Updated: So Long To The Torporsphere

It happens everywhere and without fail. A group forms, and someone decides that rules are necessary. Jesus loved the world, then along came the Church. Before you know it, a religion of universal love drew lines between the saved and the damned, the orthodox and the heretic. I accept that anarchism is a dream requiring far too much work to make a living reality. Rules simplify. I suppose rules are necessary. But it doesn't mean I have to like it.

Are there emerging standards of orthodox behavior emerging in the blawgosphere? Perhaps. There's been a lot of chatter on line recently about the slackoisie and now a new category has emerged, the happysphere. This latter place is where sissies dwell, apparently. Those who can't take the rough and tumble of debate on line are invited to tune out.

I accepted the invitation today, and took Scott Greenfield up on his standing invitation to have him remove a reader's blog link from his page on demand. I've nothing against Scott. I've read Simple Justice since its inception. Until recently, I looked at it daily simply to see what issues Scott spotted. I admire his range of interests and envy his obvious talent. Imagine covering the legal world in 10 minutes a post times three posts each day. He gets more done in half an hour than I do most days. (He contends his blog is but a moment's inspiration, something done with the morning's coffee and before the workaday tasks of lawyering begin.)

Scott's Herculean intellect and energy give him a special place on the blawgosphere's Mount Olympus. Fledgling writers and lawyers cower in hopes of a favorable mention, all the while fearing his thunderous grumble. I can't help but wonder, sadly, whether this has all gone to the good man's head. Railing against the slackoisie, ridiculing those who seek his approval and fear his scorn by denigrating them as Happysphere wannabes, has the cliquish appeal of the darlings riding with the high school homecoming queen in dad's convertible.

The Rule of the Eleventh Man is in operation in the blawgosphere. It is an ironclad rule of social psychology, so near as I can tell. I claim pride of authorship here, so pay attention.

Whenever a group forms around whatsoever interest or preoccupation, the first ten to arrive share a sense of charismatic wonder over having found one another in a world of strangers. This innocent joy is spread among the happy clan. The group is small enough that no real leader need exist. But the group's pleasure attracts the interest of others, who want to share in the good fortune. Because the group has no rules and no norms, the eleventh man enters, expecting to share the innocent glow. But now the group has become just large enough that standards of behavior and membership emerge. An inchoate sense of orthodoxy takes root, and soon some one or two among the group articulate the standards expected of group membership.  The eleventh man, unless he toes this new line, is always a heretic, and the heretic always loses.

Of course, I have no idea whether it is really the eleventh or the fiftieth member of a group that represents the tipping point. But the point remains. Charisma is almost always reduced to something less inspiring. This rule knows no exception.

I've checked out of the blawgosphere twice now. First, after Mike and I more or less burned out at Crime and Federalism, we both moved on to other things. Now we are both back, writing about a broader range of topics on separate pages. On another occasion, I grew weary of the sound of my own voice and the demands of the few readers I had acquired. I pulled the page down, to the surprise and chagrin of some who still don't trust me as a result.

But I am back again. I know better than to walk away from writing this time. I simply enjoy it too much. So I will keep pecking away for the few who read, and I am grateful to them for reading. I admit, I enjoy being read -- that's why I write.

This time I am simply trimming my sails for the time being and pulling back from several pages whose authors have taken a turn in a direction I don't care to go. The struggle for leadership of the blawgosphere, and the right to set standards for what may be written and how it should be written, simply doesn't interest me. It has the feel of a schizophrenic staring into the mirror to make the acquaintance of the multiple personalities raging within. I see but one person staring intently into the glass. But there is now a strange ferocity in their eyes.

I call the zone I am leaving the torporsphere: another replay of the Rule of the Eleventh Man and the imposition of orthodoxy in a newly formed group. It may be an intensely interesting game and pursuit for those who want to share the huddling warmth of the ten orthodox souls, but I've always preferred the company of the eleventh man.

I'll miss Scott. I've spoken to him and he is a great guy and a good and wise lawyer. But the persona emerging on his blog page is a phase I am hoping he will soon outgrow. When he does, I will once again count Simple Justice among my daily reads.

Update: My wife from time to time reads my blog, a terrifying ordeal for me.

"Whose Tannebaum?" she asked last night while looking at this piece.

 "A lawyer in Florida. He's a big deal, president of the bar or some such. Why?"

"I can't figure out what he is saying," she said.

"Did you read the piece he was commenting on?"

"No," she said. "I tried. It was too boring."

Ouch. As I suspected. Our internecine sniping doesn't engage more than a handful of folks. I should have stayed away from this topic and walked quietly away.

Comments: (21)

  • I don't read blogs the are written simply to incit...
    I don't read blogs the are written simply to incite argument. I don't have time. I am happy that no one ever argues on mine. It's probably because no one reads it. But I try not to write just to get under the skin of what readers I may be fortunate enough to have.
    I have had a few people post comments disagreeing with me about my views on guns, but even that wasn't too bad.
    Posted on June 23, 2010 at 7:35 am by Marcus L. Schantz
  • Well thank you, but I beg to differ. I'm not makin...
    Well thank you, but I beg to differ. I'm not making rules for anybody. I don't tell anyone what to write or what not to write, but I similarly don't want anyone tell me either. You want me to write thing that please your sensibilities? You want me to take you off my blogroll unless my writing meets your approval. You've taken me off yours (without my request) because my posts don't. Your choice, but don't spin it back on me.
    And don't try to make me out to be too big for my britches. That's baloney. I do nothing different now than I've done since the beginning, and any insecurity anyone else feels about my view of them it their issue, not mine. We both know better Norm.
    Who's making rules, Norm? Be honest with yourself. You know better.
    Posted on June 23, 2010 at 7:56 am by shg
  • SHG
    I miss the old Scott, the one who wrote about...
    I miss the old Scott, the one who wrote about the law, not about other lawyers writing about the law. Perhaps I am making rules. But I am not trying to get others to follow them. I'll be back among your readership by summer's end, no doubt. But I decided to vote with my feet with the hopes that you would hear what I have to say. I see you have heard it. I hope now that you will listen to what was said.
    Posted on June 23, 2010 at 7:59 am by Norm Pattis
  • And I miss the old Norm, the guy who would tell th...
    And I miss the old Norm, the guy who would tell the world to go fuck itself when it disapproved of something he believed in. Would you deny me the right to be like you?
    I still post about the law (though I'm not sure why you've picked up on three posts a day since I think I mostly post about two a day lately), as well a various other things, including lawyers, marketers, slackoisie and the occasional book review. It's no different now then it was a year ago, two years ago or three years ago. Go take a look.
    I'm fine with your not agreeing with me. We've been friends a long time, and I don't expect my old friend to agree with me about everything. But I also don't expect him to impose his rules on me. Write whatever makes you happy, Norm. Let me do the same. I welcome you back whenever you're ready. I miss you too.
    Posted on June 23, 2010 at 8:17 am by shg
  • This is all very disturbing Norm. I really wish yo...
    This is all very disturbing Norm. I really wish you were here about a year ago. I started blogging in 05, couple years before Scott Greenfield. There weren't a lot of blogs. I started blogging because I always liked to write, and I thought maybe my Dad would appreciate that although I didn't take his suggestion that I become a journalist, I would write anyway.
    I started blogging before there were companies offering blogging tips, before lawyers auto-blogged to get google juice, before it was part of a marketing package.
    It's funny how Scott all of a sudden is deserving of attack. I see the push back, the gathering behind you of the meek and marketing types that don't like raw debate. The ones that I wouldn't refer a parking ticket to, but who appear on the internet to be lawyers of some worth in the arena.
    I "met" Scott when I started commenting on his blog. As you know, Scott always tries to respond, and his first few responses to me were something like "yeah, whatever," and "shut up, kid."
    Then one day he appeared on my blog. I don't remember what he said, but I remember him making me feel stupid and saying nothing nice.
    I immediately knew I needed to get to know him. See Norm, I "grew up" as a lawyer over the last 15 years with some great mentors. I just had the opportunity to thank a few. One of my best, was thanked by me when I said "I don't think he's said one nice thing to me in 10 years." He never congratulated me, thought I charged enough, thought my victories were of any matter. He rode and continues to ride me every time I speak to him. As I said in my thank you, he is more responsible for who I am as a person and lawyer than anyone."
    So Scott's rough, so he doesn't suffer fools. Those same teacups that cry about him destroying the (let me make up my own word here) marketingosphere, privately contact him and seek advice on lawyering, and blogging, but they can't stand when their online marketing scheme is peppered with real debate.
    It's a shame that the "real lawyers" are dividing in the blogosphere. We as the criminal bar have a mission, a singular mission to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves, and those that the government seeks to take liberty from. So there's a crazy uncle in the attic that doesn't like people driving on the lawn? What are you Norm? Glenda the good witch?
    No one wants to run the blogosphere. No one's in charge (that's for sure). The marketers are jumping in at a rapid clip and no one can stop it. But there's nothing wrong with calling a spade a spade. Those that don't want their feelings hurt should get the hell out instead of crying that life is unfair.
    We're all better off for those in our profession that call it like they see it. If I wanted a blogosphere full of people who agreed with each other and had no differing personalities, I'd head over to the social media evangelists who pump each other full of bullshit in search of the all mighty dollar.
    Now enough with this Eleventh man shit and mountaintop whatever. Write your damn posts, read what you want, but remember who has credibility here, it's not those that try to create it online because it doesn't exist offline.
    Posted on June 23, 2010 at 8:21 am by Brian Tannebaum
  • SHG
    Our paths will cross. And I did tell a part o...
    Our paths will cross. And I did tell a part of the world to go fuck itself. Sadly, that part was you. I don't think I am trying to impose rules on you, just applying a little pressure in the form of criticism. I know you won't break, but I do hope you will bend.
    Posted on June 23, 2010 at 8:21 am by Norm Pattis
  • BT:
    I will send you a copy on my new book: Gandhi...
    I will send you a copy on my new book: Gandhi and the Blawgosphere: Killing 'em Softly with Love. At least that's the working title. My publisher prefer's something racier and perhaps more to your taste: Market Yourself By Becoming A Putz.
    You did manage to hurt both my feelings with that last line. I will pit my lawyering against anyone's anywhere. Or were you referring to the legions to whom you suspect me to be pandering?
    Posted on June 23, 2010 at 8:27 am by Norm Pattis
  • Norm, now I don't know if you're just dumb, thick,...
    Norm, now I don't know if you're just dumb, thick, or kidding? Didn't I just try to refer you a case? You think you're the only lawyer I know in CT? Or do you think that I know that lawyering skills and blogging skills are not necessarily similar. (Oh shit, did I just hurt your feelings again?)
    Posted on June 23, 2010 at 8:43 am by Brian Tannebaum
  • BT
    I am thick but bruise easily. You are a powerf...
    I am thick but bruise easily. You are a powerful writer and sometimes scorch folks without intending to do so. I fear your scorn, frankly.
    In any case, phew!
    Posted on June 23, 2010 at 8:45 am by Norm Pattis
  • Could we keep the profanity to a minimum, please. ...
    Could we keep the profanity to a minimum, please. This is a family blog and there are young children reading.
    Posted on June 23, 2010 at 8:51 am by shg
  • SHG
    But my feelings they must be expressed, no ma...
    But my feelings they must be expressed, no matter how crude or banal.
    Posted on June 23, 2010 at 8:52 am by Norm Pattis
  • Thanks for the post. While there is nothing I val...
    Thanks for the post. While there is nothing I value more than the willingness to be a thorn in the side of establishment such as that you describe, the reality is that I, like all of us, work too hard and too long to get involved in the cyberspace equivalent of office drama. Trench humor (or gallows humor, as is can be in our field) is undervalued. Office drama is overrated.
    In the field of criminal defense, we see a lot of attention-seeking conduct. I don't need to spend any more of my limited time and energy on same kind of sh*t from my colleagues. Take your posturing and abrasiveness and put-downs, and go home. Or go to court, and go to town.
    I am delighted to find legal analysis, justice news, personal triumphs, and daily struggles that my fellow warriors are generous enough to share with humility, honesty, and humor. Even sharing dispair. These make my life and my work better. The rest, I let go. I would never presume to try to change it, only choose not to engage or encourage it.
    Posted on June 23, 2010 at 9:02 am by Trace Rabern
  • I thought crude and banal was my turf?
    I thought crude and banal was my turf?
    Posted on June 23, 2010 at 9:19 am by shg
  • Trace, you start out with a bit of a rhetorical ga...
    Trace, you start out with a bit of a rhetorical game: When you decide it's appropriate to attack, you're "a thorn in the side of the establishment." When someone acts in a way you don't approve, it's all "posturing and abrasiveness and put-downs," not to mention "attention seeking." The only distinction is your approval, yet you immediately devolve into ad hominem to justify yourself.
    Have you ever represented a defendant harmed by an unethical, incompetent lawyer? Is that fine, and only the establishment is evil? Have you ever heard of a client being poorly advised, sold out, lied to, defrauded, misled, hung out to dry. Is that fine and only the establishment is evil?
    I don't know whether anybody gives you "sh*t" or not, but it's hardly drama to challenge wrong whether it's being perptrated by the establishment or by your "colleagues". In fact, if you know that "colleagues" are doing wrong, doing harm, and you refuse to speak out, how are you any better than the establishment?
    Maybe you shouldn't be so quick to denigrate those who do the dirty work that you find distasteful. It's so much nicer to always be able to lock arms and sing Kumpaya, but then the unethical and incompetent get to continue to do harm without fear of reproach. Is that what you want?
    Posted on June 23, 2010 at 9:48 am by shg
  • Didn't you know Bryant Park and the N.Y. Public Li...
    Didn't you know Bryant Park and the N.Y. Public Library neighborhood where SHG hangs his hat is the center of the universe? Nothing like a good cat-fight,... amongst men? Ha! Apparently, Trace is unimpressed. Maybe it's time to change your costumes and don some different, more colorful feathers?
    Posted on June 23, 2010 at 9:55 am by William Doriss
  • Filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard famously said that the b...
    Filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard famously said that the best way to criticize a movie is to make another movie. In my ought-to-be-famous post "Surviving Scott Greenfield" my advice to people angered by Scott Greenfield (or vice versa) was this: "If you don't like the abrasive culture of the blogosphere, then start a better culture. Keep writing your own blog and show us how it should be done."
    So, all in all, I think this is a positive development.
    Back in the hayday of Usenet and newsgroups, we used to call this sort of thing a "metadiscussion." It meant that a group had stopped talking about its subject and started talking about how it was talking about its subject. This is sometimes necessary, but it's usually boring to everybody not involved. (And I'm doing it now myself. Sorry, everyone else.)
    Now I hope that both the Scottosphere and the Normosphere will get back to talking about fun stuff like due process, overcriminalization, and sticking it to the man.
    Posted on June 23, 2010 at 10:44 am by Windypundit
  • Norm never lets my comments post, but I thought I'...
    Norm never lets my comments post, but I thought I'd try anyway.
    Posted on June 23, 2010 at 11:23 am by Mark Bennett
  • MB
    Last I knew you had difficulty getting th...
    Last I knew you had difficulty getting through my software package. Anyhow, your comments are always welcome, I think.
    Posted on June 23, 2010 at 12:28 pm by Norm Pattis
  • From my perspective, there is nothing terribly tro...
    From my perspective, there is nothing terribly troubling about harsh or "mean" words spoken in the blawgosphere, even to "friends," although it seems everything else being equal we should choose the civil over the uncivil word. I have no problem being criticized, even being criticized unfairly, so long as I can respond. But some people out there who act all tough and as if the people who respond to their tough words are sissies get all bent out of shape when they are themselves criticized. Now, some of these self-professed tough guys may deem me unworthy and as having no standing to criticize or respond in kind. That's where the whole "heresy" thing comes in, the actual and literal exclusion from discourse (or the threat of such exclusion, which to me amounts to the same thing). Some people are so nuts they should be excluded from discourse. They're not worth talking to. Some people have determined that I'm not worth talking to. And that's fine by me.
    Posted on June 24, 2010 at 5:09 am by John Kindley
  • I would rather have people tearing into my fuzzier...
    I would rather have people tearing into my fuzzier thinking with links than have them ignoring it or–worst, in my view–criticizing it passive-aggressively.*
    Norm, thanks for fixing the comment problem.
    *Yes, I appreciate the irony of that last clause.
    Posted on June 26, 2010 at 12:59 pm by Mark Bennett
  • MB
    Not sure what I fixed. But your're welcome. On...
    Not sure what I fixed. But your're welcome. On some topics, I don't link those who I criticize because I don't want to empower the target. I need to steer clear of internecine debates about what the blawgosphere ought to be. I am not sure what the agenda is in the discussion. But merely having it seems to diminish us all. I like your posts about the work we do in court, and that is why I read your page. The tendency of us all to write about the task of writing about other things is transforming our sites into the intellectual equivalent of a bad AA meeting.
    Posted on June 27, 2010 at 3:54 am by Norm Pattis

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