March 03, 2003

Shooting your mouth off -- literally

A few days ago, Steven Den Beste observed that he had been called out as -- this is a quote -- "a grave-robbing cunt" -- for daring to have any opinion at all on the far away, in-another-universe, nothing-to-do-with-anything events of September 11th 2001 in some city called New York on a planet called Manhattan in a galaxy far, far away. The caller-out was one Mr. Davies, who resides, I do believe, in a nation across the pond whose inhabitants have even less (if we use Mr. Davies' own criteria) cause to even discuss the World Trade Center attack than a citizen of the actual attacked nation. See, according to Mr. Davies, if you live on the west coast of the US, or anywhere other than in the shadow of the Trade Towers, and lost neither friend nor relative in the attack, then you have no right to feel any strong emotion concerning the event, and it should not be a factor in any of your political opinions.

It is obvious that Mr. Davies, whose website's browser title bills him as "a fat young man without a good word for anyone," is one of those persons who fancy themselves to have evolved beyond primitive concepts like "nationhood," "citizenship," and -- ew -- "patriotism." Not to mention "sympathy" and "conscience." As a side issue I will mention how interesting it is that so many proponents of this one-world-one-heart philosophy take a positively isolationist, "not my business" approach to real atrocities in other parts of the globe. Anyway, you can read Davies' original shrieking screed here. I don't know how long it will stay up, because he claims to have "taken down" the post, and I am sure that it will occur to an intelligent young man like Davies that he has only moved the post off the front page of his blog, and to really get rid of commenters he will have to actually delete it.

I don't have to mention to you how he undercuts himself with his very own argument, do I? Because if someone in the very country that was attacked has no right to allow the September 11th atrocity to affect his opinions and philosophies, then some foreigner certainly has no right to any opinion whatsoever on anything that happens outside his circle of acquaintances, and that includes the opinions of some stranger on the web. Instead, Mr. Davies seems rather obsessed with Mr. Den Beste.

Posted by Andrea Harris at March 3, 2003 10:55 AM

The obsession has in fact caused Mr. Davies to need to respond to counterattacks on many, far-flung blogs. He's taken quite a flogging at Jane Galt's Asymmetrical Information, for instance.

Somehow I don't think it has much to do with Mr. Davies's use of a vulgar Anglo-Saxon synonym for the female genitalia, do you?

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at March 3, 2003 at 11:35 AM

I was amused to see his long decrying of the "need" to use an epithet that is in his view based in a devaluing of women. The hope for inflicting harm on Stephen apparently outweighs the fear of causing harm to women oppressed by his using that word, but not before we have to sit through his angst over it. How lame, how PC, how completely does it rob him of any sting. And actually while I've seen "pussy" as a slam against a man, I've not seen "cunt" used except to women (including, memorably, me). But then maybe I just run with the wrong crowd.

The young man has no logic, no cajones, and precious little viable vocabulary.

Posted by: susanna at March 3, 2003 at 12:07 PM

You've run with the wrong crowd, Susanna. In Britain this is a not uncommon insult from a man, to a man. There is an expression, "a shower of cunts", which means that the target is particularly incompetent. (This may be specifically a group insult, I don't know.)

In Jan 2002 this bit turned up in a Mark Steyn column, talking about snotty Ministry of Defence functionaries who are unimpressed with the capabilities of the US military: ...Washington should let our chaps handle the show because frankly these Yank special forces have always been an absolute shower and should just stay out of the way.

That's what "shower" refers to in that article.

Well, that was a useless comment, but at least I got to link to a great Mark Steyn article.

(Not to say that the rest of your assessments are wrong, Susanna.)

Posted by: Angie Schultz at March 3, 2003 at 01:33 PM


I love you and everything you say.

Would you have my babies?


Anonymous Admirer

[Note: this comment has had the inexplicable and not very funny use of my own name and URL edited by me into something that is possibly more suitable. -- Andrea Harris]

Posted by: Anoymous Admirer at March 3, 2003 at 03:06 PM

Angie, that "shower" idiom completely defeats me, but then, a lot of British idioms go past me. The American military's approximate equivalent to the term you cited is a "cluster f**k," which is probably equally impenetrable.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at March 3, 2003 at 03:28 PM

Angie is right about the British use of "cunt," as any reader of Martin Amis novels, like me, can testify. In any case Davies deserved what he got and then some; I took a crack at him myself.

Posted by: Aaron Haspel at March 3, 2003 at 03:45 PM

I just read a book called Grunts, in which a bunch of orcs in a parallel-fantasy world somehow manage to become Marines. One of them explained "cluster-f*ck" this way:

If you cluster up, you're f*cked. The enemy can pick you all off with one grenade.

Since I'd always heard the term to mean general incompetence, both from above and below, I can see how this explanation might be accurate. Obviously if the senior orc grunts hadn't corrected the rookies, it would have been a cluster-f*ck either way.

Posted by: Kevin McGehee at March 3, 2003 at 03:54 PM

The way I heard it, the original term was "Mongolian c.f." and was supposed to refer to some sort of vaguely preposterous form of sex; I suppose the reference to Mongolia was to give it a suitably exotic origin. The phrase was then taken up by the military, among others, to refer to any situation where too much of something, be it vehicles, men, supplies, or whatever, somehow wound up in the same place at the same time.

My past experience with folk etymology strongly suggests that every explanation anyone has ever offered, including this one, is wrong.

Posted by: Paul Zrimsek at March 3, 2003 at 06:46 PM

I bow to the greater knowledge of the group. I also asked a friend of mine with a much wider knowledge of colorful language (before coming back to see what others had said), and he pretty much echoed what was said here - it's a British term. OTOH, that doesn't mean Davies isn't lame and PC, as well as an idiot for attacking Steven (see, I spelled it right that time).

Posted by: susanna at March 3, 2003 at 07:53 PM

This reeks of the specious Chicken Hawk argument, does it not? Pretty soon, no one will be able to hold an opinion on any issue unless they have personally experienced it.

Posted by: Mark Harden at March 3, 2003 at 10:29 PM

Having never heard an etymology of "clusterfuck," I always imagined it as simple shorthand for cascading system failure: one fuck-up fucks up something else, which fucks up something else, and so on, until you are not just fucked but clusterfucked. Most uses of it that I've heard are consistent with that.

Posted by: Matt McIrvin at March 3, 2003 at 11:06 PM

It should be noted that the "chickenhawk" "argument" amounts to a logical fallacy of the Tu Quoque variety.

Posted by: David Perron at March 4, 2003 at 10:08 AM

Hmm, I'd always assumed it was a reference to cluster bombs...

Posted by: Owen at March 4, 2003 at 12:28 PM

In my military experience, clusterfuck was used to describe any operation that was badly planned, organized, or executed, or any combination of the three.

See also "goat rope".

Posted by: Eichra Oren at March 4, 2003 at 02:33 PM

A "shower" is a rather dated way of describing a useless group of people. It is offensive (you don't want to be described as a shower, or a useless shower), but not obscene. It can be used without fear in polite company. Steyn uses it to capture the arrogance of a WWII era inter-military rivalry quite succinctly.

As to the other word - no-one in my acquaintance ever uses it. My children won't either, unless they want the wrath of God to descend upon them in pretty short order.

Posted by: Robert Dammers at March 5, 2003 at 05:21 AM

Clusterfuck was used by Clint Eastwood in the movie Heartbreak Ridge to describe a poorly planned and executed drill.

Posted by: SN at March 5, 2003 at 12:40 PM