Bloggers Not Swearing So Bleeping Much

NYT Katharine Seelye reports on a panel on bloggers and swearing at Netroots Nation (the successor to YearlyKos) and finds that the trend is toward less of it and that most of what remains is coming from Amanda Marcotte.

Amanda Marcotte, Duncan Black, Kevin Drum, Rude Guy, Digby

Digby Parton, who writes on Hullabaloo.com, said she initially thought of her blog as an ephemeral form of conversation among friends and used vulgarities freely. But now she is read by a substantially wider circle and has cleaned up her language.  “I don’t use the same amount of profanity,” she said. “We’re taken much more seriously as a political force,” and she has a stronger sense that her words are “out there for posterity.”

[…]

Kevin Drum, who writes the more proper Political Animal blog for the Washington Monthly, said he tones it down “because my mother reads my blog.”  “I used to swear a lot,” he said. “I like swearing, and I love reading people who do it well.” But he said he discovered that “a lot of people really don’t like it and I shut it down,” both in his personal life and his writing life.

Next on the panel was Duncan Black, aka Atrios of the blog Eschaton and a fellow at Media Matters, who questioned why certain words were perceived as bad when they were describing policies that were truly horrific.  “I’ve toned it down a little bit over the years,” he said, but he added that if he wants to use a certain word, he does.

She likes to swear a lotAmanda Marcotte, who writes on pandagon.net and had been the blogmaster for John Edwards’s presidential campaign until some of her outside writings were deemed anti-Catholic, described her stance on the matter this way: “I curse and I’m vulgar and I make really, really dirty jokes.” She said she uses obscenities to entertain people and “to show hypocrisy and the ridiculousness of society.”

[…]

Digby said she was not comfortable criticizing people about their appearance. Ms. Marcotte said she tried to see how vulgar she could be “without crossing the line into being sexist.” She added: “My vulgarity stands out because people can’t believe a young woman is saying these things.”

I’m pretty much in line with Kevin on this one and for the same reasons.

Story via Memeorandum.  Images from Lindsay Beyerstein‘s Netroots Nation photo stream.

FILED UNDER: General, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tim Worstall says:

    Amanda Marcotte makes jokes? Really?

    Where? When?

  2. DL says:

    Cursing and potty mouth talk just gets you the attemtion you seek. When you do it, you are viewed by true adults as an immature attention seeking bore, who ofters nothing of value but cultural degredation.

    It is nothing but a process of lowering oneself to the lowest common denominator, and belittles human dignity.

    It is a sure sign of someone who lacks the confidence in their ability to communicate on the ideas, since distraction from the central thought is what they practice.

    Few other things so readily win the argument of the PETA folks, that we are just another animal and have no more dignity than a “rat.”

  3. Bithead says:

    I’m certainly no prde, as anyone who has read my stuff both in comments and on my blog over the years will attest. But I gotta go with DL on the point;

    It is a sure sign of someone who lacks the confidence in their ability to communicate on the ideas, since distraction from the central thought is what they practice.

    What’s going on here, is the far left is figuring out that being childish doesn’t sell, when you’re trying to impart the illusion that you’re so very much wiser than your readership…. or your opposition.

    The problems however, are twofold;

    1: The die has already been cast. As George Carlin demonstrated, once you get yourself famous for a ‘seven dirty words’ routine, you never really can rid yourself of that label.

    2: There are a larger portion of people in that grouping than in the general populace, who will not WANT to grow up.

  4. Leisureguy says:

    I’m certainly familiar with the usual run of obscenities and vulgarities and use them (in oral discourse) occasionally. I very seldom use them in writing because they have too much weight and distort the sentence in which they are used. I find I couldn’t read Amanda Marcotte’s blog because the constant stream of obscenities and vulgarities produced the same reaction as if SHE WERE WRITING IN ALL CAPS, DEPENDING ON SHOCK TO CARRY THE MESSAGE. But of course constant shock ceases to shock and becomes merely noise. Her justification in the post above is singularly weak and unconvincing.

  5. Anon says:

    For those against profanity, what about Cheney’s use of profanity? Is spoken profanity okay, but not written? If so, why?

  6. Leisureguy says:

    Context is important. Cheney’s obscenity was delivered to Patrick Leahy on the Senate floor and was clearly intended to offend. If I’m alone in the attic and I bang my thumb with a hammer and cry out an obscenity, it’s different, no?

  7. Dave Schuler says:

    Contrariwise, I think that VP Cheney’s use of foul language on the Senate floor was worse. There’s expected to be some decorum and collegiality there. And we expect higher standards from our elected leaders than we do from nobody bloggers.

    Of course, I am a prude about such things and proud of it.

    I can’t help but wonder if the scatology, vulgarity, and profanity so much in use at all levels of society these days aren’t a consequence of too many of the elite seeing themselves as a vanguard of the proletariat.

  8. Anon says:

    So if I understand Leisureguy correctly, Cheney’s use of profanity was also to be frowned upon. I guess I’m mostly with Leisureguy on this. I do swear when alone and I stub my toe, etc., but I don’t do it when other people can hear me, and I’d feel embarrassed if someone did.

    I don’t really care that much when other people do it in writing or orally in public, but I guess I find it vaguely distasteful, whether it is Amanda Marcotte doing it or Cheney.

  9. Leisureguy says:

    Yes, I thought Cheney’s remark to Leahy was definitely beyond the pale—the Senate is not a place for overt hostility, fisticuffs, beatings with a cane (Preston Brooks), or the like. Not that sometimes such things happen, but that doesn’t make them appropriate or right.

  10. just me says:

    I think the liberal use of profanity is crass and often rude.

    I don’t run away screaming when I hear it used, but I do find that I avoid blogs where there is a lot of profanity.

    I think occassional swearing where the word is there specifically to make a point and is used rarely by the speaker isn’t as troublesome, but writings or speech liberally peppered with cursing just makes me think the person needs to find a dictionary and a thesaurus and expand their vocabularies.

    I think the problem with Cheney’s use was the context-I can understand the frustration and anger that may have lead to the swear, but he also should have known better.

    I also find it hard to respect or see a person as a professional, when they are constantly swearing. We were watching something on TV one time, and somebody in the course of the profession was talking to the customer and almost every other word was a swear word. I remember thinking-I don’t care how good they are at their job, I don’t think I could go back to somebody who couldn’t control their tongue.

    So maybe I am a prude, but it doesn’t bother me much on this topic.

  11. Bithead says:

    Since we seem focused on trying to turn this around into an attack on Republicans…(Apparently the only defense available fr the left anymore)… and since context is so vital… what WAS the context of Cheney’s remark? Anyone remember?

  12. Dean Esmay says:

    A Senator accused him of doing something unethical, if I remember right.

    Personally, I’m with Dr. Joyner on this one: I enjoy swearing, and I enjoy reading people who do it well. I have a real problem with bluenoses who haughtily and airily tell those of us who use the full expressiveness of the English language, with all its many words (including such rich and unobjectionable words as “fuck” and “shit”) that we are doing something wrong. I find people who use rich language to generally be as bright or brighter than people with sticks up their asses who sneer at anyone who dares use words they don’t approve of.

    That said, I don’t allow swearing on my front page. I do allow it in the comments, but not on the front page. Why? Because certain bluenose-run companies block sites which contain the full richness of the English language from company web surfers, and I don’t want readers of my blog to be blocked from reading it while on break or lunch at work because yet another snooty dorkwad decided they shouldn’t be allowed to see the word “fuck” in print while they’re at work.

    A pox upon the bluenoses. But what can we do? We are so often at their mercy.

  13. Leisureguy says:

    Here’s the Washington Post story on the Cheney incident.

  14. anjin-san says:

    Trying to make this into a left/right issues is laughable. The language on Kos is often embarrassing. Richard Nixon cursed like a sailor in the oval office. Nothing to see here folks…

  15. Dean Esmay says:

    I quite agree. It isn’t left/right at all. Except lefties tend to be hypersensitive to any language that might be deemed somehow offensive to women or minorities, and righties tend to be hypersensitive to any good old Anglo Saxon word meaning “to pierce” or “excrement” or that refers to the genitals by a non-Latin name.

  16. Bithead says:

    My response was focused on the specific line in question. Clearly, it’s not a left vs right thing, yet Cheney was the first thing that gets brought up. Why ya ‘spose?

  17. Grewgills says:

    What’s going on here, is the far left is figuring out that being childish doesn’t sell…There are a larger portion of people in that grouping than in the general populace, who will not WANT to grow up.

    Clearly, it’s not a left vs right thing, yet Cheney was the first thing that gets brought up.

    You were actually the first one to try and make this a partisan thing.

  18. Bithead says:

    You were actually the first one to try and make this a partisan thing.

    Nope. Nice try, but who were we initially talking about? A group of leftie bloggers, remember? That was the subject of the post, and as such my comment was directly responsive.

    Which, by the way is why I questioned bringing Cheney into it; It sounded… and still sounds… remarkably like Clinton’s “They all do it” defense.

  19. Grewgills says:

    That was the subject of the post, and as such my comment was directly responsive.

    You attempted to shift a conversation about rough language on blogs into the left is childish and potty-mouthed. The Cheney comment was in direct response to that. As others and later you correctly note this is not a left-right issue.

  20. anjin-san says:

    Hey, Bit managed to work Clinton into the rant too…