Monday, November 17, 2008
A thick skull and a thin skin
Recently, I had the somewhat fun, but mostly irritating, experience of getting entangled in an argument with Lawrence Auster.
The full transcript of that back-and-forth wrangle, which took place on a blog called Mangan's Miscellany, I have posted here.
What is revealed from reading that transcript is that Auster has a remarkably thick skull combined with a queerly thin skin. What is wrong with the guy? He immediately goes on the hypersensitive offensive when I post a comment that is critical of his thought and that expresses my musings about what possibly might be behind what I perceive to be certain “contortions” in his analysis. I was careful to frame my musings in tentative terms. Instead of responding like a normal person—by saying “No, you have me wrong, and here’s why”—Auster, with the alacrity of a spring-coiled, wounded panther, pounces back not only unnecessarily, but also with wild and blatant mischaracterizations of what I wrote. And, as if this weren’t bad enough, he continued to persist in blatantly mischaracterizing my position long after I pointed out meticulously how he was doing so. Adding insult to injury, he didn’t even acknowledge, let alone address, the specific points of my elementary defense against his mischaracterizations.
Thus he showed himself to have a thick skull (unable to read my repeated explanations of both my position and of how he kept getting my position wrong), and a thin skin (going on a needless defensive against what he perceived to be an “attack” by me against him).
Instead of simply responding to the substance of my initial post with a normal response—like, “No, you have me wrong, and here’s why”—he immediately bristles and goes on a laughably unnecessary offensive against a straw man, since he did not, and cannot, show that what he is defending himself against is anything I actually wrote. What therefore ensues is a quasi-comical meta-debate about windmills that don’t exist anywhere except in his strange mind. Even if he had responded initially with something like “Your critique against me doesn’t offer anything of substance, so I don't think it’s worth responding to”—that would have been infinitely preferrable to the queerly quixotic reaction he manifested.
One of the many indications of Auster’s hypersensitivity occurs on his blog entry (cf. #6 from the transcript linked above), where he describes my initial post (#1 from the transcript) at Mangan’s Miscellany as an “attack”. All the reader has to do is read that initial post of mine to see that to characterize it as an “attack” is to exhibit a peculiar over-reaction. Sure, I came out of left field to note that in my estimation Auster’s analysis of the phenomenon of the “false conservative” acquires some curious contortions. Then I speculated about the reasons for this, including a latent Gnosticism in Auster which I then tentatively dismissed, concluding also tentatively (though ostensibly less so) that the source for this contortion in Auster’s analysis of the “false conservative” might lie in his tendency to reject the good in PC MC and, by extension, the good of liberal progress—a good that is not simplex, but rather complex in its perichoretic symbiosis with bad things. Only an irrationally hypersensitive person would call this an “attack”.
And only a person with a screw loose would embark upon a quixotic defense against this “attack” that includes:
1) blatant mischaracterizations of his interlocutor’s writings, mostly in their alleged capacity as attacking and wrongly labelling him;
2) repeated ignoring of his interlocutor calling attention to these mischaracterizations and patiently explaining why they are mischaracterizations; and
3) repeated accusations that his interlocutor is not reading what he has written, even while simultaneously doing exactly what he is accusing his interlocutor of doing—to wit, by blatantly, repeatedly and copiously mischaracterizing what his interlocutor has actually written!
If any reader wishes to read through the transcript I have provided in the link above and offer a substantive and pertinent refutation of my overall take on this, or on any of the positions I defended in that exchange, I would welcome it. I will not welcome it, however, if the refutation is not an actual refutation, but rather a form of Austerian tilting at straw men and windmills.
Update: I just noticed that Auster posted on his blog that he has responded to me on Mangan's Miscellany. When I read it, I will comment, though I doubt there is anything significantly new to comment on.
I have read Auster’s reply now (it is #9 in my transcript which I linked up top), and as I suspected it adds nothing significantly or substantively new. In addition to repeating extant mischaracterizations of my positions and views, Auster adds a few more—some of them even more egregious and blatant than his already extant ones, including pretzelling mischaracterizations of a couple of my refutations of his previous mischaracterizations. But it is becoming too tedious and unbearably irritating now for me to continue reading him in order to continue to demonstrate how he keeps getting practically everything wrong about what I wrote with regard to him on that Mangan's Miscellany blog; so I shall stop.
Second Update: The owner of the Mangan's Miscellany blog, in his final announcement before his unnecessary shutting down of further comments, generally compliments Auster and makes no mention of Auster’s egregiously anti-intellectual behaviors in every comment Auster posted with regard to my hypersensitively alleged “attacks” on him—anti-intellectual behaviors which in that same comments field I meticulously and intelligently documented and explicated at least three times. Either Dennis Mangan was not reading the comments very closely, or he is as obtuse as Auster is. I cannot think of a third plausible alternative.