I was tired from an extremely long day, and should have explained at the beginning of a comment that I would only shoot Ayn Rand in the head because if I met her, she’d be a zombie:
I would shoot her dead with a .38 before she ever got close. I’m not totally opposed to the idea of taking the offensive with a Remington 300 magnum if I sensed the danger.
See, you assume a lot of things, like that I don’t have a carry license and a collection of weapons. There is no part of my house where I am not in immediate reach of a weapon with which to dispatch the undead.
I am town hall zombie-ready.
So I was going through the comments last night over at Robert Stacey McCain’s place. I probably shouldn’t have; I was tired, and tried to crack wise in clever, factual, and link-rich fashion, as always. This seems a better style than nasty, personal attacks, but humans make errors, and so I did. This is not the first time I have stirred up a website’s comments section; I have found this actually sharpens my writing. And I am writing a lot lately — not all of it for the web. More on that in a minute.
As to what happened: my growing role as check on the emo progressives of the left has brought me attention from the right as well as the left. This is bringing me lots of traffic from the center, as well. A recent post in which I explained my decision to delete all my work from Huffington Post got linked from the blog of one Robert Stacy McCain. Who is Robert Stacy McCain? He’s “the other McCain,” and he’s quite the creature. See also here. I’ve written about him here and here.
Having already left a reply to the post at McCain’s site, I spotted an incoming traffic spike from that URL before going to bed. Clicking, I started taking my notes: Immediate defensive invocation of Ayn Rand. Herman Cain poster in the sidebar. One commenter, multiple comments — how many comments does Joe have, altogether? Let’s take a note.
And so on. This scientific troll-poking draws many of the same reactions in both ‘spheres: immediate sexualizing. Questions of character and integrity. Whereas the firebaggers usually start by accusing me of being some sort of Obama-paid plant, hangers-on in right wing fora generally resort to martial metaphor (a comment’s reference to Ayn Rand “wasting powder” on me led to make my zombie comment). These worlds speak two dialects of the same language.
I should mention that McCain’s commentary on my post expressed a confusion about the term
“Firebagging lefties” — a term derived from FireDogLake, where bashing president and party is de rigueur for proving one’s own “legitimacy” as a progressive/liberal/democratic socialist (the words are only interchangeable among firebaggers and teabaggers). The term implies an equivalency to teabagging, as both groups exist outside the mainstream, relish their supposed independence at the fringe, and undermine their own best interests in the process. Convinced they are pulling an “Overton Window” in their preferred direction, teabaggers and firebaggers have more in common than they admit and flirt with each others’ candidates (e.g., the Ron Paul fans at FDL).
That’s the reply that seemed to bring the traffic spike. See what I mean about sharpening things?
If you want to see the post and comments for yourself, click here. Take notes, and pay special attention to my lame attempt at zombie humor. Some observers mistook it for eliminationism. I corrected the comment (yay, Disqus!), but I hold myself to a higher standard than that. Worst blogger!
I do want to thank my friends on Twitter. It is good to have buddies who keep you in line. However, also I understand why Greenwald and Hamsher develop a taste for this particular form of intellectual violence. I’m pretty sick of it at this point, and wretchedly tired of studying it.
In fact, this episode has convinced me that it’s as good a time as any to reduce the blogging here a bit, for a bit. I’m wrapping up the Goat Hill project and taking on a video project in West Virginia before Netroots, so it’s time to rest and write for pleasure. There’s a reason why soldiers get thirty days of leave a year — and I have a jump to print in mind.
See, I not only made an ass of myself but I’ve forced myself to blow the cover on my new project. All this troll-poking is actually (yes!) research. Sooner or later, political science needs data points. A monograph is in the works.
As for McCain, I make no apologies for poking trolls in his comments, and I’m sure he enjoys the traffic. I know I have. And that is one more thing that makes the internet such a bizarrely warping place to work. Why do you think Bob Cesca needs a vacation from it every few months?
ADDING: I’ve corresponded with McCain today by email. He seems a fairly nice fellow, one-on-one, though of course I disagree vehemently with him on practically all political points. But I’d like to take this moment to acknowledge his basic humanity. We forget that sometimes in this rhetorical business, particularly when culture wars heat up.