Poop On The Head Of The Deprived

Yesterday, ambulance and not for the first time, refractionist a person with whom I am unacquainted rebuked me less for my views (‘her arguments aren’t new, and sometimes they’re not even wrong’ ) but for my (a) ‘venomous’ language and (b) failure to perform approved charitable acts. Like beauty contestants, writers must speak modestly and act benevolently if they are to have hope of a tiara.

That my preference is, apparently, less for Good Works than it is pooing from an elite stay-at-home fundament directly onto the heads of the intellectually deprived disqualifies me from competition. Anyhow. The pageant judge seemed pretty cross at me; not my argument.

‘Toxic’. ‘Combative’. ‘Scathing’. Personally, I find these descriptors better left for a DC supervillainess than a stringy old chook whose mild despair for the left’s flopsy repertoire of meh-awareness is vented every other month in formats for which one must usually pay. But, you know. Such critique is not new for me as I am about 85 and have functioned as inferior chum to the nation’s frailest sharks since I were a minnow.

Some of us are just like that.

I think the first time a stranger scolded me for inappropriate public language was back in 1990. I then presented a heavy metal radio program and expressed the opinion that I would like to be “joined at the dick” to Slayer’s Kerry King. A prison official from Goulburn Gaol wrote to me advising I was a “bad influence” on the inmates with whom my broadcast was almost uniformly popular. Of all the critique I have borne in the ensuing quarter century, this from a maximum security screw remains my favourite; a bad influence on murderers. Well, it ties for first place with “low-born shock jock” by the Hon Paul J Keating, “Please. Move away” by John Howard and from Bob Ellis, “I don’t know if I’d bother to have you”.

But, I’m boasting again. That’s so Razen.

There are those of us who are doomed to please our class. Then, there are sows like me gifted of the power to shit. I suspect the ability to aggravate is both genetic and incurable. So, I now expect—and am even sometimes flattered by my ability to elicit—a response. Occasionally, I think it might be nicer and more profitable to provoke support. But, if it is a choice—which most often it is for a regularly published writer—between reflecting the standards of an audience and interrogating the standards of an audience, I will crap on your ancient grain loaf every time.

I’ve just never seen the sense in giving a market what it wants. I’d rather incite an urge to loot than an urge to buy. So, to be clear, I know that my peculiar labour has earned me critique.  I am not saying this is a good thing.  I am just saying it’s a thing.  I am woefully incapable of telling folk what they want to hear.

I won’t say that I enjoy being called, as I have been this past year, disdainful or eviscerating or mean or deranged or vituperative or ignorant of corporate anti-sexism strategy (actually. Scratch that last one. I am pretty pleased to be ignorant of any corporate strategy). Nor will I say that it is unprecedented. This sort of stuff is said about every ancient grain defecator. I don’t enjoy but I do anticipate it.

However, I will disclose that I am made partly of human and so am troubled by that critique made publicly by people who know, and claim to like, me privately. And in a small nation that happens, although not on this latest occasion, quite a bit. I mean. Why tell the internet you hate me when you can reform me more effectively to my face? The rest of you can knock yourselves out as I’m assured by my publishers that this is Good For The Brand. Just as writing Helen Razer Is A Lazy Nasty may be good for yours.  It must be profitable for the rarely trafficked Overland which has published four-or-so pieces on my questionable character this past year.

And I will also disclose that I am really very tired of argumentum ad hominem. Clearly, I am least fond of this logical brutality when I am its object. But I am tired of its use more broadly as I believe (and this idea isn’t new; but neither is it wrong) it does nothing but obstruct the development of ideas.

My Feels aside—anyone who reads me will know that I cheer the elimination of Feels from debate and my own have no place here—FFS. You just can’t keep calling someone a nasty, lazy, elitist, narcissistic hypocrite who Fails to Grasp corporate anti-sexist strategy and expect this will shut them up.  With ad hominem comes no hope of progress.

And even if you think that my arguments tend to ad hominem—and a reading of them may reveal to you that they are not—your only hope for victory is to rise above my muck.  Be the better man.  Not like the fictional Helen who does nothing but assassinate character instead of poor ideas and capital.

Helen is a Nasty has as much force for change as Tony Abbot is a Cunt or John Pilger is a bore. These claims may be true.  They may be fun to utter.  But they are, particularly when they happen publicly, an act with a form and function akin to bukkake.  It’s a dirty, pluralistic act of ignorant self-embrace that ends only in an instant of guilty satisfaction.

Of course, this is The Internet Age and I have neither interest in or hope for ending its ‘He’s a Rich Prick’ and ‘She’s a Dumb Bitch’ splash-fest.  I am no Lewinsky and I do not believe in laundering ‘online bullying’ from the blue dress of a soiled dignity.  But what I do believe is that the only productive route to discussion of ideas is to kill the author.

We must not assess an argument based on its author; not, at least, with faith in our success.  Of course, the exception to this would be an argument to which highly specialised knowledge in a particular field is crucial.  Like vaccination. You can say that Jenny McCarthy is unqualified to prosecute this case. But you can’t say the view that well-formed ideas have a more significant impact than those that are formed in haste and passion requires my attendance at your rally.  What are you? Elite?  Do not read the author. Read his ideas.

I thought the author was dead. Like Lazarus, Gandalf or that hot little brunette from The Abyss, the author has risen. He is no longer dead but wedded to his meaning as surely as flatulence to kohlrabi. Or ancient grain.

One does not interpret an argument based on the biographical details of he who made it and not just because Roland Barthes (ooh. There she goes again with her faux-elite sphincter) says so. But because it is totally logically munted. You cannot undo an argument with a “you are wrong because you don’t volunteer at an abortion clinic” with any more veracity than you can claim “you are wrong because you’re fat”.

Argument doesn’t work that way. Reducing thought to the stuff of identity resolves nothing but your itch to call me a bitch. It may work to discredit me or whomever is making the argument with which you disagree. It may even harm us. You can certainly kill a career by piling-on but what you cannot kill by this method is the argument itself.  Kill the author and revive the argument.

I do understand that you are frustrated with things generally and possibly my argument in particular.  But the way to win is not to attack me personally.  The way to win is to understand the intellectual process that made you sufficiently emotional that you called me names On Internet. And, really. That’s all that writer did.

This heat of perished logic recalls an interview I recorded a year or so ago with Chris “Jesus” Ferguson; five-time winner of the World Series of Poker.  Unlike most other No-Limit Holdem champs, Ferguson, a PhD in applied mathematics, bases his extraordinary play on a little game theory and a lot of algebra.  I asked this Pure Reason guy about the great Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson—the man responsible for bringing this Cadillac of card games to the masses.  In his poker book Super System, Brunson talks, as many do, of “ESP” and intuition at the table.  What did the game theorist think of that?

“Instinct is what happens when your brain reaches a conclusion but is too lazy to see how it got there”.  I was reminded of my terrible trigonometry homework and my teacher’s pleas to “show your work”.

So.  You might be right in your conclusion that my argument is wrong. But your emotional response of “you’re an arsehole whom I did not see at the abortion rally” just won’t do if you want to win a bracelet at the World Series of Poker or an argument with Helen.  What you did win was the pleasure of bukkake.

Wipe me down then show your work.

Here’s how not to show your work. Helen writes for Crikey’s Daily Review. She makes the point that there is broad and clearly uttered disdain shared by many feminists for critical theory. She does not make the point that all feminist persons were required to read and create critical theory. She makes the point that many feminist persons are openly hostile to the production of critical theory.

In yesterday’s Nailed-It Glory, this only repudiation of the argument itself is that the techniques for social change Helen says are impotent are, well, just “good” (original emphasis). All efforts to end injustice are, in the author’s view, worthwhile as expressed by the syllogism: Something must be done; This is something; Let’s do this.

Then, there is some attempt to counterfeit a distinction between theory and practice. Helen did not make this distinction. Helen said that good ideas, or theory, takes time and thought. Helen said that good ideas can lead to good practice; that the two are intimately connected. Helen advocated for a climate in which good ideas could be considered so that good practice might follow.  Something must be done; This is something; Let’s challenge its effectiveness.

A few years ago, I argued publicly against the proposed Australian internet filter. I argued in the Sydney Morning Herald and on ABC1’s Q and A. Then Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy was of the Something Must Be Done view when it came to distribution of child pornography.  Well, good intention. Only a fool would agree that government has no role in control of such criminal material.  I am not a fool and this is why I listened to people who explained in plain English why the web-only cleanfeed would, quite simply, not work to do anything but block harmless sites and curtail internet freedom.  For this, I was called, publicly and often, a paedophile-apologist. Not only is this the world’s second or third-worst charge, it did nothing to advance debate.

Fortunately, on this occasion, the relentless efforts of a handful of people who chose logic over ‘Let’s Do This’ stopped the transition to radical censorship.  I do not include myself in their number as I gave up after a while; being called a kiddie-fiddler was actually too much. Thank goodness there are people immune to ad hominem attacks.  They don’t always get their way but they always win an argument.

‘Let’s do this’ and ‘You’re a bad person’. This is the substance of the writer’s lauded argument. She holds that Helen is an inert old fuck who is only arguing in favour of theory because she is (a) pretentious and (b) can’t be arsed doing anything more taxing and valuable than pretending to read and be important and why isn’t she doing the same things I am doing at the abortion rally.

Now, these biographical details are potentially true. They are also irrelevant and their disclosure does nothing to challenge the core argument that (a) many feminists are openly hostile to the production of critical theory and (b) critical theory is one of the things that can be a boon to large-scale, world-changing action.

There are arguments that could work to fell mine. Try riffing on ‘one cannot calculate the effectiveness of any action or inaction when it comes to untangling an immeasurable system like patriarchy’ or ‘feminism is by origin and necessity a folk-theory whose rules cannot be academically professionalised without risking its assault to the system it seeks to overthrow’ or ‘the time for all theory is gone in an era of instant opinion’. Not: Helen is a total shit-box and people who think so are good.

The author may have succeeded, as have her predecessors, in injuring my Feels. She has not succeeded in dousing the idea that much popular progressive discourse and action is achingly kneejerk, anti-intellectual and possibly hopeless. This writing grows apace; with or without this bitch.  The ideas aren’t new.  Nor are they wrong.

Here is Tom Scocca on the eclipse of reason by smarm. Here is Michelle Goldberg  and Some Dude In The Guardian interrogating the now broadly accepted idea that This Hashtag Kills Fascists. There are plenty of good pieces written by potential fuckwits along similar lines. We do not undo these people, much as we might disagree with them, by resort to personal derision. And we do not do this not because it’s rude but because it doesn’t always work.

How did your brain get to the conclusion that I am—or anyone is–wrong?  The answer is probably in your head. And it’s not that I am a nasty bitch who blocked you on Twitter.  Try writing it down.  And try a little harder than, ‘anything that opposes sexism is good’.  If that is the case, Immanuel, then anything can be good. So long as it is well-intentioned. Here’s a poo on your head for feminism.  It is opposing sexism and if you oppose its effectiveness, you’re Part of the Problem.

If, as has been declared in some of the aforelinked critique, I am a “disappointment” and a force-for-good-gone-wrong, then the way to reform me to functional leftism is not by writing my biography. The way to improve my argument is by argument.  Show your work.

That’s how argument goes. Or, how it should go. And it works sometimes; even, for narcissistic hypocrites whose pretentious bungholes discharge reeking faux-elitist gobs into the innocent mouths of her betters.

Now fuck right off. I really don’t like the cut of your giblets.  I can’t say why.  I just feel that you are not good.

40 comments for “Poop On The Head Of The Deprived

  1. Jodie
    May 8, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    I think you should demand both a sash and tiara.

    • May 13, 2014 at 11:36 am

      In every word I utter or write, I do!

  2. Simmo
    May 8, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    I have just returned from a visit to the Serious Eye Doctor who, instead of improving my sight, has rendered me virtually vision-free thanks to the application of some fancy drops. As such, I can only glean the most vague sense of your piece. For safety’ sake, however, I shall immediately fuck right off and hope that it’s all a bit clearer tomorrow,
    love,
    Simmo.

    PS: giblets?

  3. Peter evans
    May 8, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    How many divisions has debate got?

  4. Duane
    May 9, 2014 at 7:50 am

    Sixth paragraph from the end *kneejerk.

  5. Ian
    May 9, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Helen
    Great stuff, keep in coming.

  6. May 9, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    Helen,
    You rock.
    Keep rocking.
    Pips.

  7. Julie
    May 9, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    We appreciate the rage, the righteous rejection of social-neo-liberalism, etc. But could you, like so few of us, spend years and years and years AND YEARS working through the intracies of political thought, its contradictions (without fear), its impossibilities, so that you might spend many a day walking, sleeping, writing, walking, drinking, eating, walking, thinking, eating…all to write a single sentence? Old fashioned scholarship, I hope so. No new ideas will emerge otherwise; we, you, will simply feed the masses’ need for exciting new forms of righteous hate. You, like so many other web journos have a huge following. None of us know what precisely to do. Could you possibly admit that?

    • May 9, 2014 at 11:46 pm

      I’m unsure what you mean, here? I frequently concede that answers are difficult and elusive I did so here.
      I understand you may have a problem with me or my argument. But I don’t think you can legitimately say that mine is that I “can’t possibly admit” that I know what to do. I do not offer solutions. I am just suspicious of those who do.

  8. Will
    May 10, 2014 at 12:48 am

    that was a great read, I have missed you, now I shall fuck off!!

  9. CAP
    May 10, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    Dear Nasty Bitch,

    Don’t disrespect Helen, disrespect her ideas as she has asked – ok! She’s is human as you (scientific results still pending) and has a right to thinking even if you don’t like her thoughts. Attack the argument or switch tabs back to your Girl Power fan page, because attacking other women is not really a profound act of feminism in itself. If you truly care about ladies you want to dialogue with all of them and learn their points of view, not try and make them all fit into the same shoe size so swapsies with gal pals is easier.

    Dear Helen,

    Have a cookie and suck it up princess. You’re a poppy my dear and folks are gonna wanna cut you. You know that I’m sure. Crap will make you grow anyway. Don’t EVER talk about yourself in the third person again over some revolting troll ie. “That’s so Razen”. If you start gossiping about yourself then what will the rest of us have left. No really, if you are already talking about yourself behind your own back I get confused because I don’t know whether I should be bitching at, to, or about you. Stop it!

    Anyways – I like reading your stuff even when I don’t agree. In future though I’d also like it if I didn’t have to think of arguments and just called you poopy head etc. Seems somehow relaxing and cathartic to just randomly abuse people and not have to come up with hard thinky words and put them in sentences. If I get permission in advance is it ok?

    Love your work Helen. If people are abusing you – “Social Commentary – You’re Doing it Right”.

  10. Lu
    May 12, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    I think it was encouragement.

    And yes, we certainly need new ideas.

    • May 13, 2014 at 9:34 am

      But all the old ones are working so well! The left has just had victory after victory these past forty years! Let’s stay with the now-familiar repertoire of “calling out” as it has certainly dismantled all unjust power structures.
      #notreally

  11. Kristy
    May 13, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    Helen,

    Thank you for your continual encouragement for people to stop and fucking THINK!

    I can only imagine how exhausting it is for you to keep doing what you do with the expanding quagmire of stupid that greets you every day. It greets us all that try to think more than we respond to outrage, but even more so for you – thank you for not stopping, truly, thank you.

    I missed the memo that said critical feminist theory is “bad” – when did that one get passed around? Was it penned by the same folk that dismiss you because you’re not of “the feminism I adhere to” – a sad tweet I read directed at you from that self-indulgent #everydaysexism game.

    When did feminism become something one adheres to and not a tool to analyse and critique the power structures that create and maintain the systems of our cultures? When did feminism stop developing new ways of working towards liberation and lasting social change?

    Why do so many people have their heads up their own arses?

    Fuck, I’m exhausted and bored.

    Please don’t ever stop.

    K

    • May 13, 2014 at 1:00 pm

      That’s very nice, K. Thanks.
      I suspect people aren’t as dumb as they appear. I believe that the current social-media feminism is a case of pluralistic ignorance; which is to say a lot of people disapprove of this nonsense but do not care to say so publicly. Which I can understand. Frankly, it’s not worth the fucking trouble.

  12. Kristy
    May 13, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    Yes, I think you’re right, which is a shame, to say the least.

    Unfortunately, as you rightly argue, it does nothing to create real progress and much needed change when we can’t challenge bad arguments publicly – sadly, we are all the poorer for this.

    I hope your suspicions are right – certainly seems like the cult of stupid has won.

    K

  13. MISSMINUTE
    May 13, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    You know what? Fourth wavers are wussies. There, I said it. I’m so bored by their indulgence in victimhood, the constant outrage and the nattering masses of politically correct ninnies whose feminism is no more useful than Buzzfeed. Grow some balls, ladies.

  14. MISSMINUTE
    May 13, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    Oh, and god help you if you argue the error of their ways. They will swarm upon you like psychic vampires. You aren’t negative and self-righteous, they are indulgent and wasteful, and god help anyone shakes them out of the clicktivism that makes them feel so good, #becausesexism and #becauserape were clearly solved with a “like” today.

    • May 15, 2014 at 5:06 pm

      WHY DO YOU HATE WOMEN AND LOVE RAPE?

  15. loglady
    May 13, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    If there was a church of Feminists who Completely Lack Self-Awareness, Clementine Ford would be the head of the Aussie chapter.

    • May 14, 2014 at 10:33 am

      Um. What was that I was saying about ad hominem?

  16. May 14, 2014 at 3:22 am

    You wouldn’t need to defend yourself if your detractors were smart enough to understand you and craft a thoughtful response. I think what you really need is a Sherlock to your Moriarty :) love ya work!

    • May 15, 2014 at 5:07 pm

      I probably didn’t need to defend myself at all. I just got the shits.

  17. Laura
    May 14, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    Great writing. You’re one of the few writers around writing for the reader; writing to entertain. Whether or not I think your worldview is cuntish, or whatever: not really any of your business, nor is it mine to expect you to write according to my worldview. I just enjoy your writing style; it is sharp, and strong. Thanks.

  18. CAP
    May 18, 2014 at 12:20 am

    The hate. Roll it round your mouth like a fine drop of red.

    No permission I see.

    meh.

  19. Laura
    May 18, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    I’m in my early twenties and came across your work via The Big Issue a year or so ago. I then made the effort to chase up more of your stuff, though your writing often frustrated me. Even when I found myself agreeing with a point you were making, I was often left with a bad taste in my mouth. I’ve read enough of your twitter feed to realise you wouldn’t give a rat’s arse about what I think but I will say that I’ve now learnt to just stick to your gardening column which, as some one who’s just discovered how much fun growing things can be, I absolutely adore – except for the author pic which goes with it. I’ve seen you in ‘the flesh’ and you are way more attractive.

    • May 19, 2014 at 10:54 am

      What is your point? You don’t like my tone and I should have prettier pictures taken?
      This is very advanced feminism. Be prettier and speak more modestly.
      FFS.

  20. Laura
    May 19, 2014 at 11:19 am

    LOL. I wasn’t trying to make a great ‘point’, merely a comment. It’s true, I don’t like your tone a lot of the time, hence why I stick to the gardening columns. I wouldn’t dream of suggesting you (or anyone else) speak more modestly or ‘be prettier’. Commenting on your pic was obviously a mortal sin and I did it because I hate women. I didn’t realise you were only interested in sycophantic comments here.

    • May 19, 2014 at 11:55 am

      I am not only interested in sycophantic comments. As the moderator, I could easily send you to the spam folder. What I am interested in is fucking writing a fucking 2500 word post on why the author is irrelevant and receiving a response that is a little more lofty that “I can’t say why but sometimes I don’t like you”. You didn’t need to read my Twitter feed to understand that I don’t give a flying fuck if strangers like me or not. It’s in the text above which we can only suppose you did not read but, in the new habit, skipped straight to the comments.
      Unsurprisingly, yours is not the first critique I have received that I “leave a bad taste” and it won’t be the last. And every time it is made, I give less and less of a fuck and I am reminded more and more that our culture of rampant individualism privileges the identity above the idea; the representation above the reality. For the sake of a well-fucked pig. Argue with me. Don’t say “Sometimes I don’t find you very nice”.
      Again. Why does this matter? And what do you hope to achieve by telling me that I am not very nice?
      I AM NOT INTERESTED IN SYCOPHANCY. In fact, uncritical praise of my work makes me fucking uncomfortable. I am suspicious of anyone who likes me. But I am also aghast that there are those who can click on a page that is vehemently arguing against ad hominem and then, apparently, come up with the most pitiable ad hominem response.
      “I cant put my finger on it but sometimes you leave a bad taste in my mouth”.
      Fucking, good. Have a think about why that my be. Is it that my arguments don’t sit well with you OR is it that you think writers on the left (particularly female ones) now have a responsibility to charm rather than incite anger?
      Either question might be worth examining but instead you chose to tell me that I “leave a bad taste” with no rationale other than your fucking feels.
      Fuck your feelings. Fuck my feelings. Rome is burning. The old methods of protest are not working and I really don’t think this new Nice and Popular Feminism is going to achieve fuck all save for self-satisfied clicks and climax for a bunch of tools (ooh ad hom) who fail to see that “equality” is a pile of shit and it is liberation that is needed.
      How would you have me describe this crisis in leftist politics? Like Amanda Palmer on a fucking ukulele?
      Fuck being nice. Fuck everybody’s feelings. Including my own.
      No. I don’t want sycophancy. I want someone to set me straight. If I am wrong, tell me why. Don’t tell me I leave a “bad taste”.

  21. Lucy
    June 18, 2014 at 11:45 pm

    You hurt my head. In a good way.

  22. XV
    June 20, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    “You’re an ad hominem fallacy….”

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