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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

If you can't say something nice....

A blogger named John Bruce has been on something of a crusade about Glenn Reynolds, and transhumanism, and nanotechnology, and the Vingean singularity, for months. He seems to be trying to poke Reynolds with a bigger and bigger stick each time out, and he also seems to genuinely believe that Reynolds is somehow a driving force behind blogging, or something. Watching all of this unfold over the last couple of months, I almost get the idea of someone really hankering for an Instalanche.

But then, in this post, he goes over the line into stunning churlishness. He chooses to attack the way Terry Heaton (of whom I don't recall ever hearing before I read Mr. Bruce's post) dared to post about an awful turn of events in his personal life.

Short version: Mr. Heaton's wife died suddenly and unexpectedly. Mr. Heaton wrote a fairly brief post about this, in which he expresses his terrible grief and tries to say, in what I can only assume felt like far too few words, what his wife meant to him. He doesn't really write anything particularly out of the norm for such events. There is nothing in his post that one wouldn't expect to find in a post by a man who's just lost his wife.

Nothing one wouldn't expect, that is, unless one is John Bruce, in which case the whole post is horribly inappropriate and an illustration of everything that is wrong with Blogistan in general and Glenn Reynolds in particular. So there goes Mr. Bruce, speculating that Mr. Heaton's wife actually committed suicide, attacking the language Mr. Heaton used to describe his wife (calling it a "Righteous Brothers cover"), intimating that Mr. Heaton immediately followed up his post with an e-mail to Glenn Reynolds, attacking Reynolds for suggesting that his readers offer Mr. Heaton "their prayers" (since Reynolds apparently isn't a believer in prayer), and intimating that Reynolds is seeking to salve Mr. Heaton's grief by "giving him an Instalanche. That'll make him feel better!"

And his final salvo:

But I’m left with a sense that the social mechanisms that ought to have helped Terry Heaton deal with sudden bereavement, and would likely have functioned effectively in earlier decades, simply weren’t there in his case. The blogosphere is not a replacement for real institutions.

How Mr. Bruce can divine the role in Mr. Heaton's life of those "social mechanisms", I cannot say. But he seems to immediately assume this, without any evidence at all that this is true. Bruce is just assuming whatever he wants to assume, shoehorning it all into his preconceived notion of the problems that ail the blogging medium and community.

As my own readers know, I can write about this with some experience. Last November, we lost our fifteen-month old son. And, horror of horrors, I posted about it -- and yes, I got some traffic from it, mainly via PZ Myers, TBogg, and Lance Mannion. And yes, the large flood of condolences left in my comments and in my e-mails were very comforting. But I, in no way, considered it a replacement for the social mechanisms Mr. Bruce is kvetching about. I only posted to the blog about Little Quinn's death after we'd already spoken to our families, people in our church, at our workplaces, and plain friends. The blogging community didn't replace anything, nor did it substitute for anything that failed to function as it should have. The blogging community was, as it has always been, just another part of life.

This, then, is the ultimately nauseating kernel of Mr. Bruce's post:

But if I were in similar circumstances, I've got to say that the last thing that would be on my mind would be "Oh, golly, I've got to post about this right away!" And consider that, once he'd put up his post, his next move had to have been to e-mail Reynolds and get the link put in Instapundit. If friends, neighbors, family, church members, or others counted for anything in this poor man's life, they should have been keeping him away from the keyboard at such a time.

There's no reason to suggest that his "next move had to have been to e-mail Reynolds". I didn't e-mail a soul after I wrote my own post about Little Quinn. Sometimes, things get around Blogistan all by themselves. That's just a shitty thing for Bruce to say, and he says it for no other reason than to make a shitty point about Glenn Reynolds and how much Bruce apparently hates the social aspects of blogging. And witness again Bruce's assumption that blogging about his wife's death indicates that "this poor man's life" has nobody in it but other bloggers.

Finally, this "Why, the last thing on my mind would be...." notion is ludicrous. Believe me, folks, the only way to find out what you'd do in a situation like that is to actually experience a situation like that. And they're all unique. I'm not about to take my reactions to Little Quinn's death as any kind of indicator of what I would do if something happened to The Daughter. Mr. Bruce is appointing himself to some kind of moral authority status, and frankly, it's disgusting. I can't say what the last thing on my mind would be to do if someone close to me died. But I can say that if I learned that someone died, the last thing on my mind would be to cherry pick that person's subsequent actions for details that seemingly support my own personal crusade.

(And my deepest condolences to Mr. Heaton.)

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