Several A-list New York bloggers, including Jessica, got to meet Bill Clinton three days ago. The meeting would have been a non-story if Ann Althouse hadn’t decided to write about it on her blog. Althouse’s angle was that Jessica stood in front of Bill Clinton, looked good, and had an above-average breast size; that was enough to say that Jessica was a slut and Feministing was all about attracting readers with pictures of boobs.
The sort of bullshit analysis Althouse engages in to justify vicious attacks on people is a common tool for perpetuating authoritarian systems. Generally, the method is identical to how argumentation worked in the medieval era: you pick a position using your prejudice, and then find every supporting point, no matter how trivial or farfetched. Once Althouse decided Jessica was a slut, it didn’t matter that the pictures she based her decision on were inconspicious; every trivial little detail was proof that Jessica was a slut, and damn rationality.
Although in the last few months I’ve mostly associated this sort of bullshit analysis to radical feminists and ethnic nationalists, it’s in fact more characteristic of conservatives, especially racists and sexists. For every feminist who hates men, there must be twenty anti-feminists who hate women and are keen on interpreting everything as evidence that women are inferior and/or feminists are depraved. If a (female) feminist doesn’t look good, it’s evidence that she hates modern standards of beauty and hence men; if she does look good, it’s evidence she’s just a whore.
That’s not how you do it. First, there’s something very heinous about attacking individuals using any sort of analysis, especially when it comes to personal lives. That particular line of attack is inappropriate against anyone, up to and including Presidents; even less abusive attacks, which might be appropriate when made against politicians, are inappropriate against activists and writers.
And second, even if you do want to analyze something, there are ways to do that, which generally involve looking at evidence impartially, making falsifiable predictions, and laying off issues that are too inherently subjective to be analyzed.