"Looks like I touched a nerve" is not engaging your critics
At least *we know what *we're in for going forward.
In the latest Citius Mag newsletter, Chris Chavez offers a short, slapstick defense of his and his nominal allies’ recent behavior:
We had our fair share of followers (or now former followers) telling us to “stick to running” but we won’t. We recommend reading this piece by Women’s Running and Erin Strout because that line between sports or running and politics doesn’t exist. Also...it was pretty cool to see President-elect Joe Biden’s Election Day video to use the same song that we use for the CITIUS MAG Podcast.
From this tortured mini-jumble of non sequiturs, it seems that Chavez feels that Strout’s article makes some kind of an argument for justifying things like spur-of-the-moment shit-stirring for phantom crimes and the rewarding of other people’s lowbrow behavior as long as these actions can be framed as advancing a cause. This completes a circle of backslapping that adds up to “You’re wrong and we’re right, and if you don’t believe me, read this thing someone else wrote that probably links back to me.” It’s like watching Bible apologists not respond to people who point out contradictions in scripture; they say “Already asked and already answered!” and link to where the answer supposedly rests, where another human deflector shield similarly bunts a substantive rebuttal up the road, and so on until you tire of the game.
I’ve already given a less-than-stellar review of Strout’s piece. But even if I loved it, it wouldn’t make the case that you’re not allowed to question people’s asshole behavior when it’s flown along on the banner of an allegedly progressive philosophy. Nothing can.
Deconstructing the quoted material is probably unnecessary, but then so is this entire blog, and there is no boundary separating the two. So, first, look at the claim “that line between sports or running and politics doesn’t exist.” You can see how dumb this is by substituting anything involving a public gathering for “running” in that sentence and imagining the inevitable outcomes. If I go to an art exhibit and a bunch of people decide to hector the management and everyone else about the excessive whiteness of the featured artists, it degrades the experience for me even if I fundamentally agree with some or even all of what the protesters are saying. (Of course, I’m not even sure how relevant this comparison is given that the tumult I’ve seen so far has been only at virtual races; everyone can be a bold activist and reputation-wrecker on Facebook or Instagram.) Come to think of it, and for years I honestly hadn’t, the only marathon I ever won was marred, albeit not much, by a small local protest. Look how nice they thought I was back then, too.
The emptiness of “There is no line between running and politics” is equally well-exposed if you leave in “running” and instead swap “politics” for “religion” or “climate change awareness” or anything else contentious. What if a dogged group of environmentalists started protesting races (or their social-media pages) with complaints about how much water is wasted in a typical mass marathon? They would have a case, of sorts. But I bet everyone who wasn’t directly involved would quickly tire of the circus.
It’s also fun to ponder what would happen if police decided to not participate in traffic control at road races in cities where the “defund” vibe was going strong, or if right-wing harpy extraordinaire Ann Coulter gave up her Cruella de Vil cigarette habit, took up shuffling through 5Ks, and elected to hold speeches after these events just off to one side of the awards ceremony. Leftists have had success in cancelling or shutting down talks by Coulter and others at places like U. Cal-Berkeley, so it’s hard to fathom why they can’t see their own relentless sniping and salvos at people in running as unwelcome, even if leftists think the ethics of their own arguments are unimpeachable.
But as I’ve tried to emphasize, most of my distaste here isn’t about differences in opinion over what kind of activist presence counts as too much or what delineates “proper” forums for expressing political sentiments. It’s about the as-yet unpunished use of dishonesty, smearing, and threats of boycotts to fight alleged unfairness or merely thick-ass beards suggestive of same, to include turning a blind eye to the very injustices you purport to abhor when one of your own stands accused. I strongly doubt that a great many of Chavez’ or anyone’s readers are averse to him bringing up politics per se, but I suspect that a lot of them are upset with how he chooses to do this. The distinction is not difficult to make, but the thing is, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, by exquisite design, don’t offer the dislike or downvote buttons they should.
So despite fuzzy awareness of pushback, Chavez and others trying to eke out a living in the running sector — and that, not a social conscience, is the prime mover here, though that’s a topic for later — will only react meaningfully to the hundreds or thousands of blind likes they’re assured of getting from drones, because these likes are all their minds come to see. If 4,000 people go “Attaboy!” when you attack a random white male announcer, who gives a shit if another white guy or two gets dyspeptic and points out that you’re full of shit? You’ve already laid out a huge canvas for everyone who thinks their bodies aren’t perfect to splatter with rage and hurt that has nothing to do with the supposed infraction.
It’s right up there in the quoted paragraph: Chavez’s context for his stance is defying its effect on his follower number, not the content of his underlying ideas. And while I’m not comparing Chavez as a person or his ostensible goals with Pastor Cletus (the one who drinks vodka out of an inverted toilet plunger), this is how religious loons who spout invented statistics about the evils of gays and “transgenders” gain confidence, too.
Relatedly, and a slight teaser: The last-ever print issue of Runner’s World is now in stores, and because it contains a largely intact version of an article I wrote in 1999 and a picture from a few weeks ago, I will seek out a copy this week. The cover you see at the other end of those links — which, in case I’ve misled you, go to other web pages, not a print magazine — is from Issue 5 of this year (at some point, RW switched to an every-other-month publication scheme). This cover of this month’s release, Issue 6, evidently features someone whose qualifications include serious and well-documented bullying under the aegis of social justice, making this both an ideal choice and an abominably inept one for our times.
Also this week, I have to, or get to, put together a pair of articles for Podium Runner about the New Hampshire high-school cross-country season. One will be about Concord High School’s unusual-even-for-covid defense of its state Division I title (the Tide came into 2020 on a three-year winning streak), while the other will be about the efforts that made the season possible at all. On the way to the Meet of Champions on Saturday, the boys’ team bus threw an axle. (That was the term I heard, and since it was probably a Blue Bird special from 1981, I wasn’t surprised. Maybe it was actually a rod — that happened to me once in Ontario.) A second bus came along down I-93 to get them to the start in Nashua about half an hour before go time, but — as I will probably write about here during a break from an unusual but educational data-entry job thrown at me late last week — it worked out fine. Everything always does, leading to even more complaining, which is why these posts always end on a high note, all of which is inseparable from jazz.