Tim Koechlin or anyone should be allowed to swear in a public space. That does not make it effective or wise.
He’s right that the matter of civility pales before the crimes of the Republican Party. His failure to add in the Democrats creates problems, though he corrects this in part down the line. Still, this is a textbook example of why your English 101 instructor discouraged you from indulging this sort of thing.
If anyone politely defends appalling behavior, goes the claim, he or she is “full of sh-t.”
How simple is this to skewer, even with little reference to the events that Koechl discusses? Ahem . . . . Is the slaughter of British troops at New Orleans, Sherman’s killing and starving of civilians in his march to the sea, or Allied high explosive carpet bombing of civilian cities in WWII not appalling? Or is every single person who has defended such things as necessary or useful “full of sh-t”?
Further, if they are “full of sh-t,” does that mean that said persons are simply badly incorrect in this given instance, incorrect characteristically as a state of being, hypocritical, woefully immoral, personally disgusting, or some unnamed combination thereof? By what actions are they “full of sh-t,” however Koechlin intends this? Why are some included and Democrats who support the same points–well, partly included somehow, more or less, apparently? Democrats are “playing along” at it instead of “working,” but given that both parties support most of these policies and that a few exceptions do exist in each party, what is intended?
The qualifier sh-t as used here does not specify why Koechlin disapproves, but instead provides reference to feces as a stock metaphor to signal in some measure an extremity of the author’s disapproval and probably disgust. The heavily loaded nouns enabler and complicit help, but do not explain the shittiness, whatever exactly that is to comprise.
I happen to agree with the point that I imagine the author intends to make, but I really do not care at all that it happens to be Dr Koechlin who happens to feel this way towards whatever group of people he feels are involved. Were the two of us friends talking at a bar after class or carrying a sofa up the gangplank of a moving truck, I might care. I do know by the bio that he is an econ PhD working at Vassar, but I am a bit reticent to use stereotypes to characterize the words of someone whom I do not know. I don’t wish to be out here in this flyover desert thinking “Oh, yeah, Vasser, ri-i-ght,” and yet I have little other context, and the form that is used forces me to judge the text by its author.
The construction Subject is full-of-sh-t, objectifies and dehumanizes its referent by its use of the passive verb. The objectification makes an ad hominem argument that leaves little motive for reform of idea: if I am an a–hole, full of sh-it, then when I reconsider my views, I remain an a–hole with reconsidered views.
We can discuss why bigotries are not all symmetrical in the historical context that we have inherited, but that does nothing to repair the logic. If my student (who has relatively little control over a professor, though more than many believe) refers to “white male thinking” in class, this does not mean that I, as a white male, am thereby oppressed, though in some incident this might be the case. It does mean that the student’s comment at least appears to reflect prejudice and demographic insensitivity.
Koechlin has thus made a statement that he probably never imagined. I do not know whether he intended it; still less do I know what of it he may or may not intend. At the same time, he has declined to specify or delimit it even by providing a specific noun. What are the chances that persons of any other political bent interpret him as he himself understands his own words, given that this all may be justifiably taken in very many ways?
Much of the reason that swearing sort of works a bit in a bar with buddies or on a moving truck and does not when it appears in public discourse is that a person who knows Dr Koechlin as Tim probably has some idea how to take him if he implies that he has one or another feeling about something, so that this becomes a useful measure of authority. Until one reaches celebrity status, a public readership cannot usefully judge the text by its author, but must do the reverse. A celebrity author or performer can lean on this to some extent: think of just how impressed you are not because Sean Hannity claims to be disgusted or appalled by whatever. Conversely, at least for me, you may have followed Noam Chomsky or Daniel Ellsberg for years; if so, their expressed disgust might come across differently. But this is because after years of publication, one has the feeling that one understands something of who the person in question is–however suspect that may be in a given case.
It is true enough that a few misspelled “F-bombs” are not worse than the policies that Koechlin might further attack were he not so involved in attacking whatever group it is exactly that he holds responsible for them. It is overwhelmingly true that these policies are worse than uncivil. But I am not certain that Koechlin deserves to have used them as he has. The matter at hand, insofar as I discern it, deserves better.