The Right Coast

July 11, 2005
Serious legal scholar mentioned by important blogger
By Tom Smith

Yes, that's me mentioned a few lines down in this post. Brian may know that by linking to me, he assures that I will fail to be objective, but still. Just as he knows I will be forever grateful for his attempt to get Texas to hire me, years after I was stricken from their short (ish) list when the lovely Penny Rostow confessed to Professor Wright that I was, well, the c word, and even the f word. That's federalist. And I haven't paid my Federalist Society dues in years, in case anybody wants to hire me.

I somehow missed most of the blogoversy on Leiter, civility in blogging, connected with, I gather, evolution and so on. I have been out of town, and since then my life is captured by the following true incident. Yesterday my second youngest (9) walked in the back door carrying my youngest, a plucky 1.5 year old. Both of them were covered in shit, in the most literal sense. My lovely wife Jeanne took a quick look and said, well, the good news is the poop is human, not animal. In my neighborhood, either was possible. It had been a catastrophic, capacity-related diaper failure. I was in charge of the bath. Serious legal scholarship, and even blogging, had to wait.

I suspect Brian and I would find little to agree about regarding sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. About the latter, I think it ain't particle physics, but it's progress. If Brian's party takes control of the country, New Zealand here I come. I also think civility is of prime importance in many contexts, such as the classroom, in a marriage, and in interactions with Highway Patrol officers. I also think the lack of civility in pro basketball and boxing is regretable. About civility in blogging, I am less concerned.

People blog for different reasons. Some do it to promote themselves, while others are merely engaged in self-promotion. Self-promotion is also big. Please read all my articles. For me, and I suspect for Brian, an important motivation is simply expression, to get things off one's chest. It can be addicting. One hopes it is therapeutic. Implicit is the judgment that it is more important to me to tell the world how deluded you are, than is the fact that I might hurt your feelings. Thus I infer that when Brian calls Glenn Reynolds InstaIgnorance and the Rush Limbaugh of the internet, he is saying both that he holds Glenn or at least the avatar of Glenn in low regard, and doesn't care who knows it, including the target of his barbs. For my part, I would gladly mow Reynolds's lawn or polish his digital camera lenses if he would only link to us once in awhile, but that's just me. Witness my pathetic nanotechnology posts.

I have said things about people, held them up to ridicule, when I thought it was somewhat risky, for two reasons, first for the sheer joy of puncturing, or trying to, pernicious pomposity, and second, because I think some views and people are genuine threats to the commonweal. What better place to do all that than a blog? Imagine the good that would be done by the perfect post deflating all the unbearable nonsense of Justice O'Connor, the Sage of the Purple Sage. There are people who read that rubbish in Newsweek and really do think, in their basic way, O'Connor --- gooood. Moderate---gooood. Maybe you can nudge the zeitgeist just a little bit against it . . . and even if not, maybe you'll feel a little better if you try.

Finally, the blogosphere is unique as a venue for the downright ferocious exchange of views. Far superior to those bitchy, tedious listserves. Maybe like 18th century pamphlets, which pulled few punches. (On the other hand, we don't have dueling to act as a check.)

UPON reading this post (and check out this blog generally, lots of interesting stuff) I realized that Brian was saying bad things about me in the post linked to above. Thus, I was mistaken to feel flattered. How embarassing. He seems to be saying, somewhat awkwardly, what's the point of making calm, carefully reasoned arguments (for example against the morality of the war in Iraq), because someone like Tom Smith will come along and say mean, stupid things about you. As soon as I stop crying, I plan to come up with a really killing response. I take back all the nice things I implied. Still, I suppose it is flattering in a way to be held up as proof of why there is no point trying to reason with the Right. In any event, the important thing is figure out whether something is flattering or not.

Actually, without rereading it, I believe I would stand by my "fisking" of Jeff McMahan's paper on the Iraq war. It still seems like a plausible part of the war on terror to me.

. . . OH dear. This seems to be my month and certainly my post for colossal f ups. Upon actually reading the post I linked to above ("this post") I decided to, uhm, redirect it. I confess I only skimmed the post before, and since it mentioned me, decided it deserved a wider readership. I had not realized I was blundering into a very personal fight between former friends. That's me, sliding out the door on this one. My bad.