Most individuals with a modicum of intelligence and self-awareness will tell you the truth, uncomfortable as it might be: Not everything you produce is going to be good. Even if the idea seems immaculate in your imagination, the transition between brain and mouth or fingers can dilute it somewhat. We have to clarify ourselves at times, in order to ensure we’re understood, meaning the way we initally articulated ourselves was imperfect. So too are our ideas: the perspective we have on the world around us, the stories we experience and the events of our lives is unique. We each have our own unique opinions and the Internet makes it possible for us to share, discuss and debate them. It’s this diversity that makes living with other human beings, at times, a wonderful experience.
At other times it’s grueling torture because some people don’t understand their imperfection.
You’ve seen these people. You’ve read their comments on forums, YouTube channels and Twitter feeds. Barely coherent, badly misspelled, over-abbreviated and wholly inaccurate ramblings that, when challenged, incite anger and accusations rather than honest debate. I’m painting with a broad brush here, but the sad fact of the matter is that the amount of hatred spewing from the mouths and fingers of the ignorant far outweighs the pontifications of people who actually have something to say and the means with which to say it to a large audience.
And when someone does gain a large audience, the arrogant and entitled flock to the outlet in question to make their voices heard, piggyback on success, do their damndest to outshine the reason they showed up in the first place.
I’m guilty of this behavior, if I’m honest. I’ve chimed in on the videos of those sharing their reviews, opinions and news readings not just to support their efforts but in an effort to promote myself and my work. I have to. If I hope to have any success in the mass market when it comes to selling fiction, I have to get used to the idea of selling myself through any means necessary. Now, I don’t post on forums or respond to tweets for this purpose alone. I’m not a SEO bot or a web marketer. But I’d be lying if I said I do what I do simply for the enjoyment of it. Even if it is a great deal of fun to talk about ways The Dark Knight Rises could go horribly wrong with twitter peeps (tweeps), it’s getting my name out and there’s nothing wrong with that.
What bothers me is the behavior of people who post their thoughts for the sole purpose of dissention and rabble-rousing. Constructive criticism is one thing, combative, racist or incendiary commentary is quite another. It’s rude, dickish behavior that can border on harassment in certain contexts, behavior for which you can be banned from whatever venue you were using to spew your ignorant bile. And yet, it persists. These people keep right on finding ways to annoy and harrangue, under the presumption that not only is their opinion the only correct one (arrogance), they have every right to voice it any way they wish to whomever will listen (entitlement).
Critical analysis and review is everywhere on the Internet. But you will never catch any such entertainer worth their salt telling you point-blank that they are 100% right in their opinion and everybody else is wrong. Go ahead and take a look. Yahtzee, MovieBob, SFDebris, Confused Matthew, Red Letter Media, TotalBiscuit, the Extra Credits crew – none of them end a discussion with “I’m right, you’re wrong, your mom agreed with me last night” in any serious discussion. Some of them may play this sort of thing for laughs, but even the most satirical and cynical of these folks are also intelligent enough to know that anything upon which they might pontificate involves the exposition of their own subjective views.
Sorry, that was a lot of big words. Put simply: None of these people believes they are a holy authority on anything they talk about. Yes, some of them are professional critics, paid to give their opinion based on the years of experience they have weighing objective and subjective criteria of various media, but each and every one of them are human beings, and human beings are fallible, subjective creatures. Yahtzee and MovieBob might not like shooters, but that doesn’t mean shooters are bad. People like those caricatured by MovieBob’s Anti-Thinker may consider retro games to be stupid, but them saying it does not make it so. These people I’ve mentioned know this.
It’s a shame a lot of the people who chime in on their presentations can’t have the same sort of self-awareness. And when you try to point out the flaws in their arguments, their mental couch forts repel your critiques with such eloquent responses as “NO U” or “COOL STORY BRO.” Just because your point of view makes more intellectual or logical sense doesn’t mean you’re going to win over the mistaken. Ours is a culture that nurtures the arrogant and entitled, and trolls of this stripe thrive in this culture, the pundits and politicians ranting on about rights and freedoms while these dregs emerge from under their bridges to tell you why your opinion sucks and theirs is The Truth. It’s a level of impenetrability to reality that would be impressive if it weren’t so pathetic.
I don’t know what I hope to accomplish by posting this, other than to bring attention to and underscore the causes behind this prevailing sentiment among the seething and apparently idiotic masses of the Internet. Because like any disease, the more we know about the causes, the better chance we have of finding a cure.
If one even exists.