Jack Mitchell

Jack Mitchell

108p

3,400 comments posted · 35 followers · following 169

370 weeks ago @ Macleans.ca - Hey look: Peace in our... · 3 replies · +6 points

There was a fountain, pure as BC dew,
Bubbling behind the centre-right's close ranks,
Beside which now, with careful prayer and myrrh,
A frog was making sacrifice to Whyte,
To Whyte, the unseen Father, and that was
A frog of wisdom, called by mortal men
Critical Reas'ning, though the deathless gods
Named him CR: amphibious, his tone
Had guided many, comforted the few,
Including P. MacKay, whose middle name
Was Few, as in, "Now, what are Peter's thoughts?"
Few. "Well, I know." No, Few. "What?" I said, Few,
His middle name is Few.
But I digress.
To that wise frog Lord Bob now traced his steps,
And, panting with exertion, named him thus:
"Critical Reas'ning, look on me as one
Fresh come from duelling with fearless Thwim:
Unvanquished I, yet not victorious.
The nation's fate yet hangs between us. Come,
And we shall test these armies. Summon Olaf,
And all the sons of Stanfield; ere the dawn
We'll fling our foes back to Trudeaupia."

So spoke Lord Bob; to him the prudent frog
Responded not, but offered up his prayer
Unto the Lord of Heaven, Father Whyte:
"Hear me, great Whyte, who consecrate this myrrh
To thee, and smite the sons of Trudeau; grant
A +10 comment for the centre-right."

So spoke CR, and Father Whyte gave ear
Yet sent no ping of omen, knowing well
That day would see the coming of the trolls.

Through the great army of the centre-right
CR now hastened, issuing commands
To every chief, encountering MYL,
Where he stood counting with several sons
Who would, in future, have to pay the debt
Incurred by various recklessnesses, he
Who made all look, and was accounted much
The most tight-fisted of the fiscal cons.
Him CR now addressed and did upbraid:
"O madeyoulook, why tarriest thou here?
'Twas not thy wont to tarry, aforetime,
But ever didst attack the stimulus.
Nay, wipe away thy offspring's tears
Regarding future debt, and seek the blog
Whereon lies glory for the commenter."

To him did madeyoulook no answer give,
But with a wrathful glance he sought the fray,

And now CR found PhilCP alone
Where he was polishing his bow and darts;
To him the warlike, prudent frog spoke forth:
"O PhilCP, since that delightful day
When thou soughtst refuge from the Globe & Mail
With us, how rarely hast thou missed the mark
With thy sharp shafts; so now behold
How on the centre-left craigola stands
And mocks our weakness, raising many laughs.
Take up thy bow and, with a pithy phrase,
Target his scorn; and I shall give thumbs up."

So spoke CR, and PhilCP paid heed,
Lifting his bow, and praying to his god:
"O Feschuk, who dost rule the surging sea,
Now guide my pithy phrase, and take him down."

Thus PhilCP, but Feschuk heard him not,
For he was partying with Charlie Sheen
In furthest Ethiopia. Thus the shaft
Leapt up into the cloudless sky askew
And missed craigola, hitting poor PeteTong
Upon the ankle, prompting him to fling
His hands to heaven, praying thus to Wells,
Who once had been his patron god, but now
Had plainly not kept off the pithy dart:
"O Wells, what kind of holy patronage
Is this? What's thy agenda? And to whom
Art thou now playing? That I'd like to know."
So spoke PeteTong, but Paul Wells heard him not,
Which probably was for the best, what with
The fact that that hilarious reference
Is getting more and more obscure each day.

And now CR reached MaggiesFarmboy's place,
And by him stood the prudent WDM,
The first renowned for evidence-based posts,
The second for his captions. So to both
The frog gave orders, bidding them to arms.

370 weeks ago @ Macleans.ca - Hey look: Peace in our... · 4 replies · +5 points

Of hard-fought politics, the ringing field
Of online bloody battles, wherein gods
Themselves would shrink to mingle or desport,
Now sing, Muse 2.0, that on the page
Of neither Star nor Post nor Globe & Mail
E'er showst thy face, wherat the comments here
O'erflow with wit and reason; or if Wells
Will lead your sisters in a jazzy dance
Yet guide me in iambic song, wherewith
I now recount the deeds of commenters
And heroes, and the coming of the trolls.

Search first (for Google guides omniscience,
Indexed and cached in Heav'n) to find what cause
Provoked contention in the blogosphere
Before the windy towers of Maclean's?
The nation's future: for that glossy prize
Two camps, two armies, and two battle lines
Now stood opposing, stocked with heroes, seized
With civil zeal: upon the centre-left
The small-l liberals, scions of Trudeau,
Some clad in ruddy armour, freelance most,
Patriots all; and on the centre-right
The sons of Stanfield and the heirs of Clark,
Sensible, sober, shrewd, and skeptics proud.

These armies thus, with spears as bright as CAPS,
Were on the point of offering sacrifice
To Wherry, summoning the rage of war,
When two bold champions, one from each array,
Stepped forth to test their mettle and avert
The fearful slaughter: from the centre-left
Came Thwim the Fearless, dreading no man's flame,
Seasoned, sleek-spoken, who aforetime bore
The first initial "T."; against him leapt
The bold Lord Bob, disdaining both ideals
And cynicism, in his hand a sword
Of tempered economics, who quoth thus:
"Alas, poor Thwim, that our civility
Must now be mangled in the test of blood:
But wherefore you, upon the centre-left,
Have thrice spat insults on the bottom line,
Prepare to greet the Liberal in the Sky."

So spoke Lord Bob, and Thwim with heat returned:
"Too soon, I ween, Lord Bob, thou makest to brag,
For our host stands more numerous; nor blame
Us only, but yourselves: the bottom line
Is not the glorious artifice of gods
But of mere mortals: and we claim it too."

Just so Thwim spoke, and with emboldened shout
Hurled his long-shad'wing comment, which like ice
That falls on Portage Av'nue, from the sky
In early winter, swollen to huge balls
Of death and, worse, extreme insurance claims,
Will crash upon a Lexus, setting off
The wail of the alarm, and chaos reigns,
Just so the comment of T. Thwim now flew
Straight at the premise of Lord Bob. But he,
No youthful Mak, but one who rarely rued
Exchange of comments, ducked the criticism
And now alleged that Thwim's percentages
Were based on UN estimates of yore.
Staggered, the hero Thwim concedes some ground,
Slicing against the premise: yet his foe
Opines that, without figures, policy
Is rather moot, at this stage. Coughing hard,
Thwim yet produces, ere Lord Bob's clean point
Should penetrate the flesh, a recent quote
From mad John Baird, whereby it's shown
The Tory government's own estimates
Are just as shaky; thus he lives
To conquer on another day; Lord Bob
Refuses to waste breath on Baird, and so
The duel ends: each limps back to the ranks
Of his proud army, seeking to report.

370 weeks ago @ Macleans.ca - Hey look: Peace in our... · 5 replies · +5 points

POSTSCRIPT

As an addendum, I include the first hundred lines or so of a mock-epic poem I was meaning to write, including all our names at various points of the battle. I don't feel like finishing it now, but here's a summary of what would have happened, like Milton has at the beginning of each book of Paradise Lost. Sincere apologies if I have left people out!

Book I.

The proem. Duel of Thwim and Lord Bob. CR urges the chiefs of the centre-right to their duties: MYL, PhilCP the archer, MaggiesFarmboy and WDM, TwoYen and the witty JustinWordsworth. CR's confrontation with Dot, who urges peace. CR on the need to joust. The battle begins. Appeal to Muse 2.0 for the Catalogue of the centre-right and centre-left. Mike T. leads the attack for the centre-left, wounding TwoYen, FVerhoeven, and psiclone, but falls to Raging_Ranter, whose boast is interrupted by burlivespipe, Harbles, TJCook, and ottawasteph, who rush to extract Mike T. The council of the Gods. Colby urges them to save Mike T., countered by Coyne; Coyne compromises by demanding the head of Sisyphus; the council undecided. Douglass suddenly explodes into the melee, wounding jasonhickman, and calling to tdotlib, GeoffM, Habitant, Nich, and LynnTO for aid. CR and Zamprelli meet on the battlefield but exchange armour instead of killing each other. Be_rad leaps into his chariot, driven by DerekPearce; they joust with Stephen_Gordon, who is fresh from battle with danby and Craig O. Intervention of Wherry, who, disguised as an eagle, snatches Craig O. back to safety.

Book II.

Embassy of the centre-left chieftains, who are hard-pressed (Volvos besieged, etc.), to Jack Mitchell, who has withdrawn from the fighting for obscure reasons. sea_n_mountains, Mulletaur, and LKO all make the case, but Jack Mitchell is adamant. At that moment the first flame reaches the Volvos, and a cry of despair is heard as MYL bursts into the stimulus hoard, wounding lccyh. The lament of Jenn for the Volvos. Igarvin, IntenseAlex, ChrisinKW, and Fred_Moro swear an oath to drive MYL out of the Volvo laager, but he summons WDM to his aid. CR calls for a general offensive, battling past Claudia Lemire, GeoffM, hardmouth, and even Geiseric the Lame, who has stolen the Horses of Fiscal Responsibility: none can stop CR in his hour of rage. Or can they?

Book III.

At that moment, a horrible gurgling laugh fills the sky, coming from the North: the trolls have arrived. Description of their mythological charateristics. Gaunilon, TedTylerEzro, john_g ("the lesser trolls") followed by wilson, hollinm, avr, and jarrid ("the greater trolls") and by s_c_f, jolyon, and JamesHalifax ("the foul trolls"). Behind them all, the legendary Troll of Trolls, he of two names, biff / kody. They are all intent on eating reason alive. Council of CR and Mulletaur: they must unite or perish separately. Sudden friendship of the centre-left and centre-right as reasonable beings. But the battle goes ill, as the trolls have brought thousands of rats. The plight of Al O'Wishes, Tceh, janicemaerose, Blamo, and officerfarva. The heroism of Sir_Francis, whom no troll dares face. But it doesn't look good.

Book IV.

Council of the Gods renewed. Gods genuinely concerned, as if all reasonable beings are driven off by trolls there will be no one to offer them sacrifice. Weinman's stroke of genius: the One True Blackberry, wielded by the One True ITQ Poet Laureate, can save the day. Wherry dispatched to Jack Mitchell; he explains the Will of the Gods. Jack must seek the One True Blackberry, which was taken from Maclean's when the Great Goddess departed: find the Great Goddess and he can bring back the One True Blackberry and be acclaimed again as the One True ITQ Poet Laureate. Jack reluctantly agrees and sets forth.

Book V.

Jack journeys to the land of the Steynettes, ruled by a one-eyed man who does not acknowledge the Gods but lives alone, eating raw food. Jack insults him as thoroughly as he can and passes on, pursued by a strange race of slavering midgets. He reaches uttermost Ocean, searching for the Great Goddess, but in vain; he gets directions from Tiresias, who reveals himself as Ti-G*y in disguise and who cautions Jack about the beast of many heads named LiberalsAreFail and thousands of other pseudonyms, whom Jack will have to flame entertainingly for a week. Jack assents and flames and vanquishes and finally reaches the home of the Great Goddess, in a highly subsidised and somewhat uneven land, where she is properly venerated. Receiving the One True Blackberry, he returns to Maclean's.

Book VI.

(Didn't plan further than this, I'm afraid.)

370 weeks ago @ Macleans.ca - Hey look: Peace in our... · 10 replies · +7 points

I am sorry to say that the response from Paul Wells and Jonathan McKinnell has been exceedingly diffident and blasé. Jonathan has essentially told me to treat such smears as I would any other objectionable content, by hitting "Report" and hoping for the best. Paul Wells has told me a few things: first, that I brought the smears upon myself by discussing anti-Semitism in the context of anti-Muslim hatred; second, that he has more important things to worry about and I should be grateful he bothers to reply; third, that I have a nasty temper and deserve what I get as karmic payback for my gumption in attacking people like Mark Kingwell; fourth, and I think this is worth quoting, "IT'S A F*CKING BLOG COMMENT BOARD," i.e. get a life.

Jonathan McKinnell's response raises one troubling idea: that all bad behaviour is equally blameworthy. I can see his point in practical terms: they can't police this place 24/7. Still, I think if posters routinely started using this place as a porn forum, they would be banned and their posts removed quickly; but apparently attacking a long-time commenter in the very vilest terms is not up there with posting porn -- the latter calls for action, the former for a shrug. This seems to me to give a green light to abusive behaviour like that of s_c_f and jolyon, but I suppose that could be changed if things really went downhill. Not everyone, too, feels the same visceral horror of anti-Semitism that I do, even if they are of course totally against it, so both anti-Semitism itself and libelous accusations of anti-Semitism may not strike everyone as being in a special category of abuse requiring action one way or another.

Paul's response is really sad. Of course, he is liable to come back sarcastically to a commenter, offering him steak knives and whatnot, and implying that our dialogue here is amateur hour, but I always thought he was just kidding -- a paternal affection, if you will, for his Inkless Irregulars. Unfortunately it seems that he was not kidding. He really does hold us in contempt. After all, we are not journalists, or even politicians; we're just citizens. We're willing to provide our thoughts for free (perhaps the ultimate sign of unprofessionalism) and most of us (not me, alas!) without even the reward of vanity, since most use pseudonyms.

This is to say: when somebody calls you an anti-Semite around here, or mocks your qualifications, or hysterically slanders you, don't sweat it: IT'S A F*CKING BLOG COMMENT BOARD. But when you next sit down and decide to contribute free content to Paul Wells's blog, remember what he thinks of you and your comment. He thinks you're a loser. It doesn't matter how vigorous the debate, how sharp the arguments, how witty the retorts, IT'S A F*CKING BLOG COMMENT BOARD, in Paul's phrase. It's not an attempt to renovate Canadian public debate or foster unheard-of levels of intellectual participation by ordinary citizens. It's a collection of shut-ins and freeloaders and paranoiacs, just like the stereotype has it -- Paul says so. Oh, I'm sure he appreciates his Inkless Irregulars from time to time; gets a chuckle here and there; we're a merry band of Smurfs alright. But we're below the salt. We're not journalists. We're not the priests of print, and don't you forget it. Heck, you can devote several hours a day for the better part of two years to providing verse, wit, pith, entertaining flamewars, and the odd insight, as I've done, all for free, and when the time comes for Paul Wells to enforce his own promises about preventing smears of anti-Semitism, Paul Wells will just remind you that IT'S A F*CKING BLOG COMMENT BOARD. That's the kind of guy Paul Wells is. But he likes jazz.

Well, there it is, my last encomium to us all and my last tirade. If ever you wish, my dear comrades, to find me on the Internet, you can try my blog, http://jackmitchell.wordpress.com ("Musarum," Latin for "of the Muses"), also accessible at my website, http://www.jackmitchell.ca . I won't post there several times a day, as we do here with comments, but I'll try to keep it up; posts will be more about poetry and history, however, and less about politics, which I was never much of an expert on. Please feel free to email me if you'd like to get in touch, or (better yet) to meet up in Halifax. The century is very young, and I feel confident that we will soon find new and better ways of mastering the Internet in the name of intellectual freedom.

Yours ever,

Jack Mitchell

370 weeks ago @ Macleans.ca - Hey look: Peace in our... · 11 replies · +7 points

Which brings me, unfortunately, to a very sad series of incidents that culminated in an email I got from Paul Wells tonight.

In brief, I had seriously ticked off two regular far-right commenters here, jolyon and s_c_f, and a third irregular one, JamesHalifax, by remarking that the hatred of Muslims we see all around us, even (an ongoing scandal) at this magazine in the person of Mark Steyn, is the modern equivalent to the hatred of Jews that so poisoned our Western societies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I did not make this point to them specifically, and I certainly did not make it to annoy them: I genuinely think this is a major problem. Certainly, if the general analogy is correct, anyone who thinks with loathing of the tide of anti-Semitism that swept over Europe from 1850 to 1930, and who thinks with despair and rage at the consequences of that tide in 1933-1945, must be gravely concerned at the rise in the hatred of Muslims, not merely for the sake of our Muslim fellow citizens but because such hatred always goes hand in glove with militarism, authoritarianism, and cruelty generally.

Well, I hadn't thought carefully about it, and I wouldn't have flinched, but these concerns of mine drove s_c_f, jolyon, and JamesHalifax right up the wall. That a hatred of Muslims should in any way resemble a hatred of Jews was seen by them as a direct personal assault -- presumably because a hatred of Muslims is so central to their Steynian brand of "conservatism" (actually the far right). Unbeknownst to me, they all made careful note of this as proof that I hated Jews . . . a logic that will only be understandable for the next five years, so we needn't go into detail: the fact that I wished to protect Muslims from the kind of hatred visited on the Jews in 1850-1930 meant that I was, yes, an anti-Semite. Interestingly, I believe these three (s_c_f, jolyon, and JamesHalifax) are all atheist Gentiles of Catholic background.

Anyway, a few days later I made matters worse by accidentally using the word "Untermenschen," which in Nazi ideology was used to refer to Slavs, Gypsies, Jews, and frankly everyone east of the Danube; and I used it in reference to the IDF's treatment of Palestinians. In retrospect, this was very excessive, and doubly stupid in that I didn't actually mean to reference the Nazis themselves by using the word "Untermenschen": sadly, many peoples and many ideologies across the centuries have imagined some kind of hierarchy of races, from the Southern plantation owners to the Brahmins of antiquity to the Boers, very much not excluding ourselves as Canadians, in previous generations; I just didn't know of another one-word synonym for that theory, so I used the handiest one, Untermenschen ("Undermen," "Lower people," i.e. "subhumans"). It is obviously not Israeli policy to regard the Palestinians in that light, though when one considers the kind of popular t-shirts they sell in Israel, aiming at the IDF soldier market (though condemned by the IDF officially), such as these -- http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1072466.html -- it's not quite as crazy as it sounds. Howbeit, I regret using the word.

Anyway, the upshot was that we had a savage, earnest flamewar, these three and I, which ended when I complained about their characterising me as a Nazi ("Mein Mitchell" was s_c_f's phrase). I complained about that to Paul Wells (whose blog it was) and Jonathan McKinnell, the Maclean's website wizard. They both stepped in and announced a zero-tolerance ban on personal attacks, which I have since obeyed: naturally this has not prevented me from criticising people's arguments or prose as freely as I please, but I have not accused anybody of being such-and-such. The policy was brought in as an even-handed one ("this means you too, Mitchell") but I figured that was Paul's way of not alienating the Steyn types; and in general the principle of balance is a vital one on a comment board like this.

The attacks on me did not stop, however. In the last two days alone, jolyon and s_c_f have attacked me as an anti-Semite spontaneously three or four times. I reported these by email to Paul and Jonathan, asking that the policy of banning ("no exceptions," "this means you," etc.) be enforced. Being so historically aware, I am particularly sensitive to the horror of anti-Semitism and was genuinely shaken to see my name in (virtual) print, several times over, associated with that perversion. I think anyone who takes the Holocaust seriously would be.

370 weeks ago @ Macleans.ca - Hey look: Peace in our... · 14 replies · +8 points


Dear fellow commenters at Maclean's,

This is a rather long post, but it marks my retirement from commenting here, and I would like to take an opportunity to mark the occasion; also, to create a post so monumental that I will look a fool coming back afterward. Fortunately, as with all comments, no one is obliged to read any or all of this: that is perhaps the chief joy of the Internet.

There are a few reasons why I am retiring. The first two are by far the most important and actually had made me decide to retire two weeks ago: I'm getting married this summer, moving to Halifax, and starting a new job in the Classics department at Dalhousie. I am supremely happy about the former and full of zeal and energy for the latter; and both will take my full attention.

I would feel confident, however, that Canadian commenting, if not Canadian politics, would remain in good hands with you all, my unseen friends over the past two years, were it not for a disturbing and saddening incident which I will describe below.

I say "in good hands" because we have proven together, over the last 24 months (and some of you long before I showed up in May 2008) that citizen punditry works. Internet politics doesn't have to be the nightmare of rhetoric and smears that characterises almost every other media outlet's comment boards in this country, from the Globe to the Star (especially the Globe). Comment-nesting via Intense Debate allows for organised discussions. The high quality of our writing and thinking, which (if I may say) often exceeds in imagination and style the work of the blog postings we are commenting on, attracts a high-end readership and renews itself daily as we push each other to be wittier, more concise, more fact-driven, and more deferential to commenters with expertise in any given area. That would be a great achievement in itself. But what makes these comment boards such a breakthrough, in my opinion, is that they bring together people from across the political spectrum (with the exception, curiously, of the far left, though we did have a self-described quasi-fascist around for a while). Such a diversity of opinion does not exist in the House of Commons, or on television, or in print. It does not exist in our daily experience, not by a long shot. And I have found it profoundly humanising. For example, even for my first couple of months here, I couldn't believe there were small-government people in Canada -- not living, breathing, typing ones, anyway; I didn't know there were people who hated Elizabeth May from a basically environmentalist angle; I could never have guessed I would find enthusiasts for Thomas Aquinas, Graham Greene, Eugene Forsey, and Oscar Wilde all duking it out in a given day. The fact is, in ordinary life we see very little of the intellectual capabilities of our fellow citizens; kids and beer and sports and whatnot are the common denominators of our age; and the modern landscape contains no cafés, no points of rendezvous, save for some formal structures like universities in which alas! the fierce egalitarianism of the comment board has little purchase: a speaker speaks, a panel gives and takes, but the ordinary citizen never ascends the stage -- one fumbling question, quickly parried, and the Town Hall is over.

Not so online. Most of your identies are secret, and people are wary of revealing even their profession, but I know for a fact that some of the best exchanges I've had here have been with someone named Sophia Geffros who, to universal amazement, turned out to be 14 years old, a fact retrospectively noticeable only in her total lack of cynicism. As I recall, she once asked a tough question of her local MP in a town hall, only to have it breezily parried as such questions are; ten years ago, that would have been the sum total of her or any of ours' public intellectual engagement -- oh, join the riding association and they'll let you knock on doors, of course, but they won't let you argue freely, and certainly you'll never find opponents! But now that's all over with, if we can just maintain room for citizen participation, like here. That will profoundly alter our democracy, if we are willing to let it do so, and if we are willing to stand up for ourselves.

370 weeks ago @ Macleans.ca - Eye of the beholder · 31 replies · +5 points

There was a fountain, pure as BC dew,
Bubbling behind the centre-right's close ranks,
Beside which now, with careful prayer and myrrh,
A frog was making sacrifice to Whyte,
To Whyte, the unseen Father, and that was
A frog of wisdom, called by mortal men
Critical Reas'ning, though the deathless gods
Named him CR: amphibious, his tone
Had guided many, comforted the few,
Including P. MacKay, whose middle name
Was Few, as in, "Now, what are Peter's thoughts?"
Few. "Well, I know." No, Few. "What?" I said, Few,
His middle name is Few.
But I digress.
To that wise frog Lord Bob now traced his steps,
And, panting with exertion, named him thus:
"Critical Reas'ning, look on me as one
Fresh come from duelling with fearless Thwim:
Unvanquished I, yet not victorious.
The nation's fate yet hangs between us. Come,
And we shall test these armies. Summon Olaf,
And all the sons of Stanfield; ere the dawn
We'll fling our foes back to Trudeaupia."

So spoke Lord Bob; to him the prudent frog
Responded not, but offered up his prayer
Unto the Lord of Heaven, Father Whyte:
"Hear me, great Whyte, who consecrate this myrrh
To thee, and smite the sons of Trudeau; grant
A +10 comment for the centre-right."

So spoke CR, and Father Whyte gave ear
Yet sent no ping of omen, knowing well
That day would see the coming of the trolls.

Through the great army of the centre-right
CR now hastened, issuing commands
To every chief, encountering MYL,
Where he stood counting with several sons
Who would, in future, have to pay the debt
Incurred by various recklessnesses, he
Who made all look, and was accounted much
The most tight-fisted of the fiscal cons.
Him CR now addressed and did upbraid:
"O madeyoulook, why tarriest thou here?
'Twas not thy wont to tarry, aforetime,
But ever didst attack the stimulus.
Nay, wipe away thy offspring's tears
Regarding future debt, and seek the blog
Whereon lies glory for the commenter."

To him did madeyoulook no answer give,
But with a wrathful glance he sought the fray,

And now CR found PhilCP alone
Where he was polishing his bow and darts;
To him the warlike, prudent frog spoke forth:
"O PhilCP, since that delightful day
When thou soughtst refuge from the Globe & Mail
With us, how rarely hast thou missed the mark
With thy sharp shafts; so now behold
How on the centre-left craigola stands
And mocks our weakness, raising many laughs.
Take up thy bow and, with a pithy phrase,
Target his scorn; and I shall give thumbs up."

So spoke CR, and PhilCP paid heed,
Lifting his bow, and praying to his god:
"O Feschuk, who dost rule the surging sea,
Now guide my pithy phrase, and take him down."

Thus PhilCP, but Feschuk heard him not,
For he was partying with Charlie Sheen
In furthest Ethiopia. Thus the shaft
Leapt up into the cloudless sky askew
And missed craigola, hitting poor PeteTong
Upon the ankle, prompting him to fling
His hands to heaven, praying thus to Wells,
Who once had been his patron god, but now
Had plainly not kept off the pithy dart:
"O Wells, what kind of holy patronage
Is this? What's thy agenda? And to whom
Art thou now playing? That I'd like to know."
So spoke PeteTong, but Paul Wells heard him not,
Which probably was for the best, what with
The fact that that hilarious reference
Is getting more and more obscure each day.

And now CR reached MaggiesFarmboy's place,
And by him stood the prudent WDM,
The first renowned for evidence-based posts,
The second for his captions. So to both
The frog gave orders, bidding them to arms . . .

370 weeks ago @ Macleans.ca - Eye of the beholder · 34 replies · +5 points

Of hard-fought politics, the ringing field
Of online bloody battles, wherein gods
Themselves would shrink to mingle or desport,
Now sing, Muse 2.0, that on the page
Of neither Star nor Post nor Globe & Mail
E'er showst thy face, wherat the comments here
O'erflow with wit and reason; or if Wells
Will lead your sisters in a jazzy dance
Yet guide me in iambic song, wherewith
I now recount the deeds of commenters
And heroes, and the coming of the trolls.

Search first (for Google guides omniscience,
Indexed and cached in Heav'n) to find what cause
Provoked contention in the blogosphere
Before the windy towers of Maclean's?
The nation's future: for that glossy prize
Two camps, two armies, and two battle lines
Now stood opposing, stocked with heroes, seized
With civil zeal: upon the centre-left
The small-l liberals, scions of Trudeau,
Some clad in ruddy armour, freelance most,
Patriots all; and on the centre-right
The sons of Stanfield and the heirs of Clark,
Sensible, sober, shrewd, and skeptics proud.

These armies thus, with spears as bright as CAPS,
Were on the point of offering sacrifice
To Wherry, summoning the rage of war,
When two bold champions, one from each array,
Stepped forth to test their mettle and avert
The fearful slaughter: from the centre-left
Came Thwim the Fearless, dreading no man's flame,
Seasoned, sleek-spoken, who aforetime bore
The first initial "T."; against him leapt
The bold Lord Bob, disdaining both ideals
And cynicism, in his hand a sword
Of tempered economics, who quoth thus:
"Alas, poor Thwim, that our civility
Must now be mangled in the test of blood:
But wherefore you, upon the centre-left,
Have thrice spat insults on the bottom line,
Prepare to greet the Liberal in the Sky."

So spoke Lord Bob, and Thwim with heat returned:
"Too soon, I ween, Lord Bob, thou makest to brag,
For our host stands more numerous; nor blame
Us only, but yourselves: the bottom line
Is not the glorious artifice of gods
But of mere mortals: and we claim it too."

Just so Thwim spoke, and with emboldened shout
Hurled his long-shad'wing comment, which like ice
That falls on Portage Av'nue, from the sky
In early winter, swollen to huge balls
Of death and, worse, extreme insurance claims,
Will crash upon a Lexus, setting off
The wail of the alarm, and chaos reigns,
Just so the comment of T. Thwim now flew
Straight at the premise of Lord Bob. But he,
No youthful Mak, but one who rarely rued
Exchange of comments, ducked the criticism
And now alleged that Thwim's percentages
Were based on UN estimates of yore.
Staggered, the hero Thwim concedes some ground,
Slicing against the premise: yet his foe
Opines that, without figures, policy
Is rather moot, at this stage. Coughing hard,
Thwim yet produces, ere Lord Bob's clean point
Should penetrate the flesh, a recent quote
From mad John Baird, whereby it's shown
The Tory government's own estimates
Are just as shaky; thus he lives
To conquer on another day; Lord Bob
Refuses to waste breath on Baird, and so
The duel ends: each limps back to the ranks
Of his proud army, seeking to report.

370 weeks ago @ Macleans.ca - Eye of the beholder · 35 replies · +5 points

POSTSCRIPT

As an addendum, I include the first hundred lines or so of a mock-epic poem I was meaning to write, including all our names at various points of the battle. I don't feel like finishing it now, but here's a summary of what would have happened, like Milton has at the beginning of each book of Paradise Lost. Sincere apologies if I have left people out!

Book I.

The proem. Duel of Thwim and Lord Bob. CR urges the chiefs of the centre-right to their duties: MYL, PhilCP the archer, MaggiesFarmboy and WDM, TwoYen and the witty JustinWordsworth. CR's confrontation with Dot, who urges peace. CR on the need to joust. The battle begins. Appeal to Muse 2.0 for the Catalogue of the centre-right and centre-left. Mike T. leads the attack for the centre-left, wounding TwoYen, FVerhoeven, and psiclone, but falls to Raging_Ranter, whose boast is interrupted by burlivespipe, Harbles, TJCook, and ottawasteph, who rush to extract Mike T. The council of the Gods. Colby urges them to save Mike T., countered by Coyne; Coyne compromises by demanding the head of Sisyphus; the council undecided. Douglass suddenly explodes into the melee, wounding jasonhickman, and calling to tdotlib, GeoffM, Habitant, Nich, and LynnTO for aid. CR and Zamprelli meet on the battlefield but exchange armour instead of killing each other. Be_rad leaps into his chariot, driven by DerekPearce; they joust with Stephen_Gordon, who is fresh from battle with danby and Craig O. Intervention of Wherry, who, disguised as an eagle, snatches Craig O. back to safety.

Book II.

Embassy of the centre-left chieftains, who are hard-pressed (Volvos besieged, etc.), to Jack Mitchell, who has withdrawn from the fighting for obscure reasons. sea_n_mountains, Mulletaur, and LKO all make the case, but Jack Mitchell is adamant. At that moment the first flame reaches the Volvos, and a cry of despair is heard as MYL bursts into the stimulus hoard, wounding lccyh. The lament of Jenn for the Volvos. Igarvin, IntenseAlex, ChrisinKW, and Fred_Moro swear an oath to drive MYL out of the Volvo laager, but he summons WDM to his aid. CR calls for a general offensive, battling past Claudia Lemire, GeoffM, hardmouth, and even Geiseric the Lame, who has stolen the Horses of Fiscal Responsibility: none can stop CR in his hour of rage. Or can they?

Book III.

At that moment, a horrible gurgling laugh fills the sky, coming from the North: the trolls have arrived. Description of their mythological charateristics. Gaunilon, TedTylerEzro, john_g ("the lesser trolls") followed by wilson, hollinm, avr, and jarrid ("the greater trolls") and by s_c_f, jolyon, and JamesHalifax ("the foul trolls"). Behind them all, the legendary Troll of Trolls, he of two names, biff / kody. They are all intent on eating reason alive. Council of CR and Mulletaur: they must unite or perish separately. Sudden friendship of the centre-left and centre-right as reasonable beings. But the battle goes ill, as the trolls have brought thousands of rats. The plight of Al O'Wishes, Tceh, janicemaerose, Blamo, and officerfarva. The heroism of Sir_Francis, whom no troll dares face. But it doesn't look good.

Book IV.

Council of the Gods renewed. Gods genuinely concerned, as if all reasonable beings are driven off by trolls there will be no one to offer them sacrifice. Weinman's stroke of genius: the One True Blackberry, wielded by the One True ITQ Poet Laureate, can save the day. Wherry dispatched to Jack Mitchell; he explains the Will of the Gods. Jack must seek the One True Blackberry, which was taken from Maclean's when the Great Goddess departed: find the Great Goddess and he can bring back the One True Blackberry and be acclaimed again as the One True ITQ Poet Laureate. Jack reluctantly agrees and sets forth.

Book V.

Jack journeys to the land of the Steynettes, ruled by a one-eyed man who does not acknowledge the Gods but lives alone, eating raw food. Jack insults him as thoroughly as he can and passes on, pursued by a strange race of slavering midgets. He reaches uttermost Ocean, searching for the Great Goddess, but in vain; he gets directions from Tiresias, who reveals himself as Ti-G*y in disguise and who cautions Jack about the beast of many heads named LiberalsAreFail and thousands of other pseudonyms, whom Jack will have to flame entertainingly for a week. Jack assents and flames and vanquishes and finally reaches the home of the Great Goddess, in a highly subsidised and somewhat uneven land, where she is properly venerated. Receiving the One True Blackberry, he returns to Maclean's.

Book VI.

(Didn't plan further than this, I'm afraid.)

370 weeks ago @ Macleans.ca - Eye of the beholder · 36 replies · +5 points

I am sorry to say that the response from Paul Wells and Jonathan McKinnell has been exceedingly diffident and blasé. Jonathan has essentially told me to treat such smears as I would any other objectionable content, by hitting "Report" and hoping for the best. Paul Wells has told me a few things: first, that I brought the smears upon myself by discussing anti-Semitism in the context of anti-Muslim hatred; second, that he has more important things to worry about and I should be grateful he bothers to reply; third, that I have a nasty temper and deserve what I get as karmic payback for my gumption in attacking people like Mark Kingwell; fourth, and I think this is worth quoting, "IT'S A F*CKING BLOG COMMENT BOARD," i.e. get a life.

Jonathan McKinnell's response raises one troubling idea: that all bad behaviour is equally blameworthy. I can see his point in practical terms: they can't police this place 24/7. Still, I think if posters routinely started using this place as a porn forum, they would be banned and their posts removed quickly; but apparently attacking a long-time commenter in the very vilest terms is not up there with posting porn -- the latter calls for action, the former for a shrug. This seems to me to give a green light to abusive behaviour like that of s_c_f and jolyon, but I suppose that could be changed if things really went downhill. Not everyone, too, feels the same visceral horror of anti-Semitism that I do, even if they are of course totally against it, so both anti-Semitism itself and libelous accusations of anti-Semitism may not strike everyone as being in a special category of abuse requiring action one way or another.

Paul's response is really sad. Of course, he is liable to come back sarcastically to a commenter, offering him steak knives and whatnot, and implying that our dialogue here is amateur hour, but I always thought he was just kidding -- a paternal affection, if you will, for his Inkless Irregulars. Unfortunately it seems that he was not kidding. He really does hold us in contempt. After all, we are not journalists, or even politicians; we're just citizens. We're willing to provide our thoughts for free (perhaps the ultimate sign of unprofessionalism) and most of us (not me, alas!) without even the reward of vanity, since most use pseudonyms.

This is to say: when somebody calls you an anti-Semite around here, or mocks your qualifications, or hysterically slanders you, don't sweat it: IT'S A F*CKING BLOG COMMENT BOARD. But when you next sit down and decide to contribute free content to Paul Wells's blog, remember what he thinks of you and your comment. He thinks you're a loser. It doesn't matter how vigorous the debate, how sharp the arguments, how witty the retorts, IT'S A F*CKING BLOG COMMENT BOARD, in Paul's phrase. It's not an attempt to renovate Canadian public debate or foster unheard-of levels of intellectual participation by ordinary citizens. It's a collection of shut-ins and freeloaders and paranoiacs, just like the stereotype has it -- Paul says so. Oh, I'm sure he appreciates his Inkless Irregulars from time to time; gets a chuckle here and there; we're a merry band of Smurfs alright. But we're below the salt. We're not journalists. We're not the priests of print, and don't you forget it. Heck, you can devote several hours a day for the better part of two years to providing verse, wit, pith, entertaining flamewars, and the odd insight, as I've done, all for free, and when the time comes for Paul Wells to enforce his own promises about preventing smears of anti-Semitism, Paul Wells will just remind you that IT'S A F*CKING BLOG COMMENT BOARD. That's the kind of guy Paul Wells is. But he likes jazz.

Well, there it is, my last encomium to us all and my last tirade. If ever you wish, my dear comrades, to find me on the Internet, you can try my blog, http://jackmitchell.wordpress.com ("Musarum," Latin for "of the Muses"), also accessible at my website, http://www.jackmitchell.ca . I won't post there several times a day, as we do here with comments, but I'll try to keep it up; posts will be more about poetry and history, however, and less about politics, which I was never much of an expert on. Please feel free to email me if you'd like to get in touch, or (better yet) to meet up in Halifax. The century is very young, and I feel confident that we will soon find new and better ways of mastering the Internet in the name of intellectual freedom.

Yours ever,

Jack Mitchell