On the Irresistible Urge to Look Under Rocks

Human nature can be pretty perverse, and one of the more twisted aspects of it is that we can’t resist turning over the occasional rock, hoping to be stunned and grossed out and aggrieved by what’s crawling in the slime beneath.  This truism is amplified in the Internet Age, when we run around lifting rocks at top speed for the express purpose of finding something to make us shriek and sweat and pound our keyboards red-faced in righteous fury, describing to all and sundry the scum-ridden underside of whatever rock was upended.  But on a day when Canada mourned the loss of a political leader of integrity and optimism, I was hoping we wouldn’t bother looking; or if we couldn’t resist looking, that there wouldn’t be much to find under the rocks and we’d have the class to ignore what little there was.

Sure, I looked too: I’m only human.  But what I observed was surprising and heartening.  The prevailing sentiment around the conservative blogosphere yesterday was the same stunned sadness we felt on this side of the spectrum.  When I checked the Blogging Tories aggregator (I told you, I’m only human), of the 18 Layton-related posts on the front page, all but one was civil and respectful.  Some suggest that it’s rank hypocrisy coming from people who vilified the man in life, and in a way I guess that’s true.  But death by cancer transcends ideology: like a terrorist attack, it plays no favourites, and when we witness it we instinctively give a primordial shudder and pull closer together.  So I’m willing to believe the sentiments were sincere, if momentary.

For sure there were a few reptile-brained scum who couldn’t resist the urge to joke and smear and poke with sharp sticks.  But it was a relatively small minority unworthy of attention on such a day and I wasn’t sure why anyone would choose to lavish it on them.  It’s not like they were representative of the whole, or even the majority, of the so-called “Right”.  Maybe I’m as optimistic as Jack was, but the vast majority of what I read yesterday confirmed to me that it’s possible to vigorously disagree with someone’s political ideology while recognizing their dedication to making Canada a better place.  And that notion, while it may not be as entertaining as the spittle-flecked ravings of a few classless jerks, is far more deserving of attention.

(Having said all that, I haven’t looked around much today but I wouldn’t be surprised if the discourse had already started sliding back into its former slime pit of venom and vitriol, much of it directed against Jack Layton himself, thus completing the Official Period of Civility.)

20 Responses to “On the Irresistible Urge to Look Under Rocks”

  1. 1 Torontonian Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    The silence on the part of Michael Coren is quite telling in itself.

  2. 2 Brian Busby Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    The level of civility and respect is indeed fine to see. I dare say, it gives one hope. As for the exception – might it be this blogger:


  3. 3 JJ Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Torontonian – That would be right in line with the old adage about not saying anything at all, which to me seems like a better response than dumping on the guy.

  4. 4 Simon Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    hi JJ…what I don’t understand is why so many progressive bloggers, including many who should know better, spend so much time looking under rocks for the ugly droppings of right-wing bloggers. It’s one thing to go after their leaders, but who cares what any Blogging Tory says? I do give them a glance now and then, but I never link to them. But I guess as long as people keep rewarding this puerile…or senile… behaviour, I guess they’ll keep on doing it…

  5. 5 JJ Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    That guy and one other jerk were the only ones I noticed at the Blogging Tories that were being classless assholes.

    Yes blogquebecois jerk, too soon.

    But other than those 2, I didn’t see anyone over there being ignorant. The response, even on message boards like free dominion, was largely respectful and that was impressive (to me, anyway).

    Not that I expect it to last.

  6. 6 Beijing York Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    A few more creepy crawlies unearthed over at Dawg’s blawg:


    But on a Jack optimism note, that’s still nothing than what could have been.

  7. 7 Peter Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Classy post, JJ. Good on you.

  8. 8 Jymn Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    I find it sad that civility amongst the Blogging Tories should be a praiseworthy event. Shouldn’t not being a jerk be the norm? Why is it worth such effusive praise? There’s the rub.

  9. 9 Peter Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    Simon, idealogues rely on demonizing to keep the ‘ol righteous rage aflame. Some of them aren’t at all sure they want to see civility or humanity from the other side–too confusing. Think of a pious Christian who encounters the Devil, who says: “Thank-you. Have a nice day.”

  10. 10 JJ Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Hi Simon
    That kind of blogging — point & laugh at the blogging tory dumbassitude — has pretty much dried up since Canadian Cynic went on hiatus. People still occasionally make attempts at it, with varying degrees of success… it’s kind of an art & a science 😛

    I was a bit surprised yesterday at how fast some bloggers decided to jump on the relatively few conservatives that made asshole comments about Layton. I would have thought that kind of thing could have waited 24 hours… but in this high speed day & age I guess 3 hours is the new 24 hours.

    OT, I hope you & Seb & Kerouac are enjoying your summer. The heat wave is over for you guys, I hope! (Someone told me it was 40degrees there at one point!!!)

  11. 11 JJ Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Well, I saw that, and you know… I absolutely adore Dr.Dawg, but I just thought… is that ignorant tweet really so representative of the prevailing sentiment among conservatives that it deserves attention today of all days?

    You know me, I love pointing and snarking and all that. But it seemed like for awhile we were all sort of unified in this loss of someone respected if not beloved… whether we agreed with his ideology or not (and other than social issues, I didn’t always agree with Jack). So I just felt like it could have waited til the day was over & done before we got back to the “Us & Them” stuff.

    Maybe I was just experiencing what I hope could be, and I wanted to enjoy it longer 😦

  12. 12 Willy Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    My god you have come back so classy, lassy and daily also. Great post.

  13. 13 JJ Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    I don’t think the civility was praiseworthy as much as it was pleasantly surprising how many actually made the effort to pay tribute to Jack. They didn’t have to say anything at all. Or they could have been jerks about it. I thought it was remarkable how few of them chose either of those routes. Almost makes you think they might be human 😯

    Not being a jerk should be the norm, but neither side of the political spectrum has cornered the market on not being a jerk, that is for sure.
    Did you ever see the comments threads at Huffington Post and Daily Kos after Tony Snow died? Made me want to puke.

    I’m sure conservatives look at us and think the exact same thing: “Why do they have to be such assholes? So vitriolic? So ignorant?”


  14. 15 JJ Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Thanks Peter. It just seemed to me that yesterday brought out some very human moments all around, and I hate to see that not get recognized.

  15. 16 JJ Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Some of them aren’t at all sure they want to see civility or humanity from the other side

    I get that feeling sometimes myself.
    Some people have a huge psychological stake in being part of a specific “group”, and it’s sometimes easier to define a group by what it isn’t than by what it is. In that kind of dynamic an opposing group is always needed so both groups can point at each other and say (imagine the restaurant scene near the end of the movie “Scarface”) “Look, it’s the Bad Guy!”

  16. 17 K'Shoshana Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    JJ, you have touched on something which I have always thought was more a ‘Canadianism’ – that there are moments when we put partisan bickering aside and acknowledge we all want the good – we just differ in the process of acquiring it.. As a conservative, I have been rather alarmed in recent years as more and more of my fellow travelers on the right take on a partisan mantle without forethought – this always reminds me to be much more reminiscent of the American political system. I am not saying I have written my share of potshots and spittle, but there are times when we need to pause, hang up the partisan mantle and think. Personally, I believe having a strong voice as leader of her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is better for the country as a whole – which is why Layton’s death diminishes us all.

  17. 18 JJ Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Hi K’Shoshana

    Yes, I’ve always said that we all want to reach the same destination, we just get stuck in this interminable argument over whether to take a car, a train, a bus, a plane or a bike.

    As a conservative, I have been rather alarmed in recent years as more and more of my fellow travelers on the right take on a partisan mantle without forethought

    I hear ya. I’ve been similarly discouraged by progressives broad-brushing conservatives as some single-minded monolith of dumbness. I know this isn’t true from my own personal relationships as well as online ones, and I find it really destructive and pointless and sad. But it perpetuates the Us & Them dynamic that some people seem to need to feel safe.

    A strong opposition is always a good thing, otherwise government runs amok, no matter what party forms it. They have to be held at bay like mad dogs 😛

  18. 19 Peter Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 5:01 am

    Ideology is a little like iodine. We can’t live without it, but too much can kill us, or at least the humanity in us.

    OT, JJ, you and Red Tory seem to share a fascination with the Tea Party, and I’ve suggested to him he make unravelling the mysteries of American populist radicalism for we perplexed Canadians a pet project for the next year, which is probably going to be a wild one. I hope you will do the same. However, I trust that when you are blogging about Palin, Perry, Bachman, Coulter & co., you will be ever-mindful of Jack’s admonition to put love before anger. 🙂

  19. 20 JJ Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    I admit it, the TP does fascinate me.

    What fascinates me most about the TP is how its 2 factions — social conservative and libertarian — manage to coexist. Anyone who watched the GOP debates a few weeks ago could see the differences embodied in Ron Paul versus just about everyone else.

    At some point the libertarians will have to accept that many of their fellow travellers’ most burning issues are things that are anathema to them, they’ll take a hike, and once again it’ll be Ron Paul versus The World. Until then it’s an interesting dynamic to watch.

    And of course whatever I post, I’ll be mindful of Jack’s admonition… (although it’s only been 2 days and some of MY fellow travellers seem to have forgotten it already).

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