There have been a few summaries about the Blogging, Journalism and Credibility Conference, co-sponsored by the Berkman Center and Shorenstein Center at Harvard, along with the American Library Association. Most of them focused on what the insiders have said– NYU Professor and conference presenter Jay Rosen even titled his summary “Big Wigs Confer.” I thought I’d take a separate angle, and look at what some of the little people said. This includes the little voices around the big table; the voices of the observers in the room, and even people on the Internet– bloggers and others who care about the future of ideas– who felt excluded from the conversation in the first place. And I thought I’d do this using the framework of inclusiveness.
There was not much substance to report on anyways: mostly journalists learning about some newfangled technology from the blogging evangelists. As Mr. Berkman himself told me, it was not academic, but “people sharing business ideas.” It was all rather tame in compared to the populist riot which had erupted on the conference blog. At the start of the conference, inside the oak paneling of the fifth floor of the Taubman Center Rebecca MacKinnon casually dismissed the rioters on the blog. Apparently they had gotten to the point of labeling the Berkman Center as “kitten-eating evil cyborgs” or somesuch, so we all enjoyed a good laugh at the reductio ad absurdum. But after the conference, when I felt a bit disappointed as to the whole proceedings, I began to seek out the critics on the blog. Maybe they had something to say. It was tough to glean much coherence coming out of the blog comments, but when engaged in email, the critics were all thoughtful and articulate. “I guess I’m a bit clearer now than I was on the blog” was a common refrain.
According to the thinking, I should offer some sort of transparent disclosure about who I am: I’m not affiliated with Harvard; I work as a software engineer in Cambridge. Also, I’m a liberal white male Jewish American, hardly a minority in the field of media or media studies. Then again, maybe that’s why I should write about this. But there are more important disclosures to make. I’ve never thought about diversity issues much in my writings. I didn’t go to the conference expecting to write about this. I didn’t take many notes on it. I did not honor my observer status and spent too much time thinking about how to get a word into the discussion. I can’t even say for certain that the paneling was oak, but it was a dark brown wood. I do remember the conversations, I have checked the transcripts, and was relaxed enough during the conference because I knew this subject pretty well.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate the Berkman Center. Most of their conferences have low entry fees-free, in fact. This one had a scarcity of seats available, so the entrance fee for the uninvited folk, turned out to be, at least for me, to give a reason and to ask nicely. But if you couldn’t get in, you could still follow along with the conference blog, webcast, and conversation in IRC (Internet relay chat). Questions from the IRC were brought into the conference. You’d be hard-pressed to find a government body in America which is as open as this. As the technology becomes more available, such a model should be expanded.
(The participants list generally included people from the spheres of academia, media, blogging; including librarians, social scientists, journalists, producers, software developers, foundation representatives, consultants– ed.)
Nonetheless, there were challenges to the inclusiveness due to the concentration of voices at the conference. I suppose that these can be generalized for any small group:
- Will we be able to engage a diversity of voices and perspectives?
- Will we avoid the mild bigotry that can occur when few are present to speak up for an under-represented group?
- Will the legitimacy of the efforts be questioned because we weren’t inclusive enough?
Well, in the end, we didn’t have to worry #3. John Palfrey’s summary concluded “We’re certainly a long way from a shared set of principles, or a code of ethics, or even an understanding of how they could come about,” and one of the critics of the exclusiveness. Jeneane Sessum breathed a sigh of relief at that conclusion. So we’ll restrict our focus to the first two points.
Analyzing this, there are a few assumptions we’ll need to make:
First, the conference was meant to affect only the people that wanted to be affected by it. That is, bloggers who write for a more public interest, and thus want to reach new readers, would care about credibility; those who write for a more private interest would not.
Second, that functional proxies may be more important to diversity than identity proxies. A black woman may not be expected to able to speak for all black women, but a librarian who speaks for library users should be seen as an appropriate representative– for that is her job.
Third, while there are many strands of diversity to aim for, some of which are more critical than others for a given situation. Which means that some are less critical. Nonetheless, it is the impulse of liberalism that inspires members of certain minority groups not currently repressed to speak up for minorities that currently are. As Exodus 22:21 instructs, “A stranger shalt thou not wrong, neither shalt thou oppress him; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (JPS Translation)
The Axes of Exclusiveness
I have thought of nine axes of inclusiveness/exclusiveness. Forgive the term, as I am under-informed in the proper nomenclature. I had to think a bit to come up with the terminology, so I picked the categories that were suggested by many on the Internet. And I thought a little more, remembering the phrase “race, color, creed, or national origin,” which is at the core of the U.S.’s anti-discrimination statutes. As best as I can find, the phrase was first used legally in the text of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 8802, which prohibited discrimination along those lines in the defense industry in 1941.
What does creed really mean, I wondered? Could it have a similar root as credibility? I checked the O.E.D. and found out that “creed” shares the same root as a credo or a personal set of beliefs. “Credibility,” it appears, shares a direct root with credentials, both the Latin credere, which is to believe. Creed describes what we believe, while credibility describes what others believe of us, often through our credentials. Credentials are most useful to mind in a gathering of academics and non-academics.
Race, National Origin, First Language, Religion
“How many bloggers of color did you invite? How many reporters/journalists of color? I’m making assumptions here–I better be careful–like I’m always so careful. It wouldn’t be ethical to be careless. Yes, so, I just want to know.” — Jeneane Sessum
There was not much diversity on the first three counts. But I don’t think this was central to the discussion, as it was, for say, the last Berkman conference on “Voting, Bits & Bytes”. (This had directly addressed politics, and also hosted a few hundred people. — ed.) After the conference, I followed up with Jeneane, and she stuck by her point: “That’s what’s wrong. That the exclusion didn’t affect the discussion.” I just don’t see it. Nonetheless, she did refer me to Shelley Powers, who penned a deeply-informed piece around this point:
itâ€™s not surprising, though perhaps is ironic, to see that there is actually better representation of women and blacks and other racial minorities in the professional journalist circles than there is in the so-called â€˜citizen journalisticâ€™ ranks of weblogging, because there is no economic or social incentive for the citizen journalists to look outside of their ranks.
There was also testimony brought in from non-Americans. Hoder (the Toronto-based “Iranian blogger”), contributed comments via IRC. Ethan Zuckerman relayed Hoder’s comments to the group, and also brought up Hoder’s comments to the previous Berkman conference on the role of blogs in Iran. They are in fact much more central to Iranian information culture, as a legitimate counterweight against state-controlled media. Another presentation from the previous conference was brought up the Oh My News Internet publication in South Korea (which is written by 25 reporters, 10 editors, and 33,000 citizen-journalists. — ed. learn more from MSNBC)
Getting religious diversity is obviously more tricky, as that’s something that isn’t commonly asked or disclosed. Certainly having some religiously-minded folk of any stripe is helpful for a discussion about ethics. Conservative pundit-turned-blogger Hugh Hewitt posted numerous times complaining about the lack of “faith-based,” or as he calls them, “God bloggers.” In one such post, he wrote: “But like almost every member of the blogger conference convening today at Harvard to discuss blogging ethics and related issues, Jeff [Jarvis] seems to carry contempt for faith-based conservatives in his laptop.” Jarvis made an effort to point out during the session that he was a church-going Protestant (though didn’t answer any of Hewitt’s specific charges. — ed.). And somebody else made an effort to get copies of Hewitt’s latest book, Blog, into the conference (Frank Paynter wonders how — and the best answer is that it was John Hinderaker’s efforted.).
And there was one synagogue-going Jew, even going to synagogue instead of the Saturday morning session. That would be me and granted, this was a last-minute decision. But a fully Sabbath-observing Jew would have left at around 4 pm on Friday, and may have elected to go to quick morning service on Saturday before returning to the conference, if at all.
In the end, ethics were not deeply discussed in a religious context. Christopher Lydon made a point about the blogs having “God-ly qualities: omnipotent, all-knowing, invisible, accessible to each and every one of us.” This did not seem to offend anyone.
Only a quarter of the participants were women. But it was even more lopsided when you consider those who of the dozen or so dominant voices (more on that in the section), only one was a woman: Berkman fellow Rebecca MacKinnon. One of the leaders of the four sessions was a woman, Professor Judith Donath of MIT.
This is especially a sensitive issue, in light of the comments and subsequent apology by the President of Harvard, Larry Summers about the need for more women in the science. I will try my best. Now one may be a feminist in the sense that they want more women to participate, or one may accept the theories of the innate cognitive differences between men and woman, or one may accept both (as I do), and in all cases the message is the same: women’s voices are important to conversations, especially in the science of human behavior.
Thankfully, the women’s voices were very key in challenging some of the assertions that were floating around.
- Jill Abramson of the New York Times steadfastly defended her paper against the charges that her paper’s reporting in Baghdad was ineffectual. “to sustain a [news office] in Baghdad, I wonder if anyone here knows what that would cost?”
- Rebecca MacKinnon defended the practice of foreign correspondents, having been one herself: “while you have locals who know the local language and culture, they can’t contextualize it in a way that makes sense to the audience.”
- Jan Schaffer pointed out that the blog format “a very inefficient way to get information.”
- Karen Schneider, a librarian said: “I love Dan Gillmor, and he said today that the audience is going to have a lot more of the work and I come from a profession where the code is that the users should do a lot less of the work.”
Note that these women were not speaking from their perspectives as women, but from their occupational roles. More importantly, they were speaking empathetically for the people they represented– news readers, home audience, researchers in the library. There were male participants who did this as well, but as best as I can remember, the dominant group of men mostly spoke from their personal perspective.
I spoke to a few more women during, and after the sessions and I got a sense that they felt on the outside of the conversation throughout. Perhaps this was more because they were outside to the whole blogging creed.
From what I could tell, all of the attendees were professional “knowledge workers” or “symbol analysts” who have the luxury of leisure time, and generally, have access to a computer all day. So this led many to the assumption that every citizen will have the time, or the care, to blog. This assumption was not challenged by the group.
(Seth Finkelstein searched the transcripts and found out that this was mentioned more than I realized. He found that Bill Mitchell of the Poynter Institute said “there may be a lot of readers who … want to be able to say ‘I have 15 minutes, I’m relying on the news organization to tell me what’s the case.’ The trick is to produce journalism that satisfies both kinds of consumers if you will.” But it wasn’t discussed enough. — ed.)
There was one class slur. Somebody mentioned that the $50,000 that a blogger could make was “pocket change.” A number of us raised our voices in the challenge (I regret that I cannot find this in the transcript).
The effect of this class-ism would be devastating for shaping new technology. Aside from Karen Schneider’s comment, very little attention was given to discussing needs to users who use the Internet occasionally or sparingly.
“You invited the principal of the conservative blog Powerline. There is no comparable progressive figure. You have invited Jeff Jarvis, a conservative, and no comparable progressive figure… As an example of comparative figures in the progressive blogosphere, you could look to Atrios and say, Eric Alterman.” — Armando
“now this blog and your conference seem determined to legitimize the exceptionally biased spinning come from wingnut hacks like Hugh Hewitt.” — Mark Gisleson, Minnesota blogger of Norwegianity
After the conference, I reached Gisleson and pointed out that Hewitt wasn’t even there. After all, weren’t we supposed to be drawing some ethical lines to put pressure on the “wingers”? He just felt that the technology was so new. On the other hand, some observers, such as Ron Brynaert made a post before the conference: “I am shocked at the antipathy expressed by so many democrats for the idea that bloggers should subscribe to certain ethics.” When we corresponded after the conference, he told me that he’d been busy on his blog trying to expose a conservative posing as a “New Democrat” blogger.
With a room full of academics, this could not have been a serious concern. It was folly to think that only a big-name liberal blogger would be able to counterbalance a conservative blogger. In fact, Jarvis moderated the last session, and he did an excellent job in calling people into the discussion (I don’t mind at all that he had promised to call on an observer– your scribe– but forgot). And I admired John Hinderaker for speaking truth to the “objectivity is dead” mantra that was paraded around. “We have no problem with objectivity. Our problem is that there’s not enough diversity of political viewpoints in the newsroom.” Though to that point, one could argue that the WSJ and USA Today, which are the #1 and #2 newspapers in the country, lean slightly right, and have a combined higher circulation than the next three newspapers– NYT, WP, LAT. (And if that was argued any further, it would have been a waste of time.)
Perhaps what the liberals were worrying about was along the lines of concern of Media Matters for America watchdog group– that certain statements would be made that lent credence to a conservative point of view and wouldn’t be challenged. What’s forgotten is it’s not always a conservative person making these statements.
Dan Gillmor stated that “the New York Times is the trade journal of the rich and powerful and the blog journal/sphere is the trade journal of us.” This perhaps served to reinforce the image that the Times is elite in the sense that it’s disconnected from the middle class. The Times reporter presented, Jill Abramson, was quite annoyed at this slur (swipe? — ed.). I would have stated that the Times is the paper of the professional classes while the Wall Street Journal is the paper of the investing and managerial class. It doesn’t help matters when the Times alone is held out as a punching bag. It was mentioned, perhaps in the comments between the sessions, that the Times was picked on because it was there. (The Journal’s reporter was sent to cover the event, not to participate in) Ironically, it may have served liberal interests if conservatives from the mainstream media were there as well!
Another left-foot-in-right mouth moment came from Dave Winer, moderating the “open session” on Saturday afternoon. A resident of Cambridge, who identified as conservative, felt that conservatives dominated the blogs, as they are shut out of the mainstream media, evidence of which is also seen in that “conservatives dominate talk radio.” (That sentence and logic are a bit tortuous, but that’s roughly how the man said it.) Winer neglected the assertion about blogs, and decided to contest the argument about radio, reflecting that on AM radio he heard “not conservative, but nasty” people, “not true conservatives.” And he voted for Kerry. When I got time to speak again, I made sure it was clear that the Cambridge man’s statement about talk radio was an accepted observation to anyone who is aware of the media.
There’s another point on politics. The whole conference was framed about how the “conflict between blogging and journalism is over,” but that was essentially a fig leaf for many to dump on the mainstream media (Jack Shafer argued this point a little louder than I did.). Consider that along with the piece that I have written about how populist rage by bloggers against the media — especially what is called the “elite” media, which is quite often the New York Times — serves conservative interests. Renowned political writers Thomas Frank and Ron Suskind have argued that point much louder than I have.
Let’s just put this in perspective. In my judgment, there was no tilt to the room to the left or right. Perhaps if there was any tilt it was towards figuring out how to make money (euphemistically called “business models”) rather than to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” as Finley Peter Dunne described the job of the newspapers a hundred years ago.
“I see a lot of academics, a lot of technologists, and a lot of journalists, but not that much representation of the people who have quietly been off actually practicing weblogs-and-journalism.” — Christopher Frankonis, aka b!X, blogger of the Portland Communique
“Fresh voices and fresh perspective, and people critical of the concept of â€˜citizen journalismâ€™ or â€˜grassroots journalismâ€™ would have been nice.” — Shelley Powers
“How can we get money to Gilmor andB!x to help them do the work they’ve set out to do? How can we help a thousand B!x’s bloom?” — Frank Paynter
“The average journalist has no personal stake in whether East Podunk decides to change its zoning laws, but the ‘news bloggers’, the people who will be blogging about the town council meetings where the zoning decisions are made will have a decided interest in those laws. But not only is the very idea of objective local journalism at risk the opportunity for the corruption of information rises exponentially when a community relies on ‘news bloggers.'” Paul Lukasiak in an “open letter to the Journalism, Blogging, and Credibility Conference”
Any fear that the conference would suffer for lack of bloggers was greatly exaggerated: those are the ones who dominated the conversation. These were both the priests of blogging: Winer and Weinberger, as well as the converts: Jarvis, Rosen, Lydon, Gillmor, Cone, MacKinnon and maybe even Rick Kaplan of MSNBC. Some of the converts sometimes have been initiated into the priesthood, and they are more convincing as “converted.” Though when engaged in conversation, they concede some points from their experience in journalism. Rebecca made the fine point about the value of foreign correspondents; Jay, in my cross-examination on Saturday, conceded that it was more valuable for a blogger to be more discerning when choosing to link.
But even in a room full of knowledge workers, the blogging spirit didn’t touch everyone. I asked some simple questions of the reporters covering the event. “Do you have a blog? Do you feel like you need one?” The answer: a very quick no.
Paul Lukasiak’s criticisms were wide-ranging; he even criticized my attendance in advance of the conference. Nonetheless, he was able to crystalize his points in the “open letter” above. He did not think it ethical for Jarvis to use his forum to solicit feedback to help refine his next business idea. Having watched Jarvis’s performance, I didn’t see that it was focused all that much on his own proposal. On the other hand, Paul’s comment about standing up for “objective local journalism” was important. Jarvis actually answered the challenge in the blog comments, but it was not satisfactory to Lukasiak. After all, Jarvis’s vision of paid citizen-blogger-journalists directly challenges Rosen’s “happy medium” theory of bloggers and journalists having a peaceful coexistence.
What was missing most was outsiders— skeptics of blogs, cultural critics, community activists– who could consistently and reliably respond to some of the myths and assertions being made. The reason I had jumped in numerous times from my observer seat, perhaps risking my place, was to give a voice to the skeptics. I even wrote up Myths and assertions from day one on Saturday morning.
“I think the issue which some critics are exploring is that the speakerâ€™s list, overall, doesnâ€™t seem to have anyone who has to struggle for credibility.” — Seth Finkelstein
Frankonis (b!X) conceded that that’s what he meant all along.
Some had the credentials of blogging. Some had the credentials of academics. Having credentials confers automatic credibility. Thus the “A-List” bloggers were not seen as real bloggers. If you’re a diligent blogger who wants to gain a reputation as a stringer, you have a real struggle ahead of you, as Finkelstein points out.
During the conference, the blogging priests suggested a solution: only the media companies, yes, those corporatized entities they love to bash, can confer legitimacy on bloggers by inviting them to be stringers. Dave Winer complained that “the media” doesn’t read any blogs. When I brought up the slide showing Farrell and Drezner’s study of which blogs are read by the media, he said, to the effect, why should it matter what the media says?
The blogging priests expected “Big Media” to go take some bloggers under their wings, but few talked about any experience where they had done the same. I tried to elicit some responses from my mini-focus group about what they felt about the “A-Listers” of blogging that were at the conference. No one took the bait, other than Seth, whose input was informed by his own prior frustrations with the Berkman Center. I’ll quote Shelley Powers’s essay once again:
Additionally, rather than help to empower those who have little voice, the majority of these people of the new â€˜citizen journalismâ€™ tend to link to each other more frequently than they do the misrepresented among the rest of the weblogging population. A search of Jeff Jarvisâ€™ weblog finds mention of David Weinberger 964 times, while a search of Davidâ€™s site shows a mention of Jay Rosen 81 times, while a search of Jay Rosenâ€™s site well we could go one.
Rosen actually cites a number of sources, but still, Powers’s point is echoed by a number of the outsiders. N. Todd Pritsky felt the same way. As an adjunct college professor in Vermont, he was not about to lob absent-minded bricks at the “ivory tower.” He had nothing against Harvard specifically but just felt that their attitude was tone-deaf. I would attribute it to style. I have not seen many of the blog evangelists truly engage the community by surveying them or speaking to critics of them one-on-one. Obviously, they’re very popular, and they have a lot of correspondence thrust in their faces. Still, you don’t get a sense that the priests “worked their way up the ladder”– as we see in business, academia, government. What ladder? The path to blog expertise is still greased with mythic pronouncements and self-congratulations. It’s a shame because there is earnest research and thinking that is being done by a number of folks: Clay Shirky, Henry Farrell, Danah Boyd, Shelley Powers.
I do want to reiterate that the Berkman Center is remarkable for even trying to run these open conferences. For all the criticism about the academic bias, I would agree with Mr. Berkman that it was hardly scholarly. I think that’s a shame, and I don’t know how well I communicated it to the folks I engaged in.
What they wanted was, of course, a way to be involved in the discussions, on an equal basis with at least the big-name bloggers. If online conversing is the only mode available for the little guys, it ought to be the mode for the big guys as well. Getting a group of fifty in a conference room tilts the conversation too much. There are just too many affluent men (and too few women) strutting their own stuff without anybody to challenge their assertions. I know; I was there; I offered the challenges. I got support from the people on the outside looking in, but the insiders had little response, and the good folks in academia who should have led the questioning had checked their skepticism at the door. Looking into a prayerbook on Saturday afternoon after the conference, I found a possible explanation in the 23rd Psalm: “He provides a banquet in the presence of my foes.”
The egalitarian future is supposed to be online, but online is a tough place to be civil, and it still brings out the worst in people. The blogging software doesn’t help– we kept hearing about how it supposedly breeds wonderful conversations, yet the comment features many of the familiar blogging tools have been frozen in time many years. Pritsky saw online communications before blogs and envisions it after blogs as well. Kevin Lyda, an ex-pat in Ireland who contributes to Daily Kos, told me that he felt that the discussion component ought to have threading and comment ratings to encourage better behavior (as do I, and as does this site).
There’s still work for the readers to do, and perhaps this is what Dan Gillmor meant to say. Outsider participants need to figure out ways to get the insiders’ attention without dropping into personal attacks. The outsiders need to be able to seek out the common cause with others, so they can refine and amplify their input. I think, if we can do that, we will have figured out how to harness the power of the community-at-large to work constructively, towards higher standards of credibility and civility.
POST NOTE: There have been 36 visits to this page before I made some corrections detailed below. Initially, I sent this document to the nine people I corresponded with, as well as John Palfrey and Rebecca MacKinnon of the Berkman Center. Others have read the piece via various aggregators, or some new links to it. I have made a few minor corrections, mostly spelling (of people’s names), and a few major ones, though nothing substantial. As I make these corrections, my credibility takes a hit, but the long-term interest of getting fair and factual information into the “public record” should be served.
What gets to the heart of the issue of credibility in advocacy journalism is how the writer interacts with his subjects. I agreed with my correspondents (or what are traditionally called subjects or sources) on some basic principles, so I wanted to put the people in a good light. That’s not to say everyone had an angelic appearance, so I had considered how to make my impressions authentic. So I tried to convey both of these impulses. It wasn’t easy.
I originally wrote that Finkelstein “disclaimed” his prior frustrations. That verb does not make sense at all here– mental dictionary scrolled through disclosure, disclaimer, disclaim (which means disavow). That I fixed. But perhaps, I worried, I didn’t go into enough depth, as I couldn’t figure out how to fit the background in a sentence fragment. Here’s a little more depth. Now, I had to make a decision. Do these frustrations “inform” his opinion or “bias” it? I am satisfied that his credibility as a critic is unimpeachable.*
I also heard from Paul Lukasiak, who felt that my characterization of him was unfair, and he provided many examples in a very detailed email (it did not help that I spelled his name with an ‘e’ instead of the second ‘a’). I had noted in the text that we got off to a rocky start. I originally said that he “attacked me” as he did Jarvis. We had some agreements over the weeks of correspondence, but we never had a full rapprochement, so it was easier for me to fall back on my personal biases (read Paul’s posting to Daily Kos. So I changed around much of the wording in the “Creed” section where I discuss Paul’s input. After all, it’s Paul’s input and not Paul that is what I want to discuss here. And that’s how he put it himself in his email: “I don’t care if the general public is excluded from your conference. What I care about is that the ideas I hold dear are excluded from the conference.”
Well, the discussion of those ideas continue, if not here, then at Jeneane’s blog and, perhaps at todd’s.
*UPDATE Sunday: revisions to the revisions. After I added the revision, I still feel that I haven’t done justice, to sum up, Finkelstein’s Berkman connection. I have to let Seth, and his site, give the best justice. Here’s what he wrote me today: “The Greplaw attack was an extremely egregious instance a few months ago but by no means the only aspect” of “frustrations with the bubble of privilege around the Berkman Center.” I will have to leave it at that.
I’ll index in web cred now. UPDATE Monday: With 120 visits to this page, no better time than to print this out and proofread, no? I found about 30 errors, and I took an hour fixing them. I’m trying to avoid sloppiness. In a few cases, I have extended the text to be more clear. Where there are changes in sentence fragments and sentences, I have put it in parenthesis and added — ed. — post-paste, so to say.
The post-conference wrap-up conversations continue. Some of them are on a private email list which I’m not on– kinda overscores my whole point here, huh? Much of the necessary follow-up of discussing Jay Rosen’s introductory paper is now on his blog. Rosen is clearly meeting his challengers here one-on-one. The challengers, for their part, are simply saying he ought to do it more often.
UPDATE March 30th: This paper was not cited in Rebecca MacKinnon’s extensive conference report. Nonetheless, it did apparently get her thinking enough to trigger up a wider debate on women in blogging. One of the fallouts of that is a response by Heather MacDonald in the National Review Online today: “The diversity blogging debate has just begun, and it has already descended into self-parody.” — and linking to this piece on “self-parody.” Who knew. My response to her.