Monday, December 21, 2009

Arguing on the Internet: Writer's Remorse

I've been re-reading my response to Sarah Braasch, both in light of the comments left there (and in the DA thread), and because I re-read things often to try to get a different perspective on them. Well, now I've got a different perspective on my own words, and I feel compelled to say something about it. Here I go!

The more I read what I wrote, the more it comes off as a couple pages of "I don't like your style, young lady!" It strikes me more and more as finger-wagging nonsense, and I always get pissed when people do that to me, so why would I do it to anyone else? As both Sarah and Ebonmuse have said, the criticisms are valid ones - but what was I criticizing? Well, Sarah didn't genuflect before the facts in a manner suitable to my tastes - she didn't cite sources when making points. Why did that stick in my craw so much? Because... because... because facts matter, dammit, and if you don't keep track of where you get them from, then you might be wrong and then... and then... well, you'd be wrong.

But was Sarah wrong in anything she said? Umm... no. As Ebonmuse was kind enough to point out, the facts are on Sarah's side here - while her apocalyptic tenor* may indeed have been hyperbolic, I think such hyperbole is justified by the facts in this case. And ultimately, the availability of that justification is what matters to me, not whether it's laid out right the Hell then and there. Missionaries do in fact bring their death cult with them and tie it to what comforts of civilization they also offer, and their death cult is in fact anti-civilization, anti-health, and anti-sanity. How better to bring about the end of the world than by poisoning all that is best in it, both in practice when giving aid to people, and in the public mind by causing the disease to be consistently linked with the cure? Oh, and for clarity, disease=unevidenced superstition (but I repeat myself!), cure=secular civilization (oh, I repeat myself again!).

To be fair, nobody goes all the damn way to Africa just to ruin a bunch of strangers' lives. These missionaries, of course, have nothing but the best of intentions in their heart of hearts, I'm sure of it - but who's always saying that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions? Must be someone who believes in Hell...

Anyway, I think I got a little carried away with my academic desire for citation. But this ain't Wikipedia, it's not even college, and so picking nits over something like that just seems inappropriate now that I've had a couple days to think about what I wrote. My first reaction to her piece was that it was moving and well-written, and while that admittedly does rely on the sort of background that she and I share (i.e. growing up amid religious insanity), we do in fact share that background, and I think appealing to that is no bad thing. As Sarah said, this is not academic writing, so my criticisms are at least a bit out of place.

I guess what I'm getting at is that everyone's an asshole from time to time, and I think I just took my turn. Sorry about that. I should have thought about what I was saying before I said it, and then I might not have gone off on a tangent about... nothing at all, really.

* - I try to use the phrase "apocalyptic tenor" at every available opportunity, because I read it here and it's awesome (it's also awesome here). But am I the only one who thinks of a giant Luciano Pavarotti destroying Italy when this phrase is mentioned? That would be quite an "apocalyptic tenor" indeed! Man, now I want to see giant Luciano Pavarotti wreck the Vatican... that would be awesome, too! Also, today's Dinosaur Comics is pretty awesome, too (fortune cookie moment).

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