Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ooh, it's a flame war at Crooked Timber

David Graeber, sometimes credited as a founding thinker of the Occupy movement, has gotten himself in a surprisingly slangy flamewar with regulars at the lefty professors' blog Crooked Timber. Entertaining if you like that kind of thing. Kind of a "breaking the fourth wall" effect because the CT crew first produced an online seminar about Graeber's book on debt, speaking to each other with the freedom of judging their subject matter from a distance. Then the subject himself walked into the virtual room, and accused GWU professor Henry Farrell of "de-legitimization," and apparently them was fighting words, and Graeber stung a few more people into snarking back at him, and vile aspersions were cast on the ancestry of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in d minor, and it was on like Donkey Kong.

So a syllogism crashes into the mirror over the ducking head of a junior blogtender while a couple of wrassling postdocs tumble through the balcony railing into the player piano and, oh, heck, it wouldn't be complete without Marlene Dietrich kicking someone in the teeth. (Don't know what any of these academic types look like, hence no idea who gets to play Marlene, but, hey, we can dream, can't we?)

Admit much of the actual social & economic theory here is over my head tho Graeber's big orange book has been weighting down a corner of my desk for some months and I do plan on reading it eventually. For now it's just fun to watch very smart people being very rude to each other in very long words in the slow-motion brawl of a long comment thread. E.g. from Graeber: "I’m sorry if I have disappointed anyone now that it turns out I never made the wild claims others attributed to me..." and "...the point is that Farrell was not contesting my position, he was just obnoxiously dismissing my scholarship on false grounds because he disagreed with my position..."

Have to say it bugs me that Graeber seems to like asking himself questions in order to answer them himself. A rhetorical tactic shared by Stalin and Donald Rumsfeld.

Still plan on reading his book, but possibly with grain of snark.

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