January 24, 2006

That Joel Stein article

"I Don't Support the Troops"—Joel Stein

Here's what I'd like to highlight, what I think is at the heart of Stein's piece: "The real purpose of those ribbons is to ease some of the guilt we feel for voting to send them to war and then making absolutely no sacrifices..." Seriously, what kind of support is that shit? Worrying might be considered support, but it's not really. And that's about the biggest privation most of us who have had a family member in Iraq or Afghanistan have undergone. None of us "support" this war in the sense of making material concessions or going without.

But Stein also hedges around saying that he doesn't respect or approve of the troops in the sense that he doesn't want us to celebrate their efforts because those efforts, bottom-line, are still actions we disapprove of. It's like saying, 'I don't support lobbyists meaning, essentially, that I don't respect or approve of what they're doing, and I'm not going to throw a parade if they get a big highway construction project allotted for my town.'

Clearly, there is a vast difference between the risks a lobbyist takes and the risks a soldier takes, and I think that is where you could really disagree with Stein (I would—soldiers with clean records deserve our respect, flat out), but Stein allows himself the use of a big shock line which masks what I think he's really saying. And what he's saying is entirely logically coherent.

Someday, just as an aside, I'd like to graph Joe Malchow's posts—content vs. volubility. Something tells me they're inversely related, especially when Joe starts substituting punctuation marks—spelled out! no less—for thought—"Ampersand. Exclamation point. Question mark. Exclamation point, Exclamation point, Exclamation point. Question mark. Exclamation point. Question mark. Question mark. Ampersand. Those jumbled characters express utter confusion and anger in internet parlance. In spelling them out, I hope to amplify their efficacy under the principles of fission."

Joe, you leave me speechless. But you forgot Interrobang.


  1. I have never read a Malchow post that turned out to be coherent. That kid's inability to use the English language amazes me almost as much as the number of people who not only are able to understand him, but who derive some sort of pleasure from reading his unintelligable drivel. I struggle through every post of his that I attempt to read, trying to glean some sort of value from them, but have yet to be successful.

  2. I don't understand why people read his stuff if they find it so annoying and devoid of substance.

    I've only ever read his blog when other people have linked to it (mostly this blog, fartlog, and Todd Zywicki at Volokh for some unknown reason). I suppose it's good for a laugh every now and then, but some people who claim to dislike it read it so often that I have to wonder.

    It's not like, for example, the New York Times, where his blog is part of a larger whole that someone reads for other reasons. I would read the Times online and sometimes a provocatively-titled Maureen Dowd column would grab my attention and I'd have to read it. I don't actually like her writing, but I ended up reading a lot of it because of its proximity to stuff I did appreciate.

    It's also not as if Joe's blog is so widely read and influential that it's in your interest to read it even if you hate it just to "see what the other side is saying" or to "see what everyone's talking about." The daily D isn't written very well, but it's the best source of campus news out there. I don't agree with much that's written in the Dartmouth Free Press, and I'm usually even less impressed with their writing than I am on Joe's, but they at least get a certain point of view out there that doesn't come naturally to me.

    None of these things apply to Joe. If you read his blog because it's so pretentious and badly-written that it's funny, then good for you. If it actually annoys and frustrates people as much as some claim, then I wonder why they still read it.