December 4, 2002

· Internet

That sound you just heard was Mark Kleiman’s post about who gets to be called a felon getting InstaTyped. Like stereotyping, but faster. An interesting few paragraphs on why it’s probably right to say “John Poindexter is a felon” gets a ruthless nuancectomy which leaves the hapless victim a one-sentence caricature of his former self. Mark Kleiman is now that guy who “says it’s okay to call people felons even when they’ve never been convicted of felonies.” This means, conveniently, that the next time he says anything you might disagree with, you can say “Mark Kleiman may think that our Drug Policy needs some changes, but then again he’s the guy who thinks it’s okay to call people felons even when they’ve never been convicted of felonies, so draw your own conclusions.”

From a purely rhetorical perspective, Mark’s problem is that he’ll find it difficult to claim he’s being misrepresented (even though he is) without being accused of bad faith. Because his post is largely about how it can be OK to use shorthand like “John Poindexter is a Felon”, Glenn can argue sauce for the goose, and so say “Mark Kleiman says it’s OK to call people felons.” Even worse, Reynolds goes on to provide further insurance by saying

Somehow I’m reminded of the scene in the movie Stripes, which went something like this: Q: Have either of you been convicted of a felony? A: Uh, convicted? (Sigh of relief) No!

Of course, this distinction is precisely Mark’s point. (Mark Kleiman, by the way, is that guy who says it’s okay to call people felons even when they’ve never been convicted of felonies.) InstaTyping generally includes just enough equivocation that if anyone objects you can immediately fall back on your “you humorless liberal” routine.

Predicted result: Mark “TGWSIOTCPFEWTNBCOF” Kleiman writes another thoughtful post explaining why he’s still right and Reynolds is being unfair. Meanwhile, Reynolds is 60 posts down the line and paying no attention. It’s a kind of art, I think.

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I am Associate Professor of Sociology at Duke University. I’m affiliated with the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Markets and Management Studies program, and the Duke Network Analysis Center.



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