Patterico's Pontifications


Jeff Goldstein’s Fraudulent Application of His Views on Language

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:19 am

I wrote this yesterday as a supplement to a post, but it deserves to be posted in its own right. So I’m republishing it as a front-page post, slightly modified for clarity.

Most of you won’t read it because it’s long. That’s why I am giving you this handy summary:

Jeff Goldstein applies a selective view of language. If he likes you, he goes with your interpretation of your words. If he doesn’t, he substitutes his own.

The End.

My full argument makes the case at greater length. Here’s the whole thing:

The fundamental premise of Goldstein’s attacks on my view of language is that he falsely ascribes to me a philosophy that gives the listener the power to define the intent of the speaker.

He likes to go on and on about how I don’t understand his theories, etc. This is all false. Then, when I show in a particular example that I do indeed understand precisely what he is saying, he accuses me of changing my position, by using language like: “you now concede” or some such. It’s a neat trick, as it implies that my EARLIER view was really that the listener gets to determine intent, but now I have “backtracked” or “shifted” or some such. And because Goldstein has gotten many people to believe that I give the listener power to seize intent, many are fooled.

But it’s all based on a campaign of distortion of my views.

I have said many times that I believe Jeff and I agree on the basic principles, though he loves to claim otherwise. The closest I have ever come to setting out a comprehensive statement of my views on language is in this post:

1) Interpreters should try to divine the speaker’s true intent.

2) Intent is whatever the speaker meant.

3) The speaker is not necessarily the most reliable interpreter of his own words.

4) It is perfectly justifiable to tailor one’s presentation to suit the audience.

5) If you fail to communicate your position to the audience because you failed to signal your intent properly, you should clarify.

6) Speakers have no responsibility to self-censor to prevent unreasonable and bad faith misinterpretations of their words.

Despite the bolded statement above, Goldstein has managed to convince many of you that I espouse a view of language that puts all the authority in the hands of the listener. I do not. I never have.

So how has he convinced you of that?

Easy. Goldstein and I both agree with point #3 above: “The speaker is not necessarily the most reliable interpreter of his own words.” There is a distinction between INTENT and INTERPRETATION that most people miss in these discussions. And when I talk about my INTERPRETATIONS of language, he pretends that I am substituting my INTENT. Presto-change-o, I am substituting my intent for the speaker’s — even though I never say I am doing that.

Here’s his view of language — and yes, I understand it fine, because it’s not complicated. I’m going to put it in regular English rather than linguistic-speak, but this is still the essence of it.

The speaker’s intent determines the meaning of his words. The intent is what gives the words meaning when they are spoken.

However, once the words are spoken, their meaning is fixed according to that intent — and all we can do at that point is interpret, which means to try to figure out what the intent really was. To do this, you don’t necessarily just accept the author’s INTERPRETATION of what his INTENT was. Because he could be lying or mistaken.

This last point leads us to a very important point: the listener may end up having the best interpretation of the speaker’s words. This is so, as long as that listener is arriving at his interpretation by appealing to the speaker’s intent. If the listener’s argument as to the speaker’s meaning is better than the speaker’s, using all relevant context and other information, then the listener’s interpretation can be the best. (Some might say the most reasonable, which in this context is just a synonym for “best” — as long as the interpretation appeals to the speaker’s intent, which I understand it must.)

Now, let’s say that someone is arguing that his interpretation is better than the speaker’s. This listener can make that argument, consistent with all of the above. But the listener is not always going to preface his argument with a lot of harrumphing and recapping and caveats about how, when he sets forth his interpretation, he is appealing to the author’s intent, but there is this thing called the authorial fallacy, and the speaker may not be the best interpreter of his own words, and so please keep all that in mind when you hear my interpretation, which is as follows . . . blah blah blah.

No. The listener will simply say something like: “This is what that statement means” or “This is what the statement sounds like to me” or “This is what the speaker was really saying” or “This is how I interpret that statement.”

Now all of those phrases, spoken by someone who, like me, understands that words mean what the speaker intended, mean: “This is my interpretation of the speaker’s intent.” But in casual conversation — if the interpreter forgot to explicitly repeat the caveats — those phrases can SOUND LIKE the listener is placing HIS REACTION to the words above the SPEAKER’S INTENT.

In fact, the listener is not. He is merely saying that he is getting ready to set forth his interpretation, which he thinks is the best one — i.e. the interpretation that most faithfully reflects the speaker’s intent.

Now, I understand all of the above. But Goldstein maintains that I do not. Whether he really believes it or not, I don’t know. But either way, it gives him a hell of a rhetorical cudgel to use against me — because any time I say something like one of the above phrases, he will seize upon it as an example of my giving primacy to my own intent rather than that of the speaker.

But I’m not. I’m just saying: “this is my interpretation.” Yet I may express the concept in one of the colloquial ways set forth above.

Let’s move to a particular example. When Goldstein wrote:

Frey called McCain a racist . . .

Here is the full context of what he said:

Now, leaving aside the audacity it takes to do a series of public posts speculating on someone’s “racism” before eventually claiming you don’t know if he’s racist or not (I mean, who can POSSIBLY be hurt by such a thing, right?), the fact of the matter is, Frey called McCain a racist the moment he said that “it still sounds like racism to me.”

He was referring to a statement of mine in which I said:

“You can put as much context around that as you like. It still sounds like racism to me”.

Now, this was was a casual way of saying I had considered McCain’s context and did not see it as undercutting the racism of the statement that is plain on its face. This was clear to anyone who read the post, and I was careful to give McCain’s full context. Similarly, when I said:

“It still sounds like racism to me”.

That was shorthand for: “my interpretation of the statement is that it was a statement animated by racist thought.” (Given that I have never argued that the listener’s intent substitutes for the speaker’s, and that I have said more than once that it does not, it is unfair to rip this statement from its context and call it an attempt to substitute the listener’s intent for the speaker’s. I have even explained this since, in my post quoting Beldar: “For a statement to be racist, it does have to be the product of racist thought.”)

Note that I don’t say it’s shorthand for “my interpretation of the statement is that it was a statement made with racist intent.” I could say that — as long as I made clear that I am here using the word “intent” only in the linguistic sense that Goldstein uses the word. If I don’t, then by saying “racist intent” I will be signaling to most readers that the “intent” at issue is conscious. And it needn’t be. For the statement to be racist, it can be made with subconsciously racist thoughts. As I explained in my post quoting Beldar, when you say that racism must be “intended,” that mode of communication says to most people that you’re talking about conscious intent. Unless you explain it.

Oh — there I go again talking about the reaction of most people. So let me once again include the caveats and the harrumphing, since Goldstein seized on THAT TOO as evidence of my desire to substitute my intent for that of the speaker. WHAT I AM ARGUING is that, if you intend to argue only that racism must be animated by racist thought, which might be conscious or unconscious, then you signal your intent poorly if you merely say that the racism must be “intended” — unless you specifically make clear that your definition of “intended” is the linguistic definition, and encompasses subconscious thought as well.

If you say one must “intend” racism to be racist, but don’t make clear that your definition includes subconscious thought, then you will create a disconnect between the way you signal your intent, and the way that your intent will likely be interpreted by a large body of readers unfamiliar with your personal definition. When most people hear “a racist must intend racism” they will reject that, because it sounds to a listener (even an intentionalist listener) like the speaker must consciously intend to be interpreted as racist. And a racist need not intend that.

On March 14, 2009, I explained much of my views on language in a post titled “What Words Mean”:

Communication is a two-way street. Listeners must try to divine the true intent of the speaker. Speakers must clearly communicate their intent if they wish to be understood.

Speech always must interpret speech. If speech is unclear, people often disagree on the correct interpretation. Some interpretations are reasonable and made in good faith, and some aren’t. When they aren’t, speakers and other listeners should tell the world why they aren’t.

When multiple interpretations are reasonable, we should favor the most reasonable interpretation offered by a reasonable listener honestly attempting to divine the speaker’s true intent. Ideally the listener will be armed with all necessary context, including (but not limited to) the author’s expression of his own intent.

I have stated this in the past in a more shorthand way: “Words should be interpreted the way a reasonable person would interpret them.” But that formulation is subject to misinterpretation, as it could be read to suggest that the speaker’s true intent is whatever a reasonable listener would divine it to be. The thing that I have learned from the intentionalists is that this is not so: words mean what the speaker intended, nothing more, nothing less. But when it comes to interpretation — when there are multiple reasonable interpretations of the speaker’s true intent — we have to decide which to favor.

The fact is that we don’t always do all this harrumphing and explaining. But I fully explained this back in March — that I understand that an interpreter must interpret by appealing to the author’s intent.

Goldstein even showed up in comments to that March post, to acknowledge this:

Yes, Pat, I agree that you’ve gotten to the point where you now understand that intent is central to meaning — and that an appeal to intent is required for any procedure wishing to call itself interpretation.

(Note how the phrasing that suggests I am backtracking — which is what he ALWAYS does when I take on the subject at length and show I do understand the concept. Also, he proceeded to pick at one isolated phrase that I had already fully explained in the post, and pretend that I hadn’t explained it, because he always has to be right, regardless of logic and objective truth.)

So Goldstein knows I understand all this — yet he continues to argue that I don’t. And it’s VERY EASY to take a listener’s statement setting forth his interpretation of a text, and scream that the listener is substituting his intent for the speaker’s. As long as the interpreter doesn’t include the caveat “I am of course trying to divine the speaker’s intent with this interpretation” then a pedant like Goldstein can come along and accuse the interpreter of overlooking that requirement. But I have explained until my typing fingers are raw that I don’t believe in substituting the listener’s intent for that of the speaker. I just believe that the listener’s interpretation might be better.

So why, when I have stated this clearly before, does Jeff Goldstein continue to assert that I believe in substituting a listener’s intent for that of the speaker?

He will say it is because I continually show I don’t understand his argument. But the truth is, I do, and I just don’t include the little caveats all the time — nor does ANYONE. That does not make it defensible for him to ignore my history of acknowledging that we must appeal to the author’s intent.

Oh: and since people keep asking: what was my motive in all this? It is what I always do: call out bad arguments where I find them. I called out Ebonie Johnson Cooper, a black woman, for a racist comment opposing interracial marriage, and saying she might not have voted for Barack Obama had he married a white woman. And I saw a similarity between that and McCain’s verbiage, and decided to call him out — because I don’t call out only one side. And I found proof that he had said the quote — coupled with weaselly statements he had made implying he hadn’t — and I thought that was interesting and worth addressing. I didn’t hold a gun to his head and make him say the racist quote above. I think it was worth discussing.

To specifically answer Goldstein’s passage here:

If what Patterico is arguing here is that he is not calling RS McCain a racist now, but that at one time RS McCain must have been a racist, having written something that is, in Patterico’s estimation, racist (and so intended as such), then we don’t really have an intellectual quarrel, save for Patterico’s refusal to square the circle: he believes McCain was a racist, as evidenced by his having made racist statements (the logic being that you would not believe a statement racist unless it sprung from racist intent, which is what properly describes racism to begin with). So if he no longer believes him to be a racist, why spend several posts going over and over McCain’s “racist” past?

Well, as I have explained, I don’t know that he is not a racist, so right there Goldstein is loading the dice by imputing to me a sentiment I never expressed.

Also, I cannot say that he at one time was “a racist” simply because at one time he made a racist comment. As I have explained at length.

So: we have a guy who may or may not be a racist now, and may or may not have been a racist back in the day, but who said something 13 years ago that I believe was racist. That alone would not be enough to write about. But when another prominent blogger raises the issue as part of a larger (and perhaps unfair in part) campaign, and the speaker of those words WEASELS about whether he said them, then it’s a live controversy. And yes, I’m writing about it now and not two months ago because a) Ebonie’s comment reminded me of it, and b) I finally found the proof that McCain had admitted the quote to Founding Bloggers.

So there’s your explanation, Jeff and Joy, and I had already given it several times before.

To me, that’s not the issue. The issue is language — and how Goldstein distorts my views of it.

42 Responses to “Jeff Goldstein’s Fraudulent Application of His Views on Language”

  1. I see my seven year old daughter learning writing (composition), music and arithmetic, and I am struck how the three are part of a spectrum, both in her understanding of the world and in the way she “talks” to the world, and not three unrelated things.

    nk (df76d4)

  2. This patterico guy is really, really pathetic. He cannot stick to an argument, moving the goal posts constantly and making the most bizarre accusations, out of thin air.

    My God, how desperate LA must be for prosecutors, if this is the caliber of attorney it would hire. If you have criminal tendencies and a halfway decent defense attoryney, by all means, go to L.A. and indulge yourself. You’re scot-free going up against this guy.

    No private firm would hire anyone this obtuse. They need to make money. Not lose it. What does it say when he’s too foolish even to be the kind who shuffles wills and the odd contract all day? Or maybe that’s where he was relegated, if he ever did work at a big firm, and his overweening sense of entitlement told him that he was “too good” for that kind of work–rather than having risen to the level of his incompetence.

    nothing ever changes (e99b5d)

  3. Patterico – Jeff G. has been writing about intentionalism and the way language functions since you were in diapers. Check out his voluminous archives if you don’t believe me. HOW DARE you question his ability to restate your arguments into unreconizable statements in order to score points. Just WHO do you think you are.

    Because, yannow, FUCK YOU, and everything.

    Have a great day!

    daleyrocks (718861)

  4. Sadly No? Are you serious?

    Anyway, Patterico’s goalposts were where? And moved where?

    He thinks a comment is racist… when it’s clearly racist. He has caveats all over the place that he’s not calling the speaker a racist and is trying to apply racism standards to the left and right equally. this intent on keeping the goalposts in the same place, whether he likes the speaker or not, is why he’s being attacked by the ‘how dare you even bring this up about one on our side’ crowd.

    On your ‘LA must be desperate for DAs’ example has 13 cop killers on his docket, last I heard. He’s a legitimate badass… I do not have the balls to do what he does for a living, and I bet you don’t either. I know this sounds like sychophancy, but you can find me disagreeing with patterico on virtually everything but this particular set of issues. If his life isn’t up to your standards of personal integrity, no one’s is. Every damn year he assembles an exhaustively detailed case against the LA paper. If you can point to an example of him not backing up a statement of fact, link away.

    Dustin (44f8cb)

  5. Hell, daleyrocks forcefully disagreed with Patterico on the RSM quote, and even he knows that Jeff G’s criticism of Patterico is simply vulgar and stupid.

    It’s one thing to have a different opinion. It’s another to set out to destroy someone, as Jeff admits after Patterico proves Jeff lies in order to play the race card. Daleyrocks shows the difference.

    Jeff G, Al Sharpton…. what’s the difference? The main one is that RSM ain’t touching this because he knows damn well he doesn’t want to be a Tawana Brawley.

    Dustin (44f8cb)

  6. Dustin,

    Look at the date on the link (2006), then ignore them. Trust me.

    Stashiu3 (44da70)

  7. If I may submit my entry for the understatement of the year competition, I find this feud saddening. I lurk at both sites, and have occasionally made comments at both. The media analysis and the news from LA found here fascinates me. The humor and satire I often find at PW is great. I think that the commentary provided by both during the 2008 elections were vital. To see this talent and effort expended on this is lamentable.

    I hope that everyone is able to resolve this amicably. Good luck to all.

    Blue Hen (19dbec)

  8. Yes, but what does

    “the interpretation appeals to the speaker’s intent”


    Ira (28a423)

  9. Ira, perhaps you should refer to the intent comment threads on this blog for a better review of the debate, but some think interpreting a statement should rely on the statement alone (I think this), and some argue you should consider what the speaker meant in some way, or at least accept a basic doubt of meaning (Patterico and Jeff, though read their own words to get their meaning).

    ” I think that the commentary provided by both during the 2008 elections were vital. To see this talent and effort expended on this is lamentable.

    I hope that everyone is able to resolve this amicably. ”

    Jeff calls people an antisemite for no reason and lies and screeches on and on and on. If Patterico is friendly with someone like that, he’s saying this is acceptable. That would make him look pretty ridiculous.

    Sorry, but you can’t let everything go in the name of friendliness.

    Was Jeff even blogging during the election? He quits his blog over and over and over again. His blog is not very well read and is completely unpersuassive. I think Jeff is very funny (much funnier than Patterico), and brilliant, but he’s a dishonest asshole. Many hilarious people have a very dark side.

    If you think someone who flip flops on racism is helpful in the fight against Obama, you are mistaken. If you think Patterico holding the right up to standards of consistency is counterproductive, you are mistaken. just as Daily Kos convinced no moderates or republicans to vote for Obama, the nutroots of the right are good only for rallying the cause (and we have plenty of that already).

    Dustin (44f8cb)

  10. If Patterico is friendly with someone like that, he’s saying this is acceptable. That would make him look pretty ridiculous.

    Sorry, but you can’t let everything go in the name of friendliness.

    I honestly do not have a command of the subject, so I cannot say that this or that antagonist should do or not do something. You may very well be right in this. My wish is for peace, and also largely self-centered. I have enjoyed both sites, and this feud is at best a distraction, and at worst, the beginning of a wider conflict. I used to enjoy LGF, and I will be the first to admit that I don’t know what in Hell happened to the blog and the guy that ran it. I do not want to see that happen to either person here.

    Blue Hen (19dbec)

  11. Blue Hen, I always got the impression that Protein Wisdom, at this point, is down to a devoted fanbase of conservatives. It has never broken a story. It doesn’t get a swarm of moderate or liberal readers to see criticism of some breaking news story.

    Go to Alexa. It’s a very stable blog in readership. it’s peaks are right around what Patterico’s baseline is. But if you look at Patterico’s readership, you see regular spikes. Massive, massive interest from two exponents greater readership than Protein Wisdom. These are not exclusively conservatives. It’s some major story DRJ, Karl, Officer Dunphy, or Patterico have actually broken or convincingly expanded on.

    I think that makes it very important that Patterico defend his credibility as not an anti semite or liar or person who is an idiot about racism or any other of Jeff’s ridiculous accusations (that were being repeated for about a day before Patterico stepped up the defense). If you really think the blogosphere is vital to winning elections, you understand that credibility and some element of fairness must be preserved. This whole mess started when Patterico took an obvious liberal’s racism and pointing out a duplicate view from the right. That’s the heart of the matter.

    do we want cheerleaders, or do we want fairness? We need both, of course. We needed Jeff to maintain his hilarious and deep blog… he failed to do this. He let you down. But Patterico has a nice reputation to maintain with more people than Little Miss Attila and Pam Geller.

    This is not the ghandi approach or the Jesus approach. I don’t mind. I’m ticked that after defending Jeff for a long time that I have egg on my face and Jeff really is a creep.

    Dustin (44f8cb)

  12. Blue hen, I think there’s nothing wrong with not keeping up with this kind of messy blog war. A lot of people have been very dishonest about the facts. That’s why Patterico’s pissed off.

    It’s lame and you should be disappointed, but understand what happened, and you can more fairly assign blame. If you don’t want to, which is perfectly reasonable, at least understand that this is not a matter of moral equivalence.

    Dustin (44f8cb)

  13. It’s lame and you should be disappointed, but understand what happened, and you can more fairly assign blame. If you don’t want to, which is perfectly reasonable, at least understand that this is not a matter of moral equivalence.

    I am not assigning blame. I admitted my ignorance as to the details of the issue, which means that I am not in a position to render a judgment. I also stated my self-centered desires. In order for this to be resolved properly, this may involved the knockdown-dragout fight that I would hope to avoid. If that is what is required to clear the air and reputations, then so be it.

    Blue Hen (19dbec)

  14. Anyway, there’s an argument up there about language, and how he has misstated my position on it.

    I know it’s a lotta words, but the bottom line is that he and I agree on most of the basic principles. He just goes around saying we don’t. I explain exactly how he does this, above.

    Patterico (64318f)

  15. Making a distinction between being a racist and expressing a racist thought (the difference between ser and estar in Spanish) is splitting hairs. Being new to the conflict between Misters Patterico and Goldstein, this kind of hair-splitting hardly seems worth going into. The issue is in what sense that original statement by McCain actually can be called racist.

    Obviously McCain was making a distinction between believing in equal liberty rights and equal opportunity on the one hand, and believing that equal liberty to find love means a right to find it with ME, which McCain extended one step by saying “with my sister.”

    We all understand this distinction. It is what liberty means. We have the liberty to find mutually desired positions in life. Employers who want to pay for my productivity should not be barred from hiring me (no Jim Crow), but nobody should FORCE anyone to hire me, or anyone else (no affirmative action).

    On the other hand, McCain was treading close to stereotypical racism: “My racist family won’t accept you.” But EVERY ethnic group has historically shown this kind of exlusiveness towards outsiders, and it is not generally called racism. Only with blacks is family preference for one’s own group called racism.

    In a technical sense, it certainly has to do with race, and can on that basis be called racist, but is it properly called racist in the pejorative meaning of the word?

    Consider an example. I once saw a television segment in which a couple of Vietnamese or Cambodian girls from Detroit called their parents racist for trying to keep them away from the black gang-banger boyfriends they were now attached to. The parents had tried to protect their girls by warning them not to fall in with the degraded black culture that the parents were forced by economic circumstance to live amidst, and charges of racism were used as a lever to pry these girls out of their parents’ grip.

    They believed that their parents were WRONG (racist in some pejorative sense) for trying to keep them from falling in with the blacks they lived amongst. As a result, well you could see they still had some sweetness, but they were living the life of gang trash sluts. They was waggin they heads, talkin about they parents bein all racist n all, cuddlin up to they boyfriends, talking black English, the whole nine yards.

    Were their parents racist for trying and failing to keep these girls from throwing their lives away on the culture into whose midst these families were unfortunately dropped? Of course not. They were not motivated by race, but by cultural difference. They were motivated by what they knew from their own culture was required for their girls to grow up to live decent lives. If the blacks of Detroit shared the values and culture of Southeast Asia, the parents would have had nothing to be horrified at. But the fact is, they were surrounded by dangers for them and their girls that they could only be horrified at.

    To pretend that their horror was about race, instead of about the culture that actually did ensnare their girls and being them down to the very lowest level of society ever seen on planet earth, would be foul. Obviously they were motivated by the terrible reality of what they saw themselves plunked into the middle of, not some empty prejudice, as “racism” implies.

    Now if their girls had found some black men who DID share the values of Southeast Asia, who strove for education and work and family, carried forth with honesty and generosity and a will to productivity, those parents would obviously be much happier. They would consider that a much more acceptable result. i.e. They are NOT racist, and as people from many different cultures have long done, they would end up accepting their daughters being with these outsiders.

    The problem with McCain’s statement is that it is not fully qualified. Not wanting you sister, or your daughter, to be with a black man, is not racism, so long as the way one ENDS UP feeling about that relationship depends on the individual. That is what defines racism in the pejorative sense: failure to give priority to the information one has about a person as an individual, as one has a chance to acquire it.

    Rational accounting of information can never be wrong (can never be racist in any pejorative sense). Thus if all you know about someone is that he is black, and you are familiar with the crime statistics that show blacks committing all kinds of crime at 5 to 6 times the rate of whites, it is only rational to be especially wary of this person possibly turning out to be a criminal.

    Once you have individual information, that trumps group based information. Once you have learned that this particular black can’t run as fast as your mother, you jettison your group-based prior expectation that he is probably a faster-than-average runner.

    Trying to exempt blacks from the normal process of overcoming cultural hurdles with other groups by labeling those hurdles “racism” whenever they involve blacks is just another immoral and counterproductive kind of affirmative action. Everyone understands the desire to try to give blacks a hand up, to make up for the hand holding them down in the past, but it doesn’t work. It’s a cheat, enabling the worst at the expense of the best. It’s like when Mayor Lindsey tried to help blacks by cutting back on enforcement of black crime, leading to the explosion of black crime that utterly destroyed Harlem until Giuliani rebuilt law enforcement thirty years later.

    In the Detroit example, the phony racism charge gave a couple of black thugs a couple of beautiful Asian girls to turn into their bitches, where support for cultural judgment would have screened out the trash, allowing these girls to find decent men and decent lives amidst this different population they were dropped into.

    Sorry to say it Patterico, but your underqualified judgment of McCain’s statement plays into that. McCain’s statement needs to be properly qualified. WHEN isn’t it racist to not want to see your sister or daughter with a black man? When ultimate judgment gives way to individual information.

    The affirmative action wing of our society gets that backwards. Blacks are treated with kid gloves based on group information (which actually calls for treating blacks with suspicion), and this persists in the face of individual information, with systematic efforts to promote individual blacks ahead of individual merit, to the detriment of everyone.

    Obama shows how far this mindset has penetrated. Large numbers of people actually voted for him because he is black, allowing a very bad man, a radical, radical leftist, to become president of the United States!

    Alec Rawls (51d49a)

  16. […] I’m just imagining things, but is that sauerkraut looking at me kinda funny…?”** Posted by Jeff G. @ 11:19 am | Trackback SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "If instead of a […]

    If instead of a race-baiting, pseudo-intellectual money grubber propagating fraudulent views on language, Jeff Goldstein were an all-beef Hebrew National footlong hot dog (38c333)

  17. I decided to post my above in-depth comment on my own blog as well (at my link). I just added a bit about how McCain might want to take a stronger position than mine, and say that we simply shouldn’t try to untangle what is and is not racism when it comes to personal preferences instead of public policy. Again, I try to correctly qualify that position.

    Alec Rawls (51d49a)

  18. Alec, you say “But EVERY ethnic group has historically shown this kind of exlusiveness towards outsiders, and it is not generally called racism.”


    Revulsion at interracial marriage is racist, natural or not, provoked by liberals pushing images of interracial love or not.

    Perhaps in your circle or your understanding of history, this isn’t called racism. That really doesn’t matter. It’s obviously racism to prefer one race to another.

    When you are biased in favor of one race over another, you are racially prejudiced. When that reaches revulsion at love, you are being horribly intolerant.

    this cannot be untangled from public policy. There are plenty of people who want to outlaw interracial marriage. Look at the boards RSM used to post on if you don’t believe me. It wasn’t that long ago that this was in fact the law. The Republicans put an end to that, only to see the democrats twist the races around in a more clever way.

    Racism has always been America’s Achilles heel. As you noted, it’s allowed a bad man to become president. All along, racists have managed to cool America’s melting pot, slow the assimilation of culture, ruin the dream of individuality.

    I appreciate where you’re coming from… Mccain was trying to make an intellectual point and one of his quotes in this long argument was, in context or out, clearly extremely stupid and fuckin’ racist. He knows this. Why else did he dodge ownership of the quote? I loved his explanation and I don’t think he’s a bigot. the entire time, this debate was about how some are inconsistent about racism depending on how they like the speaker… and jeff G has really helped underline this message.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m glad I’m not the only one who enjoys this discussion.

    Dustin (44f8cb)

  19. 3) The speaker is not necessarily the most reliable interpreter of his own words.

    That is just possibly the most gob-smackingly stupid thing I have ever heard.

    Or maybe I am too stupid to read such a lofty blog as this.


    Robohobo (e172b5)

  20. Agree with the above comment, Patterico you look like a giant idiot on this one.

    Manco (aa9718)

  21. Manco and Robohobo steal from blind children.

    What? Who says I intended you to understand that Manco and Robohobo steal from blind children? My intent was that Cary Grant and Sophia Loren made a beautiful couple. And you have to accept that because I, as the speaker, am the best interpreter of my words.

    nk (df76d4)

  22. You two are the idiots. Look, assholes, when you’re talking to people it’s not the same as whistling in the shower and it’s your responsibility to talk in a way that you want to be understood.

    nk (df76d4)

  23. When someone is caught, dead to rights, saying it’s natural to be revolted at interracial marriage, of course he’s going to say that he didn’t mean that.

    So what? I can’t prove he meant it, or that he still does, or that he always thinks that way, but very few, if any people actually claims they could do any of that.

    The statement, on its own, is a dumb argument. It just is. It’s a dumb argument because racism is a dumb way to evaluate a new sister in law. You’re saying Patterico is a “giant idiot” for pointing this out.

    Where were you when he didn’t say who made the quote? where were you when Patterico was condemning this attitude from a black liberal woman? You didn’t care then, and you don’t actually care now, about anything but defending your friends.

    Dustin (44f8cb)

  24. It should be noted, if it hasn’t been already (tl;dr, you know), that McCain’s revulsion is second-hand. It’s one thing to say that I’m not attracted to women (or men, natch) of a certain race; it’s another to say that your children should not be so attracted. His evaluation is based solely on race and it gives race a moral dimension.

    Fritz (771258)

  25. Fritz, you’re right. that’s an important point that we need to remember. I think you should also know that Patterico has repeatedly made this point, as have several other commenters. That greatly reduces how awful the quote is, but it’s still a racist quote. A racist quote from many years ago from a man who was trying to make a larger point and doesn’t appear to be anywhere near as bad as some said he was.

    Patterico and his supporters didn’t make claims they couldn’t back up. To do so would be wrong. And to do so is exactly what Little Miss Attila did to some extent when she grossly exaggerated what Patterico was saying. And to do so is exactly what Jeff G did on several occasions. One problem with Jeff’s sociopathic defense of RSM is that if you aren’t careful, you might associate the defense with RSM. RSM didn’t need this insane defense. In fact, it turns out he didn’t need any defense at all, because what is obvious and proven is all that Patterico ever contended. It simply wasn’t a witchhunt until misguided defenders tried to silence Patterico.

    Dustin (44f8cb)

  26. Actually, its second-hand nature makes it much, much worse in my opinion. Because then you’re not talking about your preferences, you’re talking about what the preferences of others ought to be. You’re saying that race alone ought to be a disqualifying characteristic for someone else.

    Fritz (771258)

  27. Well, Fritz, I see what you mean and I apologize for misinterpreting what you said.

    He didn’t say it was right so much as natural and not racist, but it’s hard not to come away without the impression he was covering for or even endorsing this view. It is disgusting to think of countenancing such a revulsion.

    You’ve clearly given this some thought. I think I disagree, but only because I very much want to give RSm the benefit of the doubt. I can’t really find any fault with your reasoning.

    Dustin (44f8cb)

  28. […] Patterico lays out his entire set of thought on the language issue. I suppose this is another case in which, despite having followed this thing for days, I’m supposed to read thousands of words before it’s valid for me to comment on the dispute. […]

    Protein Pontifications/The RSM “Racism” Debate | Little Miss Attila (62389c)

  29. “Making a distinction between being a racist and expressing a racist thought (the difference between ser and estar in Spanish) is splitting hairs.”

    – Alec Rawls

    No, it’s not. I was thinking about this last night – is it “splitting hairs” to make a distinction between being a cruel person and expressing a cruel thought? No – there is an absolutely important distinction between the two. Is everyone who’s ever said anything cruel a “cruel person”? Because if that’s the case (as DRJ and others have said) then everyone’s cruel, and (accordingly) no one is.

    I’ve said cruel things before. I felt bad about them afterwards, and apologized, but I still said them, and they did indeed spring from some internal cruelty. But that doesn’t make me a cruel person, and to say I said a cruel thing is not the same as saying I am a cruel person (regardless of the existence of an internal source of cruelty in my being). That’s Patterico’s whole point, and he’s absolutely right.

    The distinction is accordingly relevant, and Jeff Goldstein is accordingly tunnel-visioned for refusing to see it (or dishonest for refusing to admit it).

    Seriously, man… the PW folks need to go read East of Eden, then come back and talk about the significance of Caleb Trask and “timshel”. Maybe they’ll figure it out, when then have it pounded into their brains by John Steinbeck for 600 pages.

    Leviticus (30ac20)

  30. Well said, Leviticus.

    DRJ (84a0c3)

  31. Thanks, DRJ. The funny thing is, I heard someone say that Goldstein was an English major. You’d think he’d have read a book like East of Eden before, and the whole point of that book seems to be that you can do a bad thing without being a bad person… which in turn seems to be exactly what Patterico’s said all along, but Goldstein doesn’t seem willing to grant that that’s the case.

    Leviticus (30ac20)

  32. *chuckles* He probably did take a test on it, but got an A without ever having read the book…


    Scott Jacobs (d027b8)

  33. Good people doing bad things, or bad things happening to good people, is older than literature. Hell, it’s part of one religion I’m familiar with.

    nk (df76d4)

  34. Sometimes there is an important distinction between ser and estar, just not in the present case. If the statement is not really cruel, or racist (just the perfectly normal kind of cultural hurdle that only gets called racist when blacks are involved), then it isn’t much consolation to offer: “well, I wasn’t saying that you are always racist.”

    Alec Rawls (51d49a)

  35. He’s not saying that you’re ever a racist – that’s the whole point. One can say racist things which stem from racist thoughts without being “a racist”, just as one can say cruel things stemming from cruel thoughts without being “a cruel person.” This is the point Patterico was making all along. Jeff Goldstein either refuses or is unable to see that. Either way, it’s hard to have a whole lot of thought for his rational capacity at this point in the game.

    Leviticus (30ac20)

  36. East of Eden is American lit.

    happyfeet (71f55e)

  37. You can study gobs of English lit and not read that stuff I think.

    happyfeet (71f55e)

  38. You can do a bad thing without being a bad person unless you’re Jeff I think is the consensus here. That’s ironic. Irony is one of many features you would encounter in a comprehensive study of English literature I think.

    happyfeet (71f55e)

  39. That’s true. But as nk points out above, the moral of the book isn’t exactly esoteric. And Patterico’s overall point shouldn’t be hard to understand.

    Leviticus (30ac20)

  40. Next week will bring new books and new morals.

    happyfeet (71f55e)

  41. Yeah, whatever. We’re all being so unfair to Jeff Goldstein.

    How’s this for “irony”: I don’t know whether Jeff Goldstein is a bad person or not, but I know he’s done some bad things in this exchange. And I know there’s a difference.

    But, as I said, whatever.

    Here’s another piece of American lit:

    “Nature within her inmost self divides/to trouble men with having to take sides”

    I’d wager dollars to donuts that Goldstein knows that one, intuitively if not from extensive study.

    Leviticus (30ac20)

  42. If your bowl goes dry then fill it, and don’t you cry over it when you spill it.

    happyfeet (71f55e)

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