Sorry, it’s taken two weeks to get this post finished and published. (Nothing like the immediacy of the blog medium!)
I declared for Chris Sligh pretty early in this year’s American Idol competition. Like a lot of Americans, I really liked his wise-acre vibe and, of course, his singing style. I really became a fan when I saw a YouTube video of Chris and his band. It was flipping awesome.
Thus, I was puzzled when Chris abruptly seemed to have had his personality surgically removed after sassing Simon Cowell in Episode 11—something for which Chris apologized the following night. From that night forward, Chris’s heart just didn’t seem to be in it.
As it turns out, it wasn’t. In an interview with his hometown newspaper immediately after being voted off the show last week, Sligh revealed that he considered quitting the competition after Episode 11. Why? Because of the flood of vicious hatemail he received after saying the word “teletubbies” to Simon:
“Sligh said he held back on the dry humor for a couple of weeks because of the hate mail. “Some people said they wished I would die,” Sligh said. “When I got the hate mail I went, ‘Whoa, what the crap?’ It was just horrible, horrible things people wrote to me.”
Let’s pause and contemplate that for a moment. . .
A little longer, please. . .
Okay, that’s enough. Basically, we find ourselves living in a day in which significant numbers of people feel free to email a young guy in a musical game show and wish him a painful death. I’m with Chris. . .”What the crap?”
Of course our national epidemic of seething, freely-expressed rage is the theme of a much-discussed, important new book by Peter Wood called A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now.
That brings me to Glenn Greenwald—liberal writer/blogger for online magazine, Salon. A post by Cliff May on National Review’s blog, “The Corner” mentioned an online dispute/exchange May was having with Greenwald over the issue over public opinion about the war in Iraq. Here’s an excerpt:
“I’ve been deluged by e-mails all day calling me a liar and other nasty names. That’s because Glenn Greenwald over at Salon decided to sic his readers on me. Why? Because of the item I posted here yesterday asking Corner readers if there is evidence to support the left’s talking point that a majority of Americans now want out of Iraq – whatever the consequences.”
I read May’s and Greenwald’s relevant posts. What struck me about them was not the merits of their arguments but rather the stark contrast in tone and substance between the two.
The May post that got Greenwald so riled up was itself calmly worded, fact-oriented and even expressed an openness to seeing additional evidence. Greenwalds response (link above) was a tour-de-force in sarcasm, derision, straw man dismemberment and general red-herringry.
So I emailed Greenwald and pointed that out. I didn’t comment on the substance of the argument. (Although, no surprise, I found may much more persuasive.) I only mentioned my observations about the differences in tone and style. I didn’t for a moment imagine that Greenwald gave a rip about what I thought. But he had encouraged his readers to give Cliff May an earful so I thought I might give him some thoughtful feedback instead.
But what should I find in my Inbox but a response from Greenwald. Before you read it, keep in mind that my email message didn’t address the substance of the debate he was having with May (about whether or not the public opinion polls indicate that the majority of the American people favor pulling out of Iraq no matter what the conseqences for America or her allies.) I just criticized Greenwald for substituting strident sarcasm for reasoned argument.
So what was Greenwald’s rebuttal? He wrote:
Absolutely. Americans really love the war in Iraq – and Bush, too. They want more war in Iraq, actually. That’s because they are conservative, just like the Democrats they voted for.
They’re so conservative that they threw Republicans out of office for not being conservative enough. They elected Democrats because they hoped the war in Iraq would continue longer.
Even when polls show the opposite, most Americans really agree with you – sometimes, it’s secret. But it’s always the case that your views are the ones which most Americans believe. It can’t be any other way.
Ahh. Okay then. I stand refuted.
Now I don’t think for a moment that mighty Glenn Greewald sat down and pecked that out on his keyboard just for little ol’ me. I think he copy-and-pasted that bile into every critical email he received regardless of the points or content. It just so happens that his response illustrated my point better than anything I could have possibly written.
We have entered a era of startling meanness in our public discourse. And if it feels like the most vicious and vitriolic spewage comes from people of the left, it is because it does. And if you haven’t noticed, you’re not paying attention.