Negative Action

The self-pleasuring way that a certain type of commentator approaches Ta-Nehisi Coates reinforces his argument on prejudice, but does so destructively, repelling anyone not already inside the circle of solidarity, all those wrongly or rightly hesitant or suspicious. This supportive undermining is achieved not principally by creating impossible expectations, but rather by encouraging familiar ones: see, e.g., President George HW Bush nominating the “best qualified” Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. If in this way exaggerated praise ironically amplifies the original justification for what is transparently confirmed in being denied – some voluntaristic species of affirmative action – it does so against the writer’s or nominee’s or candidate’s best interests; against the primary interest in proving oneself, and knowing oneself proved; in literary work, even punditry, against a young writer’s need for critical engagement more than premature advancement; in politics against anyone’s greater interest in achievement than in adulation. As for the ones negatively affirming, their overdoing it, laying it on too thick, making a show, is an aggressively paternalistic form of not really listening, least of all to oneself.

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20 comments on “Negative Action

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  1. an obviously unserious expression of admiration such as this bit of Coates-holding doesn’t merit that response.

    is there something about Hayes (with whom I’m barely familiar) or some other stuff from him about TNC or such that moved you to drip that stuff into his ear?

    • Are you saying you need a list of similar comments from Hayes and others to believe that Coates, a thoughtful and promising young writer, gets over-praised in a familiar and predictable manner? I chose Hayes’ tweet because it was so obviously ridiculous – and weird – but it’s typical of similar comments regularly put up by the likes of Jon Chait, Jonathan Bernstein, and others. The tweet was re-tweeted, and I’ve yet to see any indication that anyone took it as satire. I’ve never been in Coates’ position, but I’ve seen others in it or approximations of it in writing, politics, fine arts, academia. The whole thing often goes poorly for all concerned, despite initial appearances and all or most people’s conscious intentions. It’s corrupting and distorting, and, as I tried to suggest, the fact that we’re not beyond it rather confirms and extends Coates’ base argument.

      • yeah, i guess that I am…. Hayes’ tweet here was 50% of all praise for TNC that I’ve seen. Hadn’t realized the he was almost a legend in his not-yet prime time.

        it wasn’t satirical, but I read it as obviously and consciously hyperbolic.

  2. So should I stop praising CK so much? CK has always recommended that, but I figure he’s old enough to not let it go to his head.

    • I think I’ll put up a payment button that says “Your love gives me such a thrill, but your love won’t pay my bills.” I predict that after the first one or two times you paid rather than praised, you’d be cured of both temptations.

        • Truth is that Mr. Miller knows very well, as I hope he also knows I know very well, that he’s more than paid his dues. If that warn’t the case, you’re right, I might have less hope for the behavioral mod.

          • The truth as I see it is that if Mr. MacLeod had been half as okay with commerce as he professes to be he would have no bill problems. But he knows what comes with real commerce orientation and can’t abide by it, so he doesn’t play the game in a way that works financially. No amount of bill paying (whether or not it was connected to love) would keep him from bringing it to ruin because he doesn’t believe in success and he’s right not to. Or at least he’s been right. If he doesn’t think he’s right now, and really wanted his bills to be paid he could make it happen. He’s just too big of a secret long-haired commie hippie-type pinko word lover to really allow himself to be commercially tainted.

            • Any idealism I claimed, or anyone claimed for me, as a justification for… what I’m not… could be taken as an easy cop-out…

              However, the only think I hate worse than success is being understood, so I may just have to sacrifice avoidance of the former in order to maintain resistance to the latter. That’d show you.

  3. In re two comments moderated into the void: I thought you’d just gotten through promising to knock that kind of stuff off, Mr McKenzie. Perhaps you should avoid commenting on anything having to do with Ta-Nehisi Coates at all.

    FYI – I took the featured comments widget off the sidebar because I’ve been using this site to test out certain novel commenting features. Had nothing to do with you, and, as a matter of fact, I’m encountering a new problem just right now that may also lead to some unexpected commenting and formatting results and behavior as I investigate.

    In the meantime and forever-like, how you feel about Ta-Nehisi Coates is not the kind of thing I’m interested in. How one happens to feel personally about anyone at all is the kind of thing I’m interested in isolating, reducing, and setting aside in the interest of a fair and as minimally prejudicial discussion as possible. Whatever value you imagine your comments possess, you disfigure them with the racialized loathing that you cannot restrain yourself from ejaculating across their surface. Consider such expressions streng verboten. Consider foul insults of any type and regardless of target also streng verboten, whether or not cut apart once the intended meaning has been made clear enough. You can pretty much assume that whenever you start imitating modes of speech for would-be humorous or insulting or humorously insulting effect, you have almost certainly overstepped the line. Spinoza wouldn’t have hesitated to “moderate” the results – that is, to forbid them strictly – if he were in my position.

  4. I thought you’d just gotten through promising to knock that kind of stuff off, Mr McKenzie.

    Well–I fell off the wagon, CK. I’m resolved to get back on.

    you cannot restrain yourself from ejaculating across their surface

    Oh, for Christ’s sake, MacLeod–please don’t stoop to this sort of gutter talk.

    Spinoza wouldn’t have hesitated to “moderate” the results – that is, to forbid them strictly – if he were in my position.

    Well that would be quite a comedown for Mijnheer Benedictus, wouldn’t it?

    Mach’s gut

     

     

  5. CK: You’ll forgive me one last remark, then I promise to leave you alone for at least a few days.

    “In the meantime and forever-like, how you feel about Ta-Nehisi Coates is not the kind of thing I’m interested in. How one happens to feel personally about anyone at all is the kind of thing I’m interested in isolating, reducing, and setting aside in the interest of a fair and as minimally prejudicial discussion as possible.”

    Notice how you characterize your ambition to carry on an impersonal discussion as something that emanates from–your personal interests. I suppose I might justly reply that what interests you personally isn’t the sort of thing “I’m interested in”.

    In all seriousness, I think that whether you should be aspiring–and compelling others so to aspire–to have an impersonal discussion about issues wherein you and everyone else can’t help but be personally implicated is the very sort of thing we ought to be discussing and not censoring.

    • Afraid I must add a brief appendix to my comment–because I realize I didn’t express myself as clearly as I would have liked.

      Firstly, I made it sound as if my reference to “censoring” a discussion about the appropriate tone–personal or impersonal, partial or impartial–of any discussion was a reference to my preceding “gag” comments. It wasn’t.

      Secondly, I also made it sound as if you wouldn’t be interested in having a discussion about the appropriate tone of any discussion–when I know quite clearly that you would.

      But you’d like to have an impersonal, impartial discussion about whether or not personality or impersonality, partiality or impartiality is the more appropriate tone for any discussion–and you’re loathe to allow for any other sort of discussion: the personal, partial sort. It is in that sense that you would “censor” the discussion in my view, by presuming the very thing that is to be discussed.

      • And really you should have your own site if you simply must go on about those things so immoderately and unpleasantly. My rates for setting you up would be quite reasonable, though they would include a loathsome enemy client surcharge, of course, since I would not expect to be able to add the site to my portfolio.

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The texts, posted on a darknet website run by a hacktivist collective, appear to show Manafort’s family fretting about the ethics, safety and consequences of his work for Yanukovych. And they reveal that Manafort’s two daughters regarded their father’s emergence as a key player on Trump’s presidential campaign with a mixture of pride and embarrassment.

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If there's anything mitigating the bad news for the White House here, it is that Comey may have also sent subtle signals that the matters under investigation are not principally about the personal conduct of Trump himself. While this is speculation, I do not believe that if Comey had, say, validated large swaths of the Steele dossier or found significant Trump-Russia financial entanglements of a compromising variety, he would have said even as much as he said today. I also don't think he would have announced the scope of the investigation as about the relationship "between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government" or "coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts"; these words suggest one step of removal from investigating the President himself. If the latter were the case, I suspect Comey wouldn't have used words suggestive of the Flynn-Manafort-Page cabal.

But that's reading a lot into a relatively small number of tea leaves. What is clear is that this was a very bad day for the President. In it, we learned that there is an open-ended Russia investigation with no timetable for completion, one that's going hang over Trump's head for a long time, and one to which the FBI director is entirely committed.

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bob
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+ Yeah, I read C's comments as trying to do a variety of things at the same time, having the effect of making interpretation more difficult. Any [. . .]
Benjamin Wittes: How to Read What Comey Said Today – Lawfare
bob
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+ Sure, so why do they have "work Phones" they take home? Even if they don't have fate of the world responsibilities, who they work [. . .]
Isenstadt and Vogel: Paranoia seizes Trump’s White House – POLITICO

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