Mark Steyn wrote an excellent online article called “Cross the River, Burn the Bridge,” in which he skewers the Obama/Reid plan to socialize medicine – a plan that will eviscerate American medical care. Steyn uses his familiar acerbic wit in presenting examples of the consequences of socialized medicine in Canada and England, and makes a good case that the plan the Senate pushed through on Christmas Eve (while citizens’ attentions were diverted) will be even worse than the Euro-style systems. “Whatever one’s philosophical objection to the Canadian health system,” Steyn wrote:
it is, broadly fair: Unless you’re a cabinet minister or a bigtime hockey player, you’ll enjoy the same equality of crappiness and universal lack of access that everybody else does. But, even before it’s up-and-running, Pelosi-Reid-Obamacare is an impenetrable thicket of contradictory boondoggles, shameless payoffs and arbitrary shakedowns.”[Note 1.]
The thing that struck me most, though, was not the article itself, which is so on target that it is obvious to me, but one of the reader’s comments following the article. I am generally so disgusted by the low level of discourse in online newspaper comments, I avoid them, but in this case my eye was drawn to the sheer typographical pattern. A commenter identifying himself as “goodgame” wrote in response, the following:
Mark Steyn wrote: BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH
I’ve abbreviated the comment to spare my readers; the original actually consisted of 262 iterations of “BLAH” – enough to wallpaper a six-inch by three-inch area of my screen.
There is something entirely fitting about this comment.
First of all, “blah, blah, blah” may in fact be all today’s leftists hear when presented with ideas. (I have no way of knowing what the political opinions of “goodgame” are, but if the commenter is hostile to Steyn’s article criticizing socialism, it is reasonable to guess that he leans left.) Anything beyond the direct perceptual level, including abstractions, concepts, and integrations, seems to be entirely beyond the grasp of the leftist mentality. To be sure, there are a select handful of high-level concepts that seem to take hold in such mentalities – every platitude out of the mouth of Barack Obama, for instance – but these banalities are held as if they were direct percepts, unquestioned and unintegrated. [Note 2.]
The second fitting aspect of the “blah, blah, blah” comment is that it has utterly no content. The author made the effort (small as it is) to post a comment online and added literally nothing. Behind its general snarkiness, which like-minded readers probably snigger at with approval, is a double confession of intellectual bankruptcy: not only does “goodgame” have nothing to say, but he admits – even boasts – that he does not grasp what he has read.
My final thought on the comment that I find appropriate is the capitalization of “BLAH.” In netiquette (i.e. network etiquette), capitalization is typically used to indicate a shout. This completes the perfect image of the modern leftist: a lout with nothing to say . . . and shouting it to drown everybody else out.
1. Mark Steyn, “Cross the River, Burn the Bridge,” The Orange County Register, 27 Dec 2009, http://www.ocregister.com/opinion/columncolumn-225898-mark-steyn.html.
2. I am indebted to Harry Binswanger for this idea. He presented this insightful observation in a lecture last summer.