I used the word ‘idiots’ once in my previous post, and now I am being upbraided for defending bigoted language used to assault gay activists. This morning’s post was not in any way about the use of nasty language, but in the interest of giving tone trolls a place to vent, I am creating this thread.
I am not an advocate of using language to belittle or demean an opponent instead of expressing a legitimate position. I think I increase my credibility as a rhetorician when I represent the opposing side fairly and accurately, and then tear hir a new asshole. That said, I am also of the mind that “if the shoe fits”, then it’s fair game. If the opposing side can be demonstrated to believe in things that have no rational justification, I do not shy away from the word ‘deluded’. If the opposing side wishes to restrict the rights of other people based on an attitude borne of privilege, I will let fly with the word ‘bigot’. If someone’s argument is founded in poor logic, shopworn memes, and invalid evidence, I am not going to feel bad about calling it (and occasionally them, but not usually) ‘stupid’.
There are those who refuse (I can only assume) to distinguish between content and style. They believe that what you say and how you say it are equally important. I think someone needs to find the zombie of Marshall McLuhan and double-tap it in the head. I am from the school of George Orwell, where words are a mechanism by which we exchange ideas, and that futzing over style can be an impediment to comprehension. I do not accept the oft-asserted notion that one must be ‘civil’ in order to be an effective communicator. I have delved into this idea at some length.
This should not be (although it undoubtedly will be) read as a statement that everyone should feel free to use whatever language they like at all times. Words have meanings, and they have consequences. When conversation devolves into an exercise in slinging barbs without making points, then discussion has ceased. However, a judiciously-placed insult can act as the sprinkles on top of a well-built ice cream sundae of an argument. When I show you the multitude of ways in which you are incorrect, and cap it off with “you boob”, that is a justified flourish. It is not me ‘losing the argument’ because I ‘stooped’ to using ‘ad hominem’. It is you failing to address the <i>content</i> of my argument and instead tap-dancing on the pinhead of tone as an attempt to deflect how thoroughly you’ve been eviscerated.
There are many who are aching to have this conversation, and although I find it the height of tedium, I’d rather it happened here rather than on a post that has nothing to do with name-calling at all. Have at it.
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