Monday, May 07, 2007

The Gifts of Reason

Well, let me pause to praise lightly the Reason magazine readers. While many took issue with a post here, they were largely civil and, let's call it, reasonable.

That's not exactly how it was on their own blog. That section where it appeared is well named Hit & Run. Some were less kind that one might suppose and quite a few had not bothered to read what they criticized, here or there.

[Over the years, I have turned to moderating comments and rejecting the threatening and obscene. None of those from the Reason crew required moderation. As so many of them note, they are largely pro-marriage equality, and most of the nasty comments I have gotten have been from anti-gay readers who came looking for trouble.]


Overall, this post's follow-up was been an amusing experience. I do regret, however, that it was the rock accidentally kicked that caused the minor landslide.

I thought I had written one of my rare personal and family posts. I was attempting to poke fun at myself. I thought I had been pretty clever in manipulating my mother into visiting and then in giving her one of my favorite lefty publications, when she would never have brought on into her house on her own. Then when a friend turned the tables without knowing what I had done, I thought it was funny and I was the goat.

You can read the comments on my post and the Reason blog to see that some sloppiness on my part did not suit many, many readers. Even those who conflated comments from others with my original post had one main point -- Reason is a libertarian pub, not a neocon or conservative one.

Many did not read far enough or closely enough to see that I was reading Reason. They told me I shouldn't be so narrow and should read it. I can identify; I've been known to skim long posts. Even when others here and on Hit & Run corrected such comments, the skimming continued and muddled comments followed. A few here and there also got emotional or smug claiming I or some other commenter was emotional or smug. That too is understandable and human, even if not in the spirit of the magazine.

Losing Count

What was most remarkable to me was the traffic. I noticed spikes with the influx of comments. My stat counter showed a huge bump in hits, far outweighing the number of comments. Moreover, they were worldwide. The industrialized, computerized centers in both hemispheres were coming in by the hundreds, then thousands. Nearly all showed links from Reason, with a few emailed ones. I didn't notice an appreciable number of hits from Africa, but the rest of the world had representatives. I had never given it much thought, but there's a magazine and website with impressive coverage.

I do read Reason as it arrives. I hope some of my visitors read and enjoyed my post otherwise. It actually was supposed to be a personal one and was an apparently failed attempt at self-depreciating humor. I have no doubt the Hit & Run citation gave me much higher readership for that post than all but a few on same-sex marriage over the past three years.

There is another irony here that I might as well reveal. Quite a few libertarians I know say they are Objectivists. Before she had her personality change and became so conservative that we couldn't talk politics, my mother was a reader and follower of Rand and considered herself an Objectivist. She never called herself a libertarian, but I suspect that were she still living she'd be quite happy with a subscription to Reason.

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lunchstealer said...

Nice post.

Quick note - there is a bit of a love-hate relationship between Objectivists and libertarians and Libertarians. "Libertarian" when capitalized refers to the Libertarian Party, and in the lower case refers to the general philosophy of libertarianism and its adherents, who may vote for Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, or not at all. Objectivists are considered an odd bunch, who are intellectually aligned with libertarianism, but with some ideas that are outside of the libertarian mainstream.

A few of us at least chided Radley for not realizing that you say in your post that you are reading them. But we get called 'neocon' and 'right wing' so often that we tend to get all knee-jerky when somebody calls us that. And yeah, we attract some anti-gay-rights trolls, who probably were responsible for some of the abuse you inadvertently took at H&R. Sorry about that.

Anyway, keep up the good fight on sexual and gender equality! Hope we didn't cause too much trouble. Hope you get some interesting new perspectives from the magazine.

Remember - NOT NEOCON!


Anonymous said...

Mass Marrier: "Many did not read far enough or closely enough to see that I was reading Reason."

I did not comment before, but I'd like to make a point: I and others did indeed read where you claimed to have read Reason, but the fact that you seemed to lump it in with conservative or (worse) neo-con publications raised doubts that you actually had read it. Thus the urgings that you ought to read it for real.

Actually, upon re-reading your post, it's not all that clear that you directly conflated Reason with the neo-cons, maybe. Did we misunderstand in that respect?

Anyway, thanks for the civil follow-up. Carry on!

Anonymous said...

I don't really see this distinction between "libertarian" and "right wing." There are certainly forms of left wing libertarian, 18th century libertarian socialism, for example. Anarchism of the sort professed by Emma Goldman is a related ideology.

But in America, the vast majority of self described libertarians tend to be extremely right wing (as opposed to those who describe themselves as "having libertarian tendencies" or whatever). You've got people like Ron Paul, who are at least consistent and combine hard core 18th century Spencerian laissez faire social Darwinism with actual support for civil and personal liberties. On the other side, though, you've got an awful lot of people who are in it for the economics and combine pathological selfishness and hatred of the poor with authoritarianism on the social side--I can't tell you how many so-called libertarians I've met who are anti-abortion, anti-gay, pro-hey-the-Prez-must have-his reasons, let him lock up whoever he wants and detain them indefinitely without charge. (On the flip side, there are plenty of social and civil libertarians who are economically progressive, but it's more uncommon for them to define themselves as libertarians full stop since it's a term associated with the rightist bent of Amercan libertarianism and, especially, the Libertarian Party.) It's a weird, often ill-defined, mixed bag.

And as far as rand and Objectivism (most prominent Objectivist currently, probably Alan Greenspan), it's hard to not define her and her ideology as pretty far to the ultra right. :) You must have had some interesting Thanksgiving dinners.