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yelling with your mouth shut

Wow. 2,091 words devoted to a subject when he just could have said: "I'm not too fond of James Lileks's blog."

Oh sure, he could have also said "James Lileks has different political opinions than me, therefore his blog is no good." Or how about, "James Lileks uses his weblog to write about his kid! Faux Pas!"

Really? Apparently, Dennis Perrin thinks warblogging and kidblogging don't mix. Like we are all ultra Orthodox bloggers and won't put our kids on the same plate as our wars.

Basically, Mr. Perrin is pissed that The Bleat went from pop culture observances to war, politics, Gnat and pop culture observances. In Mr. Perrin's little world, people can only have one interest, I suppose. One could also suppose that if Lileks wrote from the same side of the political bed that Perrin sleeps in, I would not be writing this because Perrin's column would not exist.

I can't imagine what it's like to live in such a tightly defined place, so small and narrow that there is no room for anyone but those who can meld right into your shadow. Expand your horizons? Branch out? Change your mind? Adore your kid in public while railing against terrorism? If you have a blog, you better think twice about any of those things. Someone is sure to nail you against the wall and call you the poster boy for Bloggers Gone Bad if you do. I know, I've been there.

Personally, my favorite thing about The Bleat is how James can maneuver from subject to subject in one column, from cute to scary, from funny to sad and somehow make it all flow together. Perhaps Perrin doesn't see what I see; that the secret life of kids - all that make believe and innocence and imagination - is the antidote to the ugliness of war and terrorism and nasty politics. That injection of Gnat is just what The Bleat needs some days.

Yes, I am an unabashed Lileks fan so perhaps I'm being a little biased. But I still wonder why someone spent the time to type over 2,000 words that amount to nothing more than the equivalent of someone looking at your dinner and saying ewwww. It's really none of your business what I make myself for dinner, you know?

[I can hardly wait until the Spring 2004 edition of Minutiae Quarterly, where Mr. Perrin will dissect The Backfence].


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference yelling with your mouth shut:

» The defence of Lileks from Dodgeblogium
Two of my favourite bloggers have pasted a major fisking of Lileks and his blog. Mike and Michele have done a wonderful roasting of the piece. Michele points out. Wow. 2,091 words devoted to a subject when he just could... [Read More]

» The defence of Lileks from Dodgeblogium
Two of my favourite bloggers have pasted a major fisking of Lileks and his blog. Mike and Michele have done a wonderful roasting of the piece. Michele points out. Wow. 2,091 words devoted to a subject when he just could... [Read More]


Yeah, I read that thing, too. I was left there thinking, "soooooo, you're mad that Lileks doesn't think like you? You're mad that someone holds differing opinions than you? You're upset that someone who has differing opinions has you whupped when it comes to name recognition, popularity and, very likely, income?"

You poor, poor man. whaaaaaaaaa

Some people just don't get it.

Maybe he'd be happier hearing how Gnat field strips an AK-47.

Dennis Perrin, I'd like you to meet Alex Beam. Alex, Dennis. Now I'll just step out while Alex debriefs you and administers first aid.

Welcome to the People's Republic of Minnesota, where you have three choices in your newspaper reading: left, even more left and way the f#@k out there.

Trust me, this ain't that bad. I live here. I'm used to it. If it had been the Utne Reader, say, who had published this diatribe, it would have been much, much worse.

Lileks would never be allowed to write a political column in the Star Tribune, the paper he does work for. I think it's rather cool how he's gotten around the strict parameters he's subjected to by the Strib. Whereas he can't rant about politics in the Backfence, he can channel those thoughts into either The Bleat or his Newshouse column. Not every writer would manage this feat of separation as classily as he has.

City Pages is a free newspaper that's handed out at grocery stores and bus stops. Lots of people read it, but most people know that it's just filler and not a serious newspaper. At least I do.

As Reynolds used to say: "Lileks Rules!!". Perrin still doesn't "get" 9/11 (or his hatred for the Bush administrator won't let him get it).

The crux of the issue with Perrin is that he feels betrayed. Any fan, right or left, of a gifted individual can feel a great deal of anger when it turns out that your impression of a given hero/idol/admired person is 180 degrees off. I'm sure we can all think of individuals (whether you lean right or left) that we admired, but then we were SHOCKED that they didn't think like us, especially politically.

Anyway: Lileks Rules! (Did I already say that)

Actually, Kathy, I remember one of Lileks' Newhouse columns appearing in the Star-Tribune awhile back, I think. It seemed very alien at the time, a little conservative boat in a sea of lefty editorials. It was refreshing, but I don't think I've seen anything like that since.

I had no idea the way to get an Instalanche was to write lame criticism of the Bleat. Who knew? I was shocked, shocked I tell you to discover that Mr. Lileks writes about anything he wants on his own website. The nerve! [/sarcasm]

I mean, really. Why not do a legitimate critique like how James left us all high & dry for most of December? At least Dowd also took the month off...hey! You know, I've never seen the two of them in the same room.


I feel like when I was a kid, and some little punk made the mistake of challenging the biggest kid in the class to a fight... and you just know the little punk's going to get splattered. "Hey! Everybody! Lileks and Perrin after school in the playground! Lileks' is gonna kill 'im!"

(Of course, watch Mr. Lileks take the high road and not respond, thus depriving us of enjoying his highly enjoying smackdown.)

I think your first paragraph sums it up nicely. But I have to admit, I can't figure out what's really eating at the guy. His arguments aren't compelling (once you take out the assertions, all you have are a couple of examples where he tries to make the case that Lileks is guilty of doing what he says others shouldn't). He does eventually get to his anti-war argument, but there ain't no real fire there.

Beats me. My guess is the popularity of The Bleat just pisses him off.

Heck, all that is exactly why I like The Bleat. In my early days of blogging I read Little Green Footballs, Meryl Yourish and a couple hard core political blogs that I can't even remember. Then I found Venomous Kate, Michele here at ASV and a couple others including Lileks. I realized one day that while I always checked in on Meryl, James, Kate, Michele and other well rounded writers I was skipping LGF and the solid politicos. They just weren't entertaining.

Did I have a problem with political writing? Of course not. It was the reason I started reading weblogs in the first place. Almost every one of the blogs on my blogroll post political pieces at least semi-regularly. But they post other stuff too and that other stuff gives me a much better understanding of the writer and how their opinion relates to my own.

Plus, they're generally better writers overall. ;-)

I don't think it's the success of the Bleat that annoys Perrin so much - it's probably more the pinpoint of certainty in the far recesses of his tiny mind that he could never do anything as well.

The thing with that article is that there is no "there" there. He states a lot of facts about the Bleat, throws out a couple of trendy buzzwords, but never really asserts anything. Basically it boils down to "James Lileks is writing blog-type stuff on a blog! And he doesn't agree with me!". Ho hum.

I do like their illustration of James though - it's much better done than the accompanying article. They should've submitted it for the Backfence's "Photoshop James" contest.

Looking at this guy's archives, it's interesting that one of his previous rants was about how disappointed he is in Christopher Hitchens. "Obit for a Former Contrarian," it's called. "Former"? I guess you're only a contrarian if you're contrary to the same things as Dennis Perrin.

I think Lileks would be the first to tell you that his love for his daughter and his stake in the War on Terror are one and the same.

Excellent point, Crank.

Weak, weak.

"Having warmed up with this, Lileks went off, wildly assuming what The Arab Street thought of the event,"
Attacks are down 22%, Lileks: 1, Perrin: 0
"giving Saddam a psychological profile from thousands of miles away (his imperial Joyce Brothers bit)"

Reading the piece in question, I wouldn't describe it as deep psychoanalysis
"and projecting his "ironic" Oh, isn't the U.S. just awful! routine on those who opposed the invasion."
He's done that before, but not in that piece.
"Because, you see, only a rabid America Hater could find something wrong with Bush's war."

Perrin frequently puts words in Lilek's mouth in this piece. Like "I was somewhat let down that he didn't sketch out a scenario where...(imaginary scenario made up by Perrin)" No telling whether or not Lilek's "Best War Blog" is imaginary or not, Perrin doesn't provide a link. The first "Best War Blog" awards that come up on Google are from Forbes, Lileks doesn't place, but Daily Kos is #1.

Then there's this:
"Here, Lileks was aping many of his warblogger brethren: He reduces all lefties into an easily digestible stereotype,"
Other examples: "warblogger brethren", "keyboard warriors", people "who've elected themselves as the True Spokesmen of American Purpose... the creation of whom is yet another al Qaeda-sponsored crime", "swivel-chair commandos", ad nauseum.)
"as if a starry-eyed teen PETA activist is the same as University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole..."

That one's ad Verecundiam.

Particularly galling was his statement that:
"I also recognize that columnists using children as space filler is a time-honored journalistic practice."
Ad hominem, I would say. Accusing Lileks of using Gnat as mere space filler? He does write about her quite often on his personal website, for free and for fun.

you are so correct. Love you!!!

He's also dead wrong on 2 counts: (1) some of us have, in fact, met plenty of lefties who fit all the horrible stereotypes (and yes, some who don't); and (2) Salam Pax does not, in fact, live in a war zone, and didn't when he wrote the column in question, unless you consider London a war zone.

Some people don't seem to get that they can't/shouldn't tell other people what to do with their own Web space.

Good idea: Teaching young people about committment

Bad idea: Spending 1.5 Billion dollars to what amounts to a "Fuck you" to "non-traditional" families.

And you just took ~400 words to say "How dare this guy say something bad about Lileks!" What's your point?

I think her point was that Perrin is wrong, a point she made by summarizing his essay and refuting his claims. Hope that helps.

Thlayli: I guess the point is to question why Denis took 3 hours out of his day just to obsess over a rant saying he hates hates hates some mild mannered blogger.

Dennis Perrin is the comic book guy.

I imagine him saying:

Now I will log onto alt.furrycreatures.net and post a scathing review of my neighbor's poodle who's new trim entirely fails to excite"

I wonder what other people Dennis Perrin hates. No I don't.

Ooh, italics don't continue from one paragraph to the next!!!

My imaginary Dennis Parrin as the Comic Book guy on the Simpsons was supposed to format like:


Now I will log onto alt.furrycreatures.net and post a scathing review of my neighbor's poodle who's new trim entirely fails to excite"

Hold on, I just noticed. That's a commerical journal, not a blog.

No wonder the Parrin is crazy and his writing is so bad.

[Rosana Rosana Dana voice] Never mind!

He spent over 2,000 words dissecting Lileks because that's what the publication sat down and decided might be an interesting thing to do. To get people talking. Were they successful? It sure seems like it.

Michele, you're an interesting voice at times. But what you fail to grasp is that the journalism business, faulty as it might seem, is a more elaborate process than blogging.

You've frequently expressed interest in finding professional writing work, but if an editor reviewed a submission with lots of comments in very intimidating all caps (there's no red pen in email) along the lines of I CANNOT UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO SAY HERE YOU NEED TO BE CLEARER would you be able to accept that as constructive, or run to your blog and complain that you're under attack? That's something you should perhaps think about.

EDDIE, don't be stupid. I'm a journalist--have been for five years--working as a reporter for a couple of newspapers and currently a slew of magazines. And, I'm here to tell you that, for many columnists and editorialists, they rarely, if ever, have to consult an editorial board for what to write: they write what they want to write. I think Perrin basically was having a brain fart day, couldn't conjure a compelling topic, realized he didn't like the political viewpoints of Lileks, and devoted way too many words to tearing him down, knowing full well that, by invoking the name of a well-known and liked blogger, he'd get plenty of readership, no matter how inane and banal his writing may actually be.

I'm not disagreeing with you about the content of the piece. But it was the secondary feature in the paper. More effort went into the process of it being published than somebody's cranky blog post. And if you want to know why editors will steer clear of recruiting blog talent, it's because no editor-who may have the saintly intentions of giving a writer a break-wants to get ganged up on afterward. Change a word of copy the writer may not appreciate having changed, only to risk the wrath of a hundred of the blogger's biggest fans? No thanks.

The wording of that comment could have used a severe copy edit, but hopefully you understand what I meant :-)

> Of course, watch Mr. Lileks take the high road and not respond, thus depriving us of enjoying his highly enjoying smackdown.

Actually, Lileks both took the high road/didn't respond and delivered a smackdown in the form of a great essay about covering a couple of completely independent answers to "what is an American?" and a vision for America that actually makes sense.

And,he did it using Gnat as both glue and structure. Maybe kid stories are filler for most folks, but Lileks isn't most folks.

"Let's talk about the stars." indeed.

Hey Eddie: Editors have already recruited blog talent. Glenn Reynolds, Matthew Yglesias, Eugene Volokh, Steven Den Beste, and yours truly have all published pieces in other media, including dead-tree magazines. And that's just the short list.

I'm pretty sure that the guys at the Weekly Standard aren't afraid of me. Perhaps I should ask them, just to make sure.