On Commies, Pinkos, Fags and Happyspherers

by Jamison Koehler on January 16, 2012

Mark Bennett coined the term “Happysphere” a while back, and it has now become a phrase that you need to throw into a blog entry every once in a while to show that you are a member of the tribe.  Use of the term doesn’t require any imagination or thought.  As with the use of most slogans or epithets, that in fact is the beauty of it.

It doesn’t matter that, with tones of George Orwell or Hannah Arendt, the terms sounds a lot like the type of categorizing/labeling of people even little children know they should never engage in. The important thing is that it creates a very helpful “us versus them” dynamic and yet another group of outsiders that members of the tribe can rail against.  After all, without us Happysphering flawgers, what else would people in the blogosphere wring their hands about?  A less charitable interpretation of the term would be to compare it to something I might have heard from one of my children; back, that is, before they hit puberty.

You start off as the rebel.  After a while, you realize you have become the establishment.

7 Comments on “On Commies, Pinkos, Fags and Happyspherers

  1. Given that today is MLK day and all, I am wondering what King would have thought of a term like the Happysphere.

  2. Jamison, you’re not quite doing it right.

    Right: “It has now become a phrase that you need to throw into a blog entry every once in a while to show that you are a member of the tribe.”

    Wrong: “Mark Bennett coined the term ‘Happysphere’ a while back.”

    Naming names and linking to blogs when you have something critical to say about one of your fellows is not the Happysphere way. To be a member of the Happysphere, you must avoid active conflict; all aggression must be passive. (I would have thought you’d have learned that when you got yourself sued.)

    You could fix the “wrong” example by taking out the link and removing my name—”someone coined the term ‘Happysphere'”—or, better, moving it into the passive voice—”the term ‘Happysphere’ was coined a while back.”

    See the difference? When in doubt, ask yourself, “What would Norm Pattis do?”


    P.S. Are you saying that homosexuality is a choice, like conflict-avoiding or passive-aggressive blogging?

    P.P.S. “T.P. Pollock,” consider this.

  3. I am a big believer in rules (thankfully, considering how important they are to the law), and I have always tried my best to follow the informal rules used in the blawgosphere to the extent that I could figure them out. You called me out earlier on my passive-aggressive use of the passive voice in a blog post to criticize something I didn’t agree with, and, after some equivocation, I eventually apologized.

    At some point, however, an insistence on using names and links every time you post something critical becomes ridiculous. Take the example from above. It was easy to use your name and a link back to your blog because there was one person and a readily identifiable blog entry in which you coined the term “Happysphere.” However, if I wanted to avoid the use of the passive voice in the second part of the sentence, I would have had to name and link to Greenfield, Tannebaum, Pribetic, Samuels, and who knows who else. While this might help keep the record straight for blawgospheric purposes, it can makes things pretty boring for a reader who really doesn’t care who is who in the blawgosphere and what positions they have taken in the past.

    But I catch your drift.

    No, I do not mean to suggest in any way that homosexuality is a choice. I used the very offensive term “fags” in the title — just as I chose a photo of Joseph McCarthy to accompany the blog entry — as a rhetorical device to underscore what I believe is the danger of stereotyping, categorizing or labeling anyone.

    But I think you already know that too.

  4. I am entirely in favor of the term “happysphere” because it omits that abomination of a word, “blawg.” It’s like the same committee that dreamed up the prefix “cyber” sat down with the object of making legal bloggers look as stupid as possible.

  5. This post isn’t written for “the reader who really doesn’t care who is who in the blawgosphere and what positions they have taken in the past,” is it?

    Far be it from me to try to teach you to write, but when you try to impeach some sort of conduct, an example or two goes a long way.

    Here’s the thing about this happyspherical passive aggression: most of your readers have no idea what or whom you’re talking about; if you don’t give them an example, they can’t confirm or refute what it is that you claim happened. If you were fond of inventing strawmen, you might see that as a virtue, but I think it’s a problem.

  6. Mark:

    No, it’s not. And fair enough.

    Another thing that bothers me about the term is its imprecision. At least Pribetic had the courtesy to provide a formal definition for “flawging.”

    Here, for the sake of anyone who is interested and who didn’t take the trouble to click through the link, is the original post in its entirety:

    “Warning: This is Not the Happysphere

    “If you are a blogging lawyer, and you want to be read by other bloggers, know that being read by other bloggers includes being taken to task publicly when you write something dumb or silly or ill-considered or even just vapid.

    If you don’t want to be read by other bloggers, if you are blogging for profit or to build up your practice, please let me know now.”

    I was surprised that, for someone who is normally very precise in his selection of language, you were very imprecise in defining the term, and it occurred to me you posted this as a throwaway without any expectation that people would seize on it. Whatever your intentions, the effect of this imprecision is that the term seems to mean different things to different people.

  7. I never got the happysphere thing. I thought I did. I thought it was a very sensible warning that some residents of the blogosphere will be quite mean to you if they think you are wrong, stupid, or evil. I can see how that would be surprising and upsetting to someone who starts blogging because they’ve been told it’s a marketing tool.

    But there’s more to it than that, including the vilification of Norm Pattis for reasons that I can’t follow. It seems to have something to do with passive aggressive posting, and I’ve been told that he’s a “lying sack of shit,” but all I know is that I lost interest in his blog about the time he began using the Platform Strategy template.

    Sigh. I presume I don’t get it because I’m a spectator, not a participant. Not getting things makes me sad. But I have the feeling that I’m probably better off not having to worry about it.

    And Max, I’m right there with you regarding “blawg.” It’s far too cutesy. As for “cyber-“…we just blame that on William Gibson.

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