Don’t Be This Guy

Having been accused once or twice of being a quart or two low on empathy due to my refusal to allow personal feelings to trump reason, I approached an op-ed in the Chicago Maroon with my usual trepidation. It was written by Lily Grossbard, “a first-year in the College majoring in gender and sexuality studies.”  The headline was, “The myth of the coddled college student.”

Geez, I wonder what she’s gonna write.

Trigger warnings are frequently lampooned as “coddling” students, or as shielding them from exposure to the difficulties of “the real world.” I would argue, however, that not only are trigger warnings of crucial importance for protecting the emotional and physical health of the student body at large, but they also actually allow for, and even promote the discussion of triggering topics.

Well then. It was the usual rationalizations of adoptive trauma, the ADHD of college feelz, combined with a backward grasp of promoting speech. Ironically, it was far better written than most such essays, shorter on jargon and reflecting a fairly strong grasp of organization and language.

The striking aspect of so many college student essays is that they’re incomprehensible. This stood out because it was well written, if insipid. I would give her an A for style, even if a C for content. Writing is hard and Grossbard did a fine job explaining herself.

After reading her op-ed, I went to the comment.  That’s where I found this:


Confederate flag avatar. Osama bin whatever handle. Derogatory physical characterization. And the word, “twat.”  The perfect storm of everything that proves that along the spectrum of stupidity, at the intersection of insanity, Lily Grossbard wins.  It’s not because Grossbard’s argument has merit, but if one wants to sit down and chat with someone, most of us would pick Grossbard over Osama Bin Moron.

Why?  Why is there always some idiot child who must, through the insertion of needlessly offensive and facially stupid language, prove that no matter how wrong one person may be, they aren’t nearly as bad as the idiot child.

Watching the “testimony” of Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn before the United Nations group working on ending “cyberviolence,” both offered characterizations of the horrible things people wrote to them online, threatening harm, rape and calling them all manner of sexually-charged mean words.

While their characterizations fall short of proving their point, as they tend to be a bit hyperbolic in describing things that hurt their feelings, and they include relatively benign claims, like “you suck,” as if this is tantamount to “I know where you live, plan to break into your house at night and rape you,” they do have an argument.  The idiot children argument.  Idiot1

There are, of course, plenty more, ranging from rape to murder. Of course, there are plenty of truly sick people on the internet, there being no sanity test for buying a keyboard.  And there is no shortage of infantile trolls who, hiding behind rocks, enjoy a catharsis they would otherwise be denied because no one in real life gives a damn if they exist.  I wonder why that could be?

This impulse to write something outrageous and offensive is the best argument there is for those advocating that speech has gone too far.  No, these aren’t compelling arguments in the sense that they fall within a categorical exception to the First Amendment and must be silenced. But to fall back on the legal right to be an asshole is not an argument for being an asshole.

Does anyone suppose that comments like these have any utility in making a point?  Well, no one with even a smidgeon of a brain, to be sure. But they serve a great purpose for those who want to silence speech; no reasonable person doesn’t find such comments disgusting and idiotic.  When advocates of censorship show writing of this sort to others, everyone cringes.  No one, but no one, thinks you’re funny, persuasive, or in any way worthwhile.

To respond that, yes, they’re awful comments but “I would never write that” and “you can’t stop the idiot child from exercising his right to free speech,” is to miss the point.  We can stop it by replying to the idiot child to shut up, to meet this impoverished speech with better speech.  We don’t have to tolerate it. We may advocate for the right to be as stupid as they want to be, but we can simultaneously let them know that they’re not winning any admirers, and doing extreme harm to the position they purport to further.

And it’s not like this is limited to gender issues, or college kids, or wimpy male advocates ashamed of what they find between their thighs. Or blacks, Catholics, Jews and especially Muslims. The list is long and covers pretty much every group there is.  Whoever you are, there is some idiot child out there who hates you and feels some pathological need to let you know so in the most offensive possible way. Aren’t you special.

There is a never-ending stream of comments here proclaiming all cops, prosecutors, judges evil scum who must be destroyed. No, the reader won’t see them because I won’t publish them. It actually pains me to think that readers here are idiot children, and what I write feeds their psychosis. Then again, who the hell knows what feeds their insanity, as people in search of outrage and something to hate will invariably find it, no matter what or where.

If you’re one of these people who, because you use a nifty screen name like Osama Bin whatever, think you are making points by uttering disgusting and offensive attacks and threats, you are. You’re making the point that censors want you to make. You’re making the point that people you want to be “on your team” want nothing to do with you.

Is that what you’re trying to accomplish? If so, you’re succeeding spectacularly. But here’s the message from those whom you would have as your friends and allies. Shut the fuck up, you asshole. You’re a disgrace.

26 thoughts on “Don’t Be This Guy

  1. Rendall

    I don’t think the SJW crowd would have any evidence for their arguments at all, except for these useful, idiot children. It’s like a symbiotic relationship: the SJWs assert that the world is mean to women, and just like that, anonymous trolls scuttle out from the floorboards, being mean to these women. It’s like uncanny magic.

    1. SHG Post author

      While I’m not sure it’s that clear a correlation, it’s certainly true that the idiot children make it way too easy for SJWs to prove their point.

  2. david

    In fairness, this isn’t just a phenomenon that happens to women (as they constantly claim), but everyone online. Just because they want to claim that they are the primary recipients of hate speech doesn’t make it true.

    1. SHG Post author

      Obviously, idiot children come in all genders, flavors and colors. I get “threats” regularly. The difference is grown ups don’t cry about how they’re “terrified” whenever any flaming nutjob writes something on the internets. I’ve been told that’s because I’m male and can defend myself, while they’re just fragile females, but it’s a nonsense argument. Words are words, for better or worse.

      It’s hardly worth my time whining about words that threaten me, but the SJWs are obsessed with it, and so the idiot children who attack them have a very different impact than the idiot children who attack me.

      1. DrPizza

        Were words just words when 4chan lunatic posts that he’s going to shoot up a school and then does precisely that?

        Sometimes words are just words.

        Other times words betray intent.

        How does one reliably determine the difference? Which words should be ignored; which should not?

        1. SHG Post author

          One out of one hundred thousand threatening comments ends up being real. Should we lock up all one hundred thousand? Should we lock them up based upon the threat, so that we never know if any of the hundred thousand is real? Should we just lock everyone up, just in case.

          You ask the wrong question, born of perverse fear. The right question is how does one reliably determine how many innocent people you would lock up because of ignorance as to who, if any, might actually do harm?

          1. DrPizza

            Who said anything about locking them up?

            How about we (in general, not directed at you specifically) just stop giving them a voice, and pressure services such as Twitter, Facebook, and maybe even 4chan to police themselves, and stop making specious “censorship” arguments when such no-value speech is removed?

            1. SHG Post author

              First, if you’re going to complain about a lunatic who kills people, then silencing them has nothing to do with stopping them from doing harm. That’s what locking them up is for. Now, as you’ve apparently completely abandoned that and gone instead to censorship, the answer’s far easier.

              Expressions of anger and hatred have value. People are allowed to be angry, to hate (just as you hate free speech), and to express that, whether you like it, or I like it, or anyone else likes it. It may be “no-value” to you, but it isn’t to them. That doesn’t mean we can’t tell them to stop using language that’s counterproductive, offensive and outrageous, but it doesn’t give you the moral authority to silence speech you don’t like.

              You aren’t the speech god, and only speech you deem worthy should be allowed. To people who cherish free speech, you’re calling arguments against censorship “specious” would make you the one who should be silenced. Except they wouldn’t because they’re better than you.

            2. Sgt. Schultz

              You’ve completely missed the point. He doesn’t hate free speech. He *loves * free speech. Just limited to the speech he loves and not that awful “no-value” speech he hates. Easy.

  3. mb

    It’s not the troll’s intent to make a cogent argument or even to align with the opposition to the target. They do it to incite whining and outrage for teh lulz. When the whiners, whose entire position was based on whining, turn to censorship in order to have something else to whine about, the appropriate response is to inform them that they need to grow the hell up. It is not necessary, or useful to respond to trolls, and it’s already bad enough to have to go back to first principles in every discussion with these idiots without also taking on the responsibility of calling out everyone who hurts their feels.

      1. mb

        I’ve never engaged in “Osama Bin Name-Callin” type trolls. It’s not that I’m better than them. It’s that I have better logical analysis skills and more vocabulary, so I gets moar lulz.

      2. John Cobalt

        “OH NO!

        There is a guy here who understands the out most basic principle of how trolls operate. He must have inside information. He is probably one of em.”

        There is your problem.

        Complete lack of the most basic understanding of how trolls operate. _YOU_ are the problem, just as Anita Sarkeesian is the problem. Trying to solve the troll problem by giving em the attention they crave is like pissing into the wind by definition.

        Now this is the point where Anita Sarkeesian goes from being an idiot to being an asshole, who I will not lift a finger to help, by claiming that her political opponents is doing it when it’s happening to everyone on a constant basis.

        1. mb

          Scott can correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think the post is about trolls. There is an “idiot children” problem that is separate from trolling. I only wrote about trolls because my problems with responding to internet meanness is related to trolls, not to idiot children. Posts pointing out that being an idiot is harmful to one’s position are not the problem, nor is comment moderation. I only took issue with the part about responding to them, and only to the extent that it means responding individually.

          Also, I frequently brag on this blog that I’m banned from the entire internet, so Scott knows I do actually troll sometimes.

          1. SHG Post author

            See what happens when I let someone screw around in the comments? You wouldn’t believe how easy it slides down the slope, but it always does.

  4. John C

    MB has a point. The key problem with dealing with trolls especially ones who do this type of activity, is that they thrive on attention. It’s why Anita, Quinn, and hell even McIntosh make prime targets for them. Any type of attention positive or negative encourages them. You calling them an asshole helps them. Anita being scared feeds them. Zoe laying a sick burn on them encourages them. Doing anything other than hitting block on twitter and the authorities is their goal.

    I have no idea why other than attention is something they crave for whatever reason, but trust me, very rarely do they actually align politically with anyone.

  5. enjointhis!

    I wanted to find out more. Is this typical “Osama Bin Hidin” commentary? Is OBH an omnibus hater, or does s/he ooze contempt only for the Children Of Privilege Who Are Delicate? But the comment has been deleted. And Disqus made me noticeably stupider from the 5 minutes I tried searching for OBH.

    Maybe I’m a deviant. But when I read COPWAD stuff, I want to rage against the authors. What world are they living in, and why does it look nothing like my reality? And I frequently *think* thoughts like OBH: Grow the fuck up, you SPOC. But it’s hard to take the time to dissect specious premises when I’d rather contemplate Sunday afternoon football, prosciutto, boogers, that Rule 56.1 statement I should be writing, etc.

    Do we ignore idiotic-but-well-argued crap & hope it goes away? How do we reject COPWAD drivel concisely? I’ll give OBH this: s/he effectively condensed paragraphs of argument (well speculation, I guess) into three words. Query: Do we give COWPADs too much power by dwelling on OBH’s snarky comments? Unlike Ms. Largebeard’s essay, OBH’s comment is self-evident. And ironic, I’m sure. 🙂

    So anyway, who would I rather spend time with? If I wanted a thoughtful, intellectual discussion, sure I’d chat up Ms. Largebeard. But I’m pretty sure I’d have more fun with OBH.

    1. SHG Post author

      You do realize this isn’t actually about Osama Bin whatever, right? He was just an easy example. You do realize this, right? Right?!?

      1. enjointhis!

        Ah, yes, I did. I guess my point was sometimes, we can’t do a sufficiently thorough takedown of Teh Stupids, even though we want to, and so some brief derisive ridicule has to suffice. There is always line-drawing, of course (@staache’s twit is repulsive). But absent threats of violence or mockery of some obviously immutable personal characteristic, synecdoche seems mostly fair game. Unless it’s really vile (“Stinking Pus-Oozing C-word” vs. “Stupid Piece of Crap”). It’s just that I resent the Delicate Little Flowers’ insistence on being treated with kid gloves.

        Honored that my comment prompted a response.

        1. SHG Post author

          I see a lot of people writing “stinking Pus-Oozing C-word.” I am disgusted by it. But line-drawing is impossible. Even the handful of categorical lines drawn by the Court are problematic, both in figuring out whether the line has been crossed and in the chilling of speech that may come close to the line. I may hate the speech, but I would rather hate it then silence it.

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