Boxing Days: Readers on Saletan.

What's happening in our readers' forum.
Sept. 11 2002 1:51 PM

Boxing Days

Our readers respond to Saletan's changes of heart.

(Continued from Page 9)

Yesterday, JTF cannily predicted that "Wright will argue that the technology of Bio warfare is THE PROBLEM and he will argue that this warfare can ONLY be addressed through a rigorous inspections regime applied to all nations, gutting thereby our national sovereignty." He then quoted Wright:

"My concern was—and is—about what may be the scariest trend in the world: Thanks to technological evolution, man-in-the-street rage, even if it doesn't assume regime-toppling form, is increasingly lethal. Very small groups of people—including groups of one—can take a real toll on the national psyche."

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Compared with Wright's pithier formulation in today's entry, is this, as JTF says, a rehash? Or is it someone with a big idea, trying to make the case for it? And just because it's old news to JTF, it isn't old news to everyone (yet).

John McG struck a blow for the Enlightenment when he argued that communications technologies moderate passions as they free individuals:

I disagree with Wright's assertion that advances in telecommunications can only serve to help terrorism.

Part of the reasons why the bin Laden video is so effective is that it's the only show in town. If the only picture disgruntled Islams get of Americans or Jews is what bin Laden shows them, then it's going to be quite powerful.

If, on the other hand, they see other pictures of Americans, even through silly pop culture like Britney Spears and "Friends," they'll have a different picture of us, and probably be less likely to blow us up.

Think of American attitudes towards Muslims, and how they've evolved as we've been exposed towards more and more representatives of Muslim countries. We are moved by the suffering of Iraqi children, and identify with the plight of the Palestinians. This doesn't mean we want to keep Hussein around or get rid of Israel, but we're not anxious to hurt a large number of Middle Eastern civilians either.

Wright might answer that the personalization of the modern media makes it less likely that it will be a moderating influence. I think that was the point of his Fox News paragraph— people will continue to watch the bin Laden videos even when alternatives are available. Thus, they will not be exposed to more moderate pictures of Americans.

Our experience here hasn't show that to be the case here in the US. Even those who are completely for a war against Iraq have been exposed to arguments against it. When there are alternatives available, the echo chamber gets boring rather quickly, and people take a peak at what else is out there. And there's quite a lot out there.

I think this is one of the reasons we're attacked. The spread of American culture will make it ever more difficult to demonize us, or any population. The totalitarian regimes are losing their grip, and they know it. 1:10 p.m.

Retraction Retracted: The Webhead Fray, in which I promised blog-induced fireworks, was no Grucci extravaganza. I was prepared to resort to anecdotes about my mother (who likes Andrew Sullivan enough that she wishes he were her neighbor). But Sarvis came along like a Roman candle:

What's Kaus going to do if the NY Times cleans up its act? He has defined himself as neither smart nor interesting and has become simply another smarmy obsessed cherry-picker.

This reveals the biggest danger of blogs—and the biggest bore—is that they become narrow little personal vendetta-graphs where the writer crawls up his own b------- to send daily personalized nasty-grams out into the ether.

At some point, the blog stops being about the writer's reflections or breaking news and simply becomes a venue for David wannabees to hurl stones at the Goliath du jour; which is exactly what the Fray is for us who lack the structure or name recognition to get our own blogs.

Which raises the central paradox: when a blog like Kaus gets big enough to get noticed by the Goliath in question, it comes under the same pressures and standards as its intended target. So, ironically, the only good blog is a irrelevant one.

Of course, I disagree about "neither smart nor interesting," but the last graf, with its intimations of Mannheim's free-floating intellectuals, is so nifty (too nifty?) I had to grab it.

Back to School:Eric Liu answered some of his critics (here, here, here and here). The Fray is always better when Slate writers jump in. (New Readers: look for the neato Slate "S" to find them.)

J.D. Connor is assistant professor of English and of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard. He is working on a book about neoclassical Hollywood.

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