Cyberrhetoric/Sex, Drugs, R&R (fwd)
Tue, 14 May 1996 14:04:59 -0400

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Date: Mon, 13 May 1996 17:10:29 -0400
Subject: Cyberrhetoric/Sex, Drugs, R&R

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Subject: Cyberrhetoric/Sex, Drugs, R&R

<---- Begin Forwarded Message ----> From: Subject: Cyberrhetoric/Sex, Drugs, R&R To: "Marc J. Gilbert" <>

On Mon, 13 May 1996, "Marc J. Gilbert" <> w= rote:

>My point was that Betty Friedan and Norman O. Brown were not young,=20 >and that "Free Love" as a means of changing the world was but a part >of the pop culture of the day (I would say that suburban swinging=20 >was more important in the everyday lives of most Americans then, and=20 >it had little to do with the philosophy of anyone on the Left).=20 [snip] > Jeff asserts his own experience of the '60s and makes a=20 >stab at mine. No offense taken, but political views do not=20 >necessarily reflect activism.=20 [snip] =20 >I AM a distant cousin of=20 >Senator Barry Goldwater. So? We are in the business of ideas here,=20 >and if experience has a connection, people will make it clear enough=20 >when they have a mind to do so.

I agree that =93we are in the business of ideas here=94, and that the mediu= m we are=20 using--text floating in cyberspace--*ought* to lend itself to pure concept= =20 unfettered by assumptions, baggage, etc. Unfortunately (and perhaps this i= s=20 just one of those darned vestigial habits we have retained from our=20 non-cyberspace pasts), it is hard not to read into postings things that mig= ht=20 not be there. In =93real life=94, we are accustomed to taking lots of verb= al and =20 behavioral cues into account, sizing a up an argument only in part on its o= wn=20 terms, but also in terms of broader constellations of values and opinions= =20 implied by such cues.

I point this out only because dealing strictly with ideas is difficult. Th= e=20 mind reaches instinctively for the cues. Case in point from Marc himself: = his=20 eentsy-bit-suspicious notion in his first posting that I might be a=20 =93wolf-in-sheep=92s-clothing=94, an assumption which was I think unwarrant= ed from my=20 posting, since the term implies an element of guile. Granted, Marc discoun= ted=20 his suspicion somewhat (=93Wolf-in-Sheeps-Clothing aside [and with apologie= s for=20 even the suggestion . . ]), but the point is made that perhaps I am just di= shing=20 out NeoCon tripe, David Horowitz in disguise. =20

Similarly, when I pointed to the relevance of my experience to my posting, = I=20 suggested that Marc=92s experience =93perhaps, as a progressive and activi= st=94,=20 might be relevant to his point of view. I can see now that I was doing the= same=20 thing Marc was doing--making an assumption (or at least testing a tentative= =20 hypothesis) about the =93person=94 I was corresponding with. My point here= is that=20 both of our rhetorical ploys are quite human. Cyberspace is indeed ideally= =20 suited to a discussion of =93ideas=94--it=92s just that it=92s probably ine= vitable that=20 our human side will show through from time to time as we search for cues ab= out=20 context. =20

Excuse my going on, but this digression into the pros and cons of cyberrhet= oric=20 is relevant to the ongoing discussion between Marc and me. I cannot help b= ut=20 think that Marc continues to view my statements as attempts to undermine th= e=20 =93Left=94 by criticizing =93sexual liberation=94. Marc says =93I would sa= y that suburban=20 swinging was more important in the everyday lives of most Americans then, a= nd it=20 had little to do with the philosophy of anyone on the Left.=94 But I=92v= e been=20 asking for the phenomenon to be examined in its own terms, and not with=20 reference to a =93Left=94 that it was only tangentially related to.

And on the issue of the phenomenon in itself, I am at a loss to figure out= =20 exactly what point Marc is making. He says Norman O. Brown was not =93youn= g=94 and=20 not a sixties figure. Also that sexual experimentation has a long history = and=20 is not strictly speaking a sixties thing. Well, drug use and radical polit= ics=20 also have lineages going back a ways. Understanding that these lineages ex= ist=20 does not invalidate the notion that for all three areas--drugs, radical pol= itics=20 and sex--the sixties represented a time of notable change. =20

Unless Marc is saying that, unlike drugs and radical politics, sexual=20 experimentation along the lines of Elizabeth=92s posting were somehow=20 fundamentally unimportant, a position he seems to take when he states =93it= is the=20 use of Free Love as a philosophical underpinning for the sixties that I obj= ect=20 to=94. He goes on: =93I would ask if was anyone on this list movtivated by= Norman=20 O. Brown=94. Well, what about Elizabeth? People in the Haight did not hav= e to=20 study Brown in college for linkages to be made between behavior and intelle= ctual=20 activity in a given era. Ideas have consequences. One does not have to fin= d the=20 idea in its undistilled form to conclude that its presence has been felt.

Jeff Apfel

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