Thursday, September 1, 2011

EXTRA! Dumb statements that need to die

Simcha Fisher, in her delightfully droll way, has put together a list of things Catholics can do on comboxes without committing a sin. Overall, she makes the very valid points that to be charitable is not the same thing as to be uncritical, and to make judgments on a person’s art, work or thought is not to make a judgment on the state of his soul.

Since we seem to be moving into the “Sins of the Internet” month, where everyone takes turns griping about the kind of crud that loads up comboxes and weighs down discussion threads, I’d like to offer my own list of gasbag expressions, paralogisms and babble that waste time, space and letter counts. If you find yourself typing them, backspace, highlight and cut, or do whatever else you need to do, then rethink your statement.

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Subjective opinion: While “subjective” implies that an argument comes from a person’s feelings or intuitions, it’s not synonymous with “personal” (in the sense of unique), nor is it synonymous with “stupid and worthless”. Conclusions from subjective feelings aren’t necessarily wrong, and should be respected since they sometimes give a clearer path to the truth than a tightly-drawn line of reasoning. If you find yourself typing this, you're not engaging the argument.


In line with that, don’t waste anyone’s time with pointing out the drearily obvious: “That’s your opinion.” Of course it is! It doesn’t follow, though, that no one else shares it, or that it’s wrong even if I’m the only one among seven billion people who holds it. Omit needless words like these.

Think outside the box: Just type “Agree with me”. Once upon the time, the expression meant you should try to come at the solution to a problem from a fresh angle. Now it means nothing more than “You’re a mindless sheep going along with the herd,” which is not only defamatory but irrelevant … the herd just might be headed in the right direction. Nor does breaking free from the herd make you a predator.

People are gonna do it anyway: One of the worst excuses for policy change I’ve ever heard. Yeah, people are gonna commit X anyway. They’re also going to commit murder, theft and jaywalking anyway; why don’t we get rid of those laws, too? Hell with it … why bother with a criminal code! Again, you’re just pointing out the obvious. Now move on and make a real argument.

Imposing your morality: Another waste of combox space. All law is an imposition of morality. In a representative democracy, the majority does the imposing; in many other forms of government — especially the more tyrannical — a privileged minority does the imposing. We can argue about which method is better; the result is the same, though … somebody’s morality gets imposed on everyone else. Get over it and go on to a different argument.

“You’re obsessed with X”: If you comment on news of the day, certain topics are going to crop up more frequently than others. If you’re dedicated to one issue, or to a set of related issues, you’re going to blog about it/them every time you get online. “You’re obsessed with X simply means “You won’t shut up, go away and let us save/wreck Western civilization in peace”. You’re right; we won’t. Move on to the next point.

Wrong, try again: Not a rebuttal. Try again.

Not persuasive: Does not equal “wrong”. Granted, it would help to put the case over if the blogger tried to make the argument persuasive as well as logical and factual. But anyone who writes, “I’m not convinced” or “I don’t find that argument persuasive” without saying what prevents her from being persuaded or convinced is simply blowing you off.

“You don’t seriously believe that, do you?”: No, I spend half my day in front of a computer racking my brains to find new ways to jerk people’s chains. You don’t seriously believe such a patronizing question will persuade me to change my conclusions, do you?

“Your real motives”: … Are known only to me, to God and to the psychiatrist I don’t have. I’m not hiring; if I were, you wouldn’t get the job. Stop trying to climb into my head … there’s enough crud in there already.

“You hate me!”: This isn’t an argument … it’s a whine. If I think/believe/feel that something you do is immoral, ill-advised or unhealthy, regardless of how ill-founded my opinion may or may not be, it doesn’t follow that I hate or disrespect you. Or, I may disrespect you — not because your actions are immoral, ill-advised or unhealthy but because you react to my disapproval like a spoiled brat. Put on your big boy britches and deal with it.

“Why don’t you write about X, Y and Z instead of B?” I may have already. Or, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Have you checked my archive? Simcha writes:

When I discuss an overlooked aspect of human experience, I inevitably hear, “Oh, sure, let’s pick on Minor Problem B when there is Cataclysmic Problem X in the world!”  Well, do we really need more howling about, “Oh, how great is the sinfulness of sin!  Just LOOK at that sin!  Isn’t it sinful?” That’s just tedious.  And yes, I can truthfully say, “Boy, this sprained ankle hurts,” without implying that a triple amputation is a walk in the park.

The other prong in the fork is the obvious question: “If B is so trivial, why are you so concerned about my opposition? If I’m putting on a suit of armor to attack a hot fudge sundae, why are you raising your sword and shield to defend it? Just let me get on with my patently ridiculous business.”

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There are, I’m sure, other arguments that waste everyone’s time and clog up comboxes. Share some of your favorites(?) with me! Also, I’m looking for suggestions for “anti-Catholic memes that need to die”. Don’t be bashful; just be clean and polite!