A couple of months ago a recent graduate of Columbia University–an East Asian by birth and Marxist by affinity–wondered why I was bothering writing comments to academic blogs like Crooked Timber and Cliopatria. I explained that I began reading Crooked Timber because it was touted as an important liberal group blog and I felt obligated to give it about the same thirty seconds I give each day to slate.com and salon.com. I didn’t want to miss anything important in the world of parliamentary cretinism.
For about a year I would check in on Crooked Timber and say absolutely nothing. Mostly there was no reason to say anything since the typical blog entry is something John Holbo’s “Jenny and the Ess-Dog” that begins:
I had a nice night. Before that, I chased two kids around for six hours (ages 2 and 5). That was ok. Then I went to pick up Indian take-out. Waiting, I … relaxed. A beer. Watch the Australian tourists talk to each other.
Holbo is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the National University of Singapore. I am glad that I dropped out of the New School philosophy program 39 years ago if this what the discipline leads to.
In February 2005, I finally found something worth posting about. Along with the rightwing blogosphere and the “decent” left (Marc Cooper et al), Crooked Timber opened up an attack on Ward Churchill. Since I was familiar with his work and got to know him personally (not an easy task), I jumped in to defend him. As you might imagine, this led to a series of heated exchanges. Ward should have learned to get along in the academy like John Holbo and saved himself the trouble of clashing with Republican governors and Fox-TV.
The only other time I made my presence felt was when the subject of Yugoslavia came up. One of the Crooked Timber contributors is a character named Chris Bertram who is a Professor of Social and Political Philosophy at the Department of Philosophy, University of Bristol and who is nearly as banal as his fellow philosopher John Holbo.
Chris Bertram: Crooked Timber, Crooked Smile
Bertram is a member in good standing of the Cruise Missile Left who used to be on the editorial board of New Left Review. Although I am not exactly sure of the reasons for his departure, he was joined by fellow board members Branka Magas and Quentin Hoare (the parents of the howling Serbophobe Attila Hoare), and the ineffable Norm Geras. Showing that he understands the need to subjugate the barbarians further east as well, he penned an article titled “Afghanistan: A Just Intervention” for “Imprints, a journal of Analytical Socialism” in 2002. Basically it is the same argument that Michael Bérubé made around the same time, namely that George W. Bush could be an agent of progressive change despite his sleazy past. Needless to say, such arguments were shaped by the prevailing mood of the time that was not dissimilar to that described by Rosa Luxemburg in the Junius Pamphlet:
Violated, dishonored, wading in blood, dripping filth – there stands bourgeois society. This is it [in reality]. Not all spic and span and moral, with pretense to culture, philosophy, ethics, order, peace, and the rule of law – but the ravening beast, the witches’ sabbath of anarchy, a plague to culture and humanity. Thus it reveals itself in its true, its naked form.
Since Serb-bashing is fairly well entrenched at Crooked Timber, I was surprised to discover that one of the contributors by the name of John Quiggin had a change of heart–sort of. He wrote something called “Second Thoughts on Kosovo” that expressed misgivings over the lack of a UN Security Council fig-leaf to legitimize the war. Since the Security Council is widely understood to be dominated by the USA and its lackeys, one can reasonably ask what the big deal is. He frets that ignoring international law might have led to the Iraq disaster. Obviously, the war in Iraq and NATO’s war in Yugoslavia had exactly the same causes, the drive of the USA to establish and maintain global hegemony in pursuit of profit. Some people like Christopher Hitchens are consistent in their support of both wars, while Quiggin and company quibble over the law. The law, as someone once said, is an ass and so is he.
I should add that Quiggin teaches economics in Australia and exhibits the same kind of genial superficiality as Holbo. I guess standards are laxer in Australia than they are elsewhere in academia.
John Quiggin after orderlies removed his razor
In the course of the discussion on Quiggin’s piece, I posted four times. For most blogs that is considered fairly normal. After I tried to post a fifth comment, Quiggin announced:
Louis, I think your defence of Milosevic has been put forward at sufficient length. I;ve deleted your last comment and anything further from you on this thread will be deleted.
To everyone else, please don’t feed the trolls by responding further to pro-Milosevic apologists – the answers already given are adequate. On the same topic, don’t bother responding to “Steve” either. Anything from him will be deleted.
This is par for the course. Over on Cliopatria, I had to withdraw after blog-meister Ralph Luker made an ominous remark about me wasting my employer’s money by posting on the job. As soon as I heard that, I beat a hasty retreat. Having a job is more important to me than arguing with ill-tempered reactionary professors.
That’s it for me as well on Crooked Timber. I imagine that there are some young people who have read my comments there and who enjoy watching a sans-culotte like myself making fools of tenured professors, but I won’t put up with censorship–not from the government and not from a bunch of liberal professors.
Apparently Quiggin is not finished censoring other commenters on the Crooked Timber blog:
Deleted. I’ve previously advised Dan Simon that his comments add nothing of value, and will be deleted. His latest gives me no reason to change my view. As with other trolls, could I ask readers not to bother responding JQ
He jumped on Simon so quickly that I didn’t even have a chance to see what Quiggin considered trolling. Simon’s blog even includes a link to Crooked Timber, so he obviously is friendly to them–unlike me. God knows what he wrote. A recommendation to read Miranda Vickers? A suggestion that the KLA were drug-dealing terrorists who have turned Kosovo into a hell for all non-Albanians? Who knows. He has dropped into the memory hole of this misbegotten swamp of Cruise Missile Leftists.