Son of "No Comment"

A couple of people have come to Quick Study lately via a link at U.S. Intellectual History, where Tim Lacy points to a recent post here and characterizes it as follows: "Scott McLemee reflects on the hazards of online intellectual life in an age where everyone thinks of her/himself as important, as part of the conversation."

This is, to put it one way, a misreading. The issue is not people considering themselves "important" or "part of the conversation." The issue is people acting like assholes.

The distinction here is radical. The normative assholery of comments sections (at least in places with a lot of traffic, unlike either USIH or this blog ) typically involves acting (1) without any self-respect and (2) with no interest in communicative rationality whatsoever, just the making of spiteful noises. I consider these things the exact opposite of "everyone think[ing] of her/himself as important, as part of the conversation."

Of course people do have a right to act like assholes. Furthermore, it is clear that there is no cost or obstacle at all to doing so online. There is no filter, and opportunities to "act out" with no risk, no expense, and no consequence are roughly numerous as drops of water in the ocean.

But that does not mean that it is a medium in which nothing is limited. For attention is scarce. And no serious person is under any obligation to give it away, least of all to people who don't act like even they think they deserve it.

That was the point of what I wrote. It seemed clear enough. But the lesson of my five years or so online is that communication is a utopian thing to expect.
May 7, 2009 11:45 AM | | Comments (3)



Dear Scott,

I'm sorry to have offended. In my world, when people think of themselves as important, as part of (and essential to) every conversation, they're generally being assholes.

I love democracy as much as anyone else. However, we're not all as important as we think we are. My line at USIH was meant to convey something about false pride and appropriate humility. It's also about making an effort when you comment. If you're commenting because you're think you're important but are making no effort to think deeply about what you're adding, you're most likely being an asshole.

Again, Scott, my apologies for any misrepresentation. My link at USIH was meant to direct people to your worthy post. I'll amend my post.



Thanks, Tim. I was just concerned that my post was being taken as some kind of anti-democratic statement, which is not the case.

The idea that there is some intrinsically democratic dynamic taking place when people act out their worst impulses strikes me as a problem -- but this seems to be "default setting" for the ideology of whatever this emerging cultural order is, however you want to name it. ("Really very late capitalism indeed" maybe.)

dearly departed, wasn't it?

Leave a comment

Recent Work

Fidel Castro: My Life 
A review from Newsday
40 Years of "The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual" 
Marking the anniversary of Harold Cruse's great book
Style and Grace 
A review of a book by the late, great Grace Paley from ... sheesh, almost ten years ago.
Oh, Canada 
National identity -- going south?
The LaRouche Tabernacle Choir 
An interview with me about the LaRouche movement, on Pacifica radio in Los Angeles
Open Library 
An interview with Aaron Swartz, one of the developers....
Sailing From Ithaka 
The new report calling for a digital platform for scholarly publishing deserves a wide audience


Battle of the Titans 
Dinesh D'Souza and Alan Wolfe debating? Imagine a slime mold in conflict with a patch of mildew. It's just that inspiring.
To the Tehran Station 
Not about Edmund Wilson
more picks


About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Quick Study published on May 7, 2009 11:45 AM.

Hey Ho, Let's Go was the previous entry in this blog.

When You Come Home is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

AJ Ads

AJ Blogs

AJBlogCentral | rss

About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
On the Record
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds

Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world

Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Modern Art Notes
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.