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April 06, 2012

Somewhere Out There, There Is A Liberal So Priggishly Sanctimonious That Even Sanctimonious Liberal Prig Jonathan Chait Sneers With Gusto, "My God, What A Priggishly Sanctimonious Liberal!"

By the way, I hate stealth self-flattery.

This connects up with the headline. Give me a second, I want to explain what I mean.

Liberals do this all the time but many people who aren't liberal (or anything at all, politically) do it.

It is generally considered poor form to lay laurels upon your own head. You're not supposed to say things like "I'm an incredibly conscientious, ethical person" outside of a job interview.

Just as you're not supposed to say "Good Lord, I'm so friggin' beautiful I can't stand it sometimes!" you're also not supposed to drop a bunch of self-testimonials to your immense inner beauty.

You know what? Beauty outs, doesn't it? So does virtue.

If you have any virtues, those around you will eventually realize you do without being told you have them.

Besides, who the hell listens to anyone's self-assessment? Dolts, chiefly. Anyone telling me "I'm super-duper-trustworthy!!!" is, frankly, the first guy I'm keeping a weather eye out for.

Thanks for giving me a heads up on the way you're going to fail me!

So the stealth form of self-flattery is not to announce "I'm incredibly empathetic, compassionate, and altruistic!" -- that would be gauche -- is instead to strongly, strongly imply those things by giving me a running tally of All The World's Woes You're So Terribly Concerned About.

The statement "I'm really worried about violence in the Sudan" is not about the violence in the Sudan. The subject is "I." The sentences exists not to communicate anything about the Sudan, but something about the speaker -- the speaker really wants you to know she's the sort of Enlightened, Compassionate person given over to unsolicited one-sentence Statements of Principle regarding violence in the Sudan.

Against it, it turns out.

I've sometimes heard this in such self-flatteries as I'll do anything to defend my friends and family, I don't care what happens to me! (bragging about a high ethic of personal loyalty) and so forth.

It's harmless, I guess people like to brag about themselves. Bragging about something both intangible and hypothetical carries little risk of contradiction or exposure. ("Oh, I doubt very much you'd do anything for your family! I doubt that very seriously indeed, buddy!")

Fine. We're all human. We like hearing nice things about ourselves. Even if we're the ones saying them.

But... keep it to a sentence if you're going to indulge in it. Don't babble full paragraphs about your infinite virtue, please. I'll give you one stealth-brag, and then I must insist you shut the fuck up. Respectfully.

You want to talk about something awesome? Then talk about Archer or Justified, not yourself.

So, anyway, now we're at my point.

Ryan Gosling, who is the World's Greatest Actor because he has a six-pack and a smile, pulled a woman out of the way from being struck by a car a few days ago.

Oh Dear Lord, the Girly Gossip Blogs swooned. A handsome man performed a commonplace action at no risk or effort to himself. Panty-drop!

The woman who was saved immediately Tweeted about it. I didn't read the tweet but I assume it went something like:

"OMGOMGOMG!!! A handsome movie star just touched me!!! Touched me out of the way of oncoming traffic! ZOMG, my chatch is thumping like a bass solo by Flea!"

So, you know, she tweeted this, and Ryan Gosling got some more adulation from women and gay men whom he would never, ever even consider sleeping with, even as a goof.

But that was a couple of days ago. And now she's angry that Gosling saved her from a broken hip.

Well that's not quite it -- she's angry that she's been cast as the "Damsel in Distress" in this andronormative (is that a word? Why not?), phallohegemonic (ditto) Morality Play, and she doesn't like it one bit.

Not one bit. See, she's a capable woman who shouldn't be reduced to some borderline retard wandering into traffic, even if, in fact, she is a borderline retard wandering into traffic.

People who seek to make Ryan Gosling the star of this story, just because he's the one that took a positive action, rather the one whose incompetence at walking caused the need for action, are just wrong-headed.

Penny Laurie matters, darnit! Penny Laurie's the star!

That's her name. Now you know it.

Anyway, if she said only "Oh who gives a shit that a guy did something that virtually anyone would do? We wouldn't pay attention if he wasn't rich, famous, and handsome!," that would be fine.

But no, she's got to self-flatter herself, and at some length.

Penny has actually taken to Gawker to scold the world for caring about the fact that Gosling saved her from likely death:
Americans are very strange. They can and do hyperventilate about the most everyday happenings as if they are the most important thing in the world, and then they act completely normal when public conversations are had about war on Iran and war on women's bodies and when Rick Santorum is considered a serious presidential candidate. The real heroes I've met in America are risking everything to make sure that the United States doesn't slide further into bigotry, inequality and violence whilst everyone is distracted by the everyday doings of celebrities.

In other words, the real heroes are people like Laurie Penny, who only wandered into the street because she “was thinking about an article I'm writing about birth control and the importance of reproductive freedom to women's rights, and I didn't remember to look the right way.” Penny is consumed with Real Issues. So consumed she cannot look before walking into the street.

She blathers on:

What's more, I really do object to being framed as the ditzy damsel in distress in this story. I do not mean any disrespect to Ryan Gosling, who is an excellent actor and, by all accounts, a personable and decent chap. I thought he was marvelous in The Ides of March, and will feel weird about objectifying him in future now that I have encountered him briefly as an actual human.

Yeah he was marvelous. He smiled and had sound abdominal muscles.

Now, earlier in the article, this woman quite honestly -- and even winningly -- admits she's a ditz who is always walking into traffic because she's thinking about something else or distracted by "something interesting in the sky" (no, she says that; that's a quote) and so is frequently saved by the heroics of less-abdominally toned men. And I suppose women.

So that's who she is. She needs, uh, some guidance in crossing the street.

But she reverses that here because she's a Feminist and has no need of help (even thought three paragraphs ago she talked about needing lots of help in navigating a street, or as I call it, a Block Border Crossing).

Now, as I said, I would agree with her if she just said, "Come on, let's not get celebrity-crazy; most people would be ethical enough to risk nothing to save a human being from death or serious bodily injury."

But she can't just say that.

She has to make herself the star via the Stealth Brag.

Damnit, she's consumed by this War on Women business! And also, this other War-type War business!

She's somebody!

I care, therefore I am!


You almost got your silly ass broken by a Buick, and I'm the one that needs to focus on the important things in life?

You know what the important things in life really are?

Well, when you're crossing a New York City intersection, the important things in life are velocity, mass, and vector.

Save the Caring Sessions for the five hours you'll be spending in Starbucks, nursing the same half-caf latte, cogitatin' 'n such.

Otherwise, head on a swivel, Penny.

More: the funny thing is that early in this she's self-deprecating, and it's charming.

Hey, if you're a ditz who wanders into traffic, just say "I'm a ditz who wanders into traffic. It's embarrassing, but it's what I do."

She does say that early on.

But she can't help trying to make herself the star by telling us all about how goshdarn caring she is.

NO ONE CARES. WE ARE NOT PAYING ATTENTION TO YOU BECAUSE OF YOUR POLITICAL BELIEFS, WHICH ARE PAPER-THIN AND MUNDANE AS DOGSHIT.

Your claim to fame is not your deep political thinking.

Your claim to fame is that you wander into traffic like a dumb little baby.

Do not friggin' try to make this into a hero moment.

Human moment? Sure, you can make it a human moment.

Hero moment? No. We do not pass out Medals of Valor for nearly managing to cross a street on your own.

Oh one tip:

Frogger. Change your life, baby.


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posted by Ace at 08:21 PM

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