No, Not a Coincidence

In a way I hesitate to make this criticism, because the writer of this letter also wrote a good one on another issue. But I just feel compelled to make this one comment, because people keep saying the same thing, and it keeps being wrong and point-missing.

The author would do good to actually address the issues of trying to articulate what hasn’t been articulated before rather than simply trashing everyone who tries to write on difficult issues.

The trouble with that is that I’m emphatically not ‘trashing everyone who tries to write on difficult issues,’ and I never said I was. I’m ‘trashing’ or rather criticising bad writing, not writing on difficult issues. It’s simply not the case that all writing on difficult issues is bad – to put it mildly – and nor is it the case that all bad writing is on difficult issues. In fact that’s one of the points I’m making: that one of the reasons bad writing is so harmful is because it uses the badness of the writing to masquerade as writing about difficult issues. That’s a complaint that a great many people made about Hegel, from his own day (Schopenhauer is downright rude on the subject) to the present; that is one thing that bad writing of a certain kind can do.

Another correspondent says something more interesting – finally, a break from the ‘It’s difficult/You’re bashing theory’ defense.

Yes there is a large amount of very poor academic writing. And there are huge mounds of garbage journalism, vast piles of terrible prose fiction, and untold heaps of lousy poetry. Perhaps academics should know better, but so should journalists and authors of all stripes. You’ll pardon me if this seems to be (warning, potential academic term coming up) ideologically driven. Allan Bloom’s prose was often turgid, and such cultural “critics” as Bill Bennett fill their work with cliches and non sequiturs, yet somehow or other they never make the lists in these parlour games. Feminists and post-colonialists, however–well, it’s open season. Must just be a coincidence.

No, it’s not a coincidence. We say explicitly in ‘About B&W’ that our target is FN on the left. Why? Because we’re on the left, that’s why, and think it should be self-critical and self-correcting. I’m emphatically a feminist, for example (as is my colleague), and that’s exactly why I don’t want feminism to be mixed up with either woolly notions about different ways of knowing or with turgid empty ‘theoretical’ droning. What’s so odd about that? Nothing, surely. Wouldn’t it be nice to see more people on the right objecting to, for instance, the bullying manners of Bill O’Reilly, or the anti-intellectualism of Bush? Wouldn’t we respect the right more if there were more of that kind of thing? I know I would. So maybe it follows that others will respect the left more if leftists speak up when they think a given branch of leftism has got things wrong.

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