Context Is For The Weak!




Blogging Evolution

A guest post from commenter Nate Winchester:

For those who don’t know, my title comes from a common internet joke whereby somebody posts a segment from a piece of media that ranges from offensive to outright bizarre with the accompanying punchline (golden and silver age comics are a VERY popular choice for this).  Now as I said, the emphasis on this is as a joke with the humor coming from the reader’s mind trying to figure out what the context is.  Sadly, we seem to live in an age where such has become the standard method for delivering news and informing others (exhibit A: The Daily Show).  In these cases context seems to be for the weak-minded who might think thoughts that aren’t allowed.

Enter Mark Shea who, while rightly arguing for grasping context when it comes to religious and older writers, apparently finds it to be too much trouble to grant modern authors.  Disclosure: I read Shea for awhile based upon recommendations by John C Wright and David Griffey, at least until Shea started going a bit loopy and ban-happy towards conservatives on his blog.  Now I just check it now and then to see if he’s taken another step towards sanity or craziness.

In his post nro-writer-hang-women-who-have-had-abortions,  from Sept 29th, Shea claims that “this is why people hate [conservatives]” while linking to… a leftist hit piece at the Addicting Info blog.  (One wonders how he would react if someone wrote, “Dear Catholics, this is why people hate you” with a link to a piece by a ranting atheist; oh wait.)  He then doubles down on it in the comments with several like:

Williamson is one of the best things to happen to Planned Parenthood in years.

Now let’s look at the original article and compare it with what was actually said.

“Recently, conservative writer Kevin D. Williamson penned a piece for the National Review which argued, among other things, that liberals and 20-somethings (who stubbornly tend to lean to the left) are “too dumb to vote.”

The source?

The real action in deciding what happens to the fate of a nation occurs not at the ballot box, but with political involvement (or lack thereof) by the citizenry at much lower grassroots (and non-political) levels of culture and family life.  That’s not to say voting is meaningless.  Far from it.  It is intensely meaningful.  But *what* it means is not primarily about how my puny vote will affect the outcome of an election involving millions of other people.  It is, rather, how my puny vote will change me.”

Wait, I’m sorry.   That was Mark Shea:  mark-shea/a-reader-asks-about-the-act-of-voting‘.  Here’s what Kevin actually said:

“There’s no shame in it, your vote is statistically unlikely to affect the outcome of an election, and there are many much more meaningful ways to serve your country and your fellow man: Volunteer at a homeless shelter; join the Marine Corps; become a nun; start a business.”

But the author Shea linked to went on to point out that Williamson:

“Instead, the article quickly spun into a barely-coherent screed against — in no particular order — the pro-choice movement, feminism, Lena Dunham’s appeal, and accusations of child murder. For Williamson, Dunham’s popularity was symptomatic of a larger culture of progressive values that he thinks are ruining the country.”

He then quotes a segment from Williamson’s article:

Could there be a starker contrast between slavish indulgence of appetite claiming the status of fundamental human right and self-sacrificial heroism laying down one’s life for another–even for a brain-dead member of the Consumer Generation like this Bright Young Thing?  Woman?  No dearie, you are and will forever be a teenage girl, a sophomore, to be precise–barring a miracle of conversion.  May you find forgiveness for spitting on this man’s sacrifice.  And may the john you work for swiftly find himself unemployed.

Whoops, my bad, let-the-memes-begin,that was Mark Shea again.  What was ACTUALLY quoted is:

“Our national commitment to permanent, asinine, incontinent juvenility, which results in, among other things, a million or so abortions a year, is not entirely unrelated to the cultural debasement that is the only possible explanation for the career of Lena Dunham. A people mature enough to manage the relationship between procreative input and procreative output without recourse to the surgical dismemberment of living human organisms probably would not find much of interest in the work of Miss Dunham.”

The Addicting Info article then says:

“The article continues in a similar fashion from there on out, never straying far from the “Dunham loves abortions” narrative which Williamson had invented.”

Now here’s where the meat of the matter is.  The Addicting Info then claims: “When asked whether he felt people who have had abortions should get life in prison for the crime of murder, Williamson didn’t hesitate to go further.”

Except that’s not exactly what Kevin said.  First of all, here’s the FULL text of the linked tweet: “I have hanging more in mind.”  Now obviously, one needs context for those words to make any amount of sense.  Notice that the article author provides their own (and it is this context Shea latches onto when handing out his condemnation).  Maybe we should look for more context?  See if you click on the tweet, we get that Kevin seems to have been replying to: “2/2 have abortions get life without parole? If your answer to either question is no, you don’t think abortion is murder 2/2” in the twitter timeline.  See that “2/2” up there?  That isn’t a fancy fraction for “1” but is, in fact, twitter-speak for “2nd part of 2”.  Why where’s the first part?  After a bit of digging…1/2 Do you think it’s morally acceptable to kill doctors who are about to perform abortions? Should women who 1/2″

Now let’s put it all together.

-Do you think it’s morally acceptable to kill doctors who are about to perform abortions? Should women who have abortions get life without parole? If your answer to either question is no, you don’t think abortion is murder.
I have hanging more in mind.

Notice something, reader?  Look closely.  What was it the article author said? “people who have had abortions” (What is up with that “people” there? are men having a lot of abortions?).  Which means the author is wrong, Kevin is NOT advocating retroactive punishment.  And no, that’s not me making up my own context.  A new set of tweets:

Yet according to Shea, all that’s of no concern, Kevin’s just the “best thing to happen to Planned Parenthood”.  Never mind that the author Shea sourced lied or that Shea could have at least disagreed with Kevin on the implementation of the death penalty.  One wonders that, if the author had made the article about Mark Shea (which, as pointed out above, he could have done so with little effort), would that have made Mark Shea the best thing to happen to Planned Parenthood?  And if such a hit piece was to ever strike him, would Shea have any allies left after having thrown so many under the bus?




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  1. Frankly, I stopped reading when this article stated, “Mark Shea said….” One ought to pay hat man no attention. If he is denied notoriety, then he will dry up as shriveled and desiccated as his logic is. What keeps him going is the fame of being noticed. Gluttony for food or gluttony for fame – really, what is the difference?

  2. Mark Shea is a self-righteous, sanctimonius blowhard. He is the Michael Moore of the Catholic blogosphere. What’s more, Shea doesn’t know conservatism from a hole in the ground.

    Kevin Williamson is right when he rips into Lena Dunham and the subculture who cares about what she says and does. Shea doesn’t understand that because Shea CANNOT understand that. His Allegheny Mountain Tunnel-sized ego prevents him from from doing serious critical analysis. instead, he resorts to preschool-type insults. “The thing that used to be called conservatism” is Sheaspeak for “you dumbhead” or “you stupidhead” or “you poopyhead”.

    My brother Jim, who is now 43, had an annoying habit when he was a little kid of calling anyone who made him mad a “poopy”. He continued this until my mother washed out his mouth with Palmolive. Shea’s intellectual level is below my brother when he was a kid.

    My Steelers stink, my Buccos got crushed and are done for the season, my 2 year old needs to go to bed and it’s time to turn in.

    Oh, and if you’re reading this, Shea, take your thumb out of your mouth. At least my six year old quit sucking his thumb.

  3. Having linked to that Williamson piece this week myself, it is apparent that Shea could not engage in the intellectual heavy lifting of reading it for himself. It’s good that Mark is now simply letting other people do his thinking for him.

    That being said, I’m inclined to agree with Paul Primavera above. Shea has crossed over from being simply obnoxious to just noxious, and we would be better served to observe the maxim “don’t feed the troll.”

  4. Lena who?

    Mark who?

    Years ago, I stopped clicking on his link. For me it was a “near occasion of sin.” Don’t require another. I have so many as it is.

    OT. Obama has declared war on ebola. My money is on ebola.

  5. Obama has declared war on ebola. My money is on ebola.

    Good one! I guess there is a possible case in Hawaii now.

    Kevin Williamson, BTW, is my kind of hilarious. I remember hearing him on a radio interview for his “The End is Near and it’s Going To Be Awesome” book and I thought man, if only Ron Paul had a sense of humor he might churn out material this great.

  6. Weird, I don’t know why I didn’t see all the comments before.

    While you do have a point, I sent this to Don because 1) I felt Kevin needed defending, even if just to those with no opinion who might be swayed by a lack of answers to the slander and 2) while he’s happy to burn every bridge and forsake all friends to try and please that which can never be pleased, others should be aware of how doing so can ultimately bite you.

  7. Shea, on his better days, does rise to the level of posting moving bits of the Catholic faith in article form. His better days do seem to be growing fewer in number though. As a utilitarian exercise, one would weigh the advantages against the disadvantages and when the former ceased to outweigh the latter, cut Shea loose. But Catholics aren’t utilitarians.

  8. Kevin Williamson is a great writer. He researches his topics carefully, and ventures beyond the pink-police-state crime-scene-tape that is political correctness. Great explainer. He is as honest as the day is long (in West Texas in June).

  9. TMLutas:

    His better days do seem to be growing fewer in number though.

    That’s because leftist ideology is inherently secularistic and incompatible with free will, objective morality, and Christianity. As one embraces it, one will inevitably abandon the latter in all but name over time, even if it’s not deliberate.

    As a utilitarian exercise, one would weigh the advantages against the disadvantages and when the former ceased to outweigh the latter, cut Shea loose. But Catholics aren’t utilitarians.

    I don’t think anyone called for excommunicating him (which they can’t do anyhow), but not giving him and his ugly libelous rantings unmerited attention seems called for to me, and also not promoting him as any kind of teacher, example, or authority.

    As for trying to persuade him, imo that’s a waste of time too. For one thing, as we’ve seen with Kevin’s article here and many other times, Mark doesn’t actually read anything contrary to his own opinions if he can help it, so he can’t possibly be persuaded by it. If he senses that some article or comment goes contrary to his left-wing narrative, he simply lashes out in ignorance, relying on some left-wing hit piece, or the opinions of his cultural Marxist friends, or simply the way the title makes him feel in his gut, as his guide to what the piece in question actually says.

    And if something does slip through his defenses against reason, he lashes out even more furiously, deletes it, bans the messenger, and erases the ungoodthink from his mind. No amount of facts or logical arguments can ever get through to him, because as a Leftist, he’s adopted the attitude that reality is all just subjective narrative, which can be upheld by silencing inconvenient truths and demonizing dissenters.

    Bottom line, you can’t reason an unreasonable man into being reasonable, since reason cannot appeal to him in the first place.

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