Dan Fincke has a good point in comments on his own post about namecalling on blogs (or on his blog, which comes to the same thing). It’s a point that I probably ought to do a better job of keeping in mind.
The post says don’t call people demeaning names, and says why. (It’s obvious why, of course, but having it spelled out is useful.)
Words like these use emotional violence to coerce people with the aim of driving them into submission. These words aim to do that by demeaning them so that they feel worthless and hated. These words aim to irrationally gain leverage in an argument by making someone feel intellectually insecure and interpersonally rejected if they do not concede the other person’s debating point. These words try to drive people away with hostility. And, finally, these words try to coerce moral agreement by making the implicit threat of stigmatization and ostracism of any who differ.
A commenter makes a distinction between kinds of namecalling.
Stupid, jerk and asshole though? These are NOT minority-bashing words that silence a marginalized group of people. They’re just offensive words (and even there, jerk and stupid are just mildly offensive, IMO). Sometimes the actions and words of others deserve to be called out for being stupid. Often, people act in certain ways that are indeed undesirable and they deserve the label of jerk.
Dan rejects the distinction.
Stupid is a serious word that torments more people than tranny does.
And no, it’s not about “playing nice”, it’s about having mature, civil discussions like adults, not like playground bullies.
“Stupid” is just not a word that smart people have ruining their self-esteem from the time they’re little kids.
And even yet, it is a false and belittling word that is counterproductive to constructive discourse. Calling someone stupid tempts them to either slink away in shame or to fight back with equal emotional abuse.
As I said – he has a point.
And another point.
I’m pretty sure, based on my knowledge of human psychology and what other less educated people have indicated to me, that when you belittle other people as stupid those who feel intellectually unequal to you are being made insecure and nervous that you would do the same thing to [them]. It’s bad enough they feel intimidated to begin with. It’s insensitive of you to carelessly use words that relate to their insecurity. They are likely to identify with whomever you’re denigrating and feel at least a twinge of anxiety over it. “Check your privilege” (as the kids like to say).
Yes – that is undeniably a point.