A Few Words on Bigotry

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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276 Responses

  1. Will Truman says:

    I’m out and about now, but will have more to addx later. Disagree mildly with parts, but love the post (as much as I am allowed to love a post about race by a member of the Great White Empire :))Report

  2. greginak says:

    I really like this Tod. Okay part of the reason i like it is it seems to agree with somethign i’ve been saying for a while. We need to admit we can/are/will be wrong/stupid/impure if we are ever to learn and move forward. ( brief aside; the D’s have had plenty of racists in the party. Byrd was in the KKK, two prominent liberal issue groups, environmentalists and feminist, have been quite correctly dinged for being overly white and privileged and clueless about issues that affect minorities) I think bigotry is actually a good word to use. Its precise and avoids some of the baggage of “racism.” The first step , it seems, is to admit we all have stereotypes about others. Every. Body. Not all of those rise to the level of bigotry, but if we can’t start there, then conversation in pointless.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to greginak says:

      *snort* you shoulda seen the revolutionary feminism essay I found on the bus…Report

      • Morzer in reply to Kimmi says:

        You won’t get very far with solving the issue of bigotry while members of the commentariat feel that it’s fine to engage in broad-brush denunciations of groups such as “feminists” and “environmentalists”. Neither is a monolithic unity and neither has ever claimed to be such.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Morzer says:

          Neither is a monolithic unity and neither has ever claimed to be such.

          Sure, but also: conservatives, libertarians, liberals, moderates…

          We shouldn’t treat these as monolithic beasts, though avoiding referring to them as a group deprives us of the ability to communicate. There’s a fine line.Report

        • greginak in reply to Morzer says:

          I’m not claiming they are monolithic groups. My entire point of putting in that brief aside was to show exactly how someone can criticize groups they actually agree with in general. I certainly wasn’t getting into a detailed history or definition of each movement. There is so much hyper-sensitivity in these discussions and what appears to me to be an unwillingness to admit your own side has faults. I’m modeling how to do note faults in my own “side” and in groups i think are valuable. No group that has more than a handful of people is monolithic. Environmentalists and Feminists, both valuable movements in my eyes, have self-defined separate waves or parts. Both have also been appropriately criticized on race matters. That doesn’t make me think they are less useful movements but just that they are made up of humans. It’s more about seeing your own warts and working to improve.Report

  3. Mike Schilling says:

    He looked exactly like John Cusack, […] The son of Asian Americans,


  4. Will Truman says:

    I’ve long commented that we need to delineate forms of racism as Racism Total, Racism Major, and Racism Minor. Racism Total being reserved for the unabashed sort, Racism Major being the very problematic sort that one nonetheless may not be aware of, and Racism Minor being… well… human. Something to be resisted, but never completely irresistible.

    The same could be applied to bigotry more commonly. The societal goal to be able to move, as much as possible, Totals to Majors, Majors to Minors, and Minors to non-existent. (As an aside, I’m talking about specific attitudes and not the totality of our identity.) There is the tendency among some to want to say anything other than Total doesn’t count, and the tendency among others to count Minor but with a similar severity of Total. We can admit that bigotry is an egregious sin, we can say it’s everywhere and unavoidable, but talking about it unavoidable and egregious strikes me as counterproductive, in the end. We also, of course, have to remain ever-aware, though, that the naturally different ways we perceive people like us and people not like us can have very negative ramifications even if we’re not talking about burning crosses in lawns and that it’s extremely important to do everything we can to give people a fare shake. Especially when it comes to race, due to our history with such (in other countries, it’s going to be religion – not that religion isn’t also an issue here, but it’s secondary to The Big One. And some directions of racism do need to be taken more seriously than others. But at the same time let’s not pretend that only one direction matters.)Report

  5. North says:

    Well yes, everyone is a little bit racist.

  6. Will Truman says:

    I sometimes find myself in the odd position of defending fundamentalists. I say it’s an “odd” position because it was something that used to drive me crazy, once upon a time. Having grown up in the South, it was something that needled. Yet, it also became apparent that there are some very intelligent, capable, and thoughtful individuals who have beliefs that just astound me. People are a complicated lot. Attempts to reduce them to simplistic stereotypes are typically counterproductive. But also irresistible, in the end, of course.

    I actually wasn’t the least bit surprised by the reveal about the Asian-American you were referring to. Back when I was BBSing, most of us were disproportionately irreligious. One of the big counter-examples were a group of Asian-Americans from my high school, who were pretty hardcore Christians. When religious debates cropped up, and they often did, we (I was agnotheist at the time) were as often as not arguing with them.Report

    • James K in reply to Will Truman says:

      Yet, it also became apparent that there are some very intelligent, capable, and thoughtful individuals who have beliefs that just astound me. People are a complicated lot. Attempts to reduce them to simplistic stereotypes are typically counterproductive. But also irresistible, in the end, of course.

      One of the hard things to keep in mind (for me as well) is that intelligence and rationality are very different things. A person can be very smart, but be irrational, and equally not so smart but still highly rational. They are orthogonal mental abilities.Report

      • dhex in reply to James K says:

        for non scientists, there’s also almost zero consequences in your whole life and pretty much none in your day-to-day life regarding your beliefs on evolution. there’s no cost involved.Report

        • NewDealer in reply to dhex says:

          This is a good point.

          I am largely atheist (read: I call myself culturally, ethnically Jewish). I believe in evolution, climate change, and the general scientific consensus.

          However, I am not a science person at all. My brain is arts and humanities oriented and now I am a newly minted lawyer. There is no consequence to my believing in evolution beyond not being mocked by certain people.Report

        • James K in reply to dhex says:

          Very true, and the research I’ve seen suggests that people become more or less relational depending on their incentives.Report

          • Stillwater in reply to James K says:

            Really? People are relational in all sorts of ways. Church-goin is one way to form relationships with others, and the incentive – if we can call it that – would appear to be to form relationships with likeminded people, no?

            In the other hand, if by incentives you mean economic incentives, then of course those relationships based on incentives as well, but would also beg the question, yes?Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Will Truman says:

      Back when I was BBSing, most of us were disproportionately irreligious. One of the big counter-examples were a group of Asian-Americans from my high school, who were pretty hardcore Christians.

      Were they Koreans? Korean and Filipino Americans are overwhelmingly Christian (the latter mostly Catholic, due to the Spanish colonization), whereas Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese Americans tend to be either Buddhist or irreligious.Report

  7. Will Truman says:

    Oh, and as far as the part I disagree with, I don’t think it’s quite fair to say that people are considering all opposition to Obama as being racially-motivated. Well, some are. Others are, I think, incorporating the belief that many or most Republicans are such due to race (so it’d also be racist if they were opposing a white Democrat). I’m not going to get into that last one, but I think what is being said is that racism is influencing opposition to Obama. Not just in the types of attacks, but also in their ferocity. There are some numbers to back this up, so at least some Republicans are.

    The question, to my mind, is what we do with this information. I consider it interesting, unfortunately, but ultimately not very useful. Well, it is useful if your goal is to undermine opposition to the president as being racially-motivated. You can do this while agreeing that a lot of it isn’t, but when we talk about it in the aggregate as being racially motivated, it’s only useful if we then move on to say “We should ignore what they’re saying” or “we should oppose them because some of them are wrongly-motivated.”

    It’s also useful in knocking the party that is playing along with this. Though there again, there is some disagreement to how much it is playing along. There are some attacks that I do consider very problematic from a racism angle. There are other attacks that are being called racial but I consider to be more ambiguous. It’s really, really hard to untangle these things. A significant number of the criticisms of GWB and Bill Clinton would take on new meaning if applied to a black candidate. Which can mean that we should not consider them racist, or that they can be abused if we give them a pass because there is another dimension to the criticism that didn’t exist with a white candidate.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman says:

      It’s useful in knocking the party that is playing along with this only in the sense that it feels good to say “They’re dirty bastards” and know full well that, this time at least, they really are dirty bastards. But I don’t think it sways any significant number of votes.Report

  8. George Turner says:

    I’d say that anyone who isn’t a bigot is a vegetable, because anyone with beliefs worth holding had better be strongly biased against groups that stand in stark opposition to those beliefs. For example, I’m bigoted against neo-Nazi skin-head meth dealers. Perhaps they are nice people, but I’m perfectly content not liking them as a group. I feel much the same towards Islamic radicals who hang women from cranes for showing too much skin.

    If Hollywood made everyone bigoted against bigots, then anyone who wasn’t already a bigot became one.Report

  9. Mike Dwyer says:

    “As it turns out, the potential limiting factor our name gives us is something we are all discussing behind the scenes right now, editors and contributors alike. Knowing what we’ve been talking about, CK’s timing really, really sucks.Report

    • Dale Forguson in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      I had just assumed that TLoOG was strictly tongue in cheek. Have we all forgotten how good it feels to laugh at ourselves? I might add to George Turner’s remarks that in its most fundamental form, bigotry springs from a form of survival or so it seems to me. I’m speaking here not just about racism but of every conceivable form of bigotry. The number of decisions each of us make at a sub-conscious level each day would be overwhelming if we had to make a reasoned, conscious, rational decision about every brief encounter. Humans are essentially tribal animals and tend to like others like themselves and to avoid those they perceive as radically different, or just unfamiliar. We tend to assimilate the beliefs of those we associate with. Behavior becomes habit, habit becomes who we are.Report

      • The LOOG name and imagery, if memory serves, was meant to convey a place where polite conversation was encouraged between individuals. The gentlemen’s lounge of the Victorian age where, in idealized fashion, the issues of the day were discussed. Admittedly the ‘gentlemen’ part has left the LOOG vulnerable to the attacks like McLeod has presented. This is part of our ongoing behind-the-scene discussions. Since Tod mentioned it I feel okay referencing that conversation vaguely, but for the specifics, those are forthcoming.Report

      • As unofficial site historian, I can fill in some gaps here. When we started the site, we were not anticipating that the comments section would ever become a big part of the site- instead, it was more expected to be a series of back and forth posts between the original 8 principals, all of whom happened to be male. The notion of a community developing around the site was just something beyond our wildest imagination. The title was indeed intended to be partly tongue in cheek, particularly the conspicuous use of the word “ordinary,” combined with the obvious comic series/movie reference, while also conveying a goal of civility and charity, invoking the concept of a 19th century salon.

        So basically, you’re all correct.Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to Mark Thompson says:

          The logical consequence of what you’ve just said is that the founders never considered that they might add a female FPer.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            Looking back, of *COURSE* the site was going to be wildly successful.

            At the time, I can easily see the obvious outcome of starting the site is writing a dozen posts, petering out, then being yet another ne’er again updated site on the web. Seriously, if *THAT* is the outcome that strikes you as most likely, it makes sense to not consider what happens when there are dozens and dozens of folks who write for the site in this or that capacity.Report

          • When we first started the site, the idea that we would add ANY new Front Pagers hadn’t occurred to us. We were expecting the site to be little bigger than the combined readership of our blogs, maybe a couple hundred page views a day. About a month in, we were already several times larger than that, and started to realize that we were going to have to expand our roster to keep output sufficiently high.Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

              There were these semi-associated group blogs along the way as well, right Mark? I’m just curious, was there ever any potential for a female blogger at one of those sites to migrate here? Was the name an impediment? (Given those bloggers’ likely prior familiarity with the site & people, I’m assuming not, but I’m just curious.)

              I’d say the “of Ordinary Gentlemen” portion of the name is (literally) shrinking in significance, and if I were a betting man, I’d wager that eventually this place will officially change its name to “The League,” which, though vague, will be enough to signify it because of the great reputation it has earned on the political internets over the years. Basically, the place has earned the right to presume to have such a nondescript name at this point.Report

              • Ramblin' Rod in reply to Michael Drew says:

                That works. “The League” sounds cool and has associations (Justice League, sports leagues, etc.) which convey both definition/exclusivity and inclusion/diversity simultaneously.

                Oh… and “The League” sounds a lot better than the current abbreviation, LoOG, which sounds like something you hock up when you have bronchitis.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Ramblin' Rod says:

                These are also sound observations.Report

              • Was just re-reading the history of the site.

                Just “the League” suggests a unity in favor of uniting for uniting’s sake, a random association, like a useless marriage of convenience awaiting the moment that its uselessness becomes official, or maybe a divorce that just hasn’t become official yet. At best, it’s eclecticism in place of a philosophy.

                I’ve done (to death) what the name seems to mean in one political connection, but there’s another idea or project implicit in the name, that “ordinary gentlemen” represent an interest or “ordinary gentility” represents a principle, possibly the libertarian utopia in good and bad senses of the term, possibly the democracy of well-mannered men – at least that the point of view deserves its own distinct voice. Why really do these bloggers belong together?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                Given that The League is an obvious shoutout to “The League Of Nations” which, for anyone who has ever read a history book, calls to mind Woodrow Wilson and, thus, Woodrow Wilson’s racism, is there any other conclusion to draw but that these bloggers belong together for the same reason that Wilson imposed segregation on Washington DC?

                I’d more wonder at the motivations of someone who tried to deny it.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                Just “the League” suggests a unity in favor of uniting for uniting’s sake,

                Ahhh. But not every word is a text. In this case, the “text” of the name “The League” is that it’s a contraction of a previously used name that was rejected. Not much to go in there, mate. 🙂

                Plus, it sounds cool. I was on board with that name the last time this issue came up, what seems like three or four TVD meltdowns ago. Back when Bob Cheeks still freely sauntered thru these hallowed halls.Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                Jaybird’s right. As for Bob Cheeks, he was before my time in Loog-land. I Googled him was taken to a post at First Things that ended like so:

                The need to recapture the moral and ethical high ground has never been so urgent in American history and no groups are more qualified and capable of achieving that goal then the FPRs and PoMoCons.

                A successful conclusion to this debate may result in a substantive resistance to the Obama/Democrat regime, which is working tirelessly to render the United States a third world country operating under an authoritarian government.

                I see.Report

              • Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                Cheeks was a wonderful foil. He said some shit that, well, the sort of thing you might hear at just about any Sons or Daughters of the Confederacy meeting. Much… what’s the word I’m looking for?… preening resulted.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                Regarding the name…

                Does the term “The League of Ordinary Gentlemen” tell anyone anything about the general topics of discussion? It doesn’t appear to.

                Zazzy often mixes up the name of this site with another site called “The Art of Manliness”. The thing is… “The Art of Manliness” is explicitly about (supposedly) manly (more precisely, traditionally gentlemanly) things. To her, “The Art of Manliness”, which is about explicitly male stuff, and “The League of Ordinary Gentleman”, which we claim is not about or for explicitly male stuff, are interchangeable.

                So, it doesn’t tell us about the topic of conversation here. Which is okay. Lots of blogs and sites have names that really have nothing to do with what the blog are site are about.

                But it does tell us SOMETHING… and it seems increasingly evident that it is telling at least a fair number of people something inaccurate. And that inaccuracy has likely become a limiting factor in the size of our audience.

                Are we okay with all that?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                Jaybird’s right.

                I think it’s good that CK MacLeod is finally associating himself with the posters who, the drunker they get, the more anacap they get.

                While we can only assume that he deliberately made this public statement to make a meta-point about corruption manifesting itself in non-voluntary organization, we’re left wondering: wait, what?Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                That was fishing space awesome.Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                wait, what?

                Given that The League is an obvious shoutout to “The League Of Nations”

                Clearly true. What other common political-historical phrase comes to mind when you hear the words ‘The League of”?

                which, for anyone who has ever read a history book, calls to mind Woodrow Wilson

                No doubt about it.

                and, thus, Woodrow Wilson’s racism,

                Just about goes without saying, though understanding its connection to the rest of Wilsonism, and to the whole of Americanism and modernity, requires a little more reflection transcending standard partisan and conservative v progressive stances.

                is there any other conclusion to draw but that these bloggers belong together for the same reason that Wilson imposed segregation on Washington DC?

                I’d put that just a little differently, but the essential point holds.

                I’d more wonder at the motivations of someone who tried to deny it.

                How could anyone? The implications for the League project are obvious, and will be for all who considers the matter on the basis of your insight, Jaybird.Report

              • RTod in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                OK, is anyone else unsure if CK is fucking with us or not?Report

              • I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “semi-associated group blogs.” In terms of the original writers, though, the only group blog (if you even want to call it that) which was really ever merged with the site in the early going was my own (I had two guys who on semi-rare occasion posted at my old site, who I brought along with me), which became defunct for all but archival purposes upon this site’s launch. I do know that right around the time we started expanding a few months after launch, but at a time when changing our name/address would have been a logistical problem, we started looking for female writers, as well as for non-white writers.

                A huge part of the problem at the outset was that the political blogosphere is overwhelmingly male, and particularly the lower and middle rungs thereof, from which we had to do our early recruiting. We did, if you recall, briefly have a female writer for a few months starting about a year and a half in, but she sort of stopped writing (not just here, but anywhere AFAIK) after awhile, presumably due to some real life changes. Otherwise, I vaguely recall getting turned down by one or two other female writers, even though we were fairly willing to change the site’s name if necessary. But the bigger problem was just finding female writers to approach in the first place – it cannot be overstated just how much the lower and middle tier of the blogosphere is, or at least was, male-dominated. That’s less of a problem now than it was, if only because we’ve just changed our expectations for FPers so much.

                As for your second paragraph, I’m not going to say much other than that it is a most astute observation, per your usual.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                I just mean those blogs from where authors eventually migrated here, whether for a still-ongoing stint as a FRer or sub-blogger, or for one that had an endpoint before now… whether these ‘associations’ had actually been established by the time of this blog’s inauguration or not.

                …And thanks. I’m actually not sure how in love with that idea I am, but sometimes it makes sense to go the low-friction. routeReport

  10. Kolohe says:

    “The bigots we grew up hating on television and in the movies had all the subtlety of a chainsaw, as more realistic examples of bigotry were largely ignored.”

    I think you’re being too hard on Hollywood, “All in the Family” comes immediately to mind. If anything Hollywood (in my lifetime at least – which started a little after Archie Bunker came to life) simply avoids the issue. (unless you’re Spike Lee or John Singleton, then you (as a filmmaker) are pigeonholed)Report

    • Mr. Harris in reply to Kolohe says:

      I found Mr. Kelly’s impressions about racial representations in Hollywood somewhat muddled because racism and bigotry are really different beasts. Previous discussions on the topic of bigotry I think did a good job of fleshing out the definition of that term, but with regards to racism I thought I might chime in:

      Before the 1960s Hollywood told a lot of stories dealing with race indirectly by employing parables that we’re, on their face about different subject matter. During a time following World War II when many attitudes about segregation were changing in the north, Hollywood, preoccupied with McCarthyism, steered clear of controversial issues lest their makers get fingered as leftists or communists. To give you an idea of how timid Hollywood was at dealing with the subject of race, the Holocaust by comparison (hardly a controversial topic) wasn’t even represented with any visual accuracy until 1982’s “Sophie’s Choice” – which should be striking considering that many of the studios were funded by or headed by Jews. In fact, at the armies request, much of the best newsreal footage of the camps in 1945 was taken by Jewish, Hollywood fimmakers but then shelved from the public because of its stark and graphic nature. It really took the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 before a film like “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1967) could be made. It was also in 1964 that “In the Heat of The Night” was released. Before that, the most significant film to deal with race relations was arguably “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962). Notable racists don’t appear on television until the 1970s and Archie Bunker. I guess my point here is that people’s images regarding who or what the typical racist bigot looked/sounded like could not have been formulated by Hollywood in a significant way because there simply weren’t enough representations until well after Northern progressives began made up their mind that segregationists would be exorcized from the Democratic party. I would argue that George Wallace and the other Southern governors who spent much of the 50s and 60s on television defending segregation had far more to do with creating the image of the Southern, White bigot. Typically, Hollywood holds a mirror up to what already exists in society, but not always in a timely or useful fashion.Report

  11. MFarmer says:

    I’m perfectly fine with everyone having their likes and dislikes. There are plenty of non-southerners who are bigoted toward southerners, and vice versa. There are blacks who have strong opinions about whites as a groups, and vice versa. We can all pick and choose our associations, cling to our beliefs if we choose. We can hate if we choose, except hate usually just harms the hater. There are some who feel a need to bring people together to create more understanding, and that’s fine. Others are okay with the different bigoted outlooks.

    Looking at a broader scope, the fact that humans are bigoted is not that interesting — what we need to struggle against is political action based on the bigoted outlooks. As long as we can prevent government from giving power to some groups over other groups, then we’ll be okay.Report

  12. Markahuna says:

    My own racist/bigoted opinion on this is that you can find something to despise about any GROUP of people regardless of gender, race, creed or colour. Individual from these groups can be sorted by your prejudice on a case by case basis. As a group I don’t care for lawyers but I love my Mom, go figure.Report

  13. Mike Schilling says:

    Suppose you make the same point about creationism without either picturing Cletis or using a word like “Gomers”. Is that bigotry? To me, it’s simply good sense.Report

    • Well, by and large, the teaching of evolution is mandated and not going away except in relatively limited – and voluntary – circumstances. The biggest “threat” as far as this goes is teaching Intelligent Design next to Evolution.

      While there are many reasons to oppose it, I don’t think that’s particularly solid ground to choose who to vote for in the overall. I mean, if you had a party that was on your side of 90% of the issues, but not that one, would you vote the other way?

      I can think of few issues for which that would be the case, but this isn’t one of them.

      That being said, I think Tod meant it more as an exemplar of a greater swath of issues. So I’m being overly literal here.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman says:

        Yeah, I meant less the point about which party supports teaching creationism than the one about how it’s something I oppose and have no sympathy for. Teaching the science that supports your other beliefs rather than the science that is true is the first step on the road to Todd Akin.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:

        But the issue is that a lot of Republicans want to chuck evolution and replace it with Intelligent Design and/or Creationism. The teaching side-by-side is merely a stop-gap measure so they don’t seem as extreme as they really are.

        The Republican Party is a whole lot of mess to me. In an ideal world, I would be able to vote for an old liberal Republican like Jacob Javits. But there are no men or women like Jacob Javits in the Republican party anymore. Someone who is socially liberal, does not believe in dismantling the New Deal or Great Society but in keeping them solvent.Report

  14. Rod says:

    Barely believable but true: According to a recent Gallup poll, 46% of Americans believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old.

    Other than astonishment and not a small bit of despair, I’m not sure what to make of that.Report

    • Dale Forguson in reply to Rod says:

      If you question the typical creationist closely you will find that their beliefs are not well reasoned. They are typically based on wishful thinking and vague presumptions. Most have not made the effort to examine their own beliefs with any clarity at all. It is after all quite tempting to abdicate responsibility for your ethical decisions by claiming that what ever happens is God’s will or some such nonsense.Report

      • Chris in reply to Dale Forguson says:

        If you question the typical creationist closely you will find that their beliefs are not well reasoned.

        In that sentence, the label “creationist” can be substituted with just about any other label of people, and would remain true.

        However, outside of academia, I’ve seen a higher percentage of creationists studying their beliefs in depth than just about any other group. A lot of them know just about everything there is to know about “creation science,” they know all of the “creation scientists,” have read all of the books, spend time on the forums, and so on. One of the things that’s always struck me about creationism is how many really smart people buy into it.

        Also, you should spend some time on the Intelligent Design blogs. They’re not YEC’s, but they’re still creationists of a sort, and they tend to know their shit really well. They may not know the criticisms, or they may know the criticisms only through the mocking eyes of the ID community, but they can explain to you specified complexity or give you an argument about why Thomists should be more favorably disposed to ID, at a level that most atheists I know couldn’t describe evidence for speciation or what the hell a Thomist is.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

          I work with a handful of creationists. These are guys who study program languages for fun, write scripts for me and mine in my department (which is not theirs) in hours when it would take us days, and write scripts for other departments (that they have reason to actually dislike) in days that would take us weeks. They can discuss such things as home brewing, home theater, and home security but if you wanted to talk about such things as whether the earth is six thousand years old or fifty-three kabillion, they turn into other people entirely.

          This strikes me as absolutely trivial. They’re writing code, they’re not putting together biology textbooks. Heck, they’re not even counting the pills for an antibiotic perscription. They’re full-grown adults doing full-grown adult jobs that have precious little interaction with such facts as the facts pertaining to the age of the planet.

          So I’m inclined to leave them alone the way that I’d leave folks alone who argue for Pluto’s inclusion in planetude.


          Because science isn’t about saying, by rote, what the white coats told you to say when people asked.Report

          • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

            Yeah, the only people I worry about being creationists are people who determine school curricula and doctors. Everyone else, I couldn’t care less.

            I do remember, when I was 16, talking to this girl at school who I had had a crush on for a long time. I was just starting to get somewhere with her when, sitting outside on the lawn in front of the school and having a conversation about I know not what, she told me that she believed the Earth was only 6,000 years old. I was so in shock that the best response I could come up with was, “B.. b… b… but what about the dinosaurs?” They walked with humans, apparently. That was the end of my crush.

            So I guess there are three types of people I worry about being creationists: doctors, the people who determine what gets taught in schools, and women I want to go out with.

            Also, that girl is now a woman who, with her mother, runs an incredibly successful charity that houses and employs mentally disabled adults. I don’t think they care whether she’s a creationist.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

              Also, that girl is now a woman who, with her mother, runs an incredibly successful charity that houses and employs mentally disabled adults. I don’t think they care whether she’s a creationist.

              Sounds like one hell of a woman… even if she does believe things that, as it turns out, aren’t accurate.

              What’s the best way to donate to her?Report

              • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                Good question. I can’t find the name of the home on her Facebook page, but it’s something my parents know pretty well, so I’ll ask them. Shoot me an email so I don’t forget.Report

  15. NewDealer says:

    This is a very good post.

    I agree that we all have our prejudices and these come from all sorts of areas.

    My prejudices seem to come from growing up in a very specific geographic and cultural context in the United States.

    I grew up in an upper-middle class professional suburb of New York. Half the town was like me and Jewish. Another quarter or so was Asian. The remaining Christians were almost exclusively Roman Catholic. There was no sort of Evangelical group. The majority of our parents had advanced degrees. The majority of my classmates (including myself) internalized that what you do in life is go to school, study hard, get into a good college or university, study hard some more, eventually go to some grad school, and then take your spot in the upper-middle class as a lawyer, doctor, engineer, lower level executive, etc. Most of us also came from typical immigrant success stories: the great-grandparents or grandparents were immigrants, our parents were the first generation to grow up in the suburbs, and we were very successfully integrated third-generation Americans.

    So it was kind of a shock to me when I met people at college whose families have been here for hundreds of years (often since pre-Revolutionary days) and they were still the first person in their family to attend college. My immediate thought was “How can your family have lived here for 300 years without sending a soul to college until you?”

    Since I have fully absorbed the values of my upbringing and class, I often clash with people who have rejected it and this clash can produce a bigoted thought or swipe. Luckily I have often (but not always) good at suppressing those thoughts and remarks.

    One came with a woman who came from deep Southern working class stock. She proudly refered to herself as prole stock. She herself was quite educated, converted to Islam, and I think grew up in more middle class circumstances but she still saw herself as coming from a very hard scrabble Southern rural life. Needlessly to say, we clashed a lot and she saw me as being somewhat to very classist/aristocratic. She mentioned being especially proud of an uncle who was Ivy league educated for undergrad and law school but rejected it all and went to be career military. Sometimes when I got rather angry, there was a part of me that wanted to ask her why she was so proud of being from the American equivalent of a Cossack?
    I also resented her swipe against the kind of education I received. My alma mater is not Ivy League but in a very close equivalent and certainly part of that Northeastern old school vanguard.

    For all the talk about how everything is becoming bland and identical in the United States thanks to mass culture and the Internet, I still think that there are a lot of regional differences and these geographic breakdowns lead to suspicion and hostility. Like with the Southern woman and myself. She saw herself as being part of a long-tradition of Southern working class folks and I came from something completely different. I have no agricultural relatives. My great-grandparents were poor immigrants but in an urban setting. We have no common language and both assumed the values of our upbringings. She saw Ivy League as a thing to proudly reject. I see it as a thing to proudly embrace. My dad and uncle were Ivy League educated as undergrads. I grew up in a school district that sent a disproportionate amount of students to the Ivy League or equivalents and did so purposefully. It wasn’t enough in my hometown to get into college/university because our parents had already done that. You needed to get into one of a certain caliber.Report

  16. Mary G says:

    Although I enjoy the site and visit almost every day, I don’t participate as much as I might because of the “Gentlemen” in the title. It makes me feel slightly unwelcome (note how many of the comments on this thread are from men).

    I confess to my own bigotry in this regard as well. My dad died in the 60s and I had to watch my mom deal with a lot of “a woman can’t lease a storefront/have a credit card/buy a car all by herself” crap. So when Ms. Magazine came along I was a charter subscriber. I was never a bra-burner or anything like that, but I do still see considerable need for feminism in the world today. Once or twice a year I read something on here that I find myself having an extremely negative reaction to something and decide I don’t know why I come to a place full of chauvinist pigs and I should take you out of the bookmark lineup. I have to remind myself that it’s only a name and you are all fairly enlightened fellows.Report

    • Chris in reply to Mary G says:

      Comment more. Please.Report

    • greginak in reply to Mary G says:

      Yes please comment more. We could use more viewpoints. Call out the chauvinism.Report

      • DRS in reply to greginak says:

        You know what is one of things I find irritating about this list? The “comment more, please” responses. It’s like a bunch of guys so used to talking to themselves they’ve forgotten how to engage with others. If you find what Mary says so interesting, engage with it and respond in like manner.

        And another thing: how is CK supposed to know what you’re all talking about “behind the scenes”? I thought CK raised some good points – even though I thought he could have used fewer words to get them across. And everybody went all pearl-clutching and swooning and are-you-calling-ME-a-bigot?????-ing and kind of ignored what he said.

        Sometimes you can over-analyze and over-think these things until you’re miles away from the point someone is trying to make. When someone posts something that is different from what you’re used to hearing, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You put up with Bob Cheeks for years, I think you can handle some other disagreements.Report

        • Tod Kelly in reply to DRS says:

          FWIW, “comment more please” is the standard comment here whenever anyone that doesn’t usually comment pops in and says something smart. It’s neither a male/female thing nor an attempt to avoid engagement. It’s just a community-evolved message, like “space awesome.”Report

          • Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            It seems particularly appropriate when the author of said smart comment begins the comment with, “Although I enjoy the site and visit almost every day, I don’t participate as much.”Report

            • DRS in reply to Chris says:

              Well, to me, it feels like I’m being offered a doggy treat.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to DRS says:

                Sincere apologies, then. It was totally meant to convey the opposite.Report

              • Chris in reply to DRS says:

                Eh, I’m sorry it feels that way. All I can say is that, in my case at least, and I assume in the others, it wasn’t meant that way. As Tod says, it’s a bit of a tradition here that really has nothing to do with the demographics of the person involved. However, if it comes off as condescending to others as well, I’m sure we could come up with a different way of asking people to participate more.Report

              • DRS in reply to Chris says:

                However, if it comes off as condescending to others as well, I’m sure we could come up with a different way of asking people to participate more.

                How about simply responding to their post? Mary made some points that perhaps people could address about feeling uncomfortable.Report

              • Chris in reply to DRS says:

                Sometimes you don’t have anything to add, other than, “Right on.” This is, in part, meant to be “right on.”Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Mary G says:

      Mary, my father died when I was about 10 years old. My mom has stories about trying to buy a car from a dealer who told her “just come back with your husband and I’ll talk to him”. She put two kids through college against most odds and one turned out to be a school teacher with full credentials and one turned out to be… well… me.

      Please understand that “Gentlemen” is not intended to reflect on anything except a moment in time.

      Your opinions are totally welcome and if you feel that we need the smack laid down upon us, I guarantee that we’ll do our best to respond as if we don’t understand rather than that we don’t deserve laid smack. And if we happen to respond as if we don’t deserve it? Email me, and I’ll have Maribou read your letter and she’ll tell me what to write in response and, lemme tell ya, she takes the stuff you’re talking about very seriously indeed. She also tries to do a good job of explaining to me that I need to take this stuff very seriously indeed too.

      So please: keep commenting. If you see something that makes you say “WHAT THE HECK??? WHAT THE FRIGGING HECK???” then just email me and have the title of the email be “for maribou” and she will make sure that whatever (*WHATEVER*) has caused you distress will be addressed fully, in public, and if you don’t want to be associated with the addressing, you won’t be.

      I promise.Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mary G says:

      Ditto both of these.

      There are times when I act like an ass. Audit is always welcome.Report

    • James K in reply to Mary G says:

      As it happens Mary, the connotations of the name are of concern to us as well. It’s something we’re thinking about behind the scenes.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Mary G says:

      On the name…

      … As many of you know, I’m currently in Nashville for a bachelor party. Because of a combination of my own personal sense of style and comfort, a perverse understanding of Southern culture, an overwhelming nod to bachelor party debacheriness, and my own personal brand of douchiness, I arrived in town with only shorts and graphic t-shirts to wear. I also brought my ballcap (typically worn backwards) and shaved my beard into something that looks out of a 19th century military look (as is my tradition for bachelor parties).

      The point is, last night, as we were sitting in the hotel bar, one of my friends said to me, “I’m trying to convey a look of class and elegance. A gentlemanly look… you’re not helping that. Go sit over there.” He was joking but he was also serious. His use of gentleman stood out precisely because of my affiliation with this site. Because I didn’t look the part, I lost my gentlemanliness. To be a gentleman means a certain thing. For those who don’t fit that description, the term itself can be an otherizing force.Report

      • Scott in reply to Kazzy says:

        You mean like the word “outlaw” which may seem to set those apart those persons who decide to break the law? I guess we’d better stop using it if we don’t want to hurt their feelings and their self esteem any more then we already have.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Scott says:

          What about me wearing a t-shirt, shorts, hat, and atypical beard made me any less of a gentleman?Report

          • NewDealer in reply to Kazzy says:

            Atypical beard?

            To answer your question, probably nothing.

            However, your friend was probably trying to cultivate a certain look for his bachelor party and thought your outfit was too casual. To be fair to your friend, I would do the same. Though my reaction is somewhat psychological and in rebellion from what I call the 40 going on 15 culture. There is something strange to me about seeing men who are well into middle age still trying to dress like hipsters or 15 year old skater punks.

            Though next time you are in Nashville and need to dress like a gentlemen:


            • Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:

              But this begs the question… what does it mean to be a gentlemen?Report

              • Dale Forguson in reply to Kazzy says:

                I’ve also been thinking about that somewhat nebulous definition. It also occurs to me that there is no feminine synonym. Which begs the question… What does that say about the difference between us?Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Dale Forguson says:

                I just want to say hello to a fellow Dale.

                There are not many of us around.Report

              • Dale Forguson in reply to NewDealer says:

                Hi Dale. We say it so rarely it seems odd when we do. 😀Report

              • Miss Mary in reply to Dale Forguson says:

                Gentlewoman? Lady?
                Why do you think “ladies and gentlemen” is a turn of phrase?Report

              • Dale Forguson in reply to Miss Mary says:

                Upon reflection, I stand corrected. While Gentlewoman is so little used that I don’t think it qualifies, I can’t really argue with the synonym lady.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Kazzy says:

                That is a good question. I think the term is largely anachronistic.

                On another web forum that is largely comprised of women, I was unironically and sincerely described as a gentlemen by a few of the women. I think they meant that I was polite, did not act like a “bro/frat dude”, they guessed that I observed personal space, etc.

                In real life, I think I have a bit of a reputation for being a gentleman but no one has used the term directly. I was once called “Dinner Party fun” in a hopefully good way. There was another time when I was really tired and wanted to go home but was encouraged to go to another guy’s apartment with two women. The encourager (who wasn’t present at the apartment) told me she was really glad that I went. Later someone else told me that this was not for my own benefit but largely to prevent anything sketchy on the part of the other guy.

                I would say being a gentleman is roughly equivalent to not being selfish or a douche and this includes being kind and considerate at the expense of your own sense of style and perhaps sometimes dignity. This might mean putting on a suit or something more than casual gear from time to time.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:

                If we’re going to call ourselves the League of Ordinary Gentlemen… we should probably have a clear definition of what a gentleman is.

                Also, what it means to be “ordinary”.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Kazzy says:

                No one in this community is ordinary probably. Ordinary people do not write long blog posts on politics.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to NewDealer says:

                “I think the term is largely anachronistic.”

                Is it? I really don’t know. I feel like I use it a bit, but mostly to my kids, as part of raising them to be adults. In fact, when I think of what it means to be a “gentleman,” I am realizing it is entirely based on what my father taught me that it meant when he was teaching me how to be an adult in the world.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I guess millage my vary.

                My issue with the term gentleman is that does have old-fashioned and class-based implications. When I think of the term gentleman, I think of men of leisure from Victorian and Edwardian England. I think of it as a term used to keep out outsiders from being part of high culture and society. “He might have money but he is not gentleman” meaning he has the money and works in the right field maybe he even attended university but his ancestry is humble and he did not attend Eton or Harrow. Or in the American case, Groton or Exeter.

                I get visions of “seasons” “deubtante balls”, old-fashioned holidays at New Port beach or the English countryside, etc.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to NewDealer says:

                ND, I get that. However I see it another way. Part of it is my experience with knowing people who absolutely did not fit that type who were called gentlemen by those around them because of the respectful and polite way they acted towards other people. Always minding their tongue, never being rude, holding doors for people (not just for “the ladies,” but children and adult men as well), always offering to let someone else in front of them in line at the church potluck, etc.

                I also like to see those old words with class connotations exploded, in the sense of becoming more inclusive. Strip them of their class basis and imbue them with a more substantive, behavioral, basis.

                Above, I think, Mike Dwyer references the “gentlemen’s lounge of the Victorian age. ” I think, and I suspect he thinks, not that we want to return to the exclusivity of that, but to have that type of place that has been opened up to all who are willing to participate in an appropriate manner. That is, it is the idealized behavioral aspect of the gentleman’s lounge, not the gendered and ethnically exclusive nature of it, that LoOG–at its best–recreates.

                That said, I’m not sure that the “gentle” part is really at all the problem here, and I’m not so sure the class-perception of “gentleman” is what’s problematic (at least it never really strikes me as being anything but tongue-in-cheek). If anything is problematic, it is simply the syllable “men.” One part of me says having women involved just makes the whole thing that much more tongue-in-cheek. But the other part of me says that if others don’t perceive it that way, so that functionally it’s offputting, regardless of intent, then it’s probably the wiser course to try to find something that simply works better as an invitation to come and participate.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:


                Those are good points.

                I honestly don’t care about the name very much and immediately got the Alan Moore homage. But if someone were to ask me about the connotations that the word evoked in a neutral setting that is where my mind would go. Or I would think of how the women described me above.

                Taking old and/or loaded words and stripping them of their class connotations is a noble goal but very hard. Sometimes impossible.

                It is sort of related to when minorities reclaim old ethnic or prejudicial slurs. This practice always left me feeling weird at least in terms of Judaism. There is or was a Jewish magazine called “Heeb” and that always rubbed me the wrong way. Then again I never liked the reduction of Judaism to kitsch and I am far from the most religious person in the world. I am almost completely secular and if not atheist, at least a very apathetic agnostic.Report

          • Scott in reply to Kazzy says:

            To me, part of the definition of being a gentleman is dressing the part and not carving designs into my beard before I go to someone else’s event.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        For those who don’t fit that description, the term itself can be an otherizing force.

        But you were communicating something that he wasn’t communicating and didn’t want people assuming that he was. We’re not talking about him otherizing you for something that you couldn’t help but express.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

          You are absolutely correct. But how did what either of us were wearing communicate anything about our gentlemanliness? I have always thought gentlemanliness had to do with how one treated others. To be a gentleman was to be respectful. While I’m sure we can argue what it means to be respectful, my hunch is that we’d agree that, generally speaking, how we dress or craft our facial hair rarely impedes on that.

          Maybe I just don’t know what the word “gentleman” means.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

            While I’m sure we can argue what it means to be respectful, my hunch is that we’d agree that, generally speaking, how we dress or craft our facial hair rarely impedes on that.

            Can you imagine someone showing up in a “Mustache Rides 25 Cents” t-shirt and thinking “I wish he had worn something else”? “Federal Breast Inspector”? “Ayatolla Assahola”?Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

              Well, that is the “generally speaking” part. If I wore a “Nazi’s Rule” shirt, that would be disrespectful.

              I was wearing a shirt with Tom Selleck on it. If that’s wrong… I don’t want to be right.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                And I should say, that while I like stupid/ironic shirts more than I should, I am pretty careful to make sure those that I select are not offensive. The most offensive shirt I own is a play on the Spanish language… It’s a picture of someone washing a monkey with the words “Laverse los Monos”… a play on the similarity between the words “Monos” and “Manos”… “monkeys” and “hands”. That is the MOST offensive one… and I’m not even sure it’s offensive.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                Now we’re just haggling.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                I disagree.

                What is ungentlemanly about me wearing a shirt with Tom Selleck on it?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                It depends on the context, of course. If one is going to a beach volleyball game, nothing at all. If one is going to dinner, drinks, and conversation at a bud’s house, nothing at all.

                If one is going “out”. I can see how there might be expectations as high as “business casual” that do a good job of dampening any clothing-related communications.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                So would failure to adhere to social customs deem one ungentlemanly?

                If so, what does this communicate to folks who are largely helpless to direct or change social customs?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                Perhaps I should put it this way…

                … what do we say to the black man who feels that he has to cut off his well-kempt dreadlocks before a job interview because with them he is perceived to be “ungentlemanly”.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                I might make a distinction between “failure to adhere” and “deliberately going out of one’s way to communicate that one is not adhering”.

                You can tell when someone who may not have a whole lot of tools at his or her disposal who is doing one’s dangedest to adhere. Nice jeans (if, perhaps, worn), nice shirt (if, perhaps, worn), and something done with one’s hair (if one has hair, of course) to communicate that one’s fauxhawk is deliberate rather than merely aggressive all-day bedhead.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                So would you say the LoOG is unwelcome to folks who deliberately go out of their way to not adhere to our social customs?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                I am amazed at how well the League is at getting new people to adhere to our customs.

                Seriously, I would have thought that we would have turned into Thunderdome back in 2010.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kazzy says:

                A gentleman is appropriate for his context. One should wear the appropriate costume for the group, such that your presence is understated by dress and you can achieve recognition for your actions and deeds.

                If you wear a coat and tails to a rave, you’re an ass. If you wear a t-shirt to the opera, you’re an ass.

                If you wear a $10,000,000 gold trimmed tux to the opera, you are also an ass.

                The converse of doing those things doesn’t make you a gentleman, it just gets you past the first boss fight.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


                But how many people stay away because of those very same customs?Report

              • Dale Forguson in reply to Kazzy says:

                The Dreadlocks/job interview comment prompts me to reply. In another life I was an employer with a retails sales outlet. My position was that I employ staff for the purpose of assisting my customers in making purchases. I am not providing my employees with a forum to express their views or discuss their lifestyle choices. Anyone who wishes to do that is welcome to, just not on my time. The employee guidelines for dress and conduct stressed that they should be non-controversial in both their appearance and in their speech/behavior. An employee who’s presence is detrimental to the operation of the store is a problem. My advice for employee clothing selection was when in doubt, don’t.
                I’m sure that not everyone will approve of my position but until you have had to stare at your P&L every week and struggle to find a way to remain in business during a recession you don’t understand.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                Some of them will show up anyway. Some of them won’t. Some of them will visit once and read the wrong comment from the wrong commenter and come to the conclusion that we’re a bad place. Some of them will visit once and read the right post from the right writer and read the right comments and this place will burrow into their ear like those things in Wrath of Khan and they’ll stop here and read every day.

                There are as many bad reasons to not like the League as good reasons to not like it, after all. The good reasons to like it outweigh those, I think.

                But I would.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

                If you wear a coat and tails to a rave, you’re an ass.

                Not if you’re wearing them ironically.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

                With a friend, I wore a dress shirt and tie to an Insane Clown Posse show.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


                But what makes well-kempt dreadlocks “controversial”? Especially if that same manager is accepting of well-kempt long hair on white folks?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                “I might make a distinction between “failure to adhere” and “deliberately going out of one’s way to communicate that one is not adhering”.”
                Do we welcome the latter here?

                “You can tell when someone who may not have a whole lot of tools at his or her disposal who is doing one’s dangedest to adhere. Nice jeans (if, perhaps, worn), nice shirt (if, perhaps, worn), and something done with one’s hair (if one has hair, of course) to communicate that one’s fauxhawk is deliberate rather than merely aggressive all-day bedhead.”
                How many fauxhawks write here? How many comment? How many read?Report

              • Dale Forguson in reply to Kazzy says:


                I think your original question contains the answer;
                … what do we say to the black man who feels that he has to cut off his well-kempt dreadlocks before a job interview because with them he is perceived to be “ungentlemanly”.

                When you ask the second question;
                But what makes well-kempt dreadlocks “controversial”? Especially if that same manager is accepting of well-kempt long hair on white folks?
                you are looking from a perspective far different than the one a Manager would use. When you originally said perceived you hit the managers hot button. He will be very attuned to the perception created by his employees. Small unspoken things can make or break a sale. From a managers perspective to pass on a candidate is very low cost. To go through the process of hiring and training a job candidate only to eventually come to realize that it was a mistake and then to go through the process of discharging an employee is very expensive. Selecting candidates for employment is extraordinarily difficult. I have hired quite a few people and can’t claim a very high success rate even though I have tried hard to do it well. In the end any little warning is enough to take a pass. It really isn’t about bigotry it’s about trying to find that really great employee you need desperately. Its about trying not to waste time and money on a bad choice. I’m looking for the candidate who can convince me that I’d be a fool not to hire them.Report

              • Johanna in reply to Kazzy says:

                Don’t know about you guys, but I see more white folks with dreads these days than black folds. And I’m skeptical whether dreads actually can be all-kempt, regardless of the ethnicity of the person who wears them. But maybe I’ve just seen too many white hippie-types wearing dreads.Report

              • James H. in reply to Kazzy says:

                Sigh. The anti-hippie screed was me.Report

              • James H. in reply to Kazzy says:

                Dale, I’m not in your position, but I have sat on several academic hiring committees, so I get what you’re saying about any little warning being enough to pass. If there’s a deep pool of applicants, why take a risk on someone when there’s a (seemingly, at least) less risky person available.

                I haven’t had to deal with it in a racial context, but I have dealt with in other contexts with which I wasn’t entirely comfortable, even though I’m persuaded I made the right decisions.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                But who decides what dreadlocks symbolize?

                What you are describing is playing off stereotypes. It is being prejudice. And while such might be necessary when working off incomplete information, in an interview process, you can often acquire the information necessary to make a more informed decision.

                Essentially, you are saying “dread locked folks need not apply”.

                So does the name of our little space here say “Folks who do not fit our unstated definition of “Gentlemen” need not apply”? If so, are we comfortable with that?Report

              • Dale Forguson in reply to Kazzy says:


                When talking about the typical Owner or Sales Manager of a small company It is readily apparent that one customer facing employee can do a great deal of damage even without intending to. Also a sales person who just can’t “connect” with your customer base will at best have poor sales performance and may even drive customers to your competition.

                While you might be very comfortable talking to a young person about the purchase of a cell phone or a piece of entertainment equipment you might not feel quite so comfortable talking to a young person about a much larger purchase that is pivotal to the well being of your business. Are these stereotypes? Of course, we assume that all young people are technically proficient. We also assume that young people tend to shoot from the hip and are not cautious enough when we are talking about a major purchase. Are these stereotypes fair ? Are they always true? probably not.

                Now imagine yourself as the sales manager of a small company. Knowing that a significant drop in sales caused by an imprudent decision you made will probably cost you your job, how will you approach the hiring process? Add to that the fact that there are significant restrictions on questions you can ask an applicant if you want to avoid litigation. Now think about your customer base, who the decision makers are, and what sort of sales people they interact well with. Who do you want to plug into that situation when your job is at risk? They aren’t going to interview your sales rep. They may not even call you to tell you they aren’t comfortable. They will talk to someone else.

                Is this fair? No. Is it reality? Absolutely. Very early in this thread I made a comment I still stand by;

                I’m speaking here not just about racism but of every conceivable form of bigotry. The number of decisions each of us make at a sub-conscious level each day would be overwhelming if we had to make a reasoned, conscious, rational decision about every brief encounter. Humans are essentially tribal animals and tend to like others like themselves and to avoid those they perceive as radically different, or just unfamiliar. We tend to assimilate the beliefs of those we associate with. Behavior becomes habit, habit becomes who we are.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


                How do we ever combat stereotypes if we never, well, combat them? If folks have a bad association of black guys with dread locks and we use that to justify refusing to put black guys with dread locks in the type of positions that might lead people to rethinking these stereotypes, then the stereotypes are affirmed.

                “I don’t trust guys with dread locks. All the ones I see are on the news getting arrested.” Yea, because all the smart, intelligent guys with dread locks can’t get hired at the ban or the car dealer.

                How far do you go with this? If you live in a heavily Jewish area, would you refuse to hire a Muslim or Arab or Palestinian because it might negatively impact sales? Would you not hire a black guy with perfectly groomed hair because some white customers won’t buy from him?

                Maybe it is time to step up and do the right thing instead of the financially beneficial thing, no? The extent to which we conflate those things is… troublesome.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                BTW, Dale, I’m not sure if you are new to the LoOG here or if I missed you commenting earlier or if you lurked and are only now posting but… Awesome! Though it’s clear that, at least in this moment in time, we see and feel quite differently about a very charged issue, I appreciate that we have been able to have a productive, constructive conversation, producing much light and little, if any, heat. I hope the feeling is mutual.Report

              • Dale Forguson in reply to Kazzy says:


                I certainly see your point and while I empathize… The average person who is not self-employed or not in a management position doesn’t realize how over-arching the pressure to be profitable is. A company can go in the dumper almost over-night. The margin of profit for most companies is slim and red is dead. (ink)

                I have hired minorities and women. it’s all about attitude. appearance makes a good/bad first impression but when you find an employee as interested in your bottom line as you are, that’s a keeper. In sales you don’t have to explain the things I’ve been talking about to a successful sales person. They already know. There are very successful minority sales people. They are successful because they know how to close the sale. There are a lot of facets to that statement.

                I’ve visited Loog a few times and browsed but this is the first conversation I’ve taken part in. Yes I agree it has been an interesting and worthwhile conversation. I’ve enjoyed the entire thread. I’m pleased to make your acquaintance 🙂 in a gentlemanly sort of way…. he heReport

              • rexknobus in reply to Kazzy says:

                Full disclosure up front — I’m a Boomer, born in 1950. Teenager in the 60’s constantly fighting with parents over hair length, pants cut, shirt patterns, language, idioms, music, politics. Hoo boy. I grew to be a slob with longish hair (what’s left of it), a white-collar job funded by NASA, and I wear Hawaiian shirts, cargo shorts, and sandals to work every day (except when it shows — then faded jeans and boots).

                But here’s a thing that struck me somewhere along the way: what if I were to have surgery and the doctor showed up in a tattered (though perfectly clean) T-shirt, cut-offs, and sandals? I have to say I prefer the scrubs. And not for any reason except it makes the doctor look more like a doctor. Bank teller — same thing. Where’s the tie? How comfortable would I be making a deposit with a person wearing a perfectly comfortable bathing suit?

                Recently voyaged on the QM2 (which I cannot recommend highly enough. Wow!) Had to buy all sorts of fancy dress clothes. Good Lord, I now own a tux (my mother hasn’t stopped smiling yet.) Tying my own bow tie, putting on the cuff links, slipping into the well-tailored trousers and formal jacket — and then going down to a meal with a table full of fascinating people dressed in the same unnatural way — was terrific. I was still me, but I was a cool, gentlemanly me. That was fun, but also an interesting exploration.

                Kazzy — no one really makes these rules, of course. They are societal constructs, but everything we wear, from tattered shorts to Selleck T’s, is a communication. We put these things on knowing that others will see us in them and come to some conclusion. Add in actual conversation, attitudes, demeanor, etc., and you have built a public persona.

                Individuals can dress and act however they please, but a gentle person (gentleman? lady?) takes the room into consideration. It isn’t just about the “me” in a situation, it’s about the “us.” And my outward affect is a part of that equation. Gentlepeople consider others when making their personal decisions.

                And know which forks to use.Report

              • rexknobus in reply to Kazzy says:

                drat — “…except when it snows…” instead of “shows” in first para above.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

                +1 for Rex.

                To talk about these things, one of the things that we need to mention is that as long as we consider our appearance (clothes, hairstyle, etc.) self-expression, then we can’t complain that the communication we are sending (Often intended! Not always intended.) is being received.

                Of course, people should do a better job of making sure that which is received is intended. Dreadlocks shouldn’t really fall into this category. Or rather, they shouldn’t have until they were worn by a bunch of white guys as an element of self-expression. That’s where it gets complicated.

                What we need, I think, is more people wearing dreadlocks with nice clothes. Jam the signals somewhat.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Kazzy says:

                A t-shirt with Tom Selleck? Are you s hipster?

                You would be perfectly at home in Williamsburg* with that t-shirt.

                *The section of Brooklyn that is known as one of the birth places of the Hipster along with the Mission in San Francisco. Not the city in Virginia. My NYC-SF brain works against most of the US. I usually just presume that when I talk about Williamsburg most people will know I am talking about Hipster-central. Experience teaches me that this is not true.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:


                I am far from a hipster. And I am intimately familiar with Williamsburg, having spent most of my life in the NY Metropolitan area.

                There is a quirky story behind the Tom Selleck shirt that I won’t launch into because it is longer than it is funny.Report

              • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

                How many Bon Iver songs are in your iPod? Also, do you say, “Bon Eye-verr” or “Bon Ee-vare”? These two questions determine whether someone is a hipster with 100% accuracy.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Chris says:

                I don’t own an iPod. I actually don’t listen to much music (though the fact that NYC finally has a modern rock station again might change). The only Bon Iver music I have is on the Kanye West album.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Chris says:

                I have both his albums and pronounce it the second way.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Chris says:


                Not owning an iPod might make you more hipster than you realize.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Chris says:


                Did NYC finally get a good modern rock station?

                I mourned the death of WLIR/WDRE.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Chris says:

                101.9 just resumed playing modern and alternative rock again. 92.3 had gone back to rock after the weird 92Free experiment but are top-40 now. Q104.3 is still classic rock.

                101.9 is good, though their is a lot of repetition. I don’t know if that is a function of not having the rights to all the songs yet or just trying to play really popular ones to establish a following. It’s good, not great, but better than nothing.

                I don’t own an iPod because, again, I don’t listen to that much music. I tend to listen to talk or sports radio in the car. When I run, I prefer to listen to podcasts, which I load onto my phone. My avoidance of iPods is entirely practical, as it simply seemed unwise to spend $300 for something I barely used. I had one once but never really used it and opted not to replaced it after it got peed on and broke.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Chris says:

                It’s weird how closely aligned the genres on those NYC frequencies correspond to the genres played on those exact same frequencies in Portland.Report

              • greginak in reply to Chris says:

                WLIR/WDRE oh man that brings back so many memories of living in NJ.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Kazzy says:

                I’ve had it debated whether I count as hipster or not. A lot of my tastes in music, reading , NPR shows, and movies often falls somewhere under the rubic of hipster. So do my preferences for craft brews served in bars with the iron, wood, and edison bulb aesthetic and my coffee snobbery.

                However, I don’t really dress the part. And can’t pull off their version of “irony”.

                On a somewhat related note to answer your dreadlock question. If I was ever in a position to hire someone for office work, I would not mind if they had dreadlocks. I might mind dyed neon hair though.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:

                I don’t consider myself a hipster, largely because I am not attempting to communicate the messages that hipsters seem to be trying to communicate. I wear my Tom Selleck shirt because I think it is funny. It also fits me well. I don’t know if it is ironic. I don’t really know how to wear clothes ironically, to be honest (Do you have to iron them a different way? I really have no idea…). I avoid shoes because I feel more comfortable without them. I listen to Styx because Styx rocks. I grew my hair long because I don’t like getting haircuts and my wife likes it that way. I have a beard most of the year because I don’t like shaving and, again, my wife like it that way. There is not as much cultivation going on as there is practicality.

                At least, that’s what I tell myself when the Bon Iver is playing too loudly.Report

              • James H. in reply to NewDealer says:

                What’s funny is that the way you describe yourself, I suspect my initial reaction to meeting you, if I knew nothing about you, would be negative. And yet after several years having conversations on the net, I have little doubt we’d get along great and I’d like you as much in real life as I do in the virtual world.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:


                Thanks. I think.

                Though I do tend to be an acquired and quirky taste. There was another internet community I was on where half the members seemed to love me and the other seemed to hate me and wondered whether I was a troll or sock puppet. And some people who started in the later group but learned to like me. One memorable post from the group was a woman who met me in person and wrote about how she was a bit shocked that I was charming in person and quick with a smile. We are know friends.

                For my own personal education, what about my description of myself gives you that initial impression?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:


                Maybe that means you shouldn’t form opinions about folks based on the shirts they wear, eh?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:

                Unless they’re wearing a Lakers shirt, of course.Report

          • Scott in reply to Kazzy says:

            Without any snark, I would review the definition. I believe that there is more to being a gentleman than only the way one treats others. Education, dress, knowing how to act in different social situations, manners, etc all combine to make one a gentleman. A very traditional definition would also include coming from money but I don’t think that is necessary.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Scott says:


              I’m not saying my definition has to be the right one. But I think we should be clear and explicit about what we are saying when we call ourselves “gentlemen”. Just saying, “Well, you know…” doesn’t cut it.Report

              • Scott in reply to Kazzy says:

                LOOG has a commenting policy so I think the site does state what kind of behavior is expected.

                As for those outside LOOG, standards very but aren’t what they used to be.Report

    • Anne in reply to Mary G says:

      Mary thanks for your comment. I got to this site by following a link to something Jason wrote. Being a geek I find the name of LoOG funny. I also stuck around precisely because for the most part the writers and commentators ARE gentlemanly. It is hard, or at least I did find it hard to comment here at first. Partly because the site is mostly men I thought as a female I would not be given the same respect as men and partly because though I am not dumb the level of intellectual discourse here can be intimidating (and then Mike shilling says something 🙂 ) As to the first part I was wrong. The gents here have been nothing if not welcoming and supportive. I do wish more women would comment though I suspect there are quite a few that are here lurking as I once did.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Anne says:

        I’m not quite sure how to interpret that 🙂Report

      • Johanna in reply to Anne says:

        I lurked here prior to when James had his short term stint as a fper. I have never been bothered by the title and wouldn’t have volunteered to help with the latest logo design if I had. Only once have I ever been treated less than gentlemanly by anyone here and to the credit of several other gentlemen/women, it was made clear that they agreed such behavior was unacceptable. I also wish more women would comment but there is a strange sort of dysfunctional family feel here that can be a bit off-putting, in a way that makes me not want to get involved certain arguments.Report

  17. Dale Forguson says:

    my mind wanders… In response to Mary, it goes without saying that the goals of feminism are for the most part just and long overdue. However I am of the camp that believes it is best to not only encourage equal access but at the same time to acknowledge and celebrate our differentness. Having said that it occurs to me that Hollywood runs to excess at times. One example I’ll cite is the current tendency to peripheralize the role of fathers in families. Often in subtle ways that seem to go largely unnoticed. Fathers are often portrayed as caricatures in ways I find offensive. As we all grope forward toward an all-encompassing society it would be well to remind ourselves that not all we have done need be discarded. The connotation and context of terms has as much to do with the perceived intent of the speaker as the terms themselves. If the term gentleman becomes unacceptable or comes to have an exclusionist meaning have we actually gained anything? Our language is the greatest gift given to us across countless generations. We must use it wisely.Report

  18. frank says:

    So, if it’s bigotry to think all creationists are barefoot, mouth-breathing hillbillies with missing teeth, what is it to disdain, without knowing more, barefoot, mouth-breathing hillbillies with missing teeth? I love to go barefoot. Unfortunately, I live downtown and can’t do it much. I breath through my mouth; a congenital nasal anomaly. I’ve lost teeth. And I’m from Tennessee.

    I’m sad to know what you think of me without even knowing me.Report

  19. dhex says:

    fwiw, i’ve always mentally translated the title to “the league of ordinary mentalists”. don’t ask me why.Report

  20. Sam Wilkinson says:

    A friend of mine the other day asked me if she was allowed to comment here, or if the site was only for men. I’m not sure where to put this comment so I thought I’d put it at the end of the current thread for your consideration.Report

    • Chris in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

      Yeah, that’s fucked up. I’m glad to hear that there are discussions going on behind the scenes, but I hope that it’s things like this that make them hurry those discussions along.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

      Hanley talked upthread about how a name fan be functionally offputting, and if that’s the case, then changing the name might be warranted. But that gets me athinkin a bit about the lack of diversity we all are apparently finding so problematic. here’s my thoughts.

      Let’s suppose that the fundamental identity (not mission statement!) of this site is to explore the intersection of libertarian thought with politics and broader society. If so (and I think that’s largely tho not entirely accurate – but bare with me anyway), then it seems to me that many types of people won’t be inclined to participate in discussions because they reject the idea that politics and society ought to be viewed from that starting point. CK is a good example of that, I think, even tho he’s caught some grief for expressing his view very honestly and clearly. His point, as I understood it, was that FPers and commenters here comprise a sorta monolithic collection of individuals who all share a propensity to analyze policy and social relations thru a very objective, reductionist, first-principle-oriented, set of filters which often exclude,intentionally, it seems to me, less objective and analytical ways of looking at those issues. To the extent the prevailing method of argumentation we all employ (to a greater or lesser degree) exemplifies a male-oriented, or white-oriented way of approaching these topics may mean that our identity as “objective wonkish analysts” is offputting in and of itself.

      So the question is: to what extent are alternate ways of approaching policy and social analysis tolerable in a community which is inherently reductionistic about analysis? Or: to what extent will people who aren’t don’t share our affinity for and comfort with reductive analysis (or however you want to describe a lot of what we do here) feel they are welcome to participate?Report

      • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Stillwater says:


        I’d question the idea that the site is reductionist in its analysis. I might describe instead that it is reductionist toward certain foregone conclusions which routinely seem (<--emphasis added, by me) to exclude explanations about race or gender or sexuality or whatever, or at least, dismiss them when they're offered. I'm not sure if that makes any sense.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:


        Every “place” needs some identity if it is to stimulate commitment among prospective members. If the LoOG tried to be everything to everybody, it would probably just quickly become very ugly and then much of the old crowd would drift away, and those that were left wouldn’t have the same kind of commitment because it wouldn’t really be “their” kind of place, just a strange unidentifiable kind of place. Speaking specifically of analytical reductionism, while from my perspective it’s not so monolithically that, I find it a tremendously important part of the LoOG’s character and identity. If the League didn’t have as much reductionist analysis in its policy essays, I, at least, would leave. Not out of spite, but just because I don’t find essentially non-reductionist approaches useful or interesting.

        E.g., while I’m sure CK is quite as intelligent as I am, I rarely read or respond to his comments because his approach seems non-useful to me. I did respond the other day, and our discussion went nowhere. Were this a blog that had a lot more CKs, I wouldn’t bother, not because there shouldn’t be such a blog, but because it wouldn’t be of interest to me.

        That’s not to say only my way is correct, or to say that the League should be oriented toward what I like. It’s only to say that it can’t successfully be too diverse in its approach without destroying commitment among its audience.

        Imagine a restaurant that served a little bit of every kind of cuisine. It might be the kind of place you take a large group so everybody can get something they like, but almost nobody’s going to love the place.Report

        • Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

          James, just google “Badiou blog,” follow some links, and enjoy.Report

        • Sam in reply to James Hanley says:


          Can I clarify – are you saying that excluding those who consider the possibility that race or gender or sexuality is driving things are to be excluded to maintain the site’s relative exclusivity?Report

          • James Hanley in reply to Sam says:


            No. Absolutely not that. I’m just talking about approaches to writing about those and other issues. Stillwater used the term “reductionist,” which I don’t find too bad here, and would pose against what we might call more “sociological” approaches. I.e., digging down into details and data vs. looking at big unmeasurable abstractions.

            And I’m not even saying anyone should be excluded. I’m only saying that I doubt the blog can successfully feature each approach roughly equally and maintain real enthusiasm among readers from both sides, because each side will think there’s too much of the other side. So there really has to be a choice of which approach is going to be more definitive for the blog (which doesn’t mean there can’t be any of the other approach, just not too much), or the blog will wither away.

            But whichever is chosen–and both are legitimate–you’ll lose some people from the other side. Go “sociological” and you lose me (oh, horrors!). Go “reductionist” and you lose others. Pick your poison, but the biggest poison to the blog would be trying to be all things to all people.Report

            • Sam in reply to James Hanley says:

              I just re-read my own comment and I’m stunned you could make heads or tails of it. I used exclude variations three times in a single sentence. I am an idiot.

              Meanwhile: I haven’t followed the conversation, but are some people giving the impression that they want a site that’s all things for all people? I would presume (perhaps very, very wrongly) that a general notion of liberty underpins the site and that contributors generally touch on that, albeit in very different ways. Do I have that wrong?Report

            • It’s interesting to me that Mr. Hanley and perhaps Stillwater (and I would guess others verbally absent on this thread but very spiritually and possibly objectively present) seem to view the LOOG as a libertarian project defined by a “reductionist” discourse. It seems that, for Hanley in particular, the site is something like “a libertarian-theoretical site, plus some local color and some boring but easily ignored interlopers.”

              Such a mission does not seem to have been clearly enunciated anywhere, though it may be implicit in the site name and history, as we’ve been discussing. One might wonder if even fewer people would find it attractive than would be interested in what Hanley calls a “sociological” perspective on politics, history, culture, life, recipes, and all of those other non-things so resistant to final reduction for the sake of totally objective analysis.

              It could be that the interest in the site, just like interest in a story, or the vitality of any relationship, is as dependent on differences and conflict as on whatever necessary coherency. In this connection especially, Stillwater’s comment up above – https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2012/08/a-few-words-on-bigotry/#comment-339943 – is fascinating to me, like so many of Stillwater’s, because he seems to grasp the “elsewhere” of his own discourse, that “other” again, whatever is banished from pragmatism, analytical philosophy, the veil of ignorance and its Rawlsian cipher-self, the ideal subject of Reason, and so on, and so on. Of course, even Hanley (ditto Murali, or Kuznicki) can’t completely avoid the need to define his own terms in relation to what they exclude (or include by excluding).

              I want to say this: It may be that the name-design-identity crisis is wrongly conceived if it’s approached as an opportunity to force a new, merely emptier but still monological coherence on a project whose polyvocality (itself a form of “diversity”) is a main attraction to to those who don’t come to the party already professionally-politically committed to libertarianism or liberal theory. The focus on simply replacing one name/overall design with a new name/overall design may be the wrong focus. “Focus” itself (as false coherence or forced monology) may even be conceived of as a or the problem, or lethal temptation. This wouldn’t be an argument in favor of “being all things to all people,” but of approaching the “dialogical strain” from a different direction.

              (and yeah this relates to that Wilson thing even)Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                This assumes that a site redesign is an attempt to move to a new place that is well-defined.

                It much more seems to me that it’s a case of being somewhere you thought was comfortable, finding something there isn’t as comfortable as you thought it was, and jettisoning that thing.

                There’s no saying that you’re going to a better place. You’re just getting rid of something that happens to have turned out to be “unnecessary baggage”.Report

              • I think a potential name/branding change is generally taken as more significant than that – thus all of the discussion, public and not. The thing jettisoned has a value, the jettisoning has a cost, the new place may turn out to be even more uncomfortable, and the real cause of discomfort may turn out not to have been addressed, or even worsened.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                Yes, all true.

                Still, onward and upward, or you never go anywhere.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                CK, which – ironically enough – was exactly what Hanley argued upthread.Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to Stillwater says:

                Stillwater, unlike Hanley – I think – I can see substantial change as warranted, just not by frontal assault.Report

  21. CK MacLeod says:

    First, just for the record, it’s “MacLeod” with an “a,” not “McLeod” without one. Also, though I’m grateful for the link under whatever name, my blog hasn’t been “Zombie Contentions” for quite some time. The name belonged to mostly disbanded group blog, but still shambles on as an undead base URL that I’ve never gotten around to changing – maybe because I find its (un-)living on in this way amusing, maybe because I’m lazy, maybe because I don’t care and it doesn’t matter. Anyway, the blog is “CK MacLeod’s,” as in “CK’s place” or “CK’s stuff,” though I do have a couple of friends with privileges, if few benefits, who also post there.

    As to the matter at hand, my main disagreement with Mr. Kelly is with his assertion that there was something in my approach in the referenced discussion that “immediately shut any potential dialogue down.” Kelly’s own post, and the fact that I’m here responding to it, puts that observation in an odd light. At a minimum, he seems to have found me a good object lesson in “doing it wrong,” worthy of prominent mention. He also has, I believe, the power not just to put up a front page post but at almost any time to launch a League Symposium on the League, if he so desires. He’s the one with the ability to shut a discussion down or to declare that it’s only just gotten started, not me.

    In short, I think that when he says that something I said or the way I said it shut down dialogue, what he must mean is that something I said or the way I said it has highlighted his difficulties in what was an already ongoing discussion. Far from having shut down dialogue, I am right here continuing a dialogue, responding to his response to a long series of responses to responses and so on. Similarly, when Mr. Dwyer suggests above that my comments were untimely, what his comment indicates to me is that he finds my intervention too timely.

    As for the substance of the discussion, I don’t have the time or energy to re-construct and expand upon everything I’ve already said on the earlier thread, but aanyone who wishes to review it can find my first comment at https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2012/08/leading-missouri-senate-candidate-to-women-if-you-get-pregnant-you-werent-really-raped/#comment-332676 (#400). For now, I’ll simply note that I never took the position that the LOOG should change its name, though I was interpreted as having done so. Though I tried to couch my language carefully – acknowledging that it’s entirely up to you all how you want to deal with the questions – I don’t rejejct the implication, but I obviously think it’s worth considering, and I might have some suggestions. I also criticized the design in that connection, and briefly outlined a possible alternative concept. I did not, however, use the word “bigotry” (nor even “hegemony”). I referred to the nostalgic evocation of a cultural moment, and in further discussion I noted that attraction to the positive aspects of bygone eras – especially imperial moments to which we or some of us feel or imagine direct connections – is natural, because wealth, power, and self-confidence are all naturally attractive. Such nostalgia might at times become stronger, yet at the same time more problematic, at a cultural moment characterized by justifiably intensifying, multi-leveled insecurity and self-doubt.

    There is obviously a difference between, say, on the one hand noting and seeking to understand an evocation of nostalgia in terms of its basis and its unwanted effects, and on the other hand accusing someone or a whole site of someones of bigotry. “Bigotry” is a term of banishment in America – referring to a thing definitionally intolerable in a culture of toleration. If I thought you all deserved to be called bigots, I wouldn’t be caught dead here. Assessments regarding racism-classism-sexism are also not the same as accusations of bigotry, even if they arise on the same continuum of prejudice. If one understands the position that racism-classism-sexism is effectively universal and possibly ineradicable – because the complex originates in something more fundamental, and because measures taken against it are always in danger of merely re-producing that something-more-fundamental in a new, sometimes worse guise – then merely pointing to evidence is less an indictment than an invitation to honest reflection on what you are really trying to achieve and how your self-presentation may impair your efforts.

    I’ve been on the wrong and painful side of politically correct police actions, and have no interest in running any of my own. I also don’t pretend that these are original observations on my part. I think most of us have already been exposed to elements of this critique, and understand it intuitively, but may still have difficulty coping with the implications, because sooner or later they touch on things we have no intention of letting go.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to CK MacLeod says:

      First and foremost, apologies for both the name misspelling and getting the site name wrong. As you might guess, having my own name misspelled is one of those things that people have done with great regularity all of my life, so I should know better than not check. And I should have looked more carefully at the site – which, by the way is gorgeous. Seriously.

      Also, fwiw know that I don’t bother to call out commenters or contributors on OPs unless I respect them enough to do so. (Well, tell a lie… I have done it once, but not you.)

      And now with all that stuff out of the way…

      I am guessing that I stated poorly what I meant to say in the OP, because most of what you claim to have never said (e.g: that you wanted us to change the name) aren’t things I thought you said or attributed to you. To whatever degree I came across as saying you said those things, count as bad writing on my part.

      My only criticism of your comments was, again, not what our name or graphics and name might have meant to you or other people (which I actually agree with you) but instead the ridiculous motivation you applied to me and my colleagues. If I misunderstood your intention, (and it would not be the first time!), then I again apologize. But in my own defense, the moment you lost me (and others here, I believe) was this:

      “I wrote, “the graphics likewise evoke nostalgia for a cultural moment, an imperial moment, during which white men ruled.” I stand by the analysis, actually a very simple observation based on readily apparent, constantly “refreshed” evidence.

      You admit that you, or some of you, feel concern about the site’s name, which concern is about what the name does: produce “limiting repercussions.” The graphics and format can point to movement beyond the connotations and limiting repercussions of the name, or they can reinforce those connotations and point in the opposite direction. I think it’s obvious that they reinforce them and were chosen to do so

      I would hope that even if I completely misread you, you will at least acknowledge that this can easily be read as assuming – and announcing – less than flattering motivations on my part, which by the way are pretty incorrect.

      Again, if I misunderstood the meaning of that message, apologies.Report

      • CK MacLeod in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I’d reject those apologies as unnecessary, but that might seem disagreeable, so consider them all accepted.

        Thanks for being so specific about where I lost you. Maybe I can clear things up. I don’t have a dog in the fight, really, and I’m not trying to put anyone down.

        The connotations of the site name on its own terms derive from a combination of direct signification or lexical meaning (most obviously “gentlemen”: male, well-to-do), allusion (the comix and movie), and I think the vaguely old-fashioned phraseology and word choice. The last one might be hard to defend before someone who doesn’t just hear it that way. I’ll just suggest that Alan Moore heard it that way, too.

        The intentions behind the use of the site name – to what extent they are conscious, to what extent problematic – make for one set of complex questions. How someone may be expected to interpret them make for different but overlapping questions. My point regarding the graphics is somewhat independent: Whatever intentions or expectations one might attribute to the aesthetic choices, they tend to reinforce and in effect fix the “white,” “male-dominated,” “well-to-do,” “nostalgic,” “Late Victorian/early Edwardian” primary connotations of the site title. They illustrate and augment “League of Ordinary Gentlemen” rather than bypass or counter it.

        Graphics that had no figurative elements at all would not have reinforced those connotations, or might even have somewhat negated them – as with a very up to the moment and abstract execution suitable for a major news or corporate site, for instance. That’s what I meant about a design concept that went in the opposite direction. Similarly, if you kept the site name, or maybe altered it only slightly (“Gentlepersons,” say), while emphasizing the initials, that approach might signify movement or evolution away from the original connotations, and toward something more open and freely self-defining: The old “League of Ordinary Gentlemen” would hover in fading memory, but nowhere be seen. Users would see and refer to “The LOOG,” effectively a nonsense term, since new users might have little or no idea what it stood for.

        Think of oil companies that are trying to move into renewables and other things, so get the “Oil” or “Petroleum” out of their names as a first step, but maintain contact with the old name while the process is still under way.

        These observations are meant by way of illustration, not suggestion. I have no idea what other, much better alternatives you may have been considering.

        As for what this “branding” problem actually means, as explained on this thread and the previous one, also according to my own beliefs about the political unconscious of contemporary American political discourse in general, and of libertarianism especially, I do believe that nostalgia is often symptomatic of an unexamined attraction to the world of white male power and privilege represented in period culture. I am saying that the design appears to respond to that attraction uncritically, and in a way that happens to accentuate the aspects of the site that simultaneously trouble you. How much it bothers you, whether it should, what specifically to do about it, are all different questions. The best answers might somehow express new movement along what Stillwater was saying above about the “intersection of libertarian thought with politics and broader society,” but might require a more careful consideration of who you really are and are trying to become.

        I don’t really know enough about that last part to be more specific than I’ve been. Maybe that underlines the fact that what we are talking about really is literally an “identity crisis,” perhaps at a low level, but inherently putting all of your identities in question, what you all really think you’re doing here, whether it is or feels like a big deal or not.Report

        • Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

          I do believe that nostalgia is often symptomatic of an unexamined attraction to the world of white male power and privilege represented in period culture

          I agree with this, with a couple changes, or maybe just additions: 1.) we still live in a world of white male power and privilege, and 2.) I think a big part of the nostalgia has to do with not having to think about it. Not having to think about how that privilege affects women, or minorities, or anyone who’s not white and male. Think the workplace of Life on Mars.Report

          • CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

            You mean the TV series Life on Mars? Never saw either version.

            Yes – not having to think about it, and, yes, now, too. But the nostalgic impulse would reflect insecurity about the present: Not that all “entertainment” doesn’t serve escapism, or that life can’t always be made to seem worth escaping, but the nostalgic mode speaks directly to history. White male power and privilege may still be a reality, but I think we can still distinguish meaningfully between its current and former circumstances, prospects, capacities, uses.Report

        • MikeSchilling in reply to CK MacLeod says:

          I do believe that nostalgia is often symptomatic of an unexamined attraction to the world of white male power and privilege represented in period culture.

          Indeed, my favorite thing about the Golden Age of Science Fiction is that it predated the 1964 Civil Rights Act (rolls eyes).Report

          • Jaybird in reply to MikeSchilling says:

            It’s not like Starship Troopers was about people of color, or so I assume from the movie, which I assume was like the book.Report

          • Glyph in reply to MikeSchilling says:

            Yeah, this. I am not saying it’s never true, but I don’t think that is the driving force behind most nostalgia at all.

            Nostalgia is just the forgetting of the bad while retaining the good, and we all do it, even when our past sucked.

            ‘Sure, that girl turned out to be crazy and set fire to my car, but oh, we were so in love…’ No, she was just crazy, but right now you are just remembering how hot she was (and that you were, for that matter).

            ‘When I was yr age, we walked uphill in the snow and (here’s the relevant/nostalgic part) WE LOVED IT’

            No you didn’t, you were freezing yr butt off, that’s the point of the story. But you are still nostalgic for it.Report

            • CK MacLeod in reply to Glyph says:

              There is a general sense in which nostalgia – originally “homesickness,” by the 20th C. a “wistful yearning for the past” – is the paradigmatic conservative mood: The old things are better, if only we could recover them or return to them or keep with with them. All the same, I never made a claim about “most” nostalgia. I made a claim about nostalgia “often,” in the context of contemporary culture and entertainment.

              The appeal of Golden Age SF and retro-future aesthetics work very well within this analysis, as was briefly mentioned on the earlier thread. I guess it’s conceivable MikeSchilling has his own very special way of relating to Golden Age SF, but I doubt it achieves escape velocity. But I like old SF, too. I’ve never claimed to be above or beyond such things. The old ways were best. We didn’t have game consoles and 3-D immersion and so on. We had paperback books, and we had to use our imaginations, and we liked it.Report

              • Glyph in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                CK, fair enough and I didn’t mean to misread you. Can you give an example of the kind of entertainment you do mean, as well as the posited privileged group who responds to that entertainment with nostalgia for their loss of privilege?Report

              • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                sorry, ‘nostalgia for their privilege that has been lost.’Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to Glyph says:

                Glyph, I think I’ve already given examples. Also, the attraction isn’t fully dependent on the authenticity of your connection to the past, or on the authenticity of your depiction, or on any certainty that privileges lost would “really” have been “your” privileges. Independently, you could even imagine yourself happier as a member of an excluded and underprivileged group in the Gentlemen’s Era, if you imagine that the identity would come with a more secure sense of self than the present seems to offer, and you feel that you’re missing it.

                [apologies if a longer version of this comment also shows up – having weird comments getting eaten problems today]Report

              • Glyph in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                Gotcha, thanks.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                I might be misreading whole “nostalgia” thang, but this kind of “when people use the word X what they really mean is Y” appears to be that dangerous area of deconstructionism where cleverness overcomes insight. For example, I might have the following thought pattern:

                “I have been reading steampunk recently, and I notice that much of it is set in the Victorian Era. Whenever I think of that time, the first thing that springs to my mind is how the power structure was heavily skewed to white males. In a lot of these stories, though, I notice that the females are plucky and smart and take it upon themselves to succeed at whatever male-driven career or skill they had a passion for. Because that isn’t the way things really worked back then, I think that maybe the writer likes pretending that it was how things worked so that he can avoid having to write a story deal with the themes I’d rather read about…

                And so I think we can all agree that people often read steampunk because they are feel emasculated by feminism, and want to go back to a time when white men ruled the world. It’s so obvious.”

                That kind of deconstruction, requires so many leaps of association in my own head to get from point A to point B, and then it takes the additional assumption that those same leaps of association are what subconsciously drive people that aren’t me and don’t view any of the involved pieces in the same way I do. And if they don’t realize this about themselves, it’s because they aren’t quite so clever as I am. It seems a bit of unintended hubris, even with the “often” qualifier.

                It kind of reminds me of those books that tell me that if there was a panda bear in my dream, it means I’m unhappy in my relationship with my lover.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Yeah, this is the sort of argument I have seen posted elsewhere (not here at the League) about Mad Men and it just seemed specious to me.

                Also, sometimes a ‘sexy panda’ dream is just a ‘sexy panda’ dream.Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Mr. Kelly, there’s a possibly standard or anyway obvious materialist critique of steampunk that doesn’t really have much to do with particular plot devices: You don’t need steampunk to have a plucky heroine, though your imaginary monologue does suggest some suspicion that steampunk imports anachronistic social relations and assumptions along with anachronistic technologies. I take it that the latter is what distinguishes the genre, the transplantation of scientific or technological accomplishments and possibilities into the steam era or alternative-historical version of it. Either way, you get the fruits of progress without the real human, social, environmental cost of progress, which is also, some have said, typical of a certain kind of left-liberal eco-fantasy: green capitalism, only tolerably polluted, a world of artisanal iPads and quasi-pastoralized urban landscapes.

                Anyway, the idea of trying to understand what a genre is about isn’t a search for symbolic pandas or something, it’s just trying to come to terms with what’s right there on the surface of it: For one reason or another, steampunk seemed to replace cyberpunk: Technology was still the issue, but, instead of looking forward to dystopia, there was a looking backward to a more genteel fantasy alternative – even though the background social relations of the Victorian or other eras could be made to seem dystopian if projected into our futures – an inversion that’s its own subgenre.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                This comment is amazing in that it really misses my point completely, and yet where you went just there was such a fabulous read I don’t care.Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Well, good I guess. I thought I was just saying if you’re talking about a genre, maybe it’s just taking what’s right there, you know, hiding in plain sight.Report

              • Ramblin' Rod in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                We had paperback books that imagined game consoles and 3-D immersion and so on.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Ramblin' Rod says:

                And they were held together with cheap glue, so the pages would fall out after the third re-read. And we liked it!Report

  22. Who is “Density Duck?”Report

  23. scott says:

    OK, you shouldn’t have called him a Gomer, with all the cultural baggage that implies. That wasn’t very nice. Idiot would have worked quite well, though. I doubt that he’s going to spend as much time working on his idiocy as you are (sincerely) wrestling with your preconceptions. I find his idiocy a larger problem than your laziness with stereotypes, although neither is admirable.Report

  24. damon says:

    “The title was indeed intended to be partly tongue in cheek, particularly the conspicuous use of the word “ordinary,” combined with the obvious comic series/movie reference, while also conveying a goal of civility and charity, invoking the concept of a 19th century salon. ”

    That’s exactly my impression when I found this site. A place for WELL REASONED, CIVIL discourse. If I wanted trolling, I’d visit game forums. This is also why I visit this site several times a week. CK is in the wrong here.

    Now, on to the rest of the article. Humanity is, still, tribal. Groups of like form all around. We fear the what we do not know, what is different, and are cautious around it, as we should. An all to willingness to embrace the different could have gotten you killed “back in the day”. This is something we’ll likely outgrow in a few thousand years or so, assuming we live that long as a species.

    Since I view humanity like I do, above, I’m ok with bigotry. You just damn well need to not put it up in my face, or dismiss my views, and to be civil with me, just as I am with you. My opinion of you as a (insert any insult you wish) in no way prevents me from being courteous and respectful to you in public, in one another’s home, etc.

    That’s all I ask of you and all I expect of you.Report

  25. Ethan Gach says:

    Ahhh, so this is where all the cool kids are hanging out.Report

  26. Kolohe says:

    Btw, *this* is how you appeal to the ladies.Report

  27. Becky H. says:

    Tod – he doesn’t look as much like John Cusack as you think he does. Great post. I enjoyed reading it very much.Report

  28. miguel cervantes says:

    Actually the real Johnnie Rico was from the Phillipines in the book,Report

  29. miguel cervantes says:

    I’ve found the whole ‘birther’ rigamarole, a huge mcguffin, invented in large part by Hillary supporters, like Phil Berg, and imported into the right, much like the late Alex Cockburn’s
    Mena narrative, Where Obama comes from, what motivates him and consequently which policies he pursues are of greater interest.Report

  30. miguel cervantes says:

    An interesting take on the steampunk genre, is Guy Ritchie’s revisiting the Sherlock Holmes genre, at least in the first film,Report

  31. miguel cervantes says:

    Wild Wild West, and the League were the less successful manifestation of same.Report