I am obnoxious and disliked

This comment appears at the blog Marginal Revolution:

I’m still waiting to find out which blogger Tyler finds so obnoxious. Is it Lawrence Auster???

Posted by: Stan B at Apr 2, 2009 3:50:04 PM

- end of initial entry -

Adela G. writes:

Rather than your being obnoxious and disliked, isn’t it just as likely that Stan B. posted that out of jealousy and envy of you?

When you are mentioned in an unflattering way in the conservative blogosphere, the subtext is often simply the writer’s irritation at the fact that you are usually right.

Most people really dislike having their arguments, however shallow and shoddy, demolished as neatly and completely as you can do with such apparent ease. Even worse, you make it difficult for them to accuse you of personal animosity since your remarks are usually so impersonal.

Either that, or Steve B, learned from our recent discussion at VFR that you hail from you-know-where.

LA replies:
Thanks. Here, by coincidence, is an example of exactly the kind of response to me that you were talking about, from Alan Caruba, a columnist with the Canadian Free Press:

I wrote (March 31):

Alan Caruba
Canadian Free Press

Dear Mr. Caruba

In your column, you write:

Former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, a conservative and a contemporary of Ronald Reagan, pointed out that the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.

When Margaret Thatcher became prime minister in May 1979, she was 53 years old. When Ronald Reagan became president in January 1981, he was 69. To be more precise, Reagan was born February 6, 1911. Thatcher was born October 13, 1925. Reagan was 14 years 8 months older than Thatcher, a half generation between them. They were not contemporaries.

I see three possible explanations why you described Reagan and Thatcher as contemporaries:

(a) You thought they were the same age, which would mean that you thought Thatcher was close to 70 whe she became prime minister;

(b) You define “contemporaries” as people who are 15 years apart in age; or

(c) You don’t care, and you think that people who expect reasonable accuracy and precision in journalism are a pain in the neck.

In any case, it’s a strange experience reading today’s press, with obvious errors like this cropping up constantly.

Lawrence Auster

Alan Caruba replied (March 31):

If you could write a commentary as good as mine, I would advise that you do so. People who have nothing better to do than nit-pick the work of others need to take up a hobby or some other pastime. For the record, Thatcher and Reagan led their respective nations at the same time, making them contemporaries on the world stage. Thus, my use of the word is entirely correct and your email is a great waste of my time and yours.

Alan Caruba

I replied:

So, your answer is a combination of (b) and (c).

P.S. A writer who thinks that a discussion about the correct meaning of words is a “great waste of time” is probably in the wrong field.

Alan Caruba replied (April 1):

Listen up, Asshole, I have been a professional writer for some fifty years or more. You are a moron with an opinion. No doubt you enjoy being an Asshole, but further emails will be instantly deleted so I can get on with writing for an audience that numbers in the hundreds of thousands.


I replied:

And all this was set off by my criticizing your use of “contemporaries.” If you disagreed with my point, all you had to do was disagree. Instead you wrote back resenting the very fact that I had criticized you. So who’s the a-hole, Mr. Caruba?

I sent a follow-up:

Also, if you haven’t filtered me out yet, I’ll leave you with this final question on the substance of the issue. You say that if people are national leaders at the same time, that makes them contemporaries, regardless of their respective ages. President Kennedy of the U.S. and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of West Germany held national office at the same time; in fact Adenauer left office in October 1963, just a month before Kennedy’s assassination. Adenauer, born January 5, 1876, was 41 years older than Kennedy, born May 29, 1917. Would you describe Adenauer and Kennedy as contemporaries?

Adela G. replies:

Exactly what I had in mind.

Alan Caruba replies: “…For the record, Thatcher and Reagan led their respective nations at the same time, making them contemporaries on the world stage.”

Wrong again. That makes them contemporaneous leaders on the world stage, not contemporaries on the world stage. He really has no business writing anything for publication if he can’t even distinguish between an adjective and a noun.

And you wonder why I’m tart.

LA replies:

Well, my WordWeb dictionary gives two meanings of contemporaries or contemporary:

1.All the people living at the same time or of approximately the same age


2. A person of nearly the same age as another

But the first meaning would be nonsensical in the present context, since it would mean that Barack Obama, born 1961, is as much a contemporary of Ronald Reagan, born 1911, as Mrs. Thatcher is, in which case there would be no reason to suggest some special commonality between Thatcher and Reagan on the basis of their being contemporaries, since the same commonality existed between Reagan and Obama.

Now it may be that “contemporaries” is used in the first sense above when one is speaking of past historical periods, thus taking in everyone living during that period. So perhaps it might be said that Henry VIII of England, born in 1491, and Christopher Columbus, born 1451, were “contemporaries,” notwithstanding the 40 year difference between them, since Henry was alive during Columbus’s journeys to America which took place between 1492 and 1504. But, again, if “contemporaries” is used in this sense, thus taking in literally everyone whose lifetimes overlapped during any given past period, it would be meaningless to apply it to Thatcher and Reagan, since Caruba’s intent was not to say that Thatcher and Reagan were simply alive at the same time, but that there was a particular connection between them as contemporaries, distinguishing them from most other people alive at the same time.

Here are definitions at the Free Online dictionary:


1. Belonging to the same period of time: a fact documented by two contemporary sources.

2. Of about the same age.

3. Current; modern: contemporary trends in design.

n. pl. contemporaries

1. One of the same time or age: Shelley and Keats were contemporaries.

2. A person of the present age.

This doesn’t help Caruba, unless we interpret “belonging to the same period of time” as “being on the world stage during the same period of time.” But then we run into the Adenauer-Kennedy problem again. So it would appear that merely being leaders at the same time is not enough to make two leaders contemporaries. If it were, then Louis XIV of France, who was born in 1638 and became king at age four in 1643, was a contemporary of Charles I of England, who was born in 1600, became king in 1625, and was beheaded in 1649.

Adela replies:

Funny, I looked up several online definitions of “contemporary,” too, just to double-check.

You write: “So it would appear that being leaders at the same time is not enough to make two leaders contemporaries.”

Exactly. It’s not enough that a word can have several related definitions. The context in which that word is used will determine which particular definition is most accurate and therefore, most correct.

The knucklehead could have avoided this whole brouhaha by writing that Thatcher and Reagan were leaders who occupied the world stage contemporaneously. I suspect that is what he meant at the outset, but he chose the wrong word (contemporaries) and then had the misfortune to come under your ever-vigilant eye.

Adela continues:

I’ve braced myself for being referred to yet again as your vile sycophant.

Or as Alan Caruba would probably have it, your vile contemporary.

From: Stan
Subject: I am jealous and envious
Well, no, actually I’m not. Nor do I dislike you or find you obnoxious, but I can see how someone like Tyler Cowen would, which is why I asked the question.

Out of curiosity, how did you locate that comment? It seems like you have quite a knack for appearing wherever your name is mentioned. I’m reminded of a silly horror film from the early 90’s called “Candyman”, where the titular monster was summoned by someone staring into a mirror and chanting his name five times. It seems as though your summoning ritual is comparatively simpler: stare into a comments form at a moderate right-of-center blog, type “Lawrence Auster”, and hit “Submit”.

LA replies:

There’s no mystery, though it is a wonder. It’s called Google. This link (I can’t show the full address because it’s so long it disturbs the display of this page) searches for my name at blogs, minus a couple of entries that automatically show my name and so I filter them out. While I have the link as a shortcut, I don’t have to do the search myself. Go to the bottom of the linked Google results page and see the invitation to set up an automatic e-mail alert. You can set up any number of e-mail alerts for any Google searches. So, once a day, I receive an e-mail from Google linking any blogs that have mentioned me.

Of course, there are also RSS feeds, which link to other pages that link the present page. Michelle Malkin uses them, so on every page at her site you will be linked to every other page that has linked that page. In her case, since she is so widely read and linked, it quickly becomes a useless surfeit and repetition. I’ve never understood RSS and have not been able to set it up.

Adela G. writes:

Stan writes: “Out of curiosity, how did you locate that comment? It seems like you have quite a knack for appearing wherever your name is mentioned.”

Apparently Stan shares your knack for appearing wherever one’s name is mentioned, Mr. Auster. How nice of him to join us.

I read half a dozen political blogs daily and see your name or the name of your blog, VFR, mentioned once or twice a week. I’ve even seen mention of my name on at least two blogs.

Adela adds (April 4):

I like Stan. I might even go bowling with him. In New Jersey.

But I’m too tart to have let a comment like that pass without mention.

LA replies:

Also, I should have mentioned to Stan that I only post at a small number of the blogs where I am mentoned. Also, most of the time, the reason I post at a thread is not because I was mentioned there, i.e., to reply to something said about me, but to reply to the general topic of the thread. For example, there was a thread at Mangan’s the other day about Kevin MacDoald where I was mentioned in passing, and I posted a comment there, not in relation to myself, but in relation to the subject of the thread, which was MacDonald.

April 4

Stan replies:

Thank you for your reply, but I have another question..

What made you deem my comment at Marginal Revolution worthy of publication on VFR? You are a polarizing figure, and certainly you’ve received a lot of negative comments at a lot of other prominent blogs. Why post on my comment as opposed to any other negatively-perceived feedback about yourself?

LA replies:

Well, it was amusing, don’t you think? Judging from your comment, apparently the blogger, Tyler, had referred to some unnamed person as being obnoxious (though I couldn’t find the original reference), and you said, could this obnoxious person be Auster?

The specific topic of the thread was irrelevant. The point was that when the subject of some unspecified obnoxious person came up, of all the people in the world who might have been suggested as being this obnoxious person, the person was automatically assumed to be me, as though that’s what I’m known for. And my quoting your comment was a commentary on that regrettable but humorous fact, which I made the best of, and made light of, by putting it under the title, “I am obnoxious and disliked,” which comes from a letter John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail while he was attending the Second Continental Congress in 1776.

And yes, there are many negative—and positive—comments about me in the blogosphere that I do not quote or link. Why did I quote your comment and not lots of others? Obviously, for the same reason that one chooses to publish, quote, or discuss anything: because one finds it particularly interesting, noteworthy, entertaining, thought-provoking, etc.

April 4

Stan replies:

Ok, now I see. The John Adams reference was lost on me, but, now that you’ve explained it, I can see why you posted my comment as opposed to others that reference you; why pass up a perfectly good excuse to make a humorous John Adams reference?

For what it’s worth, here is Tyler’s original post.

LA replies:

I see. Your comment about me was off-topic, referring back to that earlier thread where the topic had been: who is the most obnoxious blogger? If I had seen the original thread, where many guesses are made, I wouldn’t have thought I was being singled out as the most obnoxious.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 03, 2009 08:19 AM | Send

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