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On The Virtues of Killing Braincells

August 21st, 2006 · 10 Comments

Via Tbogg, I feel compelled to link this faux “tough-minded” post on the hard necessities of killing kids in war not primarily because it’s creepy, or as a case study in glib rationalization, or even for the entertainment value of watching some Socrates manqué fantasize about dominating an imaginary female interlocutor. No, those are all decent reasons, but it’s really worth reading because it’s the most exemplary case I’ve seen in a while of a literary style my old colleague Tim Cavanaugh found the perfect description for about a year back: A stupid person’s idea of how a smart person sounds. The most familiar form, of course, involves loading prose with large words used with the sort of slight imprecisions that imply the author has only just looked them up. This one is the “welcome to the 19th century” variant to which conservatives seem especially succeptible. I expect it’s partly a result of trying to pad out a two-sentence argument into a full blog post, but it has the side effect of making that argument sound several orders of magnitude more ridiculous.

Tags: War



10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Trent McBride // Aug 21, 2006 at 3:47 pm

    You could call it the “Good Will Hunting”-style of writing.

  • 2 Kerry Howley // Aug 21, 2006 at 4:25 pm

    Best of all is the first comment: Powerful. Compelling. Frightening. True.

    Feel the gravitas! It’s a shallow person’s idea of how a deep person sounds.

  • 3 Greg Newburn // Aug 21, 2006 at 8:29 pm

    Little. Yellow. Different.

  • 4 phord // Aug 21, 2006 at 9:08 pm

    This was funny enough to get a dramatic reading at my house.

    A recovering Movement Conservative friend of mine once said to me, “know what I hate? People who use the word “bailiwick” in conversation.”

  • 5 Felix // Aug 22, 2006 at 2:37 pm

    Dear Penthouse,

    I never thought I would be writing one of these letters, but the other day I met this peaceful, gentle soul, and before you know it, one thing leads to another, and we’re having a debate.

    And I say to her, “It is best that we bomb without fear.”

    Her eyes grow wide. “You are mad,” she says.

    So then I say, “”It is our love of these innocents that endangers them.”

    She bites her lip.

    “It must be,” I tell her sadly. “We can only do, and pray, that when we are done we may be forgiven.”

    She starts crying and I undo her bra-strap.

    I always used to think these stories were made up but now I know better.

    Yours sincerely, Grim.

  • 6 James Kabala // Aug 24, 2006 at 10:37 am

    I’m not sure which was funnier – the phrase “military emplacements” or the fact that neithe Grim nor his imaginary dialogue partner ever used a contraction.

  • 7 Uncle Jimbo // Aug 24, 2006 at 5:27 pm

    Even more enjoyable is reading the lame insults of a superior mind such as you have provided. You might have read and taken his point that it’s not really a virtue, but a necessity that should be avoided until that no longer serves. But it’s more fun to look down on the knuckle-dragging troglodyte aping his betters eh?

    Having met Grim, I doubt you qualify anywhere near his intellectual horsepower. Thanks for playing.


    Uncle J

  • 8 Julian Sanchez // Aug 25, 2006 at 10:44 pm

    “Having met Grim, I doubt you qualify anywhere near his intellectual horsepower.”

    God, I hope not.

  • 9 Great Banana // Aug 30, 2006 at 12:15 pm

    “A stupid person’s idea of how a smart person sounds.”

    That describes just about every post or comment on KOS or DU isn’t it? I always get a kick out of it. Or, more generally, listening to any leftist attempt to explain their policy positions.

    The interesting thing is, you assume you are a smart person whose writing demonstrates how a smart person sounds. Not sure I would agree with that. What do you define as “smart person”. Is it educational bona fides? Life experience? Or, as I suspect, does “smart person” mean someone you agree with?

    Moreover, plenty of intelligent people are not the best writers. And, many of the best writers are really not that smart about certain issues. So what? I have an advanced degree from a top school, work in a profession, read a lot, and have a high IQ score, so by any criteria you would use, I am probably a “smart person.” Yet, I would be willing to bet that we disagree on who is a “smart person” or “smart writer”. I think most of what is in TNR or the Nation is Drivel, that Noam Chomsky isn’t all that great, and that Krugman is wrong almost always. So, can I point to their writing and say that it demonstrates a stupid person writing how they believe a smart person sounds? I suppose I’m not that insecure about my own political beliefs to have to go straight to insults.

    How about addressing points rasied instead of mean-spirited insults? Although, reading lefty boards, insults is all the left seems willing or able to do these days, so I guess I ask too much.

    – GB

  • 10 Julian Sanchez // Aug 31, 2006 at 5:35 pm

    Speaking of assumptions: Why do you assume I’m on the left?