The Lowest Common Denominator: Oprah, We Media, Wikipedia,
And Other Fonts Of Mis- And Disinformation In the Age Of Deliteracy
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 2/2/06
Oprah & Frey Three Destroyers Wikipedia The Hillbilly Summation
As I start this essay, on 1/26/06, I have just witnessed one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen on television: Oprah Winfrey in sermonizing overdrive. This woman is the worst piece of bilge in the history of American television because she’s responsible for more of the dumbing down of contemporary culture than anyone else: all the crap that infests tv these days- from court tv to the Jerry Springer and Maury Povich ‘talk shows’ to reality garbage to the relentless Lowest Common Denominator crap that infests every station every hour of the day and even sticking her bilious paw into the literary world with her mind-numbing book club. Today, Oprah was at her smug, self-righteous, and hypocritical worst, lambasting fey memoirist James Frey and his clueless editor Nan Talese over the recent revelations that Frey’s memoir of his drug-addled youth was largely fiction. In short, Oprah’s a pig, and not for her physical obesity. Yet, she is hardly alone in her zeal to dumb down America to the Lowest Common Denominator, and in this essay I will give some examples of other noxious people and institutions that are equally contributing to the deliteracy, or willful ignorance, of this nation. But, let me kick things off with the hypocritical savaging of Frey by the Queen Of Media Hypocrisy.
Now, let me state for the record: James Frey is a terrible writer, but not because he’s a liar, but because he has the writing ability of a ten year old, and a none too bright nor talented ten year old, at that. Oprah selected his ill-phrased, poorly constructed, meandering, grammatically nihil, bestselling 2003 memoir back in September of 2005 and it shot through the sales roof, once again. To date, the book has reputedly sold four million or so copies in the U.S. alone, prompting a second horribly written memoir, My Friend Leonard, about suburban white boy Frey’s bizarre fantasies of being a Mafia bag boy, and making Frey one of the biggest ‘name’ writers going- to the point where he has been waving his dick around for several years, ripping on fellow terrible writer Dave Eggers, and threatening to physically pummel Eggers should they meet. Now, I think Eggers certainly deserves as good a beating for his atrocious memoir A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius, as Frey does for his atrocious books, but the effeminately voiced Frey is hardly the man to do the beating. Then, a few weeks back, The Smoking Gun website exposed the fact that much of Frey’s memoir was total bullshit, and the rest filled with reality-based fantasies. Having only read about 25-30 pages skimming it in bookstores, I could tell that the book’s writing was indeed at an even sub-Eggers literary level, but when I saw Frey on Oprah, back in September, the moment he spoke of getting oral surgery without anesthesia, I said to myself, ‘This is plain old bullshit.’ What- his dentist never heard of malpractice insurance? Yet, it seems I am one of only a select few who have the ability to recognize palpably false material when read, hear, or see it.
But, so what? He’s stretching the truth- such as his claim of 87 days in prison only being three hours. It’s a memoir, after all, not an autobiography, and the reason for the distinction between the two genres is not minor. Memoirs, as their etymology suggests, are based mainly upon the subjective memories of a writer, and any detective or investigative reporter can tell you that human memory is the worst form of evidence going. In my memoirs, I state in the very first memoir of the first book, that this is my memory of events, and that it is not going to be accurate. Granted, I never willfully lied like Frey, in order to make grandiose the mundane, but since I had to change the names of all but a handful of the people I wrote of, and I combined many real people into a few composite characters, and the reverse, and shortened or lengthened time frames for dramatic purposes, one could correctly epistemologically argue that well over 99% of my memoirs are not true. After all, if I described a person named Joe Blow going to a deli, but it was really a guy named Sam Smith, have I not totally lied, for there was no Sam Smith that ever went to that deli? Thus, I have made a 100% fiction, no? Yet, this sort of fudging with the truth is perfectly allowable in memoir, and Frey is not to be faulted for it. Any of his critics who hurl that charge are merely showing their hypocrisy and/or ignorance, especially since many of them praised its atrocious writing initially, and still have not backtracked and admitted they were merely acting as part of a vast publicity machine, rather than as credible, independent critics. I also suspect that if every memoir was vetted as closely as Frey’s was, one would find just as many discrepancies, or more. And the truth of the matter is that all memoirists are forced to lie in the way they do, because we live in a society where people who do illegal, rotten, or unethical things, are allowed to sue over their being ‘defamed’ when their misdeeds are written of, when they are really being ‘defined’ as the scum they are. This is not to disallow that there are abuses, where people take revenge on former lovers, or ex-employers, or rivals, with false claims, but the majority of libel cases are examples of kettles complaining of being called black by pots, spoons, or tea holders. I, for one, am perfectly willing to allow someone to claim I was a thug or a bad person or a tax cheat, etc., and then gleefully and easily debunk them, but that person is likely not going to be so generous with others’ liberties, because a) they cannot fully debunk the claim, and b) they do not want the seedy truth to be known, even though it always eventually comes out- think of the Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings affair.
Memoirs are structured to organize the unruly facts of a life in a dramatic way that makes for the best read, not the most factual read. Autobiographies cannot take this approach, because they are often vital historical documents- memoirs are not. Imagine if General, and later President, Dwight Eisenhower had fancifully added his delusions, or made personal claims about fellow generals, in his autobiographical writings of World War Two. This would be a cause of a) chaos, and b) his own personal ruin, because a straying from the facts would cast a pall over any other claims he made, no matter how factually provable. His memoirs, though, are fair game for his slanted point of view, because memoirs are designed to highlight the inner individual- biases, pettiness, triumphs, and virtues, whereas autobiographies are charged with limning a syllabus of the outer structure of the individual- who, where, what, when, and occasionally why- although that last inquiry is often better handled by memoirs, even if only inadvertently in the revealed prejudices and beliefs of the memoirist. In looking about online, I came across numerous instances where this distinction is clearly made, and even on that same Oprah show Nan Talese gave the example of Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter writing about the same event in very different ways, with Rosalyn claiming he told it his way in his memoirs, and she was allowed to tell it her way in her memoirs.
But, no one, in the weeks since the Smoking Gun exposé, has mentioned the fact that this argument of truth or fallacy really has no bearing on Frey’s book. The book never should have been published for the manifest reason that it’s a horribly written work of art, despite whatever extent it stretched the truth of its writer’s life’s facts, and Nan Talese should have been pummeled for her lack of competence as an editor for ever putting such a piece of crap into the public arena. Yet, even worse are the Pavlovian morons at Amazon.com who used to rave over the book, when it was believed to be ‘true’, but now condemn the book, as Academics did a decade ago in the American Poetry Review, where the palpably bad poetry of a supposed victim of the Hiroshima bombing was widely trumpeted in one issue, only to- by the next issue, be exposed as the hoax of a bad writer and Academic, Kent Johnson, looking to get vengeance on a publishing system that he felt snubbed him. Yet, if the writing was truly as great as APR touted, why not stick by the publication of the doggerel when exposed as a hoax? That they did not proves that the hoax poems were only published because of the false story behind them, not the literary quality within them. APR has yet to issue an apology for their retraction, or for their initial publication of the doggerel, or any of the doggerel they’ve subsequently unleashed on the world. This is the same thing that has happened to Frey, and has proven that both the publishing industry and the mass of American readers simply don’t care about content, merely the intent or story behind whatever it is that is being shilled. This is at the heart of deliteracy and the Lowest Common denominator. As for Frey’s book? The words themselves, as poor as they are, have not changed since the Smoking Gun revelation, so if it was really as good as previously claimed, and valued by the readers and Oprah, for its writing, then it would not matter a single iota whether any of it had occurred or not. This fact, and the subsequent turns of opinion against James Frey, proves, just as readily as the AOPR hoax did, that literary style and excellence have NOTHING to do with the modern publishing industry. It is all about pushing whatever crap will sell to the Pavlovian pooches, and the dread Lowest Common Denominator, which is the factor which has made Oprah a billionaire.
Yet, despite his cynical foisting of such ill-worded and manifestly false garbage on the public, his being ‘outed’ as a liar, and condemned by the sanctimonious Oprah, actually made me feel pity for Frey- the almost retarded, fey-voiced, vacant, deer-in-headlights loser, wannabe badass. I mean, one look at the man’s wimpy demeanor, and nasally effeminate voice, would have been enough to dispel any notions in a person with an IQ over 50, that this sweet spot of a book was ever hard. Yet, Oprah tried to cowardly and coldly distance herself from Frey, after relentlessly pushing the book, and then defending Frey on Larry King’s cable tv talk show. Frey- obviously forced to be there by his publisher- Doubleday, took Oprah’s beating like a girl. I’m sure Doubleday was told to make Frey show up or they would a) never get another book selected by Oprah for her book clubs, and b) they would drop all publicity for his later works if he dared to screw them by dissing the almighty Oprah and her book club.
So, here was Oprah Winfrey, ridiculously declaiming on the value of truth, after twenty years of trotting out the most heinous and freakish liars for ratings, people who claimed the most demonstrably false things regarding their sex lives and personal lives, just to be on tv for a few minutes, with her willingly feeding her deceitful money-making beast at every opportunity. Then Oprah got spiritual, and damned her earlier tabloid ways, and became the woman who foisted the evil and stupid Dr. Phil, the sickening and oleaginous Deepak Chopra, and the vomit-inducing and money-hungry Marianne Williamson, among other crimes against culture, on the world, before even undercutting her own depth by launching her infamous book club that peddled the most atrocious, trite, and sappy work in publishing. And she has the gall to ream out a poor addled drug addict for doing what addled drug addicts do- lie. Huh? She queried him about the death of his supposed girlfriend via suicide. When Frey admitted that she had killed herself by slashing her wrists, not by hanging herself, the audience of glazed-eyed sycophants audibly gasped as Oprah merely shook her head in unvarnished disgust, as if Frey had been the one who killed the woman. When Oprah out and out called him a ‘false person’, Frey the eunuch merely shrugged his slumped shoulders, and the zombies clapped and yipped wildly, as if her were being upbraided by a schoolteacher with a cat-o’nine-tails, and the drops of blood were splattering across their ravening undead lips. When Frey weakly tried to defend some of his obviously made up claims about the dental surgery by referring to ‘the idea of it’, Oprah reproved him with a stern, ‘No, that’s a lie, James!’ Frey should have just told her and his publisher that he’s a millionaire now, and never has to work nor write again, and that she should just fuck off; but he’s obviously not ballsy enough to do so, still riddled with a myriad of neuroses and insecurities.
It was after this obscene dressing down, and a commercial break, that Oprah brought out his Doubleday editor, Nan Talese- wife of author Gay Talese, and reproved her almost as sternly, even as she tried but failed to distinguish the difference between a memoir and an autobiography. But, even had she done so, neither Oprah nor her legion of the undead would hear of it. And, again, and most importantly, no one ever questioned how this ill-written and unedited piece of tripe ever could get published by such a big house in the first place. It was obvious that Talese wanted to really respond but was under a gag order from her bosses to just shut up, drop her skirt for Oprah’s strap-on dildoing on national television, and pretend to be chastened, or- as stated- Doubleday would never get Oprah’s magic sales touch again. Remarkably, lost in a hypocrisy so thick she must have mistaken it for Jell-O pudding, Oprah told Talese that the dental tale should have been an obvious red flag that the tale was not true, even as she ignored the very same red flag in her original pick, and on her show in September, called Frey ‘brave and courageous’ for enduring such torment. How could I see that that claim was a red flag, but neither the editor nor Oprah, much less the readers, could? Unbelievably, Oprah then claimed that the whole book was now so fantastical in its claims as to not even be believable- even after she believed it! And promoted it for its gritty realism! Hypocrisy is truly an astounding thing. Then, the rest of show was filled with pontificating critics- newspaper columnists Richard Cohen, and Frank Rich, and an ethics professor; all of whom also totally whiffed on the fact the book was poorly written and the real hoax was Frey’s and Doubleday’s claims that this piece of garbage was literature, not whether it was true or not, again exposing the fact that most columnists and professors are utter morons, as well. Cohen cozied up to Oprah, and will likely be pushing a book of his own inside a year, by declaiming her ‘courage’ for admitting she was wrong about Frey (yes, he really said this disgusting creature was courageous), Rich railed that Frey was merely a symptom of our lying culture, and showed his true colors by ripping the Iraq War and President Bush, and the vapid professor whined that ‘truth is important’, especially now ‘when Iranians are calling for the destruction of Israel’. Now, one can call the Iranians evil or mad, with some legitimacy, but liars? I mean, they want Israel wiped out, and are at least up front about it, unlike many of the other Arab nations that we call allies in our neverending ‘War On Terror’.
Yet, this predictable chiming in of homilies was obviously staged, for it beautifully led into a perfect segue for Oprah to pontificate about and shill for her selection of Elie Wiesel’s 1960 Holocaust memoir Night as the next book club winner. Yet, Wiesel is a known liar, far greater than, and in excess of, a drugged up loser like Frey, having falsely accused many innocent people of being Nazi war criminals, destroying many lives and reputations, and not a one of the panelists- even the journalists (whose claimed profession is the search for the truth they pummeled Frey over)- mentioned that. All the while the others condemned him, Frey sat like a red-faced Little Jack Horner, and this public exhibition was the worst case of hypocrisy I’ve ever seen on television, even out-disgusting Oprah’s noxious self-serving televised fiftieth birthday bash in 2004.
Yet, this sort of deliberate disinformation or unwitting misinformation, about the real troubles with Frey’s book- i.e.- why would a publisher knowingly put out a book that lacks a single memorable phrase or scene or a single well constructed paragraph, is at the very center of the dilemma that helps facilitate the downward spiral of discourse in this deliterate age. And it is a deliterate age, because a far greater percentage of people today can read passably than ever before, they just choose to read utterly vapid crap. Don’t believe all those claims about how better read Americans were fifty or a hundred years ago- it’s all bullshit, because those statistics did not reflect millions of black kids, rural kids, immigrants, Hispanics, nor Native Americans, who were totally illiterate and not considered worthy of inclusion in official records.
Again, the real hoax was not Frey fabricating and distorting his life’s events, but Doubleday’s knowingly publishing crap that any editor fifty years ago would have laughed at as an obvious hoax, or a joke in poor taste. Art is not truth, nor the search for it- science and journalism are. Having written my own memoirs, and even in posting mere offhanded comments online, I have been barraged by threats of libel on many occasions, even though I’ve never written a knowingly false word, and the threateners knew it even as they threatened. Some even admitted I told the truth, and they merely resented my telling it, even though the experience was equally mine as it was theirs, thus legitimate fodder for me to use. This is, again, though, why memoir is, in a real sense, all fiction, to the extent that the use of a pseudonym fictionalizes everything else it relates to. After that great chasm has been leaped, playing with time sequences, combining multiple characters to one, or the opposite, is nothing- especially if you want to avoid a lawsuit in the real world that rewards the evil and deceitful. The plain fact is our society does not reward the ‘real truth’. For every whistleblower that gets lionized there are 999 others who are crushed, or effectively mooted. If someone says something bad about me, if it’s true I’ll admit it. If it’s false I’ll debunk it, and the person- as you shall see below. But, most people are so petty and insecure that they want to sue, to try to get money however they can, ethically or not, in this sick materialistic society we endure.
This is why Frey is not guilty of lying nor being a fraud for his memoirs’ truthfulness or not. Yet, he is guilty of a far greater sin- talentlessness, and the fraud of trying to pass off his terrible writing as art. Strangely, he has not been pilloried for these crimes against literature. But, that’s not all his fault, really. That’s far more the fault of his agent, editor Nan Talese, publisher Doubleday, and the game playing critics, looking to stay in good stead by not trashing Frey’s horrid work, and who gave mere kiss-ass blurbs to the book until it was found out he ‘lied’. Oooh! All the rest were guilty of laziness and greed, since it was well known, reputedly, that Frey initially marketed the book as a novel, got no nibbles, then claimed it was a memoir, and voila! Despite its horrid writing, it was an Oprah perfect book- disease, emotional illness, self-loathing, recovery- of sorts. This is the sick cant that Oprah has been spewing for decades, and pushing in her horrid book selections. In that sense, she’s as guilty as the agents, editors, publishers, and critics, who don’t care for quality literature, and instead give us the unreadable crap of a Donald Hall, Maya Angelou, Nell Freudenberger, or David Foster Wallace.
The deliteracy of the nation is a direct result of this abdication from critical analysis by all the above mentioned parties, and it started slowly with such silly ‘movements’ as Abstract Expressionism, L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E Poetry, Post-Modernism, and PC Elitism. Instead of dealing with, and dismissing, the wretched ‘art’ these frauds presented when it first was fobbed off, critics, who were really failed artists who wanted to foist their own crap on the public, deliberately chose to not evaluate and damn such terrible works, but merely translate them to the readers they hold in intellectual contempt, ‘explaining’ the artist’s ‘intent’, rather than accomplishment, if any. This, however, is simply not the critic’s charge. That task is simply to say whether or not a work is good or bad and why. If an art is claimed to have near-infinite interpretations, or needs extensive explication (think Ezra Pound’s The Cantos, T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, Joyce’s Finnegans Wake) that is a good and reliable sign that the art, itself, is not its own best explanation, therefore not a successful work of art, and no amount of shilling, excuse making, nor self-serving blurbery, can change that fact.
And ‘deliterate’ is the proper term to call this current era in American writing, which is 25-30 years going. We are not ‘illiterate’, as so many pontificating doomsayers claim, which implies people can not read. More people than ever can in this nation, it’s just that fewer and fewer choose to do so- overall, and in the quality of works they read; quality which is not even sought out by publishing houses, much less published when the rare quality work comes across their desk. The usual response, ‘this is a tough sell’ or ‘it won’t appeal to our readers’, i.e.- it has big words and ideas, and actually has depth. As aid, people forget that all the statistics used to depict a supposed fall from literate grace are not based upon a totality of the population. Fifty, or a hundred, years ago most blacks, Hispanics, rural kids, and kids with what are now called ‘special needs’, were not included in most studies. Nor were those kids from poor urban schools. So, seemingly paradoxically, Americans are both more literate and deliterate. This is not an oxymoron, though. But, on a real level, while perhaps there was only 15% of the adult population who were a potential reading audience a century ago, now, those numbers are more likely less than a third that- with radio, tv, film, computer games, and the Internet cutting into that audience. Yet, even with only 3-5% of an adult audience as a potential market, that still leaves five to seven million potential American buyers for every new book- the same raw numbers as a century ago, and the fact that most books get less than one in every thousand of those customers is a direct reflection on the a) saturation of the market with books, and b) the overwhelmingly poor quality of those books- like Frey’s and Eggers’. This explains why great books used to be able to reach perhaps 12-13% of that potential 15% of the audience, whereas now far fewer books are considered a bestseller even if they need to get just .5% of the 3-5% potential audience.
The fact that James Frey’s work, true or false, had any sort of an audience, at all, is the real deplorable thing. But, the big publishers are not alone in their condescending contempt for intellect and decency. The Internet is home for entities every bit as noxious and condescending, only more obviously so.
Kevin Lewis Robert Turkel Dean Esmay
Often I get emails from regular Cosmoetica readers asking me about
some of the many Lowest Common Denominator emails I’ve lambasted in the past-
from poetasters like Black
Jack Foley to Bob ‘The
Grumbler’ Grumman, a man who thinks mathematical divisors in his
‘poems’ are poetic innovation, rather than the clichés he makes of them, to
hoaxers like Kent
Johnson and even great poets like James
Emanuel. Over the last few months I’ve gotten any number of requests for
‘updates’, as you will, on some of the more recent boobs I’ve debunked in
the last year or so. The three most requested ones, coincidentally, fit
perfectly into the arc of this essay’s idea about the dumbing down of
information. They are PC
doggerelist Jus Caus, Internet Christian apologist and charlatan
Robert Turkel, and Right Wing blogger/bloviator Dean
Esmay. All are a part of what has been termed ‘We Media’ (as might Cosmoetica).
I write of them in ascending order of noxious ability to influence the declivity
of online discourse. Here’s the first, weakest, and silliest member of the
In my earlier essay segment on this doggerelist, one Jus Caus, whose real name is Kevin Lewis, I dissected his ill-worded rant declaiming me a Neo-Nazi because he could not properly read a poem of mine online called Rockwell’s America, which brilliantly dissected the racist ideas of 20th Century Neo-Nazi George Lincoln Rockwell, by contrasting his views with the ideals of illustrator Norman Rockwell’s famed Four Freedoms series.
So, did the boob apologize? Did he admit he was wrong in calling me a racist? Did he admit he is a true deliterate with no understanding of words more complex than See Dick run? No, of course not. As is typical of the dumbed down discourse of the day, he instead dug his own hole deeper, as did the vapid James Frey on Oprah’s show, then let the world (or the seven regular readers he has) know he’s an ass. I will now quote from his latest ill-worded blog post (in red), which is now several months old (it took him a few months to craft that reply so horribly!), and interpolate my own comments:
Before reading this blog, please go to
Dan Schneider - Neo-Nazi, Anti-Christ or Pecksniffian?
Doggerelist The Narcissist The Response
When looking into the reflection of modern civilization, in no way, do I presume Mr. Schneider's identity to be the debate of the month, much less, the millennium.
Although he, like thousands of others, seems to spend an inordinate amount of time railing against me and my site, even as he claims both of us are inconsequential, and I’m not that important to him. Note, also, how he feebly tries to mimic my comic style in his supposed ‘response’.
I am. Whigger, I am – if the supposed definition
of the word relates to the stigma associated with struggles endured. What does
the word whigger mean to the labelers? A white
nigger? The antithesis of whites, such as Dan Schneider? Loathing best describes
my initial reaction to Mr. Schneider’s essay, entitled, The
Truth About Miguel Piñero & The Problems With Biopics,
- not loathe.
Now, in his attempt to be ‘smart’, he de facto concedes he’s a hack. He also shows that he has no idea of the qualitative difference in the social worth of the terms ‘whigger’ and ‘white nigger’, and, yes, I am neither. That’s two strikes, for you umpires out there. He then mangles a sentence by stating that he initially reacted to my essay on noted scumbag, drug addict, criminal, and rapist Miguel Piñero with loathing, not loathe. Huh? Did he mean loathing, in the second instance? Did he mean to say that he loathed my essay, but did not loathe it? Ganga kills neurons, eh? Here’s more Lewisian insight:
associate nothing great with the narcissist. At first, the word recrudescence
came across like bad medicine when used to describe the spoken word movement.
After further thought, it begins to grow on me. Spoken word is dangerous. Spoken
word shakes the don’t’s
while expanding the does.
Yes, there had to be drugs involved. He uses words like narcissist and recrudescence in patently ungrammatical ways, then descends into clichés about being dangerous with spoken word. Is that dangerous like his doggerel I quoted in my earlier piece?- with such ‘immortal lines’ as:
always been in love
with the idea of being in love.
Are you hiding in fear just yet? Ain’t he scary? And, again, the last word is ungrammatical- it should be do’s, not does. Duh!
curious how many microphones D.S. has said hello to in the past year? I wonder
if Mr. Schneider has ever attended a National Poetry Slam?
This month in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a sold out crowd of 2400 hundred tax
paying citizens paid for admittance to witness the event. The mayor of
Albuquerque, Martin J. Chavez, thanked us for our participation in developing
the arts within his community. Perhaps this warrants no merit with Mr.
Schneider, who blatantly shows open discontent with Chavez past descendants, the
Puerto Ricans – after all, the Nuyoricans is a
noun used to describe a certain ethnic group in a particular area, not just an
adjective for the “scumbags” of New York’s poetry community.
That would be none, as far as microphones addressed, but about 1500 in my lifetime. I am an artist, not a narcissist, like Lewis. Note how whitebread Southern Boy Lewis, in his infinite inferiority complex, tries to associate himself with minorities, to get ‘street cred’. Never once did I state that Nuyoricans were scumbags. Piñero, a rapist and drug addict? Yes, he was scum, and one I incidentally knew. Lewis was suckling his mama’s tit when I was regularly attending the old Nuyorican in the 1980s. Is he trying to argue that a man who forces a woman into having sex loses culpability for his crime because he wrote bad poems? That’s not PC, now, is it? Oh, yes, it is, for a central tenet of PC is hypocrisy. Forgot.
The schneiderverse of Schneider verse! where you can witness a living, self acclaimed Poet, who’s better than Whitman; denounces Corso, while claiming Ginsberg has spent “his last thirty years molesting bag boys, pissing away his talents.” Charles Bukowski, a.k.a. CB, of Chuck Buk – t.s. elliot – “the skinny, Langston Hughes…overrated Poet – are only a few of poetry’s elites who the pompous Schneider denounces on his site.
Ok, first he typos one of my site’s mottos, and does the same to start the next sentence. As for Corso- I did a This Old Poem on him, but stated on many occasions that he and Ginsberg were the only talented Beatniks. He then seems to champion Ginsberg’s pedophilia, mangles whatever it was he wanted to claim about Bukowski, misspells T.S. Eliot’s name, imputes that I called Langston Hughes….skinny. Where’d he get that? Already we see that Lewis is trying an old tack that is repeatedly used, especially online. He is not arguing with any direct thing I wrote, but a straw man-his mangled and biased conceptions of what he believes I wrote. And, still, he’s not apologized for claiming me a racist with no evidence, nor acknowledged he misread the Rockwell poem. Deliteracy lives. As well as luck. That a hack like James Frey is a millionaire, and a hack like Kevin Lewis is an ego-deprived whigger who still oozes around poetry slams, only points up the truth that luck is the single most determinant factor in the cosmos. Perhaps Lewis would have told Oprah to ‘fuck off’? I doubt it- PC again.
Schneider’s obvious belief in his own percipient ability to discern the
definition of poetry is summed up in the genesis sentence of The Truth About…
“Art should never be solely equated with truth.” IF art is not the truth
then why is art relative to the masses? Or, is art only for the privileged elite
– who in their bourgeoisie elitism define the definition of truth and art for
all? Despite which fork is selected when dealing with Mr. Schneider, the road
seems to invariably wind towards supremacy.
Now it gets really funny, as Lewis shows he’s a total, irredeemable moron. Note how he states percipient, when he really means perceptive, uses genesis as a non sequitur modifier, and the word relative when he can only logically mean relevant. In answer to his naïve query, art is NOT relevant to the masses. That’s why so few artists- even the good and great, can live off the fruits of their labor. Even if one were to argue great art (never the bad- like Lewis’s) should be relevant to the masses, truth is a subjective thing in most instances people like Lewis want to use it for- i.e.- politically. Would he assent to the truth that most PC Elitists are as small-minded as your average Dixie Redneck? I doubt it. Now, watch him leap, and argue, again, with himself, and nothing I’ve claimed. In all of Cosmoetica, I’ve ripped bad art- be it from Left or Right, white or black, American or foreign, and praised great artists of all stripes, backgrounds, in all schools. The art is supreme, not the intent. This is because people like Lewis are so emotionally and intellectually void inside, and so desperate for approbation from anyone, that they will seek the dank middle of the most ethically suspect groups that embrace all sorts of ridiculous philosophies, such as picking arguments with folk like me, who ironically (although it is beyond their recognition) represent all the ideals in art they claim to desire, but cannot fulfill themselves, but don’t really believe in. I am an elitist, though. Everyone should be in favor of meritocracy. All professions should strive for an eliteness of excellence, not of gender, religion, race, sexuality, nor ethnicity. Lewis does not believe in this, though, lest he would not have served his head to me on a proverbial platter. There, I’ve given him a cliché to gnaw on. Good boy! Now, go fetch me a newspaper.
D.S.’s brake down of the Captain’s Blog 181:
In twenty-six years I recall watching fewer than ten Star Trek episodes. Apparently, irony eludes D.S. except in his own work. I understand: What’s more important than one’s self? DEAR MR. SCHNEIDER: YOU’RE DARE HAS BEEN PROVIDED, in the initial paragraph explaining the “term” Nuyoricans.
This is irony? It’s called ‘homage’, Kevin. Get this boy a dictionary, please. How am I a dare? He says ‘You are a dare’- huh?
far as being a leftist, or a rightist, I am not. I believe both wings are broken
and that Poet’s without egos are part of the solution, amongst other
iconoclast. I’m pleased to know you have a “long record” with ethnically
different individuals – as do most Americans. Again, I thank you for
“proving” it with a list of a few names, as do my readers. I reminded of
growing up in the “sticks” a.k.a. the south, and listening to other
extremist, (dear Mr. Schneider, if you do not realize at this point you are a
poetry narcissist then please go to www.cosmoetica.com
) say that there are two types of black people: blacks and niggers and how white
people can be niggers too – i.e. (us) whiggers.
Oh, the pain of truth. (Yes, this was a copy right infringement.)
He mangles Poet’s, the plural of iconoclast and extremist, and shows he is still clueless about everything. A boy who feels he has to damn his own ethnic background and call himself Jus Caus is trying to call anyone else in the cosmos a bigot and/or narcissist? Go ahead, get that chuckle you’ve been holding in out. Then he ends with a cliché and a misspelling, to boot, just in case you had not realized he was an idiot by now.
“If he’d actually read more he’s see that no one has been more thorough and devastating in assailing the Academic tripe out there, as well as I do the poseur hipster garbage Lewis and his ilk spew.” Dan Schneider (Great sentence…I’m surprised you didn’t use the word doggerel to describe me though.)
If you look at my original post you’ll see that Lewis does not acknowledge my point, nor does he admit he misread my poem, the initial cause for his furor. I love it when people who cannot spell, not use grammar correctly, try to point to supposed flaws in others’ language, such as my apt, and grammatically correct sentence. This is active deliteracy, to try to corrupt language down into a gray morass so that anyone can claim that no one is better than anyone else- a democracy of incompetence.
never attack. I’m a pacifist; who only writes the truth as it relates to my
perception; yet to some, truth is not art. Lewis has an idea pertaining to
Rockwell and his references. Pertaining to quotes: My grandfather, or Papa, as
we called him (who when pasted – was honored by the sticks flying the flags at
half-mast) once told me, “just because a man tells you he’ll be there when
harvest comes doesn’t mean to plant twice as many crops – it only means
he’ll be hungry when it’s time to eat.” Haven shaken hands and exchanged
kisses with Miguel Algarin – I know what Mikey
meant when he said, “speak with your eyes.” Mr. Schneider having hiked
through your site – I’ve spoken with your eyes – now, I wash my hands.
He contradicts himself in the first sentence. He attacked me on an error of his misreading, defended a rapist, and thinks such idiocy is alright because a non-white kissed him. Boy, what a life! Thus, in his echoic mind, the end cliché is warranted, even though he’s not man enough to apologize for his misreading and slur of me.
To make things worse, this so-called pacifist, who defends rapists, has a link on his site’s home page to free the convicted murderer Leonard Peltier. Hypocrisy, stupidity, deliteracy….could there be anyone even lower and more repulsive on the Internet food chain than Kevin Lewis? Are you kidding me?
Unfortunately, the answer to that last query is a resounding yes. Even worse than the Left Wing detritus that Lewis represents, or the frauds that control published literature in America, is the Right Wing fringe, represented by another hack I destroyed in the same essay I first debunked Kevin Lewis. His real name is Robert Turkel, although he shills under the name James Patrick Holding for an online scam ministry, and who knows how many other pseudonyms online. Of course, as is his cowardly m.o., Turkel never directly answered my debunking of his unintendedly funny attempt at debunking my essay on the fallacy of claiming Jesus Christ was a true historic personage. In that original piece I challenged many Christian apologists, including another online fraud named the Venerable Bede. Bede never answered my initial challenge, but a year or so after that original post, Turkel replied, even though he never emailed me his challenge, all the while declaiming on his site that I would not take up his challenge, which he never made, and imputing that somehow I had been challenged and cowered. Thus its initial date of reply I do not know. In fact, by not making the challenge known, Turkel showed his own yellow side, and I intellectually thrashed him well. Incidentally, this cowardly approach of challenging without really challenging, is Turkel’s style in all the posts he writes- he challenges debunkers, but never emails the challenge to whomever he challenges, then declaims the unchallenged challenged are too scared to take him up in a real debate. A quick Google search will confirm this pattern as true. However, I responded, and he responded months later by posting rambling answers under the answers in his initial attack on me, which itself only selectively quoted my replies, and mangled any hope of a direct linear sense of the exchange. His latest replies were posted months after my reply for the obvious reasons, and again I was not made aware of them, and again he misrepresented my answers, and replies to things that he never initially even acknowledged in his first reply to me, to try and make it seem as if I evaded his queries, when it was he who was evading and pretending to be engaged in a real debate. Of course, I did not evade, and destroyed his arguments, but I will only use three of the many ‘exchanges’, if you will, from his latest nonsense, for space limitations and the fact that he simply does not deserve a word by word trouncing when he still has not replied to many of the charges in my initial two takes on the subject matter. To illustrate the ethical and intellectual bankruptcy of Turkel’s method, here is the first quoted section:
Bede: Occasionally people ask why there is no record of Jesus in Roman records. The answer is that there are no surviving Roman records but only highly parochial Roman historians who had little interest in the comings and goings of minor cults and were far more concerned about Emperors and Kings. Jesus made a very small splash while he was alive and there was no reason for Roman historians to notice him.
The Duke of Hazards: Yet, we have seen how Christians have declaimed Christ’s fame far & wide. Why would Roman historians never notice him if the politicians of the day were in a panic? This is subjective editing of facts that contradict the writer’s POV- & facts presented by those on the writer’s side! This lack of consistency is typical of Christian & other apologists.
What the DoH is trying to prove here is hard to say. The whole issue is that the records we have left are from people who would not give a flying bowl of hummus what Christians declaimed. DoH offers no specifics as to how "politicians of the day were in a panic" (what politicians, where? how much "panic" and on what basis?) and why this should have made a difference, or what historians he thinks ought to have made an issue of this and in what work. There is no "subjective editing" or "lack of consistency" -- the DoH is just, well, stupid and that's a nice way to put it.
Update: Nothing new here; the DoH merely claims I have "no answer" and whines about a typo, oblivious to how his own commentary is shown incorrect, a mere caricature he derives from something he pulled out of his rear end and imaginary "Gibsonians" whose authority is presumed over credentialed historians and scholars such as John Meier (A Marginal Jew) and Bede himself.
DoH is Turkel’s wan attempt at humor, linking me to actor John Schneider of the old Dukes Of Hazzard tv show, via- yes, our matching surnames. Yes, really, that’s the breadth and depth of his understanding of humor. Of course, Turkel still does not answer what I stated in my original piece, which is, of course, subjectively edited by him, in his initial response. Not to mention that if the recordkeepers- i.e.- the Romans, did not give ‘a flying bowl of hummus what Christians declaimed’, then why would they crucify such a non-entity who first posited the belief system? That d’oh you hear is Turkel wincing in his dark apartment as he crunches down on stale Fritos. And what exactly is hard to say about what I am stating, when I state, ‘Yet, we have seen how Christians have declaimed Christ’s fame far & wide. Why would Roman historians never notice him if the politicians of the day were in a panic? This is subjective editing of facts that contradict the writer’s POV- & facts presented by those on the writer’s side! This lack of consistency is typical of Christian & other apologists’? Nothing, really, unless you are an intellectual lightweight grasping for any dialectical tool to preen for your dozen followers when logic and history have failed.
On to the second example:
Bede: In fact, Christian evidence for a human Jesus who was crucified is trustworthy because it ran counter to the myths of the time and suggested that he had suffered a humiliating death. If they made it up and then suppressed the truth with clinical efficiency, why did they come up with a story which even the Christian apologist, Tertullian, admitted was absurd? It seems far more likely that they had a large number of historical facts that they had to rationalise into a religion rather than creating all these difficulties for themselves.
The Duke of Hazards:Yet, we see this is patently false- the JC mythos is so endebted to other myths that to deny this fact is to practice willful blindness to an absurd end.
I'm not sure why we should trust an alleged poet who cannot even spell "indebted." On the other hand, if "other myths" had a bit to do with it we'd like to know which ones. The DoH can turn his blind eye here for a list of "other myths" debunked, and see where "denial" and "willful blindness" as an answer will get him.
Update: The DoH takes some of his meds and then writes, Bede's claim is not true- witness the historical records of the slave rebellions, such as Spartacus's. How this specifically applies to Bede's claim is not explained. Schneider wastes time rather claiming that "the prefixes in- and en- are interchangeable, and perfectly acceptable grammar" and that is entirely false; "endebted" is not an acceptable variant and the DoH is merely offering the sort of skilled rationalizations we would expect from the incompetent who cannot admit their errors. Regarding the linl he saus it is "to claims that I, and many others have roundly debunked," though we are not told who else and where, which is a short way of indicating that the DoH has no idea how to debunk them and has never actually seen anyone do so.
Again, it is laughable that Turkel should try to speak of grammar- as did Kevin Lewis, when en- and in- are wholly interchangeable prefixes, lest there would not be the National Enquirer and the many local papers called the Inquirer, among the many words where the prefixes are used according to the preference of the writer. And again, he solipsistically quotes from sources that have been thoroughly debunked, long before either of us existed, even if he won’t admit them, nor their discreditation. Imagine a debate on the origins of the solar system with Turkel quoting from Immanuel Velikovsky! That Turkel hasn’t a clue how to argue honestly, effectively, nor efficiently, is evidenced by a) his poor writing ability, b) his poorer dialectic, and c) his de facto admission of such by constantly and consistently refusing to contact his debunkers when he replies to them at later times, and refuses to tell the debunkers he has responded, and refusing to post the full replies his opponents have given (such as mine in the above- for that would mean he would have to- shudder- use his own real Christian name). That’s 2-0 Schneider, but- what the hell- a third and final snuffing:
Bede:6. For goodness sake do not mention the things that really made the pagan mysteries interesting. After all your work of showing that Jesus and Bacchus are one and the same, you will lose everything if you let on that Bacchus was the god of drunkenness and his worship involved getting plastered and having sex with anything in sight (goats being a particular favourite). In fact, keep sex out of it altogether. Yes, sex was the central feature of an awful lot of these pagan rituals but that is not the point your are (sic) trying to make.
The Duke of Hazards: Nor is that a point that disproves connections since many cultures have variances from core myths. So what?
The "so what" is that the vast differences disprove and effort at connection; appeal to "variances" implies a begged question. Chipping down to lowest common denominators enables all manner of wild fantasies in parallelism; not that this would stop an amateur like the DoH, but he might consider the ease of this and that it has been done before.
Update: The DoH merely claims that we do not address his point and of course ignores the links that destroy it. That's hard work, of course.
Actually, while correct in stating that they did not address my point, stating one failed to address the point is not, of itself, addressing the point. Here is what I actually wrote:
Really read Turkel’s point. He is not addressing mine, thus unwittingly making my point re: the drift of myths and ideas from their source. It is the connections that matter, not the variances. Unbelievable stolidity. And some more solipsisms- or should we call them solecisms by now? Look that word up, Bobby.
Of course, in addressing or posting my reply Turkel would have to- ooh- admit his real Christian name- which he seems to be somehow ashamed of, and again, he does not address my point re: mythic drift. I actually respond point by point to his nonsense, as I do to every emailer whom I have time to respond to, and shatter all of Turkel’s silly claims. For example, in our earlier exchange, if you can call it that, he claimed that, just as there was no proof of Jesus Christ’s existence there was not proof of Carthaginian General Hannibal’s existence, and gave a link meant to debunk me. I followed that link and found it actually supported my position, and wrote so:
Yes, I did not cite direct sources because, generally, archaeological and scientific papers are not referenced online- just as I know of the controversy surrounding Chinese dinosaurian links to supposed avian descent, but few scientific papers abound with it online. Yet, there are proofs, in the Roman records, of his conquests. Perhaps the Romans wanted to create a monster, but there is no reasonable reason to doubt his existence, and he was not ever claimed a god. Yet, incredibly, the mind-numbed Turkel even undermines his own assertion, as a link under Polybius references a work dated circa 200 BC, or nearly 20 years before Hannibal’s claimed death in 182 or 183 BC. The main page even contains this: ‘There are no primary sources left from the Carthaginian side. Only the Greeks and victorious Romans left reports. The main historical sources are:’. Apparently, Turkel does not understand that the webmaster probably has not the access to the scrolls and text that list contemporaneous sources, other than the one he inadvertently gives!
That’s correct, his link actually supported my position, utterly refuted his, and I reported it, and, of course, Turkel conveniently ignored this fact in his latest follow up, so that he could attempt more pallid humor. It’ll be a hoot to see how far he distorts things and the argumentative string in his next failed attempt at debunking me, or others. Like most people who are wrong, and somewhere inside know it, he responds with poor humor, evasion, denial, selective quoting, and the quoting of long debunked sources, or those who never had any credence. Plus, he structures the replies, as above, in such a jammed and convoluted format that few newcomers to the argument can even understand the basis for the exchange to begin with. Look at just how convoluted his presentation is. Even if he did not go off on pointless tangents and slide into irrelevant logorrhea, data, and points, it would be hard to follow. That said, he is not alone, as either a Christian or a destroyer of discourse, as I recently experienced the same thing from the other side of the spectrum, when I destroyed the arguments of rabidly dogmatic atheists after reviewing a DVD that argued against the Christ Myth’s reality. Really look at the email replies I got from noted Atheists Richard Carrier and Jeff Lowder, and see how both sides in this dogmatic schism over religion willfully distort in their arguments, and set up straw men that are not in line with the actual arguments their opposition (me, in both cases, against both extremes) presents. Both sides are so used to the duplicitous tactics of the other that when confronted with a straightforward bulldozer, they have no ability to intelligently and honestly argue.
So, I’ve shown you the hypocrisy of the disinformation campaign re: James Frey’s horrible memoir, I’ve shown you the puerile lies of Left Wing lunatic Kevin Lewis, and I’ve shown you the evasive tactics and distortions of Right Wing liar and online charlatan Robert Turkel. But, before I go on and tackle the primary disseminator of disinformation and misinformation online, Wikipedia, I have to return to yet another online personage I have profiled in the past, and who has been a favorite punching bag of Cosmoetica readers: willful sciolist (and die hard George W. Bush apologist) Dean Esmay, of the Dean’s World political blog.
If the trend toward distortion and outright lying was not bad enough on minor websites, like Lewis’s obscure poetry site, or Turkel’s discredited online money-making scam, it is even worse in the upper reaches of the blogosphere, where strident Left and Right Wing blogs like Daily Kos and Powerline screech and preach bile and dischord among their choirs and possible converts. While there are a relative handful of centrist blogs like Random Fate and The Moderate Voice that actually put forth reasoned opinions, although they never get the hits nor airplay of the extremist screechers, there are even more that are stealth blogs; blogs where the blogger pretends to be one thing, but in actuality is another. By far, the most successful blogger in this cowardly duplicitous vein is Dean Esmay. His Dean’s World blog claims to be ‘liberal’, yet he has supported almost blindly, every corrupt move that President Bush and his administration have made, from shilling for the war, lying about the disinformation campaign leading up to the war- which I detailed in my essay last year, called Iraq, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, And The Couch Potato’s Burden: A Muscular Centrist Attack On The Pro-War Position, and many other things domestically and internationally- including the recent scandal over the NSA domestic spying program The above mentioned anti-war essay was by far my most popular essay ever on Cosmoetica, in terms of raw hits and linkage, detailing how the government’s own later claims about the war were not even supported by their own written pre-war claims. Via emails from many readers of it, I found out that this essay was subsequently copied and passed out at anti-war rallies around the world (as far away as Australia, according to one emailer), made the rounds through hundreds of anti-war chatrooms, was discussed on other political blogs, even inspired children to write essays about the war based upon its premises, and seemingly panicked Right Wing bloggers into such a maniacal frenzy that many of them banded together to harass me via email, as well as sending viruses and doing all sorts of nasty and underhanded things. Having found out that the main organizer, who remained anonymous- surprise, surprise, of this movement against my essay was from an IP address in Michigan (Esmay’s home state), I had good reason to believe (although, admittedly, no definitive proof), that Esmay- who a month or so earlier had, due to embarrassment, banned me from commenting on his blog after raging when I properly labeled him a sciolist, due to my exposure of his pitiable lack of historical knowledge on the Vietnam War- was behind the campaign of intimidation. I had emailed him right after his banning of me, then again with the information I gleaned re: the harassment campaign, but he never replied, which indicated to me that he possibly did not want his IP number revealed in an email exchange with me, so that it would match up with that of the harasser. Subsequently, I did a number of pieces wherein I further mentioned Esmay and his sciolism.
He has, in fact, along with poetasters Jack Foley and Bob Grumman, become one of the folk that emailers to Cosmoetica most request further information on. Usually I simply refer them to those individuals’ own websites, but every so often I like to follow up on these losers and their delusions. As his posts are most relevant to the topic of this essay, let me give a few more examples of how a blogger like Esmay, who is a popular online voice, is contributing to both the dumbing down and coarsening of popular discourse, as well the active and passive dissemination of false information, known as disinformation and misinformation. First, let me reiterate that Esmay does have some talent as a writer (in a journalistic sense) and is certainly a knowledgeable person. However, he lacks wisdom sorely, and wisdom is the measure of the application of knowledge, not merely knowledge’s rote aggregation of facts. About a third of Esmay’s posts are well-written and objectively argued, another third are pure politically partisan Bush hackery, and the final third are just loony tunes- posts where he claims there is no correlation between HIV infection and AIDs, or where he complains that black people are annoying, then wonders why others pillory him as a bigot.
A good example came a few weeks ago, at about the same time the James Frey memoir brouhaha broke, when, after news of the NSA domestic spying program leaked out, Esmay, in all apparent seriousness, called for the leakers, who were patriotic whistleblowers set on protecting the civil rights of all Americans, to be summarily tried and executed, not those people who violated the civil rights of countless thousands, if not millions, of Americans on the direct orders of the President:
I think they are all being rather timid. These leakers have exposed a perfectly legal, perfectly sensible government operation that has undoubtedly helped round up hundreds of members of Al Qaeda and saved the lives of countless Americans. Exposing such a secret program is not whistle-blowing--it is high treason.
When I say "treason" I don't mean it in an insulting or hyperbolic way. I mean in a literal way: we need to find these 21st century Julius Rosenbergs, these modern day reincarnations of Alger Hiss, put them on trial before a jury of their peers, with defense counsel. When they are found guilty, we should then hang them by the neck until the are dead, dead, dead.
No sympathy. No mercy.
Am I angry? You bet I am. But not in an explosive way. Just in the same seething way I was angry on 9/11. These people have endangered American lives and American security. They need to be found, tried, and executed.
While one might reasonably argue with the notion of whether or not the surveillance was legal or not, even the most stern conservatives would (at least publicly) balk at execution without trial. This irrational outburst, due in part- no doubt- to Esmay’s claimed Tourettes Syndrome, was just the latest in his bizarre chain of rants, and prompted a group of young people to viciously, accurately, but somewhat puerilely, savage Esmay in a satire:
When Dean Esmay proclaims that "attacking America amuses him," he brings a gasp of delight to every child who will see his spiked head on display on Independence Mall -- after the patriotic, Marine Band ceremony in which his body is quartered with a wet pop! by four Ford Explorers.
This is America, Esmay, not that Stalinist Russia to which you so eagerly yearn to return. Your fingers will be auctioned by barkers, and postcards will be sold. Should the law decide to send your wife and children to the same fate, as accessories, we should not protest very loud.
They even posted a photo, in their satire, from Esmay’s website, where he looks suspiciously narcotized into a stupor. They then sent Esmay a link to their satire, and after first recognizing the satire as such, but not getting much airplay, Esmay saw he could gain more readership by flaming the blogosphere, claiming that he had received a ‘death threat’. So, he did just that, in as Pavlovian a manner as the Amazon cretins turned on Frey, and reports of his ‘death threat’ were reported across the blogosphere. Having been the recipient of actual death threats both in real world and online incarnations, this lampooning was clearly and patently not a death threat, in any sense of the wors, but it did get Esmay the coverage he sought, even from a centrist blog like Joe Gandelman’s The Moderate Voice.
Here is Esmay’s ludicrous post, dated 1/7/06:
So I get this creepy email last night from someone purporting to be Gavin M. The email comes in from a Verizon IP address near Jersey City, New Jersey. And it says the following:
Despite the high tone, we try to keep excellent relations with our 'adversaries' offline. I'm using my personal account as a courtesy, but let's keep this .html-based.
From the words "high tone" I assumed it was someone who just wanted a discussion, or maybe was getting in some light digs. I went ahead and gave the link a quick look and left a flippant comment. Then looked the message over more carefully, and decided it best to save screen shots….
Notice how Esmay heads his piece, by calling the kid a Neo-Fascist. That term is Esmay’s current favorite, and he misuses it on anyone or thing he does not agree with- from Islamic Fundamentalists to me, when I criticized and exposed his folly, to any commenter on his blog who takes him to task, to this satirist, whose point of satire was Esmay’s own bloodlust for execution without trial- a sign of fascism far greater than satire. Ironically, it’s fun to note that when I was seeking Esmay’s IP address a year ago, after the email hate campaign I suspected he was behind, Esmay cowardly refused to engage me in a discourse. Now, when he’s being made fun of, he wants to get and post the IP of the satirist, in a sort of reverse harassment campaign, that seemed to work, as for a while the young satirists removed their posting. Esmay then ended by asking his echo chamber for help, playing the victim role to the hilt:
I pretty much have to take death threats addressed toward my wife and children seriously, even if they're made by some pimply faced little Neo-Fascist in Jersey. This isn't the first time we've gotten death threats because someone didn't like our politics. The last time, we made the mistake of losing the IP address. This time I won't make that mistake.
The question is, do I get ahold of anyone in New Jersey about this? The state police perhaps? Or do you think Michigan authorities are enough? What would you do? Other than mentioning once again that we are a gun-owning household and we do shoot intruders I mean?
I did not even find out about this nonsense until seeing it on The Moderate Voice, and chided Joe Gandelman over it, for I felt he was tarring his reputation as one of the few sane bloggers, and as a serious journalist, by letting Esmay spread his palpable nonsense:
cosmoetica (mail) (www):
I have to say I'm dismayed that you would even waste time at your blog with this nonsense. I realize that you feel you owe Esmay a debt because co-blogging on his blog allowed you to expand your readership, but Esmay has consistently shown that he is a mentally unstable individual.
A year or so ago he ripped Oliver Willis as a racist, even as he tried to be funny by making a statement that 'black people annoy him'. He went into the loonasphere with his HIV myth nonsense, and on and on. When he calls for executing people who were more true to their Constitution than their President, it's taken as a sign of his 'liberalism' by his echo chamber.
And that's what it is- an echo chamber. I was banned a year ago from his site because I depantsed his absurd history of the Vietnam war, and claimed his emotional illness was caused by his admitted Tourettes Syndrome (see his list of personal qualities). Esmay regularly bans those who disagrees with him, and worse, PROVE he's wrong. Just Google Esmay and banning, and there are a few dozen bloggers who detail why they were banned.
That all said, one has to take Esmay for what he is- a wild but wacky blogger. He's a BLOGGER, after all, and Joe- you're one of the few in the political sphere who has any credibility, although indulging this stains you. What make Esmay so frustrating is that he's not a staunch ideologue- a third of his posts are well written and thought out, a third are partisan swill, and a third- like the black jokes and AIDS nonsense- are just off the wall. He's not a POWERLINE nor a DKos. That said, the original post by Just Say No was clearly satire, and Esmay saw it as such, as was shown above. Of course, one can puff up the old hit counter by whining.
Blogs are just like the MSM. Esmay knows he can get good play and linkage due to this. Did I find the satire funny? Not really. It could have been more mature, effective, and devastating. Tip to the Esmay satirists- he's not that difficult to take down. He regularly embarrasses himself at others' blogs. Plus, you've shown that you are cowards by acceding.
As someone whose own site has generated much controversy, and gotten countless death threats and legal threats for claims of libel, slander, copyright infringement, etc., I can state that there is nothing legally actionable in either site's posts, and the cops will probably laugh at Esmay. Yes, a blogger who advocates killing others gets a wink, wink threat himself. real high on the priorities.
History lesson. A little over a year ago I posted an anti-war piece that took off in the Internet chatrooms, and came under Esmay and his cronies' wrath because I used Esmay's nonsense among the arguments against the war. This pissed him off, and- surprise- I was deluged with a hate email campaign. I forwarded the emails to my ISP and asked to trace them and compare them with the info for Esmay's and other's sites, and while there were a few matches, and similar ISPs, there was no definitive proof. Even if there were it would have been a waste of time to pursue it, because one needs to show 'damage'. Hurt feelings don't count.
There have been many email campaigns against me and my site, by artist types, who are even more deranged than political bloggers' enemies. You deal with it and laugh. That's what both sides need to do. Esmay lives in his own word- one where he conflates Hiss and the Rosenbergs, as if they were the same case. So what?
Joe- in the future, could you please stick to real news and your usual insightful analyses? If I want to read Esmay's paranoia (which I often do, for he can be quite unintentionally funny and informative) all I need do is go to his site. Please rise above this Lowest Common Denominator nonsense. Without the Moderate Voice's moderation the rest of the blogosphere is a haze of Right &Left Wing silliness.
This was clearly not a news story, and I believe Gandelman only propagated Esmay’s fallacy because he felt he owed Esmay a debt, because Esmay had previously let Gandelman guest blog at Dean’s World to help build up his own readership.
Later that day, Esmay followed up on Gandelman’s post:
Over at The Moderate Voice, Neo-Fascist "humorist" Gavin M. is now attempting to claim that his group's threats to lynch me and my family were not real. He then claims that these threats are the same as my having called for the legal prosecution of the those who blew the cover off a covert national security operation. He is further saying "We also offered to take the post down, but he seems to want it to stay up."
1) Gavin doesn't get out of this merely by taking down his vile hate speech and vicious threats, which is why I kept records of it. I am currently working with law enforcement authorities on that matter.
2) Gavin and anyone who reads what I've written knows perfectly well that I called for legal prosecution of those who were guilty of crimes. We don't even know who the criminals are yet, but I called for full Constitutional protections for the accused, including legal representation and a trial by a jury of their peers. I suggest simply reading what they threatened to do to my sons, my wife, and to me in reprisal for that.
3) Gavin, if he has any honor, can acknowledge all this forthrightly in public, and issue a full retraction and a complete apology to my family and children. There'll still be a record of this despicable incident regardless.
How satire equates with fascism is a calculus only Esmay’s epithet-addled neurons can solve, but any look at the satire reveals the idiocy of his claim. Then again, Esmay believes that Michael Moore’s films constitute ‘hate speech’. First off, the idea of hate speech is, of itself, a dubious concept, but even at that, it clearly refers to speech designed to intimidate and demonize certain groups, as well as close down dialogue, not works of art, however dubious factually, that are intent on satire and debate, which Moore’s clearly are. no matter what one feels about them artistically nor politically.
But, Esmay has a notoriously difficult time dealing with others when they are in the right. Just Googling his name for posts on other people’s blogs reveals a typical scenario. Esmay makes a claim, acts superior and above the fray, sees his claim rather easily denuded, claims the denuder attacked him, or argued unfairly, hurls a label like ‘racist’ or ‘fascist’, or lays into a Tourettesian curse-filled vituperation, then says he wants no more to do with the bile of his denuder, even as the denuder simply destroys Esmay’s further posts. Really, this dialectic pattern is rampant, and there for the world to see with a few choice Google searches. Incidentally, and ironically, now, Google is on Esmay’s shitlist for their recent deal with Red China, to provide censored information. Esmay does not understand that a thin edge is often the best way to wedge open a situation, and in a hilariously ironic touch, the search engine Esmay replaced Google with on his site is still powered by Google! Anyway, just a few weeks later, after embarrassing himself over the silly death threat claim, Esmay posted this piece- where he said that anyone who claims Bush lied about WMDs or the war’s provenance is lying. Of course, a year ago, my definitive debunking of Right Wing claims of no lies by the Bush Administration was what drove him into a frenzy against me, but this time another sane poster nailed him, and convincingly. Esmay’s response? He ignored it, which is yet another of his dishonest tactics when he has been debunked. Esmay wrote:
I recently spotted some notices about a film called Why We Fight. I thought there was some chance it might be a balanced and interesting film, because at least a few people were in it who were interesting--although I was shaken a bit when I noticed that the dreary old fascist Gore Vidal was in it…..
"Then the President explained that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 attacks."
Anyone repeating this lie is either a vicious liar themselves, or is just a stupid ignorant moron repeating what some liar told them--and it's a lie that anyone with five minutes of research can debunk….
I'm sure some so-called (phoney-baloney) "liberals" will say they find the film "thought-provoking" and will try to mealy-mouth their way around the fact that it starts with a slanderous untruth. I just hope others don't let them get away with it. I know I won't….
A fellow named Russ Barnes, after a bevy of sycophantic posts praising Esmay- including a debunker Esmay countered with more lies, then wrote this post:
Russ Barnes (www):
"They're both risks, they're both dangerous. The difference, of course, is that al Qaeda likes to hijack governments. Saddam Hussein is a dictator of a government. Al Qaeda hides, Saddam doesn't, but the danger is, is that they work in concert. The danger is, is that al Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam's madness and his hatred and his capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the world.
"Both of them need to be dealt with. The war on terror, you can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror. And so it's a comparison that is — I can't make because I can't distinguish between the two, because they're both equally as bad, and equally as evil, and equally as destructive."
That's an implication.
Esmay’s apologists weakly tried to defend him, but it was futile, and Esmay floundered in attempted rebuttal. A few days later, Joe Gandelman, of The Moderate Voice, posted a piece on the call to moderate blog posts with civility:
Dean Esmay, who has been in the middle of a controversy or two, sees Cook's piece as food for thought for some soul searching. Read his full post here because among other things he lists some of the people he reads (on all sides) who aren't "bomb throwers" (he notes that he disagrees with TMV on many issues but there is no screechfest). A small part of what he says (read it all):
It has certainly
become the case that in the media, bomb-throwing tends to sell. But is that
changing? I'd like to think it might be....
On certain big issues of today, there really doesn't seem to be much room for compromise. I'm not sure if that's bad or good, but it does seem to be true. People these days don't seem to want to compromise. Some say that democratic politics is about compromise, but I'm not so sure it is. If it were, wouldn't we require 60 or 70% votes to win any major issue? Democracy is supposed to be about solving contentious issues by majority rule, just so long as certain basic rights are protected for everybody and a certain basic respect for the process is maintained.
What seems to be dead right now is the willingness to say, "Okay, I recognize that I'm in the minority, but can I offer the majority some compromises that would sway at least some of them to move a little way toward me?" That spirit seems to be what's really missing in our politics anymore.
that — plus the fact that some in the majority don't want to extend even a
teeny-weenie part of an olive branch to those who disagree with them. They want
to obliterate them.
Perhaps the key is this: we've moved from the days when people sought lots of political power to the days when people seem to seek utter political domination. MORE:
And now today we
have "Bush lied," the two words most likely to guarantee that no civil
conversation can possibly take place.
Then again, maybe the point of these conversations isn't to pine for the "good old days," which mostly weren't that good. Maybe the point is to remind us of our better natures, and how we could all be a little better.
Having previously upbraided Gandelman for publicizing Esmay’s phony death threat nonsense, it was left up to me to restore some sanity to the proceedings, so I posted this at The Moderate Voice:
cosmoetica (mail) (www):
It has certainly become the case that in the media, bomb-throwing tends to sell.
Is not Esmay the same person who, a week or so ago, tried to flame the blogosphere with a) his call for the execution of the whistleblowers on the NSA spying, and b) then tried to cry foul when some young kids tried to satirize his ridiculousness?
Esmay knows the same is true in the blogosphere, which has so absorbed all of the MSM's flaws that for them (or him) to whine about other media's flaws is not only hypocritical, but silly.
After some more exchanges, I made this cogent point (bold italics):
cosmoetica (mail) (www):
The cycle changes by changing- period. But, that's unlikely. Look at how many people vote D or R, despite the last 40 years of bad governance by either side. Alternatives are scorned, mocked, and not even allowed to debate. Moderation is best with more than two centers of political gravity.
Almost as if to prove how right I was about Esmay’s childish impulses, Esmay posted another ridiculous attack against Michael Moore, in which all he could do was make fun of the man’s weight, utterly vitiating his earlier claims for moderation in the blogosphere. I posted this on The Moderate Voice:
cosmoetica (mail) (www):
Tubbi Riefenstahl's Message to Canada: Save Paul Martin!
Hey Canada: Michael Moore says you couldn't possibly want to turn out Paul Martin and his cronies, could you?
Honestly, it's no more my business than it is Tubby Riefenstahl's, but when the Fat Fascist from (suburban) Flint tells you how to vote, that's a good sign you ought to go exactly the opposite.
Until I saw this I wasn't going to say anything, since I love Canada but know better than to stick my nose in their business. But if it means anything to my Canadian friends, I say, vote for Stephen Harper and his Tories, and tell Michael Moore to kiss your Canadian butts!
Esmay living up to his own call for higher standards?
What makes Esmay all the more alarming than simply partisan attack dogs like Daily Kos or Powerline, is how utterly hypocritical he is: he calls others fascist and other names, and constantly makes jokes about others’ weight, yet this online photo of Esmay clearly shows that he appears to be an obese skinhead, and many of his online rants are far more fascistic than anything his satirists or Michael Moore have ever come close to saying or doing.
Perhaps his worst display of hypocrisy, or merely his worst recent display, comes from this post:
I have a friend who's been blogging for a while who's very very good at it, yet he often expresses frustration with how whiny, stupid, or demanding some of his commenters are. I hear this from other bloggers at times too, and I wonder why they put up with it.
Dean's World currently pulls in over 13,000 daily unique IP addresses, with over 27,000 daily visits. That's including weekends, when traffic is lower. We've been running about four years now, with fairly steady growth that whole time (report here if you want to be bored with endless statistics).
So, in all that time, with all those readers, do you know how many comment accounts I have suspended? What would you guess, a hundred? Two hundred?
That's 16. 6 plus 10. Not even a dozen and a half. And the only thing they ever got suspended for was insulting, topic-derailing, or dishonest behavior.
So am I a tyrant over the commenters here? I may be snippy in response to people, but mostly, so long as people are talking about issues instead of people, ideas instead of personalities, everything's just fine.
One thing bloggers should remember is that while it may feel very bad at first to cut someone off, you are the editor of your site. If your blog was a newspaper you would not be obligated to publish every letter someone sent you, so why would you feel obligated to publish every comment? If people can't behave like civilized adults they can go to hell.
Banning less than two dozen people over a period of four years is all it's taken to keep Dean's World a fairly orderly and (reasonably) polite place to leave and read comments. Indeed, a sizeable percentage of Dean's World readers come here just for the comments. Yet I don't do much except occasionally stomp my foot or issue a warning. Maybe once every two months I give someone--usually a newbie who can't take a hint, or an obsessive lunatic who's been given repeat warnings--the old heave-ho.
It's amazing how few jerkoffs it really takes to cause a comment thread to degenerate into a food fight. And it's just as amazing how few times you have to hit the "eject" button for things to calm right back down.
Sure, there'll be some snivelling whines about "censorship" (uh-uh, it ain't censorship unless I tell you how to run *your* blog), or stupid insinuations that I only allow people who agree with me to comment here (bwahahahahaha!). The truth is that most commenters appreciate feeling like they're in a respectable establishment, and appreciate knowing that if some jerkoff's acting like a jerkoff, the bouncer will be by momentarily to remedy the situation.
Another thing most bloggers should realize is that commenters are not your audience. The vast majority of blog readers either rarely or never leave comments. It adds up to perhaps 1 or 2%, total. Indeed, that's probably an exaggeration. If 1% of the daily visits to Dean's World corresponded to a comment, we would have close to 300 comments per day. And that's if they only left one comment. We don't get that many comments on most days, and when we do, at least half of them are the same people going back and forth at each other, and some are responses from me.
And by the way, no, I do not feel obliged to respond to every comment.
It is best to view commenters as a form of contributor--people who keep you honest, people who make you think of things you hadn't thought of, people who correct your mistakes, people who challenge you to provide better evidence, or people who make you laugh. In other words, they're contributing something.
Commenters--thoughtful, polite, funny, insightful ones--are an absolute treasure. They make blogging all the more fun. But really, no one should apologize for cutting an a**hole off at the knees. If someone's coming by and regularly derailing conversations or indulging in character assassination, terminate with extreme prejudice and without apology.
Once you do it once or twice, you'll probably be shocked at how seldom you have to do it again. Just as very few bouncers actually have to throw people out of night club doors more than once in a while (unless they're running a *very* rowdy bar). And just ask yourself this: have you ever seen someone ejected from a night club by a bouncer? If you did, did you find yourself outraged, or were you quietly applauding that the jerk who was ruining things for everyone was given the heave-ho?
Well, either way, just remember: your title is "weblogger," not "punching bag" or "babysitter."
Now, as one of the banned, I have done some homework on Esmay and banning from his blog, and one need only Google the two terms and one can come up with more than sixteen people who claim they were banned, and some who even link to the actual post on Esmay’s blog that got them banned, as I did in an earlier piece on Esmay. Of course, Esmay will hide behind his usual semiotics, and retort by stating many, including myself, were not banned, merely ‘not allowed’ to post, or ‘disinvited’, or ‘lost privileges’, which, however you want to call the banning, is certainly his right. But, he is flat-out lying when he states, ‘And the only thing they ever got suspended for was insulting, topic-derailing, or dishonest behavior.’ I was banned for exposing Esmay’s lack of knowledge of the Vietnam War, and his sciolism, and for daring to point out his irrational behavior may be tied to his Tourettes Syndrome claim. The truth is that Esmay has regularly banned people for simply showing him up factually. Now, though, he does not even have to ban people, for he only allows people to sign up for accounts to post, and therefore screens all his posters in advance, except that now he doesn’t even accept new comment accounts. This is yet another way of successfully fomenting an echo chamber, and further insulating his own fetid prejudices from fresh air. And if Esmay is manifestly lying about his reasons for banning people, the chances are he’s also lying about the numbers of people he’s banned, not to mention the many he’s never even deigned to give Dean’s World comment accounts to.
That fact- insularity- is at the heart of what blogging is about. Bloggers exist for one reason, and one reason alone- to tell you they exist, and matter, as well their opinions. They are op-ed writers. Period. They are not reliable news sources, and should be read with the utmost of skepticism, for the active dissemination of willful disinformation, and passive misinformation, is their primary reason for existence. Yes, there are some notable exceptions, like the centrist blogs I mentioned at the start of this section, but they are just that, exceptions to a noxious rule, which is a fact that dovetails all too unfortunately with the subject of the next portion of this essay, the online abomination that is the attempted free and public access online encyclopedia known as Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is perhaps the greatest example of the Lowest Common Denominator run amok online. Ostensibly, it sounds like a very good idea, to allow a free, editable encyclopedia for the masses. Yet, the whole project, founded by a guy named Jimmy Wales and others, has become a monstrosity of the very worst of demoticism- which is the sinking to the nadir of the Lowest Common Denominator. Whoever could have thought that the entrusting of intellectual information to the hands of unaccountable anonymous online posters was a good thing surely was exhibiting signs of insanity. So, last year, I, and several of my cohorts from the Cosmoetica email list, decided to do an investigation of the phenomenon that is Wikipedia, which is now in the top two or three dozen sites online.
What I found was not a free exchange of ideas, nor a consensus on the most obvious of facts, but small-mindedness, bullying, threats, Political Correctness run rampant, false information, hypocrisy, poor grammar, and a host of other ills that simply do not exist in comparable print encycopediae, yet abound in the blogosphere- whose traits Wikipedia has far more in common with than print encyclopediae. Wikipedia counters that it can add information more quickly than print encycopediae, and can correct errors in only a few minutes, on average. Conficting studies have been done that prove and disprove this claim, but the fact that the manifest and subtle errors appear in the first place is never addressed, when they would never have come close to print in the peer-reviewed process of print encyclopedia making. While Wikipedia can be a good enough starting point for topics, and its most useful feature is its external linkages, only a fool would trust it, alone, as a source. This blog posting is a typical example of the many that have detailed Wikipedia’s problems:
Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy Wales, has admitted that the much loved "free encyclopedia" has at least some quality problems. To some of us, this is nothing new. I've had more than one student rely on Wikipedia for accurate information for a paper, and it always ends up the same way: "well, I got it off of Wikipedia, thinking it was good...".
And therein lies the problem. If you keep in mind that anyone, and I mean anyone, can edit a Wikipedia entry, then you are treading on dangerous ground if you're going to cite it as a source of fact. While it's true that errors often get corrected, they don't always, and what happens in the meantime is that bad info sits there, misinforming people. Of course, this isn't true just in the case of Wikipedia. It's a problem online, in general. I recently was party to an argument over the historicity of Jesus, and one person used a source that claimed that Philo of Alexandria lived in Jerusalem. He's called Philo of Alexandria for a reason, you know.
Wales' brief comments come on the heels of a critique by Nicholas Carr, who decided to check out the entries on Bill Gates and Jane Fonda. In short, he tore them to shreds: they were garbage. Carr makes a number of comments the reflect my view, spot-on.
I'm all for blogs and blogging. (I'm writing this, ain't I?) But I'm not blind to the limitations and the flaws of the blogosphere - its superficiality, its emphasis on opinion over reporting, its echolalia, its tendency to reinforce rather than challenge ideological extremism and segregation. Now, all the same criticisms can (and should) be hurled at segments of the mainstream media. And yet, at its best, the mainstream media is able to do things that are different from - and, yes, more important than - what bloggers can do. Those despised "people in a back room" can fund in-depth reporting and research. They can underwrite projects that can take months or years to reach fruition - or that may fail altogether. They can hire and pay talented people who would not be able to survive as sole proprietors on the Internet. They can employ editors and proofreaders and other unsung protectors of quality work. They can place, with equal weight, opposing ideologies on the same page. Forced to choose between reading blogs and subscribing to, say, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Atlantic, and the Economist, I will choose the latter. I will take the professionals over the amateurs.
Of course, professionals do make mistakes as well. But online, there are so many voices, so many opinions, and so many "pretend facts" out there that it's quite easy to find someone, somewhere, who will say anything. It creates a kind of circular problem for readers, because you almost have to be an authority on a subject before you can weed out the wheat from the chaff, which in some cases defeats the point—especially when we're talking about an encyclopedia.
Is there a solution to Wikipedia's problems aside from the magic hand of anonymous editors who may or may not fix something?
In the course of my own investigation, along with several other Cosmoetica readers, I found such a schism between Wikipedia’s claims and realities that I just had to write about them. However, as several of my readers have already been persecuted within Wikipedia, and still remain active there, although I do not, I will not point to specific entry examples in this critique, for then my readers might be subject to harassment by the noxious powers that be which run Wikipedia, via email, impersonation of their identities in order to attempt to fraudulently pin ‘vandalism’ on them, the permanent erasure and/or alteration and addition of supposed posts to ‘frame’ them for vandalism or harassment, banning of them from posting, and even the sending of bots and viruses to their IPs to disable them from posting, and frazzle their PCs. All of this was documented more than once and to more than one editor in my investigation of the site last year.
And this does not even deal with the actual information accuracy problem that Wikipedia is engaging in. Wikipedia claims to demand a citation for all its entries and facts, but any quick scan of the history of any of the article pages will show no such thing as well-cited references. Most additions are willy-nilly, and never even questioned. Wikipedia also demands that all entries be written in what they term, an NPOV- or neutral point of view- style, yet there are countless entries that are not only poorly written and structured, where subjects (usually celebrities or minor scientists, artists, or thinkers) are referred to by first name or in personal or worshipful tones, as clearly the pages are fan sites, and not legitimate articles for discussion, but egregiously violate this NPOV standard, as well as the arbitrary standards they call ‘wikification’ of articles, which are, likewise, arbitrarily applied and enforced.
This is all due to the utter lack of professionalism that the very idea of Wikipedia encourages, and which its practices demand, claiming that the more people who participate in the editing process, the more ‘correct’ their articles will be, although many scientific studies have shown that the more people that are engaged in any human endeavor, the lower the quality of whatever task the group is doing is- thus the very term Lowest Common Denominator was born, as just the opposite of editorial excellence is to be found in Wikipedia. The articles all tend to become needlessly long, and go off on often bizarre tangents that have no relation to their intended subject matter, and many biographies of historical figures have information far more suited to tabloids like the National Enquirer or People magazine than an encyclopedia. In fact, even though Wikipedia has several times as many entries as even the Encyclopedia Britannica, it’s precisely because most of these articles are of such dubious merit to begin with that they have such a volume. Thus, readers get not the vital information that is needed in an encyclopedia of human knowledge, but an unwieldy mass of unreliable trivia and gossip more suitable for board games than theses.
The hard entries on history and science are just as bad. For example, there was, last year, for several months, some major errors on some science entries- and I’m not talking about some obscure theorem or a dropped 2 in some equation. In three separate entries on the planets of the solar system- which entailed rote information that every school child learnt, one of the etymologies of a planet’s name was dead wrong, the pronunciation of another planet’s name was wrong, and even more shockingly, another one of the planets’ place from the sun was listed in the numerically wrong position- and no, I don’t mean Neptune’s and Pluto’s temporary switch of positions! For several months I kept an eye on both, until finally it was corrected. So, I am highly skeptical of the claims Wikipedia makes about quickly countering errors. It’s one thing when an error is blatantly slipped in as a ‘test case’, but quite another when it crops up randomly through the sloppy and careless actions of non-professionals. Now, this can be gleaned and verified, as of this writing, with a search through the history pages, although, I know from having seen it myself, that Wikipedia very often backwards redacts entries and leaves no trail of such poor work in the history pages, so that critics will have no proof of their charges. It would not surprise me that by the time you’ve read this piece they will have indeed covered this and many other embarrassments in a similar fashion. This deceptive practice is all too common on Wikipedia, despite the claims that records of all edits are forever archived. It’s simply not true, as I have witnessed both the removal of information from the archives, and the insertion of new information into old edits long after the real edit was made, in an attempt to ‘plant’ evidence on editors that are not part of the inner circle of Wikipedia, or disliked for some reason, usually having little to do with editorial excellence.
Also, there are entries by people who are deliberately slanting their own entries- i.e.- politicians who want to appear cleaner, or scientists with an ax to grind, as well as corporations who want to hide their criminal misdeeds. I can vouch for the fact that many articles on writing, poetry, and fiction, are in horrid shape- both fact-wise and editorially, and gossip often fills the bulk of these entries. I can only assume that experts in other fields must be similarly dismayed over points of minutia laymen like myself are unaware of, if, as I stated, such relatively simple facts about the solar system are wrong, and remains so for months. Why they remain is that there is no one that spots them, is qualified to discern the error, or there are people who see the error, but are kowed into silence because of previous attempts to correct things. Unfortunately, this lack of professionalism often leads to a ‘truth by majority’ mindset which is wholly antithetical to the dissemination of pure knowledge. Too many Wikipedia articles include phrases like, ‘many believe’, or ‘it is common knowledge’, that would never pass peer review, nor a competent editor’s red marker. If a claim for factuality reaches only, say, a 68% majority- good enough for an election landslide, is that really good enough for it to be claimed as true for an encyclopedia? I don’t think so. After all, a far greater percentage of Americans, myself included, initially bought into President Bush’s claims that Iraq possessed WMDs before the war, and, well….you know the rest.
So, bias and bad writing, as well as plain old error, riddle the site and its many entries. As a test of this thesis I decided to pick out three random names and compare their Wikipedia entries versus other online encyclopediae’s entries. Now, these people’s names were just floating about my head, for having recently read or heard things on them, but I can tell you that biographical entries, as these, are not substantially better nor worse than entries on obscure topics, science, nor the arts and humanities, in general, although far worse entries exist- hundreds if not thousands of the nearly one million entries currently archived online.
The first entry I selected was of writer Dorothy Parker, whose Collected Stories I’ve recently read. Here is an entry, from Bartleby.com, which quotes The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2001-2005:
(Dorothy Rothschild Parker), 1893–1967, American short-story and verse writer, b. West End, N.J. While serving as drama critic for Vanity Fair (1916–17) and book critic for the New Yorker (1927), she gained an almost legendary reputation for her sardonic wit. Her first volume of poetry, Enough Rope (1926), brought her fame, and she followed it with such volumes as Death and Taxes (1931) and Not So Deep as a Well (1936). Although decidedly light and often flippant, Parker’s satiric verse is carefully crafted and stunningly concise. Her short stories satirizing aspects of modern life are witty, wry, and often poignant. “Big Blond” is probably her best-known story. Collections of stories include Laments for the Living (1930) and Here Lies (1939). Her Collected Stories was published in 1942 and her Collected Poetry in 1944. She collaborated with Arnaud d’Usseau on the play Ladies of the Corridor (1953).
See biographies by J. Keats (1970) and M. Meade (1987); study by A. F. Kinney (1978).
Notice, how we get a Joe Friday, just the facts approach, as well
as references. This is what an encyclopedia entry should be- a concise statement
of what the subject matter is/was, a small comment, and ideas for further
exploration of the topic. This is very professionally written and edited. Now,
we’ll look at the Wikipedia
version, at least as of the end of January, 2006, when I copied it, and bear
in mind its claims to be non-point of view:
Dorothy Parker (August 22, 1893 – June 7, 1967) was an American writer and poet best known for her caustic wit, wisecracks, and sharp eye for 20th century urban foibles. Also known as Dot or Dottie, Parker was born Dorothy Rothschild in the West End district of Long Branch, New Jersey.
This is just the opening section, there are several. But, even here, look at the extraneous information, such as the nicknames friends gave her. Of what possible relevance is this to a researcher who’s not doing an in-depth biography? Granted, they give exact dates of birth and death, but these are often wrong in many of the celebrity bios. Yet, the overall piece goes on for some six or seven times the length of the Columbia entry, including this section that is far more apropos of the National Enquirer than an encyclopedia:
She married Alan Campbell, an actor with hopes to be a screenwriter, in 1934. (He was reputed to be bisexual-- indeed, Parker did some of the reputing-- but there is no substantial evidence for this.) She and Campbell moved to Hollywood and worked on more than fifteen films (on a salary of $5200 a week-- an enormous sum during the Depression). With Robert Carson and Campbell, she wrote the script for the 1937 film A Star is Born, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing - Screenplay. Her marriage with Campbell was tempestuous; they divorced in 1947, remarried in 1950, and remained together on and off until his death in 1963 in West Hollywood.
During the 1930s she became involved in left-wing politics, helping to found the Anti-Nazi League in Hollywood, and drifted away from some of her Round Table friends. She was named as a communist by the Red Channels publication in 1950 and was investigated by the FBI for her suspected involvement in communism during the McCarthy era. As a result, she was placed on the Hollywood blacklist by the movie studio bosses.
From 1957 to 1962 she wrote book reviews for Esquire, though these were increasingly erratic due to her problems with alcohol. She died of a heart attack at the age of 73 in 1967 at the Volney Apartments in New York. In her will, she bequeathed her estate to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. foundation. Following King's death, her estate was passed on to the NAACP. Her executor, Lillian Hellman, bitterly but unsuccessfully contested this disposition.
While one might argue her lovelife is relevant to her entry, how are the details of it? Especially this ridiculous parenthetical sentence: (He was reputed to be bisexual-- indeed, Parker did some of the reputing-- but there is no substantial evidence for this.) Did Parker write a work that was based on these claims that is of relevance? No. So why include it, when it’s not provable- admitted by the entry, and even if it were, of absolutely no relevance to the subject’s reason for the entry. The entry is on Parker, not her husband nor his lovers- gay nor straight. The clause ‘Her marriage with Campbell was tempestuous’ also clearly violates Wikipedia’s own NPOV standard, yet this is done so often on so many entries that the very application of so-called NPOV is rendered utterly subjective and useful, and its application arbitrarily and hypocritically applied usually to editors others do not like, or subjects that are not ‘approved of’. Her place in the McCarthy era may be worth reporting, but the disposition of her will? Again, this is simply not material that is professional enough to be encyclopedic, and much of it has absolutely no cited source, at least of this writing, and I looked in the history of the entry. Granted, as stated, this may change, as Wikipedians are known for backwards redacting information to ‘cover their asses’ against such charges, but that’s a fact. Most likely all this Parker gossip was gleaned from magazine articles and scandal-mongering biographies, which are hardly credible sources to begin with, much less without any proper citation. This Parker entry is unfortunately all too typical of the problems and unprofessionalism of Wikipedia, yet it’s on the mild side in its poor quality.
On to another entry; this time science. Here is Albert Einstein’s entry from the Infoplease online encyclopedia, and it starts with a pronunciation guide for his name. I also include the section on his life:
Einstein, Albert, 1879–1955, American theoretical physicist, known for the formulation of the relativity theory, b. Ulm, Germany. He is recognized as one of the greatest physicists of all time.
Einstein lived as a boy in Munich and Milan, continued his studies at the cantonal school at Aarau, Switzerland, and was graduated (1900) from the Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich. Later he became a Swiss citizen. He was examiner (1902–9) at the patent office, Bern. During this period he obtained his doctorate (1905) at the Univ. of Zürich, evolved the special theory of relativity, explained the photoelectric effect, and studied the motion of atoms, on which he based his explanation of Brownian movement. In 1909 his work had already attracted attention among scientists, and he was offered an adjunct professorship at the Univ. of Zürich. He resigned that position in 1910 to become full professor at the German Univ., Prague, and in 1912 he accepted the chair of theoretical physics at the Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich.
By 1913 Einstein had won international fame and was invited by the Prussian Academy of Sciences to come to Berlin as titular professor of physics and as director of theoretical physics at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. He assumed these posts in 1914 and subsequently resumed his German citizenship. For his work in theoretical physics, notably on the photoelectric effect, he received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics. His property was confiscated (1934) by the Nazi government because he was Jewish, and he was deprived of his German citizenship. He had previously accepted (1933) a post at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, which he held until his death in 1955. An ardent pacifist, Einstein was long active in the cause of world peace; however, in 1939, at the request of a group of scientists, he wrote to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to stress the urgency of investigating the possible use of atomic energy in bombs. In 1940 he became an American citizen.
While one might quibble with an adjective like ‘ardent’ the entry is pretty rock solid and concise. It is, in a word, a professionally written and edited entry. Let’s gander at Wikipedia's version:
Albert Einstein (March 14, 1879–April 18, 1955) was a German-Swiss-American theoretical physicist of Jewish descent, born in Ulm, Germany, who is widely regarded as the greatest scientist of the 20th century. He proposed the theory of relativity and also made major contributions to the development of quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, and cosmology. He was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect in 1905 (his "miracle year") and "for his services to Theoretical Physics."
After his general theory of relativity was formulated in November 1915, Einstein became world-famous, an unusual achievement for a scientist. In his later years, his fame exceeded that of any other scientist in history. In popular culture, his name has become synonymous with great intelligence and even genius.
Einstein himself was deeply concerned with the social impact of scientific discoveries. His reverence for all creation, his belief in an "ultimate principle" (or "unified field theory") and the grandeur, beauty, and sublimity of the universe (the primary source of inspiration in science), his awe for the scheme that is manifested in the material universe—all of these show through in his work and philosophy.
Albert Einstein was much respected for his kind and friendly demeanor rooted in his pacifism. He was modest about his abilities, and had distinctive attitudes and fashions—for example, he minimized his wardrobe so that he would not need to waste time in deciding on what to wear. He occasionally had a playful sense of humor, and enjoyed sailing and playing the violin. He was also the stereotypical "absent-minded professor"; he was often forgetful of everyday items, such as keys, and would focus so intently on solving physics problems that he would often become oblivious to his surroundings. In his later years, his appearance inadvertently created (or reflected) another stereotype of scientist in the process: the researcher with unruly white hair.
For the sake of clarity, I must state that Wikipedia’s Life section was many times longer than this quotation, with many digressions, and broken up into many sections, like this quoted one on ‘personality’. The intro piece starts out fine, going even further than its competitor by giving specific birth and death dates, but it crashes soon. Look at the blatant violations of Wikipedia’s NPOV with such subjective claims as ‘In his later years, his fame exceeded that of any other scientist in history,’ or ‘His reverence for all creation,’ would never pass muster in any peer reviewed work.
And, while it’s one thing to report on the general facts of someone’s life, as the Infoplease entry does, how the hell can any encyclopedia entry claim to psychologically evaluate someone, and pass it off as empirical knowledge, which is what an encyclopedia is geared to handle? Where is this claim sourced?: ‘He was modest about his abilities, and had distinctive attitudes and fashions—for example, he minimized his wardrobe so that he would not need to waste time in deciding on what to wear.’ Not in the history, as of this writing. It may be true, it may not, but, even if true, do the wardrobe choices of a physicist have an ounce of pertinence to the reason he even has an entry? Of course not. This is trivia, and dubious trivia, at that. The rest of the section on ‘personality’ has absolutely nothing to do with the psychology of the man, not that his ‘psychology’ would be something appropriate for an encyclopedia entry, so this section is not only worthless, but mislabeled, as well!
I’ve tackled the arts and sciences with my first two entry comparisons, but what about a controversial subject like politics? Again, I chose the first politician who popped into my head: my dad’s old bane, President Richard Nixon. To keep things fair, I chose an entry from a third online encyclopedia, this time MSN’s Encarta. As an ex-President of the United States, it’s no surprise that Nixon’s entry should be far longer than either Parker’s or Einstein’s, so I chose only three relevant sections to compare with Wikipedia's entry. Let’s now look at the introductions side by side, with Encarta on the left and Wikipedia on the right:
Richard Nixon (1913-1994), 37th president of the United States (1969-1974), and the only president to have resigned from office.
He was elected president of the United States in 1968 in one of the closest presidential elections in the nation’s history and in 1972 was reelected in a landslide victory. Nixon’s second administration, however, was consumed by the growing Watergate scandal, which eventually forced him to resign to avoid impeachment. Nixon was the second youngest vice president in U.S. history and the first native of California to become either vice president or president.
Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913 – April 22, 1994) was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. He was also the 36th Vice President (1953–1961) serving under Dwight D. Eisenhower. Nixon redefined the office of Vice President, making it for the first time a high visibility platform and base for a presidential candidacy. He is the only person to have been elected twice to the Vice Presidency and twice to the Presidency, and the only president to have resigned that office. His resignation came in the face of imminent impeachment related to the Watergate scandal.
Nixon is noted for his diplomatic foreign policy, especially détente with the Soviet Union and China, and ending the Vietnam War. He is also noted for his middle-of-the-road domestic policy that combined conservative rhetoric and, in many cases, liberal action, as in his environmental policy.
As president, Nixon imposed wage and price controls, indexed Social Security for inflation, and created Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The number of pages added to the Federal Register each year doubled under Nixon. He advocated gun control and eradicated the last remnants of the gold standard. Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and implemented the Philadelphia Plan, the first significant federal affirmative action program.
Notice that while the Wikipedia entry again specifies birth and death dates- a positive, it also gives information about very minor political policies that do not belong in an introduction, and indeed might only have a limited worth somewhere else in the article. Think of what relevance to the first President to resign in disgrace the ‘facts’ about Social Security indexing, or OSHA, have. Again, it is always important to recall that an encyclopedia is just a starting point, not an end all and be all on any subject matter. Clearly, Wikipedia’s introduction would have been trimmed and edited severely if presented to a professional organization’s editors.
Let us see how Nixon’s childhood is handled:
Richard Milhous Nixon was born on January 9, 1913, in Yorba Linda, California, the second of five sons of Francis Anthony Nixon and Hannah Milhous Nixon. The Nixons were Scots-Irish and the Milhouses, of Irish and English descent, were members of the Society of Friends, more commonly known as Quakers.
Richard Nixon attended public schools in Whittier, California, and went to Whittier College, a Quaker institution, where he majored in history. He won a scholarship to Duke University Law School and received his law degree in 1937. Nixon joined an established law firm in Whittier and there met his future wife, Thelma (“Pat”) Ryan. They married on June 21, 1940, and had two daughters: Patricia, born in 1946, and Julie, born in 1948….
Early in World War II (1939-1945), Nixon worked for six months in the Office of Emergency Management, an experience that, he later said, disillusioned him with bureaucracy. He then joined the U.S. Navy as a lieutenant, was assigned to the Naval Air Transport Command, and spent most of his service on a South Pacific island. He left the service in 1946 as a lieutenant commander.
Birth and early years
Richard Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, California to Francis Nixon and Hannah Milhous Nixon. He was raised by his mother as an evangelical Quaker. His upbringing is said to have been marked by such conservative evangelical Quaker observances as refraining from drinking, dancing and swearing. His father (known as Frank) was a former member of the Methodist Protestant Church who had sincerely converted to Quakerism but never fully absorbed its spirit, retaining instead a volatile temper.
His father focused on the family business, a store that sold groceries and gasoline. Nixon always spoke highly of his parents. He often spoke lovingly of his mother as a "Quaker saint," and began his memoirs with the words "I was born in a house my father built." Today, the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace has been erected next to the original house in Yorba Linda, which is open to the public; however, Nixon actually grew up some miles away, in Whittier, California. Today, this area is an urban sprawl, but in Nixon's time, it was almost entirely farmland. Nixon was the second of five children, all boys; his brothers were Harold, Donald, Arthur, and Edward. Nixon's early life was marked by tragedy in the deaths of two of these brothers, Arthur and Harold, from tuberculosis.
Nixon attended Fullerton High School from 1926-28 and Whittier High School from 1928-30. He graduated first in his class; showing a penchant for Shakespeare and Latin. He won a full tuition scholarship from Harvard; since it did not cover living expenses, Nixon's family was unable to afford to send him away to college. Nixon attended Whittier College, a local Quaker school where he co-founded the Orthogonian Society, a fraternity that competed with the already established Franklin Society. Nixon was elected student body president. A lifelong football buff, Nixon practiced with the team assiduously but spent most of his time on the bench. In 1934 he graduated second in his class from Whittier and went on to Duke University School of Law, where he received a full scholarship.
Nixon returned to California, passed the bar exam, and began working in the small-town law office of a family friend in nearby La Mirada. The work was mostly routine, and Nixon generally found it to be dull, although he was entirely competent. He later wrote that family law cases caused him particular discomfiture, since his reticent Quaker upbringing was severely at odds with the idea of discussing intimate marital details with strangers.
Again, Encarta gives just the facts, without editorializing. Wikipedia, on the other hand, makes claims of Nixon’s father, which are unsupported, but even if true, irrelevant to the article, which is a recitation of facts, not a psychological study of neither Nixon nor his father. Quotes from Nixon’s memoir, while possibly relevant, have to be definitely relevant for inclusion in the limited space of an encyclopedia entry, and not mere filler, as these quotes clearly are. What insight do the selected quotes give? None. And of what possible relevance is this sentence about Nixon’s hometown: ‘Today, this area is an urban sprawl, but in Nixon's time, it was almost entirely farmland’? This is obvious political bias, attempting to push an ecological agenda in the entry of a man who was firmly pro-business. This sort of bias riddles entries throughout Wikipedia. And, of what relevance is any of the trivia about Nixon’s school years, save where and when he went? This passage: ‘The work was mostly routine, and Nixon generally found it to be dull, although he was entirely competent. He later wrote that family law cases caused him particular discomfiture, since his reticent Quaker upbringing was severely at odds with the idea of discussing intimate marital details with strangers,’ violates so many of Wikipedia’s own claimed strictures that one hardly knows where to begin- with the subjective viewpoint, the unprovable and uncited claims of what was in Nixon’s mind, or the assumptions throughout?
The fact is that these are merely minor solecisms of both Wikipedia’s rules and those of standardized competent encyclopedia editing, which I know something of for having spent much of my youth reading Funk & Wagnall’s. There are far more, and I could point to horrendous examples, but would give away the identities of some of my cohorts I have promised to keep, as they still are editing on Wikipedia. Yet, anyone who has been banned from Wikipedia, harassed, or falsely labeled a ‘vandal’, I’m sure can show you reams of terrible entries, far worse than this, that they have come across. But, the very point is that these minor violations that I’ve shown are many times more than enough to invalidate the grand encyclopedic aspirations of this Lowest Common Denominator phenomenon.
Here, now, a side by side of the two Nixon entries on his later life:
On September 8, 1974, President Ford unexpectedly issued a pardon to Nixon for all federal crimes he may have committed while president. In retirement, Nixon wrote and traveled widely and gradually regained some public respect, especially as a foreign policy expert.
He was often called upon to discuss Cold War foreign policy, and his expertise on China remained well regarded. He wrote several books on political affairs, including No More Vietnams (1985), In the Arena (1990), and Beyond Peace (1994). Nixon died of a stroke on April 22, 1994, and was buried next to his wife on the grounds of the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California.
Later years and death
In his later years Nixon worked to rehabilitate his public image, and enjoyed considerably more success than could have been anticipated at the time of his resignation. He gained great respect as an elder statesman in the area of foreign affairs, being consulted by both Democratic and Republican successors to the Presidency.
Further tape releases, however, removed all doubt as to Nixon's involvement both in the Watergate cover-up and also the illegal campaign finances and intrusive government surveillance that were at the heart of the scandal.
Nixon wrote many books after his departure from politics, including his memoirs.
On April 18, 1994, Nixon, 81, suffered a major stroke, and died four days later on April 22. He was buried beside his wife Pat Nixon (who had died ten months earlier, on June 22, 1993, of lung cancer) on the grounds of the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California.
President Bill Clinton, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and California Republican Governor Pete Wilson spoke at the April 27 funeral, the first for an American president since that of Lyndon Johnson on January 25, 1973, a ceremony Nixon himself attended when president; also in attendance were former presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and their respective first ladies. Nixon was survived by his two daughters, along with his four grandchildren.
The Nixon Library contains only Nixon's pre- and post-presidential papers, as his presidential papers have been retained as government evidence. Nixon's attempts to protect his papers and gain tax advantages from them had been one of the important themes of the Watergate affair. Due to disputes over the papers, the library is privately funded and does not, like the other presidential libraries, receive support from the National Archives.
Yet again, we get just the needed facts from Encarta, while Wikipedia prattles on and on and on…. with poor and clichéd writing: ‘that were at the heart of the scandal’; unnecessary enumeration of funeral attendees; claims of tax advantages, and library funding. Again, all of these are violations of basic editing, as well as Wikipedia’s own claims for itself, and they are only the mildest sorts of infractions. Quick looks at other entries on such famous people as William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, Emily Dickinson, and even the last two Presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, confirms that rumors and scandal-mongering dominate factuality at Wikipedia.
I concede that probably 95% or more of Wikipedia’s facts might be correct, but 5% is a HUGE gap, nowhere near the error rate of professional encyclopediae, and that does not even address the fact that probably upwards of 50% of the information in all entries is poorly written, trivial, or superfluous (having been restated in other portions of the likely ill-worded entry), and probably 75% or more of the entries, themselves, are of a dubious nature- such as entries on minor pop figures, wacky conspiracy theories, quack science and history, or plain old trivia that contributes nothing to the sum of human knowledge, which an encyclopedia is to represent the best and most relevant portions of. And, again, easily 95% of entries’ claims go unattributed, uncited, etc., even as many editors and admins with grudges use those very same claims to disallow true corrections to the information, often citing the bringers of correct information as ‘vandals’ because they do not adhere to the biases of whatever cabal is in control of a certain topic. A good example would be to look at the entry for novels, wherein there are works and writers listed as novels and novelists that are clearly not either, and that fact is admitted by links to other Wikipedia entries in that very entry that claim the cited work is a poem, essay, or biography, not a novel. In other entries, editors cannot even discern the fact that if a rumor is proven true it is no longer a rumor, but a fact. Then, again, truth and factuality have very little to do with Wikipedia, as this article, called Wikipedia And The Nature Of Truth details.
To read the discussion pages of the entries in Wikipedia, is to be subjected to the same ignorance and bile that infects political blogs like Dean’s World. Gangs of editors bully lone dissenters, and when the dissenter seeks a remedy via supposedly impartial review, they have difficulty even finding links to complain, or any centralized authority to objectively review the facts. And when they do, resolution can take days or weeks, although most are ignored- even if proof is presented regarding harassment, spamming, or the sending of spyware and viruses. And guess what? Mysteriously, any records of such complaints seem to disappear into a black hole that no history page records. Perhaps even worse is that the admins and higher Wikipedian officers blatantly ignore the rules they find noisome, and hypocritically impose arbitrary standards that violate standard editing protocols that have been in place for centuries- such as capitalizing all the first letters in the words of a title or heading. Along with not citing sources, which is applied only when needed to bludgeon an editor or viewpoint the majority do not like, there are many other examples of gross misinformation that abound on Wikipedia- far too many for me to enumerate here, as a book, or several, would be needed.
Some of the worst are false claims about plagiarism or copyright infringement. Wikipedians simply do not understand the very nature of copyright law, something I’ve known for years, due to my reworking of poems in critical pieces, even linking to applicable copyright law. Simply put, one cannot copyright basic information, only its presentation. Take another look at the Columbia entry for Dorothy Parker, for example:
(Dorothy Rothschild Parker), 1893–1967, American short-story and verse writer, b. West End, N.J. While serving as drama critic for Vanity Fair (1916–17) and book critic for the New Yorker (1927), she gained an almost legendary reputation for her sardonic wit. Her first volume of poetry, Enough Rope (1926), brought her fame, and she followed it with such volumes as Death and Taxes (1931) and Not So Deep as a Well (1936). Although decidedly light and often flippant, Parker’s satiric verse is carefully crafted and stunningly concise. Her short stories satirizing aspects of modern life are witty, wry, and often poignant. “Big Blond” is probably her best-known story. Collections of stories include Laments for the Living (1930) and Here Lies (1939). Her Collected Stories was published in 1942 and her Collected Poetry in 1944. She collaborated with Arnaud d’Usseau on the play Ladies of the Corridor (1953).
Since this is about 99% straight recitation of facts, it is not copyrightable, and a comparison to other reputable encyclopedia entries, and their abundant similarities, will bear this out, for if not so the assorted encyclopediae would be constantly suing each other over charges of plagiarism and copyright infringement. This is precisely why mere factual information cannot be copyrighted. That so many Wikipedians complain of copyright infringement might be taken as a collective Freudian slip acknowledging that many of them knowing make up factoids they feel possessive of. After all, why should I cherish the date of Dorothy Parker’s birth as if something personally created by me? Yet, many is the time Wikipedian ‘gangs’ have removed such non-copyrightable facts simply because it was an excuse to damn a real citation that their initial entry lacked. The person is then labeled a ‘vandal’, and often subjected to a harassment campaign that can include wrongful banning, for a variety of trumped up charges from their supposed ‘vandalism’ to claimed ‘plagiarism’ to violating another arcane rule known as the three revert rule. Another popular tactic to harass and smear editors who want to improve Wikipedia is to get a gang of editors to claim that an editor has organized a gang of editors to harass another editor, or even to claim that one editor is another editor, or working in collusion with another editor, even as the claimants are doing the very thing they are accusing another of. I have seen many examples of this type of harassment, as well as many obvious examples of editors using multiple accounts and editing the same way with each account. Yet, why this is considered an offense when no other charges of wrongdoing have been alleged, while provable charges of harassment are never investigated, is one of the real mysteries of Wikipedia’s mobocacy. Another absurd rule, mentioned above, is that every editor gets only three reversions of another’s edited material in a 24 hour period, in an attempt to stop ‘revert wars’, although this has had no noticeable effect on such wars, for admins often ban certain people with less than three reverts, while allowing friends of theirs to revert at will. Further harassment can include spamming an editor’s Wikipedia home page, their email address, the sending of bots, spyware, and viruses, and even faking posts in the targeted editor’s name, or altering and deleting their changes so to leave no record in the page history. Anyone skilled in the basics of Microsoft engineering can do this with alarming ease, and I’ve been told this by such engineers themselves- some of whom have edited on Wikipedia in the past, because Wikitype is far easier than HTML or XML to alter. This tactic even goes so far as altering the IP numbers that are left with each edit, to frame certain editors with false claims that they were vandalizing. This has led to the odd situation of Fifth Column editors on Wikipedia; those editors who reject the hypocrisy and dictatorial methods applied by the dominant powers that be, and secretly try to counter the rampant biases against fairness and logic and factuality that lace all of Wikipedia. Often, these editors will stay quiet on big disputes- such as abortion, Terri Schiavo, or George W. Bush, or publicly agree, then subtly coordinate their aims to make the entries better, against all the weight of the biased infrastructure against such aims. Often, these editors warn idealistic newby editors, sotto voce, through emails not traceable through Wikipedia, to not ‘make waves’ and work more subtly to improve the mess.
The sad fact is that the better and more professional an editing job that an editor does the more likely that he will be targeted as some sort of ‘troublemaker’ by the mob mentality that infests Wikipedia. It exhibits both the worst of democracy, in this mob mentality, and the worst of elitism- or rather, anti-elitism, and both lead to the Lowest Common Denominator pabulum as exhibited in my three brief quotations from Wikipedia entries, above. Even one of Wikipedia’s co-founders, along wit Jimmy Wales, Larry Sanger, who left the project in disgust over its direction, has written a widely circulated piece called Why Wikipedia Must Jettison Its Anti-Elitism, where he details the organization’s many flaws. And the problems have only gotten worse and more unreliable as time has gone on, and Wikipedia’s gotten larger, even spawning watchdog websites. One, called Wikipedia Watch, has detailed some of the many problems with Wikipedia, including a case late last year where a man who worked in the Kennedy Administration, John Seigenthaler Sr, found out that libelous information trying to tie him in with the murder of the President, was posted months earlier by true vandals (who are certainly a problem, but far less than the pseudo-intellectual thugs that administrate Wikipedia) and sat unchecked for months, until a friend of Siegenthaler’s spotted the piece and informed him. This created a mini-firestorm, and only after weeks of trying to get all the records, as well as all the history pages, removed, did founder Jimmy Wales finally do the right thing, fix the article by removing the libel, and then lock the page from further assault. All along, Wales hid behind the First Amendment, and the desire to free information, even though there were no cited sources for the accusations against Siegenthaler. This hypocrisy by Wales reminded me of Ambrose Bierce’s Devils’ Dictionary quote about a corporation’s being, ‘an ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.’
This same principle, sans monetary profit, but plus egoistic puffing, perfectly describes Wikipedia. Another watchdog group, Wikipediaclassaction.org, is gathering information from people who have been libeled and/or defamed by Wikipedia articles in order to sue Wikipedia’s parent company, Wikimedia over many other such instances that were far less publicized, due to their subjects’ not having the media pull that Siegenthaler did. However, what made the whole Siegenthaler episode so hypocritical is that many Wikipedia admins know that it is easy to totally erase the history of a page, and they do so quietly all the time. That they did not do so with the media glare upon them shows how disingenuous they are with their claims that they want to truly disseminate facts. All they want to do is disseminate information- biased, unproven, and plain wrong, to try to grab some perceived higher ethical ground that the reality of the enterprise is sorely short of, and short of by orders of magnitude, not just cat’s whiskers. In response to this blatant abuse, did Wikipedia get its act together? No. Although Siegenthaler’s travails were publicized, merely because of his power as a ‘name publisher’, there are thousands of similar articles that could be cited for their libel- hence the groups Wikipedia Watch and Wikipediaclassaction.org. Wales’ response was to merely disallow anonymous editors from creating articles. Yet, this was not the problem that led to the libel in the first place!
And this very denial of responsibility aspect of Wikipedia was never better represented than in the Siegenthaler mess. Because of his power and position as one of the founding directors of USA Today, Siegenthaler was in a unique position to batter Wikipedia over its flawed system of allowing anonymous editing, eventually getting Wales to lock the page and remove the history of the page with the libelous accusations. Yet, that was all that was done, save a weak response of not allowing anonymous editors to start their own pages, even though they can still freely edit and misinform. Wales took no personal responsibility for being behind the edifice of a structure so open to ruinous attacks on people. In fact, Wikipedia’s own entry on the Seigenthaler controversy is notable because it accepts zero responsibility on the page. Instead, it calls the whole episode a hoax, which connotes an action generally considered a harmless prank:
The John Seigenthaler Sr. Wikipedia biography controversy occurred after Brian Chase anonymously posted a hoax in the Wikipedia entry for John Seigenthaler Sr. in May 2005….
Reading the piece, it is clear that the ‘hoaxer’, really a vandal- and fitting the correct definition of that term far more than the so-called ‘vandalous’ editors who, Fifth Column or not, have tried to clean up Wikipedia from the inside out, could only have done what he did because of the very flawed structure that Wikipedia is premised on. Ask yourself who is to blame for a burglary if the person you leave in charge of your house for a week leaves your doors wide open, with a neon sign flashing, ‘The doors are unlocked!’ Yes, the burglar commits the crime, but the person you left in charge shares some of the responsibility for your stolen belongings.
Even worse than their lack of accepting responsibility for their flaws is the fact that the entry seems to almost gleefully trumpet the fact that the controversy gained Wikipedia press and online hits:
Wikipedia received some adverse publicity, but also entered one of its strongest ever periods of usage growth. In mid-December it passed CNN.com in the Alexa rankings for the first time.
But, the Siegenthaler case was not the only controversy last year. A former MTV veejay named Adam Curry was apparently caught trying to inflate his role in the development of IPod technology:
December 2, 2005 3:11 PM PST
The true genesis of podcasting has always been disputed in one corner of the blogosphere or another. In general, though, the main names that get the lion's share of the credit are former MTV VJ Adam Curry and blogging pioneer Dave Winer….
The kerfuffle stems from a controversy over the Wikipedia article about podcasting. Essentially, Curry is accused of anonymously editing out information in the article that discusses some others' roles in the creation of the technology while at the same time pumping up his own role….
Ah, one of those things. Well, Curry has gotten a gigantic amount of attention for helping to create podcasting. And now he's aware he's going to have to deal with a little backlash for the Wikipedia scandal.
"So I eat crow, but I wasn't doing anything evil or posting that I had 'done it all,'" he said. "Merely participating in the process of Wikipedia to the best of my knowledge. Apparently that's not cool if you were a part of history."
Posted by Daniel Terdiman
Even more recently, congressmen have been accused of altering their political histories, such as this instance, as well as further Big Brother revisionist shenanigans, that only underscore the need for competent professionals at Wikipedia:
Congressman Martin Meehan (D-MA) is obviously still sensitive about breaking a pledge he made in 1992:
of U.S. Rep. Martin Meehan's staff have acknowledged they deleted unflattering
information about a broken campaign promise from an online encyclopedia,
according to a published report.
Content on Wikipedia, an encyclopedia that relies on volunteers to post information, was replaced to remove references to Meehan's broken term limit pledge, the Sun of Lowell reported.
Meehan's chief of staff Matt Vogel told the newspaper that he oversaw the removal last July of information, which was replaced with a staff-written biography….
Update: The Lowell Sun also reports that the abuse by one congressional staffer was so bad Wikipedia had to block the user's IP address.
online honor system has made it ripe for abuse by vandals. Recently, a user
wrote in a Wikipedia bio that Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor "smells of
cow dung." Another wrote that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is
"ineffective." These statements were traced to the House
Internet-protocol (IP) address.
In November and December, The Sun has learned, users of the House's IP address were temporarily blocked from changing content because of violations described by the site as a "deliberate attempt to compromise the integrity of the encyclopedia."
"I'm not denying it," Jon Brandt, a spokesman for the Committee on House Administration, which oversees the House computer network, said when asked to confirm House ownership of the address.
For security reasons, Brandt declined to say to whom the address is assigned.
And on it goes. In short, and again, only a fool would rely on an organization whose information passes through the hands of known fools, liars, and charlatans, a place where favoritism for certain editors and admins and editorial slants is rampant, where their own rules, such as ‘wikifying’ standards for articles, or NPOV, are wholly ignored by both editors and admins whenever it is inconvenient to their ends.
Art and politics are not the provinces for truth, but science and journalism- which include history and information outlets such as dictionaries, thesauri, and encycopediae, are. This is why Wikipedia needs to drop its non-profit status, allow advertising, so that it can hire good and competent professionals in two major areas: a) simple editing of articles so there is a good and standard writing approach that eschews gossip, poor grammar, and keeps each article as small, tight, and focused as possible, as well jettisoning the bulk of trivial articles on minor things and celebrities, and b) professional fact checkers to actually vet each article via peer-review and citation. There could still be volunteers, but they would not be allowed to insert anything they wished- it would have to be submitted via a form, and then studied for its accuracy, and edited professionally. By making Wikipedia a for-profit corporation, it could still be available free online for all to use. Founder Jimmy Wales has even admitted that his aim is to make a print version of Wikipedia available, but he’ll only do that the old fashioned way- with peer review. So, he is basically admitting that he doesn’t really care of the accuracy of online information he disseminates. This makes him as bad as the political bloggers like Dean Esmay. A final point to note, though, is that it’s not important to acknowledge that Wikipedia has problems with accurate information dissemination, and to point them out, but to admit and fix why there are so many problems- namely that it's merely a condensed version of the Internet within the Internet. Without acknowledging the structural and ethical limitations of a Lowest Common Denominator Mob Rules philosophy, there can be no change, and there will be future instances where the next John Siegenthaler, Sr. decides that it’s time Wales and Wikipedia finally paid for their allowing false and libelous information to be disseminated. That will be a grim day for the Internet, as it could herald sweeping regulations that will kill the very aspects of the Internet- freedom and ease- that made it such a phenomenon to begin with. Obviously, if Wikipedia’s own view of their role in the libeling of Siegenthaler is any indication, they have not been chastened in the slightest, for this link will show many other flaws in Wikipedia. This very arrogance has led some commentators to opine on a dim future for the enterprise. Many others agree, and some even fear that it is ready to become the proven menace Microsoft is, and that Google is feared to be becoming.
This is most represented in the now provably false, and reluctantly admitted, claim that Wikipedia’s whole history is recorded on their articles’ pages. Perhaps the only good thing that the Siegenthaler episode proved is that history pages are and can be easily manipulated. Before being forced to remove the page histories on Siegenthaler, Wikipedia had claimed that they a) did not alter histories and b) could only do so with great difficulty. As I’ve said, this is not so, and was not so long before the Siegenthaler episode proved it patently false, as I’ve seen it is done often, and done very ‘quietly’. Yet, even some of its critics still buy into the myth of Wikipedia’s claimed ‘transparency’, as this blog post proves:
Getting away from politics for a moment (maybe), one of the most interesting debates going on at the moment is about the Wikipedia, the open-source encyclopedia-like reference site that anyone can edit. I've been interested in projects like Wikipedia in theory for a while -- in part because I'm interested in whether such open systems can be useful for the intellectual work of politics -- but recently have been amazed by how vastly useful it is. For example, to take a kind of narrow interest of mine, twice in the last few weeks I've needed (or wanted) to know who was chair of a particular congressional committee at a particular time in recent history. That's difficult information to find; some of the committees have histories on their own web sites, but most don't. But it's all there on Wikipedia.
On the other hand, I'm sympathetic to the other side of the argument, which is that a factually unreliable encyclopedia is pretty useless. (As I told my daughter a few weeks when she was waving a magic wand around a little too wildly, "A broken magic wand is just a stick.") And there are plenty of unsupported assertions, dull writing, and misplaced priorities in Wikipedia articles. But I'm not really an encyclopedia reader anyway; just the ability to use Wikipedia to check an unfamiliar name or find a weird fact instantly is amazing. As Clay Shirky says, it is more of a competitor to or supplement to Google than to the Brittanica encyclopedia.
In short, Wikipedia is no better than any other online source of information, and often as bad or worse than the dregs of the blogosphere. But, before I end this latest survey on the Lowest Common Denominator dumbing down of culture, and having ripped Oprah Winfrey and the mainstream media, big time publishing, and online presences, both private and public, it would not be fair of me to not comment on that worst bastion of cultural malaise- Academia, and include a recent exchange I had with a truly stupid and very dishonest editor, of an online literary magazine, whose lack of honor and decency is all too common, unfortunately.
Over the five plus years of Cosmoetica’s existence, I’ve gotten literally thousands of pieces of hate email, usually from illiterate (not even merely deliterate) morons who have threatened my person, my art, my colleagues, as well as some idiots who have threatened legal action for ridiculous claims I libeled then, even some knowing full well that not a word I wrote was untrue. There have also been threats from bad poets who have objected to my using their full poems in my This Old Poem critical pieces. Yet, these usages are nonprofit, humorous, and educational, and copyright law is clearly on my side, as they have been chagrined to learned.
Sometimes it’s poetastric rubes like a Jack Foley or Bob Grumman, who just want my attention, and seemingly long to pick a fight, just so that I can rip them so they’ll be known decades from now for their association with me; sometimes it’s other critics who are upset that I’m exposing the fact that they do not think for themselves, and merely regurgitate each others’ poor misconceptions about art, such as the infamous idea that Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime And Punishment is a treatise on Christianity, when it’s clearly not; and other times it’s just whiney kids looking to get my attention with a FUCK YOU email, or a pallid defense of a bad poet, bad book, or some loony conspiracy theory from UFOs to Jesus Christ (see my recent exchanges with rabid atheists after I reviewed the DVD of The God Who Wasn’t There). At other times I just get weird emails out of the blue, like this series of emails from the editor of a small literary magazine about southern Appalachia:
On 1/23/06, George Brosi <George_Brosi@berea.edu> wrote:
I edit a literary magazine, and we received a submission on your behalf from "The Dillard Agency."
I suggest you fire them because they did not do their job and research what kind of submissions we consider. As a result they sent us a submission beyond the scope of our publication, and just wasted everyone's time and money.
Editor, Appalachian Heritage
Berea, KY 40404
It seems that several months earlier my literary agency had sent off a short story of mine to this publication. What was unusual was the ill-mannered and unprofessional way the editor addressed me, directly, and not going through the agency. This is simply not acceptable behavior, and I suspected that the editor may have been drunk or manically depressed when he emailed me, as this is not unusual with artistic types. Yet I was concerned enough to write back, and find out if some error had been made.
Here was my reply, and note the genial, and helpful tone, in stark contrast to the editor’s accusatory one:
On 1/23/06, Dan Schneider wrote:
in looking over the list of submissions I was emailed from them I see that in
October a single tale, Massoukian And More, was sent to you. This is a
tale that follows an old curmudgeon in the backwoods of southern Appalachia.
Looking at your website, it states: http://community.berea.edu/appalachianheritage/guidelines.html
"Appalachian Heritage is a quarterly literary magazine of the Southern Appalachians. As such, we limit ourselves to material about our region or works from authors of the region."
Perhaps you did not enjoy the tale, or did not like it, but it clearly is within the scope of the quoted requia. Unless, some error was made and that tale was not the one sent to you. If so, let me know and I'll find out why there was some mix up, and perhaps some other tale was accidentally sent.
But, if not so, then I do not see where they can be held accountable for your tastes. Please let me know if the tale I named was not the one sent and I'll look into the matter. Thanks, DAN
My tone and reply are courteous and professional, as I hoped to inspire the same in the boorish editor. I did not hear from him for several days, and shot off a second email:
Sent: Thursday, January 26, 2006 8:17 AM
To: George Brosi
Subject: Re: For Dan Schneider
Well, was that the tale you received or not? If it wasn't I'd like to know. Thanks, DAN
Again, my email is pertinent, professional, and brief. He finally replied:
On 1/26/06, George Brosi < George_Brosi@berea.edu> wrote:
Dear Dan Schneider,
I owe you an apology.
I DO have your story, and it is the one you wanted it to be.
We almost never get manuscripts from agencies, and I'm prejudiced AGAINST them, so when I didn't see a mountain setting immediately I acted in haste and folly!
I look forward to reading your story!
Now, some may be amazed at a) the bias he admits, and b) that he admits it, but anyone who has gotten a form rejection for a poem or story they’ve submitted knows that less than 5% of the time will their piece actually be read in any measure, because the editors are simply lazy and swamped, and many of the pre-readers of pieces, who are dim-witted college kids, are simply not good enough readers to discern the rare bit of quality writing from the reams of crap. Still, the fact that he apologized offered hope for the man.
However, keep in mind that in his exchange with me he has basically admitted that he only skimmed a couple of paragraphs, and when he did not get typical hillbilly clichés nor stereotypes, he immediately dismissed the work. Yet, this email admits that he looked a bit more and saw that it was, indeed, right for his. While the locale is never specified (it could be anywhere from the Ozarks to the Smokies) it is clearly set in Southern Appalachia. This will be an important fact as you read on. So, it is now shown that he, like far too many editors, only reads what he wants to, and as far as he wants to, unless caught in a faux pas. And what he has against agencies I can only guess returns to the fact that he was probably ill treated or rejected by more than one in the past.
I emailed back, surprised at actually getting an apology, and thinking there was a slight chance that perhaps Brosi might be man enough to do the right thing, and actually publish my good literature in his journal:
From: Dan Schneider
Sent: Thursday, January 26, 2006 9:30 PM
Subject: Re: For Dan Schneider
Good to know there was no screw up. You can either let me know yea or nay via email or thru the agency's return envelope. Dan
But, apparently, there was some anger and darkness stewing inside Brosi’s little mind. I had ‘shown him up’, and he could not let it go. The next day he was back to being snippy, although in a more passive/aggressive way:
1/27/06, George Brosi wrote:
Dear Mr. Schneider,
Even though your agency did NOT screw up in the obvious way my prejudiced mind led me prematurely to believe, you should be aware that the agency did NOT do a good job. They addressed the envelope to "editor" instead of simply googling the magazine and finding the name of the current editor and they did NOT follow our submission guidelines posted on the web.
I still think you should possibly consider at least scaling down your use of literary agents to stuff they can clearly do better than you!
The fact is, by now, I could tell Brosi would never publish the piece, and was just trying to worm his way out of the embarrassing situation he had gotten himself into with his ill thought initial email, by looking for any excuse to end contact. Note how he gets offended by being addressed as an editor. This is ridiculous, and clear evidence he’s looking to be offended at whatever I respond with.
Dan Schneider wrote:
Having forwarded your correspondence and spoken with the agency I wanted
to clear up several things. As to your last email, as someone who has sent
around poetry for years, before and after the Internet, a 'Dear Editor' greeting
is standard. I know, and my agent has said the same thing- that a large portion
of submissions come back with a new person and name at the helm, and often with
snippy comments about how up to date submitters should be in knowing the
intimate details of said little magazine. This is silly, and I have seen many
instances where there was a change in the editor who replied via letter, yet the
online masthead remained unchanged. I find it a bit odd that you should take
offense to merely being addressed as an editor- which is never going to be
outdated, which is what my agency said they address all correspondence as, until
and unless they've had more than one exchange. That you seem to take offense and
overreact so easily is puzzling.
Secondly, the only other two points by which you have a complaint is the length of the piece, which is over your limit, and biographical info. Fully a quarter of the pieces I've had published online or off violate one or more of a magazine's maxims. The force, source, depth, power, excellence, or just likeability of the work overcame that prejudice. I've seen many instances in other published and posted magazines where similar violations occur. I'd reckon a similar percentage of such solecistic pieces are published in all magazines. This is standard. If a work meets all but a single criterion, should one not send it around, with a hope to overcome the bias? To answer yes is to admit one wants a limited purview to one's writing. You are entitled to such a delimited scope, and have previously admitted such biases, but to rail about such suggests that it's been a while since you've been actively submitting around. Especially to do so in such a strident and puerile manner.
The last violation would be that they did not submit a bio form. They did that for a simple reason. They are not me! You are mistaking a professional for a personal relationship. Simple contact information is provided in all their letters and on the letterhead, then there is a lot of personal braggadocio wanted- for which they supplied some of my prior publications. Then you ask a number of questions on personal tastes and preferences that only myself or an intimate could know, so in short, that info desired is supplied in the cover letters, and the other they could not possibly know. And even if they did I have made it known that I do not give out such information. It is irrelevant to my work. The worst example of this trend comes from the photos that American Poetry Review publishes. The photos are great, the poetry horrible. Is this the standard you feel lit mags should follow?
Furthermore, I have to ask you, what is it that compels you to seek out and adhere to such frivolous non-literary matters for publication, much less foment you into a rage, so that you send accusatory emails to strangers? The work alone should be the sole criteria. That it is not is why American literature sucks. It's not the bad writers, but bad editors, publishers, and critics, who do everything but simply evaluate writing. If I or my agent had sent some artistic statement stating I was a devout Jew, anti-abortion, against the Iraq War, or some other trivial nonsense, I can only imagine how that would bias you against me in some form, even further, as I'm sure this email will in the future.
After all, in your first email you railed at me and my agents when you now admit you had not even read the submitted tale. Then you claimed to have read only a paragraph or two, and when there were not enough Southern hillbilly stereotypes nor clichés to enthrall you, you presumed the work was not set in the Southern Appalachians. While I can give you kudos for at least admitting your biases and small-mindedness, and I do not deny your right to desire only the most stereotyped pieces (after all, how many magazines brazenly desire that by stating 'read past issues', or send us clones of the crap we publish?), merely acknowledging your biases does not alleviate them. This is a problem that goes far beyond the arts. If you look at my main page you'll find a review I did of an atheist film, and I've posted some correspondence with some rabid atheists who are every bit as frightening in their dogma as Klansmen!
Would you print a brilliant argument that is counter to every one of your beliefs? If not, then you are not understanding of what art and dialectic are truly about. This is a prejudice the Left and Right share, and one of the reasons I've a) been demonized by both and b) have a very popular website. For example, my atheist film review has apparently sent the atheists online abuzz, and gotten me over two million hits for that page alone, in several weeks, all because they know only how to defend their illogic from the illogic of theists, not the logic of agnosticism.
This desire to 'box' things, to only publish what one likes, as opposed to what is objectively good, is why this nation is deliterate. I hope you will work to remedy, not further, that course, but the choice is yours. I would, however, suggest that you address future correspondence, via letter or email, more maturely and professionally, lest you sound like one of those anonymous 19 year old college intern pre-readers who cannot tell Chick Lit from Chekhov, and send snippy replies without a name.
BTW- my agency did send out some poetry to you a week or so ago, so do with it what you like. Again, what my favorite this or that, blood type, or Life Statement might be, has no relevance to the text. But, please, a little more professionalism and a little less bias and invective can only help you and your magazine. DAN
Here, I let him have it, albeit in a measured professional tone, yet one that utterly devastates his psyche. I have exposed him as a small-minded, lazy editor, who looks only to publish the most clichéd and stereotyped of work. One would think someone from that magazine would want to work against such stereotypes, but that he does not, and cannot, even act professionally, leads me to wonder how such a poorly qualified reader and writer ever got to be in the position he is in with a university. That he has speaks volumes for the poor quality of Academia, both in teaching and fostering excellence in the arts.
I think it’s important that this exchange endure online, for as bad as Wikipedia, the blogosphere, and the for profit publishing industry, are, Academia’s every bit as bad, if not worse. It actually took the reeling Brosi several days to muster up this gallant response:
On 1/30/06, George Brosi <George_Brosi@berea.edu> wrote:
Dear Mr. Schneider,
I have now read your submission and find that I was right in the first place. The setting is universal, not Appalachian. It falls outside our scope. So feel free to submit it elsewhere.
Now, recall his earlier email where he admitted he was wrong about the content of the story not matching his criteria? Either he was lying then, or lying now, about what he read, or that he read the piece, but any way you look at it, he never really ‘read’ the story with any depth. Or, if he did, he shows a consummate lack of basic reading comprehension, for the tale is clearly set in the mountains of the South. The setting is most definitely not universal, but the theme is; thus why it did not fall into his desire for a stereotyped story.
Now, think about that- here is a man who apparently teaches literature and/or writing at a university, and he has not even the critical capacity to distinguish between setting and theme in a story. That is incredible!….Unless you’ve spent years submitting quality literature to cretins like this, only to deal with their stupidity and emotionally depressive mood swings. Brosi is merely the admitted recrudescence of the bilge that unfortunately infests Academia with its biases, small-mindedness, and active seeking out of bad, trite, and stereotypical literature to publish and promote, in an almost masochistic urge to dumb down all writing that the worst of them, like a Brosi, can honestly say that most other published writers are no better than they are- and be correct!
He clearly had no ability to respond rationally, so I merely tweaked him with this:
Dan Schneider wrote:
Great comeback. Haha. DAN
That he would desire stereotypes over real quality fiction is puzzling, until one takes a look at a photo of the man, which seems to suggest that the old fossil has a fondness for ‘hillbilly chic’. His sort of out of touch oldster is as bad as the neo-hipsters that want to publish ‘street poetry’- i.e.- the garbage that a Kevin Lewis writes. Yet, both extremes are, as I’ve shown, intolerant and uninformed, as well as deliterate. Brosi would be far better off following in Dean Esmay’s footsteps and starting a political blog where his extreme mood swings and bile might be appreciated, rather than destroying literature with the off the rack stereotyped tales he seeks- and notice, not a single word on the actual details of the story of mine submitted. This ignorance is the very antithesis of ‘creative writing’, and why Academia is as bad as the media, the publishing industry, the blogosphere, and Wikipedia, in dumbing down discourse and proffering flawed and false information.
Brosi’s amazing yet amusing idiocy only begs the manifest question: is he dumb, dishonest, or both? No matter what the answer, people like him should not be employed in Academia, save for holding a bucket and mop. Yet, he and his noxious ilk are the rule, not the exception in the ivy towers, just as they are in the other venues I’ve covered in this essay.
I end this piece as I began it, lamenting the misinformation, disinformation, and dumbing down of discourse in or society. I have given rife examples, but offer no solution. Well, that’s not true- there is a solution, but it’s so radical that to suggest it seems almost heretical. And that is- do not participate, and watch them dry up. It is the only way to end this sort of nonsense: do not buy the horrid writings of a James Frey and ilk, do not watch Oprah Winfrey and her hordes of imitators, do not encourage the Kevin Lewises, Robert Turkels, nor Dean Esmays of the world to continue their noxious behavior by giving them credence, do not link to nor participate in, nor use Wikipedia- which is really just an Internet within the Internet, not a serious scholarly tool, as a source, and stand up to the bullies like George Brosi that dominate the college publishing scene. It’s only because good people, with intelligence, fail to stand up to such idiocy that it prospers.
One might wonder- do not they tire of lying and misleading all the time? No, why should they when they are rewarded with money and attention? Yes, time is the great leveler, and there will come a time when people will not believe such Lowest Common Denominator swill and lack of personal responsibility was virtually all that was out in the market of ideas, thus why I have documented it in this essay. Yes, the idea of demoticism is appealing, but its reality often damns its positive aspects. Too often, the dogmatists of whatever belief system will not allow for dissent from their willful damnation of truths. In short, toeing the line is always a dangerous thing, no matter where that line is drawn, and it’s up to each and every citizen to make sure they push at others’ boundaries, if only to test themselves, for without that one is left an unthinking deliterate zombie- great if your applying for a job as an Academic or for tickets to the next Oprah Winfrey show, but terrible if you want to live in a society where knowledge is reliable and free. There’s the line- cross it!
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