Why I like Salon writers

They take the time to research and explain cultural phenomena, like the perceived heightened creativity  of African American names, complete with race, class, and gender analysis. David Zax responds to the ridicule black names receive with a break down of the history and realities of African American naming:

Much of this ridicule is either misguided or misleading. Exhibit A in the attack on black names is often a story about black schoolchildren that some friend of a friend met named Urine or Shithead, Chlamydia or Gonorrhea, or Lemonjello or Oranjello. Neither Lieberson nor Cleveland Evans (former president of the American Names Society) has ever encountered black people with such names, but Lieberson notes that the (white) comedian Dana Carvey chose the name Dex for his child after a bottle with the word “dextrose” on it, and Evans has more than once encountered a young woman on a baby name Web site (most often visited by whites) who rather likes the ring to the name Veruca, a character from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Roald Dahl chose that name carefully for the bratty girl he assigned it to: It’s a medical term for a wart.

As for those “Luxury Latch-ons,” it is true that an unfortunate culture of naming children after brands of champagne or fancy cars has sprung up over recent years. “But that’s a class thing, not a race thing,” says Cleveland Evans, noting that he has encountered twins named Camry and Lexus who were white. If you are poor and wish a better life for your kid, a name like Lexus declares that hope. With this in mind, much of the gainsaying in the black blogosphere smacks of classism: Many commenters call the unusual names “ghetto,” and Cosby’s jeremiad was essentially an attack on the black poor. (His assertion that “all of them are in jail” is, to say the least, dubious; an economic study by “Freakonomics'” Levitt and Roland G. Fryer showed several years ago that distinctively black names in themselves do not cause a negative life outcome — vivid evidence of which is seen on the Olympic roster and at the Democratic National Convention.

Of course, the vast majority of unusual black names are nothing like Clitoria or Tanqueray. They are names like — to page at random through “Proud Heritage” — the catchy Maneesha and Tavonda, the magisterial Orencio and Percelle, or the evocative Lakazia and Swanzetta. They are names emerging from a tradition of linguistic and musical invention much like those that gave us jazz and rap. And they are names that have paved the way for Americans of all classes and colors to begin to loosen up a stodgy culture of traditional name giving.

Why I Hate Salon Commenters

Jessica at Jezebel wrote about the rude, reactionary responses a Salon writer recently got to her article on being an educated woman who can barely make ends meet for her children, even while working her ass off:

Salon published a a thoughtful essay yesterday by Heather Ryan about being “working poor” as part of a series about the recession called “pinched.” Last summer, Ryan found herself, despite her Masters in writing and self-proclaimed bougie affections, unable to feed her three kids on her secretary’s salary. You see, she had recently gotten divorced, and the cost of daycare during the summer wiped her out.

Though it scared her and pained her to admit it, she couldn’t afford enough food, and so one night she took her kids to a food kitchen. I’ve written screeds against self-indulgent personal essays before, and I must say that this wasn’t one of them.

It explored a very real issue: that the gap between rich and poor in this country is now a chasm, and that many educated, hard working people are struggling, whether you see it or not. Salon‘s commenters, however, felt otherwise, and said things like, “I have no sympathy for breeders, or for brie-eaters.”

Another commenter wrote:

“The fact that you make a good salary but whine that a certain job didn’t take proper account of your ( questionable ) intellect and talent only speaks to your solipsistic (sic) ennui, brought-on no doubt by your liberal sense of entitlement.”

Could anyone other than a whiner with a massive sense of entitlement write such an unsympathetic, ungenerous comment about an article in which a person admits to her sincere surprise that the wealth gap has removed even hard workers with educations from the pot?

Sadly, ugly threads like this are nothing new at Salon. So how is it commenters like this abound there? I mean, I know Salon publishes a lot of self-indulgent, bougie whining, but the writers usually display a fair amount of compassion for the privileged and the underprivileged. How is it a publication’s readers can be so different from the writers?

And beyond that, what sort of false consciousness does it take for a person to read this Heather Ryan essay and instead of getting incredibly pissed off about how devalued labor has become in our society and how far the wealth gap has grown, finding it more important to bitch about how she had it coming for being pretentious? Really, it boggles my mind.