Sunday, January 24, 2010 5:18 AM
I still can't bring myself to concentrate on this inanity of a piece (referenced here) but while considering whether to write to the NYT reporter who casually repeated an absurdly cracked slander of me as a "fascist" without calling me for comment, I came across this paragraph again:
Regardless of whether Johnson’s view of Vlaams Belang is correct, it is notable that the party is defined for him entirely by the trail it has left on the Internet. This isn’t necessarily unfair — a speech, say, given by Dewinter isn’t any more or less valuable as evidence of his political positions depending on whether you read it (or watch it) on a screen or listen to it in a crowd — but it does have a certain flattening effect in terms of time: that hypothetical speech exists on the Internet in exactly the same way whether it was delivered in 2007 or 1997. The speaker will never put it behind him. (Just as Johnson, despite his very reasonable contention that he later changed his mind, will never be allowed to consign to the past a blog post he wrote in 2004 criticizing that judicial condemnation of Vlaams Belang as “a victory for European Islamic supremacist groups.”) It may be difficult to travel to Belgium and build the case that Filip Dewinter is not just a hateful character but an actual Nazi (and thus that those who can be linked to him are Nazi sympathizers), but sitting at your keyboard, there is no trick to it at all. Not only can the past never really be erased; it co-exists, in cyberspace, with the present, and an important type of context is destroyed. Hasn't the man ever heard of ... books? The Reader's Guide to Periodicals? Newspaper archives? It sounds very much as if he actually believes that pre-Internet, we knew nothing and had access to nothing except the most current events!
With this "innovation" in mind, he writes:
This -- being able to read an archive in your lap at home instead of having to go the library the way we used to do --
-- is one reason that intellectual inflexibility has become such a hallmark of modern political discourse, and why, so often, no distinction is recognized between hypocrisy and changing your mind."This -- is dopey.