Shortly after the elections, for which I stayed up all night, got drunk and did live blogging (because I got nothing better to do), I started to receive hits from this tiresome wheedle at Normblog. I wondered: am I supposed to take this seriously? Apparently, I am, since no attenuation or retraction has yet appeared. The author of The Contract of Mutual Indifference, and moralist par excellence, is comparing yours truly with Andrey Vyshinsky, one of the key promulgators of Stalin's Terror. The reason? I wrote this:
For a while, I shall be rubbing the faces of Nick Cohen, Johann Hari, David "I give them a year" Aaronovitch and Harry's Place in the shit. Smell it, you fuckers, and feel this hate.
In retrospect I would not have written that, but certainly not for moral reasons: it is just poorly written and the last line is obviously derivative of the late Bill Hicks. I could understand the Vyshinsky reference if I had said, even in jest, that "the best way for Norman Geras to spread his philosophy would be for him to blow his brains out". But I didn't, and wouldn't. Not even as a joke.
Yet, there is something to the claim that one's public language is a matter of no small importance. For instance, what am I to make of someone who writes five separate posts about the mutilation of four US soldiers in Fallujah, but could not manage one about the subsequent siege which, we now know, killed thousands? What does this reveal about someone who is so serious about his use of language, who measures his posts so carefully, and yet can find nothing of any particular moral seriousness to say about the slaughter of innocents in this case? Perhaps that he is not just a moralist any longer (which would be bad enough in itself), but an apologist. If I were a moralist myself, I might note that anyone of progressive outlook who's heard George Bush speak more than a few times without drawing the necessary moral and political conclusion isn't very perceptive.
I myself don't claim to measure my tone or my output with Norm's obsessive-compulsive care, which is not to say I shirk responsibility for it, but which is to say that I wouldn't go round evincing morose sanctimony about anyone else's tone or language, and nor would I find the time to write silly missives complaining about a humorous article in which it is suggested that the world might be better off if President Bush met the same fate as Kennedy.
On an entirely unrelated matter, I found this hilarious bit of comedy from Denis Leary. I nearly pissed myself as Leary, not in this instance ripping off Bill Hicks (don't get me started), made light of child abuse and drug addiction. But then, that is because I am not a flat, humourless oaf.