Comment Rescue: Stereotypes



Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.

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53 Responses

  1. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    Actually, I think jojo’s point here is a little more simple. Two different situations ,two different results.

    1. TVD or other right-leaning commentators make far-reaching generalization about liberals. I, Stillwater, Mike, or other liberals might take him to task. The libertarian-leaning commenters usually don’t pass judgement on it.

    2. Anybody makes a generalization about libertarians without couching it in ‘some libertarians’ or ‘other libertarians.’ That person gets attacked from all sides with people clutching pearls about, “how dare you think Jaybird, Jason K, or other libertarians want toxic waste spilled into the ocean and taxes eliminated.”

    Of course, there’s also conservatives, but anytime I think I’ve gone too far in characterizing them in some way, something like last night’s debate happens. 🙂


    • The libertarian-leaning commenters usually don’t pass judgement on it.

      I can’t speak for others, but I’m pretty sure I myself spend as much or nearly as much virtual ink defending liberals against far-reaching generalizations by conservatives as I spend defending libertarians against the same.  See, e.g., just about any of the numerous exchanges I’ve ever had with Koz, as well as numerous exchanges I’ve had with Mike Farmer.Report

  2. Avatar Christopher Carr says:

    Pat, this is all very well put. We tend to think of ourselves as uniquely charitable and fair, but really a lot of that is just familiarity with group norms. I’ve recently had the experience of participating in several professional forums, and there have been a lot of hiccups. I remember at the time thinking, “Oh, that asshole.” but forcing myself to be charitable. Of course, it turned out we were talking past each other or there was a misunderstanding or some-such. After mutual apologies, some sort of base of rapport was established.

    In light of that, I’m worried about whether or not the League itself has become like the Borg or whether it will. It seems like there’s been a lot of positive feedback here of late. And more than the usual amount of hostility between regulars and non-regulars. Perhaps it’s just a speed-bump due to our recent transformation, but I believe addressing this issue is worth our efforts.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      Is there hostility between the regulars and non-regulars?

      And say more about the difficulties of positive feedback?Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

        I’d say there is a bit. It relates to positive feedback, actually, and, for that matter, why there isn’t as much diversity at the League as we claim we want, and I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else.

        We tend to reply to each other more than we reply to avatars that we do not know. If “XxGxxxhGvvP” and “Rufus F” make similar points in a thread, we’ll all engage “Rufus F”. And because we’ve all engaged each other in conversation so many times, and because we’ve qualified each other’s points so many times, we’ve practically reached a consensus on a lot of topics.

        For instance, just to list a few opinions that are widely held at the League and not-so-widely held elsewhere: (1) there is no reason for atheists and believers to be hostile to each other; (2) the Obama Presidency has been a disaster; (3) the present bi-partisan consensus is bad for the country; (4) the free market and a liberal lifestyle are superior to the alternatives, etc.

        A lot of this comes from the fact that all the present contributors have come from the commentariat. We’ve spent a few threads talking about how this is a good thing, but it can be a bad thing, too, I think, especially if that commentariat is of a character that people find objectionable for one reason or another (imagine people feeling about the League the way you feel about Balloon Juice). I’m not saying we should sacrifice any of that self-generated content, but there is a trade-off: we’re now less likely than ever to have an uncompromising voice of dissent like Freddie deBoer or a total fresh-faced outsider come and change our perspectives on things.

        In short, if the League is a scientific research program, we’ve now reached the stage where we’re comfortable with the hard core of what we believe and we’re just tinkering. And who knows? Maybe we really do have all the answers.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

          Good stuff.  I’ve never thought about the respond to Rufus vs respond to X thing before, but now that you say it I totally see it.  In fact, I remember when I first started commenting here, I’d often post a comment to engage someone and then sit and listen to the crickets.  Now I want to be more conscious of this.

          I may not agree with you about using the commentariat leading to a lack of diversity – at least in diversity of thought.  I could easily have seen you as having been a formal contributor here a year ago, or two years ago.  But me?  Or Russell?  I’m not so sure.  Not only either of us un general, but I’m not so sure the site in general would have been thrilled with much of the stuff we choose to write about.  That there is a seat for us now suggests to me that we are ever-evolving – for good (Russell) or for bad (me).

          As I said below to Still, I think we do welcome dissent (or at least most of us do).  I’m not yet convinced that people that stop by and comment that we are all RETARDICANS three or four times and then leave count as dissent.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            The “I’m not all that, honest” schtick is old.  If you want to continue beating yourself up, write something lame so you have a legitimate reason for it.

            Try commenting multiple days in a row while you’re medicated, exhausted, and drinking.Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

              “Try commenting multiple days in a row while you’re medicated, exhausted, and drinking.”

              I call that “vacation.”Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

              All the self-depricating things I say, and this is the one you object to?Report

            • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

              I didn’t think Tod said anything self-deprecating. I thought he was talking about subject matter. Certainly subject matter has become more diverse, especially with the sub-blogs.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                Yes, this was what I had meant.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I got the “That there is a seat for us now suggests to me that we are ever-evolving – for good (Russell) or for bad (me).” as self-deprecating.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                Point taken.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                Is this something that truly bugs?  If so I can try to stop.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                No, not really at all.  Maybe just a tad bit of Green Eyed Monsterism on my part.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                At the risk of getting all sappy, that’s pretty silly coming from a guy that continually knocks things out of the park.

                I know I lean on the self-deprecation thing more than I need to, but I still look at those that blog around me and feel like the guy you’re going to send into right field cause no one in the neighborhood is left handed.  Which is not to say that I think I’m crap – I really don’t – but the level of stuff that happens around me always makes me feel both a tad outclassed, and really, really grateful to be here amongst everyone.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I admit to enough egoism to think that when I’m rolling, I write well.. if of a certain limited style.

                I’m unfortunately not a writer in the sense that really good writers are.  In addition to my myriad flaws (and we all have ’em), the one that annoys me the most is burstiness.

                I can write easily when I get going.  I can get going for any number of things.  I can’t predict what’s going to get me going, and I can’t make myself get going without it… unless I put forth a herculean effort that will break the log jam but is downright painful and unpleasant.

                Erik and Elias will always slightly irritate me back in the green eyed monster part of my brain (which, to be clear, is a well cordoned off area that has been thoroughly explored and has good lighting and signage) because they can make it happen every day.  I’m well aware of the fact that this is utterly ridiculous as for all I know Elias has to drink a quart of rotgut and Erik beats his stray dogs in frustration.

                Or maybe this is just a talent they have and I ought not to begrudge it anyone, whatever the costs or lack thereof they have to pay in support of the demon of inspiration.

                Also: the more I read of certain people, the easier it is to take the best of what they write and incorporate it to the degree that it makes what I write better (I think), so not only is it silly to begrudge it, it’s frankly self-destructive.Report

              • Avatar An Imprisoned Psychotic says:

                Pat, don’t sell yourself short.  Your Veterans Day essay was an absolute, poignant, beautiful masterpiece. Hands down, it’s the finest piece of writing I’ve ever read at the League If I’m giving out awards, you walk home with the Pulitzer. p.s. Any chance you could provide a link to it? Thanks, so much.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:


                Ah, hell, man, that wasn’t my story.  I was just the vessel on that one.

                Some day I’ll write about the rest of the story.Report

          • Yes, this is definitely a problem worth considering.  I know that I’m far more likely to not only respond to a regular, but even just to read a regular’s comment than a comment from a stranger or occasional reader.  There is a rational basis for this, but it surely does not facilitate attracting a more diverse commentariat.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            Of course it’s easy to become a regular commenter. And I agree with Mark that there is some basis to respond to someone you’ve gotten to “know” more than a stranger – you have an idea what you’re going to get, and you may have some ongoing background exchanges that make is more.

            But I’ll also say that when I started comment, the League was a lot smaller, in terms of contributors and commenters.  So every new commenter (I think) stood out more.  So there was more response.  I was actually quite astonished at how responsive the bloggers and other commenters were to my views, which is a big part of why I stuck around.  So maybe things are different now, and it has become a more impersonal place for newbies.

            But I still think that if you want to stick around and become a regular, all you need to do is do it.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              Apparently trailing off of sentences is just going to be what I do today.Report

            • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

              “I was actually quite astonished at how responsive the bloggers and other commenters were to my views, which is a big part of why I stuck around.”


            • Avatar Plinko says:

              Heck it ain’t easy. It’s easy to drive by. It’s easy to occasionally vomit up something and ignore any responses. But if you care to engage and be a part of the conversation, you’ve got to do better than that. I’m thoroughly impressed by the folks that stick through when what their comments get engaged and questioned and sometimes attacked (often rightly so!) and come out with sharper arguments and better understandings all around.

              I guarantee you I’ve deleted way more half-written comments than I’ve ever posted. Half the time I realize someone else already said more or less what I’d say, the other half I realize I haven’t written it well enough to bother with.


              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                “I guarantee you I’ve deleted way more half-written comments than I’ve ever posted. Half the time I realize someone else already said more or less what I’d say, the other half I realize I haven’t written it well enough to bother with.”

                Oh yeah.  I know this land you speak of well.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I think I’ve deleted two comments without posting them.

                All the rest have come through although another dozen or so were edited heavily with lots of language toned down before I hit submit.

                I am a wordy bastard.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Plinko –

                Well, true, it’s not easy in that way… but if that’s not what someone’s after, then indeed this probably isn’t so much the place for them.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      I think that’s a good point CC. When the ‘tribal’ issue first came up in the other thread, Tod quickly pointed out that we’re not a tribe. We’re the anti-tribe! But I think we can still be tribal – simply because we’re a relatively small group of people who put theory and justification and meta-analysis and civility above ‘normal’ political debate. The danger, I guess, is that thinking we aren’t tribal because we’re not an advocacy group sorta misses something deeper.


      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        You can engage in group-think without being tribal.

        I think it’s possible to fall into the first category for any group of people, the second is much less likely.

        Now, I’m certainly not going to agree with with what people *say* because they’re also members of the League, and that’s sort of an important part of tribalism.

        I might, however, disagree with what they aren’t saying but are being accused of saying, because I read them more charitably than other people do.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        Still –

        Well, politically I think we’re not tribal as a single group.  We’re tribal nonetheless.

        If someone in a post of mine comes in and does a mean spirited attack of North, or BSK, or Russell I will totally cop to feeling more mother-hennish than when I see someone get trolled somewhere else – even when I don’t agree with the Leaguer being bashed.  That’s surely tribal.

        But – and I recognize that I can only speak for myself, and that my feelings toward me are by definition not entirely objective – I tend to chime in on outsiders that look to troll.  I really have no issues with commenters I haven’t seen before engaging in dialogue – in fact, it always warms my heart when I see it.

        Above, Jesse speaks about how we gather to defend libertarians.  And I can see how he might feel that way about me.  But from my POV, I don’t adversarily engage anyone that comes to argue libertarianism – usually because I often agree with them.  But I do feel free to chime in when someone goes onto my post, or Erik’s, or Mark’s, and rants about how where’re all just a bunch of glibertarians that want children to starve.  In my mind, however, that’s not running to the defense of libertarians, it’s correcting some drive-by that thinks we’re all X because some other person told them we’re all X.  (It’s just that out in the wilds, we’ve been tagged as a Libertarian blog.)  And I think doing that is a good thing.

        Every now and then we get a drive by by some troll that slows down and takes the time to discuss things, and after a while for some period of time turns into a valued member of the group.  I’ll hope he/she forgives me for saying this, but when Sonmi first started showing up I found her to be a bit of a troll that wasn’t contributing much.  And maybe that’s what Sonmi was, or maybe that was just my perception, or maybe something in-between.  But as time has gone on I’m finding Sonmi is engaging in some good conversation, and we’ve had some comments back and forth that make me glad he/she is sticking around. (Really, I need to ask him/her about gender.  I’m feeling self-conscious always using he/she.)


        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          I’ll hope he/she forgives me for saying this, but when Sonmi first started showing up I found her to be a bit of a troll that wasn’t contributing much.

          Well, that’s certainly a part of it. But when I first started commenting here Jaybird felt compelled to criticize me for “showing up only to attack libertarians”. Was he trying to run me off? Maybe. And in his defense I did focus most of my criticisms on his portrayal of liberals and liberal-governance generally. I don’t know to what degree the content – as opposed to the tone – regarding liberals around here has changed. Maybe it hasn’t but I don’t care about it anymore. Maybe it’s moderated by the presence of a few more liberals at the site.

          Longwinded way of saying … language which strikes another person as obviously biased or self-serving (or loony!) might go unnoticed amongst those folks already in the community.



          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            (For the record, my version of “running people off” tends to not involve directly interacting with them, asking them questions, and answering their own questions.)Report

        • Avatar BSK says:

          Woh! I get the motherhen treatment? I tend to assume I’m not innercircle in just about any blog circle, because I don’t blog myself and am not sure how one becomes a true member, as compared to just a frequent blatherer. I also tend toward self-deprecation, mostly to help balance out an incredibly cocky streak I have at times. So I may be selling myself short. But maybe there are ways of subtley signaling to people how they are perceived in the community, so folks like myself don’t feel likepartial members and newcomers don’t feel relegated to the corner. What that mechanism ought to be, I don’t know…Report

          • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

            I think Still hit on it earlier, that we should all do a better job of engaging and acknowledging new people when they take the time to say hi.

            But as far as those who hang out/pop in and out frequently, I’m surprised they might not feel a part of the community.  I would hope they would – most of the folks like you have been here longer than I have, I think.

            On a related subject:  Vegas call, BSK.  Vegas calls.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I lose my temper far too often to be civil. And am fond of expressing myself in ways that convey my point… economically.

        Y’all put up with me, so there is that.

        (and I probably sounded like a bit of a troll when I first got here too.)Report

  3. Avatar joey jo jo says:

    jesse is right on.  its interesting to note how this plays into established roles (i previously characterized them as strong conservative and defeatocrat).  warning, hyperbole ahead:  hippies exist to be punched; a leftist will fold or moderate their position under pressure; if your faith is large enough, who needs facts; etc.  there is a societal bias toward these comfort zones.  it is reflected here.  just my opinion, but posters like North and Liberty60 (both of whom helpfully suggested that i go along to get along) are perpetuating this as well.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      I come from a pretty strong set of embedded liberal tendencies.  The hippies exist to be punched bit and the faith crack probably would get a rise.

      BlaiseP certainly shoves that right back in people’s faces when they attempt to pull it, or does he not (in your opinion)?

      (The fold or moderate under pressure stereotype I find pretty common in the substantiations of liberal politicians, myself.  This doesn’t generalize to all liberals, but it does say something about either liberals or their party that their favored political party has a tendency to reward success to people who fit that stereotype.  I don’t jump to conclusions on what that says, though.)


      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

        My argument about that would be is that the money doesn’t go to those candidates at this time. A candidate that would advocate going after “conservatives” as strong as conservative have gone after liberals over the past 30 years or so would never get the institutional support that those conservatives did.

        That’s mainly because of a lack of a true progressive grassroots combined with the center-right consensus in the Beltway even “liberals” get dragged into. However, while a lot of people compare Obama to Reagan, I think the better comparison politically, not morally, is Nixon. Nixon did a lot of liberal things, but he also doubled down on a conservative message. If the Obama reelection campaign goes populist, I think we can see a true leftward shift in national Democratic politicians just like there was a true rightward shift in the aftermath of Nixon. Obviously, some moderate’s and faux-moderates will hang around due to incumbency and inertia just like there was moderate Republican’s around.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          A candidate that would advocate going after “conservatives” as strong as conservative have gone after liberals over the past 30 years or so would never get the institutional support that those conservatives did.

          That’s mainly because of a lack of a true progressive grassroots

          But, see, this tells me something in and of itself.  If we agree that there is a lack of a true progressive grassroots, and we agree that there is a lack of institutional support, then basically we’re saying, “liberals aren’t actually popular”… this seems to be an odd conclusion since about as many people self-identify as liberal as they do with being conservative, unless the moderates really don’t like liberalism or liberals have a self-hatred thing going on.

          We’re also saying, “people who might lead liberals out of this darkness have exhibited a pattern of being bad at populism and bad at gaming the oligarchy”.  The first bit might be true, but the first leads back to the charge of being a pushover, and the second seems to fly in the face of actual political donations.  I mean, the liberals might not be as good at gaming the oligarchy as conservatives, but they seem to do okay on money count for lots of their candidates.  In any event, if you can’t attract the grassroots, and you can’t attract the oligarchy… who exactly are you marketing yourself towards?Report

        • Avatar NoPublic says:

          That’s mainly because of a lack of a true progressive grassroots

          People who say this don’t have boots on the ground anywhere in a progressive locale.  There’s plenty of progressive grassroots.  We’re overflowing with our roots.  What we don’t have is coordinated messaging and big money tying those groups together so they reach beyond the local scope. The regressives (hey, I’m just saying) have a much better network laid down for this, starting with the church groups and running all the way to the think tanks.


  4. Avatar Matty says:

    Just like a typical, actually what are you? Anyway whatever group you’re in I’m sure you match the stereotype.


  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    The stereotypes that I find most interesting are when the accuser manifests their own stereotypes.

    (I mean, let’s face it, stereotypes do exist for a reason and if someone says “Libertarians all believe X!”, odds are that this is probably an uncharitable reading of what X is rather than an inaccurate one.)

    Anyway, the stuff that I like is when Liberals accuse Libertarians of “not caring”. Or Fiscal Conservatives accusing Libertarians of caring about silly social issues rather than the important ones. Or Social Conservatives accusing Libertarians of being Libertines.

    This tells you a great deal about the accuser and, I find anyway, that asking a handful of loaded questions can help unearth whether the person is someone who is yelling to make themselves feel better or yelling to make other people be better or just because they woke up feeling yelly and, for the most part, are capable of having a real conversation *NEXT* time (because this time may, in fact, be a lost cause).

    At the end of the day, the people who stick around and interact rather than merely waiting for their turn to yell are the people who make the site worth reading.Report

  6. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Does stereotyping about people who stereotype place you the set of people who stereotype?


    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Of course it does.

      What’s interesting is the ability to get beyond stereotypes and have conversations with the individuals who actually hold the opinions. If you do a good job of being an individual yourself, they’ll walk away saying “huh, I guess all Libertarians (or whatever) don’t actually think X”.

      If both you and they both do a good job of being individuals in your own right, maybe you’ll walk away saying “I guess that X is an uncharitable way to describe what they think.”Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        Somewhere in the middle you get “Huh, I guess *one* Libertarian doesn’t actually think X.  Doesn’t he see how he’s a useful idiot!?”

        I mean, what I get from reading Jason (when he’s aggravated) is that this happens quite a lot.  There in the middle.  While I don’t get it, I have no reason to believe he’s making that up and all the reason in the world to believe he isn’t.Report

  7. Avatar Michelle says:

    One of the things I find most interesting about this site is the amount of self-analysis that goes on about how you attract commentators, whom you attract, how you keep them around, and whether or not they’re a diverse enough group. There’s only one other political site where I participate regularly as a commentator, and they don’t engage any of the navel-gazing I find fascinating here.

    As someone who’s relatively new to the site, the two things I’ve found most daunting about jumping in and joining the fray are the fact that most of you seem to know each other quite well, so there’s a lot of in-jokes and comments that are beyond me, and the fact that this is a pretty male place in terms of folks who post regularly. I find the first aspect much more daunting than the second.

    I’m not sure how you attract a more diverse group into the community, given that internet communities do tend to be tribal–we’re drawn to those to which we feel an affinity. But I agree with Plinko: “It’s easy to drive by. It’s easy to occasionally vomit up something and ignore any responses. But if you care to engage and be a part of the conversation, you’ve got to do better than that. For me, that means a fair amount of lurking and comment-reading as opposed to posting frequently until I get more of a feel for the place. And the feel I’ve gotten so far is that this is a pretty eclectic site with an intelligent and thoughtful commentariat. Perhaps because I’m not a libertarian, I find the viewpoints more unpredictable than those on the left-leaning sites I frequent, and the disagreements more fruitful.

    Anyway–that’s my two cents, for what it’s worth.


  8. Avatar NoPublic says:

    It’s easy to drive by. It’s easy to occasionally vomit up something and ignore any responses. But if you care to engage and be a part of the conversation, you’ve got to do better than that

    It would help if the commenting and threading interface here wasn’t so baroque. The whole squeezing comments into a micro-column and only having certain depth allowed and comment renumbering and no easy way to find new entries in a thread without dealing with spam-tacular amounts of EMail.  It’s tedious as heck to keep up if you can only visit on breaks and such.