Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

April 3, 2010

A miscellany of comments

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen W. Browne @ 8:18 am

One wise piece of advice I actually took in my life made me a writer. And come to think of it, I got it second-hand.

I’ve never actually found the primary source, but a friend once told me that Stephen King said something to the effect of, “You lift weights every day, you get big muscles. You write every day, you get to be a good writer.”

I don’t read King’s fiction much. Though if you only wanted to sample one piece of horror fiction, I have two words for you: Pet Sematary. But King’s writing about writing is well worth reading.

Of course I write every day for a living. But that’s a particularly specialized kind of writing and I need to get out of the news-writing genre on a regular basis.

I do write a weekly column, which is another kind of formula, the under-700 word essay. I’m starting to peddle longer magazine-article length essays as a venue to explore issues and ideas in more depth. I also have a book in the works – with sand in the gears. I’ve found a book-length essay (if it’s not a collection of column-length pieces) is another formula entirely with a different structure and style. I’ll get back to it.

What I’ve found myself doing lately is practicing the Art of the Short Comment, mostly on Townhall posts. Townhall allows almost unlimited comments on a column below below the text.

In some ways this is the traditional Letters to the Editor all newspapers have had for… how long is it? Must look up.

But this is Letters to the Editor on steroids and meth. Every letter gets published instantly, usually with minimal moderation. Debates rage within the comment section. Insults are hurled. Sneaky ads posted.

And it’s a great way to practice making salient points in a short, pithy manner. You also find out how vile people can be when they get to be anonymous, which is one reason I don’t do that unless it concerns the safety of my family.*

For sure it’ll disabuse you of the notion that your side, whichever it is, is the repository of couth, civility, and reasoned discourse.

Some examples: last week I posted on Jonah Goldberg’s column ‘The Hostility Follies,’ which is about the incivility in political debate these days, and charges and counter-charges of inciting to riot, terrorism, insurrection, genocidal fury, and general nastiness.

Jonah Goldberg is one of my favorite writers. I say, again and again, get and read ‘Liberal Fascism.’

A quote from the column:

“This combination of state power and murderous, genocidal intent is nowhere on display in America today, not in the Obama administration (contrary to what some overheated right-wingers claim) and certainly not among out-of-power conservatives and “tea partiers.” It’s amazing anyone needs to point this out, but a few fringe libertarians throwing bricks to beat back an expansion of government is not the same thing as the tightening fist of the National Socialist Third Reich. Indeed, it’s an anti-American slander to suggest anything like it is going on here, and it cheapens the moral horror of the Holocaust.

Don’t tell that to the Democrats and their media transmission belt, who largely turned a blind eye to partisan vandalism and extremist rhetoric against Republicans for eight years but now express horror at what they claim to hear from the right.”

My comment:

It’s nice to hear a voice of calm in all this Jonah, but there are also legitimate worries we may be confining ourselves to the Marquis of Queensbury rules while the opponent is allowed to use gutter fighting rules, i.e. none.

Case in point, (you said) “and the claim by Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) that the N-word was chanted 15 times is pure dishonesty.”

Why didn’t you say “a lie”?

To be clear, I’m not urging any course of action, I don’t know the answer. Just worried like everybody else.

Today I posted at Ken Blackwell’s column, ‘Hillary Invades Canada.’

Madam Secretary, after warming up castigating the prime minister of Israel, has evidently unleashed her charm on – the Canadians.

Canada!

Evidently the Canadian government is not pro-abortion enough for her.

My comment:

Wasn’t there some preternaturally wise candidate for president, a veritable messiah, who humbly apologized to the world for America’s “arrogant, dismissive” attitude towards other nations?

Gee, too bad he’s not president. He’d never have sent a Secretary of State abroad to hector and lecture foreign heads of state, would he?

I’m rather fond of that one. A dollop of sarcasm, a tightly focused point. Pretty good if I do say so myself.

Last October I took the opportunity to castigage Carol Platt Liebau with frosty politeness (a useful skill that frosty politeness) for her column, ‘Time for the GOP and Tea-Partiers to Grow Up.’

I took exception to the general tone, and one sentence in particular. My comment:

Clueless
(You said) “But for a partnership to work, both sides will have to grow up.”

Your patronizing and insulting attitude is yet another sign of the disconnect between Washington “conservatives” (i.e. Big Government Republicans) and those of us who live outside the Beltway.

The Tea Party movement is NOT an arm of the Republican Party, but a general disgust with Big Government no matter who is expanding it.

You do not own it, and have no right to dictate to it.

This horrendous mess (bailouts, massive increases of entitlements etc) began under the last administration. No wonder the Democrats took it as permission to max out the credit cards.

Democrats are merely wrong – Republicans betrayed the principles they assured us they stood for.

Now it looks like there’s a good chance you’ll get another chance in 2010.

God help you if you betray us again. God help all of us.

There were some other good comments – and some of the usual drivel, but it must have struck a nerve. Ms Liebau replied to me personally with a brief message, all credit to her.

I’m finding the comments sections more and more fascinating; and horrifying, disgusting, disturbing and everything else life is about.

We’ve speculated about “online Democracy” for a while now. This is where it’s happening, the online Agora.

* For example, Ken Blackwell (whom I’ve met briefly) is, like a lot of social conservatives, kind of fixated on the abortion issue. Abortion, late-term abortion at least, makes me kind of queasy too. But what I’m tempted to reply in a heavily sarcastic vein, is something like:

Freedom is being extinguished in our country and you’re worried about abortion? This is a horrible thing to say, but these are horribly dangerous times. Have you not noticed that it’s the opposition killing their own children? How is this a bad thing in terms of ultimate victory? That’s why they have to have control of public education and destroy private education, they need control of our kids to reproduce their destructive memes.

See what I mean? I’d be on the hit list of both sides.

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