I was reading posts and comments at Mathew Ingram’s weblog, when I ran into a comment where the person referenced “Google haters”, and I stopped reading the comment at that point. I no longer cared to read what the person had to say.
I have developed an intense dislike, loathing really, of the term “hater”. It’s little different than the term “hysterical” when applied to women commenters in order to demean the person or persons referenced, rather than views, attitudes, writings, or other work. It’s a lazy noun by lazy people who don’t want to take the time to write about why they agree or disagree with what the person is saying—just use the word “hater” and that should be sufficient. And quick, too.
I feel towards “hater” about the way I feel towards moonbat, wingnut, or any of the other terms used by indifferent writers incapable of writing a detailed, thoughtful criticism or disagreement. These writers don’t have time to spend on their arguments, because they’re too busy looking for the next hater, moonbat, or wingnut to vilify. My suggestion to them is to pick their targets and write well, rather than quickly. Don’t use epithets like shotgun pellets, firing haters, wingnuts, or moonbats hither and yon in an effort to blanket as many people as possible. This approach might net them a bigger following, but of what kind of people? The barely literate xenophobe?
I’m also becoming less enamored of the “us” and “them” writing where entire groups of people are lumped into categories, with little or no individuality allowed. I must admit to my own share of “us” and “them” writing based on the current election, but all I can see that this has accomplished is seeing how long our thrown mud sticks on the wall between us. It may feel good to throw the mud, perhaps even empowering, but eventually the mud will dry, fall off the wall, crumble into dirt, and be trodden under foot. A well-formed argument forces us to question the bundle of assumptions that supposedly make up our “side”, and fragments what was once a perhaps incorrectly aggregated whole. Effective writing shouldn’t make us angry, it should make us stumble, caught awkwardly on our assumptions and expectations.
Last night on television, the reporters were interviewing people waiting to get in to here Bill Clinton speak at a high school down the road from where I live. One woman said that she normally votes Republican, because she’s pro-life, but this year she had to weight all the issues and all the problems and in the end, made a decision to vote for Obama. She didn’t draw lines of divisiveness, or make one reference to “hater” or “moonbat”. What she did do, with a few simple, eloquent sentences, was fragment the cliched clump of expectations we have about voters; she made me re-think my own opinion about what “pro-life” really means to people. I wanted to sit and talk with her and explain what I really mean when I say I’m pro-choice. I, for one moment, actually believed that both “sides” might be able to find an accord some day. It was a stunning moment in an election remarkable only for its vile level of vituperation and equally vile dependence on clichés.
But I digress. To return to the “haters”, the “wingnuts”, and the “moonbats” we find littering our current discourse, there is no greater demonstration of skill in both writing and reasoning than a thoughtfully crafted disagreement or criticism. It can have a stinging bite, or only nibble playfully, and painfully, at the edges of a topic; it can flash brightly, or send whispers of fog to obscure; it can elevate, or bury, with equal panache. In my opinion, an effective argument is one that never makes people mad, but frequently leaves people worried.