On Ignorance and Criticism

I’m not writing this for any particular purpose, just to express a few observations I’ve made as a writer. Certain aspects of publishing and getting reviewed by others has made me aware of certain behaviors that I find annoying. Words that appear to be criticism, but are not. I’m sure I’ve always known this was a thing, but it hasn’t stood out to me until I was subject to so much of it.

You can always tell the difference between a person who has truly read something, digested it, and come up with a well thought response, versus someone who just skimmed off the top, and is just responding to stroke their own ego.

People who take their time to read thoroughly generally use critical thinking skills when reading. Having discussions with people who do this, we end up agreeing more often than not. If we have disagreements in a discussion, many times both of us will change or develop our stances further than we could have before, reaching a greater common ground. I find its almost as if logic, truth and reason unite people (go figure).

My biggest pet peeve so far has been individuals who just reply. They didn’t even read what I wrote down. They respond to me after just looking at the title of my essay (its easy to tell who does this, because their criticism usually only goes as far as what they think my title implies, not what I actually wrote), or maybe they skim it and respond. Just looking at the title, or skimming, isn’t a crime in itself.  It the response that annoys me; people who want to criticize what I write without even reading it.

It’s  crime because a response invokes interaction. If one or both parties have bad intentions, its not going to be genuine communication, and its going to be a pointless conversation (or worse, degrade into an abusive one). I’m trying to be as honest and as genuine as I can when I write. The same cannot be said for everyone else.

A smart man once said “the more you learn, the more you realize how little you know”. The opposite is true for fools. I’ve learned to tell who they are, because, for the most part, they give these pretentious rebuttals, based purely off the title, or select soundbites of my first few sentences/paragraphs. They write very snobbishly. It is very ironic that they think that they have won the argument, when they haven’t even read what I said. I don’t believe these people are trolls, per se, because trolls are out to cause disruption for its own sake. These people are self-referential intellects.

What experience has shown me is that the vast majority of my supposed enemies are not fit to be my enemies, because 95% of the criticisms I get are questions I have already answered.

I’ve had individuals send me e-mail after e-mail, trying to correct me over something that I didn’t even say. Some make it blatantly apparent that they don’t actually want to be bothered with receiving an answer to their questions. They  just wanted to start a fight over something they found offensive. I say this because after taking the time to answer these questions, I find that a lot of people just keep asking them over and over again, rhetorically, as if they heard nothing. It’s almost like watching a dog chase his own tail, but less entertaining and not as adorable.

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I know I tend to write long articles. I have no illusions about expecting the whole world to read every word I wrote. But if you have the spirit in you to craft a ‘witty come-back’, after reading only three things I said, please, take the time to read everything. If you can’t do that, than don’t comment on what I wrote at all. Don’t send me your e-mails. Don’t write an objectionable column. Just stop. I don’t care. I like taking the time to talk to sincere people, but If I even think you haven’t read my work, I will not talk to you. I do not have the time of day.

I am not exaggerating when I say that in my experience as a writer, reading severe criticisms of my work, literally nine times out of ten I have already addressed their concerns in my essay; most of the time in very grave detail. This not a joke, or hyperbole. I am dumbfounded by the many critics who appear so involved in responding to me, but lack participation in being informed of what my opinion actually is.

If you choose to make a comment based off of a sliver of someones writing, you are not smart. You are not being clever or witty. You are not proving me wrong. You are not besting me in argument. You are willfully ignorant of 90-99% of what the author has spoken. Nothing good or productive can come from such willed stupidity. You would be better off going for a walk, or doing fifty push ups, or, I don’t know, actually reading my material, than making stereotypical jests about content you didn’t even read. Sincerely, you are being a genuine ignoramus in the highest sense.

When people do this, they are spreading misinformation about other peoples content, or straw-manning what their viewpoint. This is immoral, because it is behavior that deviates from honesty and truth. Its not Ok to lie to others or yourself to protect an ideology or a weak ego. I’ve noticed that people who do this habitually (in real life in particular) end up in crazy, hair brained scenarios that could of been avoided if they were just more honest with themselves, and pro-active in making positive changes in their lives.

But I digress.

Nobody likes people who practice ‘selective hearing’ in one-on-one conversation; its self-centered behavior that’s It’s not fit for friendships, family relationships, work relationships, or any kind of relationship at all. But some of these people practice it on the Internet without feeling guilt or a sense of guile. These people are puffed up in their pride, and they always write as if they are superior to you.

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We are all real people, and in order for genuine dialogue to commence, a certain level of honesty and integrity needs to be maintained between individuals; even if they cannot see each other. Making a response to someone’s work when they did not read it is underhanded and disingenuous. When I see people do this, even with people who I “agree” with on an intellectual level, you can always detect that their real goals are more malicious than they are putting on; Meaning they are trolling more than they are trying to have a discourse. When they act like this, I can’t get behind them, because it’s childish and stupid. Truly, its shameful behavior.

On the internet its easy to say outrageous things. Me and my friends call these people “E-Savages.” They act very hard on the web, but are paper thin in real life.

In a recent experience, I had published an article to The Federalist. I had spent well over a year researching and writing this paper. I had created many drafts, just to throw them out; I cut it up, downsized it; tried alternate perspectives, rewrote it again, etc. The end product was a final draft that was 17 pages long, and 7 of those pages were all footnotes (I do this for fun).

I published it. People loved it. I didn’t write it for the praise, but the praise was a plus.

On the flip side, the internet has certain tracking technologies, where in some circumstances I can be made aware of who is reading my material and where. I go to these places, and I read what people say about what I write.

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The majority of the negative criticism for this column is similar to that of all of my other writing. These people will call you names, and make false assumptions about what you wrote purely based off of the title.They make short statements they think will refute your entire paper, or ask a rhetorical question they think  will blow your entire argument to smithereens. They summon a series of criticisms that they think you weren’t smart enough to talk about, making you out to be a caricature of some political party/philosophy they assume you adhere to (newsflash: I am usually none of these things), that they coincidentally don’t like. And because they think you didn’t address their criticisms, they automatically “win” in their heads, and everything you wrote is now “problematic” and “heavily flawed” in a way that conveniently protects them from questioning their own worldview.

This is the definition of the word “simpleton.

Because I like participating in dialogue, for I time, I went out of my to correct them, answering all their questions (answers which I already wrote down once), ending with the admonition “thanks for visiting page, but next time please read what I actually wrote, cheers.”

Now, I usually don’t care respond to people who I suspect haven’t read what I’ve written, because experience has taught me that its a sign that they don’t have the level of intelligence to comprehend what I am even saying- much less the emotional intelligence to cope with the fact that someone out there disagrees with them. The fact is, at some level they are dishonest people. I don’t care what anyone else says about this issue: they are aware of their own dishonesty, and will use slander, misinformation, and logical fallacies to cover up their own hide, if they are not humble enough to admit that they are wrong here or there. Pride, and personal insecurity is a constant motif in this.

Many people have expressed shock when I write them back. They think I’m just some ghost on the internet who doesn’t actually exist; which to some minds, gives them full rights to talk every level of garbage they want. I don’t know how they think, but I imagine their thought process looks something like this:

  1. Try to read article
  2. By the third sentence, succumb to the overwhelming urge to reduce a 12,000 word essay to pre-packaged stereotype you have in your head, that protects you from thinking critically. Do not read the rest of the paper.
  3. Use material from the first three sentences to question the authors entire work, using variables and examples that you thought of off the top of your head. Examples that, surely, someone who took 14 ½ months to write said paper could not contain have thought of, ever.
  4. Gloat in your own self-glory.

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If you happen to be one of these individuals, let me say that you, my good friend, are an idiot. You did not best me in debate. You did not win the argument. I answered your question before you even thought of it. I responded to your criticism before you woke up this morning. The solution would be yours, if you had only chosen to read what I wrote. 

Despite what you may have been told, pretending to know something you don’t know anything about does not make you smart. When you pretend you read it, and come up with some half-cocked response that I already addressed, truly, you are mocking me. You think I’m an idiot, and are not giving me the time of day to even hear me out. That’s not a tolerable form of behavior in any respectable dialogue, and in the spirit of this, I bite my thumb at thee, sir.

If I were to make a modest estimation of myself, I think I am a very good writer. That being said, I don’t have time for jerk-offs. If you really want to tussle, which I am ready and willing to do, please actually try to comprehend what I have scribed. Truly, I would enjoy it if you could school me. I’m all for learning.

If you honestly think you are good, prove it too me. I believe in you- sort of; As of right now, as far as the rules of intellectual engagement are concerned, many have lost before they even started, because their strategies suck. I expect better from people.

I’m only writing this because I like to believe that somewhere, deep down, people want to be honest and pursue the truth (I guess I’m being optimistic about it), but for whatever reason, have developed bad habits of communications on the internet.

I know this is mad ironic, because Travis is writing about a piece about people who don’t really read to begin with. I completely understand the contradiction. But for the few people who have superficially marked me as their enemy, have happened to have invested time on my website, stumbled across this article, and read the whole thing out of interest, or anger, my invitation stands: Come at me bro. I dare you.come-at-me-bro2

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