry about both the comments and the resounding silence from liberal feminists that I ranted and raved to friends in an email. One of them emailed me back and among the comments he made was:

Polarization of America has reached a point where your friends can be inappropriate but your enemies cannot. For pity's sake, what about a little consistency?

He then went on to say that Jon Stewart had spent the first 10 minutes of his show last night on this very topic: why do we let our friends get away with things we slam our enemies for? Once I got over worrying that if you and Jon Stewart were on the same page the apocalypse must surely be nigh, I felt a little hope. Maybe both sides are getting tired not only of constantly being attacked but also of constantly attacking.

I can remember when I was a child - back during the Peloponnesian War - falling asleep listening to my mother, my aunt and uncle, and their friends and neighbors arguing animatedly about everything under the sun - including politics. They would get quite heated and yet at the next get-together, they'd all show up again, still friends and ready to go another 12 rounds. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all learn to fight like they did?

Posted by: Elise at June 10, 2009 05:50 PM

What offended me about Letterman's little "jokes" was that he thinks it's OK to denigrate a female politician and her daughter in crudely sexual terms.

What shocked me wasn't the sexually denigrating comments about Palin, herself. Not that it's right, mind you, it isn't, but as a public person you do have to expect assholes to be assholish to you. It's wrong, but it's par for the course. But Willow is a complete innocent. Letterman's willingness to hurt her just to hurt Palin goes to a whole new level of assholishness.

That's what irks me so much about Jules implication that Publius should lose his day job. It's not that he's a bad law professor (something that rightfully should cost him his job) but that he dislikes his opinion so much that he not only desires to hurt him, but is also more than happy to hurt his spouse and children (if he has any).

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 10, 2009 06:00 PM

Ms. Cassandra,

WOW. What a great...what is the proper term? Treatise? Whatever it is, I, for one am honored that you permit me to participate in your little forum. I feel confident that if I cross a line, I will receieve a resounding "THWACK!" on my noggin.

Sometimes in the heat of discussion, we - most of us anyway - say things we'd probably say differently or not at all, depending on the desired effect as opposed to the actual effect. I know I have been guilty of the offense. More often than I care to admit. But I try to be midful of that.

One thing I cannot tolerate is boorish, uncivilized behavior toward people who cannot defend themselves against it. Letterman - never a favorite anyway - has fallen lower into the basement of the outhouse in my book. To attack a child in the way he did speaks volumes about his lack of class and moral outlook. But then, that is what passes for "comedy" and "humor" these days.

Unfortuately, decency and civility are precious commodities that are often left behind. Witness the numerous "stars" who seem to feel it is not required because of their station and stature. They are lauded and held up as examples when they should in fact be ostracized and shunned.

Sorry to have blathered on and taken up so much space when all I wanted to say was that I appreciate your efforts and admire your fortitude and attitude. But in my mind, it all goes together.

You are a class act. Hang tough ma'am. Other folks have your back!

Semper Fi from a former USN CPO and current USA CW4.


Posted by: kbob in Katy at June 10, 2009 06:10 PM

Dear Romeo:
You had me at "Thou art thyself
Duh, you moron. Of course Juliet is herself. You were expecting she might be channeling Lady Macbeth? She's, like what, TWELVE? What the hell is wrong with you?
Listen, dude, you've got a lot to learn about women.

First, there is no reason for a man without a women. Strike One.
Second, a women knows that. Strike Two.
Third, because men know that women know the answers to the first two questions, and nearly everything else, the best you can do in life is to lay off the high fastballs and protect the plate. Love is a series of foul balls punctuated by bliss.

Posted by: Dopey at the Plate at June 10, 2009 06:11 PM

I couldn't agree more, Yu-Ain. It is even worse when you read his professed reasons for adopting a pseudonym: one of the main ones being that if his conservative students knew his political views they might be uncomfortable about expressing opinions in his class.

How many times have we asked liberal academicians to keep politics out of the classroom? And then when we find one who says he thinks that's important too, we want to drag politics back in and cause him to lose his job?

I understand why Whelan got upset, but nothing this guy said was any worse than things that are said all the time on both sides. If someone seeks to impeach your credibility or cast aspersions on your integrity, how does it bolster your reputation or refute his arguments to do something even your own side thinks is wrong?

I think Elise is right - we're losing our perspective. About half my relatives are Dems. Most of them hate, hate, hate Bush.

In my house there is a photo of one of the times I was privileged to meet Teh Shrub. I keep meaning to frame it, if only to make my mother in law and sister in law nuts. But at the same time, we manage - for the most part - to argue about politics and not forget that we love each other.

Not everyone who disagrees with us is the enemy.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 10, 2009 06:15 PM

"First, there is no reason for a man without a women."
Or as we say down he'ah, you ain't got nothin' till you put a girl in it!

Posted by: Larry aka Cable Guy at June 10, 2009 06:24 PM

Not everyone who disagrees with us is the enemy.

Wanna bet?

Posted by: Kim Ill Bob the Next at June 10, 2009 06:25 PM

OK. You have permission to deploy the tactical nukes on Lil' Kim Il.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 10, 2009 06:28 PM

Speak truth to power.

Oh...that doesn't seem to work anymore, does it?

Posted by: spd rdr at June 10, 2009 06:33 PM

I still have to fight the urge to get up whenever a lady enters or leaves the room, for example (when I forget and do stand up, most people look at me perplexed and uncomfortable, so I force myself not to).

afe, I am always extremely touched when a man treats me like a lady.

I try to treat men as the gentlemen I believe them to be, but that impulse gets the same reaction as the one you described, so I'm trying to wean myself of the habit.

Sadly, I think the idea that there are standards either sex ought to strive for is pretty much dead.

And it isn't just the Left who put the nail in that particular coffin.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 10, 2009 06:41 PM

Not everyone who disagrees with us is the enemy.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 10, 2009 06:15 PM

Which brings to mind the story of the little bird.....you know the one....


Posted by: kbob in Katy at June 10, 2009 09:01 PM

Ms. Cassandra,

Reading all the comments, I must say that by and large, you have some of the finest commentary minds (and fingers) in the ethersphere putting forth both thoughts and support for you.

Sure, there is the occasional malcontent, but as with any miscreant, a trip or two to the woodshed can resolve most any "misunderstanding."

As one of my High School teachers offered, quite regularly (though infrequently was I a recipient) a suitable application of the "board of education" to the "seat of knowledge" (we called them "swats". Other places had other names for corporal punishment dispensed in front of the class at the teachers desk). YIKES. It got your attention for sure. And certainly gave you a measure of respect for authority and the rules!!

That was High School in Texas, 1969!!!

Posted by: kbob deep in the heart of TEXAS!!! at June 10, 2009 09:35 PM

I've never ceased to be amazed at the comments here.

They're typically far more interesting, informative, and well thought out than whatever I've written :)

Posted by: Cassandra at June 10, 2009 09:41 PM

must say that by and large, you have some of the finest commentary minds (and fingers) in the ethersphere

Dibs on "by"

Posted by: spd rdr at June 10, 2009 09:43 PM

Having had my share of encounters over ugly politics in the last decade or so, I've also experienced hot and cold rages at particular individuals over polititcal opnions. And it hurts the most (usually) when it is someone that you might actually value as a human being; friend, family, whatever.

Bottom line? Getting in a rage over something that is so far from your control is a waste of your time, energy and sanity. The person that you demean the most is....yourself.
We, as individuals, have so little control or sway regarding political events (even local ones), that most of the blogs and all the public hoo-hah are just so much lost time.
What seemed like the miracle of the Internet and the ability of like-minded people to find each other over the great distances of this country through blogs like this is, over the last few years, is, I think, one of the great illusions of our time.
Sometimes, when the effort is very focused on a particular goal, like the Valour IT Program, great things were done by great hearted people. And there are other examples.
But thinking that participating and commenting on a blog will change anything is, well, delusional. I was reading Protein Wisdom tonight, and all the people hating on Letterman. And for a few minutes, the shared HATE felt good. Boy, are we outraged at that guy!
But in the end, it's just a waste of energy. This will change nothing, affect nothing. It just damages you inside, really.
I've been reading Cassandra for years, at Villainous Company, ILJN, and even before that when we bantered on Scrappleface.

Cassandra has written so many things about her life and herself, that I actually feel I know her pretty well (that may be an illusion too). She is a beautiful person, inside and out (I don't think that's an illusion, though). I'll continue to read VC as long as she keeps writing, but more because I enjoy reading what she has to say, than out of any notion that it will ever make one bit of difference in the larger world.
Because it makes a difference to me. And ultimately, that is the only thing that any of us can really control.
What we do and what we say is just the reflection of what we dimly perceive as who we really are. At 53, I'm just finally starting to realize just who I am, after all.
I'd like to be a better human being, and hating on David Letterman, Barack Obama or anybody else is not going to get me there.
It's not a liberal thing, or a conservative thing, it's a human thing.
Be the best kind of human being you can.

And thanks for not smoking.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at June 10, 2009 10:02 PM

I love you, man.

All kidding aside...

Um... Damn! Once I put all kidding aside, I'm out of topics. :-)

Seriously, brother, it's all about the man in the mirror. Do you like him? Do you care what he has to say? Would you make him your friend?

If you answered yes to more than two of these questions, you too can be president.

All kidding aside, that is...

Posted by: spd rdr at June 10, 2009 10:29 PM

Try that in a classroom today, kbob, even here in the Heart of Texas, and you'll find yourself out of a job and facing assault charges...not matter how much the child (I only sub in elementary) needs a good spanking...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at June 10, 2009 10:40 PM

Gee, and I took out the comment about "Mr. rdr and the lack of control he has for his nineteen red-headed daughters" to illustrate my point, but noooooooo....we can't let that alone. :)

It's not about narcissm or some kind of touchy-feely transactional analysis (I'm OK, you're nuckin' futs!), it's just that it's the only defense I can intellectually muster to prevent a descent into personal madness and meaningless rage against our society that seems to be cirling the drain, so to speak. I'm trying to keep my sh*t together without going out and knocking heads together (and probably getting beaten to a pulp in the process).
I work with a guy that is six years younger than me, but almost died of a heart attack two years ago. He has fun almost every day, and has a good word for everybody. Why? Because as he said, "every day I'm not staring at grass roots is a pretty good day."

Be seeing you all. I'm going (with the wife, kids and dog) to South Nags Head on Friday.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at June 10, 2009 10:46 PM

"It isn't anonymity by itself that contributes to objectionable online behavior. It's the fact that online, we can do things we'd never get away with in real life."
That is the power of the dark side, in all its splendor.

I reckon being an old methane eruption and having had a pop who shared advice like the golden rule, it won't kill you to be pleasant, offer courtesy and respect until shown that it is not merited, as long as you have teeth, smile... Anyway, I can't seem to get past the idea that I should conduct myself in the same fashion, whether I am online yapping, talking bid'ness, or nose to nose with dear ones, friends, or stranges.

And Mr. Brouhaha let me say this one small, iddy biddy, yeah but about what I understood to be your main point.

Yammering back and forth on A to Z via the either-tubes may not cause any noticeable change in the world at large. Certainly nothing on the scale of the proverbial, pair-of-dimes shift, but I would contend that the ideas shared by people, like our Blog Princess -if I may so bold as to claim you as our Blog Princess M'lady, and those who pass through for a viewing and/or discussion can, and I suspect do, have a ripple effect on ideas and attitudes, if not behaviors of many. Who knows what the kernel of an idea might do when spread amongst dozens, hundreds, thousands, nae, gabazillions.

Granted, hatin' on Letterman is a waste of time. Cheah, like, he's been relevant to life, the Universe, or anything in the past, what, 20 years? Same as wasting the time and energy to hate on most anyone I'd say.

Having lost count of the bells but cleared the decks anywho, here's a tip of the 16 oz. plastic tumbler containing a blend of Kentucky sipping whusky and branch water along with a salute to civility and Concealed Carry Permits!

All aboard the Oblivion Express!


Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at June 10, 2009 11:16 PM

This post, along with the comments, is a prime example of why you need to keep blogging. Or maybe I should say why we all need you to keep blogging.

Posted by: Glenn at June 10, 2009 11:55 PM

"When what is popular doesn't coincide with what is right, it becomes difficult to stick to your principles. But I became a conservative because traditionally conservatives have upheld the notion that there are objectively discernable standards of right and wrong; standards whose application does not and should not depend upon personal loyalty or natural sympathy."

To me, that paragraph basically sums it all up in the proverbial nutshell. The crude sexual lashing out to which you refer is quite symptomatic of the immaturity of some on the Left; it's a good example of their version of "tolerance" for opposing viewpoints...in a word: hypocrisy.

I'm still always impressed at your cogent thought processes, along with a finely honed ability to express them...

Posted by: camojack at June 11, 2009 03:59 AM

The crude sexual lashing out to which you refer is quite symptomatic of the immaturity of some on the Left; it's a good example of their version of "tolerance" for opposing viewpoints...in a word: hypocrisy.

Well, I have a bit of a bone to pick with that one, Camo :) This isn't aimed at you because I've known you for years and you always behave like a gentleman. I know you'd never do any of these things.

Several readers have asked why they haven't seen me taking Lefty blogs to task for the things they say. It's a good question and deserves an answer.

First of all, I don't read many blogs and when I do, I tend to read right or right-leaning blogs. So it's hard for me to comment on things I haven't read. Also I don't tend to read the kind of righty bloggers who spend most of their time trolling the most irresponsible and ignorant lefty blogs just hoping someone will say something stupid (which on any given day is a near certainty).

Secondly, when such incidents come to light I *have* commented on them. So I'm not ignoring them. I'm also not blind to the fact that the posts I do write excoriating some lefty are always popular, generate lots of approving comments, and get way more traffic. But when I apply exactly the *same* principle to a righty blogger, the reaction tends to be very different.

A lot of commenters suddenly go silent. What outraged them when the left did it doesn't seem to gin up the same sense of outrage when it's someone on "our side". Why is that?

Thirdly, most blogs I read on the right receive a LOT of traffic (presumably from right-leaning readers). And yet I've read exactly the same kind of vicious, crude sexual innuendo - NO DIFFERENCE AT ALL - on these sites. Which leads me to believe that using crude sexual put-downs isn't a right/left phenomenon but a human one.

FWIW, I've been critical in the past of righty women who disparage the manhood of any male blogger they happen to disagree with. I detest the tactic. As with lefty blogs, I don't see a lot of these posts b/c I don't read the kind of blogger who deals in insults. But when I do learn of such a post, I comment upon it and not in a complimentary fashion.

In my mind, if a blogger can't even summon up a convincing argument to refute ideas he or she doesn't agree with without resorting to sexual put-downs, that says far more about their character than their opponent's sexuality, looks, or reasoning ability. And yet righty sites that do this are immensely popular. Personally I don't get it.

I don't read trash like that. Those people don't represent me and I don't want to hear some woman call a guy a pussy or a wimp or tell him to "man up" (give me a break) just because he has the temerity to disagree with her ... any more that I want to see conservatives talking about how much they'd enjoy hurting or sexually humiliating liberal women with whom they disagree or calling them ugly or lesbians.

All of this only makes me appreciate the readers and commenters here more.

I'm aware that many times I write things that challenge the party line. I've also written numerous posts that support the GOP and conservatism in general. I guess I just think that principles matter, and I have never accepted the idea that attacking the person destroys their argument. That's a tactic the Left not only employs but openly advocates, so it is perhaps less surprising when they do it.

When the Right does it, I probably take more notice for all the reasons outlined above, but also b/c I get the impression from things I read every day that many of us overlook unethical or loutish behavior on our own side and hype it to the heavens when lefties do exactly the same thing. All of this makes us feel quite virtuous, but I don't see how openly flouting our own principles could ever qualify as "virtue".

Posted by: Cassandra at June 11, 2009 07:41 AM

Once, long ago, I lost my temper and was about to do something extremely stupid, with life changing consequences - it would not have been pretty.

A lady I admired and respected immensely asked me to step over and speak to her. After a bit of feminine persuasion was applied, I did. She offered these words of wisdom, which I pass on to all for their value:

"Remember that when you lose your temper, you are out of control. And when you are out of control, you have lost control. That means that someone else now has control, and you are under their control. Think before you cede control. Think before you lose your temper. Think before you lash out in anger."

I have never forgotten her words of that day. There is one ignorant SOB who did not achieve thermal equilibrium that day, and one young lad who did not wind up in a 6 * 6 cell for life. It was that close. But it was not and never will be. Not ever.

Posted by: Kbob deep in the Heart of TEXAS!!! at June 11, 2009 07:46 AM

Don, I always anticipate your comments with high expectations and I'm never disappointed.

You have a way of putting everything into the proper perspective that I've found invaluable over the years. I used to get upset that I don't feel anything I writes makes the least bit of difference in the world. Sometimes I still do.

But then I remind myself that the whole idea of control is an illusion. We release our thoughts, but we don't have the slightest bit of control over what others make of them.

And that's OK :) It's all good. The important thing to me is that this process forces us to think a bit, even if I know I don't always get the thinking bit right the first time.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 11, 2009 09:55 AM

Maybe you don't have control, but you have influence. That fits yours style much better.

Posted by: Pogue at June 11, 2009 10:25 AM

"you have influence"
I concur... That's what I meant to say in my previous rambling.

Musta been the hour because it couldn't have been the economy sized, 16 oz tumbler of sippin' whusky. =8^}

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at June 11, 2009 11:50 AM

"Musta been the hour because it couldn't have been the economy sized, 16 oz tumbler of sippin' whusky."

Wail hail no! Nuttin' more than an aperitif in my book.
Now all ya need is some toe-tappin' music and you're good to go.

Posted by: DL Sly at June 11, 2009 10:30 PM

"Well, I have a bit of a bone to pick with that one, Camo :) This isn't aimed at you because I've known you for years and you always behave like a gentleman. I know you'd never do any of these things."

I never would've thought it was aimed at me; I think we understand each other rather well. At my blog, any offensive comments get deleted, unless they're done in artfully subtle ways...IOW, without foul language. Not that I get many comments anyway, let alone offensive ones. I have in the past, though, when I posted more politically-oriented stuff...

Posted by: camojack at June 12, 2009 03:50 AM

We do indeed, my friend :)

But I'm a woman. When I value a relationship, I'm extra careful. I have to balance that against my normal tendency to act like a clueless moron.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 12, 2009 09:13 AM

Excellent and thoughtful post. I only have one small quibble: you seem to treat Deb Frisch as a harmless troll. But a fuller look at the record shows otherwise. Her online threats have escalated into physical violence (google "Offender #1675174" for details of her conviction for assaulting an acquaintance). She repeatedly threatened Jeff, as is documented in court records


And she routinely threatens public officials at meetings--just check out videos of her on Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/user/squeekers901).

All-in-all, Jeff was rational in being concerned. She's not just a troll, she's a convicted criminal with tendencies towards physical bullying.

But, again, your post is, on the whole, excellent. Great work!

Posted by: squeek at June 12, 2009 11:49 AM

Well, I think I will have to agree to disagree with you on Deb. Jeff and I had a brief conversation about this when it happened via email.

I will admit that I never followed the brouhaha to the end, but he had a different style of dealing with confrontation than I do. My husband and several friends thought she was dangerous. I was not unaware of her tendencies but I guess my response was to be firm with her, but not to back her into a corner either where she was going to come out swinging.

I realize there are very strong feelings about this incident and as I'm not Jeff, I can't really judge how it seemed to him. I just know that there were really ugly things said on both sides, sometimes by 3rd parties.

I also know there were several times when she was willing to walk away (I know - I spent a LOT of time trying to calm her down and make her see Jeff's side of things when this was going on). But I think everyone was so spun up by that point that further provocations and nastiness were pretty much inevitable. FWIW, I'm sorry Jeff had to go through that and I'm sorry the situation spun out of control.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 12, 2009 12:14 PM

Also (just read your comment more carefully) I didn't mean to imply Jeff was irrational for being concerned about her.

I didn't think my husband was irrational either.

I just saw another side of her along side the one that erupted and caused so much angst. That obviously doesn't mean the other one wasn't there too.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 12, 2009 12:17 PM


I do not dispute the evidence you cited. What she has done and continues to do is quite disturbing.

At the same time, I believe that the situation here did not escalate to such levels due to our general reaction. Instead of responding to her as if she were serious, we pretty much treated her as a joke. And because she was treated as a joke, she never had any real power here.

Posted by: Tinky-Winky at June 12, 2009 01:09 PM

I also don't think she was ever treated the way she was at PW, no matter how hard she tried to provoke us.

And she did provoke us. Many times. I finally banned her when she started trashing my husband. But we put up with her for a long time and there were rare moments when the banter was even fun. We just never got to the nasty namecalling level.

I guess that's why I believe in always trying to leave someone an out - some way to back down before things get too overwrought. But he gets far more traffic than I do so I can also see how the situation got so far out of hand.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 12, 2009 01:25 PM

I guess that's why I believe in always trying to leave someone an out

Well, I can't speak for others, but my take was to never give her an *in*. She'd accuse us of insignificance by calling us dogs who were just peeing on her leg. Instead of responding angrily that she was likewise insignificant or that we really were significant, we wondered what was up with her urine fetish.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 12, 2009 01:37 PM

> When did women obtain the magical power to control helpless grown men via the written word? I must have missed that memo.

It was sent out about 15 years ago, Cass, which codified what was already accepted canon:

1) A woman wants to get a man in deep sh**, all she has to do is stand next to him, scream loudly, and look very, very indignant.
-a) Everyone in the room will come to her defense, the male will be pilloried, his denials ignored. If there are people who know him around, his character will probably become highly suspect from that point on.
-b) If she presses charges, her word will generally be given far more weight than his, and, in particular, an open history of such actions on her part will probably be rejected as evidentiary in court. It will cost her virtually nothing to make his life a living hell, while he may be financially broken as a result.

2) In the workplace, often rules have been instituted which require nothing more than an accusation. No evidence must be presented, no witnesses brought forth (even when such are clearly present) and, in fact, no opportunity to know the claims, much less make any defense or denial need be offered to the accused.

Think that last is over-the-top?

No, it happened to me, word for word. I was accused -- of something, by a co-worker who did not like me. I was never told what she claimed, never given any chance to deny or disprove what she claimed (clearly) and, though there were witnesses present when she was supposedly offended, they were never asked about what happened. I can state categorically that I did nothing so obviously egregious that any rational person would have known better.

So, while I think anyone who writes you the kind of nastygrams I have no doubt some sh**heels do is, in fact, an unarguable sh**heel (and, frankly, if I was on the jury for your husband hunting them down and teaching them some manners, I'd acquit in a heartbeat), that price you pay comes hand in hand with far more power over men than you grasp.

That you elect to not misuse said power, I'm both happy and appreciative. That hard-headed sense, in this and many other areas, is one reason I pay attention to you.

But you fail greatly when you underestimate the degree to which you, as a woman, have this power -- because there ARE women out there who don't hesitate to misuse it.



Posted by: O Bloody Hell at June 15, 2009 09:25 AM

You are conflating two entirely different situations.

My written comments were not made in the context of an anonymous workplace complaint. I possess ABSOLUTELY NO POWER, either direct or derived, over male bloggers. I can't endanger their livelihood or get them fired. My remark, read in context, addresses whether me responding in writing to a public post I disagree with could - in any reasonable context whatsoever - be viewed as coercive or threatening.

If you think it can, then I need to stop writing because any time I dare to disagree with man, I'm threatening him.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 15, 2009 10:05 AM