Posted on | March 9, 2013 | 41 Comments
Am I a good judge of what is or is not offensive? Usually, and at times I am quite deliberately offensive. National Offend a Feminist Week each May is an annual occasion (always the week leading up to Mother’s Day, because if there’s anything feminists hate, it’s motherhood).
However, just because there’s one special week doesn’t prevent me from offending feminists the other 51 weeks of the year, and I should have seen trouble coming when I did this morning’s Ashley Judd post. Thus we return to a personal problem I’ve been dealing with since I was a class clown in elementary school: You’re never going to find out where the line is until you cross it and get sent to the principal’s office.
Random Sarcasm Syndrome — help me, I’m a victim.
Did I intend to cut deep on would-be Sen. Puffy Face? Yes.
And are there people who would have thoroughly enjoyed such an expert filet job had I not crossed the line? Yes.
Are there people who weren’t offended? Yes, but when you get yourself into one of these jams — and trust me, I’ve been doing this my whole life — it’s best not to let your buddies egg you on further.
So when one of the pro-Stacy commenters (a regular) described the chief anti-Stacy commenter (a
newbie less frequent commenter) as a “concern trollette,” I figured it was time to stop arguing, concede the offense, and clean it up.
Usually in such situations — we need not cite the specific incidents — I just drop it and move on, like the guy who knocks over a stack of cans in a grocery story and then just walks away whistling casually to himself. Take your hits, stoically accept your error and try not to screw up again.
However, it just so happened that the comment field on this Ashley Judd post started blowing up right about the time I finished laying about two tons of whup-ass on Bill Schmalfeldt’s thick head.
Bill’s got a lot of problems, chief among them an inability to admit his mistakes or learn from them. The same was true of Barrett Brown, who is now in federal custody awaiting trial in Texas.
Arrogance is a fault with which I am intimately acquainted, but for which I’ve learned to compensate enough that I usually rein it in before I inflict irretrievable damage on myself. There is a familarity to such situations — “Oh, crap, I’ve done it again” — so that you’d have to be an outright fool not to recognize one’s own typical error, recall the previous consequences of such errors, and avoid doubling down on stupid.
It’s the double-down reaction that is always the biggest error.
Convinced of our own essential rectitude, we do not appreciate criticism, and so it is a natural instinct in such conflicts to start entrenching one’s position like the French defending Verdun. But if you always take that attitude toward conflict, if you are never willing to admit error, eventually that tendency will bring you to grief (cf., Charles Johnson).
Most times in such a conflict, you may feel that you’re basically right. There was some valid larger point you were making, and the critic who is unloading a truckload of indignation on your head about your inflammatory rhetoric is — from your perspective — missing the point. So, rather than let yourself get concern-trolled out of an important argument, you raise the black flag, yell “No Prisoners!” and turn it into one of those Armageddon struggles where anyone who tries to talk you out of it is suspected of being an active accomplice of The Enemy.
No need to get specific as to examples here. IYKWIMAITYD.
Having the balance of righteousness in your favor will do you little good if, by waging a too-fanatical war in your own defense, your friends desert the fight because you’re acting like a lunatic.
In the case of the Ashley Judd Armageddon, in making a sharp cut at the foe — which I intended as a very specific criticism — I managed to cause people to perceive that this specific criticism might also generally apply to others who are in fact, friends and allies in the fight.
OK. Error acknowledged.
Could I have spent a lot of time taking on every hostile comment, debating each point of disagreement, entrenching my position? Yes.
Would such a course of action have been prudent? No.
A deliberate insult to an enemy is one thing. To accidentally insult one’s friends is not something to make a habit. My longtime friends are used to my ways, and don’t take it personally when I say stupid things. A willingness to say stupid things once in a while makes for fun, except when it’s not fun at all. Operating on a trial-and-error basis means you’ve got to be able to recognize what a error looks like.
This was an error, and so I’ll concede this: At the very least, I did not choose my words wisely. Now I’ll shut up and move along, and find some new way to piss everybody off next time.
Because I’m innovative like that.