Althouse | category: shame



a blog by Ann Althouse

"There are all kinds of things you can do to develop and retain [a blog] audience... but the single most important thing you can do is post regularly and never stop...."

"[The demand for content] is so insatiable that there is currently no real economic punishment for content overproduction. You will almost never lose money, followers, attention, or reach simply from posting too much. It’s this last part that is often most difficult for writers to accept.... Before they post, therefore, many writers mentally calculate: Is this post 'good enough,' or does it dilute the overall quality of my work, alienate my audience, etc.? But [WaPo's Matt] Yglesias profile’s very existence reminds us of an important rule of thumb for navigating the content economy in the 21st century: Under the present regime, there is no real downside risk to posting.... Even the most anodyne, mediocre writing fulfills the requirement of regularity. (What is the 'Wayne Gretzky' quote? 'You miss 100 percent of the audience conversion opportunities you don’t take'?)... What do the top text-based content-creation entrepreneurs of our time have in common? Logorrhea.... It’s easy to see why writers reared in the hothouse reputational marketplace of Twitter are desperate to avoid the shame of negative attention. But... people forget, or move on, or don’t really care.... Feeling shame that prevents you from doing or saying inappropriate things is maybe a useful way to navigate complex moral-social arrangements, but fearing shame that prevents you from adhering to the first commandment of blogging ('post frequently and regularly') is counterproductive. As Yglesias says, it's the best time there’s ever been to be somebody who can write something coherent quickly. Put things out. Let people yell at you. Write again the next day."

Writes Max Read in "Matt Yglesias and the secret of blogging/How to be a successful content entrepreneur" (Substack)(riffing on the WaPo profile of Yglesias).

Max Read doesn't mention artificial intelligence, but if his idea of successful blogging is right, then bloggers can set their blogs to automatically generate endless posts. And that's why he can't be right. But by his own terms, he doesn't need to be right. He just needs to load in more words words words. 

I looked up "logorrhea" to see if it fits the writing of ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence. The OED says it's "Excessive volubility accompanying some forms of mental illness; also gen., an excessive flow of words, prolixity."

That is, the original and narrow meaning is an actual illness. The oldest historical example, from a psychology reference book, calls it "a common symptom in cases of mania." A 1907 newspaper article calls it a form of "insanity" in which "the ideas come rapidly tumbling over each other."

By 1970, the broader meaning had taken hold and non-insane people got accused of it: "We are left with a tedious tale of complicated intrigues written by an author suffering from acute logorrhoea." Yeah, but non-insane people get accused of insanity too. It's hyperbole to say you're crazy, unless you're speaking about a person who is literally crazy, but in that case, you probably wouldn't say it. 

You only say "logorrhea" when you mean to insult. I'm sure ChatGPT deserves to be insulted, but "logorrhea" is not the right insult. "Logorrhea" aims at the emotional structure of a human individual, and the machine has no emotion. It can sound like a needy, anxious person who can't stop blabbering, but it can just as well imitate a stuffy, endlessly thoughtful sage. But it's serving no emotional needs of its own. 

The etymology of "logorrhea" — according to the OED — is "< Greek λόγος word + ῥοία flow, stream (probably after diarrhoea n.)." I think most people who use the insult "logorrhea" are intending and enjoying the association with diarrhea. That's another reason why it doesn't fit what the AI is doing when/if it bests the human blogger. 

"With their thin majority, House Republican leaders will have little room to distance themselves from any of their members, giving lawmakers with incendiary views outsize influence..."

"... said Russell Riley, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia Miller Center. 'Every time some outrage erupts from that body, it will remind the American people of Donald Trump and that this is still the party of Donald Trump,' Riley said. 'The noisy and unruly behavior in the House will be perpetual reminders that the party prefers to make noise rather than govern.'"

Writes Toluse Olorunnipa, in "Hitting back at Trump, Biden gears up for more clashes with GOPAs Biden prepares his reelection bid, some Democrats see an advantage in highlighting volatile remarks by Republicans" (WaPo).

"In the weeks since the election... the White House’s eagerness to call out antidemocratic messages has intensified. It has been fueled in part by the tone and agenda of the newly empowered House Republicans, who have announced plans for actions such as impeaching Biden’s Cabinet members, investigating his son Hunter, blocking spending bills and holding up debt limit increases, all of which the president’s team contends will be unpopular with centrist voters. White House officials deny this is an electoral strategy, saying Biden is doing more naming and shaming in part because there has been a troubling increase in harmful and shameful rhetoric." 

Some rhetoric is harmful and shameful, and some rhetoric is utterly harmless, because it's purely decorative, and no one seriously considers believing it or because there's nothing, really, to believe given some phrase like "in part" that drains all meaning from it — e.g., "Biden is doing more naming and shaming in part because there has been a troubling increase in harmful and shameful rhetoric."

AND: If X does "more naming and shaming" because of the "increase in harmful and shameful rhetoric" isn't that a self-perpetuating dynamic? I'm visualizing a hamster wheel. Must run. Cannot stop. Naming and shaming. Naming and shaming....

"Strict gender roles have governed domestic life in Japan for generations. Men often retire without ever having held a paring knife..."

"... or washed a dish. Those who lose a spouse often find themselves unable to do the most rudimentary chores. An old Japanese saying — 'Danshi-chubo-ni-hairazu,' or 'men should be ashamed to be found in the kitchen' — has spooked husbands from most any housework. Even those who wanted to help typically lacked the know-how.... Simmering resentments frequently come to a head once a man’s career ends and his wife starts to question the arrangement, Tokukura said. 'The power dynamic changes. The wife asks, "Why do I have to do all the housework if you are no longer bringing in the money?"'"

From "Older Japanese men, lost in the kitchen, turn to housework school" (WaPo).

At housework school, old men meet other other old men:

Five of them were fixing a meal recently, Kaneko standing tall in front of the stove and helming the frying pan as the others took turns placing mounds of minced chicken in oil.

“Don’t overdo it,” he warned 80-year-old Kikuo Yano, laughing as he rounded out the nuggets with a spoon. Yano has been taking classes this fall to surprise his wife of 43 years.

“All this time my wife has done everything,” the retired architect acknowledged. “I haven’t done anything around the house. If I don’t know how to, I guess there’s nothing I can do. But if I learn how to do it, then it’s time I help.”

He now wakes up early to press his clothes. Ten times he has practiced a curry dish he plans on serving his family on New Year’s Day. “You see this shirt?” he says, running his hands up and down the sleeve, a smile stretching across his face. “I ironed it myself."

Out with the old — "men should be ashamed" — and in with the new —  "I ironed it myself."

I like the idea of taking distinct pride in doing the humble, simple, concrete things in life. It's a shame to imbue these things with shame (especially if that is part of system of subordinating others).

"You describe growing up under Soviet occupation, being trained to revere the Soviets, rat out your neighbors, to obey."

"It was indoctrinated into you to obey and revere an occupier. And this, you say in the essay’s conclusion, familiarized you with being controlled, with being with someone controlling. 'My marriage was a sort of occupation,' you write. Looking at what’s happening in our country and around the world, do you think about the connection between shame and defensiveness and occupation and politics?"

That's a question the NYT interviewer, Rhonda Garelick, asks Paulina Porizkova in "Paulina Porizkova Doesn’t Call Her Book a Memoir/The model and author spoke about writing 'No Filter: The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful.'"

Porizkova's husband was the rock star Ric Ocasek.

That question was absurdly difficult! And Porizkova doesn't really try to answer it. 

Garelick persists: "But you made that political connection in your essay — between the occupying army and Ric."

Fair enough. Porizkova blows it all off. She was jet lagged and under time pressure when she wrote that — "My marriage was a sort of occupation."

Either say it and defend it or don't speak. The dead Ocasek cannot speak. Or do beautiful women have a special privilege to make aggressive analogies?

"Calling presidents liars, even when they’re honest, is a great American tradition."

"Trump, the greatest liar in American political history, stands no chance of upending it."

That's the last paragraph of "Opinion Trump sued CNN for defamation. Here’s where his case falls apart" by Eric Wemple, in WaPo.

I can imagine Trump suing Wemple for calling him "the greatest liar in American political history." Lawsuits like that must fail in America, and Trump should be ashamed of himself for his impingement on freedom of speech. But of course he's the most shameless of all the ex-Presidents.

Fortunately, I'm too small to be harassed in court by Donald Trump or I would have restrained myself from making a fact-like statement about him that might not be precisely true. Maybe Bill Clinton is the most shameless of all the ex-Presidents. Should we have a court case on that topic?

"And drove down to Newark, Delaware where my dad worked at an automobile agency. And I walked in and I had my spikes."

"And because the reason I was going down, when your dad works at an automobile agency, the great advantage you get a new car to go to the prom or a good used car.  You think I’m joking. I’m not joking. And so I went down to my 51 Plymouth with beach towels for seat covers. And I had my uniform on, my spikes off. I ran in and the woman’s name was Mary, who ran the place. I said, 'Mary, where’s dad?' She said, 'He’s out in the lane going into the repair shop.' I’ll give you my word, true story. And my dad was a well dressed, refined fella. And I walked out and my dad was pacing back and forth between the big garage door, going into the repair shop and the door going out of the showroom. And I looked up, he said, 'Oh, Joey. Honey, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.' I thought God, something happened. This is before cell phones. So I thought something happened to one of my brothers or my sister or my mom or something. I said, 'What’s the matter, dad?' He said... 'I went to Charlie and asked to borrow the money.' He said, 'He won’t lend it to me.' He said, 'I’m so ashamed. I’m so damn ashamed.'"
Said President Biden, quoted in "President Biden on Student Loan Forgiveness Transcript" (REV).

Are drag queens not dangerous?

I'm reading "I’m a drag queen. Here’s what my art really is" by Sasha Velour.
Drag is about self-expression without shame, and free thinking about others — about showing respect and care for everyone and for all the ways we present ourselves. It’s at once illuminating and not particularly serious; in drag, we playfully reject our assumptions about how a man or a woman “should” act so we can find our own ways of being. And drag, certainly, is nothing dangerous.... 
Drag is no less appropriate than other forms of entertainment. While most of our shows in bars and clubs are designed for adults, like any artists, we edit our performances to be squeaky-clean for family-friendly audiences. Whether the queer community’s opponents know this or not, they do know prejudice has to be taught, and taught early. 
Drafting laws to ban children from our performances is much less about the imagined sexual dangers of a drag show than the imagined dangers of failing to indoctrinate children with fear and shame around queerness from an early age. Drag is, more than anything, an antidote to that fear and shame. 
A child who sees queens and kings onstage twirling in costume, acting absurd and authentic before all of society, is bound to develop empathy and tolerance. I think that’s healthy!...  Let your children get to know us; the next generation ought to be introduced to the world in as full and honest a way as they can be, so they can figure out exactly where they fit in it — and celebrate where others fit in, too. Drag can be that introduction, as much for kids as for anyone with enough wonder left in them to open their heart to something new. The people pushing hateful lies about this art form are the dangerous, deceitful ones. Under all the wigs, and the makeup, and the false lashes — and perhaps a bit because of them — we are telling something true.

This is a well-written defense of drag entertainment designed for children, but it won't change the opinion of those who call it grooming. What if you were a groomer, with nothing but evil intentions — wouldn't you say the same thing? Yet this is the problem with everyone who seeks to work with children. What's their motivation?

My new collection of TikToks goes all the way to 11. Let me know what you like best.

1. Such an intense night.

2. Far away and then very close

3. Emmanuel! Do not do it! Don't do it, Emmanuel!

4. You let a marshmallow guilt-trip you.

5. A pretty arty song about shame.

6. I can't not show you the man in shorts when he's in Wisconsin... and these are the shorts.

7. I will take my shirt off before executing you/I don't think I need that, personally.

8. The history of pants raises the question why anyone is wearing pants today.

9. Finding it so much easier to talk to the dog.

10. No. We do not think you're sexy.

11. New advice from the certified vibesmith.

"Democratic strategist Kurt Bardella recommends that Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) turn to pornography ..."

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