Saturday, January 30, 2010

See, the problem with FPR is...

Both Aaron and I have at times been peeved, other times prit'near enraged, by posts of varying levels of wrongness at the internet's preëminent collection of localists, Front Porch Republic. There, it is taken for granted that any "true" "localist" must be against evangelicals/abortion/same-sex marriage/Obama. (And this is only in writings by editors. Various commenters—Mr Cheeks chief among them—reach teabaggity levels of craziness on a regular basis.) Now, it is true that I am against some of these things. But I have difficulty accepting that they are all inimical to the idea of community. Take my local farmers' market (which I visited today), for example: what difference to that community would it make if my waitress at the market café attended the Praise Jebus Bible Temple? Or if the woman selling specialty salts happened to have spousal benefits with the woman selling scented candles a few booths down? Or even if the apple-seller man voted for Obama? (Abortion, I admit, may be a different case—it certainly is, from a moral standpoint. But I suppose the odds are quite good that some woman I saw today once had a safe and legal abortion. Did that affect the community?) Yet all of these things would be heavily discouraged, if not verboten, in the idealized community envisioned by one or another of the Front Porchers.

This, I think, may be the chief problem with FPR: every contributor has a differ'nt idea of what the basis of localism is. So you have Médaille ranting about distributism while Peters bemoans the utter failures of Protestantism while Fox tries to reconcile the localist impulse with the Democratic platform. And meanwhile, in the peanut gallery, we have comments extolling the One True Faith (be it Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, or Calvinist), defending the "localism" of multimillion-dollar sports franchises, and damning Obama's socialism and Kenyan nationality. The only thing we can agree on is that Wendell Berry happens to be right (at least, some of the time).


  1. It strikes me as well that FPRers don't have much to say to one another--other than a general consensus about neighborliness. Which, I think, is simply to say that the people who write on that site possess a certain neighborly. But if the common denominator is just neighborliness, I don't really know what the site is, other than a place for people who could stand to live next door to one another to spout off about whatever it is they're feeling/working on at the moment.

  2. Maybe that view is more cynical than the FPR really is. But on the other hand, one notices that genuinely inquisitive, "let us reason together" sorts of posts really are just disappearing from the site. For instance, James Matthew Wilson once posted often on contentious topics, but has completely specialized into posting dumbed down versions of this or that professional article he's working on. Which is interesting enough, I guess (except for the fact that he's pretty obviously writing about topics that are philosophically out of his league), but it hardly invites any conversation at all--let alone conversation from which participants might learn a thing or two (a suit which even he might admit was never his strong one).

    And even, dare I say, Peters, whom I admire as much as I admire anyone I know, has been reduced to name calling the unwashed masses and what might charitably be called "nature missives."

    Yes, there's a good place to stop.

  3. Hrm, seems Peters' latest is of the latter variety. Mind you, I don't mind nature missives.

    Meanwhile, Stegall (whose work at the New Pantagruel I liked, but whom I find rather grating without a satirical persona) has noted that there are indeed differences between Front Porchers. For my own part, I suppose I would fall in with the 'reformist social democrats', as well.