June 29, 2006

Kind of behaviour to expect

June 22: Journalist A, whom I have a lot of respect for, writes a piece that I find interesting. I link to it with an approving few words.

Blogger F reads journalist A's piece and also finds it interesting. In fact, blogger F takes the time that evening to leave this comment about the piece:
    Interesting. To tie in to your two part classification of the purpose of armies (protect or conquer), notice that you still do need an army for defense, and sure enough, women have often played an important role in resistance forces throughout history.

    Oh, and if we are talking about women on the warpath, can we please talk about the Amazons and their historic origins:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazons

    All these Scythians and Minoans. Hardly the kind of behaviour you would expect from weak, non-aggressive women don’t you think?
(Here).

What you might call a generally positive comment on A's piece, right?

Cut to five days later, June 27. Blogger G is annoyed both by A's post and my approval of it. He writes a piece critical of it and us. A slew of comments there, many apparently convinced that I've got my come-uppance and my lessons in logic and so forth.

Which may be.

But in that slew of comments, there are these lines at different places:
    The way I saw it (the way I still see it) [A]’s post was simply a rant ...

    I do think that the statements [of A's] quoted here are over the top ...

    [R]ants like these do more harm than good to the feminist cause ...

    [Nothing excuses] the discriminatory statements she’s making.

    [B]ecause she chooses to deal in stereotypes she undermines her own credibility.

    [I]t was a blatantly biased post. No, it was not journalism.

And who wrote these lines over at G's site?

Answer: Blogger F.

The same blogger F who is so generally positive about A's piece on her site.

To be fair, blogger F also tries hard, very hard, to point to positive things in A's piece, over at G's site.

But why did the opposite not happen? If blogger F had these extremely critical thoughts about A and her post, why did F not say them in this strong language at A's site on June 22, when F left that generally approving comment? (Why did blogger F not simply say to A in his comment, "The way I see it, this is just a rant"?) Why did blogger F wait five days to realize these crummy things about A's post, and tell the world about them at blogger G's site?

No: this piece blogger F found so interesting is suddenly being torn to pieces by blogger F's friends. Blogger F runs over there and pours out the strong language.

Blogger G says nothing remotely critical of blogger F.

The pillars of the blog world. From where I stand, somewhat crumbly.

***

Postscript: When I first put this piece up, I was wrong in attributing motives to both F and G. There's no excuse for that and I apologize to F and G for doing so. I have removed that attribution. (See comments).

39 comments:

confused said...

Fair enough! But in Falstaff's defense I must point out that he has chosen to criticize Annie's post and mentioned that the specific passages cannot be defended on any basis. You have chosen not to do so and harped on on a flawed definiton of journalism as something which provokes even if it makes people ask the wrong questions. As Nitin asked you, when have you linked to a post which you do not approve of as an example of fine journalism?

If you feel the commentators have been unfair to you, and I agree some of them have been over the top, you do share a large part of the blame for it. I believe both Falstaff and you interpreted Annie's piece wrongly, one has chosen to acknowldge it, the other has not. That might explain why people have criticized your take more.

best

And with comment moderation why do you need this word verification? Why so much torture for your commentators? :)

MadHat said...

hmm..
Someone looks mad.
:)

GREATBONG said...

Dear Dilip,

I came to this post following a comment with the link on my blog.

If you think that F's position at A's blog and at mine are mutually contradictory, you are well within your rights to point it out.

Blogger G, perhaps just as anxious to be seen to be agreeing with blogger F, says nothing remotely critical of blogger G.


But this is simply over the top. Now you are attaching motives. If you recall, nowhere in our debate have I *ever* attributed any motives as to why you are being partial to A. I still maintain you are but as to WHY you are, I have desisted in making any conjecture.

Why?

Because if I do, it ceases to be debate and becomes a "personal attack".

However you have shown no such reticence in personally attacking both F and me.

Neither does F, an erudite blogger himself, needs to suck up to me and neither I to him.

And I congratulate you for your braveness for putting comment moderation in place---the pillars of blogdom are indeed crumbling.

Abhijit Nath said...

You have somehow managed to destroy the respect I had for your views & work in general and books in particular with this juvenile, whiney post that serves to do nothing but undermine your maturity.
Incredibly disappointed,
Abhijit

GREATBONG said...

You wrote:

Blogger G, perhaps just as anxious to be seen to be agreeing with blogger F, says nothing remotely critical of blogger G


Don't you mean Blogger F i.e. "remotely critical of Blogger F"?

Please, let's not mix our F-s and G-s.

Dilip D'Souza said...

confused: I'll say this one time more. When I link to something, I feel no need at all to say "these XYZ parts of it I like, these PQR parts I don't like." I leave you to either like it or not like it for yourself. (I mean, this seems sort of obvious and natural to me). I maintained that all through the discussion on that other site. If people didn't like Annie's post, I'm completely fine with that.

As for Nitin's asking me to link to a post that I don't approve of, I don't take tests like that. Period. If that makes Nitin or you draw conclusions, I'm completely fine with that too.

You're welcome to think it's a flawed definition, but it's the way I see journalism. The only reason it came up was that the whole debate began with a question about why I saw Annie as a fine journalist. To repeat: she makes people think, she does it consistently. I've seen the kind of stuff she does, now for several years.

I have no doubt that I share the blame for what commenters say about me. I'm not complaining about it, nor shying away from it.

This post is here because I tried to post it at GB's site, but got a message saying my comment was in moderation.

I will also admit, I was frustrated at what I saw as utter double standards regarding F's reaction to this whole thing and mine. It's not often that I give in to such frustration, and I'm not proud that I did, this time, but that's the truth.

GreatB: Comment moderation has been in place for several days now. I have held up a total of five comments on previous posts (because they were abusive) plus one on this post, on request.

It's true, I did ascribe motives to you and F, and that is both over the top and something I don't usually do. I am sorry for that and I will remove that ascribing of motives just as soon as I finish this comment. I will also fix the spelling error, thanks for pointing that out.

I do remain baffled about why F gets away (in your eyes) with what seems to me inconsistent stuff.

Abhijit: What do I say. Sometimes I feel whiny. This was one such time.

Dilip D'Souza said...

confused: I forgot, what "interpretation" and "acknowledgement" might you be speaking of?

All I've ever said about Annie's piece is "There are many reasons Annie Z is a fine journalist. Here’s one more"; and variations on "I like some parts of it. I don't like others." Where's the interpretation that is wrong, that I have not acknowledged?

It seems to me that all you are saying is: You liked this piece that I didn't. And it's wrong for you to have liked it.

You're welcome to dislike the piece. May I have the freedom to like it?

For that matter, what "interpretation" of A's piece has Falstaff done that he has "acknowledged" is "wrong"? I don't see any repudiation of what he wrote as a comment on her site. (And good for him that he didn't make any such repudiation).

confused said...

Dilip,

No, you are most welcome to like or dislike any piece. In fact Gaurav Sabnis on GB's comment space has largely agreed with Annie, so have Apurva and Patrix. Of course even if no one else had liked the post, you still would have been well within your rights to like it.

What a lot of people find it hard to believe that you have defined journalism solely as raising questions. Now that is your definition and you are free to adopt it but by that yardstick, why is Shravan not a fine a journalist? Why have not you linked to his piece thus? Generally when people link to something they usually qualify what they feel about it, it remains especially true if they don't like it. But then you are free again to your own version of linking, as a reader I would keep that in mind in future.

About I meant by interpreting it wrong was : Looking at your and Falstaff comments at GB's blog, it seemed to me and a lot of people that perhaps you had not looked at the piece in full or such... Falstaff has clearly said that he does not aprrove of the bits GB quoted while he still thinks other parts of Annie's piece made sense. You have chosen not to clarify what exactly you agree with in Annie's piece and what you do not.

Anyway, enough has been said, now lets move on. :)

Neela said...

D: Ok you can leave this on as a comment (in response to my previous request to remove my comment- thank you for honoring it).

So now that I've spent the afternoon doing all the delicious detective work all this A and G and F required, I have succumbed to the sunk-cost fallacy and am posting a comment.

First, I think you did a commendable job on GB's site defending Annie's reputation as a journalist. Good show! In this context, although I didn't quite agree with your assessment of Shivam Vij's courage or writing, I also think its great you took the trouble to write a post defending him.

Second, while I disliked this particular piece more than I liked it (it required some serious editing and I find it hard to be moved by Annie's over-emotional pieces) I do think that Annie has written some fine journalistic pieces (for example, the one of the man who lost his arms and legs countering his daughters rapists).

Third, I am really surprised you saw Falstaff's comments both on Annie's site and GreatBongs as inconsistent. I saw them as perfectly consistent actually - he called Annie's post "interesting" which is hardly effusive. In the 500 word essays he posted on GB's site I do think he's merely expanded on this definition, and has been fairly objective - acknowledging both the merits and demerits of the post, even going so far as to defend his "although I think its excessive, she is justified" stance in response to some Muslim-Hindu analogy. In fact, on that post, he is one ofthe saner commenting voices around, though falstaff, if you are lurking around, can you use words of less than five syllables, please?

Fourth, I really wish you hadn't attributed any motives to either GB or to Falstaff in this post but I guess you have taken care of it there.

Fifth, I do wish you would simply use everyone's names when you write these delicious pieces - otherwise it sounds like Neeta's Natter but more importantly it makes it easier for gossips like us to find out the true story!

And finally, Greatbong: if you are listening, kudos to the brilliantly polite way you countered D's misattribution of motives. We don't see such polite requests/comments in the blogosphere very often. And er.. can we have of those lovely Prabhuji posts back on?

Regards

Neela

Dilip D'Souza said...

confused, your request to move on noted, though let's at least clear up some stuff.

What a lot of people find it hard to believe that you have defined journalism solely as raising questions.

Have I? What I wrote in my first comment was this: Journalism must serve to make people think. (What was it that somebody said? “Journalism must comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”). The best journalists stir you up, give you provocative things to think about, etc. ... It’s Annie’s ability to do that consistently that makes her a journalist I respect.

How does all this get reduced to "solely as raising questions"?

it seemed to me and a lot of people that perhaps you had not looked at the piece in full.

Why? If you didn't care for an essay, why do you assume that someone who has a different opinion about it has necessarily not read it in full?

You have chosen not to clarify what exactly you agree with in Annie's piece and what you do not.

You're right. Why should I clarify? I'm just saying to you (or whoever reads me): here's something you might find interesting. If you don't, please feel free to toss it.

Neela, I'm actually not particularly bothered by Falstaff's reactions to Annie's piece. As I sort of indicate above, I am glad he did not repudiate his initial opinion of it. He is indeed one of the saner voices there.

What got to me -- I have to admit -- is this: he essentially says "I think some of her piece makes sense, some doesn't", and that seems fine. (As it should be). I say the same thing, more than once, but GB and others seem unwilling to grant me the same consideration. Why would that be, I wonder?

Yes, perhaps I should use the real names. Next time. Though I heartily hope there will not be a next time.

GREATBONG said...

DilipD:

Now here's my side of the story.

Falstaff's comment on AZ's piece is a remark on a particular portion of AZ's post (a portion I presume that forms part of what you liked). Note he uses the word "Interesting" for the whole post rather than "Fine" or "Good".

Falstaff's comment is a remark--neither backslapping nor condemnation.

You on the other hand, did not call AZ's post "interesting". Something can be called "interesting" in many ways---even a post reeking with chauvinism may be dubbed "interesting".

Instead you praised AZ's post, with not even a disclaimer,---which I hope you realize is a lot different semantically from calling something "interesting".

Again my problem is this unqualified label of "fine journalism"---considering the presence of those glaring lines of chauvinism in that post of Annie's.

Thank you for removing the attribution of motives.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Fine, GB. Like I said, whatever. To me, this was not Rajiv Gandhi, not Modi. The comparison itself seemed bizarre to me. But I realize, we're not going to see eye to eye on this, ever. I'm thoroughly sick of this debate.

You're welcome, re: the removal.

MadHat said...

oh! for f***'s sake, don't start this 'fine piece of journalism' debate thing. It did not go anywhere after nearly 200 comments and nor is it likely to.

GREATBONG said...

Dilip,

I was not debating here (I did that on my blog). This comment was merely to explain the difference between my reaction to you and my reaction to Falstaff ("Fine" vs "Interesting")---a difference *you* asked me to explain.

I do remain baffled about why F gets away (in your eyes) with what seems to me inconsistent stuff.


I would not have needed to make my last comment and make you even more sick of the whole thing than you already are, if you had not been so baffled.

Gamesmaster G9 said...

Do you realise Dilip, that a mere juggling of words in one post would make everyone happy.

Instead of saying - There are many reasons Annie Z is a fine journalist. Here's one more.

If you had said - Annie Z is a fine journalist. Here's one more of her posts.

or even - Here's a post by Annie Z, a fine journalist.

I think you would have saved yourself a great deal of well-deserved flak.

Dilip D'Souza said...

G9: do give it a thought, why would I want to "make everyone happy"?

I said it as I did. I stand by the words I used. Flak, well-deserved though it might be, is hardly going to change my mind or make me want to make everyone happy.

Niket said...

Interesting discussion.

I find myself more in agreement with "F" than you, in spite of his inconsistant stance. The reason is that I don't know where you stand. On whether you agree or disagree with the specific part of what Annie wrote.

It doesn't matter whether you agree or disagree with Annie. What perhaps matters is to understand where one stands on Feminism. You perhaps feel Annie's statements consistent with your idea of feminism; some others feel Annies comments to be chauvinistic.

On the other hand, F might have changed his stance (why that would be a big deal, I don't know). But one thing consistent was he felt the comment to be chauvinistic. He seemed willing to accept "FCP" initially (rationalizing with patriarchy, etc) and not later.

Perhaps that is how I read this discussion... and I may be totally off the base here.

(Will post at GreatBong's as well)

Anonymous said...

You are pathetically sick otherwise how you can write to GB in the comment space of GB’s blog ‘You attributed a quote to me that I didn’t make, and apologized. I attributed motives to you (and Falstaff) that you didn’t have, and I apologized.’ So in your book of fairness and ethics a misquote and an insinuation are of same magnitude? I have nothing to say. Hope you don’t preach that type of fairness and ethics to your son and daughter. At least show me your guts and dont block my comment.

Anonymous said...

Completely out of place, but I found this hilarious link on onion.

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/38758

Nitin said...

Dear Dilip,

As for Nitin's asking me to link to a post that I don't approve of, I don't take tests like that. Period. If that makes Nitin or you draw conclusions, I'm completely fine with that too.

Just to set the record straight: I didn't ask you to link to a post that you didn't approve of. I asked you to cite one of your previous posts where you have praised an article you didn't approve of.

But I fully support your right to take or not to take the test. And I appreciate your supporting the right of your readers to draw their own conclusions as a result. Thank you.

TTG said...

There are many reasons TTG is a fine journalist. Here’s one more.

When I link to something, I feel no need at all to say “these XYZ parts of it I like, these PQR parts I don’t like.” I leave you to either like it or not like it for yourself. (I mean, this seems sort of obvious and natural to me). If people didn’t like TTG’s post, I’m completely fine with that.

You’re welcome to think it’s a flawed definition, but it’s the way I see journalism.To repeat: He makes people think, He does it consistently. I’ve seen the kind of stuff he does, now for several years.

Please do not ascribe motives behind why TTG wrote this post. That would be a personal attack. And besides, one possible motive could be that he just wanted to increase your comment count….

Akash said...

@Dilip: I’m also disappointed to see that you bogged yourself down in the cesspool of the weblog owned by the one whom you referred to as G. I really did not expect that from someone like you who wrote numerous mature and erudite pieces before. OK. I don’t want go into this mockery of a debate because what was going on, on G’s blogspot is nothing but a rant fest and blasting of ad hominem arguments, right from the beginning, which sadly I was following back and forth and essentially was much amused and entertained.

If one sees G’s post, it does not go unnoticed that it is just full of rants (in fact that is what people tend to do to grab some cheap attention by slinging mud to relatively well-known writers), first against Annie’s, then against the positive reaction by the audience to her post because he was clearly envious of that. I don’t understand what the reason would be other than jealousy that one would complain against the positive audience reaction to Annie’s post. Well, one is free to disagree with someone on some points in a healthy debate, but any self-respecting writer should also respect the spontaneous eulogy showered on other’s writings too by the audience. I don’t think he has anything constructive to say rather than ranting and venting ill-feelings about others. I find it really ridiculous, regardless of whether I agree with the post or not, that a writer chooses his topic to criticize why someone else wrote so and so and why she got spontaneous positive reaction from others. Writer with such a negative frame of mind. Huh.

And when G says about comment moderation breaking the pillars of blogdom, I can’t resist smiling secretly. Pot calling the kettle black. In one of his previous posts, he singled me out and debarred me from posting comments because I caught him with his pants down that many of his sycophants commenting on his space are he himself, like yourfan, yourfan2 et al. are just different reincarnations of his (no self-respecting commentators can assume names of such low tastes) ; surprisingly, in this hot debate they disappeared into thin air only to enter at the end, perhaps because G’s too busy writing long posts in his original self and does not have time to take breath. A shameless display of dishonesty, self-indulgence and ego-massaging.

By the way, leaving aside all the "controversial" points about equality of genders of Annie's post, the way Annie brought out some miserable conditions, a large section of Indian women live in, is truly commendable. This is the reason I agree that it is undoubtedly fine journalism by Annie. I look for positive stuffs in a piece. It is disgraceful to remain blind about the positive part of a work and attempt to create noise over something you don't like in order to make your presence felt by crying hoarse. I’m sick and tired of large number of rant/hate posts in the blogspace which may be rhetorically productive for instantaneous impact but at the end of the day delivers a blank. G’s weblog is just one of them. Take my word. It is unfortunate to see you trapped in it. Thanks.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Yup Nitin, that's what you asked me. Thanks for the clarification. I still don't take that kind of test. I don't ask it of others.

Whatever I write must speak for itself and me in whatever way, regardless of any tests. (Which applies to you too). You're welcome to draw whatever conclusions you'd like to draw.

Niket: what I agree with or not, or what my position on feminism is, is utterly irrelevant. The first comment I made, may I repeat, was this: Journalism must serve to make people think. (What was it that somebody said? “Journalism must comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”). The best journalists stir you up, give you provocative things to think about, etc. ... It’s Annie’s ability to do that consistently that makes her a journalist I respect.

I said that regarding the question that had been raised about why I called Annie a "fine journalist". I am unable to see why my position on feminism is relevant. When it is relevant, I'll be happy to expound on it (such as it is).

Akash, please do not use language here like "dishonesty, self-indulgence and ego-massaging", "caught him with his pants down", (etc) about GB, or anyone else but me.

That kind of attack is unacceptable. Thank you.

MadHat said...

@Akash:

I find it really ridiculous, regardless of whether I agree with the post or not, that a writer chooses his topic to criticize why someone else wrote so and so and why she got spontaneous positive reaction from others. Writer with such a negative frame of mind. Huh.

Bang on target there.

I thought that was bash-fest going on there with people with one frame of mind ganging up on a few sentences written in a long post by Annie.

Initially, I failed to understand why those statements were being taken literally, as if Annie truly thinks such thoughts. When clearly, as can be seen by the rest of the post and by the rest of her writings on the same blog, she does not.

I realised that this was just an excuse to dismiss her views completely.

Dilip D'Souza said...

MadHat: I realised that this was just an excuse to dismiss her views completely.

This I agree with.

MadHat said...

@Dilip: Maybe I am wrong about Annie. Maybe she is a female chauvinist. But I will still refuse to feed the trolls simply because she writes some really thought provoking articles, which I consider to be a rare gift.

Anonymous said...

I am the one who wrote in your comment section “On June 30, 2006 2:15 AM, Anonymous wrote: You are pathetically sick otherwise how you can write to GB in the comment space of GB’s blog ‘You attributed a quote to me that I didn’t make, and apologized. I attributed motives to you (and Falstaff) that you didn’t have, and I apologized.’ So in your book of fairness and ethics a misquote and an insinuation are of same magnitude? I have nothing to say. Hope you don’t preach that type of fairness and ethics to your son and daughter. At least show me your guts and don’t block my comment.”

At that time you did not put up the postscript – at least I did not get to see it. But now as I have, that is what is called an unconditional apology. It takes a lot of character to admit fault. I admire you now although I don’t understand your logical explanations simply because you did not give any. But that is beside the point. My question to you is why didn’t you put the same lines in GB’s post then you would have gained many admirers over there.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Thank you Anonymous 215am/108pm. I didn't think of putting the postscript on GB's site because it belongs here, next to what it refers to.

Besides, I didn't really apologize because I would get admirers. I made a mistake, I felt I had to make amends. That's all.

Madhat, I'm wondering if you misunderstood my "This I agree with". I meant I agree with you about the "excuse to dismiss her views completely."

Akash said...

The elements of a post that I appreciate are the humanism, the humanitarianism. The purpose of writing is not to show your conceit, egotism, arrogance by finding fault with others, wrest cheers from a fake flattering cabal and therefore, derive immense self-pleasure. Rather, it is important to see whether a piece is able to promote a humanistic cause or not. From the bottom my heart, I was immensely touched when Annie brought forward the subject of inhuman conditions of slum dwelling women, the rigors of carrying water in the deserted land of Rajasthan, the unhygienic climate in which many women had to work, live and also give birth to children and so on. Frankly, the matter of equality of genders or many other feminist issues simply became very insignificant against the compassion and kindness she showed for the plights of a section of women.
Now, when you see that a cabal of people join hands to pat each others back, massage each others ego by downplaying someone’s true efforts, the only word the comes off your mouth is “shameless” (read spineless). What G and his bootlicking cohorts tried to do is to attack a straw man, not the central issues of the post – a heinous crime for a critic.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Fair enough Akash, I appreciate what you say about writing and agree with it. Those are some of the reasons I admire Annie's writing too, and have done so for a while now.

I'm not happy about the abuse, that's all.

confused said...

Dilip,

Just to clarify, I was not asking you take any tests. I was just pointing out that your present stand is inconsistent with your past linking. That is all.

A commentator who shall go unnamed here: I am not sure why Annie thinks that those who are trapped in their men's body(sic) cannot empathize with the woman who have to walk 20 kms to fetch their water. Perhaps the said commentator could expand on how a man's body and such thoughts are incompatiable.

MadHat said...

@Dilip: hmm... I took that to mean that that is the only assertion that you agree with. Is that not the case? :)

MadHat said...

@confused:

I am not sure why Annie thinks that those who are trapped in their men's body(sic) cannot empathize with the woman who have to walk 20 kms to fetch their water.

Comments count -

1. On how Annie's post is bad, bad, bad - 250 +
2. On women's struggles in this cruel land - 2 (Akash's)

now, do we really have an argument?

Dilip D'Souza said...

Madhat: By no means is that the only statement of yours that I agree with! Just wanted to emphasize that one, is all.

confused: There are the obvious questions: What is my "present stand" (and therefore what is my "past stand"), how is it "inconsistent" with what "linking"? Besides, I don't see answers to my previous questions to you. So I conclude: I'm too tired for this stuff.

MadHat said...

@Dilip: thank you for the clarification.

confused said...

Madhat,

I have written enough on the woman's struggle in this cruel land so you jab is uncalled for. I also need no lessons from the said commentator.

We were discussing a specific issue which was Annie's post, put up a post on how woman's condition is bad and atleast I would be happy to contribute. That by no means I should be condoning Annie's post just to prove I am concerned about woman's issue. The said commentator has some personal grouse with GB and that accounts for his newly discovered love for woman.

@Dilip,

Well, I don;t want to get into taking and not taking test again so lets leave it like that. I just wanted to clarify something. That is all.

Dilip D'Souza said...

What did you clarify, confused? I'm confused.

MadHat said...

@confused:

I have written enough on the woman's struggle in this cruel land so you jab is uncalled for.

Really? Did take a pot shot at you? I thought I was answering to a particular question that is italised in my comment.

You took it personal and became defensive. Call it Freudian, if you like, but that is what happened, didn't it?

Anonymous said...

Well Dilip,

On consistency, what do you have to say about somebody who initially compared singing/not singing the national song to stuff like mangoes / peacocks, talked merely about "laughing noises" and then switched a few days later to "would jews read Mein Kampf?" etc.

Quite a dramatic shift in tone dont you think?

Does this person pass the test? He doesnt take tests, apparently not even his own.

regards,
Jai Shanker