jeer9 steps to the plate

Man oh man, blog fights! Talk about the good old days…brings back memories, it does.

Helping me recover those memories is incensed commenter jeer9, over at Lawyers Guns & Money, who went to the trouble of copying and pasting some of my last post into the long and winding threads trailing from SEK’s pingback. He also went to the trouble of calling upon every awesome trick in Ye Olde Book of Commenting: echo the original language, demand quantification, imply populism v. elitism, include bodily functions, paraphrase very freely, and call the blogger’s intellectual credentials into question.

For your pleasure and edification, here’s his polemic:

Joe? Your Five Rules stink.

1. A blogger is not capable of being “disrespectful” to a dead famous person. That person’s friends and family do not care.

A blogger is quite capable of being tasteless and contemptuous to a dead famous person’s admirers, especially immediately after the passing.

2. In most cases, famous people who die young will still have managed to have more of “a life” than 99.99% of people who die old.

You’ve quantified that, have you? Let me know when the results are published.

3. Many people who are publicly sad about a celebrity death had not thought about that celebrity once in the previous twelve months.

Because a movie or song or role model rarely flashes through one’s mind during meaningful moments as those seldom occur during the course of a year beccause most people aren’t really “living” according to you.

4. Some of the things that lead to celebrity deaths are, in fact, not relevant to the lives of ordinary folks (e.g. Michael Jackson’s personal drug doctor).

Some of the things bloggers concoct are not, in fact, relevant to the lives of ordinary folk, though the grief of ordinary folk is clearly inauthentic and they’d probably need Michael Jackson’s drug doctor if they were capable of understanding how banal and mediocre their lives are.

5. Public mourning is affected by ridiculous, irrelevant factors.

My bowel movements are affected by ridiculous, irrelevant factors such as how much soda I drank that day or whether a particular bathroom has good toilet paper or one-ply. Have you just discovered existentialism? “Blankety Blank Blank” is affected by ridiculous, irrelevant factors
applies to EVERYTHING.

Wipe your ass and try to say something more intelligent than because Elton John changed a few lyrics the public experienced collective amnesia. But then Elton’s a special person, you know, unlike ordinary folk, and he’s able to hold thoughts about two people in his head at the very same time.

Here are my responses:

A blogger is quite capable of being tasteless and contemptuous to a dead famous person’s admirers, especially immediately after the passing.

Well, sure. But that can happen with a living artist as well. If I make fun of Nickelback, their admirers might become angry at my “contemptuous” post. As for being tasteless, that has to be decided on a case-by-case basis. It’s not a self-evident standard, even the day after an artist dies.

For example, on 9/12/01, The Onion published an entire issue focusing on September 11th. Although they clearly tried to be respectful, there were articles that some Muslims could have found offensive, and other articles that some Americans (of any faith) could have found offensive. That said, the mere fact that somebody could (or did) object doesn’t, by itself, justify the objection.

You’ve quantified that, have you? Let me know when the results are published.

Totally fair. Inventing a percentage was silly. Let me be more clear: the same admirers who mourn so intensely when a performer dies are, by virtue of their hunger for vicarious experience, indirectly capable of encouraging performers to embrace exactly the lifestyle that (in some cases) proves self-destructive. They’re also capable of mourning somebody (e.g. Michael Jackson) they envied and derided a day earlier — and this, too, can affect the actual person. It would be better for everyone if we found our way out of a culture in which famous people automatically seem to live more, and better, than the rest of the populace.

On the other hand, when it comes to artists who have made immortal work, I suppose I do mourn less, because they have left behind so much. The Beatles mean everything to me. When George Harrison died, I remembered him more intensely for a few days, but with gladness.

Because a movie or song or role model rarely flashes through one’s mind during meaningful moments as those seldom occur during the course of a year beccause most people aren’t really “living” according to you.

No, this is a misreading. It’s not that we don’t have role models, or that we don’t find the life and work of certain artists inspiring. It’s that, for such an idealization to have any depth, that can only be true of a finite number of artists. I’m not saying every tweet and status update about Whitney was inauthentic, but after reading, literally, nothing about her, in my entire life, via any of my social networks, I’m willing to say that the reaction to her death within my social networks was exaggerated. If that’s true for me, then it’s probably true for SEK and others.

Some of the things bloggers concoct are not, in fact, relevant to the lives of ordinary folk, though the grief of ordinary folk is clearly inauthentic and they’d probably need Michael Jackson’s drug doctor if they were capable of understanding how banal and mediocre their lives are.

Yes, not all blogging strikes a universal chord…but then, who expects that it would? Everybody understands that different bloggers occupy different niches; the difference with celebrities is that, based on how the media represents them, they are clearly supposed to be meaningful for everyone.

I certainly think that if people understood how banal and dehumanizing some aspects of Michael’s life were, they’d have a better understanding of why he did something (retaining a drug doctor) that, irreducibly, constituted an abuse of immense privilege. I don’t think the 99% are banal and mediocre individuals. I do believe that some aspects of most people’s lives are banal and mediocre, but I largely blame that on systemic injustice.

Have you just discovered existentialism? “Blankety Blank Blank” is affected by ridiculous, irrelevant factors
applies to EVERYTHING.

Wipe your ass and try to say something more intelligent than because Elton John changed a few lyrics the public experienced collective amnesia. But then Elton’s a special person, you know, unlike ordinary folk, and he’s able to hold thoughts about two people in his head at the very same time.

No, I haven’t just discovered existentialism. I’ve just discovered Kurt Vile, and his new record is fantastic.

As for “it applies to everything, so…” — in physics, gravity applies to just about everything. Should physicists therefore exclude gravity from their theories and calculations?

I put this question to my friend Glaucon.

GLAUCON: Of course the physicists shouldn’t exclude gravity, and neither should cultural analysis shy away from discussing irrational or confused behavior. I can see that now, Socrates.

My point wasn’t that Elton John caused mass amnesia, but rather that his role in the pageant of Diana’s burial not only seemed like a calculated gesture, but also managed to diminish the “truthiness” of the original song. Ironically, this was more true because he changed the lyrics, as opposed to (for example) simply performing a song that she herself loved.

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