February 16th, 2010 by | Tags:

There was a huge upset, over at scans_daily, about a week ago.  I know.  How could that happen?  But some of us like scans_daily, in part, because of the fights.  This fight, however, frustrated me, because I’ve seen it too often.

I’ve seen a few too many arguments like this, lately, where someone does something dumb and offensive and then shouts at everyone who bothers to tell them that it’s offensive.  Here are the arguments that they always, always, without fail, make.

1.  But I didn’t know it was offensive.

2.  But I didn’t mean it to be offensive.

3.  But you should have been nicer to me when you explained what was wrong.

Number two has its variations (it was supposed to be funny, it was supposed to be satire, it’s not really important anyway), but number three?  Number three is the catchall.

People who invoke number three will use any excuse in the book to make it work.  They will use the excuse of politeness (there are certain ways we do things), and morality (don’t ever sink to their level!), and location (this isn’t the place for it), and loyalty (but I’m really on your side), and they love using practicality (You shouldn’t have to explain this but otherwise how will they learn?  However will they learn?).

I hate all of those arguments, because all of them – every single thing I’ve listed above – boil down to this assumption:

You have consider my feelings, and I don’t have to consider yours.

That’s what every single person who ever makes those arguments is saying.  That’s all they’re saying. 

And when the original offender himself comes on in the second page to thank the people who ‘defended’ him, and not the people who acquiesced to the demands of all the idiots, waded thigh-deep into the bog, and educated him? 

Man, I’m glad I can’t comment on that site since they moved to dreamwidth.  Trying to get through to him would have been one hell of a waste of a few days.

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14 comments to “Hoooooboy.”

  1. An argument? On the internet?!! Quick, someone call the press!

  2. In a place like Scans_Daily you’re not talking to anyone in particular until someone responds to something you say. So “You have consider my feelings, and I don’t have to consider yours.” is actually, “I wasn’t talking to you specifically and didn’t mean to offend you, you are talking directly to me and you’re being rude/hurting my feelings.”

  3. I did wade in, actually-

    Despite several people displaying no inclination towards anything other than the sentiments you’ve translated here a bunch of less obvious people were willing to learn and listen and discuss and consider or re-consider their POV, which.. makes it seem worth it on my part.

    But that’s me coming from a position of privilege on the issue of the day.

    This is a good break-down though, and I’m gonna be saving the link.

  4. What he said was offensive. No questioning that. And many of the people who tried to get through to him linked him to some very valuable information. I respect that a great deal, but looking at some of the language used against him:

    “Oh my god, what the fuck is wrong with you?”
    “You made some horrific statements.”
    Not to mention every comment by Snugglebitch (the author of quote number one).

    The guy was a stupid son of a bitch, but an unintentionally stupid son of a bitch. Phrasing like this is going to put him on the defensive, and to me and was very clear from the second comment that he didn’t get what was wrong.

    And having almost no one to talk to but Snugglebitch for a good eleven responses probably didn’t get him in the mood to learn and repent his errors.
    (The sheer amount of bile that lady packs into her responses is admirable, but perhaps ill-suited to the moment.)

    I’m not defending the guy. He was wrong, plain and simple. But taking the larger view, the case against him wasn’t well handled.

  5. @Heyra: *reads reply*

    *rereads Esther’s post*

    I think you missed her point here…

  6. @LurkerWithout: I think he’s saying that there is a difference between being offended and offensive.

  7. It sounds like Esther is saying that you cannot really criticize someone for not handling a bigoted statement diplomatically because it demands that the person who is offended has to take into consideration the feelings of the offender, even when the offender obviously showed no such consideration.

    I have to agree with Esther. If you say something stupid and bigoted, and even if you’re too ignorant to realize you did so, you cannot sit there and complain that people were mean to you for it. Offended people get angry and it’s a bit absurd to think they will do you the courtesy of treating you with kid gloves when you didn’t show any tact at all. In the end, though, you just have to man up and admit you were wrong and get on with life.

  8. Good post as always Esther. In regards to number 3 I agree that it’s ridiculous to think that you deserve consideration that you’re not willing to give to others, I would add though that heaping bile upon someone, no matter the offense, rarely leads anywhere productive. If you want to convince someone that they’re wrong or explain to them how they’ve offended I find it’s generally better to keep a cool head and and remain professional. Not that anyone really ‘wins’ in Internet fights.

  9. @Jason

    “In a place like Scans_Daily you’re not talking to anyone in particular until someone responds to something you say. So “You have consider my feelings, and I don’t have to consider yours.” is actually, “I wasn’t talking to you specifically and didn’t mean to offend you, you are talking directly to me and you’re being rude/hurting my feelings.””

    The problem here is that it’s all too common for someone to insult a group of people and then act surprised when any specific member of that group takes offence. Even putting aside the fact that some people deliberately attempt to sidestep criticism by insulting someone by general description rather than calling them out specifically (which I am not suggesting is the case in this instance), it can’t possibly be the case that one should only consider the effect of one’s words on people if you had a specific representative in mind when you assembled them.

    There is another side to this, of course, which is whether if I accidentally offend you personally I have the right to object when you respond vitriolically. That’s an entirely separate consideration, though.

  10. I’m not familiar with Scans_Daily and didn’t have much success following the link to the original comment and conflict so my response is based on what I’ve seen here.

    I think 1, 2, and 3 are potentially fine and valid points-of-view. I also think that, if #2, particularly is accurate and truthful (meaning the offender was speaking from a place of intellectual ignorance, it’s unfair to say, “You have consider my feelings, and I don’t have to consider yours.”

    That consideration wasn’t any more possible for the speaker than it is for me to accurately respond to the actual incident that I did not witness. In other words, my ignorance of the thing precludes or at least limits any ability to *consider* the thing.

    Seems like a lotta drama. I’m glad to see, in these comments, that apparently someone, somewhere gained something from it.

  11. Wow, I’ve never been to scans_daily before, but I just spent like half an hour looking over all that crap.

    I have to say, this is a completely disheartening thing. 95% of the posters involved are completely self-righteous blowhards. The inadvertent instigator of the whole thing: yeah, he’s to blame, ultimately; he’s very tone-deaf, ignorant and insensitive. He seems perfectly typical of someone who proceeds as if s/he would never consider considering what it’s like to be someone else.

    BUT the counterpoint people, in general, were even worse, in my opinion, if only because there were more of them. They took this opportunity to stand on the soapbox way too high. The reactionary “learning experience” post that mod made? What’s next? When someone says they don’t think Will Smith is the best choice for Captain America, would that mod start a thread detailing the evils of slavery? Clicking on a few usernames brought me to homepages where these individuals had drawn up “hit-list”-style catalogues of anyone in the site that they disagreed with, labeling all of them bigots. Above that I noticed one of them had an entry talking about how something Neil Gaiman said offended her, adding “Well, I’m always looking for an excuse to remove one more white male author from my bookshelf.” Yeah, so these are the self-proclaimed bastions of “tolerance”?

    The sad thing is, what really COULD have been a learning moment for many people on that site turned into a hate-fest on all sides. And lest anyone thinks I’m going too hard on the “counterpoint” side, by far the most offensive thing I saw was someone referring to transgendered people as “foo foos”. I’m surprised the mods–angry, arrogant and hypocritical as I think they are–didn’t remove those posts, which were far, far, far, far worse than the original one about “Bruno” the Joker’s friend.

    All that needed to happen was someone upfront to tell the ignorant person something along the lines of: “Actually, transgendered females are very sensitive about people saying that traces of their opposite sex are ‘masculine’, and here’s the psychology and reasoning behind that…” But instead people got too offended–because they LIKE being offended–and blew it way out of proportion. There’s really some sort of very disturbing masochistic trend on both sides of the argument over there: both sides really seemed to enjoy playing the victim. And then of course there’s the sadistic aspect of how they both loved to demonize other people that way so relentlessly. (NO OFFENSE TO ANY DEMONS OUT THERE FOR MY USE OF THE WORD “DEMONIZE” THAT WAY! CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME.) People’s capacity to enter into debates like that, and pursue them for so long, truly indicates deep mental unbalance.

  12. By the way, just one more thing.

    The original guy who started it all with his insensitive comment? Lest we think this is a “right vs. left” thing or whatever–On the guy’s profile/info page he says something to the effect of “I am fiercely opposed to Christianity specifically and Monotheism in general, although not, I hasten to add, to Christians or Monotheists”. WTF. You can’t absolutely HATE a belief system, on the one hand, but then try and say that you have absolutely NO PROBS whatsoever with people who subscribe to it. What kind of posing is that? It’s like the guy wants to make it known that he’s “cool” on the one hand, because he hates Christianity like all the cool kids do (btw, I’m not a Christian myself), but on the other hand he wants to reassure everyone (himself especially?) that, oh, he’s a real “tolerant” understanding dude.

    The whole thing with it is, in general I just think so many people don’t have their own mental houses in order. They haven’t even thought things through enough, so we end up with all these ridiculous, amorphous online arguments. Example: you can’t absolutely hate a belief system AND absolutely have no problem with anyone who subscribes to those beliefs; the result will be friction and misunderstandings whenever you speak on the subject. There’s so many nuances that are actually involved in reality. People think it’s so easy to navigate through it all and have clear demarcations of what’s what. People think they’ve got it all figured out and that they themselves must–MUST!–be one of the “good” people who’ve got it all figured out, no matter how little actual nitty-gritty thinking they’ve done, or what sorts of different people they’ve gotten to know and understand on a personal level. It just makes me sad–if anyone in charge wants to delete my posts, go ahead–maybe I’m just adding to the confusion. But life is just an ongoing attempt to try to reach better understandings. It’s sad when people speak from a position of supposed omnipotence about what’s what and who’s “good”, who’s “bad”, what the right way to feel is about everything, etc. 🙁

  13. A problem is that ignorance is seen as a universally bad thing – look at the kind of people the word “ignorant” is used to describe – and not a condition that can be rectified with understanding and knowledge, by getting to know people. If some people admit that they’re wrong, or that they said something stupid because they honestly just didn’t know better, well then obviously they are hillbillies!

  14. One thing I’ve learned is that people on the internet are going to act like people on the internet do and there’s not much anybody can do about it. It’s just the nature of the medium.

    Also, the luna one, that whole “lol thank god I get to remove another white male author from my bookshelf” thing – it sounds like parody, but I know it’s not. This saddens me.