August 3, 2011

The Eminently Real Free Market (XXII): Reflections on the Joys of Controversy

Before we examine the second of Mr. Ferrara’s eighteen historical sketches, we’d like to share with our visitors some recent descriptions of this blog:
. . . a ludicrous line-by-line “commentary” on The Church and the Libertarian in which Flood is trying to peck the book to death in a manner that evokes an enraged duck. After months of ineffectual pecking and quacking, Flood has reached page 22 of 383.
In fact, when that column appeared, we had reached only page 16.
. . . an extraordinary exercise: a page-by-page, line-by-line, and even word-by-word scrutiny of the text.
Which only amounts to, however, according to the writer:
Tricks . . . endless, niggling commentary . . . irrelevant nitpicking . . . ducking every major issue The Church and the Libertarian discusses . . . .
Well, what else do you expect from a Peking Duck?
As some of you who did not click on the links may have guessed, this is a sampling of the finely-wrought opinions of our serene author, Christopher Ferrara himself. As to whether his epithets accurately reflect their target, we leave to others to decide.
Readers who have not been on the receiving end of his unsolicited, invective-filled emails—which we would love to have his permission to publish in its entirety, without commentary, along with our replies—might not know about his penchant for drawing his similes from wildlife.
(In general, he seems to have no unspoken thoughts, but the reckless abandon with which he commits some of them to this most unsecure of media is unbecoming of a mature Catholic: after all, Paul said that our conversation ought always be full of grace, seasoned with salt [Col. 4:6], not full of salt, seasoned with tabasco sauce.)
When he is not likening Tony Flood to a duck, he's charging him with evading Mr. Ferrara (i.e., avoiding his obnoxious pestering) like “a scared rabbit” and (in the same paragraph from his March 22 missive) “a chicken.”
(We recall Mr. Ferrara’s dedication of TCATL to the Jesuits of Fordham who taught him, in particular Francis Canavan, S.J. (1917-2009). In 1994 we exchanged ideas with that priest, gentleman, and scholar, and our brief correspondence [which he initiated after further thinking about a question I had asked him at Manhattan bookstore] is posted here. Father Canavan, the anti-liberal and anti-pluralist Burke scholar, was no Caspar Milquetoast in controversy, but we charitably assume that he would not have been favorably impressed either by his former student’s propagandistic ransacking of texts to “make a case” or the vitriol in which he dips his pen to make it. We are, of course, steeling ourselves for any evidence anyone might offer to defeat that assumption.)
In the comments section following his article, Mr. Ferrara corrects himself: “. . . after six months and fifty installments [Flood] has reached page 17 of 383, [so] it does not appear that I will face any reply to the substance of my book before Armageddon, if then.” This reveals not only an oddly quantitative understanding of progress in writing—(“C’mon, Chris, it’s 2008! You’ve been working on that book for three years, but you’re only up to Chapter 6?!”)—but also a rather narrow understanding of a book’s substance.
Mr. Ferrara’s uncharitable, unsympathetic, and intellectually irresponsible construction of what Austro-libertarians hold, including sins of omission and commission, is the substance of TCATL. His style tends to discredit what he thinks is its intellectual “substance.” To enumerate the ways this is so is not “irrelevant nitpicking” but rather putting a series of arguments in their proper propagandistic context.
Our comments policy merely increases the probability that we will be done before Armageddon rather than drag on until the New Heavens and the New Earth. We invite visitors who either have forgotten our early posts on the ethics of controversy or who join Mr. Ferrara in characterizing them as nitpicking to read (or re-read) our “Dialectic and the Weightier Matters of the Law” from last March. (See also this more recent post.)
Finally, some have expressed displeasure at our having turned off this blog’s comments option, as though the latter were a reader’s entitlement or indispensible to his or her criticism of our efforts. We are depriving them only of the opportunity to bog us down in tit-for-tat replies or risk appearing as though we had none. Those who would like this project to be over and done at least as much as we do should view this policy as conducive to that end. As we read Mr. Ferrara’s book, our “comments” were confined to its margins. We survived the experience, and then got our own blog, for no review of normal length could mete out to TCATL the justice it deserves.
Those who are not satisfied with this explanation are free to go and do likewise, and fill their own (or someone else’s) blog either with responsible criticism or with theatrical laughter.
[Quack, quack.]