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James Wolcott: Insults from the "professionals"

Not too long ago, I posted about a personal decision to avoid using insults in my blog:

Would you prefer to have a blog where a lot of people feel at home and welcome, regardless of their points of view, and where they can engage in reasoned debate? Or would you rather be surrounded by "your kind" who congratulate you every time you make a rude comment about somebody else?

I'd prefer the former. The latter sounds cultish and creepy.

There was a pretty healthy debate. There was some finger pointing back and forth about who insulted whom and when, which was a bit disappointing, because my post was forward-looking, about what I wanted my blog to be, not about what had been written in my blog or other blogs in the past.

But I'm just a two-bit blogger. I'm trying to emulate the professional media, right? Maybe not all of them. There are examples in the professional media that are profoundly nasty. Consider this posting by James Wolcott, editor of Vanity Fair, concerning American blogger Captain Ed of Captain's Quarters:

Then compare the BBC'ers with the comments section of, say, this blog. A drop of several rungs on the evolutionary ladder. And check out that picture of "Captain Ed" in the corner.

Doesn't he resemble a kiddie show host you'd rather not have around the kids?

The "evolutionary ladder" bit is borderline -- it could be taken to refer to a level of sophistication or refinement. But the "kiddie show host" comment is terrible. It carries the unmistakable suggestion of molestation. People get sued for less.

Want to hear something ironic? Vanity Fair trumpets itself as "a unique mix of image and intellect". Right. I suppose if it's true, that mix comes despite the editing efforts of Wolcott.

For a moment, though, I'm going to sink to Wolcott's level. Talk about people in glass houses. Frankly, Wolcott is no prize catch:

I could go on, suggesting resemblances. I actually had one ready to go, suggesting a resemblance to an infamous person no one would ever like to be linked to in any manner. I had a picture for comparison, resized and prepped for posting, but I decided not to print it.

Don't bother asking -- I'm not going to tell you what I had come up with.

The problem with insults that target someone's appearance is that they inevitably suggest much more about the person issuing the insult than the target of the insult. About how they think and how they judge people. If you meet a person you know indulges in these kinds of insults, you always wonder what they are thinking of you. We all form opinions of the appearance of others, and sometimes suggestive parallels come unbidden to our minds. The human mind works that way, especially for visual inputs -- pattern-matching in an attempt to make sense of the universe. But that instinctive response is subject to our conditioning as social beings, that is, our upbringing. One of the first things we teach our children is how to censor their speech. A four-year-old who asks loudly "Why is that person so fat?" is quickly and quietly told that it's not nice to say that, and everyone within earshot studiously ignores the innocent faux pas. When a forty-year-old says the same sort of thing...

Well, let's just say I don't expect the Bill Cosby show "Editors of Major American Magazines Who Should Know Better Say the Darndest Things" is going to generate a lot of laughs.

(Ever notice how people like Wolcott don't allow comments on their blogs? True enough, the traffic makes them candidates for spammers, but Captain Ed allows comments, and Michelle Malkin allows trackbacks. But that doesn't mean you can't let him know what you think of his comments by email.

By the way, if you go to Captain's Quarters, you can look high and low, and you won't find a response to Wolcott's obloquy**. And I know Ed has read it. Makes me think that Mr. and Mrs. Morrissey would have had a thing or two to teach Mr. and Mrs. Wolcott about raising the kind of son you could be proud of.

Michelle Malkin puts Wolcott and his kind in their place.

**Ed has posted something, a "Thank you" to Michelle and me. Ed, you're welcome.

Welcome to readers from MichelleMalkin and Captain's Quarters. For Americans who haven't visited Angry in the Great White North, you should know that we're not all DU-liberals up here. If you're interested, check out other posts on my blog, or visit the Blogging Tories -- Captain Ed is our most celebrated member.)

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