Just One Minute
Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Sunday, August 11, 2002

Where is TAPPED Taking Us?

UPDATE: At the start? Well, a Concerned Reader commented that the seemingly unprovoked bludgeoning which follows suggests I have deviated from The MinuteMan Way, and wonders if there is a backstory.

There always is. In this post, Demosthenes mentions "lame me-too E.C. blogs like "Just One Minute"." Oh, low blow. "Me-too"? We work hard to provide a distinctive brand of lameness here at the MinuteMan, and, I am proud to say, we are succeeding! I can not count the e-mails I receive saying "I have never endured a blog as uniquely lame as yours". Regrettably, their follow-up suggestions are physically impossible, at least for me.

Well, after an unsatisfactory exchange of e-mails with my new found fellow-blogger, I felt that, having extended the olive branch, I was free to smack him with it. So, away I go. End of Update.

An earlier post pointed to a TAPPED link to a couple of blogs. Let's check out "Demosthenes - In the Shadow of the Hegemon". Sounds ominous, and I have just watched "The Fellowship of the Ring" on videotape, so shadows and hegemons are familiar images.

Let's see. Friday, August 9. Hard to have confidence in these blogger archives, but here is the post:

I think I'll pull an Atrios here, because this comment from Michelle killed me:

Channel the shade of Diogenes? Please. I'm sure [Steven den Beste will] actually just roll three d8s and adjust the position of his leaden legions in the sandpit that he's converted into his theatre of war-planning.

There. Now Ken Layne can't complain about the lack of funny on the site.
:: Demosthenes 9:36 PM

Ken Layne has noticed that too? Well, keep those knee slapping ad-hominem attacks coming, Demosthenes. Hey, I heard den Beste's mother wears little leaden army boots.

However, and given his comic flair, surprisingly, Ken Layne is wrong: Demosthenes has a delightful sense of irony. Let's flash forward to his link from TAPPED:

From TAPPED: Many bloggers, including some of our favorites, choose to use "reverse" colors; that is, a dark background with light letters instead of the reverse. (They include Demosthenes and Matthew Yglesias.) Tapped is sure we are not alone when we say we find this format visually irritating..."

Oh, to each his own. But in what we can only hail as a burst of comic genius, Demosthenes says, and I'll paraphrase:

Welcome, TAPPED readers! I know you're here because this site is hard to read, but please check out my post below, which is over 4,000 words and runs more than 20 screens. I worked on it all morning!

Well, well. He's kidding, right? Or have we uncovered a sinister right wing plot to inflict blindness on the Left half of the Blogosphere? Or perhaps Demosthenes hopes to become the premier Left wing blog by employing a "Last Man Standing" strategy: in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Crafty.

Let us proceed, with caution. The author is clearly desperate to be Taken Seriously as a Very Serious Thinker, and he has spent the morning preparing his rebuttal to a Steven den Beste post about the prospect for war in Iraq. Heavy Thoughts ahead. Let us eschew my cheap shots about his comedic impairment and engage on the Battlefield of Ideas, here we go, no smirking, there could be a war on, really, I AM serious here, let's go, 23 screens, 4,000 words, opening paragraph:

"Stephen Den Beste seems to somehow believe that deductive reasoning can never come up with the wrong answer. Don't believe me? Check it out:

[den Beste excerpt]:
Deduction is prissy; it refuses to play unless it knows it can win. It requires sufficient information of high reliability, and when that is available it yields an answer which is nearly certain."

CRASH! TINKLE! (The tinkle is breaking glass, we're not scared or anything). We are not yet through the first paragraph and the author has driven his credibility into a ditch. Let me re-cap with faux quotes: "den Beste makes an overly broad statement. Don't believe me? Here is a clearly out-of-context excerpt which clearly does contain qualifications."

OK, I choose (a), "Don't believe". This may make for a bit of a rocky relationship for the remainder of our tour through den Beste's post and the author's critique. And it looks like we have to walk. Shall we?

Now, one page into it, second paragraph, this is interesting:

To be fair, [den Beste] does acknowledge such a thing: "The real world doesn't cooperate with deduction. It's necessary to take chances, to make guesses, to work with inadequate information and information of doubtful validity."

Truth comes to us all, shine a light! Demosthesnes now seems to have hit upon the same point which was obvious to many of us from the outset - the author's take on den Beste was laughable. Join the club, my new friend. Bit of confusion, though: do I continue critiquing Demosthenes's post, or will he do it himself? Tennis fans will recognize this as a case of "Irish doubles", when both players are on the same side of the net. I don't know if the Greeks have a word for it.

Back to work. We are battling the "Woodlands Camo" font, and there are many, many, many pages to go. Hey, here is a sign of hope: "Which brings me, finally...". Could this be the light? Full excerpt, please:

"In fact, [den Beste] makes a huge, unbelievably huge error that would get most analysts fired: he takes unlikes and turns them into likes.

[den Beste excerpt]:
--Which brings me, finally, to the article which inspired this entire ridiculously long post. Much of this analysis, by everyone involved, makes a fundamental assumption that Saddam, and other leaders of Muslim and Arab nations and groups, think more or less like we do -- or that they are insane.--

Already, he has ruined his argument, before I could even touch it. Amazing trick, really, and I'm quite impressed. Mixing together "Muslim" and "Arab" is fantastically wrong for obvious reasons, but so is mixing together fundamentalist leaders and strongman dictators like Hussein."

False alarm. Den Beste is apparently near the goal-line, but we have a ways to go. Is this another phony excerpt, which Demosthenes will later debunk? It is certainly NOT clear from the excerpt that den Beste has mixed anything. Oh, here we are:

"Later on [den Beste] makes the distinction (which really doesn't help that much; he shouldn't have made the error in the first place) between Al Qaeda and Hussein, ..."

OK, the phony excerpt ploy was funny the first time. But this is becoming a bit like the "Don't call me Shirley" gag from Airplane. Anybody else had enough?

Fine, big finish, upbeat ending, constructive suggestions:

1. Demosthenes is clearly an earnest and intelligent chap who takes this quite seriously. Good for him, potentially educational for us. Perhaps the least bit of editing would help, however - maybe focus on the top 250 ideas, and drop the rest.

2. The choice of structure may have betrayed him: Demosthenes' own ideas on how an analysis should be developed seem quite knowledgeable and insightful. A post on this alone would be fascinating. However, the repetitive phony references to den Beste drain the author's credibility and the reader's enthusiasm.

3. For easier reading, copy his post into Word, or some other word processing program. Unfortunately, you lose the (few) links and the formatting. I only did this AFTER my eyeballs rolled under the sofa, but I'm sure it's a good idea.

Now, OK, it's his blog. I don't suppose "The MinuteMan - Satisfaction NOT Guaranteed" is in a position to say someone else is taking too long, if you smell what I'm cookin'. Maybe there is an audience for a man with a slow modem. Or keyboard. Whatever. And don't take advice from strangers. Anyway, lovely making your acquaintance, Demosthesnes. I don't expect there will be a reason for me to turn my Evil Eye this way again.

UPDATE: Den Beste responds to someone; Demosthenes, author of "Shadow of the Pokemon" ( I blew it earlier) responds to den Beste; and Demosthenes responds to me. His last sentence is his best idea, and suggests that I have made my point.

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