O Chickenshit, I tire of thee
I tire of chickenshit.
This announcement follows from my misfortune in reading David Ker Thomson’s noxious rant at Counterpunch.org, “Against Canada,” a piece so poorly thought out that, at whatever degree-granting institution it was that cheapened itself by granting this man a PhD, certain august professors can now only be shaking their heads in shame and muttering, “We sure shit the bed on that one, didn’t we?”
(It was Princeton; another nail buries itself in the notion of Ivy League quality. Piled higher and deeper, indeed.)
The problem with Thomson’s rant is that it is so wildly overstated, so polarized and blinkered in its world view. It is, frankly, ignorant. It is not that Thomson is ignorant of the fact that (for example) not every driver is a psychopath bent on killing pedestrians, but that he pretends to be, and asks us to join him in a comfortable state of wilful ignorance. Thomson does not insult our nationalism; he insults our intelligence.
Perhaps he’s trying to be funny, but a certain kind of drivel intervenes to suggest otherwise. Is this satire? It certainly reads that way. But why would Counterpunch satirize, well, Counterpunch? Judge for yourself:
At seewalk, the mostly invisible and hard-to-locate nowtopian nonviolent disorganization that lurks in the chinks of the empire (the technical name for a chink is ‘articulation’, the tight but open space between that makes sense of the whole), we refuse to recognize nation-states, which have been an unmitigated scourge on the planet. We are ‘against’ nations in the prepositional sense, as a pre-position, a position of abutment, the way a piece of sand is up against the tread of a tire … This light-and-lateral strategy is one mode in the repertoire of oppositional practices that nonviolent groups will have to increasingly adopt in this century as Canada and other radical and violent entities increase their capacity to molest citizens. If you think there’s freedom of thought and speech in Canada, it’s because you haven’t thought anything worth thinking.
It’s worth noting here that Thompson is free to think, say, and even publish this nonsense, which suggests either that he hasn’t thought anything worth thinking (a proposition that seems entirely plausible in context), or alternatively, that he’s simply full of shit.
But the real problem here is one that has been getting on my nerves since the Olympics opened, and, indeed, before that: chickenshit.
Let us define chickenshit.
Chickenshit is that stance of facile negativity which we adopt as a shield against rebuke.
If you’re going to make a public statement, it’s far easier to speak against something than for something. If you speak in favour of something — if you advance any concrete idea — you open yourself to attack. If, however, you offer only negatives, you are safe; in doing so, you force your critics to take a stand, exposing their soft underparts to your waiting blade. This is the nature of chickenshit, and its attraction.
Here I recognize the irony: yes, I am doing little here but to attack chickenshit, an act that, in itself, might be construed as chickenshit.
Read Thomson’s rant, again, if you must; is there one single statement that advances any ideal? No. It consists of nothing but attacks on this and that, overstated in the moronic style of online discourse designed to defeat all possible rebuttal. It is a trap: by opposing ridiculous statement A, I allow myself to be positioned behind equally ridiculous opposing statement B.
You’re saying drivers aren’t pyschopaths? Why are you a planet-hating, pedestrian-killing climate-change-denier?
Then follows death by straw man.
I call for an end to chickenshit of all stripes and flavours. It’s time we stopped paying attention to chickenshit out of some mistaken notion that we should promote a diversity of opinion. A diversity of opinion is a wonderful thing — when it comes from people who write like adults. It’s time for grown-ups to start writing like grown-ups.