This one time at Writer's Camp…
I was thinking of writing an article today on race and science fiction, but… meh. No matter which “way” I transcribe it, someone’s going to get butthurt over it. Not “mildly disagreeing” with me, and not a “I think you’re wrong and this is why” conversation, but generally butthurt. Why? Because people are combative and tribal at a base level.
Oh, don’t give me any bullsh*t arguing otherwise. If you believe in Creationism, then you know we’re from a wrathful and jealous god. If you believe in Evolution, then you know we did not evolve from peaceful sloths. We are a species who goes out and does something, and our technology has made it even easier to do something when we get all butthurt. Because when someone says something that we disagree with on the internet, then we charge forth and yell, scream and froth at the mouth. Oh, it doesn’t always happen right away. We try to stay calm, measured in our responses, but like any argument we have with one another, either someone is going to admit that they were wrong, or the argument is going to escalate. And since anonymity offers people the chance to never admit being wrong without looking someone in the eye… who’s going to ever admit that they were wrong?
“It takes a bigger man than I,” some would quote. It’s true, too. We like being right and hate it when people say we’re wrong. It’s in our nature. On the other hand, it’s easier to tell someone that they’re a flaming idiot douchemonkey who eats rancid meat-filled balls of Idiocy (I have no idea what the hell that is, but stay with me here) than to admit that you were wrong when you’re 1,000 miles or more away and protected by your computer monitor (or tablet, quit nitpicking). You don’t have to stand up in front of their face and accuse them of douchebaggery. It’s easier to post random argumentative bullsh*t.
Should we do anything about it? Other than remembering that one day you may come face to face with the person and discovering that they are a 6′ woman who has multiple black belts and is ready to kick your ass, what’s to stop you from using the randomness of the internets from, well, being overly argumentative.
The answer? Nothing at all. Nothing should. You are free to say whatever the hell you want (unless you’re threatening someone with physical violence, then you’re being an idiot and an asstard), but like all things, there are consequences for your free speech. People are going to agree with you. People are going to disagree. And people are going to jump on their own little podium and call you names and say you’re wrong.
A lot of people say “Don’t be a dick” and then proceed to be a dick while calling other people out on their… uh, dickishness? Yeah, that works. But instead of “don’t be a dick”, perhaps it should be “People are going to say something you don’t agree with. Don’t get butthurt about it.”
I don’t know how it happened. Perhaps it was during the 90’s, when people suddenly started getting overly thin skin and let their feelings get hurt by random bullsh*t. I remember in the 80’s saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” (For the record, I had to look it up, because Rhiannon’s “other” version of it kept popping into my head). Or maybe it wasn’t that they started getting thin skin but more of an awareness that butthurts aren’t wrong and you shouldn’t say things that might upset someone.
Quick, redraft the Declaration of Independence! George III got all butthurt about it!
Okay, that was an extreme, but still… you had a momentary flash of “That’s absolutely stupid and I’m calling you out on that!”, didn’t you? It’s okay if you did think that, because it obviously occurred to me as well. The difference is, I’ll say the same damn thing to people’s faces as well. Ask people who have been on panels with me. I’ve called one of my favorite authors a “f*cking moron” on a panel we were on together. I still like his books and respect the hell out of him, but he said something stupid and I called him out on it. He (being a bigger man) admitted that he was wrong about it, though with a caveat that I hadn’t considered and I admitted that I was wrong as well, and we moved on in the panel. Nobody got butthurt. Everyone was happy, and the audience (very much his fans) had a good laugh.
Excellent. That’s how an argument works. We still talk all the time, and at cons we’re still on panels together and even occasionally have a drink.
But the biggest part? Nobody got butthurt.
I’m glad I didn’t talk about race today. That could have been long and rambling, and caused some sort of firestorm.