The State of the Art


Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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48 Responses

  1. Avatar Maribou says:

    Literally all week I’ve been thinking, “OK, we’re making some progress here, lots of solid content and man do I love fixing typos …. but I wish Jason was still writing posts.”

    Welcome back. You’ve been missed.Report

  2. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Welcome back, welcome back, welcome baaaa-aa-ack.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Oh my golly I am so glad that Jason is back.Report

  4. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Welcome back! Happy days.Report

  5. Being a bit of a detective, I’m going to guess that you’ve ben spending time in places that handle non-ASCII characters better than we do.

    Oh, and Welcome Back!Report

  6. Avatar Damon says:

    Welcome back J.
    Civility on the interwebs? Horrors. Perhaps you worry too much about offending someone? Who cares. No need to get real excited. If they can’t see your point and they are reasonably intelligent, and you’ve tried several times, they either can’t or won’t. Either way. It doesn’t matter and isn’t worth your add’l time.Report

  7. Avatar Kim says:

    Welcome, and I encourage you to play the meme game!
    Seriously, post one image on /b/, and see how many people take up your meme and post it around.
    (Is /b/ still viable? haven’t seen it in a while).

    Memes are ALL about creativity. They’re about interacting with events, coming up with something pithy….

  8. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Welcome back.

    Having an ideologically mixed commentariat is not easy because what seems natural and good to one person is evil or at best neutral to another. There is a tendency to believe that other intelligent people can’t look at the same fact pattern and come to a different result or that people believe in stuff you find abhorrent in good faith.Report

  9. Avatar James K says:

    I’m extremely pleased to see you return Jason. Welcome back.Report

  10. Avatar Patrick says:


    The combox is better here than on Facebook. Glad to see you back, sir.Report

  11. Avatar North says:

    Holy fishing fish! Welcome back! It’s a happy day for Ravenclaw!Report

  12. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    First of all, I’m thrilled beyond my powers of articulation to see you back. This is not, in my mind, a “small” development. The intellectual heft of the site has just been re-elevated palpably. I’m going to try to keep up with you, and beg for your patience when I fail as I surely shall.

    Second, I’m entirely with you on the power and effect of memes. While amusing, they are not discourse. They should be treated as jokes, with the same gravity assigned to them as we assign a Jimmy Kimmel monologue.

    Third, comments generated to numerous past examplars of your writing demonstrate more than anyone else’s the frustrating nature of the phenomenon I’ve called “Thinking in Shorthand,” which you eloquently illustrate in the complaint that anything someone who identifies as a libertarian says becomes translated into “FYIGM.” I’ll not begrudge a firm response to any repetition of such. But…

    Fourth, I absolutely 100% totally disagree with you about civility in discussion. Like you, I’m confounded that so many people comport themselves such that they cannot disagree without also being disagreeable. But recall that these digs were once called “The League of Ordinary Gentlemen.” Whatever the other taxonomic problems, the “Gentle” prefix to the last word in spoke to a culture of mutual respect and cordiality, a culture which I deeply wish to preserve and foster.

    It can be done. You and I have had many disagreements on diverse substantive matters over the years, Jason, yet I do not recall that either of us has ever written or spoken a disrespectful word to one another. Nor do I anticipate that we ever shall.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      It can be done. You and I have had many disagreements on diverse substantive matters over the years, Jason, yet I do not recall that either of us has ever written or spoken a disrespectful word to one another.

      It can be done, yes, but it’s much, much easier with some people than with others.Report

  13. Avatar Joe Sal says:

    Civility, hell! It was just the other day Watson said I was inconsiderate. Wait till I find that lil’ bastards power source.

    Welcome back.Report

  14. Avatar Chris says:

    Welcome back.Report

  15. Avatar Brandon Berg says:


    That would probably be more convincing if I had bothered to go over to your other blog more than once or twice, but that’s a whole other address I have to type in.Report

  16. Avatar Glyph says:

    Awesome! Welcome back Jason!

    To insist on civility is to appear perpetually shallow and disengaged. Civility sacrifices earnestness.

    When I think of those whom I view as most “civil” around here – the people who tend to keep their levelheaded cool nearly all the time, even when baited or provoked – I don’t see those people as shallow and disengaged at all. I see them as genuinely-thoughtful and admirable. I wish I were more like them, as sometimes I’ve lost my cool and I’m not proud of it.

    That’s not to say that there’s necessarily anything wrong with losing one’s cool and becoming uncivil once in a while, which is often at least understandable – and sometimes inevitable, and occasionally even admirable.

    But it’s still not the general ideal, to me.

    In fact, in my experience, uncivility tends to feed into your first header – its “desired product is not a reflection, but an emotion”.

    I ended up agonizing a lot about how to be nice to people who hadn’t the slightest intention of returning the favor. All to no good end.

    Ah, I see the issue. Being civil need not mean being nice (though it can!) Nice is simply the ideal mode of civility, but there are others.

    Sometimes, being civil means knowing your limitations (of patience and stamina, primarily) and knowing your opponent; outlining the points of agreement, and bluntly agreeing to disagree on the rest without needing to draw blood or fight to the last breath. As in real life, walking away from an unproductive and pointless fight is sometimes – probably often – the best choice for all concerned.

    Some interlocutors, through experience, will prove impossible to get even as far as “agree to disagree”; with them, it is ‘civility’ to simply not engage them at all. Not every challenge deserves a response; sometimes, even if the argument itself does warrant a response, the person wielding it has proved themselves to likely be an unproductive debate partner for you, and not worth the trouble of engaging*. If the argument they are making is a good one, a better-matched interlocutor will put it forth sooner or later, and you can engage it then; or address the argument itself in a later post of your own. “Civility” in this case is simply letting the other person say their piece, which may stand or fall on its own merits, sans any direct response from you.

    In short, pick your battles; save your powder; take a deep breath, and try to see the funny or absurd side.

    And please stick around, this place is better with you here.

    *note that this person does not have to be a bad person, nor arguing in bad faith; there are simply some people whom by dint of temperament or life history will never, ever see eye to eye. And that’s OK. It’s 100% possible to show respect and civility to someone else by choosing to not engage in repetitive, destructive patterns of social intercourse which make both of you unhappy.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Hey, nice avatar!

      In a related note, the young woman at the record store made me feel like the world’s oldest living man the other day by looking at me like I was speaking some strange foreign language or just delusional when I asked if they sold 45 adapters.Report

  17. Avatar Mo says:

    So if I understand you correctly here, you came back because FYIGM.Report

  18. Avatar Kazzy says:

    tl;dr: FYITTGMACSNIHTGYAMIM (Fuck You, I Tried To Get Mine And Couldn’t So Now I’m Here To Get Yours And Make It Mine)

    More seriously, welcome back. More intelligent thinkers here is always a good thing.Report

  19. Avatar Road Scholar says:

    Really glad to see you back! I first discovered you over at BHL where you quickly became one of my favorite writers. And when I became disappointed / disillusioned with them relative to their stated mission, I followed you over here.Report

  20. Avatar Glyph says:

    Also, on this spooning nonsense…it’s a tongue-in-cheek thing, yes? Like a million other tongue-in-cheek things, yes?

    Why are people getting so irate over this particular one?

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I think it’s the idea that everything is worth critiquing on a large level.

      It’s not enough to say “I like ketchup on my eggs.” It’s not even enough to say “if you haven’t been putting ketchup on your eggs, you’re missing out.” Until recently, “You’ll never believe what this person put on his eggs!” was sufficient, but it’s fallen into disfavor.

      You now have to say “If you aren’t putting ketchup on your eggs, you’re doing it wrong.”

      For this specific case, it’s getting that treatment for “sleeping with your life partner? You’re doing it wrong.”

      Until recently, how two people slept with each other was considered something that would be crass to critique.

      But here is an essay that comes out and says “nope, you should be touching butts”.

      Not “this is a matter of taste”. Not “this has made my life better”. This is “You have been doing it wrong.”

      If you want a lot of hits, find out something (SOMETHING TRIVIAL!!!) that 57% of the country does and doesn’t even think about it. Then write an essay explaining how they’ve been screwing it up.

      Not only will some people feel aggrieved, you’ve got 43% of people who will jump in and say “hey, me and bae have been touching butts and we think it’s a lot better”, “my spouse and I sleep in such a way that our feet are at the other’s head”, “this essay offends me because my wife and I sleep in separate twin beds!” and, suddenly, you’ve started a food fight.

      Which, if it involves clicks, is monetizable.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        I don’t follow. I mean, none of this is new. It’s supposed to be amusing/satire (“semiotic violence”? Really?) – I mean, it’s not all that funny, but that’s neither here nor there. If I re-publish “A Modest Proposal” under my own byline, it’ll get a lot of clicks too. Same as it ever was.

        I mean, we humorously had The Great Sandwich Wars (UR DOIN IT RONG) around here. God help us if the larger Internet world got wind of it. We’d look like a buncha idiots too.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          They’re calibrating their clicks, though. If you publish something political/partisan, eventually people will say “oh, they’re from THE OTHER SIDE” and stop going there. (“Can you believe what they said at Kos/Redstate???” is played out. It’s no longer sexy.)

          This is a full exploration of the whole “toilet paper under/over” debate as they mine for more things that people have preferences for (even strong preferences for) but preferences that, to this point, have been unexplored.

          But it’s like a super-saturated solution. Add a crystal that says “the way that most people do a trivial thing (and have always done this trivial thing) is wrong” and, suddenly:

          Soon, they will discover the next thing that is, effectively, the over/under toilet paper debate.

          And we will see this argument all over again.

          Until it is no longer sexy.Report

          • Dear Abby (or perhaps it was Ann Landers) did the over/under toilet paper thing long before the web was invented. It dragged out for months.Report

            • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

              The problem with Dear Abby is that there was no comments section that allowed people to immediately vent about how wrong Abby was and how everybody else is an idiot. And also to post racist stuff.

              The Internet truly is a marvel.Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          If I were in a particularly cynical mood, I might speculate that people are overreacting to this one for two reasons: one, the Internet is full of ridiculous crap and for whatever reason, this one just happened to be the last straw. It’s “provocative”? It’s “stupid”? It’s “attention-seeking”?

          Why, yes, it is; and so is almost anything that seeks to amuse or entertain, to one degree or another.

          The other is that the piece uses terminology associated with hot-button issues that all right-thinking people normally treat as Very Serious, specifically sexism – but it’s using those terms and concepts in service of a fundamentally (and intentionally, IMO) Very Unserious argument – and moreover, one made by a gay man, who really should be progressive enough to know better than to make jokes about Very Serious matters!

          Not only do some people feel baited and switched, they feel they’ve been had using some terms that are normally-sacrosanct from (non-right) humor and satire; and moreover, have a nagging feeling that those terms (and by extension, themselves) are being disrespected by this silly, stupid, attempted-humorous usage.

          So the Against Spooning Guy somehow becomes emblematic of All That Is Wrong With The Internet Today. Poor bastard.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          semiotic violence

          I’ll try defining it based on an etymologically postmodern de-, then re-, construction: violence is idiotic because it signifies nothing?Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          I think this one drew the attention that it did because it cracked the cultural code of a genre of the Internet the same way Donald Trump cracked the psychological code of a genre of the GOP.Report

  21. Avatar aaron david says:

    Welcome back Jason.Report

  22. Avatar Murali says:

    Welcome back JasonReport

  23. Avatar Alan Scott says:

    Yay. Good to have you back.Report

  24. Avatar Zac says:

    Great post, and glad to see you’ve returned.Report

  25. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I can honestly say that, when I saw the lead in for this post I cheered. I’m very happy that you’ve dropped by and probably a very lousy roommate for cheering while my roomie sleeps in the next room.Report

  26. Avatar Christopher Carr says:

    I think there’s something to be said for a concept analogous to primitive accumulation here.

    Facebook started off as a bunch of elite college students – conversations tended to be about cult films, pirated music, poking fun at the administration, etc. Then it branched out to include all college students, then anybody with a pulse. Now, it’s Walmart.

    Myspace started off as teenagers who were into music. A friend commented to me once that Myspace was about showing people how cool you were, and Facebook was about showing people how smart you were.

    This site – along with our parablogosphere – started off the way it did and was guided by a certain cultural capitalism that has been transformed somewhat over the years by both economies of scale and the replacement of original contributors. Whether true, whether false, or whether just an artifact of my being too busy nowadays to track sites outside this one, I feel like what remains here is in a sense all that remains of that original culture. The Atlantic at least has fundamentally transformed into something that no longer seems relevant, for every thought-provoking article at the Daily Beast, there are at least ten cringe-worthy ones, and I haven’t heard anything from any smaller, amateur sites in a long while.Report

  27. I’m not sure why I’m just now noticing this post, but welcome back, Jason!Report