Friday, January 30, 2015

Called Out


God knows there's a lot of moronic discourse on the internet and it's important to try to sort out trolls from serious critics. And nobody says that you are required to absorb whatever abuse any crank decides to lay on you. My wrecked comment section stays dormant because useful arguments have shifted to twitter and I don't need to spend my days trying to deal with the odd assortment of misogynists and malcontents who took up residence there and chased off all the normal people. But so-called "PC Police" are among those critics who are actually making a difference, even if it is uncomfortable and frustrating to be on the receiving end. My own response to being "called out" is often anger at first just like Chait. It's very hurtful and I'm human. But I've learned that when I feel that very particular kind of anger that comes from being attacked for my privilege, it is often a useful signal that I probably need to step back think a little harder about something.

I know the feeling. I'm a good liberal! I'm a feminist! Most of my friends are gay! Why are you criticizing meeeeeeee??? But I don't know everything about the experience of others, and when your supposed allies sorta suck, too, the impulse to call them out is understandable

One flaw about the quickness of social media is that sometimes there's too much of a pressure to RESPOND RIGHT NOW TO THAT THING YOU DID WRONG. Sometimes maybe it's hard to respond because you put the computer down for a few minutes, the extreme example being Justine Sacco. Sometimes it takes time to respond because the criticisms are coming from all over the place, and not all of them are even close to being germane. A game of telephone gets played with this stuff, such that legitimate criticisms of things you said evolve into stupid commentary on things you didn't say.

It takes time to come to genuinely understand something that you are being lambasted for not having understood five minutes ago. Silence can anger people, but stepping back and thinking is often the right thing to do. It's hard to respond honestly and thoughtfully and, when appropriate, with contrition, if you don't understand what you're responding to.

But, you know, so what? My fee fees don't matter much. I'm privileged enough that I'm required to have a thick skin, and the vast majority of people who might take to the internet to criticize me will be punching up, not down, even if I don't quite have the prominence of, say, Jonah Goldberg. When people in more marginalized groups speak, I try to listen, even if it takes some time to really hear. That doesn't mean I'm always obligated to agree, but I shouldn't tune it out either.