Takin’ the Quiz

Apparently two bloggers over at the Detroit News Political Blog, John Needham (who is liberal), and Susanna Cornett (who is not), are having a catfight about the Bush Voters v. Voight-Kampff entry here, which has precipitated the Cornett to answer the quiz at length, along with some various snarky commentary about me and that particular entry, including the methodology of the quiz.

Well, I’m not going to try to defend the quiz on methodology; it clearly has a bias (mine) and I’m clearly trying to provoke. If I wanted to write a legitimate survey, I certainly wouldn’t toss it off in an hour on my Web site. I think the questions are not without merit, but the point for me — aside from the general ventilation of my brain it affords — is to ask whether people are voting for Bush by reflex or voting for because they’ve actually thought through their reasons for voting for him. There’s no real point being nice when you ask someone that; you might as well make them defensive about it and thereby in a mood to justify themselves (it worked on Cornett, in any event). One could just as easily create a similar quiz for Kerry voters, although that one would not be me, because I have no interest in doing so. Point is — Voting by reflex, bad. Voting from thought, good.

Cornett writes:

Please note that I understand Needham will not accept my answers as honest or true, nor will Scalzi, because they don’t want answers – they want a stupid stick to beat me with.

I don’t speak for John Needham, but personally I’m thrilled she tried to answer them honestly as possible; why wouldn’t I be? Just because I think nearly all people voting for Bush are stupid, ignorant or hypocritical doesn’t mean I can’t be wrong. Really, I’m getting sick of having to remind people constantly that I don’t think my opinion is a direct analogue to reality. People clearly need a refresher course on what the word “opinion” means.

Now, as it happens, I think some of Corbett’s rationales are a tad slapdash; it’s easy to pronounce things like “the Clinton economy was a false bubble of prosperity” and hope people don’t pay attention to the fact Bush’s tax policies went far beyond economic stimulus and became tantamount to a fire sale on my kid’s fiscal future for the benefit of the really really rich. And I think she’s living in some strange parallel universe when she says “The primary initiative was accomplished in Afghanistan before the Iraq war.” Nor am I any less convinced Bush and his administration is not in fact, monstrously incompetent, and a vote for Bush is a thumbs-up on letting the dim rule the roost.

But on the other hand, why don’t you go over and check her answers to see if she’s convinced you she’s not ignorant, stupid or hypocritical for supporting Bush. Who knows? She may, and bully for her if she does. I’d rather have you hear from someone who thinks she has good reasons for voting for Bush than just listening to me confirm yet again what you already know I think about the man. Yes, I think Bush is incompetent, and those who vote for him crazy enablers. But I don’t want you to take my word for it. I’d rather have you think for yourself.

Learning Curve = 0

Steve Schwenk, late of wishing violent death upon the child of a New York Times reporter and then being shocked, shocked when that wish was publicized in the New York Times with his name attached to it, has posted an open letter to Daniel Okrent, the NYT’s public editor, who is the one who outed Schwenk in his column.

I don’t think much of it, and reading it I think less of Schwenk than I did before. Schwenk gripes about how horrible this whole ordeal has been for him and his family and about how awfully he’s been abused by the Times when it published his name and the comment. But other than agreeing that what he wrote (“I hope your kid gets his head blown off in a Republican war”) was “shocking and uncivil,” I don’t see Schwenk actually being sorry for what he wrote.

Oh, true enough, he regrets it, for various reasons: He’s gotten a number of harassing phone calls, he’s been exposed to national ridicule, and now anytime anyone Googles him, they’re going to see his brief spike into national prominence, and for a not very nice reason. But as Schwenk formulates it, it’s all about what’s being done to him, and nothing about the outrageous comment which provoked the response.

For example, look how Schwenk formulates the Google complaint:

What won’t go away for years, if ever, are the results of the Google search of my name every prospective employer, professional colleague, new friend or potential spouse is likely to conduct in the future. When you search my name now, you learn right away that the Public Editor of the New York Times called me a coward and a despicable person incapable of consideration of others. As Mr. Nagourney well knows, Google is brutal and unforgiving. It forgets nothing. And everybody uses it. And when people see in their search results that it is the esteemed New York Times that has branded me an inconsiderate coward, they are, ironically, likely to believe it to be true without any second thought.

What Schwenk conveniently glosses over here is that the Google-accessible chunk of text in which he is called a coward will also include Mr. Schwenk’s actual quote. I suggest that future Googlers of Mr. Schwenk will be rather more convinced that he is a coward because he wished for the death of someone’s child from the safe remove of 2,200 miles and e-mail delivery than the fact that Daniel Okrent, for better or worse, called him on the fact.

Yes, yes, I know, Schwenk says that it’s out of context. But let me ask, and not for the first time: In what context can hoping someone’s child gets his head blown off in a war be seen as anything other than cruel and monstrous? I’m racking by brain for that sort of redeeming context, and you know, I’m coming up with squat.

I’d also like to draw attention to this bit from Mr. Schwenk’s letter:

In sending my angry e-mail to Mr. Nagourney, I never intended to cause him harm, and did not cause him harm.

Simply and baldly put: Steve Schwenk is a liar. Mr. Schwenk is apparently a parent, since he details how his children have been frightened by the aftermath of his outing in the Times. I find it utterly inconceivable that a parent — particularly one who is now trotting out his own children to bolster his claims of persecution — can wish another parent’s child dead without recognizing the extreme power of that statement. This isn’t your usual, garden variety “you’re an asshole” sort of invective. It’s the sort of language you use when you want to hit someone hard in their soft spots. You don’t say something like that about someone’s kid as part of a general suite of heated conversation. No, placing an image of a child’s death in the mind of a parent takes malice aforethought.

Within the scope of Schwenk’s ability to hurt Mr. Nagourney, the reporter whose child for whom he hoped for death, he went out of his way to do so. Some of the people jumping to Schwenk’s defense (none here, thank God), have suggested that this kind of comment is “a mildly heated email to a Times reporter.” Well, I call “bullshit” on that, and on Mr. Schwenk. You don’t wish someone’s kid gets their head blown off and then try to say that you weren’t trying to hurt them. If Schwenk is not a liar, and he genuinely didn’t know hoping for Nagourney’s kid to die might not come back to haunt him, then he is so unfathomably stupid as to beggar description. But as I said, since he’s canny enough to trot out his own kids to make his case, I don’t think Schwenk can claim stupidity.

Here’s the clincher for me that Schwenk doesn’t really think he’s done anything wrong:

Let me close by pledging that, henceforth, I shall write all of my e-mails as though they will be published in the New York Times. I shall write them with the care, consideration and respect for civil discourse that one would expect from the public editor of the nation’s leading newspaper. I will write them as though I am writing a respected column that will be read by people around the world, and that will be captured in Google forever. My parting request to you, Mr. Okrent, should your choose not to do the honorable thing and resign, is that you pledge to never again write a column for the New York Times as though you are writing a private, angry and hostile e-mail to an audience of one.

In other words, “I’ll never write another e-mail wishing another parent’s kid dead because I don’t want to be embarrassed again.” Not “I’ll never write another e-mail wishing another parent’s kid dead because it’s a horrible thing to do, and I was wrong for doing it.”

What a schmuck.

Look, if I were Adam Nagourney, I would have dropped Schwenk’s e-mail into the trash like it deserved to be trashed. If I were Daniel Okrent, I wouldn’t have published Schwenk’s name. If I were Okrent’s editor, I would have strongly suggested he not put Schwenk’s name in the article. Outing Schwenk is far from the New York Times’ greatest moment. Schwenk should have been ignored, not held up for ridicule.

Having said that, in light of Schwenk’s self-pitying refusal to acknowledge his sentiment was wrong, I again discover I have not a thimbleful of sympathy for him for the predicament in which he finds himself. It’s nice he regrets sending that e-mailed sentiment to Mr. Nagourney. Would that he regretted it not for what airing the sentiment is doing to him, but for what sending the sentiment says about his soul.

Here’s what I hope for Mr. Schwenk’s children: That they grow up bright and beautiful and happy, and so very far away from the sort of death their father wished upon the child of another parent.

Like a Newbie, Fragged For the Very First Time

My new DSL modem has provided me the first true low-ping environment I’ve had since I left the warm confines of the AOL LAN, lo those many years ago. So I cranked up my Unreal Tournament 2004, went looking for some local servers, and jumped into a deathmatch to see if I still had my 1337 deathmatch 5ki11z5, yo.

I don’t. I got my ass handed to me over and over and over again; it’s a reminder that people are smarter than bots and are not easily tricked by a crafty double jump or two.

Clearly, I need to spend more time re-establishing my 5ki11z5. If I can do without having Krissy murder me, so much the better.

Also: The DSL is, like, sooooo much better than the satellite modem. There’s just no comparison. And it’s cheaper, too. We’re truly living in an age of miracles.