almost a diary, Political Theory, USA, web 2.0

Stupid, stupid, stupid idiots!

Lillimarleen links to “pro-gun” tirade by Rachel Lucas called just like this entry. Rachel furiously tries to point out why previous cases of civil strife, ethnic persecution, or class warfare are valid arguments in favour of uninhibited gun ownership in general, and specifically in the USA –

“If you make self-defense illegal, or even problematic, you’re making life easier for criminals and tyrants.”

Well, if I were living in a Hobbesian state of nature I would probably have to subscribe to the strict version of that theory, too. But, luckily, I am not. Maybe she is – she lives in Texas, according to her webpage – that would explain her position.

In the real world however, it just doesn’t make much sense. But just like I am, Rachel and everybody else is entitled to tell the world about his or her opinions.

So when there’s nothing to argue, what am I doing here? Well, I am not really concerned with the substance of her rant, but rather with the style.

Unfortunately, Rachel (although she’s far from the worst) seemingly believes in the bizarre discourse theory a lot of bloggers, in my experience predominantly American right-wing bloggers, are spreading these days – that calling people who don’t share their opinions “idiots” as frequently as possible is making their points more convincing. Generally, they seem to follow the rule “the more aggressive, and insulting, the better.”

Rachel herself admits this practice on her FAQ page

Q: ‘How does Rachel expect to make her point by insulting people she disagrees with?’
A: Easy. I don’t expect to make my point to people who can’t see past the insults. Also, this is just a blog, not the New York Times op-ed page.”

Don’t get me wrong here, there are instances for the application of “idiot”. But the word’s inflationary use is a kind of verbal pollution, is simply annoying, and possibly preventing a good deal of the debate theoretically made possible by advances in communication technologies – who likes to talk to people who begin the discussion by saying “shut up, you idiot”? In Rachel’s words – why should they want to see past the insults?

I wonder if some phd student is already trying to capture the early changes personal publishing is making to the style of written opinion in general – can anyone imagine a NY Times op-ed headline that reads “Stupid, stupid, stupid idiots”? Probably not – for the time being. But who knows what the future, and the effects of personal publishing will have on other forms of media?