What is AWCA?
December 25, 2001 7:42 AM   Subscribe

What is AWCA? "It’s an illness that can strike at any time, that can affect even the most sensible and rational blogger. It strikes slowly at first — a glance at The Nation or Village Voice, a quick peek at what the Berkeley City Council is up to this week — but can develop into a full-bore obsession. Minutes trolling on Indymedia turn into hours, ridiculed websites make their way to the Windows Favorites list, until finally one cannot bear to turn off the computer before seeing the words quagmire, proportionality, Arab street, root causes, and “terrorists” (in quotation marks only)." My name is Steve, and I suffer from AWCA.
posted by Steven Den Beste (28 comments total)
Actually, I only score a 1. Whew! I escaped this horrible fate!
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:45 AM on December 25, 2001

We have always lived in a binary world--Good versus evil; black v. white etc, and clearly The Left (far) v The Right is another one. A recent Left site posted an article that suggested the Israelis being held were (according to Fox TV) spies and are held because they did not tell the U.S. govt about plans for 9/11. And of course the Israeli lobby kept all media but Fox silent.
Siply put: Fox is as far right as tv gets and would not be the only one to spill the beans on Israeli spies. Further, if Israeli spies got info from within the U., then it is the U.S. and not the spies who are too blame, no?
This is the sort of nonse that the Left is often given to. And the Right is equally bad in its heavy handed treatment of all situations.
Alas, most of us need to go to sites that spout the truth we want to hear. Sort of like religion: we need to chant and to reinforce our beliefs and joing others to know We Are Right and They Are Wrong.
Thik beyond binary.
posted by Postroad at 7:54 AM on December 25, 2001

(How about thinking "funny"? That's all I thought it was.)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:56 AM on December 25, 2001

Irritating is more like it.
The 'Voice'? Jeez, I didn't know anyone even glanced at that self-despising rag anymore for anything but apartments and clubs.
posted by HTuttle at 8:06 AM on December 25, 2001

well, at least it's not as bad as IPKWYG disorder*.

*Irrational Patriotism Kill War Yeehaw Good disorder

A few of the symptoms...
  1. Temporary Patriotism. Clinton who? What recount? No, I've always been behind this country 100%.
  2. Clinging to Archaic Arguments. Well it worked in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf, didn't it? Hell yeah it did!
  3. Irrational Stereotyping. You don't support the war? Well you must be some kind of ultra-left-wing freaky weirdo that hates America.
  4. Denial. Sure, innocent civilians have and will die because of our efforts. But it isn't murder if it's on a federal payroll!
  5. Hallucinations. God loves the war. Seriously. He told me. F'real!
  6. Self-Righteous Blogging. Hmmm, I can't think of anything to post today. I know! I'll rag on liberals! Stupid liberals!
and if you thought that was ignorant, get a load of this! hot damn great ballsoffire!
posted by mcsweetie at 9:19 AM on December 25, 2001

Right wingers=RAGE
Left Wingers=GUILT
posted by Postroad at 9:23 AM on December 25, 2001

Actually, I only score a 1. Whew! I escaped this horrible fate!

I scored a 0.
posted by rschram at 9:24 AM on December 25, 2001

oops, I forgot one...
  1. Sudden Changes in Mood. What's this? A periodical dares to publish an opposing viewpoints? Well I'm afraid I can no longer patronize this yellow rag! For shame, for shame!

Right wingers=RAGE
Left Wingers=GUILT

your point being?
posted by mcsweetie at 9:29 AM on December 25, 2001

Sarcasm works so much better when it's funny.
posted by billman at 9:51 AM on December 25, 2001

Did any notice that The Ill. Donk. was mentioned in the Weekly Standard. But not for the WACKO quiz, for comments he made about Harper's the day before. I didn't realize there was so much overlap between conservative magazines and weblogs.
posted by rschram at 10:17 AM on December 25, 2001

Heh. The Tarbaby Principle. "You always become attached to that which you attack."
posted by darukaru at 12:47 PM on December 25, 2001

RIGHT = SUCKS (puppets)
LEFT = SUCKS (puppets)
MEDIA = SUCKS (left/right puppets)


The Independent Content Publisher refuses to die!
(take that Fox and Disney!)
posted by ayukna at 2:49 PM on December 25, 2001

So how is this different from PWCA, or "Pro-war Crank Addiction"?

Answer: Nothing. Ever since 9/11 it seems like everyone has abandoned their ability to think for themselves, preferring instead to flee under the protective wings of one of two sides. Arguments have become more rant than reason and don't actually contain any real arguments. It's pathetic, really. I've had to axe some blogs I originally enjoyed just because the bloggers in question fell victim to either AWCA or PWCA. Nothing interesting left to read. They simply had lost the ability to produce interesting content.
posted by Poagao at 7:44 PM on December 25, 2001

Poagao --

Thanks for trying to trivialize *all* dialogue about these monumental events. For the record, I'm sure everyone is truly sorry about boring you with all their expressing opinions on all this killing/dying that has been going on and stuff.

For the record: You can search through Steven D. B.'s (and many others') posts for well reasoned "right"-ish POVs and mine (as well as many others') for a (I hope) well reasoned "left" POVs. There is a lot of noise out there, people _are_ thinking things through and talking about them here.
posted by n9 at 8:03 PM on December 25, 2001

You're welcome, but I think the trivialization happened well before I came along to comment about it.

I'm not saying that all of the dialogue is bereft of logic or reasoning and filled with vitriol, just that a surprising amount of it is, and I'm not ashamed to say that that disappoints me.
posted by Poagao at 8:17 PM on December 25, 2001

I'm not sure how I score on AWCA, but I will say that the dialog I've been reading is instead illuminating and inspiring, filled with ideas about short and long term solutions, ready to face the world into which we've been thrust with courage and moral clarity.

Unfortunately, speaking as a long-time committed "thinking liberal", that does not describe what I've been reading from the noisy peace-at-any-cost wing of the left. {To be perfectly fair, there have also been astounding feats of confusion, defeatism, and self-hatred emanating from certain corners of the isolationist right.} I've found myself reading dozens of new weblogs, all of whom are voices I had not previously discovered (many of whom only began blogging after September 11), who have formed a community that's been doing some of the sharpest writing about the war and related issues (such as the long-term fate of the Middle East, and what we can or should do about it) that one can find anywhere, including the so-called "professional" media.

There are overlaps between weblogs, me-zines (by freelance writers and pundits such as Glenn Reynolds {libertarian} or Matt Welch {"pro-war" Naderite} or Ken Layne {left-libertarian, sorta}, and blog-like features on magazine websites, which is nothing remarkable to those of us who watched the (now somewhat moribund) interaction between webloggers and Salon in the 1999-2000 era. Rantburg does the absolute best daily round-up of war/crisis news that I've found from any source. (If he has a flaw, it's excessive sarcasm in the comments he's recently been adding to his updates.) Some weblogs have turned over their content to the ongoing crisis. And individuals entirely new to the scene. These are all smart, sharp people with a wide range of sources and a wicked pen. They're some of them still liberal. And every one of them sees through Chomsky and Fisk like so much saran wrap.

mcsweetie, I'll give you a pass because you're obviously being sarcastic. But do you sincerely feel that the people you're writing about believe the things you're attributing to them? I sure haven't found people saying those things, at least not in the self-aware warblog community. I would ask instead that you reconsider your assessment and do some reading with a slightly more open mind this time.

It is, however, unquestionable that Noam Chomsky has accused the West of planning a "silent genocide", which has utterly failed to materialize; Indymedia that has published accounts demanding to know the "war crimes" committed by the victims of the Pentagon attack, and insisting that John Walker deserved not a treason indictment but the Congressional Medal of Honor {both articles anonymously posted on an open system, of course, but perhaps unintentionally serving the purpose of showing that certain elements of the antiwar claque are wholly indistinguishable from a well-executed troll}; innumerable smart liberal people who should know better finding reasons to apologize for theocratic fascism {I'm sorry, I mean "to say the Taliban were not really all that bad when you overlook the savage and ignorant cruelty of their rule"}, apparently in the name of multiculturalism and tolerance, and altogether too many well-monied outlets who should have real editors on staff have allowed the overblown harangue and statistical munge by Marc Herold to be described as an unbiased account of civilian casualties. They say "war is not the answer" but rarely even try to have a better one at hand. They just don't seem to be on the same planet as the rest of us anymore. And if they're going to try to use "facts" to back up their appeals to emotion and other fallacies of argument, they deserve to be called on it, every last one. The beautiful thing that's happening is that the ordinary person on the street, armed only with a street kiosk and a free blogspot account, can counter their nonsense and find an audience.
posted by dhartung at 10:25 PM on December 25, 2001

I really did post this just because I thought it was funny.

And I thought it was funny at the expense of me and the other war-bloggers.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:47 PM on December 25, 2001

And I thought it was funny at the expense of me and the other war-bloggers.

Well, in that case, I'm going to go check it out now!

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:09 PM on December 25, 2001

May warblogs soon be obsolete and be replaced by "warbler logs!"
posted by Carol Anne at 5:00 AM on December 26, 2001

Steven, it WAS funny.

I've been reading these warblogs lately, and I have to confess they leave me mystified. All this brainpower and bandwidth being expended on the likes of ... Stephanie Salter? Edward Said? Ted Rall? Stop the next 1,000 passersby on your town's busiest street corner and tell me how many can identify even one of them. (Go ahead, we'll give you Noam Chomsky as the free spot.) Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't the vast majority of Americans -- and I mean, the huge, hulking, overwhelming, down-to-statistical-error majority -- fully in support of this war? Why, then, the stampede to crush, annihilate, pulverize and then urinate over the dust of the few damp liberals who can muster up a 700-word argument against it?

Here's what I think: It's not just the left that can't forget Vietnam. It's the right, too. And the marching orders for this war is, every anti-war voice must be killed a-borning, or at least humiliated and ridiculed into silence.
posted by nance at 5:36 AM on December 26, 2001

But nance, that's exactly what the AWCA article was about, really: teasing fellow warbloggers about excessive obsession with ripping down voices that are, as you say, mainly irrelevant. Though the truth is, many warbloggers aren't American; and outside of the US, particularly in the UK, the anti-war voices do have listeners. And Edward Said is the central intellectual guru guiding, apparently, every Middle-Eastern Studies department in the West. And Chomsky can go to India or Pakistan and get packed houses of adult politicians to listen to his "America is the real terrorist" BS lectures. And Salter represents, apparently, half of Marin County in the rush to find fifty reasons to exonerate John Walker before breakfast. And media outlets as diverse as Oprah, Nightline, and the NY Times seem determined to make sure we know that not every Muslim is a terrorist, which is a way of dodging the more difficult question of what we do about the terrorists who are Muslim, as well as being insulting to their audiences. And people like Robert "I would have beaten myself" Fisk, at the beginning of this crisis, were touted as "must-read" columnists who understood the Arab world, when in fact they seem more driven by antipathy toward their own.

And of course as I said above not every warblog is writing from the right, so you're vastly oversimplifying. And if anti-war voices can't stand a little criticism, you're not complimenting them.

Finally, only a portion of warbloggers engage in this kind of "takedown" (and generally the good ones simply get passed around for entertainment purposes, rather than a pile-on -- though Fisk is an exceptionally tempting target). It's really more out of fun than spite. For the most part, though, there is speculation about the next steps, prognostication about the long-term impact of various strategies, open discussion about the problems we face and the solutions we have at hand, and some exceptionally deep and thought-provoking debate about what values we in the West share and what our role in the world should be. If all you're seeing is "takedowns" and the attitude you see in those takedowns is bitter ridicule, you're projecting.
posted by dhartung at 8:35 AM on December 26, 2001

Paganini was a relatively unimportant composer, but he wrote one particular theme which, in fact, is also relatively unexceptional. Except...

For some reason which has never been clear to me, it became a challenge among composers to try to come up with ways of writing pieces of music based on that particular theme by Paganini to see what could wrung out of it. That particular game was finally ended by Rachmaninoff, who wrote an entire piano concerto ostensibly "based on a theme from Paganini" though you'd have to hunt mighty hard to find any traces of it in there given that the original theme was maybe 20 seconds long and Rachmaninoff's piece is album-length.

There's a certain "Who can do the best job of taking this idiot down" challenge involved when someone on the other side of the fence is particularly brazen. When someone actually writes an open letter to President Bush and pretends to be Jesus, it's just too hard to resist not getting a crack in.

And the supreme irony of Robert Fisk getting mugged in Pakistan would have been delicious were it not for the fact that it is evil to glory in the misfortune of others. (Some gave in to schadenfreude anyhow.)

On the other hand, I got genuinely furious when someone proposed giving the Medal of Honor to the traitorous John Walker; for that one I do not apologize.

But it can become an obsession, which is what this was about. Righteous indignation is addictive; one starts to actively hunt for things to become righteously indignant about. While I did actually only score 1 on this particular quiz, I confess that the concept behind it hit home. I was laughing, but it was embarrassed laughter and I recognized myself in what he wrote about.

It happens to be the case that I had already gotten a grip on myself and tried to limit that kind of thing (though Salter's piece was too good to pass up) so I don't write too many of those exposés.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:59 AM on December 26, 2001

Ever since 9/11 it seems like everyone has abandoned their ability to think for themselves, preferring instead to flee under the protective wings of one of two sides. Arguments have become more rant than reason and don't actually contain any real arguments.

Since 9/11?? This has been the dominant pattern of "thought" in the majority for a lot longer than that. I welcome all voices and perspectives that strive to be more than mimics or mockingbirds.
posted by rushmc at 10:28 AM on December 26, 2001

If Salter represents, apparently, half of Marin County in the
rush to find fifty reasons to exonerate John Walker before breakfast,
Joan Ryan represents the other half. Didn't see this
(also from the San Francisco Chronicle) getting much discussion,

posted by nance at 12:09 PM on December 26, 2001

Of course, nance, since you've previously argued that great minds are wasted by discussing articles online in proportions that are inimical to your preconceived positions, it would never, ever occur to you to address this balance by starting a weblog of your own and discussing the articles which you find worthy of dissection.

And, it being a free country and all, there are so many obstacles to your doing so.
posted by dhartung at 11:12 PM on December 26, 2001

"My name is Steve, and I suffer from AWCA."

I'm an abuser of it myself. I get white knuckled whenever I try to quit. Anyone got a 12 step program for me? What if I don't want to quit? Does this stuff come in 12 packs? Can a person get it intravenously? Is it totally necessary to "get over it?"
posted by nofundy at 5:40 AM on December 27, 2001

Sorry, dhartung, I already have a life. You carry on, though.
posted by nance at 5:46 AM on December 27, 2001

See, nance, I was already thinking that your post was only an inch or two away from "those darn webloggers, living in their parents' basements and wearing Powazek ears and Kottke uniforms they've made themselves, how pathetic". Thank you for completing the Shatner impression.
posted by dhartung at 9:12 PM on December 27, 2001

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