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Welcome back, Jorn
July 2, 2003 6:28 AM   Subscribe

Welcome back, Jorn -- The host of RobotWisdom and coiner of "weblog" has been on an unexplained break since mid-May, leaving some to wonder if it was for good. But he's back. Now if he would drop the Iraq-protest-black background so we could actually read it . . .
posted by beagle (42 comments total)

 
Goddamn, I was going back there every day for awhile hoping for his return. Not least to check out his "Nude of the Day". Yesterday, desperate at the lack of MeFi I went there and saw it had been updated. Welcome back Robot Wisdom!
posted by vito90 at 6:44 AM on July 2, 2003


Jorn finds the most interesting content on the net. I had grown weary of his frequent seemingly antiSemitic comments, but when he stopped posting I really missed him. Welcome back Jorn and I hope you had a nice respite.
posted by caddis at 6:52 AM on July 2, 2003


Great minds think alike. I was thinking about posting a "Where's Jorn" thread here last week, when abruptly he started posting again. I'm glad he's back, and hope he stays away from the Jew-hating posts.
posted by Holden at 6:54 AM on July 2, 2003


Personally, I can't get past the "Are Jews incapable of polite discourse?" stuff. I wanted to find a more charitable interpretation, because he was a regular read and is a weblogging institution, but I'm not going to support that kind of blatant prejudice.
posted by rcade at 7:21 AM on July 2, 2003


"I had grown weary of his frequent seemingly antiSemitic comments, but when he stopped posting I really missed him."

"I'm glad he's back, and hope he stays away from the Jew-hating posts"

Yeah, but he finds really good links. Nevermind that little anti-Semitic thing...

Myself, I was hoping he was gone for good.
posted by cedar at 7:25 AM on July 2, 2003


Just a purely rhetorical question for those who missed Jorn when he was gone, or for those that continued to be fans after he'd clearly tilted over the waterfall:

If Jorn's site had, over time, begun referring to black people as "Niggers" and posting articles with his own editorial embellishments like, "Study finds niggers are lazy & insolent", how many of you would be saying you "missed his site" or that you hope he stays away from all the "black-hating posts" upon his return?

Apples and oranges, sure. I'm just wondering what would have happened in that scenario, and if anyone would have still felt some loyalty to Robot Wisdom and its creator.
posted by dhoyt at 7:41 AM on July 2, 2003


Jorn has great stuff about Joyce, posts succinct comments about many posts, relies overly heavily on far Left nonsense (knee jerk stuff rather than the more acceptable Liberal materials) and has clear -cut bias not only against Israel and Jews. While I have no quarrel with someone taking a proArab position, it seems to me that there is from time to time some fault one can find with Arafat, suicide bombings, and hatred taught in schools. Example: a Palestinian poll released this week indicated that 57 percent ofPalestinans polled favored a continuation of terrorism against Israel...will that give them a state?
I do hoe though that Jorn was not ill or having serious problems.
posted by Postroad at 7:51 AM on July 2, 2003


Nevermind that little anti-Semitic thing...

That little anti-Semitic thing? As in the same little thing indulged in by the Nazis?

I never clicked on his jew posts. Also he's just a little bit too intense and eccentric for own my taste.

Anyway it's a paleoblog now, in the sense that he let himself get carried away in his own hobbyhorses too much for the site's overall balance. People form boingboing should see robot wisdom as an example of what can happen when a weblog dwells too much on personal obsessions (hear me Cory Doctorow?).
posted by 111 at 7:59 AM on July 2, 2003


cedar sorry, only now I got your point.
posted by 111 at 8:12 AM on July 2, 2003


I started reading, stopped for a long time when the vitriol got too aggressively confrontational, and then started again last year after it seemed to have stopped. It was like he'd deliberately given up on rational discourse on the I/P issue - a disappointing move at best.

The vitriol hasn't returned, so far as I can tell. I'm glad he's back. It's an elegant, highly useful and challenging site.
posted by mediareport at 8:38 AM on July 2, 2003


He's been m.i.a. since may? How long do they keep you after you've been committed?
posted by crunchland at 8:43 AM on July 2, 2003


It wasn't an unexplained absence, he posted about the problems on usenet, he is a nutball, his own opinions are deeply suspect, and he finds really interesting links.
posted by NortonDC at 8:47 AM on July 2, 2003


It wasn't an unexplained absence, he posted about the problems on usenet, he is a nutball, his own opinions are deeply suspect, and he finds really interesting links.

Agreed. And an FPP after six weeks? Puh-leeze, people.
posted by norm at 8:57 AM on July 2, 2003


So, for those of us who don't read usenet, what were his reasons?
posted by crunchland at 9:08 AM on July 2, 2003


Anti-semitism aside, style wise, I'm not sure I see what people praise about robot wisdom. Isn't this pretty much Instapundundant, minus the parentheses of wit Glenn uses to encase his many daily links? This doesn't do anything for me.
posted by dong_resin at 9:08 AM on July 2, 2003


People from boingboing should see robot wisdom as an example of what can happen when a weblog dwells too much on personal obsessions (hear me Cory Doctorow?).

I think the prescence of Xeni, etc. keep bOINGbOING from becoming totally Cory-centric. Also, don't most weblogs dwell on personal obsessions? It's just that the interesting ones mostly come from people with varried and or interesting obsessions.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:13 AM on July 2, 2003


The Music of Harold Arlen certainly trumps Fascinating argument Homo erectus cooked tubers, at least. Now I have to tell Dan his sister's got herself a legit recording gig, for once.
posted by y2karl at 9:19 AM on July 2, 2003


http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=16e613ec.0305141514.666cbdfb%40posting.google.com
posted by NortonDC at 9:29 AM on July 2, 2003


'He was good at the beginning, but he just went to far."
-Marge Schott on Hitler and a few to many here on Jorg
posted by Mick at 9:36 AM on July 2, 2003


I welcome Jorn's return, if only to serve as Refutation of Publicly Paraded Bullshit when Dave Winer goes around insisting he "invented" weblogging, (which, no matter how many times Winer stamps his wittle feetsies and pounds his wittle fists, just isn't true...)
posted by JollyWanker at 9:41 AM on July 2, 2003


I wonder if any of the folks complaining about Jorn still visit Instapundit. I mean, talk about regularly linking to some absurdly insulting crap. Amazing how he's gotten a pass from so many - on the left - for so long.

Apparently, some insulting generalizations are more equal than others.
posted by mediareport at 10:01 AM on July 2, 2003


I thought Peter Merholz coined the term "weblog".... Maybe one of those people here who wrote a book on the subject should chime in, just to clarify.
posted by cardboard at 10:03 AM on July 2, 2003


I've known J*rn since the late 80's. And, gee, I knew he was a raving psychopath a decade ago when he decided that two people (one of whom was myself) who were lambasting him on rec.music.gaffa, one anonymously, were the same person. Some of his proof? We both used typographic conventions like asterisks and underscores for different types of emphasis, and neither of us made grammatical errors like using the wrong word in instances such as their/there/they're.

Why anybody would care about him or his blog is beyond me.

But what would I know? I'm just the guy who ruined ecto, rec.music.gaffa, and warmroom for him...
posted by jburka at 10:06 AM on July 2, 2003


I think the prescence of Xeni, etc. keep bOINGbOING from becoming totally Cory-centric.

I'll take Cory-centric over Xeni's SARS Folk Art obsession any day.
posted by pmurray63 at 10:26 AM on July 2, 2003


I never trust anyone who feels the need to post rave reviews of himself in his .sig
posted by dagnyscott at 10:42 AM on July 2, 2003


I think Jorn has crossed a certain threshold last year, but I don't think its constructive at all to suddenly declare any criticism of the militant far right-wing politics of Israel to be anti-semite.

Can Jorn post anything critical of Israel without some seeing this as anti-semitism? I don't think so.
posted by skallas at 11:26 AM on July 2, 2003


It's not Jorn criticizing Israel that's the problem. The problem is that he hates Jews and posts regularly to that effect. And, no, his links aren't that great, even for those of you who are disconcertingly willing to excuse his rabid anti-semitism. Plus the attributions range from inscrutable to completely useless.

Peter coined "wee-blog" which was shortened (I believe) by Brig Eaton to just "blog". But Peter gets credit for that. Jorn did use "weblog" first in this context, but the term existed in the "log of activity by your web server" sense for years before that.

And yeah, personal fixations can add a lot of the personality that makes a weblog compelling. They can also be the most irritating and boring part of a site. Our greatest strengths are our greatest weaknesses.
posted by anildash at 12:09 PM on July 2, 2003


Nobody is excusing Jorn's anti-semitism. Some people doubt it, others acknowledge it but find it of no bearing on the value of the external material he points to, but no one is excusing it, period.
posted by NortonDC at 12:22 PM on July 2, 2003


Metafilter: Our greatest strengths are our greatest weaknesses.
posted by norm at 12:22 PM on July 2, 2003


he hates Jews and posts regularly to that effect

Anil, please give an example. I do not doubt you, and saw the thread before about the "incapable of discourse". However I thought it was a singular incident, please show some examples, I don't want to read the site anymore if this is the case.
posted by cell divide at 12:29 PM on July 2, 2003


Nobody is excusing Jorn's anti-semitism. Some people doubt it, others acknowledge it but find it of no bearing on the value of the external material he points to, but no one is excusing it, period.

Thank you, NortonDC. I'm also of the opinion that bigotry can be softened, and I'm heartened by the recent absence of the more absurd and aggressive Jew- and Zionist-baiting at robotwisdom. I'd like to think that someone as intelligent as Jorn can find ways to make his case that draw folks to his argument rather than repulse them. Perhaps I'll be proven wrong and will have to stop visiting the site again.

It's fine that you, Anil, have decided all things Jorn-related are beyond the pale, but I certainly don't have to draw the line in the same place. You might want to take the self-righteousness down a notch or two.

Oh, and the attributions have always struck me as elegant and interesting. *shrug*
posted by mediareport at 12:49 PM on July 2, 2003


Fascinating argument Homo erectus cooked tubers:

Already this work, which Wrangham has presented at meetings, has provoked skepticism, for it challenges the current dogma that meat-eating spurred the evolution of Homo erectus, the 1.8- million-year-old species whom some anthropologists say was the first to possess many humanlike traits. But the idea dovetails with another challenge to the primacy of meat-eating as an evolutionary force: the notion that gathering by females was crucial, which another team of anthropologists will present in the May issue of the Journal of Human Evolution (JHE). And some researchers find the new perspective, based on a potpourri of data from both archaeology and modern human societies, quite refreshing. "Cooking as making such a difference is not something that I had previously considered," says Andrew Hill, a paleoanthropologist at Yale University. "It's nice to have this put forward."

It's a dramatic theoretical shift, y2karl, with profound implications for our understanding of gender and cultural evolution. Surely even non-anthropologists can appreciate why eyebrows would be raised over a new theory that women's cooking was a major motivating force behind humanity's social development.
posted by mediareport at 1:02 PM on July 2, 2003


i was only an occasional user of the site, but i never noticed anything i would call anti-semitic. anger over israeli actions, certainly, but that seems reasonable enough (or is chomsky considered anti-semitic these days?). i guess i missed some explosion of vitriol?

ah well, better go cook some tubers...
posted by andrew cooke at 3:35 PM on July 2, 2003


Just my two cents on rw's author and anti-semitism: while no one particular blog entry might be easily categorized in such a way, the overwhelming volume of them is what did it for me; just pushed me to the ex-reader, never going back no matter what side of the line.
posted by billsaysthis at 6:46 PM on July 2, 2003


Mmmmmmm......tubers.

That's the enigma of Jorn. He thinks, he's erudite, and he provides interesting, intellectually stimulating links. The tuber link is actually important, and his tongue in cheek tagline is somewhat humorous. However, on the issue of Israel and Jews, he fails to think. Instead he lets some dark part of his heart slip hatred and intellectually suspect vitriol into his blog. Why? It seems so out of character with everything else he says that many of us who have followed his blog remain confused.

He is not alone, but rather represents a certain fringe of the liberal left that somehow has let their anger at Israel's mistreatment of the Palestinians turn to anti-Semitism. It's no different than the radio shock jocks that call Muslims towel heads. However, usually those DJs sport dubious intelligence. Most of us would like to think that learned intelligent folk would not easily succumb to racism. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
posted by caddis at 7:14 PM on July 2, 2003


fwiw, he linked to philip greenspun's page on israel and hosted jeff dorchen's (a jew :) moment of truth for awhile. so!
posted by kliuless at 9:09 PM on July 2, 2003


Updated links:

Those unaware of how deeply-steeped this issue is, in terms of Robot Wisdom, should review Len Grossman's ModemJunkie article Trust or Consequences, from one year ago, and its follow-up What a Tangled Web. In a word, this is not the first time Jorn's been accused of having a problem with Judaism.

He has valid points but they are overshadowed by his intemperate approach. One supposes he would countercritique his critics (I'm sure he has) in some of the ways listed above. But in light of his previous comments I'm not ready to give him that kind of pass.


By the way, Jorn isn't someone I think of as conventionally progressive-liberal; he himself has seized on the label conservative-left, whatever that means.
posted by dhartung at 9:44 PM on July 2, 2003


If you're willing to accept Barger's anti-Semitic questions as a momentary lapse in judgment, how do you explain the fact he did nothing to encourage that interpretation, but instead took it even further?

When Barger was criticized for using the headline, "Is Judaism simply a religion of lawless racists?", he set up a discussion forum for responses and promoted it with the headline "Response to my critics."

Shortly thereafter, when he was criticized by several people in that forum (including me), he changed the second headline to, "Are Jews incapable of polite discourse?"

He never posted an apology, correction, or clarification of either action in that forum, and the headlines remain in his archives today.

Maybe he's learned from it and Robot Wisdom has since been free of loaded questions that sound like something from an Aryan supremacist newspaper. I didn't stick around to find out. My reaction to his questions is still strong enough today that the "Welcome back, Jorn" greeting on Metafilter was received about as warmly as "Happy birthday, Rick Santorum!"
posted by rcade at 6:16 AM on July 3, 2003


Correction: His note at the top is a clarification of the first headline, but he hasn't explained his decision to respond to his critics with the accusation that Jewish people are incapable of polite discourse.
posted by rcade at 6:19 AM on July 3, 2003


On the internet, no one can see the meds you take.
posted by crunchland at 7:31 AM on July 3, 2003


The Santorum example is interesting, rcade; I'd actually been thinking of smart homophobes as a parallel case. I see them all the time - generally intelligent people who either have a bigoted block against lesbian and gay people or (as I suspect in Jorn's case) get themselves locked into stupid, bigoted statements and then don't want to be seen as backing down. Either way, I'm the kind of person who tends to keep engaging that kind of person; it can be fruitful in the long run.

As dhartung's little colon notes, this was "one of the early political dust-ups among bloggers" (not sure why he sort of hid that useful info). It's probably not surprising that the wounds still go deep, but those feelings don't have to determine how the rest of us approach and/or understand Jorn's site.

And dhartung, thanks for the links to Len Grossman; the first page is an interesting, useful discussion about how to measure the reliability of online information and the responsibility that goes with linking. But after reading the whole thing, it basically boils down to a not-so-pointed attack on the fact that Jorn linked to excerpts from a book about Jewish fundamentalism by Dr. Israel Shahak, a retired Hebrew University chemistry professor who was also at the time chairman of the "Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights." The excerpts were hosted at a racist/eugenics site. It's only in the second, follow-up article that Grossman actually calls the book "antisemitic," but he offers no evidence to back up that claim in either piece. The closest he comes is this:

Of course, Shahak and Mezvinky are not responsible for Mr. Nuenke [the racist who quoted them], but the fact that someone with Nuenke's expressed views finds the book to be useful for such purposes should be of at least some value as a tool in analysis.

That's pretty weak for an accusation of anti-semitism. It's also "of at least some value" to note that Grossman admits in the 2nd piece that he was highly emotional when he wrote the first. But he never backs up the idea that Jorn's link to excerpts from Shahak's book somehow counts as anti-semitic.

Again, I do think Jorn has at times formulated Jewish/Zionist issues in ridiculously anti-semitic and deliberately inflammatory ways. That hasn't been the case for a long time now, and it's worth giving him another look.
posted by mediareport at 11:20 AM on July 3, 2003


[Add "In my occasional experience of his site," to the beginning of that last sentence. Thanks.]
posted by mediareport at 11:22 AM on July 3, 2003


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