Charles Cameron, my regular guest blogger, is the former Senior Analyst with The Arlington Institute and Principal Researcher with the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University. He specializes in forensic theology, with a deep interest in millennial, eschatological and apocalyptic religious sects of all stripes.
One blogger’s rant to another: for AbuM
by Charles Cameron
Abu Muqawama seemed a reasonably nice and interesting guy, so I invited him in. He came into my living room and was holding forth on Afghanistan and Iraq and matters military, and he seemed well informed. I was glad I’d invited him in, and from time to time I found myself over in that corner of the room, and I listened.
I think it’s important to learn from reasonably well-informed people, so I invite them into my home. That’s the basic exchange that happens when you write a worthwhile blog: people invite you into their homes to listen to you.
When I invited Abu Muqawama into my room the other day — Andrew Exum, of the Center for a New American Security, that is — he happened to be talking about Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of a top Hamas sheikh who converted to Christianity a while back, and was run as an inside agent by the Mossad for years. Yousef has a new book coming out, and that’s why Exum and others have been taking an interest in him this week.
I turned to Exum and told him my own thoughts on the matter, but Exum didn’t respond, which is not ideal, but he’s a busy guy, okay — and anyway we were interrupted at that point. Unfortunately, Exum seems to have had a drunken friend with him when he came into my living room this time, a ranting, homophobic drunk who spewed comments across my Bokhara rug (it’s not like it’s a museum piece you know, but I like it, I like it) such as… well, let me quote his comment on Yousef himself, his conversion and his spying:
He’s probably celebrating Ask and Tell, say it proud, say it loud, it’s raining men in the Military. Hell, he’s probably volunteered to be the first gay in a submarine, along with all the pregnant sea persons. Gay. He probably saw Brokeback Mountain one too many times in that Israeli prison. Them Jews are smart, making gays out of Islamist, letting them sodomize each other.
Utterly charming. The only problem being, it’s not the sort of conversation I really want in my living room.
It is, Andrew Exum, should you ever read this, distinctly uninvited.
If I lived in a rowdy bar, perhaps, and slept in the sawdust during the day? But I don’t.
There are, by one count, around 15 such comments on that particular post on Exum’s blog that — what shall I say? will make me think twice about inviting Exum over to my place unless I can find a grownup to vouch for him first?
Look, there was another commenter on that particular blog post who told Andrew — if he was even listening — that that he was letting his blog “be ruined by not IP banning the moron”. And I excerpted that phrase and put it in quotes because the commenter was plainly annoyed by this time and his own language was getting a little salty.
I think he had a point. Exum wants into the living rooms and offices of people like myself: that’s why he has a blog. Exum works for CNAS, which is an interesting group with friends in fairly high places, like Michele Flournoy. Their logo is atop Exum’s blog these days, though I remember when it was just this young soldier’s blog, and no less interesting for lack of official sponsorship.
But look, today it is part of the web-presence of the much touted Center for a New American Security, so they’re in my living room, too. And you might think they’d have a concern for their reputation.
I’m a reasonably civil chap — brought up in England, and a bit old school, you know — so I fished up their email address and asked them very politely if they would remove comments like the one from “Bubba loves them Sabra girls”.
Somehow, I don’t see them letting someone stand in their office suite handing our fortune cookies that read “Bubba loves them Sabra girls” — do you? I don’t want them to think they can encourage that in my home, either. I tried to tell them that politely via email, but that was almost a week ago, and I don’t think they read all their email. And almost that long ago, the same comment poster who had complained earlier posted again, this time saying:
Rofl, this is amazing. 1 guy with 15/21 comments in a thread. Exum, you’re being an idiot. I’ve read this blog for well over 3 years now, and this is terrible. You’re letting your blog sink.
It’s truly sad. It would take 2 seconds to moderate this blog.
He’s right, you know. Exum isn’t an idiot, but his tolerating this sort of trolling on his blog is idiotic. Exum would like to make conversation with anyone who’s listening, but he doesn’t appear to be listening himself.
Look, this is all focused on Abu Muqawama, who doesn’t entirely deserve it. And I understand: he’s a busy man. But I love this internets thing, and I happen to think it’s an opportunity for all of us.
There are blogs out there for hatred, blogs for poetry, blogs for discussing issues in Byzantine history or Catholic liturgy, blogs for porn, blogs for someone and the cousins to share photos of their pets and kiddies, lots and lots of blogs. But within the enormity of the ‘sphere, there’s an opportunity for civilized discourse on matters of significance.
Abu Muqawama aspires to speak in that place, as does Zenpundit, as do I. We are trying to build a conversation of informed insight across the webs, blog calling to blog, in a project that might make the world a little wiser and less liable to suffer the consequences of ignorance and prejudice.
If, like Abu M, you are a web notable, and you blog — as I see it, you have an opportunity and an obligation.
I want to say this quite clearly, because I invite you and your peers and friends into my living room and into my life, every day:
You have an obligation to listen, as well as speak. You have an obligation to read the comments in your blog — or if you’re too busy, okay, to have an intern read them for you, and select the best for you to read — and you or your intern have a responsibility to notice when some foul-mouth splashes your pages with regurgitated bile, and to clean up the mess.