Objectology™ In Action (Updated)

UPDATE I: Reid does not take this one lying down. My favorite part of his detailed and leveled response? “Are you fucking kidding me?”

UPDATE II: L. Bryant issues a lame apology. Fails to understand the issue. This is not only about the abusive tone itself, I think, it’s about the general practice of close-minded bullying by those who preach at everyone who will listen how bad “grey vampires” and “trolls” are. This is like a Republican moralist being caught cheating on his wife – apology is not going to change minds here, it’s a matter of utter hypocrisy and shamelessness. I mean if Reid was L. Bryant’s student and he complained to the dean about his professor’s behavior, I’m sure it would have solicited some form of a “talk”…

UPDATE III: Man, the fun just does not stop over at the future most important philosopher of the universe’s blog – see this and be thoroughly entertained!

UPDATE IV: I believe, kind Sirs, that we have ourselves a first group ban – from now on everyone who is associated with PE is forever blacklisted from Larval Subjects – did you hear that? Think twice before commenting here, your name will be entered into a filter that is apparently designed to keep away the crazies. Let the uninterrupted philosophical circle jerk commence. Say what you will, but this is simply deserving of serious mockage – “I’m turning off the comments, email me if you want to react to my posts” – [narcissistic crisis] – “I’m opening the comments, post your reactions here (after passing the filter), I want everyone to see both your reactions and my responses, it’s unfair to me if I write brilliant stuff that no one actually sees, what’s the use of that?” At least be brave enough to just say it, dude, including the small list of banned names so that people on the street can see them and point fingers at them: “Look, those are the idiots who got themselves banned from Larval Subjects! Let’s look at them disapprovingly and shake our heads in disbelief”…

UPDATE V (Some Time Later): All of the related posts and comments I linked to above have been deleted, including Reid’s posts/comments – I guess all parties involved had a conversion experience or something. Now this story will only exist in oral tradition – unless someone took notes…


pictureApparently unleashing unprovoked and irritated remarks on young people and/or students who dare to disagree with onticological object-oriented ontology of obtrusive opportunists (OOOOOOO) is becoming a fad. Sadness all around – I’m sure Levi was writing this post while cooking dinner, watching a documentary and tending his garden. I get the point of the disagreement, but why so many hateful personal insinuations?

I find blog discussions to be less and less interesting, primarily because they breed the kind of resentment and “negative energy” that both Objectologist the Father (G. Harman) and Objectologist the Son (L. Bryant) are so vehemently warning everyone against.  Poor kid writes a rather thought-provoking post on the issues, big bad bully Bryant picks it up (although confessing some initial hesitation) and mocks the hell out of it.  Well, I do it all the time, of course, so who am I to judge a fellow despicable human being?


103 thoughts on “Objectology™ In Action (Updated)

  1. good one. you don’t understand the point of object-oriented philosophy – it’s not about taking humanity off its ontological pedestal, it’s about taking particular humans off one by one with personal and reputation-damaging attacks – get with the program, man!

  2. I found it especially ironic—I say „especially“ since the entire post is dripping in irony (hypocrisy, to be precise)—that Levi accuses Reid of being “in the grip of a theory,” a turn-of-phrase, we are informed, passed jocularly through the hallowed halls of whatever illustrious „Anglo-American“ institution Monsieur Bryant attended. The kind of performative obliviousness such a comment entails is truly mind-numbing. Along those lines, I found Levi’s recent recantations of his heretical deviations from Objectologist the Father, who unleashed his furious Job-like rage upon his unsuspecting understudy, to be particularly instructive:

    >UPDATE: Over at object-oriented philosophy Graham got the impression that I was suggesting that his withdrawn objects are like phlogiston. This is my fault. I wrote this post in haste while cooking dinner and watching a documentary on dark matter, so I wasn’t as clear as I should have been…Apologies to Graham. I did not mean to give the impression that I was lampooning his withdrawn objects as phlogiston. Quite the contrary.

  3. Harman’s original response is uncharacteristically hilarious:

    >Same goes for Levi’s disappointing RELAPSE into saying that dark matter is like phlogiston and my objects are like dark matter, therefore implying that they are like phlogiston…

    >Levi’s “we only know things insofar as they produce differences” would be harmless if only taken epistemologically, but he actually seems to be pushing it toward a correlationist argument in his current post.

    >No, Levi! Don’t drink from that bottle!

  4. You know how we had a thing in the past? I would like to bury that thing, let’s call it a hatchet, because of this post. Let’s bury the hatchet, but my cardigans are off limits. Glad to see people standing up to bullies.

    • The hatchet is being buried as I type this (couldn’t do it myself, had to call a minion, of course). I think my infamous cardigan comment was an attempt at being funny. Clearly, it’s a hit or miss most of the times. As for the post, I just find it that bullying coming from preachers of anti-bullying is somewhat awkward…

  5. I wonder what objectological fashion style would look like? I mean they already have a hand in video games, don’t they? For some reason I’m thinking of Bjork’s infamous swan dress, but it could be the next big thing, who know?

    • Oh but you take a look to “Dr. Sinthome and The Objects Series” posted at the Cultural Parody Center. its no waste and its useful to establish some margins regarding to any objectological self-oriented philosophies.

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  7. Mikhail:

    Thanks for giving @onticologist the status his work deserves. Thanks for giving us this humourous intellectual enjoyment.

    You can restore your twitter account any time with the same email address you used when registered the first time. It would be cool to have your rustiness over there again. Come on!

    I am writing this comment while taking a bath, playing the piano and eating pinole 😀

    • PE’s mighty presence is strongly felt in Shahar’s incessant twitter updates – I feel that I cannot compete with him in that department.

      I wrote this post partially because I think that my time away from blogging (however short) has been giving me all sort of ideas that, as I realized to my own surprise, I didn’t care to blog about – thinking without immediately blogging about it is such a novel idea that it might take me a while to process.

      • Its very cool how irony also shows high rated intelligence and sweeps away with any stubborn objectual insistence. Of course, I was referring specifically to your perverse rusty beard in twitter. Anyway, you already know how things are boiled there 🙂

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  9. It seemed to me that Reid was saying something along the lines of your comment on my blog about unicorns (unicorns presumably being the **PONIES!!!** of ontology).

    I posted a comment at LS, but Levi wouldn’t approve it because he saw it as defending Reid. It’s too bad, really, all of this anger and such. I think the justification of an ontology is a pretty interesting question to be thinking about.

  10. I think even if Reid said something that was completely off the wall wrong, there’s no reason to attack him, it looks like he put a lot of thought and effort into his post, you know?

    • Yeah – I thought it was a pretty interesting post. Although Reid was blunt about his opinions of OOO, he didn’t seem to be getting personal about it or anything. I assume there’s some history that I don’t know about. I try to ignore stuff like that and see the good in everyone and all of that tree-hugging crap.

      I do think, though, that Levi was misunderstanding what Reid was saying about normativity. It’s the same sort of misunderstanding that you seem to have with Levi a lot (the whole “how do you know?” thing).

      Whatever. There are lots of other blogs to discuss stuff on.

      Totally off the subject, but do you know what happened to Alexei? His blog just disappeared.

  11. The sad part of this story is that the old Levi Bryant would probably agonize about it and eventually apologize to Reid Kane, but the new and more ambitious Levi Bryant who has the support of Graham Harman and SPEP is just going to pretend like nothing happened.

    • Hmmm. This is poignant. Which rude fellow do we yearn for? The self-emasculating guilt-ridden Lacanian lapsus, or the Hyper-steroided, fantastical superhero of OOOOOO declamation? Talk about a normativity nightmare. Someone grab some Kant and help us out!

  12. Yes, this is great. Unfortunately, you cannot possibly be correct that Levi is bullying, because he is ontologically nice — it’s just that sometimes other bloggers drive him to apparently non-nice behavior, for which those other bloggers remain 100% responsible.

    • So true, I mean this is such a liberating approach, it should extend to all area of life. For example, I am generally a very nice and patient waiter-in-self-check-out-lines, but if I do get angry and yell at the old lady who is taking forever, it’s clearly her fault as she caused me to be angry with her slowness. Life will never be the same from now on.

    • “Ontologically nice” Ha. I missed that. The line is hilarious. Thank you for that. If only he was onticologically nice.

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  15. M.E.: “Fails to understand the issue. This is not only about the abusive tone itself, I think, it’s about the general practice of close-minded bullying by those who preach at everyone who will listen how bad “grey vampires” and “trolls” are. This is like a Republican moralist being caught cheating on his wife – apology is not going to change minds here, it’s a matter of utter hypocrisy and shamelessness.”

    Kvond: If only everyone could apologize like this. I was way over the top in my tone (but I was provoked, I felt I was kicked in the stomach, and I’m not going to treat grad students like puppies). My goodness.

  16. @Update II – this “apology” is hilarious, he is basically apologized for being condescending by being even more condescending – behold:

    “Given how much I’ve written on this blog about Marx, the politics of Deleuze and Guattari, as well as Zizek and Badiou, such a claim comes off as deeply insulting and startling coming from someone that I have promoted, defended, and who I have considered a friend and ally.”

    Really? “Promoted and defended”? I have given you everything and you betrayed me! Traitor, here is your due – what kind of childish silliness is this?

    • The apology is titled “For Reid”, apparently another gift from the Master. Reid’s dissection of their back and forth pretty much left Levi with little choice. He seemed to have little understanding of Reid’s point. It was either apologize, or apologize with any number of excuses and veiled accusations. The guy just cannot get off his own pedestal. Of course the hard thing is that Levi is probably completely confused why all this has befallen him, as he is the nicest and most reasonable of fellows, doling out his promotions as if indulgences. He just had a bad day after being called a Nazi, it could happen to anyone. It just seems to happen to Levi a lot.

      • Now he is accusing me of pestering him with emails! I sent him exactly one email expressing my view of his unprovoked attack – it was probably a stupid thing to do, but I felt like I had to say something – in any case, I really think this is the new low. Apparently bullying is fine as long as those who accuse you of it are also known bullies (like myself), it’s all good – he who is without sin, throw the first stone, right? And since everyone is with sin, let’s just all throw stones as once.

  17. I’m confused how such blindness is even possible – I’m puzzled by this event as much as anyone else. This post received an enormous amount of hits over the last two days, I suppose there’s an understandable outrage at such behavior, but still – Reid comes out as a sober person and Levi comes out as a raving lunatic with all of his intonations of betrayal and constant whining about everything and everyone. I’m seriously just done with that kind of bullshit.

  18. The comments on that apology thread a comedy goldmine. This is a great Levi line: “Mikhail completely undermine the voice of a rising, brilliant thinker and Carl undermine the protests in California publicly.“ What does that even mean?

    • I’m not sure – the line about Carl is that time when he was commenting on UC Faculty Walkout, clearly he is a union-busting bastard, but as for undermining a voice of a rising brilliant thinker, I think he is referring to himself maybe…

    • I don’t know what Carl said, but I find it interesting that Bryant accuses him of undermining the protests while exempting philosophy superstar and potential career-aider Jodi Dean from criticism, even though on her blog she blatantly called the student occupiers stupid and apolitical and told them they were wasting their time. Professor-cops united against uppity grad students!

  19. Mikhail,

    Thank you for the support. I think the worst of it is over, and hopefully this will all be a memory soon.

    • I’m sorry if my post seemed like I was defending you without any sort of request on your part – I thought it was not cool to attack you and I know that Levi does it all the time, but I really did like your post and I felt that it was well-argued and generally very interesting without any sort of provocation for what was to follow.

  20. Maybe its too late to say it, but when I read Levi`s attack to Reid accusing him of being young and naive in a sort of ways, and then when he talked about ontology and politics and that stuff, I really felt it could be interesting to let him know who is the naive here: so i commented this on one of his posts:


    Mikhail, an apologize because I am linking to a comment i made myself, but this is not just autopromotive matter, but supportive. Of course i sent Levi the comment but he did not publish despite its is not uncivil, nor off topic.

    cheers & Thanks


  21. M.E.: “Now he is accusing me of pestering him with emails! I sent him exactly one email expressing my view of his unprovoked attack – it was probably a stupid thing to do, but I felt like I had to say something –”

    Kvond: My goodness. You finally admitted it. You’ve been sending those emails to Graham all along! I knew I shouldn’t have trusted you!!!!

  22. Bryan: “The comments on that apology thread a comedy goldmine. This is a great Levi line: “Mikhail completely undermine the voice of a rising, brilliant thinker and Carl undermine the protests in California publicly.“ What does that even mean?”

    Kvond: It mean…Levi not Nazi, damn it!

  23. M.E.: [to Reid]” I thought it was not cool to attack you and I know that Levi does it all the time, but I really did like your post and I felt that it was well-argued and generally very interesting without any sort of provocation for what was to follow.”

    Kvond: Actuallly Reid, your follow-up post, explaining yourself was even better, clearer, significant. It laid the whole case out. In a weird way its good that you were provoked into it (and thanks to M.E. standing up for you).

  24. Just in case my last comment on Levi’s thread of apology is not going to make it through, here it is below – I have to go watch baseball and drink beer:

    “I believe I have made my point quite clearly. It’s funny how you are such a great defender of using real names now even though only a couple of years ago you took down a post on your blog about your very own book because you said that you didn’t want people to connect the pseudonym – “Larval Subjects” – with the author of that book – “Levi Bryant”. You have also asked me on several occasions in the past not to use your last name so that it won’t come up in Google search. I trust you recall all of this, don’t you? So now all of a sudden you have decided that using pseudonyms like, oh I don’t know, DR. SYNTHOME, is totally uncool and for losers like myself? Sure then, I don’t have balls, I’m a coward, because you didn’t have balls just a while ago and now you do – everyone should be just like you, right? If you feel comfortable revealing your name, then everyone else should be as well.

    I am not accomplished and I don’t care for accomplishments. I have nothing to add to philosophy, I rehearse old arguments for a living and I like it. I do book reports and I like it. For someone who is all about “difference making a difference” you have a very strange idea of making sure everyone fits the same mold, your mold.”

    • Wow, aren’t you glad that you had that discussion on that blog? You pseudo-nymic, defender-of-people-you-don’t-know, projectless, person-not-of-the-record, emailer you. My goodness, I think Graham Harman is the end of him…

  25. I’m not entirely sure what’s been going on around these parts, but it seems like nothing but cringe inducing, Ricky Gervais inspired The Office antics. Can I start sending faxes to you guys from the future?

      • Hi Asher,

        I decided that I had a moral obligation to end my contribution to civilisation’s decline, so I packed up the blog. That, and interactions with folks along the lines above had made me too grumpy in real life, so i figured it was time to get on with what is important.

      • Well, that’s understandable, though I miss your calm and reasonable presence. I’ve been thinking along the same lines myself lately. Now I just have to figure out what’s important ;).

      • Thank Asher. It’s good to know that some of my contributions were appreciated. I’m still waiting for you to work out the whole philosophy, style, and presentation angle. I think that’s awesome!

  26. The worst part about this entire debacle is that I think it’s actually given Levi the misguided impression that, what with all of this attention (albeit negative) being foisted upon him, he is a Very Important Contemporary Theorist. This arrogant attitude seems to shine through his comments on Reid, regarding himself as a master, a tutor, an elder, and an accomplished academic who, lest we forget, published a celebrated work of literature at a mere 26 years of age.

    I think that points to the limits of threads such as these: the best policy seems to be simply ignoring Levi from now on (although, admittedly, this situation definitely warranted the above comments.)

  27. ” … he who is without sin, throw the first stone, right? And since everyone is with sin, let’s just all throw stones as once. ”

    “… the best policy seems to be simply ignoring Levi from now on (although, admittedly, this situation definitely warranted the above comments.)”

    Everyone ignoring everyone when it comes to personal diatribe would be beautiful.

    This situation definitely did *not* warrant the above comments. This situation sadly *is* the above and all of these comments.

    Smart people, all very smart people. And most with predominant doses of good intention. Why import comment stream language into blog post territory? Why waste so much time hurting each others feelings?

    There is philosophy, human temperament. There is Reid, Levi, Mikhail, Graham. There is the way things went. There is a sadness. There is a playground and an argument. And the years that have gone by. Fail, flail, grace, pace.

    • So true. I’ve been crying all night (awkward when you are at the bar with friends watching baseball, but still very very sad), I must examine my pseudonymous fake life. Once I emerge, I will only blog under my real name – Michael S. Mouse.

  28. I think you win this one, Mike, but I wouldn’t celebrate just yet. Wait for objectologist the father to weight in, I’m sure he has a few of fake emails you’ve sent him up his sleeve. Beware!

  29. I hate to join this chain of love right at the end, but does anyone actually read LS? I usually zone out somewhere after about the second of the seventeen paragraphs . . . But what you say about internet rancor is right . . . There’s no smiles or head-nodding that can add a little warmth.

    • Actually, it’s a valid point – I know he claims to have several thousands hits a day, but from that brouhaha post from yesterday (that actually continued after I made my point about his present take on pseudonymous blogging that he embraced for most of his blogging history) I have exactly 13 incoming hits to our page. One time a really popular philosophy blog linked to us and we got several hundred hits on the linked post, I mean maybe he does not really have that many readers? It’s largely irrelevant, I think, the point is the man is delusional on some level, he must be, otherwise how can he live with all these contradictions, with all these inconsistencies? I mean I get easily irritated and I get angry and I mock people and so on, but I never get on the high horse and write ad nauseam about how horrible “trolls” and “grey vampires” are because I know that I am one for sure… Sadness all around yet again.

  30. Are we eagerly awaiting another apology here? Who is going to apologize to whom, I wonder? So exciting, I’m on the edge of my seat.

    I liked your line about “rehearsing other people’s arguments and liking it” plus all that crap about real names is just awesome. I mean I’ve only recently discovered that Larval Subjects added a photo of himself and his real name to his blog, all those years before he was indeed cowardly hiding behind a pseudonym but now that he has cool friends and feels secure in his job he retrospectively reimagined his life and forgot large chunks of it.

    • The mournful thing is that if indeed Levi had gotten to a place where suddenly he felt more confident and secure about himself, where he was becoming “official” and recognized enough to use the Internet to forward his commercial self, this would be a GOOD thing, something we would probably all be happy about for him. But it is precisely that he forgets his own ass, and accuses other people of his own weaknesses (forgotten), that he beats other people over the head with what he himself hates in himself, that makes it all rotten. And all for what, a few more blog hits, a downloadable book deal, a chance to read a paper somewhere? Geez.

  31. But Mikhail, I really DO want to know what this phantom email thing is. Harman accuses you of sending emails to him you say you never sent, and then Levi does as well. Really, what exactly is going on? Are you just screwing with the Objectologists?

    I’m serious, what’s the deal?

      • Always a good solution. I was surprised how long you hung in their in the comments section with Levi. In fact it was pretty hard to even see you posting there again. Even scrolling through the section was giving me flashback of that particular brand of unpleasantness. Its like having a guy in a tuxedo and tails throwing whipcream pies at you, shocked that you even find it disconcerting or rude. He’s received his support post from Harman now, so no doubt he’s feeling better. Honestly, he should take the implicit advice and simply end the comments section charade.

  32. In addition to Update III, it appears that Graham Harman has pseudonymously returned to defend Objectologist the Younger (cf. slattedlight’s comments), but of course this won’t elicit any complaints from Levi regarding the use of handles to protect one’s identity as it did in the cases of Mikhail and Alexei.

  33. Update III: My, Perverse Egalitarianism has been demoted from mere “poolhall” and “racetrack” (by the Lord Sith), to “cess pit” (by the young Skywalker). A congradulations is in order…I think.

    Somewhere in there “Vampire Lair” probably fits in.

    • I seriously have no idea what is going on at this point, if you are following the awesomeness over at LS. I do take the credit for starting it all with my abusive post on Reid’s sincere post… oh wait, it wasn’t me!

      • Come on now, you at least have to admit that Levi was provoked…don’t you? I mean, he was CALLED A NAZI, or, well, ur, something like that.

      • Well, really, his ontology was *associated* with neoliberalism. I suppose from his reaction that actually should be considered worse.

        Can you imagine, thinking you had an ontology that protested every injustice in the world, an ontology that was spreading democracy not simply to all human beings, but ALSO to every object in the world — and then…and then….and then….

        …to be accused of promoting an ontology to be associated with neoliberalism (!) Damn it! My blood is aboiling just thinking about it.

      • Sorry to get the comment cascade wrong on this earlier, I meant to reply to this point with my big gristly Lenin/Kautsky quote. My sense is that once one has made a commitment to the essential unsatisfactificity of this or that, anything at all which does not immediately and directly challenge the icky thang is implicated in its fundamental badness. So we take bourgeois dumps in bourgeois commodes and we are shits of this dreadful system, yaddayadda. No, you are. I know you are, but what am I. No you, infinity. And then and then and then.

        Well, Marx fucked his maid and Engels paid to keep it quiet. I guess that means all that other stuff they wrote was a buncha hypocrisy? There are all sorts of possible linkages in modes of praxis, and it’s not wrong to try to get them sorted out. In the meantime, though, we stumble toward the good as best we can.

        Oops! I mean, mwah haha, I have been plotting your demise all along! Look on your works and despair!

  34. LS is still trying to save Alexei’s soul. There still is a chance (apparently).

    “As for congregating with Mikhail et al., I just think that the general tenor of that crowd is entirely clear and it reflects poorly on you that you would congregate with them. Their behavior is ugly, often petty, and generally unfair towards others. Why would you surround yourself with that?”

    • Thanks, Kevin, I was reading it just now and I was very moved – I must go examine my hate of Levi. I mean there is clearly a conspiracy against him, but honestly I am blaming one person, one man who single-handedly organized and perpetrated this whole attack – Carl Dyke! You heard it, it’s all his fault! Why else would PE be so often associated with Dead Voles?

      • Hey watch it with the real names !!!! (Joking).

        I have to tell you that you made me burst out laughing so loud there are tears in my eyes. The conspiracy ever widens, depends, grows more dark.

        Evil Carl Dyke.

    • He will turn them on again, I’m almost certain of that – he feeds off these confrontations, needs to fight the enemy to show that his philosophy matters, unlike Objectologist the Father he is not narcissistic enough to simply see his words on the blog. Either he will turn the comments on once the things cool off, or he will do one of the interactive features like “Questions that people I asked me in emails”…

  35. In The Eighteenth Brumaire the gloriously sarcastic Marx opens with that pithy remark about history repeating itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. Along those lines in relation to charges of neoliberalism I bring you some fulminations from the Preface to Lenin’s The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky (1918) (quoting himself from an earlier fulmination, so perhaps the farce was here already):

    Kautsky’s pamphlet, The Dictatorship of the Proletariat, recently published in Vienna… is a most lucid example of that utter and ignominious bankruptcy of the Second International about which all honest socialists in all countries have been talking for a long time. The proletarian revolution is now becoming a practical issue in a number of countries, and an examination of Kautsky’s renegade sophistries and his complete renunciation of Marxism is therefore essential….

    I wrote about “Kautskyism” as follows:

    “Kautsky, the leading authority in the Second International, is a most typical and striking example of how a verbal recognition of Marxism has led in practice to its conversion into ’Struvism’, or into ’Brentanoism’ [i.e., into a bourgeois-liberal theory recognising the non-revolutionary “class” struggle of the proletariat, which was expressed most clearly by Struve, the Russian writer, and Brentano, the German economist]. Another example is Plekhanov. By means of patent sophistry, Marxism is stripped of its revolutionary living spirit; everything is recognised in Marxism except the revolutionary methods of struggle, the propaganda and preparation of those methods, and the education of the masses in this direction. Kautsky reconciles in an unprincipled way the fundamental idea of social-chauvinism, recognition of defence of the fatherland in the present war, with a diplomatic sham concession to the Lefts—his abstention from voting for war credits, his verbal claim to be in the opposition, etc. Kautsky, who in 1909 wrote a book on the approaching epoch of revolutions and on the connection between war and revolution, Kautsky, who in 1912 signed the Basle Manifesto on taking revolutionary advantage of the impending war, is outdoing himself in justifying and embellishing social-chauvinism and, like Plekhanov, joins the bourgeoisie in ridiculing any thought of revolution and all steps towards the immediate revolutionary struggle.

    “The working class cannot play its world-revolutionary role unless it wages a ruthless struggle against this backsliding, spinelessness, subservience to opportunism, and unparalleled vulgarisation of the theories of Marxism. Kantskyism is not fortuitous; it is the social product of the contradictions within the Second International, a blend of loyalty to Marxism in word and subordination to opportunism in deed.”

    Basically, if you’re not with us you’re agin us, a point Lenin makes over and over. I think the details of context I’ve retained above, while now tiresome, are important to get the full flavor of the grandiose significance attached to the ordinary contingencies of history, and to the minor differences of personal style and tactical approach inherent in all human assemblages, turned here into nefarious ‘isms’ willy-nilly. Of course, not long after this the Bolsheviks turned these very differences into the occasion for show trials, political executions and gulags, an example of why it’s critically important, all other considerations secondary, never to let drama queens get any real power.

    Mikhail, I’m honored by your elevation of me to eminence grise of the vampyres grise. I’m not worthy.

    • You’re welcome, comrade. I didn’t think you were worthy myself, but seeing so many reference to you in the “debates” I started thinking and it all made sense…

  36. I’ve not closely followed this conversation or any of the blogs involved, and not to make any apologies for any bad behavior on Levi’s part, but a lot of the responses to all this strike me as decidedly low road.

      • Guys, it really isn’t much more than this. Levi has pissed off a boat load of people who have tried to interact with him, probably much more because of his arrogance rather than due to his genius, and it comes home to roost. But the reason why it is not so “low road” is, at least in my opinion, is that this particular brand of arrogance, hiding behind the illusion that one’s work is so “high brow” while bluffing your knowledge, and seeking to diminish your questioner through every sort of trick, and not being able to realize what you are doing, is typical academic/philosopher bullshit. And that Levi sees himself as some sort of victim here, and can’t even understand why all this is happening, is even more symptomatic of the problem.

      • I can see why being pissed at someone would turn you off to them. What I don’t understand is why it would make you more fascinated with them.

      • If you are referring to me AK, I don’t really have much fascination for Levi, as a person. But there two ways in which I have a focus on the events that surround him. The first is that I believe that philosophical discussion of technical questions on the INTERNET is a good thing, and it is based in a community of users. That community has norms. Now Levi positions himself as something of a leader of that community (and other do as well). He works diligentlly to align himself with other big blog hit folks, begging for instance to be included in certain Wiki articles, etc. His behavior becomes exemplary. As a member of the community I think we have to be vigilant of the kinds of norms these some-what self-appointed leaders exhibit, in particular when the are the most hypocritical. (ME’s point about name posting a prime example.) But the other way in which Levi’s behavior deserves attention, and this may be particular to me, is that he displays the worst characteristics of the “philosopher” persona that I can imagine. Yes, he is creative, yes, thoughtful, but with it comes all sorts of self-deluding bullshit and discourse intimidation.

        Levi, as a person though, frankly bores me. I don’t read his blog unless others are referencing it.

      • Kvond – I guess I’m wrong in interpreting you as being “fascinated”. I do understand what you mean about being vigilant. But the mockery, sarcasm, mind-reading that go on with respect to Levi exemplify a set of norms too — and they’re not very appealing ones.

        If you’re practicing vigilance for the sake of the community, then it would seem to make more practical sense just to point out hypocrisy, bullying, etc. in those cases where quoting verifiable words/actions would make a convincing case, and skip the sarcasm and mockery.

    • Since I’m the one who precipitated the last update, I should perhaps explain myself a little. Let me start with a story. When asked why he was so passionate about social activism, and why he was such a staunch critic of the economy of media, and the manufacture of consent, Chomsky recounted a childhood experience: When he was in the first grade, his classmates used to pick on the one fat kid in class, to the point where one of the bullies brought in his older brother to beat up the poor fat kid. Now, little Noam decided to stand with the fat kid against the bullies up until the older brother came along; he was afraid, and fled, leaving the poor kid to be brutalized. Chomsky closes his reminiscence by saying that the guilt he felt afterward has never left him.

      To put a moral to this story: if we don’t protect those who are being attacked in unacceptable ways, we condone these modes of behaviour, and are complicit with them. I can only speak for myself here, but I believe that Levi’s behaviour has gotten worse — not better — because people have been allowing him to bully others. I’m far from fascinated by his personal idiosyncrasies. And I am perhaps too bothered by a certain form of bullying (which isn’t specific to Levi), which targets the weaker fauna of our particular environment (i.e. academic bloggers and students), and which I had previous simply walked away from. But, really, since one cannot rationally discuss the detrimental effects of a particular form of exchange with Levi, since one can’t engage in a rational dialogue with him about the matter without it going totally sideways, what other course of action is left? You can only take a high road if you have options open for it, or if you want to be a martyr. Otherwise you engage with the means available to you. Ought implies can and all that.

      • I don’t have a problem with defending people who are being attacked. I posted on my blog that I thought Levi’s behavior toward Reid was unacceptable. Maybe that’s an ineffective way of addressing it, but there aren’t a lot of other options that don’t involve reading into Levi’s motivations.

        So it’s not the defending part that bothers me. It’s the mockery, schadenfruede and so forth.

      • Asher, I think the initial impulse was good (at least in my case) both vis-a-vis Reid and Levi, but things quickly deteriorated simply because Levi and I have a long history of fighting over a variety of issues, so very soon it was no longer about Reid but about things like “philosophical productivity and achievements” or “use of pseudonyms” or “logical consistence” or “I am more sincere in my attacks than you are” and so on and so forth. Notice that most of it took place in a span of a day or so, it’s easy to get carried away (for me, at least). However, I don’t think I said anything that I wouldn’t be ready to say again, maybe in a nicer and less confrontational manner.

      • Agreed, Asher.

        You’re absolutely right that mind reading implies bad faith (as you mentioned at your blog), and there’s no need to delight in the sorrows of anyone. To the extent that either of these things is going on, we fail to live up to our own Ideals. As Mikhail already mentioned, I think, this is no one’s proudest moment. At least it shouldn’t be. It’s not mine, at least. I simply hope that some good comes from it, and I honestly think that turning off the comments at LS is probably the best idea.

        One more point, which I maybe didn’t make explicit enough: If it isn’t confronted (and maybe you’re right, simply posting about it, and making enough folks aware of the matter would probably be better than toothless brawling in the gutter), the kinds of bullying we’ve witnessed effectively silences debate and creates consensus through violence. It quite literally manufactures consent by making dissent too costly (in almost every conceivable sense: the emotional expenditure is huge [it’s not easy to remain calm when someone is trying to mock and intimidate you], as is the time; not to mention the possible career damage: who’s gonna want to hire a hot-head?). If you cannot express disagreement or dissent without being harassed, labeled, and hurt, then you are caught up in a totalitarian enterprise. Moreover, given the putative disparity of readerships (Larval Subjects has a huge readership, versus the small readership I had, for instance), the kind of enforced consensus can’t really be overcome without fighting it out in the comments sections. If Rush Limbaugh calls me an enemy of democracy, there’s no point publishing an op ed in Dissent Magazine refuting his claims.

        Anyway, I’ve now said far more than I ever planned to on the matter, and hope this will be my last comment on this thread. I agree wholeheartedly with you Asher. I just want to complicate the picture a little — to paint the past in subtle shades of gray.

        It’s always been a pleasure to exchange ideas and argue with you, and with the folks at Perverse Egalitarianism more generally. Carl, on the other hand, is a crazy Gramscian agitator!

      • Alexei, I’m not sure I buy this community policing model, because I don’t perceive the blogosphere in general and Larval Subjects in particular as compulsory or consequential in any relevant way. It’s easy enough not to get bullied here, just don’t click that link. Works for me every single time; worked for you too; works for Kvond.

        If it’s true that Levi has a certain ‘weight’ to throw around here, that’s certainly not because of his meatworld status; as he keeps telling us, he’s a podunk two-year college prof with a little-known book. It’s because he’s done the work over the years to provide value at his site and has therefore accrued a following. Good for him. That route is available to all of us.

        I personally get sick of the trademark LS style in a hurry, but that’s my problem and I just take a break from visiting there when that happens. And I think it’s a damn shame he’s been hounded into turning off his comments, because as far as I can tell the only good reason to blog is to enjoy the congenial community of like minds on topics of mutual interest. Why would we do this if every day brings a new ration of shit? I completely agree with Kvond therefore, but think there’s plenty of virtual space for contrasting discussion communities that co-exist without getting too deep into pissing matches with each other, entertaining though those may occasionally be.

        Asher, I’m afraid sarcasm and mockery are among the classic strategies of village-style community norm-enforcement, so going all rational and shit isn’t going to get us anywhere. My claim here is different: it is available to create another community more to our liking rather than trying to hijack Levi’s. He do his thang and that works for him plus an apparently-large readership. If it doesn’t work for us, for Reid or for whomever we can do a different thang that does.

      • WHAT? No way, Alexei. C’mon man, you can’t let a crazy Gramscian agitator like me just be right without a fight! Show some backbone! Or wait, am I right the way that crazy people are always right as you back slowly away then break for the door? Dang.

      • To be honest, Carl, in my deeper, darker, less Anglo-American German Idealist moments, I’m a gramscian too…. Plus it’s really hard to disagree with the truth in a convincing way.

        Now, didn’t someone mention something about a door?

      • I’m not trying to get rational and shit so much as I’m trying to get pragmatic and whatnot. I think that it’s important to look at one’s purpose in doing or saying something and to decide whether that actually helps in accomplishing the purpose.

        Sarcasm and mockery do work in the way you mention, but they have a lot of big disadvantages too that you’re probably aware of, and they’re certainly not a necessity. It depends on what sort of community you want to have.

        Anyway. Preaching to you about being pragmatic is not very pragmatic, since your response was already completely pragmatic. I can’t say that excuses you for being an evil, evil person, but whatever.

  37. The comments on Larval Subjects are back on (has it even been 24 hours), if you didn’t notice – explanation? It’s not fair to the author of very very long posts not to see a reaction from the readers on this blog, although such a reaction could be easily facilitating via email, it is not SEEN by everyone therefore useless.

    You, kids, and anyone who is associated with you (Perverse Egalitarianism, that is) is forever blacklisted and banned. There is also to be no sarcasm or any offensive remarks of any kind. Basically the conclusion of this story is this – an implicit policy of only approving of those who approve of you is instituted explicitly, a certain amount of disagreement is allowed (just to show that there’s some openness to disagreement) but strictly regulated – let the creation of consent begin!

    • I really have no problem with that. In fact I’m glad for him and his crew; the comment hiatus made me sad. It’s his sandbox and he can play there however and with whomever he chooses, just as we do at our own places. The blacklist should help some of us resist the temptation to go kick sand in his face, and I also hope he’ll resist the temptation to come torture himself with our gritty badness. We’re just not a good fit, is all, and I for one don’t need him to conform to some image of what he’s supposed to be.

  38. Alexei real quick – re: low road and high road … I don’t read any of the blogs involved often enough to know anything about the interpersonal history, patterns of behavior, etc. If folk feel like there’s behavior problems, more power to them for speaking up. If someone’s acting like a jerk it’s good to try to get them to quit it. I think though that there are some pretty predictably better and worse ways to do that. “HEY FUCK YOU” rarely succeeds, and in my (admittedly cursory) glance at comments on some of the blogs responding to all this, a lot of the response seems to me like little more an extended version of that. That’s what I meant by low road, responses that strike me as continuing the dynamic, turning up the heat etc, as opposed to de-escalating. I didn’t mean that folk should keep their mouths shut when upset/uncomfortable, I meant that I think folk could have been a bit more deliberate about what came out when they opened their mouths. I’m not gonna weigh in further as I don’t really have time for this and only a very occasional participant here, I only spoke up cuz I genuinely like a lot of the people involved in all this even though I only know folk in passing via their blogs, this seemed to me like a collective moment of good smart people acting, well, below their best and smartest.

  39. ah crap. Mikhail’s most recent comment (“on October 5, 2009 at 12:14 pm“, I can’t find comment numbers on here) basically said what I meant in my last comment, if I’d have seen that first I’d have not bothered to speak further on this. sorry to repeat what others have said.

  40. Looks like you and kvond predicted the inevitable back-peddling on Levi’s comments decision. I am sure that I am among those who are on the so-called black list but it’s probably for the best, this way I’m not tempted to interfere with Levi’s narcissism.

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