Friday links! The truth is a lion edition


I defy you to find that quote anywhere in the writings of St. Augustine, machine for striking phrases though he was. Diligent internet Catholics trace its origin to Pastor Chuck Spurgeon, whose name does not look as good next to a lion and who said it a little differently:

The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.

I’m glad Augustine didn’t put so many hard stops in his aperçu, and I’m glad Pastor Chuck limited his analogy to the word of god. Given the confusion over both quote and attribution, I’m declaring this one fair game for rewrites. Today is Friday, and the truth is a lion: let it out, and it will defend itself. That’s why lions rule the Earth and lying is unprofitable. Won’t you lunge toward the net with me?

First, the good news: even in this time of localized swelling, Glenn Greenwald has bigger balls than anybody. On Wednesday October 22nd, he published an essay about that Monday’s attack on two Canadian soldiers in Quebec, in which he argues that it’s hypocritical for a country that has proclaimed itself at war for the last 13 years to express “shock” that someone attacked a soldier. A few hours later, another Canadian soldier was shot in Ottawa. Cue sugarstorm, in which Greenwald’s very gutsy essay becomes overshadowed by his Updates:

Multiple conservative commentators have claimed that this article and my subsequent discussion of it are about this morning’s shooting of a solider in Ottawa. Aside from the fact that what I wrote is expressly about a completely different incident—one that took place in Quebec on Monday—this article and my comments were published before this morning’s shooting spree was reported.

That’s before he can even get to the claim that he’s justifying the attacks. The internet has made a niche industry of criticism that tells you the original isn’t worth looking at. To quote a critic of my own work, “go ahead and read the thing if you have time.”

Damn all gatekeepers between the people and their primary sources! Except for content moderators—heaven defend those people, who keep torture and graphic sex off your Facebook feed for an average of three to five months before they quit. You didn’t think a computer could distinguish birthday party videos from child pornography, did you? No, someone’s version of YouTube is every video that YouTube flags. That’s his window on the world:

“If someone was uploading animal abuse, a lot of the time it was the person who did it. He was proud of that,” [one content moderator] says. “And seeing it from the eyes of someone who was proud to do the fucked-up thing, rather than news reporting on the fucked-up thing—it just hurts you so much harder, for some reason. It just gives you a much darker view of humanity.”

By “darker view of humanity,” he means “unmoderated view of humanity.” Except that’s not really what he sees: he sees the content that needs moderation, a kind of anti-moderated feed collecting the worst. Before you decide that you’ve seen the true face of humanity, consider what you were looking for. An abortion, for example, might be a person who never got to live. Or it might be a woman finishing her last year of college, a couple with grown children securing their retirement, a single mom escaping from her abusive boyfriend. Abortion is not easy, and Laurie Abraham is not sorry she got two of them. The roar of that particular lion threatens to drown out the ostensible subject of the essay, Nation columnist Katha Pollitt. She’s the one who points out that we need to stop talking about how abortion shouldn’t be illegal and start talking about the ways in which it is good.

While we’re at it, vasectomies are good, too. I’d like to take a moment to address the comments of RobThom, who took the occasion of my vasectomy to speculate on my sex life, the possibility that I might contract venereal disease, and my capacity to love. First of all, thanks for reading. Second, let’s not compare our sensibilities, since neither of us can help how he feels. Your heart is overflowing with love, and mine is dead to all charity. Why would I pass on such a handicap to my children?

It’s true that I have begun the process of destroying millions of sperm that might have otherwise fertilized eggs and become babies, so basically I am murdering half-millions of babies. And now that I can’t accidentally impregnate a woman, I’m not sure how I will ever find love. Yet somehow I find the will to go on.

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  1. The quotes show up enormous in my browser, and in those big ugly orange boxes. This is odd, because they’re invariably the worst part of Combat!. In a world of optimized pleasure, Combat! quotes would be in tiny text and all of the links would be dead.

  2. Sheesh, the Village Voice guy didn’t just mis-read you, he somehow mis-heard Louis CK, too.

    Oh well. Hope you’re taking the tone-deaf critiques okay; it’s hard to argue with a keyword content-bot.

  3. I like lions, too, robthom. Mostly because when a male lion wants to fuck a female lion who already has cubs sired by another male whom he has displaced in the pride hierarchy, he kills all of those cubs, thus triggering a new ovulation cycle in the female whose children he has just murdered. So devoted. So faithful.

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