Games of Wit, Battles of Rhetoric, and the Art of ‘You Suck’
Hey you â€“ yeah you with the nose.
No, wait. Wait. Let me try that again.
You suck, like your momma on my d*** last night.
No, no, wait. Still not quite right.
You suck, like your momma on my d*** while your gf was giving her a tongue dive.
Now I feel I have successfully refuted your position on Austin’s stance on the Sense-Datum Theory.
Then you must suck even more.
Debate and argument are age-old traditions. Ever since our ancestors sucked their first eggs, we’ve been finding new and innovative ways to disagree with each other on whatever came first, next, or last. Just like we did for sex, we humans have gone and made arguing into an art form. Witness philosophy. Witness satire. Witness comedy, even. (Hmm… can these apply to sex, too? Maybe there’s a future column there, but I digress…)
If the Internet has given modern society one thing, it’s the ability to discuss and debate practically instantaneously on a global village scale. Now, you’d think that with everyone suddenly having the ability and the opportunity to practise the art of debate 24/7 with people all over the world, we’d be spinning out rhetoric and intelligent exchanges like the Classic greats themselves. “I think therefore I am”, “There’s this cave, see…”, and so on…
But I donâ€™t really remember Plato ever saying, “screw you these guys are good and funny,you’re a n00b and afraid to admit it” or “So basicly my point is that you suck…Thank you for you’re idiotic meaning”, or even “Wow. I bet the author got his @$$ kicked by gamers once. That’s the only explaination I can think of. That or crass stupidity. Oh heck why not both”, or anything about wishing one gets cancer and dies, for that matter.
Nope. Plato it ain’t.
Instead of developing tools and skills to debate more intelligently, the Information age seems to be but encouraging the masses to become lazy with their debating skills.
For some reason, a number of people who frequent the Internet are under the impression that if you disagree with someone’s opinion, rather than actually explain WHY you disagree, and try to offer salient arguments that support your own view, you can just namecall and belittle and Yo’ Momma your way to “victory”. Why bother to address someone’s initial argument in point-form and detail when you can just say “Yeah, well you’re an @$$wipe” and watch as everyone in your mob applauds your sparkling ‘wit’?
This is what passes for Rhetoric (a word which originally meant “the art of public speaking”) these days. If you donâ€™t agree with someone’s idea, you just call him a dumbass. If he doesn’t like the same thing you like, you tell him he’s a worthless n00b. If he says something that goes against your beliefs, you threaten him with violence. If you have a mob to travel with and back you up, all the better. Welcome to the new school of philosophical debate.
We saw this happen just this week in response to two reviews of a pair of webcomics with medium-sized fanbases. The creators weren’t happy with the reviews, passed that information along to their fans, and the mobs poured in. Then the Rhetoric hit the fan.
What was ‘discussed’ in these review rebuttals? Mostly that the reviewer was wrong, that the comic creator was great, that nothing the reviewer said was true, and so on. Add to that a healthy smattering of threats of violence, insults and attacks on the reviewers’ characters, and one guy who told a reviewer that his comic sucked (which was particularly interesting, seeing as the reviewer in question HAS no webcomic).
More often than not â€“ and we definitely saw a number of examples in the case of the review responses â€“ actually focusing on the issues at hand means little to those who engage in this type of verbal swordplay. All that really matters is that the speaker comes out sounding smarter, funnier, or “righter” than his opponent; rather than resolve any problems/disagreements, debate/arguing is used a tool for one-upmanship. It’s a crutch for the insecure, used to prop themselves up, and in the case of those who like to play the straight-up ad hominem game, knock other people down in the eyes of others.
The “yeah, well you suck!” retort can’t be countered, because it’s not actually a response to an argument to begin with. It’s a deflection, a delaying/diversionary tactic when the person in question just canâ€™t think of how to actually respond to the meat of the issue at hand. Sadly, this type of tactic has become a standard in online disagreements worldwide. It may only be a matter of time before it’s approved by the W3C.
Is it an age thing? Is it because the Internet is so speedy that it doesnâ€™t give people time to think before they type? If we were to travel back in time and listen to an actual conversation between Socrates and Plato and Aristophanes and anyone else you’d like to toss in the debating mix, would they, rather than sound polished and refined as in a book, actually be hurling insults and colorful epithets at each other whenever one tried to make a point or present a theory?
Maybe this is just the way modern philosophy has evolved â€“ where the vessel is more important than what’s inside. Where, in an attempt to be more efficient, we nip arguments in the bud by attacking the one with the mouth before he can open it to speak the words waiting to come out. Maybe arguing has always been about one person looking better/smarter than the other, and was never about the issues at all â€“ those ancient wise guys just tried to disguise this fact in reams of language, rules, and buzzwords like Logic, Rhetoric, or Philosophy.
Perhaps I’m the one who’s simply not hip on how to argue nowadays. I could try to change, I suppose.
Let’s try debating how to achieve world peace next. I’ll start.
Damonk is the Editor-in-Chief and the Executive Editor for Reviews and Columns.
Why do reviews of free online comics? Why do reviews of network television shows? Because there's so much on, even on just the free networks, to make good things easy to miss. The web is a zillion times bigger and there's a veritable ton of comics out there. Reviews help readers, they help creators (I've even gotten good advice out of flaming, mean-spirited reviews written out of jealousy!). Just because something is free and someone has the ability to check it out for themselves doesn't mean reviews aren't helpful.
Okay, I wasn’t really going to comment until I read some of the excellent comments from other people:
Rab has a point about “contextual dialouge”. The media raked Colin Powell (I believe) for saying “I have nothing against gays” or something, because instead of using the possesive, he used a participle and said “I have nothing against gays, or *someother group meaghan can’t remember* having the right to *do something*”. So they could take it out of context, make him sound condescending, because he did say “nothing against these group’s rights to..”
It’s like a thesaurus problem. A thesaurus is a useful thing, but not a really good idea. No two words should mean the exact same thing. Each word has a different connotation, and even dictionaries don’t really tell what a word means, since they strive so much to give quick, broad definitions. Take “facetious”. Look it up in your average dictionary and it just means “being silly”. But you will rarely use someone use the word in a positive manner. Being “silly” can be good or bad, because it is a broad, bland word. Facetious has a negative context. But how many people bother to note mere conotations? But how many arguments has that caused? You call me facetious, and I take it to mean “innapropriately silly” and you mean “silly in a fun way” and I get rifled? It takes a lot of explaining to say what you mean, that is, if you even bother to realize that you have a different meaning of the word and don’t just think I’m crazy for getting offended. And so it escallates.
It’s stuff like this that makes language so important. It’s harder to do for speech, but when you can sit down and type out and spell check what you are going to write, you have the ability to use your word choice to your advantage. Like I could actually look up what it was Colin Powell said. But I’m lazy, and if I’m lazy, imagine how lazy people are who don’t care what they sound like to other people, so long as they sound right to themselves?
I don’t think this is even so much of a language problem as it is a social problem. People are not curteous of others around them and have little experience with how to deal with opposing views except to sling insults.
As for the comments on the recent reviews? They were simple cases of not-reading-what-they-were-complaining-about-itis. If it had been a scathing review against something they loved, they might be socially correct in complaining that the reviewer had different tastes and his or her tastes should not trump those of the thousands of readers who did “get it”. In which case, the reviewer would not have written a good review, because he let his personal taste enter the matter. But at least in the CAD review, this was not the case. It was an extremely evenhanded peice of writing, and I came off with a favorable image of the comic. So not only do you have people who did not read the review and took one sentence out of context (perhaps reading ABOUT it on the comic’s message board?) flaming and insulting as best their narrow minds would allow. Reminds me of the people who vehemently support President Bush. Sure, they have great reasons for liking him themselves, but to not allow any negative comment or critcism to pass without insulting the person who dares utter such treason? It simply isn’t a good idea overall for anybody. Not your average person, and not even the president (who should know what he’s doing wrong so he can make better decisions and not be coddled into thinking everything he does is just spiffy.) It doesn’t let either side LEARN anything, because it shuts off communication. And it’s just frustrating, so even the rational people who try not to get involved start shouting “You’re all idiots and not listening to yourselves or each other!”, and then they get lambasted, told “You’re not my mom!”, etc. Nobody wins.
..On another note, reading my husband write “You suck, like your momma on my d*** while your gf was giving her a tongue dive. ” IS REALLY REALLY DISTURBING!!!!! o.O;;;;;;; Good thing I know him in real life and how much he’s just fooling around and trying to mess with our brains!
Damonk, I agree with you… internet arguments have gone down the toilet…. I usually stay out, but in this case, I actuyally have an opinion. I have been following the story around these reviews to some degree, so I must disagree with you on one point at least… Tim Buckley of CTRL ALT DEL did indeed link to the review of his work, but did not encourage his readers to flame the reviewer, and in fact did just the opposite.
As for the reviews themselves… In my humble opinion, they seemed a bit sensationalist an opinionated, to an extreme negative bend. Now, any reviewer has the right to review any way he wants, and yes, I have the right to disagree with the level of tact involved in the negative review. An extreme review draws controversy, bringing in readers and attention…. and in this case, some very hostile, insulted fans, many of whom may have had poor language skills…. or, more likely, just wanted to stick up for a creator who brings them free entertainment and happiness several times a week, not really caring how they came across, so long as they supported their “peep”. These fans seemed to be more interested in showing support, in whatever terms they had the energy to do so, rather than actually debating rationally. Not that I agree with that, but I don’t think they really cared how intelligent they sounded… they just wanted to get “they guy who hates their hero’s work.”
This brings me to my next point… which could be a debate all to itself. Question: Why do a lengthy, non-objective, negative review of a free website? Any reader can look at it for two minutes and be able to decide whether it is to their liking… a much shorter amount of time than it would take to read the actual review! I can understand reviewing movies, video games, or pay-websites, but a FREE website? Even if I believed the reviewer, he’s not saving me any time, and I would probably click through anyway to see if he was right…. not like a movie or video game review, wherein the reviewer would be saving me several hours, and a load of cash, if I chose to belive his negative arguments. So, if you remove the actual functionality of the purpose of a negative review of a free website, what do you have left? Just words, and controversy. And, when you consider that these free websites never asked for reviews, especially non-objective reviews (I suppose that could be argued as well, but not now), what you have are insulted creators, and in this case, insulted fans. Chaos ensues, in a way that would never happen if someone gave a bad review to a movie or a game, which both ask for more than your time in order to experience them. I would never in my wildest dreams think of emailing, say… Damonk, a lengthy unsolicited email explaining to him how much I disliked his work (not saying I do… just an example), nor would I have any reason to post such an article online.
I don’t mean to be saying that comixpedia’s reviewers are evil creatures… just a request that comixpedia and its writers consider that writing a review for a FREE WEBSITE needs to be approached from a different direction. The author need to ask himself, “Why am I writing this… What will this give to the reader? Am I being fair, and if negative, am I being tactful?” It wouldn’t hurt if the author considered the review to actually be an email that was going to be sent to the author personally, and to his fanbase. Webcomics is still THAT SMALL, even though it is SO BIG.
But that’s me, that’s my style. Webcomics is still small, but it is a growing boy. Bad blood and negativity go a long way in a backwards direction these days, and the last thing I like to see is a scenario created where “camps” of opinion form, and people have “bad guy” / “good guy” lists. Being our only source for news, Comixpedia could be the hub for all of webcomics… I’d hate to see it soiled by politics and negativity… you’ve got a good thing going here, Mr. Monk. 🙂 In order to survive, reviewers need to grow beyond the standards set by newpaper/ magazine reviews and columns… the internet is an entirely different animal, just as CREATINMG comics for the web is such a different process than creating comics for print.
Thanks for your time 🙂
Whilst it's almost impossible to comment on this topic without seeming elitist or “nitpicking”, I'll have a go:
Since the eighties the new generations have started to take the English Language for granted.
As a result it no longer matters what is said just as long as the 'appropriate' emotion is somehow conveyed. We haven't been able to do anything about this, and people like Bush get elected.
To make sure the general populace is permanently at a disadvantage bits of the English language seem to have been sectioned off, and only acceptably used by “experts”. For example; Damonk the English Major has far more right to be discussing this than Rabidazell the Almost-Starting-Arts-School. The Experts, and other people In Charge have started moving in with highly contextual meaningless psychobabble that no one can really understand or argue with. For some reason the media has done nothing to combat this (One reason is that contextual dialogue is very mallable, you can make it mean whatever you want to. This means the media can make quotes communicate whatever they want, The Man can deny the meaning the meaning the media has glued on, thus everybody wins and is filthy rich).
As a result: Massive devolution of the language. Remember kids, the greater your vocabulary the more you can think. I forget who originally said that.
I can't be completely unbiased about my husband's column, but MAN, Bill is a genius! Love the illust!
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