In order to be right, make an argument and prove one’s ignorance.

If you’re a fan of Jessica Wildfire you might have caught one of her more recent pieces about why it’s so hard to have any kind of a conversation any more. I’ll link it here in a sec ‘case you missed it. I got yet another comment this morning, this time from someone who was not having a particularly good day. Happens to me too, and what said commenter did is something of which I am guilty in the past, and may well do again if I hit the installed-in-my-brain Staples “Stupid” button and push Publish before I take a moment to reread my shit.

Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

Here’s Wildfire’s piece:

Here’s Why We Can’t Have Nice Conversations Anymore
It has nothing to do with cancel culture.

It’s got some great academic language if you like that kind of thing; even if you don’t you will see certain people in bas relief in her article.

From the article:

Fallacious thinking has become symptomatic of the larger ignorance and selfishness that’s gone endemic in America, if not the rest of the world. It’s getting to the point where we can’t talk to each other.

One reason I love her work is because she uses ten dollah words. If you are a voracious reader as I am, there are times it just rocks to read an article littered with intelligent thinking and words that are rarely used in ANY conversation unless you’re at a college mixer, where folks are trying to out-erudite one another.

That’s not a criticism. I love articles which use words that I have to push my brain to remember, or search the dictionary. That is a gift.

However, to her point. After reading this and nodding a lot, I penned a piece about a tough subject recently wherein I repeated a clarification not once, but FOUR TIMES. In fact I even called the repetition out, saying that the reason I was repeating myself was to get in the face of the scan readers (folks who scrape for an argument) and trolls. Four times. Four. Fucking. Times. I clarified the point of the article. And called out the repetition just in case Dear Reader needed to clobbered in the cranium with a Stillson wrench.

I put the clarifications in italics. Bold. Just in case.

Said commenter wrote in with a personal story which precisely underscored why I wrote the clarification four times. Their story was one of these “WELL BUT, this happened IN MY LIFE… implication, the author had to be wrong.

If said reader had bothered to read said article, the comment would have been wholly unnecessary. But that’s asking someone to read, which clearly is becoming an act of great courage, and to understand, which apparently takes too much intellectual sweat equity.

I’ve had more than a few professional writers, and by that I mean we’ve published books and gotten paid for articles on other sites other than Medium, who say that this is becoming far more common.

So it’s not just everyday conversation. Social media, which has clipped our attention span, taught us to seek out outrage and then spill it on anyone in our path, and egged us on to ignore any opportunity to actually think something through, has, as Wildfire has laid out, crept into conversation. Which as we ease out of quarantine (and get slammed back in, since conversation with the unvaccinated means shared aerosols and sick folks), is bad news, because, well, we miss people. At least I sure do.

But not people like this. This virus is speading faster than Covid.

While gaslighting has been around for a long time, the widespread use of some of the other methods she outlines makes perfect sense when I use them as a guideline for Medium comments. From her article:

To have an opinion, you have to meet certain criteria. You have to make a valid argument and support it with evidence. You have to explain your reasoning. You have to be consistent.

That’s work. That’s responsible. That’s thinking, considering, evaluating. It’s what mature adults do.

A pal of mine from the Netherlands, and yes I know I’ve said this before so get over it, told me that when she traveled the States she was shocked at how deeply we identify with labels. Republican, Democrat, Girl Scout. As if. Where she’s from you’re expected to have an opinion, but it has to be based on real thought and research. Or be proven a dunce.

While the commenter in question didn’t use the precise methods Wildfire outlines, they used a personal story which demonstrated that they didn’t read any of the qualifiers, explanations or the four clearly-defined and even italicized and BOLDED explanations that explained to Dear Reader what the point was.

He didn’t get the point, didn’t care about the point, the only point was HIS point, which is shriveled, which he knows, she says pointedly.

Photo by John Silliman on Unsplash

It’s no secret that trolls tired of being blocked on other sites decided to poop in the garden that was once Medium. Problem is, this platform now reflects society. Didn’t used to. I had two years of heaven, and now I am in the same hell as everywhere else, but with a few more rules to protect us. It’s nice but not enough. I get tired of folks who can’t be bothered to think.

On one hand, this is useful if for nothing other than exercises in boundaries, which isn’t such a bad thing. On the other, it’s a fascinating study of where a portion of our society exists. I ache for polite and respectful debate, the kind of kind and jovial social intercourse wherein people who disagree but who respect each other can explore and examine ideas and remain friends. Not just that, but deepen the friendship as a result of how they treated each other.

Recent politics and other trends have changed so much of that, especially on line. We used to say folks say what they say online because they would never say those things to our faces.

Now they do.

I miss courtesy as a social expectation. It’s worse when I catch myself being rude, which means I got some on me.

It’s much too easy to go there.

Which is why when I get intelligent, thoughtful comments of any kind, agreeing or disagreeing, I do backflips. I don’t need agreement. I just need proof of life. For those Dear Readers who do comment, who make me think, you effing rock. I appreciate you more than you can possibly imagine.

And for Dear Writers who make me think, and who haven’t given up on Medium yet, I do not need to agree with you to appreciate the gift of your challenge to the brain cells. That is why I haven’t left yet.