Thursday, July 29, 2010

Clichés from the Immigration Debate

One of the more interesting aspects of the current debate regarding illegal immigration is the way in which language is transformed through misuse--both deliberate and accidental--by those for whom the framing of the issue is the first priority.
I have spoken before about how this issue is conceptualized in the media. For most Americans--especially those whose lives are not directly touched by the influx of Central and South American illegal immigrants--who get their opinions directly from the media, how they think about it will be largely determined by how the debate is framed. 
Proponents of lax enforcement, for instance, have attempted to portray all immigration enforcement as a form of racism. Mexicans are "racially" different, so any attempt to curtail illegal Mexican immigration constitutes a racist motivated policy. Yet most Americans don't regard Mexicans as racially separate. But racism as a defining characteristic of "anti-immigration" policy is a red herring. The need to control immigration is built into our laws; we have official immigration policy, comprised of regulations, procedures, and enforcements. Our laws, for instance, stipulate national quotas, among other things. These regulations are not racially based.
Lately, however, there's been a new trend in the public discussion about immigration in the media. Leading up to the Federal judge's ruling regarding Arizona's new immigration law, we've begun to hear, with some regularity, the use of the phrase "broken immigration system." 
Just what does "broken immigration system" mean? Was it previously unbroken? And, if so, how did it get "broken"? What broke it? And, assuming it is broken, what might its compromised condition tell us about a possible remedy? 
First of all, there is a general consensus among Americans that our immigration policy needs to be based on pragmatic necessities. Unless, for instance, we chose to have "open borders" without any regard for who might pass into our country, and under any conditions--a situation which no sensible person, it's safe to say, would be likely to advocate, especially in our so-called "post-9/11" world. In other words, we need an official immigration policy, administered for the good of America, and Americans. It should take into account international law and practice regarding the integrity of foreign nationals, and it should allow us to enforce that policy, without hindrance from other nations or interests. 
What people mean when they use the term "broken immigration system" is that our immigration system can no longer cope with the problems confronting it. That is not to say that our immigration policies and practices are wrong in the first place, or that any failure to enforce them is evidence that they were wrongly conceived. A failure to enforce a law, does not prove that the law itself is wrong. It may only need to be more carefully, or more diligently, enforced. 
Historically, what has occurred, is that the pressure of illegal immigration has dramatically increased, while our immigration laws--and the instruments of their enforcement--have not been sufficiently expanded, to address this increase. As our efforts to meet this growing problem have become more bold, and direct, critics of increased enforcement have begun to refer to the crisis as evidence that the system of regulation (and enforcement) itself has become "broken." 

What these critics mean, of course, is that the laws themselves, as well as their enforcement, are "broken." In principle, supporters of illegal immigration (and lax enforcement) want our immigration laws (and the systems of enforcement) brought down. 
What these critics mean by "fixing" our immigration policy, is a general amnesty for all those living illegally in America, an exponential increase in our national quotas from Central and South America, and a general slackening of all immigration controls. 
In fact, our immigration system isn't "broken"--it wasn't broken in the first place. You could say that the vast numbers of illegals have "broken" it, overwhelmed our efforts to control it, but that's like saying the criminals are winning. 
Imagine a situation in which the local police departments were controlled by the criminals, in which justice was compromised in favor of the priorities of organized crime. Well, in Mexico, this is just what they have. 
Mexico is an outlaw nation, sliding, inexorably, further into chaos. Who would want to live there? Who, indeed? Mexico is a classic third world nation, corrupt, poverty-stricken, riddled with crime and bribery and black market commerce. Is it any wonder that its people want out, will do anything to escape from it?
If anything is "broken" it is the government and social fabric of Mexico. Our immigration system, designed to control and administer our immigration policy, is just fine, thank you very much. It doesn't need fixing. What it needs is the will to enforce it. 
As I see it, we have two choices: We can capitulate to those who wish to tear down the barriers to unfettered refugee migration northwards, or we can draw a line in the sand, and stop talking about racism and "broken systems" and "unworkable policies." We can enforce our laws. 
If the Federal Government refuses to keep illegals out, and to round them up and deport them, as it is required to do, the problem falls to the lesser jurisdictions. 
Those who want to seize the opportunity afforded by Arizona's attempt to put its own house in order, to broker a "fix" of our "broken immigration system" at the national level, are attempting to frame the debate as a structural crisis. But the problem was never structural.
Unlike the argument about the legalization of drugs, "legalization" of illegal immigration won't remove the motivation to break our laws. 
The next time you hear someone refer to our "broken immigration system" ask yourself what this is a code-phrase for. Most likely, they're concealing an agenda to dismantle our immigration policy. They're advocating on behalf of the welfare of another nation, another national constituency. They're not on your side.          


Kirby Olson said...

Obama not only wants to grant them citizenship, bu he also hopes to give them rights thereby to the insurance and welfare system, in a hope to get a huge new influx of Democrats paid for by the rest of us.

Curtis Faville said...

People will certainly call me deluded for saying so, but I think you're right here.

Many of your Obama criticisms and complaints strike me as predictable and extremist, but in this case I can't see another side of the argument.

Obama, like a lot of politicians for whom the Hispanic diaspora is just a kind of fantasy or rumor, actually privileges Mexican and other Central American interests over American ones. It's outrageous.

The majority of Americans believe in strict border control, and no more amnesty. But the media, and most of our politicians, apparently don't care what Americans think about this.

What is so precious about Hispanic interests that they must be coddled and catered to so slavishly? I just don't see it.

Conrad DiDiodato said...


I think America fears the Leftist mindset that a more tolerant (compassionate) attitude towards immigration might engender; the creation of some sort of welfare state combined with a policy of racial tolerance. I'm seeing here (interestingly enough)a replacement of Latino for African-American struggle for racial equality.

What we may have here soon is a type of apartheid in America that's seen already in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Dubai & Palestine. A growing population of immigrant workers in America who do all the dirty jobs in service industries and agriculture, either kept behind artificial barriers like the one in Arizona or always referenced (especially during hard economic times) as that problematical element from across the Mexican borders that threatens to destroy the constitutional bases of the American way of life.

You're quite correct: as someone who can only get his information from the media, I'm restricted to rhetoric and the silly political posturing of CNN-type pundits everywhere. And the cast of social & media celebrities who engage in it for entertainment value. The Center-Right hard-liners (Bill Maher) versus the Center-Left "humanitarians" (Al Sharpton). With a neo-fascist Tea-Party contingent in between who aren't going to mince words and, if elected, wouldn't be above resorting to a sort of shanty-town policy.

I fear that one day clichés might turn into official government policy.

Ed Baker said...

coming back from these bull-shit wars are kids who have been mentally driven to the brink of insanity, depression and drugs-use... what they have been taught is how to shoot to kill...these kids will need jobs most likely Boarder Patrol and Urban Patrol..

the shooting/killing of people will escalate it already has and damn little reporting about this...
now to find out what Chelsea is wearing tomorrow and if Fat Al, the Deadskins' "franchise", has passed his "fitness test"... he's failed to run/walk 300 yards... twice

as Andre Breton said:

"the imaginary is what tends to become real"

we're in "deep do-do" without a clue how to repair the toilet and too fucking stupid to flush when full or plunge when stopped up..

this is, after all, just another haiku-vispo moment

Curtis Faville said...


Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

It's obvious that I'm fairly to the Right on the immigration issue. But what bothers me even more, is how the media allows itself to be manipulated--through language--into seeing issues inside conceptual frames that produce an inaccurate and (usually) partisan gaze. Otherwise intelligent and well-meaning commentators will begin to throw around a phrase like "our broken immigration system"--hardly hesitating to define what that means, or how it's being manipulated to create the aura of suspicion and condemnation which serves a specific position. Pretty soon everyone is using it, and the people who wanted us to think in terms of "fixing" something that hardly anyone would have considered necessary, or desirable, in the first place, are suddenly talking about "comprehensive immigration reform legislation"--when the real issue began with the wholesale contempt of an entire people (or nation--Mexico) for our immigration policies. Suddenly we're revising our laws to suit a foreign constituency, a constituency which has no domestic legitimacy.

And it all starts with deceptive phrases like these. The way you win arguments, and elections, in the modern world, is through framing of debates with catch-phrases.

"broken immigration system"
"nation of immigrants"
"humanitarian obligation"
"jobs Americans won't take"
"racial stereotyping"


Anyone who uses phrases like these, knowingly or not, is furthering the agenda of those who coined them. In discussing an issue seriously, commentators who use them either haven't done their homework, or have decided to adopt the prejudicial attitudes which the phrases were created to promote. They may even sound accommodating and fair-minded. But beware!

Curtis Faville said...


I wouldn't worry too much about our returning soldiers being sent to the border. In my experience, most veterans aren't interested in more violence.

We can't afford to feed the starving millions of Mexico, to give them good jobs, homes, schools, police protection, social services, roads, sewer systems, water, electricity, gas, reliable cars, and free legal services. If Mexico doesn't provide these things for its citizens, Mexicans should stage a revolution and throw those rascals out. We can't be Mexico's baby-sitter anymore. Actually, we never could. Maybe we're just beginning to realize that.

Ed Baker said...

yeah generally true however only about 2 % of American the wealthiest run things

so, it doesn't take much of a percentage of any group to effect things ( or is that affect... I get the two mixed up)

just think what 2 % of our University poet-students could do when they wake up!

as for Mexico...that's a Hot Tamale always has been

my Uncle Ruby (who I am named after) rode with Black Jack Pershing into Mexico about in 1910 or so chasing Pancho Villa all over Northern Mexico.. they caught him and made a hero of him (and Brando)

I got a picture of Uncle Ruby standing next to Pershing standing next to Pancho
no sign of The Cisco Kid (who "was a friend of mine") anywhere...

just see what become of Mexico since Villa/Pershing!

after this event Uncle Ruby went to France in The War To End All Wars (WWI) he was killed 5 days AFTER the war a German in an open-cock-pit dropped a hand-bomb on the Red Cross Hospital then and killed him..

Curtis Faville said...


Great stuff.

My most famous ancestor wrote a pamphlet against the persecution of witches in colonial New England. Those were the days!

Kirby Olson said...

It's good to see cracks in the facade of the left.

Watch Fox, Curtis.

You will see your viewpoint reinforced, and you won't feel alone.

With the left, there can be no doubts.

Of course, the left is wrong on not every issue. They are usually somewhat right on green issues.

But on the immigration issue, they make no sense at all to anyone unless you think about how they are trying to garner votes. Then, they make sense.

Curtis Faville said...


For me, the only reason to watch Fox, is to see what the other side is thinking. Or--occasionally--just to get myself riled up.

Both sides are being dishonest about immigration. The Repubs want to protect cheap labor and big exploiters. The Dems want to buy cheap votes among the newly enfranchised. Unfortunately, immigration hurts almost everyone else, and it's bad for the country, especially in a time of declining GDP and real per capita income. We're no longer "rich"--we can't "afford" to baby-sit Mexicans. Or anyone else.

Kirby Olson said...

Fox lets the fur fly on immigration. they aren't Republicans. Hannity and O'Reilly and even the women are conservatives. They're not Republicans.

Laura Ingraham is very conservative a nd is always after Republicans.

Ed Baker said...

HEY! that Arozona/Federal judge has scheduled the hearing on that Arizona law for NOVEMBER!

N O V E M B E R!!!

I guess so as not to intwerfwer with the next "crucial" election of our leaders...

well... now on to something more important:

the Chealsea Wedding that is costing $4 + million dollars!!!

hey how can the Clintons especially Hillory afford $4 + million dollars for this..

has she paid off that DEBT that she owed for her presidential race?

I just don't get what "we the people" are doing...

the National Culture is STUPID


now little bugs are eating the oil which they digest and bigger animals eat them than bigger animals eat them and then... and then and then
"WE THE PEOPLE" eat everything that ate the little buggers that ate the oil!


who's checking those migrating Canada Geese
that come down willy-nilly from Vancouver

I bet that they are smuggling, under their feathers, dope and girls to sell

Gary B. Fitzgerald said...


Immigration now the topic of discussion,
the uninvited millions moving in,
a burden on our culture and our nation,
filling hospitals and schools and jails.
They come in droves across our borders
into our land, disregard our laws,
even claiming the right to this invasion,
take advantage where our system fails.

They say they should be welcomed and forgiven,
telling all it’s but the result of simple need
and desperation and, after all, it was God
Almighty’s own decision, our manifest destiny.
So death, of course, should come to he
who our Holy claim to this land denies.

Somewhere the ghost of an old Chief chuckles,
nods in recognition,
then cries.

Copyright 2008 – HARDWOOD-77 Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

J said...

You're overlooking the most important complaint of many hispanic people (and other ethnicities as well), Sir F: the idea that cops now may shake down people in AZ-land merely for looking like illegal immigrants. So, if you're a hispanic person in perhaps not the greatest vehicle, yr presumably a suspect. That could lead to checkpoints (actually they have them already), and a generaly police-state like situation.

Given the "shake down scenario" I tend to agree with the people opposing the law (and anyone who knows about the cop business probably would oppose the law. why not start shaking down...anyone. Or for thatmatter, manufacturing evidence. Faville, eh. Don't like the looks of you, ese. Back to the holding pen at the bordero, punk) .

It's typical Olsonator xenophobia to suggest that all the demos want just to let in the illegals. Some may. But not all. I'm actually for..responsible deportation, at least of unskilled migrants (then, many of them come up here knowing ag-biz will hire them. So bust ag-biz and contractors who hire them.)

Then, is an open border the worst of all worlds? Not obvious. In some ways an open border (that is, if Mexican politics, border situation was cleaned up) might be a viable solution. Tour of the sonoran bordelloes, sir! whoa

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if my great great grandfather was legal or illegal when he came to America from Prussia. He arrived at Castle Garden in 1856, settled in Wisconsin and wasn't yet a citizen when he was buried in St. Louis in the oldest part of one of America's original national military cemeteries. The country needed immigrants then to occupy or homestead undeveloped territory and to encourage Native Americans to remove themselves to reservations and remain there indefinitely.

My wife just hired a woman from Africa who overstayed a ninety day tourist visa. She's a nun. She's computer literate, speaks five languages, loves to cook and she plays a mean guitar. Without her my demented mother-in-law would have been involuntarily confined in a nursing home during the past six months. My mother-in-law can now live indefinitely in the house she and her husband built sixty years ago. This woman has capabilities that probably pose a significant threat to the established order in the country of her birth.

Our undocumented live-in caregiver put two American citizens out of work who had been providing home care at outrageous rates of pay because they knew my wife's alternative was to abandon an overseas career and move in with her mother to protect her from her predatory neighbors. The home care providers were willing to work for what amounted to all of my wife's take home pay. I would characterize the service they provided as legalized extortion. The undocumented live-in caregiver is willing to work for the equivalent of my mother-in-law's pension income.

Give us a choice between American citizens who loot and pillage because they can get away with it or an illegal alien who needs a job and does it well, guess which one we'll choose.

Curtis Faville said...

Dear J & Anon:

Thanks for you comments--always welcome. I see where Silliman has turned off his comment box, for reasons that escape me. The internet is an odd fragment of reality, and should never be mistaken for the actual world. It hasn't many rules. Why RS thinks everyone should be barred from opinionating because some bloke in Peoria is nuts, strikes me as really silly.

But to the matter at hand.

Anecdotal evidence about immigrants--legal or illegal--doesn't move me much. If they're legal, then there isn't an issue. If there illegal, is the fact that you're (in effect) exploiting them (or getting really cheap illegal labor) somehow an argument in favor of the illegality?

Crime is often profitable. But that doesn't make it somehow better, than if it were simply an aberration or mental illness that some people exhibited, without regard for the attractions.

Before our society began to think that its aged, poor, disabled and confused should all be taken care of by the state, families took care of their own. Households with extended families were very common once. Now we want to fob them off to institutions, and we want this at bargain basement prices. Hiring illegals--who will only work for dirt wages because they can't get legal work--is a form of exploitation. The illegals may not think of it this way, because the inequalities which brought them here in the first place, make the work they can get--even in this circumstance, better than they would have gotten in Mexico.

But ultimately, Mexicans are no more hard-working or polite or humble or decent than Americans. In fact, there's evidence to suggest they're not. People from the Third World emulate our prosperity--which is to say they want what we have, and they're willing to overcome some barriers (including illegally emigrating) to attain it. The idea of allowing one's compassion or guilt or sense of obligation to dictate our official policy regarding immigration strikes me as wrong-headed, and even opportunistic and selfish.

If cheap labor is what you're looking for, then look in the mirror. Are you willing to work for Third World wages? Do you have a right to ask that our society pay for your illegality by funding all the needs and benefits which non-citizens routinely require, while you get away with paying dirt wages for home-care and yard work? If you had to pay directly for the schooling and health coverage and legal services and dependent family benefits and crime prevention which this illegal population creates, you'd reject the idea, because you couldn't afford it.

But that's exactly what's happening. Why should the rest of us pay for the hidden costs of supplying people like you with cheap labor?

The more you cheat and leverage illegals, the more you perpetuate and encourage a bad situation. They know exactly what you're doing. They're exploiting you, while you're exploiting them. It's a bad business, on both sides.

Any society which allows itself to be gamed this way is inviting chaos.

Curtis Faville said...

The kind of thinking which allows people to have wrong opinions originates in the breakdown of language.

Those who wish to dismantle the American immigration system, succeed in framing the debate in terms that cloud the real issues, and the real consequences.

"Cheap labor" "which Americans won't do" for instance sets up false dichotomies which are useful to those who want to throw the debate into a loop. The fact is, illegal labor isn't cheap. It may seem cheap when you look at what the base pay is, but the cost to society of illegals is huge. There are at least 10 ways in which the hidden costs of illegal immigration stress our society, and yet we continue to refer to immigrant labor as "cheap labor", and we continue to pretend that illegals aren't taking real middle-class jobs from Americans. The building trades, for instance, have been overrun in the American southwest by cheap Latino laborers. If you were a carpenter in California or Arizona or Texas, this hits you right in the gut. But we go on talking about "jobs Americans won't do" because those are the current phrases in which the debate is framed. Ask an American bricklayer who's been forced out of work by cheap illegals if he "won't do" brick-laying.

J said...

I see where Silliman has turned off his comment box, for reasons that escape me. The internet is an odd fragment of reality, and should never be mistaken for the actual world. It hasn't many rules. Why RS thinks everyone should be barred from opinionating because some bloke in Peoria is nuts, strikes me as really silly.

Silliman could be mentally ill. His comments, his attempts at analysis, his entire weird PC neo-beat schtick read that way. And incredibly selfish, either way. He says he got at times "a half-a-dozen" ugly non-PC messages. Wow. Six ugly comments and he shuts it down--it's just a little power trip to keep him in good with some of the east coast scenesters, the SUNY people and MFA freaks--spindrift, or nothin'.

Conrad DiDiodato said...


I'm a little dismayed at that decision to turn off the comments stream, and have offered my own interpretation of Silliman's rationale in my blog. I imagine many a blog are buzzing with this one.

Sorry to get off the topic of Immigration but just had to chime in on this one, too

Anonymous said...

WHO WAS t=h=a=t famous poet-immigrant who specifically said:

"censorship is the first sign of mediocrity"

or did he say "censorship is the mother of metaphor"

I just don't know...however to be politically correct I better (s)he or "shim had said:

"better illiminate all the cuss-words and snide remorks about EVERYBODY because my blog is required reading in EVERY Creative Writing Class in USA all the way down to those
3 rd-grade haiku writers who are fighting at age 6 to get top honors in Poetry Writing and Debate and Politically Correct Manners so they can get into a Higher Education Ivory Tower!

above all else let us not hurt anybody's feelings... it just might drive them "over-the-cliff" or into becoming over-medicated VERY SMART Zombies..

like NADJA

ciaoo, K.

Kirby Olson said...

The Silliman issue is very similar to the Mexican border issue. I can understand why they ended up in the same thread, even though they are reversed.

Silliman no doubt supports any number of yahoos coming across the border, as long as they are dark-skinned.

This is because of the Maoism in the arena in which he was raised, which he took to like mother's milk.

Silliman didn't invent political correctness, but he and the other language poets are the top avatars of this system. Basically, they function as LANGUAGE police.

But at the same time there is the notion of TOLERANCE.

Tolerance is of course only toward the other side of race, gender, and class. There is absolute mercilessness toward the wealthy, the white, the male, and of course the straight.

That Silliman and Bernstein are just that, is difficult for them, and they are frequently attacked on just that score, which I find appalling.

If you think back to Tel quel, you have the basic coordinates of the Maoist left as it got transplanted to America. In that group, you already have language policing that comes out of China (Tel quel adored Mao, and back then actually translated Mao). This was based on French frustration at having been turned into a museum compared to the vital urgency of American culture.

Frenchy intellectuals sided with Mao (Breton did NOT, but he is the only one who had a brain).

Then the preference for obscene sexual practices got in through M. Foucault (who thought there should be NO sexual crimes at all, even those that included children).

So silliman has a very difficult job at his blog moving between his given coordinates. He's not mentally ill. That's certain. He's a man of his place and time, but is quite brilliant.

He tries to please the whole left, but even tries to be a bit open-minded toward the middle and the far-right. I am about as far right as you can get, and we have a massive correspondence of some 50 letters at least.

The sad thing now is that so few will go to his blog, because all the fun was reading the post, and trying to slide insiders without beaning the batter but which underminded or Goosed the notion of the goosestep of the PC left.

They hate this! But they also have to be tolerant. It was so fun to do this.

But life moves on, and there are always new fields of inquiry.

I wish Silliman the very best, and just wish he'd adopt better coordinates: the Constitution, the Ten Commandments, and Martin Luther's Complete Works, would be a nice place to begin.

Curtis Faville said...

Well, Kirb, I'd never have met you without Silliman's link list!

Kirby Olson said...

Right, it was arguing there that brought many of the people on my blog list, and even gave me my idea for a blog! Silliman is very important to all of us.

I've now gotten 300,000 hits on my blog, and am an entity of a kind thanks to his invention of a poetics blog that could also be political.

I used to love the rough and tumble arguments you and I had before he started editing things. Sometimes just you and I would duke it out for fifty comments.

Now, of course, we are more settled in and accustomed to one another's thinking. It's very important that you have this curious anomaly in that you are basically pretty much a leftist and rarely flick on Fox News, but on the immigration affront, you are right there with Hannity and O'Reilly. Maybe you are even further right than they are.

That Geraldo Rivera is on the side of illegal immigration because those are his homies, but other than that, the whole of Fox News is solidly against them. You should tune in and enjoy yourself a bit.

In the future there will be veterans of the Silliman Wars, and you and I fought on different sides a lot, but after the Civil War, I'll bet some years later the northerners and the southerners saw one another as pals of a kind.

At any rate, on the immigration affront, we have a similar position.

I think we also discovered that aesthetics is what drives us, as over and against the inclusiveness of the left.

The Marxists wanted to let loose the rabble, and turn the cities into rubble. The Freudians wanted to let loose the unconscious and enact all kinds of nightmarish activities.

All borders down, and everyone running amok.

I am for ordinary repression. I want the police to enforce the laws, and I want people to discipline themselves into at least ordinary decency: no killing, no adultery, no stealing, no bad words.

But I do still want humor, and loveliness.

Anonymous said...

Google ID still has me locked out of Kirby's comments. Speaking of quality, how did Grant and Sherman fare at West Point?

Curtis Faville said...

Golly, Anon.

You've really got me stumped.

I need a context for these remarks-- ??

Anonymous said...

It's a hint to Kirby that I could comment on his blog post if he allowed Anonymous and Name/URL comments as you do.

J said...

Silliman symbolizes about everything wrong with the lit-business. It's unlikely he's ever written a research paper or article, or sat at a copy desk much less penned an essay on a real book, whether Kant, Conrad or Ray Chandler.

He's another of these bay area PC freaks who picked up a few quasi-radical ideas (ie faux-marxism), hung out with loudmouths and beat-bums, and starts spewing this bizarre chaotic mish mash, and some people considered him a "serious" writer. BS.

His own swirly, girly prose on his lame site wouldn't make it past an ordinary metro editor. F*ck that fat snitch motherf*cker.

That's the proper attitude. Not the little whiny, wow someone used an ad hominem or trolled, or rude epithet tea-swiller approach. But in-his- face denunciation.

Curtis Faville said...


I'm not particularly concerned about your name-calling or occasional scatology (I think people will judge you by your words), but you do need to get the facts straight.

Ron has indeed written a good deal of important, well-thought-out expository (or critical) prose. I find his writing to be clear, and often convincing. He confronts serious issues in a controversial manner, and has a huge and varied following. He's a good deal more catholic in his tastes than almost anyone else I can think of, and he's generous and energetic enough to share that wide reading and awareness. I applaud this.

But I do not always agree with him. How could it be otherwise? If you want to discuss his blog, why not start one of your own, and address the matter directly?

Let's be civil and agree to disagree with grace, as well as passion.

Ed Baker said...

a while back when I was young and fancy-free I wrote a manifesto de:aling with this very issue... and
much to my shegrin it was published for The World to see/read annnndddddd without (and within) further ado,
hear 'tis, en toto:

(for whut it's worth!

J said...

He's spewed a great deal, and spammed in his lists, and embedded pictures and youtubes but it's mostly just PC fluff-- sentimental, "liberal" in the bad sense.

His whole "school of quietude" rant means little or nothing. Didn't he say that about Charles Simic--Simic's like triple the writer and poet that S-man will ever be. He considers Bobby Dylan jingles or Ginsturd's ugly madhouse rants above , like, any poet or writer of the 20th century? A sad joke.

Read his supposed criticism--not informed by any sort of philosophical reflection, even the usual bad marxism (for that matter S-man at times sounds pretty conservative, ala Kirby O. I bet he watches Blenn Geck as well). He drops names and a few "isms" but there's little if any substance to his writing, no facts to deal with. Just lightweight indignation--that's S-man--not worth really getting worked up about, but it was a popular site. A few naughty comments and he pulls the plug. Typical whiny poetaster BS.

Kirby Olson said...

I think it's hilarious that Ron wiped out the entirety of the comments over the last eight years.

I mean, who cares?

Curtis Faville said...


I think you have exactly the right attitude.

Let it go....

J said...

Most comments are somewhat expendable, but not all. Deleting a few years of comments might not be hilarious to Writer X who wrote some lengthy analysis in a comment box (not that that's such a good idea, but happens)--

or say ala Kirby O & friends some posters were engaged in a limerick contest. And they delete Kirby's bestest limerick--he'd be irked, probably have to talk to his Pastor Schmutzberg or somethin' .

Say Writer X even did some research, links to papers, articles, etc., posted in comments and worked for hours on the thread. Disappeared by Chairperson Ron in a moment of paranoid rage (he could have made an announcement--Ill be deleting all this manana, etc). Punk sh*t, as they say southside--which is to say, snitch.

Craig said...

I posted a comment on the Silliman blog. It was long enough I had to send it in two parts, a firsthand description of the funeral procession for Cory Aquino. The procession stalled for nearly two hours a block from my building. The news helicopters photographing the scene for television were hovering outside my living room window, blocking my view. Cory's son has since become president and will be for the next five years.

Kirby Olson said...

Will to power was always there in the comments box, but so was the wish to remove the comments box (Jessica Smith said that unless all of poetry readers approved of her work she just couldn't go on!), and thus the silencing of all poetry readers who didn't approve of her!

I didn't care one way or the other about her, honestly.

I think it's wonderful that he capped the comments box, and killed eight years of discussion at one stroke.

There were some gems in there, but it was mostly a conversation carried on for fun, with the will to power as a constant menace just behind that.

Even in poetry, or perhaps especially in poetry, will to power is always very much the greatest motivation.

I think the thing that's funniest is that now no one will read Ron's blog any more. He thinks it was all about him, but it was actually about his comments box.

It was the only chance any of us ever had to talk back to the LANGUAGE police. It was like Glasnost.

Curtis Faville said...

This is a great comment, Kirby, and one which belongs in the middle of a debate about Silliman's Blog.

I had always felt that embarrassing and surprising and improbable opinions were better than comfortable and predictable and easy ones. Who of us doesn't love the unexpected radical hiding inside the bank clerk or the night watchman?

I also like--but have never thought about it in quite this way--your comment that "it was the only chance [we] ever had to talk back to the LANGUAGE police [i.e., "Language Poets" I presume?]". That's quite true, in that none of the rest of them ever ran an interactive blog-site. Bernstein doesn't allow comments, for instance. If he did, there'd be a lot more interesting interaction possible.

There will be more to say about this in the future.

Ed Baker said...

I, for one,
will NEVER post another comment on any boddhi's blog that I have been banded from for my sintax or for my spelling or for
"speaking" to a (someone's) poem that doesn't work...

what ever happended to good old-fashioned criticism...

I once criticize a JS poem thusly:

" Jessica, the poem 'sucks' it doesn't work. Poetry presents the thing in order to present the feeling. It should be precise about the thing and reticent about the feeling. Don't seek complications where they ain't"

well... I am banned for life from 'that' sight of hers...

so, where to now go?

Huth's site? Faville's site? Olson's sight? Bloomberg-Rissman's site?

since I profess that religion and politics are bologna..and so with Poetry:
where DO i goooooooo?

into my own Points and Counterpoints?

Curtis Faville said...


I think Jessica's just what we used to call "a sensitive plant"--

there was a book years ago called, I think, The Secret Life of Plants, and that fits--

I didn't know Jessica's work, so took some time to review her bio, samples of her poetry, and so forth which I could find online. I must say, I wasn't very impressed by her work, which strikes me as fairly sophomoric. Why Silliman would go to such lengths to indulge her indignation, I have no idea. Ron does have a soft spot for sweet young poetesses, so maybe it just comes down to exaggerated politesse.


In any case, Ed, you're always welcome here.

Kirby Olson said...

Ron wanted to close the comments box down, and used Jessica's silly argument to do it.

Feminism is the new Goliath, and Ron thought he could hide behind Jessica and get points for shutting down the comments box.

Feminism is the new Goliath.

Besides, Ed, I don't make you drink from the communion cup.

Jessica Smith is just a weak poet but she doesn't want to hear about it. She wants to feel encouraged. It's the only way she can go on, because she knows deep down that her work isn't any good.

Kim Jong-Il also knows that he can't govern, so he silences anybody who tells him that.

It's will-to-power.

Ron is also less and less convinced his blog is making any sense. All the points he started out with he no longer believes in any longer.

The comments box is making him want more and more to shut down his game.

His game: everything is language. Why? Because Derrida and Mao said so via Foucault and Lacan.

Ron doesn't even open those texts any longer, but they're the wave he rode in on.

So he can't renounce it.

He's as passe as Pound.

The truth is with poets like Billy Collins and Marianne Moore. Collins because he is popular and can write very good scenarios which Ron can't. Moore because she understood the real world, which is the world of the secular and the divine.

Ron understands neither.

But he doesn't want to hear about it. I can't blame him.

He's too old to start over.

Plus, most of the people in his comments box were just plain idiots. They thought they were revolutionaries, but they were just revolting.

Curtis Faville said...

Gosh, Kirby, so much hostility.

What movie is it in which Robert De Niro says "F*ck you, and the horse you rode in on!" ?

It's a great ice-breaker.

J said...

Why Silliman would go to such lengths to indulge her indignation, I have no idea. Ron does have a soft spot for sweet young poetesses, so maybe it just comes down to exaggerated politesse.

As said a few comments above, it's punk sh*t. Merely opportunism--aimed at pleasing Ms Smith, whose emotings wouldn't make it past a Hallmark editor. Note also the bait and switch technique, common to many liberal blogs: ie say a few nasty things, wait for a response. One or two heated responses come in from some labelled as "trolls", then shut down comments and insult the supposed "troll". It probably gets her juices flowing too.

Kirby O's mistaken about the politics as well, as usual. There were a few faux-radicals. But Silliman's not a marxist, of either the wild-eyed, or bureaucratic sort. He's a huckster. He's selling t-shirts. LANGUAGE poetry, priced to move.

I doubt he could write a coherent 5 paragraph essay.

Kirby Olson said...

Curtis, I thought your comment on Ron liking young poetesses was misplaced. I'm not saying he hates them, but he's ideologically motivated. He's an idealist. He's not pricing anything to sell, either.

Ron is a very idealistic person. He cares if some thug's head gets bumped when he is dragged from one part of a prison to another. Honestly, who else would care?

Ron has stars in his eyes!

It's what makes him kind of a valuable person.

It's just too bad those ideals lead to thuggery on a national scale. I tried to tell him that. I don't think he listened, but he did distance himself from Mao and pushed Jefferson.

I felt I made some small difference in his thinking.

I think he's also just a tad more accepting of Christians thanks to my interventions at his blog.

The thing is that it doesn't matter what was said there. The specifics don't matter. Some of us developed a few relationships of a kind that were almost as good as face to face. I like Ron Silliman as a person!

I just thought he had the wrong ideas!

When Jessica came in and shut it all down, I didn't feel like it helped me create new relationships. It was just a tad monstrous, in the guise of being wonderfully nice, and all sweet. It was will to power disguised as can't we all just get along?

Actually, we can't and we shouldn't try. We should split each other's heads open with new ideas, in order to improve our own. I see poetry as a game of hockey with no holds barred.

Well, at least the discussion of poetry.

But, it's all in fun, and it's meant to develop relationships. If you're not going to develop real long-term relationships, why are you talking to people?

If you're going to discipline and punish people for not saying what you want them to say, or if you're going to silence them as stupid Jessica did, then you might as well just have a mirror, and say, mirror, mirror, and admit you are writing poetry out of pure narcissism.

To me, that's boring.

Poetry ought to be more than narcissism.

I think Ron knew that.

Jessica doesn't.

What was the name of the young woman in Iraq who claimed that she had gotten all warrior like in Iraq, but it turned out to be a publicity stunt? Wasn't her name also Jessica Simpson, or something? Is this even the same person?

Anyway, who cares.

I got a few new friends out of Ron's blague: curtis, John Hanson, Brett Swanson, and about a half dozen others. Plus, he showed me how to have a blog, which brought me 350,000 hits.

Ron's blague was functional is all, and now it isn't, so the thing is to find other modes of functioning in order to create new arguments, new forms of ugliness, and new relationships.

Kirby Olson said...

Ron is an idealist who actually cared if some thug's head was getting bumped as he was being moved from one cell to another in a prison.

That says everything about him.

Jessica was a thug and a narcissist, who simply couldn't stand it that in the poetry mirror people didn't say she was the fairest of all, so she threw a fit and cracked the mirror.

I'm not sure it matters.

Ron doesn't like young poetesses. He is an idealist, and wants an ideal world where everyone is nice, and starry-eyed, and likes poetry.

I tend to see the world differently, and feel that I did something amazing by getting him to see the beauty of Lutheranism, and Christianity in general.

I had an enormous impact on him.

In general, I developed a lot of relationships through his blogs with poets, that I would not otherwise have had. I like agonistic relationships.

They're more interesting.

Jessica Simpson or whatever her name is didn't want that. She wanted adulation, or so it seems. I find that kind of thing very boring, and not to be a real relationship. Relationships are agonistic or not at all.

But they also have to be relationships.

I think J. and Jessica are basically just narcissists interested in themselves. You have to be interested in larger points. Individuals are meaningless. It's goals and logic that we're trying to develop in poetry. Not self-adulation.

Curtis Faville said...

Wow, Kirb, your best post yet!

"Poetry ought to be more than narcissism.

I think Ron knew that.

Jessica doesn't."


Curtis Faville said...

Yes, my impression of Jessica is of a narcissistic, precious, passive-aggressive dreamer.

I definitely think Ron's susceptible to this type.

Also a militant feminist, but that's irrelevant. Militancy is irrelevant to one's poetic inspiration. Anyone who entertains such illusions as an artist is deluded.

J said...

I think you forget, Sir Faville exactly what you enable when allowing Kirby Olstun to post his irrational conjectures of the day.

Lets not forget KO's a foxnews lover, virulently anti-immigration, pro-war, a pro-Bush biblethumper--do you consider Martin Luther like a hipster, Sir F? He was not hip at all, but a pal of the bloody junker nobles, anti-semitic, in favor of killing rebels (Munzer) if not catholics. Yet that's one of KO's idols--(who would put a pic of Breton next to Luther anyway?) . Olson quotes the likes of Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. He said he likes mormons. Pathetic.

Like Silliman, KO also favors censorship and moderation, Mr F-ville. That he dislikes Jessica Smith means little or nothing, especially since it's probably based on what he takes to be her politics or religion. His own attempts at "criticism" are essentially grand political generalizations (commies are bad!), some sentimental obvious patriotic BS, and ..Jeezusss.

IN short, Kirby O's one of the biggest yahoos online--and known as such. Berube and pals make fun of him regularly.

It's sad you don't seem to realize that, simply because he echoes your own rather conservative views on immigration.

naughty selfies said...

It's sad you don't seem to realize that, simply because he echoes your own rather conservative views on immigration.
naughty person

Curtis Faville said...

Dear Naughty Selfies:

First, I wish you could be yourself online.

Hiding behind a fictitious identity shields you from responsibility, and allows you to be a little nastier than you would be, if you weren't hiding behind a mask.

I don't know exactly what you're saying here. Who is the "he" you are referring to? If I knew that, I'd be able to respond. Am I "conservative" on immigration? Yes, if by that you mean that I think it needs to be controlled, and that we need to enforce our citizenship requirements. That isn't really very conservative, it's just common sense. Until the immigration lobby got all revved up, it was a pretty tame position. But the advocates for amnesty and open borders have demonized the other side. It takes some balls, now, to stand up for my side of the argument, to address it head on, in public.

Are you too chicken to defend yours? Are you too frightened to take responsibility for your views?